Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
October 31, 2006
BASEBALL: Steinbrenner Sick

Apparently George has fallen ill.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:10 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Back to the Table

While any kind of talks with North Korea are unlikely to accomplish very much, the Bush Administration has long taken the postion - with which I agree - that the North Korean problem is a regional problem and really more the responsibility of North Korea's neighbor and sometime patron and protector, China. Thus, while Democrats have loudly and frequently demanded unilateral U.S. talks with North Korea, the Bush Administration has held fast to the idea that six-party regional talks are the only way to reach any sensible and workable diplomatic solution.

Patience and persistence have paid off again, however incrementally, this morning: the North Koreans have told China that they are willing to return to the six-party table this month for the first time in a year, news that the Chinese government announced on its website.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:07 AM | War 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Declining Options

Perhaps the bigger story than Piazza is the unsurprising news that despite a rough 2006, the White Sox picked up the option on workhorse Mark Buehrle. The exit of Buehrle and the Mets' likely re-signing of Tom Glavine will leave the field of free agent pitchers exceedingly narrow, with Barry Zito, Jason Scmidt and Andy Pettitte the only guys who can be seriously characterized as healthy, effective and in their prime (although the wild card is Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka), plus a few oldsters like Mike Mussina and Greg Maddux.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:07 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Piazza for Sale

The Padres have declined an $8 million option for Mike Piazza. Which makes sense; Piazza may have been worth that money this year in retrospect (although what they actually paid him was a good deal less), but a catcher his age he is always a risk of major injury or catastrophic falloff. The ESPN article indicates that both sides are interested in keeping him in San Diego, and when you discount for the fact that they are negotiating in the newspapers here it seems pretty likely another deal will get done.

The Mets, of course, have no room for Piazza, but if things don't work out with San Diego there's his hometown of Philly, which split its catching duties among three guys, none of them younger than 33, but there aren't a ton of teams with money and a chance of competing that need either a starting catcher of a catcher/DH.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:59 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 30, 2006
BASEBALL: A Bad Hand

So, let me take one more crack at explaining precisely why the 2006 Cardinals winning the World Series bothered me, and then I'll shut up on the topic, or at least move on to something else.

Obviously, of course, as a Mets fan, I was bitter at the way the NLCS ended. But that's not really the heart of it - I was bitter at the end of the 1999 NLCS, but I didn't think the Braves didn't belong in the World Series. If the Mets had lost to the Tigers, I would have felt the same way.

Larry Borowsky of Viva El Birdos had an article in Slate that captured one part of the equation:

St. Louis' surprising run seems particularly galling now because this era of playoff randomness coincides with the height of baseball's statistical age. While random chance governs the sport from game to game, the opposite is true on a season-long level. The gradual accretion of outcomes - pitch after pitch, at-bat after at-bat, game after game - yields a deep body of evidence about which teams and players are the best. By the end of the season, we know not only who's more valuable, but by how much. And Yadier Molina isn't valuable.

Stat-centric analysis holds such sway over fans and sportswriters that when it clashes with the outcomes on the field, we tend to sneer at the outcomes. Next to the rich trove of data we've acquired throughout the season, a seven-game series seems like a ridiculously crude instrument for determining the best team. The Cardinals' October accomplishments, however stirring, don't seem as believable as those recorded by better teams over the long haul. I'm a huge Cardinals fan, and I still can't convince myself that they're the best team in baseball.

The problematic aspect of the Cardinals' victory is that it is a defeat for rationality. There is, of course, more than one way to build a champion, and nobody wants to see the team with the best record or the scariest roster on paper win every single time - that would be boring. But most of the winning teams in the game's history had at least a plausible case for why they could represent a model for postseason succcess, like this column I wrote on the Angels after the 2002 Series. The 2002 Angels were a healthy team all in its prime, specializing in putting the ball in play and pressuring the defense. The 2003 Marlins had young power pitchers, who could rise to the occasion in October; the 2001 D-Backs had two veteran aces who seized control of the postseason; the 2000 Yankees, who were one of the weakest champs in memory, represented the fruits of keeping a championship core together past their prime. Past Cardinal teams offered clinics in fielding and baserunning. And both the strong teams and the overachievers generally played to their strengths in the postseason. If you predicted the 1988 Dodgers to win it all, it would be on the back of Orel Hershiser, and so it was. If you expected the 1973 Mets to topple the Big Red Machine, it would be with outstanding starting pitching and Tom Seaver throwing the clincher, and so it was. I always loved Bill James' analogy to baseball, which he borrowed from a friend's description of chess, as being an argument without words about how the game should be played. Different arguments can win at different times, but you'd like to see the winner at least have an argument.

But what of this Cardinals team would you imitate in building a roster to win in October? Pujols, of course, is the best player in baseball, but while Pujols contributed at key junctures he was not the dominant figure in any of St. Louis' three series victories. Carpenter, the ace, wasn't especially effective, and Reyes, the young power pitcher, had his moments but didn't blossom overnight like Ryan in 1969 or Rivera in 1995. Rolen and Edmonds played hurt and were not consistent contributors. You just would not ever try to build a championship team by assembling veteran mediocre hurlers like Suppan and Weaver and anemic hitters like Yadier Molina; and even David Eckstein is at best a complimentary player.

Of course, there is still room in any sport for the unexpected Cinderella team. But the great Cinderellas come from humble origins - the 1914 Braves were a moribund franchise for a decade and a half and were in last place on the Fourth of July. The 1969 Mets had never finished higher than 9th; the 1973 team had been doormats again in 1972 and was in last place at the end of August. Same dynamic goes for the worst-to-first 1991 Twins and Braves, and the 1987 Twins. The Cards don't seem like any kind of a Cinderella; this team won 105 games in 2004 and 100 games in 2005, has been a powerhouse in its division for a decade, and was running off with the division until a late season collapse. The Cards were, essentially, a veteran team on the way down - with some young talent, yes (Wainwright, for example) but not the kind of Talent that presages a return to glory in the immediate future.

They aren't a small market team, either, or a city that has suffered long awaiting a championship - St. Louis may lack the resources of the New York and LA markets but as one of baseball's most storied franchises (only the Yankees have won more championships) they are vastly more financially successful than neighbors like the Royals and division rivals like Cincinnati or Pittsburgh, and in recent years they have regularly imported guys the A's could no longer afford (McGwire, Mulder, Isringhausen) or other pricey veteran stars (Rolen, Edmonds). That's not a reason to root against them, given the presence of other, larger payrolls in the annual postseason picture, but it is yet another reason why the Cards don't fit the "miracle team" mold.

I love the drama of the postseason as much as anybody, but when the storyline goes in the books, I want it to make some sense, whether the strictly rational sense of the most talented or best-suited-to-October team winning or the best player carrying his team on his back, or the Hollywood poetry of a good dramatic arc. This championship, at the end of it, doesn't feel like a good ending to a story so much as an ordinary June hot streak for a just-above-.500 team that just happened to come in October. That's anticlimactic for anybody outside St. Louis, and it makes the whole season seem like an exercise in random sample sizes instead of a coherent narrative the way so many postseasons past have been. That's why I think the Cards winning this one was bad for baseball.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:55 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
October 29, 2006
LAW: Justice Thomas on Oral Argument

Very interesting piece here on a Q&A with Clarence Thomas, via Bashman. I met Justice Thomas in 1992, and accounts of his public appearances are consistent with my impression: he was witty and engaging and very unpretentious, but the wounds he carries from his confirmation hearings are never far from the surface.

But this may be the first article I have seen in which he explicitly defends why he doesn't say much at oral argument, and implicitly criticizes some of his colleagues, most notably Justice Scalia:

Thomas said he disapproves of what he calls increasingly aggressive questioning of attorneys by appellate judges from the bench. Thomas said that as a young state attorney general arguing before the Supreme Court of Missouri, he recalled justices who "actually allowed me to make my argument. They listened to what I had to say. ... Nor did I ever feel I had not been heard or did not have my day in court."

But Thomas said that kind of old-fashioned court etiquette has virtually disappeared. "It seems fashionable now for judges to be more aggressive in oral arguments," he said. "I find it unnecessary and distracting. ... I truly think oral arguments would be more useful if the justices would listen rather than debating the lawyers. ... I think the judges need to listen if the arguments are to be effective."

On his own work habits: "Never do anything unnecessarily to decide a case," he said. "Do not ask questions that are unnecessary."

That means Thomas is more likely to sit and listen to an oral argument than attempt to question the lawyers who present them.

"My job is not to rape your argument, not to make your argument, not to hurt your feelings," the associate justice said.

Read the whole thing, including unexpected praise for the ACLU.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:36 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: But We're Controversial!

I saw a bit of a show on CNN or somewhere following up on the Time cover story on the Dixie Chicks' latest effort to revive the old controversy, and invest with Great Meaning for the national mood the fact that their current venture hasn't created a great and visible wave of anger at the band.

Really: get over yourselves. As I wrote at the time, the Dixie Chicks' problem wasn't just the comments but the way they insisted on playing the whole thing as a morality play with their own fans cast as the villians, which turned out to be a good way to alienate a lot of those fans. Obviously somebody still buys their albums, whether people who agreed with their politics or people who decided they didn't much care, but we should not be surprised that the rest of the world has moved on.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:09 PM | Politics 2006 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Thrill Is ... On Hiatus

I can't say the postseason was lacking in thrills for Mets fans, but David Pinto does make a good and admirably concise point about this being a lackluster postseason from the perspective of the fan with no special rooting interest:

Only one series was truly competitive. Only the Mets and Padres won a game facing elimination. Of a possible 41 games, 30 were played. There was a distinct lack of drama.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:02 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 27, 2006
POP CULTURE: Noooo!

Please tell me I did not just see an ad for a Broadway musical with the music of Bob Dylan.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:40 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: World Series Game Five

I dare you to find anyone before this - or any - series who said that the series would turn on the fielding of the pitchers. Next thing you know, the Tigers will be lobbying the American League to institute the Designated Fielder. Eight unearned runs the Tigers have now allowed, almost all due to their pitchers. Appalling.

Where else but the Midwest would you see a banner reading "Please win"?

For the record, I actually agree with McCarver calling for the Cards to take Duncan out for a fielding replacement in the middle innings.

UPDATES: Yes, I just posted that moments before his error in the sixth. Duncan is a born DH.

Weaver makes a great play in the field - talk about rubbing salt in the wounds of Tigers fans.

Eckstein brings his own Rally Monkey everywhere he goes, doesn't he?

McCarver wants the Cards to start bunting to pressure the Tiger pitchers, as if they are Jim Abbott or something. Then again, Jim Abbott was never this bad a fielder.

You would never know Fernando Rodney was Dominican to look at him; the guy looks very American.

Rolen gets the 2-out RBI. You have to tip your cap to Rolen for a gutsy performance even though he is plainly not close to 100% at the moment. 4-2 Cards in the 7th.

I keep seeing this ad from the US Postal Service with a water cooler talking to boxes of sneakers. The voice of the water cooler has to be William Sanderson, Larry of Larry, Daryl and Daryl from Newhart.

Tigers down to their last 3 outs. This is sad, and very bad for baseball.

Wainwright's in. I'm getting ugly flashbacks.

Frankly, little as I feel the Cardinals deserve this, their fans do. I would have been rooting for them in 2004 if it hadn't been the Red Sox.

Casey doubles after a long at bat to bring up the tying run with one out. Jose Reyes would have had a home run on that ball, which bounces past Taguchi in right and jangles around center.

Rodriguez grounds out to Wainwright, who does not make an error. Two outs.

1-2 to the hitless Polanco. Polanco takes a knee-buckling curve, but this time it's a ball.

Polanco walks, it's up to Inge with the tying runs on.

That's it. Inge strikes out. Cards win their 10th World Series.

I'm still really in shock as to all of this. Congratulations to all the Cards fans.

How long 'till pitchers and catchers?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:00 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (29) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Jackboot-Licking Lackeys

How else would one describe businessmen cozying up to the North Korean regime by attending its golf tournament?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:14 PM | War 2006 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Victims of Their Own Propaganda

Taranto's first item today is priceless.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:12 PM | Politics 2006 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Name in Lights

Just ran a search for links to my stuff, as most bloggers do from time to time, and noticed that Michelle Malkin quoted a comment I posted at RedState, and that I got my first hate diary at Kos.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:45 PM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: How 'Bout Them Tigers?

I have to admit that after the way the NLCS ended I just have not been able to muster a lot of enthusiasm for the World Series - I've mainly been listening on the radio while doing work. But I gotta ask: you think Leyland will have his pitching staff taking grounders before Game Five?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:36 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Poor Gary

I always get hopping mad myself when someone pays me $13 million.

And after having a crummy year, no less. I guess if the Yankees are keeping A-Rod and Sheffield they really are committing to go with their present core largely intact next year. Although the ESPN report suggests that the Yanks still want to deal Sheffield but re-upped him just to keep him from signing with the Red Sox or Mets.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:20 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
October 26, 2006
POLITICS: Frank J Is A Genius

That is all.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:00 PM | Politics 2006 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
October 25, 2006
WAR: A McGovernite Plan for Iraq

Actually, not just McGovernite - it's old George McGovern himself, calling - surprise! - for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. What is would be funny if it wasn't sad and dangerous is McGovern and his co-author's proposed solutions:

The authors say the Iraqi government should request the presence of an international force, including Arab and Muslim troops, to help keep order after the departure of the Americans.

Yeah, international forces have just been lining up around the block looking to go in there. And which Arab and Muslim states are we talking about here - Syria? Iran? Besides, sectarian strife is not likely to be pacified by people who belong to one of the denominations involved.

McGovern and Polk call for an aggressive program of U.S. reconstruction aid to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure destroyed in the war.

Which, without U.S. troops around, will last how long without being blown up? And they make it sound like we have not been doing precisely that for three years now.

McGovern cast doubt on the assertion by President Bush that withdrawal would embolden U.S. enemies and create a haven for terrorists in the heart of the Middle East. It is the American presence in Iraq, he and Polk believe, that is fueling much of the violence.

Well, you talk to tired old liberals, you get tired old liberal tropes. This completely ignores the fact that most of the violence these days is targeted by Iraqis at fellow Iraqis, not at the U.S. McGovern all but concedes later in the article that his plan, in a forthcoming book, is already somewhat dated due to this change in the nature of the strife in Iraq.

Of course, even McGovern has to admit that "by and large, the Democrats seem to have been intimidated into silence or kind of a mushy policy on foreign questions."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:33 PM | War 2006 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Ben Cardin's Stem Cell Hypocrisy

So, Democrats think they have found a winning political issue with public funding of embryonic stem cell research. The issue seems to present a classic battle of science versus religion, and Democrats always know which side of that fight they want. And in fact, polls regularly show that many voters, weighing the benefits of improved healthcare against the loss of microscopic embryos, take the side of encouraging such research. As a result, pro-life Republican opponents of the research are often reduced to windy explanations of the distinctions between types of stem cells and between the government banning such research (which it has not tried to do) and simply refusing to fund it with taxpayer dollars.

