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.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Jet Lag, Deadline Drama, and Endless Patter
Back from my west coast swing (no to be confused with my western swing
). I had a great time visiting friends in Seattle, catching up with family and watching killer whales on San Juan Island, and packing my stay in Los Angeles with trips to museums -- the Getty, MOCA, LACMA, the Norton Simon. Our trip was extended by a day when our Sunday morning flight was canceled due to bad weather in the New York area, but like most extra-inning affairs, the bonus portion wore me down a bit and threw off my entire schedule.
Hence the lack of a blog entry here in quite some time. The Yankees in particular have been busy beavers, bashing their way back to relevance and upgrading their team by acquiring Xavier Nady, Damaso Marte, and Ivan Rodriguez while jettisoning three-fifths of their Triple-A rotation, disappointing prospect/suspect Jose Tabata, and big-money relievers Kyle Farnsworth and LaTroy Hawkins. Typical Brian Cashman deadline no-brainer slam dunks. Why is it the Red Sox make so much damn noise with their non-moves while the Stealth Bomber just gets deals done with so little prior warning? Sermon for another day, but let's just say nobody in New York plays the house organ
the way some of those famous Boston writers do.
I'll be weighing in on the Yankees' deals and those of everybody else several times over the next two days at Baseball Prospectus, via the upcoming Hit List, a group roundtable
at 2 PM Eastern (similar to the fabulous All-Star Game roundtable
), and my own post-deadline wrap-up chat
on Friday at 2 PM Eastern. I'll also be appearing on the Rotowire Fantasy Sports Hour with Chris Liss, today at 2 PM Eastern on XM 144.
Anyway I had plenty of baseball for the trip while in L.A., attending last Saturday's Dodgers-Nationals
game and visiting a pair of public libraries for a pair of baseball exhibits. For the Dodger game, a friend who works A&R for a record company scored the company's tickets, plush box seats at the edge of the infield on the first base side. With those prime ducats we also had access to the all-you-can-eat Stadium Club, and had barely stuffed our faces with Dodger Dogs and other meat products before Matt Kemp's two-run homer and Nomar Garciaparra's sacrifice fly put the home team up 3-0 in the first inning at former Dodger Odalis Perez's expense. Nomar added a homer, new kid Casey Blake (acquired that morning from the Indians in a deal I'll have harsh words for elsewhere) got two hits including a double, and Derek Lowe cracked two hits himself, one more than he allowed in eight sterling innings.
Did I mention the beer cups with the ridiculous flashing lights on the bottom? So giddy were we at our seats that we sprung for those to amplify the already-festive atmosphere. Compared to this opulent spread in such a beautiful, spacious ballpark, attending a ballgame at Yankee Stadium these days is like being beaten in the kidneys with a truncheon. I'll show you the Bronx indeed. (That said, Score Bard Ken Arneson's take on the House That Ruth Built
is well worth your time.)
As for the exhibits, first up was "Play Ball! Images of Dodger Blue, 1958-1988" at the Los Angeles Central Public Library
. Spread over two rooms, it's a collection of a few dozen photos, mainly from the archives of the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner
, retracing all of the high notes (and a few low ones) in L.A. Dodger history. I found it impossible not to crack a shit-eating grin upon seeing famous shots of Fernando Valenzuela
, Kirk Gibson
and the Longest-Running Infield, but I also had a few groans for the sight of Chavez Ravine residents fighting eviction and Dodger infielders haplessly looking on while Willie Davis misplayed a ball in the 1966 World Series. The press release
roll call of those pictured: "[T]he team's arrival in 1957, Wally Moon and baseball at the L.A. Coliseum, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Walter O'Malley and the battle over Chavez Ravine, Roy Campanella, Vin Scully, Jaime Jarrin, Maury Wills, James Roark's Pulitzer Prize-nominated photograph of Rick Monday's rescue of the American Flag, Tommy John surgery, Andy Messersmith and the advent of free agency, Garvey-Lopes-Russell-Cey, Dusty Baker and the first 'high five,' Fernando Mania, Al Campanis, Orel Hershiser, Kirk Gibson, and more." Can't beat that if you're a Dodger fan.
With two nights flopping in Pasadena, I also finally found time to pay a visit to The Baseball Reliquary
to see their greatest hits exhibition, "The Tenth Inning"
. The Reliquary is a celebration of baseball's oddballs and outcasts and a confrontation with the game's sometimes unseemly history, particularly its racism. Its Shrine of the Eternals
honors the likes of Jim Abbott, Dick Allen, Moe Berg, Yogi Berra, Ila Borders, Jim Bouton, Jim Brosnan, Roberto Clemente, Rod Dedeaux, Dock Ellis, Mark Fidrych, Curt Flood, Josh Gibson, “Dummy” Hoy, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Bill James, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Marvin Miller, Minnie Minoso, Satchel Paige, Jimmy Piersall, Pam Postema, Jackie Robinson, Lester Rodney, Valenzuela, Bill Veeck Jr., and Kenichi Zenimura.
I missed this year's induction ceremony
of Bill Buckner and the late Buck O'Neill and Emmett Ashford (good writeup here
), but over the course of three rooms spread out on the library's ground floor admired The Tenth Inning's mini-exhibits devoted to Robinson, Berg, Fernando (including one of those exquisite
orange crate paintings by Ben Sakoguchi, several of which were elsewhere in the exhibit. Somebody's absolutely got to do a coffee-table book of these), Postema, Veeck (including one of his wooden legs), Louis Sockalexis (including a cool Hatch Show Print poster
, one of five by the famous Nashville letterpress
that the Reliquary has commissioned) and a whole lot more. Fine stuff, and well worth the trip if you're anywhere in the area, though I should warn you that the current exhibit closes today. Don't sleep.
Speaking of which, miles to go
and all that. I'm sure we'll have plenty more to discuss before the next two days are done, so check in with me over at BP if you want to talk some baseball.
Labels: Chats, Dodgers, game reports, radio, Yankees
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Just prior to heading out the door for my longest trip of the summer -- two nights in Seattle, three in the San Juan Islands
, and four more in Los Angeles (including a trip to Dodger Stadium to see them play the Nationals next Saturday) -- I published one of my annual favorite columns, the Prospectus Hit List Remix
. It's a chance to step back from the grind of churning out 30 team capsules in a day to examine some of the season's underlying trends.
