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Monday, September 28, 2009
If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know who Jack Marshall is. Lawyer, Red Sox fan, professional ethicist anti-steroid crusader and -- and I mean this in the nicest way possible, Jack -- outrageous pain in the neck. Pain in the neck because he routinely disturbs perfectly comfortable conventional wisdom in which folks like me tend to swaddle ourselves. Things like "unless he's killed a guy, a player's character shouldn't matter when it comes to the Hall of Fame."
The problem for my conventional wisdom Snuggie and me, however, is that Jack is right about the character thing. At least about how it does, according to Hall of Fame voting rules, matter. We may disagree about how much it matters and in what way, but the words "integrity, sportsmanship, and character" are right there on the ballot and it's therefore folly to ignore them.
To that end, Jack has started a project. Beginning with this article and continuing on into the upcoming THT Annual, he is exploring how to measure a player's character, its interplay with baseball greatness, and its relevance to admission to the Hall of Fame. It's a neat idea, and even neater is that Jack -- who has been accused of preaching in ShysterBall comment threads from time to time -- is asking for everyone's input. I think it's exactly the right way to go about it, and I think it's a worthy and fertile subject for exploration and discussion.
As you might expect, I disagree with some of Jack's arguments and assumptions. For example, Jack attempts to construct a temporal hierarchy regarding a player's indiscretions which (very roughly) holds that stuff a player does during his career and especially during the season is worse for his character case than things that come in the offseason, before he's a pro, or after he retires. I understand how that works practically speaking, but doesn't such a hierarchy actually do less to measure a guy's actual character than it does to measure the amount of bad publicity an active player gets as opposed to a retired one? I don't think Jack is truly interested in analyzing bad press as opposed to bad ethics, so it may be wise to be careful in distinguishing between what indiscretions count and for how much with respect to a player's legacy.
But that's just a nit at the moment. I want to think about all of this more, and I think you should too. Feel free to comment here if you'd like, but Jack's article has comments enabled, so that will be the best place to focus discussion. In the meantime, I plan to think more, and I definitely plan to read Jack's next stab at this in the THT Annual.
I made it all the way up to the 16th floor this morning without the elevator stopping at any lower floors. When I got to my office: champagne celebration. Hey, if baseball teams can do it for the littlest things, I can too . . .
Hey, they canceled the Monday meeting! Break out the bubbly!
Yankees 4, Red Sox 2: The Bombers clinch, win 100, guarantee home field, etc. Inevitable, but the exuberance looked a little less rote yesterday than I seem to remember it in years past. I think those who have been there a while have a new appreciation for making the post season after what happened last year. The guys like Sabathia and Teixeira probably feel like a lot of weight has been taken off their shoulders. At least for a week or so. This is strange to me: "The Yankees have the choice of whether they want to play in the division series that has a day off between Games 1 & 2." Time out. Why do they get to choose? I mean, why don't I get to choose, why doesn't he get to choose? Better question: why isn't that sort of thing just set up ahead of time? I actually thought it was.
Rockies 4, Cardinals 3: If the Braves miss the playoffs by one game I'm going to blame Matt Holliday's hangover. Oh, I'm sorry, his "flulike symptoms" which just happened to show up the morning after the Cardinals doused themselves in booze for clinching the division. Their second most important hitter misses the day and Ryan Ludwick and Mark DeRosa combine to go 0-6 with five strikeouts. You telling me Matt Holliday couldn't have managed one extra flare beyond what Ludwick and DeRosa did? Just one? A gork, a ground ball with eyes, a dying quail . . . just one more dying quail and the Cardinals could have won this game and the Braves would be one back in the loss column. Damnation.
Braves 6, Nationals 3: I wrote my team off so many times this year -- and for good reason -- that I feel like getting all giddy now would be like taking back a cheating girlfriend or something. But there they are, looking all fine and everything. I just know that if I lower my guard they'll hurt me again, but I can't keep my eyes off of them. Dude, seriously: don't let me walk over there. I don't care how much I drink tonight, do NOT let me walk over there and talk to them. And take my cell phone too. I just don't trust myself . . . . . . . OK, give me my cell phone back. C'mon, I promise I'll be cool.
Pirates 6, Dodgers 4: Ugly ending for Los Angeles, blowing a three run lead in the ninth to some dudes who stole the Pirates' uniforms. Worth noting that L.A. was boned by Matt Holliday's hangover too, as a Rockies loss would have given them the division title. They'll get it though. More worrisome for L.A. was that Clayton Kershaw, though arguably effective, was kinda wild in his first game back since separating his shoulder. He'll get one more start before the playoffs, and I'm sure the Dodgers would like to see him a bit sharper.
