Saturday, April 12, 2003

Despite the fact that my favorite announcer ever (Phil Rizzuto) was an ex-ballplayer, one of my biggest pet peaves is the free job ex-players get in broadcasting, on Web sites like Yahoo and and even on local news affiliates. A person should only be allowed one easy, cushy and fun job in their lifetime.

Being a broadcaster has to be one of the coolest jobs on the planet. You get to watch every game for free in good seats. It's the only live way to watch a game and still have instant access to instant replay. You get free ballpark food, get to fly all over the country and stay in the best hotels. Why should someone who has already had a job for eighteen years and has accumulated $15,000,000 while doing so get another great job like that. The rest of us poor slobs should get that chance.

Then think about the antipathy of the announcer who is doing play by play who went to school for broadcasting and spent a lifetime moving up from the bushes and riding buses having a partner who was handed the job because the color guy won 14 games a couple of seasons? It's as bad as all those great post office jobs going to former soldiers so they can spend the rest of their lives behind the counter scowling at people.

Have you read Joe Morgan on or Jack McDowell on They sound like they are writing 9th grade what-I-did-this-summer numbers. I could write a column better than that. McDowell's great contribution today was that the Yankees acquired the best pitchers so they should win their division. Profound stuff, eh?

Sometimes it works. Bobby Valentine, Harold Reynolds and the former nasty boy from the Reds (whose name escapes me at the moment) do a great job, but it is still Berman or Ravitch and Gammons who bring the show home. Joe Garagiola was one of the best announcers of all time. But I guess the point is that there has to be equally talented color men in other places who have paid their dues and gone to broadcasting school who could do as good a job or better. They should get the chance.

The automatic filling of jobs by ex-ballplayers smacks of cronyism in a world where cronyism isn't allowed anymore. And the cronyism is pervasive. Johnny Miller broadcasts golf, NFL pairings feature ex-players all across the line and basketball has its share as well.

I say forget the ex-jock who has already had their fun and made their money. Let a regular joe compete for the great jobs now taken by washed up semi-superstars.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Are you sure this isn't Friday the 13th? The calendar says it's the 11th, so that doesn't explain how Tiger Woods can shoot a 76 in the Masters and on the same day, the Kansas City Royals become the first team to start the season 8-0 since the World Champion Cincinnati Reds. Oh, and the Pirates won again and the Expos and Mets were playing in Puerto Rico. Strange days, man. Strange days.

So what do you think about these Royals? Is this real or will they slide back down like the liquid wax of a lava lamp? Some guy named Runelvys Hernandez pitched his third great game today and is 3-0. His ERA is 0.46. Jason Grimsley with his gaudy 33-41 career mark with his career 4.75 ERA, pitched a perfect 8th Inning and now has a relief ERA of 1.80. Mike MacDougal posted his sixth straight save in as many chances. As Butch says to Sundance in the movie, "Who are these guys?"

It's not exactly like these Royals are spanking the baseball in their 8-0 start. Their best player, Mike Sweeney is batting .240. Their leadoff hitter, Michael Tucker, is batting .176. Ugh! They have a former shortstop playing Right Field (Desi Relaford) and is batting .167. Can you imagine if they were hitting too? They have five pitchers with an ERA under two runs per nine innings. They are just playing great.

For years I wondered why the Boston Red Sox would keep catching Tony Pena during some good years in the early 90's. I mean, I watched a lot of those games and the guy couldn't hit himself out of a paper bag. But I do remember him coming out to the mound and having this look on his face like he was in charge and that pitcher better listen up. He was the man whether he could hit or not. Now he is managing this Royals team and has them believing that this isn't a fluke and I believe him.

For you cynics out there, yes, the Royals did get fat on the Tigers and the rebuilding Indians and have the rebuilding Indians for another four more games. But still, you do have to win those games and do so often or you are not going to play in October. The Royals played bad teams in the past and they were always worse. It is to their credit that they are now beating up on those teams.

In the reverse direction are those Detroit Tigers. They have started the season 0-9. Ugh! They could lose 110 to 120 games this season. The entire coaching staff is from the Tigers glory days. Trammell manages and I imagine his head will be asked for soon.

