Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Crystal Ball Speaks to the Fan

The Fan was cleaning out his basement and tripped over a round object covered by a felt sheet. Upon further inspection, it turned out to be a long forgotten crystal ball. After dusting it off, the Fan was amazed to see the following images:

- President Obama will throw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals' home opener to enthusiastic crowds. Security at the game will make El Al look like amateurs.

- Manny Ramirez will sign with the Dodgers and have the following numbers: .312/33/115/.400/.550/.950, the Dodgers will win the NL West and Ramirez will be back in Buster Olney's good graces.

- Kerry Wood will save 38 games after a slow start.

- Sabathia will end up with a 17-12 record for the Yankees.

- Raul Casanova of the Mets will have a chance meeting with Romeo Crennel and they will discuss their strategy with women.

- Ben Sheets will sign with the Texas Rangers and will later credit Nolan Ryan with conditioning tips that helped him overcome his history of injuries.

- Rickey Henderson will be voted into the Hall of Fame, but some bone-headed writers will leave him off their ballot so he won't be unanimous.

- Dan Shaughnessy will write a 10,000 word diatribe when Jim Rice fall short of the votes needed to gain entrance to the Hall of Fame. The diatribe will include at least one Rob Neyer reference.

- Jayson Stark will actually write another baseball post for and finally remove his headline that the Braves have the best chance of signing A. J. Burnett.

- David Wright will win the National League MVP.

- Alex Rodriguez will win the American League MVP and bloggers from coast to coast will complain about the New York media bias.

- Randy Johnson will win his 300th game by June 15.

- Five more minor league pitchers from the Dominican Republic will be suspended for doping and yet the major story of how draftees from that country are mistreated will stay as dead in the headlines as they are now.

- The American Team will be bounced early from the WBC and American baseball fans will yawn and pop open another coke.

- The standings at the end of the year will be:
- AL East: Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays
- AL Central: Indians, Twins, Tigers, Royals, White Sox
- AL West: Rangers, Mariners, A's, Angels
- NL East: Mets, Marlins, Phillies, Braves, Nationals
- NL Central: Astros, Reds, Cardinals, Cubs, Brewers
- NL West: Dodgers, Giants, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Padres

- The Wild Card teams will be the Red Sox and the Marlins

- At least ten homers or non-homers will be overturned by replay.

- There will be two no-hitters thrown during the year. One will be against the Padres.

- Phil Hughes will win more games than Chien-Ming Wang

- Jon Lester will win more games than Beckett

- Mike Hampton will win fourteen games and win comeback player of the year.

- Adam Dunn will hit 40 homers.

- No one will hit 50 or more homers.

- Barry Bonds will finally be convicted and the story will finally be over.

- Ozzie Guillen will have at least four major meltdowns

- Russell Branyon will play for at least two more teams in 2009 and hit home runs for both of them. He's played for eleven teams in the last six years and had at least one homer in every stop.

- The Fan will be watching with interest and pore over every box score as usual

Happy New Year Everyone!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2009 Hall of Fame Ballot

The 2009 Hall of Fame Ballot was released in early December and the Web is starting to buzz with pro and con arguments. Below is a list of those on the ballots, some pertinent stats and analysis:

- Harold Baines (OF, DH, 1B)
.823 Lifetime OPS. 2866 career hits. Drove in 100+ runs only twice. Never scored 100 runs. 384 career homers. Only played 1061 of his 2830 games in the field.
Bottom Line: Good hitter for a long time, but not enough production as DH.

- Jay Bell (SS)
One great year. One more good one. .265 lifetime BA. .759 lifetime OPS.
Bottom Line: Not even close. Should fall off the ballot after one year.

- Burt Blyleven (RHP)
287 career wins. 3.31 lifetime ERA in the DH era. 2.79/1 strikeout to walk ratio. Won 14 or more games 10 times.
Bottom Line: Hard to fathom why Blyleven has not been voted in. One of the best pitchers of his era.

- David Cone (RHP)
194-126 won, loss record. 8.28 strikeouts per nine innings lifetime. .309 lifetime On Base Against. 1.26 WHIP. Perfect Game. Big wins in postseason.
Bottom Line: A very good pitcher for his era. Just not enough longevity to pile up wins required to enter.

- Andre Dawson (OF, DH)
2774 lifetime hits. .805 OPS. 1591 RBI including four years of 100 or more.
Bottom Line: Despite impressive RBI total, Dawson's OPS is simply too low in comparison with other HOF outfielders.

- Ron Gant (OF, 3B)
.802 OPS. 321 homers. 243 stolen bases. .256 lifetime Batting Average.
Bottom Line: Not a chance.

- Mark Grace (1B, OF)
.302 lifetime Batting Average. .383 On Base Average. 433 more walks in his career than strikeouts. 2445 career hits. .825 OPS. Considered a good fielder.
Bottom Line: Low slugging percentage due to little power hurts statistics. A very good player, he was probably not quite good enough to get in.

- Rickey Henderson (OF)
No need to consider statistics. Henderson is a first ballot Hall of Famer with some records that will never be broken. The interesting thing is that he was the Manny Ramirez superstar of his era where his dedication and off-beat personality were constantly called into question. It is only in retrospect that he is appreciated. Lesson?

- Tommy John (LHP)
288 career wins. 3.32 ERA in the DH era. 1.24 walks per nine innings for career. Considerably better his last fifteen years in that category. Surgical procedure named after him.
Bottom Line: His career numbers should be good enough to get him in. He wasn't flashy enough for the sizzle of the memory.

- Don Mattingly (1B)
Bottom Line: Ah! What could have been. Was for four years the best player in MLB. Great fielder. Back problems shortened his career and limited his effectiveness in the last years of his career. Not enough numbers to get him in.

- Mark McGwire (1B)
The Fan's recent post concerning lifetime OPS for sluggers with more than 400 career homers list McGwire near the top of the list. Dirtied by the steroid issue, he was still one of the best sluggers of his era.

- Jack Morris (RHP)
254-186 won, loss record. 3.90 ERA. 13 years with 14 or more wins. 20 or more wins three times. Lifetime WHIP was 1.30.
Bottom Line: Lifetime ERA and WHIP puts him behind Blyleven and Tommy John.

- Dale Murphy (OF, 1B, C)
398 career homers. .815 lifetime OPS. .265 lifetime BA.
Bottom Line: One of the league's best players for six years, his production dropped too quickly and too precipitously.

- Jesse Orosco (LHP)
Pitched for 24 years. 1251 appearances. 3.15 lifetime ERA. 144 career saves.
Bottom Line: Effective pitcher for a very, very long time. Too much of a specialist to warrant consideration.

- Dave Parker (OF, DH)
2712 lifetime hits. .290 lifetime BA. .810 lifetime OPS. 526 career doubles.
Bottom Line: Fearsome hitter for a few years, but too low OPS over the long haul.

- Dan Plesac (LHP)
1064 appearances. 158 career saves. 1041 strikeouts in 1072 career innings.
Bottom Line: Comparable to Jesse Orosco. Again, too much of a specialist to merit consideration.

- Tim Raines (OF)
2605 lifetime hits. .385 career On Base Average. 430 doubles and 113 career triples. 1571 career runs scored. 808 stolen bases in 954 attempts.
Bottom Line: The second best leadoff hitter of his generation. Still suffers from drug talk early in his career.

- Jim Rice (OF)
.298 career Batting Average. .854 lifetime OPS. 1451 RBI. .502 career Slugging Percentage. Drove in 100 or more runs eight times.
Bottom Line: Perhaps too short a career to get enough "magical" numbers to get in.

