Opening Day… Technically

Despite the countdown at the top right of Crashburn Alley, the Major League Baseball season officially started at 6 A.M. when the Oakland Athletics and the Boston Red Sox duked it out in front of nearly 45,000 fans at the Tokyo Dome.

If you were sleeping or working and couldn’t catch the game, you missed a doozy. Before I begin my recap of the game, I just have to vent and say that I just have a strong disliking of ESPN’s broadcasters. I’m sure some of it is irrational, but it was so annoying to watch the game this morning because at the end of every inning that Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched, Gary Thorne and Steve Phillips would comment on how many pitches he’s thrown and that it’s unlikely that he’d be back for another inning. This started in the third inning and Matsuzaka went five.

Anyway, Mark Ellis started the scoring with a first inning solo home run to left field, and Bobby Crosby, later in the inning, knocked Daric Barton in with a grounder to pitcher Matsuzaka. Both pitchers looked good, as it was 2-0 until the top of the sixth inning, when Joe Blanton began to tire. Dustin Pedroia led off with a well-struck double to right-center field, and Kevin Youkilis followed with a four-pitch walk. Blanton got David Ortiz to a full count and forced him to foul out on the sixth pitch, but Manny Ramirez backed him up by ripping a first-pitch double to left field, scoring both runners. Later in the inning, eventual hero Brandon Moss — a last-minute substitute for the back-troubled J.D. Drew — singled to right field to score Ramirez, bumping the score to 3-2.

In the bottom half of the sixth, right-hander Kyle Snyder relieved Matsuzaka in a most unimpressive fashion. He allowed a lead-off single to Bobby Crosby and a meatball two-run homerun to Jack Hannahan, immediately blowing the lead the Red Sox were holding. To Snyder’s credit, he cut the Athletics off there and quickly got three outs to end the inning.

Fast-forward to the top of the ninth, where Athletics closer Huston Street was attempting to nail down a 4-3 victory. He retired lead-off hitter Mike Lowell, but Moss nailed Street’s fifth pitch of the at-bat — down and inside — into the right field stands for a game-tying solo home run. That wouldn’t be the end of Street’s night.

Athletics manager Bob Geren decided to leave Street in for the top of the tenth inning. In retrospect, that wasn’t exactly a wise decision, but it’s always easier to second guess when you know the results. Street got Julio Lugo to ground out to third base, but it was hit too deep and combined with his speed, he was safe at first. Pedroia promptly bunted him over to put the go-ahead run in scoring position. Street appeared to rebound by striking out Kevin Youkilis on a high fastball, but after intentionally walking David Ortiz with first base open, he had to get by Manny Ramirez, who already had a two-run double to his credit. He’d make it two. On a 1-2 count, Ramirez drove a high fastball to deep center field, and based on his reaction — he stood at home plate admiring his hit for a good three seconds — he thought it was a home run. Instead, it was a two-run double that brought the Red Sox ahead 6-4.

Cue Jonathan Papelbon, celebrated dancer and closer. Normally lights out, Papelbon was wild enough to allow this game to continue to be captivating. He walked Daric Barton, who gave him a tough at-bat. Jack Cust worked the count to 1-2, then chased a high fastball to strike out for the fourth time in the game (he’s on pace for 648!). Emil Brown, formerly of the K.C. Royals, had a chance to be a hero, and turned into a goat with some extremely poor base running. He took a first-pitch fastball — high, as had been Papelbon’s style throughout his inning of work — and drove it to deep right-center. Barton scored easily, but Brown got greedy and tried to take third base on the throw in to home plate, but it was cut off and he was forced into a run-down and easily tagged out after a couple back-and-forth throws. Instead of it being a one-run deficit with a runner in scoring position and one out, it was a one-run deficit with no runners on base and two outs. To pour salt on Brown’s wound, both of the hitters immediately following him — Bobby Crosby and Jack Hannahan — both singled, so he would have definitely scored if he had been on second base (of course, we’ll never know if either would have singled had that been the case, but it’s fun to assume). The game was wrapped up when Kurt Suzuki grounded out to first base, giving Papelbon a very hard-fought save, and Hideki Okajima — the other Red Sox player from Japan — the win.

If you had been up early enough to catch the game, it was well worth it. I think Major League Baseball is starting a new trend: instead of afternoon and evening baseball, we can have morning baseball; instead of hot dogs, popcorn, and beer, we can have scrambled eggs, French toast, and coffee with our game. I like it!

In other news…

John Patterson

In case you hadn’t heard, the Nationals released Patterson, author of a 130 ERA+ and 1.195 WHIP in 2005. Since then, though, he’s been ineffective and injury-prone. Still, you have to wonder why the Phillies didn’t extend a helping hand his way. The team is in desperate need of a #5 starter not named Adam Eaton, and none of the other contenders are doing much to earn that spot. If Kris Benson, who is more injury-prone and ineffective, is worth the flier, why not Patterson?

I am left befuddled by some of the non-moves by the Phillies’ front office. Apparently, Kyle Lohse isn’t good enough for them, but Kris Benson, J.D. Durbin, and Travis Blackley are.

Cleveland Indians

The Indians have — and had — a few arms who could and should interest the Phillies.

First off, the Tribe released left-handed reliever Aaron Fultz, a former Phillie. Fultz has been a great reliever in two out of his last three years: in ’05, he put up a 196 ERA+ and a 0.968 WHIP for the Phils, and last season, he put up a 158 ERA and a 1.324 WHIP for the Indians. Even in ’06, bad by Fultz’s standards, was above league-average: a 103 ERA+. The Phillies are in need of another left-handed reliever to complement J.C. Romero, and Mike Zagurski may need “Tommy John” surgery.

From David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News:

The Indians released former Phillies reliever Aaron Fultz yesterday, but don’t expect him land in Philadelphia. Ruben Amaro said the team has no interest in bringing back the lefthander, who pitched for the Phillies in 2005 and 2006.

Unless the Indians have a really good reason for cutting Fultz, the Phillies ought to look long and hard at themselves if they pass up on Fultz.

To continue on the theme of the Indians, I cite Nick Cafardo of Boston.com:

The Phillies are in the market for both a lefty reliever (someone to go with J.C. Romero) and a starter. Looks like rehab project Kris Benson may take the No. 5 spot since Adam Eaton has been horrible, but the Phillies are concerned about their pitching and Cole Hamels’s poor start.

Colorado pitcher Brian Fuentes remains a target of a few teams, the Tigers, Yankees, and Phillies in particular.

The Indians have an interesting scenario that could result in a trade. Cliff Lee is taking the No. 5 job with a very good camp, but the Tribe also has Jeremy Sowers and Aaron Laffey in the hunt. There are plenty of teams out there – including the Cardinals, Phillies, Astros – eyeing the lefties.