For example, the Hit List helps to track the relative strength of the two leagues and the six divisions using the Hit List Factor
, the average of a team's actual and projected winning percentages which I use to compile the weekly rankings:
With the Cubs ranked second and the Phillies, Mets and Cardinals all cracking the top 10, the upper reaches of the Hit List don't look so completely tilted towards the American League as in years past. However, the composite numbers show that the Junior Circuit remains the superior one:
AL Avg RK HLFThe 2005-2007 numbers are year-end numbers, whereas the 2008 ones are obviously mid-season numbers, but if the current trend holds, the gap between the two leagues will be the widest it's been since I started doing the Hit List. The average AL team has a Hit List Factor 37 points better than the average NL team, equivalent to a whopping six games in the standings (.037 * 162 = 5.994). Most of that has to do with the 149-103 advantage the AL enjoyed in interleague play this year, a 12-game improvement over last year's results (137-115) but still five games behind the 2005 numbers (154-98).
2008 12.9 .520
2007 14.9 .506
2006 12.6 .513
2005 13.4 .509
NL Avg RK HLF
2008 17.8 .483
2007 16.0 .495
2006 18.1 .488
2005 17.3 .492
...Turning to the division-by-division breakdowns, this year one division is running away with the Hit List Factor crown:
--------2008-------------- --------2007------- HLFThe American League East features two teams that have topped this year's Hit List, the Red Sox and Rays, and has at times seen all five teams with winning records, though lately both the Orioles and Blue Jays have fallen below .500. Collectively, the division has outscored opponents by 182 runs, though if anything, they're lagging behind where they should be. All five teams have fallen short of their third-order projections, by anywhere from 0.6 games (Baltimore) to 5.7 games (Toronto).
Division Avg RK WPct HLF D3 Avg RK WPct HLF +/-
AL East 7.4 .536 .550 -15.6 13.0 .504 .525 .025
AL West 12.8 .512 .503 3.1 14.8 .514 .502 .001
AL Central 12.4 .503 .503 0.7 17.0 .499 .490 .012
NL East 18.0 .491 .496 0.7 14.4 .500 .504 -.008
NL Central 14.5 .518 .494 24.1 20.5 .472 .469 .025
NL West 22.6 .439 .457 -13.0 12.2 .520 .516 -.059
From there I go on to compare each team's current Hit List Factor to their final 2007 numbers
and their 2008 PECOTA-derived preseason numbers
. The Rays lead the former category, but since BP's projections had them winning 88 games, they're not the big gainer relative to the latter. Instead the honor of confounding Nate Silver's projections the most belongs to the White Sox, the team Silver pegged exactly at 72-90 a year ago, much to the chagrin of vocally indignant Southside supporters.
The Yankees, who finished second in last year's rankings and topped the Preseason Hit List, are sixth from the bottom relative to season's end, fifth from bottom relative to PECOTA, performing at a clip that's 66 points of winning percentage lower than expected:
Meanwhile, the Angels, Dodgers and Tigers find themselves in the hunt for postseason berths despite considerable falloffs since the end of last year. The same could be said about the Yankees, at least if you have faith that they'll overcome the potentially season-ending injury to Hideki Matsui on top of the injuries of Chien-Ming Wang, Philip Hughes, and the lost-at-sea batting approaches of Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano. If you're scoring at home, count this Yankee fan among the nonbelievers.
I've counted the Yankees out before only to watch them storm back into the postseason, but with an extra team between them and the top of the AL East this time around, they've got an especially steep hill to climb.
Labels: Hit List, Yankees
Just wanted to note a couple of pieces from Alex Belth that got lost in the All-Star week shuffle. First is his SI.com article
about the good, the bad and the ugly of Yankee Stadium II:
The list of complaints is sizable: the ridiculous ticket prices, the lousy concessions (how can pretzels not be warmed-up by the third inning?), the appalling conditions of the bathrooms, the cramped alleyways and the obnoxious, well-heeled, suburban kids yelling "Farm-ing-Dale" into their cell phones. It brings to mind the joke about the two old ladies at a Catskills Resort that Woody Allen told in Annie Hall:
"Boy, the food at this place is really terrible," says one.
"Yeah, I know, and such small portions."
That's also how I feel about Yankee Stadium, a tourist attraction that is a throwback to the rough old days of New York, when the city didn't care about you. (Why care when you were going to show up and fork over your dough anyway?) In spite of the obstacles -- Yankee Stadium can be a hard, unforgiving place -- the sheer massiveness of the park is breathtaking. It is a glowing field stuck in the middle of a concrete jungle.
"Yankee Stadium is something else, a law unto itself," wrote critic Wilfred Sheed. "It has earned the right to look any way it pleases and I wouldn't change a seat of it."
Also from Alex is a note
regarding writer Bob Klapisch's recent misfortune. Whether standing up to Bobby Bonilia's threat
to be shown the Bronx or nursing a semi-pro pitching career into his 40s
, Klapisch long ago showed his willingness to put himself in the line of fire -- let's see Peter Gammons do that -- but this time he wasn't so lucky. Pitching in for the Morris Mariners, Klapisch was hit in the right eye by a comebacker that took a bad hop and hit him in the eye, resulting in a partially detached retina, a damaged cornea and multiple orbital fractures. Suck city, man.
Klapish's days on the mound are done, and doctors think it will take three to six months for him to regain partial sight in that eye, but he's resolute about one thing: "My baseball career is over, so my goal is to play catch in the backyard with my kids. I am determined to make that happen."
I can totally relate to that. I underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in my right (throwing) shoulder four and a half years ago, and have suffered a few strains since then to remind me that my damaged wing will never be whole again. Still, I take great pleasure in being able to partake in a simple game of catch, and though I don't have any kids yet, I'm totally committed to being able to do so with my future children, just as my dad and my grandfather did with me. Hell, I'll learn to go lefty if that's what it takes. So I know exactly where Klapisch is coming from there, and if you own a mitt, chances are you do too. Here's wishing Klapisch the best in his recovery.
Labels: beat writing
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
I'm not the world's biggest fan of the All-Star Game. Since attending the infamous tie ballgame
in Milwaukee in 2002, my allegiance to the so-called Midsummer Classic has been in a downward spiral:
•Skipped the 2003 game
in favor of a Staten Island Yankees-Brooklyn Cyclones game, where I saw an 18-year-old center fielder named Melky Cabrera go 5-for-5.