- Lee Smith (RHP)
478 career Saves. 1022 lifetime appearances. 3.03 lifetime ERA. 1251 strikeouts in 1289 career innings.
Bottom Line: If Bruce Sutter is a Hall of Famer, so is Lee Smith.

- Alan Trammell (SS, INF)
2365 career hits. .285 lifetime Batting Average. .767 lifetime OPS.
Bottom Line: Hard to quantify his fielding compared to period players to justify his very low OPS.

- Greg Vaughn (OF)
355 career homers. .807 career OPS. .242 lifetime Batting Average.
Bottom Line: Good power, but pretty marginal in every other way.

- Mo Vaughn (1B)
.293 career Batting Average. .906 career OPS. 328 homers in only 12 years.
Bottom Line: Mo Vaughn was the David Ortiz of his time. Injuries shortened his career and will keep him out of the HOF.

- Matt Williams (3B)
378 career home runs. .317 lifetime On Base Average. .806 lifetime OPS.
Bottom Line: Injuries and steroid whispers will keep him out of the HOF. Terrible OBA.

If the Fan had a ballot, votes would be cast for: Tim Raines, Mark McGwire, Rickey Henderson, Burt Blyleven, Tommy John and Lee Smith

Monday, December 29, 2008

Penny to Pitch for Red Sox?

In an interesting deal, the Red Sox reportedly have signed former All Star and Dodger pitcher, Brad Penny for one year at $5 million with a $3 million more possible if incentives are reached. The deal is interesting because it will remain to be seen if the Red Sox have found this Penny heads up or tails up.

Without doubt, the deal is low risk for the Red Sox. If he does not come back to his 2007 form, Penny only costs the team one year. But Penny did have shoulder problems last year that may have resulted from his electric All Star appearance when he let loose with a string of 100 MPH fastballs.

If Penny can be near what he was in 2006 and 2007, this deal will be a steal. If Penny is as atrocious as last year or not much better, it could be a lot of wasted outings hoping he'll come around. The deal also seems to indicate that the Red Sox were not comfortable with the youngsters they had at the back of the rotation and could likely mean that the thoughts of making Delcarman a starter are over.

The Brian Giles Video Changes Things

In 2006, Brian Giles was charged with hitting his then-pregnant girlfriend. He plead to a reduced charge, took anger management classes and the story died from view. Now, his former girlfriend is suing the Padres player and a video has been released that is shocking.

Giles has responded by stating that the woman in question is just seeking money. Well, that may or may not be true, but in light of the video, it would seem that his stance should be somewhat more contrite.

Some sportswriters are calling for the commissioner of baseball to take action in light of the video and after viewing the images, this Fan might feel the same way. There is no place in society for anyone to strike a loved one (or not for that matter) and MLB should be indignant concerning this issue.

Though the courts settled the matter and Giles supposedly met the court's criteria, it is hoped that Selig at least addresses the situation with a statement that such behavior will not be tolerated by anyone in baseball.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Is Manny Ramirez the Antichrist?

Buster Olney's latest post for ESPN follows the Fan's man crush, Peter Gammons, and others in a long line of "This is Manny's Fault" type of thought. Is this fair? Does Manny Ramirez deserve this type of antipathy?

The Red Sox are the new model for personnel management. They are now regarded as the elite organization for managing talent and building champions. With two World Series victories in five years, it's hard to argue with the results. But there is a level of ruthlessness that seems to permeate their business practice. They didn't handle Johnny Damon particularly well. They did not handle Curt Schilling's situation with a whole lot of heart and you can't forget Pedro Martinez and now Manny Ramirez.

It is easy to blame Manny for being Manny. The man has one of the most colorful personalities ever to play the game. His adventures in left field are legendary. His mood swings are well documented. But there is no indication that Manny is malevolent or a troublemaker. He has never been arrested, he doesn't appear to beat on women, he hasn't been involved in any drug scandals and he certainly hasn't shot his leg in a bar in recent months. So what's the beef here?

Okay, he received bad advice from Scott Boras and handled his last days with the Red Sox pretty badly. Supposedly, his whole team wanted him gone. But is this one of those bad relationships that ended badly, with blame being available to both sides? Or is this all Manny's fault?

For some reason, Manny Ramirez did not feel respected or wanted by the Red Sox organization. Perhaps that is too much to ask for any business. Have not most of us felt similar things when we wanted to be treated like a human being instead of a business asset (or cost)? Perhaps Manny wanted more than any business gives in the real world. Who knows.

But the story didn't end there. Apparently, his Dodger teammates loved the guy and respected his approach and his work ethic. Was that a different Manny? Do people change that quickly just from changing jobs?

A long, long, long time ago, the Fan worked for Radio Shack. To tell you how long ago this was, it was when calculators first came out and were priced at $350. The Fan started his career there as an assistant manager and worked for a wonderful manager who praised the Fan's efforts and was encouraging. The Fan busted his tail and arrived hours before the store opened to do what he could to make that store successful.

Soon after, the Fan was transferred to a different store and his new manager was just the opposite. Nothing was good enough, fault was always found and the Fan's effort and enthusiasm whithered and died. The bottom line is how you treat people often colors the results you get from people. Could the Manny situation in Boston and then Los Angeles reflect that bottom line?

Without being inside the situations, it's only speculation. But even the possibility should give second thoughts to making Manny the only fault in the mess he finds himself in right now. Frankly, MLB is better off with Manny playing and tearing the cover off a baseball than it is having him in some kind of Sammy Sosa purgatory.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Obscure Signings of the Week

Mixed in with the superstar signings this week (Teixeira, Johnson), are a couple of not-so-superstars who hope to hang on and continue their MLB dream:

- Joe Nelson - Pitcher - Tampa Bay Rays
Nelson is a 34 year old Californian who was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the fourth round way back in 1996. He got cups of coffee with the Braves in 2001 and then with the Red Sox in 2004. In those brief appearances, he gave up 13 runs in four and two thirds innings. After pitching in the minors all of 2005, he won a job with Kansas City in 2006 and appeared in 43 games with them, all in relief, and actually saved nine games despite a 4.43 ERA. He did strike out 44 in his 44 and 2/3 innings.

Then last year, he pitched incredibly for the Florida Marlins with 59 appearances good for 54 innings. He saved a game and collected three wins while striking out 60 in 54 innings. His ERA, WHIP and Batting Average Against were all excellent (2.00, 1.19, .205 respectively) in what had to be a surprise for the Marlins. Since the Marlins get little press and even less national TV coverage, his efforts went under the radar, but weren't enough to keep his job with the Marlins who did not offer him a contract.

According to reports, many teams were interested, but he signed a $1.3 million, one year deal. Was last year a fluke for the pitcher, or a true case of a late bloomer?

- Kevin Correia - Pitcher - Minor league contract with San Diego
Correia is another 4th round draft pick, this time for the Giants in 2002 after a college career at Cal-Poly. The right-hander actually made it to the Giants squad in 2003 and had a successful debut, pitching in 10 games, 7 as a starter and posted a 3.66 ERA to go with a 3-1 record. He pitched every year for the Giants after that with a couple of serviceable years to go with some real awful years. Last year, the Giants gave him the ball for the most starts of his career and he was dreadful, going 3-8 with a 6.05 ERA.

Now the Padres are hoping to add a cheap pitcher with big league experience. Good luck with that. Correia is still only 28, but the odds are against him.
Giants Sign Randy Johnson

In what seems like a perfect situation for both the Giants and their new pitcher, Randy Johnson signed with the San Francisco Giants. For details, click here.

The move is perfect for Johnson as he grew up near where the Giants play and the Giants' spring training camp is in Arizona, where the tall pitcher lives. Plus, he stays in the National League, which is much easier for pitchers and gives him the best chance to quickly get to the 300 win level he obviously covets.

