Jose Valverde Not As Tough As Brett Myers

Houston Astros closer Jose Valverde was hit by a line drive — indirectly — off of the bat of Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Pedro Feliz. The line drive hit his glove first, then hit the right side of his face.

Jose ValverdeValverde flopped to the ground after being hit and laid there as assistant trainer Rex Jones, manager Cecil Cooper, catcher J.R. Towles, and all of the infielders came out to assist him.

After being examined, he demanded to stay in the game to finish off the ninth inning. Valverde had allowed a lead-off single to Pat Burrell, who advanced on center fielder Michael Bourn’s fielding error. He then retired Geoff Jenkins on a weak grounder up the middle before the RBI single from Pedro Feliz hit him in the face.

After persuading Jones and Cooper that he was well enough to pitch, he allowed a single to the first batter he faced, Carlos Ruiz. Pinch-hitter Chris Coste, hitting for pitcher Ryan Madson, feebly struck out, leaving it up to Jimmy Rollins to attempt to the game with two outs. Rollins came through with a line drive double to right field, but it was impressively cut off by Hunter Pence, and Feliz was held at third base as a result. Shane Victorino couldn’t get a hit, instead flying out to Bourn in center field.

When Valverde was hit, I was instantly reminded of when Brett Myers was hit in the head with a Michael Barrett line drive in the second inning of a game against the Cubs in Chicago on May 8, 2005. Not only did Myers stay in to finish the inning, he pitched an eight-inning complete game, allowing only two runs on five hits and a walk while striking out ten. If you want to watch it, click here to go to the May 2005 highlights page on the Phillies’ website, go down to May 8, and click on one of the videos for “Myers hit.”

The line drive goes right off of Myers’ head and ricochets all the way out into left field with momentum to spare. If you watch the video, you’ll notice that Myers doesn’t even hit the ground; he gets right back up. Myers’ only mistakes in the game were solo home runs to Neifi Perez and Aramis Ramirez in the fourth inning. The Phillies were stymied by Carlos Zambrano, getting only a Bobby Abreu solo home run off of him.

Valverde, on the other hand, got the save, but allowed two runs on four hits in one inning of work, and he held up the game after getting hit by a line drive that was first deflected.

Myers vs. Valverde

Sorry, Jose, you just aren’t as tough as Brett Myers. Thanks for playing.

Now to find some way to set up another line drive to hit Myers in the head so he can start pitching as well as he did back on that day in May ’05…

Natural reflex
Pendulum swing
You might be too dizzy
To do the right thing

Rush, “Stick It Out”

Jay Urban Is On Notice

Normally I reserve the “On Notice” (the idea which I’ve stolen from Stephen Colbert) board for crotchety old journalists like Bill Conlin who lash out at people who do his job better, but in this case, I’m expanding it to include people who make indicting statements about the “steroid era” on false grounds. Jay Urban of Bleacher Report wrote an article with a long title that reads “Gammons In Denial” before it hits the comma.

Most of the time, I will simply ignore articles like this and not even waste my time on it, but this one in particular is about a subject I feel strongly about, as it is a subject with loads of misinformation.

Mike Greenberg’s replacement that day, Erik Kuselias, reported that at the current rate Major League Baseball will produce 1,000 fewer home runs than two years ago. He then asked the baseball expert why this was ocurring.

I also asked this question not too long ago. The factor that seems to affect the offense the most is simply the weather. It’s typically cold and rainy in April and early May, so balls don’t carry as well.

Let’s take a look at last year’s New York Yankees who had the best offense in baseball. Their OPS by month…

March/April: .768

May: 782

June: .802

July: .916

August: .848

September/October: .841

That’s one example, but generally speaking, you will see a positive correlation between offense and higher temperatures. The current season hasn’t yet gotten into “high” temperatures.

In a laughable response, Gammons answered that the main differences were strategically motivated. Teams are thinking smarter and focusing on developing young pitching and that baseball nutrition was also undergoing a revision. Teams have been steering their players toward more versatile hitting bodies modeled after the winningest teams.

Come on. Was this a joke?

I don’t see what’s so egregious about Gammons’ response. In fact, it makes a lot of sense.

Are teams thinking smarter? It seems so, as Sabermetrics become more and more accepted in Major League circles. Teams still, unfortunately, utilize the sacrifice bunt in the wrong situations and offer a superfluous amount of intentional walks, but that has been a constant.

