Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On becoming agnostic towards hero worship

I've struggled with writing what I've been thinking and conceptualizing over the last few years. I'm not particularly philosophical, generally speaking, nor am I smart enough to succinctly capture some of those thoughts.

But the newest Clemens "issue", has somehow pushed me to try putting words to a slowly growing feeling towards hero worship. So here it is:

I've become agnostic towards the Temple Of The Holy Athlete.

I'm not ready to declare myself an athiest since I still want to believe and hope in the best of people, especially my favorite athletes, but I've given up worship at the Temple. I still believe in guys like Jeter (not perfect, I know), John Smoltz, Mariano Rivera, Mike Lowell, etc.

I'm not really sure why it's finally coming to this. There have been horrible, spoiled, frustrating, maddening, revolting athletes for ages. I went to college with Derrick "whoopdedamndoo" Coleman. I owned tickets to watch the mid-90's Knicks. I watched Strawberry and Steve Howe "blow" their careers. I was disgusted by the way Bonds treated nearly everyone. Mike Vick. The Josh Howard "admission" this week. Shawn Kemp, period. The list goes on and on.

I'm trying not to sound or act with a righteous indignation, but how do I explain to my boys, ages 8 and 5, what Clemens is accused of doing? PED use, alleged adultry, alleged statutory rape, and not to mention (likely) lying to a Congressional Committee. [This is not purely an anti-athlete rant; I harbor the same feelings towards the Spears family, Lindsay Lohan, etc. of the Hollywood circuit. I've got to explain how Zoey 101 got pregnant when she's just 15? puh-lease.]

Where does this come from? The fact that these athletes are treated differently than everyone else as soon as their talents are noticed certainly must play a role. The fact that others with less talent and less initiative try to cling to these people, hoping the crumbs of success fall in their laps also must play a role. The enablers are everywhere, looking to latch onto the comet's tail.

But, these guys act as if they are better and more deserving of everything than anyone else. That's what makes it all so difficult. When the slightest bit of humility is almost the sign of the apocolypse, well, I just don't know...

So now Clemens, at his own behest, has opened the kimono of his personal life. The life of a gifted, yet flawed, superstar athlete. We're going to see how easy it was for him (and others) to treat women like disposable razors while feigning being an upstanding citizen, husband, son, father, brother. We're going to see how legions of yes-men enabled a pattern that ultimately led to the unwinding of Hall Of Fame career.

Any wonder why I've become agnostic?

Of course I will still root for my favorite teams and players, but the hero worship is long gone. So how do I balance being a fan and instilling fandom in my boys with balancing their young hero worship? They collect jerseys and I try to get them ones of players who represent the "good" in sports but who knows. They each have a Carmello Anthony jersey (thanks for the 2003 NCAA title), even though I know he's not a saint. But I certainly make an effort to get them players who (I think) represent the good in sports. Nash, Pujols, LeBron, Mo, Jeter, Jordan, etc.

I'm open to suggestions but I'm no longer worshipping at the Temple Of The Holy Athlete.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Clemens: Back into the mud

I've got to tend to an 8:30am earnings call, but I wanted to leave you with this, courtesy of good friend Shysterball (I will try to get into this more later today, work schedule permitting):

The Daily News is reporting -- in major detail -- that Roger Clemens had a long term affair with country singer Mindy McCready that began when she was [gulp] 15 years old.
There are a thousand different things that could be said about this. Pure snark is one possibility, and I expect to see a lot of that as the blogosphere wakes up. Another tack, which the Daily News focuses on, is to wonder how this could impact Clemens' lawsuit against McNamee. That's a legitimate question, and as far as that goes I'll say (a) the revelation of information which is harmful to one's reputation is pretty disastrous for someone suing over the sullying of their allegedly good name; and (b) any lawyer that was aware of this kind of thing would basically be committing malpractice by filing a defamation of character lawsuit. This means that either Clemens lied to Hardin when asked whether there was any bad stuff he had to worry about, or that Hardin neglected to ask. Based on what we've seen I'm guessing it's a combination of less-than-probing-questioning and a less-than-truthful answer.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Re-examining Wang

After Chien-Ming Wang's last start, I noted a few of the different trends that were starting to appear that I hadn't seen before, namely a boost in his K rates at the expense of his GB:FB ratios. Then he had his outing today (which, I didn't get to see live, sorry).

His line: 113 PC, 7 INN, 4 HA, 2 BBI, 9 K, W, HB

Nine K's in 7 IP. Who does he think he is, Jake Peavy?

His K-rate jumped from 5.06 to 6.23, well over 1 K/9 IP over his career high of 4.70 he achieved last year. His GB:FB ratio remains at 2.00:1, his most "even" since the 2.68 he posted last year (note: these stats might change as I am not sure if the GB:FB ratio has been updated in ESPN, source for the stats shown in my graph to the right). Still no reason to worry.

Or is there?

Note, too, that he needed 113 pitches to get thru 7 IP. I'm not so concerned with the number of pitches but rather that he needed that many to get thru 7 IP. He's usually more economical, however, with this newer approach, we're seeing a shift. The 14.56 avg pitches per inning is also a career high.

Fewer grounders and double plays but more K's and pitches. And his ERA stands at 3.23, also a career low (after 6 starts). And he's won 5 games this April and holds a career 51-18 record. Pretty darn impressive, any way you slice it.

Can Wang continue to evolve before our eyes? Not sure but I am watching (well, except for the game yesterday, naturally).

Did you see anything different today? Tell me if I missed something since I didn't get to see it live.

Related Posts:
Examining Wang

Also see: Wang dominates Indians to cap 5-0 April (at River Ave. Blues, who are also "onto" the new Wang)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Pushing the lines of creepy

Maybe it's me, but I think Ozzie Guillen is getting awfully close to the "creepy" threshold. To wit:

"I keep saying the best [Yankees] player who ever happened—bigger than someone else, but I'm not going to say the name here—is Derek Jeter," Guillen began, perched in the Sox dugout.

He merely was warming up.

"Derek Jeter has everything in his life. He's got money. He's got rings. He's got …" Guillen paused, because timing means everything in comedy. "He's not married."

Wait for the laugh.

"At the All-Star Game (where Guillen managed him in 2006), I looked around to see if he has anything I don't like. No. He's the perfect man. Too bad I don't have a daughter."

So, in other words, Ozzie, you like this Jeter guy, is that what you're trying to say here?

"He's the best thing ever in the game. He's got everything he wants. He lives in New York. Even [George] Steinbrenner loves him. Nobody is better than Derek Jeter in the game. Nobody."
I know most guys would KILL to live Jeter's life, but isn't it a tad bit creepy listening to an opposing manager and former player gush like this?
Maybe it's just me.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

More Pat Jordan

Following my posting (Productivity buster alert) that featured the Pat Jordan article about Canseco, I found a great roundtable discussion featuring Yanks fan/blogger/author Alex Belth and Jordan. Belth has a book coming out featuring Jordan's best works over his career: The Best Sports Writing of Pat Jordan.

