World Fuckin’ Champions!

Chase Utley is already super-cool, but he wasn’t just satisfied being the serious, extremely productive second baseman on the Phillies. Referencing his “Boo? Fuck you!” outburst when he was booed in New York during the All-Star Game this season, Utley came to the microphone in Citizens Bank Park after the parade, and before a packed house, uttered, “World Champions… World Fuckin’ Champions!”

Here’s proof (let’s hope it stays up on YouTube):

Can You Believe It? A Championship in Philly!

The storylines that surrounded the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies going into and advancing further in the playoffs were numerous and unique. If you had no allegiances to any of the other teams or to a Phillies rival, I would think it’d be hard not to pull for the Phillies. Unlike a lot of other teams, all of the players are extremely likable — I’ll pause to let you struggle to come up with an unlikable Phillies player — and there are no bad eggs in the bunch. When you look back and realize that the biggest offender was Jimmy Rollins for getting stuck in traffic, you know you were watching a team and not a group of individuals, as cliche as that sounds.

Going into the season, there was the specter that it was GM Pat Gillick’s last season, and left fielder Pat Burrell would be a free agent after the season. Furthermore, there was plenty of irrational doubt surrounding Brad Lidge as a result of his post-season failures with the Houston Astros. And you had New York Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran mouthing off:

To Jimmy Rollins: We are the team to beat.

Rollins, unrelated to Beltran’s words, had another prediction one season after correctly branding the Phillies “the team to beat.”

We’ll win probably 100 games[...]

Granted, he was talking about the regular season, but with their World Series clincher last night, that brought their overall total (regular season + playoffs) to 103.

During the season, you had Utley’s candidacy for NL MVP in the first half — an attempt to make it an MVP trifecta after Ryan Howard won it in 2006 and Rollins won it in ’07. Cole Hamels pitched worthy of Cy Young consideration but because of some bad luck and some amazing pitching from Tim Lincecum and Johan Santana, he got overshadowed. Jamie Moyer, 46 years old, theoretically had the biological clock ticking, counting down to the end of his baseball career. Brett Myers struggled as a starter after being used as a closer in ’07, was sent down to the Minor Leagues voluntarily, and came up and gave the Phillies additional firepower to blast into the playoffs. The rival New York Mets once again required the Heimlich maneuver in September to the glee of the Phillies and their fans.

During the playoffs, Shane Victorino and Charlie Manuel experienced some unfortunate circumstances involving deaths in their respective families, yet never lost sight of the goal nor lost their focus. Victorino did nothing but get important, timely hits (the grand slam off of C.C. Sabathia, the two-run home run in the Phillies’ comeback against the Dodgers’ bullpen in Game 4 of the NLCS, and the two-run single in Game 5 of the World Series). Manuel continued to correctly pull all the right levers and press all the right buttons and rarely had a decision backfire.

That the Phillies sealed the deal at home means so much. All season long, their celebrations were somewhat muted whether it was clinching a playoff berth, winning the division, the NLDS, or the NLCS. As soon as they won the World Series, they deserved to completely pop the cork on their bottled-up emotions. It would have been somewhat sour if they had clinched in front of a Tampa Bay crowd that only recently decided to come out and watch baseball.

The Phillies were one of the best teams when they played at home: 48-33. That record was only beaten by two other teams: the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers, and tied with the New York Mets. Furthermore, the Phillies never lost a home game in the playoffs: they took seven out of seven at Citizens Bank Park.

Leading up to the World Series, Comcast Sportsnet ran a lot of retrospectives on the 1980 World Series-winning Phillies team, and I continue to wonder what the 2008 retrospective video will look and sound like (narrated by Harry Kalas, of course — make it happen!).

Personally, the Phillies’ World Series championship didn’t completely sink in until I just now looked at their franchise encyclopedia on Baseball Reference. I’m always on BBRef, and I know that something is for real when it shows up on that website. For instance, Ryan Howard didn’t really hit a home run until I see the updates on his player page (Irrational? Absolutely!). Similarly, the Phillies didn’t really win the World Series until I saw the “WS” as you can see here:

Philadelphia Phillies on BaseballReference.com

It’s true — they won. They really did it. And you have to feel absolutely thrilled for everyone involved, especially Harry Kalas, who never had the privelege of broadcasting a Phillies World Series clincher in his life (he was not allowed in 1980 because of some awful policies that were very quickly changed thereafter) until last night. If you want to see and hear the Kalas call (as well as see fellow broadcaster Chris Wheeler go nuts), click here for a YouTube video.

