Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sad Tidings

It was a sad day for this baseball fan. First came the passing of George Kell, a Hall of Fame third baseman for the Tigers, Sox, and other teams, and later a long-time broadcaster for the Tigers. He was 86. Kell's playing days ended just before I started paying attention, so I never saw him play, but he was one of the players in my All-Star Baseball set, and a good one.

Later came the news that John Brattain had died, apparently of complications from heart surgery. Brattain was probably my favorite writer over at the Hardball Times. His pieces were funny and intelligent, and I will miss them. He was much too young at 44, and leaves his wife and two teenage daughters.

The odd thing for me is how much Brattain's death stunned me. It's not so much that a writer I admire is gone. I lurk at the Baseball Think Factory board where he was an active participant. I've never felt much of an urge to participate there myself, mostly because the tone is generally much snarkier, and often far meaner, than I am comfortable with. But one of the things about lurking is that you often become as familiar with the active participants as if you were participating yourself. Brattain was a witty voice of reason amongst the lesser snark. Such a shame.

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Monday, March 31, 2008


Wow! Andre Ethier gets the start in left field tomorrow when the Dodgers open against the Jints. Juan Pierre, aka Slappy McPopup, goes to the bench. As recently as a week and a half ago, I didn't think Torre, who said going in that said going in that PVL (proven veteran leadership) would have the inside track, would pick Ethier over Pierre, despite the fact that Ethier is clearly the better all around player. But Ethier had by far the best spring on the team, and Pierre had by far the worst. So, Pierre will make $9M each of the next four years to sit on the bench. At some point there will have to be a trade, because there is too much baggage there.

Still waiting to see if Blake DeWitt makes the team. He's really, really young (21) and has played very few games even at AA, but he's the only guy left standing at third. The organization would probably really like to get him some more seasoning, but unless Ned makes a trade there's really no one else.

Dodgers - Sox, 3/29/08 Wow! That was quite the entertaining game in the LA Colosseum last night. I especially liked the Dodgers' choice to not even bother with a left fielder (since the fence was so close to the shortstop), but to instead play Andruw Jones just behind second base. That decision lead to the extremely rare scoring notation, "CS 2-8," (caught stealing catcher to center fielder) when Jacoby Ellsbury was nailed trying to steal second.

More pictures here.

Wow! Hiroki Kiroda and Clayton Kershaw looked terrific as they took the Sox to school today, taking a combined no-hitter into the eighth. Pierre celebrated his demotion by having his best game of the spring, although he did manage to get picked off first.

Wow! Two ex-Dodger pitchers I couldn't wait to be rid of are the opening day pitchers for their respective teams. This says much more about the teams than the pitchers. Odalis Perez opened the season for the Nats tonight in their new park, and amazingly enough was pretty good. But the stunner is that Mark Hendrickson will start for the Marlins tomorrow against the Mets. And if that wasn't unbelievable enough, Luis Gonzales will be patrolling right field for the Marlins, as well. Gonzo doesn't have the arm to play left anymore, much less right. The management of the Marlins should be ashamed. They're not, of course. They're laughing all the way to the bank.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Daddy, I've Got Cider in My Ear...

Hideki Matsui Hideki Matsui got married yesterday.

This was apparently about a week after he made bets with both Derek "Sky Masterson" Jeter and Bobby "Nathan Detroit" Abreu that he would marry before either of them.

But it seems to me that in focusing on Jeter's and Abreu's sticky earlobes, the media have missed the real story here — Matsui's new bride is apparently a cartoon character.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Breakfast with Vin

There is nothing better than having coffee and Dutch apple pie for breakfast while watching the video feed of yesterday's Dodger game with Vin Scully at the mike. It was Scully's first game of the year, and the Dodgers responded by absolutely pounding the Cardinals, 20-6. This was much better than Friday's game.

The Dodgers went into camp with only a couple of questions about who is going to play where. One of them is who's going to play third. The candidates are Nomar Garciaparra and Andy LaRoche. Nomar is the often injured fading star coming off a terrible season (only 7 HR and an SLG of.371). LaRoche is the often injured number one prospect in the organization, who put up terrific numbers in the minors, but who also didn't especially impress in his brief trial with the big club last season. Most of Dodger fandom, at least in the places I hang out, want LaRoche to get the job because of his youthful potential. Meanwhile, the people whose opinions count the most, Joe Torre and Ned Colletti, seem to have decided in favor of Nomar because of his proven veteran leadership (PVL). On the field, both players were having good springs.

Then for about five minutes on Friday it appeared as if fate had decided to intervene. Nomar was hit on the wrist by a pitch and left the game in obvious pain. LaRoche fans rejoiced as Andy pinch ran for Nomar, figuring that here was his shot to take the job. It was not to be. In the very next inning, the Dodger catcher (Danny Ardoin, who has no shot to make the team) threw wildly to third in an attempt to pick a runner off the base. The ball ricocheted off the runner's helmet and struck LaRoche on the base of his right thumb, tearing his ulnar collateral ligament. Bozhe moi!

LaRoche will have surgery, and will be out for at least two months, probably more. Nomar, fortunately, was only bruised and will be out for only a few days. Supposedly. You never know with Nomar. The Dodgers will now look at Tony Abreu (also oft injured), Ramon Martinez (Noooo!!!), and Delwyn Young at third.

The switch-hitting Young is an interesting possibility. He's a heck of a hitter. He started out as a second baseman, but wasn't much of a fielder, so the organization moved him to the outfield. He came up last September and hit .380. He already figured to stay with the team as the fifth outfielder. This spring they put him back at second, and suddenly he started making all the plays. I don't expect him to emerge as a third baseman just as suddenly, but if he can spell Nomar occasionally until LaRoche gets back, that'd be great. Certainly it's better than the reports that Colletti has been shopping around for Brandon Inge.

The Dodgers play the Sox today at Vero, the last Sunday game ever at the old camp.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Hall of Fame Time

The Hall of Fame balloting results will be announced tomorrow. The voters (members of the Baseball Writers Assn. of a certain seniority) can vote for up to ten players. There are 25 names on the ballot. A player needs to be picked on 75% of the ballots for election, and if he's not on 5% of the ballots, or if he's used up his 15 years of eligibility, he's taken off. Here's the list, and who I'd vote for (in bold) if they gave me a ballot.

First year eligibles:

One of these guys is not like the others.