Here's a snippet of the roundtable:

[Interviewer]: Let me start off with you, Alex. On the surface, you and Pat have nothing in common other than your love of baseball and writing. Now that is not insignificant by any means. But, my goodness, how in the heck did a new school, soon-to-be 37-year-old liberal New York Yankees fan and resident of the Bronx hook up on a book with an old school, 67-year-old conservative former minor league pitcher-turned-baseball author from the paradise known as Ft. Lauderdale?

Alex: First, I try to avoid talking politics, not only with Pat but with just about everyone else, you included. So that cuts through our differences to start. Actually, when I started my blog, I wanted to run long interviews with sports writers. I thought it would be a great way to drum up some attention for the site. I had read both of Pat's memoirs and loved them, so he was on my short list of guys to contact. And when I called him out of the blue, he sounded happy to hear from me and was more than willing to be candid. Now that I know him, he always sounds miserable to hear from me. Where did I go wrong?

Pat: Actually, Alex was thrilled I was still alive when he called. So was I. He said he wanted to interview me for his blog. I said no problem. What the fuck's a blog? I figured what harm could it do. Blogs, Internet. What do I know? I write on a typewriter. Besides, Alex was one of the few people who read any of my books, and seemed to like them...I must admit for the right reasons. It's always nice when people know what you tried to do in your books. Alex is my ideal reader. If he doesn't like something, I have to think three times about it. Most of the times he's right. Sometimes not, but he has a better batting average than anyone on the Yankees right now. As for his politics, I'm waiting for him to grow up and become a Republican. I bought a new gun just for him.

So I emailed Alex afterwards, commenting about his blog, his work, Jordan and to introduce him to my site here.

Alex was kind enough to send the following back, more links to more Pat Jordan:

Pat's three round curse a thon at Pos:

Pat's interview on Playboy's blog:

Thanks to Alex for the links. Also, Alex's Bronx Banter blog has been added to the blogroll to the left.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Kentucky Derby?

Was reminded today that the Kentucky Derby is 10 days away. So what? Other than it reminds me of a time at the track with my father and his horse-crazy friend. And the fact that few things are more compactly fun than betting on horses, particularly betting on the Kentucky Derby.

So here's the story about a night at the track:

Evidently my dad's buddy, Alan, is well-versed in all things equine, from breeding, to tendencies, etc. A real track-rat, or whatever they call it. He knows horses, period. My dad, a numbers wizard, had me meet them in the Meadowlands to watch the horses run one night. It's typically quiet midweek, so as we settled in to watch the races, a strange thing started happening.

Alan starts by calling off the horses and how he sees them finishing. This is not anything new if you've ever been to a track, but he has raised and trained and owned horses, so he's got the skill to do this. It'd be like watching a ballgame with a professional scout, telling/pointing out things you'd never see or notice. My dad is calling off the odds and he starts matching odds with the horses, getting rather exotic with the bets. This is no simple "$5 on the #3 horse to win" sorta thing. This is multiple exactas and trifectas, designed, on the fly, without paper, to create arbitrage situations where, so long as the picks of the horses are right, they cannot lose money. Now, the horses aren't always right but that happens. I'm watching this develop and seeing how they have developed this system over a decade or so and I am speechless. They created as complex a trading system as they have on Wall Street, except it's for horses, not financial instruments.

This goes on, all night, race after race. And they are winning. Big. Expect here's the rub: The never place a bet with the house. They have a 3rd buddy who never goes with them who acts as the house and they settle up at the end of each season, over dinner. The bets are a few bucks each, up to $20 per race, depending on how many and how complex the bets get. If they actually walked to the window and made these bets, they'd have paid for college for all the kids, and then some. But for them, it's not about the money (and this is my dad, mind you. Go figure, right?), but rather the challenge to pick the horse and design the perfect bets. As the years have gone by, they have honed their separate skills into a finely-tuned gambling machine.

My parents moved out West a few years back so this has faded into the ether, but it jumped into my head this afternoon, so there ya go.

More baseball tomorrow/tonite.

Examining Wang

It's very hard difficult to craft a title with Chien-Ming Wang's name in it that's not a double entendre. That said, watching Wang last night, I noticed he's becomming a different pitcher. He struggled a bit but hung on for the victory, but that's not the story. The story is his change in approach and the number of different pitches he's throwing.

How is this manifesting itself in his performance? Let's take a closer look:

Wang, the owner of one of the best sinkerballs in the game currently (best: Brandon Webb), is trying to expand his repetoire, adding a slider and split finger to complement his change-up. As noted during Spring Training:

Wang, who has won 19 games the last two seasons relying on his fabled sinker, is not worried, however, and neither is Girardi. "I'm not looking at the stats," Wang said. "Spring training is the time to tune up. I'm working on pitches."

Ground ball/Fly ball
Well, if you're watching, like me, you've noticed more fly balls hit than ever before. While this has resulted in just 1 HR surrendered so far, there have been many close calls. He had been one of the more difficult pitchers to homer against, surrendering a mere 21 over 2006-07. That's pretty darn impressive.

Over his career, since 2005, Wang has been around the 3:1 ground ball to fly ball (GB:FB) ratio. Last year, he was at 2.68 GB:FB. Thus far this year, his ratio has dipped to 2.00:1. Is this reason for concern? Maybe. Maybe he's evolving as a pitcher. But, I'd expect his HR rate to climb this year if this ratio remains where it is. It's only logical that if he gives up more FB's, more will find their way to the seats.

For all of his stats, go here.

The flip-side to the GB:FB ratio is that his K-rate is at a career high at 5.06 per 9 IP. He was at 4.70 last year and 3.14 in 2006. As a result of the higher K-rate and increasing his ability to make bats miss, he's sporting his lowest BAA (batting avg against) of his career at .248. Hand-in-hand with a higher K-rate is a higher K:BB ratio, currently at 2.00. He's not walking players at any greater rate than in the past, which is a good sign.

I think that Wang's still working on developing his expanded repetoire and will face some lumps along the way. However, as he gains a degree of comfort, he should continue to blossom as the Yanks' ace. He might never be the big K pitcher like Peavy or Santana, but he's got the ability to keep the Yanks in most games and often goes deep into the game. His ability to "eat innings" further saves the bullpen, which is something the Yanks sorely need as the other young guns are suffering thru their own growing pains.

I'll keep a close eye on Wang as the season progresses, looking to see if he bails on his development efforts and resorts back to a sinker-heavy approach or if he continues to develop his secondary pitches.

