Sunday, December 20, 2009

2009 in Review

Time to revisit my preseason predictions.  Unfortunately. 

New York Yankees (98-64) 96-100 win range
Boston Red Sox (93-69) 91-95 win range
Tampa Bay Rays (87-75) 85-89 win range
Toronto Blue Jays (79-83) 77-81 win range
Baltimore Orioles (73-89) 71-75 win range

And here’s what actually happened:

New York Yankees (103-59) + 5 Wins
Boston Red Sox (95-67) +2 Wins
Tampa Bay Rays (84-78) -3 Wins
Toronto Blue Jays (75-87) -4 Wins
Baltimore Orioles (64-98) -9 Wins
Other than the Orioles, all of my predictions fell within five wins of the mark, a reasonable margin of error. 

Monday, December 07, 2009

Breaking the Silence

To Everyone --

I cannot be any more sorry that I have neglected this blog as long as I have.

More important than anything is that I have neglected myself. I have been struggling mightily with depression and anxiety these past few years and am sorry to say that I was losing the battle there for a while.

The things that interested me the most – baseball, movies, books, etc. – no longer held sway. On top of that, I felt a duty to keep working and maintaining this blog – which celebrated its 4th anniversary recently – and the longer I neglected that duty the tougher it became to break the silence and return to it.

Consider the silence broken.

Writing had become too much of a job for me. The anxiety I was dealing with in my everyday life was the worst factor, of course, but I also felt a duty to write first and foremost for, and unfortunately that just became more of a chore than a joy. I haven’t yet decided if I will return to Blogcritics, but I have decided that my first duty is to have fun – and that happens right here, first and foremost. If that means that writing will always be an amateur passion for me, so the hell be it.

I very much hope that, having partially relieved my anxiety with this post, I can return to writing about what I love. My first project – and I use that word hesitantly given the connotation with work – will be the postseason recap that’s been a feature of this blog for four years now. In the meantime, I hope to discuss the offseason Hot Stove, namely the MLB Winter Meetings now taking place.

I sincerely hope that I can just go back to having fun.  Then I can start conveying that fun to other people, which is what the whole damn thing was about in the first place.

Thank you – sincerely and mightily – for your support.

Best regards,

Aaron “W.K.” Whitehead

P.S. I’m seriously contemplating a “re-branding” of this blog. I like the catchiness of “whiz kid,” but I’ve never been comfortable with the arrogance inherent in calling myself that. Plus, I’m not really a kid by any means now.  I may be back to discuss my thoughts or just go for something new on a whim. Feedback is always appreciated.

Monday, May 25, 2009

BP Idol Entry: I Miss Skip & Pete

Author's Note: Recently, the Baseball Prospectus website asked for submissions for a new contest, Baseball Prospectus Idol. The editors would pick the ten best submissions, and the BP readers would vote off one writer each week. Unfortunately, I did not make the cut. Still, I was very proud of my submission. Since it won't be shown at BP, I'd like to introduce it here.

"Eleven to four
That's the score
And now the Braves
Will try for more."
-- Skip Caray

I can only think of four times over the past five years that I have been "giddy." Please understand that I am not a naturally giddy person; my level of emotion ranks somewhere between "shy and reserved" and "Vulcan." But I remember vividly what it was that made me, Sam the Eagle, giddy with joy like a little kid. It's no surprise that it was usually something to do with baseball: 

1. Yankee Stadium.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Baseball Book Review: Forever Blue by Michael D'Antonio

If any baseball figure represents pure evil in the hearts of longtime fans, it isn't Barry Bonds. Nor Alex Rodriguez, Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, or even the Chicago Black Sox. No, for many people, especially traditionalists, the most evil figure in baseball history is Walter O'Malley, who owned and operated the Dodgers for more than thirty years. What possible transgression could the owner of a baseball team commit that would surpass the damage done by the players listed above?
Simple. He moved the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.
It is this one act that has defined him -- and damned him -- for many, many years. But O'Malley's true impact on the game of baseball was quite vast and covered many different aspects of the game. In Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O'Malley, Michael D'Antonio gets to the bottom of this familiar myth and tries to reveal the truth behind it. Yes, O'Malley did, as owner of the Dodgers, make the decision to move the team to Los Angeles. However, the characterization of him as an evil manipulator who broke the hearts of a neighborhood and ripped a civic institution away from a passionate community is the utter fiction. That the myth has survived so long proves the persistence of true hatred, especially when it comes to baseball.
For the most part, Michael D'Antonio does a fine job with his biography of O'Malley. He offers a concise view of the years leading up to his involvement with the Dodgers, astutely noting the most relevant stories and putting them together to create a realistic image of this now-mythical man. Granted, the end leaves much to be desired, but I'll get to that later.

