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.

Jon Heyman Needs Attention

It’s the end of February and exhibition games are hours away. A new baseball season is on the horizon, full of new wonders for our great sportswriters to opine about. Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman instead wants to focus on last year’s NL MVP award and attack people who use Sabermetrics.

Things must be lonely around the office because Heyman is clearly angling to get linked to and talked about on the Internets. Being the generous person I am, I’m going to give him just that. Fire Joe Morgan already dissected it with humor, but I’m going to dissect it with a fine-tooth comb and really give him the type of editing he deserves, and clearly lacks at Sports Illustrated.

As always, his words are in bold, my comments will follow in regular typeface.

Let’s start off with the header.

Sorry VORPies, Rollins was the right choice

Seriously. This is a grown man working for a worldwide-renowned sports publication… insulting proponents of an ideology that differs from his. Further, he chooses to do this in February, more than four months removed from the end of the World Series, and right on the cusp of a brand new baseball season.

Rollins acknowledged that his brash “team to beat” prediction probably helped him win the MVP. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he hit 30 home runs, scored 139 runs and slugged .534 while batting leadoff and playing a superb shortstop for a division champion.

No, it didn’t hurt that his counting statistics were inflated by a record number of plate appearances (and, subsequently, at-bats).

Jon, did you notice where Rollins was in the Phillies’ batting order? He was a lead-off hitter. What is the job of a lead-off hitter? You are correct: to get on base.

Isn’t a shame that Rollins not only had a below-average on-base percentage (.344 to the league average .349), but he etched his name in pseudo-history when he tied for 18th place in total outs made in a single season (527)?

That’s the problem with counting statistics: you’ve got to keep plate appearances and at-bats in mind, otherwise, you don’t have a scale off of which to base your perception. Rollins’ 30 HR are impressive, but his rate is about one HR every 24 AB, which is mediocre.

The Rockies’ great slugger, Matt Holliday, finished second, but even a Rockies person told me in the playoffs last October that Rollins deserved the MVP […]

“A Rockies person”? Who could this be? The clubhouse janitor? Clint Hurdle? The guy selling hot dogs at the concession stand behind home plate at Coors Field? Garrett Atkins?

Even if “a Rockies person” is someone whose opinion we should value, it doesn’t somehow add credence to the claim that Rollins deserved the MVP. For every “Rockies person” backing Rollins, there is a “Phillies person” backing David Wright and a “Mets person” backing Matt Holliday.

That person believed that great offense combined with stellar shortstop play should have been enough to take the awards, not a bad thought at all.

What about great offense combined with stellar third base play?

Rollins isn’t “stellar” at shortstop defensively anyway. He ranked 9th out of 14 qualified NL SS in RZR. David Wright ranked 5th out of 12 qualified NL 3B in RZR.

Add to that Wright’s offensive prowess over Rollins, and it’s not even close between the two.

Seriously, Wright has better power, gets on base at a much, much better clip, has comparable speed (34-of-39 stolen bases), knows how to draw a walk, and fields his position at an above-average level.

The only reason it’s a debate between Rollins and Wright is because so many people don’t understand the concept of rates. Heyman is one of them.

Even so, I wasn’t shocked that stats people have taken issue with Rollins winning the MVP award.

This tells me that he knows something has been statistically proven to be true, yet he will still believe something else because he wants to regardless of what the facts say.

There are numbers crunchers out there — including a firejoemorgan.com author who wrote a guest piece in Sports Illustrated last week — who believe baseball writers rank somewhere between morons and idiots for voting Rollins as MVP over David Wright, who had a higher VORP.

Not just VORP. There are a plethora of statistics out there that show Wright as a better candidate than Rollins. Almost all defensive metrics will put Wright over Rollins. Offensively, the meat-and-potatoes of baseball — OBP and SLG — easily make the case with Wright.

Really the only thing Rollins has over Wright is the ability to hit triples.

The stat people seem to believe VORP — a Baseball Prospectus statistic that stands for Value Over Replacement Player — defines a player, but why haven’t many of them championed last year’s VORP leader (Hanley Ramirez) as MVP instead?

Before I took a look at defensive metrics, I thought Hanley Ramirez was the NL MVP as well. He is horrendous defensively, however: -8 fielding runs above average.