Stay tuned.

Follow up: Re-examining Wang

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What he said

Nods in agreement with Neyer. (subscription to Insider required, sorry)

Latest high school rage: Tommy John surgery?

In what should not be a terribly big surprise, Tommy John Surgery (TJS), also known as Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) replacement surgeryhas spiked in the last decade or so.

Thanks to Buster Olney for pointing this one out.

I'm a bit slow, I guess, but some things I find confusing:

  1. Generations ago, kids played ball all the time (fewer other distractions)
  2. Generations ago, pro pitchers pitched every fourth day, not every fifth like today
  3. Generations ago, pitchers routinely went the distance in games, or at least approached each start as if they planned on finishing the game.
  4. Generations ago, medicine, training, education about arm health were rudimentary, at best.
  5. Today, fewer kids play baseball (more options)
  6. Today, fewer kids play baseball all the time (again more choices)
  7. Today, kids as young as 8 are on pitch counts (I know this first hand)
  8. Today, pro pitchers take the hill every 5th day, at best.
  9. Today, pitchers rarely go the distance, expecting to last six, maybe seven, innings before handing the ball off to a middle reliever or two, for an inning or so each, before handing the ball off to a closer.
  10. Today, medical knowledges and advancements are saving arms and careers.
  11. Today, we're doing more career-saving elbow surgeries than just 10 years ago despite everything we now know.
How come? How come we are seeing high school aged (and even younger) needing TJS? It can't be simply "over-use", can it? Is it poor coaching, allowing younger and younger arms to try to snap off curves and sliders?

The conventional wisdom, which I am willing to admit might be flat-out wrong, is that use built up arm strength. The Japanese are legendary with regards to this (see also: Dice-K's history). And now, the prevailing wisdom is not to pitch your way to arm strength, but to limit your arm to protect it.

Doesn't this limiting of pitches thrown become a self-fulfilling prophesy at some point? Don't kids grow up now not with the mindset of "finishing what you started" but rather "let me throw as hard as I want for a limited period then someone else can finish"? And can't that lead to injury? This is not a rant on "kids of today", rather it's the teaching of today. Maybe it's kids not doing enough variable distance throwing between starts, or as warm-ups. Throwing from 60, 90, 120 feet to get loose and stretching the arm out. Build strength in the shoulder.

A pitcher needs to learn how to pitch, mix speeds, conserve effort. Check out Greg Maddux, for example. He's never a max-effort guy and he's never hurt. Not that the guys without the radar gun arms don't get hurt; they do. But learning how to pitch takes time and effort and limiting the time and forcing the effort would seem detrimental to a pitcher's physical development, not to mention their mental development. Again, to me, a simple knucklehead, it comes down to training and preparation. Training and throwing in non-game situations are lower stress situations for an arm/body and better suited for building strength for in-game situations. The problem is, I think, that not enough time, effort and focus is spent on training for those in-game situations.

Lest I be misunderstood: I think some kids CAN be overused, particularly the most talented ones. Coaches want to win. Teams want to win. These kids with the prized arms feel the pressure to help their peers. But, I think there's a middle ground that's being avoided.

Dr. James Andrews, one of the nation's most respected orthopedic surgeons, has also seen a spike in the number ofhigh school pitchers he has performed the procedure on.
In a three-year span from 1996-99, Andrews performed Tommy John surgery on 164 pitchers, 19 of whom were high school aged or younger. From 2004-07, that number had jumped to 588 pitchers, 146 of whom were high school or youth league players — a seven-fold increase.

"Without a doubt, it's an issue," said Glenn Fleisig, the Smith and Nephew Chair of Research at the American Sports Medicine Institute, which was founded by Andrews. "The numbers are staggering in adolescents. More and more high-school-aged kids are having the surgery."

"Without a doubt, the No. 1 statistical cause (of UCL injuries) is overuse," Fleisig said. "In our studies, when a pitcher regularly threw with arm fatigue, he was 36 times more likely to be in the surgery group as opposed to the non-surgery group. That's the strongest statistical correlation in any study we've ever done."

High school coaches agree pitchers are throwing too much these days — and it starts before their high school careers. With the warm weather in Houston, the high school season is just one part of an elite pitcher's year. Such pitchers often play with select or travel teams in the summer and sometimes in the fall, leaving little time for rest.
Again, to be clear, I think there is a fine line between overuse (use in game situations) and training (use in non-game situations). I think we can do a better job, as parents and coaches, in training these kids to throw better, properly.

The final paragraph in the article sums it up quite nicely, too:
But parents and coaches at all levels also have to take responsibility.

"Dads thinking (their sons) have to win at all costs at 9, 10, 11 and 12 years old to win those championship games (at tournaments) — all that means nothing in the big picture. They are fun years, but they all mean nothing compared to (the high school) level. It's not worth risking your son's arm to win a tournament at all costs."

Tuesday ramblings

Due to a spike in workload (sorry, folks), here's some random thoughts for a Tuesday:

I'll try to break free later but I have GOTTA get started. Busy day ahead.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I hate Kyle Farnsworth

I hate Kyle Farnsworth. Farnsworthless. There, I said it. I feel better.

If you want to deliver a little payback for ARod getting drilled in the shoulder, fine. Just don't be such a crappy pitcher that you throw it behind Manny's head. Not only do you miss him, you like rekindle a fire that's likely going get Jeter nailed on the wrist with a pitch soon.

Why can't you stick one in his ribs or off his thigh like other well-meaning pitchers do? Why do you suck so much? Why do I hate having you on this team? Such a hothead with the typical million dollar arm and $0.50 head.

A plea to Cashman: Please dump this no-talent ass-clown on anyone, for anything. Pay full freight if you have to. He's going to get someone hurt and if it's one of ours as retaliation for his stupidity, I'm reserving the right to go freakin' bonkers.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Team values and profit: related?

Are MLB team values and their profits positively related? Any correlation between the two? You might think that the Yanks, currently valued at $1.3 billion, would also be the most profitable, given their likewise ranking of #1 in revenue ($327 million). And since the lowly Marlins are only worth $256 million (last), one would think they suffer the greatest operating losses.

Guess again.

