Saturday, January 23, 2010

Grant Desme Chooses the Priesthood

Rob Neyer, among others, reported today that a prospect of the Oakland Athletics, Grant Desme, retired after a great minor league season to become a priest. While there isn't anything but admiration for someone who feels called that way, giving up a shot of untold riches, there really isn't anything else to say in the matter. The guy was the fifth or eighth best prospect the A's had (depending on the rater) and was a second round draft pick in 2006. So since there isn't really anything original to add to the story and since Mr. Neyer covered it pretty thoroughly, and because the Fan is kind of in a quirky mood, perhaps we can tell this story again (over and over) but while mimicking the style of other writers.

The same story in Murry Chass mode.

"Higher power" according to who? Preposterous. What higher power is there than Major League baseball? Does that make him right and me wrong? Of course not. Am I right? Yes. Why? Because my opinion counts.

The same story in Peter Gammons mode.

Grant Desme was arguably one of Oakland's best prospects and since Billy Beane's team already has a paucity of hitters, it's a real blow to that organization. Sources tell me that Billy Beane is taking this hard but supports Desme's decision. Look, one can't argue with a young man who makes such a choice. One can only wish Desme the best.

The same story in Patrick Sullivan mode.

Two thoughts. One, how hairbrained can anyone be to question Desme's frame of mind and try to understand his need to follow a higher authority? What a great way to show your lack of understanding.

Two, and I can't be clear enough about this. If you think you know better than Grant Desme, THEN YOU DON'T KNOW THE FIRST THING ABOUT PRIESTS.

The same story in any sabermetric-based web site mode.

This data suggests that there is a 98.7 percent possibility that Grant Desme will not play in the major leagues. To get at that figure, we first eliminate the variables such as his inability to finish his priestly studies. Data indicates that he graduated from his last higher education subset and we can thus eliminate that possibility in our calculations. The algorithm we used does take into account the percentage of priests who give up the priesthood for a woman...

The same story in Dan Shaunessy mode.

Minor league baseball players always lie. How do they sleep at night? Put any three of them in the same room and you could make the polygraph machine explode. Besides, if he wanted to be a priest, wouldn't he have been better drafted by the Boston organization? Where can you be a priest in California? Maybe his first act as a priest will be to have Mark McGwire in confession.

The same story in Joe Posnanski mode.

I was stuck on the West Coast last week and couldn't sleep. Those time changes always keep me up late at night.* The inevitable infocommercials--infocos as we like to call them, came on and our old favorite, the snuggie made another appearance.

*I still can't understand how being on the left coast with its two hour difference can cause me to stay up four hours later than usual. But that is what always happens when out there.

After watching with amazement that the huggable snuggables come in leopard stripes the thought crossed my mind if those garments worn by nuns are as comfortable as snuggies. And that brings us around to what this 5000-word post was supposed to be about anyway. Not nuns exactly, but priests.

You may have heard about Grant Desme (4890 more words...)

The same story in eyebleaf mode.

A priest? Who knew? Hey, let's focus on the positives. It wasn't our PROSPECT PORN!

The same story in Josh Borenstein mode.

That wouldn't have happened if Desme was a JML

The same story in Bill Simmons mode. (on Twitter).

The Oakland franchise is a crock and their guy wears a frock.

The same story in Jayson Stark mode.

Bet you didn't know that Grant Desme is the only draft pick to ever give up the game for the priesthood. He's the only one. He could end up being the priest with the highest total of professional homers since the friars that showed the Bambino how to play baseball.

One more? Okay, one more in Michael Silver mode.


Grant Desme, who might have walked away from millions for a higher calling.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rooting for Cabrera

A story on today confirmed that Miguel Cabrera has a drinking problem and spent three months in treatment. According to the story, Cabrera has said that he has changed his life around and hasn't had a drink in a long time. This Fan is hoping that Cabrera can stay strong through this and kick it.

The Fan knows all about alcohol abuse. There has been a lot of personal experience with family members and it isn't pretty. Knowing first hand the emotional stress such experiences can bring, it is really hoped for him and his family's sake that he is on the right road.

It has to be difficult for someone so young to be so talented and so rich. Most of us learn a little bit of wisdom before we get any scratch in life. But these players are rewarded so richly so quickly that it has to be difficult to keep on any kind of even keel. The Fan doesn't believe that money is the root of all evil, but it sure makes the temptations in life easier to obtain.

Miguel Cabrera has always seemed like a good guy. He plays like he enjoys what he is doing. And he should. One can only imagine how formidable he can be now that he is sober if he performed as well as he did with an addiction. And like anything else, it took a crisis for him to realize that he had a problem. Fortunately, that crisis didn't cost him his life or someone else's.