Secondly, Heyman makes a strawman argument by saying that those who use Sabermetrics think that VORP “defines a player.” One statistic does not and can not define a player and you will not find any educated user of Sabermetrics advocating this.

And thirdly, VORP isn’t just a Baseball Prospectus statistic. Certainly it’s the most widely regarded because of BP’s popularity, but others have it as well. To quote a commenter on Baseball Think Factory, “that’s like saying that batting average is a TSN statistic.”

I assume the stats guys favor Wright because he played for a contending team. I guess the rule is this: Highest VORP wins unless the VORP champion is playing for a loser.

Uh… no. “The stats guys” favor Wright because he was the best when you factor in both offense and defense. Rollins, really, doesn’t come close.

There is no universal agreement among those who use Sabermetrics that a candidate’s team’s contention should have any factor. Personally, I don’t think it should. You shouldn’t punish a player for having a bad supporting cast.

If Wright’s offensive stats were slightly better than Rollins’, and I will accept that they were, especially considering the respective ballparks they play in (VORP accounts for ballparks), shouldn’t Rollins get points for playing a superb shortstop compared to Wright’s slightly-above average third base?

1. Wright’s statistics weren’t “slightly better” than Rollins’. It’s a landslide in Wright’s favor.

2. Rollins doesn’t play a superb shortstop, as proven above.

And shouldn’t Rollins get credit for showing extraordinary initiative and leadership?

If you have the privilege of voting for the MVP award, you can use whatever criteria you wish. If you want to account for intangibles, go right ahead.

Personally, I don’t think any MVP candidate should have intangibles taken into account. They’re highly subjective and thus highly prone to human biases and flawed perceptions. The analysis, I believe, is more accurate when you don’t account for intangibles.

For helping his team barrel into the playoffs from seven games back with 17 to go, as opposed to Wright’s team, which perpetrated a historic choke?

It’s not Wright’s fault his team couldn’t win a game at the end of September.

And if we’re going to take September performance into account…

Wright: 38-125 (.304), 6 HR, 20 RBI, 4 SB, .432 OBP, .602 SLG (1.034 OPS)

Rollins: 39-138 (.282), 6 HR, 18 RBI, 14 SB, .333 OBP, .542 SLG (.875 OPS)

Though the Mets’ collapse was no fault of Wright’s, for the MVP to come off the all-time choke team, he’d better have a greater advantage in stats […]

To the stat guys, walking is more thrilling and much more valuable than actually winning the pennant.

Heyman really has an obsession with the success or failure of the candidates’ teams. For what it’s worth, the Phillies did nothing in the post-season — they were promptly swept in three games by the Colorado Rockies. It’s as if they never even made the post-season.

There you go Jon: Not only did I read and respond to your article, I even linked to it as well. You got the attention that you wanted.

Freddy Garcia Redux?

You didn’t hear it here, but… Pat Gillick is good at acquiring damaged goods. Before last season, Gillick traded for Freddy Garcia and sent failed project Gavin Floyd and prized left-hander and strikeout artist Gio Gonzalez to the White Sox. Garcia’s tenure with the Phillies was most unimpressive: 11 starts, 58 innings, 5.90 ERA, and a 1.6 WHIP. His season was shut down on June 8 after a chronic shoulder problem could be hidden no longer.

It’s not Garcia’s fault, though. He had good intentions in hiding his shoulder problems. The real problem lies with the Phillies’ upper management:

General manager Pat Gillick insisted Garcia wasn’t “damaged goods” when the team acquired him. Even though some reports said Garcia’s velocity was down toward the end of last season, the Phillies didn’t make the trade contingent upon him passing a physical.

“We didn’t think a physical was necessary,” Gillick said. “Our doctors spoke to their doctors and our training staff spoke to theirs and we were satisfied his health was good. Our scouts saw him pitch in September. They thought he was healthy.”

Breathe easy — the Phillies did, in fact, require Lidge to pass a physical before completing the trade with the Houston Astros and new GM Ed Wade.

The flame-throwing right-hander threw one pitch on Saturday and ended up re-injuring his right knee. Lidge had surgery on the knee in October and the Phillies required him to have surgery once again, a partial medial menisectomy. It was successful:

“The other side of the knee is fine,” Phillies trainer Scott Sheridan told ESPN.com‘s Jayson Stark on Monday. Sheridan called Lidge’s injury and the subsequent successful surgery “the best-case scenario” for the Phillies.

