June 19, 2013
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Thursday, April 02, 2009
Purveyors of the knuckly arts are, above all else, survivors:
Scott Baker’s Opening Night assignment has been called off. And so has the Philip Humber-R.A. Dickey roster competition.
Or until the cold-blooded assassin that is R.A. Dickey decides to off another member of the rotation in order to maintain his place. Nick Blackburn: consider yourself warned.
(link via BTF)
Last year the San Francisco Chronicle's Bruce Jenkins ran a two-part piece in which he argued that teams should put more thought into their pitch counts, developing evaluation systems and protocols to determine when a pitcher is truly getting tired rather than simply impose a hard number of pitches on everyone. That's actually a pretty good idea, I think, though the fact that Jenkins couched it all in terms of the alleged problem of the vanishing complete game had me wondering whether he was simply substituting one arbitrary standard (CGs) for another (pitch counts).
Be that as it may, today Jenkins runs a series of pitch count factoids that couldn't fit in his original article, and boy howdy are they fun:
In a 16-inning, complete-game win against Baltimore in 1962, Washington's Tom Cheney threw 228 pitches.
Lots more there. The kind of stuff that would make Rany Jazayerli cringe and Dusty Baker say "damn!"
With the recent escalation in A's relocation/ballpark news, it's important to remember that generalists like me are dilettantes at best. Any time there's an issue of any complexity, the blogosphere produces a focused star to really jam on it, and the star with respect to the A's relocation drama is the New A's Ballpark blog, written by a fellow named Marine Layer (I think that's a Scotch/Romanian name). If you care a lick about the issue, that's the place to bookmark and refresh obsessively.
Lots of good posts there, including a nice graphic superimposing the last Cisco Field diagram over a map of the most likely San Jose building site. The FAQ is also necessary reading for anyone who wants to talk intelligently about all of this.
One of the bulwarks of the American justice system is that the ends of a prosecution -- putting someone away for doing something wrong -- do not necessarily justify the means of doing so. In fact, I would argue that the means are often more important than the ends, particularly in high profile cases which shape citizens' impressions of our legal system. Because the power of the state is so great and its impact on the lives of its citizens so potentially devestating, I would rather see a guilty person go free than law enforcement or prosecutorial misconduct be rewarded or legitimized. The new Attorney General apparently agrees with me:
The Justice Department moved on Wednesday to drop all charges against former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, who lost his seat last year just days after being convicted on seven felony counts of ethics violations. The case was one of the most high profile and bitterly fought in a string of corruption investigations into current and former members of Congress. But Justice Department lawyers told a federal court Wednesday that they had discovered a new instance of prosecutorial misconduct, on top of earlier disclosures that had raised questions about the way the case was handled, and asked that the convictions be voided.
I didn't follow the Stevens case all that closely, but my sense of things was that the withheld evidence was not necessarily anything that would exonerate Stevens, even if it was stuff that the defense could have used to attack the witnesses against Stevens. Put differently, Stevens may still very well have broken the ethics' laws, but the government has made the judgment that they're willing to let the conviction drop because the process of obtaining it was obviously tainted.
Hmm, where have we heard this before . . .?
Mr. Novitzky’s detractors, mainly the defendants and their lawyers, say he is biased and unfair. They say he has a vendetta against Mr. Bonds, is seeking fame and financial gain from the case, and puts words into suspects’ mouths. They say he has lied in sworn reports, including on the initial search warrant affidavit that kick-started the investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative and its many famous clients.
Those accusations against Novitzsky are old, and they have not derailed the case -- bad evidence and Greg Anderson's refusal to testify have done that -- but it's worth noting that the misconduct of the Stevens' prosecutors did not prevent that case from going to trial either. There, as in most tainted prosecutions, the scrutiny came later.
The Bonds' prosecutors has bought some time by appealing the judge's evidence ruling. In light of the U-turn on the Stevens case, however, one wonders if, in addition to researching and writing an appellate brief, they also aren't reflecting on whether the whole enterprise is worth the trouble in the first place.
We've gone over this about 1,378 times already, but guys like Wallace Matthews insist on saying that Joba Chamberlain would be more valuable in the bullpen than he would be in the rotation. Thankfully, Jason takes him to task, once again deploying the principle behind the name of his blog to good effect:
With all due respect, I think Matthews is nuts. There are so many ways to dissect this, but I will stick to my basic mantra: Follow the money.
I suppose Matthews' response to that could be the same: "Why do I continue to write the same column over and over despite the fact that its thesis has been refuted time and time again? Hey, it's about the money, stupid."
I'm not a big eater at ballgames. I almost always eat something elsewhere before going into the ballpark, so if I do get something during the game it's usually a hot dog just for the hell of it or some peanuts to munch on or, if it's really hot, maybe a small dish of ice cream or something. Most of the time though I'm just having a beer or ten. Certainly nothing like these new offerings at the Chicago ballparks:
At the Cell, Illinois Sport Service will unveil build-your-own-burrito (or nacho grande) kiosks on the upper and lower decks; fans will be able to choose a meat (chicken or beef) and select from a wide range of toppings for $7-$8. At the various grill stations in the park, the menus will be augmented by a half-pound turkey burger on a multigrain roll ($6.25) . . .