The signing will give the Giants three former Cy Young award winners. Granted, one of them is Barry Zito, who has been a shell of his former self the past couple of years. The statement listed in the linked article: “He’s looking forward to pitching between Lincecum and Cain and serving as a mentor for the young pitching staff,” attributed to Johnson's manager, seems like a semi-slap at Zito by Zito's absence from mention. Interesting.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Post Christmas Wrap

Well, the presents are given and received (thankful for both) and the Christmas lasagna (you gotta problem wit dat?) is digested and the Fan is ready for a big weekend of the NFL after reading Guru Michael Silver's column on Yahoo. Hey! Just because the Fan's passion is MLB, doesn't mean that there aren't other passions in life. Woo! Ms. Fan liked the sound of that!

So...what is the Lowe-down? Where are the rest of the Manny free agents going to land? There is still a Wolf in sheep's clothing hiding under the Sheets somewhere. Perhaps the Yankees won't have any Pettitte four leftover in their Christmas buffet...or maybe they will. We need something to happen after the Teixeira hangover.

Is it just the Fan or does there seem to be more MLB players signing with Japanese teams this off season than usual? The latest is Kevin Mench, which means there will be at least one good person in Japan. case you missed the pun, "Good person" is what "mench" means in Yiddish.

It's hard to understand the attraction of playing in Japan if any MLB team will still consider signing you. Perhaps the money is motivation enough, but the stats won't count and they kind of speak funny over there. The fan doesn't have any yen for visiting over there any time soon.

Okay...okay! No more puns. The Fan can hear you groaning over here. I guess it's time to play the new Paper Mario (you gotta problem wit dat?) that Ms. Fan gave for Christmas. Carry on, and enjoy the rest of your Halladay weekend.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sports Writers Should Be Careful About Vacations

The Fan understands that even sports writers need a vacation now and then. Of course, many would argue--and not without merit--dream jobs like sports writing are already vacations. But be that as it may, it sure looks funny when a famous writer goes on vacation when the last piece he wrote is a speculation piece long since old news and incorrect. For example, see here. Unfortunately for this writer in question, his last posted article sits like a red herring next to his picture on the site's main page. Oops.

Anyone who follows this blog knows of the Fan's man-crush on Peter Gammons. The man is...well...the MAN when it comes to sports writers. Some of the other Fan favorites:

Gammons, Buster Olney and Rob Neyer (not because the Fan always agrees, but at least they are interesting and write ALL the time), Keith Law, Jayson Stark (though he has gotten a bit lazy lately, but it's hard not to like a big time writer who answers e-mails personally and faithfully), Gordon Edes, Tim Brown and Bill Madden. Least favorite big time writer: Jeff Passan.

Michael Silver (the best of the best), Gregg Easterbrook (despite his pomposity...or because of it) and Charles Robinson (whose Winners and Losers column is excellent and always on point).
Let the Gnashing of Teeth Begin

The Yankees landed their third big fish this off season by grabbing free agent, Mark Teixeira, out from under the Red Sox' noses. Let the gnashing of teeth begin.

The Yankees are one of those polarizing franchises in sports. Flashing the most money, the best history and in the best market, the team is either loved passionately by its fans or hated acrimoniously by all other fans.

To fans of the team, this is the prize they've been hoping for. A big bat from both sides of the plate, a la Mickey Mantle, Teixeira is also seen as a clutch performer and his playoff experience last year seems to Yankee fans like the anti-A-Rod.

To those who hate the Yankees, this will be one more spike in the Yankee voodoo doll hanging in each sports den. The critics will say: "Nine of their players make more than any other TEAM in baseball." Calls for a salary cap will come clamoring across the land and Internet pipe.

But, in reality, the Yankees pay their dues. The same day the deal was announced, the league assessed a $29 million "tax" on the Yankees that will be distributed to other teams around the league. The team's "tax" tab the last five years exceeds $100 million.

The Yankees also have a new stadium to fill and expensive seats to justify. Filling their glaring needs when they have cleared enough payroll to do so is their right and, face it, two of these acquisitions are for the best players on the market.

The deal should also settle A-Rod down a bit as he no longer has to be THE big bat in the lineup. Now he has his tandem in Teixeira. He should have a big year.

And so the two polarized camps will be having different reactions. To those that hate the Yankes with boundless passion, a raised fist and a "Damn Yankees!" will reverberate. To Yankee fans, fists will be pumped and a gigantic, "Yesssssssssssss!" will fill the land.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Giving Up the Game of a Lifetime

To any of the Fan's generation, Pee Wee Leagues led to Little League (or P.A.L.) and then to Babe Ruth to High School ball, and then for the fortunate few, on to college ball or a selection to a minor league team. For the rest of us, we had to graduate to league softball and once our wobbly legs and overfed bellies got in the way, we "retired" from our childhood game.

Imagine how hard it must be for a major leaguer, especially one with a long career, to give up the game of a lifetime. Besides being all the player has done since youth, there is the loss of the crowds, the camaraderie and, of course, the money. It's no wonder so many MLB coaches are former players.

All this comes to mind from the story that Bernabe Figueroa Williams has begun playing winter ball for Puerto Rico in anticipation for playing for that country in the WBC.

Bernie Williams had a distinguished career with the New York Yankess that did not end on Williams' terms. As is the case in baseball as a business, the Yankees were finished with him before he was finished with baseball. It's a reality that is hard on a player and on the fans who root for them.

Williams was not just an ordinary player. He was a fixture on a team of champions, playing centerfield and batting .297 for his career with 2336 hits and a lifetime On Base Percentage of .381. He drove in over a hundred runs five times. He scored over a hundred eight times. He won two gold gloves. Williams hit 22 post season home runs.

But suddenly, he didn't fit in. No longer agile enough for centerfield, he wasn't valued enough for other positions and when he declined to accept a minor league offer from the only team he ever played for, he sat out. But he never officially retired.

And now he is 40 years old and still has the desire to play. And so in his native Puerto Rico, he went 1 for 3 in his first winter league game as a DH. Only Williams knows whether he is simply doing this for the love of Puerto Rico or for the fun of it, or whether he still hopes to catch the glory for one more season.

Either way, Williams at least provides one solitary reason for watching the entire WBC. The Fan would love to see him in uniform one more time. He is missed.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Interesting List for All Time Sluggers

The things one will do in the middle of a blizzard. With time to kill, the Fan took all the sluggers with 400 or more home runs and made an all time OPS list. For those who don't know. OPS equals On Base Percentage (OBP) plus Slugging Percentage. Slugging Percentage equals Total Bases divided by At Bats. The list is interesting:

  1. Ruth 1.159

  2. Ted Williams 1.116

  3. Gehrig 1.074

  4. Bonds 1.051

  5. Foxx 1.034

  6. M. Ramirez 1.004

  7. McGwire .982

  8. Mantle .979

  9. Musial .976

  10. F. Thomas .974

  11. A. Rodriguez .967

  12. Thome .966

  13. Chipper Jones .956

  14. Bagwell .948

  15. Ott .943
    Mays .943

  16. Aaron .929
    Delgado .929

  17. Robinson .926

  18. Piazza .922

  19. Griffey .920

  20. Snider .919

  21. Sheffield .910

  22. Schmidt .907

  23. J. Gonzalez .904

  24. McCovey .889

  25. Stargell .889

  26. Palmeiro .886

  27. McGriff .886

  28. E. Matthews .886

  29. Killebrew .885

  30. Sosa .878

  31. Canseco .868

  32. Billy Williams .853

  33. R. Jackson .846

  34. Yastrzemski .841

  35. Murray .835

  36. Banks .831

  37. Winfield .828

  38. Dawson .805

  39. Darrell Evans .792

  40. C. Ripken .787

  41. Kingman .780

Some comments about the list: First, many of the current players on the list will drop if they continue playing past their peak. For example, Sheffield showed a big drop in productivity this past year and his lifetime OPS dropped and will continue to do so as he plays out his career. The same can be said for players who played longer than they should have such as Willie Mays, Winfield and Reggie Jackson. Secondly, the list proves out what the Fan has always believed: Cal Ripken, Andre Dawson and Carl Yastrzemski were vastly overrated as sluggers shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. Hey, if that statement is true for Dave Kingman, it is true for Ripken and Darrell Evans.