[…]

“Right now, if we had to do this during the season, then obviously you’re missing a big chunk of the season,” Lidge said. “I definitely need a few bullpen sessions, but I feel like my arm is ahead of schedule so after a week I should be able to throw again.”

Tom Gordon will take over as closer in the meantime, and Brett Myers will not be returning to the bullpen.

The Lidge injury has to make you wonder about Gillick, though. He’s acquired a few who have had some kind of injury risk come to fruition. Adam Eaton and Tom Gordon are a couple that come to mind besides Garcia and Lidge.

Elsewhere…

Kyle Lohse

Kyle Lohse continues to roam around Arizona looking for a Major League job. According to the Phillies article:

Lohse said he would still welcome a return to Philadelphia, but the Phillies didn’t like his salary demands after they were shunned in what was believed to have been an offer in the three-year, $20-million range. Of course, that could change if Brad Lidge’s right knee is serious, and Brett Myers shifts back to the bullpen.

I never thought I’d say this about any league-average starting pitcher, but the Phillies need Kyle Lohse. He would bump the injury-prone and highly unimpressive Adam Eaton from the rotation and give the Phillies league-average production from the #5 spot, an offering most teams would love to have (which makes Lohse’s continued unemployment all the more perplexing).

The Phillies are correct in being offended at Lohse’s high demands, but three years, $20 million is also insulting to Lohse based on the current market.

It would be insulting to me, as a Phillies fan, if I was to find out that Gillick or Amaro have stopped talking to Lohse after he rejected that three-year offer. The Phillies need a reliable starting rotation like a diabetic needs insulin [insert laugh track].

Scott Rolen

Oh boy.

Scott Rolen would have waived his no-trade clause to return to Philadelphia had the chance presented itself this winter.

I will let the numbers speak for themselves.

Scott Rolen avg. WARP with Cardinals (2003-07): 7.86 (excludes ’02 when he was traded from the Phillies and includes his injury-plagued ’05 season).

Pedro Feliz avg. WARP with Giants since getting regular playing time: 4.10.

Of course, their contracts have to be taken into account as well (information per Cot’s Contracts).

Rolen: $11 million in each of ’08, ’09, and ’10 with an extra $4 million bonus due in ’10; full no-trade clause.

Feliz: $3 million in ’08, $5 million in ’09, and a $5 million club option in ’10 with a $500,000 buyout.

If the Phillies had acquired Rolen instead of Feliz, they’d be paying an extra $8 million this season and $6 million in ’09 for about three and a half extra wins. And the Phillies would have had to have sent something of value to the Jays.

The problem with Rolen, of course, is his injury propensity. After getting 400+ AB in every season from 1997-2004, he failed to cross that plateau in 2005 (196 AB) and ’07 (392 AB). Feliz has no nagging injury problems.

As for the poor relationship between the Phillies’ front office and Rolen:

“We felt if he came in and played well, all that other stuff would be water under the bridge,” [Phillies Assistant GM Mike] Arbuckle said. “But if we guessed wrong on the shoulder, we didn’t think we’d be in a position to absorb another injury that would limit our flexibility to fill other needs.”

Rolen definitely would’ve been a better acquisition, but given his salary, it may have hindered the ability for the Phillies to sign anyone else, like Kyle Lohse. Of course, if the Phillies fail to pick up another pitcher, it will all be moot…

Aaron Rowand

Have fun in last place.

There’s a lot of Rowand to quote from that article, so I won’t do it here, but to paraphrase, he’s offended that Pat Gillick considered him an injury risk and that the Phillies didn’t see him as part of their “core.”

“I’ve been on the DL twice in my life, not just in my professional career. That includes college, high school. And it was both in ’06. [Gillick] saw me play for 2 years and I was on the DL twice. But, knock on wood, I’ve been lucky. I’d be lying to you if I said that didn’t bother me.”

Rowand took a five-year, $60 million deal from a last place team. Obviously, money is his #1 priority, especially since he’s already won a World Series and he has a mainstream following. Giving $12 million a year to a player who puts his own safety at risk (link — go to May 11) and his teammates’ as well, is not smart. Add to that he’s a slightly better than average center fielder both offensively and defensively, and it’s just not smart to lock him up long-term, especially at an average of $12 million per season.

