Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
December 29, 2000
BASEBALL: Hall of Fame, Dale Murphy, Jim Rice, and Kirby Puckett

My 12/29/00 Column on Dale Murphy and Jim Rice, along with Kirby Puckett. This originally ran on the BSG site. I've rethought the Rice comment - I think I'd put him on the outside now - and the part about being proud of what an upstanding guy Kirby was is now cringe-inducing. But here we go:

PUCKETT, MURPHY AND RICE

Kirby Puckett is probably headed in to the Hall on a wave of sentiment and his .318 lifetime batting average. Dale Murphy (23.25 % of vote) appears headed to join Roger Maris as the only back-to-back MVPs never to make it. LF/DH Jim Rice (51.50% of vote) is at a critical point: with bigger candidates headed to the ballot soon, he needs to sustain the momentum of having received votes from more than half the voters last time around. The fairest way to look at these three is to lump them together, as I did with the first basemen.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:23 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
December 22, 2000
BASEBALL: Hall of Fame: Lou Whitaker, Dave Concepcion and Dave Parker

Hall of Fame Part 3: Lou Whitaker, Dave Concepcion and Dave Parker (Originally ran 12/22/00 on the Boston Sports Guy website):

SECOND BASEMAN

Lou Whitaker is a pretty easy one, in my book. No question whether Sweet Lou had the longetivity – only Eddie Collins and Joe Morgan played more games at second base than Whitaker. It’s a tough position; a lot of guys get ruined turning double plays in traffic. And there was never any down time in the 18 seasons (not counting an 11-game cup-a-joe in 1977) of Whitaker’s career. He was Rookie of the Year in 1978, and notched his two best slugging percentages in his last two seasons, 1994 and 1995 (when he was platooned). He never had an on base percentage below .331, and was over .360 eleven times, finishing his career at .363. He slugged over .400 fourteen years in a row, a very rare accomplishment for a middle infielder.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:20 PM | Baseball Columns | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
December 15, 2000
BASEBALL: Hall of Fame: Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez, Don Mattingly, Steve Garvey and Lance Parrish

(Originally posted 12/15/00 on the Boston Sports Guy website):

CATCHERS

I?ve already laid out the bones of the case for Gary Carter in my column on Tony Perez, and I intend to go back and do a more detailed treatment of the Carter vs. Fisk debate another day, so I'll pass over him without much comment here. Carter is the easiest call of any of the plausible candidates on this ballot - in fact, I'm as sure he belongs in the Hall as I am that Candy Maldonado doesn't. He's indisputably one of the 10 best ever at his position. I would vote Carter IN.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:17 PM | Baseball Columns | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
December 14, 2000
BASEBALL: Rating the Pitchers

This columnar addendum was originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website.

Translated Pitching Records

One common theme in this column is that comparisons of pitchers over time, in different eras and different parks and for different teams, is only possible and certainly only sensible if some effort is made to adjust the statistical record to reflect the massive changes in the ways that starting pitchers are used and the conditions under which they labor. For that purpose, I have developed a simple, if primitive, method for converting or “translating” pitching records from one context into another, or (more commonly) into a common context.

The bottom line: when I run “Translated Pitching Records,” this is what I am talking about – translation into the same context for workload, league ERA, team offense, and park. Read on if you want the gory details of how the method works. I’ll be glad to answer email inquiries by anyone who thinks I’ve left too much out of this description.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:13 PM | Baseball Columns | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
December 13, 2000
BASEBALL: Free Agent Roundup

Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website

FREE AGENT QUICK TAKES (an incomplete list):

ALEX RODRIGUEZ: It’s not impossible to build a team from a marginal contender into a champion, starting with one huge paycheck. After all, the Lakers did it. But the Rangers aren’t run by a baseball Jerry West and can’t bank on just pulling a rookie superstar out of their tails. Instead, they just have to bank on Tom Hicks not caring about the payroll. They still don’t have any pitching, although they do have Royce Clayton to trade (hey, how about Clayton for Kevin Appier?). I guess Rodriguez hopes to capitalize on the pro-Ranger bias in the MVP voting and favorable tax treatment from a pro-Ranger White House bent on rewarding Hispanic Floridians. $252 million is ridiculous money but it’s better than spending $6 million on Mike Lansing; at least they will get something for the money. This won’t help the Yanks and Sawx in re-signing Jeter and Nomar.