That article is from more than a week ago, but it’s still relevant. The Indians officially named Lee as their #5 starter, which makes Sowers and Laffey available. Neither has been particularly impressive, but both are around league-average, which is all the Phillies need. Laffey pitched 49 and one-third innings last season, his only season of Major League experience, and put up a 101 ERA+ and a 1.338 WHIP. Sowers has two seasons of Major League experience, and he averages about a 95 ERA+ and a 1.349 WHIP. His ’06 season was much more impressive than his ’07 season, however, so he remains a bit of a question mark.

The article also mentions Brian Fuentes of the Colorado Rockies, another left-hander, but he’s much more pricey, and the Phillies don’t need to overpay for a second left-handed reliever. The price they’d pay for Fuentes would be worth it if they desperately needed a set-up man or closer, but they have four pitchers who can pitch in those roles interchangeably: Brad Lidge (recovering from surgery and will start the season on the DL), Tom Gordon (the team’s de facto closer in Lidge’s absence), Ryan Madson, and Romero.

Questionably, Cafardo states that the Phillies are in the market for a left-handed starter as well, but I can’t see that as being accurate. The Phillies already have Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer, both left-handers, in the rotation. There’s no reason to need a third. If you have three, great, you have three. You just don’t go hunting for a #5 starter who is specifically left-handed — you take what you can get.

Options

Should the Phillies add one or more relievers from the outside, they would risk losing Francisco Rosario (who is on the disabled list), J.D. Durbin, Travis Blackley, and Clay Condrey because they are all out of options and can’t be sent back to the Minor Leagues unless they clear waivers, where the other 29 teams have a chance to claim them. Granted, they are nothing special, but given the dearth of reliable arms in the Phillies’ system, these guys are really the best they have.

A Look at the Phils by the Numbers

Michael Salfino contributed to ComcastSportsNet.com with a Sabermetric look at the 2008 Phillies. It’s very well-done — check it out.

We’re using three different projection systems. The father of the sabermetric movement, Bill James, is represented as published in “The Bill James Handbook.”

Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections come courtesy of BaseballThinkFactory.com, which consistently lives up to its name. ZiPS looks at similar skills more than players in calculating projections. Because I don’t want this piece to turn into a wall of numbers, let’s focus primarily on OPS (on-base plus slugging pecentage).

We’ll work our way down the Phillies’ projected lineup, starting at the top with the reigning MVP.

Joey Gathright — Holy Smokes!

You have got to be kidding me. Joey Gathright has already jumped over a car, but in an actual game, he jumped over a pitcher attempting to tag him!

Crashburn Alley 2008 MLB Predictions

In my ever-increasing genius, I have the great idea of not only making predictions, but recording them on a medium where others can check back later and ridicule me. If you haven’t seen them yet, I put my NCAA bracket up for public view here (note: I did make a couple changes to it a couple hours before the first game; I went 14-for-16 yesterday). Now I’m going to put up my 2008 MLB prognostications.

Let’s start with the awards.

Most Valuable Player

AL: Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees

A-Rod’s an easy pick.

NL: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies

Utley completes the MVP trifecta in Philly.

Cy Young

AL: Roy Halladay, Toronto Blue Jays

His ERA+ has gone down every season since ’05, but he did pitch 225 innings with a 1.24 WHIP last season. That 120 ERA+ is bad by his standards, but great by others’. All of the projections expect some degree of improvement.

NL: Aaron Harang, Cincinnati Reds

This is a sleeper pick of sorts, but he’s a legitimate contender for the Cy Young award. He’ll give you 230+ innings, walk very few, and strike out a lot (more than 8 K’s per 9 inning the last two seasons). Johan Santana is the sexy pick and you can’t go wrong with him, either.

Rookie of the Year

AL: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays

Too obvious not to follow the pack on this one.

NL: Cameron Maybin, Florida Marlins

While the Marlins are odds-on favorites to finish 5th in the division, Maybin will be a rare bright spot.

Manager of the Year

AL: Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays

I wanted to go with Eric Wedge of the Cleveland Indians, but managers tend not to defend their titles here. Bobby Cox (’04 & ’05) is the only manager to have done so since the award was created in 1983.

NL: Clint Hurdle, Colorado Rockies

The NL has a load of viable choices, but I think that leading the Rockies to their first division title in franchise history will seal the deal.

Comeback Player of the Year

AL: Kenny Rogers, Detroit Tigers

Kenny Rogers will successfully rebound from an injury-shortened ’07 season to be one of the few Tigers pitchers who end up helping out (along with Justin Verlander, obviously).

NL: Mike Hampton, Atlanta Braves

As long as he doesn’t completely blow up, average production should earn him enough sympathy points (he hasn’t pitched since ’05) to grab the award.

Home Run Leaders

AL: Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees, 51

NL: Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies, 54

Most Overrated

AL: Erik Bedard, Seattle Mariners

The trade from Baltimore not only gave Bedard a new home, but lots of unnecessary praise as well. 2007 was really the only great season of Bedard’s career, even though he’d started 24+ games in each season since ’04. His strikeout rate jumped from 7.9-ish from ’04 to ’06, to nearly 11 last season. I call aberration.

NL: Aaron Rowand, San Francisco Giants

Recipient of a five-year, $60 million deal from the Giants, Rowand goes into ’08 with some high expectations. The fact is that he is only a slightly better-than-average player. His ’04 and ’07 season are similar in that they were both good (130 and 123 OPS+ respectively), but his ’05 and ’06 seasons are also similar in that they were both bad (93 and 86 OPS+ respectively). His defense is even overrated: he ranked 15th out of 17 qualified MLB CF in RZR last season).

Most Underrated

AL: Brian Bannister, Kansas City Royals

Granted, this is a tiny bit of a biased pick, since there was an article written by Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports that revealed his appreciation for Sabermetrics. But in 165 innings last season, he allowed an average of only 1.2 baserunners per inning, and averaged less than two-and-a-half walks per 9 innings. Add to that his small allowance of home runs and you have a pitcher that a lot of people will be overlooking simply because he plays on a down-and-out team in Kansas City.

NL: Brad Lidge, Philadelphia Phillies

Call it a homer pick, but I’ve been reading all off-season about his mental issues that have stemmed from that home run he gave up to Albert Pujols in Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS. To quote myself:

After that game against the Phillies on April 23 until the end of the season, Lidge pitched 60 and two-thirds innings, struck out 81, and put up a 2.82 ERA. He finished the season with a 131 ERA+ and a 1.254 WHIP, impressive statistics for a closer deemed mentally anguished.

