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Monday, June 29, 2009
Bucky Dent is nice, but I was really hoping for a Joe Shlabotnik . ..
I got a letter in the mail on Saturday addressed to "Craig Calcaterra, Shysterball." Inside was a mint condition 1978 Topps Bucky Dent card. No return address. No note, no nothing else accompanying it. New York City postmark. Typewritten address label. Hurm.
I haven't died in the last 48 hours, so I'm ruling out anthrax attack. Bucky Dent hasn't died in that time either, so, for the time being at least, I'm (sadly) ruling out a baseball-themed serial killer tipping me off to his victims as part of an elaborate cat-and-mouse game. It could be some kind of occult thing in which someone has substituted the Cardboard Gods for the traditional tarot deck with Bucky Dent as the Death Card, but anyone who would take the time to do that would probably not have used a business envelope and probably would have sealed it with wax because that's just kind of how those people roll. Out of an abundance of caution, however, I have sent the police to Josh Wilker's house.
I appreciate the card, actually. It's kind of cool, and if whoever sent it intended it as a gift, thank you. I worry, however, that someone sent it to me in an effort to anger me, mistakenly thinking that I'm a Red Sox fan. If that was the intent, you have failed. I met Bucky Dent at spring training in 1982 and he was really nice to my brother and I. He also spent some time in Columbus managing the Clippers, and by all accounts was a nice addition to the community. I've got no ill-will towards Dent, so I do hope no one's deviousness was wasted.
Part of me doesn't want to find out who sent it because mysteries are fun. But I must admit that I remain perplexed this morning.
UPDATE: Pinto got a George Scott the other day. The folks at Purple Row got a Bucky Dent too. As David mentions in the comments, this smells like viral marketing. Without looking it up, I wonder if a book is coming out about the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.
UPDATE II: Will Carroll got a Steve Swisher. Maybe this is viral marketing for Wilker's book?
UPDATE III: Add Rich Lederer and Jon Wiesman to the list of card recipients.
Reds 8, Indians 1: It was Brandon Phillips' birthday and he beat up his old team to celebrate (3-5, 3 RBI). But he overplayed it: "It's good to have a game like I did today, especially on my birthday and against the guys you used to play for. Today, I was like, 'I'm going to show the Indians what they missed out on.'" Please, Brandon. They gave you 462 major league plate appearances and you gave them .206/.246/.310. They also gave you parts of four seasons in Buffalo, and you gave them 269/.329/.411. It's nice of you to show them what they missed out on, but maybe if you had showed some of it, oh, 5, 6, 7 years ago, you'd be the starting second baseman for the Indians today. But happy birthday anyway.
Braves 2, Red Sox 1: Look, you can spin it any way you want to, Boston fans, but you got beat by a kid with a mullet yesterday. But he's a good kid. Hanson's last three starts: 17.1 IP, 9 hits, 0 ER. And that ain't against no tomato cans, neither: that's against the Red Sox, the Yankees, and the Reds in that playpen they call a ballpark.
Yankees 4, Mets 2: Mariano Rivera got his 500th save. More impressive: he drew a bases-loaded walk, giving him his first career RBI in 15 seasons. Francisco Rodriguez gave it up, which in some cosmic way illustrates the vast gulf between those two pitchers in my mind. How do you walk Mariano Rivera? Nerves is all I can think, and you can bet your ass that if the situation was reversed, Rivera would never have walked Rodriguez, because Rivera's body temperature runs at a constant 57 degrees.
White Sox 6, Cubs 0: Jon Danks shut out the Cubbies over seven innings, and the bullpen handled the last two. One of the few reasons I'm sad that the interleague season is over is that it will provide fewer opportunities for Ozzie Guillen to talk smack to Cubs' fans. Here he was over the weekend: "White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was asked why attendance was so low at the Sox-Dodgers series, and said: “Because our fans are not stupid like Cubs fans. They know we’re (expletive).” Guillen said Cubs fans will go watch any game at Wrigley Field because “Wrigley Field is just a bar.”
Phillies 5, Blue Jays 4: You hate to throw this out there on a day he won, but to me it's the most interesting thing that came out of this game: Jamie Moyer, who allowed three home runs, has now allowed 483 in his career, passing Phil Niekro for third all-time. He's a lock to pass Fergie Jenkins, who is in second place at 484, but he's almost certainly going to need to go into next season to beat out Robin Roberts for that all time lead at 505. He's under contract for 2010, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to see him hold on and take the record.