The surprises on the list are Mantle at number 8 and Manny Ramirez at number 6. There is no surprise that Musial is at number 9. He is the most overlooked superstar and is the greatest living player of the bygone era. If OPS is more important than home run totals as most stat heads now consider it is, then the case seems to be made that Jeff Bagwell is a hall of famer as is Mike Piazza. It also seems to indicate that Ruth, Gehrig and Ted Williams are the greatest sluggers of all time.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Obscure Signings For The Week

For every Sabathia or Furcal signing, there are dozens of signings of fringe players struggling to keep their slight major league careers going. Here are a few of this week's:

Jody Gerut - Free Agent, signed by the Padres
Gerut, a centerfielder, was signed in the second round by the Rockies in 1998 after playing for Stanford. Now 32, Gerut first broke into the majors in 2003 for the Cleveland Indians. He had a nice rookie year there where he hit 22 homers and 33 doubles, knocked in 75 runs in only 480 at bats while batting .279. The following year, his average fell to .252 in 481 at bats while his homer total halved to 11. Gerut played for three teams in 2005, starting with the Indians who traded him to the Cubs. He went 1 for 14 there and the Cubs released him. Gerut then had 18 at bats for Pittsburgh and had only two hits there. He didn't play at all in the majors in 2006 and 2007.

He suddenly appeared again in the majors in 2008 with the Padres and had a nice little year, batting .296 and hitting 14 homers for the Padres in only 100 games. He was eligible for arbitration, but the Padres gave him a one year contract.

Greg Norton - Free Agent, signed by the Atlanta Braves.
Transactions that list a player's position as "PH" for pinch hitter automatically qualifies a player as an obscure signing. First of all, only a National League team would sign a "pinch hitter." But usually, pinch hitters are bad field/good hit sort of players. Norton doesn't qualify there.

Norton has played parts of twelve years after being drafted in the 2nd round by the Chicago White Sox after his college career ended at Oklahoma. The 36 year old, Norton, has only once had more than 300 at bats in a season and has a lifetime batting average of .252 and a lifetime OPS of .776. Ouch.

You have to wonder how a player with those kinds of numbers hangs around that long. But great for Norton, who has another year and another $800,000 salary.

Chris Bootcheck - Minor League Contract, Pittsburgh Pirates
Bootcheck even has a perfect name for an obscure signing. But it shouldn't have turned out this way. Bootcheck is a former first round pick by the Anaheim Los Angeles California Angels, or whatever they are calling themselves this year. But he has never panned out for them. He had cups of coffee for the Angels in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2008. His only full year was out of the bullpen for the Angels in 2007 where he compiled a hefty 4.77 ERA in 51 appearances. His lifetime totals? How about 89 earned runs given up in 132 and 2/3 innings. Yeesh. Perhaps the Pirates can find a genie in a bottle. Lord knows they need one.

Terry Tiffee - Minor League Contract, Phillies
The Fan is a pretty avid devourer of daily box scores and has to admit that this transaction wire entry is the first time Terry Tiffee has ever been heard of. Incredibly, the first/third baseman has played parts of four years for the Twins (who drafted him in the 26th round in 1999) and Dodgers. Hardly lighting his brief times in the majors on fire, his lifetime totals to date equal 253 at bats with a batting average of .226, an on base percentage of .276 and an OPS of .626. Oh baby! Ironically enough, the transaction wire also lists Tiffee as a "PH."

Such players serve as a reminder of just how difficult it is to establish a game at the highest level. Sure, every year there are two or three big name signings of elite players. But on the other end of the spectrum are guys just trying to hold on or find another job and somehow stretch their career and their dreams out another year. With five years needed for a pension, these players deserve a little space in the blog sphere. Good luck fellas.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Furcal Flap

The Fan has been reading with interest the various stories and opinions concerning Rafael Furcal's decision to sign with the Dodgers after apparently agreeing in principle to a deal with the Braves (see here for example). The linked article indicates the wrath of Wren (cool line alert!) upon the supposed flip-flop. The Fan thinks the anger is misplaced.

One can understand the Braves' disappointment. First they got outbid by the Yankees for A. J. Burnett and now they have lost out on Furcal. Bummer for them. At the same time, the deal wasn't signed and as a fellow human being (though in a considerably lower living wage), a man has a right to make the right personal choice for his future.

Say for example, the average Joe Blow (or Flagrant Fan) is looking for work and suddenly finds two opportunities worth pursuing. Mr. Blow meets with the hiring executive for the first opportunity and really enjoys the meeting. The hiring executive expresses a strong desire to hire Mr. Blow and does everything he can to convince Mr. Blow that the executive's company is the one to work for. Mr. Blow tells the executive that the offer is fantastic and would enjoy the opportunity. "I'll be in tomorrow morning to sign up," says Mr. Blow.

After that meeting, Mr. Blow then meets the second company's hiring executive and receives an almost identical offer and opportunity. The second opportunity is closer to home and would require less change of lifestyle and location. After careful deliberation concerning what is best for his life and his family, Mr. Blow takes the second job.

Wouldn't that make the most sense for Mr. Blow or anyone in that position? Sure the first executive is going to be disappointed in losing a good prospect and fit for their organization, but as a human being, he is going to have to understand that we all have an obligation to make the best choice for ourselves.

Furcal's decision is no different. There is no indication that the Dodgers offered Furcal any more money at the last minute. Perhaps Furcal had "buyer's remorse" about moving to the Braves. That's his right and is perfectly understandable.

The bold statement that Frank Wren and the Braves will never again deal with Furcal's agent or his agency (the Wasserman Group) is peevish and illogical. Get over it already. Heck, if Furcal's back is going to be a subject of future problems, you may have dodgered a bullet (another great line alert!).

The Red Sox Are Out of the Texieria Sweepstakes?

Sure they are. And the tooth faerie has given in to inflation and now has a one dollar pillow minimum. We will see what we will see. The Fan still thinks the Yankees would be crazy not to make a play for him.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Some Thoughts From the Mall

As the Fan sat in the Mall during the annual shopping season, the following random thoughts appeared in the upper lobe while the long dead Dinah Shore sings Jingle Bells on the mall speakers:

- Considering the last post concerning the WBC: If Johnny Damon hurts his arm, would anyone notice the difference? Perhaps the ball would take 43 hops to get to the cutoff man instead of 41?

- Was Fukodome the biggest Japanese flop since Steinbrenner's "Toad"? At least a Japanese flop hit someone else besides the Yankees, who have had two of them.

- The Fan can't help hoping that Giambi hits 40 homers someplace in 2009.

- The Fan also can't help hoping that Josh Hamilton and Rick Ankiel continue growing in their career. Rick Ankiel would look good in centerfield for the Yankees.

- Why would anyone sign Farnsworth for $9 million over two years?

- Why can't the Fan figure out if he loves or hates Rob Neyer's blog? It is a good thing that the Baseball Writers have finally undone the stupidity of last year and let him into their little club.

- Will Posada make it back behind the plate for the Yankees this year? And if he does and struggles early, will they stick with him?

- Dean Martin still sounds drunk even when singing Christmas songs.