The ineptness of the Tigers is unbelievable. In their first eight games, the team is batting .140. The TEAM is batting .140. They have scored 14 runs in 8 games. They only have two hitters on the whole TEAM with a batting average over .200! Oh my.

At the same time, the Tigers team ERA is 5.31 runs per nine innings. And if you think it's just hitting and fielding, how about this stat: The Tiger pitching staff has given up 88 runs in 83 Innings but only 48 of them have been earned. But it isn't the amount of errors that the team is making as they have only made four errors in eight games but they must have been REALLY bad errors if the four errors resulted in 40 unearned runs! Holy smokes!

I know. I know. It's early yet. But it's still fun to see what is happening around the league. The Royals look like contenders and the Tigers look like they will not win any games this year.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Hello baseball bloggers. The Flagrant Fan takes Thursdays off as his day of rest. See you tomorrow night.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

I have never liked Greg Maddux though I have respected his results. The Yankees are hated as a team and people around the country hate Steinbrenner, but they don't hate the bulk of the Yankee players (except Clemens). I am trying to judge if I am biased and I don't think so. There is something about Maddux and Chipper Jones that just seems arrogant. I don't know if it's the set of their faces when they succeed or what. Something they do brings out those feelings in me.

But as much as I loathe Maddux, his terrible start this year has been stunning. His stats the first three games (all losses) are unbelievable: 14.2 innings, 29 hits (29!!), 24 runs (18 earned), 6 homers, 9 walks and 14 strikeouts. Well, at least the strikeouts look good. The NL--before tonights blowout--was batting .347 against him. Highlights of his last game showed a really slow pitcher whose pitches seemed to be hanging on the plate like they were sitting on a tee. I have to wonder if this is a mechanics problem that he will eventually fix, or if this is indeed the end of a remarkable Hall of Fame run.

As long as we are discussing pitching, here is some other news around the majors:
- Mark Prior of the Cubs is the real deal. His two game ERA is under 1 as he got his first shutout today walking none in nine innings and striking out 12. Those are early Clemens like numbers.
- The Yankee starters look as good at the start of this year as they looked bad at the end of last year. Clemens should waltz to 300 wins.
- Mark MacDougal, the Royals new closer has yet to give up a hit while striking out 4 in his three successful save attempts. He throws 100mph!
- Brown and Dreifort look like they are back for the Dodgers. Drefort won tonight. That is bad news for the NL West.
- Pedro Martinez looks fantastic and should win 20 games again with a low ERA. Don't be surprised if he wins another Cy Young.
- AJ Burnett has had two great starts with the Marlins and this could be the year that he arrives on the scene.
- After a stupid injury, Pittsburgh's Benson looks poised to be the ace he was predicted to be. Two brilliant starts.
- The experiment with Kim starting in Arizona instead of closing has had a real bumpy 0-2 start.
- Arizona's pitching is going to be severely tested as the Diamondbacks are not going to score runs for them.
- Despite hopes, Texas Ranger pitching just doesn't look very good. Valdez was lit up tonight and Park has been lit up twice.
- Barry Zito has looked great. Mark Mulder has not.'s baseball season and the stats are starting to pile up. What a great time of year.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

I've been studying Barry Bonds the last couple of years because I really wanted to dislike the man. The mere fact that I tried so hard to dislike him wasn't like me and I wondered what caused it. Was it because he was a very confident African American when I am white and because he broke the wonderful record of 70 homeruns that was set a few years before by a heroic white man? That was a possibility and because of that possibility, I really had to study myself because that's not the person I want to be.

But wait. Mohammed Ali was one of the most confident African Americans who ever lived and he was an absolute hero of mine. But maybe that was because I didn't get to see him until he was stripped of his crown and became the underdog the rest of his career. He was Mohammed moving the mountain. The difference was that Ali had a certain charm that got beyond his arrogance. You had to smile at him as he was so out there.