But as was true with the Terri Schiavo case, I remain skeptical that public support for the liberal/Democratic position is as warm, deep, or unconflicted as it sometimes seems. Again and again, we face hard questions about when and where life begins, who gets to decide who is and is not a human being worthy of the law's protection, what rights we have to end our own lives, and what rights we have to place the utility of living and speaking adults above the claims of the very old, the very sick, and the unborn. Sure, these questions are painful ones - even those of us who find it easy to see the taking of a human life in abortion sometimes weary of doing battle on behalf of microscopic embryos who are unlikely ever to find a home in a mother's womb. But just as pro-lifers can be ambivalent on these issues, so are those who come out on the other side. To be an enthusiastic supporter of stem cell research that destroys embryos, or of pulling the plug on a living human adult whose quality of life has deteriorated almost to nothing, you have to have blithe, cold-blooded confidence that there is no moral issue at all in these questions. And I just don't think most Americans are in that place.

As we have seen from Claire McCaskill's effort to make the Missouri Senate race a single-issue referendum on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, Democratic campaign consultants clearly believe that the public shares their lack of moral ambiguity. And other Democrats are flogging this issue as well, now including Maryland Senate candidate Ben Cardin, who is running an ad with Canadian actor Michael J. Fox, exhorting Americans to spend their tax dollars on such research. (Apparently, Fox isn't satisfied with public funding by his own home country; but even the Canadians have guidelines that betray their own sense that this is an issue fraught with moral peril, as well as dissenters from the governing status quo).

As Michael Steele's campaign has pointed out, however, the problem with Cardin's unbridled enthusiasm for throwing taxpayer money at stem cell research that destroys embryos is that Cardin voted against legislation designed to fund stem cell research that doesn't destroy embryos. That's a position so extreme even Maryland's two liberal Democratic Senators, Barbara Mikulski and the retiring Paul Sarbanes, didn't take it.

Apparently, Cardin isn't in it for the benefits of the research - just for the political benefits he thinks he can get by demanding the destruction of embryos. What a great humanitarian Ben Cardin is.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:19 PM | Politics 2006 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Spencer for Ire

I can't very well imagine anything stupider politically than Hillary Clinton's US Senate opponent, John Spencer, criticizing Hillary's appearance in an informal conversation with liberal Daily News columnist Ben Smith, generating days of front-page stories. As reported by Smith:

Spencer and his wife, Kathy, by chance, sat beside me on a Friday morning JetBlue flight to Rochester. Spencer read The New York Times, I read The New Yorker, and early in the trip, Kathy opened New York magazine to its cover story on Al and Jeanine Pirro, the troubled state attorney general candidate.

The story prompted John Spencer to offer his opinion that Jeanine was a smart woman with potential, but who listened too closely to her consultants.

He also said that, as a recovering alcoholic, he understood and sympathized with Al's psychological problems.

The casual conversation then turned to a black-and-white picture of Pirro, dated to 1978, that appeared in the magazine. The three of us remarked on how much her looks have changed, and speculated (fairly cattily, on all sides) on whether she'd had "work" - that is, plastic surgery.

"Work?" Spencer interjected. "What about Hillary?"

Spencer then launched into an unprovoked riff about Clinton's appearance.

"You ever see a picture of her back then? Whew," he said of Clinton's youth. "I don't know why Bill married her." He speculated she'd had "millions of dollars" of plastic surgery, and added that she looks good now. Spencer observed that "both of them" [Clinton and Pirro] must have had work done.

More Daily News coverage here, here, here, here and here, which is about twice as much coverage as Spencer has had all year.

Now, in context it is clear that Spencer was just speaking off the top of his head, but still - there is no subject that dovetails more perfectly with Hillary's chief political strength than an entirely un-political critique of her appearance, which allows her to play the aggreived-on-behalf-of-all-women card for all it is worth, questioning whether a male candidate would face such criticisms, generally appealing to the insecurities many women face about their appearance as they reach her age, and making out the race as a put-upon woman against a mean male. (Heck, even my wife, who loathes Hillary, was tempted to not vote for Spencer over his decidedly ungentlemanly comments).

If there is one subject that Republicans need, desperately need, to leave be in the 2008 race, it's Hillary's appearance. Issues? Yes. Scandals? Yes. Personal character? Yes. But leave the gibes about her looks to the comedians. It's neither nice nor wise.

(Of course, I should ask as a postscript - and I emphasize that I'm not doing this to let Spencer off the hook - where is Bill in all this? I know he is trying to learn to stay mum and let his wife fight her own battles, but another man has insulted his wife's appearance and asked why Bill married her. Them's fightin' words, and unless I have missed a press acount somewhere he hasn't stirred himself to defend her. Especially for a man who has repeatedly and publicly gotten caught cheating on his wife, you would think he would stand up and come out swinging on this one).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Politics 2006 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
October 24, 2006
BASEBALL: Fun Fact, 1959-Style

I noticed this recently - I forget whether this is a record or not and haven't had time to check, but in 1959 Ernie Banks led the Cubs in RBI by a margin of 91. Banks drove in 143 runs; #2 on the team, Bobby Thomson, drove in 52.

Banks actually had a pretty short peak - for all but about 7 seasons he was mainly a mediocre first baseman - and he wasn't a very patient hitter (he topped 50 unintentional walks only once), but with the arguable exception of Arky Vaughan, there wasn't a shortstop between Honus Wagner and A-Rod who could stand up to him with a bat in his hands.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:10 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)
October 23, 2006
BLOG: Shrimp on a Treadmill

Do I really need to say more? Shrimp on a treadmill, man!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:55 PM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Ace Up His Sleeve?

What was that on Kenny Rogers' hand?

Of course, pine tar on the pitcher has factored in the postseason before - in 1988, Dodgers batting practice pitcher closer Jay Howell got suspended for having pine tar on the bill of his cap, forcing the Dodgers to replace the spectacularly ineffective Howell with Orel Hershiser, who took over as closer in between starts and was devastating. Without that suspension the Mets, who just owned Howell that year, may well have pulled that NLCS out.

The moral of the story? Um, I'll get back to you on that one...

UPDATE: Of course, anyone looking for hidden advantages for Rogers has to explain why his strikeout rate has fallen off sharply in the last two years. The fact is, Rogers is an aging pitcher hanging on to effectiveness, albeit better than others have done historically.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:05 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Pudge at 34

Matt Welch takes a look at the numbers and concludes that Ivan Rodriguez was the third-best 34-year-old catcher ever this season. (Also from 2006 are Jorge Posada at #6 and Paul Lo Duca at #13. Of course, Rodriguez had all but punched his Hall of Fame ticket by the time Lo Duca was a rookie). Topping the list, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Elston Howard, a guy whose time behind the plate in his younger years was limited by the color line and Yogi Berra.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 22, 2006
BASEBALL: Game Two, Over and Out

This game was fairly impossible for New York baseball fans - Mets and Yankees alike - to view without a hot steaming cup of bile at hand:

*Jeff Weaver yet again pitching creditably (albeit not more than that) in a postseason game.

*Kenny Rogers throwing lights-out baseball one more time, 8 innings of two-hit ball.

*The Tigers closer (Todd Jones) beaning a guy - not just any guy, but Mookie's stepson - to load the bases while protecting Rogers' lead, setting up the potential for karmic retribution for 1999.

*Yadier Bleeping Molina hitting into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded and the tying run in scoring position.

This was better baseball than Game One, but this still has the feel of a series that hasn't really gotten rolling yet. Which is fine; such serieses sometimes come to highly dramatic conclusions after the two combatants circle each other for a few games, setting up the decisive battle.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:22 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Game One Thoughts

A few disjointed observations:

*Gradually, Scott Rolen seems to be getting his swing back, or at least admirably gutting out his shoulder troubles.

*Justin Verlander must be unpleasant to face in any conditions, but the fact that tonight wasn't as cold as originally predicted had to be a factor in the Cards having a fighting chance against him (which they made the most of).

*As we have known for some time, Anthony Reyes has a good arm and the makings of a good pitcher. Like Oliver Perez, he really isn't at the stage where you trust him in a big game, but he could be that kind of guy some day, and tonight's performance obviously puts him on the road to that.

*That said, I have to think that every now and then Cardinals fans wish they had Dan Haren back.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:46 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
October 21, 2006
BASEBALL: All Quiet on the Queens Front

So the World Series is just beginning, and the Mets are at home watching on TV with the rest of us. I'll be taking at least tonight off from live-blogging, and I'll play it day to day during the Series; it takes a little time to get back into the swing of this after such an abrupt and painful defeat.

The bitter irony of the NLCS is that the Mets were defeated not by their weaknesses (besides Trachsel, the starting pitching held up better than could have been hoped, and Cliff Floyd was more than adequately replaced by Chavez) and the Cardinals' strengths (Pujols did much damages but ultimately had only one RBI - six fewer than a game this season against the Mets, which the Mets won, and Carpenter was ineffective), but rather by their strengths (offense and bullpen) and the Cardinals' weaknesses (Taguchi, Molina, Suppan, Weaver).

There is no point in making predictions for this World Series. The Tigers are heavy favorites, and deservedly so. As we saw in 1988, of course, that's no guarantee that a team that spilled a far superior team can't do it again. But these Cards are so much less compelling than past Cinderellas - this isn't like the Hershiser of 1988 imposing his will on the postseason single-handed, nor is this a young team on the way up. The Cards are an old team on the way down from their 2004 peak that ended in getting swept.

In truth, this doesn't feel so much like 1988 as like 1999, when the Braves beat the Mets in a tenaciously contested NLCS, and then gave no sign of even wanting to win the World Series, rolling over and playing dead for the Hated Yankees. I have never wanted to watch a series less than that one.

In a short series, anything can happen. So who knows? But I can't pull for the Cards the way the NLCS played out. Go Tigers.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:13 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
October 19, 2006
BASEBALL: NLCS Game Seven

Game Seven. The importance needs no explanation, the drama no introduction. If the people on the LIRR with me an hour before game time were any indication, the crowd will certainly be raucous.

The Mets have played a double-elimination game (loser goes home) four times in their history, and won three, including both that have been played at Shea.

1973, NLCS Game Five, at Shea: The 1973 NLCS was a mirror image of this one, an 82-win Mets team against a Big Red Machine with a powerful and versatile offense and a suspect rotation. The deciding game pitted Tom Seaver against Jack Billingham. Ed Kranepool drove in two runs in the first, Cleon Jones had three hits and two RBI, and the Mets behind Seaver won 7-2.

UPDATE: Writing too fast, forgot Game Seven of the 1973 World Series, John Matlack vs. Ken Holtzman at the Oakland Coliseum, which the Mets lost.

1986, World Series Game Seven, at Shea: Even with a day's rain giving Bruce Hurst the start against Ron Darling, a shell-shocked Red Sox team couldn't hold a lead. Keith Hernandez had the big hit and Darryl Strawberry a famous insurance home run, but the hero was Sid Fernandez, pitching 2.1 electrifying innings of hitless relief, striking out 4 to hold the fort until the offense arrived. 8-5 Mets.

1988, NLCS Game Seven, at Dodger Stadium: Darling knocked out early again, this time fatally and with the help of a meltdown by the Mets' infield defense, with errors by Wally Backman and Gregg Jefferies. Gooden, Leach and Aguilera pitched scoreless relief but the damage was done, as Orel Hershiser shut the Mets out. 6-0 Dodgers.

1999, One-Game Playoff, at Riverfront Stadium: The Reds again, after the Mets recovered dramatically from a September swoon to force a one game playoff for the Wild Card. Al Leiter vs. Steve Parris; Edgardo Alfonzo homered and drove in three, but the key guy was Leiter, pitching as dominant a game as I have ever seen, a 2-hit shutout in which I believe the Reds got only one runner as far as second base. 5-0 Mets.

Obviously, while any number of players will be important tonight, the guy with potentially the biggest impact is Jeff Suppan. Oliver Perez is very unlikely to throw a dominating pitching performance here, especially on three days rest. But Suppan shut the Mets down the last time around, and despite his terrible road stats, he is a threat to a good start tonight.

Top One

Perez gets a fly out after falling behind Eckstein, then punches out Preston Wilson looking. A good start. But now Pujols is up. 0-1.

Ugh, Perez gets Pujols - Pujols! - to pop it up in the infield, but Delgado drops it and Pujols ends up on second.

Perez gets out of trouble. If my expectations for Game Four were low, this time it's even lower - two scoreless innings is all I ask. Everyone is available.

Bottom One

Beltran barely legs out a 2-out double. Mets get started.

2-2 to Delgado. Mets need a base hit. 3-2.

Delgado walks, and Wright drops a single down the right field line. Slump over? 1-0 Mets.

Top Two, 1-0 Mets

Leadoff single for Edmonds. Let's not see that graphic again about the Cards scoring to answer every Mets score.

Rolen flies out.

0-2 on Molina.

Edmonds goes to third on a bloop single to left; Chavez bobbles it but to no cost.

1-1 to Belliard. Strikeout would be good here; Perez isn't a ground ball pitcher.

Belliard bunts the run home.

Suppan's not likely to homer here, with Trachsel not pitching.

Suppan whiffs.

Bottom Two, 1-1

We're hearing about Suppan in Game Seven in 2004 again.

1-2-3. Suppan hopefully is not getting into a groove.

Top Three, 1-1

Eckstein leadoff double. Typical of Eckstein, it was just blooped in front of Chavez.

Two strikes on Preston, the crowd smells blood.

Walking Pujols with 1 out. I guess you need to do this, but I hate to give Perez the chance to give up a 3-run homer.

A lineup with both Wilson and Encarnacion will really strike out a lot. 0-2 on Encarnacion.

Encarnacion shatters his bat and hits into the 5-4-3 double play. Perez has now exceeded expectations.

Bottom Three, 1-1

This is sad: Armed Forces Radio won't cover the World Series for the first time in 60 yars due to lack of interest, as uniformed personnel prefer overhwelmingly to watch on TV (and in the military, unlike an office job, you can't listen to the radio on duty).

It really hasn't sunk in that the winner here starts the Series with just one travel day to Detroit.

Reyes and Lo Duca have been quiet so far tonight.

Another 1-2-3 inning. A pitchers' duel is not what the Mets need tonight.

Top Four, 1-1

Perez really is throwing more strikes than usual, so far. Long as he does that, he will stay in the game, although of course the longball remains a risk.

Perez gets Edmonds. Gets ahead of Rolen 0-2 before throwing a ball.

3-2. This is still Perez, folks.

Perez gets Rolen on an infield popup. Strike one to Molina.

Perez gets Molina.

Bottom Four, 1-1

If Perez gets out of this game having allowed just 1 or 2 runs, that will be a huge confidence-builder. Of course, you generally don't use these games for that purpose...

Leadoff walk for Delgado.

Weak grounder for Wright, at least he avoids the DP. Probably should not have swung at the first pitch.

Green whiffs again. I've perhaps been too hard on Green's hitting, but he has struck out quite a bit in this series.

Suppan just winked twice - does he have a nervous twitch? That would explain the wink to Trachsel before his home run.

You always see something in baseball you never saw before - maybe I have seen this, but I don't remember it - Valentin gets beaned by a pitch that bounces off the plate and hits him in the face.

Top Five, 1-1

Still 1-1? I'm nervous again. Perez can't hold the fort that well. Suppan can.

Leadoff single for Belliard, just out of Reyes' reach.

Game Seven in 1986 comes to mind, where the Mets struggled early to get good wood on the ball as they had before against Hurst.

Idiot Bartman-esque fans almost interfere with an Eckstein foul that Chavez misses. Eckstein then takes one for the team.

Perez is probably on his way out here, but Randolph likes him against Wilson. 0-2.

Make that 0-3. Wilson just can't lay off Perez' high hard stuff.

