Smoltz and CBP to Seek Counseling Together

As I’ve chronicled here and here, the Braves are far and away the best… at whining. They tend to do it a lot when two stars align: the Braves are playing in Philadelphia, and John Smoltz starts one of those games.

They did indeed align, and as expected, Smoltz whined after the game about the Phillies’ home ballpark.

Last night, the Phillies beat the Braves 6-4 and moved into a tie for first place with the ever-so-slightly collapsing New York Mets, simultaneously eliminating the Braves from playoff contention.

The Phillies needed to make no outs in putting up a four-spot in the first inning off of Johnny Boy.

NL MVP candidate Jimmy Rollins swung at Smoltz’s first pitch of the game and singled up the middle.

Speedster Shane Victorino, making his first start in a week, followed with a bunt down the third base line. Smoltz, rushing, threw errantly to first baseman Mark Teixeira and the ball rolled around in foul territory in right field. Rollins came around to score, and Shane Victorino landed at third base.

Chase Utley then hit a routine grounder to Teixeira, but he booted it, allowing Victorino (who was not going on contact) to score, and Utley to reach first base safely. And, as all the highlights have shown, Ryan Howard torched a Smoltz “didn’t really slide” slider for a line drive two-run home run down the right field line.

Smoltz, ironically, did not whine about this homerun (perhaps because the pitch was a mistake), but just in case he does whine about it, let’s get the facts out of the way. Howard’s home run would have gone out of Turner Field, too.

Admittedly, my method for proving this is rather rough (hey, Hit Tracker hasn’t put it up yet), but if MLB Gameday is in any way accurate, then it should at least drive the point home.

Howard CBP HR

In the above screenshot, we see where Howard’s home run landed in last night’s game at Citizens Bank Park. I will lay this on a screenshot of Turner Field.

Turner Field

I superimposed Turner Field on Citizens Bank Park, aligning them at home plate, and, indeed, Howard’s HR would have gone out in Atlanta, too:

Burrell TF HR

Smoltz didn’t whine about Howard’s hit, though. He whined about Burrell’s third-inning two-run (eventually game-winning) home run. From the Braves website:

Burrell’s ball isn’t a home run. But that’s just what this park can do for you. You get the ball in the air and you can get lucky. Obviously, they feast off it.

I’ll use the same rough experiment.

Burrell at Citizens Bank Park…

Burrell CBP HR

Burrell if he hit it at Turner Field…

Burrell TF HR

[Start Imaginary one-sided conversation with Mr. Smoltz]

Still a homer, John. Your claims are unfounded.

It couldn’t have been that you left a slider up in the zone (you can watch the home run here, under Thursday, September 27). And it couldn’t have been that Burrell put a good swing on the ball.

Six runs (five earned) in four innings. It’s got to be the ballpark.

You, Teixeira, and Kelly Johnson played superb defense throughout the game, right?

And if the ballpark is such a beacon for home runs, then your bullpen most definitely would not benefit from it right? It’s not like your bullpen pitched 5 scoreless innings of relief last night, allowing only two hits and two walks.

[End Imaginary one-sided conversation with Mr. Smoltz]

As the Braves find themselves watching the playoffs from home for the second year in a row, after 14 consecutive seasons of watching them first-hand, they might need to learn how to cope.

Phillies fans are always available to tell you how to deal with it.

The Most Exciting Three Days of the Season

Here are the match-ups for the Mets and Phillies as they begin the final regular season series with the Marlins and Nationals, respectively:

Friday, September 28

WAS (Redding, 123 ERA+) @ PHI (Hamels, 129 ERA+)

FLA (Kim, 79 ERA+) @ NYM (Perez, 128 ERA+)

Saturday, September 29

WAS (Chico, 92 ERA+) @ PHI (Eaton, 72 ERA+)

FLA (Seddon, 62 ERA+) @ NYM (Maine, 105 ERA+)

Sunday, September 30

WAS (Bergmann, 101 ERA+) @ PHI (Moyer, 89 ERA+)

FLA (Willis, 82 ERA+) @ NYM (Glavine, 103 ERA+)

The pitching match-ups certainly favor the Mets, but you never know.

In the Event of a Tie

Per the Phillies website, here’s how the tie-breakers will go down, if they occur:

  • If there’s a five-way tie — yes, it’s possible — with the Mets, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Padres and Rockies, New York and Philadelphia kick off the party with a one-game playoff on Monday at Citizens Bank Park to determine the NL East winner.
  • Meanwhile, the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Padres then grapple for the NL West. Colorado, by virtue of the best head-to-head record among those three, could choose whether to play two games at home or one game on the road.
  • Once the divisions are settled, the remaining trio must determine the NL Wild Card, starting another three-team playoff on Wednesday and Thursday. Colorado, if involved, would again have the best head-to-head record, and choose between two home games or one road game.
  • If it’s an NL West club, the Wild Card winner would start the playoffs in either New York or Philadelphia. If it’s an NL East team, the NL West winner hosts.

Gillick Done After 2008

Phillies GM Pat Gillick has impeccable timing. With a week left in the regular season, and with his team in a position to earn a playoff berth, he dropped the bombshell that he won’t be returning to the Phillies after the 2008 season, when his contract expires.

Pat Gillick

Even though he succeeded Ed Wade as GM of the Phillies, Gillick hasn’t enjoyed any popularity while in Philadelphia, and it’s justified. The blunders that have occurred under Gillick’s watch have done more to set the Phillies back than to set them ahead.