• Trekked to East Brunswick, New Jersey to watch the 2004 game chez
Steven Goldman, with Will Carroll and Cliff Corcoran also in tow. Whatever suspense the game had was bulldozed by Roger Clemens' launchpad explosion.
• Missed most of the 2005 game to attend Star Wars Episode III: Just Give Us Your Money
, but not enough to avoid blowing a gasket
over Fox Sports' emphasis of everything but the game via some over-the-top corporate advertising disingenuousness. This was the nadir not only of the All-Star Game, but of human civilization in the 21st century, at least until I watched The Squid and the Whale
the 2006 game
over the previous year's debacle. The 2007 one too
. "[O]nce I stuffed my mouth full of aluminum foil and found an old hemostat to clamp on the webbing between my finger and my thumb, I was able to recreate the aggravation of watching Tim McCarver, Joe Buck, Scooter and the Foxies at the Taco Bell Midsummer Poxcam Classic without even turning on the television," I wrote, which I still think is pretty funny.
After a bit of soul-searching ("Hmmmm... where did I put that damn Otis Redding CD?"), I lifted the embargo for last night's affair, primarily because it was at Yankee Stadium, my home field, and secondarily because it meant participating in a roundtable
with fellow Baseball Prospectus colleagues Carroll, Goldman, Kevin Goldstein, Derek Jacques, Rany Jazayerli, John Perroto, Joe Sheehan et al
. And wouldn't you know it, a compelling ballgame broke out, a 15-inning, 4:50 epic
won by the AL, 4-3.
Luckily, I didn't have to sit through the entire contest in real time. I cooked dinner for my wife and had the rather cool opening festivities on in the background, then whisked through the first four-and-a-half innings of the actual game via TiVo, which spared me about an hour of tsuris
. And then I was pleasantly surprised. I may be off base here given how much I fast-forwarded through, but while I still revile Joe Buck ("I'd feed Buck to the hogs before McCarver, but that's just me. At least we know Tim Mc likes baseball and has some sense of history. Buck... probably makes his old man spin in his grave," I wrote), the Fox presentation was comparatively understated relative to the debacles that drove me from the spectacle a few years back. No clanking graphics, no idiotic Scooter (if there's any justice his creators are in Guantanamo Bay being waterboarded), just baseball and lots of it.
Again, it's probably the TiVo and my attention to the roundtable talking, but the game itself seemed to be passing by with an almost surreal rapidity and lack of action -- save perhaps for Ichiro Suzuki's perfect throw to nail Albert Pujols trying to stretch a single into a double in the fourth -- until J.D. Drew bopped a game-tying two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh. From there it was genuinely compelling theater, with Jonathan Papelbon's Bronx Cheer-fueled meltdown (shut up and go back to Boston, schmuck), Billy Wagner's choke (shut up and go back to Queens, schmuck), Mariano Rivera's extended, five-out appearance (not closing as planned, but very Houdini-esque and October-like), Joe Girardi's surprise appearance as bullpen catcher (which I guess justified his inclusion, since he wasn't there on managerial merit), Dan Uggla's incredible fielding butchery, Cristian Guzman's stellar professional debut at third base, three game-extending outs at home plate in a two-inning span in the 10th and 11th, Russell Martin's umpire-aided defensive wizardry ("Martin sets the standard for catchers who are fun to watch defensively. He's like this every night," I wrote), the sheer number of runs stranded at third base (three by the AL in the 10th, 11th and 12th, two by Uggla in the 10th and 12th), and the odd list of not-quite-stars who figured so prominently in the game's late action after the marquee players were tucked in (Uggla, Guzman, Dioner Navarro, Ryan Ludwick...).
Perhaps the most interesting aspect, however, was figuring out how managers Terry Francona and Clint Hurdle would handle their dwindling supply of pitchers once the extra innings started to pile up. Francona milked a combined 5.2 innings and 81 pitches out of Rivera, Joakim Soria and George Sherrill, while Hurdle ("As a Rockies fan, I have to say - why would Hurdle start using his bullpen correctly now?" wrote one BP reader) squeezed three frames and 42 pitches out of his own pitcher, Aaron Cook. The prospect of a similar occurrence to 2002, when both sides ran out of pitchers and Bud Selig called the game a tie, loomed large and made us particularly giddy. I wondered aloud:
"So, what do you think Bud will do about home team advantage in the World Series if the two teams get to the point of the 2002 ASG where they're out of pitchers and still tied? Award HFA to the AL on the grounds of interleague play results? Award it to the NL based on the AL having it last year? Figure out who would have had it under the old rule, which would mean having the AL in an even-numbered year?"
I never got a satisfactory answer, but that didn't spoil the fun I had watching and yapping with friends (I had both Skype and iChat going on the side in addition to the roundtable) and colleagues. "Does that count against Team Beat with the Uggla Stick
's stats?" asked my friend Issa. Carroll was shuffling through electronic gadgets as fast as they could re-juice: "I started out with a full charge on the [MacBook] Air, then switched to the iPhone for a couple innings while the Air recharged. Now the Air is back to 40% and I've switched back. Long game." Goldstein, in particular, was rooting for the splatter: "Words cannot describe how much I'm hoping for extra innings, just for the mess it would create," he wrote in the ninth. "Bud looks beyond miserable on the inning's closing shot and I've never had so much fun watching an All-Star game," he added at the end of the 12th. By the 13th he was in slumber party mode: "We go to the bottom of the 13th! Who's still with us! Let's stay up all night!" Upon the impending Seligocalypse, Jacques noted, "Anyone who says that an All Star Game tie would be 'everyone's worst nightmare' doesn't have vivid enough nightmares."
In the end, those of us pulling for entropy nearly got our wish. Francona ultimately had to go against the wishes of his Red Sox's closest competitor in the standings, the Rays, and use their best pitcher, Scott Kazmir, two days after he'd thrown 104 pitches. Both the team and the pitcher had requested that Kazmir, who began the year on the DL due to elbow woes, not pitch, but he worked a relatively tidy 15th inning for the AL as we wondered what came next. Fortunately for Francona and Selig, it was the game-winning run, courtesy of a Justin Morneau single, a Navarro single (thereby putting two of this game's slowest runners on base), a Drew walk and finally a short fly ball by Michael Young. Morneau plodded to the plate as Corey Hart uncorked a pretty decent throw, but the runner was indisputably safe (unlike the one-game playoff last October) and the ballgame ended with the AL on top.