Yanks and RedSox ranked #1 and #2, no surprise there, in revenues but also ranked #1 and #2 in terms of least profitable. They also ranked #1 and #3 in team valuation (Mets clocked in at #2). The most profitable? The Nationals, ranked #13 in valuation but a mere #25 in revenues, posted a profit of $43.7 million. Note that the Nationals have been playing in RFK until this year, so expect that revenue ranking to spike. The Marlins, as you'd expect, rank dead last in revenues ($128m) but posted a healthy $35.6 million operating profit, good enough for #2 overall. Given how much they profit, can you now understand why the superpowers are crying for a salary floor or some sort of "rebate".
Five years ago, 16 teams lost money. In 2007 only three teams--Blue Jays ($1.8 million), Red Sox ($19.1 million), Yankees ($47.3 million)--posted an operating loss. But even those losses are misleading. For the owners of the Yankees and Red Sox, the huge dividends they get from their unconsolidated cable networks more than make up for the teams' losses.
I firmly believe that if you are just collecting the fruits of MLB's enforced socialism, you should spend it on improving your organization in some tangible way. Lower prices for the fans if you are not going to invest in the players or development. Some way, other than lining the pockets of ownership. If those lower revenue teams don't spend that money, the teams paying the luxury tax and revenue sharing should get some of that money back.

Here is the table, sorted by Revenues, courtesy of Forbes:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Productivity buster alert

It's a rare article or story that absolutely crushes any momentum or productivity at work. Usually I will print it and get to it later, or bookmark it, or simply forget it. During lunch, I meandered over to Rob Neyer's blog on ESPN and after seeing a nice link to friend Shysterball (on an issue I feel strongly about and noted so in his comments sections; I do wish Neyer would swing by my blog one day), I came across this article, a must read per Rob. UNREAL doesn't do it justice. Rob, many, many thanks for sending us to this one.

This is a put-down-the-pencil, step-away-from-the-spreadsheet read. Or print it out and bring it with you when you hit the, um, library, as the admin in my Dad's old office would tell me where he was when not at his desk or at an appointment. Or the perfect read over a lunch break, as I just found out.

We all know Jose Canseco is a walking, talking caricature, but this doozy by Pat Jordan totally puts it all into perspective, with a tidy little bow.

Here are just a few, since I could simply blockquote the whole thing, it's that good of a read. Warning: contains profanity:

All those needles and vials of performance enhancing drugs around the house which his woman of the moment must learn to differentiate, winstrol from deca-durabolin from HGH, and then draw the proper amount of fluid into each syringe and inject that needle and its fluid into Jose's buttocks. All those variations of his moods from steroid-fueled anger to steroid-withdrawal depression. All those startling changes in his genitalia, his penis swelling with steroid use at the same time his testicles are shrinking from steroid use. All those strange women's messages on Jose's cell phone. All those trips to the gynecologist to cure the STDs Jose brought back with him from one of his road trips. And, finally, most depressing of all, all those perfunctory sex acts with Jose, doggy style in front of a mirror so Jose can watch himself perform, his chest muscles and biceps twitching as he works. Which is why Jose's first two wives, Miss Miami, and Miss Fitness America, divorced him.
When Rob was defending Jose and his twin brother Ozzie a few years ago in a civil suit brought against the two brothers by a man they had beat up in a Miami bar, he told Jose to keep a low profile and not buy anything because Rob planned on pointing out to the court that Jose was broke. A week before the trail began, Jose leased a $300,000 Rolls Royce and bought a $2.6 million house, in addition to the $1.7 million house he already owned in Encino.

After the trial, Jose put his $2.6 million house in South Florida up for sale. He had several offers on it, but decided to take the offer of over $2 million in Mexican telephone stock, which he was prohibited from selling for two years, at which time, the buyer guaranteed him, the stock would be worth $5 million. Two years later, Jose sold the stock for $15,000. Over the last few years, Rob has negotiated prospective deals for Jose worth almost $2 million.

Rob got Taco Bell to ante up $25,000, plus residuals, for Jose to star in a TV commercial in which Jose would hold up a huge burrito and say, "This thing's gotta be on something." Jose demanded $50,000 instead and Taco Bell walked. Rob also got Jose an offer of $100,000 from GoldenPalace.com, which would require Jose simply to wear that company's t-shirt and cap whenever he was on TV. Jose demanded $200,000 and Golden Palace walked. Then, Rob got Jose an offer of $75,000 from a reality TV show that wanted to film Jose in a wheelchair for thirty days. Jose demanded more, and the TV show vanished. Finally, Rob got Jose an offer of $500,000 for a movie based on his life, but Jose demanded $1.5 million and the offer vanished.

Go read it, then come back and tell me what you think.

When fans go too far

I love Paul O'Neill. Loved his game. Loved his passion. Loved his roll over the pile in 1996. Loved how the fans chanted his name as he came off the field after his last game. Loved how he would practice swinging while in right field. Loved how he bashed watercoolers (most of the time, at least).

However, the hue and cry about anyone wearing #21 in pinstripes is overblown. Morgan Ensberg was randomly assigned the number in Spring Training and people howled. Ensberg took a different number once the team moved North.

So new Yank LaTroy Hawkins took #21, as a way to honor his boyhood hero, Roberto Clemente. This was not just being assigned a number and nothing more. Clemente is a legitimate icon within baseball and hero of many for his humanitarian efforts which ultimately lead to his death.

That Hawkins was hearing "numerous vulgar comments from Yankees fans during the Grapefruit League campaign" is so lame and disappointing, I don't even know where to begin.

Hawkins eagerly accepted No. 21 as a tribute to Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente but quickly learned that a pinstriped No. 21 has other meanings for Yankees fans. Unaware he was donning a number that had not been worn since O'Neill retired following the 2001 World Series, Hawkins was booed when introduced on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. Fans chanted "Paul O'Neill" during one of his appearances in the Bronx.
People, fellow Yanks fans...let's get a grip on reality again. Paulie is an all-time favorite for all of us, but he's not The Mick, Joltin' Joe, Cap'n Jetes, Thurman, etc. But it's ONLY A FREAKIN' NUMBER! We need Hawkins to have a good year if we want to go far. Heckling this guy for a number choice, and with good reason behind the choice, is just DUMB. Paulie is not in the Hall of Fame. He might be in OUR Hall of Fame, but c'mon people, let's regain some perspective.

We all want to relive and remember the "good old days" (hence the Yanks being forced to overpay for our own stars) so badly that we're willing to haze the current players? How crazy is that?

So where does this end? With a great punchline, of course. What number will Hawkins don going forward? #22, last worn by.... Roger Clemens. Who, I am guessing, will also not be in the Hall of Fame, by the way.

Fans, I beg you: Cheer the hell outta LaTroy Hawkins next time he takes the hill, no matter how good or bad he performs.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Change happens...fast

I think the leadership of MLB, NFL and NBA should all take note at what the NHL did yesterday when confronted with a situation that demanded an immediate response: They dealt with it immediately. No off-season Rules Committee boondoggles. No seeking consensus amongst the owners. Find it, fix it, now.

Here's the setup: Steve Avery, recognized as one the best/worst (depending on your affiliations) cheap shot artist in the NHL, was waving his stick blade in front of Devils' goalie Martin Brodeur. This was not against the rules, though it clearly violated the spirit of the interference rule.