He seems to have recovered fine from his second knee surgery of the off-season as well:

Lidge pitched in a minor league intrasquad game Thursday at Clearwater, Fla., retiring four of the five batters he faced with three strikeouts and a walk. The right-hander, who had arthroscopic knee surgery last month, looked sharp enough that he just might be available for the NL East champions on opening day.

“I felt great with everything from warming up to throwing in the game,” Lidge said. “There is nothing better than facing hitters and that was a lot of fun.”

Breakout Player

AL: Jeremy Guthrie, Baltimore Orioles

With Bedard gone, Guthrie may be the de facto ace in the rotation. He’s game for it. Last season, in more than 175 innings, he put up a decent K-rate and a good walk rate, and allowed just over 1.2 baserunners per 9 innings.

NL: Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers

Ethier has had a lot of hype, but hasn’t done anything spectacular in his 843 Major League at-bats. This is the year for him, and he’ll be a major player in bringing the Dodgers from a league-average offense to a top-five offense (that’s right, you heard it here first).

Surprise Team

AL: Tampa Bay Rays

Too easy.

NL: Atlanta Braves

A lot of people are picking the Reds in a very winnable division, but more people are overlooking the Atlanta Braves in favor of the Mets and Phillies.

Disappointing Team

AL: Toronto Blue Jays

I have the Cy Young coming from the Jays, but otherwise, they’re still going to disappoint. Mediocre offense and questionable pitching, as a lot of those who had success last year were young and you just can’t expect everyone to repeat. I expect a significant drop-off in pitching (you heard it here first, and now you know why I don’t get paid to make these predictions).

NL: Milwaukee Brewers

They will have an above-average offense, but that’s about it. Their starting rotation is scary bad, and their bullpen is relatively the same. Eric Gagne should be great for them so long as he stays healthy.

All right, let’s get to the Over/Unders.

Per Batter’s Box, here are the Vegas lines, followed by my predictions. A + next to my prediction means I’m taking the over, and a means I’m taking the under.

Arizona     	86.5
Atlanta        	84.5
Baltimore   	65.5
Boston        	93.5
Chicago(NL)    	87.5
Chicago(AL)    	79.5
Cincinnati    	79.5
Cleveland    	88.5
Colorado    	82.5
Detroit        	93.5
Florida        	68.5
Houston        	72.5
Kansas City    	71.5
Los Angeles(AL)	91.5
Los Angeles(NL)	87.5
Milwaukee    	84.5
Minnesota    	72.5
New York(NL)    93.5
New York(AL)    93.5
Oakland        	73.5
Philadelphia    87.5
Pittsburgh    	68.5
San Diego    	84.5
San Francisco   71.5
Seattle        	86.5
St Louis	78.5
Tampa Bay    	73.5
Texas        	74.5
Toronto        	85.5
Washington    	70.5

NL East

NYM: 94-68 +
PHI: 90-72 +
ATL: 84-78 –
WAS: 74-88 +
FLA: 71-91 +

NL Central

CHC: 87-75 –
MIL: 80-82 –
CIN: 75-87 –
HOU: 74-88 +
STL: 71-91 –
PIT: 66-96 –

NL West

COL: 91-71 +
ARI: 89-73 +
LAD: 87-75 –
SDP: 80-82 –
SFG: 68-94 –

——-

AL East

BOS: 92-70 –
NYY: 87-75 –
TOR: 80-82 –
TBR: 79-83 +
BAL: 67-95 +

AL Central

CLE: 94-68 +
DET: 92-70 –
MIN: 78-84 +
CHW: 75-87 –
KCR: 74-88 +

AL West

LAA: 90-72 –
SEA: 84-78 –
TEX: 81-81 +
OAK: 73-89 –

I’m almost 100% sure my win-loss totals add up to 2,430-2,430, but if you take the time to check it out, let me know if it doesn’t add up.

Now let’s move on to the playoffs.

American League

East: Boston Red Sox

Central: Cleveland Indians

West: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Wild Card: Detroit Tigers

National League

East: New York Mets

Central: Chicago Cubs

West: Colorado Rockies

Wild Card: Philadelphia Phillies

Division Series

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim @ Cleveland Indians: Cleveland advances in 4 games

Detroit Tigers @ Boston Red Sox: Boston advances in 3 games

New York Mets @ Chicago Cubs: New York advances in 5 games

Philadelphia Phillies @ Colorado Rockies: Colorado advances in 4 games

Championship Series

Boston Red Sox @ Cleveland Indians: Cleveland advances in 6 games

Colorado Rockies @ New York Mets: Colorado advances in 5 games

World Series

Colorado Rockies @ Cleveland Indians: Cleveland wins in 6 games

That’s it. Feel free to tell me why I’m wrong and post your own predictions.

State of the News Media 2008

This is an extremely intriguing collection of data regarding the “traditional” media and the “new” media (bloggers, Wikipedia).

Citizen Media

Despite the proliferation of blogs, survey data suggest most Americans have yet to accept them as significant news sources. According to a winter 2007 Zogby Poll, blogs were the lowest on the list of “important” sources of news, coming in at 30%, well after Web sites (81%), television (78%), radio (73%), newspapers (69%) and magazines (38%). More Americans, 39%, chose friends and neighbors over blogs as an important informational source.

Other research found that Americans appeared to be more interested in blogs for their entertainment value than their importance as a news source. According to August 2007 data published by the marketing research firm Synovate, 49% of all Americans read blogs because they find them entertaining, 26% because of a particular hobby or interest and 15% for news and information.

That appears to jibe with citizen bloggers’ own interests. The Pew Internet & American Life Project found in 2006 that most bloggers wrote about issues other than news. Nearly four in ten (37%) said they blogged mainly about their “life and experiences,” with issues of public life (11%) cited as the second most popular topic area. Just 5% said they concentrated primarily on news and current events.

If citizens are gravitating to blogs more for personal pleasure, traditional media are working to connect them more to the news. Fully 95% of the top 100 newspapers included blogs from reporters in March 2007, up from 80% in 2006, according to research conducted by the Bivings Group.

[…]

July 2007 data from Synovate suggest that nearly half of all Americans report ever having read a blog, but the numbers are growing rapidly. That is notably higher than the 39% the Pew Internet and American Life Project reported in the winter of 2006. And that number was up from the 27% Pew Internet found a year earlier.

And that universe appears to be much larger among the young. According to Synovate’s data, 78% of adults 18 to 24 years old have read blogs. These younger adults also were more likely to notice ads on blogs, 61% compared to 43% over all.

Only a small core of all adults, however, are regular blog readers, according to Synovate’s research. Just 15% read a blog daily and only 5% more than once a day. In comparison, three in ten (28%) were monthly visitors. And the largest group of blog readers (39%) visited them less than once a month, according to the research.

Journalist Survey

Journalists have become markedly more pessimistic about the future of their profession.