Even for a hardened All-Star cynic like me, that was a pretty great time. I might even watch again next year.
Labels: All-Star Game, Chats
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Friend, colleague, YES Network columnist and cancer survivor Steven Goldman has a touching piece
on the passing of Bobby Murcer in which he relates an encounter the two of them had last year. I'm not ashamed to say that it borught a tear to my eye:
I told Bobby that I didn't mean to intrude, but that I was a fellow survivor -- a term that seems ironic now, kind of a lie. With many cancers, you don't know if you're truly a survivor or just experiencing a delay of game. Yet, "survivor" is a thing we say to ourselves, and to each other, to make the whole ordeal emotionally manageable. There's a great Peanuts strip where Lucy is told that to live life to the fullest, we must live each day as if it is our last. Lucy freaks, goes screaming off panel, overwhelmed by her suddenly imminent mortality. That's what living with cancer is like.
You have to say "survivor", because if you didn't, the resulting depression would just be too strong. I've been diagnosed twice now, but I have been fortunate enough that although this cellular malware has attacked me twice, I've not been given a death sentence, at least, not right now. I might get to see my children grow up. And yet, I can't help but wonder, sometimes, at what point it will all break down, about what my real odds are given how so many things have gone wrong so quickly. That's not something I could have said to Bobby Murcer at the time, and I didn't need to. It would have been cruel, cruel to both of us, but more importantly, he knew without my saying it.
Bobby asked me several detailed questions about my own cancer -- I hadn't even been diagnosed with cancer No. 2 yet -- and the scars it had left behind. I gave him what has become a standard line for me: ocular cancer cost me vision in one eye, but given that I got the rest of my life in exchange, it seemed like a fair trade, and all things considered, I felt I had been quite lucky.
"Luck had nothing to do with it," he said firmly. "If you're still here, it's because God wants you to be here."
For a moment I didn't know how to respond; religion and I have long had an antagonistic relationship, and I was not used to dealing with this kind of sentiment. I quickly reflected that this was the whole problem: the self-described religious types I have tended to encounter in my personal life were bigots, those who would use the tenets of their belief system to raise themselves up while condemning others. Religion was a wedge to break people apart. In this case, I realized, Bobby was saying something that (1) reflected a sincere belief, one that was bringing him comfort, (2) this assessment of God's belief in me was basically generous and bestowed on a stranger to boot and (3) I felt uplifted. The politics of religion had no place here, nor my disputatious nature. This felt like a gift.
Now smiling widely, I still didn't know what to say in response to something like that. It was a completely new experience. I clasped his hand, said something like, "I hope so," followed by, "That is very, very kind of you to say." I told him to keep on fighting, then finally withdrew so that he could spend more time in the company of friends rather than well-meaning fellow sufferers. He might have forgotten about it five minutes later. I'll always cherish the moment.
Normally, bringing religion into a blog entry, even one on mortality, is like heading up to the plate wielding a wet newspaper with the count already 0-2. Steve pulls it off not by dwelling on their contrasting beliefs but by emphasizing the shared humanity of a unique and touching moment. Do go read the entire thing, and count your blessings along the way.
Labels: passings, Yankees
Monday, July 14, 2008
Several years ago, the legendary Cleveland proto-punk band the Styrenes rose from the grave long enough to reissue some great old material via album entitled All the Wrong People are Dying
. The title track (listen here
) is dirge beneath vocalist Mike Hudson's spoken-word eulogy for his 33-year-old recently deceased brother Joey, a fellow musician, and the cataloging of a few recent deaths of his punk peers -- punk stars Stiv Bators and Johnny Thunders among them. Halfway through the song, the music picks up the tempo, and both Hudson's story and the guitar crescendo into a defiant, Velvet Underground-inspired squall before returning to its melancholy mood. It's a great track that you've almost certainly never heard.All the wrong people are dying
, and this weekend, Bobby Murcer's number
came up. A 17-year veteran of the majors who moved up to the broadcast booth when his playing days were done, he was 62 and had been battling a malignant brain tumor for the past year and a half, sporadically appearing on YES Network broadcasts and promoting an autobiography, Yankee for Life
Heir apparent to Mickey Mantle as Yankee center fielder -- and like Mantle a native of Oklahoma and a shortstop when he began his career -- Murcer never lived up to the insanely high expectations set for him during the dark age between the Yankees' 1965 and 1976 World Series appearances. Nonetheless, he was a star for an extended period and enjoyed a very good career with the Yankees, Giants, Cubs and then the Yanks again. He had decent pop and good plate discipline (a lifetime line of .277/.357/.445 with 252 home runs), though he was considerably overrated as a fielder; he won a Gold Glove in 1972 but Baseball Prospectus' numbers
show him as -142 runs overall. He made the All-Star team every year from 1971 to 1975, the first four years as the American League starter. His best seasons were 1971 (.331/.427/.543 with 25 homers, 94 RBI and 9.4 WARP) and 1972 (.292/.361/.537 with a career-highs of 33 homers, 96 RBI and 9.7 WARP). He led the league in OBP in '71 and finished second in slugging, and led the league in total bases in 1972 while finishing third in slugging. The guy could play.
I don't have particularly vivid memories of Murcer as a player other than a couple games with the Cubs and then as a reserve with the Yankees at the end of his career. He went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice bunt as a pinch-hitter in the 1981 World Series against the Dodgers, most memorably bunting foul into a double play in the eighth inning of Game Three
and flying out for Tommy John to end the fourth inning of a 1-1 tie of the decisive Game Six
. Rough stuff for a guy who only got to that one Fall Classic.
I wasn't a huge fan of Murcer's broadcasting work in my early years of watching the Yankees, but gradually, his good ol' boy charms won me over, particularly his self-deprecating sense of humor when it came to talking about his playing days. Yanksfan vs Soxfan's Mark Lamster
says it best:
As a broadcaster, Murcer did not have the deep reservoir of anecdotal material of Jim Kaat, and he wasn't especially skilled at breaking down the tactical game. But he had that most important quality for an announcer: an easy affability that made it a pleasure to spend a couple of hours with him, watching the game. His voice was a sweet Oklahama drawl; the aural equivalent of a lazy summer afternoon.