Funny, I don’t remember Boras asking the Braves to move the fences in – for their own good, of course – when he was representing Greg Maddux as a free agent.

MANNY RAMIREZ: What a coup, even if an expensive one. Actually there’s not much to say; A-Rod is the game’s best all-around player and younger, but Manny is baseball’s best hitter and will do wonders for the offense. The key now is how the Sox turn the crowd of extras into successful platoons or trade bait at 1B, 2B, 3B and DH. Just forget about that 1-for-18 thing . . .

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yup, turning down that $140 million was a great idea . . . I’m surprised Boras didn’t demand that the Rangers sign him too. Hard to see where he goes besides Detroit.

MIKE MUSSINA: The rich not only get richer, they get to gripe about how everyone else went over budget. Mussina’s no lock to make the Yankees a lot better – remember what people said about Roger Clemens, and his first year in pinstripes was a disaster. Mussina went 11-15 last year, and with weak middle relief and no run support he could do that again. Not to say it’s not a great move, but funny things happen and the Yanks still need offensive help.

MIKE HAMPTON: I hated to lose Hampton, but an 8-year contract for a starting pitcher who has to throw 20 extra pitches a night in his home games isn’t a great idea. Then again, the Rox have to at least try to have some pitching, and since Hampton’s the most extreme groundball pitcher in the game they will finally get to test out that theory. He's probably a better gamble the next 3-5 years than Mussina, except for the Coors effect. Buyer beware: Hampton was 4-6 with a 4.83 ERA on the road in 2000.

KEVIN APPIER: Glad it's not my $42 million. Over the past two years, Appier has posted a 4.85 ERA pitching mostly in a pitcher's park; given an unusually high number of unearned runs, that comes to 5.34 runs per 9 innings (granted, the A's porous defense is part of that). He has averaged, per 9 innings, 9.57 hits, 1.1 HR, 4.14 walks and 5.79 K. Appier's sharply declining K/BB ratio is a major indicator of a guy who's reduced to nibbling because he's not fooling anyone anymore. He may or may not be an improvement over the injury-prone Bobby Jones. If the Mets get one good year from Appier before he crumbles I’ll be happy.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:44 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/LAW: Bush v. Gore, and a few thoughts and observations on the end of an era

From an email I sent to some friends in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's Bush v. Gore decision:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:43 AM | Law 2002-04 • | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 7, 2000
BASEBALL: SUBWAY SERIES DIARY PART II

Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website

GAME THREE: HERNANDEZ v. REED AT SHEA STADIUM
Before the game, they gave Al Leiter the Roberto Clemente award for being such a good person. Maybe it’s just me, but don’t athletes always seem to get in trouble after winning these things? Like when the NBA gave PJ Brown the citizenship award before he decided to play Charles Martin to Charlie Ward’s Jim McMahon?

The Met announcers pointed out that Met leadoff men have opened Game 3 of the World Series with a home run in each of the team's three prior Series appearances. [THIS WEEK’s TRIVIA QUESTION: name them]. But Timo Perez went quietly. Another bad omen.

Both starting pitchers brought their Good Stuff for this one. Rick Reed, in particular, cranked it up a notch, striking out 8. I’ve always been a Rick Reed fan going back to his Pirates days; he was on my Rotisserie team in 1994. Reed seems to have something extra on the ball in September and October; for his career, in the regular season, he has struck out 6.28 batters per 9 innings after September 1, compared to 5.47 the rest of the year; in the postseason the past two years that jumped to 7.94.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:25 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 1, 2000
BASEBALL: SUBWAY SERIES DIARY PART I

Sometimes in baseball, as in life, the bad guys win. In fact, it may happen more often than not; that's what makes victory so sweet when it does come. I've delayed long enough; it's time to put to paper my Subway Series Diary.

Despite the Yankees' dominance in 1998 and 1999, many people (including me) were skeptical of their chances when the playoffs started and still favored the Mets at the start of the series. Then again, I rated the Yanks as the best of the AL contenders in late July; while that was based on a vast overestimation of Denny Neagle, I recognized that the two teams were closely matched. I expected the series to come down to the Mets' ability to knock out the Yankee starters or drag games into extra innings, on the theory that the Mets would excel in bullpen depth and home run power. What I didn't anticipate was a series where the Yankees would pull out so many close ones.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:41 PM | Baseball Columns | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)