- The Fan wishes Texiera would sign somewhere already. The suspense is killing him.

- What are the odds that teammates call Rafael Furcal, "Furball" or "Furby"?

- Since Furcal started his free agency, the offers for his services have gone down by $9 million. Ouch. I guess the late bird doesn't get the worms after all.

- Is Randy Johnson the most misunderstood tall man since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? At least Kareem was better looking.

- The Fan wonders if David Ortiz will continue to diminish or if he'll come back to his former formidable self.

- Does anyone in baseball swing harder than Dustin Pedroia? One of these days, he will spin himself into the ground like Bugs Bunny.

- The reports that Barry Bonds has still not retired show a man not faced with reality. Umm...Barry...take a seat next to Sammy Sosa over there and remember when you had artificial fun.

- There was a time when throwing Rickey Henderson out while stealing second was one of the most exciting plays in baseball. Any writer who does not vote for Henderson for the Hall of Fame is just plain stupid.

- Why is Davey Johnson managing the WBC and not a major league team? Seems all the guy ever did was win.

- Is anyone aware that Cito Gaston is one of the best managers in the modern era?

- The Mall bookstore had a copy of Bill James grandiose book. The Fan looked at it and it's one million pages and really would love to be that well informed to speak intelligently with the stat heads, but golly, that just seems like too much work. Does one really have to read it to know that Adam Dunn is worth his money even though he strikes out twice a game?

Guess the brain has run where is that mall bench?
WBC - A Classic Case of Blah

It is amazing how things change in two years. Two years ago, George Steinbrenner was still well enough to blast the World Baseball Classic and was even more aggravated when new free agent signing, Johnny Damon, hurt his shoulder playing the...uh...classic. George is no longer in a position to postulate and Damon is pretty much irrelevant. But one thing remains the same: The Fan still hates the World Baseball Classic.

Okay, Jeter is playing shortstop. A-Rod is playing for the Dominican Republic (who knows why). Ichiro and Dice-K are playing for Japan (do they still want Fukodome?). Who cares. Well, a team's fan base will care if one of their players get hurt playing the Olympic wannabe.

And just like two years ago, writers will have two months of excuses to give for any statistical anomalies and blame them all on the WBC: "Pitchers had a head start." "He's usually a slow starter, but played the WBC." And on and on it will go.

All the "classic" does is eat up time before Spring Training can get a team's players in full swing with the rest of the team. What else does it accomplish? We already know that many countries such as Japan, Korea, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and others already have more passion for baseball than a divided sports nation here has. What need is there to promote it further?

The worst part of the "classic" is all the statistics generated that won't mean a thing. You mean A-Rod hit eleven homers this week? Well, oh yeah, they don't count. Or, to fans in New York, "Where were they in October when we needed them?"

The second worst thing is that so much of our favorite new sites will be buggered up with stories about the non-event for at least a month. The Fan said it two years ago, and will say it again. "Blah! and Bah Humbug! On the World Baseball Classic.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Phillies Sign Methuselah For Two More Years

Like Julio Franco before him, Jamie Moyer could play until he is 50! Now 46, the Phillies signed Moyer to two more years, a contract that will take him to the age of 48. And the Phillies knew what they were doing too.

After all, Moyer has won 82 games since he turned 40. 82 wins! In that same period of time, A. J. Burnett has won 53 games. Oliver Perez has won 51. Jake Peavy has won 80. Sabathia has won only five more games in that time span. Andy Pettitte, who has always been ten years younger, has only won four more games since Moyer turned 40. Tim Hudson has won the same amount of games as Moyer in his 40s. And yet, if you turned back time to 2003 and asked any general manager if he had a choice between Moyer and any one of those guys, none would have picked Moyer.

Did the Phillies take a risk? Of course. Any contract longer than a year is risky and the risk doubles for older players. But Moyer is the George Blanda of his era. George kept kicking field goals up past 50 and Moyer will keep his team in the game for just about as long.

The Phillies risk looks pretty good when the then 45 year old Moyer went 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA, while only giving up 199 hits in 196 innings. He will win at least 13 games and post an ERA around 4.00 this coming year while making all his starts. Whether 46 or 26, a lot of teams would take those kinds of numbers.

You go, Jamie Moyer. Pitch another season for the old guys.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Kubek and the Frick Award

Tony Kubek is this year's winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters and will become the first pure analyst to obtain the award since the award's inception in 1978. And while the Fan was fond of Kubek and enjoyed those Saturday afternoons with Kubek and Garagiola, the award is a bit troubling.

The trouble goes beyond the name of the award, which calls to mind Frick and Frack or a replacement word for the F-bomb in polite company--such as what Congressman, Barney Frank, might say: "Frick, here comes Ford." The trouble comes from knowing that Kubek turned his back on the game in 1994.

Granted, Kubek seems to be a heck of a nice fellow and spends his time doing charity and foundation work. But after the labor strife of the early 90s in baseball, Kubek walked out on the remainder of his contract broadcasting Yankee games and by his own admission, has rarely watched a game or even read about the game since. He says he's never seen Jeter play and doesn't much care.

While many people made a vow after the strike of 1993 to never watch another baseball game, hardly any of us Fanatics actually followed through with the vow. After all, the sport is a passion that is in the blood and would leave a hole somewhere inside to shed it.

So the question formulated is: How can the Hall of Fame honor someone who turned his back on their game? Is there any comparison? hmm... A fairly young actor recently announced that he was finished with acting. The announcement came as a shock to many. If this actor sticks with the announcement and is serious, will the Academy Awards some day give him a Lifetime Achievement Award? Doubtful.

Should not this award be maintained only for those announcers and analysts who at least continued their passion for baseball until their retirement age? Nice guy and all, it seems odd to give Kubek this honor after he has spurned the game in every other way for fourteen years.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Yankees Appear to Have a Deal with Sabathia

In what appears to be the first piece of Brian Cashman's quest to rebuild the Yankees, it is being reported that the Yankees have a deal for C. C. Sabathia, the former Indians and Brewers start pitcher. The deal will vault the Yankees back into relevance, at least in the preseason polls. The long term prognosis for this deal will have to play out before any judgements can be made.

All indications are that Sabathia is a stand up guy that teammates really like and admire. He wants to use much of his new riches for underprivileged children and--according to reports--really wants to play in New York now.


Sabathia is one of the most dominant pitchers in the game. Besides being stingy with walks, Sabathia has an excellent strikeout to walk ratio as well as strikeout to nine inning ratio. Here's how he fares historically with some of the Yankees main rivals (thanks to

(Player, AB, H, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, BB, SO, BA, OBP, SLG, OPS)
Carlos Pena: 21 4 1 0 2 2 3 8 .190 .292 .524 .816
David Ortiz: 18 5 1 0 1 3 1 3 .278 .316 .500 .816
Brian Roberts: 16 1 0 0 0 1 3 4 .063 .211 .063 .274
Jason Giambi: 11 2 0 0 0 4 3 1 .182 .333 .182 .515 (assuming he signs with the Rays)
Raul Ibanez: 36 10 1 1 2 8 2 10 .278 .333 .528 .861 (assuming he stays in Toronto)
Carl Crawford: 25 6 2 0 0 1 0 5 .240 .240 .320 .560
Mark Texiera: 21 6 1 0 0 3 3 7 .286 .375 .333 .708 (assuming he signs with Red Sox)

Many of the current Red Sox do not have enough at bats against him to be meaningful (Pedroia is 0 for 3 for example). But none of those numbers above look particularly threatening. Other than improving the Yankees as a team, Derek Jeter must be bittersweet. Here are Jeter's stats against Sabathia: 26 13 3 0 0 2 2 3 .500 .536 .615 1.151. Ichiro also wears Sabathia out.

