I Take It All Back!

Lacking about as much foresight as I did when I predicted a Rockies-Indians World Series in 2008, I showed some empathy for Adam Eaton in an article I wrote at Baseball Daily Digest on January 24.

I’m not going to go out and purchase a Phillies jersey with “Eaton” and his number 23 (I’m sure he meant no offense to His Airness) on the back. But I’m the charter member of his fan club if for no other reason than that I refuse to piggyback on a guy who, most likely, could stand to carry a lighter burden.

Lauber goes on to write that if the Phillies can’t find someone to pay $1 million for Eaton, they’ll release him, meaning that Eaton made his last appearance as a Phillie last July 27. I wish him luck whereever he ends up, and you should too.

I am resigning from my chair as the head of the Adam Eaton fan club because he pulled what is known as a “dick move.” He was released by the Phillies yesterday after months of unsuccessful attempts by the team to entice other organizations to take on a small portion of his salary.

Scott Lauber of Delaware Online caught up with Eaton to get his thoughts on his newfound freedom. I’m going to respond to the quotes FJM-style and you’ll see why I’ve absconded from the fan club.

I got off to a relatively good start and had nothing to show for it.

If “a relatively good start” is nearly 8 innings of three-run pitching for one game, then yeah… not bad. Good, in fact. But his ERA after the first game, 3.52, ballooned to 5.08 after his last start in April. The lowest his ERA got in May was 4.72 and got as low as 4.57 in mid-June.

That’s not, in any way, good. It’s below-average. In terms of grades, it’s a D-minus.

This day in age, it’s what have you done for me lately.

What Adam Eaton had done for the Phillies lately:

  • Throw nearly 162 innings of 6.29 ERA and 1.627 WHIP baseball in 2007.
  • Fail to go five innings in 4 of his 19 starts (21%) in 2008.

Regardless of leading the team in quality starts until the All-Star break, two starts later, three starts later, I’m cast off in the bullpen.

The All-Star Game was held on July 15 last season.

Quality starts (at least 6 IP, no more than 3 ER) for Phillies starting pitchers up to July 15, 2008…

  • Cole Hamels: 13 QS in 20 starts, 3.15 ERA in those 20 starts
  • Jamie Moyer: 10 QS in 19 starts, 3.95 ERA in those 19 starts
  • Adam Eaton: 10 QS in 19 starts, 5.71 ERA in those 19 starts

Eaton got his facts wrong. More importantly, it shows how weak the quality start is as a metric of performance. Despite having the exact same proportion of quality starts as Moyer, Eaton was almost two full runs per nine innings worse.

Also, Eaton’s recollection is wrong. Eaton made his last start prior to the All-Star break on July 12. He made two appearances out of the bullpen on the 26th and 27th before being demoted.

Granted, there were a lot of horrible games in there, but there were some good ones, too.

Eaton definitely had some good games in there, but he had far too many starts where the Phillies were just completely out of it as a result of his awful pitching.

More to the point, take a look at Eaton’s good starts (we’ll use quality starts) and the offenses he was facing (apologies for the poor image quality) …

Adam Eaton Quality Starts, 2008

Obviously, the last start was against an AL team, so that rank 14 is out of 14 teams. The average offensive rank of the teams he notched quality starts against was 9.6, or 10 if you round up. He faced a lot of bad offensive teams.

I haven’t pitched in the big leagues since whenever, July. And they say, ‘Well, go down and get in shape.’ Give me a [bleeping] break. What do you want me to say? You want me to swallow another pill? For what? Waste two weeks down here where I can go spend two weeks with my family? Yeah, sure, I’ll go up there for the World Series. Hey, I’m up on the float. ‘Boo, [bleep] you.’ Great. Would that be any fun for anybody? No. In that regard, not sharing it with my teammates. But it was nice to see them on TV. They’re world [bleeping] champs.

Points for the WFC mention.

Nothing he says here is really wrong, but his tact is just terrible. Any sympathy that he’s trying to earn is diminished with the way he’s illustrating his situation.