Walter O'Malley came to own the Dodgers in a very roundabout way. As part of his job with the Brooklyn Trust Company, O'Malley was assigned to keep close tabs on one of the bank's biggest debtors: the Brooklyn Dodgers. The "Daffiness Boys" of the 1930's were rarely winners, but they always entertained the fans and soon became a part of the Brooklyn cultural identity. Unfortunately, the Dodger "daffiness" also applied to the team's business dealings off the field. The team's financial affairs were a mess. Not only that, but decision-making at the executive levels was thwarted by squabbling among the heirs of the team's previous owners. It's hard to imagine a more hopeless situation for a young, inexperienced lawyer such as Walter O'Malley.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The 15 Greatest Baseball Books

I recently had a reader ask for my list of the best baseball books ever written. Keeping in mind that there are many important books that I haven't read, I was still excited to be able to share some of my favorites. Summer reading season is approaching, and what better way is there to show your commitment to baseball than to haul a 600-page statistical tome to the beach. Sure, the people around you reading 150-page light romance novels may think you're a big geek. But as someone who likes to write lists of his favorite baseball books, I've come to terms with my geekiness.

The reason that this is a Top 15 list is that I started with a Top 10 list but couldn't bear to exclude any more books. Even so, I'm going to include a small list of "recommended reading" for some books that still didn't make the cut.
Before I get into specific books, I want to talk about a few staples of the baseball library that don't really belong on the list, for various reasons:
  • Baseball Encyclopedias. Baseball encyclopedias used to be an essential part of any fan's library. But with the emergence of the internet -- especially and the online baseball eden known as -- fans can get most of the stats in the encyclopedias for free online. There's also a Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia developed by Lee Sinins and sold as a computer program. I bought my last real baseball encyclopedia in 2003 (picking up the last edition of the Total Baseball series), but recently bought Sinins' program, which offers more options than your average website.
  • Annuals, or Season Previews: These are often fantastic and invaluable sources of information. But if I included them on the Top 15 list, they'd take up 5 spots. And an annual's value obviously isn't as timeless as that of any other book. Some exceptions would be the Bill James Baseball Abstracts published in the late 70's and early 80's. Now, the premier baseball annuals are those published by Baseball Prospectus every February. You can also get a great deal of info and analysis from The Hardball Times, which published two books this off-season: a recap of the 2008 season and a preview of the 2009 season.
  • Magazines/Journals/Periodicals: I'll admit that my experience with baseball as a scholarly enterprise is new, so I have very little experience with journals. I do keep some old periodicals, not just for nostalgia but also if there's a particularly interesting article in it. And I do have a few newspapers from notable days in baseball history, as well.
And with that said, on to the books!

15. Eight Men Out
by Eliot Asinof

This book has earned its status as one of the most celebrated sports books of all time. Asinof does an admirable job of playing the detective and bringing a fascinating group of people from different places into one coherent timeline.

When a Six-Run Inning Isn't the Pitcher's Fault

In Saturday's game versus the Rays, Jon Lester got off to a pretty good start. After giving up a two-run homer to Evan Longoria in the 1st, Lester regained his form and threw three scoreless innings. Until the 5th inning, that is, when everything fell apart. When the bleeding stopped, the Rays had scored six runs and had taken an 8-1 lead. The funny thing is, those six runs weren't really Lester's fault.
How can a pitcher give up six runs and not take most or all of the blame? You have to fault the defense, right? Nope, not their fault either. The Sox didn't commit an error in the inning, and they only made one little mistake that could be called a defensive "miscue". If not the defense, then, who was responsible for those six runs?