Are teams developing young pitching? It seems so. If you take a look at the best pitchers in baseball so far, a lot of them are under the age of 25: Edinson Volquez, Tim Lincecum, Zack Grienke, Fausto Carmona, Jair Jurrjens, Scott Olsen, Cole Hamels, John Danks, Felix Hernandez, John Lannan…

Are teams improving nutrition? How could they not? Nutrition is a science and science is always advancing. Additionally, Yankees manager Joe Girardi’s ban on candy and ice cream is an obvious focus on his team’s nutrition.

Have teams been focusing on “versatile hitting bodies”? That I cannot definitively say yes or no to, but if you think about it logically, I don’t know how it can be false. Teams don’t raise their draft picks to end up looking like Dmitri Young, do they?

The dramatic drop in home runs is a function of fewer steroid and growth hormone users, which in turn, is a function of more stringent testing procedures coupled with stiffer penalties.

This seems like a cogent correlation, but, unfortunately, it is not. Take a look at the numbers:
AL home runs per game, 2007: 0.99

AL home runs per game, 2008: 0.86 (-0.13)

NL home runs per game, 2007: 1.04

NL home runs per game, 2008: 0.95 (-0.09)

Unless Jay Urban thinks that they’ve only enforced strict drug testing on American Leaguers, he’s patently wrong here. The drop in home runs can be attributed to the cold weather and randomness.

However, even if both leagues had a significant drop in offensive production, Urban and others would still have to heed the “correlation does not imply causation” axiom.

Furthermore, Urban assumes that steroids and HGH are positively correlated with power hitting, but there has never been any direct evidence that shows this. In fact, HGH has been shown to not be performance-enhancing:

So far, no one has been able to connect the increase in lean body tissue caused by HGH with enhancement of athletic performance. Unlike steroids, growth hormone hasn’t been shown to increase weight-lifting ability; in the lab, it has a greater effect on muscle definition than muscle strength. And it doesn’t seem to help much with cardiovascular fitness, either.

As far as steroids enhancing performance, I make the argument that if they do, then so do Cortisone shots, over-the-counter and prescription drugs, protein shakes, and the like.

So, Urban is wrong on a host of fronts.

Among the penalties brought upon accused and convicted players thus far, the most potent has been fan reaction.

Right now Barry Bonds is unemployed, as is Sammy Sosa. Considering the difficulty that several American League teams are having putting runs on the board (this means you, Detroit Tigers), it would seem that these players still have a lot of value as designated hitters. Despite this, these players have been chosen as scapegoats to bear the sins of everyone else that broke the rules during this era.

Again, Urban makes a frivolous correlation: Bonds’ and Sosa’s assumed PED use is why they’re not on teams. Of course, Urban ignores that both are old and injury-prone, and that Sosa was merely league-average last season. Teams can get league-average offense in the DH spot from a number of places that don’t involve signing 40-year-olds that are essentially just taking at-bats away from younger, more deserving players.

The Bonds signing is almost definitely due to collusion, as the sage John Brattain explains. It’s not just the claim that he may have taken PED’s that is keeping teams from signing him, it’s that no one really likes him. He’s never been media-friendly (and oftentimes, rightfully so) and has always been independent.

Instead, the finger needs to be pointed in the direction of the news and sports media who have chosen to ignore the real issues that if covered, would have kept baseball accountable.

Generally, I agree with the sentiment that the media hasn’t done its job but this issue is not one such area.

PED’s were banned discreetly in 1991 via a memo, and hardly anyone knew about it. As Tom Farrey wrote for ESPN The Magazine:

In truth, steroids have been banned in baseball since 1991 — in a policy baseball officials made little effort to publicize. A source provided a copy of the seven-page document to ESPN The Magazine on the condition of anonymity.


ESPN spoke to five GMs from 1997, three of whom (from the Royals, Dodgers and Rockies) couldn’t recall that a steroids policy even existed — not that it would have mattered. “I hate to say this, but it didn’t do a whole lot of good to know the policy,” says Herk Robinson, the Royals’ GM during 1990-2000. “You weren’t going [to] solve anything. You couldn’t test. You couldn’t walk up to a guy and say, ‘What are you taking?'”

If you’re an anti-PED person, then you can only blame the guys at the top of Major League Baseball in 1991.

