Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
May 31, 2002
BASEBALL: Gay Ballplayers and Steroids

Originally posted on Projo.com

Somehow, it's always baseball. My mind came back to this, last week as the papers carried two reports on the same day: Mike Piazza denying he was gay, and Barry Bonds denying he uses steroids. For now, we must take both men at their word, and in Piazza's case in particular there is really no reason to inquire further if that is the answer he wishes to give. But the questions were being asked, and on the steroid issue, they are just getting warmed up. And that's baseball, and it's another reason why, for all the mega-ratings popularity of football, for all the pop culture cache of hoops, this is still America's game. People have higher hopes and expectations for baseball, and they expect it to solve its problems. Let college football wallow in hypocrisy, as it has done for all its existence. (Really, we're just students who like to play a game on Saturday! Nobody's making any money here!) See the NBA's popularity soar without the league having done a single thing about the various shames that have been reported about its players in recent years. But if baseball players are on steroids, sooner or later, people want to know. And they will know, even though nobody in the game really has a strong incentive to blow the whistle. Maybe, as he has threatened, it will break with Jose Canseco. The SI-Ken Caminiti expose means the process has already begun.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:15 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
May 14, 2002
BASEBALL: Canseco and the Dick Allen Problem

Originally posted on Projo.com

One of the perennial debates that rages around baseball's milestone numbers -- 300 wins, 500 homers, 3000 hits -- is when the party will be crashed by someone who doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame (right now, other than Pete Rose, everyone in those clubs is in the Hall or on the way), or, more properly, whether they do and should guarantee a ticket to Cooperstown, no questions asked.

We've had close calls -- Tommy John and Bill Buckner come to mind -- but the guys who didn't deserve the honor always came up short. In recent years, the debate has centered on Jose Canseco and Fred McGriff. With Canseco's retirement on Monday, it's time to look at why, in my opinion, he was never a Hall of Fame threat even if he made it to 500. (McGriff is a better HOF candidate than you think, but I'm reserving judgment on him right now).

The occasional case for Canseco as a Hall of Famer has generally been based on his career totals: .266/.515/.353 with 462 homers and 1407 RBI. But his problem can best be explained by first looking at another candidate. It's the Dick Allen problem.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:12 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
May 3, 2002
BASEBALL: The Reds, The Rangers and The Early Results

Originally posted on Projo.com

Want an early candidate for a team playing over its head? Other than the Red Sox, of course; the Sox have played over anybody's head thus far, as well they should with 18 of their first 24 games against Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Kansas City. Playing close to .700 ball even against the bad teams is impressive, but we'll need more time to evaluate these Sox as the schedule balances out with an impending West Coast swing.

But the rest of the early returns in the AL are fairly close to expectations. The real surprises have been in the NL, with the Braves and Phillies struggling, the Expos and Dodgers surging, and the whole NL Central is topsy-turvy. Everyone knows about the Expos, who are sort of for real but will cool down some when Michael Barrett returns to earth and when/if they get hit with their annual run of pitching injuries (ace Javier Vazquez complained of a sore arm in camp but has gotten stronger as the season has worn on, while the biggest injury risk, Carl Pavano, has not pitched well and thus hasn't been an element of the team's early success). Some of their success may keep up: early hero Lee Stevens may just be on his way to a good year in his mid-30s, Tony Armas Jr. has always had good stuff and Tomo Okha was a solid starter in the minors, and Brad Wilkerson has looked for some time like a guy who could get on base and contribute if he settled down into an everyday job. (One worry: key reliever Matt Herges, who worked hard the past few years in LA, is on pace to appear in 96 games and throw over 100 innings).

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:15 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)