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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003


History's Bunk

Consider yourself warned. The Gang of Four weren't singing about short postseason series when they wrote "History's Bunk," but they may as well have been. As I pointed out prior to the opening of the Yankees-Twins series on Tuesday, the Yanks had beaten the Twins in 13 straight games over the past two seasons, and Game One starter Mike Mussina owned a 20-2 record against them in his career, all of which meant very little. The Minnesota Twins apparently paid close attention, because they survived the early departure of starter Johan Santana to beat the sloppy Yanks 3-1, getting on the good foot in a series in which they arrived as heavy underdogs.

That special October aura was lacking from Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, in part because it was still September and in part because the sun was shining. Major League Baseball and the Fox network deemed the Chicago Cubs' trip to the postseason more worthy of prime-time coverage on the postseason's opening day than the been-there-done-that Yanks. So it was with some amount of grumbling that many of the Yankee faithful filed into the Stadium. Mothers cradled infants or escorted schoolchildren while their fathers remained in their offices, hostages in neckties.

I'd been to eight postseason games at Yankee Stadium, but never one in the daytime. Hell, the only weekday afternoon game involving the Yanks that I could recall was the Chuck Knoblauch vaporlock incident. Shudder. Still, I decided that complaining about having tickets to a daytime postseason game was like complaining about the color of the plate my filet mignon was sitting upon. Shut up and deal.

As the game started, Mussina got into trouble immediately, allowing a leadoff double to sparkplug Shannon Stewart. It was Stewart's arrival from Toronto which keyed the Twins' 46-23 second-half run, and here he was, making trouble from the outset. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire (the 2002 Futility Infielder of the Year) elected to play for the early run, as Luis Rivas sacrificed Stewart to third. But the Moose got loose, inducing an easy comebacker from Doug Mientkiewicz, and a groundout from Matt LeCroy, ending the threat.

Mussina rolled through the second, but found more trouble in the third. With one out, Cristian Guzman singled to right, and then on a hit-and-run, Stewart singled to left, with Guzman challenging Yankee leftfielder Hideki Matsui's weak arm by heading for third. From my seat (third row of the upper deck, between third base and home), it looked as though Matsui's throw was high and wide of third baseman Aaron Boone, delaying the tag. In a cell phone conversation, a friend said that Guzman still looked to be out, but I haven't seen a replay as I write this (the New York Times confirmed my perception). Anyway, Guzman then scored on a sac fly by Rivas for the game's first run.

Meanwhile, Santana kept the Yanks in check, giving up only a pair of inconsequential two-out singles in the first two innings. But the young Twin began bouncing a number of curveballs in the third, walking Nick Johnson and Derek Jeter back-to-back with two outs. He recovered to strike out Jason Giambi, but the 27-pitch inning clearly showed that he was vulnerable.

The Yanks squandered their best chance against Santana in the fourth. With one out, Bernie Williams drove one to deep right centerfield, but he slipped while rounding first, falling flat on the basepath before recovering to retreat. A 390-foot singe. Had Williams not fallen, the Yanks would have had a 106-RBI hitter holding an .892 OPS with runners in scoring positon coming to the plate in Matsui. But with Bernie only on first, the grounder-happy Matsui's weakness came to the forefront, and it was no surprise when he bounced into a 4-6-3 double play. A frustrating inning for the Yanks.

But the Yanks fortunes looked as though they might turn. Santana had thrown only 59 pitches, and had yet to give up a run, so it was quite a surprise to see the Twins summon journeyman Rick Reed from the bullpen, a man with an ERA exactly two runs higher than the man he replaced (5.07 to 3.07). No explanation was immediately given, though my cellular lifeline informed me that the TV announcers had given leg cramps as the cause.

Reed fell behind the Yanks' #8 and #9 hitters, Aaron Boone and Juan Rivera, but got them both on grounders to shortstop. He fell behind 3-1 to Alfonso Soriano, who lashed a double to right center. Ron Gardenhire then called upon J.C. Romero, who stayed in form by falling behind Nick Johnson. On the 3-0 pitch, Soriano stole third. But Johnson, in the midst of an 0-for-18 slide, grounded out weakly to Mientkiewicz, wasting another opportunity.

The sixth inning was the Yanks' real undoing, and again Bernie Williams was at the center of it. With one out and a man on first, Torii Hunter poked one into the right-center gap. Williams looked to cut it off, but missed badly and ended up chasing the ball to the wall. He relayed to Soriano, who airmailed the ball over Boone's head as Hunter slid. Torii quickly popped up from his slide and scored to run it to 3-0. In Little League they'd have called it a home run, but the official scorer called it a triple and an error, and that was still extremely generous.

The Yanks continued to waste opportunities. A Jeter leadofff single went uncapitalized in the sixth, while the Yanks put the first two runners on in the seventh. Matsui walked, chasing Romero, and Boone greeted smoke-throwin' Latroy Hawkins with a single up the middle. Pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra hit into a fielder's choice, with Matsui taking third. But Hawkins blew some high-90s heat past both Soriano and Johnson to escape the jam. Hawkins struck out two more in the eighth for good measure.

With Mussina done for the day affter seven laborious innings, the Twins threatened again in the eighth. Jeff Nelson came in and couldn't find the plate, walking Matt LeCroy, an act for which he was roundly booed. Felix Heredia came on and got Jacque Jones to ground out, advancing LeCroy. The Yanks elected to intentionally walk Hunter, and a Koskie single loaded the bases. Heredia fell behind Pierzynski, but the Twins catcher grounded back to the pitcher, who started a 1-2-3 double play.

Having exhausted just about every manner of not scoring in the previous eight innings, the Yanks ran out of excuses in the ninth. Facing closer Everyday Eddie Guardado, Williams led off with a single, and then Matsui hit a deep drive down the leftfield line that looked as though it might carry out. But Stewart made a leaping grab as he ran into the wall, just out of reach of several Jeffery Maier wannabes, robbing Godzilla of a homer. Given where I was sitting, I couldn't see the catch; it was only later when I saw the replay how close Matsui came to cutting the lead to 3-2, and how fine a play the Twins leftfielder made. Damn.

But it wasn't over yet. Boone doubled down the leftfield line, with Williams taking third and bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Ruben Sierrea. Alas, Sierra popped out to short rightfield, taking the Yanks down to their last out. Soriano laced a 3-1 pitch to right, scoring Williams to finally put the Yanks on the board. But it was too little, too late, as Johnson fell to 0-for-21 by grounding to third. Ballgame to the Twins, thanks to Stewart, their bullpen, and a sloppy game by the Yanks: ten men left on base -- five of those in scoring position, three at third base -- one baserunning gaffe, and one error that should have been two. Ugh.

The Yanks now find themselves in an unexpected hole, and with the odds against them. Since the advent of the Wild Card in 1995, the team that's won the first game has won 22 out of 32 division series. The Yanks have bucked the trend in each of the past three years, losing to Anaheim last year after taking the first game, and taking two series from Oakland after dropping the first. But history's bunk. That's why they play the games.

• • •

Pressed for time, I'll now offer up an abbreviated version of my postseason predictions. If you're taking these to Vegas, I'll advise you that slot machines and crack cocaine are safer investments than my prognostications. But in the interest of adding some value, I'll give you some links to other blogs which can offer more insight into the respective series.

NLDS: Giants over Marlins in 4. The always-dependable Giants-themed Only Baseball Matters has been on the DL, but Waiting for Boof picks up some of the slack, as does The Southpaw. For the Marlins, Fish or Cut Bait got off to a good start but seems to have fallen by the wayside. If there's another Marlins blog out there, I'm all ears.

NLDS: Braves over Cubs in 4. A healthy bunch of blogs here. For the Braves, check out Braves Journal and No Pepper. For the Cubs, there are several blogs, but none better than Christian Ruzich's Cub Reporter. Check The Clark & Addison Chronicle too.

ALDS: A's over Red Sox in 5. See our friends over at Elephants in Oakland, and check out Barry Zito Forever as well. The web is littered with Sox-themed blogs, many of which I wouldn't be caught dead at, but I'll give props to Bambino's Curse, Out of Left Field, Universal Baseball Blog and Providence Journal sports editor Art Martone's Art's Notebook. Art even gave me a mention in an article recently. No Sox mention would be complete without Baseball Primer's Sox Therapy.

ALDS: Yankees over Twins in 5. For Minnesota, I give mad props to The Twins Geek and Kid Gleeman's Aaron's Baseball Blog. In fact, Aaron's got good previews of all four series, so check him out, regardless of who you're rooting for. For the home team, I stand by Alex Belth's Bronx Banter, Larry Mahnken's Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, and I'll give a shout to Clifford's Big Red Blog as well.

That's not to say there aren't other great blogs out there, just that these are the guys who will be living and dying with their teams and posting about it on a daily basis. Check 'em out, and have fun this October.

And if you want more half-assed predictions...

ALCS: A's over Yanks in 6. This pinstriped bandwagon ain't rolling too far.
NLCS: Giants over Braves in 6.
World Series: Another Bay Area special? I'm less than thrilled, but right now, I'm picking one of the two teams I loathe with every fiber of my being. I wouldn't have picked them outright, but if I follow my results, I'm left with no other conclusion: Giants in 6.

Can't wait to see how wrong I am...

Monday, September 29, 2003


Goosebump Moments

Even with the Yankees having clinched the AL East and the Mets having long since given up the ghost, the final days of the regular season have brought no shortage of memorable moments and milestones. I spent Thursday night at Shea Stadium and Friday night at the House That Ruth Built and enjoyed goosebump moments at both ballgames, and I drew similar results from this weekend's Yankee games, which I watched on TV.