But their concerns are taking a distinctly new turn. Rather than worrying as much about quality, they are now focused on economic survival. And in that new focus, we see signs of new openness to change.

Journalists are ready — even eager — to embrace new technologies. They think a range of new digital activities, from blogs to citizen media, are good for journalism. They even think, by 2 to 1, that splitting their time across multiple platforms is a positive change rather than a problem that is taking time from their reporting or spreading them thin. These are all attitudes hard to imagine a few years ago.

It is also striking what is not here in these numbers. The fears of a decade ago in journalism have faded. News people are less concerned about credibility. They are not as worried about cynicism. They do not feel as isolated. It is possible that technology has helped alleviate these concerns, but it is also possible that there are simply bigger problems today, problems that are more concrete and less cultural.

The problems are about money. The crisis in journalism in 2008, journalists now more clearly believe, is a crisis of a broken economic model. And cutbacks in the newsroom, covering fewer things is now a concern front and center instead of how they are covered.

Those concerns will either be solved or journalism as people traditionally think of it — reporters out in the community bearing witness to facts — will shrink substantially.

[…]

At the national level, more than six in ten journalists and senior executives now think journalism is headed in the wrong direction; less than a third are optimistic. TV and radio journalists at national news networks, many of whom entered 2007 with hopes of growth as online video became more widely used, are among the most pessimistic of all. All of these numbers are up from 2004.

Online journalists working for established news outlets see things in a slightly better light, but even they are more negative than positive. Half see journalism headed in the wrong direction (versus 42% who said things are moving forward.)

Only one group, local news executives are generally optimistic (65%).

[…]

The vast majority now see great value in having a place on the Web site where users can post comments. Smaller majorities say that citizen-started Web sites are a good thing. (Print journalists are slightly more accepting of the practice than TV and radio journalists.) And they are less upbeat about users posting content directly onto news sites. Yet even here a sizable minority is positively inclined, nearly four in ten TV and radio or print journalists see it as a good thing.

Given the comments from the likes of Bob Costas (note: my entry is now updated with a response to his “clarification” with Deadspin), Bill Conlin, and Stephen A. Smith, we can now see with this data that their opinions are not widely held in the journalism industry.

However, we can also see with the data potential reasons why they spew such vitriol at bloggers: job security. Costas, Conlin, and Smith are all probably wealthy enough to withstand losing their jobs due to their employers going out of business, but they all probably have a passion for their jobs as well, and that’s what they fear losing primarily. That’s just some amateur psychoanalysis, though with a lot of assumptions.

Overall, the data is interesting and bodes well for bloggers. Check it out.

Free-Floating Thoughts and Links

Recently, I responded to some feisty comments from Robert Quinlan Costas. The fun hasn’t ended, folks! I urge my seven loyal readers (Hi, grandma!) to check out John Brattain’s takes on those comments:

Speaking of Mr. Brattain, he corresponded with me regarding some questions the Phillies face going into the ’08 regular season, so check that out at The Hardball Times.

Spring Training Doom and Gloom

Per the Philadelphia Daily News, Brett Myers thinks that the team’s dismal spring training performances are meaningless. Manager Charlie Manuel disagrees. Spring training numbers don’t correlate with regular season numbers… yada, yada, yada… this is one rare point in which I believe the numbers aren’t necessary here.

Of course Brett Myers thinks spring training games are meaningless: he has nothing to fight for in the spring. Maybe that’s why he’s been performing so well, too. However, the pitchers who are really stinking it up — Adam Eaton, Travis Blackley, J.D. Durbin, Kyle Kendrick — have little job security to fall back on. To them, spring training games should be just as meaningful as regular season games because they may not even see Major League regular season games, especially at the rate they’re going.

If Eaton and The Gang can’t put it together with a metaphorical gun to the heads of their Major League jobs, why am I to believe that they’ll somehow “flip a switch” once March 31 rolls around?

Kyle Lohse

Lohse, client of super-agent Scott Boras, rolled the dice this off-season searching for a deal in the ballpark of what Carlos Silva got: 4 years, $48 million. No one bit, but the Phillies did offer him a 3-year, $21 million contract, which was declined. Lohse went jobless all off-season, and it was eerie, since league-average pitchers like him are usually snapped up quickly and suited in cash. The Cardinals gave him a one-year deal worth $4.25 million.

Prescription weight losing drugs i.e. levitra and cialis aren’t made for people who only wish to lose some pounds for cosmetic reasons and use drugs an alternate to plastic surgery. These and other drugs such as viagra are usually reserved for folks who are not capable of achieving or maintaining health and weight via diet in addition to exercise, and often have health issues as a result.

As recently as two weeks ago, Phillies assistant GM Mike Arbuckle (who, along with Ruben Amaro Jr., is a top candidate to take over for Pat Gillick when he departs after this season) said in regards to Lohse, “I know we’re not interested” even when Lohse said he’d take a one-year deal worth between $4 and $10 million. Why no interest?

The only plausible reasoning I can think of is Scott Boras. He and the Phillies have a bitter past (think J.D. Drew on draft day), and the two sides may have just been unwilling to negotiate with each other. If this explanation is actually true, then this is a colossal failure to do right by the people who keep the team in business. The front office owes it to the fans and to the players to put together the best team they can to attempt to win a World Series. Lohse, a league-average pitcher who would slot in at #5 in the Phillies rotation, gives the team a noticeably better chance at accomplishing that goal. Teams kill for a league-average pitcher at the back of the rotation, and Lohse was asking for well below market value!

Instead, the Phillies will allow the wound that is the back of the starting rotation to have the bacteria that are Eaton, Blackley, and Durbin fester. Kris Benson won’t be ready to attempt to help the Phillies until May at the earliest.

There is just no logical explanation I can think of as to why the Phillies had no interest in Lohse. There has to be something about him that not even the media knows about. Or maybe the Phillies’ front office is just incompetent.

Brackets

Just so everyone can see just what an idiot I am, I have taken screenshots of my bracket on ESPN (I have no idea if I can just send you a link to it; if so, I couldn’t find it). Remember to check back when the tournament is all done and tell me what an idiot I am. Or you can do it now, too.

East | Midwest | South | West | Final Four

Speaking of predictions, I’ll have my MLB predictions put up a day or two before the start of the regular season March 25.

The Greatest Steeplechase Fall Ever

From the San Marcos Daily Record, Tyler Mayforth recalls the most embarrassing moment of his life, and it’s plastered on YouTube.

UPDATED: Bob Costas, You’re On Notice!

Joining the ranks of Marcus Hayes and Bill Conlin is Robert Quinlan Costas, or as many in “the biz” know him, Bob Costas.