One can’t fault Rowand, however, for chasing the bigger contract. Just don’t feel sorry for him when the Giants hit 70 wins two weeks away from the end of September, while the Phillies are in the thick of a race for the NL East crown.

Super Baseballers Brawl

Sorry for the lame pun of the video game, but it’s true, the Phillies and the Mets are looking forward to a possible brawl during the season.

Rollins doesn’t have much to be angry about. He’s the reigning National League MVP and seems to have a lot of fun with this stuff. But according to a report by ESPN’s Jayson Stark, a few of Rollins’ Philly teammates have been privately fuming about Beltran’s comments and even suggested to Stark that “there will be a brawl this year.”

Brawls, of course, are awesome because you get to watch around 75 grown men pretend they know how to fight. Most times, these brawls just result in a little pushing and shoving with no punches thrown. However, a couple one-on-one match-ups would be interesting:

  • Pat Burrell vs. Billy Wagner: Their verbal sparring boiling over into a physical confrontation would almost be too entertaining for cable TV. Burrell, of course, called Wagner a “rat” after he left the Phillies for the Mets. In 2007, Burrell victimized Billy Wagner twice:
    • June 7: Burrell ties the game up at 3 apiece with a solo home run to left-center.
    • August 30: Burrell hits a solo home run to left field to bring the Phillies one run behind the Mets at 10-9. The next inning, Jayson Werth singled and stole both second and third base (Wagner is awful at holding runners). He was promptly driven in by Tadahito Iguchi to tie the game at 10 apiece.
  • Jimmy Rollins vs. Carlos Beltran: Obviously, this is interesting because of Beltran’s comments mimicking Rollins. Rollins called Beltran a plagiarist.
  • Brett Myers vs. Anna Benson: It’s unlikely these two would come to blows, even though Anna is a woman and Brett loves hitting women. Should there be a bench-clearing brawl, it is highly likely Mrs. Benson has sequestered a young lad in the pits of Citizens Bank Park for, I don’t know, a talk?
  • Shane Victorino vs. Jose Reyes: This duel would not be settled via fisticuffs; rather, the two would engage in a footrace to settle the question, “Who is the fastest player in Major League Baseball?”

Which two would you like to see duke it out?

Golf is Dying!

From The New York Times: More Americans Are Giving Up Golf.

[…]

Over the past decade, the leisure activity most closely associated with corporate success in America has been in a kind of recession.

The total number of people who play has declined or remained flat each year since 2000, dropping to about 26 million from 30 million, according to the National Golf Foundation and the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.

More troubling to golf boosters, the number of people who play 25 times a year or more fell to 4.6 million in 2005 from 6.9 million in 2000, a loss of about a third.

The industry now counts its core players as those who golf eight or more times a year. That number, too, has fallen, but more slowly: to 15 million in 2006 from 17.7 million in 2000, according to the National Golf Foundation.

[…]

Surveys sponsored by the foundation have asked players what keeps them away. “The answer is usually economic,” Mr. Kass said. “No time. Two jobs. Real wages not going up. Pensions going away. Corporate cutbacks in country club memberships — all that doom and gloom stuff.”

Sorry to offend any golf enthusiasts who may be reading this, but… yes! Awesome!

The faster this sport dies, the better. And I can think of nothing more appropriate for this occasion than to quote the great George Carlin.

I know where we can build housing for the homeless: golf courses. Perfect: golf courses. Just what we need: plenty of good land in nice neighborhoods, land that is currently being wasted on a meaningless, mindless activity engaged in primarily by white, well-to-do male businessmen who use the game to get together to make deals to carve this country up a little finer among themselves.

I am getting tired, really getting tired of these golfing cocksuckers in their green pants and their yellow pants and their orange pants, and their precious little hats and their cute little golf carts.

It is time to reclaim the golf courses from the wealthy and turn them over to the homeless. Golf is an arrogant, elitist game and it takes up entirely too much room in this country.