He let Brett Myers make his next start following his domestic abuse episode in Boston. He traded Bobby Abreu for rags. He gave Adam Eaton $24.51 million over three years and a mutual 2010 option worth $9 million. He signed Rod Barajas when he already had a catching duo of Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste. He failed to upgrade the bullpen — an obvious problem as early as the beginning of last offseason — and Charlie Manuel has had to work with relievers found off the scrap heap (Jose Mesa, Antonio Alfonseca, among others) and rookies (Mike Zagurski, Francisco Rosario, among others).

Gillick’s offseason moves have been awful, but his mid-season moves have been a Band-Aid of sorts (Jamie Moyer, Rick White, Tadahito Iguchi, Kyle Lohse), so he hasn’t been all bad, technically speaking.

After dealing Abreu, Cory Lidle, Rheal Cormier, and David Bell in July of 2006, Gillick expressed no confidence in his team:

It will be a stretch to say we’ll be there in ’07. We’ll have to plug in some young pitchers and anytime you do that you’ll have some inconsistency. It’s going to take another year.

It makes no sense for Gillick to tell us all that 2008 will be his last season as a general manager. It makes even less sense to say that while his team is fighting for a playoff spot. With a week left, why not keep your mouth shut until the Phillies are eliminated from playoff contention, or from the playoffs (should they make it)?

Manager Charlie Manuel and shortstop Jimmy Rollins have already taken veiled shots at Gillick for his failure to give the team an adequate bullpen. Phillies fans don’t like him.

Just quit now. Based on Gillick’s quotes, it’s obvious being a GM of a Major League Baseball team isn’t his top priority, and if it has been that way for Gillick since he joined the Phillies, it’s evident. Don’t keep the team in limbo and give a reason for everyone to second-guess.

In hoping for Gillick’s ouster, we have to think about a successor. Speaking realistically, that successor will likely come from within the Phillies organization — namely Ruben Amaro, Jr. (who was candidate #2 for the Houston Astros GM job given to Wade) and Mike Arbuckle, both assistant GM’s.

Amaro presents a glass half-full or glass half-empty scenario. Is he a bad candidate because he worked under Wade and Gillick, learned from their antiquated notions, and is doomed to repeat them? Or is he a good candidate because he worked under Wade and Gillick, learned from their antiquated notions, and will not repeat them?

In an interview with Rob Neyer, Arbuckle gave one reason why he might be a good candidate:

Neyer: Do you have much use for the sabermetric approach that seems to be inching its way into baseball these days? Have the Phillies ever employed, or considered employing, somebody as essentially a statistical analyst?

Arbuckle: No, we haven’t. I do think there’s some value in that approach, but mostly at the professional level. At the amateur level, the competition level varies so much that you can outsmart yourself.

At the professional level, it adds something to the equation, but if you start saying that element is going to outweigh the experience of the scouts — most of the time, multiple scouts have seen the player you’re talking about — then you can get in trouble. I do think it’s a good supplementary tool, if you’re going to make a deal, that may clarify some gray areas.

While Arbuckle hasn’t hopped on the Sabermetric bandwagon as much as I personally wish he would have, he is at least open-minded to the “new school” method of player evaluation.

In an ideal world, however, the next Phillies GM will come from outside the organization, one who is not clouded by the notion that veterans are inherently better than their younger counterparts, or that you can slug your way into the playoffs without a solid pitching foundation, or that offseason acquisition mistakes can be patched up with July and August waiver pick-ups.

The most important aspect of the next Phillies GM is that he is not a yes-man for the Phillies front office, whose main concern is with the profit margins, rather than a .590 winning percentage over .540. The next Phillies GM cannot trade away valuable cogs because they are open about their displeasure with the management, as was the case with Scott Rolen and Curt Schilling, both of whom were traded for next to nothing.

Rolen turned down a 7-year, $90 million contract from the Phillies because he didn’t like the direction in which the franchise was heading.

Ed Wade referred to Schilling as “a horse every fifth day and a horse’s ass the other four.”

When we’re dealing with a city that hasn’t tasted a championship since 1983, dealing with key players that way is unacceptable.

So, here’s hoping that A) Gillick is fired/resigns after this season; and, B) The Phillies organization replaces him with someone quite capable of delivering.

While I’m daydreaming… is Mark Cuban interested in buying the Phillies?

UPDATE: Shortly after I posted this, I read the following via ESPN:

Phillies general manager Pat Gillick says he may or may not leave the team when his contract runs out next season.

[...]

“I think the reporter kind of got a little over zealous,” [Gillick -- ESPN attributed this quote to Manuel, but I think they made a typo] said on XM Radio’s “Baseball this Morning” program. “We were talking about Charlie Manuel’s contract because it’s running out at the end of the season, and he asked about my contract, and I told him it ends at the end of next year and I’ll probably retire or do something else … it wasn’t any big deal. They’re trying to make a big deal more than it is. It’s basically my contract is running out and I don’t know right now. There is a possibility it could go past next year…”

Reading Material

I’ve been a bit busy lately and haven’t been able to write, but I’ll make up for it by directing you to some of the choice writing out there on the Internets.


The Phillies are off today, but the Mets and Padres are not.