Thursday night's ballgame between the Mets and the Pirates honored retiring radio announcer Bob Murphy, who'd been calling Mets games since the franchise's inglorious inception in 1962 (another reason to bring up the original Mets). Murphy looms large in the field of broadcasting, having received the Ford C. Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.

Thirty minutes of tributes prior to the game featured former Met superstar Tom Seaver, current Mets Al Leiter and John Franco, colleagues Ralph Kiner and Gary Cohen, and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (who was booed lustily), and though the crowd was sparse (25,081 officially, but likely less), they cheered loudly. Not being much of a Mets fan myself or having listened extensively to Murphy, I'll admit that I felt a bit out of place at this affair. It was like being at a birthday party for a friend's relative I didn't know so well (which, come to think of it, actually happened last weekend in Maine). But I can respect a man who put 42 years into his job and was so well-loved by Mets fans that he earned the name "The Voice of Summer," so I smiled and clapped along with the faithful as they warmly paid tribute to the Murph.

Cohen was eloquent as he MCed the ceremony: "A love affair began in 1962. The Mets may have subscribed to Murphy's Law that year but it was Murphy's voice to which the fans tuned in. Whether it was tension-filled pennant drives or as the muffled voice from transistor radios beneath our pillows, each syllable spelled elation or devastation." Leiter and Franco presented Murphy with a Mets jersey bearing the number 42 which they said had been signed by the team (one hopes it was a team of better vintage than the current squad).

Between innings of the ballgame, fellow Frickians from around the league, such as Vin Scully, Harry Kalas, Marty Brennaman, Chuck Thompson, Curt Gowdy, Bob Uecker and Jon Miller (who hasn't actually received the award yet, just like Mike Piazza hasn't made the Hall of Fame) paid tribute via video clips on the Jumbotron.

The game itself was something of an afterthought, with the Mets losing 3-1, preventing Murphy from signing off with one more of his signature Happy Recaps. Most notable for the Mets was literally "Who's On First?" To accompany starter Tom Glavine, his younger brother Mike was the starting first baseman, batting eighth. Promoted in September as an obvious favor to his brother, the younger Glavine is a 30-year-old journeyman who hasn't made much impact beyond AA except in the independent Atlantic League. Argably a less able hitter than his brother, the younger Glavine went 0-for-2 while the elder walked in his only plate appearance before being pinch-hit for by Tony Clark. Manager Art Howe killed two birds with one stone by pulling the double-switch, leaving Clark to play first.

With the Mets trailing 3-1, my girlfriend and I left prior to the ninth inning to catch the LIRR back to Manhattan. But we heard a couple of huge cheers go up as we exited the stadium, figuring the Mets had started a rally. As it turns out, the ovations were for Mike Piazza, who -- after months of handwringing from the catcher, the organization, the player, the manager, the media, and every potential WFAN caller in the entire tri-state area -- took the field at first base for the first time as a Met and promptly snared a line drive. Yippee.

• • •

Friday night's drama was considerably less contrived. The Yanks had already played the Orioles at the front end of a doubleheader (the makeup game for that ridiculous Hurricane Isabel affair which culminated in an abbreviated tie) and won 11-2, and so Joe Torre chose the nightcap to spotlight his September callups. The Columbus Clipper connection included starting pitcher Jorge DePaula, catcher Michel Hernandez, first baseman Fernando Seguignol (the 2003 International League MVP), shortstop Erick Almonte and third baseman/quarterback-to-be Drew Henson. Playing second base and making his 2003 debut as a Yankee was Luis Sojo, possibly the first player to participate in a team's Old-Timer's Day game and an official game in the same season. Hell, Sojo had actually managed DePaula and Almone at Norwich last season. Only DH Jason Giambi and rightfielder Ruben Sierra represented the Yankee regulars.

Due to a scheduling mixup, we arrived late at the ballgame, finding that Sierra had put the Yanks up 2-0 with a first-inning home run. But that quickly became a sidelight to what we were about to witness. As I scrambled to catch up on my scorecard, I realized that with seventh batter Deivi Cruz leading off the third and a zero in the hits column, DePaula had been perfect through two innings. When he put the O's down 1-2-3 in the third, my butterflies kicked in.

I have been to a handful short of a hundred professional ballgames in my lifetime, from A ball in Walla Walla to the deciding game of a World Series at Yankee Stadium, and I have never seen a no-hitter in person (TV is another story). Three sorta-close calls stand out. A few months after he pitched his perfect game in '98, I saw David Wells take another perfect line into the seventh against the Oakland A'. It was broken up by a blooper to right by Jason Giambi, to whom Boomer gestured thanks immediately afterwards. Once in a season was enough excitement for a man of his carriage, apparently. Two years later, Bartolo Colon, pitching for the Cleveland Indians, a took a no-no into the eighth against the Yanks. I'd just about reached the tipping point in my day's rooting allegiance -- I'd have given it up for Colon in the ninth, but Luis Polonia beat me to the punch with a one-out single. At a Brooklyn Cyclones game a couple of summers ago, I watched two A-ball teams slash away in hopes of getting an official game played before a torrential rainstorm hit. Cyclones starter Jason Scobie took a no-hitter into the seventh before it was broken up, and shortly after that an ominous-looking black sky broke open, washing the rest of the game away.

That's as close as I've gotten in person, unless one counts showing up at a ballpark fifteen hours after one's been thrown. But anytime I see three no-hit innings on the board, I begin taking inventory: oxygen mask, check; defibrillator, check.

With the tantalizing possibility of a no-hitter growing ever more apparent to the crowd of 45,000+, the next three innings breezed by, with neither team getting a hit. The Yanks kept popping up on the first or second pitch against Rodrigio Lopez, who got through the third inning in five pitches, the fourth in ten, the fifth in six. Meanwhile, DePaula continued slicing through the Baltimore lineup like a hot knife through butter. The O's were hacking; every batter seemed to be hitting out of an 0-2 hole. It wasn't as though Baltimore had matched the Yanks by fielding AAA ballplayers -- most of their frontliners, with the exception of injured Melvin Mora, were in the lineup. The kid DePaula was looking mighty impressive in his first major-league start.

The tension continued to build. With two outs in the fifth, DePaula fell behind 3-0 to B.J. Surhoff. He came back to 3-2 before Surhoff hit a long fly ball to rightfield that looked like trouble. But a hustling Sierra caught the ball while backing into the wall. The crowd erupted, but except for one loudmouth, nobody within earshot used the words "perfect" or "no-hitter." Andra (my gal) needed no explanation as to what was going on; she was as cool as a little Fonzie when it came to the superstitions surrounding such affairs.

With one out in the sixth, pudgy DH Jack Cust worked a walk off of DePaula as the crowd groaned, its shot at perfection gone. But the young Yankee hurler recovered, striking out catcher Geronimo Gil looking and then retiring Jerry Hairston Jr. on a fly ball. Still no hits.

Luis Matos struck out to start the seventh, DePaula's sixth K on the night. He came within a strike of victim number seven, Larry Bigbie. But the Oriole leftfielder instead lashed a ball up the middle that glanced off of DePaula's glove and eluded second baseman Sojo, ending the no-hit bid. Joe Torre was instantly out of the dugout and on the mound, calling to the bullpen. Torre later explained that he wouldn't have let DePaula complete the game given how long the rookie had been idle. But that wasn't known at the time -- all the crowd knew was that despite the makeshift lineup, this kid had given them a thrill, and so they gave one back in the form of a raucous standing ovation.

After things calmed down, lefty Gabe White got the Yanks out of trouble with two ground balls to end the seventh seemed to cruise as he retired the first two batters in the eighth. But Cust, the pest, singled, and Jeff Nelson came on in relief to face pinch-hitter Pedro Swann. As has been all too common, Nelson couldn't find the plate too well, and he walked Swann on a 3-2 pitch. He fell behind Hairston, who hit one to deep right-center, where "centerfielder" Karim Garcia took forever to get to the ball, apparently stopping to ask directions from an usher. By the time Garcia relayed the ball to Seguignol, both runs had scored and Hairston had rounded third, trying for an inside-the-park home run. Seguignol's relay to Hernandez had Hairston by 10 feet, and when the little punk tried to run through the Buddha-bellied catcher, he was flicked away like an insect. Still, Nelson had surrendered the tying run, depriving DePaula of a victory.

Hernandez got his own milestone in the bottom of the eighth, strokign a single to right for his first major-league hit, then yielding to pinch-runner Alfonso Soriano. Almonte sacrificed him to second, but the Yanks couldn't convert. They threatened again in the ninth, with pinch-hitter Bernie Williams pounding a leadoff double. Seguignol, the next hitter, tapped one back to pitcher B.J. Ryan, whose throw to first was bobbled by Surhoff. First base ump Ed Montague called Seguignol out, blowing the call as the crowd howled. But after a visit from Torre, home plate ump Brian Gorman overruled Montague, and Seguignol took first. One out and a new pitcher later, a Juan Rivera grounder confused shortstop Deivi Cruz, as Williams staying put long enough to prevent Cruz from turning two, then advanced to third. Nick Johnson pinch-hit for Henson, but flew out to end the inning.

Facing Chris Hammond, Surhoff led off the tenth with a grounder that Almonte couldn't stop and reached on the error -- but at a price. Surhoff apparently pulled a groin muscle in the process and he was escorted off by the Oriole trainer, yielding to pinch-runner Jose Morban. After a sacrifice, Tim Raines Jr. walked, and then catcher Robert Machado slapped a grounder to left, scoring the go-ahead run.