Royals 3, Pirates 2: Greinke wins his 10th and, thanks to a rain delay, gets a bit of a rest too, coming out in the seventh after throwing only 80 pitches. The Pirates' highlight of the day didn't come in Pittsburgh: "Ian Snell, the former Pirates' No. 2 starter who was demoted Thursday after deciding he needed a change of scenery, struck out 13 in a row after walking the leadoff batter Sunday for Triple-A Indianapolis against Toledo. He finished with 17 Ks and two hits allowed in seven innings, throwing 70 of 108 pitches for strikes. Indianapolis won 2-1 in 10 innings." I think that (a) he probably needs to come back to Pittsburgh; and (b) if I struck out 17 guys in a game and got a no-decision I'd be pretty damn pissed.
Nationals 5, Orioles 3: Adam Dunn hit a home run that reached the B&O warehouse on the bounce, traveling an estimated 442 feet. The Nats got another run when Josh Willingham scored on a single. He was dead to rights at home plate, but Matt Wieters dropped the ball, missing the tag. Which leads to a theological question: Can Matt Weiters allow himself to make an error? If so, then it seems that he could cease to be omnipotent. But if not -- if he is somehow precluded from allowing himself error -- perhaps he is not omnipotent to begin with. Think about that one for a minute and get back to me. Either way, though, the answer to this question is less important than the act of asking it. You see, Matt Weiters is sitting at .234/.289/.390, which means that I have to use up all of these Wieters = God jokes quickly, because they're rapidly approaching their expiration date.
Tigers 4, Astros 3: I made fun of Russ Ortiz quite a bit early in the season, but he just finished with a 1.90 ERA for June. I even added the dude to my Scoresheet team, though that probably tells you more about the quality of my Scoresheet team than it does Russ Ortiz. He got a no-decision here, but for that he can blame Edwin Jackson and the Astros' bats. Brandon Inge hit a two-run homer off Jose Valverde with two outs in the ninth inning to win it.
Rays 5, Marlins 2: David Price bounces back after a hellish outing against the Phillies, this time holding the Marlins to one run on two hits in six and a third. That makes five straight wins for the Rays, who after seventy some-odd games of fooling around now look ready to make a serious run in the second half.
Twins 6, Cardinals 2: The extent to which the Cardinals have been a one man gang this year was illustrated by the fact that their new addition -- super ute Mark DeRosa -- hit cleanup in his first game with the team. Mark DeRosa has been a lot of things in his career, but a cleanup hitter has never really been one of them. In fact, before yesterday, he had only started four games as a cleanup hitter in his entire career. Of course, three of those came this year with the Indians, which tells you the dire offensive straits they've been in as well.
Mariners 4, Dodgers 2: L.A. has lost four of five, but they can get away with it with their lead. More interesting "the Dodgers hadn't decided whether they'll discipline reliever Ronald Belisario after the 26-year-old rookie was arrested early Saturday morning on suspicion of DUI in Pasadena." I anxiously await the Bill Plaschke column in which he decries the horrible example set by Belisario and declares that whatever punishment the Dodgers mete out to him is insufficient. Because clearly Plaschke thinks that drunk driving is worse than steroid use, doesn't he?
Rockies 3, Athletics 1: The A's have dropped five in a row. As for the Rockies, Aaron Cook has been somethin' special recently, giving up a single run in four of his last five starts.
Angels 12, Diamondbacks 8: A straight steal of home by Gary Matthews, Jr. was pretty spiffy. Four Arizona errors were not. The Angels finish interleague play 14-4, including an 8-1 mark in NL parks.
Padres 2, Rangers 0: Chad Gaudin allowed one hit over eight innings for the Padres. The box score says it was 99 degrees at game time. Seems like it's always hot down there, no matter when you come. It's the kind of heat that holds you like a mama holds her son. Tight when he tries to walk, even tighter if he runs.
Giants 7, Brewers 0: Ryan Sadowski (who?) stymies the Brewers in his major league debut (6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER). He's bumped Jonathan Sanchez to the pen. Sanchez must have been mad: he plunked Prince Fielder and then struck out the side in his one inning of work.
Friday, June 26, 2009
I was on News-Talk 1400 WDWS AM's SportsTalk show this afternoon talking baseball with host Brian Moline. You can hear the broadcast -- in fancy podcast form -- here. I come in at the four minute mark, and we talk about blogging, the Cardinals, the Cubs, Geoff Baker, Sir Sidney and a few other things.
Oh, and I sort of mumble more than I thought I did.
They claim that Sir Sidney tested positive for a stimulant:
Kansas City Royals pitcher Sidney Ponson tested positive for a stimulant during the World Baseball Classic and has been banned from international competition for two years.
Someone obviously spiked his urine sample, because there's no way Sidney Ponson has ever been on an appetite suppressant in his life. Stimulants also cause increased physical activity, and there's no evidence of that with him either.
The only non-natural substances in Ponson's pee-pee are Yoo-Hoo and failure. If I were him, I'd demand an investigation immediately.
(link via Jason)
Albert Pujols, for all his heroics this year, has one hit with a RISP and two outs (1 for 14, with 15 BB and 10 IBB), and as Joel Sherman of the New York Post (and SI.com) pointed out, Mets' youngster Nick Evan passed Pujols with two in two days vs. Pujols' Cardinals.