Manny Ramirez Suspended 50 Games by MLB

Manny Ramirez, the popular but mercurial slugger for the Los Angeles Dodgers, has been suspended 50 games for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
The suspension was announced Thursday afternoon. A statement from Manny Ramirez claims that he received the substance in question from a physician in Florida. He claims that his use was not recreational, and that he was unaware that the drug was banned.
Early reports indicated that Manny would appeal the suspension, and there were even arrangements made for a hearing to be scheduled in Los Angeles. According to ESPN's Peter Gammons, though, Manny backed off at the last minute and declined to appeal. Ramirez has taken public responsibility for using the substance,
saying: "LA is a special place to me and I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I'm sorry about this whole situation. "
There has been no official word on what the substance was that triggered the suspension. But ESPN writers T.J. Quinn and Mark Fainaru-Wada -- famous for writing the Barry Bonds/BALCO expose Game of Shadows -- are reporting that it was hCG, a women's fertility drug. According to the American Pregnancy Association's
website, hCG is produced during pregnancy by cells that form the placenta. WebMD states that hCG levels can be tested to determine pergnancy but may also be affected by tumors.
That sounds innocent enough, but it fails to explain what an otherwise healthy adult male such as Ramirez would need them for. T.J. Quinn, speaking on an ESPNews
broadcast, states that despite its uses as a female fertility drug, hCG is used almost exclusively by steroid users. hCG helps renew the body's ability to make testosterone. This is made necessary when steroid users have been doping for a certain period of time, inhibiting their body's ability to produce testosterone naturally. Not only does hCG seem to indicate steroid abuse in the vast majority of cases, but the substance itself is banned under baseball's drug policy, since it does enhance the body's testosterone levels.
Despite an official statement both from
Ramirez and the MLB, there is some confusion as to how the substance was detected. It may or may not have come as part of baseball's random drug testing. Quinn reports that the hCG wasn't actually detected at first; his sources report that the only abnormality that registered was elevated levels of testosterone. This led investigators to determine what was responsible for the high levels of testosterone, and the use of hCG was indicated, reportedly, through documents uncovered during the process. It was this lack of a smoking gun, so to speak, that fueled speculation that Ramirez would lodge an appeal. His last-minute decision not to has raised some questions, with some speculating that Ramirez feared further incrimination during the appeals process. By declining an appeal, the matter is settled as far as the MLB is concerned.
This revelation has produced an instant outcry from the sports media. Peter Gammons
tells us Ramirez's side of the story (in a manner that makes him sound more like Ramirez's agent than a journalist), whereas Fox Sports contributor Ken Rosenthal has nothing but contempt for Manny, not only for using but for getting caught at a time when a player's bodily fluids are under incredible supervision.
Ramirez's suspension casts a harsh shadow over a Dodgers team whose 21-8 record is the best in baseball. Not only that, but the Dodgers recently set a new record by notching 13 straight wins at home to begin a season. They've won seven straight and sit a comfortable 6.5 games ahead of the second-place Giants. Ramirez was the engine behind the Los Angeles offense, hitting .348 with 6 homers, 20 RBI and an incredible .492 on-base percentage. The bulk of the playing time in left field will likely go to Juan Pierre, a prospect that should send a cold chill up the back of Dodger fans.
There are still many unanswered questions surrounding this story. We'll have to keep looking to learn more and get some confirmation of the early reports coming from ESPN and T.J. Quinn. Either way, though, it looks like "Mannywood" will be out of action for nearly two months.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Shut the f*** up about HGH

"There is no evidence that steroid use has altered home run hitting and those who argue otherwise are profoundly ignorant of the statistics of home runs, the physics of baseball, and of the physiological effects of steroids." -- Professor Arthur DeVany, "Steroids, Home Runs and the Law of Genius"
Quoted on
"A review of clinical studies among healthy, normally aging individuals found that hGH supplementation does not significantly increase muscle strength or aerobic exercise capacity." -- ( American Medical Association )
(, Stanford Medical School
The Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia(
The Mayo Clinic:
J.C. Bradbury:
Bradbury's follow-up:
Annals of Internal Medicine:
First-hand comments:
Reaction to Newsday article no longer online:
Where's the on-field proof that they actually work ... :
... for pitchers?:
And the New England Freakin' Journal of Medicine (
Pretty much every website that says HGH works is trying to sell it to you.
You better be damn sure about something before you stick a needle in someone's arm.
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. --Max Planck
Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof. --John Kenneth Galbraith
Major h/t to Eric Walker