A couple of favorite Murcer stories come to mind. In one, he spoke of a time during the Yankees' exile to Queens amid their renovation. Talking with management about his 1975 contract soon after the 1974 season ended, he complained about the prevailing winds which made playing center field in Shea Stadium a challenging task, and which contributed to his drop from 22 homers to 10. As the story goes, the Yankees quickly traded Murcer to the Giants for Bobby Bonds, thus forcing him to endure the notorious winds in Candlestick Park. After two more seasons he was traded to the Cubs, where he found himself in... the Windy City. "Shoulda kept my big mouth shut," he sheepishly admitted. Broke the boys in the booth up.
In the other story, Bonds recalled a game in the early Seventies in which Yankee outfielder Ron Woods went over the wall in an attempt to prevent a home run, and in doing so momentarily knocked himself unconscious. Murcer climbed the wall and retrieved the ball, ceremoniously holding it up as though it had come out of his prostrate teammate's glove, and the ump called the hitter out. On the air, more than 35 years after the fact, Murcer admitted that the ball had been a couple of feet from his KO'd teammate.
Fellow YES announcer Michael Kay was aghast. "That's cheating!" he sputtered.
"Naw, that's not cheating," drawled Murcer. "That's heads-up baseball!"
Damn straight. Rest in peace, Bobby.
• • •
Murcer's YES colleagues have a nice tribute here
. Pete Abraham tracks some official Yankee responses here
. Rob Neyer discusses his underrated playing career here
. More good links as I find them.Update
: Joe Posnanski
reminds us that Murcer had been bumped to right field in 1974 by the arrival of Elliot Maddox and supplies some eye-popping translated numbers to express how underrated Murcer was:
So nobody could appreciate just how good he was those two years. Murcer’s core numbers didn’t look that special. Still don’t.
1971: .331/.427/.543, 25 homers, 94 RBIs, 94 runs.
1982: .292/.361/.537, 33 homers, 96 RBIs, 102 runs.
Of course, nowadays we can hit one button on Baseball Reference and neutralize those numbers to see how they would look in an average run scoring environment. Hint: They look at lot better.
1971: .362/.462/.596, 29 homers, 114 RBIs, 114 runs.
1972: .329/.401/.605, 41 homers, 132 RBIs, 140 runs.
We can go to Baseball Prospectus, take a look at their translated stats, which places everyone in the same run-scoring environment. Hint: These numbers also look a lot better.
1971: .362/.449/.648, 35 homers, 111 RBIs, 110 runs.
1972: .326/.392/.684, 54 homers, 133 RBIs, 139 runs.
...But, my sense, is that he was not viewed as as GREAT player, and here’s a final reason why: He was one of those players cursed with the power of pushing imagination. No matter how good he was, people imagined he could have been better. He came from Oklahoma, just like the Mick. He played center field at Yankee Stadium, same position at DiMag. He had a sweet left-handed swing — seems that there was a fairly famous Yankees somewhere who had a sweet left-handed swing.
Pos also goes on at length about how the Bonds-Murcer deal was the rare trade that hurt both players. There's too much great stuff to figure out what to excerpt here, so just go RTFB.
Labels: baseball history, passings, Yankees
Friday, July 11, 2008
If you haven't already done so, set your TiVo or similar appliance to record the Fox Sports Net's 13-part series, "Baseball's Golden Age."
Each episode features rare or previously unscreened footage of greats from the 1920s through the 1960s, mainly via home movies, and a lot of it in color. It's similar to the stellar HBO series from a few years back called "When It Was a Game," and while this one doesn't have Liev Schrieber narrating, it's got a good selection of older players and writers weighing in as the talking heads.
The voiceovers, however, are quite stilted and clichéd, which is a drawback, as is the fact that it airs with commercials (hence the TiVo recommendation). But none of those things matter one iota when weighed against the visual feast of the footage shown. As Dayton Daily News
reporter Mark Katz puts it
, "If I could have figured a way to do it, I would have stopped the DVD in my computer, printed out all the images and wall-papered my house... I'd like to break into Flagstaff's film archive and just run a projector of what they have — over and over for the rest of my life."
Even the big name talking heads in the first episode are impressed
"We lived in a black-and-white world; our lives were in color but our heroes were delivered to us in black and white (through newsreels)," historian John Thorne says.
Adds NBC's Bob Costas, about what he experienced as a kid going to big-league games: "You walk up that tunnel and, boom, it's like that scene from 'The Wizard of Oz,' where it goes from black and white and everything's now in Technicolor."
Yeah, it's that good. Babe Ruth (in black and white as a player, in color as a coach or retiree), Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and the promise of more to come. Sign me the hell up.
• • •
In light of having written the Brewers chapter in Baseball Prospectus 2008
, I spent a bit of time thinking further about the CC Sabathia trade
this week. And the more I think about it -- trumped though it may have been by the Cubs' Rich Harden heist -- the more impressed I am with the Brewers, for this simple reason: I think they foresaw exactly such a scenario when they drafted Matt LaPorta just over a year ago.
LaPorta was chosen seventh by the Brewers and at that considered something of an "overdraft," a player picked higher than his talents may have actually merited. Prior to the draft, Baseball Prospectus colleague Kevin Goldstein termed him
"arguably the top pure hitter in college baseball" albeit "limited to first base defensively." He also foresaw him lasting until the 30th pick. Basball America's Jim Callis
and ESPN's Keith Law
also believed he would go later in the first round. The BA 2008 Prospect Handbook
termed LaPorta's selection at number seven "the first surprise in the 007 draft," particularly so because of Prince Fielder's emergence at first base.
In retrospect, my reading is that Doug Melvin and company realized that they could grab a near-ready bat at a position -- or actually three, if you include the outfield corners -- where they were already set and parlay that surplus into something that could help them in exactly this type of deal, on this type of time horizon. Yes, it took some stars to align for all of this to be a reality, but this team didn't just stumble into the problem of having too many burly power hitters and too few DH slots.
Nonetheless, when I bounced this possibility off of Goldstein the other day, he wasn't entirely buying. He reminded me that at the time of the draft, Ryan Braun was still just settling into the Brewers' third base job, and it wasn't obvious that he'd have to move to left field due to his troubles there. He also reasoned that had the draft been held this week, LaPorta would have gone in the top 10 because he has in fact shown himself good enough to play either outfield corner according to some scouts he's talked to; a catcher before college, he does have an arm good enough for right field. Having said all that, Goldstein did commend the Brewers' choice of LaPorta for adding the most valuable asset to the organization without worrying about position or future.
