Saturday, June 27, 2009

Game Picks - Saturday: June 27, 2009

Well holy smokes! This picker actually had a decent night. If Soto hadn't hit the jack"pot" with a homer, it could have been better. But all in all, Romero was an alpha. Gardner was "shear" brilliance. Beckett's performance wasn't at all novel. Millwood ground out another win. And Ethier was ethereal.

Watched a lot of the Marlins/Bay Rays game and although the Bay Rays won and ruined that pick, it was a pleasure to watch that much talent on both sides.

Here are today's picks:

  • The Blue Jays over the Phillies: Need to stay with a hot hand and not with a slow hand.
  • The Twins over the Cardinals: Slowey has been really good lately.
  • The Braves over the Red Sox: The Red Sox have always hit Vazquez pretty well. But that was a different team. Wakefield should give the poor Atlanta offense something to hit at.
  • The Cubs over the White Sox: Bradley and Piniella are seen joking before the game. The team has a group hug and goes out and beats Ozzie's White Sox who then take their turn throwing stuff and swearing.
  • The Angels over the Diamondbacks: The Angels are just a better team. Lackey should win this one.
  • The Giants over the Brewers: The Giants were supposed to win with their fireballer, Cain. But didn't. So they will win with their sloooowwww curveball of Barry Zito. Besides, the Brewers are starting Seth McClung. Doh!
  • The Pirates over the Royals: There will be a Bruce Chen sighting in Kansas City. Another: Doh! Maholm should win this one.
  • The Tigers over the Astros: How the heck did Astros win last night's game? And why was Verlander taken out so early? After a game like that, this picker will go with Figaro.
  • The Orioles over the Nationals: The Nationals looked terribly flat the last couple of days.
  • The Reds over the Indians: Tomo Ohka versus Homer Bailey? That looks like the matchup from hell. Good luck whichever side you pick.
  • The Marlins over the Bay Rays: Rule #2 is in effect with Kazmir throwing his first game after a stint on the DL.
  • The Yankees over the Mets: Burnett should be better than Redding.
  • The Padres over the Rangers: Holland is starting for the Rangers and he hasn't shown anything thus far this season.
  • The Athletics over the Rockies: Cahill has been a surprise. Should be better than De La Rosa.
  • The Mariners over the Dodgers: Like King Felix's chances over Milton.

Have a great weekend!

Yesterday: 9-6
Week: 35-42
Month: 155-166

Umpires In Trouble for Replay?

Perhaps you have read this story about the umpires in the Philadelphia/Tampa Bay game on Wednesday night using replay to figure out if there was fan interference on a double hit by Pat Burrell. The umpires for the game, led by Gary Cedarstrom (the crew chief), were rebuked by the league for an improper replay. Only disputed homers are supposed to be reviewed by replay.

Cedarstrom apologized for the confusion. Despite the apology, Cedarstrom is a new Fan hero. This observer thinks replay should be expanded as much as possible and the Fan says, "Three Cheers!" to Cedarstrom for his audacity to want to get a call correct. Heaven knows, we wouldn't want the correct call to happen, would we?

There are so many decent applications for the use of replay. Cedarstrom's decision is one of them. The trap call is another one. Did the outfielder trap it or did he catch it? Don't know for sure? Call it safe and look at the replay.

There are many more. But the point here is that the league is afraid of messing too much with tradition and the old way of doing things. To which, the Fan humbly says, "Bah Humbug!" Us old timers will deal with it if it doesn't mean fifteen minute delays. The point is to get the call correct.

So here's to you, Mr. Cedarstrom. The Fan raises a Cherry Coke in your honor.

The Cubs Sure Are a Fun Bunch

It never ceases to amaze this observer that a bunch of guys making millions playing a children's game they always dreamed of playing can be so stinking grumpy and unhappy. Take the Cubs. Please. Sorry. Couldn't resist. The Cubs have lots of talent. Everyone predicted them to take the NL Central. But all year long, there has been one controversy after another.

Much of the controversy seems to swirl around Milton Bradley and Carlos Zambrano. Bradley has crabbed about the umpires and the fans and it hasn't helped that he had a terrible start and can't seem to get untracked. Zambrano had his famous meltdown. Soto tested positive for pot while playing in the World Baseball Classic. Oops. Got to give him a sly smile on that one. After all, nobody has ever smoked weed in the Caribbean before, right?

Tonight seems to be the apex of the grumpiness. It seems that Milton Bradley had a couple of bad at bats and decided to throw things and beat up on the water cooler. Lou Piniella had seen that act one too many times and told him to take off his uniform and go home. Lou said in the press conference that he'd seen it one too many times and was sick of it. Apparently Piniella never got mad after an at bat before. Cha. Right.

It's doubtful that this is too much of a big deal. Bradley will probably come back apologetic. Piniella doesn't have a memory for such things and is not a grudge holder. But the bottom line here is: Come on, Folks. This is the major leagues. Have a little fun, will ya? Piniella's been around a long time. He's had feisty players before. This will settle down and if the Cubs can settle down and have some fun, they still have a great shot at winning the division.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Game Picks - Friday: June 26, 2009

We're still stuck in a Florida malaise. Haven't had a good day with the picks since last week. Haven't had a good week in Lord knows how long. It's really hard to cry about it when a wonderful pool is waiting and the last third of Berra by Barra is awaiting perusal. It was pretty cool, however, when this picker saw the results of Rule #2 kick in and the Nationals--as predicted--beat the Red Sox.

Here are today's picks for games that should be a Thriller:

  • The White Sox over the Cubs: Who the heck can figure out what the Cubs are this season? Contreras has been good lately, so let's go with that.
  • The Orioles over the Nationals: Not impressed with Wieters so far. He looks tentative and sluggish. But the Orioles should beat the Nationals.
  • The Reds over the Indians: In the battle for Ohio, the Reds should ride Harang to the victory. The Fan snickered when Pavano got popped again.
  • The Pirates over the Royals: Gil (ga) Meche ticks this picker off big time. Pitches great when the pick is against him and pitches like crap when for him. This will probably catch it wrong again.
  • The Blue Jays over the Phillies: The Phillies have really sucked lately and the Blue Jays have played pretty well. Romero has been good too.
  • The Yankees over the Mets: The good news for the Phillies is that the Mets haven't been much better.
  • The Red Sox over the Braves: Have always gone with Jurrjens, but he is trumped by Beckett.
  • The Marlins over the Bay Rays: This will probably be the only Marlins' win of the series. But Josh Johnson is that good.
  • The Giants over the Brewers: Matt Cain has been awesome. If you can't join him, Beat It.
  • The Rangers over the Padres: It's amazing how many times the Fan has picked Millwood to win. What's with that?
  • The Tigers over the Astros: The Fan loves his Wandy, but Verlander is just too much better.
  • The Cardinals over the Twins: Want to pick the Twins, but they are in the same category as the Cubs. Who are they?
  • The Angels over the Diamondbacks: The Fan's unnatural hate for the Angels is worth some self meditation. But the Fan can't help it. He hates the Angels.
  • The Rockies over the A's: Are the Rockies back to normal? We'll see.
  • The Dodgers over the Mariners: Kershaw kicks the Mariners in the Billie Jean.

Yesterday: 6-7
Weeks: 26-36
Month: 146-160

Surreal Day in Florida

Today was surreal. In some ways, it was a normal day in the paradise that is south Florida. The sun was strong in the morning and the pool was refreshing. Then a sudden shower erupted (which isn't all that unusual). While waiting that out, the news came out that the princess of the poster had died. The sun returned and after an afternoon by the pool with Berra by Barra, and after a great meal cooked by the Fan's wife, we learned that the prince of pop had died. Then it was an evening of Florida baseball. Now that's surreal.

The Marlins are a really good young team. They can hit. They have some great arms and they are now a game out of first place. And yet it's weird watching a ball game that features such a good team that plays in an almost empty stadium night after night. And things aren't too much different on the other side of Florida for the Bay Rays, who also have some very good hitting, some really good arms who are now starting to make a push of their own. They have played their way into the wild card mix.

The Marlins have four players with 45 RBI or more. Hanley Ramirez is a bonafide superstar. Watching him regularly has opened the Fan's eyes to just how good he really is. Jorge Cantu does a good job knocking in runs. Dan Uggla has a lot of holes in his game, but he hits a lot of homers and drives in a lot of runs. Cody Ross is a growing star with a an .824 OPS and constant highlights for his play in center. He hit his 13th homer tonight.

Brett Carroll is another highlight reel in right and may be the best right fielder in the National League with a rifle arm. He's now batting .302 in a limited role and if he can hit enough to play every day, he will be dynamite.

Chris Coughlan looks over matched at the plate some times but he has a .368 OBP as a leadoff man which isn't bad. He has a good looking swing and he is raw. But he is promising which is something the Marlins have at every position except for third. The Marlins keep sticking with Bonifacio and he's a hindrance for them. He did have two hits tonight but that just prolongs the inevitable in that he is not the answer. But he really seems to be the only weakness on this young team.

The team lives and dies with its young pitching. With can lead to extremes. Their young pitchers led the team to an outstanding April and then down to an abominable May. Now they are having a great June and if they can avoid another month like May, they just may be in the mix right through the end of the year. They certainly have the talent.

The Bay Rays are starting to play really well, which is astonishing since Longoria has been hurt for much of it. They have dispatched with the Phillies, and are now only two games out of the wildcard. They have a much harder course. The Marlins have really mediocre teams in the NL East. The Phillies aren't what they were last year and the Mets are treading water. The Braves alternately can't pitch and hit. But the Bay Rays have really strong teams to battle in the AL East. The Red Sox are easily the best team in the majors. The Yankees and the Blue Jays are very strong.

Whether either the Marlins or the Bay Rays make it to the playoffs, it is somewhat sad that they cannot get the fan base they need to encourage them to even greater exploits. With their similar payrolls and their lack of fan support, it's hard not to root for them in true underdog fashion.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Buster Olney Whispers

God love, Buster Olney. He's a great reporter and his blog is always full of useful and interesting information. But when he gets on a soapbox, he's a bit like a preacher pointing to the Bible and saying, "You will PAY for your sins!" Today's post starts with "whispers" that A-Rod's problems may be because he is playing without steroids. Oh come on! How absurd is that? Mr. Olney, you are a fuss budget and need to get your high road panties out of a twist.

His colleagues at Baseball Tonight, ESPNs wonderful baseball highlight show, had a much better explanation for A-Rod's struggles. He's being too tentative. The analysts of the show did an excellent job with footage to show an A-Rod not being aggressive enough at the plate. It wouldn't be out of whack to also point to his fielding woes from a lack of aggressiveness. He's playing by taking everything coming at him instead of taking it to the ball with both the glove and the bat.

A-Rod will be fine. He couldn't win no matter how he came back from his hip surgery. If he did well, he would still be a juicer. If he did poorly, then it's because he had to give up the juice. In either case, the truth lies somewhere much more complex and much less dramatic than the laser treatment he gets for his past sins.

Game Picks - Thursday: June 25, 2009

While the skin turns from somewhat red to tan down here is Florida, the picks record keeps going farther into the red. It's hard to believe that this game picker is this bad this consistently. Perhaps Anonymous from the other day can be hired to take over. Here's how we could work it (if you are reading): Every night, you e-mail the picks. After waking in the morning, this picker can format them into his own evident style and no one would know the difference. Ha!

Oh well. Hard to be too upset when this picker has another day of sitting by the pool with his Yogi Berra book to look forward to. To ensure the relaxing day comes quickly, let's get these picks out of the way.

  • The Cubs over the Tigers: Ted Lilly has really become a hard bit fighter. He began his career a bit lilly-livered if you'll pardon the pun.
  • The Cardinals over the Mets: This is an exciting matchup of Carpenter versus Santana. Santana hasn't been Superman lately, so going with Carpenter.
  • The Dodgers over the White Sox: Billingsley is the man.
  • The Royals over the Astros: Wow. Bannister versus Moehler. Where to begin in this battle of mediocrity! The Royals are the Red Sox of interleague play, so we'll go with them.
  • The Twins over the Brewers: Still have no idea no how good or how bad these two teams are. They baffle and boggle the mind.
  • The Mariners over the Padres: Jarrod Washburn continues his audition for some contender.
  • The Nationals over the Red Sox: Rule #2 states that you never pick a pitcher making his first start of the year. But this is the Red Sox and Smoltz! Oh well. A rule is a rule.
  • The Indians over the Pirates: Lee has been fabulous lately. He'll need to be for this team.
  • The Blue Jays over the Reds: The Blue Jays are on a serious roll. Even Wells had two hits last night.
  • The Phillies over the Bay Rays: That Bastardo will win, darn him. hehehe
  • The Yankees over the Braves: Pettitte over Lowe. Does it seem like Lowe pitches every other day or is it just the Fan?
  • The Marlins over the Orioles: Mr. West pitches in the NL East. That wasn't good planning. But he should beat Mr. Hill.
  • The Rangers over the Diamondbacks: Got to go with Mr. Feldman, the little engine that could.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 20-29
Month: 140-153

What Hustle Will Do

As someone affected by the current economy, this writer is appalled by the lack of hustle the lucky few who play in the major leagues display on a nightly basis. A few posts ago here in the FanDome, the topic was Craig Monroe, a fringe player in the majors who hustled his way out of a job in MLB due to his lack of hustle. After watching the Bay Rays play the Phillies tonight, both sides of the hustling spectrum came into full view.

First, let's consider the situation the current American League Champions find themselves in. Currently six games out of first, the Bay Rays have three teams in front of them: The Red Sox, the Yankees and the Blue Jays. All three are strong teams. At this point, if they have any chance for the wildcard and the playoffs, every game matters. So one would think a sense of urgency would permeate the team. The game tonight did not show the urgency except for a young guy named Ben Zobrist.

The game with the Phillies was close. Pat Burrell put the Bay Rays ahead 2-0 with a homer against his former mates. Garza and Blanton were terrific the entire game. The Phillies drew within a run with a homer of their own. While all this was going on, Carl Crawford hit a line drive that looked like an atom ball. As such, Crawford just jogged toward first, probably thinking he was going to be out. But the outfielder misjudged the ball and it went over his head. Only then did Crawford start busting it and decided to try to leg it into a triple. He was thrown out. If he had hustled right away, he would have been there easily. To make matters worse, the next batter doubled but did not score.

Later, B. J. Upton came up and hit a flare to short right field. The replay shows Upton jogging out of the batters box and nonchalantly trotted toward first. The first basemen and the second baseman ran to get the ball but both came up short and when neither could make the catch, they both overran the ball forcing the right fielder to have to come in and pick it up. Upton didn't run until the ball dropped and fortunately made it to second. But if he busted it from the beginning, he could have been at third. He should have been at third.

Crawford then singled to shallow left and Upton had to hold at third. If he has hustled, he would have scored on the single. Aybar was up next and hit a shallow fly to left the Matt Stairs caught on the run and easily threw Upton out at the plate for a double play. So if you are keeping score, that's two opportunities in a tight game blown by lack of hustle.

But that's where Ben Zobrist comes in. Pena got hit by a pitch moving Crawford to second. Zobrist then worked a walk loading the bases. Burrell is next and was ahead 2-0 in the count. Everything was in his favor but Burrell blew it and grounded to short on an inside pitch. Zobrist busted as hard as he could toward second and when Rollins flipped to Utley, they both expected it to be the last out of the inning. But Zobrist running as hard as he could, beat the throw. Safe! The run scored making it 3-1 but he also prolonged the inning. A single and a double followed and broke the game open to 7-1.

Zobrist, who has turned out to be one of the biggest pleasant surprises of 2009, gets it. He takes nothing for granted and works hard on every play. Crawford (which is a bit surprising) and Upton don't get it. They played the game like a part of the entitlement generation and cost their team two runs.

To a displaced worker now trying his darnedest to make his new company work, Zobrist is a hero.

The Nationals Would Be in First If...

The Washington Nationals would be in first place if...if the games were only three or four innings long. The Nationals have played 69 games and have lost 49 of them. The Fan follows the games every night and it always seems like the Nationals are in the lead. In fact, tonight, the Fan saw the Nationals leading the Red Sox and said to himself: "Hey, the Nationals are ahead." The very next thought was, "Don't they always have a lead?" The thought prompted yet one more trip to

After going through every game the Nationals have played thus far, the thought was correct. The Nationals have had a lead in 47 of their 69 contests. Translated, that means that the Nationals have had at least one lead in 68% of their contests. Since they won twenty of those contests, that means that they have had the lead in 27 of their 49 losses, or 55%. If they had held onto the lead in at least half of those games, they would be a .500 ball club. If they had won 20 of those 27 games in which they had the lead, their current record would be 40-29 and ahead of the Phillies.

But as usual, if wishing was reality, we wouldn't be buying any oil from the Middle East. It has to be disheartening to think you have a chance nearly every night only to see the leads evaporate into the night.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Game Picks - Wednesday: June 24, 2009

The fun in the Florida sun continues, while the ick in the Florida picks also continues. Watched a lot of baseball last night. Saw Matt Wieters hit his second homer. Watched the Marlins win in twelve innings (thus ruining that pick). Watched the Cubs benefit from a blown save by Joel Zumaya only to have Gregg blow the save in the bottom of the ninth (thus ruining that pick). Watched the Bay Rays get destroyed by Philadelphia. This picker should get some kind of metal for listening to Tommy Hutton for twelve innings.

The pool is beckoning, so let's get these picks done, shall we?

  • The Tigers over the Cubs: Porcello over Harden. Speaking of Harden, the Fan Wife made brownies last night and the Fan could feel his arteries Hardening as he was eating.
  • The Pirates over the Indians: Duke over Pavano, who has been out from injuries recently.
  • The Red Sox over the Nationals: Lester will not be a jester over Stammen, who will lack Stammena against this lineup.
  • The Blue Jays over the Reds: The Jays are starting to cook pretty good.
  • The Phillies over the Bay Rays: The Phillies are great on the road but suck at home. Why is that?
  • The Mets over the Cardinals: Like Nieve over Thompson. Nieve won't be a sieve and Thompson won't be a water seal.
  • The Orioles over the Marlins: Batters haven't been jerkin' Baltimore's Berken and he should beat Nolasco.
  • The Yankees over the Braves: The Yankees suck, but they should win once in a while.
  • The Astros over the Royals: Oswalt should beat Hochever.
  • The Twins over the Brewers: Blackburn will not cause heartburn and the Twins will hit more than bloopers off of Looper.
  • The Dodgers over the White Sox: Wolf should beat Floyd.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rangers: Haran should beat Padilla.
  • The Giants over the A's: Randy Johnson should beat Gonzalez.
  • The Rockies over the Angels: In Marquis we trust. Rule #3.
  • The Padres over the Mariners: Really like this Geer guy.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 13-21
Month: 133-145

Speculating About the Steroid Era

Nobody to this point has been able to accurately calculate the statistical affect of the Steroid Era. Nobody can accurately prove that there was a major benefit or what that benefit was (or is). This particular piece isn't going to be the groundbreaking answer either. For one thing, it's difficult for this writer to care. Yeah, they cheated. Yeah. They were caught. Okay. When's the game on today? But it's a story that doesn't go away and thus we are left to flounder around and try to figure out what to do with the statistics from this era in MLB. The era also throws a monkey wrench into Hall of Fame voting since most writers will not vote for anyone who is even hinted about when it comes to the drug enhancers. All that this writer can do with his feeble mind is to speculate using only one number. Here's what the Fan has come up with.

If you look at the major league pitching stats over the years (thank goodness for, up until 1994, the home runs per nine innings fluctuated between 0.70 per nine innings to 0.90. The only anomaly was 1961 when the leagues expanded which was largely blamed for the record set that year by Roger Maris. That year, the HR per nine innings was 1.0.

Then in 1994, the figure jumped over 1 per nine innings and the average since then has been 1.1. For simple speculation, we can call 1994 the starting point for the glut of PEDs in baseball. Of course that is only speculation. Who really knows when it really started and if the jump of homers per nine innings occurred was steroid induced or just a coincidence for other reasons. But let's for speculation's sake, say that the jump was the smoking gun of the Steroid Era. Using that unprovable stat as our basis, we'll be generous and say that the normal homer per nine inning rate is 0.90. With the post 1994 stat at 1.1, then we divide 0.9 by 1.1 and our steroid factor is 0.8181818181818. We can then use this factor as our basis for evaluating stats of some of those we suspect.

Let's start with Barry Bonds (for legal reasons, the Fan states here that there is no evidence that Bonds ever used PEDs). Since the FEDS are accusing him, then we'll use him as our test case. If we multiply his 73 homer season by 0.81818181818 (or PED factor), then he hit 59.72 homers that season. And if his homers jumped starting in 2000 when he jumped to 46 the year before his record setting season, then from then to the end of his career, Bonds hit 317 suspicious homers after that period and had 445 before. If we use our factor against those 317 homers, that lowers those homers to 259 and leaves him with an adjusted lifetime total of 704 homers. He would then be third all time and still a Hall of Famer.

Let's jump to Rafael Palmeiro. His magical jump in stats occurred in 1995 (hey! that's close to our mythical starting point!). Using our formula, Raffy had 151 possible untarnished homers and 418 problematic ones. Multiply the 418 by our factor and you get 342 adjusted homers. 342 plus 151 equals 493 adjusted lifetime homers, just short of the magic 500.

Sammy Sosa's slugging percentage magically jumped in 1994 (imagine that!). He had 74 homers to that point and finished with 609, giving him 535 worrisome numbers. Using our factor against the 535 and you get an adjusted number of 438 or an adjusted career total of 512 homers. And what about his three seasons over 60? the 66 becomes 54, the 63 becomes 51 and the 64 becomes 52.

Mark McGwire hit 412 homers after 1994. Multiply that by our factor and the adjusted homer figure is 337. Add 337 to the 171 homers McGwire had before 1994 and you get 508 adjusted career homers. And what of McGwire's two seasons over 60 homers? The 70 becomes 57 and his season of 65 becomes 53.

So, if any of the information makes any sense at all, Aaron's record is safe, Maris' record is intact and McGwire and Sosa barely make the magical numbers for the HOF. Bonds is still a HOFer and Palmeiro is not.

When considering the last paragraph, the thought came to the Fan that without the PEDs, some of these players wouldn't have had the longevity they had to compile the numbers. But we can't deal with that. What we need is a way to put the numbers into some kind of context. While the whole exercises is probably meaningless, there has to be some way of evaluating these players for HOF status and for what to do with the all time stats that no one believes in any more. What do you think?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Game Picks - Tuesday: June 23, 2009

Florida hasn't been very good for the picks this week. But then again, it hasn't been a typical Florida experience. This game picker has been coming down every June for thirteen years. Most people up home say: "What are you crazy! Going to Florida in the summer!?" But it's always been enjoyable. It's usually 89/90 with a nice breeze. Just what you want when sitting by the pool reading a book. But this year has been unbelievable. Sunday it was 94 degrees and yesterday reached 98. It's the first time this picker has been really hot down here. And the picks have wilted similarly. But it has cooled off today and perhaps the picks will heat up.

So here are today's picks, unscientifically pulled out of a hat with no baseball expertise whatsoever:

  • The Cubs over the Tigers: This is a tough matchup right off the bat. Zambrano versus Jackson. Giving the edge to Zambrano.
  • The Pirates over the Indians: The Indians are lame ducks at the moment and seem to be waiting for Wedge to get fired. Perhaps it will be like the Rockies when he does.
  • The Red Sox over the Nationals: Really wanted to pick the Nationals and Lannon, but not against the Red Sox. If the Fan picks the Red Sox every game for the rest of the year, he will be correct 70% of the time.
  • The Reds over the Blue Jays: Tallet versus Owings. This is a tough call of the heart here as Owings is a favorite as is Tallet.
  • The Bay Rays over the Phillies: The Bay Rays should jump on Moyer and minimize the walks given up by Price, who might fare okay against the lefty-dominated lineup of the Phillies.
  • The Mets over the Cardinals: Doggonit, the Fan has picked Livan to win again. How stupid is that?
  • The Orioles over the Marlins: Sure feels weird to pick the Orioles to win this often. Imagine if Weiters and Rheimold started the year with them.
  • The Braves over the Yankees: Hard to pick a game that Wang is starting.
  • The Royals over the Astros: Greinke.
  • The Twins over the Brewers: Can't stomach picking Suppon too many times in a row. Even if he is facing Liriano.
  • The Dodgers over the White Sox: Kuroda over Danks.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Rangers: Like this Scherzer guy.
  • The Giants over the A's: Great matchup of Lincecum versus Mazzaro. Giving the not to experience.
  • The Rockies over the Angels: Riding the train until it comes into the station.
  • The Mariners over the Padres: As long as we're being unscientific, might as well pick Garrett Olson to win a game. Yeesh.

Yesterday: 1-3
Week: 6-13

Moses Solomon - The Rabbi of Swat

One of the gifts of curiosity is that reading a book about someone like Babe Ruth (a good read by Leigh Montville from 2006) leads to little gifts of wonderment. Ruth was such a phenomenon of his times and he changed the game completely, so much so that baseball men searched the countryside looking for anyone like him. And hence there was the Cuban Babe Ruth and the Mexican Babe Ruth, etc. McGraw, the leader of the New York Giants was not only looking for guys who could hit like Babe Ruth, but also for other players that could boost the popularity of his team. One idea was to bring in Jewish players to appeal to the large New York population of those peoples. He found what he thought was a combination of the two searches in Moses Solomon, the Rabbi of Swat.

Moses Solomon was born on December 8, 1900 in New York City. He was the son of Russian immigrants, Benjamin and Anna Solomon. The elder Solomons were married in Russia in 1884 and came to the United States in 1891. They had eight children in all and Moses was the fifth of the eight. In 1906, the family moved to Franklin County in Ohio and Benjamin worked for a junk dealer. Moses also worked for the dealer and is listed in the 1920 census as a time keeper for the dealer.

A year later, Moses played baseball for the Vancouver Beavers in the Pacific Coast International League. He played in 115 games and batted .313 with 13 homers. Not bad for a first year in professional ball. He only played in a few games in 1922 but still batted .303. But it was 1923 that would make him a legend.

By 1923, he had signed to play for the Hutchinson Wheat Shockers in the Southwestern League, a Class C league. He played mostly first base for the Wheat Shockers and had one of the most memorable seasons in minor league history. In 134 games, he batted 527 times, piling up 222 hits for a .421 average. He hit 40 doubles, 13 triples and 49 homers. The 49 homers set a minor league record and only the great Babe Ruth had more in professional baseball.

McGraw heard of Solomon's exploits and amidst much hoopla, purchased his contract and brought him to the Giants in September of 1923. He made his major league debut on September 30 and played two games. In eight at bats, he had three hits including a double and drove in a run. It would be the only two games he would ever play in the major leagues.

The Giants found out about an aspect of Solomon's game that would prove to be his undoing. He couldn't field. The same minor league season where he set the record for home runs, he made 25 errors. He made an error in the two games he played in the outfield for the Giants. He was the Ron Bloomberg of his time. All hit, no field.

Moses Solomon continued after the 1923 season to bang around the minor leagues. He played through 1929 and batted over .300 three times, but his total home run output of all those seasons did not come close to totaling as much as his 49 in 1923 alone. One source indicates he also played football, but no record can be found as such.

By 1930, he is listed in the census as being back in Franklin, Ohio with his wife, Gertrude and two young children. His occupation is listed as, "Agent." His Wiki page states that he went into real estate and did quite well. The Rabbi of Swat died in Miami, Florida in 1966.

Moses Solomon (or Mose) only played two games in the major leagues, but not many people could state that his career ended with a .375 average. Imagine if the guy with the .313 minor league career batting average could have caught the ball. His minor league record of 49 homers was broken in 1924 by Clarence Kraft who hit 55. Kraft didn't hold the record long himself as a guy named Tony Lazzeri (you may have heard of him) hit 60 in 1925.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Why Wouldn't a Fringe Player Hustle?

Craig Monroe was dismissed by the Pittsburgh Pirates because he did not hustle. Apparently, while playing the Twins, Monroe swung and missed a third strike. The pitch got by Joe Mauer and Monroe only trotted to first base. He was safe anyway as Mauer threw the ball away. It seems that his Pirates cohorts, coaches and manager were not impressed and gave him the heave ho.

Monroe is not the first player not to hustle. Many high-profile player in the past have been fined or set down for a day for not running balls out to first. Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson had their famous dugout tussle because of Jackson's perceived nonchalance in the outfield. And while there is no excuse for not hustling and the Pirates were within their rights to get rid of Monroe (he wasn't batting very well anyway), the question remains: Why wouldn't you bust your ass if you were basically a fringe major league baseball player?

Monroe has been a fringe player the last three years. He had a decent run in Detroit. Not that he was spectacular or even great, but he could hit a home run for you which is always a nice thing. He posted two seasons with OPS+ numbers over 100, but then started going downhill and Detroit unloaded him when he played most of the season at a .222 clip and shipped him to the Cubs. He didn't do anything there and hooked up with the Twins last year. He batted .202 for the Twins in 58 games and lost his job there. This year, he hooked up with Pittsburgh and was batting .215.

Couldn't Monroe see the reality of his situation? He'd been discarded by three different teams in three years and this might be his last opportunity to show he can play. Instead, he trots. Man.

A player only has a shelf life until the late thirties and early forties. After that, there is a long life to support. Granted, he's probably made some pretty good coin in his career. But, wouldn't you still want to put as much cash in the can as possible before looking at that future? If you put the Fan in that situation and gave him a chance to prolong what is the best job in the world, he would never stop running. Never.

As the old saying goes, youth is wasted on the young. A hustling player is always pointed out, which shows you that it is a rarity. Why would that be so? It's the greatest gig in the world. As lucky as they are to be in the majors, every player in baseball should bust their tails all the time.

But wait a minute, if hustling players are always pointed out, meaning they are not the norm, then a lack of hustle is a fact of life in MLB. So why was Monroe singled out? Probably because he wasn't playing very well.

Game Picks - Monday: June 22, 2009

It was a brutal day for the game picker yesterday. Everything went wrong that could go wrong. The picker could pluck an excuse out of the deck if needed though. The strong Florida sun made the picker's head go light. Yes, that's it. It's the Florida sun's fault. There that is settled. Now that there is no personal responsibility, we can move on to today's picks:

Only four games on the schedule today:

  • The Cardinals over the Mets: Wellemeyer should be better than Redding. The Mets don't look like division favorites lately, do they?
  • The Cubs over the Braves: Really difficult to pick Dempster over Vazquez, but the Cubs are hot again. Or maybe that was just Cleveland being bad. Oh well.
  • The Rockies over the Angels: Might as well ride the wave until it is over.
  • The Giants over the A's: Two young pitchers in Cahill versus Sanchez. It's a toss up game.

That's it. Just four games. And now back to the pool...

Yesterday: 5-10
Week: 5-10
Month: 125-134

It's Disappointing

It's disappointing that:

- the Rangers don't seem capable of staying with the suddenly resurgent Angels. It would have been a great story.

- the Phillies might stink their way to the NL East pennant. Wasn't this supposed to be a good division?

- Joe Torre continues to overuse bullpens. This is the one knock on him as a manager and it has been a legitimate one and he's doing it again.

- Josh Hamilton has had a mostly lost 2009. What's even more disappointing is people stating that his injuries are due to his drug misuse. That's bunk.

- Derek Jeter has really improved his lateral defense and is in the middle of the pack of shortstops in fielding stats and then goes and gets a bum ankle.

- Greinke couldn't remain god-like. He's been merely very good lately.

- Halladay got a bad wheel. He is too much fun to watch to have any lost time.

- That Pedro Martinez is either too stubborn and proud, or just not good enough any more.

- Endy Chavez got hurt so badly. He's been fun to watch. Maybe being a major leaguer with the name of Chavez isn't a good idea.

- David Ortiz is starting to hit. It was too fun a story to have to let it go.

- Gil (ga) Meche is so unpredictable. Can't get a right pick from the guy at all.

- More managers haven't been fired. Cleveland and Kansas City could both use a change.

- The Red Sox look uncatchable.

- Jason Varitek doesn't get any flack for not catching Wakefield.

- Peter Gammons doesn't write as much as he used to.

- Names are slowly leaking from that list of 103 names. Either release them all or stop the slow flow. It's not fair.

- Nobody like Babe Ruth could exist today.

- The Braves treated their best three Hall of Fame pitchers so poorly.

- The Fan was so wrong about Brad Ausmus. The guy really can hit after all.

- It takes the Yankees to come to town to bring fans out to see the Marlins play. They are a fun team to watch.

- Fans can continue to vote for Jimmy Rollins as the All Star shortstop when he is batting .220. One would hope that fans would be smarter than that.

- A guy as likeable as Tony LaRussa could win 2500 games in his career.

- People, including Joe Morgan, think Juan Pierre is a good player now. Just give it time, folks.

- Steve Phillips is still on ESPN's telecasts.

- That there hasn't been a hidden ball trick in ages.

- The Reds can't hit, especially at the top of the order.

- The Padres have to have three regulars in their Sunday lineup with batting averages below .200, and that does not include the pitcher.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Game Picks - Sunday: June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day everyone! Baseball is truly one of the biggest father/son traditions there are. It's a truly generational game and it just seems natural that Father's Day falls in the middle of the best sports season of them all.

Here are today's Father's Day picks:

  • The Tigers over the Brewers: Great matchup of Verlander versus Gallardo. Going to go with Verlander who will make that kid yesterday that bamboozled the Brewers look like a toy gun.
  • The Reds over the White Sox: Looking for Harang to out pitch Buehrle.
  • The Mets over the Bay Rays: Pelfrey is about even with Niemann, so will go with the home team.
  • The Phillies over the Orioles: Cole Hamels will end the losing streak.
  • The Blue Jays over the Nationals: Romero should be better than Martis. The Jays should be better than the Nationals.
  • The Braves over the Red Sox: Jurrjens is pitching.
  • The Twins over the Astros: Wandy has lost his way lately. Disappointing!
  • The Royals over the Cardinals: Gil (ga) Meche has been outstanding lately.
  • The Cubs over the Indians: What can you say about the poor Indians. Blown saves in three straight leading to three straight extra innings losses. This one won't get into extra frames.
  • The Pirates over the Rockies: Maholm slows down the Rockies silver bullet.
  • The A's over the Padres: Braden over Correia.
  • The Rangers over the Giants: Millwood is pitching so well, it's scary. Keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.
  • The Mariners over the Diamondbacks: King Felix should cut the Diamondbacks into multiple facets.
  • The Yankees over the Marlins: Sabathia should beat Volstad.
  • The Dodgers over the Angels: Kershaw out duels Lackey.

Yesterday: 8-7
Week: 46-43
Month: 120-124

Notes from the Yankees - Marlins Game

Had a chance to watch the Marlins and the Yankees on the Florida Sports Network. It was nice to see where the Marlins play again. The Fan has fond memories of seeing a game there on his fortieth birthday. The Marlins will get a new ballpark, which apparently is much needed, but memories will remain rooted in their current yard.

The first note from the game is that Josh Johnson is really, really good. He seems to be a ground ball pitcher that really throws hard. His fastball was consistently around 96 and his final pitch was a 97 MPH beauty. Plus, he has a nasty slider that busts left handed batters inside and has them swing consistently at what is basically a ball inside. It was easy to see why Johnson is so successful. After watching the game, he might be in the top five pitchers in the National League.

The slider showed a lack of proper scouting by the Yankees. It seems that video of Johnson's starts would pick up that he gets a lot of outs on that inside pitch. If the Yankees had scouted properly, they would have had a plan to lay off that pitch and force Johnson into honest strikes.

The Marlins on the other hand, showed great scouting, particularly on how they played Derek Jeter. Jeter hit several balls up the middle that would have been hits against most teams. But the Marlins bunched him toward the middle and turned those hits into several double plays in the last two days.

It just goes to show how the Yankees field a better team, but always have inferior braintrust. It's the same reason why they cannot stay with the Red Sox who always outthink them and have since 2004. If the Yankees put as much emphasis in thinking as they do in players, they would be unstoppable.

The next thing about watching the game was a reminder of just how much Tommy Hutton annoys as an announcer. The Fan hated listening to him when he did Blue Jays games and he hasn't improved with time as he now calls the Marlins' games. It's not just that he is a "homer" for the Marlins. Most team announcers are homers. It's just that his way of reading into everything the Marlins' players do with some sort of mawkish babble grinds up the insides of anyone listening.

For example, before the Marlins' closer came out to pitch the ninth, Hutton prattled on about how if the stuggling closer could do well against the Yankees in that situation, it could turn his season around. In another example, he went on about how Bonafacio--who has truly proved that he is not a valid major league ball player--could be a powerful force if he learned to bunt and take a walk. Well, duh and shoot us. But the point is that he can't and won't and still gets thrown out on steal attempts when he does get on.

Hutton is to announcing what Sweet N. Low is to coffee.

Dan Uggla should be in the minors or in the outfield. He is not a very good second baseman. Nor is he hitting that well. Uggla has been okay in the past three years because half of his hits have been for extra bases. But his comical errors in the All Star Game were not flukes.

The Yankees blew a golden opportunity in the eighth inning with Jeter up and Gardner on second and A-Rod on first. Jeter first tried to bunt and was thrown a ball. The second pitch, the runners tried a double-steal and Jeter fouled it up by fouling it off. Gardner had already stolen second. There were no outs at the time. Jeter then tries to bunt again and does a terrible job (which is surprising really) and fouls it off. Now he has two strikes. To the Fan, the obvious move was to get Gardner to third one way or another. They should have had him running with A-Rod trailing him to second. Then, when Jeter grounded up the middle, the double-play might not have been and Gardner might have scored.

Gardner should be starting in games against right handers. The Fan has said it before, the tandem of Gardner and Cabrera against righties would be much more effective in the field and in the lineup than Cabrera and Swisher. You'd get better fielding and much more pressure on teams on the basepaths.

Johnny Damon really blew this game. How he did not catch the liner by Cantu is beyond belief. And then he had a pathetic swing in a big situation. He really cost the team in this game.