Now we have the off-season to look forward to, but it’s going to be a while before the euphoria of the Phillies’ World Series championship wears off. The economy can continue to tank and I know I’ll still be feeling good as long as I can watch World Series clips on a never-ending loop — kind of like this, but only good.

Ahh…

That’s a sigh of relief. We kind of need it after 25 years, you know?

I’ll be writing more on this soon, I just wanted to get a post up and allow anyone who wants to discuss it to do so here in the comments.

This was an amazing baseball season and I want to thank all of my fellow bloggers, readers, and friends in the media for making it fun to watch and discuss. Now, we look forward to the offseason, and I’ll not only be covering the Phillies here, but I’m hoping to do some general MLB off-season coverage for Baseball Digest Daily. John Brattain and I will likely be teaming up once more for a “Why the Phillies Won It All” article at The Hardball Times.

Crashburn Alley is now ironic: the Phillies certainly didn’t crash and burn this season.

Yahoo! Sports: Phillies World Series photo gallery.

MLB, Umpires Make Mockery of World Series

Tampa Bay Rays @ Philadelphia Phillies, World Series Game 5The decision to keep the game going until the bottom of the sixth in the nagging cold and biting rain has to rank highly on MLB’s list of blunders. There was the 2002 All-Star Game that Commissioner Bud Selig chose to end in a tie, of course, but tonight’s baffler might even top that.

Unlike football, which is a game that can be played during the apocalypse, baseball requires precision down to the millimeter. Non-baseball fans often don’t understand why games aren’t played in inclement weather and it’s because it cheapens the game significantly.

Maybe anti-Phillies fans got some cheap schadenfreude laughs out of watching Jimmy Rollins go back a few feet, then race in 15 feet to attempt to catch a fly ball hit by Rocco Baldelli. Overall, it’s a mockery of the way baseball is meant to be played.

Obviously, I’m a Phillies fan and there’s no question that the umpires’ moronic decision to move the game forward only benefited the Rays, but I’d say the same thing if the Phillies were the beneficiaries. After Cole Hamels got two quick outs in the top of the sixth, B.J. Upton hit a grounder to Rollins, who booted it due to the poor playing surface and the wetness of the baseball. Upton then stole second in part because Hamels did a poor job of holding him on but also because it was incredibly tough on catcher Carlos Ruiz to get a handle on the baseball and make a strong, accurate throw 127 feet away. And Upton was knocked in on a single to left field by Carlos Pena.

Then the game was halted. (Insert me giving a very sarcastic thumbs-up)

In truth, the game should have been halted before it became an official game. I don’t care how many days you have to wait to get the full nine innings in, you want the fairest conditions in which both teams can play the sport’s most important game.

This is not just Philadelphia bittnerness; this is overall baseball fan bitterness.

As usual, I am gracious to FanGraphs for the use of their excellent charts. (Insert me giving a very non-sarcastic thumbs-up)

UPDATE: The game has been officially suspended to be resumed tomorrow at 8 PM EST. Again, the Phillies get shafted because their best pitcher and NLCS MVP is done at least for a couple days (more likely done for four days, as Cole Hamels doesn’t pitch on short rest), while the Rays have the option of either resuming with ALCS MVP Matt Garza or James Shields, who won Game 2 of the World Series. The Phillies get to use Brett Myers, who’s been more impressive with his bat than with his pitching, and then Jamie Moyer, who’s been hit or miss in the post-season.

I’ve been reading some point/counter-points and there’s really no argument that the delay benefits the Rays exponentially. Mitch Williams made a great point on Comcast SportsNet that Hamels pitched in the sixth inning — when he gave up the tying run — on a sloppy mound. When play resumes, the Rays’ pitcher will have a freshly-manicured mound.

Sleeping Giant

Tampa Bay Rays @ Philadelphia Phillies, World Series Game 4You knew it was going to happen some time: Ryan Howard was going to hit. Someone was going to hang a breaking ball, or feed him a fastball, and he was going to pay for it. It took twelve post-season games in 2008 for Howard to finally break out.