The Yanks threatened again in the tenth. John Flaherty led off with a single and one out later, took third on an Enrique Wilson single. But Oriole closer Jorge Julio struck out both Sierra and Williams to preserve the 3-2 victory. Still, given that the division had already been clinched and that the crowd had been treated to a special performance, this was one loss that hardly hurt at all.

• • •

The weekend's Yankee games continued the goosebump theme. Saturday was Roger Clemens' final regular-season start, and possibly his final start in Yankee Stadium, and the Rocket was up to the task. He didn't dominate, but he didn't give the Orioles too much ground either, allowing only three hits and two runs over six innings. Juan Rivera backed the Rocket's cause with two homers and a 4-for-4 day, continuing his torrid run (a 1215 OPS September).

But the payoff came in the seventh inning. Torre sent Clemens out to do his warmups, then ceremoniously removed the pitcher to an incredible ovation. As the Rocket walked off the field, he pointed to the crowd and then to his heart, then emerged from the dugout for a curtain call and tipped his cap. The entire Oriole duguout joined in the ovation, a classy gesture which harkened back to the Yanks paying tribute to Cal Ripken Jr. when he ended his consecutive game streak against them.

It was a touching moment that had me flashing back to another Clemens ovation at the Stadium, one for which I'd been a part: Game Four of the 1999 World Series. Clemens was the new kid on the block, having joined the Yanks in that controversial trade for David Wells which shook up the defending champions as they opened spring training. I'd jeered the Rocket several times that season as he put up a fat 4.60 ERA to go with his meager 14 wins, and scorned him as he'd been pounded at Fenway Park during the ALCS. But on this night, with the Yanks up 3-0 in games against the Atlanta Braves, the Rocket's first World Series ring was within his grasp, and he did the job with zeal. Clemens pitched 7.2 innings and left with a 3-0 lead and two men on, and when Joe Torre pulled him it, the Stadium shook. It didn't stop shaking for the next hour and a half. Mariano Rivera extricated the Yanks from a jam (which Jeff Nelson had aided), Jim Leyritz homered in the bottom of the inning, the Yanks closed the deal in the top of the ninth, and suddenly 56,782 people were piling on each other and singing "New York, New York" at the top of their lungs. Now THAT was an ovation.

The one on Saturday couldn't quite approach that, but it was a true feel-good moment for a pitcher who's been anything but touchy-feely throughout his career. But any man with 309 wins, 4099 strikeouts, and six Cy Young Awards under his belt deserves a moment like that.

Clemens' reward for victory number 310 was a job promotion: acting manager for the Yanks' final game of the season. With Joe Torre offering his "suggestions," the job of writing out the lineup card and making strategic decisions was left to Clemens, with Andy Pettitte as his bench coach, and MIke Mussina as his pitching coach.

The big story of this day was another big man in search of a milestone: David Wells going for career win number 200 in what might be his last start as a Yankee, on a mound which he has owned like no other: 44-18 with a 3.69 ERA on the Yankee Stadium hill in his 17-year career.

I wanted this one for Boomer, and I felt nervous from the moment the TV cameras showed the thick gray clouds overhead. Surely the gods couldn't take what might be Boomer's last start as a Yankee away, leaving him stranded at 199, could they? Truth be told, my unsettled stomach had as much to do with the previous night's carousing, but as I was lying prone on the futon in front of the TV, rehydrating my broken body, a realization hit me: there will be no more casual baseball moments beyond this point; it's all butterflies from here onward.

Wells fell behind 1-0 in the second inning, but Alfonso Soriano drove an Eric DuBose pitch into the netting in leftfield for a two-run homer in the third, and the Fat Man rolled, allowing only three more hits. But Boomer wasn't without drama. In the fifth inning, as the rain started to fall and the urgency to make it offical increased, an object on the field required a groundskeeper to come out of the bullpen. The cameras on him in closeup, Wells unleashed a torrent of four-letter words into his glove before finally throwing his first pitch and getting back to business.

In the top of the eighth, manager Clemens sent in a defensive reinforcement in the form of third baseman Aaron Boone, who replaced Drew Henson (who earlier in the game had stroked his first big-league hit, something which the Yankees hope will wow his offensive linemen in some Houston huddle next August).

The piece de resistance came with two outs in the seventh, as manager Clemens came to remove Wells. The pitcher stood frozen on the mound as Clemens neared, incredulous at what was about to happen. Finally, he began to smile, even a chuckle, as the Rocket arrived. Clemens gave Wells a hug while simultaneously signalling for a righthander and Wells departed to another long, thunderous ovation, cap in hand. For all of the controversy that has swirled around the bulky pitcher throughout his career in pinstripes, the man's reverence for the Stadium and his bond with the fans made this a moment to savor. If Boomer is indeed going -- the Yanks hold a $6 million option on the 40-year-old injury-prone management-tweaking Fat Man, who may wind up in his native San Diego instead -- his exit was fitting.

The matter of the ballgame and preservation of Wells' gem was still an open question, given the state of the Yankee bullpen. But Jeff Nelson, looking chastened after blowing Jorge DePaula's milestone on Friday, came in to face Tim Raines Jr., and the matchup wasn't even close. Think wolf against fluffy little bunny rabbit. Nelson broke off three nasty sliders that Little Rock could do nothing but look at, striking out without taking the bat off his shoulder to end the inning. Mariano Rivera shut the door in the ninth, and Wells had his 200th. Clemens even sat in Joe Torre's chair to field questions for the postgame reporters, and the Yanks wrapped up a 101-win regular season with a stylish smile.

• • •

Jeebus Cripes, that was a long post. If you're still reading, you know that the playoffs begin on Tuesday. I'll be at Yankee Stadium for Game One against the Minnesota Twins in the afternoon, and I can hardly wait.

The Twins are 0-13 against the Yanks over the past two seasons, and they face Mike Mussina, who's 20-2 with a 2.94 ERA in 24 starts against them in his career. But only a damn fool would count Minnesota out. This is a different team from the one the Yanks beat up on early -- Shannon Stewart has catalyzed their offense since coming over from the Blue Jays for Bobby Kielty, and the starting pitching has stabilized behind burgeoning ace Johan Santana. Statheads pointed to manager Ron Gardenhire's refusal to add Santana to the rotation as a sign of his ineptitude and use his 11-2 record and 2.86 ERA as a starter to prove their point. But Santana's early-season toiling in the bullpen limited the 24-year-old's total innings, increasing the likelihood that he'd be fresh for October. Ask the Seattle Mariners about that topic sometime.

I'll take a closer look at the playoffs in the next day or two. In the meantime, check out my man The Twins Geek (a/k/a John Bonnes) for an in-depth -- and occasionally cheeky -- preview of the Yanks-Twins series. And if he doesn't throw enough numbers at you, check out Aaron Gleeman's analysis as well.

Right now I'm looking forward to savoring the whole October experience, whether or not the Yanks can climb back to the top of the heap. It's all butterflies and from here, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, September 28, 2003


Angry Reader Mail

I found this in my inbox this morning, submitted via my contact page. Perhaps it's a bit self-serving of me to publish the note and my response here, but as The Dude says, "This aggression will not stand, man." From some idiot with the address
thanks for ruining a number of pages on nothing like being full of one's self. dork.
To which I replied:
Dear Ms. Sisco,

I'm sorry you feel as though my sponsorship of several pages on detracts from your experience there. But I think that you should stop to consider the fact that it's sponsors like me who give that site the money ($[X] a year in my case) to not only stay in business but to reach millions of people every month, even idiots such as yourself. That sponsorship is also the only form of advertising I use to draw people to my little not-for-profit site. If a sentence or two of text which points people to my site chafes your ass so much, I think you've got larger issues for which you should seek professional help.

Get bent,

Jay Jaffe
Mess with the bull and you get the horns. There are few sites on the web that mean as much to me as, and I strongly believe in putting my money where my mouth is. The way in which B-R lets people show their support is unique, and in my case it's brought a lot of new readers to this site, and some nice email along the way. So Stace, if you're reading this, just know that I'm not going to let one rotten apple spoil the barrel. In fact I'm going to sponsor another page. It's that of Daffy Dodger Babe Herman. This is how it will read:
This page is dedicated in loving memory of my grandfather, Bernard Jaffe (1908-2000), who became a Dodger fan upon watching Herman get hit in the head by a fly ball, and who handed down his love for the game in more ways than anyone can ever know.
I've since had another, even angrier exchange with Sisco which I'll spare my readership except to add that this person (who may not be a Ms. after all) "openly debate[s] the legitimacy of Carlton Fisk's installation in the Hall of Fame." If 2,356 hits, 376 homers (including the most for any catcher as a catcher, 351), eleven All-Star appearances and the all-time record for games caught aren't enough for this ass-clown, I guess my lowly site has no chance of fulfilling her (or his) expectations either.

Tough shit, Stace.

Saturday, September 27, 2003


Hip Hip Jorge

Blue Jays first baseman Carlos Delgado etched his name in the history books Thursday night with a four-homer game against the Devil Rays, becoming the 15th player to do so. After the game, Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi speculated that the performance gave his slugger's MVP candidacy a boost: "Tonight might be the thing that just catapults him in front of everybody else."