Brady Anderson - When I went to Florida to watch spring training games in 1989, I carried with me a few baseballs for autographs. For the first couple of days I had absolutely no luck getting any of them signed. Part of it was that there were too many fences between the fans and the ballplayers, and the other was that I thought it too undignified to hang over a railing at a ballpark and beg. I finally got my first at a game in Winter Haven between the Red Sox and the Twins. (The game featured a match up of the previous two AL Cy Young winners, Roger Clemens and Frank Viola, as the starters.) Just before the game started, Mike Boddicker, one of the Sox pitchers, came over to the chain link fence at the end of the stands, where I was standing, so I asked if he'd sign a ball. He did, along with those of a whole pack of kids that suddenly swarmed around me. The only reason Boddicker was there was because the year before the Sox had traded Brady Anderson (and Curt Schilling) to the Orioles for him.

So on that tenuous connection, I'll mention that Brady Anderson (who I also saw play in the minors at Pawtucket) is the owner of one of the all time freak seasons in baseball history. In 1996, he hit fifty (50!) home runs for Baltimore. In no other season in his career did he ever hit as many as twenty-five, and he only broke twenty twice. He had a number of good years, but only one great one. A lot of people will point at '96 and say steroids. For his part, Anderson says it was creatine (which was legal at the time) and one heck of a groove in his swing.

Rod Beck - He died this year, so they put him on the ballot early. Similar, but not quite as good as Robb Nen (see below).

Shawon Dunston - Had a cannon for an arm and was a very good fielder, but never hit much better than average, and usually worse.

Chuck Finley - I ran into a problem here. Finley's overall numbers are somewhat better than those of Jack Morris, a guy I've thought deserved to get into the Hall. I don't think Finley belongs, even though he was better than Morris. There's a perception problem here. Finley was a very good pitcher on a lot of mediocre to bad teams. Morris was a very good pitcher on a lot of very good to mediocre teams. He also pitched a ten-inning shutout to win the 1991 World Series. Finley was very good for a long time, but he wasn't great, so I wouldn't vote for him. Does that World Series victory make Jack Morris great?

Travis Fryman - Sort of poor man's David Wright. He had some very good years before he turned twenty-six, then seemingly ran out of gas. Short career, too.

David Justice - The second best player among the newbies. The Braves won a lot of pennants in the '90s, but they only won one World Series. One of the axioms of baseball is that the team with the best pitching in a short series usually wins, and the Braves almost always had the best pitching. Problem was that their lineups usually had one or two great hitters like Justice, with the rest being guys like Mark Lemke or Jeff Blauser. Doesn't matter how good your pitching is if you can't score runs. Up until a month ago, I figured Justice would probably wind up like Parker or Murphy, getting enough votes to stay on the ballot a long time, but never quite making it to the Hall. He's got some very good numbers, but his career was on the short side. Since then, though, his name turned up in the Mitchell Report, so he may not get many votes. He was once married to Halle Berry.

Chuck Knoblauch - A pretty good second baseman and lead-off hitter early in his career, and then he lost the ability to throw the ball where he wanted it to go. He had a short career, and only a couple of exceptional seasons. Throw in his appearance in the Mitchell Report, and he's not going to get many votes.

Robb Nen - I never thought much of, or even about Nen, so I was kind of surprised by some of his numbers. As a closer he piled up a lot of saves, sure, but that's pretty easy these days. It was his ERAs that struck me. In odd-number years he was okay, a bit better than average, but in even-numbered years he was absolutely brilliant. Not quite Mariano Rivera brilliant, but pretty damn close. Both the pattern and the level at which he pitched in the even years shocked the heck out of me. Of course, it made no significant difference in the number of saves he got each year, which says a lot about that stat. He still not going to the Hall. His career was only ten years long, so he had five brilliant seasons and five average ones, and they weren't even bunched. Very strange.

Tim Raines - The best player on the ballot, and possibly the second best lead-off guy in history, which is one of his problems. His career parallels that of the best lead-off guy in history, Rickey Henderson. Another problem is that he played in obscurity Montreal, and unlike a lot of other Expo stars, he got stuck in Olympic Park for a very long while. When he did finally get out, he wound up with the White Sox, where he tried to convince everyone to call him "Rock." In his later years he was cast as a role player, even though he continued to put up excellent numbers in his limited playing time. And he was one of the players caught up in baseball's cocaine scandal in the early eighties, although he seemed to put that behind him almost as quickly as it came upon him. Despite all the potential negative perceptions, his overall numbers are just too hard to ignore. He deserves a spot. (Rich Lederer makes his case for Raines here.)

Jose Rijo - Terrific pitcher for the Reds in the early nineties, but he got injured in '95, and didn't pitch in the majors again until 2001. His career was just too short.

Todd Stottlemyre - Wasn't even as good a pitcher as his dad, and Mel wasn't good enough for the Hall, either.

There are no real stinkers in the group, and you could put together a decent team starting with these guys, but only Raines really makes the cut. Of the others, I can see Justice and Finley staying on the ballot next year, but probably none of the others.

Nominees remaining from previous years:

Click here for last year's discussion about these guys.


Bert Blyleven - Of the three guys here, Blyleven deserves it most, and gets my vote. He was a terrific pitcher for a very long time.

Tommy John - Borderline candidate. Thinking about it some more, he was a better pitcher than Jack Morris, too, although maybe not as good as Finley. I need to think on this further.

Jack Morris - As noted in the comment about Chuck Finley, I keep waffling on this. I've come around to thinking like those who see Morris as the least of the three pitchers here. On the other hand, if you're talking about a Hall of Fame, he probably has the most singular moments of the three. Of course, he doesn't have a surgical procedure named after him like Tommy John does.


Rich Gossage - It's still a travesty that Gossage still isn't in the Hall. He was great for ten years, and very good for a long time after.

Lee Smith - Smith's main claim was that he had the all-time saves record. Now Trevor Hoffman has that. Still, if Gossage gets in, I would be inclined to consider Smith. He did have some terrific years, and he was good for a long time.


Mark McGwire - He still belongs based on the numbers, and I doubt the writers will keep him out forever.

Alan Trammell - Another guy I waffle on. The problem I have is that while he had a number of brilliant seasons in a long career, he also had a lot of not so brilliant ones. I'd like to see him in the Hall, but I'm not sure I could vote for him.

Dave Concepcion - I have similar feelings as with Trammell. I read an article on how much Concepcion's fielding helped the Reds over the years. Turns out it was a lot. He didn't hit all that much, though. This is his last year of eligibility.

Don Mattingly - I'll have a personal fantasy fulfilled this spring when Donnie Baseball finally puts on a Dodger uniform. Sadly, it's twenty years too late. It's a shame Mattingly will never make the Hall as a player. For about five years there he was the very best in the land.