Anyway, discussion of that deal and the Harden one takes up a good amount of space on this week's Hit List
(cleverly titled "Reshuffaluppagus" by my eds), with pointers to many other BP authors' takes on the two deals:
[#3 Cubs] Touché: The Cubs waste no time in countering the Brewers' Sabathia deal by trading little of consequence for Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin, a deal that basically amounts to a free lottery ticket and an insurance policy for a team that's already the best in the NL. The Cubs' rotation ranks second in the league in SNLVAR, and they're adding a pitcher who ranks fifth in the AL in that category despite a month on the DL. Health is the rub, of course; Harden's thrown more innings this year than in 2006 and 2007 combined, and his last two starts have been iffy, with quickly decreasing velocity.
[#5 Athletics]The A's raise a white flag and more than a few eyebrows as they dispatch Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin to the Cubs for a questionable package in which there's no clear best player. Noble as the "Free Matt Murton!" sentiments may be, doing so at the price of a virtually free Harden makes little sense without a forecast of impending elbow or shoulder doom, and that's without pondering the utility of Gaudin. With the A's still showing a much more solid run differential than the Angels, one can argue that they're still very much in the AL West race. Then again, given the quick yield on this past winter's reloading, that may be a sign that Billy Beane does know what the hell he's doing here.
[#10 Brewers]The Big Deal: With his team having gone an MLB-best 26-12 over the past six-plus weeks to move (briefly) into the Wild Card lead, GM Doug Melvin pulls the trigger on a deal that sends four prospects--including 2007 first-rounder Matt LaPorta--to Cleveland in exchange for CC Sabathia. Though the big man will almost certainly walk at the end of the year, this is nonetheless a bold statement by the post-Selig Brewers, and a shrewd use of resources; the positionally-challenged LaPorta was something of an over-draft last year, but his bat's near-readiness made him an ideal candidate for an interleague swap with this time horizon. The move could mean about three added wins, which may well be enough to break the team's 26-year postseason drought.
As for the seventh-ranked Yankees, their lack of scoring and ability to get on base, as well as the decline of Captain Jeter, provide some sobering notes:
At 34 years old, Derek Jeter may be headed for his worst first-half performance (.286/.349/.389) since his rookie season, but the Yankee captain keys a crucial two-game sweep of the AL East-leading Rays, helping his team retain some momentum after scrambling for a split against the Red Sox. Nonetheless, the pinstriped offense is anything but Bronx Bombers these days; their scoring is down 28 percent relative to last year's team, about 1.3 runs per game. With three regulars--Jose Molina (!), Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera--putting up OBPs below .310, Jeter and Bobby Abreu both below .350, and rookie Brett Gardner filling in for Johnny Damon as the latter hits the DL for the first time in his career, it's not hard to see why.
Finally, there's this one about the suddenly lifelike if still 1th-ranked Dodgers, their throwback shortstop, and the pair of perfect games their pitchers chased this week (both of which I was smart enough to TiVo:
Despite their sub-.500 record, the Dodgers briefly move into a tie for first place in the NL
Worst West behind near-perfect efforts from Hiroki Kuroda (9 1 0 0 0 6) and Derek Lowe (7.2 2 1 1 1 4). The two pitchers combine for a 3.4 GB/FB ratio in their outings, notable particularly because of their starting shortstop: Nomar Garciaparra. Fresh off the DL and in his natural position for the first time since August 2005, Nomah hits like the shortstop of old, going .294/.400/.588 in five starts.
Anyway, I'm a chatty patty with this week's Hit List. After taking a week off for travel, it's good to be back in the swing of things if only for a few moments. I don't have a single weekend at home during the month of July, which is unsettling but also quite fun.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
At the beginning of last month, I was fortunate enough to interview
former Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Marvin Miller about his recent statement
regarding the Hall of Fame. In the weeks since, the topic of mortality has been an all-too-prevalent one
around here, underscoring just how lucky I was to pursue the 91-year-old Miller to talk while he's still alive and kicking.
Alex Belth, who played no small role encouraging me to talk to Miller, was less lucky when it came to Eliot Asinof
, and he recently lost a valued correspondent in the far younger Jules Tygiel
. He fared much better, however, in talking to Ray Robinson, author of the biography Iron Horse: Lou Gehrig in his Time
as well as a host of several other sports books
Alex not only got to meet Robinson, an octogenarian who's luckily still very much alive, but to examine his pair of 75-year-old scrapbooks containing autographs and pictures -- cut out of newspapers, magazines and baseball cards -- of ballplayers of the 1920s and 1930s. At Bronx Banter yesterday he shared his account
of their meeting while offering numerous photos of those unique mementos. Also included is a link to a recent New York Times piece
written by Robinson about his volumes and his experiences hunting autographs from the likes of Honus Wagner and Connie Mack. You can't go much deeper into baseball history than that. Amazing stuff.
Labels: baseball history
Monday, July 07, 2008
I'm just back from a whirlwind long weekend in Milwaukee, where I celebrated one brother-in-law's 40th birthday and another brother-in-law's recent wedding, saw two friends' newborn son as well as my favorite medical miracle
. As if that wasn't enough, I also got to partake in a couple of the region's great traditions -- tailgating before a Brewers game (which was won very satisfactorily in the bottom of the ninth on a walk-off hit by Prince Fielder
) and seeing Cheap Trick at Summerfest -- in the same evening, no less. That's a pretty great slate right there.
With the Yankees-Red Sox drama well off my radar, I soaked up the Brewer buzz, particularly the CC Sabathia-to-Milwaukee rumors which lingered in the air all weekend. On July 4, I had a few moments to pick the brain of Joe Zidanic, the Brewers exec who made my Sausage Race
adventure possible a few years back. He's on the money side, not the player personnel side (officially Vice President-Controller), but he knew his way around most of the prospects we discussed, even if he understandably played his cards close to the vest. After talking to him, I'm not surprised that the Brew Crew managed to pull off the big deal
for the big man, sending four prospects to Cleveland for Sabathia. The team's farm system may be a bit down
after graduating so many young players to the big club's roster, but it remains deep.