On Notice

He has some not-so-nice things to say about bloggers in an article written by Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

Costas, speaking before he emceed (and donated $50,000) at Tuesday’s Make-a-Wish sports auction at the Broward County Convention Center, doesn’t understand what compels so many nonjournalist sports fans to seek a forum for their opinions.

I don’t know… maybe it’s the enjoyment one gets out of discussing something you enjoy? I’d much rather talk with a bunch of baseball fans than with some Englishmen about cricket. Wouldn’t you?

Why is one’s lack of journalism credentials prudent to seeking “a forum” for his opinion?

Before the Internet, most fans were content talking about sports with their buddies.

It’s funny that this line of reasoning is somehow passable. Try it in another context.

“Before anesthesia, most patients were content having open heart surgery while wide awake.”

”Today, I saw on ESPN a poll about which Western Conference teams would not make the playoffs,” Costas said. “Well, 46 percent said the Denver Nuggets, which has zero percent influence on anything. […]

A) Voting in an online poll != Blogging.

B) Welcome to the world of voting, Bob! Your vote has never had any influence on anything meaningful, ever. Voting is an illusion of democracy.

[…]Who has the time or the inclination to do this, even if you’re sitting on your computer? Why would you weigh in on it?”

There are many reasons why you’d vote in an online poll:

  • It’s easy.
  • You’re bored.
  • You’re feeling mischievous and you vote 12,000 times for the most ridiculous answer to the question “Who will win the NBA championship?”
  • You actually believe that your vote will have a meaningful impact.

‘But it’s one thing if somebody just sets up a blog from their mother’s basement in Albuquerque and they are who they are, and they’re a pathetic get-a-life loser[…]

Oh, boy. First, I’ll focus on the obvious: not all bloggers live in their mothers’ basements (talk to the elbow ’cause the hand is on vacation).

Not all bloggers are “pathetic get-a-life losers,” either. Many simply blog as an activity. Bloggers can just as easily be neurosurgeons as they can be fry cooks at Wendy’s. That’s the beauty of it, actually. The internet provides a true democracy of opinion. Dictators like Costas, however, would prefer the power rest in the hands of the elite, the haughty sports journalists. Don’t you know, sports journalists can do stuff that regular people just can’t do!

Let’s see, sports journalists…

  • Watch games, and record important events from those games.
  • Talk to integral people involved with those games.
  • Write a narrative about the event using quotes from the people spoken to.

That’s stuff that even Harvard-graduated neurosurgeons can’t fathom. “I know how to send electromagnetic signals to the thalamus*, but I just can’t put into words what occurred during the Blue Jays-Twins game! And I have no idea what Ron Gardenhire is saying: ‘The ump blew a few calls.’ What?”

* I have no idea if this is even necessary, much less possible.

[…] but now that pathetic get-a-life loser can piggyback onto someone who actually has some level of professional accountability and they can be comment No. 17 on Dan Le Batard’s column or Bernie Miklasz’ column in St. Louis. That, in most cases, grants a forum to somebody who has no particular insight or responsibility. Most of it is a combination of ignorance or invective.”

How can a blogger “piggyback” onto someone? I’m not following this one (I realize it’s metaphorical). Is commenting on an article “piggybacking”? Is blogging about an article (as I am doing here) “piggybacking”? My understanding of the term is that you actually have to have some kind of tangible gain from someone else’s work.

Decent choice with Dan LeBatard, though. He seems to have his head on straight:

The Celtics don’t get to be the best team in the East because they have three superstars and play exceptional defense, which seems obvious enough. They’re great because of the ”chemistry” and ”determination” and ”leadership” of those three great players, but might yet lose to the ”unity” and ”experience” and ”clutchness” of Detroit, a team with, um, four great players.

Truth is, at the top of the sports food chain, the difference between the most talented teams — and the most important of the intangibles — is often dumb luck. You, too, can beat the clutchness of Tom Brady and genius of Bill Belichick and desire of Wes Welker if David Tyree happens to catch the ball off the top of his helmet after Eli Manning magically becomes Vince Young.

Back to the subject, why just flat assume that those commenting have “no particular insight”? I’m a cynic of the highest degree, but that is just too cynical even for my tastes, and it reeks of elitism.

Costas seems to think that his degree in journalism somehow gave him the power to understand everything sports-related.

Internet and talk radio commentary that “confuses simple mean-spiritedness and stupidity with edginess. Just because I can call someone a name doesn’t mean I’m insightful or tough and edgy. It means I’m an idiot.”

So, Costas has a problem with people on the Internet calling each other names. The pot calls the kettle black. Let’s recap:

  • Bloggers set up blogs from their mom’s basement in Albuquerque.
  • These bloggers are pathetic get-a-life losers.
  • People who comment on articles have no insight and are ignorant.

It’s true: people are more likely to act immaturely since they are protected by the anonymity the Internet provides. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water, however.

Lastly, I’d be offended if I was from Albuquerque. What does that have to do with loserdom?

“It’s just a high-tech place for idiots to do what they used to do on bar stools or in school yards, if they were school yard bullies, or on men’s room walls in gas stations. That doesn’t mean that anyone with half a brain should respect it.”

So, blogging about how David Wright > Jimmy Rollins for ’07 NL MVP, for instance, is something I’d do while sitting in a bar? Sure. So is pontificating about U.S. foreign policy, asking for cheap one-liners, and begging for my car keys after my 9th beer.

I don’t see how being a school bully has anything to do with blogging. Is this a Freudian slip? Bob… is there something you’d like to talk about? Is it not the bloggers who are wedgie-prone, but you?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen someone write on a men’s room wall, “David Wright > Jimmy Rollins for ’07 NL MVP because he has a higher OBP/SLG, plays better defense, and has comparable base-stealing ability.”

Most bloggers do a great job in adding to the dialogue in a broad array of subjects. I get more of my sports information from bloggers (I have five blogs with RSS buttons in my browser, still more in my favorites; none on both counts for newspaper and magazine websites, including ESPN). I think it’s the same way for most Web surfers.

If we can infer one thing from Costas’ unnecessary, immature, factless rant, it’s that his displeasure over bloggers and the people who read and comment on them is based on the fact that they are competition for his job. Bloggers do for free what elitists like Costas do for six-figure incomes, and many do it at a comparable level and are more entertaining in the process.

Focusing on those who comment on articles is fallacious. It’s what a statistics-inclined person would describe as a “small sample size.” Making a judgment based on two sentences is awfully flawed. It’s absolutely true that more than just a few people who leave comments do so to start flame wars, to spam, or to simply make a (usually) unfunny joke that adds nothing to the intellectual level of the conversation.

The next step up for Costas is calling for comment Eugenics. “Want to leave a comment on a Bob Costas article? Take the 30-minute IQ test. If you score 110 or higher, your comment will be held in moderation for approval by Mr. Robert Quinlan Costas himself.”

