Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
September 13, 2000
POLITICS: Why we are where we are (September 13, 2000)

This is a slightly edited-for-publication version an admittedly overwrought email I wrote to friends during the lowest ebb of George W. Bush's 2000 campaign. For perspective, it's an interesting look back:

[D]o you have any idea what the Bush campaign is thinking? I mean, this has been a brillantly run campaign -- up to a point -- but it is really starting to seem that the people in charge (maybe the candidate himself) don't understand what their real assets are. Let's review a little history that we all recall:

In the primaries, those of us who supported McCain were told that Bush was preferable because he would sell the conservative agenda, just with a happier face than in the days of Newt. When McCain failed to trumpet his own conservative themes -- attacking the cultural-conservative base when he should have been pressing the fact that he had a more conservative record than Bush on school choice and Social Security reform -- I was left with no choice but to believe Bush.

I may not agreee with every particular but the platform is a thing of beauty, and when he gives speeches on its central themes -- we can all recite the priority list of Education, Tax Cuts, Social Security Reform, Medicare Reform, and Rebuilding the Armed Forces -- the candidate himself explains them extremely persuasively. In Texas, Bush zeroed in on his core issues and wouldn't be led astray or goaded into going negative.

Let's review:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:40 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 8, 2000
BASEBALL: Mets-Braves and NL Pennant race wrapup

Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website

Sadly, albeit temporarily, it’s time for me to go; in my day job as a lawyer I’m working on a trial starting October 2, and while you can never predict how long these things will take, it will be after the baseball season before I’ve got the free time to write again. Rather than depress you with a column on the AL Wild Card race, I’ll depress myself with a look at the team I’ve followed most closely: the Mets.

I'm a die-hard fan, going back to the dark days of the late seventies, and I hate to panic over a two week slump. But the reasons for the Mets' decline are serious; I have a bad feeling about this one.

In mid-August, the Mets had the best record in baseball. On August 18, they were 73-49, a 97-win pace. On August 25 they thumped Randy Johnson 13-3. As recently as August 30, they stood tied with the Braves in first place. Their record from August 19-September 11, however, is 8-13. Their record from August 29-September 11 is 3-9. Any way you slice it, the team is slumping and getting worse.

The Braves, over the same period, have not played real well either, but not nearly as woefully as the Mets. They are 10-13 since August 18, but 5-3 since September 2. They appear to be righting the ship.

With the Diamondbacks sinking faster than expected under the weight of a brutal schedule and a limp Unit, neither of these teams needs to panic – as long as they play modestly well, they will both be back in the saddle for the postseason. The Braves have the toughest schedule, though not by a huge margin, and with six games head-to-head the division race is hardly over.

But the signs for the Mets are very bad. For the fourth year in a row, the Mets have followed the same pattern. Start the season with a bunch of holes in the rotation and lineup, and struggle from the gate. Jettison the non-performers (usually at least one starting pitcher and a centerfielder), rebuild with relief help and middle-of-the-road veterans at the trading deadline, and get blazing hot in June, July and into late August/early September. Then, the sinking starts...

While the Mets’ starting rotation – particularly Mike Hampton and Glendon Rusch – has been brilliant even during the downswing, the offense, defense and bullpen have all been in a tailspin. Which are causes for alarm, and which are just passing? Let's break it down...

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:49 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 1, 2000
BASEBALL: NL West Matchup (Giants v. Diamondbacks)

Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website

The National League West race has to be the most under-reported story of the baseball season, at least here on the East Coast. You would never know from the local media -- with the exception of the “Mike and the Mad Dog” show on WFAN radio, and only because Chris “Mad Dog” Russo is a San Francisco Giants fan -- that the NL West has the best composite record of any division in baseball (winning percentage of .526 through Saturday night. Or that, as Peter Gammons reported this week, every division in baseball has a winning record except the NL Central). Or that the West had 4 contending teams for the first half of the season. Even with the Rockies dead and the Dodgers only theoretically alive, the West promises a fierce two-team race down the stretch, with Arizona trailing the Giants by only 3 games.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:43 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: RAPID RESPONSE TO THE BICHETTE DEAL

Let's take a quick look at this deal. Short term, it's not a terrible move if Bichette is used properly. I know I said that about Mike Lansing and Ed Sprague, but part of the proper use of Bichette is to eat Lansing's playing time with Offerman and Merloni holding down the infield. If he plays at the expense of Trot Nixon or the revived Troy O'Leary, the Sox are in beeeg trouble.

Astonishingly, some people thought Bichette was a "disappointment" in Cincinnati because he didn't hit there the way he did at Coors. That's like being surprised that you are not as tall sitting down as standing up. I was pleasantly surprised that Bichette managed to pull off an on base percentage over .350 and a slugging percentage over .450 in Cincinnati, numbers better than his road stats in recent years. His avg/slg/obp this season is 295/466/353, above the league average but not far above.

Bichette was slightly below average in on base and slugging among NL outfielders, so he can still hit some and can help if he's grabbing at bats from Lansing (195/218/255 the past month) or Brogna (200/333/294 the past month, still not hitting as well with the Sox as Mike Stanley with the A's). Offerman has also been weak lately, but I still think he is a better hitter than that and somebody has to play second. With the Sox twelfth in the league in scoring (producing just 4.5 runs per game since the All-Star break compared to 5.24 before), a guy who's a just-above-league-average hitter, even to DH, can help. The main offensive downside is that Bichette was leading the NL with 18 GIDP. Despite the presence of so many slow, over-30 righthanded hitters on the roster, the Sox had been best in the AL at avoiding double plays (just 96 so far; Bichette would be 20% of the team total), probably because there have been so few baserunners since those guys all arrived. Of course, this assumes that Jimy knows not to try Bichette in the field, where he is at best a stationary object, his feared throwing arm long a thing of the past.

As I've noted with Duquette's earlier deals, what makes this stink is (1) the appearance that Dan Duquette thinks these guys are good ballplayers and (2) the salary, since Bichette brings a fat $6.5 million price tag (he makes as much money as Jeff Bagwell does in 2001) that will drag the Sox budget like Jacob Marley's chains next season, to say nothing of dragging around Bichette himself at age 37. Also, while one of the guys they traded sounds like a stiff, the other one (Chris Reitsma) is reportedly stuck in AA only because he was hurt the last two years; his numbers between A and AA this season (an ERA around 3 and a K/BB ratio of about 3-to-1) suggest a guy who might turn out to be a good pitcher. He's still just 22.

All these guys are pieces, spare parts, that may help the Red Sox get to the playoffs -- but why spend the money on that? Pedro or no Pedro, this is not a World Championship team, not with all these holes and Nixon not ready for his close up. And this was already a team that could get in. For the small benefit of slightly improving the odds of a first-round or maybe ALCS exit, the Sox coughed up a decent pitching prospect and swallowed a big salary. That's a bad deal.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:15 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)