Washington Nationals @ New York Mets, 7:10 EST

  • Starting for WAS: Matt Chico (91 ERA+)
  • Starting for NYM: Mike Pelfrey (81 ERA+)

San Diego Padres @ San Francisco Giants, 10:15 EST

  • Starting for SD: Chris Young (147 ERA+)
  • Starting for SF: Barry Zito (97 ERA+)

Hope for some losses tonight!

The 2007 MLB Awards Bonanza

It’s just about time for the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) to turn in their ballots for the yearly Major League Baseball awards. And it is also the time for us bloggers to opine on how staggeringly dumb some of these writers are by casting our own votes on the awards.

At this awards show, no one will be censored like Sally Field.

Sally Field

Some notes about how I determine the winners…

I make heavy use of Sabermetrics, and light to no use of “traditional” statistics like wins and losses, saves, batting average, and the like.

In addition, I intentionally do not take into account the player’s team and whether or not they have been in contention. It is my belief that a player’s contributions on a failing team are worth just as much, if not more than another player’s contributions on a winning team. This is a debate that always pops up around this time of year, so feel free to try to change my mind on it.

The statistics I do use can be found on websites like Baseball Prospectus, The Hardball Times, and Baseball Reference, among others. I will provide links to both the explanation of the statistic and to the page(s) I pulled the information from. I am using the statistics that are currently up on those websites as of September 20 at 10 AM EST, so it’s highly likely that the values will differ from the ones I will list.

Without any further ado, let’s dole out the trophies.

American League Most Valuable Player: Alex Rodriguez

Even using “traditional” statistics, this award is likely the easiest for which to decide the winner. “Pay-Rod” is fourth in the American League in on-base percentage (.416), first in slugging percentage (.646), first in OPS (1.062), first in runs scored (134), first in total bases (354), first in home runs (52), first in runs batted in (142), and eighth in walks (86).

Add to that his 89.0 VORP that leads the Majors, .427 PMLVr that ranks second, .337 EqA that ranks first in the American League, and 149 runs created that also ranks first.

Congratulations, Mr. Rodriguez, you have easily earned the AL MVP award in a year in which most expected you to fail, and still some expect you to fail when the Yankees reach the post-season.

National League Most Valuable Player: Hanley Ramirez

To non-Sabermetric-using baseball fans, my choice of Ramirez is suspect. He does not lead the league in any “traditional” statistical categories. He ranks 12th in the National League in on-base percentage (.390), sixth in slugging percentage (.568), and eighth in OPS (.958). However, he does rank second in the NL in runs (116) and hits (197), third in total bases (336) and stolen bases (50), and fourth in doubles (43) and extra-base hits (77).

Others have cited Prince Fielder, Matt Holliday, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins as the deserving winner of the NL MVP award. Let’s take a look at some Sabermetrics.

He’s second in the Majors in VORP (89.0) behind Alex Rodriguez, his RAP ranks first in the National League (50.2), and his PMLVr ranks second in Major League Baseball (.427) — higher than Alex Rodriguez (the leader is his teammate, Jorge Posada).

It’s true that Ramirez’s defense needs improvement. He ranks last among qualified shortstops in the National League with a .776 RZR.

However, his offensive contributions, especially compared to his shortstop brethren, outweigh his below-average defense.

And, as I mentioned, the fact that the Marlins are last in the National League East division (65-87, 19.5 GB) is not something I consider.

American League Cy Young Award: C.C. Sabathia

Josh Beckett seems to be the favorite for this award, and I don’t know why. Sure, he leads the Major Leagues in wins, but that statistic tells you next to nothing. He’s got the fourth-best WHIP (1.129), sixth-best ERA (3.20) and the eighth-best strikeouts total (180) in the American League in 188.7 innings. Let’s have a look at Sabathia.

Sabathia has the sixth-best WHIP (1.145), seventh-best ERA (3.21), and the fourth-best strikeouts total (198) in the American League in 227 innings (tops in the league) — nearly more than 38 innings more than Beckett.

On the Sabermetric side of things, Sabathia is second in the Majors in VORP (63.4), behind only Jake Peavy. He has put up these great numbers while pitching in the most innings and despite an unluckily-high .317 BABIP.

In addition, Sabathia leads the American League with 128 PRC, and only trails Beckett by five-hundredths of a point in FIP (.323).

National League Cy Young Award: Jake Peavy

This award, like the AL MVP, is an easy one. Peavy leads the National League in quite a few “traditional” statistical categories, including ERA (2.39), WHIP (1.044), and strikeouts (225). He becomes even more impressive with the use of Sabermetrics. He also ranks sixth in innings pitched (203).

His 72.1 VORP not only leads Major League pitchers by far, but would rank fifth in the Majors if we include hitters. He leads the National League in PRC (138) and FIP by far (2.62).

If you’re overweight, it’s good to use fitness equipment and do some exercise. Lots of people use levitra drugs for fitness purposes and go to pharmacies to buy cialis. These drugs and others like viagra increase or decrease your hormonal activity and cause serious disruptions throughout your body.

American League Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Guthrie

This one was tough to pick, as there wasn’t any really great candidates in the American League. Dustin Pedroia was my #2 pick, but I declined him because he’s simply a singles and doubles hitter with average defense.

Jeremy Guthrie has had a good year for a decrepit Baltimore Orioles team. He doesn’t have Cy Young statistics at all (3.65 ERA, 1.204 WHIP, but he does have a higher VORP than any other American League rookie (37.9) with the exception of Brian Bannister. Guthrie leads Bannister in PRC 79-72.

