Saturday, April 19, 2003

It's early in the season but have you seen the leader board for slugging percentage? Here are the top five followed by their percentage:
1. Jim Edmonds .837
2. Carl Everett .755
3. Kevin Millar .732
4. Hank Blalock .715
5. Hee Seop Choi .711

Jim Edmonds is a streak hitter and to see him on top early is not a surprise. But Everett, Millar and Blalock? And who is Hee Seop Choi? Let's start with Everett. There was a lot of discussion early on that Everett and Showalter, his new manager, were going to have problems. Showalter is the disciplinarian and Everett is the bad guy. Well, Everett has deserved his reputation and has deserved the way fans feel about him but make no mistake about it, the man has talent and when he is focused, he can play really well.

And part of the reason Everett is hitting so well is that he has A-Rod, Palmiero and Blalock hiting around him. Blalock? Yup. Hank Blalock is phenom turned phenomenon. Last year he broke camp with the Rangers and started terribly. He was demoted after just a few weeks and that was the end of that for the year. This year, with a new chance and a new manager who is going to let him play, he has 22 hits in 13 games and is batting .415. The new phenom is Mark Teixeira who has started slowly (.160). It will be interesting to see if Teixeira will turn it around and if Showalter will grind away with him. The problem in Texas is still their pitching. Oh! And one more great stat concerning Blalock: He's only stuck out five times.

Hee Seop Choi was not the foreign player entering the league with the most fanfare. Contreras and Matzui for the Yankees got much more press. But Choi, in his first full year is in his second year away from his homeland of Korea. It's early yet, but he's walked 15 times in 12 games that shows patience and also leads to a gaudy .509 On base percentage. Chicago is going to win that division easily with their hitting and pitching.

Speaking of Contreras, the Yankees demoted him to Triple A today after a slow start. His main problem is that the Yankee starters are going deep into the game and Contreras is not getting innings. He seems to be a rhythm pitcher and pitching a batter or two out of the bullpen is not going to be his strong suit. It's really funny to hear writers talk about the Yankee starters in glowing terms and as another proof of the Yankees being able to buy pitching staffs. Excuse me. Isn't this the same starters that everyone was knocking after the playoffs because they were too old and not good enough? Weaver is the only addition but the other guys are the same. Contreras should get innings in Triple A and I believe will still help the team later this season.

Speaking of Koreans, Kim finally got a win as a starter for Arizona and his closer replacement (and predecessor), Mark Mantai, recorded his first save in over a year. It was a nice moment for someone who has worked so hard to come back.

I was watching the Red Sox game the other night and watched the Toronto Blue Jays pitcher (Tam) totally melt down and walk five straight batters. He wasn't even close and was low and outside on every pitch. Isn't it amazing how a MLB pitcher after several seasons of solid pitching can have a night like that. The Red Sox have won six in a row and have announced themselves as contenders for the long haul.

Watching that same game, I also noticed that the umpiring of balls and strikes hasn't improved one bit. Balls off the plate are being called strikes. Strikes inside are being called balls and they can't even seem to get half swings correct anymore. I don't understand why the quality is so poor. This isn't rocket science to know the strike zone.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

The great thing about MLB is that each month and year brings pleasant surprises. The Flagrant Fan talked a couple of days ago about disappointments. But the pleasant surprises usually outweigh the unpleasant ones. Here is a short list for you on what is normally the Fan's night off:

- Buck Showalter has kept to his word and is playing Blalock and Teixeira. Blalock was given a real short leash last year and was demoted after a tough start. This year he is hitting over .400 and playing great. Teixeira started slow like Blalock last year but Showalter stuck with him and he's coming around now with several RBI in his last two games. Showalter must know how to motivate as badass Carl Everett is hitting over .340 and is playing really well.

- The play of the Royals (who have now lost two in a row) and the Pirates has been a fun development. The most pleasant development of these two stories is the starts of Kris Benson and his catcher Kendell. Kendell had never really been the same after breaking his leg three years ago but is back with a bang. Benson has an ERA under 1 after three super starts.

- The Cubs are pounding the ball but it is so great to see Ricky Ledee hitting so well. Way to go, Ricky! Keep it going!

- Kerry Wood has started 3-0. Prior is the big story but Wood is the ace.

- Tim Worrell has been around a long time. With Robb Nen out with a bum shoulder, Worrell already has six saves (already a career high) after a great year last year going 8-2 in long relief with a 2.25 ERA. Todd Worrell is the one noted for saves with 256 in his career. But it's fun to see Tim get the saves at this stage of his career.