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Know When to Move 'Em

This past Saturday, I got a chance to watch my Braves maul the Reds to the tune of a 10-2 loss. I managed to get good seats to the ballgame, right down the left field line. As I sat there baking in the afternoon sun, I got a close look at the Cincinnati ballclub. Unfortunately, getting a close look at Reds baseball is a mixed blessing.
Case in point: third baseman Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion is a 26-year-old, good-hitting fellow whose biggest problem is a tendency to throw the ball not quite close enough to the big fellow with a glove standing at first base. Currently in his fifth major league season, Encarnacion has none the less committed 77 errors in his big league career. He’s the only player in the league who gets his defense recorded on a spray chart.
His erratic arm is a serious problem, but I didn’t realize how serious it was until I got a new statistical take on it. John Dewan, with the help of Baseball Info Solutions, has developed a new method of rating defense: the plus-minus ratings. It’s much more accurate than simple fielding percentage, but is still simple enough for even a casual fan to understand. A player’s plus-minus rating is the number of plays the player makes that an average player at that position would not normally make (a positive number is good, zero is average, negative numbers are bad). The newest set of plus-minus ratings were published in The Fielding Bible: Volume II, the sequel to Dewan’s groundbreaking 2006 book The Fielding Bible. Simply put, Encarnacion doesn’t look good.
According to Dewan’s system, Encarnacion was the worst full-time defensive third baseman in baseball in 2008, with a plus-minus rating of -21. The next-worst was Melvin Mora, at -13. Encarnacion is also the worst in the MLB over the last three seasons; his rating of -51 is worse than Garrett Atkins (-42) and ex-third baseman Miguel Cabrera (-40). Dewan’s listings only go back to 2003, and it should be said that Encarnacion isn’t considered the worst defensive third baseman over that period (2003-2008); he’s the second-worst (Ty Wigginton’s -75 is far worse than Encarnacion’s -46).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sunday MLB Recap: No Need to Panic

There's a scene in King Kong vs. Godzilla where Godzilla appears over the horizon and attacks a train, knocking it to pieces. Of course, as the travellers are mobbing the exits, there's a train conductor standing in the middle of them, yelling, "Please! Don't panic!" I felt like that conductor this week as I watched baseball columnists and Yankee fans wailing and gnashing their teeth at the horrors that befell the team in its opening homestand. You'd never have known that the Yankees, instead of being eaten by Godzilla, went 2-2 against a pretty good team, the Indians. Granted, there's no good way to spin a 22-4 loss, and this could be a sign that the pitching (especially Chien-Ming Wang) isn't as good as we thought. But the new Yankee Stadium is a sturdy piece of architecture; it can withstand worse.
With that in mind, here's a recap of some busy Sunday action with a look at what this means for the coming season.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

FAIL @ Men's Journal

I'm amazed that a seemingly respectable magazine would actually print this. This is terrible on every possible judgment of the "terrible" meter. It's the sort of article a drunken moron would piss out after a bad day at Yankee Stadium. There is no fact in this article, not nearly enough to justify the anger. The writer's utter cluelessness and ignorance about the game of baseball and, apparently, life, is enough to make me optimistic about a career in baseball writing. I sure as hell can't do any worse than that, an article for which Matt Taibbi was presumably paid good American currency.


(h/t Shysterball)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Blast from the Past: 2006

I know that advertisers are finding new ways to horn in on MLB TV. They're not just buying awards, they're trying to sponsor every segment or every pause.
The worst is the WebMD injury report. Now, this doesn't sound that bad at first. It's flagrant ad-placement, yes, but hey, it's nice to explain to a fan just where the ACL is or what the oblique muscle does. It could be useful.
Instead, WebMD used their CGI 3-d rendering of a human body's musculature to illustrate, for the viewers at home: a sore wrist. I'm not f***ing kidding. How inconceviably DUMB do you have to be to need a TV animation to explain to you what a SORE WRIST is?!

"Phyllis, I've got an ouch."

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Final 2009 Predictions

American League
NL East
New York Yankees (98-64)
Boston Red Sox* (93-69)
Tampa Bay Rays (87-75)
Toronto Blue Jays (79-83)
Baltimore Orioles (73-89)
* -- denotes Wild Card

NL Central
Cleveland Indians (88-74)
Minnesota Twins (84-78)
Chicago White Sox (79-83)
Detroit Tigers (78-84)
Kansas City Royals (72-90)

NL West
Los Angeles Angels (85-77)
Oakland Athletics (84-78)
Texas Rangers (78-84)
Seattle Mariners (70-92)

ALCS: Yankees over Indians
World Series: Dodgers over Yankees
AL MVP: Mark Teixeira, Yankees
AL Cy Young: Josh Beckett, Red Sox
AL Rookie of the Year: Matt Wieters, Orioles
National League
NL East
New York Mets (95-67)
Philadelphia Phillies* (89-73)
Atlanta Braves (87-75)
Florida Marlins (76-86)
Washington Nationals (65-97)

NL Central
Chicago Cubs (91-71)
St. Louis Cardinals (84-78)
Milwaukee Brewers (80-82)
Cincinnati Reds (78-84)
Houston Astros (67-95)
Pittsburgh Pirates (66-96)