Randolph leaves in Perez to face Pujols. This is nuts.

Well, it worked. Perez gets Pujols to pop up to Reyes in short left. Amazin'

Bottom Five, 1-1

Wow, Perez is batting! Randolph is treating him like a real starting pitcher.

Reyes goes quickly again, Lo Duca is up. Last night's heroes, quiet this time against the Soup Man.

The problem with letting Perez bat is that he is throwing on three days' rest. He's thrown just 76 pitches, though; he can probably go one more inning. But I'd have taken him out.

Collision between Edmonds and Wilson - not really that violent, but Edmonds looks a little shook up.

Top Six, 1-1

Edmonds is still in.

3-2 to Edmonds. Edmonds walks.

Perez issues his first walk, has thrown 87 pitches. This has to be it for him soon.

WOW WOW WOW! Chavez robs Rolen of a home run AND doubles Edmonds off first, Edmonds having rounded second.

Move over, Ron Swoboda. There's a new best catch in Mets postseason history.

Bottom Six, 1-1

I actually feel bad for Rolen. Guy just can not catch a break.

Now, we need to capitalize on the momentum.

But Beltran grounds out. I think Wright needs another RBI this inning.

Delgado walks, here comes Wright.

I'm assuming that Perez really is done now.

Wright still up there hacking early.

Wright hits a very slow roller, Rolen throws the ball into the seats. This really is not his day. They're walking Green to load the bases with one out for Valentin.

Cards are clearly banking on the DP here.

Hey, was that John Franco in the stands?

Perez, Chavez, - now Valentin? That would be your unlikely heroes.

1-0. Nowhere to put him.

1-2.

Just get it out of the infield.

Another foul.

Rain is coming down something serious here.

Whiff. Looks like Endy Chavez has to do everything tonight.

Chavez flies out to center, a fly that would have been great news if Valentin had hit it.

Top Seven, 1-1

I want Heilman here, Heilman or Bradford.

Seventh game, seventh inning, still tied. Many hearts yet to be broken tonight. Until then, no, it does not get better than this.

Bradford's in. Perez did everything you could possibly have asked of him. Now if we can be rid of Suppan, we go bullpen-to-bullpen. I'll take those odds.

2-2 to Molina - Bradford is very good at getting even when he starts off behind in the count.

Good play by Valentin on yet another of those slow bouncers past the mound against Bradford.

Suppan stays in to hit. Grrrrr.

Bottom Seven, 1-1

Dare I breathe it: extra innings? I do not want to see Wagner except in a save situation, I know that.

ENDY.jpg

Tucker pinch hitting. I guess he's the best option to lead off.

OK, time for the top of the order to make something happen.

1-2-3 inning. Suppan still pitching like there is no tomorrow. He just threw his 100th pitch.

Top Eight, 1-1

Heilman is in. He's the guy I want here, win or lose.

Gets Eckstein, 1-2 on Speizio, batting for Wilson. Pujols on deck.

Long at bat here. Heilman punches him out.

You pitch here to Pujols verrrrrry carefully.

Now, they make it intentional. Yes, I prefer Encarnacion with two outs and a man on first than Pujols with the bases empty, at least in a tie game.

0-2. I have a feeling Heilman's going to spend a lot of time here trying to get Encarnacion to swing at a bad pitch.

Nope, just one in the dirt.

Bottom Eight, 1-1

Beltran, Delgado, Wright due up next. It's go time.

Taguchi is in in left. La Russa must be expecting to see Wagner.

3-1 to Beltran. A leadoff walk would be good. Mets do not have a hit since the first. I hate Suppan.

Beltran walks. No Suppan for you! Tony goes to his bullpen, at last.

Randy Flores is in, probably just for Delgado.

Rain falling pretty visibly now. I wonder what it would take to stop the game. In 1925 they played Game Seven in a downpour and in the dark, with ugly results, lots of balls to the outfield that disappeared in the slop. Walter Johnson went the distance and set a record for total bases allowed in a World Series game.

Delgado strikes out on a check swing. Sure didn't look like he swung, but there we are.

Wright takes the first pitch. Good, stay back, play within himself, like he usually does.

2-0, way outside. I think I am still breathing. If I stop typing you will know why.

2-1, check swing, at least that was a swing. Now 3-1. 3-2, Wright takes one inside.

Wright strikes out. It's up to Green.

Green hits a shot to Pujols.

Top Nine, 1-1

Please, no Wagner. Tie game. Pitcher up in the next inning. Leave. In. Heilman.

Both teams have put on a tremendous struggle here, but this will be a tough one to lose.

Heilman still in.

Edmonds strikes out on another one in the dirt.

0-2 on Rolen. McCarver just called Endy "Eric Chavez"

Rolen takes a ball right down the middle.

Rolen is certainly battling here. Single to left. Molina is up, the designated bad hitter who kills us.

And he does. Home run, 3-1. Doom, defeat, ruination.

Molina smacked that ball into the LF bullpen. Now we need a miracle.

Adam Wainwright warming up. We will need him to be Calvin Schiraldi tonight.

No further damage. Three outs remain, and they belong to the bottom of the order.

Bottom Nine, 3-1 Cards.

The starters held the line, the last two games. How ironic.

Ball One to Valentin. Wait the kid out.

Three high pitches, two balls.

Bloop, very Game Six 1986-ish bloop, to right center. Chavez bats as the tying run. McCarver wants him to bunt for a hit????

Wainwright almost sails one to the backstop. It ain't over till it's over.

Cliff Floyd goes up looking for a GIDP longball.

1-1 to Kirk . . . Cliff Floyd.

With Floyd up there it feels like two outs. Molina tries to pick Chavez off first.

2-2. Floyd strikes out, it's up to Reyes and maybe Lo Duca.

High ball, inside strike. 1-1 to Reyes. Foul, 1-2. Another foul. Reyes drills one to center, too close to Edmonds. All up to Lo Duca.

Gotta sit on the curve, Wainwright can't get the fastball down into the zone.

Bases loaded for Beltran. Tying run in scoring position. An out ends it, a single ties, a double or HR wins it.

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Beltran strikes out looking. It's over. It's over. It's over.

Yadier Bleeping Molina.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:57 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (57) | TrackBack (0)
October 18, 2006
BASEBALL: Oliver's Army

Willie Randolph on who is picthing Game 7 and why: "Oliver Perez, and I like him."

Given Darren Oliver's record as a reliever compared to starting, I agree with this, much as it horrifies me to start a guy as volatile as Perez in an elimination game, and on three days' rest no less. The good news is, Perez has great stuff and is unpredictable, so the Cardinals don't get an edge from just having seen him.

Here is the Mets' staff by how rested they are for Game Seven in terms of pitches thrown:

PitcherD-1D-2D-3D-4D-5D-6D-7
Perez92
Oliver72
Trachsel43
Glavine8089
Maine9888
Hernandez18101
Mota41582319
Feliciano23101
Bradford1472029
Heilman1233
Wagner242415

Glavine reportedly is available for an inning, roughly. Trachsel, hopefully, will not pitch. Oliver has four days' rest and should be fresh if needed. The thing that jumps out here, though, is how rested Heilman is; he's really the guy I'd like to see go two or three innings tomorrow with the chips down. Wagner threw a lot of pitches tonight but had several days of rest before that, and could be sharper tomorrow from having pitched tonight, as relievers sometimes are. Maine and Glavine are the only guys on the staff who have thrown more than 24 pitches over the past three days.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:35 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: NLCS Game Six

Well, this is it. The LIRR picked a horrible night to go out of order; I had quite an odyssey getting home on time for the first inning.

Top One

Second and third and one out after a Pujols double. Maine not looking too steady here.

Ha-yooooge strikeout for Maine getting Edmonds. Two outs, but then Maine hits Encarnacion, to set up two outs and bases loaded for Rolen.

Maine gets Rolen to fly out weakly. Like Pedro and Piazza, Rolen has an uncomfortable habit of being seriously out of gas come October.

Maine and Oliver Perez were both essentially throw-ins in trades - and here the Mets are with Maine standing between them and elimination, and Perez possibly starting tomorrow.

Bottom One

Profesor Reyes goes yard! 1-0 Mets. No shutout for Cy Carpenter tonight. Hey, the last Game Six at Shea the other team had Clemens going, and the Mets wore him out, getting him to throw 138 pitches. Let's see a repeat; Carpenter's good but he's no Clemens.

Beltran grounds out to first; Pujols does not try to race him to the bag.

Top Two, 1-0 Mets

Why is it that the really good Latino players so often have names like Pedro and Carlos and Fernando and Manny, instead of, say, Yadier?

Maine could really be a solid pitcher someday. He's the same general type as Maddux, Glavine, Brad Radke, Rick Reed, obviously more in the vein of the latter two.

La Russa is complaining about the count. I think he's trying to ice Maine.

1-2-3 second.

Bottom Two, 1-0 Mets

Wright is still due.

DP by Valentin. They're gonna need more than one run tonight.

Top Three, 1-0 Mets

Eckstein really is the closest thing going these days to Wally Backman. Leadoff walk.

Maine gets Speizio to whiff on a low pitch; they walk Pujols and Maine falls behind Edmonds before getting him to fly out to right.

First and third, two out (Eckstein went to third on the fly).

Bottom Three

Chavez beats out a leadoff bunt. Nobody expects the Venezuelan bunt! That really was a great bunt.

OK, wireless internet is back. Reyes is on second, after being tackled by Belliard to avoid trying for third on a slightly wild throw. Belliard basically sat on him. Then again, Reyes went into him awfully hard.

Lo Duca grounds out.

Top Four

Belliard is definitely not built like a middle infielder. He's built more like a shopping mall security guard.

Not much happened in the fourth, except that a walk to Molina means Carpenter won't lead off the fifth. The Mets still need more than one run.

Bottom Four

Beltran gets on for Delgado, Wright on deck...need some runs here.

Delgado crushes the ball to straightaway center, might as well have hit a popup. One out.

The funny thing about all the guff Wright is taking is, he batted .333 with 4 RBI in 3 games in the NLDS, he has a double and a homer in this series. But he needs to do more for people to feel like he stepped up.

Green singles in a run. About time he contributed. 2-0 Mets.

Speizio hauls in a short fly by Valentin. Even as a veteran infielder playing out of position he hasn't been any worse out there than Green.

Top Five, 2-0 Mets

Good recovery by Maine on a grounder he knocks down. The longer Maine goes, the better relievers the Mets can bring in. Saving the pen for tomorrow is secondary, since you need to win tonight or there is no tomorrow.

Pujols bats with two outs and the bases empty and down by more than one run. This is how it should always be.

Pujols whiffs on a low pitch outside the strike zone. He's done plenty of damage in this series but the Mets have also made him look bad more than usual.

Bottom Five, 2-0 Mets

Reyes is on again, which hopefully will drain some energy from Carpenter keeping him on first.

Nope - instead, Lo Duca hits an odd-bouncing grounder, so Reyes goes to second with two outs.

Top Six, 2-0 Mets

So far this looks a lot like Game One, but I don't see this ending 2-0. Maine has thrown 86 pitches; he might go seven innings at most, but this is probably his last.

Bradford is getting warm. Feliciano can't be far behind.

3-1 to Edmonds. This does not have the look of another 1-2-3 inning.

Leadoff walk. I'd leave Maine in a bit longer - he is still pitching a shutout - but he can't have much rope here.

2-1 to Encarnacion. If he gets on, curtains for Maine.

Bloop into shallow left; that drops in front of Floyd, but Chavez hustles under it for out #1.

Maine comes out after 98 pitches, still pitching a shutout. One more run and you would just leave him in until they draw blood, but Willie is nervous here. Let's hope everyone else has it tonight too. The Shea crowd gives him a well-earned standing O.

Bradford enters the game with a 2-0 lead, one out and a man on first.

Bradford goes 3-0 to Rolen. Uh-oh.

Bradford deals a beautiful 3-0 strike on the outside corner; if he threw that pitch all day nobody would hit it.

Bradford gets the double play! La Russa proves that he was right to bench Rolen earlier. Would La Russa rather be right than win the pennant? Don't answer that.

Bottom Six, 2-0 Mets

Can I say just now that I'm not excited about the prospect of Mota entering this game?

Carpenter is going after Wright with contempt for his bat. This is painful to watch for a guy who so rarely slumps.

Wright and Green both strike out looking.

Top Seven, 2-0 Mets

Just saw a Ned Lamont ad with lots of pictures of Lieberman with Bush & Cheney. I won't get political here, just passing that on that Lamont thinks he can win voters in this telecast. Interesting.

Bradford still in. Belliard singles - Bradford gets two quick strikes and Belliard hits a bouncing grounder up the middle, just luck that it gets by Bradford.

Bradford gets ahead of Molina, too. He's throwing well, but guys like him can get chipped away even when they do.

He's got Molina down 1-2. This time, he needs to put him away - maybe another GIDP?

Molina hits a towering fly to CF. I'm not sure Beltran even opened his eyes to catch that one.

Pitching change. I think I have seen enough of Uncle Ernie and his heartburn.

Mets need eight more outs.

Mota comes in to face Duncan. I have a very bad feeling about this.

1-1 to Duncan. Foul, 1-2. This is a very big inning.

Mota gets Duncan to hit into a DP. I bow before Randolph's genius.

Bottom Seven, 2-0 Mets

Looper Time!

Valentin bunts, is thrown out. Now, I know Looper's healthier and tougher this year but he's still one of those guys you want to give a chance to dig his own hole.

Heilman warming up.

I'm not sure why Tucker is hitting here. I'd try Floyd in the two out none on situation and hope for a Big Fly.

Tucker flies out to left, except that Speizio butchers the ball. Reyes is up.

Tucker is running; I would not mind risking him running here, since if he is thrown out Reyes leads off.

I'm guessing right now that this game comes down to Wagner with the bases loaded. Probably against Pujols.

La Russa overthinks, Tucker steals on a pitchout. Reyes gets an easy infield single as Eckstein can only knock the ball down in the hole.

Reyes steals second uncontested. The Cards had to hold the ball but if Lo Duca gets a hit that will be very costly for the Cards.

And so it is: LoDuca drills a single up the middle, 4-0 Mets. Looper Time!

Which ends, as Tyler Johnson comes in. Tucker goes up there with Dave Roberts in 2004 and Otis Nixon in 1999 for LCS-turning steals.

Error on Rolen. Which brings up Delgado with two men on. I would be throwing things right now, were I a Cards fan.

Delgado grounds out.

Top Eight, 4-0 Mets

The Mets will win this game, or they will suffer a catastrophic bullpen failure that will make Heilman and/or Wagner persona non grata at Shea for life. No middle ground remains.

Five outs remain. Speizio comes up, Pujols on deck, can not tie the game.

And the Speez pops out on the first pitch. Albert bats again with 2 down and the bases empty. Let him hit it off the 7 train.

Pujols singles, Edmonds up. They are talking about Perez vs. Oliver for Game Seven. Um, let's make sure first we have one.

Edmonds whiffs. Heilman does his job. Wagner will get his chance to pull out his set of matches and gasoline. Always leave 'em wanting more, Billy.

Top Nine, 4-0 Mets

Wright pops up. Vindication will await Game Seven. If there is one, of course.

Green gets drilled in the butt. That looks intentional, but I can't imagine why.

Rolen throws high, but gets Valentin. Man, he's had a terrible night.