It is an arrogant on its very design alone. Just the design of the game speaks of arrogance. Think of how big a golf course is. The ball is that fucking big! What do these pin-headed pricks need with all that land? There are 17,000 golf courses in America. They average over 150 acres a piece. That’s 3 million-plus acres; 4,820 square miles. You could build two Rhode Islands and a Delaware for the homeless on the land currently being wasted on this meaningless, mindless, arrogant, elitist, racist — there’s another thing: the only blacks you’ll find in country clubs are carrying trays — and a boring game. Boring game for boring people. Have you ever watched golf on television? It’s like watching flies fuck.

And a mindless game, mindless. Think of the intellect it must take to draw pleasure from this activity: hitting a ball with a crooked stick, and then walking after it! And then hitting it again! I say, “Pick it up asshole, you’re lucky you found the fucking thing. Put it in your pocket and go home, you’re a winner. You’re a winner — you found it!”

No, no chance of that happening. “Dorko” in the plaid knickers is going to hit it again and walk some more. Let these rich cocksuckers play miniature golf. Let him fuck with a windmill for an hour and a half or so, see if there’s really any skill among these people.

I know there are some people who play golf who don’t consider themselves rich. Fuck ’em! And shame on them for engaging in an arrogant, elitist past time.

2008 MLB Optimism and Pessimism

WHAT I’M NOT LOOKING FORWARD TO IN THE 2008 BASEBALL SEASON

1. Jon Miller and Joe Morgan on ESPN baseball broadcasts; Joe Buck and Tim McCarver on FOX baseball broadcasts.

2. Chris Berman and Back, Back, Back… Gone!, Albert ‘Winnie the’ Pujols, and the plethora of other Bermanisms that will exit his mouth while broadcasting the Home Run Derby.

3. Citations of motivation or de-motivation. For instance:

  • When the Mets get on a hot streak, people will say they were motivated by Beltran’s pre-season comments about the Mets now being the “team to beat.”
  • When Andy Pettitte struggles, people will say he’s mentally distraught over the whole HGH thing.
  • If the Mets start slowly, people will say that the team hasn’t gelled with Johan Santana yet.

4. The Yankees and Red Sox taking up 40% of the American League All-Star roster spots.

5. Whining about an East-coast bias when the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox are getting a lot of face time on ESPN.

6. Sportswriters and fans alike chastising Alex Rodriguez when he throws up MVP-caliber numbers, insisting that he’s still not a great player because he just can’t get it done in the post-season.

7. This.

8. Arrogant sportswriters conveniently forgetting their pre-season predictions and acting like they knew all along that the Pittsburgh Pirates were going to win 102 games and that the Red Sox would win only 68.

9. Price gouging at the ballpark.

10. Awkward moments in baseball broadcasts where the cameraman zooms in on young pre-teen girls in the stands (not surprisingly, this is what Chris Hansen will be looking forward to the most).

If you go on summer cruises and travel towards Cuba, you’ll see that there are only a few ATMs in Cuba. Even if you locate an ATM, there is not necessary that it will have adequate funds. Similarly there are very few car rental stations. A number of good hotels can be seen here and there, but destinations close to cheap flights are not good enough if you intend to stay for a whole month.

WHAT I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO IN THE 2008 BASEBALL SEASON

1. Hearing the voice of Harry Kalas again.

2. Pitchers hitting home runs, speedsters legging out inside-the-park home runs, home runs that hit the foul pole and, obviously, the Home Run Derby (sans Chris Berman, of course).

3. Hilarious errors, especially the ones that involve multiple throwing errors.

4. Bench-clearing brawls, and the head-hunting that precedes them.

5. Fans who make Web Gem-quality catches.

6. Perfect games and no-hitters that get broken up in the ninth inning. Mmm… schadenfreude.

7. That one broadcaster who says something completely offensive on the air. Seems like there’s at least one every year. Who will it be this year? Come on, Joe Buck, say something that’ll get you canned.

8. Dollar Dog Nights at Citizens Bank Park.

9. Phillies commercials. Last year’s were pretty good and this year’s are way out-of-left-field.

10. Lou Piniella blowing up in front of an umpire.

Did Someone Take A Schmidt?

Pardon the awful title…

The rest have joined pitchers and catchers for some spring training fun in the sun, and you know what that means: it’s time for Mike Schmidt to open his mouth again!

Last year, Mike Schmidt called Pat Burrell (and Adam Dunn) “mediocre.”