You can't swing a dead cat in Chicago without finding all kinds of awesome food, so why on earth would I subject myself to a four pound pretzel or a Buffalo dog? A ballgame is three hours on the outside. If you can't go that long without a big honkin' meal, you got some problems.
The New York Times has an overview of the retro-stadium craze of the past couple of decades, with particular attention paid to some of the parks' unique particularities:
The quirky signatures at older stadiums — like the Green Monster at Fenway Park in Boston — were adaptations to their narrow confines. But idiosyncrasies like Tal’s Hill are driven by the urge to be original.
Which kind of describes my biggest complaint with some of the newer places. The character that the old parks were so noted for took decades to develop, and were often happy accidents resulting from form following function. Building a new ballpark with these kinds of anachronistic flourishes is kind of like building a new office building with a mooring station for Zeppelins. Interesting, sure, but kind of silly and unnecessary if you think about it for more than five minutes.
Back when I was in private practice, I represented a park district that wanted to turn some old railroad lines in the middle of nowhere into a bike trail. They built about 85% of the trail, but the last little stretch was held up by this group of Mennonite farmers who lived next to the right-of-way and claimed the land where the tracks used to be was theirs. "How could that be," I wondered? The railroad had tracks on that property since the 19th century, and they gave the tracks directly to my client. The Mennonites, however, had all manner of questionable and ancient legal documents which they claimed their great great great something or other had reserved the rights if the railroad ever left, yadda, yadda, yadda. I read these things, quickly figured out that, while it could be a pain, we could get that land for the bike trail if we were determined enough to do it.
Right before I filed my lawsuit to quiet title, the Mennonites parked a mobile home on the right of way and claimed they were home schooling a bunch of Mennonite farmer kids there, which immediately turned us into the bad guys and complicated my little lawsuit. Five years later, and I think the Mennonites have moved on to consulting with the San Francisco Giants:
Amid a threat to their territorial rights in Santa Clara County, the Giants are moving to fortify their baseball outpost in the region.
Lots of great reporting in this one, including the mayor of San Jose snubbing the Giants' little news conference tomorrow and some choice quotes from a San Jose city councilman (a) noting how curious it is that the Giants care about San Jose all of a sudden; and (b) why, if the Giants truly had planned on making this investment for years as they claim, they allowed the city to pony up for renovations to San Jose's stadium before buying into the team. Are the Giants calculating or are they cheap? Maybe both!
My guess: the Giants are doing whatever they can to bolster their claim to the territory in advance of the report from Bud's Magic Oakland Committee. Maybe not with an eye towards ultimately blocking the A's from moving to San Jose -- I can't exactly see how they legally and/or practically could do that -- but to maximize the payoff they'll get from Selig and the A's when they ultimately drop their opposition.
Will it work? Well, in my case we got the Mennonite "school" off the property and there's a bike trail there now. But I gotta tell ya: it was a hell of a lot more protracted and expensive an experience than anyone thought it would be.
(thanks to reader Ed T. for the heads up)
Writing from the future -- November of this year to be exact -- The OC Register's Sam Miller has fun with the 90th percentile of the PECOTA projections for the Angels:
Nobody would have ever believed the Angels would win 120 games – a new Major League record – but with no holes in the lineup, they had the highest team OBP since the 1999 Indians, and easily outslugged that Cleveland team. Like the '99 Tribe, the Angels scored 1,000 runs. Combine that with the team's 3.27 ERA (easily the best in baseball), and the Angels allowed only 580 runs. In fact, the geniuses would note that a team with 1,000 runs scored, and 580 runs allowed, would actually be projected to win 121 games, but the 2009 Angels got a bit unlucky.
Next week Sam will write again from November 2009, this time explaining how a 120-42 team managed to lose in the first round to the Red Sox.
This is different:
The Major League Baseball Players Association on Friday will open its first retail outlet devoted to selling player-only merchandise.
I'm highly dubious of that last part. Outside of maybe Jackie Robinson, I can't think of a single player with an independent fan base like NBA players often have (and I don't know that people's appreciation of Robinson is the kind of "fandom" we're talking about here as much as it is an appreciation). David Wright has been adopted by Mets fans because he's their young star third baseman. If he ever leaves for, say, the Cardinals or something, Mets fans will retain some affection for him, but nothing approaching anything you'd call fandom, especially not the brand of fandom that inspires one to continue to wear merchandise with his name on it. Indeed, the majority of Mets' Wright fans would put their Wright stuff away and latch on to the next big Mets player.
So good luck with the David Wright shirts, MLBPA, but I have this feeling that the purveyors of team-branded merchandise are not too worried about it.