In the third inning, Howard lined an Andy Sonnanstine fastball right over the plate to right field for a single. In the fourth, he lifted a low and outside Sonnanstine curve ball over the left field fence for a three-run home run. And in the eighth inning, he launched a Trever Miller fastball over the plate way over the right field fence for a two-run home run.

Remember when the Rays chose to intentionally walk Chase Utley to get to Ryan Howard in Game 1? That’s not going to happen again. Howard was intentionally walked by Edwin Jackson in the sixth inning to get to Pat Burrell (who’s still not hitting). Given his 3-for-4, 2 HR, 5 RBI night, you can expect that the Rays will either pitch around him or revert back to their previous pattern of giving him nothing but breaking balls.

Joe Blanton was very effective and when he was hit, the damage was limited. The only runs he allowed were on solo home runs by Carl Crawford in the fourth and Eric Hinske in the fifth. Oh yeah, and he also hit a home run himself in the fifth. Yeah, he’s a pitcher. No, he’s not named Brett Myers.

The Phillies overall had 12 hits, half of which went for extra bases: four home runs, two doubles. The Rays had 5 hits: two dingers and three singles (one of which was from the pitcher).

Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria, the Rays’ #3 and 4 hitters, remained hitless for the World Series with 0-for-3 and 0-for-4 nights respectively. The only Rays who are hitting anything consistently are Crawford and Dioner Navarro. Stay cold for one more game. That’s not asking too much, right?

None of the Rays’ speedsters reached base (Crawford’s only time on base was to round the bases on a home run): B.J. Upton and Jason Bartlett both went 0-for-4.

Once again, once the starter was lifted, the Phillies’ bullpen went into lockdown mode. Chad Durbin, Scott Eyre, Ryan Madson, and J.C. Romero combined for three innings of one-hit, no-walk, five-strikeout pitching, moving the Phillies just one win away from a parade down Broad Street.

Cole Hamels is scheduled to take the bump tomorrow. Now, you don’t want to assume anything in life, but… the address to send the rings to is 1 Citizens Bank Way Philadelphia PA 19148. Make sure to apply the correct postage.

Game graph courtesy FanGraphs.

The Audacity of Dope

Tampa Bay Rays @ Philadelphia Phillies, World Series Game 3If the Phillies were going to write a book about the first two games of the World Series thus far, “The Audacity of Dope” would be an apt title (my apologies for the lame pun). With runners in scoring position, they couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a friggin’ boat.

Saturday night was a bad night, especially if you live near Philadelphia and your cable provider is Comcast. Not only was it cold and rainy for most of the day, but throughout the broadcast, from start to finish, both the audio and video feeds would hesitate or freeze altogether. Before Jamie Moyer got out of the fourth inning (around 11:45ish), my cable froze. I went out for about a half hour and listened to the broadcast on my car radio. The cable feed still hadn’t unfrozen when I returned, so I missed the Utley and Howard home runs, as well as the controversial call at first base by umpire Tom Hallion. Thanks, Comcast!

Yes, Hallion’s incorrect call directly led to two runs for the Rays, and indirectly to another. To start off the seventh inning, up 4-1, Jamie Moyer got Carl Crawford to hit a weak chopper down the first base line. Moyer made an extraordinary play and flipped to Howard. Replays showed that the flip was indeed in time, but Hallion called Crawford safe. Dioner Navarro promptly hit a double to put runners on second and third with no outs. As has been the case with the Rays all series long, they knocked in those runs with ground outs.

Now, I’m not one to toot my own horn, but I want to take this opportunity to direct my readers to my outrageously good forecasting (please ignore the fact that before the season, I picked the Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies to appear in the World Series). On a FanGraphs blog, I left the following comment:

I think the key to the series is speed. The Phillies’ catchers, contrary to popular opinion, haven’t been good defensively. Bartlett, Crawford, and Upton can all steal bases with abandon. On the other hand, Dioner Navarro was the best at throwing out base stealers in the AL, so the running game of Rollins, Victorino, and Werth may be shut down[...]

It was 4-3 going into the eighth inning with Ryan Madson on the hill when B.J. Upton stole the show. With a big hole up the middle, Upton hit a chopper — you guessed it, up the middle — that Rollins had to range to his left to get, and Upton barely crossed the first base bag in time. Considering Upton’s speed, it’s a wonder Rollins ever made it a close play.