With 41 homers and a league-leading 141 RBI (all stats in this article are through Thursday) -- 24 more than the next closest player -- to go with his .303 average, Delgado would appear to have the superficially eye-popping stats which impress MVP voters, and a quick peek at his .428 OBP/.592 SLG/1.020 OPS might justify it from the stathead point of view. Of course Alex Rodriguez's majors-leading 47 homers, 117 RBI, and .295 might convince voters that this is finally his year, and his .394 OBP/.599 SLG/.993 OPS, not to mention his stellar play at shortstop, could convince a stathead as well. Boston's Manny Ramirez (.324 AVG/36 HR/102 RBI/.426 OBP/.582 SLG/1.008 OPS) may get a mention, but his disappearing act during the Sox's three-game series with the Yankees and the subsequent fallout should rightfully doom his candidacy. Some writers might point to the way Shannon Stewart catalyzed the Twins after being traded from the Blue Jays, but as a leadoff hitter with an overall .827 OPS, he doesn't have the numbers to go very far in a serious discussion. Likewise, we can dismiss Oakland's Miguel Tejada (.808 OPS), though teammate Eric Chavez (.282/28/99/.350/.508/.858) may get some support.

But one other candidate who's generated a buzz lately is Yankee catcher Jorge Posada, who's having the best season of his career. With 29 HR, 98 RBI and a .278 average through Thursday, Posada's Triple Crown stats are especially respectable for a catcher, and his .404/.509/.913 line can wow the statheads (late note: he hit his 30th HR -- tying Yogi Berra for the single-season Yankee catcher record -- and topped 100 RBI on Friday). Of course, Posada might have competition from his own team in the form of Jason Giambi (.253 AVG/41 HR/107 RBI/.412 OBP/.532 SLG/.944 OPS) and Alfonso Soriano (.291/36/86/.339/.522/.861). But in a season which saw the Yanks lose three of their best hitters -- Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, and Nick Johnson -- to injuries for extended periods of time and saw both Giambi and Soriano alternating feast with famine, Posada's been the rock in the Yankee lineup. His OPS by month has been between .839 and .995, compared to a 640-point swing for Giambi and a 370-point swing for Soriano. He hasn't worn down as the season progressed and as most catchers tend to do: a .954 OPS after the All-Star break, compared to .884 before. And unlike the other potential Yankee candidates, he plays a key defensive position, and plays it fairly well. He's handled a diverse pitching staff through some big ups and downs and drawn praise from every quarter along the way. He's also taken up the mantle of team leadership, going back to his vocal disgruntlement over the Yanks' surprising loss in the AL Divisional Series last season to his recent spat with the Devil Rays over beanballs.

The media seems finally to be paying attention to Posada. ESPN's Joe Morgan kicked off the Posada for MVP campaign last week. He wasn't particularly lucid, but then that's Joe Morgan for you:
The Yankees have reached the postseason seven straight years and won four of five World Series from 1996-2000. But in that time, no Yankee won the MVP. If I had a vote -- which I don't -- and if the season ended today, that would change. I would give the nod to Posada.
Morgan's comments did allude to the fact that his pet candidates from a month previous -- Giambi and Ichiro Suzuki -- had faded, a reminder that it's a good idea to keep an open mind on this stuff until the playoff races are over.

Locally, some of the New York-area writers have been taking up Posada's case. Newsday's Jon Heyman is skeptical that the writers will get the vote right, period:
Going by recent voting history, we writers will blow it big-time. Posada has been the best and most dependable player on the best team in a most difficult season, a clutch hitter who posted consistent and big numbers while squatting, particularly in the two most telling categories of on-base percentage (.407 before last night) and slugging percentage (.516), an assured leader since the day last October he said aloud what everyone else was too afraid to utter (that the Angels "wanted it more"), a superb handler of a talented but difficult pitching staff and a man with the guts to go nose to nose with Lou Piniella.

One problem is that what Posada generally goes unnoticed. Posada was the steadiest force in a Yankees season marked by turmoil and worry, a tough regular season that culminated with last night's uncharacteristically trouble-free clincher, a 7-0 whitewashing of the White Sox. Another problem with Posada's candidacy is that voting writers are too busy making October travel plans to pay attention. My guess? He finishes no better than eighth, and behind four or more players who'll watch him on TV again this October.
Heyman's not alone in touting Posada. From New Jersey to Connecticut to Atlanta, he's got supporters.

Here's a quick look at some of the more advanced sabermetric indicators. I've included a few other candidates, such as Seattle's Brett Boone and Boston's Nomar Garciaparra, to round out the discussion:

Rodriguez 76.7 83.4 32
Delgado 68.7 65.1 31
Boone 62.9 70.9 29
Giambi 59.0 56.1 28
Posada 58.5 54.3 27
Soriano 54.5 57.0 27
Ramirez 70.4 66.4 27
Garciaparra 54.7 57.1 25
Tejada 40.7 49.4 25
Chavez 42.2 53.8 24
RARP (Runs Above Replacement Position) is Baseball Prospectus' stat based on Equivalent Runs, a park-adjusted figure which takes into account the offensive value of a player's contribution. VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) is Keith Woolner's similar measure, again using position to measure offensive totals. Neither of these take actual defensive play into account. WS is Win Shares, Bill James' measure, which DOES take defense into account -- a reason I prefer it, though the actual way it measures defensive contribution is certainly controversial. Looking at these, Posada's case based strictly on the numbers is less than clearcut, even among his own teammates. And he's well behind hitting machines Delgado and Rodriguez, not to mention Brett Boone.

It's easy to create a framework around which to justify nearly any of these candidates. But I do think the team's results should be considered. So in my mind, when it comes to voting on the MVP, playing for a team that's headed for the postseason isn't a requirement, but playing for a contender is. That rules out Rodriguez, who led the Rangers to fourth place yet again, and Delgado. Boone is another superficially excellent candidate (.292/34/114/.363/.531/.893), but the Mariners' drastic fade -- which he contributed to with a second-half .792 OPS -- makes it tough for me to annoint him the MVP.

That leaves me with Ramirez, a star on the league's most devastating offensive juggernaut, and three Yankees. And while I've got no shortage of bias here, aesthetics do count for something. Manny's begging out of the Yanks-Sox series, and his reputation for the occasional loaf -- not to mention his team's response to his benching -- drives a nail right through his candidacy as far as I'm concerned. Conversely, Posada's emergence as a leader among the Yanks gives him a little extra juice. Giambi had a good year by anyone's standards but his own -- he's lost out in the MVP sweepstakes with considerably better seasons than this. Soriano's low OBP simply hampers him in these discussions like a ball and chain. So for my nickel, I'd give Posada my MVP vote.

I'll have a more comprehensive look at the awards sometime in the next few weeks.

Thursday, September 25, 2003


They Have Met Their Match

The 1962 New York Mets are getting a lot of play lately, both for the Detroit Tigers' Alan Trammell-led and untrammeled assault on their monumental total of 120 losses and for the current model of the Metropolitans shaming the Shea Stadium faithful into submission.

ESPN Page 2's Jeff Merron has a tale of the tape comparison between this year's toothless Tigers and the original Not-So-Amazin' Mets, who played baseball as if it were a foreign language -- Stengelese -- which, come to think of it, provides a convenient explanation for everything. Those Mets, of course, have a whole lore at their disposal -- the baserunning and fielding gaffes of Marvelous Marv Throneberry, the short-lived agony of Don (.077) Zimmer, the indignities of Harry Chiti (traded for himself as the player to be named later) and Joe Pignatano (lining into a triple play in his final major league at-bat), and the endless quotability of Casey Stengel. These Tigers have only Mike Maroth and Jeremy Bonderman's chase for 20 losses, Carlos Pena's occasional vaporlock, and the bloated corpse of Bobby Higginson being pencilled into the lineup every day.

The Tigers may top (bottom?) the Mets in losses (they're 40-118 as of Thursday), but they won't come anywhere near the 60.5 game distance from first place that the Mets finished. On the other hand, Detroit is 27.5 games behind the Cleveland Indians, while the Mets finished "only" 24 games behind the Houston Astros. But say this for the Tigers: they haven't quit yet, having just taken two in a row from the Kansas City Royals. Still, in this long season, they're no match for the old Mets. An Orlando Sentinel headline sums up the comparison best: "'62 Mets Were Funny; Tigers just Sad, Bad".

Regarding the comparison of the current Mets to their original counterparts, the hyperbole is thicker and the art direction slicker. But then again, this is New York City, and the current Mets did just shake a 1-16 slide. In today's New York Times, manager Art Howe is depicted on a retro baseball card, along with golden oldies Zimmer and Stengel. Harvey Araton writes:
The re-emergence of the 1962 Mets as a pending news event has had me wishing they could somehow come back to play one series, four of seven, to defend their dishonor, just not against Detroit.

What I've been wondering is whether the current, woebegone Mets of September could even beat their famous ancestors who, after muffing most chances back in '62, have somehow held gamely on to the tag as the worst baseball act of all for 41 inglorious years.

By the weekend, the Tigers could be losers of 121 games and Casey Stengel's team may be downgraded to merely the most inept assemblage of so-called talent in franchise history, although the handful of masochists watching the Mets drop 16 of 17 before Tuesday night might be willing to debate this point.
Araton goes on with a position-by-position comparison of the two Mets teams and concludes that the '62 squad could beat these messy Mets. But his comparison is more than a little disingenuous, as it excludes injured outfielder Cliff Floyd, phenom shortstop Jose Reyes and second baseman Roberto Alomar in favor of reserves and replacement-level callups. On the other hand, what are Roger Cedeño and Timo Perez if not unwitting (and witless) time travellers from that 1962 club?