La Russa is wearing those shades again. It's 11:00 and it's very dark out.

Chavez takes a 3-0 strike halfway down his shins.

Top Nine, 4-0 Mets

Wagner will enter the game in a non-save situation. You know, like that 4-run lead he blew against the Yankees.

I don't want to be too hard on Wagner, who was (with Hoffman) one of the NL's two dominant closers. He's probably going to nail this one down. I just don't entirely trust him.

First two pitches out of the strike zone. Here we go.

2-2 to Encarnacion. Trachsel is up in the pen just to frighten the fans. Encarnacion singles. This gives us a test: the fork in Rolen's back or the monkey on Wagner's?

Rolen bounces a double off the fence. The crowd is restive. Justifiably.

Why did Heilman come out?

1-2 to Belliard on a ball in the dirt that almost goes as a wild pitch. He bounces a grounder; Wright wisely takes the easy out at first. Molina is up.

Molina flies out quickly to CF. Taguchi comes up; La Russa is just gambling here. I guess he had nobody fit to hit for Molina.

0-2 to Taguchi. Wagner has his required degree of difficulty here.

2-run double to left for Taguchi. !#^%!$%!$^#*!&#%&!%&*!^#*&!^#*&!

Game Six, one out away. Why does that sound familiar? Ugh.

Nobody ever goes out to talk to Wagner in these situations.

Eckstein grounds out! We go 7!

Maine is giving a distracted and detatched interview while giving high fives with his left hand. Those two insurance runs sure came in handy.

They just asked Randolph who is picthing Game 7 and why: "Oliver Perez, and I like him." A Choo Choo Coleman-esque answer.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:22 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (23) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Question of the Day, 10/18/06

Who would you rather have starting the big game tonight, if you had to choose - John Maine or Kris Benson?

I'd take Maine, who at least has a live arm and hasn't shown signs of wearing out down the stretch. Maybe he doesn't come up big tonight, but I definitely feel the Mets have a fighting chance with Maine.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:46 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
October 17, 2006
BLOG: Much Funnier Than The Mets Game

A telemarketer calls the wrong guy. (Audio). Via Ace.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:58 PM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: NLCS Game Five

Liveblogging but with some interruptions anticipated

TRIVIA QUESTION OF THE NIGHT: Almost all World Championship teams have at least one Hall of Famer playing a significant role. Of course, more recent teams' players haven't gone on the ballot yet; of players to play for World Series winning teams since the 1994 strike, I believe only Wade Boggs has gone in the Hall, although most teams will meet the test - consider Pudge Rodriguez, Tom Glavine and Albert Pujols on the three remaining rosters. But for the period before 1994, only three teams had no Hall of Famers, four if you count one team that had a Hall of Famer who had retired by October (three of these four teams had Hall of Fame managers, though). Name the teams. Answer to go below the fold as the game progresses.

Top One

Chvez in the lineup again, regardless of how good Cliff Floyd says he feels. Reyes starts off hot, with a single, but Lo Duca's grounder takes out Reyes as the lead runner. On the whole, Weaver doesn't look like a guy who will throw a shutout tonight.

Another fielder's choice with Delgado after a Beltran single - two out, Lo Duca on second, Delgado on first. Wright whiffs.

Bottom One

Eckstein singles off Glavine, who I assume will also not fare as well on the Cardinals' second look at him. Still, he's the best pitching matchup the Mets have in this best-of-three remaining, so this remains a big game.

Top Two

My son can now recite that anti-steroids ad from memory.

Buck says that despite the power of positive thinking we are also not likely to see Floyd pinch hitting. Chavez responds with a double down the left field line.

Bottom Two

The strike zone doesn't love Glavine tonight.

Inning ends on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out DP. All in a day's work for Glavine and Lo Duca.

Top Three

Two quick outs. Weaver is settling in. Make that three.

Bottom Three

Once again, scoring first is likely to be important in this game, not that it was decisive last night.

Not...much...happening. Of course, with Glavine on the mound I should not complain.

Top Four

Long delay while they fix first base...

Wright looks cold again.

Green nails a double right down the line; fan interference may have saved the Cards a run, as Delgado pulls up at third. Then again, Delgado isn't exactly the most aggressive baserunner.

But it's moot, as the suddenly un-frozen Jose Valentin follows with another double for two runs.

Glavine batting, two outs and Valentin on third. Groundout.

-INTERMISSION-

Bottom 4, 2-0 Mets

I'm back. And a rough inning for Glavine, who finally ends the Christy Mathewson act with a Pujols bomb to left and now a drip-drip Cardinal rally consisting of a walk to Rolen and dink singles by Edmonds and Belliard to right, and now a long at bat for Molina.

Molina walks, bases loaded and 2-0 for Weaver, a career .206 hitter.

Glavine gets another grounder, this one weakly to Reyes. But a costly inning not just in runs but in pitches thrown, plus Weaver doesn't lead off the fifth. Glavine has thrown 73 pitches through four innings.

Top Five, 2-2

They were saying Weaver may be making himself some money this postseason - maybe earning a second chance, but Weaver was really, really bad this year, 5.76 ERA and his K rate went off the table. If he is smart he'll stay in St. Louis with Dave Duncan (who specializes in mediocre veterans), a good organization, small-city media and supportive fans.

That said - Please, please go to the Cardinals bullpen.

Beltran rips one to right, but within Encarnacion's reach.

Buck says this is by far the biggest at bat of the night, Delgado up with a man on first and 2 outs. Um, didn't the Cards just leave the bases loaded? But Weaver gets Delgado.

Bottom Five, 2-2

Reyes almost made a really great catch there going over the shoulder on a bloop by Eckstein. Glavine's still getting eaten away here, and the bullpen will probably be in soon.

Preston Wilson tattoos a double to right, 3-2 Cards. Glavine's not fooling anyone.

Glavine's walking Pujols intentionally, and then getting pulled. I guess you don't ask Bradford to walk a guy intentionally, with his windup.

Encarnacion apparently can't bunt. But he can single. Bases loaded. Nobody out. This is trouble.

Bradford whiffs Rolen. Now, a DP can get them out of this. Easier said than done.

Top Six, 3-2 Cards

Somehow, they got out of that; I was trying unsuccessfully to walk the baby back to sleep and missed how.

Very nice grab by Pujols on a Green shot down the line, saving a double.

Weaver throws a serious brushback at Valentin. Valentin rips one foul - I think he's back.

Chavez is hacking again.

Bottom Six, 3-2 Cards

Weaver's coming out for a pinch hitter. Still, it feels like it's getting late early.

Big, high arcing homer to right for Duncan. 4-2.

Top Seven, 4-2 Cards

Rally cap time!

That Tucker at bat would have been a good time to see Cliff Floyd if he had been available.

1-2-3 inning. Six outs left or we face an elimination game against Carpenter and another with "staff" pitching.

Bottom Seven, 4-2 Cards

Pujols grounds out off Roberto Hernandez.

They're showing El Duque. He should be available for the Series, maybe Floyd will too. But only if they get there.

Gun says Roberto is throwing 95. Another ageless wonder on this team.

Top Eight, 4-2 Cards

Beltran whiffs.

Delgado doesn't look too good either. Until he drills one just foul into the RF corner.

Infield hit for Delgado! Well, in the sense that Belliard was playing in shallow right.

Man, Wright is due. And if he wasn't in such a slump he'd usually be the best guy to have up representing the tying run down 2.

And he hits one off Hornsby on the left field fence. As I have said before, Wright reminds me of Rogers Hornsby, at least in his build and batting stance (not that I expect him to hit .400)

Green, on the other hand - not that guy. But he's the guy we have. Edmonds hauls in a bloop with a basket catch.

Down two, game we really need the Mets to win, second and third, two out - and it all comes down to Jose Valentin. Did you expect this, in April?

Cliff Floyd looks like he really wants to grab a bat here.

A second high curve, 2-2. But the third one drops in and freezes Valentin. The odds on these Mets just got very long.

Top Nine, 4-2 Cardinals

Longshot territory, now. Another night off for Heilman so far, as Mota starts the ninth.

About 40% of Cardinals fans are blonde and female. And wearing red.

Miles triples to right. The Cardinals now - properly - have contempt for Shawn Green's defense in right. For a guy who opened the postseason with a great play with the glove, he has struggled terribly out there.

Forget winning the game, the potential squeeze play gives La Russa the chance to manage real hard. That's what this is all about.

Eckstein pops up in the infield; now there's two outs and Wilson up. Please, don't walk Wilson and get Pujols up there.

Top Nine, 4-2 Cards

Chavez, probably Franco, and Reyes due up. Need two guys to get on to bring back the boppers. If Franco gets on, with Reyes' wheels behind him, you have to run Anderson Hernandez for him.

Floyd is on deck. Interesting.

Chavez is not inspiring confidence. And he grounds out.

Here comes the big man. A risky move, down one. I can't fault Randolph too much; he's a fine hitter and you can run for him, if he gets out of the box.

Floyd grounds out. He hobbles to first, but really anyone but Reyes, and maybe Reyes, is an easy out on that ball anyway.

Reyes is wound up pretty tight here.

Reyes whiffs.

Gotta go through Carpenter now to force a Game Seven. After that . . . well, no win in Game Six, no after that to worry about, is there? The Mets always have to do it the hard way.
Reyes is our last hope.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:21 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Long Reliever

If this series goes seven, there is talk that the Mets might start Darren Oliver. But Oliver hasn't started all year, and for good reason. As I noted back in May, Oliver has a very pronounced record, going all the way back to his rookie year in 1993, of pitching much better out of the bullpen. I'd rather see him stay in that comfort zone that allowed him to have his best year in more than a decade. The breakdown:

S/RGIPIP/GERAH/9HR/92B/9BB/9K/9
S2281299.15.705.1410.271.132.243.585.17
R123188.21.533.918.491.051.244.107.01

Sources for split stats here and here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:16 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Question of the Day

The 1973 Mets entered October with a tremendous 4-man rotation, a solid bullpen - and a completely punchless offense led by Rusty Staub, Cleon Jones and John Milner. Which would you rather have in the postseason: that team or this one, as it stands today? Great as Seaver, Koosman, and Matlack were, and as big an impact as big-time starters can make, I think I'd still take the current team, with its deep, powerful and versatile offense, and I'd certainly take this team if you added El Duque back into the mix.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:49 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Macha Macha Macha

Blez looks at the firing of Ken Macha, which seems unfair to me, but it is true that the one thing the Beane-era A's have never had is a manager who could be an emotional leader. Even within the parameters of selecting a guy who will go along with the Beane program, you would like to see them hire someone who is a little more Captain Kirk and a little less Mr. Spock. In fact, on a team where roster management and strategy are largely decided above the manager's pay grade, you would think the emphasis on getting a good leader of men would be greater.

Meanwhile, the Cubs hope Lou Piniella can recreate the success he has had in Tampa. Or was that the postseason success he had in Seattle? I do think, though, that the Cubs would be well-served by trying to acquire A-Rod to replace Ronny Cedeno at shortstop, and the hiring of Piniella could help that. But the Cubs, in sharp contrast to the A's, also need to shake a two-decade-long aversion to patience at the plate; adding another guy who hits solo homers won't help that. Even a middle of the order with two patient hitters (Lee and A-Rod) needs tablesetters.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
October 16, 2006
BLOG: Quick Links 10/16/06

*PJ O'Rourke on the two parties entering the 2006 elections. Via QandO.

*A manifesto for Republicans facing the 2006 elections. Though I'm not sure an anaology to the Spartans at Thermopylae will raise a lot of spirits.

*A maybe not-so-different kind of border fence. Of course, the Chinese have tried the wall-building thing before without notable success.

*There's a difference between historians and lawyers, on the one hand, and journalists, on the other; only the latter think that you can prove your point through sloppy paraphrasing, playing fast and loose with primary sources, and citing the testimony of the anonymous. Bob Woodward's new book is a classic example of this. Be sure to read the whole thing, long as it is, and reflect on Woodward's motive.

*Now, Hugo Chavez has gone too far!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:56 PM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Washout

So the Mets get cosmic justice for the Game One rainout in New York with a Game Five rainout in St. Louis, as tonight's game is put off to tomorrow. I don't want to sound like Whitey Herzog here, bemoaning that the particulars of the postseason schedule didn't precisely fit the relative strengths of his and his opponents' pitching staffs, but it is in general a good thing, as well as obviously good for the Mets, that Glavine and Weaver will now start on their regular rest. (It's even better news, in a way, if this tempts LaRussa to start Carpenter on short rest, since the Mets need to beat him once anyway). Of course, it's even more urgent than it was in the 1986 NLCS (with Mike Scott looming) that the Mets put this away in six with Glavine and Maine, rather than have to go back to the grab bag of Perez, an injured Trachsel, or a reliever who hasn't started all year (Oliver or, less likely, Heilman - especially less likely with no rest after Games 5&6) to start Game 7 against Suppan.

As to Trachsel, unlike some, I don't fault him for coming out of the game the other night after being hit by a line drive - he was about ready to be yanked anyway, and the injury gave the Mets time to get Oliver warm. And a really deep bruise can be nasty. But if the Mets did want him to pitch Game 7 (I'd rather see Perez, at this point, if only because he's more likely to make it to the third or fourth inning before melting down), I can't see why a days-old bruise, painful as it is, would prevent a professional athlete from wanting that ball.

The other good news: if the Mets do get to the next round, El Duque will be ready to go. Hold on: the cavalry is coming! (that is, to the extent that "the cavalry" means "a 40-year-old pitcher with a 4.66 ERA who hasn't pitched in three weeks").

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:35 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
October 15, 2006
BASEBALL: NLCS Game Four

Anthony Reyes' 5.06 ERA this season makes him the easy favorite in tonight's pitching matchup...the goal for Oliver Perez tonight is twelve outs. If Perez gets through four innings with one or even two runs allowed, everything else will be gravy; any shorter leash and he would not be a starter at all.

A few things appeared in nthe cold light of morning today. One is something I should have noted before the series, since I had seen it in the numbers: Suppan had a great second half, such that the Cards should be regarded as a team with a 1-2 punch, rather than Carpenter's one man band.

Another is that the loss of Floyd and Valentin looking largely out of gas means that the Mets aren't really the same offensive team, let alone the same pitching rotation.

A third is that, at least once Game One was rained out, my assessment of the dynamics should have been the reverse of the Dodger series - the Mets were much better served putting this one away early rather than getting into a war of attrition.

Top One

I really would have liked a run to stake Perez with in the top of the first.

Bottom One

Ugh, Wright and Delgado both butcher that play. Perez is not the guy you want to see errors behind.

Double play; redemption for the defense.

My kids have nearly all the regular ads committed to memory by this point. An occupational hazard of watching playoff TV in baseball or basketball.

Perez...seriously, this is like the '86 Mets starting Bruce Berenyi in the NLCS.

Top Two

Jim Edmonds is keeping very busy tonight.

Oliver Perez walks! Yes it's still 0-0 and yes these are two talented pitchers, but you can see them both playing with fire. A wise man will wait Reyes out.

You know what? Ugly as this has been between the ending of Game Two, the beginning of Game Three, and the innings of mutual ennui since then, all the Mets really need to do is get a lead in this game and my faith and optimism will be restored. I'm easy that way.

Bottom Two

As much as I have griped about the condition of the Mets starting rotation, it should be borne in mind that the collapse of the Cards down the stretch was caused as much as anything by the injury/fadeout of Rolen and Edmonds, and neither guy has really been himself yet.