After Carlos Pena struck out and Evan Longoria came to the plate, Upton put his legs to work. He stole second base easily, and didn’t waste too much time attempting to steal third. Carlos Ruiz tried to throw him out but his throw was low, hit the dirt, and skidded away from third baseman Pedro Feliz into foul territory, allowing Upton to score the tying run.

In the Phillies’ half of the eighth, Jayson Werth worked a lead-off walk to bring up Chase Utley. Werth stole second base, but Utley couldn’t drive him in, instead choosing to chase a 3-2 low and outside curveball to strike out. With one out and presumably trying to put the go-ahead run on third base for a fly ball-happy Ryan Howard, Werth was taking aggressive leads off of second base. The Rays noticed this, and had pitcher J.P. Howell keep an eye on him. After Howard fouled off the first pitch, Howell threw over to second base to keep Werth close. Werth didn’t shorten his lead and instead became even more aggressive. Howell threw over again and Werth was nailed for the first out. Howard eventually struck out to end the inning.

J.C. Romero pitched a perfect ninth to give the Phillies the final at-bat before extra innings. Eric Bruntlett got hit by a 2-1 fastball from Howell, bringing up Shane Victorino to face new pitcher Grant Balfour. Victorino took a strike after showing bunt. He became more aggressive in his bunt attempt on the second pitch, but it was inside — too far inside. Catcher Navarro missed it, and it hit the bricks behind home plate, a favorable carom for the Rays. Bruntlett raced towards second. Navarro spun and threw to second base, but it was wide and bounced into center field, allowing Bruntlett to motor to third base, putting the winning run 90 feet away.

Manager Joe Maddon ordered Balfour to intentionally walk Victorino, then Greg Dobbs (who pinch-hit for Feliz) to bring up Carlos Ruiz. To add to the strategy, he ordered right fielder Ben Zobrist to come in to the infield to increase the probability of making a play at home on a ground ball.

With the pitcher’s spot on deck and Matt Stairs inevitably due up, Balfour attacked Ruiz with 94-96 MPH fastballs. Ruiz fouled off two and took two balls, forcing Balfour to throw pitches. On the sixth pitch, Ruiz hit a chopper down the third base line. Longoria made a good effort but there’s almost no way he could have gotten Bruntlett for the force out at home plate, so the Phillies won in epic fashion despite more offensive futility.

To illustrate how much the fate of the game hung in the balance, here’s a recap of the biggest swings in Win Expectancy, courtesy FanGraphs:

  • Carlos Ruiz solo home run in the second inning to put the Phillies ahead 2-1. (WE: +10.9% for the Phillies)
  • Chase Utley solo home run in the sixth inning to increase the Phillies’ lead to 3-1. (WE: +10.4% for the Phillies)
  • Dioner Navarro double in the seventh inning to put runners on second and third with no outs. (WE: -11.9% for the Phillies)
  • B.J. Upton steals third base and scores on Ruiz’s throwing error. (WE: -14.9% for the Phillies)
  • Jayson Werth gets picked off of second base in the eighth inning. (WE: -12.7% for the Phillies)
  • Eric Bruntlett advances to second base, then to third base on the wild pitch by Grant Balfour and the throwing error by Navarro. (WE: +21.9% for the Phillies)

The Phillies find themselves up two games to one with four games left, two at home with Cole Hamels scheduled for Game 5. Despite the inefficient offense, you’ve got to feel good about their chances to win two out of the next four games. The audacity of hope, right?

A Question for Kyle Kendrick

Hat tip to With Leather.

Kyle Kendrick wrote an editorial for PhillyBurbs.com talking about how excited he was that the Backstreet Boys were going to sing the national anthem before Game 1 of the World Series:

I’m only 24, and as a kid growing up near Seattle, boy bands were popular. I always thought the Backstreet Boys were the best out there, better than ‘NSYNC.

My question isn’t “Why do you like boy bands?” nor am I going to take any easy jabs at his taste in music, but I do want to ask, “Why them?”

You grew up in Seattle, which was the birthplace of grunge music in the mid-1980′s and ’90′s. You had Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nirvana… and you neglected them for the Backstreet Boys? That’s like growing up in the Bronx during the Yankees’ recent run from 1995-2007 and rooting for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Years later, my musical tastes have expanded. I like some classic rock and a lot of country. I’m a big George Strait fan and I really like Carrie Underwood.