Say what you will about the flawed blueprint former GM Steve Phillips left the gate with -- overpriced and over-the-hill vets such as Alomar, Tom Glavine, gimpy Mo Vaughn, an expensive middle relief corps. No team could withstand the injuries to their two best hitters (Mike Piazza and Floyd), and a suddenly emerging prospect (Reyes) and come out smelling like roses. Piazza, Alomar, and Glavine will someday be enshrined in the Hall of Fame alongside Stengel and original Met Richie Ashburn, and the rest of this nightmare season will be long forgotten.

As strange as it sounds, I'm actually headed to Shea Stadium tonight on a free ticket, more to spend time with friends I don't usually see than to witness the retirement ceremony for radio announcer Bob Murphy and shovel dirt on this year's squad. If there's something wrong with a meaningless night at the ballpark, I don't want to be right.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003


Quick Hits

I went up to Maine to visit friends this past weekend, so I didn't watch any baseball. But several things caught my eye over the past few days.

Ted Lilly came to the A's rescue again. On Friday and Saturday, the Seattle Mariners spanked the A's in the first two games of their series, pulling to within three games of the AL West leaders. Sunday's scheduled starter, Rich Harden, was scratched due to back spasms, and Lilly, who'd thrown a bullpen session on Saturday, reportedly went to manager Ken Macha and asked for the ball. Never mind the fact that the 27-year-old lefty was 0-4 with a 6.89 ERA in 8 starts against Seattle; this man is a different pitcher now. He tossed another gem -- 6 innings of 3-hit shutout ball, with 7 Ks -- and won his 6th straight start while the A's put the hurt on the M's, 12-0. No less than ace Tim Hudson praised Lilly for his gutsy actions as well as his performance: "We knew he had great stuff. But this is showing a new side of him that not a lot of pitchers have -- putting your team on your shoulders."

Not everybody is so convinced about Lilly. Elephants in Oakland, which keeps close tabs on the A's, notes that Lilly's full-season stats still put him around average in sabermetric terms (such as Support Neutral Wins Above Replacement or Runs Saved Above Average), and notes the less than stellar competition he's faced during this 6-0 run. "You don't label an entire season by three weeks of work," writes our pachyderm friend.

To which I'll respond that you most certainly are entitled to do so when those three weeks define your team's season, enabling you to win your division in spite of one of your aces being finished due to injury. Clutch hitting and clutch pitching don't exist as a demonstrably repeatable skill statistically, but Ted Lilly has been clutch down the stretch, and now that the A's have clinched the AL West, they can pour a few bottles over his head to thank him for his part.

• Speaking of guts -- as in blowing them -- Lilly's replacement on the Yanks, Jeff Weaver, looks to have played himself off the postseason roster with his performance on Monday night. With not an ice cube's chance in hell of drawing a postseason start, Weaver needed to convince Joe Torre that he could be an effective reliever for the postseason despite his 6.75 ERA in that role. Torre tossed him into the fire in the tenth inning after Roberto Alomar led off with a single, with Frank Thomas, Magglio Ordonez, and Carlos Lee due up next. The White Sox aren't going to the postseason, but that's as tough a trio as any playoff team can offer. Weaver apparently had a history of success against them, a combined .197 average, according to the New York Times.

History's bunk. Weaver walked Thomas, then threw a fat sinker to Ordonez that Mags put deep into the leftfield bleachers for a walk-off three-run homer. As Steven Goldman, who writes the essential Pinstriped Bible column, put it: "That Weaver would survive both [Thomas and Ordonez] was unlikely as President Bush and Jacques Chirac proclaiming 'International Let's Share Iraq Week' while sampling plates of hot buttered escargot and cheese fondue before heading over to a Dixie Chicks concert."

The Yanks were poised to clinch their 6th straight AL East flag with a victory on Monday, but Weaver's short performance suggested stronger drink would be necessary. In the pitcher's defense, the guy hadn't pitched in nine days. But Monday's outing was emblematic of his miserable season, and it pushed the starter-turned-reliever-turned-basketcase's ERA above 6.00. Unless the Yanks need a mop over the next week, it may be the last time he pitches this year.

• Speaking of clinching, now that the Yanks have done so, that's tickets to Game One of the ALDS at Yankee Stadium for me, as well as a sushi dinner thanks to the AL Central victors.

• Like the White Sox, the Royals won't win the AL Central, but their victory on Sunday was an important one. By notching their 81st victory, the Royals clinched a .500 season, closing a loophole in the contract of star first baseman Mike Sweeney. Had the Royals not reached .500 by the end of 2004, Sweeney could have opted out of his 5-year, $55-million contract.

For a team which lost 100 games last year and which hasn't seen .500 since David Cone was their ace, the Royals have pulled off an amazing turnaround this year. To have done so while their top hitter missed six weeks with back trouble is even more impressive. They ran out of arms -- hey, Jose Lima and Kevin Appier can get you only so far -- but it's clear that with Tony Pena at the helm, the Royals have hope once again.

Friday, September 19, 2003


The Bonds of Summer

I've been thinking about Barry Bonds lately, more specifically about the way I respond to Barry Bonds. Perhaps its a story emblematic of our times, or maybe just a sad commentary on my own capability for detatchment, but it took the recent death of his father for Barry Bonds to finally break through to me.

I've been no huge fan of the late-model Barry Bonds. I ceased wonder somewhere around the end of the 2001 season, my jaw agape from staring at too many Baseball Tonight reruns, my eyes aglaze from sifting through endless numbers crunched in demonstration of his prowess, proclamining his elevation to the pantheon. I've grown blasé about his continued success. Another jack out of the park? You don't say. On the only pitch he got to swing at the entire game? Yawn. Hitting .370 with 198 walks? Hmmmph. Comparisons to Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Willie Mays, the only men whose milestone home run totals now lay ahead of him? What else ya got?

I was the same way about Michael Jordan. Though I enjoyed his ascendance -- the Slam Dunk contest victories, the Spike Lee commercials, that first title run in which he laid waste to both the Pistons and the Lakers -- by the time of Jordan's second retirement I loathed the man. Sure, it had much to do with the fact that he'd beaten my Utah Jazz for the NBA championship two years in a row, capping it off with a shot that assumed mythical status. But my awe for him was long gone. Through that second threepeat, I was flat bored by his greatness, by the inevitablity of his team's victories, by the barrage of highlight films and by the slickness of his public persona. Not even the sight of Jordan wearing a strange uniform, failing to impose his will on a lackluster collection of playground yahoos as his own body broke down won him any sympathy in my book.

Bonds' performance in the face of his father's losing battle with cancer has changed my thinking on the man. It's not just the fireworks he's produced -- the game-winning homer upon returning to the team after a weekend spent visiting his ailing father, the home run in his first game back following his father's death (in a game he later left because of an accelerated heartbeat), the game-winning hit two nights later after being released from the hospital following treatment for exhaustion. It's that he's doing all of this with a heavy heart, able to shut out his grief only long enough to step into the one place he's in control, the batter's box, and perform at a level that may be unparalleled.

Dan Le Batard's article in the September 15 ESPN magazine offers a rare glimpse of a man who has gone to great lengths to protect himself from such intimacy. Penetrating the bubble which has surrounded the superstar for years, Le Batard captures the rawness of Bonds' emotions, the turmoil of his ordeal, and finds a man at the point of breaking down:
"I'm done," Bonds says. "The young players, it's their turn. I had my fun, and I keep screwing up and coming back. What for? Why bother? I can't do this anymore. I've already told the guys: a few more games, and I'm gone. I'm day-to-day, man. None of those records mean anything to me. My godfather and my father are the only reason I played, for their approval. I admired the rest of them -- Hank, Babe, Ted -- but I wasn't fighting for their approval. I've always played for the acceptance of my godfather and father. That's it. And now my father's gone."

His voice, cracking throughout, finally gives up here, done fighting. Barry Bonds, so impenetrable, so defiant, so very strong, is on the verge of tears. He is slumped in a chair in front of his locker, and he stays quiet for 10 ... 20 ... 30 seconds, the silence helping keep down what might bubble over with a nudge from but one more syllable.

Bonds stares straight ahead in the completely vacant visitors clubhouse in San Diego, suddenly avoiding eye contact. He doesn't like revealing himself because, as he explained politely but firmly at this conversation's start, "my career is an open book, but my life is not." Finally, after a full minute of silence, Bonds rubs a hand slowly over his weary face, sniffles and looks up at the clock through glassy, bloodshot eyes.

He hasn't stretched. He took fewer than five minutes' worth of swings during batting practice. He tried to take a nap on the trainer's table, with the aid of NyQuil, but failed miserably. That, and a giant cup of straight black coffee, is the extent of his pregame preparation. And now it is six minutes to game time.
Later, after tracing the arc of Barry's career in the shadow of father Bobby and godfather Willie Mays, Le Batard continues:
"The doctors didn't know how my father was still alive, with cancer in his kidney, lungs, two tumors in his brain and open-heart surgery, but he stayed around long enough to tell me everything at the end -- how much he loved me, how proud he was," Barry says. "Everything poured out. I wouldn't wish this on anybody, but the one thing that makes it better -- better, not easier -- is that I was there at the end. I didn't leave his side. I have my dad's approval. Now it's just Willie I'm after. It's time to get Willie's. And Willie won't let me rest, man. He doesn't want to give it to me. He's afraid of the same thing I am -- that I'll quit on the spot."