Bonds is a confident African American who doesn't overflow with charm and wit and doesn't seem to care what we all think of him. Bonds presence in our consciousness has increased since his historic season. He has been seen on dozens of interviews and when you listen to him speak, the term arrogance is misplaced. Arrogance is when you have talent that few others have and you throw it in the face of your foe. Bonds is just straight-forward and factual about his talent. He doesn't make false statements about his talent when it is so obviously there. He accepts his talent matter of factly as a given and that's refreshing.

I was also really impressed with how he learns from a player like David Eckstein. Bonds mentions how Eckstein put tears in Bonds' eyes for how hard he competes and how well he uses the little talent that he has. He also mentions that he learned a technique in Eckstein's swing that Bonds thinks will help him be quicker. Bonds learned that technique so well that he hit ten homeruns in Spring Training.

I was also moved by how Bonds always seems to mention his family and his father and Willie Mays and how important these people are to him. How can you hate a guy who has his priorities in the right place?

What is true is that Bonds has had two of the most amazing seasons in baseball history. 73 homeruns followed by a .370 average and 48 more homeruns. His on base percentage and slugging were record breaking. We are seeing a talent at his peak unlike any talent in our lifetime. He is the best at what he does and is the Michael Jordan of MLB. The Giants had no business being in the World Series last year. They just didn't have the talent that the other teams had. Give Baker a large credit for that, but Bonds single-handedly dragged that team into the World Series.

Another major knock on Bonds is the kind of teammate he is. Oh please. Michael Jordan shot fifty percent of the Bulls shots for the six years they won the NBA Championships. How popular do you think he was with his teammates? Not only was he the top scorer, the one with all the publicity, the one who shot the most, but also the one that made the most money who also happened to think he was the assistant coach. Yup, he sure must have been popular with his teammates.

Bonds wants to win. Bonds knows matter of factly that he is the best player on the field and it galls him that he hasn't won a World Series. I have opened my eyes and viewed him with an open mind and I respect what he's done. I admire and ride along with history as it's being made. And he has a great smile and gives a great and honest interview. You won me over, Barry, and what makes me laugh saying that is that you really couldn't give a rip if you win us over or not.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Yesterday marked the thirtieth anniversary of the designated hitter and the debate has been continuous ever since Ron Blomberg got that hit. To most of you, Ron Blomberg is a trivia question. To me, he was a smile of remembrance as I watched him play and I saw that hit. Ron Blomberg is as good an argument as any for the designated hitter.

Ron Blomberg had just about the quickest swing I've ever seen. He never took a little swing. The swing started in an arc behind him and then whooshed through the zone and after full extension, swooshed back behind him just as quickly until he had to sit on the upright bat to steady himself. And he was a paradox in so many ways. He was Jewish with a southern accent. He was grace and ferocity when batting but uncouth and awkward with a glove. He was also one of the fastest players I've seen down the first base line. He beat out quite a few hits that surprised the infielders of his day. The designated hitter was the perfect vehicle so that Blomberg could bat and run and not have to field.

In Blomberg's two years of designated hitting, he had 565 at bats, 181 hits, 22 homeruns and 105 RBI...not a bad season. And those stats were with miserable teams. The year before 1973, when the DH began, Blomberg made 13 errors at first base in just 95 games. It's pretty hard to make 13 errors in a whole season at first base. It was almost comical...unless you were a Yankee pitcher or infielder at the time. But again, the paradox: he was a power hitter who walked more in his career than he struck out.

The anger of Blomberg's swing and his great speed did not make it conducive for a long career. He was limited to just 105 at bats in 1975, missed all of 1976 and then had a brief stay with the Cubs in 1976 before calling it quits. He ended up with a .293 lifetime average and was a career .473 slugger. Not bad!

As a fan, I was glad that the DH was invoked as it gave us two extra years of Ron Blomberg when there was little else to cheer for at the time. And as a fan, how can you not think back over the last thirty years and not think of some of the great hitters who never would have survived in MLB without the DH. Orlando Cepeda, Tony Oliva and many great players extended their careers and our ability to enjoy their careers because of the DH.