From his own description, it sounds like he was unwilling to put in the work to make himself better. Would you expect any team to let a player hang around who was actively being lethargic, especially one who had been piss-poor the previous two seasons while taking in a hefty salary? I, for one, would not. And it seems like the Phillies didn’t want him around either.

I can certainly understand Eaton feeling that “getting in shape” would have been futile but you can’t decline to do so and then expect any kind of a helping hand down the road.

. . .

Adam, good luck whereever you end up. I wish you the best.

But don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

A Not-So-Boring February Day

The Phillies kicked off the first of an exciting five-or-so weeks of exhibition games against the Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday. As expected, a lot of the regulars got some swings, throws, and jogs in before calling it a day, which eventually ended in an 8-2 loss. Newcomers Raul Ibanez and John Mayberry each had an RBI and Jeremy Slayden went 2-for-2 and scored a run. [Box Score]

Aside from the Phillies officially starting their quest as defending World Series champs, there were a lot of other games on the T.V. sets of Philly fans, as the Flyers played the Los Angeles Kings, the Sixers played the Wizards, and the Villanova Wildcats played the DePaul Blue Demons, and all of our guys walked off with victories.

The Sixers had been on a four-game losing streak since the second half of the season started. One loss came in knife-in-the-heart fashion, as Devin Harris threw a miracle shot in the air and sank a long three-pointer as time expired to put the Nets up 98-96. It’s at least the fourth time the Sixers have lost to a last-second shot:

  • January 3: Tony Parker two-pointer [Video]
  • January 19: Dirk Nowitzki two-pointer [Video]
  • February 3: Ray Allen three-pointer [Video]
  • February 23: Devin Harris three-pointer [Video]

I usually don’t care enough to write about the other Philly-based sports teams but it was quite a day… in that it wasn’t boring, and ended up being a rousing success. First time since WFC that I can say that.

Odds and Ends

  • There are still spots available for the Crashburn Alley fantasy baseball league. Two spots left. For information about the league and directions on how to sign up, click here.
  • For our Dream Draft at Baseball Daily Digest, we’re currently on Round 9 and should have another post up there shortly. Here’s my team so far (Round number in parentheses):
    • C: Russell Martin (2)
    • 2B: Chase Utley (1)
    • SS: Yunel Escobar (6)
    • 3B: Mike Moustakas (5)
    • CF: Shane Victorino (8)
    • RF: Matt Kemp (4)
    • SP: Chad Billingsley (3), Taylor Bumgarner (9)
    • RP: Carlos Marmol (7)
  • On Thursday, March 5 at 9 PM EST, you can catch me on the Pro Baseball Central radio show. This will be my third radio spot. Click here and here if you’d like to listen to my other two appearances with MetsToday.com and Drunk Jays Fans. Promise me you won’t laugh.

BDD: Tim McCarver Swings and Misses, Kinda

At Baseball Daily Digest, I test a claim of McCarver’s and find out his pitch was… just a bit outside.

I recently took a trip down memory lane by watching Game 5 of the 2008 World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies again. Ahh, nostalgia. Little did I know that I was vulnerable to FOX color commentator Tim McCarver saying something interesting. I’m just as surprised as you are that McCarver had such potential.

Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth was facing Rays reliever Grant Balfour in the bottom of the sixth inning with one out and a runner on third base with the score tied 2-2. McCarver mentioned that Balfour was a good guy to have in given the situation because, with his high fastball velocity, he could induce an infield fly ball, which would prevent the runner on third (Geoff Jenkins) from scoring.

There are still spots open for the Crashburn Alley fantasy baseball league! Three spots are left. If you’d like to join, leave your e-mail address below or send a message to crashburnalley [at] gmail [dot] com.

BDD: Mets Have A Napoleon Complex

Once again at Baseball Daily Digest, I rip the Mets for running their mouths and still having nothing to show for it.

It’s official: the New York Mets have a Napoleon complex. In a span of a week, we have a hodge-podge of cognitive dissonance — bleating from the New York blue and orange that is comically weak.

I’m all for a rivalry, but know your place. The claims — usually made by junior high students — are akin to chest-puffing, or a guy buying a big house, a fancy car, and an expensive watch to make up for some… uh… certain shortcomings. The Mets are bordering on pitiful and, if they blow it for a third straight season, risk becoming squelched and irrelevant — hard to do in that media market.

Also, Round 5 of our Dream Draft is posted. I’ve made my pick for Round 6 already, though — I took Yunel Escobar.

C – Russell Martin
2B – Chase Utley
SS – Yunel Escobar
3B – Mike Moustakas
CF – Matt Kemp
SP – Chad Billingsley

Update, 02/20/09: I don’t feel like creating another post but Round 6 is up at Baseball Digest Daily. Round 7 will be up soon. I chose Carlos Marmol.

On another note, there are three spots left for the Crashburn Alley fantasy baseball league. They’re open for anybody, so if you’d like to join, leave your e-mail address in the comments or send a message to crashburnalley [at] gmail [dot] com.

BDD: Dream Draft, Update #2

If you’re looking for a fantasy baseball league, why not join Crashburn Alley’s? Click here for my blog entry about it, and make sure to send me an e-mail, or at least leave your e-mail address in the comments below, and I’ll send you an invite. There are still some spots available! [Five spots available as of 2/17/09]

At Baseball Daily Digest, we’ve been doing a dream draft: myself and eleven others are picking players for a fictional team that we’ll be overlooking for the next six years. Click here for the first update that included the first two rounds. And click here for the next update that includes Rounds 3 and 4.

I went with Chase Utley and Russell Martin in the first two rounds, then took Matt Kemp and Chad Billingsley in the next two. I don’t have a Dodger fetish, I promise you.

We’re currently on Round 5 and I’ve selected Mike Moustakas, the 3B/SS prospect for the Kansas City Royals. It’s not posted yet, but here’s what Round 5 looks like so far:

1. Rob McQuown – Alex Gordon
2. John Burnson – Zack Greinke
3. Cory Schwartz – Chris Iannetta
4. Michael Street – Alexei Ramirez
5. Bill Baer – Mike Moustakas
6. Johanna Wagner – Edinson Volquez
7. Eric Seidman – Aramis Ramirez
8. Melissa Lockard –
9. Joe Hamrahi –
10. Brian Joseph –
11. Eric San Inocencio –
12. Kevin Goldstein –

My team looks like this:

  • C: Russell Martin
  • 2B: Chase Utley
  • 3B: Mike Moustakas
  • CF: Matt Kemp
  • SP: Chad Billingsley

Not bad for a team you need to be good for six straight years. As always, feel free to critique my picks.

Pompous Journalists Take the Joy Out of Baseball

Jerry Green of The Detroit News must have written this article specifically for me, something for me to dissect piece by piece. It’s been a little while since I FJM’ed an article. Thanks, Jer.

Greeny’s piece is titled, “Cheaters take the joy out of baseball.” Yuh-huh.

The date was April 14, 1936, and it is etched in my memory.

“Baseball season starts today,” the father said to the son, exercising a precious part of Americana.

This is…

A) The most boring introduction to a narrative I have ever read.

B) The most boring family ever used in a narrative.

C) The most cliche “baseball is America” reference ever.

Those were the Roarin’ ’30’s though!

He [Jerry’s father] told me he had played hooky from school to watch the game.

What a great father. Who needs an education when you have regular season baseball games? Math and science and English classes aren’t important, but RBI doubles are.

Later he told me about Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. The stories were captivating and the impressionable 8-year-old was hooked. 

Keep these two sentences in mind as we go through the rest of the article.

Babe Ruth: Noted drunk and lothario.

Ty Cobb: Violent racist.

The sport and its purity and its history and its records became treasures to me.

Yeah… purity. Like the Black Sox. Like Gaylord Perry’s Vaseline ball. Like Pete Rose’s gambling. Like bat-corking and ball-scuffing and ball-spitting and bat-boning. Right.

This game that’s been around for 150 years only started to become impure within the last 20 years or so. Totally reasonable.

The history and the records, to me, were all real, genuine.

Definition of real: not illusory.

Definition of genuine: not fake or counterfeit.

Similar sentences that have been written by history’s best writers:

  • That sandwich was great, awesome.
  • After the snowstorm, it was cold, chilly.
  • Jerry Green’s writing is uninteresting, tedious.

I covered a man named Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s home-run record without any enhancing substances, except skill […]

Skill… and amphetamines. Aaron himself admitted to using them.

And now baseball has become a bogus game with bogus ballplayers and bogus records — watched over by a bogus commissioner.

Like, dude, that’s so bogus and stuff. This guy is so totally righteous and wicked. Far out! No h-way!

It would just be nice if people from older generations could just ease into the times without constantly droning on about how it used to be.

“No one reads books anymore.”

“No one just takes a walk.”

“Everybody wants everything instantly.”

The times change and some people, instead of adapting, aimlessly swim against the current usually due to laziness and bullheadedness. And sometimes it can be blamed on the head-in-the-sand syndrome. I’m sure Green isn’t oblivious to the fact that Aaron (and Willie Mays and Mike Schmidt, among others) admitted to using amphetamines, or that Babe Ruth used a laminated bat, or that Gaylord Perry lathered his ball up in Vaseline. He chooses to ignore it because he prefers to wax romantic about baseball from his childhood and young adulthood; it gave him such a positive affect.

I don’t know Green so I’m completely assuming all of this, but it seems there’s 100% emotion behind these claims and 0% rationality.

A rational person would say, “Baseball has never been pure and never will be pure.”

And where has Bud Selig been the past 15 years while Major League Baseball has paid him his salary, now reportedly $18.35 million? Bogus Bud’s salary is almost as much as A-Rod’s.

Selig’s salary is not ridiculous, nor is Rodriguez’s. Major League Baseball is a very successful business, thanks in large part to Selig. He’s not even close to rich compared to the other business tycoons out there. Selig and Rodriguez wouldn’t be getting paid so handsomely if their employers couldn’t afford it.

But the real point here is that the salaries of Selig and Rodriguez are only tangentially related to the steroid “issue.” Again, this is what happens when you let emotion guide your ideologies instead of rationality. Green made his mind up before doing any research and analysis, and went out of his way to portray Selig in a negative light because he’s the bad guy who let steroid use fester in Major League Baseball.

You know what? I don’t blame Selig. People can cite morality all they want, but if they were in Selig’s position in the late 1990’s when steroid use was nothing more than an underground phenomenon, and baseball was struggling after the ’94 strike, and they saw that a more offense-centered game could draw more crowds, I’ll be damned if you’d have chosen so-called morality over ridiculous profits.

Easy to say from your chair in front of your computer and with 20/20 hindsight. Not so easy to do in real time with an issue that wasn’t then an issue.

Where has he been while the best of ballplayers souped up with foreign substances created ersatz records?

It seems Green thinks that if he peppers “fake” and all its synonyms (like “ersatz”) throughout his article, it enhances his points. It does just the opposite. If the numbers of Bonds and A-Rod and Giambi are so fake, shouldn’t that be provable through logical reasoning? You can scream “fake” all you want but it doesn’t make them fake.

I scream at my wallet all the time: “Overflowing with money!” Nothing yet. I yell at my apartment, “3,500 square feet, four bathrooms, and a jacuzzi!” So far, I’ve just had a couple of phone calls to the police by my neighbors, accusing me of disturbing the peace.

At this point, Green cites Bonds, Roger Clemens, and A-Rod, with a few facts about them. Notice how he doesn’t list the salaries of Bonds or Clemens, but he does so with A-Rod. You sly dog, Greeny!

Then he adds this bit:

Reported paramour of Madonna.

Great journalism, Greeny. Is this the E! channel?

Hilariously, he goes on to cite Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire as well, as if there’s any evidence against them for performance-enhancing drug use. Sosa’s merely corked a bat — certainly not an honorable thing, of course — and McGwire was found using androstenedione, but that was when it was legal in baseball, so no harm done there.

And, really, neither Bonds nor Clemens are guilty of anything yet. I can understand Joe Fan throwing Bonds and Clemens in jail and throwing away the key after both are found guilty in the court of public opinion, but shouldn’t a journalist be upholding the values this country was founded upon, most of which he is protected by every day he works in the journalism industry? I think it goes, “Innocent until proven guilty.”

And throughout it all, Bogus Bud Selig dilly-dallied — and still cannot remove himself from the fence he has straddled all these years while he boasted about what a mighty venture baseball had become.

Green wants to have his cake and eat it, too. Imagine if baseball never had the 1998 home run battle between McGwire and Sosa, nor the 73 HR season of Bonds in 2001. How popular would baseball be right now? It’d be hanging with the NHL. The ’98 chase reinvigorated interest in baseball after so many people turned away from the sport when the ’94 season was cut short.

So, you either have a supposedly pure sport that’s not doing so well financially, or you have a so-called impure sport that’s booming. Sorry, but I’ll take the latter. The success of Major League Baseball has led to great stuff for a fan that may not have been available if there hadn’t been such a boon in interest: an interactive website with a plethora of video highlights and the ability to stream live baseball games, as well as a recently-launched all baseball, all the time television channel. And I probably wouldn’t have this awesome hobby we call blogging.

Green himself, or even his employers, may have lost interest if there was no ’98 chase. If there wasn’t that much interest in baseball, there would have been less of a need for journalists to cover baseball games. Maybe Green has to cover other sports, or even completely leave the realm of sports entirely. Or maybe he has to move to smaller newspapers and magazines and he languishes in obscurity.

People don’t consider this stuff when they, with that great gift of hindsight, wish that the commissioner had canned steroid use when it was becoming prevalent in the early ’90’s. I’m glad he didn’t. And I’m sure as a businessman, he’s glad he didn’t either.

Morality is such a cop-out. There’s nothing inherently immoral about using steroids. Use and distribution is against the law, but that doesn’t make the law right (it isn’t). I don’t think there are too many people left who feel that smoking marijuana is immoral. Not too much difference between marijuana and steroids. Both are illegal.

Shame on Bonds. Shame on Clemens. Shame on Selig. And shame on the over-protective Major League Baseball Players Association that enabled Selig to establish an alibi for his do-nothing regime as commissioner.

Yes, shame on these guys who we as fans and media personnel pressured into doing whatever it takes to win — these guys who we punished after the fact.

Shame on the MLBPA for doing its job. They definitely should have allowed the players’ privacy rights to be trampled upon so that rigorous drug testing could be enforced in the name of pseudo-morals.

Some clubs will be charging 100 bucks to buy a ticket for an exhibition game. Just to watch the juiced up ballplayers perform and defy the commissioner in games that do not count.

Wait, what? There is drug testing in place now. Positive tests have come up in fewer and fewer numbers since ’04 when testing became more stringent.

How are the players now “juiced up”?

Again, emotions trump rationality with Green.

Bogus Bud has kept telling us that baseball is actually better off than it ever has been.

Once, long ago when I was a naïve kid and later as a naïve adult, I thought baseball meant purity. It was an American treasure.

“Bogus Bud” is not lying about MLB’s success, and he has a lot to do with it, as much as you and the millions of Selig-haters are loath to admit.

I wonder if Green ever stopped to think that his belief of “baseball is pure” was also naive.

And the father might tell his kid the tales of Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens — how baseball became tarnished by its defiant cheaters.

“And the father might tell his kid the tales of Jackie Robinson — how baseball was tarnished until they finally agreed to let African Americans play the great game.”

“And the father might tell his kid the tales of Babe Ruth — how baseball was tarnished by a bat-laminating drunk lothario.”

“And the father might tell his kid to get a grip on reality — to stop putting so much moral stock into teams of grown men running around on a field for three or four hours a night.”