Andre Dawson,Jim Rice, Dave Parker, Harold Baines, and Dale Murphy - A case can be made for all five of these guys. Dawson gets beat on some for his very low OBP, but some recent work showing how good some of his fielding stats are, especially when he was still with the Expos, may counteract some of that. I'm surprised at how much of a beating Rice is taking in sabermetric circles. Joe Posnanski, who I usually agree with, has just been pounding Rice lately. I dunno, maybe it's because it was back in the days when the only game on TV around here was the Sox, and I saw Rice day in and out. I mean, I don't even like the Sox, amd I disliked Rice, but I still see him as as the best American League hitter of the late seventies.

I've gone into the others in the past. Parker gets knocked for wasting his prodigious talent, Baines for being a DH, and Murphy for having too short a prime. All three were very good and occasionally great players. They may still get in.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Say It Ain't So...

Paulie Lo Duca, Mr. Heart and Soul himself, is front and center among those named in the Mitchell Report. Sigh.

Read the entire report, all 409 double spaced pages. It is both depressing and unsatisfying. Depressing on how widespread the corruption was/is, and unsatisfying on how little of it Mitchell actually documents. The corruption includes both the malefaction of players and trainers and the apparently deliberate incompetence by the teams and MLB in response to it. It appears that Mitchell has only documented the tip of the iceberg here. Current players, with the exception of Jason Giambi, uniformly refused to speak to Mitchell. Most of the information comes from the three anthills that federal investigators have kicked over so far, BALCO, Signature Compounding Pharmacy, and Kirk Radomski. Thus you see some of the trees, but not necessarily the entire forest.

The reports starts with a summary of the health effects of steroids and related compounds, as well as human growth hormone. One of the interesting things here is that players appear to be turning to HGH since there is currently no valid test for it, but that it doesn't actually work very well in terms of building muscle mass. It does appear to promote tissue repair when recovering from injury, although that is not currently a legal reason for its prescription.

The next section documents baseball's development of its drug policy, going back to 1970. Much of that development involved clashes with the Players Association over exactly what disciplinary actions the Commissioner could impose on players caught using drugs. It is noted that the MLBPA opposed drug testing for many years. On the other hand, it also notes that MLB didn't push particularly hard for drug testing, either.

There is a long summary of the development of awareness of the problem by the league, starting with allegations about Jose Canseco and Lenny Dykstra around 1991. This section is notable for how incredibly dense MLB management appears in the face of mounting evidence of steroid use. (I can remember discussing it with a bodybuilder friend of mine around '91, and he was of the opinion that it was obvious that some players were juicing.) Upper management appear to have been in total denial for years in the face of mounting evidence. It was only when a reporter noticed the bottle of androstenedione in Mark McGwire's locker during his chase of Roger Maris's home run record that MLB seemed to start looking seriously at steroids. The irony here is that at the time andro was completely legal, both to purchase without a prescription and for use by baseball players. Even so, when a prominent physician tried to warn baseball of the dangers of the supplement, he clains to have been threatened with legal action by MLB's medical director. Canseco is the focus for a lot of this, and it's interesting to see Tony LaRussa keep changing his story on what he knew about Canseco's use of steroids, and when he knew it.

Then it's on to the meat of the matter. First the report details a number of specific incidents over the years where individual players were discovered to be either in the possession of steroids, or failed drug tests. A number of these went apparently went unreported to MLB as not being a big deal. Several teams are mentioned, including the Indians, Rangers, and Red Sox, and there is one cluster involving several Baltimore Orioles, most notably Rafael Palmeiro and Miguel Tejada.

The BALCO investigation comes next, and since it has already had books written about it, that cluster of names mostly from the Bay Area teams were already well known (Barry Bonds, the Giambi brothers, Gary Sheffield, and some lesser lights). The thing that surprised me here is how deep into a dark place the upper levels of management of the Giants stuck their heads to avoid angering their golden goose (Bonds). The buck about what to do about Bonds and his personal trainer kept getting passed from head trainer to GM to owner and back again, but no one ever seemed to have the gumption to stop it.

The largest section details the results of the Kirk Radomski investigation. Radomski worked in the Mets clubhouse, and sold steroids and HGH to an impressive list of players. The meat here is that Radomski kept copies of checks, notes, and shipment receipts for many of the players, resulting some very good circumstantial evidence. There are several clusters of players here, the result of the way players move around. It starts with the Mets, but there are few Met players named. I saw one online speculation that perhaps there were so few Mets on the list because of their proximity to Radomski. Drugs and cash were both hand-delivered, so there was no paper trail to back up any accusations Radomski may have have. The most prominent ex-Met named is catcher Todd Hundley. Hundley was labeled a can't miss prospect by the Mets, but his first few seasons were very disappointing. Then around 1995 he suddenly blossomed into one heck of a hitter, hitting 41 homers in 1996, setting the single season record for record for catchers. It turns out this was when he started buying steroids from Radomski. Two years later, injured and not getting along with manager Bobby Valentine, he was shipped to the Dodgers. As someone over at Dodger Thoughts remarked, there he became patient zero for a cluster of Dodger players, most notably Paul Lo Duca and Eric Gagné. (The Dodgers got Hundley because a moronic suit from Fox decided to trade Mike Piazza not long before. Don't get me started.)

The Dodger story is very strange. Hundley apparently hooked Lo Duca up with Radomski. There is testimony in the report from the man who was the strength and conditioning coach at the Dodgers' AAA team at the time (May 1999) stating that he provided steroids to Lo Duca and several other Dodger prospects, all of whom were hoping to improve their chances of being called up to the big team. (I remember watching Lo Duca play in spring training games in '99, and not being very impressed. I was very surprised when he became a star a couple of years later.) Lo Duca did become a star, one of the two main faces of the franchise, the so-called heart and soul of the team. Thus his trade to the Marlins in the middle of the 2004 season was met with a great deal of consternation among a lot of Dodger fans. The main reason given for the was to shore up the starting pitching (which it ultimately did), but it was also curious because the trade left the Dodgers with no reliable catcher right in the middle of a pennant race. The report may shed some light on that. One of the documents obtained by Mitchell is a set of notes from a Dodger organizational meeting in October 2003 where the future of a number of players was discussed, including Lo Duca:

Steroids aren’t being used anymore on him. Big part of this. Might have some value to trade . . . Florida might have interest. . . . Got off the steroids . . . Took away a lot of hard line drives. . . . Can get comparable value back would consider trading. . . . If you do trade him, will get back on the stuff and try to show you he can have a good year. That’s year of contract, playing for '05.

It turned out to be prophetic. Paulie sent another check to Radomski not long after the trade.