NL West
Los Angeles Dodgers (93-69)
Arizona Diamondbacks (87-75)
San Francisco Giants (78-84)
Colorado Rockies (76-86)
San Diego Padres (62-100)

NLCS: Dodgers over Cubs
World Series: Dodgers over Yankees
NL MVP: David Wright, Mets
NL Cy Young: Johan Santana, Mets
NL Rookie of the Year: Kenshin Kawakami, Braves

NL West Preview: Manny to the Rescue

1 – Los Angeles Dodgers
2 – Arizona Diamondbacks
3 – San Francisco Giants
4 – Colorado Rockies
5 – San Diego Padres

Los Angeles Dodgers
Last year's NL West race came down to the final week of the season, with L.A. just edging out the Diamondbacks. This year's race looks about the same, with the Dodgers and 'Backs pacing the division. What really separates the two is L.A.'s great opportunity for improvement; they've got the young talent to take the division by storm.
It starts in the rotation with ace Chad Billingsley. The Dodgers will miss Derek Lowe, but Billingsley should be able to step up and do just as well, if not better. Last year, Billingsley posted a 3.14 ERA and struck out 201 batters in 200.2 innings. The only concern here is the big increase in innings pitched in 2008 (65.1 more than in 2007, including the postseason) as well as his 80 walks allowed. The other young stud in the L.A. stable is Clayton Kershaw. Long-term, Kershaw's ceiling may be higher than Billingsley's, but he's still quite young; he just turned 21. But while he may not top 200 innings, Kershaw looked pretty sharp as a 20-year-old rookie last year, managing a 4.26 ERA with 100 K in 107.2 IP.

Friday, April 03, 2009

NL Central Preview: Can the Cubs Three-Peat?

My Prediction:
1 – Chicago Cubs
2 – St. Louis Cardinals
3 – Milwaukee Brewers
4 – Cincinnati Reds
5 – Houston Astros
6 – Pittsburgh Pirates

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are strong favorites in the NL Central once again. They’ve kept together most of the key players from 2008, while other teams in the division are either taking a step back or just struggling to stay in place.
The team is returning its top four starters in Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly and Rich Harden. It’s a strong group, although there are concerns about Harden’s ability to make 20 starts, let alone 30. The team also took a big step back at closer, losing Kerry Wood to free agency and replacing him with trade acquisition Kevin Gregg. The Cubs have clearly overrated Gregg, due to his status as a Proven Closer. They’ve still got a great safety net in Carlos Marmol, but the Cubs will see a big difference between Gregg and the departed Wood.
Chicago has a unique depth to their offense.

Monday, March 30, 2009

NL East Preview: The Good, the Bad and the Utley

My Prediction:
1 – New York Mets
2 – Philadelphia Phillies
3 – Atlanta Braves
4 – Florida Marlins
5 – Washington Nationals

New York Mets
I'd like to put away any discussion of "choking," first of all, mainly because I don't really believe in it. Choking is a way for fans of other teams to make fun of their rivals, and it's a way for lazy commentators to turn a complex baseball season into a narrative. Yes, the Mets did a terrible job in September, both last year and in 2007. But it was due to normal, everyday baseball reasons. It's possible that there's some personality flaw that plagues the Mets and prevents them from performing well in tight situations, but that's a little far-fetched to me.

Does Willis really have anxiety?

Detroit Tigers pitcher Dontrelle Willis was placed on the team DL Sunday. The stated reason for disabling him was "anxiety disorder."
This was news, mainly because there had never been any report before that Willis suffered from the disorder or even any speculation on the subject. However, it's certainly possible for someone with anxiety to conceal it, or for it to be mistaken for something else.
I've suffered from generalized anxiety disorder for a number of years now. It's not a stretch to say that it is "disabling." At its worst, the anxiety becomes so intense that it interferes with your ability to function on basic levels: to take care of yourself, to go outside, to interact with friends, to keep a steady job, to form a romantic relationship, as well as many other things.
But here's the most baffling part of the Dontrelle Willis story: Willis doesn't report having any symptoms of anxiety. This article in the
Detroit Free Press quotes him as saying that this is "not something where I'm too amped up, I don't know where I'm at, and I'm running sprints up and down the parking lot ... (The doctors) see something in my blood that they don't like."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Shilling for Schilling