Sabathia's splits are remarkably consistent. His home and away win/loss, ERA and OPS stats are within a few hundreds of percentage points between them. His OPS against right handed batters is .695 versus .661 against left handed batters.


For the short term (two years at least), the Yankees have obtained a very consistent, at times dominant left handed starter, who, to this point in his career, has been resiliant, durable and a great team player. Long term concerns have to be his weight and large bone structure which are not built to translate to a long career.

The Yankees got who they wanted. To solidify their chances to unseat the Red Sox and the Rays (not to mention Toronto), the Yankees will need one more wheel in their rotation and Texiera would be outstanding for them.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Fan Hates Being Wrong

Which is pretty stupid when being wrong happens so often.

For years, Greg Maddux was hated. Hated with an almost ungodly passion. But first, Maddux was a Cub and he was a good Cub. Being a good Cub on bad Cub teams was an admirable thing. But then he became a Brave and that was the start of the negative passion.

His first sin in becoming a player with the Braves was having all those awe-inspiring years and being compared--often favorably--with Roger Clemens in the nod for best pitcher in the Major Leagues. Compound that fact with the knowledge that he first turned the Yankees down to go to the Braves was the beginning of the Fan's little passion play.

And then it was the Braves as a whole and the whole guilt by association thing. Let's face it, the Braves were an arrogant bunch in their early years of their incredible streak of success. The Fan falsely lumped Maddux in with the real arrogant SOBs like Chipper Jones. Can you even say, "Chipper" in an adult-like manner? It's like the Fan's aversion to buying cars by Mitsubishi. Any car or player that sounds like baby talk is to be avoided.

But you could see it in Chipper's demeanor. He thought he was the Hersey Syrup on the ice cream. He, and his pretty wife, Karin, who by association was also stuck up since she refused to spell her name traditionally, seemed to be above it all. Well, Karin later divorced him and got half his millions, so there was some justice in it all.

Anyway, Maddux was lumped into that whole angst thing about the Braves and the Fan really believes that the Braves arrogance led to their downfall in their series with the Yankees. Stories circulated later where the Yankee players were motivated by the Braves' belief they couldn't lose.

It did help some that the Yankees didn't treat Maddux with respect during that series and he got beat. But in the Fan's mind, Maddux was the same as Jones and Smoltz, an arrogant jerk.

The Fan realizes that some arrogance is needed, call it confidence if you will, to play successfully in the Major Leagues. I would not exactly call Clemens and Pedro cream puffs in that category. But darn, how did Maddux always get the favorable call on those questionable corners along with Glavine?

But slowly, as the years went by, the ice started melting in the ego-shrouded, Fan mania. First, there was the "Chicks dig the long ball" commercials. Those were fun and showed Maddux to be a regular guy. The Fan was watching the commercials with a jaundiced eye, waiting for the arrogance to show itself, but the commercials were just fun and Maddux seemed like a cool and decent guy. Crap!

Then stories started appearing on his legendary pranks in the clubhouse and his golf addiction and how he wouldn't retire because he just likes to play and fifteen years after the antipathy began, Maddux was embraced for what he truly was: One of the two best pitchers of the present era.

Consider a five year stretch from 1994 through 1998 where Maddux pitched 1140 innings, gave up only 990 hits, walked only 29 people a year (A YEAR!) and won 87 of his 119 decisions. Consider 1995 when he made 25 starts and only gave up 35 earned runs. The numbers are staggering. For a guy that was supposedly not a strikeout pitcher, he struck out the same number of batters that got hits off of him.

29 Walks a year! That's as many as Perez of the Mets throws in four starts. The real measure of the success of Greg Maddux is his consistency for all those years without trips to the training room or the DL. He won eight games his first two years and eight his last year, but in between, here are his yearly win totals: 18, 19, 15, 15, 20, 20, 16, 19, 15, 19, 18, 19, 19, 17, 16, 16, 13, 15 and 14. Remarkable.

You won the Fan over Mr. Maddux. Big deal, right? You will be remembered and you will be honored in those memories.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Mets New Ballpark Looks Really Sharp

Shea Stadium was kind of a nondescript circle of concrete in the middle of the airport's fly zone. But it was also where the Fan saw his first major league game. In one of the few cherished memories about a father who died too young and too early in the Fan's childhood, memories recall seeing the big sphere, a holdover from the World's Fair (and on display in "Men in Black") and the almost pastel colors of Shea.

They were great seats, right behind home plate and you could see all the players close up and even hear what they were saying. The Mets were playing the Pirates and the two things remembered about the game were that Bob Veale was a very big man pitching for the Pirates and Ed Kranepool hit a homerun for the Mets. Very good memories indeed.

The next memories of that stadium were not so good. As a young, now fatherless Fan whose mother now had to work full time, the Fan and his younger brother were often given $5 each on Saturdays to "babysit" themselves. Not a bad deal for a kid. The problem was that the beloved Yankees were banished to Shea for three years while Yankee Stadium was recycled.

The Yankees playing at Shea seemed like the ultimate insult back then. It took away their identity and for all practical purposes, ended beloved Bobby Murcer's career with the Yankees. The former Yankee Stadium slugger did not have Mike Piazza-like power and suddenly found all his "big flies" falling into outfielder's mitts on the warning track of Shea. The Fan recalls that Murcer's homer production fell from 27 or so to 10. Before you could blink a baby blue Shea eye, our hero was traded away to the Giants for Bobby Bonds.

For a new look at the Mets new ball park, click here. It seems like every fan concern was in mind when they built this place. It should be a win/win for the Mets and their fans. And for Yankee fans, at least a new stadium was built for them so they wouldn't have to slum it some where else.

The Fan has had a chance to work out the angst of losing Yankee Stadium in favor of the new one. And reflection seems to bring the reality that the refitting of the Stadium in those lost Shea years was just as much of a trauma back then as a new Stadium is now. Let's face it, the old ball park was not the same after those three years rebuilding it.

The Fan remembers walking into the new, old Yankee Stadium and feeling cheated. The right field foul pole that used to be 297 feet away was now 310. The cavernous center and left center were left as is, except a new, fake wall was built inside the original dimensions which cheapened the experience. Worst of all, the old facade was removed and that was the biggest sin of all. After all, Mickey Mantle hit one of his most memorable homers off that facade. It WAS Yankee Stadium and it was gone. The only comparison that could be given was if the Statue of Liberty was fitted with a mini dress when the grand lady was refitted. It would be the old statue still, but with modern wrinkle that took away from the classic.

The new Stadium seems to be coming at just the right time. The franchise image has taken a beating lately and seemed tired. The old ghosts of the old Stadium no longer worked their magic and the team that always seemed to find a unique way to win was now watching the Marlins and Diamondbacks and Red Sox find those unique ways to beat them. Time will tell if a new mystique surrounds the team now that they are leaving the historic park while a new ownership era begins at the same time.

What is for sure is that the Fan will be watching with interest as both the Yankees and Mets play their first games in the new ball parks. It should be fun.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Hey! A Free Agent Signing!

Finally! Okay, so it was a small signing and the Astros signed Mike Hampton for a year. But at least it was a signing. The free agent thing this year has the Fan chomping at the bit to find out who goes where. Maybe it has always been this long and drawn out, but this year's free agent sweepstakes seems slower than usual. Perhaps the baseball talks starting December 8 will get things moving.

And the Mike Hampton gamble is a good one. Why not? The guy has a lot to prove and not much time left to prove it. And the bonus for Hampton is that he still gets to hit. Only one year is at risk and the Astros have everything to gain and very little to lose.