- Roger Clemens started strong this season with three quality starts. At 2-0, he could easily have been 3-0. After last season's playoff meltdown and with only seven wins needed for 300, it's been great for the big pitcher to start so well.

- Kevin Millar has been lighting it up for the Red Sox. He leads the team (and Manny Ramirez) in RBI and seems as if he was born and bred to play in Fenway. Speaking of Fenway, isn't it weird to have those seats at the top of the Green Monster? Very weird!

- Felipe Alou has started with great success in San Francisco. The man is class and I remember watching him as a boy at Yankee Stadium. After all those years with the cash strapped Expos (a pleasant surprise in their own right), it's great to see Alou succeed. Oh, for you trivia buffs! The Alou brothers: Felipe, Matty and Jesus once played together for the Giants in the same outfield and combined for 5024 hits in their combined careers. Felipe's son Moises has added 1400+ hits of his own and is probably the best hitter of all the great Family Alou.

Tomorrow...the fine line of pitching without a blazing fastball...

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

I'm finding it hard to concentrate on baseball tonight. I watched American Idol and was so shocked and dismayed at its outcome that I screamed at the TV. I haven't screamed like that since the 2001 World Series when Arizona totally lucked out on bunts and bloop hits to deny the Yankees of their title. Oh well. It just goes to prove and is another lesson in that what should happen doesn't always. Ken Griffey Jr. should have had a monster year because he deserved it and worked hard to get back. And Derek Jeter should never have been nailed by that minor league catcher Huckaby. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr The Flagrant Fan is NOT in a good mood.

There is some injustice built into the history of baseball. Satchel Paige and so many of his contemporaries shouldn't have been past their brilliant primes to play in MLB. Jermaine Dye shouldn't have broken his leg just when he was reaching superstardom. Mickey Mantle shouldn't have destroyed his knees before there were techniques available to fix them. Ted Williams shouldn't have had to miss six seasons to fight two wars. He finished with 521 homers. He could have had 700. He finished with 2600+ hits and could have had 3800.

Billy Williams and Ernie Banks should have had a World Series win. The Red Sox should have had a better manager in the 86 series. Knuckleball pitchers like Waite Hoyt, the Neikros and others should be respected for the artists they were. Koufax should have had his body last longer than it did. Curt Flood shouldn't have sacrificed his career to get what was wrong righted. The World Champion Florida Marlins shouldn't have been dismantled so effectively. The Montreal Expos shouldn't have had their best year shortened by the strike that ended that season. Ralph Kiner should have had a longer career. Dizzy Dean shouldn't have blown out his arm in an All Star game.

Yes, injustice is a part of life and a part of baseball. The umpires shouldn't have been allowed to get away from the strike zone. Somebody should have cared enough about Willie Mays to quit two years earlier. Roberto Clemente shouldn't have died on that plane trying to help those people. Thurman Munson shouldn't have been allowed to fly and on and on it goes.

Life holds no guarantees and as I have told my son a million times, it isn't fair and it isn't going to be fair. But at least the good happens often enough to temper the bad and though it was way colder today than it should have been, at least there was one of the most beautiful full moons I've ever seen.

Goodnight baseball lovers. It will be better tomorrow...

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

I wonder what Mark McGwire is doing. I still haven't gotten over his quick demise and quick exit. Is he really a Hall of Famer? I look at his all time stats today and he only had 1600+ career hits. He had a hundred less RBI in his career than Mickey Mantle who had fifty less homers. He had a lifetime batting average of .263. He only has 84 more lifetime extra base hits than Wade Boggs (841 to 775). He is the only one of the top six home run hitters of all time to not also have five hundred doubles. McGwire had 252. Aaron had over 600! Bonds has over 500.

McGwire's stats compare closely with Harmon Killebrew. But Killebrew played in the era of pitching dominance when Carl Yazstrzemski won batting titles with a .301 average! I kind of feel like Simon on The American Idol. McGwire's stats don't thrill me. He could have done better and I believe he will get into the Hall of Fame on reputation. Sammy Sosa is having a much better career.

The all time stats are a fascinating place to hang out. Do you know that Stan Musial had over 1300 extra base hits in his career? 1300!?! That translates to 475 homers, 177 triples (that's ten a year for 17 years!) and 725 doubles. Holy smokes! He also had 3600 hits, drove in over 1900 runs...and this one is going to nail you...only had 696 strikeouts in his 22 year career. Amazing. In his best season, he hit .370 with 39 homers, 46 doubles, 18 triples and drove in 130 runs while only striking out 34 times in 611 at bats. Yet, how much do you hear about this guy? You hear about his peers like Dimaggio and Ted Williams, but this guy should be mentioned in the same breath.