Bonds isn't quitting the game. What he's doing is taking a bat to it, one historic whack at a time. Retirement? That's just the frailty and fatigue talking after a terribly long season. He likes the money too much, and the challenges. Bonds admits as much now. He says he plans to play out the final two years of his contract (and collect $36M), at least. But throw the retirement talk into the maw of the multiheaded beast he's fighting now -- his father's death, the feds busting down the door at his strength coach's house in search of who knows what, the perpetual tension with the media, the chasing of his first championship at 39 -- and what you've unleashed is a gladiator who would make Maximus wet his pants.
An incredible peek behind the curtain, indeed.

• • •

But that isn't the only reason I've come around on Barry. The death of Bobby Bonds continues to resonate in my mind. In the days leading up to his demise, I'd been off the grid, backpacking with my father and brother, and fervently reading Roger Kahn's amazing The Boys of Summer, a book that for all of my Dodger fandom had somehow escaped my reading list. Disguised as a baseball book, Kahn's masterful tome is a medititation on mortality and a brilliant, poignant study of the flawed beauty of the human organism.

In part, The Boys of Summer serves as a memoir of Kahn's two seasons working the Brooklyn Dodger beat as a writer for the New York Herald Tribune, covering Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, and the rest as they battle the New York Yankees in search of their first World Championship. In part, it's a nostalgia piece detailing Kahn's journeys to revisit those players twenty years later, reflect on their careers, and explore the ways their lives after baseball unfolded. And in part, it's a poignant tale of a father-son bond cemented by baseball. Former college second baseman and father of the author Gordon Kahn taught his son the game, its fundamentals and its lore, just as countless other fathers taught their sons baseball -- Bobby Bonds and Richard Jaffe included.

Whether we grow up to be ballplayers or writers or brain surgeons, as children we come to the game via our fathers (and sometimes our mothers) -- somebody who throws us fat whiffle-ball pitches in the backyard, who explains why the glove goes on the opposite hand from the one we throw with, who takes us to the ballpark for the first time and patiently endures our barrage of questions as we struggled to reconcile the stadium game with our own narrow backyard experience, who teaches us how to read a box score and how to fill out a scorecard. Ideally baseball isn't the only vehicle for our bonding, but it's a sure one, with a built-in mechanism for measuring the passage of years and our own growth.

In addition to the fundamentals and the lore, Gordon Kahn bestowed a love of the Brooklyn Dodgers on his son Roger, and the two of them endured Dem Bums' fruitless attempts to beat the imperial Yankees in the Fall Classic. Shortly after Kahn's second season covering the Dodgers, in which they lost the 1953 World Series to the Yanks (just as they had in 1952, not to mention 1949, 1947, and 1941), his father dropped dead of a heart attack. The "next year" for which the Dodges and their fans waited lay a mere two years after Gordon Kahn's death, but the father could no longer wait.

I didn't turn out to be a beat reporter like Roger Kahn or a big-league ballplayer (a shoulder injury this past June killed any chances I had of being summoned by Brian Cashman as a solution to the Yankee middle relief woes). But I'm lucky enough to have my sixty-two year old father still coaching me, advising me on the finer points of work, money, travel, fishing, wine, women, and song. I can only imagine the devastation, the void I would feel if I lost that at a time, like Kahn and Bonds, when I feel my best days -- marriage, children, maybe a book, whatever -- are still to come. My heart goes out to Barry Bonds, who's finally showed me that he has one.

Bonds is now five homers away from topping his godfather for third on the all-time home run list. He's 59 away from topping the Babe, and an even 100 away from topping Hank Aaron's mark at the summit of Mount Homer. Barring injury and assuming he can add a few more homers before the end of this season, that gives Bonds a very good shot of challenging Aaron's mark by the end of 2005. If he gets the mark, he will have earned it, playing in a hitters' era but a difficult pitchers' park, and through a strategy in which challenging him to hit is the last thing any pitcher wants to do.

We can pile the superlatives on Barry Bonds, and marvel at his eye-popping numbers. But whatever words we ascribe to him, "immortality" is one we can skip. This sad summer has shown us all just how mortal Barry Bonds is, and how mighty his accomplishments are in the face of that.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003


Lilly in Bloom

When I went into the woods a couple of weeks ago, I predicted to a few people that based on the hairline fracture in Mark Mulder's femur, the A's were through. Four games behind the Mariners in the AL West, two games ahead of the Red Sox for the Wild Card, the Grim Forksman had come a-pokin'; the verdict was "done."

The only hope for the A's seemed to be highly touted rookie hurler Rich Harden. If Harden, who debuted in late July, could live up to his billing as a worthy addition to the Mulder-Tim Hudson-Barry Zito triumverate, the A's might stand a chance in the fall. That prospect looked good; at the time of Mulder's injury, Harden was 3-2 with a 3.00 ERA in six starts, five of which had been excellent.

One of the great things about baseball is that things never unfold the way we expect them to, and the A's are now the case in point. Including that one less-than-excellent start just prior to Mulder's injury, Harden had allowed 26 runs in his past 27.2 innings leading up to Tuesday night's start. But the A's have nevertheless mustered one of their patented late-season runs. Since Mulder went down, they've won 19 out of 26 while the Mariners have lost 14 of 24 -- an 8.5 game swing in the AL West standings.

Five times through the rotation since that fateful August 19, the pitcher who's risen to the occasion in Mulder's absence is a suprising one: Ted Lilly, the former Yankee who left in the Jeff Weaver trade. Here's the comparison:
       W-L   IP   ER   ERA  

Zito 2-2 33.2 17 4.54
Hudson 3-2 30.2 13 3.82
Harden 2-2 23.2 20 7.61
Lilly 5-0 29.1 4 1.23
Looking a bit more closely at Lilly's numbers, he's allowed 20 hits in this span, including 1 homer, walked only 7 and struck out 30. That comes out to a tidy 0.92 WHIP, a 4.3 K/W ratio, and a healthy 9.2 Ks per 9 innings. Granted, four of these five starts came against Anaheim and Tampa Bay (Toronto was the other), but talk to the Royals about the need to beat up on the dogs -- whether it's Hudson, Zito, or Lilly, somebody's gotta get the job done.

Lilly hasn't been pitching especially deep into ballgames, averaging just under six innings per start in this span. But neither has he been wearing himself out; his pitch counts in the five starts are 100, 98, 83, 83, and 67. On Monday night, suffering from a cold, he tossed five innings of one-hit ball before yielding to the bullpen.

Overall, Lilly's season's been servicable but hardly spectacular: 11-9 with a 4.33 ERA in a pitchers' ballpark, 1.31 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 2.6 K/W, 1.2 HR/9. Then again, those numbers would look pretty good at the back end of the Yankee rotation in place of Jeff Weaver and his 5.91 ERA, wouldn't they? Lilly's picked the right time to click, and it's looking as though the pitcher the A's once envisioned has finally arrived.

• • •

Wild afros, oversized gloves, and snakes -- oh my! These two pages of Funny and Strange Trading Cards are too good not to share. From the hat-busting hairdos of Oscar Gamble and Bake McBride to the huge mitt of Mikey Hatcher to the boa constrictor draped over Glenn Hubbard's shoulders, some hilarious and notorious cards are here, compiled by collector Bob Torba.

Here's Billy Martin giving a photographer the finger, Billy Ripken displaying his obscene nickname, and Claude Raymond caught with his zipper down -- twice! There's Bip Roberts wearing a sombrero. Why? Who cares! At least it looks more stylish than that furry hat Doug Drabek's wearing.

Jose Canseco with an oversize snow shovel, looking for a place to bury his career. An unidentified Pittsburgh Pirate milking a cow. Jose Rijo on three different cards holding three different squirt guns. Andy Ashby trying out a new fishing rod. Tim Flannery holding a surfboard. Brian Jordan swinging at a football. Rex Hudler glaring psychotically. Kurt Bevacqua and Ken Griffey, Jr. blowing bubbles. The world of baseball cards doesn't get any more surreal than this.


No Comment?

I'm not sure if it's just me, just anybody viewing this site on a Mac, or a system-wide problem, but the comment links at the end of each of my posts are all showing [0] even when comments have been posted.

I have no idea what the deal is on this, and I'll have to look into it. Apologies for anybody who submitted a comment and felt that they were left hanging. In the meantime I'll keep checking to see if you folks are leaving them.

Monday, September 15, 2003


Pimped Out

The aftermath of Sunday's Yankees-Devil Rays game, in which the Yankee winning streak ended at eight, was apparently quite comical. As is traditional prior to embarking on the last road trip of the season, the team's rookies underwent a hazing ritual in which the veterans forced them to dress up in outlandish outfits, then go out and sign autographs while walking to the team bus. Newsday has a great slide show of the revelry.

Hideki Matsui looked smooooov in a matching leopard skin hat and blazer, with an open-collared shirt embellished by two large gold medallions draped over his chest. With a white full-length fake-fur coat and matching hat, Jose Conteras looked as though he'd won an all-expense paid trip to raid Sly Stone's closet. Pitcher Jorge DePaula's ensemble featured lime green, purple, and a zebra print, while catcher Michael Hernandez was decked out in red velour and another zebra print.

The opposition got in on the act as well. The Devil Ray rookies, including pitcher Doug Waechter, dressed in drag, wearing a variety of garish skirts. Drag seems to be the order of the day for this affair. The New York Daily News noted that last year, Drew Henson wore a wedding dress for the occasion and that two years ago, Nick Johnson "sported the tiny orange shorts of a Hooters waitress."