A one year flyer on Pedro Martinez would also be worth the risk. There just seems to be a feeling that he has one more good year left in him. A recent ESPN post disparages the Mets contract but it was a risk any team would have taken for the prestige and back page story lines. After all, this wasn't like the Braves signing Hampton. Pedro Martinez, love him or hate him for his on the mound, in your face demeanor, was one of the most dominating pitchers in history. Even those who hated him had to respect what he accomplished and his tenacity in accomplishing it.

In other news, Rickey Henderson is on the Hall of Fame ballot. His election is all but assured and a no-brainer. Like Pedro, you either loved him or you hated him, but he was fun to watch either way. For all his skills and accomplishments, the one thing that will be remembered about Rickey more than anything else was how much he enjoyed playing the game.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Are Adam Dunn and Jason Giambi Worth a Contract

A comment to a recent post here asked why Adam Dunn wasn't in the free agent discussion found in the post. The same question can be extended to Jason Giambi. Both batted in the .240 to .250 range last year. Both are inadequate fielders, but are they worth a contract offer?

If you casually look at the numbers, slow-footed, glove-deficient players with that kind of batting average and strikeout rate would seem to be obvious choices for the "no way" pile. The casual fan would lump him in the same category as Richie Sexson. Then again, during Sexson's good years, that's not a bad comparison.

Let's compare Adam Dunn to Ichiro Suzuki. We can already concede that Ichiro is a better fielder and baserunner. Would you guess that Ichiro was on base 264 times in 2008 and Adam Dunn only 20 times less at 244. Would you also guess that they both had exactly 265 total bases? Would you also know that despite playing on the Reds for years, Dunn has scored over a hundred runs in three of the last five seasons? And wouldn't you value Dunn's 206 homers in the last five years over all Ichiro's singles?

Heck, Giambi only had 35 less total bases than Ichiro in fifteen less games? There is something tangible in those two big guys consistently clogging up the base paths and putting more pitches on the arms of those apposing them. Day in and day out, Giambi and Dunn may have a strikeout each game, but also a hit and a walk or both and one of those hits will travel a long way. There is value in what Giambi and Adam Dunn do to apposing pitchers day in and day out.

Giambi can be an even better deal with someone after getting away from Yankee Stadium. The Jason Giambi from the Oakland days would hit the ball all over the field. Once with the Yankees, he started pulling everything and "The Shift" was instituted and took away a lot of those line drive base hits he used to get. If he went back to hitting the ball where it was pitched, Giambi would be down right dangerous.

Adam Dunn's real weakness is batting against left handed pitching. He batted only .197 against them in 2008. That's brutal. But if the Fan can get a guy on base 244 times a year and knew he would strike out 160 times the same year, the Fan would take that trade off.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Some Random Thought for Black Friday

1. How can those Wal-mart shoppers look at their families after killing that poor security guard in their stampede?

2. Why don't fringe free agents set themselves up for discount sales on Black Friday to guarantee those jobs for another year?

3. How come those ads at the bottom of most sports articles on-line keep changing the supposed IQs of ball players every day? Manny Ramirez was at 153 one day and 125 the next. Though that may have merit. He is at 153 while batting and setting himself up for big contracts, but much lower in left field.

4. How can ESPN writers get away with frivolous posts that look like they were phoned in or texted with their blackberries? I sort of miss the old newspaper days when those good writers, and they are good over there at ESPN, still had to answer to the editors they worked for.

5. How could the Rockies give away Holliday and not expect their fans to react with anger and angst? The people in charge of the Rockies must be related to the stupid producers that allowed Jim to be killed in Ghost Whisperer. End of this viewer's Friday night fix. I'll have to look at that lovely lass on her bio pages.

6. Will the Barry Bonds saga ever end? This is a Wal-mart layaway run amok.

7. Good for Mussina for walking away this year. Perfect timing. Sheffield, take note.

8. How is it that all those people who voted for Obama because of all the jobs being shipped overseas complain at the mall all day when locally made products aren't as cheap as their Chinese counterparts and turn their noses up at them?

9. If you were a Cuban baseball prodigy, wouldn't you risk any leaky boat to be able to skip the minor leagues and go directly into the elite pay ranges of MLB? The communists should take over the Dominican Republic so those baseball-hungry players down there can get top dollar for coming to the U.S.A instead of losing what little signing bonus they get to bad apple scouts.

10. Article I'd like to see in San Diego: Discarded Star Pitchers Get All Peavyed.

11. Don't you all root for Dontrelle Willis to find a way to pull it together again?

12. Don't you wish for some miracle cure for Baldelli?

13. Am I the only old goat that can't find the energy to figure out which player has the best WARP, OPS+, etc.? Can't we put away posts that sound more like a chemistry class and just list the stats in a separate section of the MLB page on Yahoo/ESPN/MLB?

14. Can anyone really tell me why a new Guns N Roses CD conjures up all this excitement? I guess I need a tattoo or two to figure this one out.

15. Is it possible for any kid to get a big rectangular box under the tree and still be surprised that it's the latest Guitar Hero game?

16. Two of the biggest mysteries in life: Why would anyone willingly wait an hour or two to check out on Black Friday to save a few dollars? Isn't life too short already? Why would you purposely want to eat food that burns all the membranes away from the inside of your mouth? How did Chipotle, or however you spell it, just show up one day out of the blue and be the latest food catch phrase?

17. Why do weight challenged, FANatics eat too much turkey and then do self-penance by shopping on Black Friday?

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving - 2008!

After finishing a terrible football game on television and in anticipation for our upcoming feast, there are a few minutes to contemplate another MLB off season. And it is a very entertaining off season. Which free agents will land where? What team will really improve their 2009 season outlooks with a big trade or free agent signing? The off season truly is almost as fun as the season itself. Here is a look at some big free agents on the market:

C. C. Sabathia. While stunningly successful in his short stint with the Brewers, there are question marks surrounding Sabathia for the future. First, he is coming off his second straight poor post season. Surely, Sabathia got the Brewers where they needed to go based on his heroic pitching down the stretch. Whether he was spent or not ready for the big stage, he pitched poorly in the short season. Secondly, as has been discussed before in this space, the man is big, with a big frame. The Flagrant Fan has this theory that players with big builds only have an eight year window of high performance (search this blog space for more on the topic). Lastly, he seems hesitant to come to a big east team. Early favorites: Dodgers, Giants, Angels. Oh, one other note: The man likes to hit. A National League team seems likely.

Mark Texiera. The Yankees want him badly as do the Red Sox. It seems only logical that the home of Mickey Mantle should be the place for this big, switch-hitting first baseman to play the bulk of his career. There are many voices out there, however, that seem to indicate he would prefer the West Coast. Early favorites: Yankees, Angels.

A. J. Burnett. Burnett had a fantastic year for the Blue Jays and seemed to dispel the concerns about his health. He kills the Yankees and they, barring signing Sabathia, seem the most likely suitor. The Dodgers seem another favorable possibility with Texas lurking. Favorites: Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers.

Derek Lowe. When Lowe was with Boston, he seemed streaky and unprofessional. He would be horrible at times and brilliant at others. With the Dodgers, Lowe has learned how to throw strikes consistently and the only question seems to be his age (36) and how long to tender his offer. The Yankees don't seem a natural fit due to a below average fielding infield for a sinker ball pitcher. The Giants make sense as do the Dodgers. Early favorites: There do not seem to be any for a really good pitcher. But worry not. He will sign somewhere.

Rafael Furcal. The Giants have expressed interest and since Omar V. will not be back with the Giants, the move makes sense. Here is an idea for the Yankees: Sign Furcal, move Jeter to second (it's time, my friend), and move their current second baseman to left. That sounds like a great idea. Cashman? Early favorites: Giants.

Pudge Rodriguez and Jason Veritek. The Fan thinks both of these players are done with productive years. Neither one seems to be an ideal signing, especially for more than one year. Both want to be the main guy and their performance no longer warrants that frame of reference.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Baseball Cards

One of the great tragedies of my life (said with some tongue-in-cheek) was coming home for the first time from college and finding out my mom had thrown out my box of baseball cards. The box was huge, probably four foot squared and filled with all the cards that had been purchased with paper route money and allowances over the years. I can definitely remember having at least five Nolan Ryan/Jerry Koosman rookie cards. Woo boy, those were worth quite a bit during the golden years of collecting.

The post found here by Josh Wilker put me in this mind frame. I remember that card found on his post. The nostalgia from seeing that card was quite powerful. Of course, it was a Topps card and for me at least, that was the only brand that mattered. The others were pretenders, even if they later came out with shinier versions (which corrupted Topps when they had to keep up with those guys). Topps cards had the same feel as the old Sporting News. Recycled or unbleached paper and cardboard with a grainy feel. It was the stats on the back of the cards that I valued most.

For you youngsters, there was a time, not very long ago, when you couldn't get player statistics at the touch of a button or with a keyboard click. But a Topps baseball card had it all there at you finger tips. You could see a player's baseball life on that card.

Buying packs of baseball cards are a thing of the past. Some stores still sell them, but they are five dollars a pack. Heck, we could have gotten 50 packs for that amount of money. We flipped cards (a precursor to later gambling pursuits), clipped them on our bicycles to make a cool noise (another thing of the past as kinds now have ATVs which make real noise).

You had to buy at least two or three packs to make it worthwhile. The Topps logo was on the top of the paper wrapper (wasn't foil in those days). The wrapper sealed on the bottom and you simply pulled the pack open. I can't remember how many cards came in a pack...was it ten? fifteen? Anyway, it was always exciting to separate the cards from the wrapper, quickly throw the useless gum away and see who you got. The real dedicated ones like us used to also mark off those list cards where the players were listed along with the number of their card with a little checkbox to the left of each name. As we got a player for the first time, you took a pencil and darkened the box. It was cool to see which of us had most of the boxes darkened.

I seem to remember that Zoilo Versalles, the Cuban player who is most known for his years with the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins, showed up in every pack. Some cards were like that. Yankee cards were always valued, but for some reason, you could never get the ones you wanted. Mickey Mantle almost never showed up (nor Willie Mays for that matter), but you were sure to get a Mike Kekich or Steve Hamilton card.

I ended up buying a Mickey Mantle card (#500 in the series) from his last year that had his entire career listed. I bought it on eBay for $250. That sure would have bought three years worth of cards when I was a kid.

The very best cards were from players who played a very long time. Pete Rose played for 60 years or something, and the back of his card would be in really small print. Those were cool. Al Kaline had a cool card as did Ron Santo and others who played a long time.

I'm not saying this isn't a wonderful time to be a Fan with all the stats, box scores and analysis you have at you fingertips. But it sure would be great if you could get a pack of Topps card for a few dimes on that old feel cardboard. Those were great days.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Revisiting the Fan's Ripken Angst

The recent debate on Alan Trammell's career and his Hall of Fame worthiness made me revisit his career stats and compare them to the "legendary" Cal Ripken, Jr. The fact that Trammell compiled less statistics than Ripken because his career was so much shorter doesn't diminish that the career numbers are pretty similar...and wanting.

If you take away Ripken's iron man streak and view his career without that as a perspective, he was a pretty average player. Ripken did change the prototype of the thin and rangy, punch-and-Judy hitting shortstop to the power position it is today. But was he a great player? Not in my opinion. Let's look at some of the numbers.

Ripken had six years where his on-base percentage was less than .325. He had ten years (out of twenty) where he hit less than .270. He only slugged over .500 five times in his career. He had two brutal stretches in his career wrapped around his two career years, at a time when he was supposedly in the prime years.

1991 was Ripken's best year. He batted .323 with 368 total bases and a slugging percentage of .566. He hit 34 homers and drove in 114. The following year, he was just as bad as he was good the year before. In 637 at bats, he batted .251, had an on-base percentage of .323 and slugged an unbelievable .366. That was a direct result of having 145 fewer total bases than the year before!

The thing I always heard while he was playing was that he was so serious in his baseball study that he positioned himself in the field better than anyone else to make up for his range. Really? Would anyone guess that he made over 20 errors six times in his career, five times as a shortstop? Would you guess that his lifetime fielding percentage was almost the exact same percentage as Trammell and that Trammell made over 20 errors just twice in his career? How about that Trammell's double play percentage was at 13.3 percent of his total chances. The exact same figure as Ripken.

Ripken just wasn't that great a player. His streak was selfish at times and much like Bond's assault on Aaron's record, the thing became of a life of its own and overshadowed his teammates and their objectives while placing his managers in the position that they couldn't always do what was best for their teams. It is interesting that his best years were early and under Earl Weaver.

After looking everything over, it is my conclusion that Trammell doesn't belong in the HOF. But Ripken is in for similar numbers (except the totals which result from a longer career), so if he's in, then Trammell should go too. Bottom line: Ripken wasn't worthy to fit in Lou Gehrig's shoes.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Today is the perfect day for resolutions. In the year 2008, I, the Flagrant Fan, make the following baseball resolutions:

1. I resolve to take the cheaper way out and watch all MLB games on my computer in a little four inch box rather than buy the cable package and watch them on the big screen television.

2. I resolve to write this blog that hardly anybody reads nearly every day.

3. I resolve to quit trying to look at box scores on when they are much easier to view on

4. I resolve to not view Barry Bonds any worse than all those other players and dislike him purely for personality reasons.

5. I resolve to hope the Dodgers win the World Series this year despite the fact that I always hated them. Torre deserves his place as one of the great managers of this age.

6. I resolve to continue hoping that Tony LaRussa falls on his Brian Billick this year.

7. I resolve to acknowledge that the Boston Red Sox are the best team in baseball despite the bad taste it leaves in my mouth.

8. I resolve to find out what all those sabermatic terms mean so when I read Rob Neyer's columns I know what OPS+ means. Old dogs need to learn new tricks eventually.

9. I resolve to keep willing Willie Randalph a "fun" gene.

10. I resolve not to be surprised when the Bay Rays of Tampa become better than respectable this year.

11. I resolve to stop hating the Toronto Blue Jays for the sole reason of holding a grudge against their smarmy announcers of the 1980s.

12. I resolve the Fan's continued quest to see Bud Selig and Bill Gates at the same time so I am convinced they aren't the same person.

13. I resolve to try to like Alex Rodriguez and appreciate his amazing ability to hit a baseball.

14. I resolve to personally will Andy Pettitte to win 20 games so this amazing class act can put to bed one mistake in judgement.

15. I resolve to rejoice when Goose Gossage finally makes the Hall of Fame.

16. I resolve to finally prove to Jayson Stark that Cal Ripken Jr. should have been in his book.

17. I resolve to stop hoping that a batted baseball hits Curt Schilling in the mouth.

18. I resolve to stop being amazed at how stupid and obnoxious fan comments are on

19. I resolve to hope with all I am to root for the hated Kenny Rogers to win big this year for the sole reason that he fired his agent.

20. I resolve to finally write my baseball book this year.

21. I resolve to try and stay awake on those World Series games that end at 1:00 in the morning.

22. I resolve to not watch the Home Run Derby, which has become a lasting symbol of the steroid era.

23. I resolve to finally watch the Bronx is Burning episodes that have been saved in my DVR for months.

24. I resolve to remember that Willie Mays was the best player I ever saw play baseball.

May your new year be prosperous, healthy and full of fun baseball stories despite the clouds covering the game. Enjoy, Everyone.