More importantly, the Brewers' status as contenders has been restored. A little over six weeks ago, it looks as though their playoff hopes might already be dashed. They stumbled to a 23-27 start while their bullpen smoldered and their ace-in-the-making Yovani Gallardo was lost to an ACL tear. Even last week some Brewers fans at the Baseball Prospectus "Pizza Feed"
were giving me stick for having touted them this spring. However, the team is on a 26-12 run -- best in the majors in that span
-- over which they've outscored opponents by just over a run per game, and they now claim the second-best winning percentage in the league. "We're going for it," said GM Doug Melvin
of the deal for the 2007 Al Cy Young winner, noting that the pressure for the Brewers to get back to the postseason for the first time since 1982 is countered by an outpouring of support at the box office. Despite playing in the league's smallest media market, they're a respectable 12th in the majors in attendance, and they have a shot at bettering last year's franchise record of 2,869,144. For that, the Brewers, who for years under the inept Selig regime lined their pockets with revenue sharing money, feel as though they owe their supporters a run. "This is a huge boost to the fans, who have had a long drought here," said Melvin. "Maybe they never thought that this kind of thing could happen."
Gambling the future on this year's playoff berth may seem like a reckless strategy, particularly as Sabathia is almost certain to test free agency at the end of the year with an asking price more suited to the budget of the Yankees than the Brewers. But it's worth nothing that his departure would net the Brewers two first-round draft picks, a significant asset in the hands of scouting director Jack Zduriencik, Baseball America's 2007 Executive of the Year
. Add the two picks the Brewers might get if Ben Sheets walks as well, and they could have five picks in the first 35 to 40 of next year's draft. That ain't hay. Furthermore, research by my Baseball Prospectus colleague Nate Silver for Baseball Between the Numbers
shows that a single trip to the playoffs can have a decade-long bounce in media rights fees. That bounce is now about a decade and a half overdue.
Sabathia's overall numbers aren't superficially impressive (6-8, 3.83 ERA), but he was getting just 4.38 runs per game of offensive support from the hapless Indians; in exactly half of his starts, the team had scored two runs or less. He leads the AL in strikeouts (123 in 122.1 innings), and after compiling a grisly 13.50 ERA over his first four starts, has put up a 2.09 ERA over his last 14 starts, with a stellar 109/20 K/BB ratio in 104.1 innings. The dude can pitch, and for all of the concern about his oversized frame, his history of stellar strikeout-to-walk ratios is evidence that his mechanics are pretty sound; you don't put up 5-to-1 ratios without the ability to repeat your motion time after time after time. That's how David Wells did it, and Sabathia does it with considerably more heat via a mid-90s fastball and a plus slider. He's big but athletic, and it's not a coincidence that he's shown some prowess with the stick (.300/.317/.475 with two homers in 40 at-bats) during his limited opportunities in interleague play.
The Brewers rotation needs a horse like Sabathia. Though they're actually third in the league in innings per start (5.93), most of that is a product of Sheets and his three complete games; take him out of the equation and they'd be 11th in the league. Two starters, Jeff Suppan and David Bush, are carrying ERAs above 4.70; Suppan just went on the DL with an elbow problem, and his spot would have fallen to bullpen exile Carlos Villanueva if this deal hadn't been made. The other two starters, rookie Manny Parra and reclamation project Seth McClung, have both shown promise but don't exactly have track records of reliability. Parra is notoriously injury-prone, while McClung is still the owner of a career 5.77 ERA owing to years of futility in Tampa Bay. Adding Sabathia gives the front of the rotation a 1-2 punch that can match up with just about any in the game.
What does surprise me abou this deal is that the centerpiece was Matt LaPorta, the Brewers' 2007 first-round pick. Drafted as a first baseman but converted to right field, the 23-year-old LaPorta has clubbed 32 homers in his first 112 pro games and is hitting .291/.404/.584 with 20 jacks this year at Double-A Huntsville. With power like that, he appeared to be the heir apparent to Fielder, who is arbitration-eligible next year but thought to be on the outs
with the club after they unilaterally renewed his contract this spring. Perhaps this move is a portent of a long-term deal with Fielder similar to the one Ryan Braun signed earlier this season.
In any event, the trade doesn't guarantee the Brewers anything. It's sure to be countered by the Cubs, who lead the Brewers by 3.5 games in the NL Central and are said to have their sights
on Oakland's Rich Harden. The Cardinals, also 3.5 out and mere percentage points behind the Brewers, may have a trade up their sleeves as well. But it's the Brewers who have struck first, at a time when they're already hot, and if you're somebody who's got a stake in their season, as I and all of my Milwaukee peeps do, that's something to be excited about.Update
: Over at SI.com, my boy Cliff Corcoran thinks
the Brew Crew "have all but guaranteed themselves their first playoff berth since 1982." He's also got some input from BP's Kevin Goldstein regarding the prospects headed to Cleveland.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
The Grim Reaper's hitting streak continues. In the three weeks since I wrote about Eliot Asinof
and a host of others, we've lost Tim Russert and George Carlin
. Via Baseball Toaster's Bob Timmermann
, today's box score is bad news, too. Jules Tygiel, professor at San Francisco State University, author of Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and his Legacy
and Past Time: Baseball as History
as well as a host of non-baseball books and perhaps the game's top social historian, died of cancer on July 1. He was just 59 years old.
Along with Tygiel's own top 10
, those aforementioned book titles popped up frequently in Alex Belth's recent survey
of essential baseball books. Of Baseball's Great Experiment
, which rated enough mentions to crack the top 15, Dayn Perry commented, "The exhaustive retelling of Jackie Robinson's breaking of the modern color barrier. The story is much more complicated than some renderings have made it out to be, and Tygiel captures the nuance of the struggle. A great and necessary work." I got Baseball's Great Experiment
for Hanukkah back in 1984, when it first came out in paperback, but it was only last winter that I retrieved it from home. Since then, I've used it several times in writing about the small but important roles played by Dodger execs Buzzie Bavasi and Al Campanis in Robinson's rise to the majors. Tygiel's meticulous research covered all the bases and made it the definitive scholarly account of the story.