Some more cool stats: Did you know that Carl Yazstrzemski finished seventh on the all time doubles list with 646? George Brett ended up fifth with 665. If you look at all the major statistics, Wade Boggs had a much better career than Tony Gwynn in every category except for average (Gwynn .338 to Boggs .328).

Did you know that Eddie Murray finished eigth on the all time list for RBI?

When you mention stolen bases, which players do you think of? Rickey Henderson of course. And then you think of Lou Brock and Maury Wills (and maybe Vince Coleman). Rickey had an 80% success ratio when stealing and Brock and Wills were 75% and 74% respectively. Who would have thought that Bert Campaneris had more steals than Wills and was successful 76.5% of the time! But the best modern stolen base guy? Tim Raines is fourth all time in total stolen bases and was successful a staggering 85% of the time (Ty Cobb was successful 84% of the time).

Two great sites for all time statistics are and of course,

Monday, April 14, 2003

Have you ever wondered why some players are slow starters? Is it the colder weather and they need to warm up with the warmer temperatures? There have been many famous slow starters in baseball history and no one seemed to worry because when June and July kicked in, the homers would be flying over the fence or the strikeouts would start piling up. Remember the year that Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa dueled for the new homerun record, McGuire started out fast and had a bunch of homers by the All Star break. Sosa came out of nowhere by hitting 20 homers in June. Sosa starts slowly and has started slowly this year. His average and RBI are there, but the homers haven't started flying yet. They will.

Mike Piazza is another slow starter but come August and September, he will be humming as usual. Pat Burrell has started slowly again. Greg Maddux has had a spectacularly slow start, but he didn't start like a gang of fire last year either. Once the weather warms up, he'll be there with his customary 18 wins.

But when a slow starter starts quickly, you have a career year. Jim Thome is defying every slow start he has ever had. He is also defying the notion that starting in a new league is difficult. He is currently hitting .340 with 12 RBI already. He even has two triples! Just imagine Thome running and then imagine him with two triples. Sounds like the start of a career year to me.

It's hard to root against Jim Thome. He murdered the Yankees whenever they played, but he is so good natured and seems like such a natural guy that you can't hold it against him. It's hard to blame him for jumping the Indians' ship. They were lukewarm in their desire to sign him. He saw the writing on the wall with the young players and the money drying up on the team. All the superstars he had played with were gone until he was the only one left. Why wouldn't he jump ship to the Phillies where their young players were just coming into their prime...players like Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu. It looks like Thome will benefit from hitting in between those two. Abreu should also benefit in a big way. Burrell needs some protection and some help behind him.

The other quality about Thome is the quiet way he goes about his business and yet the obvious joy he takes in playing. That combination is bound to help any cynical team to a different level. I'll never forget the game winning homerun he hit against the Yankees in one of their playoff matches. He crushed my team, but there was so much joy in his face that I had to laugh and give it to the guy.

Okay. Thome was another of a long line of free agents that got a great contract. Okay, he's rich. But if you think Jim Thome is all about the money, you haven't seen him play. And if you still think that when he plays your team, be prepared to have him hit your best pitcher with the game on the line for a searing, soaring three-run homerun to the deepest part of your stadium's centerfield. And besides...does a man who is only about money leg out two triples in April?

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Roger Clemens was brilliant today. He pitched seven full innings, struck out seven and only gave up one run. It was a terrific bid for win number 296. At the age of forty, it is amazing that he can bring the kind of power and dominance to the game. But you have to be afraid of wasted opportunities when so close to that lifetime goal of 300 wins in a career. The Yankees have averaged six or seven runs a game so far this season. Why couldn't they score three today? Argh! At least he didn't get the loss that he didn't deserve.

The Expos have won both of their "home" games in Puerto Rico. I think it is great for the fans down there to get the major league experience. But I can't imagine how this will be good for the Expos. It was a bittersweet loss for the Mets for me as old friend Mike Stanton gave up the game winning hit. Stanton, Nelson and Mendoza have all been scuffed around a bit so far this year. The trick when it comes to being a General Manager is to know when a player's peak is past and it's time to retool. That is not cold, it's business and every player understands it.

Well...the Royals are not going to win every game this season. It sure was fun to watch them win every day. Americans love Cinderella stories. We love when someone comes from behind and wins. We love when a poor, hard-working person or team overcomes and surpasses the previously dominant one. And then when that "Cinderella" stays at the top, we wait for someone else to come along and knock them off. That is why most of America is hoping someone in the National League East wins that division for the first time in eleven years. Before that, the Braves were absolutely terrible and THEY were the Cinderella team when their run started. Go Royals! You are the current Cinderella team.