If these guys cut their strikeouts down to 75 or 80, they put the ball in play 85 or 90 more times a year. That’s at least 15 more home runs and at least 35 more RBIs. If only they had choked up with two strikes, spread their stances out. What they are doing now is not great, it is mediocrity.

Let’s just say that Schmidt has changed his stance on Burrell. On Comcast SportsNet, he thinks Burrell will be the next Phillies MVP. And given that this is Burrell’s last season before free agency, we can safely assume he’s talking about 2008. What sparked the change of heart for Schmidt?

Could it have been the 10 less strikeouts in 10 more at-bats? The increase of one home run and two RBI? 16 more walks and two more doubles?

His 2006 season was pretty similar to his ’07 season. It’s very odd that Schmidt had such a dramatic change in opinion… unless… Schmidt has been using Sabermetrics! Nah, probably not, especially given this:

Schmidt Excited About Phils’ New Third Baseman Feliz

That’s not a typo. Mike Schmidt, the best third baseman in baseball history, is excited about Pedro Feliz, who is about as mediocre as mediocre gets. It’s almost too ironic, even for blogs.

He’s an impressive young man. Tremendously impressive hands, good arm, good batting stroke. I think he’s going to be a big key for the club this year.

[…]

I know since I left [after the 1989 season], [third base] has been a little bit of a sore point in Philadelphia. David Bell was pretty good for a while, and of course, Scott Rolen was really good for a while. But the last several years, third base has been one of those platoon positions that a lot of really good teams don’t platoon at.

Just watching [Feliz] on TV, he caught my eye. I can see a good, solid fundamental hitter. I don’t know what his best year has been. I just know him as a mid-20s home run, 80-RBI guy. I don’t know if he’s ever gotten to 30 home runs or 100 RBIs, but he has that potential, without a doubt.

It’s always amazing when you realize that some of the greatest players have such a hazy idea of what made them great. Schmidt, of course, is correct in noticing his exceptional fielding skills (it’s almost universally agreed upon that Feliz is the best-fielding third baseman in baseball) and in saying that he has 30 HR, 100 RBI potential (his career highs are 22 HR and 98 RBI). Given that he’s going from a very pitcher-friendly ballpark to a very hitter-friendly ballpark, it wouldn’t be outrageous to expect such a season from him.

However, none of the projection systems listed on FanGraphs has him having a great season in those offensive categories:

Bill James: 18 HR, 57 RBI

CHONE: 20 HR, 64 RBI

Marcel: 17 HR, 62 RBI

Schmidt errs in describing Feliz as having a “good batting stroke” and being “a good, solid fundamental hitter.”

There are just so many metrics that show Feliz as being just completely awful offensively…

Year: Feliz OBP/SLG — League Average OBP/SLG

2004: .305/.485 .343/.439

2005: .295/.422 .340/.430

2006: .281/.428 .343/.442

2007: .290/.418 .342/.436

2004-07 Batting and Fielding Runs Above Average (BRAA and FRAA)

2004: 2 BRAA; 0 FRAA

2005: -10 BRAA; -1 FRAA

2006: -16 BRAA; 9 FRAA

2007: -14 BRAA; 14 FRAA

Total: -38 BRAA; 22 FRAA

As for what you’d use to define a “good, solid fundamental hitter,” let’s use Old Traditional: batting average and strikeouts.

Since he started playing regularly (2004), Feliz has had 2,232 at-bats. In those at-bats, he’s logged 569 hits (.255 AVG) and 369 strikeouts (16.5% of AB’s are K’s). I wouldn’t exactly call Feliz a “good, solid fundamental hitter.”

And just for kicks, Schmidt said that David Bell “was pretty good for a while.” If, by “for a while,” he means “in 2004,” then he’s correct. Bell’s OPS+ during his tenure in Philly…

2003: 57 OPS+ in 297 AB

2004: 107 OPS+ in 533 AB

2005: 72 OPS+ in 557 AB

2006: 87 OPS+ in 324 AB before being traded to Milwaukee.

Schmitdty, you brought a lot of smiles to our hearts when you were leading the Phillies to six playoff appearances (1976-78, ’80-81, ’83), two World Series (’80 and ’83), and one championship (’80), simultaneously bronzing your own name in baseball history as the greatest third baseman of all time… but stay away from wayward sports journalists. Wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea, like “Feliz is actually a good offensive player.”