Ten Things I Didn’t Know Last Week

Well, it’s been two weeks since I last listed ten things I didn’t know the previous week, but I’ll spare you a list of twenty this time. It’s hard enough to come up with ten.

Andres Galarraga has retired, nearly twenty years after his major league debut.

The Big Cat was a major star in Montreal and Colorado, and his .370 BA in 1993 was one of the early warning signs that baseball would be different in Denver. But he also had a couple of fine years with Atlanta, proving that his Denver performance wasn’t a complete fluke.

Galarraga will also be remembered for his grace around the bag (hence the nickname) and his courageous fight with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He finishes his career with 399 home runs and 250 Win Shares, and the most home runs and R.B.I. (1,425) of any major leaguer from Venezuela. His presence will be missed by many, many baseball fans.

It will be the year of Nomar in Chicago

This should have occurred to me already. I attended a spring training game at HoHoKam Park in Mesa last week, and I was struck but how much attention Nomar Garciaparra received. Cubs’ fans love their superstars — I think I first noticed this when the bleacher fans kowtowed to Andre Dawson every time he ran out to right field in the late 1980′s. Now that Sammy Sosa has moved on, the obvious superstar mantle belongs to Nomar, he of the famous wife and obsessive-compulsive mannerisms.

I expect a full season’s worth of adulation to be heaped upon Nomar this season, as long as he stays healthy. The adulation of Cubs fans shall not be denied!

The guys who park cars at HoHoKam are known as “Ho’s.”

I was talking to a local Mesa friend about parking at HoHoKam (which was actually well managed, considering how well-attended the game was) and he informed me that the guys who run HoHoKam’s parking service are an independent group of community volunteers, and the parking fees are somehow reinvested in the community. I was also told that the group is known as “Ho’s.” From what I could tell, there are no female Ho’s in Mesa.

First round goes to Lee.

I also attended a White Sox/Brewers game in Phoenix, and saw Carlos Lee gun down Scott Podsednik at the plate in a matchup of two guys traded for each other. Podsednik was on third via a triple when Willie Harris hit a short flyball to left. The Sox sent Pods home and Lee threw him out. First round to Lee.

Lee also hit a home run in that game and was plunked by Damaso Marte in the eighth (confession: I had already left by then to beat the Phoenix rush hour). According to Lee, “they were trying to mess with me.” Too bad the Brewers are no longer in the American League. This could have been interesting.

Jon Stewart apologized to Barry Bonds.

After Barry Bonds once again blamed the media for his plight (and shamelessly included his son in the limelight), Jon Stewart of the Daily Show showed true class by apologizing for leading Bonds astray. I can’t find a video, but following is a transcript of some of Stewart’s comments:

We’re going to talk little bit about baseball. By way of an apology, Barry Bonds, star slugger for the San Francisco Giants, is having a bit of a rough offseason. He had surgery on his knee last week and as you know he’s suspected of steroid use, which he’s never actually denied, but a woman last week claiming that he was his mistress for nine years has just testified under oath that Barry said he had been taking steroids since 2000. So it’s really starting to pile up on him and yesterday he held an impromptu press conference to take some accountability and put the blame for his troubles where it belonged.

[Cut to Bonds]

Bonds: You guys wanted to hurt me badly enough. You finally got there.

Reporter off camera: You say you guys. Who do you mean?

Bonds (pointing): You. You. You. You. The media. Everybody

[Cut to Stewart, with eyes downcast and looking regretful] Sorry. And I am sorry. I do take responsibility. I do remember, this was years ago, when I saw Barry Bonds for the first time and I remember saying to him, “You’re skinny. And very weak. You might want to do a little (mimes sticking a needle in his arm).” So I do take responsibility for convincing him to do steroids for a long, long time. And about having a mistress, again, I should never have begged him to f*** someone outside of his marriage.

Seriously, has anyone else noticed the parallels between Bonds’ media paranoia and Richard Nixon’s? Consider…

  • Nixon mentioned his children and their dog Checkers in a nationally televised speech in a bid for sympathy, Bonds did the same thing with his son.
  • Nixon’s VP called the media “nattering nabobs of negativism.” Bonds has called them something similar, though less alliterative.
  • Nixon had Watergate, Bonds has Steroidsgate.
  • Nixon was forced to retire early. Bonds???

There have been a lot of funky game delays in baseball history.

Last week, a spring training game was cancelled due to a horde of bees attacking a couple of players, which inspired an article by ESPN’s Jeff Merron listing the top ten top unique cancellations in sports history.