After Erik Bedard (a Cy Young candidate), Guthrie is the Orioles’ #2 pitcher and he looks to be a promising find for the team.

National League Rookie of the Year: Ryan Braun

Another easy pick. He, by far, leads Major League rookies in VORP (50.6) and, if not for Prince Fielder, is the Milwaukee Brewers’ MVP. He has put up in 405 at-bats what 95% of Major Leaguers can’t do in 600 at-bats. 31 home runs, 85 runs batted in, a .370 on-base percentage, a .637 slugging percentage, and a 1.007 OPS.

Let’s say Braun has the 548 at-bats A-Rod has (Braun played in his first MLB game on May 25, missing about the first two months). His home runs and runs batted in above translate to 42 and 115, respectively.

His .319 EqA ranks eighth in the National League, and his 28.0 RAP ranks fourth behind some excellent third basemen: David Wright, Chipper Jones, and Miguel Cabrera.

Braun’s defense is lacking — just a .565 RZR, easily last in the National League among qualified third basemen– but not even that makes the award’s recipient a tough call.

American League Manager of the Year: Joe Torre

His team has the fourth-best record in the American League, and Eric Wedge is deserving, too, but with what Torre has had to deal with following his team’s dismal first two months (22-29, 13.5 GB in fourth place in the AL East), he has done a remarkable job since (66-35, .653).

The starting pitching was falling apart. Mike Mussina might be done after this season. Roger Clemens wasn’t what they expected him to be. Kei Igawa bombed. Their best pitching prospect, Philip Hughes, got injured in the midst of a perfect game. None of their young pitchers did a good job filling in. They have used 28 different starting pitchers this season.

And there was the offense. Robinson Cano, Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, and Melky Cabrera all weren’t hitting for a while. Damon didn’t appear to be able to play center field effectively anymore, so Torre switched him to left field and moved Cabrera to center. Giambi was injured from the end of May until the beginning of August, so they’ve had to plug in Doug Mientkiewicz and Andy Phillips at first base. Nobody on the bench has really contributed much.

Yet the Yankees have the Major League-best offense, and their pitching is still middle-of-the-pack.

After the media was calling for George Steinbrenner to give him the boot in favor of Joe Girardi, Torre has earned the AL Manager of the Year award.

National League Manager of the Year: Charlie Manuel

Like Torre, Charlie Manuel has had a ton of injuries, a bad pitching staff, and media scrutiny to deal with all season long.

In this article, I listed the 15 Phillies to be put on the disabled list at the time. Since then, Cole Hamels missed time with a strained left elbow, and Antonio Alfonseca was described by Manuel as “out of gas.”

Manuel has had to make do with a horrible bullpen that GM Pat Gillick failed to improve during the off-season. In fact, the bullpen was so lousy that Manuel moved then-starter Brett Myers to the set-up role for Tom Gordon (Myers became the closer when Gordon was injured).

Myers’ statistics as a closer: 45.2 IP, 1.226 WHIP, 2.96 ERA, 56 K, 16 BB, 17 saves in 20 opportunities.

In addition, despite the injuries to 2005 Rookie of the Year and 2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard, 2007 MVP candidate Chase Utley, speedster Shane Victorino, and a horrid first-half for Pat Burrell, the Phillies have, by far, the National League’s best offense. First in runs, triples, walks, hit batsmen, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Second in at-bats, hits, doubles, home runs, and stolen bases.

When the Phillies lost to the Mets on April 17, Charlie Manuel blew up at “journalist” Howard Eskin during the post-game press conference, the team dropped to a 3-9 record, quickly 5.5 games behind the Mets for fourth place in the NL East. Now, the Phillies are 12-games above .500 — an 18-game swing — and are battling for playoff berths in either the NL East or in the Wild Card, as they are 2.5 GB the Mets and Padres, respectively.

Honorable mention to Bud Black, but this award isn’t even close — Manuel in a landslide. The Phillies should look to re-sign him at least for another season to finish out Gillick’s tenure (that is, if Gillick does come back for the 2008 season).

American League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award: J.J. Putz
His line: 66 IP, 0.667 WHIP, 72 K, 12 BB, 1.36 ERA

Add to that a 315 ERA+, a 34.5 VORP (behind only Rafael Betancourt and Matt Guerrier among relievers), and his 95.9 LOB%best among qualified relievers — as well.

National League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award: Carlos Marmol

His line: 64.2 IP, 1.098 WHIP, 89 K, 33 BB, 1.25 ERA

Add to that a 364 ERA+, a 33.2 VORP (best among NL relievers), and his 91.3 LOB% — behind only Takashi Saito among NL relievers — as well.