I sure hope this is offered as a complete refutation of the importance of two-out RISP stats as opposed to an attempted knock on Pujols. Because if it's the latter, it's like watching Superman fly around the world to reverse time and than criticizing him for stopping at 3:15 PM instead of 3:26.
Slate has a good article up arguing the superiority of the dead-center camera over the traditional, slightly-offset camera. I'm in favor of the dead-center, which ESPN toyed with for a year or two and which the Red Sox, Cardinals and Twins use now. This dissent from the article is understandable, however:
There are also television folk who believe that the offset shot is simply better. Tom Adza, who directs Oakland A's telecasts for Fox Sports Bay Area, says the old-fashioned viewpoint offers a more intimate view of the game. "When ESPN started doing [the dead-center shot], the distance from the top of the pitcher's head to the plate was fairly great sometimes," he says. "It was a really wide shot with a lot of dead space. As a viewer, you're kind of looking at it going, I feel the need to be closer. The offset shot is more compact and fits the screen beautifully."
I'll admit, I certainly felt disoriented by the dead-center view when I first saw it for exactly those reasons. It's a composition thing. When watching it, I felt like I was looking at my friends' vacation photos and was wishing I could teach them how to properly frame a shot. I got over it, of course, and right now I'd prefer it if everyone went to the dead-center shot. In addition to location, you can see movement on a pitch better. Finally, and this may seem a little weird, you can time pitches better (please don't tell me I'm the only one who occasionally rips off a practice swing while watching a game).
I guess the big question is what the casual fan thinks. Are they watching enough baseball to get past the compositional problems? Do they know or care enough about the game to appreciate the subtleties of pitch movement and location and stuff?
I'm going to spare everyone the big Michael Jackson post I was going to write because (a) it represented mission creep even for me; and (b) it wasn't coming together all that well. Jonah has a good one up if you're curious. I'll just say this: Michael Jackson and his handlers probably spent most of the past decade trying to figure out how to convince people to look past all of his strangeness (and worse) and focus on him as a beloved entertainer once again. They never figured it out. Since yesterday afternoon at about 5pm, however, every single radio station I've turned to -- including the classic rock and college stations -- has been playing old Michael Jackson songs. There's been a pretty obvious fatwa on Michael Jackson on the part of radio stations in recent years, and having it lifted so suddenly has been an almost joyus revelation. I mean, have you listened to "Don't Stop 'Till You Get Enough" or "Wanna Be Starin' Somethin'" recently? Holy crap, those are amazing songs.
I guess what I'm saying is that if Jackson had figured out how to get his 20+ years of outstanding music in front of people earlier, it might have gone a long way towards addressing his massive image problems.
Oh, I'm also just saying Mama Se, Mama Sa, Mama Coo Sa; Mama Se, Mama Sa, Mama Coo Sa.
Does this give me license to go off topic and dive into a Posnanskian-length Michael Jackson essay when I get some time later today?
The year was 1976.
In the wake of Michael Jackson's passing, all of the players in yesterday's games wore one glove in his memory. . .
Yankees 11, Braves 7: Buster Olney went all Jerod Morris on A-Rod yesterday (query: does the fact that Rodriguez tested positive for steroids six years ago, and a year before the institution of punitive testing give one license to play the "one never knows" card all these years later? Geoff Baker -- can I get a consult here?). Less problematic than the steroids speculation garbage was the quoting of scouts and wringing of hands to the effect that Rodriguez has suddenly become a poor decrepit old man who will likely not survive the length of his contract let alone produce during its duration. Jesus. The guy rushed back from hip surgery, played too much, and still isn't 100% right. Is that really the best time to declare someone's career dead? Especially someone who raked like hell just last season? I bet Buster liquidated his 401K in March too. Anyway, reports of Rodriguez's death are greatly exaggerated (3-5 HR, 4 RBI).
Tigers 6, Cubs 5: Geovany Soto pinch hit and struck out. When he was not playing, he regaled Carlos Zambrano with tales about this one amazing killer bong he saw in Iowa City that one time. He ought to straighten up that hophead attitude of his and fly right, though. Look at Magglio Ordonez. That fine young man has shed those hippie locks (and the stoner lifestyle that necessarily accompanies long hair) and not surprisingly he's back on track (1-4, HR, 2 RBI). If only every player could emulate those clean cut and clean living stars of yesteryear!
Pirates 3, Indians 2: Cliff Lee has to be looking around that locker room and feeling like Michael did while looking around the Jacksons' dressing room circa 1979. He's better than these guys, they're doing nothing to help him, and they bring nothing to the party. In fact, I'm going to call Ben Francisco "Tito" for the remainder of the season.