Here's the evidence:

Here's the result: Within hours of Avery's shenanigans, the NHL amended the rule to specifically include language that makes this sort of stuff a penalty:

"An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play," Colin Campbell, the NHL director of hockey operations, said in a statement.
That is how you operate a league. Act quickly and assertively. Right a wrong before others do it. The NFL should have done something with the new "call a timeout as the ball is snapped before a FG attempt" rage. The NHL has it's own set of issues to deal with, but when you see swift leadership, you have to be at least a little confident that they can help re-emerge as a major sport in the USA.

The (non-)Vegas odds have Avery taking a stick to the ribs, or worse, in the next game.

More on Avery: "The players do not *love* Sean Avery, and voted him to be dirtiest SOB. One player even suggested banning him for life. That's a little extreme, but shows you how annoying the little pucker really is."

Honoring #42

I think it's great that they took a request from Junior Griffey last year and have allowed it to blossom into allowing every player who wants to to wear #42 today as all of MLB pauses to honor Jackie Robinson.

Jeter was interviewed on the subject and two of his responses are here:

MLB.com: The percentage of African-Americans in baseball has been declining in recent years. What do you think are the contributing factors and what can baseball do to generate more African-American players and fans?

: It's unfortunate. In some ways, I think other sports have done a great job marketing their games and I think baseball has taken steps forward in doing that the last couple of years. Then again, I also think that kids nowadays look at football players and basketball players in college, and then the next day you turn on your TV and they're in the NFL or the NBA. In baseball, there's the Minor Leagues and you've got to do all that. I think there's more attention paid to the other sports. Even the [MLB] Draft was only televised for the first time last year, so maybe that will help. But I think kids nowadays look at guys going from high school to the NFL or NBA and it looks like an easier route. Baseball can continue to market. They're doing some great things in the inner cities and RBI and those kinds of things. I think they just have to bring awareness to the sport, that's the biggest thing. They've got to get kids excited about playing baseball.

: What would you say to Jackie if you could speak to him today?

: I probably wouldn't talk too much. I'd probably ask him about how he was able to deal with those things, how he was able to block things out. I think it'd be more off-the-field questions than on-the-field questions. Everybody could learn a lot from him if they listened.

Leave it to Jeter to say it the right way "everybody could learn a lot...if they listened." So true.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Get well Harlan

Hope he's able to make as good a recovery as possible, given his already poor health condition. Get well, Harlan.

Playing along with the schtick

Do I think Randy Levine, Lonn Trost and the Steinbrenner progeny really believe that the buried jersey in the cement would bring about a "Sox pox" (my creation, feel free to send me the residuals)? Of course not. But I thought it was good fun that they played along with it. Calling the press to make it an event was a bit much, but I thought it was fun that they actually went and dug this sucker up.

Randy Levine, the Yankees’ president, and Lonn Trost, the team’s chief operating officer, presided over what Levine called an “excavation ceremony.” The New York Post had reported Friday that a Red Sox-rooting construction worker hoping to curse the Yankees’ new stadium had buried a Red Sox jersey at the site last week.
The Sox/Yanks thing has been built up for generations. The fans genuinely hate each other. As someone who had to spend time in Boston every week for a year, I felt how much they hated the Yanks. It allowed me the perspective to see the passion up close. Up through mid-October 2004, the Yanks fans didn't hate the Sox quite as much as the Sox fans hated the Yanks and the reason was obvious: The Sox never won.

It was like wrestling with your little brother. Your little brother wants to beat you more than you want to beat him. You only need to beat him and that was generally a given. You're bigger, stronger, faster. You had an insurmountable psychological advantage. Except one day, you're on cruise control, or your brother gets bigger, faster, smarter and suddenly, like in that fateful day in October 2004, the roles reverse. Suddenly the little brother has learned the ways, studied and practiced harder than you and next thing you know, the little brother has got you pinned. [My personal moment with my little brother came once I realized that he was bigger than me and maybe it's time to stop wrestling him. I can still take him, in Tiger Woods golf on the Wii, though. Except he's got me by 25 or so pounds so I don't rub it in anymore.]

That brings me back to the Sox/Yanks, the buried jersey, any hexes, etc. Keeping the idea that there are supernatural forces in play just makes this battle that much more fun. So long as no one really takes it that serious, it's all good and fun and I think it's great for the rivalry.

That they are doing this only goes to prove my point:

Levine said the extracted jersey would be cleaned up, put in a display case along with a Yankees Universe T-shirt and sent to Boston. There, the Ortiz jersey and Yankee T-shirt will be auctioned to benefit the Jimmy Fund, the Red Sox’ primary charity, which is affiliated with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
That's awesome. The two fan bases could learn a thing or two from this: It's just a game and no matter how seriously we take it at times, let's have some more fun with it. We can still root like mad but let's maintain perspective now that both heavyweights have won recently.

Good job, guys. Now, go fix Phil Hughes.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Don't Tase Me, Bro!

Unreal. (emphasis mine)

Tampa Police arrested Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Al Reyes early this morning, saying the reliever was drunk and disruptive after falling down, picking a fight and spitting blood at the patrons...
Witnesses told police the incident started around 2:30 a.m. at the Hyde Park Cafe, 1806 W Platt St., when Reyes fell against a ceramic pot inside the bar. Thinking someone had pushed him, police said Reyes began exchanging words with patron Eduardo Mora.

Mora then punched Reyes in the face, getting the attention of the Hyde Park Cafe's bouncers. Meanwhile, police said in a news release, Reyes "began to spit blood on the people in the area and began to swing his arms about."

The bouncers tried to control Reyes, but the 6 foot 1, 230-pound right-hander kept pushing them away. A Tampa Police officer working extra duty at the bar tried to calm the fracas, but Reyes "continued spitting blood and thrashing about," Tampa Police Lt. William Ferguson wrote in the release.

Moments later, the officer Tased Reyes, knocking him to the bar floor. Ignoring police commands to stay down, authorities said Reyes got up and was Tased a second time.

Happy birthday, Al. Way to celebrate.

I can't wait to see the DL report: Reyes, Al (taser burns)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Throwing out the baby with the bathwater

Strangely, I was waiting to see if the IOC was going to do this, and they did: they are stripping the medals from Marion Jones' teammates due to her use of PEDs during the 2000 Olympics. I call this bullcrap. It flat out stinks. There's no way to know if these other three women were PED-free or not, but to strip them of the golds is just cruel.

My way of bringing it to a baseball analogy: Can you imagine if Selig stripped the Yanks (or any other team, for that matter) of their WS title(s) for the teams which had any player that was proven (let's say the Mitchell Report qualifies as "proof") to have taken PEDs? Can you imagine the outcry? The chest beating?