If you’re a more rational person who realizes that steroid and HGH use is only a controversy overinflated by the pharmaceutical industry that pays our politicians millions upon millions of dollars every year to pay attention to otherwise meaningless drug issues, then you blame… lobbyists and our easily-bribed politicians.

Instead of opening up the book and brokering a deal with major league baseball and the fans by explaining the full extent of the scandal, the media perpetuates the same fantasy that only a few were users.

Only a few were users! We haven’t even gone into the thousands (probably not even into the 500’s) with PED users, and there are close to 10,000 Major Leaguers every decade if my rough estimate is anywhere close. That would make 5% of the league over the last 10 years PED users. That’s not a big number at all. Perhaps Urban would like to present a more comprehensive list than those already compiled that include players suspended under the new anti-drug rules and those named in the Mitchell Report and whatever garbage is flowing out of Jose Canseco’s mouth.

These are periodically scapegoated in order to appease the fans who know that they were sold a lemon for over ten years.

Fans weren’t given a lemon because players were willing to put their future health at risk so they could put on a better show. The fans in the Steroid Era were given a magnificent show — the film Casablanca or Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro if you will — and it’s a shame that so many people are willing to taint their own memories because of a manufactured controversy.

The real reason for lack of home run production is well-known and the answer points to an answer that few are willing to accept. (WARNING: the next sentence will seem outrageous to those who live in a fantasy world) A majority of players in MLB from the early 1990’s to the recent past were users on some level.

As shown above, the real reason for lack of offensive production is basically the cold weather and randomness. Go back to this article after the season and see if it still makes sense.

You know we’ve told you before
But you didn’t hear us then
So you still question why
No! You didn’t listen again
You didn’t listen again

Rush, “Lessons”

BDD: Ryan Report; Also: Rush References!

The fifth installment of The Ryan Report is up for your amusement at Baseball Digest Daily.

As a result of the Blue Jays pwning the Phillies in the recent three-game series in Philadelphia and my losing a bet with the guys at Drunk Jays Fans, I have agreed to make Rush references in a week’s worth of posts. There is one in Ryan Report #5 but for your viewing pleasure, here is the video for Tom Sawyer:

Jayson Werth FTW, Literally

Jayson Werth: 3-4, 3 HR, 8 RBI

Jayson Werth FTW!

Werth hit three home runs Friday night in the inter-league opener against the Toronto Blue Jays en route to a 10-3 win. Two of his homers came against Jays starter David Purcey: a three-run home run to open the scoring in the second inning, and a grand slam that gave the Phillies an 8-0 lead in the third inning. Werth tacked on a solo home run off of Jesse Litsch in the fifth inning.

His eight RBI in one game tied a Phillies club record. According to the Phillies website:

The last Phillie to collect eight RBIs in a game was Mike Schmidt on April 17, 1976, in Chicago. The other three were Willie “Puddin’ Head” Jones (Aug. 20, 1958), Gavvy Cravath (Aug. 8, 1915) and Kitty Bransfield (July 11, 1910).

Werth’s eight RBI in one game is one more than his right field platoon mate Geoff Jenkins has all season (Werth has been playing in center field recently, however). Similarly, his three homers in one game is more than Carlos Ruiz, Shane Victorino, and Jenkins have all season.

His night left him with a season total of nine homers, which ties him with Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard for second-most on the team, and his eight RBI bumps him up to 26 on the season, third most on the team behind Chase Utley and Burrell.

Werth’s recent play may give Charlie Manuel food for thought regarding the platoon with Jenkins that was supposed to be utilized. Starting on May 13 in the series opener with the Atlanta Braves, Manuel put Werth in center field and Victorino in right field, which appeared to be a response to some poor defense on Victorino’s part in the previous series in San Francisco. Werth hadn’t played center field much throughout his career, logging 40 games and about 259 innings at that position going into 2008, but has already played 22 games and about 179 innings there so far this season. Jenkins thus far has been disappointing, getting on base below a .300 clip and not showing any power with his .345 SLG.

Answering Murphy’s Question

David Murphy, pretty much the only Philadelphia Daily News journalist that is even tolerable (Murphy is great), wrote a blog today asking the question, “How much does Rollins mean to this team?

Before I get into that, let me do my usual thing of linking you to my latest work at Baseball Digest Daily:

Shameless self-promotion aside, let’s get to the question. I’ll go through what he said in his blog and write my response to it.