So the Fan is rooting for Cabrera just like the Fan is rooting for Josh Hamilton. We are all put on this earth with special gifts and talents. Too bad some of us don't get paid for our talents as richly as others. Or maybe it isn't too bad at all depending on how you look at it. All the Fan knows is that it would be great if Cabrera and Hamilton and others that struggle with abusive natures and conquer them and be the best they can be with the abilities they are given.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Breaking Down the Pineiro Signing

Joel Pineiro signed a two year deal with the California Angels for $16 million. The signing is probably good news for fans of the Angels who have seen the loss of Figgins, Lackey and Guererro over the off-season. As for Pineiro, he should give a percentage of that paycheck to Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan who resurrected his once moribund career. Let's break down the player the Angels have signed and see what we come up with.

The Good News

Pineiro had the best season of his career in 2009. He led the league in walks per nine innings with a skimpy 1.1 figure. Twenty-seven walks allowed in 214 innings of work is remarkably efficient. Considering that his career average in that category is 2.6, this surely is a sign of Cardinal mentality of pounding the strike zone and Pineiro is the prize pupil of the idea. In three seasons with the Cardinals, his walks per nine in those three seasons were 1.7, 2.1, 1.1. Those are the best of his career.

Pineiro also kept the ball in the ballpark. His 0.5 homers per nine innings was by far the best of his career and half his career average. It's a good thing when you make 32 starts and only give up 11 homers. And those 32 starts was his best total since 2003. His 15 wins were his best since that same season when he won 16 for Seattle. He also pitched the most innings in his career in 2009.

There is one more thing Pineiro did in 2009 that is a complete change of the kind of pitcher he has been in his career. His 1.32 Ground Ball to Fly Ball ratio was by far the best of his career. He had averaged around 1.1 up until this past season.

All of that data seems to suggest that Pineiro has learned to throw more ground balls, walk less and keep the ball in the ball park. Those are all good things and seem to indicate a pitcher that has learned some new lessens and some new tricks. If that is the kind of pitcher he has become, then the Angels have got themselves a new stud and have made a good deal.

The Scary News

The 214 innings that Pineiro threw in 2009 were the most in his career and only the second time he's ever pitched over 200 innings. Health has been an issue over the years for Pineiro as seen by that statistic. Can he bring the Angels 200 innings or more the next two seasons? That is part of the risk here.

The amazing stinginess of his walk total led Pineiro to have a fantastic 3.89 Strikeout to Walk ratio in 2009. His career average is 2.1. But his strikeouts per nine innings were way down and has been trending that way for the last three years. He struck out 4.4 batters per nine innings in 2009 and his career average is 5.6. The last three seasons have seen him sink from 5.7 to 4.7 to 4.4. That could be part of an overall strategy to throw strikes and keep the ball in play. But it is a bit of a concern.

There is usually some hidden reason for a pitcher who after years of mediocrity suddenly blossom with good numbers. The 1.1 WHIP Pineiro put up in 2009 is excellent and is one feature of walking so few. But his BABIP or batting average for balls in play was below .300. It was a rediculous .268 for the last month of the season. That indicates that his fielders did a really good job behind him and he was a bit lucky. His 3.49 ERA translates with his BABIP at about a 4.60 ERA under normal circumstances. That's a pretty deep step to think that it will continue.

Pineiro is going back to the American League where he will face an extra hitter every game. He had four interleague starts last year and he pitched very well against those American League opponents. His ERA was 3.33 in those four starts and he walked only two in 27 innings! That's amazing. His BABIP in those starts was .268. Keep in mind that .300 is more the norm. The kicker is that he was an unlucky 0-4 in those starts. Despite pitching well, he lost all four of them.

Pineiro did not pitch well in his one post season appearance.

The Conclusion

If Pineiro stays healthy and pitches like he did in 2009, he will replace Lackey very well and will earn the money the Angels are paying him. He obviously has learned how to become a different pitcher with the Cardinals than he was in his Seattle days (when he had some good success). But that good of a season after many middling seasons is a concern and he seems to project to a .500 pitcher with an ERA in the 4.5 range. To be sure, the Angels will take that if they can get it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


[[switching to first person]]

I have to confess something. And it isn't easy to confess. I think I am a product of the television generation. We've seen so much on television, that nothing seems to phase people like me. Or maybe I shouldn't include any generalizations and just talk about me.

The first night I heard about the earthquake, I felt a little pang of regret for those poor people. But after? I have to confess that I am ashamed that I feel so little. After years of watching CSI and going through Vietnam and 9/11 and the Tsunami a few years ago and Hurricane Katrina and all we have been through in this world, perhaps I am desensitized. Perhaps a part of my soul has been swept clean of compassion. Perhaps there is so much suffering in the world that I am feeling hopeless to help and that hopelessness turns to the defense mechanism of non-caring.

It's not with pride that I make this confession. It's with regret and guilt. There is so much suffering in the world. What can we do? Okay, this week we pour resources into Haiti. Meanwhile, some African nation still has half its population starving. For each death we hear about in Haiti, there are the same number or more in this country in cancer deaths, car accidents, fires, senseless violence and family squabbles. We don't hear about each one of those and yet those families suffer too.