If I could meet any celebrity of my choice, it would be Carrie. I like her music and she’s a very attractive girl. I’d love to meet her.

This is just begging to be used in a prank.

World Series Game 2 Liveblog at BDD!

At Baseball Digest Daily:

Join Joe Hamrahi, Eric SanInoncencio, Bill Baer, Rob McQuown, Michael Street, Brandon Heikoop (maybe!) and [Brian Joseph] who will all plan to join the live blog tonight for Game 2 of the ‘08 World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies.

The Live Blog kicks off roughly 45 minutes before first pitch at 7:45 PM.  Be there for all the insights from the team and expect commentary and additional facts and stats to enhance your viewing plus the team’s baseball expertise (although it’s doubtful anyone can hold a candle to Tim McCarver’s wittiness.).

I’ve done a couple liveblogs here at Crashburn Alley, but it’ll be fun to liveblog with other people during one of the most important and exciting games of the season. Instead of letting Joe Buck and Tim McCarver drone on and on and pseudo-analyze the game so pathetically, why not tune in to our liveblog and get some real analysis?

Starting the World Series on the Right Foot

Philadelphia Phillies @ Tampa Bay Rays, World Series Game OneWith the clock just past midnight Eastern time, Pedro Feliz caught out number 27 in foul territory behind third base. Brad Lidge threw a perfect ninth for the save, a 3-2 victory in Game 1 for the Philadelphia Phillies. Cole Hamels threw seven strong innings, allowing only two runs on a Carl Crawford solo home run in the fourth, and on an RBI double in the fifth inning by Akinori Iwamura. Hamels got B.J. Upton to ground into two rally-killing double plays in the first and third innings, and was similarly divine throughout his seven innings.

Let’s go over some of the game highlights.

Was It A Balk?

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Carlos Pena hit a grounder to Ryan Howard, who is not known for his great defense. Expectedly, he had some trouble fielding it and Pena reached base safely. As Hamels was about to deliver his first pitch to the next hitter, Evan Longoria, Pena broke for second base. Hamels, seeing Pena break for second perhaps a moment too soon, threw towards first base, and Howard threw to second base where shortstop Jimmy Rollins applied the tag in time for the out.

As soon as Hamels threw over, the entire Rays bench screamed “Balk!” but that alone isn’t enough to hand out a verdict. They’re biased, of course. But my initial reaction was that it was a balk, and the replays seem to agree, though the balk rule is so unclear that we’ll never really know.

Umpiring

I’ve already read a lot of whining about the strike zone of Tim Welke, but he was relatively consistent and was about even on the questionable calls. Most people are probably basing their criticism on that horrible strike zone graphic FOX uses. It seems like their graphic plots the pitch where it’s caught, not where it crosses the front of home plate.

Click the the thumbnail below for a larger view of Welke’s strike zone, courtesy Brooks Baseball.

Philadelphia Phillies @ Tampa Bay Rays, World Series Game 1

If my understanding of the graph is correct, it is from the catcher or umpire’s perspective, and the labels are to be taken from the hitter’s perspective (i.e. “tba-Called Strike” means that a Rays hitter took a strike).

I manually counted, and here’s what I came up with:

  • Phillies hitters: 6 balls called strikes, 5 strikes called balls
  • Rays hitters: 5 balls called strikes, 5 strikes called balls

Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

  • Both teams’ starters: 13 IP, 3.46 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 9 K
  • Both teams’ bullpens: 5 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.80 WHIP (Phillies 0.00), 8 K

Throwin’ Heat

Aside from two of the Rays’ relievers — left-handers J.P. Howell and Trever Miller — pitchers were throwin’ heat in Game 1. Check out the chart below that shows the average and maximum fastball speeds throughout the game:

Philadelphia Phillies @ Tampa Bay Rays, World Series Game 1

Philadelphia Phillies @ Tampa Bay Rays, World Series Game 1

Ryan Howard

Pretty bad, right? In his defense, it’s hard to hit when you’re not getting thrown anything. A recap of the pitches he saw tonight:

  • First inning vs. Kazmir: Two outside sliders, swung at both, grounded the second one to second base.
  • Third inning vs. Kazmir: Inside fastball taken for a ball, outside slider swung at for strike one, fastball over the plate (hittable) fouled off, slider low and outside swung at for strike three.
  • Fifth inning vs. Kazmir: Two low and outside sliders taken for balls, high and outside slider taken for ball three, outside fastball swung at for a strike, outside slider swung at for a strike, outside fastball, change-up, and slider fouled off consecutively, high and inside fastball taken for ball four.
  • Seventh inning vs. Howell: Inside curve ball taken for strike one, curve ball in the dirt for ball one, curve ball in the dirt swung at for strike two, curve ball over the plate (hittable) fouled off, outside fastball taken for ball two, outside fastball taken for ball three, low and outside curve ball swung at for strike three.
  • Ninth inning vs. Miller: Outside slider swung at for strike one, outside slider taken for ball one, fastball over the plate (hittable) taken for strike two, high fastball taken for strike three.

He had three hittable pitches, two of which were fastballs, but were mixed very well with a heavy diet of breaking pitches. It’s very, very hard to take advantage of hittable fastballs when you’ve been seeing nothing but 75-85 MPH breaking pitches since the playoffs started.

Howard was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, which isn’t good, but you can’t blame the guy. The Rays have made up their mind that if the Phillies are going to score runs, Chase Utley and Pat Burrell, who sandwich Howard in the lineup, will have to lead the charge.

Fried to a CRISP

Although Carlos Ruiz did knock in Shane Victorino with a ground-out in the fourth inning, the Phillies never capitalized on some easy scoring opportunities throughout the game:

  • Second inning vs. Kazmir: Shane Victorino singled and Pedro Feliz walked to put two runners on with no outs (1.53 runs expected). Chris Coste hit a fly ball to right field for the first out. Carlos Ruiz walked to load the bases with one out (1.59 runs expected). Jimmy Rollins hit a fly ball to center fielder B.J. Upton, who threw home and catcher Dioner Navarro successfully tagged out Victorino to end the inning.
  • Third inning vs. Kazmir: Jayson Werth leads off with a double to right field (1.15 runs expected). Chase Utley grounded out to second baseman Akinori Iwamura, moving Werth over to third base with one out (0.97 runs expected). Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell both struck out to end the inning.
  • Fourth inning vs. Kazmir: Victorino and Feliz both singled to put runners on first and second with no outs again (1.53 runs expected). Chris Coste grounded out to first baseman Carlos Pena, advancing Victorino and Feliz to third and second, respectively (1.42 runs expected). Ruiz got that RBI ground-out mentioned above, and Rollins struck out to end the inning.
  • Fifth inning vs. Kazmir: With two outs, Howard walked, and Burrell reached on an error to put runners at first and second with two outs (0.46 runs expected). Victorino grounded out to end the inning.
  • Seventh inning vs. Howell, Balfour: With one out, Utley singled, then stole second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch (0.97 runs expected). Howard struck out, and Burrell walked to put runners on the corners with two outs (0.48 runs expected). Victorino struck out to end the inning.
  • Ninth inning vs. Balfour: With one out, Werth doubled to right field. Utley was intentionally walked to put runners on first and second with one out (0.92 runs expected). Howard struck out and Eric Bruntlett popped up to Iwamura to end the inning.

Obviously, the Phillies need to cash in on these opportunities at least some of the time if they have any intent on winning the World Series. Cole Hamels can’t pitch every game, so three runs will likely not be adequate enough until Game 5.

Run expectancies courtesy the Run Expectancy Matrix at Baseball Prospectus.

Game graph courtesy FanGraphs.

Starting World Series Day One on the Wrong Foot

With a hat tip to Baseball Think Factory, I regret to inform you that not even Day One of the World Series will prevent idiocy from polluting the air waves and ink-and-paper of publications. Daniel A. Cirucci wrote an opinion column for the Philadelphia Daily News (which has always been a beacon of sound, logical reasoning) called “Just call it baseBORE.”

At the end of the column where they have a blurb about the author, it reads, “Daniel A. Cirucci is a lecturer in corporate communications at Penn State Abington.” Re-read the title again, this time keeping in mind that this is someone responsible for educating the bright, young minds of this country’s future. “BaseBORE.”

Hilarious!

But enough snark for now, we must objectively criticize Danny’s column.

But no matter how it turns out, one thing will remain true: Baseball is an insufferably boring pastime.