Even worse is imagining how he’d handle blogging. “So, you wish to start a blog about the Cincinnati Reds? Answer the following question: Do you have a degree in journalism?”

If you answer no, your computer immediately shuts down and you become unable to access the Internet through a browser the next time you turn it on. If you answer yes, you are instead redirected to a Google image search for “Bob Costas.”

Just be glad that elitists like Costas aren’t in charge of policing the Internet.

UPDATED: Costas contacted Deadspin to clarify his comments.

I noted that many of the comments expressed disappointment. I wanted to clarify and amplify my points, not backtrack or apologize or anything.

He’s sticking to his guns. Okay.

No entity has a monopoly over good writing from a valid point of view. In that sense, the more the merrier. In fact, many bloggers, on numerous subjects, sports included, are talented, humorous and bring fresh perspectives.

(Scowl slowly turns into a smile) Good.

My commentary was aimed solely at a portion of Internet sports discourse, an unfortunately large portion, that consists of nothing more than potshots, ad hominem arguments, ignorance and invective. No one who is familiar with the general tone of public discourse, whether it be sports, politics, whatever, can honestly deny that much. It comes from that direction.

Okay, but these aren’t “bloggers.”

I was absolutely not saying that most or all bloggers were losers. It just seems so often that commenters use insults in the place of arguments.

Bloggers != Commenters.

And if some bloggers do use “The Yankees suck” instead of “The Red Sox have better pitching, and a comparable offense and defense,” they’re not going to stick around for a while and they’re not worth reading. Perhaps I’ve happened to avoid blogs that do this, but I haven’t noticed any legitimate blogs that ad hominem their way home.

But forgive me for not placing the exact same value on an comment on a political blog that I would to something said by Ted Koppel. Sure, they have the equal value in a voting booth. But you have to assume that if you’ve done something reasonable well for an extended period of time, you have some notion of what you’re talking about.

Is 2+2=4 any less correct if George W. Bush says it as opposed to Albert Einstein saying it?

Costas rails against people using ad hominem arguments, but this is the basic ad hominem form:

[Claim] is right because [positive quality about the claimant; not evidence for claim].

Costas is likely railing against the converse:

[Claim] is wrong because [negative quality about the claimant; not evidence against claim].

Some have inferred that I have this elitist view, and that I think only people who have been somehow “certified” have the right to comment on sports. It shouldn’t be confused with somehow being superior.

I would be among those that felt Costas is elitist.

Notice that he didn’t amend his statements, but still doesn’t want to be viewed as elitist. Bob can start by saying, “You don’t need to have a degree in journalism to opine on the Internets.”

If you opened up anything to large numbers of participants, you’d find some real gems in there. But you’d have a lot of muck to sift through.

Yes, there’s a lot of muck in the comments.

I do think newspapers’ comment boards need to have the same sort of standard they’d have for a letter to an editor.

Ah, there it is. Remember when I alluded to Costas’ next step being the need for comment Eugenics? Just about there.

I look at some baseball blogs, Baseball Prospectus and what-not.

+1 E-cred for reading BP.

[Deadspin] We think the tipoff for people being angry was the “basement” line. Everyone’s a little tired of that line. [Costas] Yes, well, that might have lapsed a bit into cliche.

Still no retraction, though.

Costas tried to manage the backlash and really just ended up saying a whole lot of nothing.

Stadiums: What’s the Big Deal?

Call me a sourpuss, but I fail to see the importance of the hallowed grounds in baseball. When I was a kid, my uncle would tell me about how he’d been to Connie Mack Stadium, and that he’d been to Yankee Stadium, and that he’d been to Candlestick Park. I’d hear all of the lore of the players that took the field during his youth, and all of the memorable moments: the game-winning homers, the remarkable catches, the ninth-inning drama. But I was never impressed by it; the locale seemed to have little relation to the events that took place.

Going into the 2008 regular season, I’m being constantly reminded of this season being the last for the current Yankee Stadium, and that Wrigley Field could be renamed.

Knock ’em down, I say. Knock all those old stadiums down.

We all have our personal reasons to be attached to a ballpark, but I will never understand why I should revere Connie Mack Stadium, or Yankee Stadium, or Fenway Park, or Wrigley Field, stadiums in which I’ve either never been or don’t have any emotional stock invested. Sure, I was sad when Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia was demolished in favor of Citizens Bank Park. I’ve been to many a game there and never had a bad time despite how unattractive, poorly maintained, and unsanitary it was. One of the best memories I have of a game I attended at the Vet was Kevin Jordan’s pinch-hit grand slam against the Braves. But that’s all they are: personal memories, and they are certainly no reason to keep a pathetic excuse for a stadium alive. All things said, Veterans Stadium lived way longer than it should have.

I think Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park and Wrigley Field should all be demolished (assuming all of the logistics of doing so, and building new stadiums are in place).

Regarding Wrigley Field, I cite the Chicago Sun Times:

Wrigley is a baseball treasure that puts fans on top of the action. But its washrooms are the pits — and there aren’t enough of them. Concessions are mediocre. Concourses are so narrow you could play three innings in the time it sometimes takes to get out of the place.

And let’s not forget the infamous falling concrete of 2004. An overhaul — accomplished over several off-seasons, so the Cubs wouldn’t have to move out — would eliminate the need for the netting installed to catch falling debris after it happened three times in six weeks.

It’s unfair to lump the other stadiums in with Wrigley, since I doubt Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium have falling debris the way Wrigley does (or did, assuming they nullified that problem). But they’re all old, they’re all probably slightly behind technologically, and it’s just so more aesthetically pleasing just to watch a game at a newer stadium, even if it’s on TV. I’ve never ranked baseball stadiums by my personal favoritism, but I have no doubt that it’d be close to ordered chronologically.

To quickly delve into the pragmatic aspect of new stadiums, new parks for teams like the Red Sox and Cubs (the Yankees are moving into new digs after this season) would be excellent for their respective cities. New stadium construction would create more jobs in a recessing economy, generate more tourism, and generate more money for their franchises, which leads to the potential signing of big name free agents that can help bring a championship home, which leads to more fans in attendance, which leads to more concession and merchandise sales, which leads to more television advertisement and national television exposure, which all leads to more money for the city and for the franchise. It’s a big circle; Economics 101.

Fans don’t really think about that stuff when they wax poetic about old stadiums, though. Among other moments, fans think of Carlton Fisk’s home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series when they think of Fenway; they think of “The Sandberg Game” (June 23, 1984) when they think of Wrigley. They don’t think of C.C. Sabathia — who is the prime free agent pitcher after this season — with a Cubs logo sewn on his jersey in 2009, or a couple thousand people who are better able to feed their families because of the jobs created by the creation of a new ballpark.