Curt Schilling recently announced his retirement from baseball. Schilling missed 2008 due to injury, and it was looking less and less likely that he would be able to return in 2009. So at the age of 42, he's hanging it up. I personally think Curt is a future Hall-of-Famer, but the thing that's most interesting to me about his career, isn't the bloody sock, of the 2001 World Series. It's the strange way it unfolded.
Not many future Hall-of-Famers were included as throw-ins in three separate trades. If you're considered that expendable, it's usually for a reason. By the time Curt Schilling became a star, he was pitching for his fourth major league organization. After being drafted by the Red Sox in 1986, he spent the next few years as a promising but flawed pitching prospect whose commitment to excellence was called into question. He certainly wasn't unique. There have been countless pitchers like that, who had enough talent, but for a variety of reasons just never fully committed themselves. Those guys end up as relief pitchers or minor leaguers or just high school coaches.
But Curt Schilling was unique. It may have taken him a while, but he became not just a good pitcher, but a great one. Part of that talent was always there, just waiting for him to activate it. But it also took a new work ethic and a commitment to excellence to push Schilling into elite company.
It's ironic that the first team to give up on Schilling was the Red Sox, where he would later put the final touches on his brilliant career. The Sox drafted Schilling in the 2nd round of the 1986 draft. Schilling got off to a good start in the minors, but in 1988 the Sox were in the postseason hunt and sent Schilling (and Brady Anderson) to the Orioles for veteran Mike Boddicker. Boddicker pitched brilliantly down the stretch and helped the Sox win the division by just one game over Detroit. The Orioles, on the other hand, were on their way to a 54-107 season.
Schilling showed good numbers, but the O's had several promising young starters at the time, and they decided (unfortunately) that Schilling was expendable; they were coveting slugging Astros first baseman Glenn Davis. But Davis was coming off a season where he'd hit just 22 HR in 93 games. And he was about to turn 30. But the Orioles traded for him anyway, giving up Schilling, Steve Finley, and Pete Harnisch. That's one of the most unbalanced trades in recent years, especially since Davis tanked in Baltimore and never hit well again. And Schilling and Harnisch both would perform better than the young pitchers the Orioles decided to keep (Ben McDonald, Bob Milacki, John Mitchell, Anthony Telford, and Jeff Ballard wouldn't make any All-Star teams. Schilling made six, and Harnisch made one).

AL West Preview: Angels and Demons

My Prediction:
1st: Los Angeles Angels
2nd: Oakland Athletics
3rd: Texas Rangers
4th: Seattle Mariners

Los Angeles Angels

The only team that needed Mark Teixeira more than the Yankees was the Angels. With the injuries to Vladimir Guerrero, the Angels just don't have an impact bat anymore – period. They finished 10th in the AL in runs scored last year, and that was with half a season of Teixeira hitting 358/449/632*. Their 100-62 record in 2008 disguised a roster whose Pythagorean record was a disappointing 88-74. Stuck in a division with two of the best farm systems – Oakland and Texas – churning out prospects left and right, there's no room for disappointment.

AL Central Preview: Anybody's Game

Over the past three years, four of the five teams in the AL Central have gone to the postseason. Each year, one team takes a step forward and then stumbles back. Is this the year that somebody finally dominates? Or will it be another photo finish?

My Predictions:
1st: Minnesota Twins
2nd: Cleveland Indians
3rd: Chicago White Sox
4th: Detroit Tigers
5th: Kansas City Royals

Minnesota Twins
The Twins made a valiant effort in 2008, finishing the season tied with the White Sox for the AL Central title. They lost a one-game playoff for the division crown, but none the less they made a great effort.
Still, when you have such a close call, you have to look for those opportunities you missed to improve your team. With the Twins, these were pretty clear. They left Francisco Liriano in the minors far longer than was necessary, with Livan Hernandez wreaking havoc in his place. More importantly, they utterly failed to improve the left half of their infield, even though they've had the same problem for years. If the Twins had been willing to spend just a moderate amount of money to acquire a decent third baseman a few years ago, they may have made it to the World Series, after failing to get there with postseason appearances in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2006.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

2009 AL East Preview

The time had come for a change in Yankee-ville, and the Bronx Bombers were more than ready to seize the day. They started out by signing ace starter CC Sabathia (7 yrs., $161 MM) and strikeout master A.J. Burnett (5 yrs., $82.5 MM). And to bolster their offense, they brought in 28-year-old Mark Teixeira (8 yrs., $180 MM) to play first. The changes gave the Yankees a huge boost and put the spotlight on them as the team to beat in the AL East.
But the story isn't that simple. The Rays are still there, and while they may be destined to take a step back from the 2008 brilliance, that's no guarantee. The Red Sox spent the off-season adding spare parts like Josh Bard, John Smoltz and Ramon Ramirez, but they still feel confident that their core producers can compete with anyone, rich or poor.
It's tough to choose a winner out of three significant contenders. But here's how I see it happening ...