How many balls have been trapped or gone off the fingers by the Mets outfielders in this series?

Chavez throwing out Belliard at third was huge - the Cardinals get a run, but the difference between man on first two outs and first and third one out is... well, Perez has to work to make this a big inning now; he should get out of this.

And he does.

Top Three

Man, Lo Duca is slow. The play that captured this was in Game Two when Speizio and Pujols both bobbled the ball and he was still thrown out by 10 feet. In fact, I suspect Lo Duca is distinctly slower now than he was three or four months ago.

I would not like Beltran so much, were I a Cardinals fan. Line shot homer to right, 1-1.

Wright homers into the left field bullpen. Hope has returned.

Bottom Three

Six outs down for Perez, six to go with no more than one more run and he will have exceeded expectations.

They just replayed the two homers. Wright's swing was the big power swing, looked like a home run. Beltran just sort of reached out and golfed his.

Nice try by Jose Reyes to fake dropping a line drive by Pujols to get a double play. Reyes needs to spend some time with Vlade Divac.

Well, the Cards tie it back up on the 2-out triple to right bobbled by Shawn Green. Green is not having a good series in the field.

Three outs to go with no runs scoring for Perez to cover the spread. Then we're playing with the house's money.

Top Four, 2-2.

It's 8:20 pm in St. Louis. The lights are on. And Tony La Russa is wearing sunglasses. What does he think this is, the World Series of Poker?

You get a real sense of scale of major league players when you see Endy Chavez listed at 195 pounds.

Maybe I missed him but I don't believe there has been a Stan Musial sighting yet. Is he waiting for the Series? Or is Stan the Man finally getting too old to show up for events like this?

Wow, Reyes has thrown 84 pitches after striking out Perez. Perez, who is hardly economical with his pitches, has thrown 49 to get just two fewer outs.

Bottom Four, 2-2

New Busch is definitely tough on long fly balls - not like the old 80s-era Busch, but a bandbox this is not.

If you look at the transactions, La Russa in his short major league career was employed by the A's, White Sox and Cardinals. Interesting coincidence.

Belliard steals second as Molina strikes out. The throw beat him, but Valentin just didn't quite get the tag down. As McCarver points out, this is partly due to Molina obstructing Lo Duca. But no harm done, due to some outstanding defense by Valentin on the next play.

Perez has done his job now; if he gets in any more trouble he can be bailed out without disaster.

Top Five, 2-2.

3-run homer for Delgado! It is now actually imaginable that Perez could get the win in this game. A lot of baseball still to play, but that's a major lift. I had to run upstairs and tell my 9-year-old son, who just got sent to bed under protest.

Momentum is such a fickle thing, almost as fickle as Fox announcers - suddenly the flairs dropping in and botched grounders are going against the Cardinals.

Perez is batting with two on and two outs in the top of the fifth. And you know what? I'm fine with that. What a turn of events.

And he's ahead in the count again. You really would not want to walk him to face Reyes with the bases juiced. I mean really.

But he whiffs. On to...

Bottom Five, 5-2

Eckstein goes waaaaay deep, and yes, Virginia, this is still a tight October ballgame. I get Perez out if anybody gets on ahead of Pujols.

Willie Randolph calls both Perez and Darren Oliver "Ollie." Perez, if he ever does recapture his 2004 form, could use an intimidating nickname.

And whiffing Pujols with a pitch at his eyes is a reminder that this is still a possibility for this guy.

Top Six, 5-3 Mets.

Reyes singles to right - the ball just jumps off his bat.

To answer a question in the comments, yes those in-game interviews are idiotic, uncomfortable and risk giving away too much information to boot. But at least Tony took his shades off.

First and (Reyes on) third, nobody out. This is at least one run you need to add.

Beltran walks, bases loaded for Charlie the Cat. Hancock is having a tough series.

Deep fly for Delgado, which is what you wanted there. Ground rule double, two runs in, 7-3.

Buck is busting on Speizio for missing that, but let's face it, Speizio is an aging infielder playing out of position.

Hancock walks Wright on four pitches. Cards fans are unhappy, and it takes a lot to get them restive.

Ron Livingston, action hero? Not sure I am buying that.

Bases loaded, nobody out, up 7-3 - at this point you just want to keep bleeding in runs, even if with outs.

Green singles - only one run in, but we're still bases loaded, nobody out. 8-3.

Valentin drills one down the left field line for a double, empties the bases, 11-3. Now, I feel good. Heck, we may see Perez go 8 innings tonight.

Chavez strikes out on a pitch in the dirt. Really, you have to wonder if he takes that cut if they didn't just get an 8-run lead. Perez bats again.

In a normal postseason, you try to battle against getting too high or too low, which is a powerful temptation. I thought it would be different now that I'm older. But it's been awful hard to avoid, given how precarious is the state of the Mets rotation - everything turns on avoiding situations where you need a well-pitched game.

Edmonds hits the fence to catch the third out trailing by 8 runs. That's why he's Jim Edmonds.

Bottom Six, 11-3 Mets.

Perez goes right after Rolen and Edmonds, gets a popup and a home run. Hey, that's how you pitch with a big lead - don't fool around, don't worry about solo homers. (Beltran hits the fence trying to rope it back, too, but more smoothly).

Home run Molina. Well, maybe after this inning you get Perez out of there, if not sooner. You don't want to damage his confidence, and you don't want to turn this into a game again.

11-5, Bradford's coming in. The end was ugly but only because of the big lead did Perez go that last inning. And yes, to answer another comment, the Mets would really like to see a rainout tomorrow so Glavine can get back on his regular rest. In 1986, we didn't care if it rained (as it did twice), at least for the Mets' staff (it did matter that rain let Bruce Hurst start Game 7 rather than Oil Can Boyd.)

Preston Wilson being another reminder of 1986.

Top 7, 11-5 Mets.

Beltran goes deep; that's the Braden Looper we know and love. Nice twist of the knife there, needed or not.

Bottom Seven, 12-5.

Cards need seven runs, Mets need six outs. I like those odds.

Delgado's favorite actor is Morgan Freeman. If he were 10 years older it would be Lou Gosset jr.

Bradford still in; I'm feeling like a Roberto Hernandez sighting is in order soon, but Wagner (?!?) is warming up. OK, never mind that, he's not; they just mentioned him while I had my head down typing between pitches.

Top Eight, 12-5 Mets

It's 10:11pm in St. Louis, and LaRussa is still wearing sunglasses.

Buck is asking if you start Perez or Trachsel in Game 7. This, you see, is why a Game 7 is not a hopeful prospect. I'd rather start Heilman and see if he can go 4, if he hasn't been burned by then. In 1986, Roger McDowell went 5 in NLCS Game 6 (and had surgery the next spring)

Bottom 8, 12-5 Mets.

They are saying they will ask Randolph before tomorrow who will start Game 7. I predict they will not get an answer.

Top 9, 12-5 Mets

I can hear the Mets fans in the stadium now, doing the "Jose, Jose Jose Jose" chant.

The Braden Looper Face is in the house.

Somewhere, an Astros fan is throwing things at the screen after a gratuitous shot of Jesse Orosco celebrating the 1986 NLCS Game Six clinching strikeout.

And there's Mookie in the stands!

La Russa is warming up his closer down 7 runs. You can't fault the man for lacking optimism.

Reyes gets doubled off first for running on contact on a ball in the air with one out. Granted, Reyes doesn't do the space cadet bit in a close game, but that still should not happen.

Bottom Nine, 12-5

Needless to say, you need to put this one away. In the books, as Howie Rose would say. Mota is in; what ever did happen to Hernandez? Is he tired from pitching last night?

One on, one out. The Mets really did need the 12 runs tonight, even if they win by seven.

It's over. What can I say? Amazin'

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:08 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (32) | TrackBack (0)
October 14, 2006
BASEBALL: Game Three, NLCS

LIVEBLOGGED DURING THE GAME

Let me say, first of all, that I - like many other Mets fans - will be very happy after this season is done to never see Steve Trachsel in a Mets uniform again. Granted, Trachsel pitched some fine baseball before his back injury in 2004, but he's never been the same since.

It's not just that Trachsel pitches badly so often, but that he most frequently pitches his worst at the start of the game, so there's no way to get him out of there before he does his damage.

With Trachsel leaving in the second, that rainout stripping the Mets of a travel day off is looking huge right now.

And so is Game Two. It was the fifth time in fourteen postseason serieses in franchise history that the Mets have blown a lead at home in the sixth inning or later - and it has not been a good omen:

1. 1973 NLCS Game 4: up 1-0 into the 7th, Mets lose 2-1 in 12 innings. Mets go on to win the clincher the next game.

2. 1973 World Series Game 3: up 2-0 into the 6th and 2-1 into the 8th, and ended up losing 3-2 in 11 innings. Mets lost the series in 7 games.

3. 1988 NLCS Game 4: the Mike Scioscia game - up 4-2 into the 9th, Scioscia homers off Dwight Gooden, and the Dodgers win 5-4 in 12 innings. Mets lost the series in 7 games.

4. 2000 World Series Game 5: Mets lead 2-0 into the 6th, Yankees tie it up and score 2 in the 9th to end the series.

Of course, much as I'd like to see no more Trachsel next year, I also don't especially want tonight's injury to promote Oliver Perez to third starter.

I'm already very sick of Scott Speizio's . . . it's not really a beard so much as a tassel.

I guess they will ask Suppan after the game why he was winking at Trachsel before his home run - maybe he was talking some trash about the last homer he hit off Trachsel?

I was astonished this morning to see the papers all blaming Wagner for last night's debacle - sure, Wagner blew up and lost the game, but Mota was the one who lost the lead.

Why was I not surprised at the graphic last night saying that Lo Duca's favorite actor is Robert DiNiro?

I'm not thrilled to see Oliver batting in the third, but I guess you can't burn all your pitchers in the third inning.

Down by less than 5, I think that triple by Reyes went far enough that it could have been an inside the park HR.

I'd feel a lot better about the Mets being in a hole here if they were hitting the ball well.

TRIVIA QUIZ - Answer below the fold. They said that Jim Leyland is now the 7th manager to take a team to the World Series in each league. Can you name the other six?

Great job by Darren Oliver to settle back down, albeit after aggravating the bases-loaded situation he inherited from Trachsel.

Ack! Valentin gets thrown out stretching a single to a double down 5-0. Which completely kills the inning.

Now I'm really baffled as to why Oliver bats a second time leading off the sixth. Is Randolph writing off Game 3?

OK, I am ready for Gonzalez and McCarver to shut up now. Which is not to say I'm not sick of Joe Buck, too.

It's extremely frustrating to see Yadier Molina ripping the ball - I'd call him the poor man's Ben Molina, but Jose already has that role filled.

If the Mets lose this series, the odds of Omar giving Jeff Suppan an imprudently large free agent contract have to be rising. (Although as I have noted before, Minaya hasn't actually pulled the trigger on that many bad moves - it's just the things he's been rumored to do.. And of course you can't argue with the results of a lot of his gambles.). Suppan is basically the same pitcher Trachsel used to be, a guy who gives you a steady 32-33 starts a year right around the league ERA. I remember when he was a hugely touted ("next Greg Maddux") Red Sox prospect, but he's long since made his own record to be judged against.

Roberto Hernandez is definitely leading the team in most games warmed up without pitching. Looks like we might see him come in next, though.

I really feel bad for Matt Cerrone; if you haven't been there, his site is down, at the worst possible time for a Mets blog to be down.

It would really be nice for Wright to get a hit in this series .. . . after that seventh inning I'm all but ready to write this game off myself. If you can't tell, I'm not in a real optimistic mood right now.

I know there's no one way to win a baseball game, but it will be very, very useful if the Mets can score in the top of the first tomorrow night before Perez takes the mound. The upside is that a good outing by Perez would wash away the past two years.

OK, we go to the 8th inning needing five runs before the Cards get six outs. It can be done; this team can do it.

Leadoff walk in the 8th for Green. It's a start.

Make that five runs vs. three outs. Now we are in serious miracle time.

Down without a fight. The only good things there are to say about this game are (1) it's just one game, (2) it's over, and (3) they didn't burn much of the bullpen, other than the fact that we won't see Darren Oliver again for a while.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:57 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: First Blood

Well, the Mets have finally lost one, and a crusher, sending them to St. Louis with Trachsel, Oliver Perez, and Glavine on short rest coming up. Ugh. The crucial mistake here was Randolph leaving in Mota too long - I knew after the marathon at bat to Pujols that something bad was going to happen to Mota in that inning. Someone should go back and count how many pitches the Cards fouled off tonight, between Pujols and Eckstein's at bat against Heilman.

Off to bed - more on this game later.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:13 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
October 13, 2006
BLOG: Quick Links 10/13/06

*What I take away from this story about Bill Simmons playing video golf with Tiger Woods is that Bill definitely lives in a different world from the rest of us these days.

*Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts has a handy guide to assessing media rumors in the baseball offseason - in fact, I would say that it's good advice for evaluating media rumors generally.

*Mike Carminati notes the historical rarity of the Yankees losing in more than two consecutive postseasons. Note the short list of teams before 1995 that appeared in the postseason three years running without winning it all.

*Eliot Spitzer's role on the Claus von Bulow case.

*A Robin Williams film appreciation by a critic who really hates him. Like Eddie Murphy, Williams didn't lose so much his comic touch as his judgment in scripts.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:01 PM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 12, 2006
BASEBALL: Game One

Listening on the radio...will update as I go.

Glavine strikes out Pujols! They should put that on a poster, like the famous John Starks dunk (hope this series ends better than that one).

Jeff Weaver is pitching a no-hitter.

Floyd is hurting, and is out of the game. That did not take long.

You know, Encarnacion can pop a big hit now and then, but I have to believe that batting him cleanup is a deliberate ploy to get the Mets to walk Pujols.

Oof! Pujols doubled off first by Beltran! Inning over!

Where did the Cardinals get this Jeff Weaver guy? He can't be related to the guy who pitched for the Yankees, Dodgers and Angels.

This game is starting to remind me of Game One of the 1986 World Series. Come to think of it, there wasn't much scoring in Game One in the NLCS in 1986 or 1988. Game Three of the 1999 NLCS comes to mind as well, Glavine being prominently involved in that one.

BELTRAN HOMER! 2-0 Mets!

Delgado doubles. It's midnight and Weaver just turned into a pumpkin.

Tyler Johnson on in relief. Allowed 56 baserunners this year in 36.1 innings.

I don't like seeing Mota instead of Heilman in the 8th.

Two outs, Eckstein on first, Pujols on deck, 2-run lead, Mota really needs to get Preston Wilson here.

Bradford warming up - because Bradford keeps the ball down, I'd rather have him face Pujols in that situation than Heilman or certainly Mota.

Mota back from 3-0 to 3-2 on Wilson. Foul out to Delgado! Whew. Pujols will lead off 9th and can hit the ball to Hartford and it won't matter.

Braden Looper is in! It's Christmas in October!

2d & 3d, 1 out. Lo Duca on third. I think I would run for Lo Duca here; the insurance run would be big.

Instead, Wright grounds out. Need a hit from Chavez for the big insurance run.

Nope, lineout to Edmonds. !^%$#^!% Edmonds.

You can hear on the radio how hard Wagner is throwing. I still say Randy Myers is the only Mets closer I have really, truly trusted.