Elsewhere around the league on Sunday, it was a similar story, but with fewer pictures. Across town, Mike Glavine, handed a gift promotion to the bigs as a thank-you to his brother, was dressed like an Arabian princess. In Cincinnati, all the rookies dressed either as Hooters waitresses or Budweiser girls. In Cleveland, outfielder Jody Gerut dressed as Marilyn Monroe. In San Francisco, the rookies donned rock star wigs to go with their Hooters getups.

Hey, it's a long season. You gotta have some fun...


Jordan Rules

Pat Jordan has become one of my favorite baseball writers over the past few years. A minor-league pitcher in the late '50s, Jordan's career was finished by an extended bout of Rick Ankiel-esque wildness, a topic he's come to grips with via his writing career. Jordan eloquently told his own story in A False Spring, and went on to write several other books including another memoir, A Nice Tuesday, that's in my reading pile (more on that soon). He also writes meaty, insighful articles for the New York Times Magazine; his best one tells the Ankiel story, then pulls back to discuss his own failure. It reads like a story told by a ghost on a highway. "What's happening to you happened to me in 1961. I forgot how to pitch," Jordan tells Ankiel, "I've been thinking about it ever since."

Jordan writes about pitchers often, and he's got a new article called "The Hardest Stuff" this week about triple-digit fastballs and the men who throw them. I haven't read it yet, but I'll happily refund your money should you check it out on this blind recommendation and not dig it.

• • •

Just as I suspected, the Jordan article good stuff, though perhaps a bit more slight than the author's usual fare. The pitcher takes brief looks at hard throwers such as the Cubs' Kerry Wood, the Astros' Billy Wagner, and Angels' minor-leaguer Bobby Jenks, examining both the physical and psychological sides to what they do. I gleaned two interesting facts from all of this:

• According to physicist Robert Adair, a 100 MPH fastball reaches the catcher four-tenths of a second after it's thown, and the batter has about .15 seconds to react.

• Early pitchers whose fastballs were recorded as crossing the triple-digit barrier were Bob Feller, whose heater was timed against a speeding motorcycle, and early '60s minor-league legend Steve Dalkowski. Given that Dalkowski was measured with a Juggs gun, which tracks the speed of the ball as it leaves the pitchers hand, and the fact that the ball loses up to 5 MPH on its way to the plate, it's estimated that the hard-throwing Orioles farmhand could throw 103 MPH.

103 miles an hour. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

As I've written before, Dalkowski's statistics are absolutely eye-popping. During his first year of pro ball, in 62 innings, he allowed only 22 hits and struck out 121 -- but walked 129, and went 1-8 with an 8.13 ERA. One year he struck out and walked 262 men in 170 innings. Former O's minor-leaguer-turned-screenwriter Ron Shelton used Dalkowski as the basis for the character Nuke LaLoosh in his movie Bull Durham.

Dalkowski never appeared in a major-league game, undone by alcoholism and an arm injury on the day he was issued a big league uniform. But last week the Orioles honored the pitcher, now 64, by having him throw out the first pitch of their September 8 game at Camden Yards. It's nice to see the man finally get some recognition.

Sunday, September 14, 2003


Clearing the Bases

• What a difference a week makes. Last Sunday morning the Yanks awoke with a collective hangover from two consecutive poundings by the Boston Red Sox and a lead in the AL East that had dwindled to 2.5 games. In the past seven days, they've taken a huge game from the Sox, won a makeup game from the Blue Jays, and cut through a pair of the league's worst teams like a hot knife through butter. With eight straight wins under their belt, they woke up this Sunday having opened a 5.5 game lead on the Sox, and their magic number for winning the AL East is down to 10.
But there's still plenty of suspense to be had around both leagues. The three-team race in the AL Central finds the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins tied at the top, meaning that the outcome of the Great Sushi Bet of 2003 (I have the Twins vs. the rest of the Central) is still in doubt. The Kansas City Royals, who topped last season's win total over a month ago, have dropped an axle over the past two weeks or so, going 5-10 against some mediocre competition and falling to 3.5 out. The Oakland A's are perched atop the AL West with a 2.5 game lead over Seattle, and the Mariners are a mere half-game behind the Red Sox for the Wild Card. All told, that's 7 out of 14 teams in the AL who remain alive.

The NL is, if anything, even more contentious. While both the Atlanta Braves and the San Francisco Giants have wide leads in the NL East and West, respectively, the NL Central and the Wild Card remain up for grabs. In the Central, the Houston Astros hold a slim half-game lead over the Chicago Cubs, with the St. Louis Cardinals, like their I-70 rivals, fading at 3.5 games out. The Cards, who've dropped 9 of 13, are becoming unhinged, with manager Tony LaRussa accusing ump Jerry Crawford of being out to get them. The Florida Marlins, led by their 72-year-old manager Jack McKeon, have overcome the medieval torture methods of predecessor Jeff Torborg to take the Wild Card lead over the streaky Philadelphia Phillies by 2.5 games. At 3.5 games back, the Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves hanging on in the Wild Card race by their fingernails -- despite getting exactly eleven base hits over the past month, or something like that. The Cubs are four back in the Wild Card While a week ago one could have counted the Arizona Diamondbacks and Montreal Expos at long odds in the WC race, both can be safely counted out at 7.5 and 8.5 games back, respectively. All told, that's 8 out of 16 teams still alive in the NL, meaning that with two weeks to go, half of the majors' teams still have postseason hopes. I'm not a huge fan of the Wild Card, but I'll concede that's pretty incredible, and it should be a very interesting couple of weeks for game and scoreboard watching.

• Speaking of less favored innovations, after seven seasons of interleague play, MLB has finally gotten around to scheduling what may be The Unsurpassable Marquee Matchup. I'll give you a hint: it's the one featuring my two favorite teams.

The initial goal of interleague play was to rotate the matchups between divisions from year to year, but for the first five years, MLB stuck itself in a rut by matching each division in the AL with its geographic counterpart in the NL. In 2002, the divisions rotated for the first time, and they spun again this year.

But despite the fact that the Barry Bonds-led San Francisco Giants and the then-champion Arizona Diamondbacks visited Yankee Stadium last season, and that the Yanks visited such distant western outposts as Colorado and San Diego, one NL West opponent was conspicuously absent from the Yankees' schedule: the L.A. Dodgers.

You'd think that above all else, MLB -- not to mention the two teams -- would have wanted to cash in on an historic rivalry that has produced no fewer than eleven World Series matchups (1941, '47, '49, '52, '53, '55, '56, '63, '77, '78, and '81), the most of any two teams and the subject of untold numbers of books. But far be it for Bud Selig to show that much imagination in the face of all of those Pittsburgh-Minnesota matchups. But now, according to the Los Angeles Times, the soon-to-be-released 2004 schedule has the Yanks paying a visit to Dodger Stadium for a three-day series during the weekend of June 18-20.

Is it too early to buy tickets? My little head might just explode.

• Belated congratulations to Mike Carminati of Mike's Baseball Rants and his wife on the birth of a baby boy. Alas, there's absolutely no truth to the rumor that the little one is named Joe Morgan Chat Day Carminati.

• The world of baseball blogging is largely a male one, so it's a breath of fresh air to see a woman join the ranks. Irina Paley, a Washington Heights native, Columbia University student and computer programmer with whom I've been corresponding lately, has started West 116th Street, which she describes as "a mostly baseball blog, by way of the Upper West Side." Following up on my King Kaufman-related post, Irina has a good piece relating to a Thomas Boswell quote: "Baseball is religion without the mischief." Check it out.

Friday, September 12, 2003


Man in Black

Johnny Cash (1932-2003)

This has absolutely nothing to do with baseball. But I was saddened to awake this morning to the news that Johnny Cash had died. As a musician and an icon, Cash bridged gaps between generations, classes, and cultures in a way that was second to none. In a career that began alongside Elvis Presley in the mid-fifties, Cash not only outlived Elvis by twenty-five years, he was still producing relevant work nearly a half-century later. Meditate on that one for a moment.

Patriot or rebel, liberal or conservative, rich or poor, the body of Cash's work -- from his first Sun singles to his live-in-prison albums to his autumnal American Recordings series -- speaks to just about everyone. "Folsom Prison Blues," "I Walk the Line," "I Still Miss Someone," "Dark as a Dungeon," "Ring of Fire," "A Boy Named Sue," "Man in Black," the list of his great songs rolls on like the "Big River" of which he sang.

To put it another way, if you can't find something that resonates in Johnny Cash's music, you just ain't listening.

It's safe to say I think of Johnny Cash every day -- I have a large painting of him (above), done by musician Jon Langford of the Mekons and the Waco Brothers, which hangs above our living-room couch. Cash's music has been with me since I was a little boy, when my father would play tapes of his greatest hits on road trips to California or Oregon. Rediscovering his work as an adult not only helped to bridge a generation gap within my family, it opened me up to a whole new world of music which I continue to explore today.

And it gave me something I could finally sing in the shower without scaring the hell out of anybody within earshot; I can hit those low notes. If I could be anyone, anywhere with a microphone in front of me, it would be Cash in front of the Tennessee Two. "I hear that train a-comin', it's rollin' 'round the bend, and I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when..."

Plenty of obituaries of and tributes to the man are out there today, and plenty more will be rolled out in the days to come. But the words which resonate most for me were written by Langford, as eloquent a musician as you'll ever come across, in the liner notes to a tribute album he did in 1994:
He is the polar opposite of the cozy, safe, sexless and bland that white America usually clutches to its all purchasing, suffocating breast. Decency, truth, honesty... around him these gutted terms retain some of their original meaning and in a country that fears self-criticism above all else he holds a mirror up to its rotten hide... ironically it is patriotism and terrible guilty grief that fuels this righteous rage at totalitariansm, racism, genocide... going into the prisons & reservations, putting his own weakness under the same microscope.
Johnny Cash is gone, and he will be dearly missed. The world has lost a great voice.