Lo Duca is a guy who a lot of fans really like because he plays with fire and spirit. The media like him because he's always available to chat with, even in tough circumstances. But he is also not the brightest bulb on the tree. He played for the Mets the past couple of years, and he got himself in trouble a couple of times for refusing to back down in arguments with umpires, leading to suspensions. He also got caught by the tabloids cheating on his wife with a nineteen year-old. The most interesting pieces of paper in the Radomski paper trail are from Lo Duca. In addition to checks, and the thank you note shown in the picture, there's a hand written note to Radomski:

Sorry! But for some reason they sent the check back to me. I haven’t been able to call you back because my phone is TOAST! I have a new # it is [Lo Duca’s phone number is listed here]. Please leave your # again because I lost all of my phonebook with the other phone.


The reports also includes a quote made by Lo Duca in a 2002 Sports Illustrated article on steroids:

"If you’re battling for a job, and the guy you’re battling with is using steroids, then maybe you say, ‘Hey, to compete, I need to use steroids because he’s using them . . . Don’t get me wrong. I don’t condone it. But it’s a very tough situation. It’s really all about survival for some guys."

The notes from the 10/2003 meeting seem to indicate that the Dodgers were trying to avoid players with steroid histories, with one notable exception—Eric Gagné. Gagné, of course, was the other main face of the franchise, the man called "Game Over." He apparently got involved with Radomski through Lo Duca. He is mentioned in the 10/2003 notes as a possible user, but he was also in the midst of his 84 straight save streak at the time, so it was unlikely in the extreme that the team would do anything about it. Don't ask, don't tell. The most curious thing about Gagné in the report one of the Red Sox scouts sent to Theo Epstein last winter in response to Theo's questioning whether Gagné was on steroids.

Some digging on Gagne and steroids IS the issue. Has had a checkered medical past throughout career including minor leagues. Lacks the poise and commitment to stay healthy, maintain body and re invent self. What made him a tenacious closer was the max effort plus stuff . . . Mentality without the plus weapons and without steroid help probably creates a large risk in bounce back durability and ability to throw average while allowing the changeup to play as it once did . . . Personally, durability (or lack of) will follow Gagne . . .

I can't argue with a single thing in that statement. Gagné is a big dumb lug who has repeatedly either hidden injuries or tried to come back from them too soon, doing even more damage to himself in the process. The amazing thing is that the Sox eventually went ahead and traded for him anyway.

The Radomski cluster of players getting most of the attention are the Yankees, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, et al. Clemens now makes a nice bookend with Bonds, two thoroughly dislikeable, though superlatively talented individuals who deserve every bad thing. The funniest thing in all this is that Clemens is apparently not fond of needles, which means he had to get someone to inject the stuff for him. There are a few other clusters, too, and it's interesting to follow the connections between them—Mets to Dodgers, Athletics and Rangers to Baltimore, and so on.

There's a little bit on the Signature Pharmacy case, where a number of players were found to be purchasing HGH from a pharmacy in Florida. All had prescriptions, but unfortunately for the players, many of the prescriptions were written by a Florida dentist. This is what got Carlos Guillen and Jay Gibbons 15 game suspensions for next season.

The rest of the report talks about testing for steroids, and concludes that the current program is inadequate. Mitchell cites seven points required for an adequate system:

1. independence of the program administrator;
2. transparency and accountability;
3. effective, year-round, unannounced testing;
4. adherence to best practices as they develop;
5. due process for athletes;
6. adequate funding; and
7. a robust education program;

none of which appear to be met at this time. The biggest problems appear to be items 2 and 3. There is neither transparency nor accountability. From the report:

In August 2006, I requested summaries of aggregate, de-identified data relating to the administration of Major League Baseball’s joint program. For the years 2003 through 2005, the majority of the records necessary to compile this data already had been destroyed. Even for the then-ongoing 2006 season, we were advised that the records necessary to respond to certain requests had not been retained.

That's just unacceptable if you want the public to have any confidence in the system. As far as "unannounced testing" goes, it is too easily manipulated under the current system. The report cites instances of players receiving notice they are to be tested 24-72 hours prior to the event. There is also an especially egregious example of the Players Association gaming the system in 2004. It involved an unlikely to be repeated set of circumstances, but it still looks really bad.

I was surprised. I didn't expect it to be as interesting as it was. There is quite a lot of stuff I didn't know, even among the stuff previously available. For the most part, I think Mitchell did a good job, particularly regarding his recommendations for testing. I would've liked to see a little more candor on the part of the players themselves, but I supposed that's too much to ask. Again and again one sees the line, "In order to provide [player name] with information about these allegations and to give him an opportunity to respond, I asked him to meet with me; he declined." The few ex-players that did speak with Mitchell added much to the report. Chris Donnells, another ex-Met and Dodger, in particular provided a detailed recounting of his involvement with both steroids and HGH. That was perhaps the best look at what it's like for the player involved, both from the standpoint of what he was doing, and also why.

I did say the report was unsatisfying, and that's because one knows that there have got to be other clusters and networks of players out there that have yet to be uncovered. The way players move around makes it unlikely that this is all there is.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Winter Meetings...

I haven't talked any baseball in awhile, but the Winter meetings are this week, so it seems like a good time to bring up a few things. It hasn't been terribly busy off-season so far, but a few deals have been made. The most fun place to keep up with the latest player deals has been over at The Griddle, where Bob Timmermann has been summarizing each deal in rebus form. They aren't especially easy rebuses, either.

The Dodgers haven't done much apart from hiring a new manager, some guy named Torre. I was stunned at how fast Grady Little fell out of favor with the organization, especially since it appears that Torre was hired before Little resigned. Awkward, much? Not to mention the fact that they'd also talked to Joe Girardi before Girardi took the Yankees job. It does appear that the separation was mostly mutual, but it's still a shame. I was pretty happy with Little up until the team fell apart in September. From various reports I've read, it seems like he just lost interest once things went south. The Dodgers had exactly two managers for the first thirty-six years I followed them, and six in the following ten.

I think Torre will help. He won't let the clubhouse get away from him, the way Little seemed to. It'll be interesting to see how he handles roster very different from what he's had for the last few years.

The hiring of Joe Torre, along with several of his coaches from the Yankees, at long last fulfills an old fantasy of mine. Come the spring, Don Mattingly will be a Dodger. It's a shame it's twenty years too late.

There's an interesting article over at the Hardball Times today on offensive consistency for whole teams in 2007. It comes as absolutely no surprise to anyone who watched them that the Dodgers get a special note for being the weirdest offensive team in 2007.