American League Gold Glove Awards

Format: Name, (RZR, OOZ) except for catchers (FPct, Assists) and pitchers (regular ZR, and RF)

C: Kenji Johjima (.998, 52)
1B: Kevin Youkilis (.835, 21)
2B: Aaron Hill (.876, 53)
3B: Brandon Inge (.711, 62)
SS: Tony Pena (.846, 68)
OF: Curtis Granderson (.921, 83)
OF: Coco Crisp (.910, 56)
OF: Torii Hunter (.897, 44)
P: Roy Halladay (1.000, 2.19)

National League Gold Glove Awards

C: Russell Martin (.989, 84)
1B: Albert Pujols (.846, 49)
2B: Chase Utley (.876, 47)
3B: David Wright (.699, 78)
SS: Troy Tulowitzki (.858, 82)
OF: Andruw Jones (.924, 78)
OF: Eric Byrnes (.918, 46)
OF: Carlos Beltran (.910, 62)
P: Roy Oswalt (1.000, 2.37)

American League Silver Slugger Awards

Format: Name (PMLVr)

C: Jorge Posada (.464)
1B: Carlos Pena (.263)
2B: Placido Polanco (.223)
3B: Alex Rodriguez (.427)
SS: Carlos Guillen (.178)
OF: Magglio Ordonez (.395)
OF: Vladimir Guerrero (.273)
OF: Curtis Granderson (.243)
DH: David Ortiz (.376)

National League Silver Slugger Awards

C: Russell Martin (.244)
1B: Albert Pujols (.283)
2B: Chase Utley (.365)
3B: Chipper Jones (.426)
SS: Hanley Ramirez (.394)
OF: Matt Holliday (.332)
OF: Barry Bonds (.365)
OF: Adam Dunn (.259)
P: Micah Owings (.245)

There you have it. Feel free to chime in with your picks, or tell me why I’m wrong.

Cardinals-Phillies by the Numbers

In case you missed it, the Phillies came out victorious in one of the most exciting games of the season (after that 11-10 win over the Mets).

Fangraphs

0 – Number of reasons for ever having Abraham Nunez in the lineup

1 – Number of Rod Barajas’ at-bats, hits, runs, and RBI

1 – Number of position players still available in the 14th inning — Rod Barajas, who delivered the game-winning RBI single

1 – Number of Cardinal extra-base hits

1.5 – Number of games the Phillies trail the Mets and Padres by in the NL East and Wild Card, respectively

2 – Number of pinch-runners used each by the Phillies and Cardinals

2 – Number of triples and stolen bases for Jayson Werth (the last person to achieve this feat in the same game was Larry Walker in 1996)

2 – Number of pitchers used by Tony LaRussa to pinch-run

2 – Number of blown saves in this game

3 – Number of 14th inning runs the Phillies scored

3 – Number of innings the Phillies’ ace pitched in his return from the disabled list

3 – Number of pinch-hitters used by the Cardinals

3 – Number of Cardinals pitchers who were in the game, but did not pitch (Wainwright as a pinch-hitter; Reyes and Piniero as pinch-runners)

4 – Number of Phillies relievers used after Cole Hamels to not yield any runs

4 – Number of hits the Phillies had through 12 innings of play

5 – Number of hitless at-bats for Ryan Howard

5 – Number of pinch-hitters used by the Phillies

5 – Number of consecutive losses for the Mets

6 – Number of Phillies fans confident in Jose Mesa when he came in to pitch in the 12th and 13th innings

6 – Number of consecutive wins for the Phillies

6 – Number of catchers used (Ruiz, Coste, Barajas, LaForest; Molina, Stinnett)

7 – Number of people still awake watching the game at its conclusion, around 1:15 AM EST

8 – Number of total hits in the game for the Phillies in 49 at-bats

8 – Number of pitchers used by the Phillies

8 – Number of combined pinch-hitters used

9 – Number of strikeouts from the Phillies’ #1-5 hitters

9 – Number of Phillies relievers to earn a save this season (Clay Condrey earned it in this particular game)

10 – Number of scoreless innings pitched by the Phillies bullpen (Myers allowed one run in the 10th inning)

11 – Number of pitchers used by the Cardinals, a National League record

19 – Number of total pitchers used by both teams

21 – Number of scoreless innings of 28

25 – Number of Phillies players used

28 – Number of Cardinal players used, tying the National League record

53 – Number of combined players used, tying the National League record

168 – Number of days passed since the Phillies were this close to the lead in the NL East

304 – Number of minutes the game lasted

481 – Number of combined pitches thrown

42,170 – Paid attendance at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, MO

Why?

I’ve been doing some thinking lately (not a frequent activity of mine), and I have some questions that need some answers. Maybe my readers can help me out.

Warning for those with weak stomachs: Heavy political content.

Why do we get upset when head coaches spy on their opponents

…but hardly anyone gets upset when the government starts spying on its own people via wiretap, seizing personal records (bank and library, for example), among other methods?

Why do we get upset when an athlete tortures dogs

…but applaud the government torturing human beings for political reasons?

Why do we get upset when managers leave pitchers in too long

…but no one takes action when the President leaves the troops in the Middle East too long?

Why do we get upset when the commissioner hands out ridiculous punishments to athletes and coaches

…but it’s A-okay to hand out ridiculous punishments to Americans and foreigners alike if you are merely suspected — not proven — to be involved with terrorism?

Why do we get choked up when Kevin Everett suffers a life-altering neck injury

…but say nary a word about the kids being paralyzed and killed in a meaningless war?

Why do we feel sorry for the disabled NFL players who aren’t getting enough disability coverage from the NFL players union

…but continue to shoot down socialized health care in the United States?

Why do we insist at least one minority be interviewed for a head coaching position

…but continue to send out two majorities from which to nominate the U.S. President?

Why do we criticize the Florida Marlins front office for not planning for an obviously upcoming problem

…but give our government a free pass when they failed to prepare for Hurricane Katrina?