2009 Prediction
1st — New York Yankees
2nd — Boston Red Sox
3rd — Tampa Bay Rays
4th — Toronto Blue Jays
5th — Baltimore Orioles

New York Yankees
Not only have the Yankees added a significant upgrade at three positions (two starters and a first baseman), they also have a lot of room for improvement from within.

Mr. Selig Goes to Washington

Bud Selig's master plan was for baseball to return to Washington. In the dying days of the Montreal Expos, Selig made clear his desire that the team move out of Quebec and into the nation's capital. There were rumors that other cities were being considered, sure, but few people took seriously the idea that major league baseball could succeed in Monterrey, Mexico. Washington had a baseball-ready stadium and, not so coincidentally, would put baseball in the back yard of the movers and shakers on Capitol Hill.
Well, it didn't work out that way.
The Nationals inherited a front office run on a shoestring budget, a fallow farm system, and a team that hadn't been interesting in ten years. In 2008, the team lost 102 games, the worst record in baseball, and the worst mark for the franchise since 1976. But on the bright side, at least the front office wasn't under investigation by the FBI.
Oops . . .
Over the past year, federal investigators have been investigating charges that a handful of baseball teams were skimming bonus money away from young Caribbean players. The Nationals were among the teams named, with GM Jim Bowden and special assistant Jose Rijo targeted by the investigation. Rijo was fired by the Nats a week ago, and
the axe fell on Bowden on Sunday. He "resigned" days after word got out that the team was probably going to fire him.
Things weren't supposed to happen this way. But if you look at the situation realistically, we shouldn't be surprised. Well, the FBI investigation is surprising, but the team's overall failure was almost predictable given the circumstances.
There were three different problems that essentially "doomed" the Washington Nationals to this period of futility. They were: the city, the franchise, and the personnel. Each one played a part in bringing about the team's humiliating 2008-09 performance.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Salary Cap: Baseball's Enduring Straw Man

I hate the Yankees.

In the interests of fairness, I should make this clear before I go on. I've been a fan of the Atlanta Braves since the days of Dale Murphy, Rick Mahler and Bob Horner. It was with great pride that I watched the Braves build themselves into a baseball dynasty.
And it was with great pain that I watched them go down, again and again, in October. Yes, they won it all in 1995, beating the Indians in six exciting games. But as good as it was to see that, it was with a crushing sense of pain and doom that I watched the Braves lose the series in 1996 to the Damn Yankees. I remember sitting about 8 inches from the TV screen as Mark Lemke popped out in the 9th inning. I tried to force the ball into the stands by sheer force of will, but it didn't work. Charlie Hayes caught it for the last out of the series. And so was born my hatred of the Yankees. It didn't get any better in 1999, when the Yankees swept the Braves out of the World Series. By then my hatred was festering.
I say all of this because what I'm about to say may sound like Yankee favoritism. Let me assure you that it is NOT. What I say I say as a baseball fan, pure and simple.
Baseball doesn't need a salary cap.

"The Kid" Isn't a Kid Anymore

Just yesterday, reported that the Seattle Mariners have signed Ken Griffey, Jr. to a one-year deal worth $2 million, with incentives that could make it worth as much as $4.5 million. The deal got good reviews from many reporters and columnists. As for me, it sent me off on a nostalgia trip.
A trip back to a simpler time. Back when my Braves were still lovable losers. Back when none of us had ever heard of a place called Iraq. Back when collecting baseball cards was still a young boy's hobby.

... 1989 ...

(Cue Paula Abdul ... or something a little more macho)

Back in my baseball card-collecting days, 1989 was a landmark year. Together with my Dad and my brother, we made it our duty to gather as many complete sets as possible. We came close, getting all but the new and expensive Upper Deck series.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Integrity? What Integrity?