Two outs, none on. Wagner can't do this without drama, can he?

Wagner walks Rolen. That's more like it. Speizio will come up as the tying run. Other than Pujols he's the only Card to hit in September.

The Mets Win! Theeeeeee Me-e-e-ets Win!

Well, that was unexpected: a shutout and only three pitchers used. Of course, that was Glavine on regular rest; it's all downhill from here (not that Maine is a problem, but he probably won't go 7). Now we hold our breath for word on Floyd's ankle.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:25 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Um, Typo?

I only recently discovered that The Baseball Cube has historical minor league stats going back to some time in the 60s or 70s, albeit of spotty coverage. But this Dave Cochrane page must be a typo - I think I would have heard if a guy, especially a guy in the Mets system, had stolen 800 bases in the minors in the 1980s, including a single season high of 146. I suspect the walks, steals and strikeouts columns got transposed somehow (note his persistent single-digit walk totals).

Also, while looking through the site, I got to look at Dan Norman's minor league numbers, and let's just say that for a guy who was supposed to be the key guy in a trade for Tom Seaver, they don't pass the smell test. Norman batted .297 and slugged .441 as a 19 year old in rookie ball in 1974, reasonable enough numbers, but in 1161 at bats between A, AA and AAA between then and The Trade, the man batted .269 and slugged .422. I know the Cube lacks walks and steals data for those years and Norman hit a ton of triples, so he presumably was quite fast, but nothing in his subsequent career suggests a budding Rickey Henderson. The Mets should have known, and probably knew, that Norman was at best a middling prospect with limited chances to become a major league regular.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:50 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: BREAKING: Mark Warner Bows Out

Warner won't run in 2008, after raising a truckload of money. Time will tell whether Hillary did something behind the scenes to make this happen, or whether Warner has something to hide; it's odd, since he worked long and hard to raise his profile, he has tons of money and it's too early to drop out based on polling. The only reasons for a high-profile candidate who was obviously motivated to run to drop out are money, scandals, and health. And Warner has plenty of money.

Also reported here.

UPDATE: I had believed in the past that Hillary had about a 75% chance of taking the Democratic nomination, and that Warner was the most likely anti-Hillary candidate, as a purportedly moderate Southern governor with a short paper trail, no damaging record on national issues, and tons of money. At this point I'd say Hillary's odds may be better than 75%, in fact, but it seems likely that her main challenge will come from the anti-war Left, and to no avail unless it's Al Gore, who has a couple of advantages on her, including his full-throated leftism on foreign affairs and environmental policy, his martyr status from Florida 2000, and perhaps a better connection with African-American voters (something that's not in great evidence on the part of any of the current Democrats).

Wesley Clark won't run - recall that he was largely bankrolled by people tied to the Clintons, and their money will be otherwise committed. But that still leaves two likely candidates, one on each side of the aisle and both with fabulous hair, who have never been re-elected to public office: John Edwards and Mitt Romney. Kos thinks Edwards is the Democratic frontrunner, which I don't see at all (I'd like to see people with Kos' foreign policy views justify this and this), but an Edwards-Romney race would be . . . well, kinda frightening, even though I like Romney as a #2 man.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:17 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Milledge Watching

Another reason I was baffled by the Mets putting Anderson Hernandez on the NLCS roster is that, with Cliff Floyd hobbling on a bum Achilles, you would think you would want some extra insurance in the outfield before another infielder. I expected to see either Milledge or (gasp) Ricky Ledee, even notwithstanding Milledge's immaturity and inconsistency and the fact that Ledee appears to have nothing left.

While I was thinking of that, I took a look at Milledge's 2005-06 numbers at AA, AAA and the majors; they add up to a full season's worth of at bats, and while you can't get a lot of information about quality by lumping together two seasons' work (at age 20-21) at three different levels, when combined they do offer a bit of insight into the type of player Milledge is and could be:


ABH2B3BHRRRBIBBKSB-CSHBPSFDPAVGSLGOBP
6661904561599826915325-172346.285.438.370

Conclusions:

*Milledge isn't much of a home run hitter yet, though at his age and with his doubles power, he should still develop some home run pop as he ages and fills out.

*He's unlikely ever to be a successful base thief; almost all successful base stealers are already successful at it by the time they get to AA ball. Again, Milledge's youth is an asset, as he may be able to learn some, but a guy who is stealing at less than a 60% clip even in the minors is never going to be Carlos Beltran on the basepaths.

*I didn't realize how often Milledge gets hit by pitches. That will help his OBP long term as long as it doesn't lead to a lot of injuries.

*Milledge obviously doesn't have good strike zone judgment at the major league level, but he's not a no-walks guy in the minors, which suggests the potential to learn.

I still think he's an excellent prospect, although even in 2007 he may need more AAA seasoning before handing him an everyday job in Queens.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Clinton Justice Comes to Massachusetts

Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick insisted, during his years in the Clinton Justice Department, on inserting the federal government into the following state and local prison complaints:

In one 1994 Department of Justice letter, Patrick chastised correction officials in Syracuse, N.Y., for not providing "sufficient sporting/recreation equipment to afford prisoners the opportunity to participate in large muscular activity." Among the injustices cited by the DOJ were "under inflated basketballs" and "only 1 operative basketball hoop." . . .

+In a 1995 letter to Lee County, Miss., prison officials he complained that air conditioners in individual cells "do not provide minimum ventilation for the purposes of fresh air supply, air exchange and overall cooling." The jail was also cited for not serving juice or milk.

+In a July 1995 letter to Grenada City, Miss., jail officials he called for clean linens weekly. A month later Patrick sent another letter to Virginia jail officials saying clean linens should be provided three times per week.

+Tuna sandwiches were served too warm in a tiny jail in Dooly County, Georgia.

+Meals at a Mitchell County, Georgia., jail were served too cold in styrofoam or plastic containers "not designed to maintain proper food temperatures."

+Virginia Beach officials failed to provide white underwear to inmates.

One of Patrick's sharpest attacks was on the Maryland prison system for alleged mistreatment of inmates at the state's "Supermax" facility, which at the time housed 105 killers and 19 rapists. The facility includes solitary units where violent inmates are sent for jailhouse violations, including attempted escapes and assaults on staff.

In a 1996 letter obtained by the Herald, Patrick slammed Maryland prison officials for serving "lukewarm" food and denying inmates their rights to "exercise," "fresh air" and "natural light." He also complained about a requirement that psychiatric visits be supervised by guards, a rule put in place because inmates masturbated in front of a female doctor.

Now, I'm all for trying to solve the genuinely serious problem of prisoner-on-prisoner violence, including gang violence and sexual assault in our prisons (although it's still questionable whether this needs to be a federal rather than a state issue); the blithe societal assumption that prison time includes prison rape really goes further than a decent society should allow.

But prison rape is one thing; lukewarm tuna fish sandwiches are entirely another. You would like a governor who knows the difference.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:13 AM | Politics 2006 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Sign of the Times

Deny Eeeeeeeverything!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:12 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Treason

Not metaphorical here, but actual treason charges. While the term gets thrown around far too loosely, there is such a thing as giving aid, comfort and material support to our enemies in wartime, and we should not fear using the treason charge where it is appropriate.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:08 AM | War 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Signs You Are Definitely Getting Old

Slash of Guns n' Roses advertising Volkswagens.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:06 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Denying Denial

France passes a bill criminalizing denial of the Armenian genocide of 1915, straining relations with Turkey. As an American I'm instinctively uncomfortable with speech-banning of any type, and I'm not sure if this is really the fight France needs to pick just now, but I have to sympathize with the sentiment. A little backbone is not a bad thing, coming from the French.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:44 AM | War 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Script News

Instapundit links to an article bemoaning the decline of cursive writing, but doesn't think it's such a bad thing:

I'll take neat printing over sloppy cursive any day, and -- take it from a guy who's graded a lot of bluebooks -- nearly all the cursive you see is sloppy.

Granted, handwritten high school/college/law school exams tend to be excessively sloppy, given the intense time pressures involved, but I'm with Glenn. In my current line of work I take a lot of notes and I basically always print; it makes my notes much more legible to me and others than my script ever was, and once you are in the habit of printing it's not appreaciably slower. I use script only to sign my name.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:36 AM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
October 11, 2006
BASEBALL: Rained Out

It's hard even for a fanatical fan like me to focus on tonight's games after what happened this afternoon, but as you have likely seen by now the Mets were rained out. The Mets will now lose the travel day between Games Two and Three, which is awful news for a team with only three starting pitchers.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:45 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Horror in Manhattan

The big story today - I've been hearing the sirens from my office - is a small plane crashing into an apartment complex on 72d and York. Word just came across Fox News that the plane was registered to Yankee (and ex-Met) pitcher Cory Lidle. No word on who was on board.

UPDATES: ESPN says Lidle was on board and is dead:

Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle died Wednesday when a small plane he was piloting crashed into a 50-story condominium tower Wednesday on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

This is shocking, shades of Thurman Munson and then some. Presumably Lidle was on his way home from the end of baseball season. I always liked Lidle when he was with the Mets, and he had some decent years, especially in Oakland. Lidle was 34.

Here's an article from September about Lidle as a pilot. As you will recall, Lidle was a descendant of Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steamboat; I guess the interest in transportation ran in his family.

Readers at Athletics Nation remember Lidle. Commenters at MetsBlog are talking about a tough interview Lidle did with Mike and the Mad Dog earlier this week.

Bloomberg's doing a press conference now. He's basically saying NTSB will have to clear up what happened, nobody knows much else for certain yet, reports are conflicting. Air traffic control lost contact around 59th street as Lidle was heading north. Bloomberg is utterly emotionless.

This obviously casts a very serious pall over tonight's scheduled games, including two of Lidle's former teams. The Mets may not play anyway, given the rain (more on the implications of that later).

Via Instapundit, though, a smidgen of humor: Alec Baldwin being . . . well, Alec Baldwin.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:49 PM | Baseball 2006 • | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The NLCS Roster

Via the invaluable MetsBlog, you can go check out the Mets' NLCS roster. Cliff Floyd will indeed be on the roster, though I expect we will at most see him pinch hitting for the moment. The only change appears to be the substitution of Anderson Hernandez for Royce Ring, which I don't understand (why would you need fewer pitchers in a longer series?) unless Randolph wants to carry a guy to pinch run for Lo Duca, Floyd, Franco and perhaps Delgado. Cerrone also reports that the Mets have not abandoned hope of El Duque being ready to go for the World Series.

Ryan McConnell debates whether this season is a success if the Mets don't win it all. Entering the playoffs I felt like the Mets needed to do two things for me to be satisfied: climb over the weak NL field to the World Series, and outlast the Yankees. They did the second; as to the first, if they lose to a Cardinals team with poor pitching several holes in their lineup and as many injury problems as the Mets, I will go home disappointed. If the Mets make the Series and lose to Detroit or Oakland, I'll of course wish they had won, but I'll have no real basis to complain.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:40 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
October 10, 2006
WAR/POLITICS: McCain on Korea

Ed Morrissey runs a guest post from none other than John McCain. It reads more like a speech than an op-ed, let alone a blog post, but when a potential presidential candidate puts out his position on an international crisis, a conversational tone isn't his chief priority.

China has staked its prestige as an emerging great power on its ability to reason with North Korea, keep them engaged with the six party negotiations, and make progress toward a diplomatic resolution of this crisis. North Korea has now challenged them as directly as they challenge South Korea, Japan, Russia and the U.S. It is not in China's interest or our interest to have a nuclear arms race in Asia, but that is where we're headed. If China intends to be a force for stability in Asia, then it must do more than rebuke North Korea. It must show Pyongyang that it cannot sustain itself as a viable state with aggressive actions and in isolation from the entire world.

On this point, of course, he's right - there's a fair debate about how best to do it, but making this China's responsibility should be the goal here. Nothing happens in North Korea unless the Chinese let it happen.

North Korea also has a record of transferring weapons technology to other rogue nations, such as Iran and Syria.

I personally think North Korea can probably be contained, given its lack of expansionist tendencies and despite the paranoia, desperation and irrationality of its leaders, but the proliferation issue is another one entirely - we can't tolerate proliferation of nuclear technology to any of the trouble spots in the Arab or Muslim world.

I would remind Senator Hillary Clinton and other Democrats critical of Bush Administration policies that the framework agreement her husband's administration negotiated was a failure. The Koreans received millions in energy assistance. They diverted millions in food assistance to their military. And what did they do? They secretly enriched uranium.

Prior to the agreement, every single time the Clinton Administration warned the Koreans not to do something -- not to kick out the IAEA inspectors, not to remove the fuel rods from their reactor -- they did it. And they were rewarded every single time by the Clinton Administration with further talks. We had a carrots and no sticks policy that only encouraged bad behavior. When one carrot didn't work, we offered another.

This part is as interesting for its partisan implications as on the merits: McCain is starting to realize that his interests in both the Republican primaries and in the 2008 general election (if he gets that far) will be served by going hard after Hillary.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:56 PM | Politics 2008 • | War 2006 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Winter Patriots

Poor, shivering Alaskans say no to Hugo Chavez' enticements.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:41 PM | Politics 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL/POLITICS: Worlds Collide

Not the usual intro to a story about a low-profile statewide race in Wisconsin:

Sex! The Green Bay Packers! Sex WITH the Green Bay Packers!

The usually ho-hum race for Wisconsin secretary of state is being spiced up by one candidate's naughty tell-all book about her bed-hopping exploits with Green Bay football legends during the team’s glory days under Vince Lombardi in the 1960s.

Sandy Sullivan, a 65-year-old Republican with no political experience, self-published a gushing memoir in 2004 titled "Green Bay Love Stories and Other Affairs" in which she claims she was the girlfriend of Green Bay Packers Paul Hornung and Dan Currie, deflected a pass from Hall of Famer Don Hutson and was on the receiving end of a saucy comment from Richard Nixon.

I also did not realize the La Folletes, like the Tafts, were still active in politics.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:10 PM | Football • | Politics 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: I Need A Zito

Some people will tell you that tonight's Game One starter for the A's, Barry Zito, is overrated. They will look at his mediocre W-L records for contending teams, his solid but unspectacular ERAs, his also solid but unspectacular K/BB numbers, compared to the money and attention Zito will attract this offseason, and conclude that Zito isn't really even a legitimate number one starter, let alone a guy who will likely end up as the highest paid pitcher in the game.

All of that is true as far as it goes, but it also misses the point of why Zito was so valuable to the A's that Billy Beane kept him around while he was dealing Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, and why teams will be falling over themselves to get him. You see, there are two things you want, at a minimum, from an expensive investment in a starting pitcher: consistent durability and consistent quality. And Zito is among baseball's best in that regard. Let's look at the major league pitchers who have met, for at least three years running, what you would think of as the minimum tests for a star pitcher: 200 innings pitched and an ERA at least equal to the league (measured by ERA+, baseball-reference.com's park-adjusted comparison to the league ERA). As it turns out, there are but eight pitchers who have met that standard three or more seasons in a row entering 2007:

PitcherYrs200Age
Barry Zito6629
Carlos Zambrano4426
Greg Maddux4441
Freddy Garcia3632
Johan Santana3328
Brandon Webb3328
Roy Oswalt3329
Jon Garland3327

"200" is consecutive seasons of 200 or more innings, regardless of meeting the quality threshold; "age" is 2007 age. To complete the picture, let's list the guys who have thrown 200 more innings three or more years, but with a shorter string of those seasons beating the league ERA (bear in mind that some of them have beat the league ERA a few times in that stretch; "0" just means they missed it in 2006).