Phillies 6, Brewers 5: Dave Bush put the Brewers in a 6-1 hole, the offense came back, but it wasn't enough and the Phillies magic number is down to three.
White Sox 8, Tigers 4: Detroit stumbles into the showdown with Minnesota with both Edwin Jackson and Fernando Rodney getting roughed up.
Royals 4, Twins 1: Minnesota doesn't take advantage of Detroit's stumble, but you have to figure that they had this one -- a Zack Greinke start -- penciled in as a loss anyway. Just another day at the office for Greinke (7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 8K). Less expected was Yuniesky Betancourt's day (3-3, HR, 3 RBI).
Giants 5, Cubs 1: Matt Cain was dominant, shutting out the Cubs over eight innings. Eugenio Velez on the Giants' playoff hopes: "We have to win all of our games and they have to lose all of their games. That's how we have to look at it." Eugenio, the chances of that happening are, like, a million to one. Velez: So you're telling me there's a chance... Yeah!
Rays 7, Rangers 6: If you've got a 5-0 lead with two outs in the eighth, you had best hold on to it. More Eugeino Velez thinking: the Rangers are still technically in the wild card race, much like I'm technically qualified to be President of the United States and technically capable of settling down and having a couple of kids with Salma Hayek.
Angels 7, Athletics 4: With this win and the Rangers' loss, Anaheim merely need one of its next four games -- all of which come against Texas -- to seal the deal.
Mets 4, Marlins 0: File "Pat Misch throws a shutout" in the "stuff I didn't expect to see before the season ended" drawer. Jeff Francoeur hit a homer and made a home run saving catch in support of Misch. Francoeur: "He's going to buy me dinner and beers." Jeffy, you really think it's a good idea to keep track of when other people save your bacon? If people did that for you, you'd have spent enough on dinner and beer by this point to hold substantial stakes in Anheuser-Busch and several restaurant companies by now.
Diamondbacks 7, Padres 4: Adrian Gonzalez hits his 28th road home run this year vs. 12 at home. Man, if this guy played anywhere else but Petco Park . . .
Indians 9, Orioles 0: "It's been a rough 10 games for us," Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said after the game. The 145 before that weren't a friggin' picnic either, to be honest.
Blue Jays 5, Mariners 4: Seattle squanders 3-0 and 4-2 leads as the Blue Jays finish the season on a fairly strong note.
Astros 3, Reds 2: Wandy Rodriguez (6 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 9K) is about the only good thing that has happened to Houston this year.
Just one note: you shouldn't be surprised that the recaps for some of these games featuring non-contenders are going to be a bit cursory this last week of the season. I mean, sure, it's possible that I'll find myself on my deathbed one day saying "boy, I wish I had spent more time thinking about late September Astros-Reds games," but I just sort of doubt it. If you're a partisan of one of these dead teams walking and you really feel like I missed something important, by all means, let us know in the comments. I'll edit the recaps to include really good stuff I learn after the fact.
Friday, September 25, 2009
. . . only happens to the Cubs.
"Empire Strikes Back" was on TV the other day. I came in right when Leia planted a wet one on Luke. Two possibilities: (1) either Lucas didn't really have the whole story arc planned out in advance; or (2) Mackenzie Phillips was an uncredited script doctor on that flick . . .
And at the risk of opening a prequel can of worms, how on Earth could Leia have said that her mother "died when I was very young," and she remembers "images, feelings. She was very beautiful, kind, but very sad" if she died during childbirth in "Sith"? The technical answer is that in 1983 or whatever they didn't know they were going to do the prequels, but you'd think that since he was getting, like, a billion dollars to make them, Lucas would have figured out how to make Padme's death jibe with the lines from "Jedi."
Sorry, but I'm a bit Star Wars preoccupied today.
Mariners 5, Blue Jays 4: King Felix struck out 11 in eight innings to notch his 17th win. I was out of town and without a computer when people started up that "the Mariners can't sign Felix so the Red Sox are gonna get him" talk a few days ago. You know what? That's crazy. Hernandez is one of the top two or three pitchers in baseball. The Mariners have an entire corner of the country to themselves. They have Adrian Beltre, Miguel Batista, Jarrod Washburn, and Erik Bedard coming off the books next year. They can afford him and if they're serious about ever winning anything, they will sign him. This smells like wishful thinking on behalf of Red Sox fanboys.
Reds 4, Pirates 1: The Pirates have won only three more games than you this month, and you're not even trying. And if you were, I'd bet that more people would show up to watch you than watched this game too.
Dodgers 7, Nationals 6: The Nats lose number 100. They're the first team to do so in back to back seasons since the mid-70s Padres. Without looking I'm going to guess that the 1930s-40s Phillies have the record here with five or six if I remember correctly. The Nats won't match that. In fact, I think they're going to look really good in a few years and all of this will be a distant memory. In the meantime, though, ugh.