This article was first published at I'm going to be a contributor there under the Sports section, so look for my column there.
The integrity of baseball is not at risk. This may seem like a rash thing to say these days, when pretty much everyone else is claiming the opposite. In the days since Alex Rodriguez's admission of the use of "banned substances," he has made the short list of the most hated baseball players of all time. He — along with Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds — have been publicly blasted for their admissions (and non-admissions) concerning their use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs*). And, in an unscientific poll taken by John Erardi of the Cincinnati Enquirer, none of the accused PED users would win induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
* — It's very important to make the distinction between "steroids" on one hand, and "PEDs," on the other. Steroids are a specific type of performance-enhancer. But not all PEDs are steroids. PEDs refer to any substance giving the user an "unfair" advantage. Most stories on this subject use "steroids" as a catch-all term when they should say PEDs or "banned substances," which refers specifically to those substances outlawed either by law or by the MLB. For the best information about PEDs and steroids as it relates to baseball, read The Juice by Will Carroll.
Baseball columnists everywhere are outraged. In the Detroit Free Press, Drew Sharp
argues that you can't call baseball a sport anymore. Bill Madden of the New York Daily News says that the Yankees should just release A-Rod and eat the $270 million remaining on his contract.
The tone of the conversation in the sports media has generally been that A-Rod has forever tainted our most precious institutions and should be severely punished.
To this I say: Phooey.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

8 Questions to Answer

Before you do anything else, go over to and read this interview with former baseball union leader Marvin Miller. I don't agree with everything he says, but his insights into the controversy need to be given greater attention. If everyone had to interview Miller for this story, they'd at least come away wiser. And from what I've read so far, their learning curve is steep.

I mentioned yesterday William Saletan's
article at that asks eight rhetorical questions designed to cast a shadow over A-Rod and his career. Instead of my short, highly critical response posted as a comment on the Slate website (and again on here yesterday), I'll take the opportunity to answer his questions in a more level-headed manner.

(Note: Saletan's article and my initial comment were written before A-Rod's admission of guilt in an ESPN interview with Peter Gammons. But I'll take A-Rod's story into account when answering these questions).

Question One: [A-Rod's] name is on the list of flunked players. As today's New York Times
explains, "the players had agreed to the 2003 tests under the condition that their results would never be revealed." How many other tests have been taken and flunked but, under rules dictated by the players, never disclosed to the public?

Answer: According to sources in possession of the list, there are about 104 names on it. Take away A-Rod and (presumably) Barry Bonds, and that's 102 names left.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

P***ed off at

With the *news* emerging about Alex Rodriguez, I knew I would inevitably read some sports columnist who would piss me off. Actually I read two of them, both at today.
First was Tim Marchman, whose article on Sunday contained a few bits that set me off. Read his article first, then read the below, which I posted as a comment on the article:
"There was always something inherently implausible about the idea of a 225-pound shortstop playing Gold Glove defense while popping 50 home runs a year."
A-Rod is listed at 6'3", 190 lbs (but I'll give you 225).
Cal Ripken was listed as 6'4 and 225 lbs.
If I am to take you seriously, then Cal Ripken is as guilty as A-Rod. If the standard is baseless inference (factually flawed), then there's more evidence against Ripken, who was even larger than A-Rod when compared to his contemporaries.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Catching Up

  • I was really looking forward to doing my first video blog, but a whole lot has come up since then. I’ve had some bad personal problems come up, and I’ve also travelled to New York to audition for graduate schools to get my MFA in Acting. I’m now sitting in the Newark airport getting ready to fly to Alabama for my final audition. There have been some bits of baseball news come up since then, and I have kept a list of them so that I could cover them all in my next blog. Unfortunately, the list is in Kentucky, and I won’t be there until Sunday. So here’s a few tidbits to tide you over until then:
  • A whole slew of new information has come out concerning Barry Bonds. First of all, it seems that former Giants teammate Bobby Estalella is going to testify against Bonds at his perjury trial. It’s anybody’s guess what Estalella has to say. He may have direct knowledge of Bonds’ steroid use, or he may just have some more innuendo and hearsay to offer. Either way, he’s no smoking gun, especially if Bonds has good defense lawyers.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Slow News Day

It’s been a slow period for baseball news. Here’s hoping that things pick up soon.
  • Mark Teixeira signed a blockbuster free agent deal with the New York Yankees, at 8 years and $180 million. Teixeira fills a BIG hole in the Yankee lineup, as they’ve needed an impact productive first baseman for some time now. Teixeira’s great bat and great glove are both important additions to a Yankee lineup that needed an infusion of both offense and defense. The move also has the effect of forcing Nick Swisher to the outfield. Considering that he’ll be taking playing time away from Melky Cabrera and/or Xavier Nady, this is a good thing for New York.
    Signing the deal has gotten the Yankees a lot of heat for so thoroughly outspending the other 29 major league teams. My response is this: a) it’s asinine to get mad at a team for making themselves better, and b) if you’re mad that the Yankees have so much money, blame Michael Blomberg and the city of New York for saving them a bunch of money on their new stadium.