But the argument comes down to which system produces a better game. Again, the DH presents a better game for the following reasons:
- Good pitchers get to stay in the game longer so we get less mediocre pitching
- Has anyone ever paid to see a pitcher hit? But many have paid to see Oliva hit.
- With the pitcher hitting 9th, the 8th hitter is rendered just as ineffective as he is either pitched around or has to reach for bad pitches.
- Bringing in relief pitchers doesn't mean the demeaning act of calling in another player off the field.
- 9 good hitters is better than 7 good hitters, an emaciated hitter and a terrible hitter.
- Is the bunt play ever exciting?
- AL pitchers strikeout stats are not bloated by 4 free strikeouts a game.

And to prove my point once and for all...has any NL manager refused to use the DH when they had the chance in the World Series? I don't think so. I do agree that it's silly to have two leagues with different rules. But that's also a charm. But I think that if you keep a two league, two rule viability, then get rid of the switching back and forth in the World Series. Just make it all DH and be done with it!

The DH has been a part of baseball for thirty years. That's almost as much tradition as not, correct? It's good for the fans, good for the players and good for those poor pitchers who have to look silly every time they go to the plate.

When I was in High School, I took printing for three years instead of wood shop or mechanics. My prize piece of work was a giant baseball scorecard complete with a large action picture of Ron Blomberg crossing home plate. It was a picture my print shop teacher stated I could never duplicate on the lithographic printer. Proving him wrong was a part of Blomberg's magic in my fandom and I'm glad the DH was started for him to give me so many smiles.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

* Oh man...I came back from an important party last night and turned on ESPN and for the first ten minutes, I couldn't get any news other than the babble going on about the Final Four. I mean, who cares about the Final Four! And if there is anything more annoying than Dick Vitale's enthusiasm, I don't know what it is. Anyway, the scrolling news is going on below and I hate watching that. Am I the only one who does? It takes forever and if you look away, you miss the one game you were looking for and have to go through the entire thing again...which is another reason to hurry up and get the NBA and NHL schedules over. Enough already. I'm getting to the point--I promise.

So I'm reading that annoying scrolling news (I missed the Yankee score twice going through) and then I see the devastating news: "Ken Griffey dislocates shoulder - out indefinitely." How very sad. The man has missed most of the last two seasons. His time as one of the greatest players of all time is running out. He works incredibly hard to make it back and seems poised for a monster season: a season to put Cincinnati critics and boo-birds to shame. And then it happens: he runs, he dives, he hyperextends himself and is on the ground in a heap of pain. It's terribly sad for him, for his team and for us as fans.

The loss for us fans is not too dissimilar to the Beatles breaking up or Elvis going into the army. At the height of talent's capability and career, the talent is gone and we are robbed of something exciting that can't be replaced by anything else. Who knows, perhaps Griffey can come back one more time and be brilliant again. But the chances become slimmer and slimmer each time he gets hurt. Those that doubt how talented this man is and the treasure his talent is to baseball isn't a true fan at all.

* The Flagrant Fan is finding it hard not to smile at the Braves early tough start. With Maddux struggling (he looked like he was throwing up balloons last night), and no Glavine and Millwood behind him, the Braves are in serious trouble and could finish last in this division.

* The other team in as much trouble is the Diamondbacks. I don't understand how the team's batting could be worse and you wonder how their GM let it happen. This used to be a great and balanced team. It looks old and feeble at this point.

* This time changing is for the birds. They should "spring ahead" the time on a weekday when we want those work days to go faster. To have one of our few days off to go faster is depressing! Plus, there are no games on today until ESPN's night game. How did that happen? Well at least the time change brings us faster to ESPN's Sunday version of Baseball Tonight at 7. It's a great version of the show since there is usually only one night game on Sundays and you get a lot of highlights and insight.

* Speaking of Baseball Tonight, Karl Ravich is that show. The show suffers tremendously when he is not anchoring the cast. Gammons and Harold Reynolds are the best with Ravich, but at least when they are not there, you still have good quality (I hated Valentine as a player, manager and now as a commentator). But you lose Ravich and it's vanilla. When the Chris Berman steps in though, it's magic as there is no better highlight guy in history.