[…] I’m convinced that Jimmy Rollins is one of those rare athletes whose presence really can invigorate a team. It’s why I disagree with those who say he shouldn’t have been MVP last year.

Well, unless Rollins’ intangibles can essentially add 30 OPS+ points either to himself or to his team (or both) and turn his defense from mediocre to above-average, there’s no justification for Rollins getting the MVP award last season. It was really between David Wright, Chipper Jones, and Chase Utley.

As to his “presence,” I don’t think there’s any question that he has a positive effect on his team, but that effect is minuscule as we are talking about professional Major League Baseball players — the highest caliber in the world. If they need to be in Rollins’ presence to feel excited about playing, or to be energized in the 7th inning in a getaway game, then it’s likely we’re not talking about MLB players.

But beyond that, I’m convinced his presence made his teammates better. Not in a concious [sic] way. Jayson Werth and Greg Dobbs didn’t walk up to the plate thinking, “I’m going to single now because Jimmy Rollins is here.”

The only other way this works is subconsciously then, and there’s really little difference between the two as both are unprovable.

There’s no question the Phillies are a better team with Jimmy Rollins at shortstop instead of Eric Bruntlett, and they’re better with Rollins leading off so Shane Victorino can hit second, Geoff Jenkins or Werth can hit sixth, Pedro Feliz seventh, and Carlos Ruiz eighth (Murphy explains this later).

That much is tangible, though. Rollins is light years ahead of Bruntlett offensively. The lower in the order Feliz hits, the less outs he makes (he is an outs machine). Bruntlett was hitting second and has an OBP of .308. While Shane Victorino hasn’t been any better (.305 OBP) he has a much higher ceiling and the more you pair him with Rollins at the top of the batting order, the less outs there will be when Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Pat Burrell come to the plate, which creates a lot of opportunities to score runs.

But there’s just something about this offense, this team, when Rollins is in the line-up. Everything clicks. Shane Victorino gets to hit second instead of first. That’s where he belongs. Werth gets to hit sixth and bring some speed to the middle of the order. Pedro Feliz gets to hit seventh. Carlos Ruiz gets to hit eighth.

The “Everything clicks” Murphy cites is tangible, as explained above. If he’s going for the intangible — that, in a vacuum, everyone in the lineup is better when Rollins is in there than when he is not — then it’s simply a “God of the gaps” argument, which is basically saying “If we don’t know, then [preconceived notion — in this case, intangibles] is the answer.”

How many times over the past month has the leadoff spot come up with two out in an inning? When Rollins is that leadoff guy, there’s a real potential for something big to happen. In fact, it’s expected.

“He always tells me just to get on,” pitcher Cole Hamels said.

Hamels got on the eight with two out, and Rollins hit a huge home run.

This is a cherry-pick. Why is Rollins somehow a better candidate when there are two outs? Granted, he has a 1.067 OPS with two outs, but that’s in a small sample size: 10 plate appearances. Last season, Rollins’ OPS dropped with every out recorded: 0 outs, .945; 1 out, .867; 2 outs, .768. And given his mediocre OBP (.331 career; .344 last season), I have more confidence in Jayson Werth (.351 career OBP; .404 last season) to extend an inning with two outs. In fact, Werth’s OPS with two outs was better than Rollins’ at .797.

I asked Hamels if we make too much of the impact Rollins brings to the entire team.

“Absolutely not,” he said.

What do you expect him to say? He’s not about to trash his own teammate.

Here’s another thing I think. And again, it’s just me thinking. But me thinking thinks that Rollins returning will help Ryan Howard too. I don’t think the first baseman would ever admit it, but there was more pressure on him with Rollins out. And that may have affected him. Last year he hit .223 when Chase Utley was down. He put some good swings on the ball tonight. Scored a run.

There are a lot of hasty generalizations here. Tangibly, Rollins will help Howard because it’s more likely Rollins will be on base than his replacement (Bruntlett) would have, so when Howard bats, there will be less outs and runners on base, which means Howard will see more predictable fastballs.

Secondly, Ryan Howard did not hit well when Chase Utley was injured because the Phillies played a lot of teams with good pitching:

  • July 30-August 2: Chicago Cubs, 2nd-best pitching in NL
  • August 3-5: Milwaukee Brewers, 9th-best pitching in NL
  • August 10-12: Atlanta Braves, 3rd-best pitching in NL
  • August 14-16: Washington Nationals, 10th-best pitching in NL
  • August 21-23: Los Angeles Dodgers, 6th-best pitching in NL
  • August 24-26: San Diego Padres, best pitching in NL

Understandably, the Phillies went 9-10 against those teams, and 6-3 against teams with bad pitching staves (4-2 vs. Pittsburgh Pirates’ 3rd-worst pitching, 2-1 vs. Florida Marlins’ worst pitching).

Ryan Howard was helped by Jimmy Rollins because he had some good swings and scored a run? Howard scored 8 runs in 18 games (1 R every 2.25 G) without Rollins and 10 runs in 19 games (1 R every 1.9 G) with Rollins — very little difference.

Howard has had some good swings lately, he’s just been a little unlucky (.211 BABiP). His two good swings last night came in his third at-bat against starter Pat Misch with just over 57 total innings of Major League experience, and in his one at-bat against reliever Tyler Walker who is league-average (102 ERA+ this season, 97 career ERA+).

Rollins’ return to the Phillies makes his team better because he’s better than his replacement Eric Bruntlett, not because he’s energetic or motivational or clutch.

A Response to MBB, Re: Murray Chass

The New York Yankees blog, My Baseball Bias, recently defended journalist Murray Chass after he was bought out by the New York Times. Chass, of course, is not highly regarded among most baseball bloggers, but it’s perfectly fine for MBB to defend him if they have legitimate points. I largely disagree with how MBB backed up its statements, and I’d like to show why. MBB’s words will be in bold, my words in regular typeface will follow.

Why get rid of him at the beginning of this season, and not after last season or at the conclusion of the current one? I’m not sure if the New York Times even gave a reason. Was it his age? Quality of work? Or a combination of the two?

There likely isn’t one big reason; more likely, it was a combination of things: the continuing decline of the newspaper industry, Chass’ abrasiveness, and the popularity of baseball blogs (which is, for the most part, inversely proportional with Chass’ and subsequently the New York Times sports section’s popularity).

The website “Baseball Prospectus” penned an open letter to Chass and criticized him on this point. Like sheep, other internet writers followed suit.

“Like sheep”? So, Sabermetric-minded bloggers don’t think for themselves and simply follow whatever Baseball Prospectus (I’m assuming he’s implying other big baseball websites as well) does?

Because of the scientific mindset that Sabermetrics take, you’ll always find its users criticizing each other. It’s a healthy process that occurs in all other branches of science, as science is self-critical. Baseball Prospectus, for instance, bases some statistics off of replacement-level players. Tangotiger analyzed some statistics to find out that BP’s replacement level is set at too low of a standard.

Sabermetric-minded bloggers aren’t all one cohesive unit that think alike. You may find one person who likes to use VORP, WARP, and UZR to judge a player’s value to his team; another might prefer WPA, Win Shares, and RZR. Every statistic has it’s pluses and minuses, some more than others.

My point is, so what if Chass, who was inducted into the writers’ wing of the baseball Hall of Fame in 2003, didn’t care for what he labeled, “new-age baseball statistics?’’

If he simply “didn’t care for” Sabermetrics, there would be no problem. However, he has overtly criticized people who do use them and has shown little to no effort in attempting to understand them. It’s like saying you don’t like Oreo cookies without ever having eaten one.

Here is exactly how Chass feels about Sabermetrics and the people who use them, from an article called “As Season Approaches, Some Topics Should Be Off Limits” dated February 27, 2007:

Things I don’t want to read or hear about anymore:


Statistics mongers promoting VORP and other new-age baseball statistics.

I receive a daily e-mail message from Baseball Prospectus, an electronic publication filled with articles and information about statistics, mostly statistics that only stats mongers can love.

To me, VORP epitomized the new-age nonsense. For the longest time, I had no idea what VORP meant and didn’t care enough to go to any great lengths to find out. I asked some colleagues whose work I respect, and they didn’t know what it meant either.

Finally, not long ago, I came across VORP spelled out. It stands for value over replacement player. How thrilling. How absurd. Value over replacement player. Don’t ask what it means. I don’t know.

I suppose that if stats mongers want to sit at their computers and play with these things all day long, that’s their prerogative. But their attempt to introduce these new-age statistics into the game threatens to undermine most fans’ enjoyment of baseball and the human factor therein.

People play baseball. Numbers don’t.

Can you smell the intolerance? He doesn’t just “not care” for Sabermetrics and its users, he views stat-heads as beneath him and the science of Sabermetrics as a waste of time, mostly his.

This is a professional journalist, someone who has a college degree and gets (I assume) adequately compensated to write and publish well-thought-out, well-researched, professional articles about baseball. Instead, he takes offense to an activity that would have no effect on his life whatsoever if he were to just ignore it. Similar to people who are against homosexual marriage — what do you care what people do behind closed doors when you’re not even around — what does Chass care what people do on their computers, what they highlight in newspaper and magazine articles, and how they analyze baseball teams and players?

To be honest, I’m not sure if VORP really adds anything, or simply confuses one’s enjoyment of this beautiful sport.

Just because it doesn’t enhance the game for you doesn’t mean it doesn’t, or can’t, for anyone else. VORP seems to be the cliche “nerd stat” but Sabermetrics are so much more than VORP — an offense-only counting statistic, by the way.

Baseball is a game packed with numbers, some valuable and some not. Does every statistic have meaning?

Some statistics are more meaningful than others. Wins and losses for pitchers? Meaningless. Batting average? Not so meaningful. On-base percentage? Meaningful.

“Meaning,” of course, referring to how informative it is.

I think there were instances when had the A’s used the latter strategy, the team would have advanced in the playoffs.

Isn’t hindsight a great thing?

When Joe Torre was managing the Yankees to multiple World Series titles, he never had a problem moving a runner over or swiping a bag.

Courtesy “Danny” in this BBTF thread about MBB’s article, a comparison of stolen bases and sacrifices in the Oakland Athletics’ four American League Division Series appearances:

2000 ALDS
SB: A’s 2, Yankees 1
SH: A’s 1, Yankees 1

2001 ALDS
SB: Yankees 4, A’s 3
SH: A’s 1, Yankees 1

2002 ALDS
SB: Twins 2, A’s 1
SH: Twins 2, A’s 0

2003 ALDS
SB: A’s 3, Red Sox 3
SH: A’s 1, Red Sox 0

SB: Opponents 10, A’s 9
SH: Opponents 4, A’s 3

The A’s were just a hair out-small-balled.

Oh yeah, the A’s never got past the opening round, and only advanced to the second round in 2006 before getting swept by the Detroit Tigers.

So, the lack of deep-playoff success is the fault of a general ideology? The New York Yankees made the playoffs every season between 1995 and 2007 (13 seasons), but haven’t been out of the ALDS in the last four. Using MDD’s logic, we can pin the Yankees’ recent lack of playoff success on their not having a problem “moving a runner over or swiping a bag.”

My point? There are a lot of factors that go into winning and losing in the playoffs. Pinning it on a broad philosophy is intellectually dishonest and, frankly, lazy.

As a sportswriter, it’s important to keep up with what’s going on, but it’s also vital to dismiss what I think isn’t critical.

There’s a way to do that tactfully. Chass took the route of unprofessionalism.

I enjoyed his insight and passion, and never failed to read his Sunday column, which I felt was consistently strong until the end.

What’s the point? So what, you like the guy. This doesn’t add anything to your case and only detracts from your credibility because it seems you’re biased (that, of course, having nothing to do with the blog’s title).

That Chass, who had been the national baseball columnist for the Times since 1986, is a baseball traditionalist shouldn’t be held against him.

No one is holding his baseball traditionalism against him. He has the right to think the way he does; what we are holding against him is his intolerance for differing ideas and the lack of tact he has in expressing his distaste for Sabermetrics.

I’m a traditionalist, and likewise honor and respect the game.

You don’t need to be a traditionalist to honor and respect the game.

Few internet writers bother to attend games and sit in the press box.

This seems like a subtle “he actually watches the games unlike you nerds staring at your computer monitors” argument. You don’t need to actually attend the games to understand what occurred during the game. There are radio, television, and Internet broadcasts that don’t make stadium attendance mandatory to be hip to the scene.

To me, this is a must, otherwise it’s going to be tough getting players on the record.

Er, what? Chass needs to sit in a press box to get players “on the record”? I’m going to simply claim “false dichotomy” here.

Many bloggers simply just take pot shots, and have no basis in what they’re spouting.

Such a generalization… and MBB cites no examples. What, exactly, is a pot shot anyway?

I would be interested in seeing MBB’s examples of bloggers taking pot shots and having no basis for statements.

Last week I went to writer and Boston native Seth Mnookin’s blog, and essentially said the same thing. Everybody comes in with their own bias. Maybe Mnookin doesn’t care for Chass because he perceives him to be anti-Boston? Who knows?

Who cares what a Boston blogger thinks about Chass? You yourself just said that “Many bloggers simply just take pot shots, and have no basis in what they’re spouting.”

I have never read Mnookin’s work before but if he doesn’t like Chass, it is probably due to his intellectual dishonesty, tactlessness, and intolerance.

What is clear is that Chass, who graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1960, then worked for The Associated Press, and later the Times beginning in 1969, is an expert on all matters pertaining to baseball’s labor and business issues.

All of that has little to do with being “an expert on all matters pertaining to baseball’s labor and business issues,” unless he took a class on matters pertaining to baseball’s labor and business issues. I’m going to guess he didn’t.

During baseball’s strikes, and the events leading up to the work stoppage, reading Chass was mandatory. His work was directly on the pulse of what the players’ union and team owners were saying. His sources were impeccable, and his writing keen, clear and impeccable. He always hit a home run.

If you want, I can get you Murray’s phone number so you can fellate him in person.

Last season during spring training, I e-mailed Chass and asked if he’d do a question-and-answer for a weekly column I write for The Tolucan Times in Southern California. About a week before the season began, and after his stay in Florida was over, he agreed. Most writers, and especially one approaching his seventies, would have begged off. Not Chass, who answered my queries. I give him much credit for this and also not abandoning his trade.

Ah, so we get to the crux of the matter: Chass patted your back, now you’re patting his. This has nothing to do with the quality of his work, it’s simply an anecdote of a time when Chass was simply agreeable. If we had a list of Murray’s interactions with bloggers via E-mail, this anecdote, I’m presuming, could be labeled as a cherry-pick.

At a time when Peter Gammons, Buster Olney, and Tim Kurkjian, have all left the newspaper business and headed for the more-profitable television gig, Chass stayed put. That is until his employer asked him to leave.

It’s funny that the author of this article intended to defend the actions of Murray Chass, but it seems that the longer he wrote this article, the harder it became to rehash the same line over and over, so he started citing positive examples of his personality.

Murray Chass could be the most generous sports journalist to ever live. He could donate half of his salary to charities and one of his kidneys to an ailing family member and rescue orphaned puppies in his spare time, but it matters not in an objective discussion about the quality of his writing and the way he treats people who disagree with him.

Sunday’s Mass in Ruth’s House Contemptible

Before I get into the Pope at Yankee Stadium, I’d like to first discuss the fact that State Farm Insurance had been intentionally and blatantly bilking Hurricane Katrina victims out of their insurance claims. I was appalled to find out that State Farm was denying claims to its customers who had lost everything to the destructive path of the hurricane because the damage was, according to State Farm, caused by floods and winds, which are not covered under their policies. They were backing these egregious claims up by manipulating the claims reports, acquiring “scientifically dishonest” information, and performing “sham re-inspections” of homes.

In addition, State Farm has also been playing hardball on minor-crash claims. According to a article from February 2007:

In an affidavit in a New Mexico case where Allstate is being sued, one of the company’s former attorneys said the strategy is to make fighting the company “so expensive and so time-consuming that lawyers would start refusing to help clients.”

If you recall the 2007 MLB All-Star Game and Home Run Derby, State Farm had its logo plastered all over. Since then, State Farm has affiliated with all four major sports organizations and you’ll find banners at every arena, commercials during every national telecast, and in some cases, State Farm being brought to you by some segments like the “Play of the Game.”

The reason why I bring this up is that these sports organizations are affiliating themselves with a reprehensible company. They are all either completely ignorant of or entirely uncaring towards State Farm’s abhorrent practices. It is my hope that with enough exposure of State Farm’s misdeeds, there can be pressure put on these organizations to halt their ties with State Farm.