Jones' teammates had previously refused to give up their medals, saying it would be wrong to punish them for her violations. They have hired a U.S. lawyer to defend their case, which could wind up in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
"The decision was based on the fact that they were part of a team, that Marion Jones was disqualified from the Sydney Games due to her own admission that she was doping during those games," IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said. "She was part of a team and she competed with them in the finals."

Now, I readily recognize that one woman (Jones) represented 25% of the winning team and no team sport can have one player account for that much, but I just don't think it's fair to penalize the team. Especially since we have no idea if the silver medal winning team was 100% clean, either. We have to presume they were, of course, but to try to take the golds back is not right. If you, the IOC, want to award golds to the silver medalists, silvers to the bronze, etc., that's fine. Create a few more medals and charge it to the USOC. Better yet, charge it to Jones. Just let the women keep the golds.

You don't even need to test positive anymore

Not sure if many of you caught this, but it surprised me. Not that a highly thought of prospect got nailed with a 50 game suspension for HGH. That's not surprising. What is surprising is that he didn't TEST POSITIVE. He got dinged due to circumstancial evidence only. MLB is calling this a "non-analytical positive", a new term in my book, and quite fascinating.

This is the first player to get nabbed by MLB's new gestapo, the Department of Investigations, a direct recommendation by The Mitchell Report.

Two sources said Wednesday that Jordan, regarded as Atlanta's future center fielder, received the growth hormone from someone close to him but outside the organization, and that a player who had previously violated MLB's anti-doping policy informed baseball officials that Schafer was using the all-but-undetectable drug.
Schafer's suspension was the result of a "non-analytical positive," meaning MLB was able to establish that he obtained or used HGH through other means.
This is a very interesting precedent. Suspicion of PED usage can release the MLB hounds and if they find any semblance of a link to known PED sources, you might be sitting.

Also interesting is that there seems to be an active player working as a mole. The guess here is that if the mole is ever unearthed, he'd be ostracized rather than applauded by the Union. Is it hypocritical to cheer a player, already a violator of the drug policy, for turning in a fellow player and possible PED user?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Deconstructing Hughes

On the heels of a truly lousy outing yesterday (yes, it was damp and cool, but no 'scuses here), the excellent scouting minds at saberscouting.com deconstructed Hughes' mechanics, trying to find the source of decreased velocity. Supposedly it's down a few MPH. Is it due to a change in mechanics or is he compensating as a result of his torn hammy last year? Here's some of their analysis, which is pretty darn good:

In ‘06, Hughes throwing right over that front leg. It was firming up beautifully and his rear leg was lifting straight up. I’ve been trying to think of the best way to describe this, but the only thing that keeps coming into my mind is that it looks like his right shoulder is pulling or leading the rest of his body here in ‘08. In ‘06 it was leg drive making his follow through work. Also take note that his head seems to get turned or snapped at the end of his arm action in ‘08. This was not the case in ‘06. His head in ‘06 was still upright and turned toward the plate. In ‘08, his head is being pulled down by his aggressive front shoulder pulling downward.
His conclusion speaks to his possibly favoring that front leg, the one which he hurt last year, which is what I alluded to earlier:
The change I did touch on however, I do think could be a direct cause of his lessened velocity since over the past year. Is it because of the hamstring injury? I can’t say for sure either way, but considering much of my focus in this article has been on that front leg in question, it is certainly possible.
Let's hope Hughes gains some comfort in that front leg, if indeed it is the issue.

Moment #25

The Post is taking the Top 25 moments at Yankee Stadium, one a week, to count down the last season before the Yanks move across the street into TNYS. The Post is also doing the same for the Mets but, well, you know...

Moment #25: Oct. 10, 1926: Game 7 of the World Series

Grover Cleveland Alexander already had pitched two complete-game victories for the Cardinals in the Series when manager Rogers Hornsby called for him to come in from the bullpen in the seventh inning of this one. The legend is that Alexander was sleeping in the bullpen when Hornsby wanted him, recovering from the celebration of the victory the night before.
[Alexander] wound up walking [Babe Ruth] anyway, bringing up Bob Meusel, a .315 hitter who had doubled and tripled off Alexander the night before. On the first pitch to Meusel, Ruth took off for second base and was caught stealing by catcher Bob O'Farrell to end the game and the World Series. It remains the only time a World Series ended on a stolen base attempt.
{see picture on right, Ruth, before using numbered jerseys}

Unbelievable. I wonder if Ruth was crucified like he'd be today. Then again, if he makes it and ends up winning the game, he only adds to his legend and gives Dave Roberts a run for the "best SB in playoff history".

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Boras, Prices and Rigging the Draft

An interesting article today at SaberScouting.com which discusses how superagent Scott Boras seeks to control his draft-eligible players and their eventual location. Seems that some think Boras wants to set artificially high prices to his players to determine where they will play, namely the richer teams drafting later.

We've seen the issues, loopholes and drawbacks in the draft pay off well for teams like Detroit, who have thumbed their nose at MLB's suggested draft slotting prices. Detroit sent highly regarded (and paid over-slot) Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller, plus others, to the Marlins to get Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. They would not have been able to make this trade if they stuck to MLB's suggested slotting prices. The Yanks and RedSox are also guilty/successful at getting players that otherwise should not have been available to them late in the first round due to these players' contractual demands (aka signability).

The bloom is off the Boras rose this Spring after a Winter of discontent via ARod and other clients bailing. Still, Boras remains the alpha dog of the agent world.

Some industry insiders suggest Boras derives these numbers from blindfolding himself and throwing darts with the names of his top talents on them at a dartboard of numbers $5 million and greater, then uses that number (and other randomly-generated numbers, depending on the situation) to teams to figure out who will pay the most. He then does whatever he has to, to steer his players to that team or teams, including throwing out an even higher number to ensure his player slips, usually to the rich teams later in the draft.

This sounds like a good strategy, if not an incredibly irritating one for everyone involved. The reason Boras doesn’t get every amateur player to go with him is three-fold: 1) he hasn’t gotten the best deal every time lately (the A-Rod press hurt him) 2) he doesn’t talk to the player/family at all between hiring him and signing the contract and 3) similar to #2, he has an enormous ego.

The Tigers were able to nab uber-prospect Rick Porcello late in last year's draft by paying him like he was the #1 pick. So long as there is no mandatory slotting system (Union would NEVER agree to this) and no penalty for ignoring the "guidelines" suggested by MLB, the wealthier teams will continue to make a mockery of the draft. I think this is a great strategy for these teams.