But the more interesting list was provided by Phil Lowry in the SABR-L nightly bulletin. Phil included a list of baseball game delays, in either the major or minor leagues, that included:

- A 35 minute delay due to bees in 1976 at Riverfront Stadium
- Two automatic sprinkler delays (not including the one in Bull Durham)
- One bomb scare delay (Minnesota in 1970)
- Two delays due to blinding sunlight
- A fire delay at Comiskey
- Six fog delays
- Two moon landing delays (oddly enough on the same day!)
- Five power delays
- Three snow delays
- One tarpaulin malfunction delay
- One tornado delay, and
- One wind delay

Billy Beane affirms the obvious: starting pitching is too expensive.

Athletics’ Nation is just one of the best blogs around, regardless of which team you follow. Their access to some of the top front office people and writers in Oakland makes their blog incredibly informative. For instance, there were a number of gems in this interview with Billy Beane, including this commentary on the overvaluation of major league pitching:

Blez: How much did the insane contracts, forgive my editorializing, for starting pitchers like Benson and Wright affect your decision to go ahead and move Hudson and Mulder? In other words, were you just taking an opportunity to move players who happened to play in a position that is suddenly overvalued?

BB: There were a ton of things that went into the decision. As a general manager, to put it simply, I’m given a certain amount of ingredients to put together a team. In other words, I’m given, “this is what you have to spend.” My job is to manage those resources I’m given, that being in terms of dollars. To put it bluntly, we weren’t going to be able to return the entire team we had in 2004 and not be far above our means. We not only aim to put a competitive team on the field, but one that will be getting progressively better, which is the trick for us. One of the things we realized about the free agent market this year, and it wasn’t like it was new to us but it became even more evident this year, is that the one thing we couldn’t put ourselves in the position to do–like say with Jason Giambi or even Miguel Tejada which was even tougher– what we knew is that if these pitchers left, we had to have an answer for them. And the answer wasn’t going to come via the free agent market.

Blez: Because of the cost, is what you’re saying?

BB: Exactly, and not only that, but in many cases cost for mediocrity. Ordinary pitchers that we neither had the resources nor the desire to pay them that much. Once again, understand that we’re operating within a budget. Myself and David (Forst), we have a certain amount to work with and we’ve got to work with that. One thing you can’t rely on is that you’re going to draft five pitchers to replace five guys. It isn’t that predictable. In our market, pitching is the hardest thing to acquire and impossible for us to sign in the open market. For the health of our franchise, we had to make sure that if we traded these guys that what we got in return was at least someone that could go into our rotation for X number of years, preferably as many as possible.

Bill James affirms the obvious: major league teams carry too many pitchers on their rosters, at the expense of potentially valuable platoon and bench players.

The Sons of Sam Horn captured an excellent interview with James. Like the Beane interview, it contains too many pearls of wisdom for a simple column of ten. But my favorite answer concerned one of my pet peeves: why do teams insist on carrying eleven and sometimes even twelve pitchers?

What has happened in the last fifteen years is that the expansion of the bullpens has all but eliminated platooning. Teams used to carry nine pitchers, not 15 years ago but 35 years ago. You have nine pitchers on a 25-man roster, that’s leaves 16 players for eight positions, and you can platoon at three or four positions. Bobby Cox in Toronto in the early eighties was platooning at five positions. Now, teams carry 12 pitchers. You’ve got 13 position players for nine positions, you’ve got a backup catcher and a utility infielder, your options for platooning are very limited.

But what we’re doing now doesn’t make any sense, because you can gain many more runs by platooning than you can save by having an extra left-hander in the bullpen. Eventually, people will realize that what we’re doing now doesn’t make any sense, and then they’ll start cutting back the pitching staffs and expanding the benches, and then we’ll go the other way for 30 or 40 years until something else happens and history tears off on some other tangent.

If you line up all the teams in the American League in alphabetical order, all the AL Central teams are in a row.

Yes, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City and Minnesota all line up in a row, with not a New York, Boston, Oakland or Toronto to split them asunder. Now, you may think that this is not big deal, but I figured out that the odds of this happening are one in five hundred!!! Mere chance? I don’t think so. I think I may have stumbled on to the biggest conspiracy in baseball since the reign of Ueberroth. Our investigative reporters are being sent to the scene as we speak…

You can make a wallet out of duct tape.

Why settle for leather when you can have the finest adhesive that also cures warts? Here are the instructions for making a wallet out of duct tape, which turns an ordinary roll of silver tape into a useful billfold.

It turns out that people have found all sorts of uses for duct tape, as you can see in this page of valuable duct tape ideas and pictures. Don’t get caught without some!

References & Resources
Special thanks to the Howard Owens site for transcribing Jon Stewart’s Barry Bonds apology. As usual during Stewart’s show, I was laughing too hard to do anything as complicated as writing.

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