Tigers 6, Indians 5: In nine or ten days someone is going to have to wake up Eric Wedge and tell him he's been fired. But let him rest now. He looks so peaceful.
Athletics 12, Rangers 3: Brett Anderson got a lot of run support and the A's beat the Rangers in what seems like the 187th time they've played in the past month.
Red Sox 10, Royals, 3: I guess Clay Buhholz pitched well, but I'm gonna be honest and tell you all that I wasn't impressed. Really, he reminds me of a right-handed Roger Moret. Which is more fun: the fact that the Royals committed five errors, or the fact that Zack Greinke was ejected from the game even though he wasn't playing?
Phillies 9, Brewers 4: Happ struck out seven over five and two thirds. Charlie Manuel: "There's a chance he could wind up in the back end of the bullpen if we don't get something straightened out."
Padres 5, Rockies 4: The Padres have been a total pain the butt to just about every contending team this past month. The Rockies have lost seven of 11 and the Braves are now three and a half back, which seems way more doable than four for some reason. Especially considering that Colorado hosts St. Louis this weekend. Go Cards.
Cubs 3, Giants 2: Jeff Baker's two-out, two-run homer in the top of the ninth to win the game is going to haunt San Francisco for a couple of days. San Francisco's failure to take advantage of the Rockies' recent skid is going to haunt them all winter. The Cubs win means that the Cardinals have to lug their champagne to Colorado.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Speaking of fakery, check out this obvious Photoshop job. I know it's a fraud because it's a scientific fact that Bobby Cox was born into this world as a cranky 66 year old man with a protruding belly.
Seriously though, nice work
No, I'm not talking about the stuff in which he claims to be the product of Mickey Mantle's assexual reproduction. We all know he made that up and we're all content to let him go on thinking we believe it. I'm talking about his actual baseball playing. As reader Bob Tufts points out, Crystal's Wikipedia page notes the following:
Crystal attended Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, on a baseball scholarship, having learned the game from his father, who pitched for St. John's University. Crystal never played a game at Marshall because the program was suspended during his freshman year and he didn't return as a sophomore, staying back in New York with his future wife."
The claim is repeated on his IMDB page:
At Long Beach High, Billy played second base and was varsity captain in his senior year. This earned him a baseball scholarship from Marshall University in West Virginia which he accepted. However, he would never end up playing a game as the baseball program was suspended during his freshman year. This would lead him to leave the university and move back to New York. He then enrolled at nearby Nassau Community College, majoring in theater."
The only problem is that, according to Marshall's media guide, the baseball program was fully active when Crystal was of college age. Indeed, the only seasons it was ever suspended was during World War II. Bob speculates that maybe Marshall suspended the JV or freshman program or something, but if Crystal was really on scholarship, wouldn't he have been on the main team or have been fixed to make the team in a year or two anyway, all while getting a free education? Possibilities:
(1) Bob and I are simply ignorant of the intricacies of Marshall baseball in the 60s and the story is exactly how Crystal's bio says it was, in which case I withdraw the implied allegation in the title of this post;
(2) Crystal got the scholarship but left Marshall for his own personal reasons such as bad grades or the severe culture shock of being a New York Jew plopped down in Huntington, West Virginia in the mid 60s. If it's the grades or some dark secret, shame on him for letting an inaccuracy hang out there like this; if it was the culture shock, well, I fully understand because I'm kinda afraid of Huntington I'm from freaking West Virginia; or
(3) Crystal is Bill Richardson-style sham when it comes to his baseball history and as a result of his lies, lies and more lies, all of his baseball-related entertainments and all of his non-baseball output apart from "Soap," "Running Scared," "The Princess Bride," and his season on "Saturday Night Live" should be thrown into a shredder and banned for all time.
Wait, let's do number three regardless of where this baseball business comes down. In the meantime, I'd like to know what the deal is here.
Scott Simkus rocks. Why? Becuase he does stuff like find and analyze stats from Negro League barnstorming tours against white minor league teams in order to try and get a better understanding of how the talent pool looked in the days of pre-integration.
In other news, what kind of backlash would I get if I had linked to an article that uses the phrase "'super' negro league team" over at NBC?
In light of a few high profile player-ump confrontations this year you'd think that we're reaching some sort of boiling point in white-gray-blue relations, but that's simply not the case:
From 2002 to 2005, at least 100 ballplayers per season were tossed out of games by umpires. After a slight decrease the past three years, ejections have dropped by a staggering 30% this season. Through Sunday's games, only 62 players had been sent to the locker room for an early shower.
Maybe everyone just forgot the magic words.
(thanks to Pete Toms for the link)