This is an example of why the Opinion section of any newspaper is worth skipping over every day (and this is coming from someone who has also been published in the opinion section). As they say, “opinions are like assholes: everyone has one.”

Claiming that “Baseball is boring,” no matter how well you back it up is antithetical to any critical thinking, really. “Boring” is completely subjective. I think that NFL Live is boring. Millions of viewers disagree with me. I think that the singing of the national anthem is boring. Hundreds of millions of “patriots” disagree with me. There’s no way I can prove that I am right and that they are wrong, no matter how well I back up my opinion.

So, why even write it? And, perhaps to ask a more salient question, why publish it?

Except for the pitcher, catcher and hitter, all the players simply stand around waiting for something to happen. Huge amounts of time drift by aimlessly.

Two things:

  1. Don’t like it, don’t watch it, and certainly don’t waste our time complaining about it.
  2. To the untrained eye, as I will prove yours is Dan, it does look like nothing. But there’s a lot that goes on: the positioning of the fielders, signs being exchanged, the cat-and-mouse game between pitcher and baserunner(s), etc. If a football-hater said this about football — “the only time there’s ever any action is in the two seconds after the QB hikes the ball” — the same thing could be said.

Players have to work hard to stay awake.

No, they don’t.

So they chew gum or tobacco, spit, grab their crotches, shift their feet, adjust their caps, brush themselves off and gaze about hoping they’ll actually have something to do.

Idiosyncrasies != Boredom.

And we haven’t even touched on the time taken up with consultations among umpires or between the pitcher and the manager and the seemingly inevitable saga of calling someone from the bullpen to replace the pitcher.

We hear this criticism a lot in baseball, but how is it any different than football? In both sports, the average game time is around three hours. Football pauses for more commercial breaks, however, including an intentional 10-20 minute break at halftime. The replay challenges, which occur at least twice a game on average (I pulled that out of my ass, so feel free to fact-check that) take a couple minutes.

In baseball, you have a stoppage after every half-inning that lasts between 1 and 2 minutes (so, between 17 and 34 minutes), a 30-second mound conference that occurs maybe twice a game, and pitching changes, which occur on average three times a game (again, I pulled that average out of thin air). The delays in baseball are no different — and arguably less — than football.

EDIT: Fellow BBTF poster SoSH U made a good point that I’d like to add to this:

The half-inning stoppages and pitching changes in MLB are natural. They’re basically the same length at every level of baseball, and during that time there is at least something going on (pitchers warming up, players throwing it around the infield).

Contrast that with the TV timeouts that go on in pro and college football, where players and coaches stand around doing nothing but waiting for the TV light to come on and indicate that it’s safe to play again. You don’t see that at high school games (well, until they started putting the damn things on ESPN. I suppose those fans have to endure that crap too).

For the fans, all of this leaves lots of time for diversions. That’s how baseball statistics got started. The endless stream of statistics gives diehard fans something to focus on instead of the game.

List of sports in which statistics are kept:

  • Baseball
  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Hockey
  • Soccer
  • Lacrosse
  • Volleyball
  • Tennis
  • Table-tennis
  • Badminton
  • Bocceball
  • Wrestling
  • Boxing

In other words, every sport keeps statistics. Statistics got started in baseball because it is a contest between two opposing sides in which a winner must be declared. To nullify the frequency of disputes, statistics were kept as proof of the results of the event.

But the stats themselves are deadening: often obscure, seemingly irrelevant, terminally nerdy.

The obscurity of a statistic does nothing to add or subtract from its usability.

If a statistic is “seemingly irrelevant,” that is probably your fault and not the statistic’s. An example of an irrelevant statistic would be, “Shane Victorino scored two goals in one game once when he was in high school.” Or even staying within the context of baseball, an irrelevant statistic would be the note that Jeff Cirillo (who logged nearly 5,400 at-bats as a position player) threw a scoreless inning as a pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007.

And the phrase “terminally nerdy” coming from someone who lectures at colleges is a great example of the pot calling the kettle black.

And you know what they say

If he brings up the “Statistics are like bikinis” phrase, I’m going to blow a gasket.

Statistics are like bikinis.

Damn it.

What they reveal may seem enticing but what they conceal is vital.

I hate this quote because it misses the point. The anti-stat crowd always says that stats don’t cover everything (like Derek Jeter’s ability to grit his way to a win for his team), but no one has ever claimed that they do or ever will. Statistics are logged observations in numerical form.