The truth is, any team can do this, but few do. The cost to overpay for talent before it really blossoms is much less than trying to pay for it once it does. Also true is the fact that "can't miss" prospects do miss sometimes. But for teams like Pittsburgh and Kansas City and Florida and Tampa Bay, it might make fiscal sense to spend a bit more early than choose a lesser player to save some money. Given the amount of money these smaller market teams are receiving from Revenue Sharing and Luxury Tax payments, this seems an area to be investing those payments.


EDIT: For those directed here from Shysterball, welcome. Feel free to look around the place and make yourself at home. Craig's been a wonderful help to me as I was starting this blog a few months back. This is a mostly baseball blog with a Yankees bent, but not a blindly homerific view (so I think). As usual, comments, criticisms, praise, mockery are all welcome.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Interesting Rivera tidbit

Over lunch today, I happened upon Buster's blog from yesterday, comparing another pitcher to Mo Rivera. What made me say "really?" was this (emphasis mine):

Rivera was a mediocre starting prospect in the mid-'90s for the Yankees, needed major arm surgery, and after he returned, the Yankees were thinking about trading him to the Detroit Tigers -- until, quite suddenly, Rivera's velocity jumped from the high 80s to the mid-90s, quite literally in the span of a couple of weeks, and little more than a year later, Rivera was serving as an imperturbable set-up man for John Wetteland.
I can't remember the rumor mill from 15 or so years back and certainly that was mostly pre-Internet days (no MLBtraderumors.com yet), but I found that really wild. Imagine the Yanks without Mo. I can't. Talk about one of the best trades never made, eh?

Also interesting in that one little paragraph is how Rivera's velocity jumped "from the high 80s to the mid-90s" in a few weeks. Just sayin'...how cynical have I become that my first thought was to wonder if anything was taken/given to Mo to give him that boost.

Suffice it to say that Mo is probably the main reason why the Yanks had that incredible mid-/late-90's run (along with Jeter; don't get upset Jeter-philes). Imagine if he wasn't human and hadn't blown the save in '97 to get them to the W.S. and the Game 7 save in 2001....coulda been six straight. Oh well, four in five years was still transcendent!

Jake Peavy channels Kenny Rogers

Lest we be reminded about Kenny Rogers "muddy clump" in the playoffs, the guys/readers at Bugs and Cranks bring us this one, featuring Jake Peavy's super start this past weekend:

The video of Peavy's last pitch and a view of his hand as shown in the still to the right is clear.

Monday programming note

Just a quick note that I'm officially in the heart of one of my quarterly busy seasons. End of month + end of quarter makes for a very busy time. As such, the postings will generally be fewer than otherwise. I'll try to keep it up as much as possible.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Canseco cornered in men's room at book signing

Some things you just can't make up. Frankly, it's too funny that it's true. (emphasis mine)

In New York for a signing for his new book "Vindicated," Canseco was ushered into a bathroom for an impromptu meeting with baseball officials.
Canseco contends in his book, "Juiced," that he injected McGwire with steroids in the bathroom stalls of the A's clubhouse.
How "circle of life"-ish.

Of course, it also gives me a chance to run some, um, toilet humor pictures. Because, you know, I'm still juvenille and a chucklehead.

With a bonus, the Urinal Rules:

  1. Never, ever turn your head: Look forward, eyes straight. Ideally there will be a newspaper or TV placed above the urinals to keep eyes from wandering. If somebody taps you on the back, don't fall for it.
  2. Always leave a gap when possible: Never, ever stand next to a man at a urinal if you don't have to.
  3. Don't touch the bathroom wall: Yes, I know, some people like to take one hand and slap it on the bathroom wall while taking a piss. It's not cool, and it's not "urinal acceptable."
  4. Only talk to people you know at a urinal: There is no point in making useless conversation with a random dude at the urinal. Exception: if you're drunk.
  5. If a situation looks too much to handle, it's OK to abort: Pretend you came into the bathroom to wash your hands or blow your nose. Anything, just get out!
  6. Don't use the midget urinal unless rule number 2 applies: There's nothing wrong with the midget urinal, it just implies something.
  7. Angle: Choose the urinal near the wall and angle towards it. You'll thank me for this later.
  8. Use extreme caution when standing next to a man in a pair of urinals: Really, I think the only thing worse than being in the middle of a 3 urinal set is being part of a urinal pair. No explanation needed.

Is it worth a debate: Monument or Plaque?

I guess it's becomming a discussion point in the media, whether Jeter will be celebrated with a plaque or a monument once he hangs 'em up.

Jeter's a first ballot HOF'er, the Captain, owner of at least four Championship Rings, the face of the Organization and among the most well-respected players in a generation or three.

Fact is, he is the one who will carry the torch on behalf of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Thurman Munson and Reggie Jackson. And that brings us back to the question of where Jeter eventually will wind up in the relocated Monument Park.

They will give him an even bigger ovation that day, as the club retires his No. 2 - and rewards him with either a plaque, like the ones Berra, Whitey Ford, Jackson, Phil Rizzuto and others have; or a monument, like Ruth, Gehrig, Miller Huggins, DiMaggio and Mantle have.
Is there any doubt he should be memorialized in both granite and bronze once he retires? I don't think so.

Where do you stand?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Lego Ballparks

For my son Jake, who is a full fledged Legomaniac, courtesy of Home Run Derby:

Grammar, schmammar

I got yer appostrophe right hea-ah

But what seemed to be lost in all the pomp and circumstance during Banks’ presser was somewhat of a glaring typo: the south side of the statue is missing an apostrophe on “let’s,” as you can see in the above photo I snapped last night.

UPDATE: They fixed the grammar goof

Hank to be patient?

Rather than trying to summarize every game every day (I don't have that kinda time and can't imagine there's a need for another summary), I think I'll keep a view of the game from a more macro level.

As such, this jumped out at me from the NY Post (with a big ole hat tip to my boys at NJ.com's "Pride Of The Yankees" blog):

"They have to be brought along a certain way," Steinbrenner said. "The trash is littered with 20-(something) pitchers all throughout baseball history. Their arms fell off. It's something we're not going to allow to happen.

"When it comes to the postseason hopefully they'll really be ready. Joba will be, of course, a starter by then and hopefully he can be our 22-year-old [Josh] Beckett when he was with the Marlins."
You can file this one away for later in the year, if any of those guys are struggling and the Sox have pulled ahead of the Yanks in a big way, or if the Yanks are trailing in the Wild Card. Let's hope that doesn't happen, but put me down for not believing in Hank's suddenly patient nature.

It's amazing what an Opening Day win can do for the psyche.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

ARod To Earn More Than Entire Marlins Team

In what can only happen in baseball, Alex Rodriquez will make more in 2008 than the entire Marlins team.