Similarly, the Pope – the infallible leader of the Roman Catholic Church and leader of Vatican City – is at the top of an organization responsible for abhorrent practices, but the numbers in this case are exponentially greater and the actions more disgusting than State Farm’s. Everyone, of course, is familiar with what I am talking about: the numerous, undying revelations of sex abuse – mostly of children – within the ranks of the Catholic Church. However, only the people who have been caught have been punished; the institution responsible for fostering these urges has never once been given even a mere slap on the wrist. The Pope and the Catholic Church have been given infinite “Get out of jail free” cards.

Bill Maher made some excellent points on April 11’s edition of Real Time with Bill Maher during his “New Rules” segment. He said, “When the current Pope was in his previous Vatican job as John Paul’s Dick Cheney, he wrote a letter instructing every Catholic bishop to keep the sex abuse of minors secret until the statute of limitations ran out. And that’s the Church’s attitude.”

Later on, Maher added, “But just remember one thing: If the Pope was, instead of a religious figure, merely the CEO of a nationwide chain of daycare centers, where thousands of employees had been caught molesting kids, and then covering it up, he’d be arrested […]”

Yankee Stadium on Sunday housed 57,000 hysterical followers of Catholicism and fans of Pope Benedict, “the CEO of a nationwide chain of daycare centers.” The city of New York not only associated with, but enthusiastically opened their doors to an organization made up of “thousands of employees [who] had been caught molesting kids.” To make matters worse, a plaque commemorating the Pope’s visit will be placed in Monument Park alongside the likes of Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio.

This, to me, is unforgivable, and it’s shameful that not one word of criticism has been pointed in New York’s direction. To clarify, I am referring to both the city of New York and the Yankees, as the city bought the stadium for $24 million in 1972 and leased it back to the Yankees. In addition, I’m not claiming that all Catholics or all of Catholicism is bad; there are many philanthropic Catholics and the religion is also used to aid needy people, but it doesn’t somehow forgive what has been done. I’m sure State Farm donates millions of dollars to charities every year, but it doesn’t mean we should forgive them for bilking Katrina victims.

When any business is proposed an offer, such as Major League Baseball being proposed an offer from State Farm to place their logo on billboards across all 30 stadiums, you’d think that that business would only want to associate itself with other businesses who share their positive ideals. After all, you are judged by those you associate yourself with, and if Major League Baseball is associating itself with a company that intentionally slights their customers (particularly those who have few assets), that can’t reflect well on MLB. Similarly, the city of New York and the Yankees should be embarrassed for being so complacent in allowing a religion that is not only responsible for but fosters and attempts to cover up sex abuse within the ranks of the Catholic Church to host 57,000 followers in Yankee Stadium.

When you apply for something like a job, a loan, or a credit card, they look for red flags in your history, reasons they might be concerned about you. Oftentimes, you are asked if you’ve ever committed any crimes. Could you imagine if the Catholic Church had to apply for something like this as an ordinary person would, and have to answer honestly? How quickly would they be rejected when the other side reads “child molester” on the application? Whoever said that there’s strength in numbers must have been talking about the Catholic Church.

In closing, the ballpark is for watching baseball games, not a venue to express patriotism or religious beliefs. Don’t just passively accept everything you see and hear at the ballpark anymore: think about what that national anthem and American flag really means to you and not what it means to everyone else, or what it’s “supposed” to mean to you; what that State Farm advertisement hanging on the façade of the second deck symbolizes to the thousands of people who have lost friends and family members and their homes to Hurricane Katrina, and have nothing left in their name but the clothes on their back; and what it means to the seven-year-old kid who is at “The House that Ruth Built” for the first time in his life on April 29 –  when the Yankees come back home to face the Detroit Tigers – after it hosted 57,000 followers and the leaders of a religion responsible for thousands of cases of child molestation.

Baseball used to be about the fans and the beautiful, intellectual game; now it’s about profit margins, appeasing large political and religious groups.

The saying goes “simpler is better.” Leave the pageantry and political and religious connections for another venue, let’s get back to “see the ball, hit the ball,” as Aubrey Huff would say. The ballpark is the perfect place for traditionalists and Sabermetricians, Red Sox and Yankees fans, liberals and conservatives, theists and atheists, rich and poor, young and old to come together and put aside the stresses of everyday life for three and a half hours in favor of the stresses of failed sacrifice bunts, dropped infield flies, four-pitch walks to the opposing pitcher, and lead-changing home runs in the top of the ninth inning.