There is no longer any joy to baseball.

To you, Jer. And if you don’t like baseball anymore, stop watching it. Stop writing about it.

And for the sake of the precious game, for the kids who might again be able to cherish this sport, it is necessary, I firmly believe, for Bud Selig to resign as commissioner.

Major League Baseball is a business, first and foremost. Their goal is to maximize profits. Wouldn’t you say that Selig has reached that goal, like a thousand times over?

As for Green’s use of children throughout his article… he hides behind children, like most adults do when they have an agenda.

Separation of church and state opponents hide behind them.

Marijuana prohibitionists hide behind them.

And the pseudo-ethicists — the anti-steroids journalists — like Green hide behind them.

It’s a cop out: it’s where you go when you have no more substance to your argument; you appeal to the supposed purity of children and that anything pro-kids can’t be bad.

Phillies Finally Have An Opening Day Ace

Cole HamelsSay what you will about Brett Myers, but the Phillies haven’t had a true ace take the hill on Opening Day since 1999 with Curt Schilling. Ten years later, the Phillies have a new guy they will be handing the ball to on Opening Day at least through 2012. Yes, that would be Cole Hamels, who will take the bump on April 5 at home against the Atlanta Braves. Charlie Manuel saw no reason to beat around the bush as he did last year, when he ended up selecting Myers for the opener.

Yeah, you might as well go ahead and pencil him in,” Manuel said. “I don’t think there’s any sense in me playing games. Go ahead, pencil him in.”

It’s been an ugly, ugly last nine years for Phillies openers.

Philadelphia Phillies Opening Day

The Phils have a .333 winning percentage in those nine openers, and their average starter doesn’t reach the sixth inning while giving up four earned runs. Oddly enough, two of their three quality starts in openers have resulted in losses.

Cole Hamels will be bringing his 145 ERA+, 1.082 WHIP, and 3.7 K:BB ratio from the ’08 season to the hill in the ’09 opener. This has to be as confident as the Phils have felt in a long time, and they’re hoping Hamels will imitate Schilling in the 1998 opener in New York against the Mets: eight shutout innings, nine punch-outs.

BDD: Mets All Bark, No Bite

At Baseball Daily Digest, I’ve questioned why the Mets’ new closer has taken it upon himself to declare the Mets “the team to beat” one season after Carlos Beltran did so with undesirable results.

Why does K-Rod feel it prudent to open his mouth with such a virulent recent history behind his team? Why does he think that his team of chokers is better than the team whose hands were around the Mets’ neck the last two seasons; the team that just won the World Series?

We may never know. But we do know that the phrase is now played out, like Stuart Scott’s “cool as the other side of the pillow” on SportsCenter. We know it’s unlikely to inspire a team that heard it all before and done nothing to back up any of the yapping they’ve done.

Sure, it’s more fuel for the fire of the rivalry, but how good is the rivalry, really? If the Mets were contestants on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? they would be this contestant. They are the Wilton Guerrero to the Phillies’ Vladimir. In the words of the Bloodhound Gang, they are the Baldwin brothers — not the good one, but the others.

Crashburn Alley Fantasy Baseball

It’s that time of year again: fantasy baseball sign-ups. I’ll be hosting a fantasy baseball league on Yahoo! and it’s open to any Crashburn Alley readers (all four of you). First come, first serve. There are six spots available [as of 2/17/09].

If you’d like to join, leave a comment on this entry or send me an e-mail:

crashburnalley [at] gmail [dot] com.

League information:

  • Draft: Sunday, March 22, 2009 at 4:00 PM Eastern
  • 12 teams
  • Head-to-head
  • Trading deadline: August 30, 2009
  • Scoring: 4×4
    • Offense: RBI, OBP, SLG, net SB
    • Pitching: ERA, K/BB ratio, quality starts, net SV

Updated the scoring 02/14/09. Originally, it was the typical 5×5 but I changed it to a slightly different setup. Also updated the draft time.