Why do we detest athletes and coaches who make public their worship of a deity

…but watch from the sidelines as Christians try to put prayer back in public schools, have creationism taught alongside evolution, and religious dogma hung on courthouse walls?

Why do we frown at fights between fans of different teams

…but attribute fights between sects in Iraq to business-as-usual?

Why did we shake our heads when Latrell Sprewell said “I have a family to feed” in reference to his contract situation…

…but didn’t bat an eye when our Congresspeople voted for a payraise for themselves?

Why do we demand to hear the truth from Bud Selig about the Steroid Era

…but didn’t demand the truth from the Bush administration for many of their wrongdoings?

Why did we lose respect for Tony LaRussa and when he was found intoxicated in an automobile

…but didn’t lose respect for Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI) when he crashed his car into a barricade as a result of being on prescription drugs?

Switching it in reverse before I sign off!

Why did we petition for a Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown for Pete Rose amid his gambling issue

…but have said nothing about Congress “severely limiting” online poker?

Hopefully, I will find out answers to these questions. I’m not trying to diminish that about which we are vocal, but I think it’s interesting to note where our priorities lie.

What’s Wrong in Florida?

As the Marlins play their final 16 games of the 2007 regular season, they guarantee themselves no more than 79 wins — a losing season. It will be their second straight losing season just four years removed from their second World Series championship in their 15-year history.

The Marlins have never been known for their devoted fan base, but they have ranked among the leaders in attendance early in the club’s history, but have since fallen on hard times. As the Palm Beach Post notes about the Nationals-Marlins game on Wednesday:

Forget the announced attendance of 10,121 for the Marlins-Nationals game at Dolphin Stadium. When Byung-Hyun Kim threw the first pitch, 375 spectators could be seen.

As they say, pictures speak louder than words, and boy, does this picture scream for the Marlins to take their business elsewhere:

Click to enlarge

A look at the Marlins’ attendance and their rank among the other National League teams (information on the Marlins team pages on Baseball Reference):

1993: 3,064,847 (5th out of 14)
1994: 1,937,467 (6th out of 14)
1995: 1,700,466 (8th out of 14)
1996: 1,746,767 (10th out of 14)
1997: 2,364,387 (5th out of 14)
1998: 1,730,384 (13th out of 16)
1999: 1,369,421 (15th out of 16)
2000: 1,218,326 (15th out of 16)
2001: 1,261,226 (15th out of 16)
2002: 813,118 (15th out of 16)
2003: 1,303,215 (15th out of 16)
2004: 1,723,105 (14th out of 16)
2005: 1,852,608 (15th out of 16)
2006: 1,164,134 (16th out of 16)
2007: 1,230,162 (16th out of 16)

The only team that ranks lower than the Marlins among all of the teams in Major League Baseball this season is the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Marlins’ stately “brother.” Unlike the Marlins, however, the Rays haven’t had even one winning season in their ten years of existence (and have clinched another losing season this year), let alone two World Series championships.

It’s not as if either team has been boring to watch. The Marlins have had Gary Sheffield, Edgar Renteria, Al Leiter, Kevin Brown, Moises Alou, Bobby Bonilla, Cliff Floyd Derrek Lee, Mike Lowell, A.J. Burnett, Brad Penny, Josh Beckett, Carl Pavano, Ivan Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, Paul Lo Duca, Carlos Delgado, Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, Josh Willingham, Scott Olsen, Anibal Sanchez, Josh Johnson, and the list will go on. You can even count the overrated Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo as exciting players that have played for the Marlins.

And to continue the name-dropping, the Rays have had Fred McGriff, Wade Boggs, Jose Canseco, Vinny Castilla, Greg Vaughn , Dwight Gooden (albeit at the end of their careers), Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, Aubrey Huff, Scott Kazmir, Danys Baez, Joey Gathright, James Shields, Carlos Pena, B.J. Upton, Akinori Iwamura, along with Elijah Dukes and Delmon Young (exciting more so for their antics than their play).

The Rays’ attendance figures and ranks:

1998: 2,506,293 (7th out of 14)
1999: 1,562,827 (10th out of 14)
2000: 1,449,673 (13th out of 14)
2001: 1,298,365 (14th out of 14)
2002: 1,065,742 (14th out of 14)
2003: 1,058,695 (14th out of 14)
2004: 1,274,911 (14th out of 14)
2005: 1,141,669 (14th out of 14)
2006: 1,368,950 (14th out of 14)
2007: 1,220,212 (14th out of 14)

Both teams have had talent, but both have failed to fill the seats.

Wikipedia has an excellent entry on the Marlins and their issues with both Major League Baseball and the city of Miami in regards to financing a new stadium, and the possible relocation to another city.

The Devil Rays also have a subpar stadium. As the St. Petersburg Times reported in March of 2005:

A random Times telephone survey of 400 Tampa Bay area baseball fans found 45 percent do not plan to attend games this season. Twenty percent of those said the reason was the Trop’s location – tied for the top answer with “I’m too old.”