In the introduction of Baseball's Great Experiment
, Tygiel writes of his eureka moment in the book's genesis. Amid his doctoral research in 1973, he made a serendipitous discovery of an unshelved Time
magazine volume from 1947:
I realized that the Robinson story, easily the most familiar chapter of American sports history, had never really been told in its entirety. Most accounts, primarily biographies and autobiographies, had stressed events and personalities but had failed to place them into a social or historical context. Robinson's entry into organized baseball had created a national drama, emotionally involving millions of Americans, both black and white. His triumph had ramifications that transcended the realm of sports, influencing public attitudes and facilitating the spread of the ideology of the civil rights movement. In addition, Robinson had only launched the integration process. Surely the heritage of decades of discrimination and ostracism had not disappeared overnight. What were the experiences of the scores of other black players hwo had entered baseball in the 1940s and 1950s? What had happened to the now forgotten Negro Leagues in the aftermath of desegregation? I also realized that numerous sources of information -- black newspapers, personal papers and scrapbooks, and the recollections many of the more obscure pioneers of baseball integration -- had been largely ignored. Here, it seemed, lay a tale still worthy of re-examination and re-telling.
While I revere Baseball's Great Experiment
, I instead opted to include the much more recent Past Time
in my own top 10, calling it "a concise summary of nine trends that changed baseball, by one of the game's unsung scholars." What stands out in particular within the latter volume are Tygiel's fascinating portrait of the ever-tormented Larry MacPhail, his handy primer on the era of franchise relocations (which came in particularly handy when I wrote about the 1959 NL race between the Boston-to-Milwaukee Braves, Brooklyn-to-Los Angeles Dodgers and New York-to-San Francisco Giants for It Ain't Over
), and his discussion of baseball statistics from Henry Chadwick to Bill James and the Rotisserie League craze of the Eighties.
Both books came to mind the two times I saw the wonderful Baseball as America traveling exhibit
(now in Boston, and if you've got enough chromosomes to succeed at tying your own shoes, you should see it). The way the exhibit covered the essential bases while yielding fresh revelations and connections no doubt owes something to the influence of Tygiel, who wrote the introductory essay to the exhibit catalog. Here's a taste:
When the turmoil of the Depression and World War II began to challenge the prevailing racial consensus, baseball stepped to the forefront as a vehicle of change. In 1945, Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey recruited Jackie Robinson to defy the color line. Robinson's dramatic and convincing triumph produced a modern American legend and a blueprint for social revolution. The success of African Americans in baseball offered one of the nation's most compelling arguments for integration, making it a significant precursor of the civil rights triumphs to follow.
Robinson's achievement had such a profound impact precisely because baseball had such an immense hold on the American psyche. As Thomas Wolfe has written, baseball is "not merely 'the great national game,' but really the part of the whole weather of our lives, of the thing that is our own, of the whole fabric, the million memories of America."
No other common activity resonated so regularly and intensely in American life as the national pastime. Played virtually every day over a six-month span and tracked religiously in the mass media, baseball offered its partisans a steady diet of entertainment, drama and controversy. Americans routinely interspersed their language with baseball metaphors. Unexpected occurrences came form "out of left field." People confounded others by "throwing them a curve." Prodigious feats were described as "Ruthian."
In a a"fireside chat" broadcast on the radio in May 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented his hopes for his new administration to the American people in a language they would readily understand. "I have no expectation of making a hit every time I come to bat," explained Roosevelt. "What I seek is the highest possible batting average, not only for myself but for my team." In the last days of his life, Roosevelt confessed: "I feel like a baseball team going into the ninth inning with only eight men left to play."
And who can forget Tygiel's scathing open letter
to since-disgraced Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey over the latter's bullshit decision
to cancel a Bull Durham
commemoration due to Tim Robbins' and Susan Sarandon's criticism of the Bush administration's waging of war in Iraq:
The presidency of the Baseball Hall of Fame is, in effect, a sacred trust. By politicizing the Hall of Fame, you have violated that trust. Your position does not give you the right to impose your own political views on the events at the Hall to the exclusion of all others. One must assume that if people who protest American military actions are not welcome at the Hall of Fame, then Abraham Lincoln who opposed the Mexican War, Mark Twain who opposed the Spanish-American and Philippine Wars, and Martin Luther King, Jr., who opposed the war in Vietnam would not be welcome at the Baseball Hall of Fame. I also must assume that this letter jeopardizes my own future relationship with the Hall.
Like Asinof, James and so many other great writers, Tygiel is worthy of a spot in Cooperstown himself. He will be greatly missed.
Labels: baseball history, passings
Monday night's Baseball Prospectus event at Foley's Pub and Restaurant was a smashing success. It turns out that unlike most BP events there was no pizza and no formal Q&A-type presentation, but the beer was cold, and it's been said that I do my best work at the bar. I chatted at length with colleagues Will Carroll (whose birthday visit to New York was the impetus for this gathering), Joe Sheehan, Steven Goldman and Derek Jacques as well as Bronx Banterers Cliff Corcoran and Alex Belth, who came bearing gifts: a CD of an interview with George Carlin, and a sheaf of copies from the Sports Illustrated research library on Tim Raines. Gotta love a crate-digger like that.
Also met or renewed acquaintances with several BP readers, MLB Advanced Media's Cory Schwartz and Eric Solomon, Sports Illustrated
's Mark Bechtel, Ben Reiter and Chris Stone, Was Watching's Steve Lombardi and -- at long last given that it was four and a half years ago since he wrote about me and my blogging brethren
-- finally got to meet Peter Abraham of the Journal News. Oh, and as long as we're talking about ancient history, I got to see Jason Giambi hit a triple, his first since 2002.
Foley's is famed for its collection of sports memorabilia, which certainly makes for a great atmosphere for this type of event. However, I have to wonder about the wisdom of their web page
discussing said artifacts. When they enumerate their baseball holdings -- which include hundreds of baseballs and jerseys and over 300 bobbleheads -- first on the list is their 40 game-used bats, including the likes of Gerald Williams ("Step right up and see the bat with which the Iceman went 0-for-17 in his second tour of duty with the Yankees!"), Roger Cedeno ("Does it really have a hole right in the middle, or did it just seem that way?") and Billy Ripken ("Do all of his bats have 'Fuck Face'
written on the knob?"). Not sure why they failed to list the one I found myself next to when chatting with Pete, Alex and Cliff, an Andy Fox ("The bat he left behind to pinch-run in the 1996 World Series!"). Better talk to the PR department on that one.Pete
have nice recaps of the night.
• • •
Apropos of nothing except clearing the decks, here's an MP3
of my appearance on Tuesday's Rotowire Fantasy Sports Hour with Chris Liss.
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