PitcherYrs200Age
Livan Hernandez07"32"
Jamie Moyer2644
Mark Buehrle0628
Jake Westbrook1329
Doug Davis0331
Randy Johnson0343

One note on the arbitrary 200-IP cutoff here - if Maddux had thrown an additional two-thirds of an inning in 2002, he'd top the list with 19 years in a row of 200 innings and a 100 or better ERA+.

No, Zito isn't Pedro Martinez; he's never led the league in ERA or strikeouts. But Pedro isn't pitching this week, and Zito is, and that counts too. Don't think GMs the league over aren't excited by Zito's four times leading the American League in starts. Just as with Don Sutton's Hall of Fame credentials, in an age of ever decreasing starting pitcher workloads - this year's Mets setting a new historical nadir - there is much to be said for the sheer dogged persistence of a guy who hitches up the plow every fifth day ready to give his best effort.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:02 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
October 9, 2006
BASEBALL: Long At Bats

I thought I'd pass this along after an exchange with a reader - a 2002 Baseball Prospectus study by Keith Woolner on what length of at bats favors the hitter vs. the pitcher. The short answer is that 3 pitches is the best for pitchers; OBPs start rising rapidly after that, whereas power numbers drop sharply after 2 pitches and don't recover until around 11.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:22 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Classic Quote

On David Wright's admirers:

There might've been more of them during spring training, but the signs still show up at Shea.

"David, I love you!" And "Marry me, David," flapped by young and not-so young girls on the off chance Mets third baseman David Wright might be looking.

"He makes them himself, you know," Billy Wagner said, nodding at his teammate. "We ask him if he's handed out the day's signs."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: No Comments?

Looks like the comments function is off again. I'll see when I have time to get someone to fix it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:27 PM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Inside the Pundit's Studio

So, despite ending up on the cutting room floor, I did get a learning experience out of my appearance on "The Big Idea With Donny Deutsch" on Thursday. First of all, as to at least one way they get guests: I got the call Thursday around 10am from The Weekly Standard, which the show's bookers had called on account of my article on scandals. The taping of the show was around 2:30-3pm. Once I agreed to do the show, they put on an assistant who ran through some pre-interview questions - which ended up being very different from the questions Deutsch asked, although in both cases they mainly walked through the 10-category framework of my article.

They initially offered to send a camera crew to me, but ended up telling me to go to a studio on Fifth Avenue in Midtown (they offered to send a car but given hiw close it was to my office I chose to walk - crosstown traffic can be terrible). The building was one of those utterly nondescript 70s-era Midtown office buildings; the studio had a front desk, a room or two for shooting, a little closet-like makeup room and a couple of waiting rooms - basically, it was set up like a small dentist's office. I had to sit still through the makeup routine - I had never worn makeup before except on Halloween, but I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't that heavy (though I made sure to wipe it all off before leaving, especially since I was headed to court after the taping).

Eventually they sent me in to the studio, which was just a couch facing a camera, with blindingly bright lights above and below on either side. If I turned to the right I could see a monitor showing me - but there was no monitor anywhere showing the host, wherever it was he was taping his part from. I was also surprised by how little direction I got - you would think that, having all but picked me out of the phone book with no idea if I had any TV experience, they would have spent more than a sentence or two with me on what to do on camera (basically just: look at the camera), but then it's a busy show with a lot of guests. I sat and listened to Deutsch run through intros with other guests, and to the House page hotline message that he ultimately ended the show with, but basically had no idea what the rest of the show had been about or what anyone else had said before me. The whole disembodied nature of the thing lent it a decidedly unreal air - an interview by a host I couldn't see, no clue what the rest of the show looked like, and when I was done I basically just got up and walked out with nobody giving me any further information. I would have at least thought that there would be something to sign or a cheesy little souvenir or something, or maybe someone saying farewell with an insincere assurance that I did well. But that's TV for you, I guess.

Live and learn. Now, next time someone asks me to be on national TV...

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:06 AM | Politics 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 8, 2006
BASEBALL: The Bandwagon Stops

Defeat is an orphan:

Four hours after they were eliminated by the Detroit Tigers, the New York Yankees pulled up to Yankee Stadium in three buses late Saturday night, greeted by fewer than a dozen fans.

With as many police as supporters on hand, most of the players quickly went to their cars and drove away. . . Backup infielder Andy Phillips was the only player who talked with reporters.

Ouch. In all seriousness, this one has to hurt worst of all for Yankee fans (well, except for 2004), given how rapidly the team just froze up and went down without a fight. Like I said: just good pitching and a short series. But that doesn't help you through the winter months.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:47 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Bring on the Cards!

Time to break that old 80s greatest hit, hatred of the Cardinals.

Vince Coleman

Tommie Herr

John Tudor

Todd Worrell

Willie McGee

Whitey Herzog

Terry Pendleton

Yeah, now I have your attention. I should put some Def Leppard records on to get in the mood.

The good news is, the series starts Wednesday, so with three days off the Mets can get all three of their starters set, whereas the Cardinals can't start Carpenter on his regular rest until Game Three.

UPDATE: OK, want some more contemporary names? Braden Looper. Jeff Weaver (that's for the Yankee fans). And of course, it's every baseball fan's duty to hate Tony La Russa.

Besides, if you liked the 2004 NLCS, you have to want a Beltran-Pujols rematch.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:24 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Gamer

Who needs injury reports when you've got a blog? Cliff Floyd speaks:

I want to play, and I don't know what to think. I wanted to score that run. It's the postseason. You don't hold back. We wanted that run, and now my leg might hold me back.

My Achilles betrayed me...

The good news is that I've got Monday and Tuesday to get treatment before we play again. And I've already started treatment with ice. I'll be wearing one of those boots again. I don't know, maybe it'll get better in two days. If it doesn't, I'll deal with it. Someone already suggested to me that I could be the DH if we get into the World Series.

I'll just rub some champagne on it and see, or I'll have a few beers. Maybe a few more, and by the time I get to Wednesday, I'll be good to go.

H/t MetsBlog. If you don't like Cliff Floyd, well, you just don't like baseball.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:50 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Mmmmmm....Numbers

Baseball-Reference.com has the 2006 stats up.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Jobless Joe?

I don't see a specific story on the website but the talk of the TV is that the Daily News is reporting that Hated (or Pitied?) Yankees will fire Joe Torre, perhaps as early as today, and bring back Lou Piniella. Mike Lupica wants it to happen. This strikes me as insane - I'm no lover of Torre but how exactly is it his fault? This is a veteran team, and they just picked a bad time to lose 3 in a row to a good pitching staff. And I'm not sure what Piniella adds to the picture.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:33 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: It Was A Good Day

Very quick thoughts here, perhaps to be expanded upon later:

*METS WIN! METS WIN! METS WIN! METS WIN! METS WIN! METS WIN!

*I guess we'll never know who the Game Four starter would really have been. I fear finding out in the next round, though.

*Broxton bombed - but not really. That long sixth inning was a replay of the 1986 Game Six rally in terms of dinks and dunks into short center. Still, Grady did leave him out there an awful long time. Randolph also left Mota in so long as to really tempt fate, when there's really no reason why a fresh Roberto Hernandez is inferior to a tired Mota.

*I sure hope Cliff Floyd is OK.

*The Yankees were, purely and simply, done in by the 1-2 punch of a very short series and good pitching. Of course, as I have noted before, if you hold the view that the Yankees' victories in 1996-2000 were due to some superior reserve of clutch-ness, you need to find scapegoats. Hence, A-Rod will get all the blame.

*I have to think the pressure to trade A-Rod for pennies on the dollar will now be irresistible, most likely to a team that can return him to his natural position. Granted, that's still a lot of pennies. The team with perhaps the best case for making a run is the Cardinals - Edmonds, Carpenter, Rolen and Izzy aren't getting any younger, and upgrading from Eckstein to A-Rod would be huge on both sides of the ball. A deal won't make sense except for a team that can take on a substantial amount of the remaining 2/3 of A-Rod's salary the Yanks are on the hook for. It won't make any sense for the Yankees, but the focus of media/fan anger at him has passed the tipping point of rationality.

*Frickin' Jeff Kent. ^!#%!# Carlos Baerga.

*Will they never learn to never give the "Player of the Game" until the game is over?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:23 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
October 6, 2006
BASEBALL: Blowback

In 1977, Mike Torrez was a big part of the Yankees stretch drive against the Red Sox, and pitched brilliantly in the World Series. Sox fans, having suffered through watching Torrez lead the Hated Yankees to vitcory, were ecstatic when the Red Sox got Torrez - only to see him hurt them even worse in 1978, going 1-4 with a 5.96 ERA against the Yanks, including the notorious Bucky Dent home run that decided the season in its 163rd game.

In 2000, Joe Torre - the man who led the Mets to three straight seasons of 95 or more losses - managed the Yanks to their fourth World Championship in five years, defeating the Mets in the Subway Series.

Today, the Yankees finally found themselves on the other end of such a turnaround, as Kenny Rogers, notorious for his playoff flops in New York, stuck a dagger in the Bronx Bombers and their vaunted lineup.

Somewhere in the darkness of Comerica Park, he broke even.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:26 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Blowback

Clearly, this is France's punishment for supporting Bush's war in Iraq.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:52 PM | War 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Hard to Get Good Help

If you count tonight's liklely starters and the likely starters for the remaining divisional series games that are certain to be played (counting tonight, 2 in the Yankees-Tigers series and 1 in each of the others), 26 different starting pitchers will have taken the mound - and of those 26, the cream of the major league crop after a long season, the frontline starters for the best teams in baseball, 12 are either (1) rookies, (2) age 40 or older, or (3) had ERAs of 4.89 or higher (the league ERAs were 4.55 in the AL, 4.48 in the NL). And this is before Oliver Perez (6.55 ERA), Carlos Silva (5.94 ERA), Rich Harden (9 starts all season) and Brad Penny (6.25 ERA after the All Star Break) take the mound, in Perez and Silva's cases replacing 40-something Orlando Hernandez and rookie Francisco Liriano. The guys who are counted as OK here include second-year starters Chien-Ming Wang and Chris Young, 37-year-old Mike Mussina, Jeremy Bonderman (4.72 career ERA), Jeff Suppan (4.60 career ERA, 5.83 ERA before the All Star Break), Brad Radke (pitching with a career-ending stress fracture in his shoulder), and Jaret Wright (career ERA of 5.07; this year, 4.49 ERA an an average of 5.05 innings per start). If you include Wright, you can conclude that half of the frontline playoff starters are very old, very inexperienced or below-average pitchers.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:10 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 5, 2006
POLITICS: I Get Results

Not TV airtime, apparently, but results - CBS responds to this post at RedState (I mostly only post stuff there that I post here, but this was an exception).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:21 PM | Politics 2006 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Dodgers Links

Here's the story, if you've missed it so far, about how the Dodgers' only significant lefthanded reliever suffered a freak accident and will miss this series. Here's a NY Times piece on Vin Scully, his New York roots and his call of yesterday's hijinx on the basepaths. And here's Jon Weisman's look at "The Play".

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:00 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Baseball Crank Media Alert

I realize that most of this site's readers will be watching the Met game tonight, but if you happen to not be watching or want to record/Tivo it, I am scheduled (assuming the pre-taped segment isn't cut) to be on "The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch" at 10pm tonight on CNBC (probably the third or fourth segment) discussing Washington scandals, with special emphasis on my Weekly Standard article on the subject.

I can't promise scintillating television, but I think I got through it with a minimum of hemming and hawing. Bear in mind that (1) I had no idea what the questions would be and (2) I only found out around 10am today that I would be on TV.

UPDATE: So, I'm on national TV tonight and there's a Mets playoff game on ... and my TV dies. After 11 years of flawless service. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

SECOND UPDATE: Well, they cut me. We did get the TV fixed, but to no avail. Sorry to those of you who tuned in.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:35 PM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
October 4, 2006
POLITICS: The Fat Kid Train

From the Department of Bad Metaphors:

"We have stopped the locomotive train of childhood obesity in its tracks," Huckabee said. "Now it's time to turn the train around and move full speed ahead to healthier living."

Huckabee's crusade to prioritize using the government to battle obesity is, of course, one of the reasons why I regard him as essentially a nanny-state New Democrat more than a Republican (other than his pro-life convictions, that is).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:59 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Amazin' Already

What a Mets game today:

1. The 9-4-2-2 Double Play

Obviously, the headline play - if you somehow missed it - was Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew both being thrown out at home on the same play. I'm not sure which is worse - Kent getting thrown out at the plate coming in from second on a ball that bounced off the right field fence, or Drew trying to score when he had to see that the guy ahead of him wasn't even home safely yet. Dodger third base coach Rich Donnelly, the least popular man in LA right now, says the two were so close together he couldn't switch his signs fast enough:

Kent froze between second base and third, waiting to see if the ball would drop. Drew, with a better angle at first base, could see the ball slicing and knew it would fall safely.

Drew started running while Kent was still standing.

Rich Donnelly, the Dodgers' third-base coach, saw Kent get a late break from second and knew he would have a hard time scoring. But as Donnelly started to raise his arms, the universal stop sign, he noticed that Drew was only about 10 feet behind Kent.

"If I held up Jeff," Donnelly said, "we would have had two guys on third."

Donnelly kept his arms by his side, watching Kent barrel toward home plate. When he turned back to third base, Drew flew right by him...

Drew never considered that the Mets might have a play on Kent. He said he did not even see Kent until he was halfway to home.

"I thought Jeff was scoring standing up," Drew said. "I thought the play was on me."

Of course, Drew and Kent are both pretty universally unpopular everywhere anyway... credit to Green for a great thrown and Valentin for the relay, and credit to John Maine, for screaming at Paul Lo Duca to get up and tag Drew (he had no idea there was another runner on the way), but after he tagged Drew, Lo Duca then came up in throwing position, looking to see where Russell Martin had got himself to. Maybe he thought Martin was next.

2. The Three Man Rotation

Willie Randolph can't seriously be contemplating a 3-man rotation for the NLDS, can he? It makes some sense, and it's the most logical reason why he would have pulled John Maine in a jam in the fifth inning, pitching on his regular rest and having thrown only 80 pitches and resulting in burning two relievers to get through the fifth. The Mets have a deep, healthy, relatively fresh pen and only three even semi-reputable starting pitchers, and they have Friday off; if Glavine also doesn't go deep tomorrow, he and Maine could be available to start Games 4 & 5 on three days' rest (if Glavine does go 7 or 8 innings, it's less likely that there would be a Game 5).

3. Mota Is The Guy You Pinch Hit With, Not For?

The other really bizarre thing in this game was when, having burned relievers like there was no tomorrow but still with Oliver, Ring, Perez, Heilman, Hernandez and Wagner to go, Randolph let Guillermo Mota hit with 2 outs and the bases loaded up 4-1 in the sixth. I say you go for the jugular there and pinch hit; you pulled the starter early, why get antsy now about using too many pitchers?

4. Miscellany

I really didn't need to see Steve Phillips in there. Mercifully I watched the game from crowded bars with no audible sound.

Great to see Floyd, in particular, contribute. What a massive homer that was.