Someone once asked Jesus about the poor. I remember his answer: "The poor will always be among you." Isn't that the truth. There is just no way to help them all. You can't go to a store today without five or six jars vying for your attention for this poor family with a child needing medical care or this family that lost their home to a fire. Everyone wants help and I am not saying they don't need it. All I am saying is that it is overwhelming.

Perhaps it has to do with that Hierarchy of Needs chart I remember from Psychology 101 in college. Since my job was eliminated and moved to Georgia, I have been in survival mode myself for the past year and a half. Mercifully, we are hanging in there. But right now, I have to care for me and my own before I can care about anyone else. Perhaps I am just selfish.

All I know is that hundreds of thousands of people are suffering in Haiti and around the world. I applaud you if your conscious dictates you to help. I applaud you if you dial that text number to help. I applaud you and admire you if your heart aches for what you have seen and heard about. I'm just not there right now. And that's doesn't make me feel very good.

Both Hairstons Banished to San Diego

Anyone who has been a long-time reader of this site knows that the Hairston brothers are not Fan favorites. And not that the Padres are unloved here either, but they are in sort of a holding or rebuilding pattern of late and so a good dumping ground for the pair. Scott Hairston was traded there and now Jerry Hairston Jr. was signed there as a free agent according to this news story.

Being a Fan means that some judgements are irrational. The dislike of the Hairston brothers has been going on for quite a while and there really isn't a rational explanation. Sure, it makes no sense that they have played in the major leagues for so long. Jerry has a lifetime OPS of .701. Eww. How is it that fringe players like him can have such long careers and other, more talented players (like Josh Whitesell) never get a shot? Sure, Scott is the better hitter, but come on! He has 58 career homers in his 40 year career. Well, it seems like 40 years.

This Fan has the perception that some managers just like guys who will hustle and have a good attitude no matter the circumstances. A Hairston who sits on the bench for two straight weeks, but smiles a lot and say, "Good morning, Skip," to the manager every day gets to hang around maybe.

It was an ironic twist when Jerry Hairston Jr. was traded to the Yankees last year toward the end of the season. Poetic justice maybe? And all indications seemed to be that he would sign there again this year. Well, that proved inaccurate and all is well with the world.

The Fan is sure that the Yankees can find any old weak hitting utility player for a lot cheaper than $1.5 million. Seems like they had one last year from their own organization. They are a dime a dozen, even more so than back-end relievers. For every Hairston, Miguel Cairo and others, there has to be dozens of cheap options in the minors that can know...hit just a little bit?

Why do all these guys hang around so long? Bruntlett? Does being a good guy average out an 82 OPS+? Does being a glad-hander who is willing to play any position and do the laundry worth over a million dollars? Doesn't seem like it.

But the FanDome's favorite whipping boys, the Hairstons, are now together in San Diego. Besides Hawaii, that's the farthest you can be from northern Maine and still be on the same continent. Which is probably a good thing. The Padres need to become a winner again as they have a nice market and run a good ship. But right now, they are on the bottom looking up. And now they have the corner on the Hairston market. God help them.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King Column Gone Awry

Have you ever spent a bunch of time looking for something without finding much? For example, you searched through every pair of pants you own along with your shirts, jackets, coats, purses and others and could only come up with a few pennies and maybe a nickel? Yeah, that's what this post is like. This post was supposed to be some kind of fun tribute to Martin Luther King for his holiday. The only trouble is, the search was basically fruitless.

For example, after a bleary-eyed search, only one player in major league history has ever shared the MLK initials? What was he? The immortal, one and only, Matt (Matthew Lon) Keough. You might remember him. He pitched for the A's, Yankees, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Cubs and Astros between 1977 and 1986. He was actually a very good pitcher when he first came up. He had a big year for the A's in 1980. But he had the misfortune of playing for Billy Martin, who didn't believe in limiting young pitchers. Keough was in his early playing days and Martin left him out there for 250+ innings. He was never the same pitcher again.

Another example? There were seventeen "King" major leaguers in history: Chick, Clyde, Curtis, Eric, Hal, Jeff, Jim, Kevin, Lee, Lee, Lynn, Mart, Nellie, Ray, Sam, Silver and Steve. You may remember Ray or Jeff and maybe even Eric, all three played not that long ago. That Mart King was indeed a Martin King. He played one season: 1876! Whoa, that was a long time ago.

So...the Fan's attempt to bring you an entertaining post to help celebrate the day has fallen short. But remember the man today anyway. Not because he was perfect. He wasn't. Not because he was famous. Not because he was assassinated. No, remember what he fought for and how we can teach our children to get closer to his dream. Remember one of the greatest orations of modern times (look for it on YouTube--it's worth listening to all these years later). His cause was right and just. His message pure and clear and just as important today as it was then.