Baseball Analysts has an article on the upcoming Rule 5 draft. The Rule 5 draft allows teams to draft players from other teams' minor league systems. The players available are those with a certain number of years of service in the minors who are not currently on a team's 40-man roster. Players drafted have to be placed on the drafting team's major league roster (25-man roster) for the entire season, or else returned to the original team.

The only reason I bring it up is because one of the players available is Jamie D'Antona, who was one of the three Cape Cod League players profiled a few years ago in The Last Best League. At the time he seemed like a can't miss prospect, but while he's had some success in the minors, he hasn't exactly set the world on fire, either. It'll be interesting to see if he goes to another team.

I'm trying to decide whether to spend a week watching spring training games in March. This will be the Dodgers final spring in Vero Beach. They're moving next year to facility they'll share with the White Sox in Arizona. (Don't get me started.) I can't really schedule anything until the spring schedule comes out. It's complicated because MLB is sending them to frelling China for a couple of exhibitions in February. (Don't get me started.) I'll likely drive down. Gas will be expensive, but still probably be cheaper than the combined cost of a plane ticket and a rental car. Plus I can throw my bike in the back of the truck.

I haven't been to Dodgertown since 1999. Part of the thing holding me back is that I worry that things have changed since I was last down there, and I'll be terribly disappointed. When I visited in 1989, it was by far the most fan friendly of the complexes I saw. The players and coaches were just so damn accessible. Most newer facilities put chain link fences between the team and the fans. Vero was designed for a more innocent time. In 1989, to get from the clubhouse to Holman Stadium, the players had to walk through and with the fans. There were also lots of ex-Dodgers in camp as instructors who had lots of free time to chat with fans. I got to talk with Reggie Smith, and Burt Hooton, and John Roseboro. Even got to meet Sandy Koufax, the guy in the icon up there. When I was there in '99, things were more restricted. A new clubhouse had been built next to the ballpark, so the players were less available. There seemed to be fewer of the ex-players, too. Maybe it was because by then Fox owned the team, instead of the O'Malleys. Maybe it's just the times. Whatever. The worry is that things will be even more closed, and I'll only be able to watch the workouts with a pair of binoculars. Sigh.

Speaking of the O'Malleys, Walter O'Malley, the most hated man in Brooklyn, was elected to the executives wing of the Hall of Fame today. Dick Williams finally made it in as a manager, and deservedly so.

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Wait Till Next Year...

Watched the final game of a very disappointing season. Vin Scully, always seeking the silver lining, mentioned something at the top of the game that surprised me. In the fifty years since the Dodgers left Brooklyn, they've had 38 winning seasons. The only team with more in that time is the Yankees with 40. Not particularly comforting after a season that held such promise not all that long ago, and in a final game when they played like they couldn't wait to get on the bus. The Dodgers were absolutely shellacked today, but still finished a game over .500. Juan Pierre? Still sucks, and looked particularly hapless out in the field today. Next year!

That choking sound you may have heard was the Mets' season ending. The Mets had a seven game lead in the division with fourteen games to go, and didn't make the playoffs. I've followed the Mets since their first season, but this season I'm really enjoying the schadenfreude. I've spent most of the season listening to the noontime hosts on WFAN basically dismiss the rest of the National League, and the NL West in particular, as not being at the same level as the Amazin's. Yeah. Right. Have fun on the golf course, guys.

Jimmy Rollins took a lot of heat for his spring training comments that he thought the Phillies were going to win the division. The New York fans and media took his comments as a personal affront, and roasted him for it. Rollins backed it up, though, hitting .296/.344/.531 on the year. Meanwhile, the man the NY media proclaimed as the best shortstop in the division, if not the league, turned into the East Coast version of Slappy McPopup down the stretch, hitting a pathetic .205/.279/.333 in September.

Dear Bud Black,

What in god's name were you thinking about? The Padres need to win one game to win the NL wild card, and you have Jake Peavy, the best pitcher in the league, available to pitch it. Instead, you decided to trot out Bret Tomko. Bret Tomko? Is it any wonder that the Brewers cleaned your clock today? Of course you will have Peavy on the mound tomorrow for your play-in game with the Rox, but you could've avoided the whole thing. Weird things can happen in a single game. Ever hear of Bucky Dent?

Best regards...

Meanwhile, Colorado went ahead in the bottom of the eighth today, and held on to force the play-in. The game will be at Coors, and Josh Fogg will oppose Peavy. It's an odd choice, and it surprised the heck out of Vin Scully, who put it as delicately as he could, "Josh Fogg, who is, uh, an ordinary pitcher..., but he's going to pitch the big game."

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Friday, September 28, 2007

A Day at the Ballpark...

Just Play Ball — by Joe Garagiola

Marcie: Babe Ruth had a cap. Willie Mays had a cap. Ted Williams had a cap. Maury Wills had a cap. Willie McCovey had a cap. Mickey Mantle had cap.
Peppermint Patty: Marcie will you shut up!
Marcie: Even Joe Garagiola had a cap.

When I was in grad school, we once held a department golf tournament and called it the Lite Beer West Kingston Klassic, in honor of a recently graduated friend's inexplicable love for crappy beer. First prize was a six-pack of Lite beer. Second prize was two six-packs. In a similar vein, I won this book in a contest over at the Griddle. The winner could choose between this book or tickets to a Dodger game at Dodger Stadium. Second place would get the other prize. I came in third, yet the book was still available. It's even autographed. Poor Joe.

Garagiola generally deprecates his own skills, but the truth is that he wasn't all that bad a ballplayer. His OPS was about average for catchers in his era. He didn't hit for much power, but he had excellent plate discipline. His career on base percentage is a hundred points higher than his career batting average. That's terrific. He didn't strike out much, either. His career was short, just nine seasons. I'm kind of surprised it wasn't longer. He was only 28 during his final season, when he hit .280/.397/.415 as a backup catcher for the Cubs and the eventual world champion Giants.

He likens the book to a conversation at the ball park, just a fan in the stands telling stories to anyone who'll listen, and he's right. It's a collection of anecdotes, occasionally interspersed with some commentary about the state of the game, roughly grouped together by subject into chapters. Some of the stories are his own, and some are retellings of stories he's heard over the years. They're a mixed bag. A few are hilarious (to me anyway), such as the one about a call former umpire Bill Haller once made on a close play at second base. The second baseman argued, then asked Haller, "Would he have been out if I'd tagged him?" To which Haller replied "I really think you would've had a better chance."