Fans, for the most part, are hopelessly romantic (to use a tired cliche). Maybe there’s a genetic defect that I have that hasn’t been discovered yet, but I have never seen the need for sentimentalism. That fits in all areas of life: I think engagement and wedding rings are superfluous and inane traditions (probably part of why I don’t plan on getting married). I think the current fad with picture-taking is some kind of social scream of “I’m here; I’ve had an impact on other people — I’ve lived!” And I think that the romanticism of old baseball stadiums is, in the same vein, illogical, delusional, and in most cases, selfish.

I realize it’s borderline heresy to claim that I am an avid baseball fan and in the same breath denounce Fenway and Wrigley, and maybe that’s part of my defect as a human being. I just don’t see the big deal. I’d much rather spend three and a half hours and $60 at a game in a new, clean stadium with relatively state-of-the-art facilities than at a game at an old, ill-maintained stadium. Some of that is probably colored in with having been spoiled with Citizens Bank Park after many years of Veterans Stadium. The rest of it seems to be practical.

Maybe I’m just being a Negative Nancy in refusing to be immersed in the beauty of these old stadiums. Or maybe I’m just being realistic in realizing that Fenway Park’s seating is cramped and the green hue of the structure clashes unfavorably with the green of the outfield grass, the ivy on Wrigley Field’s brick outfield walls is unappealing (not to mention the bricks being dangerous), and the blue gradient of Yankee Stadium reeks of a Viagra misadventure. You tell me.

A Quick Commentary on the Updated Mortal Sins List

Vatican updates its thou-shalt-not list.

In olden days, the deadly sins included lust, gluttony and greed. Now, the Catholic Church says pollution, mind-damaging drugs and genetic experiments are on its updated thou-shalt-not list. Also receiving fresh attention by the Vatican was social injustice, along the lines of the age-old maxim: “The rich get richer while the poor get poorer.”

In the Vatican’s latest update on how God’s law is being violated in today’s world, Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, was asked by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano what, in his opinion, are the “new sins.”

He cited “violations of the basic rights of human nature” through genetic manipulation, drugs that “weaken the mind and cloud intelligence,” and the imbalance between the rich and the poor.

Besides the fact that “updating” the list shows just how fake this religion is, it’s overtly hypocritical that they are citing excessive wealth as a sin. Christian churches rake in nearly $20 billion every year, cost taxpayers nearly $1,000 every year due to religion’s tax-exemption, and own between 20 and 25% of the land in the United States (source).

If Christianity wants to point the finger at those accumulating wealth, they need look no further than in their own mirror.

That aside, it’s amazing how vague they are in describing the sins (either the fault of Yahoo! News/Associated Press or the Vatican). What, exactly, are drugs that “weaken the mind and cloud intelligence”? I’m assuming they’re talking about heroin, cocaine, and other drugs like that (since they’re anti-science, I’m sure they’d also wrongfully include marijuana). Do they account for prescription drugs, most of which are potentially more harmful than street drugs? What about people who can take the drug with no ill effects on the strength of the mind or the non-cloudiness of intelligence? These are questions I’m sure no one asked, since their motive isn’t philanthropy anyway.

And, of course, they are, in part, referencing embryonic stem cell research when they cite genetic manipulation as a sin. You know, ignore the fact that stem cell research has a far higher probability of curing diseases like AIDS and some forms of cancer than anything else we’ve come up with thus far, but we shouldn’t take that road because of their intentionally ambiguous criteria for what constitutes life.

I will give credit where credit is due and applaud them for at least taking a positive step forward with their anti-pollution message. However, a familiar adage may apply here: Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Lastly, I would just like to point out and laugh at one more piece of the article:

Closer to home, Girotti was asked about the many “situations of scandal and sin within the church,” in what appeared to be a reference to allegations in the United States and other countries of sexual abuse by clergy of minors and the coverups by hierarchy.

The monsignor acknowledged the “objective gravity” of the allegations, but contended that the heavy coverage by mass media of the scandals must also be denounced because it “discredits the church.”

Yeah, read that last sentence again. The media should be denounced because they’re not helping to cover up the religion’s dirty little secrets. Somehow, I’m sure that no one will care that one of the top guns in the Catholic Church is more concerned with people holding them accountable than holding pedophiles in their own ranks accountable. Religion always gets a free pass with this stuff.

As always, a screed against religion isn’t complete until George Carlin is cited. Enjoy:

Why Eva Longoria and I Will Elope to WARP-3 Island

Eva LongoriaLet’s play a guessing game. In the last five years, how many mainstream baseball journalists have linked to anything on Baseball Prospectus? I’m going to go ahead and guess “three.”

Today, Todd Zolecki makes it four with an article titled “Phillies show striking out not all that bad.” I believe every dead baseball purist just rolled over in his grave. But there are a few people who are interested in hearing more: me, the other mother’s basement-dwelling nerds, and Eva Longoria (pictured to the right with the caption, “It’s so sexy when a man rattles off statistics”).

Zolecki links to two BP articles:

Just Another Out?

Baseball Prospectus looked at the relationship between teams’ strikeout rates and run production from 1950 to 2002. It found there was no correlation between the two. It also found that a hitter’s strikeout rate correlates positively to power, slugging percentage, and walk rate.

Whiff or Whiff-Out You.

After another look at strikeouts by Baseball Prospectus in 2005, analyst James Click wrote, “On a very rough scale, a strikeout costs a team about three one-hundredths of a run. Looking at team totals from 2004, Reds batters led the league in strikeouts with 1,335. . . . All those failures at the plate cost the Reds an estimated 13.6 runs over the course of the season, or just over one win.”

Most interesting in Zolecki’s article isn’t the plethora of statistics that show strikeouts as rather meaningless for a hitter, but the feelings of Ryan Howard regarding the use of K’s to judge a hitter’s worth:

Ryan Howard struck out 199 times last season, the most strikeouts in a season in baseball history. He’d rather talk about anything else.

“I feel like I’m back in double A,” he said. “That’s all people used to talk about were strikeouts. You don’t hear anybody say, ‘That guy led the league in ground outs last year.’ “

Howard could benefit from reducing his strikeouts, but they are part of his game. He is one of the most feared hitters in baseball. He has hit 100 home runs faster than any other player in baseball history.

“You ground out. You fly out. You strike out. An out is an out,” Howard said. “People want to glorify what they want to glorify. If hitting into double plays were a big thing, then people would make them a big thing.”

Howard’s logical reaction is a breath of fresh air, especially when you consider some of the bigger names in baseball have become all hot and bothered with the advent of in-depth statistical analysis. Derek Jeter, when he was told that “clutch” hitting doesn’t exist, said, “You can take those stat guys and throw them out the window.”