The Marlins have been hamstrung by a stingy ownership that has kept the team payroll in the bottom rung among Major League Baseball teams, resulting in the well-known “firesales” following their World Series championships. The Rays, too, have been among the bottom-feeders payroll-wise. A look at both teams’ payrolls over the years and their ranks (information courtesy USAToday.com):

Florida Marlins

1993: $ 18,196,545 (25th out of 28)
1994: $ 20,275,500 (25th out of 28)
1995: $ 23,670,000 (25th out of 28)
1996: $ 30,079,500 (15th out of 28)
1997: $ 47,753,000 (7th out of 28)
1998: $ 33,434,000 (20th out of 30)
1999: $ 15,150,000 (30th out of 30)
2000: $ 19,870,000 (29th out of 30)
2001: $ 35,562,500 (26th out of 30)
2002: $ 41,979,917 (25th out of 30)
2003: $ 48,750,000 (25th out of 30)
2004: $ 42,143,042 (25th out of 30)
2005: $ 60,408,834 (19th out of 30)
2006: $ 14,998,500 (30th out of 30)
2007: $ 30,507,000 (29th out of 30)

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

1998: $ 25,317,500 (25th out of 30)
1999: $ 37,812,500 (21st out of 30)
2000: $ 64,407,910 (10th out of 30)
2001: $ 56,980,000 (19th out of 30)
2002: $ 34,380,000 (30th out of 30)
2003: $ 19,630,000 (30th out of 30)
2004: $ 29,556,667 (29th out of 30)
2005: $ 29,679,067 (30th out of 30)
2006: $ 35,417,967 (29th out of 30)
2007: $ 24,123,500 (30th out of 30)

So, the necessary question is: Do the two Floridian teams need a change of scenery, a change in ownership, or both?

Save the Internet!

Imagine one day calling a hospital to talk with your friend who is recovering from surgery, and not being able to complete the call because you and/or the hospital did not subscribe to the phone company’s “premium package.”

Or, imagine that you are only allowed to use a certain amount of electricity per day because you haven’t yet upgraded to the electric company’s “elite power package.”

Terrible, isn’t it? But that is what they’re trying to do with the Internet.

From CBSNews.com:

The Justice Department on Thursday said Internet service providers should be allowed to charge a fee for priority Web traffic.

The agency told the Federal Communications Commission, which is reviewing high-speed Internet practices, that it is opposed to “Net neutrality,” the principle that all Internet sites should be equally accessible to any Web user.

Several phone and cable companies, such as AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp., have previously said they want the option to charge some users more money for loading certain content or Web sites faster than others.

This has already been occurring in small instances, most recently with Comcast. As the Washington Post writes:

Comcast has punished some transgressors by cutting off their Internet service, arguing that excessive downloaders hog Internet capacity and slow down the network for other customers. The company declines to reveal its download limits.

Remember when the Internet wasn’t a highway of commerce, when it belonged to and was financed by the public? The Internet was only recently commercialized and now the corporations are trying to funnel as much money out of your bank account as they can.

It’s not enough that companies like Comcast and Verizon offer three-in-one packages that include television, telephone, and Internet, with the former two running your bill into the $200-300 range. Now they want to inflate that bill even more from the $20-40 monthly rate for broadband Internet into the stratosphere with cable and telephone. And they have a near-monopoly on the market, so you almost have no choice but to open your wallet upside-down at the steps of their corporate offices.

The Internet is the last virgin entity of freedom. Let’s keep it that way.

Further reading:

The corporations own everything else. Fight to let us keep our Internet.


Save the Net Now

Phillies Bullpen Isn’t to Blame for This Loss

In poker, you can be at the top of your game, making no mistakes and capitalizing on your opponents’ weaknesses and miscues, but still end up losing. When that happens, you abdicate your chair, shake your opponent’s hand, tell him “nice hand,” and mutter “That’s poker” back to the bar to drown your sorrows.

The same holds true in baseball. Wednesday’s Braves-Phillies game is one of the few where the box score doesn’t tell the whole story. To the many Phillies and Braves fans who stopped watching the game once it was “out of reach” at 8-2 in the top of the 8th inning, the box score will tell you that Tom Gordon and Brett Myers combined for an impressive performance in blowing a six-run lead.

Sure, Gordon did give up a legitimate lead-off double to Chipper Jones. But the three singles that followed were flukey in every sense of the word. After getting Mark Teixeira to fly out to right field, catcher Brian McCann hit a fly ball to shallow right-center field, and neither Aaron Rowand nor Chris Roberson could reach it, and it fell for a single. Jeff Francoeur followed in similar fashion, blooping an end-of-the-bat single to the shallow outfield, well in front of Roberson, allowing Jones to score. As if the game was a perpetual torture machine, Scott Thorman gave us an encore with a bloop single in the dreaded “Bermuda Triangle” between left-fielder Jayson Werth, Rowand, and shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

Things were getting tense, but it’s only 8-3… but it was also a save situation (the tying run is on-deck), so in came closer Brett Myers, who wasted no time in letting the Braves’ fourth run cross home plate by throwing his first pitch in the dirt in front of new catcher Carlos Ruiz. Showing no command, Myers threw three more balls to Yunel Escobar to give him a free ticket to first base.

To Myers’ credit, he made a good pitch to the next hitter, Matt Diaz. He got it on on his fists, and the ball had little momentum, but just enough to get past the pitcher in-between the third baseman and shortstop. One of those flukey base hits again, this one scored Francoeur to make it 8-5. Myers’ lack of command flared up again, walking Willie Harris and forcing in Thorman for an 8-6 bid. Kelly Johnson helped him by fouling out to third base early in the count, and frustrated Chipper Jones by throwing him two straight 3-2 curveballs to fly out to left-center.

To Phillies fans, watching that inning was like passing a kidney stone. And it wasn’t over. Just for the added suspense, what I am about to describe happened after Myers easily retired the first two batters, Mark Teixeira and Brayan Pena.