As the man himself once sang, "I don't like it, but I guess things happen that way."

Thursday, September 11, 2003


"This ain't football. We do this every day." writer King Kaufman, whose work I've dug for a long time, has an excellent article today about the dearth of football blogs compared to baseball ones. Pointing out that while there are no fewer than 155 blogs linked via Baseball News Blog, he notes that the pigskin sport is quite neglected online. As he writes, "[S]earching for football blogs is like looking for Metallica fans at a Clay Aiken concert. There might be a few around, but you're not tripping over them. After quite a bit of searching, I know of more blogs devoted to the Detroit Tigers than to the NFL."

That's a scary vision, but anybody who saw the Tigers lose 15-5 to the Yankees last night knows that in terms of the dark oddities of the Web, Tiger blogging has to be right there with fantasy fishing, midget porn, and trepanning cults.

Based on interviews with bloggers from both sports (including some recognizable names, such as Bronx Banter's Alex Belth and Bambino's Curse's Edward Cossette), Kaufman cites four reasons baseball outpaces football on the web: the game's literary tradition, its season length, its daily nature, and the popularity of sabermetric analysis. He pulls a couple of great quotes comparing the two sports, including this one from the Washington Post's Bob Thompson: "Baseball is a fat Victorian novel, replete with colorful minor characters and discursive subplots, into which a fan can disappear for months; football is a series of quick- cutting TV cop shows."

Answering Kaufman's premise, Belth is even more succinct, drawing upon one of my all-time favorite quotes from Oriole managing legend Earl Weaver, as told to the Post's Thomas Boswell years ago: "This ain't football. We do this every day." I think that hits the nail on the head. For those of us in the world of baseball blogs, this stuff -- whether it's spring training, the dog days of August, the World Series, or the Hot Stove League -- is as essential as the morning cup of coffee. You don't stop drinking it just because it's December.

And there's the stat thing. Baseball history is a river of statistics, and its vast body is accessible online via Baseball-Reference, Retrosheet, ESPN and the like. You can track down the box score of your first major-league game, sponsor a favorite role player's stat page, analyze the numbers until your eyes cross, or discuss and debate recent news articles with intelligent fans. On the other hand, Baseball-Reference's historical pigskin counterpart, Pro-Football-Reference, is a thin gruel by comparison, listing only ballhandlers who meet certain qualifications and ignoring the guys in the trenches who give the game its character. Punters aren't even included! Where have you gone, Ray Guy?

One thing that's worth noting is that Kaufman's own style is very blog-influenced; his column went daily back in June, and unlike many mainstream columnists, his work is full of hyperlinks; most established media entities (the publications, not the writers) sweat in fear that if you click on a link -- gasp! -- you'll vanish into the ether of the Net, never to return to their site. Kaufman's even made minor sabermetric splash with his own contribution, the Neifi Index. Named after stathead whipping boy Neifi Perez, he of the career 686 OPS, the Index measures a team's winning percentage with and without a player in the lineup. The better the record without, the higher the Index. In other words, a stat that's very compatible with the world of the futility infielder.

One of Kaufman's interviewees notes that football has traditionally lagged behind baseball in other interactive areas like fantasy leagues and trading cards. Again, a very telling remark. When was the last time you heard somebody fretting about that long-lost Roger Staubach card from their childhood? For all of the ways in which the sport lags behind in its current marketing, baseball's connection to its fans is so much more intimate, individual, and multifaceted, it's no wonder that it's so easily intellectualized. While that may be a lot to digest (in every sense of the word), it's worth knowing that the game and its devotees are always there for you, ready to provide sustenance at the push of a button, 24-7-365.


Buried Treasure (Part II)

The same archaeological dig into my old bedroom desk which netted me autographs from the 1986 Cactus League, brought me remembrances of another spring past. I found a long-lost envelope of photos from the 1989 Grapefruit League, when I saw four straight Dodger games at Vero Beach with my family. The world was a sunny place that spring -- I was a freshman at Brown University, and the Dodgers were fresh off their improbable World Championship. Aside from the fact that I was nearly failing Engineering 4, anything seemed possible. I even managed to live down oversleeping my flight to Florida (caught out of position, thanks to my girlfriend at the time), though I got endless shit for that.

Too cool for school, I didn't buy a scorecard or keep any notes about the games I saw, in which the Dodgers played the Expos, the Mets, the Yankees and one other team I can't recall. But seeing these photos brings back some memories, so I thought I'd put together a little exhibit. Click on each link for a photo in a new window:

Kirk Gibson was the reigning NL MVP who brought his dirt-eating style over to the Dodgers from the Detroit Tigers. Felled by a hamstring injury during the playoffs, he came off the bench to pinch-hit that famous homer in Game One of the Series. Alas, Gibson was headed for an injury-marred campaign, .213 with 9 homers in 71 games.

Eddie Murray was the new man on the scene, signed as a free agent after twelve years in Baltimore. He had a disappointing year as well, .247 with 20 homers -- the first time in his major league career that he fell below .277.

Fernando Valenzuela was on the comeback trail. Suffering through a shoulder injury in 1988, Valenzuela had gone 5-8 with a 4.24 ERA. He pitched only two games after July, none in the postseason. He made it through the entire season in 1989, tossing nearly 200 innings, but he went 10-13 with a 3.43 ERA.

Rick Dempsey was a gritty catcher who I always liked as an Oriole, and even moreso when he joined the Dodgers as Mike Scioscia's backup. After a fine 1988 (.251/.338/.455 with 7 homers in 167 AB), Dempsey slumped in 1989 to a .179 average. I always expected he'd become a big-league manager, and I'm surprised he hasn't done so yet.

• Dodger coach Manny Mota, the team's former pinch-hitting specialist, was popular with the Vero Beach fans for grand enterance every day -- on a bicycle. Fourteen years later, he's still at it.

• Manager Tommy Lasorda, with a second World Championship under his belt, was even more full of himself that spring. Even managers need to practice their craft in spring training.

• The Mets' Darryl Strawberry was still quite the superstar, and coming off of a 39-homer, 101-RBI season. His 1989 would be a disappointment (was something in the Vero Beach water?) hitting only .225 with 29 homers and 77 RBI. But Strawberry enjoyed two more highly productive years after that, one with the Mets and one with the Dodgers, before his career went into a tailspin.

The 1989 Dodgers turned out to be a lackluster team, finishing fourth in the NL West at 77-83. It was the age-old story for the Dodgers: good pitching (a 2.95 ERA, tops in the league), lousy hitting (only 554 runs, 3.46 per game, last in the league). Orel Hershiser, who keyed the Dodger championship run with 59 consecutive scoreless innings and postseason heroics, had another fine season with a 2.31 ERA, but poor run support held his record to 15-15. Gibson was terrible, Murray was atypically lackluster, and the rest of the lineup that had been so ridiculed the October before played down to its potential. Can somebody please find Mike Marshall and beat the snot out of him for being so lousy?

Photos aside, I have two vivid memories from that spring training that, alas, have no mementos attached. Before one of the ballgames, I happened to cross paths with Vin Scully, the great Dodger announcer. Thinking quickly, I borrowed a pen from a bystander and got his autograph -- but I've never been able to turn up that piece of paper. And at the final game against the Yankees, a non-roster outfielder named Mike Griffin got four hits and received a warm ovation from the crowd. Griffin never made the majors, and I always wondered what happened to him.

I unearthed a few more items in my big dig, the best of them being a baseball autographed by Tom Seaver, an 1983 All-Star Game program and a scorebook -- a C.S. Peterson Scoremaster, bought for $0.50 at the same time my current one was purchased -- in which I'd scored games from 1982-1983, including an '82 Series game and the '82 All-Star Game. Back in those days I kept score only for the team I was rooting for, leaving behind a rather imperfect account. The scorebook still has plenty of room for new games, so I dragged it back to New York City.

The other great item I found was a scrap of paper containing my Little League stats for 1982, the one year I played (I wasted most of my Little League career playing goalie on a soccer field). I was a member of the Phillies of the Wasatch Heights League in Salt Lake City, coached by the father of one of my classmates, and populated by two of his seven siblings (they were Mormons, and they all had the initials J.J.; no wonder I made the team).

We won the league championship, and I played a key part, stroking a bases-loaded, game-tying RBI single in the fourth inning of the championship game. Alas, I was removed shortly afterwards to make sure everbody got to play -- we had about 15 players, including one girl, and the coach made sure everybody got PT. This explains this overall stat line:
G  AB  R  H  2B  3B  HR  RBI BB  SO  SB   AVG   OBP   SLG  

9 10 2 3 1 0 0 2 2 4 2 .300 .417 .400

0 4 0 1.000 LF-4, 2B-2, SS-1, 3B-1, CF-1, P-1
Twelve plate appearances in nine games? Thanks for showing up. Alas, I was a true futilityman, seeing time at six different positions. The appearance at pitcher was for fielding purposes only -- during the first half of the season we hit against machines or an adult pitcher who threw against both sides, with a player for the fielding team responsible for covering the consequences. No joke: one of the adults who pitched was a coach named John Candelaria, just like the Pirates star at the time. Strange, some of the stuff your mind digs up to go along with the mementos.

Anyway, I suppose I owe my mom a bit of thanks for not throwing all of this stuff out, and for egging me on until I finally got around to cleaning out that desk.


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