It’s not just the players that have balked at the notion that you can better understand the game of baseball with Microsoft Excel; fans (especially the better-educated sportswriters) have been just as unresponsive to the science of baseball. We, of course, remember Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News, but there’s also Jon Heyman, Bruce Miles, Joe Morgan, and a plethora of other guys out there scowling at the calculations.

For Zolecki to not only link to, but quote a Baseball Prospectus article and to write a non-traditional article like “hitters striking out means nada” — bravo.

Congratulations aside to an honorable Philadelphia sports journalist (one of very few), I do take issue with just one thing he wrote towards the end of his article:

Howard is a career .291 hitter. He has struck out 493 times in 1,461 career at-bats, which means he hits .439 when he puts the ball in play. If he could have cut his strikeouts from 199 to 175 last season, his average would have jumped from .268 to .289. He might have hit 50 homers instead of 47.

First of all, Howard’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is .353, not .439.

Zolecki states that if Howard cut down on his K’s, his production would increase as a result of putting the ball in play more often. However, there’s no way to know this, even if we know his BABIP. The theory hinges on all of the variables staying exactly the same except for strikeouts, as if none of them are related to each other. Howard’s power production is, in fact, related to his propensity to strike out.

Look at the kings of not striking out. They are overwhelmingly players with puny to mediocre slugging percentages, like Juan Pierre and Jason Kendall. You don’t see 20+ HR player on the page until you hit Albert Pujols. The defense against a swinging strikeout is a shorter swing. Shortening the swing results in more bat control but less power.

If we learned one thing from Zolecki’s article, it’s that we shouldn’t go into cardiac arrest every time we hear “strike three.” But if we learned another, more important thing — say, from Dan Shaughnessy — it’s that Zolecki and his calculator are “living at home, in the basement, rent free.”

P.S. Sorry, Tony Parker, you just weren’t nerdy enough for her. You didn’t even cry when Gary Gygax died.

Don’t Ray-Gun Me, Bro!

Check out this baby: The Pentagon’s Ray Gun. You can watch a clip from 60 Minutes about the Active Denial System, a new technology being developed for crowd control. According to the ADS Fact Sheet (PDF file):

The ADS projects a focused beam of millimeter waves to induce an intolerable heating sensation on an adversary’s skin, repelling the individual with minimal risk of injury.

It sounds cool and it seems like another positive advancement in technology, but when you watch the 60 Minutes clip and think about some of the possibilities, it brings with it far more detriment.

For instance, did you notice in the clip that the ray gun is being tested on anti-war protesters? And these protesters, armed with nothing more than rocks, are perceived as a safety threat to armored and armed soldiers? Yes, that’s how you deal with people carrying signs that say, “Hug Me,” “Peace Not War,” “Love For All,” and “World Peace” — you microwave them to shut them the hell up with their crazy ideas.

This really has little to do with foreign crowd control; it’s really a domestic crowd control weapon. We’ve seen the advent of the Taser and in its relatively young age, and we’ve seen it abused — far too much. The ADS will be abused in the same way, only this new technology, since it controls large crowds, is more beneficial for politicians interested in squelching dissenters. It’s bad enough that you have to register to protest in St. Paul, Minnesota on September 1 when the Republicans arrive (the protesters are penned like livestock far away from the intended recipients of the message), and it’s bad enough the federal government has specified “protest zones.” The ray gun only helps the advancement of a police state and only hurts the existence of free speech.

Equally as appalling in the 60 Minutes clip is that David Martin never once asks about any potentially harmful side effects that may arise from the 100,000 watt beam. How does it react to those wearing contact lenses? Won’t the beam heat up the lens and cause it to fuse to the cornea? What happens if the victim is caught in the beam for too long, perhaps because he’s been trampled by the rest of the crowd? Won’t it cook the victim from the inside?

And most importantly, what steps are being taken to ensure oversight on the use of the ray gun, so that it is not abused?

Seriously, are crowds of protesters really a danger to armed members of the military? I thought the real danger was that there are terrorists hiding in caves in the Middle east, not sign-carrying proponents of peace.

Another possibility to consider: Blackwater, the privately-owned (by the son of a Christian neo-conservative) military company. They have essentially everything the military has, but they aren’t required to abide by military law. What happens if they get their hands on this ray gun? Considering that they’re right-wing Christian war-mongers, the possibilities are endless, and none of them are good.

It’d be nice if the media (which definitely doesn’t have conflicted interests) actually did some real investigation about the potential uses of this ray gun, instead of simply assuming that power never corrupts. It’s cliche at this point to reference George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, but this ray gun has Thought Police written all over it.

Tired of the Lidge-Jumping

Even before the new Phillies closer had his second knee surgery of the off-season, there was plenty of doubt cast on Brad Lidge and it had nothing to do with that right knee of his. Ever since that Game 5 three-run home run served up to Albert Pujols in the 2005 NLCS, it seems Lidge hit a mental wall, or at least that’s what those affirming the consequent — fans and media alike — would like you to think.

Lidge, obviously, is one of the few people who has a truly educated opinion on the matter of how the Pujols home run affected him in 2006. In late January, Ken Mandel explained:

He called those 2006 struggles a “mechanical issue,” though he admits he developed a cut fastball for 2007 because he lost confidence in his devastating fastball and hard-biting slider.

By April of last season, Lidge had lost his closer job. During an April game against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, he had runners on second and third with no outs. Houston catcher Brad Ausmus implored him to use his fastball and slider, and “see what happens,” according to Lidge.

He struck out the next three hitters.

“I felt as good as ever after that and went through the best stretch of my career after that,” Lidge said. “Earning my job back felt better than if it was handed to me when I wasn’t throwing well. I needed to earn it back.”

So, it wasn’t that he was mentally wrecked after Pujols hit a three-run home run in the 2005 NLCS; it was that he got away from his fastball and slider.

After that game against the Phillies on April 23 until the end of the season, Lidge pitched 60 and two-thirds innings, struck out 81, and put up a 2.82 ERA. He finished the season with a 131 ERA+ and a 1.254 WHIP, impressive statistics for a closer deemed mentally anguished.

Concerns about Lidge now that he’s had a second knee surgery certainly are legitimate, but the latest, a partial medial menisectomy, was a success:

“It really was the best-case scenario that it was the only thing going on,” Phillies athletic trainer Scott Sheridan said of Lidge’s knee. “His other side of the knee that he had repaired was fine. It was pretty simple for us.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Todd Zolecki also reported that there’s a possibility that Lidge could be back in time for Opening Day on March 31.

Not too much to worry about with the new Phillies closer, really. The projections seem to agree. Only Marcel puts him above a 4.00 ERA (4.23 to be exact). Bill James, CHONE, and ZiPS put him at 3.44, 3.42, and 3.88 respectively. CHONE and ZiPS both have him pitching over 70 innings as well.