Some brought back memories. At one point Garagiola mentions that ballplayers used to be able to sort of roll up their fielding gloves and stick them in the back pockets of their uniforms, and it brought back a memory of me doing the exact same thing when I got my first little league uniform. Those back pockets were pretty roomy. Of course, all that weight made your pants droop. Quite the fashion look.

One problem the book had for me is that if you've listened to Garagiola broadcast as many games as I have, a lot of the stories sound vaguely familiar. Maybe you don't recognize the details, but you can almost hear him telling the story to Kubek or Scully. Plus, a lot of the stories from his playing days feature players I'd never heard of, partly because his career ended when before I turned two years old, and also because he played on some really bad teams along side a lot of never-weres. It sort of like listening to stories about somebody else's friends and relatives whom you've never met. It's hard to keep your interest piqued.

That said, the book is worthwhile for the stories Garagiola tells about the two men who appear to have been his biggest baseball heroes. The first is Branch Rickey, or Mr. Rickey, as Joe (and a lot of other people who knew him) always calls him. He devotes a good number of pages to things that Rickey said, all of which Garagiola wrote down for later use. The quotes give the impression that Mr. Rickey was a bit like Kasper Gutman in The Maltese Falcon, calmly rational but a tad long-winded. Rickey's reputation as a forward thinker is well known. He integrated baseball, and created the farm system for developing players. Mr. Rickey was also almost fifty years ahead of his time on evaluating hitters, as this quote from 1954 indicates:
"If the baseball world is to accept this new system of analyzing the game—and eventually it will—it must first give up preconceived ideas. Two measureable factors—on-base percentage and power— gauge the overall offensive worth of an individual."

That, in a very wordy nutshell, is the definition of OPS. Joe also mentions Rickey's definition of an "anesthetic player," a player who gives you some good games, but not enough to help you win a pennant. "He's killing you, but you don't feel it." I have half a mind to send a copy of the chapter to Ned Colletti.

The other hero Garagiola spends some time on is the kid who grew up directly across the street from him, Yogi Berra. There's a remarkable photograph in the book. It's a picture of Joe's father at a construction job site, having lunch with Yogi's dad. I mean what are the odds that the kids of two random guys with their lunch pails sitting next to a pile of bricks would both end up in the Hall of Fame. It's a great story, as are most of his other reminiscences about the kid they used to call "Lawdy."

Overall I enjoyed it. It may drag in spots, but there's enough good stuff here to make up for it. I can think of a lot of worse ways to spend time than listening to Joe Garagiola talk about baseball. And if nothing else, I learned an important life lesson, not that I'm ever likely to need it—never shake hands with Moises Alou.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Loneliest Team in Town...

I haven't been writing much about baseball lately. It's not for lack of stuff to write about, but rather that I just keep putting off writing about it, and then it's too late. It's not for lack of interest. Despite the fact that they are unlikely to make the playoffs, the Dodgers have been exciting because of all the young talent they've brought up. And for whatever reason, MLB is still giving me the archived game video for free, so I get to watch all the weekend games in full. Can't beat it.

But I couldn't pass up a chance to post a link to this picture of the, er, crowd at yesterday's Nats-Marlins game in Florida. I mean, even the Expos drew more than that. For that matter, I think I've even played before bigger crowds at softball games. (Thanks to the Griddle for the original link.)

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Weekend Routine...

My brain, perversely recognizing that it's the weekend, woke me up at 5 this morning. Making the best of things, I did my usual Saturday morning routine. Made coffee and watched last night's Dodger game over the internet. I'm not sure why, but for the last couple of months MLB has been letting me watch (not just listen to) all of its archived games. Weird, because I've only paid for Gameday Audio. For live games, the site restricts me to what I paid for, but once a game is archived, the system doesn't even require me to log in like it used to. That's perfect for an east coast boy who can't stay awake for the 10:40 EDT start time for the live feed anyway. As long as I don't spoil myself, it might as well be live. And I get Vin Scully for the whole game instead of just the first three innings. Can't beat that.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Meme — Random Softball Remembrances

Snagged from Snurri, a meme with a theme as I wait for the Braves-Dodgers game to start...

When I hit the ball, I always used to carry the bat with me a step or two up the line as I headed for first. Most batters seem to just drop the bat behind them at the end of the swing, leaving the bat somewhere in the vicinity of the batters box. My bats were always somewhere up the first base line. It was a totally unconscious action, and I never figured out where it came from. It certainly wasn't something I set out to do deliberately, since holding onto the bat while running tends to slow you down. Worse, I wasn't just bringing my left hand (with the bat in it) back around in front of me and releasing the bat, but I would actually transfer the bat to my right hand and then toss it sideways.

The best hitting day I ever had was the time I went 10-10 in a doubleheader, with 2 homers, a triple, and 2 doubles, nearly a double cycle.

One of the best fielding plays I ever made was also one of the dumbest. It was a tight game, there was a runner on third, and I was pitching. Things were desperate. I was usually the shortstop on that team. We were up a run in the last inning, and there was one out. I don't know what possessed me, but when I made the next pitch I charged the plate like a soccer goalie trying to cut down the angle. And it worked! Instead of hitting me in the face with a line drive, the batter hit a one hopper right at me. I looked the runner back to third, and threw the batter out. The next batter popped up and we won. And ever since I've wondered what the hell I was thinking about.

I did learn one thing about pitching. Based upon my empirical observations, a slow-pitch knuckleball will travel farther than any other pitch one might throw. Might just as well give the batter a tee.

When I started playing first base, I had a devil of a time with scooping throws in the dirt. Given the quality of my teammates' throwing arms, there were a lot of them, so it was a real problem. I was spending a lot of time with my back to the field, chasing the ball down behind first base. The only saving grace was that at least I didn't have to try to catch my own numerous errant throws. This went on for most of a season. Then one night our shortstop threw one in the dirt, and I picked it. A couple of plays he did it again, and I picked it again. By the end of the game I'd managed to pick every single bad throw. The shortshop demanded to know what the hell happened, i.e., how the hell I'd gotten good, and I couldn't explain it. It happens too fast to really be a conscious action. It was as if the muscles and reflexes just finally got in sync and learned how the ball would react when it hit the ground. Also, once the body learned how to do it, I rarely missed one ever again. Very weird and neat at the same time.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

It's a Long Season...

Series Recap—Dodgers vs New York (NL)

6/11: Dodgers 5, Mets 3
6/12: Dodgers 4, Mets 1
6/13: Dodgers 9, Mets 1

After everything seemed to go wrong in the last two series, the Dodgers seemed to be humming along on all cylinders for this one. The pitching was terrific, the fielding crisp, and the hitting timely and powerful. It's also true that the Mets are better than demonstrated, but it's very satisfying to beat the tar out of them after all the denigration of the NL West I heard on WFAN leading up to the series.