Boosted by his new deal with the New York Yankees, A-Rod tops the major league baseball salary list at $28 million, according to a study of contract terms by The Associated Press. The 33 players on the Marlins'
opening-day roster and disabled list total $21.8 million.
The Yankees, not surprisingly, topped the payroll list at $209.1 million, and A-Rod was No. 1 in the majors for the eighth straight year. Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi was second at $23.4 million, followed by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter ($21.6 million) and Boston Red Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez ($18.9 million).

Boosted by the acquisition of Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, the Detroit Tigers shot up to second in the major leagues at $138.7 million. The Tigers' payroll at the end of last season was 12th at $98.5 million.

The New York Mets were third at $138.3 million, up from $121 million at the end of 2007, and the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox were fourth at $133.4 million.
Only in America, friends.

More writing for me

As if I don't spend enough pre-/post-work hours with my head in all things baseball, I was selected to do some "behind the scenes" writing for a great site: Fantasybaseball.com. You won't see me on the site, but I'm doing some of the player updates and other stuff early in the AM, late in the PM, whenever possible. I guess I'm not happy unless I am booked to the gills with stuff to do.

If you into this sorta thing, check it out. If not, well, I'll refund your last 30 seconds in your next billing cycle.

Satisfying your inner geek

You're just going to have to read this one yourself if you have any interest in satisfying your inner geek and baseball fetish. Suffice it to say, these math guys are a wacky bunch.

The mathematician, Steve C. Wang, applied a method called Chernoff faces, in which data points in many dimensions are presented in a form that people react to more intuitively: the human face.

While reams of categorical data can be imposing and hard to parse, translating the differences among them into facial characteristics can communicate distinctions with striking clarity. By turning rates of bunting, stealing and pinch-hitting into hair sizes, nose shapes and smile widths, Dr. Wang used a kind of statistical Mr. Potato Head to portray the spectrum of managerial characteristics in a way that intrigued even the skippers themselves.

Written by Alan Schwarz, an excellent author and all-around nice guy.

Making history come alive

The Yanks embrace their history as well as anyone. Seems that some of the other ancient clubs are also reaching back to their glory days. The Sox did it when they won in 2004 and had that incredible ring ceremony with seemingly every player to don a Sox cap. I love that stuff. I love seeing the old guard honored and cheered. I could only imagine what it must feel like for guys, decades past their last home town cheer, to hear that again. Beyond cool.

Then, thanks to a link in Buster Olney's blog, I read about this taking place in LA, not normally the place to eat up nostalgia. Heck, I got the chills and I'm not a Dodger fan. Said Bill Plaschke: "During a surprising pregame ceremony, the field breathed Dodgers history, exhaling the sweetness of old stars, the smoothness of recent heroes, the shout that was Fernando, the whisper that was Sandy."

Some highlights:

He appeared from behind a blue outfield wall, walked carefully across the deep green grass, startled huge cheers from a stunned Dodger Stadium crowd.

Then, halfway to second base, he stopped, and so did our hearts.

Duke Snider had returned to center field.
From left field marched Don Newcombe, the Dodgers' last remaining living link to Jackie Robinson.
From left field walked Maury Wills, the Dodgers' inventor of the stolen base.
Then, finally, it was the closing stretch of royalty, beginning with Fernando Valenzuela stepping from the dugout, one of the only two players who did not wear a uniform, of course not, he would never wear anything old, right?

His cheers rattled the building, echoing into the entrance of another man from the left-field bullpen, Tom Lasorda, and you knew he was wearing a uniform because he never takes it off.

By now, everyone was standing, folks hooting and stomping and struggling to keep their composure.

"And here came Sandy," said Manager Joe Torre.

Indeed, here came the cleanup pitcher, the final memory, Sandy Koufax, the only other player not wearing a uniform, as if anyone cared.

Koufax has been on this field maybe once in the last 25 years, he's so private, yet he came today because the owners asked, and he understood.

Maybe it's just me, but I swear, it looks as if Koufax could still pitch today (of course, if his shoulder would hold up!).

Nice work, McCourts. Keep it up!

An interview to read: Keith Law

Keith Law is a popular baseball writer on ESPN and frankly, if you're here, you know of Keith. KLaw "sat" for an interview with The Big Lead. Keith's a different breed than most, it seems, with far-reaching passions outside baseball, include food and non-fiction books. Quite the intereseting guy. Some things that I found most interesting (from my rooting interests; emphasis mine of course):

Q: We want a few sleepers from you: A team that will reach the postseason that won fewer than 80 games last year, a Cy Young candidate in each league who won fewer than 10 games last year, and a budding star who nobody’s really paying attention to right now, but could be a household name come September.

A: Cy Young candidates from [less than] 10 wins: The Cy is all about win totals, so I’ll take two guys on teams that will provide plenty of run support: Yovani Gallardo (expected back by mid-April) and Philip Hughes. If you let me cheat, though, here are two 12-win guys who’ll contend for the award: Chad Billingsley and Dustin McGowan.

Of course, I protected Hughes and drafted Gallardo in my baseball league, but you don't want to hear about that...even though I am pretty happy with his thoughts.

Now, a bit in my sweetspot:

Q: Let’s say the Yankees miss the playoffs this season What would the fallout be? Chalk it up to a new coach and Hank taking over? Or would there be genuine panic?

A: Cashman’s doing a great job of messaging through the media that this is a new strategy of building from within, and that there might be some small bumps in the road. Messaging is a huge part of the GM’s job, and it’s why I think strong communications skills are critical for a successful GM. Look at Billy Beane - he is the king of messaging among GMs in baseball, perhaps in all of US sport. Cashman has gotten enough of the local and national media on board with his message, and I think many, many Yankee fans are on board as well. Maybe enough of them remember Steve Trout and Ed Whitson and Bob Sykes and, by extension, Doug Drabek and Willie McGee, and are happy to see the Yankees throwing their money around to acquire young talent and not blowing it in dumb trades.
For more from Keith and his non-ESPN blog, check here.

Love this idea

I really love this idea: Derek Jeter will be announced by Bob Sheppard ("The Voice of God") even if Mr. Sheppard is not ready to be at Yankee Stadium in person.

Sheppard, the Yankees' public address announcer since 1951, will not be able to attend the game as he recovers from health issues that have limited his workload. But shortstop Derek Jeter plans to have Sheppard introduce him for his at-bats, the first of which will come in the bottom of the first inning against the Blue Jays' Roy Halladay. Jeter has had Sheppard's introduction recorded on tape.

"It's unfortunate, because one of the first things I looked forward to when I was called up was coming to Yankee Stadium and hearing him say my name," Jeter said on Monday. "I had Bob Sheppard record introducing me. I'll always come to the plate with Bob Sheppard."

Again, get well soon Mr. Sheppard. Great move, Cap'n Jetes.

Related post: