Saturday, January 09, 2010

Saturday in the Tundra

Winter has returned to northern Maine and as the wind whips the snow around, not many cogent thoughts fill the brain. There are only wishes for warmer days and a longing for a warm breeze on a sunny day. There are also no complete thoughts in the head today. But there are fragments. We might as well get them out there in the open and let them breathe.

Mr. Neyer wrote today that Ken Rosenthal's call for Hall of Fame voter changes would ultimately mean more players voted into the Hall. While Mr. Neyer is a personal hero despite not being much more these days than someone who comments on other people's work, the Fan found this thought disrespectful to all who would love to have a vote. All of us who have passion for this sport would be more than respectful to this game that we love.

Adrian Beltre was a great pickup by the Red Sox. The Fan has been predicting for months that Beltre was going to have a bounce back year. The Red Sox saw it too and they are an intelligent bunch. Beltre is a huge addition.

Mr. Posnanski has a wonderful piece today about cherry picking stats to support Hall of Fame picks (or non-picks). As usual, he nails it. His exposition concerning the number of seasons Edgar Martinez played 150 or more games (only four) as being a ridiculous reason for keeping Martinez out of the Hall was dead on. Mickey Mantle had the same number of 150+ game seasons.

Eyebleaf and Josh Borenstein are terrific bloggers. Tao of Stieb is without a doubt, one of the best blog names of all time. The writing found there is as good as the name too.

Count the Fan among the many who would love to see Tony LaRussa follow through and get Mark McGwire to pinch hit a few times this year. Wouldn't that be awesome?

The Fan still wishes like heck that Roger Clemens had simply admitted what he took instead of going all "Nixon" on the thing. For those of you too young to understand the Nixon thing, just replace it with Clemens going all "Palmeiro" on the thing.

For some reason, Stan Bahnson just popped into the Fan's brain. Hadn't thought about him for a long time. Funny thing is that Al Downing soon followed. Weird.

This mall where the Fan conducts his business is dying a slow death. It's like watching a big bee whither and shiver after getting a dose of Raid. You know it's going to die, it's just a question of when. The record store (FYE) and the book store are closing their doors this month. Those were the only two really interesting stores in the mall to begin with. Tough times, my friends...

The Fan sells local interest calendars. They are proudly made in the Fan's basement and they are very pretty. But a customer looked at the $10 price tag and stated indignantly that you can buy a calendar in K-Mart for $4. This same person will complain to their senator when a local manufacturer closes because the jobs can be done cheaper overseas. Knowing of this buyer duplicity, the Fan looked the customer square in the eye and stated that the calendar selling for $10 wasn't made in China. The Fan should probably work on his people skills.

The Fan really wants to see Avatar, but will probably end up waiting until it comes out on video where it will be much less effective.

It will really suck if the commissioner is serious about a series with Japan AFTER the World Series is completed. As if the post season isn't long enough as it is. It all seems like a sacrilege. Hey, the Fan doesn't care if it doesn't include the entire world, the World Series is the World Series.

The Fan also hopes that intentional walks aren't done away with or made easier without throwing any actual pitches. That just seems artificial. The Fan sounds like Grouchy Smirf: "I HATE change." Yeah.

Why don't more smart players take advantage of lazy outfielders that absently "lollipop" the throw back to the infield after a single. That seems like an open invitation to take second base to this observer. But all too often, the lazy outfielder is often matched by a lazy base runner who lallygag to first.

Ken Rosenthal and others base most of their angst about the Hall of Fame vote on Roberto Alomar. While the Fan agrees that Alomar certainly belongs in the HOF, the real snubs go to Blyleven, Raines and McGwire. Those are worthy of angst.

The Fan would believe the Yankees are a 100-win team going into 2010 if Burnett wasn't still one of the counted on cogs of that happening. Burnett just doesn't inspire any kind of confidence. At least Lackey maximizes his talent. Burnett just can't quite believe he can throw a third strike anywhere near the plate. And thank goodness Molina won't be part of the Yankee lineup. He was the worst hitter since Miguel Cairo.

Tim Raines reached base 3943 times in his career. Tony Gwynn reached base 3965 times in his career. Just saying...

Warm Coca-Cola tastes better than cold Pepsi.

The Fan misses watching minor league baseball. If you ever want to spend a worthy $30, take the family to a minor league game this year. It sure is a lot of fun.

Which player will have a bounce back year in 2010? Will Soriano come back to something near what he was? Will Grady Sizemore? What about Wang?

Would you have guessed that the Marlins had a better winning percentage since the beginning of the 2000 season than the Cubs?

Why can't this country really commit to going all out to develop alternate power and put the Arab countries out of business? Would we really have to worry about terrorists if there was no oil money to fund them? Wouldn't that be energy (pun not intended) better spent than a moribund health care bill that isn't what anybody really wanted? Why not give every American home owner $15,000 to put up a windmill or solar panels for about the same cost as bailing out the crooked and spiteful banks who turn around and misuse the same taxpayers that helped bail them out? Tax breaks to install those things don't mean much if you can't afford to install them in the first place.

How can one spit define a person's entire life character?

Why do parents just dump their kids at the mall so they can walk around like zombies the entire day? What a waste and the height of lazy parenting.

Every day, the mentally handicapped are brought to the mall to walk around for exercise. Does it mean anything about life that those with lesser mental capacities seem easy to please and ultimately happier than most of us?

Does anyone have a list of players who blog and whose sites are really meaningful and insightful? And please don't include Schilling. Please.

Will Schilling and Randy Johnson be elected to the HOF the same year? And if so, will Johnson relieve Schilling in the bottom of Schilling's speech to save another day?

Other than convenience, why have we all been sold on using debit and credit cards instead of cash and checks? Did you know that it cost businesses 3 to 5 percent every time you use a card to purchase a product or service? If the customer is getting the convenience, why aren't they being charged the fee instead of the business? The Fan gladly accepts checks, they are cheaper.

Okay, the Fan has taken enough of your time and is starting to hear Andy Rooney in his head. Let's hope that if the next time you watch a game and the outfielder lobs the ball in an arch to second base, you all yell, "Why didn't he take second?" If so, then this will all be worth it.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Winning or Losing Cultures?

One of the thoughts that has percolated in the brain all winter long was Milton Bradley's comment about the Cubs' culture. Obviously, Bradley didn't make himself any friends with the comment, especially on his own team. The timing of the thing was obviously stupid as Bradley was in the midst of a season with those same Cubs. It is also obvious that Bradley was treated harshly by the media and by the fans during his sure tenure with the organization. So why then has his comments stuck so long in the Fan's subconsciousness? Could Bradley have been at least partically correct? Do some clubs have "winning cultures" and "losing cultures"?

The Fan supposes that the answer to the question relies on how broadly you define "culture." If you are talking about culture as a group of players that are tougher fighters than the next team, you know...guttier, grittier, determined, battle tested and all of those time worn expressions, then you are probably buying into someone's propaganda. For every gritty Paul O'Neal reference to the late 90's Yankees, the Fan could give you a statistic on why the Yankees won. So that definition of culture doesn't thrill this writer.

If you broaden the definition to include the quality of leadership in the dugout and front office, the leadership of ownership, serious committment to player development and evaluation and a long term expectation of excellence, than you might be on to something.

Thanks to wonderful data collectors like, we have access to information at our fingertips. Sometimes you have to do a bit of spreadsheet work to use it, but no problem there. The Fan has included some data that seems to show teams that have good cultures, teams that have bad ones and those that settle on mediocrity (defined as .500).

Some teams have cultures that have remained consistent over long periods of time. The Rockies, as the data shows, have always been around the .474 mark for its entire history. Sure they have an up and down here and there, but overall, their long term results remain the same. Other teams seem to change their culture for the better. The White Sox, Twins, Angels, Athletics, Phillies and Athletics are all examples of teams that have fared better in the last ten and twenty year timesets than historically.

Other teams' cultures seem to take dramatic downshifts. The Pirates are one of the successful franchises historically. Their historic winning percentage is over .500. Many of us can remember when the Pirates were a force to be reckoned with. But the last twenty years have been painful, particularly the last ten years. The Royals have taken a bad culture to the maximum. Their last twenty years have been awful. But the Orioles and Nationals aren't too far behind those two.

Then you have a culture of what the Fan calls, "Small Man Syndrome." These teams like the Indians, Blue Jays, Tigers and others seem to behave like they can succeed once in a while, but it all gets torn down until they rise again once or twice a decade. You can see this in the fluxuation of their data. Up and down, up and down.

Then you have long-term elite teams. These teams have historic success and success over the last twenty years and the last decade. These teams may fall off now and then, but the fall is never that far and the successes come in more clusters and more often. The Cardinals, Yankees, Dodgers, Giants and for the last twenty years, the Red Sox. Sure money may be a part of that "culture," but it has to go beyond that. The Orioles have spent a lot of money as have the Mets without significant benefit to the culture.

The Fan isn't a math wiz. So others may be able to see patterns in the data that are missing from this text. But it's all interesting. Click on the enclosed charts to see them better.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Hall of Fame Hangover

Yeah, yeah, the subject has been beaten to death. But still. Spent the morning reading all the comments from around the Web. Read about different writers' votes and their justifications. It's just all sour grapes as nothing can be done about the injustices inflicted on guys like McGwire and Raines, Blyleven and maybe even Trammell. Not feeling too bad for Alomar because he is a shoe in for next year. But still. Still reading about the spitting incident. Yeah, that Ty Cobb character was a peach too, right?

The trouble is that it is currently not fixable. Bud Selig isn't going to do anything. The writers aren't going to do anything. So we are stuck with this. We can't make it a fan's vote. That would be even worse. Look at the All Star picks as an example of how stupid that can be.

Here is how it should work. The writers get their votes. They you open up the voting process to the thousands of dedicated baseball bloggers who write consistently about their passion. Hey, we're out there. We're easy to find. We don't get paid (most of us) so there are no axes to grind. Yes, many bloggers are "homers" who write about their favorite teams. But so what? If they are writing regularly, they have knowledge about the game just as intimate as those who get paid to write (who many times are "homers" too). Perhaps we should not include those who swear too much and those that like hockey just as much as baseball (ducking from the inevitable swipe from eyebleaf). heh. All kidding aside, we couldn't do much worse than the average writer with credentials.

But it won't happen. We all get labeled as stat heads, tweet geeks or as amateurs. We aren't the real thing. The Fan disagrees. We are just as real as anyone who writes for ESPN or SI or We are a force and we know what we are talking about.

It's time for a new world order. The glory days of The Sporting News and the L. A. Times are never coming back. That's a shame, but that's a world as it evolves. It's tough to accept change. But after all, you have to turn the soil over once in a while if you want a better crop to grow. When it is obvious that the current crop isn't growing much that's ripe, it's time for a change.

The last two HOF votes prove it's time. Get over it.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Holy Horse Poop - Only Dawson Gets In

The results are in and man, were they disappointing. The only player voted into the Hall of Fame was Andre Dawson. Andre Dawson!? Well...congratulations to him. He was a marginal pick at best, but he's in there. He follows Jim Rice as two marginal HOF recipients in two years.

Tim Raines only received 51% of the vote. What!? Preposterous. Roberto Alomar will have to wait for his second year of eligibility. He got close and just missed. Mark McGwire still only received 23% of the votes. What a travesty. And poor Bert Blyleven received 74.2% of the votes. He missed out by five votes and will have to wait again until his fourteenth year of torture. reported that five ballots came in blank. Those knuckleheads should lose their votes. Tim Brown only voted for Alomar. That's a good vote, but if that's all he voted for, he's a sad sack of a picker. Alomar probably fell victim to the "sanctity" of the first year of eligibility. That's a joke and idiotic. Don't feel too bad for him because he'll get in. But for Raines and Blyleven and McGwire, only Blyleven has a chance next year and that's pathetic.

They say youth is wasted on the young. The last two HOF votes prove that writing talent is wasted all too often on the brainless.

Randy Johnson Retires

Randy Johnson has one of those resumes that just numbs the senses. Whether you liked the guy or not--and this Fan never really did--the guy had a career that is the stuff of dreams when it comes to the back of a baseball card. After 22 seasons, the 46 year old pitcher retired on Tuesday. The announcement is a relief. No one wanted to watch Johnson continue to push himself as a relief pitcher, not even those of us who didn't like him. He made it to 300 wins (303 to be precise) and it's good enough. Good enough? Gracious, is that an understatement.

Randy Johnson is a first ballot Hall of Famer. Anyone who doesn't vote for him in five years should lose the right to vote. 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings for a career? A career WHIP of 1.171? A career ERA+ of 136? A .646 winning percentage? Second all time in strikeouts? The most strikeouts in a career for a lefty? Two no-hitters? A 3-0 World Series record with a 1.13 ERA? Okay, he wasn't so good in division or league championship series, but come on! Perhaps his greatest statistic? He gave up less than seven hits per nine innings for the season for eleven different seasons. Eleven.

Perhaps if all that isn't enough, Johnson arguably (Gammons-speak) had five seasons that could be considered among the 50 best seasons by any pitcher in the modern baseball era. In those five seasons (1995, 1997 and 1999-2002) he went 119-28! He struck out over 300 batters seven times including a remarkable run of six seasons in a row. He had 100 complete games and 37 career shutouts.

This Fan hopes Bert Blyleven gets in the Hall of Fame because he deserves it. But a pitcher like Randy Johnson makes him look sick. He was that good. Randy Johnson may have been better than Roger Clemens. Randy Johnson was nearly as good as Pedro Martinez in Pedro's most spectacular seasons, but Johnson did it longer.

Not many people love Randy Johnson. Maybe it's because he was one of the ugliest fellows that ever graced our television screens. Handsome, he was not. Plus he scowled a lot and looked mad a lot and seemed like a bit of a crank. Perhaps we are just biased against those who don't look like our ideals. It's too bad really, because perhaps we didn't appreciate one of the most amazing baseball players of our era.

Cardinals Severely Overpay Holliday

The Cardinals had to have Matt Holliday. There seems to be no doubt about that. Hitting behind Albert Pujols seemed to lift Holliday into the stratosphere as a hitter and he afforded protection to the Cardinals' and baseball's best hitter. But that protection came at a steep price. The figures being bandied around come to $120 million over seven years with an option year for the eighth.

According to PECOTA projections, Holliday will be worth around $38 million for those seven years. He isn't a very good fielder and doesn't figure to be getting much better in left field now that he's 30 years old. So the Cardinals basically paid Holliday three times what he is worth. Ouch.

Perhaps Holliday has found the sweet spot in St. Louis. Perhaps his second half there wasn't a fluke. But even if that lifts his valuation over the next seven years, he still won't come close to being worth what he is going to be paid.

So what is Pujols going to be worth for the next seven years? Again, according to PECOTA, that figure will be around $143 million. Which isn't that much more than what Holliday is making. So when Pujols' current contract is up and the Cardinals paid a $38 million player $120 million, what should Pujols ask for? The Fan's guess would be oh, around $420 million or so.