The other criticism from the anti-stat crowd is that statistics are misleading, or can be used in biased ways. This, unfortunately for them, is not the fault of the statistics, but of the people who use them. Look at any political campaign and how they stretch the truth; this is true of any human being. If I believe in global warming, for instance, I’m only going to cite statistics that reinforce my belief that global warming is a problem.

Statistics are a creation of human beings and are used by human beings, so of course there are going to be instances where they are used dishonestly. That doesn’t mean we should throw out the baby with the bathwater, as they say.

Still, it often happens that the box score winds up being way more interesting than the game itself.

How does this make any logical sense. A box score is a log of what happened during the game. Unless you have a fetish for newspapers or black ink… this sentence is completely useless.

Yet, for the ordinary fan who’s not absorbed by all those numbers, other diversions have to suffice. That’s why new ballparks come equipped with huge Fan-o-Vision screens, ever-changing scoreboards, fountains, fireworks, tacky giveaways, faux shrines, playgrounds, picnic areas and lots and lots of restaurants, snack bars and shops.

How is this unique to baseball? Have you taken a look at what Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has in mind for his new stadium?

It’s a sugar high for kids and cholesterol gulch for adults.

Again, not unique to baseball, or to sports for that matter.

I went to the Phils’ new ballpark right after it opened. It’s very nice. But the more you hang around the place, the more expensive it gets.

Not. Unique. To. Baseball.

And in the course of a typical game (we’re not talking the playoffs or the World Series) you get to do a lot of hangin’ around.

If you’re completely ignorant of baseball, then yeah, you’re going to be bored.

If you don’t like baseball and find it boring, great, you’re entitled to your opinion. What if we published every subjective opinion article in the editorials?

  • New Kids on the Block are the best band ever
  • Pepsi tastes better than Coke
  • Megan Fox is hotter than Angelina Jolie
  • Michael Jordan’s cologne smells worse than Paris Hilton’s
  • The Kong coaster at Six Flags is better than the Medusa

It’s so pointless. No one opinion is better than another, regardless of how well you back it up. There is no amount of factual evidence available where you can definitively state that the Kong coaster > Medusa, or Megan Fox > Angelina Jolie.

The Baseball Almanac says the longest professional baseball game ever played was a 25-inning game between the Chicago White Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers in 1984.

This is A) a cherry-pick and B) making the exception the rule. The standard baseball game is nine innings long. There were 369 extra-inning games this season out of about [EDIT: Fixed my math] 2,430 total games. 15.2% of games this season went extra-innings. In other words, 84.8% of games will last the standard 8.5 or 9 innings.

And it’s enough to make you want to never come back – or at least to long for the days of Joe DiMaggio.

So, extra innings didn’t exist in DiMaggio’s day? Certainly, baseball games weren’t as long, but in reality, we’re talking about a difference of maybe 20 minutes (again, I made that up). Maybe Cirucci is a busy man, and those 20 minutes are vital.

The great Yankee Clipper was one of the last players who actually played for baseball’s one dynamic moment: the crack of the ball against the bat. Joe certainly did not do it for the money ($100,000 annually for his last three years, 1949-’51). He never got to reap the astronomical salaries of today’s sports pros.

The argument has somehow shifted from “baseball is boring” to “players are greedy”?

Not. Unique. To. Baseball. (In case you were wondering)

I’m amazed when people wail about the salaries of CEOs but think nothing of the fact that Alex Rodriguez will make $28 million this year.

I don’t know anyone — who follows both politics/economics and baseball — who has complained about CEO salaries, but not athletes’ salaries.

And again, citing A-Rod’s salary is a cherry-pick, and it’s not unique to baseball. Michael Vick was given a 10-year, $167 million contract from the Atlanta Falcons. The Los Angeles Lakers gave Kobe Bryant a 7-year, $136.4 million contract. Alexander Ovechkin was awarded a 13-year, $124 million contract.

Not. (Say it with me now) Unique. To. Baseball.

Whew – all that and Madonna, too!

Celebrity gossip. Not unique to baseball.

Fin.

You’d think someone who has spent and still spends a considerable amount of time in academia would be able to make an argument much better than this. I would expect a column like this out of an eighth-grader, not someone in charge of informing college students.