With Abreu, Kemp, and Loney up with the team, there's a lot to get excited about. Now if the Dodgers can just avoid being swept by the Angels again, everything will be jake.

Betemit, Kemp, and Kuo went back to back to back, hitting homers on three consecutive pitches in game 2. Kuo even flipped his bay after his shot, which was no cheapie. It was also the first time a Taiwanese player has hit a home run in the major leagues.

Betemit finally seems to have gotten untracked, with two dingers in the series. That's good to see. Home runs are good! Loney hit his first of the season last night, as well.

Eddie Murray was fired as hitting coach today, with Bill Mueller taking over the job for the time being. I don't know what to think about that. When Murray got fired by Cleveland prior to coming to the Dodgers, one reason put forward was that Murray isn't very proactive about helping players, preferring to let them come to him for advice. That may work with veterans, but not so much with kids, as Cleveland had and the Dodgers have now. The Dodgers approach hasn't been great this year, with too many batters not working counts. Not necessarily Murray's fault, since he was also batting coach last year when the Dodgers walked a lot, but troubling just the same, especially if Murray wasn't advising guys like Ethier to be a little more patient. (Although, I don't think Pierre or Nomar would listen even if he did.)

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Skidding Along...

Series Recap—Dodgers vs Toronto

6/8: Dodgers 4, Blue Jays 3 (10 innings)
6/9: Blue Jays 1, Dodgers 0
6/10: Blue Jays 11, Dodgers 5

Another ugly series, but there were bright spots, even if they are the kinds of things that pay off long term rather than immediately.

Bad: Jason Schmidt pitching batting practice to the Jays yesterday. All the hope off of his first start coming back from the DL has evaporated. How bad was it? Roy Halladay, who'd had exactly one hit in his entire career prior to the game, went 2-4.

Good: James Loney was recalled from Vegas yesterday, and started in place of Nomar. Drove in a run in his first at bat, too.

Bad: Still not hitting well as a team. Derek Lowe threw a complete game four-hitter Saturday, giving up a single run to the Jays, and lost because none of the Dodgers hit. Friday was a near thing, too, with Saito blowing his first save of the year.

Good: Lowe has been an absolute rock for this team of late, despite getting no run support. Three complete games, already more than LA had in either 2005 or 2006. Penny's been great, too.

Bad: Brady Clark, we hardly knew ye. I'm kind of surprised it was Clark, and not Anderson, who was let go to make way for Loney. OTOH, it leaves Kemp as the only right-handed hitter in the outfield, more or less indicating that he's here to stay.

Good: Grady has apparently had it with Pierre, dropping him to eighth in the lineup. He pinch hit for him with Ethier late in Saturday's game, and double switched him out in the fifth with Kemp yesterday. Still, what do you do with him? His contract makes him tough to trade and tough to sit.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Bother, Swept Again...

Series Recap—Dodgers at San Diego

6/5: Padres 1, Dodgers 0
6/6: Padres 5, Dodgers 2
6/7: Padres 6, Dodgers 5

Kent and Nomar are taking most of the blame for last night's meltdown in the ninth, but Broxton has looked terrible in three of his last six outings. Grady held out Pierre last night, but he's back in the lineup tonight. The best news to come out of this is that Matt Kemp has been recalled. (All of a sudden Ramon Martinez's back hurts, so he's on the DL.) The bad thing is that Kemp is going to take time from Ethier, not from Pierre.

The Dodgers, with the 20th pick, had a shot to draft a player out of my old high school yesterday, Rick Porcello, a kid projected to be the second best pitcher in the draft, but passed. Porcello is a Boras client, and may opt to go to UNC, so there are big signability issues. The Tigers wound up picking him at 27.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly...

Series Recap—Dodgers at Pittsburgh

6/1: Dodgers 5, Pirates 4

6/2: Pirates 3, Dodgers 1

6/3: Dodgers 5, Pirates 4

6/4: Dodgers 6, Pirates 5

The Good - Three out of four to pull a half game away from the Pads and Snakes.
DeLo taking a no-hitter into the seventh. Russell Martin hitting not one, but two game-winning homers. Jason Schmidt coming off the DL tonight.

The Bad - I listened to Sunday's game on delay, and as things got dicey late, I opened up Gameday just to see how things turned out, and was stunned to see that Beimel had gotten the save in relief of Saito. OMGWTFBEIMEL?!? Pulled up the ninth inning recap, and saw that Beimel had relieved Saito due to injury. OMGWTFSAMMY'SHURT?!? There wasn't any detail about what happened, so I just kept plugging along with Monday and Reuss on the radio archive. When it happened, there was actually some relief. It wasn't his arm. Saito was trying to walk it off, and it seemed as though he was removed as a precaution. The later news also wasn't horrible. Strained hamstring, day to day.

The Other Bad - Kuo's luck. Lowe losing it so quickly once the no-hitter was gone. Penny giving up his first and second homers of the season.

The Ugly - The Pirates' baserunning, especially in the 6th inning of Game 2. After Nady put the Bucs up by two with a solo shot to lead off the inning. LaRoche then doubled. Paulino also doubled, but LaRoche only got as far as third. Wilson hit a grounder to short. LaRoche got caught in a run down between third and home. Snell was up next, and Tracy put on a squeeze play, but Snell missed the bunt, and Paulino was dead. Snell then struck out to end the inning.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Rumble at Wrigley...

The Cubs' Michael Barrett and Carlos Zambrano got into a shoving match in the dugout yesterday when catcher Barrett apparently pointed out to his pitcher that he was getting shelled. Zambrano took exception. The, er, discussion was broken up, and Pinella sent Zambrano to the showers. Barrett followed, and the next thing ya know Barrett had to go to the hospital for stitches in his lip. Pinella, who has been seething this year at the play of his team, let all his players have it in the post game interview. Remember, this is a man who was present when Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin got into it in the Yankees dugout in '78, and was a long term member of the Bronx Zoo. But that was a much better team than what Lou has in Chicago.

Zambrano, who was terrific last year, is in his walk year and stinking it up. Barrett, who punched out A.J. Pierzynski last year (fulfilling the dreams of practically everyone in North America, including Pierzynski's mother), has also been awful. He made about three mental mistakes in one inning against the Dodgers the other night. The whole team, which was expected to do well, has stunk. I'm not sure what they can do, either. It certainly looks like Barrett will be gone sooner rather than later, and if they can get a reasonable deal for Zambrano, he may go, too.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Regression to the Mean...