Does Marlon Anderson get a pitch in the ear for his takeout slide at Reyes' legs? We know Mota's not above that.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:04 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Prepping for Game One

I've got just a minute to blog this morning - quick thoughts:

*There really is nothing more frustrating in professional sports than having a great regular season and not being able to field the same team in the postseason. With the exception of David Wells begging out of a big game, and perhaps Dwight Gooden running out of gas in 1996, this sort of thing never happens to the Yankees. That said, as to Game One itself, if we get John Maine pitching on his regular rest, well, we could do worse.

*This is the Dodgers lineup over the last two months, which in contrast to LA's full-season numbers is a steady nine. While old warhorses like Kent and Lofton are locked in now, the really scary guys are Furcal and Drew. Furcal really is the star of this team, and a guy whose value to the Braves - and loss this year - was not fully appreciated. And has there been anything more improbable than Marlon Anderson slugging .813 over his tenure in LA?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:42 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
October 3, 2006
BASEBALL: Actual Runs on the Board

One of the more irritating arguments, to me, in favor of Ryan Howard over Albert Pujols for NL MVP is that Howard drove in more runs. Even aside from the fact that RBI depends on your teammates, the obvious problem with counting only total runs on the board is that while Howard drove in 12 more runs, Pujols scored 15 more - so in total, Pujols changed the numbers on the board directly more often than Howard, even in fewer games.

Just to help out in that debate, I thought I would run a chart (with much help from Pinto's database) showing who actually put the most runs on the board in 2006. It's not, as I said, the best measurement of offense, but it is an actual, real-world number and thus something of a reality check on these debates.

There are two ways to measure Runs and RBI together. One is the "Runs Produced" measure that seeks to ask how many runs a player contributed to - that's (Runs + RBI - HR). Homers are subtracted out because a player would otherwise be double counted for driving in and scoring the same run.

Of course, driving in and scoring the same run is twice as valuable, since it means the hitter needed no further assistance, so I prefer a second measure - I'll call it "Total Runs" here but I'm sure someone else has called it something else before and I just can't remember what. This is a figure that gives a player half credit for driving the run in and half for scoring: (R+RBI)/2. Obviously, that means home run hitters are implicitly given their due for one full run, so it won't cheat guys like Howard and David Ortiz who do a lot of their work with the longball.

The chart below ranks all players with 400 or more plate appearances by their Total Runs, and also adds a second measure: Total Runs per 27 outs, with outs calculated by ((AB-H)+SF+CS+DP). Again, this isn't the most precise computation, but neither is it complicated theoretical metric; it's just dividing runs by outs, and multplying by 27 for ease of comprehension.

So, who actually put the most runs on the board?

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:00 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Barry Zito Market Value Watch

All signs point to "up": Twins hitless through 4, now scoreless through 5.

UPDATE: 8 innings, 1 run, and Zito lowers his career postseason ERA to 2.43. And The Frank is Mighty and Shall Prevail: Frank Thomas homers twice. A's lead 1-0, Santana or no Santana.

IN OTHER NEWS: Kenny Rogers is under police investigation for choking. No, seriously.

And El Duque is questionable for Game One due to a calf injury. It's almost Lima Time! Either that, or Glavine does the Old Hoss Radbourn routine and starts every game.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:21 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL/POLITICS: Politics and Baseball

The New Republic has a silly effort to compare the Mets to the Democrats. Much as I do both baseball and politics on this site, I try not to mix the two, and I have mocked similar efforts in the past.

That said, if we are just having fun with the numbers, it's time to update one of my favorite factoids: The Hated Yankees haven't won a World Series with a Republican in the White House since 1958. In fact, the Yankees won their first pennant in 1921, and since then:

Democratic Administrations: 40 seasons, 19-3 in the World Series
Republican Administrations: 45 seasons, 7-10 in the World Series

(If you are wondering, just for comparison, the Mets have won 4 division titles, 3 pennants and 2 World Championships with a Republican in the White House, compared to 1 pennant and 2 Wild Cards under Democratic presidents; they've also had 9 last place finishes during Democratic administrations compared to 4 under Republicans).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:18 PM | Baseball 2006 • | Politics 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: First Round Predictions

Yankees over Tigers in 4: Yankee fans, of course, are drooling at the prospect of facing a team that heads its rotation with Kenny Rogers and his 8.85 career postseason ERA. The Yanks in recent years have shown three vulnerabilities in the postseason. First, like all teams, they are vulnerable to superior starting pitching; the Tigers could have that if Bonderman and Verlander get their acts together. Second, teams like the Angels that put the ball in play a lot can exploit their defensive weaknesses; those weaknesses have been less pronounced this year, and in any event the Tigers are a power team, not a contact team. And third, the Yankees have run into trouble when their bullpen wears down - but Mariano in particular is fresh entering October. Sheffield and Matsui are back too - Torre has always had a great record of getting his teams healthy in time for the playoffs. They are just too tall an order for Detroit, as good a year as the Tigers have had.

Twins over A's in 5: The Twins are hot and have Santana . . . much as I'd love Oakland to finally win in October they are just not the strongest team, and they are heavily dependent on Frank Thomas staying healthy. It's hardly impossible, and the holes in the Minnesota rotation make it unlikely that the Twins can put away anybody quickly, but I'd go with the Twins.

Padres over Cards in 3: I don't think I have ever seen a team back into the playoffs as badly as the Cardinals, and it's not an accident of a late-season slump - their pitching really is that bad, and their offense really is that shallow behind Pujols and Rolen.

Mets over Dodgers in 5: More on this tomorrow, time permitting. The echoes of 1988 frighten me; this is a different Dodgers team than that one (much deeper offense, but not similarly strong frontline pitching), while the Mets are much weaker (the 1988 team had a deceptively dominant offense and a deep bullpen, but they also had an outstanding rotation, and unlike these Mets they entered October with only their third starter unavailable rather than their ace and fifth starters; on the other hand, their defense was much weaker than this team's). The Dodgers don't have the one thing these Mets fear - proven quality lefthanded starters - but they will now start the talented Hong-Chih Kuo in Game Two at Shea and hope for a repeat of his mastery of the Mets when he last faced them.

This Mets team is built more for long serieses than short ones, as the depth of the bullpen and strength of the offense makes them well-designed for exhausting wars of attrition. Which is why the first round is scary. But I do think they are the better team, and the longer the series goes, the more it favors the Mets.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:27 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Thinking Blue

Jon Weisman has a good rundown of the Dodgers heading into the postseason. One thing that jumped out as I ran down the LA roster is just how many rookies played key roles on this team - LA got 67 Win Shares (25% of the team's total) from Russell Martin, Takashi Saito, Andre Ethier, Jonathan Broxton, Chad Billingsley, Hong Chih-Kuo, and James Loney.

Which raises an interesting chicken-and-egg question. On the one hand, the staggering number of successful rookies in the NL this year may bode well for the future strength of the Senior Circuit. On the other hand, you could say that those rookies succeeded in part because the NL was relatively weak this year.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:19 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 2, 2006
BASEBALL: The Postseason Roster

What we know for sure is, Milledge, Ledee and Ring won't be on it. Ring's a talented LOOGY but not ready yet and not really needed. Ledee, no loss. Milledge was. I guess, just to nervous-making; the Mets don't have a ton of righthanded bats, but he's really not ready either. I would assume that that decision may be re-evaluated series by series based on how many lefties the Mets will face.

By the way, the Maddux-Glavine matchup for Game Two looks interesting.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:40 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Show Me The Money

Matt Cerrone has some perspective on claims that the Mets' budget makes them "the new Yankees". Specifically, the Yankees payroll is 62% higher than the #2 AL team; the Mets' is 2.7% higher than the #2 NL team (the Dodgers, incidentally); and, of course, the Yankees' is 93% higher than the Mets'. Cerrone also looks at the trend in the Mets' payroll in recent years.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:03 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Birds of a Feather

A point I have made before, but underlined by their final season totals - you would have to look long and hard for three more similar hitters:

PlayerAgeGABRH2B3BHRRBIBBKSBCSDPBASlgOBP
Jose Reyes2315364712219430171981538164176.300.487.354
Carl Crawford24151600891832016187737855898.305.482.348
Hanley Ramirez22158633119185461117595612851157.292.480.353

Crawford is the weakest of the three only because he's the oldest, not a shortstop and walks the least, but I suspect he may also have the best power potential. Joel Sherman of the Post (h/t Pinto and Rays Index) think Crawford might be available in a deal for a young pitcher, maybe to the Mets. For the Rays this is either sheer stupidity (trading their franchise player) or a sign of maturity (dealing from strength in the OF) depending on what they would expect to get back.

From the Mets' perspective, while I'd love to see Crawford and Reyes as a 1-2 punch even despite the fact that this would combine two relatively low-walk guys atop the order, and while replacing Floyd with Crawford would save the Mets money (which could be invested in the rotation) while improving their defense and durability, the Pedro injury does make me doubt how much further they can be stripped of young arms. I'd certainly consider Pelfrey or Humber for Crawford - even the best pitching prospect is a much more speculative deal than a healthy young outfielder - but I suspect that the Mets' need to hold on to credible contenders for the rotation will outrank any opportunity to convert young arms into equally young bats.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:21 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Envelope, Please

There's much to discuss with the playoffs coming up, but for now I thought I would give my quick rundown of who I would vote for in the two top individual awards (I ran out of time to do the Rookie of the Year):

NL MVP

1. Albert Pujols
2. Carlos Beltran
3. Ryan Howard

I expect Howard to win the award because he has the sexier numbers in the HR and RBI columns and had an amazing run in August and September. But neither Pujols nor Howard contributes much with the glove, so you have to compare their batting lines straight up. Pujols is the obvious winner, .331/.671/.431 to .313/.659/.425 despite Howard playing in a generally more favorable park (although Howard did actually put up better road numbers, and Beltran slugged .683 on the road). On the downside, Pujols hit into more DPs than Beltran and Howard combined, but I still think his offensive value gives him a decisive edge. And Pujols' clutch hitting was certainly instrumental in the few Cardinal victories that helped carry a moribund team over the finish line.

(As a side note, Pujols' injuries ruined the bizarre consistency of one stat line - in five prior major league seasons his career high in at bats was 592, his career low was 590).

Beltran missed more time than the other two, and his offensive numbers tailed off in September - but Beltran's defense was a huge factor in the Mets finishing, among other things, 12 games ahead of the Phillies, and of course Beltran did all this in one of the toughest pitchers' parks in the league.

Honorable mentions include Miguel Cabrera, Jose Reyes, David Wright, Lance Berkman, Alfonso Soriano, and Chase Utley.

AL MVP

1. Joe Mauer
2. Derek Jeter
3. David Ortiz

The best hitters in the AL this year were Travis Hafner and Manny Ramirez, but both missed over 30 games, which combined with zero defensive value is just too much. While there are a number of other plausible candidates among the big boppers, it really comes down to Ortiz, Jeter and Mauer.

Ortiz obviously has the offensive edge, but then he's a zero on the basepaths and with the glove, and his OBP and batting average was lower than the other two. That leaves an awful lot of advantages for slugging alone to make up, and while Big Papi is clearly the emotional leader of the Sox and a major clutch hitter, you can only award so many points for leadership on a sinking ship.

When I started writing this up, I was still leaning Jeter. For the first time since I had Jeter #2 on my ballot (behind only Pedro) in 1999, the Yankee captain deserves a serious MVP look. Like Mauer, Jeter plays a crucial defensive position, and he has recovered a bit with the glove from his decline prior to the arrival of A-Rod (I intend to look at the defensive stats more closely when I get the chance, but ESPN's Zone Rating stat, which measures how many of the balls in his "zone" of the field he gets to, lists Jeter seventh among nine regular AL shortstops, albeit in a fairly close group between #4 and #8).

Jeter's main advantages over Mauer are threefold. First, Jeter played more - 14 more games, nearly 90 more plate appearances. That does a lot to balance out Mauer's better percentage stats: .347/.507/.429 to .343/.483/.417. Second, Jeter stole 34 bases compared to 18 outs on caught stealings and GIDP; Mauer's ratio is 8 to 27. And third, Jeter is a steady veteran on a team that had a lot of turmoil this season.

But then, Mauer had to do his bit to hold together a pitching staff that was in constant turmoil as well, plus the fact is that the Twins - with far less impressive offensive talent and a disastrous injury of their own to their phenomenal #2 starter - came back from a huge deficit to win their division and end with just one fewer win than the Yankees. It's not accidental that the revival coincided with Mauer batting .452 in June. Mauer is also obviously more valuable with the glove, as a catcher with a cannon arm - as of late September the Win Shares method rates him behind only Pudge Rodriguez and Jason Kendall (and just ahead of Beltran) in terms of the most valuable defensive players in the game, and even if you don't put much stock in defensive Win Shares, Mauer threw out almost 38% of opposing baserunners (third in the AL) and may have intimidated more than that, as only Rodriguez saw fewer thieves even try. And as for playing time, a catcher with 600 plate appearances is nothing to sneeze at.

Catchers with Mauer's mix of skills are a rare breed (there hasn't really been a catcher like Mauer since Mickey Cochrane), and it's rarer to get his mix of production from a catcher these days than to get Jeter's from a shortstop. The top three AL candidates are close, but I give Mauer the narrowest of edges.

Honorable mention: Manny Ramirez, Travis Hafner, Justin Morneau, Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome, Carlos Guillen, Grady Sizemore, Johan Santana.

NL Cy Young

1. Roy Oswalt
2. Brandon Webb
3. Chris Carpenter

There's a tendency to say that the NL award should go to a reliever: no NL starter won 17 games, only one (Roy Oswalt) had an ERA below 3.00, the league leader in innings was Bronson Arroyo, and the two dominant relievers (Billy Wagner and Trevor Hoffman) towered over the rest of the league's closers in a year when most of the dominant relievers were in the AL. But then, neither Wagner nor Hoffman had the kind of mind-blowing season (sub-2.00 ERA, 80+ innings, 50+ saves) you expect from a Cy Young reliever.

Coming into the final week I assumed Webb would win the award, as he had more innings, a better ERA and a tougher ballpark to deal with than Chris Carpenter and Carlos Zambrano, but Webb and Carpenter both got lit up while Oswalt was firing bullets in an inspiring last-minute charge. Since Oswalt finished with the best ERA and a comparable record and innings total, I give him the nod.

Honorable mentions: Wagner, Hoffman, Zambrano, John Smoltz.

AL Cy Young

1. Johan Santana
[Insert vast gulf]
2. Roy Halladay
3. Jonathan Papelbon

Santana led or tied for the AL lead in wins, ERA, innings, and strikeouts, among other things, and missed by a hair (to Roy Halladay) the league lead in winning percentage. Papelbon was just utterly dominant; an 0.92 ERA deserves some special recognition, even when BJ Ryan and Francisco Rodriguez also put up mind-boggling numbers in relief and only pitched 4 or 5 more innings.

Interesting random fact: the best road ERAs in the AL were CC Sabathia and Barry Zito.

Honorable mentions: Francisco Rodriguez, BJ Ryan, Chien-Ming Wang.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:36 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
October 1, 2006
BASEBALL: Backing In

So the Astros' loss - inflicted by John Smoltz, in a characteristic 3-1 offensive brownout - ends the defending NL champs' season, backs the Cards into the playoffs amidst what is, at present, a 5-0 blanking by the Brewers, ends Barry Bonds' season (by mooting a potential makeup game tomorrow) and perhaps ends Roger Clemens' career. A sad spectacle all around.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:56 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)