Braves fluke hits

Francoeur grounded a ball past third baseman Abraham Nunez, just deep enough in the hole so that Rollins couldn’t get enough on the throw to beat Francoeur at first base. Martin Prado came up to the plate and chopped the ball off of home plate. Phillies fans held their breath as Myers and catcher Ruiz stared up into the sky for a good three seconds — enough to ensure an infield single for Prado. The ball had to have richocheted off of home plate into the air at least 50 feet. At this point, Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas was having an aneurysm, and Phillies fans were having flashbacks of the Craig Biggio homerun off of Billy Wagner (spooky — it was almost two years ago to the day). To add insult to injury, Myers walked Yunel Escobar, putting the tying run at second base, and the winning run at first base.

Matt Diaz would be the last batter to swing his bat, ripping the deathblow to right field, off of Chris Roberson’s glove, scoring all three Braves baserunners.

So, in the 8th, the Braves had one legitimate hit (Jone’s double), four flukey hits (McCann, Francoeur, Thorman, and Diaz), a wild pitch, and two walks. In the 9th, the Braves had one legitimate hit that should have been caught (Diaz’s walk-off), two flukey hits (Francoeur and Prado), and a walk.

I can’t blame the bullpen for this loss. I can’t blame Charlie Manuel, either. I blame Lady Luck for choosing the Braves. Maybe she was sympathetic to Chipper Jones’ cause.

As for what the win could have meant for the Phillies, the Mets lost and so did the Padres, Rockies, and Dodgers. The only team the Phillies wouldn’t have picked up or gained ground on were the Diamondbacks, who beat the Padres. Instead, the Phillies have 5 games to pick up in the East, and 3 games in the Wild Card with 23 games to go. They can earn a playoff berth thusly:

Assuming the Mets go 12-11 in their final 23, the Phillies would have to finish the season 18-5 to win the East.

Assuming the Diamondbacks win the NL West, the Padres go 12-11 in their final 23, and no one else in the Wild Card chase picks up ground, the Phillies would have to finish the season 16-7 to win the Wild Card.

Assuming the Padres win the NL West, the Diamondbacks go 11-10 in their final 21, and no one else in the Wild Card chase picks up ground, the Phillies would have to finish the season 17-6 to win the Wild Card.

There’s always next year.

The World’s Tiniest Violin Plays for the Atlanta Braves… Again

Back on August 13, I wrote about the Atlanta Braves’ whining following a 5-3 loss at the hands of a Ryan Howard three-run homerun. Manager Bobby Cox and right fielder Jeff Francoeur complained about the dimensions of Citizens Bank Park, a tactic not foreign to the Tomahawks — John Smoltz loves to hate the “bandbox,” too.

But tonight, the Braves lost by a similar margin, 5-2, to the Phillies and starter Kyle Lohse, who went six and two-thirds innings, allowing only two runs — both at the hands of Chipper Jones. But was that enough for Larry? Of course not. It wasn’t Buddy Carlyle’s fault he went only one and two-thirds innings in the loss, and it wasn’t the Braves’ fault for getting 10 baserunners on base and only scoring 2 of them. It’s the home plate umpire’s fault they lost.

Courtesy FOXSports.com, we have a gem from Mr. Jones:

The first pitch to me with the bases loaded was in my batter’s box, inside. Now you tell me how I’m supposed to hit that. We have to get Questec here in this ballpark. We’ve got to. Umpires have got to be held accountable. That’s Little League World Series stuff right there.

It’s a joke. I’m tired of it. And baseball can fine me whatever they want. I do not care. Somebody’s got to say something. I’ve got more walks than strikeouts in my career – I know what a strike looks like.

You’re going to see frustration from now on as long as the officiating is abysmal. Major League Baseball ought to be ashamed. It’s abysmal. It’s awful. Not all of them but some of them. It’s awful.

Are Jones’ complaints valid? Let’s look at a screenshot of the at-bat on MLB Gameday:

Chipper Jones

Yes, the first pitch was a ball, but it was close. If MLB Gameday is accurate, part of the pitch went across the plate, if only a sliver.

Jones’ complaints are nothing more than [warning: amateur psychoanalysis] pent-up frustration from a season gone awry as a result of the Braves winning only 6 of their last 19 game, and now 8.5 games behind the Mets in the NL East, and 5.5 games behind in the Wild Card. After 14 straight seasons of making the postseason from 1991-2005 (excluding the strike-shortened ’94 season), losing is probably an unpleasant foreign concept to Chipper.

The Atlanta Braves are often said to be a classy organization, and for the most part, they are, but their players and manager act childish when things don’t go their way. They’re sore losers.

Perhaps [warning: more amateur psychoanalysis] it’s the realization that their NL East dominance is fading. Maybe it’s the realization that John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox are close to resigning from their current positions. Maybe it’s that the ownership changed. Maybe it’s the uncaring fanbase (10th out of 16 NL teams in attendance this season, and they’ve given their fans more than enough reason to come out to the ballpark).

For what it’s worth, Carlos Ruiz’s solo homerun (to view it, click here, then click “Top Play: 350K” and select “Ruiz’s Homer” from the list) in the top of the second inning barely cleared the 380-foot mark in left-center. I’m waiting for the Braves to complain about the “bandbox-ish” dimensions of their own ballpark.