Reds 7, Blue Jays 5: It felt so good to watch Joey Votto break out the whuppin' stick (4-5, 2B, HR 3 RBI). By the way, as I did on Monday, I watched a good 45 minutes of this game on a treadmill at the gym. Unlike Monday, however, I didn't change the channel. Why? Because George Grande and Chris Welsh, while certainly no luminaries, understand that there's a ballgame going on in front of them and actually talk about what's happening in it from time to time. Something else learned from this game: Scott Rolen comes to the plate to Joan Jett's "I Love Rock and Roll." I guess it's a play on "Rolen," but at bottom, isn't that song about a guitar chick lusting after a teenage boy?
Mets 3, Cardinals 2: Good pitching matchup, as Santana beats Carpenter and the Mets take three of four from the Cards. The crowd was the largest in Citi Field's young history. According to the article "New York had offered 50 percent discounts on some tickets." With eight dollar beers and all of the rest you'd think that any team with empty seats would cut prices like Crazy Eddie, promote the crap out of it and be confident that they're making it all up in grub, suds and merch.
Marlins 11, Orioles 3: There are some Baltimore Orioles truthers out there who insist that I have decided to not say anything nice about their team. I'll make you a deal, guys: they do something worthy of praise, I'll praise it. In the meantime I will throw you a bone and note that Nick Markakis went 4 for 4 and drove in Z-game. Unfortunately it was 11-2 in the ninth inning at the time. As for the Marlins, Hanley Ramirez went 3 for 5 and knocked in five runs in what turned out to be a laugher.
White Sox 6, Dodgers 5: Chad Billingsley let a 4-0 lead slip away and actually stood to be the loser when he left the game after six. He got bailed out, but the Sox pulled it out in 13. Weisman makes an excellent observation regarding Torre's bullpen use in extra innings: "Torre chose to save Jonathan Broxton for a save situation rather than ensure he'd get an inning out of him. It's an old philosophical bug: the idea that your best pitcher is more useful when you can afford to give up a run, rather than when you can't afford to."
Mariners 9, Padres 3: I'm not sure what surprised me more yesterday: the news that Michael Jackson died or the news that Mike Sweeney was still alive. Good game for him though (4-4, 2B, 2 RBI), as well as Ichiro and Beltre, who combined to go 7-10 with four runs scored. The Mariners now set off on a death march against the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox, all on the road. We'll certainly know what this team is made of in about nine or ten days, won't we?
Rays 10, Phillies 4: It's sort of not fair that the Rays can lose a guy like Evan Longoria and then have his replacement -- Willy Aybar -- hit a homer and drive in three runs. More evidence that the universe is unfair: the
Nationals 9, Red Sox 3: Smoltz got pounded (5 IP, 7 H, 5 ER), but he struck out 5 and walked only one. Eh, dude's allowed to warm up a bit. I'm sure someone will analyze his start more closely than I have, but whatever that shows, my gut tells me that he's going to be alright pretty soon and will pitch extremely well until the very moment his shoulder or elbow explodes again.
Astros 5, Royals 4: Lance Berkman launched two dingers and drove in four. The game wouldn't have been as close, though, if it weren't for a bunch of Astros errors leading to three Royals' runs.
Rangers 9, Diamondbacks 8: Chris Davis had four hits, including a two-run homer in the 12th to win it. He wouldn't have had a chance to hit that one if Miquel Montero had held on to a two-strike foul tip the pitch before.
Twins 6, Brewers 4: I live in a city that has a massive (and probably justified) inferiority complex, and one of the funniest things about it is that Columbus can't ever seem to decide which other city it should feel inferior to. Chicago? That's just silly, but you hear it sometimes. Charlotte? Austin? Nashville? Those all make sense for various reasons, but none are perfect. Anyway, as I was staring at the box score of this game and failing to find anything really interesting to say about it, I wondered: does Milwaukee compare itself to Minneapolis? To Chicago? Or is it a city that is comfortable in its own skin, never giving a thought to other places (except when making fun of the elitists in Madison)? The thought gripped me for a while so I decided to Google it a few different ways and came up with this:
Is Milwaukee, with its rich industrial legacy, however small it is compared to its heyday, headed toward a manufacturing heavy Detroit, a financial services hub that Minneapolis is, or something altogether different? Bill Bonifas, an executive vice president with The Polacheck Co. Inc., says the answer to that question illustrates two points: Why Milwaukee is different than Detroit and Minneapolis and where the city’s headed.
Detroit never occurred to me, though I have to admit, there are some basic similarities. An industrial past, Great Lakes access, a snobby little overeducated town a short drive to the west. It works if you squint a little.
I know there's no purpose to this, but does anyone have any ideas here? Lar? And if you don't know a thing about Milwaukee, does your town engage in this neurotic behavior, or is it just a Columbus thing? Does every Springfield have its Shelbyville?