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, January 16, 2007



I read the news today, oh boy...

Last week my good pal Alex Belth called me to gab about baseball and the various projects we've been working on this winter. Facing multiple deadlines, I had to defer our catch-up call, and I didn't get back to it until this morning. I called his work number, left a message, then thought to check his blog to see what Mr. B was up to.

Alas, what I found there was heartbreaking. Alex's father, a man whom I briefly met last year, passed away over the weekend due to a heart attack. He was surrounded by family, Alex included, and went peacefully. Somehow, Alex managed to pen a beautiful tribute for his blog in the short time since then. Please, go read it, and spare a thought for Alex and his family.

I spoke to Alex briefly upon reading his piece, conveying my condolences. Typical Belth, he sounds remarkably upbeat and coherent under the circumstances; I was the one getting choked up during our conversation. Over the years that we've known each other, my chats with Alex about baseball have often centered around family and the way we became fans. One thing we hold in common is that both of us had special links to our fathers via Reggie Jackson and the game itself.

My relationship with my dad has always been a smooth one, and for that I'm incredibly, eternally grateful. Alex's relationship with his father was a bit rockier, but they'd long since found their peace, discovering the rewards in their hard-won understanding. At a time like this, that's as comforting a thought as there is. My deepest condolences to Alex, Emily and their family and friends.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Hall of Fame, Hail of Bullets

• The results for the 2006 Hall of Fame voting have been announced. Not surprisingly, Cal Ripken Jr. (98.53 percent of the 545 votes) and Tony Gwynn (97.6 percent) were elected. Ripken appeared on the most ballots ever, but had "only" the third highest percentage behind Tom Seaver (98.83) and Nolan Ryan (98.79).

• Rich Gossage just missed being elected by 21 votes; his percentage has risen from 55.2 percent in 2005 to 64.6 percent last year to 71.2 percent this year. I think it's a pretty solid bet he gets in next year, with the writers' desires to keep the podium clear for Ripken and Gwynn the main reason he didn't get in this year.

• Other than Gossage and Dave Concepcion, every other repeat candidate on the ballot saw his percentage decrease. Bert Blyleven dropped below 50 percent, just a year after climbing above that level. That's significant because every candidate who's crossed the 50 percent threshold has gotten in with the exception of Gil Hodges and three men on the current ballot: Blyleven, Gossage, Jim Rice, and Andre Dawson.

• Mark McGwire wasn't even close, at 23.5 percent, but he stays on the ballot, which may allow cooler heads to prevail.

• The dream is over for Steve Garvey (whose eligibility expired aftter 15 years). Dropping off the ballot by receiving less than five percent of the vote: Orel Hershiser, Albert Belle, Paul O'Neill, Bret Saberhagen, Jose Canseco (bye, schmuck), Tony Fernandez, Dante Bichette, Eric Davis, Bobby Bonilla, Ken Caminiti, Jay Buhner, Scott Brosius, Wally Joyner, Devon White, and Bobby Witt. All but the latter four received at least one vote, which is kind of scary when you think about somebody seriously considering Bichette.

• My JAWS article on pitchers went up earlier today, as did an expanded ranking of the Reliever Adjusted JAWS rankings at Unfiltered. Yesterday's Unfiltered featured a look at the JAWS rankings of every #1 draft pick; Harold Baines (1977 #1 who narrowly managed to stay on the ballot at 5.3 percent) is third all-time behind Ken Griffey Jr. (who will be the first HOFer from among those ranks) and Alex Rodriguez (who's already #1).

Joe Sheehan uses JAWS to look at some of the ballot's perennial bridesmaids, including his personal favorite, Don Mattingly. I think he sums the JAWS mission up nicely: "JAWS shouldn't be the be-all and end-all of a Hall of Fame discussion. Players should receive markers for postseason performance, for awards, for contributions to championships, for elements not captured in the statistical record. However, an objective standard is necessary, or the argument becomes bogged down in preferences and fandom."

• We'll chat about all of this at 4 PM EST.

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Monday, January 08, 2007


Beating the Deadline

With all kinds of deadlines bearing down upon me, I'm in a rush to finish my JAWS series before the Hall of Fame announces the voting results on Tuesday. Today's installment covers the 13(!) outfielders on the ballot, including personal favorites Eric Davis, Jay Buhner, Paul O'Neill and Tony Gwynn. It's been ages since I offered much in the way of Yankees content, so here's what I had to say about Paulie:
The lopsided Buhner trade may have hurt the Yanks, but they more than made up for it a few years down the road when they swiped Paul O'Neill from the Reds--Jim Bowden's first trade as GM--for Roberto Kelly. To that point, just after the 1992 season, the 29-year-old O'Neill had hit .259/.336/.431 in five full seasons and change, with a 28-homer, 8.6 WARP season in 1991 but other years worth about five or six WARP. Upon arriving in the Bronx, a new hitter emerged; instead of trying to pull the ball to hit for power, O'Neill used the whole field. The results were night and day, particularly against lefties:
      ----vs. LHP----    ----vs. RHP----
CIN .215 .270 .326 .277 .361 .472
NYY .264 .333 .418 .321 .396 .524
The fiery O'Neill became a key figure in the Yankees' resurgence. From 1993-1998, he averaged 8.9 WARP a year, including 11.5 WARP in the strike-abbreviated 1994 (remember, WARP3 adjusts for schedule length), when he hit .359/.460/.603 and won the AL batting title. His water-cooler punishing ways and intense refusal to surrender a single at-bat may have been derided by opposing fans, but when it rubbed off on a team you got nothing less than the take-no-quarter 1998 Yankees. Though his stats took a definite downturn after 1998, he was an integral part of the team's four World Championships and five pennants in a six-year span, producing some of the signature moments of that run, and it's notable that they haven't won it all since his departure. He'll have to pay his way in to Cooperstown, but the guess here is that he'll settle for counting the rings.
Tuesday's installment will cover the pitchers, of which there are mercifully few as compared to the outfielders.

Last Friday's appearance on XM 175's Hot Stove felt like a huge success; I talked for about 30 minutes with host Chuck Wilson, who was a delight -- so receptive to the angle I bring to the ballot and so well-prepared to talk substantially about the serious candidates. If every voter brought that kind of preparation to the ballot as he brought to the discussion, the Hall electorate would be a much more credible body. I'm hopeful that I'll get a chance to share a clip of our discussion.

Just after doing XM, Will Carroll invited me to record a spot on BP Radio which you can hear here (my segment starts at 20:00 or so). Also, I'll be hosting a chat at BP a couple hours after the results are announced, so drop by with your JAWS-flavored questions and whatnot.


Thursday, January 04, 2007


Media Blitz

I've been invited to appear on XM175's Hot Stove with Chuck Wilson on Friday, January 5 from 12:25 to 1 PM EST. In my satellite radio debut, we'll be talking about the Hall of Fame announcement and other HOF topics. Tune in if you can!



Squeezing the Juice [BP Unfiltered]

Happy New Year, everybody! I'm back in NYC, still buried under an avalanche of work, beating editors back with a fungo bat while sleep is in short supply.

When the news came down that CT scans of Mark McGwire's 70th home run showed a ball that was out of MLB's specifications, it rang a bell and reminded me of some work I did for Will Carroll's book, The Juice: The Real Story of Baseball's Drug Problems two years ago. Read all about it at BP Unfiltered.

Speaking of BP, I'll be doing my best to beat the Hall of Fame's Tuesday announcement of the 2007 voting results by running JAWS articles on Monday and Tuesday, and hosting a chat at 4 PM Eastern after the results are annnounced. Until then, it's back to the salt mines...

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