Series Recap—Dodgers at Washington

5/29: Dodgers 10, Nationals 0
5/30: Dodgers 5, Nationals 0
5/31: Nationals 11, Dodgers 4

Penny and Lowe both pitched terrific games yet again, but then Hendrickson failed to deliver yet again. Juan Pierre had a triple followed by two doubles in the opener. The only thing that held him back was that Penny kept winding up on the base immediately ahead of him. The bullpen has taken a couple of hits. Brazoban got hurt in the finale, and was placed on the DL. Eric Hull (who) was brought up from Vegas to replace him. Meanwhile Broxton got clobbered again. He's given up 9 earned runs this season, 6 in two of the last three games. Here's hoping it's just a bad week

Hendy, Hendy, Hendy... Here I'd started to believe in you, if only a little. Your numbers in your first six appearances were so good...

But now...


Five games later and you're right back to your less than mediocre career levels. I am so disappointed. It wouldn't be quite so bad, but 7 home runs in the last five games. Have you stopped seeing that psychologist? If so, you might want to dig out his number. Back to the pen. Fortunately, it looks like Schmidt will be ready to come off the DL sooner rather than later.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Trials of Sweet Lou...

Series Recap—Dodgers vs Chicago (NL)

5/25: Dodgers 9, Cubs 8
5/26: Cubs 4, Dodgers 2
5/27: Dodgers 2, Cubs 1 (11 innings)

All I can say is that I'm glad I'm not a Cubs fan. This must've been torture watching these games. In the first game, DeLo pitched great, left with four run lead, and then watched Beimel, Brazoban, and Broxton absolutely implode, giving up seven in in the seventh. But then the Cubs much less vaunted bullpen decided to follow suit in the eighth, and the Dodgers scored four, with no runner ever advancing more than one base. Station to station all the way. It was like the conga line in the old Bugs Bunny cartoon. Meanwhile Seanez steadied the ship, and Saito finished out for the save.

Hendrickson gave up two quick homers in his start, and a couple more runs later, while Carlos Zambrano demonstrated why he's a number one starter. The Dodgers did get a couple of runs towards the end, but too little, too late. I need to look at Hendrickson's numbers again. He was looking so good there for awhile, that while it was hard to expect it to last, it's equally hard to believe it might have all been luck. He's still not as bad as he was last year

The rubber game saw Wolf and Rich Hill dueling for six scoreless innings apiece (game scores of 69 and 67, respectively), then turning it over to the pen (Ruh, roh, Lou). The Cubs took a lead in the eighth on three consecutive singles off Seanez. Ethier got a PH homer off of Eyre in the bottom. There's a nice deconstruction of the inning focusing on Little's moves versus Pinella's here. The game went into the 11th, when the Dodgers won the game without an official at bat. Ramon Martinez, down 0-2, worked a walk. Betemit walked, too. Sweet Lou made a pitching change. Then Lucille basically got picked off second, but while Michael Barrett was throwing to second, Martinez lit out for third instead, and made it. The Cubs then walked Furcal intentionally to get to Juan Pierre, hoping for the weak groundball to the infield. It was all for naught, though, because Carlos Marmol then hit Pierre on the knee with a pitch. Martinez scores, ballgame over. Rob McMillin had this terrific commentary on the game over at 6-4-2.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Baseball in Connecticut

Trenton Thunder 1, Connecticut Defenders 0 (11 innings)

First of all, what moron thought Connecticut Defenders would be a better name than Norwich Navigators, which is what the franchise used to be called? I suppose it could be worse, that they could've called them the Foxwoods Firebirds or Mohegan Lasts or something. Their logo is a frelling submarine. I was very much surprised that they sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" instead of "God Bless America" during the 7th inning stretch.

I've been meaning to take in a game at Dodd Stadium for years, going back to the days when the Navigators were a Yankees farm club. God only knows how the current club wound up in the Giants system. Anyway, I finally remembered this notion whist at work yesterday, so I went up on their website to see about buying a ticket. They have a very good system, one I like better than either the PawSox or the Mets. It not only lets you select a general location in the ballpark, but also shows you all the available seats at that price level, so you can decide between being in the fifth row of Section 3 versus the first row of Section 2. Much better than letting some machine decide what it thinks is the "best available seat." Anyway, I took an aisle seat, second row, section 2, just behind first base. Good seats, eh buddy?

Theoretically, Dodd is a little under an hour's drive from my house, so when I left my house at 5:40, I figured I'd be okay. What I didn't expect was getting stuck in a traffic backup at the park that compared favorably with a Shea Stadium playoff game. The problem is that Dodd is located in the most remote part of an enormous, wooded industrial park. There's only one way in, a winding single-lane road that effectively dead ends at the stadium, and the traffic just backs up for a couple of miles. There were only a few thousand people there (the box states 4815, but I don't believe that many actually showed), but the way in is just torturous. If I go again, I'm going to go way early.

The stadium is still fairly new, and is a pleasant place to watch a game. The front row is at ground level, unlike McCoy Stadium, so fans are very close to the action. It's also designed to encourage wandering about the park to view the game from different angles, none of which are far from the action. It really is a nice place to watch a game. The jam made me miss the first inning, so I didn't bother keeping up a score sheet. I grabbed a beer and a couple of hot dogs, and headed for my seat. It was then I discovered the one problem with selecting a seat. No system will take into account who you'll be sitting next to. In my case, I discovered I'd picked a seat smack in the middle of a Pawcatuck Middle Schools' student outing. Oy!

It turned out to be a pretty boring game. I suppose it was actually a pretty good pitchers duel, although I wonder if the pitchers were that good or the hitters that bad. But I had absolutely no rooting interest, the free scorecard only listed Defenders players, and even then not very accurately, so I had very little information about who was playing, and little investment in the game. CT only pitched relievers, so the "starter" was pulled in the fourth despite the fact that he was throwing a no-hitter at the time. Trenton's starter was almost equally effective, but only went five. I left after seven, mostly because I was worried about the potential traffic jam after the game. The game eventually ended with Trenton winning 1-0 in the eleventh.

There were a few items of interest. Trenton's CF got picked off at first, resulting in a rhubarb and his ejection. Trenton's second pitcher, Paul Thorp, has the biggest beer belly I've ever seen on a minor leaguer. Connecticut's Justin Hedrick, the eventual losing pitcher, looks scarily like Matthew Fox, even down to the five o'clock shadow. Red Sox legend Bob Stanley is Connecticut's pitching coach. CT's hitting coach is Gary Daveport, who according to the program resides in Nettuno, Italy. Trenton's logo has Marvel's version of the mighty Thor wielding thunderbolts.

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