The Midnight Hour <$BlogRSDURL$>

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Good Dude of the Day Award 

Dude of the Day: Joe Torre
One of the reasons I love Joe Torre is that he is prone to insouciant quips that put everything in perspective. Take this one following the Yankees second game of the season, "(an 0-2 trip) wouldn't have been fun. In fact, I made a comment when we were down 1-0 in the first, I felt a little tenseness in there. I said, `Guys, what's the worst thing that can happen? We lose 162 games, big deal. We can still eat, and you're still going to get paid."


I like the fact that Torre obviously has a sense of the expectations on his team and yet is secure enough in himself that he can lampoon it. Joe Torre is a good dude.

I didn't see either of the Yankees first two games because 1) I live in Chicago, 2) I can't get YES on Dish Network or Direct TV or whichever of those dish mothersuckers it is that offers YES, because the building I live in is on the National Register of Historic Places and pursuant to that they won't allow tenants to have satellite dishes. What a crock of shit. So thank god for the Web and Sports Center or I might never know what A-Rod looks like in pinstripes.

I need you cool, are you cool?
Speaking of A-Rod, I've heard more than a few people saying stuff like, "boy A-Rod sure sucks so far I hope he turns it around." Umm people? It's been two days. Maybe we can all climb out of the flying saucer and get back to reality. A-Rod will be fine. Gary Sheffield will also be fine and I think Jason Giambi is off to a great start in his two games. I know it's only been two games but if you look at his boxscores you see power and patience. Nice stuff.

Random Stuff
The Yankees lineup is mind bogglingly potent except for Enrique Wilson, who always looks like he has a toothache to me. Can we officially call him Snaggletooth?

Mariano Rivera fanned two in a perfect ninth after Tom Gordon pitched a perfect eight. Good times, good times.

Dirty Balls
It's a fact that Kevin Brown is a groundball machine. I looked at all the outs that Brown was directly responsible for by way of strikeout, groundout, or flyout. Brown pitched 7 innings and on runner was thrown out stealing, so Kevin was "responsible" for 20 outs:

K's = 5
Groundouts= 8
Flyouts= 7

A little more even than usual. What I don't know about are the balls that went for hits, I don't have the data to check to see if they were grounders or not. It's interesting to note that 4 of the 7 flyouts were in the 6th and 7th inning. Since Brown is a sinkerballer maybe as the game wore on, he started leaving the ball up a little more thereby forcing flyballs. This is interesting to me because when I lived in Washington D.C. Jim Palmer was an announcer for the Orioles and always used to say that Scott Erickson (another sinkerball guy) was more effective as the game wore on because the more tired he got the more his pitches sank. So who the hell knows, but if any of my 2 loyal readers has insight please drop a comment and educate me.
# posted by Steve : 12:10 PM

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Well THAT was fun. 

Screw it, it's over. I mean $182million and they actually lose a game? What is that? Well there's always next year I guess. Some people are saying they aren't ready to panic just yet, and I agree. Who wants to panic? Might as well just pretend it never happened, put the balls and the bats away for the winter, let the fellas make some tee-times and let George Steinbrenner and whoever the new GM is re build the team.

You would have thought that with A-Rod we wouldn't have had to face this ugly spectre of defeat. That we never would have known the bitter taste of losing. Not to mention we were the very first team to lose a game this season. God! This bites. I hate Mike Mussina for ruining our season like that.

On the bright side I can still root for the Red Sox to not win the World Series again, I suppose, but I doubt that will hold my interest. No, I'll probably spend a quiet offseason sitting in the once teeming but now desolate sports bars in New Jersey lamenting the demise, once again, of the Yankees.
# posted by Steve : 4:41 PM

Monday, March 29, 2004

Waaaaahhhhhhh! Ohhhh I think SOMEONE needs a nap.  

I've read in several places that it's UNFAIR that the Yankees and D-Rays have to travel to Japan and suffer the trips resulting jet-lag. Come again?

Look, In my profession I have had more than one day where I have stayed up ALL NIGHT to board a Chicago to New Jersey 7 am flight so I could visit a client and make a presentation at 9am. I was expected to be sharp, poised and able to handle hardball questions on zero sleep; for hours.

Other business people routinely fly from the U.S. to Asia to Europe and each one of those meetings is potentially life or career changing. They don't have 160 more chances to redeem themselves if they screw up the first two meetings.

Plus, the players receive a $40,000 stipend for the trip, so please, spare me. This is only unfair to the extent that we live in an imperfect world where we don't always get exactly what we want at the moment we want it. But getting paid to go play baseball in Japan while possibly inconvenient, is not what I would call unfair.

I will say that it sounds pretty stupid to me that the Yankees will play 2 regular season games and then come back and play a couple of Grapefruit League games.
# posted by Steve : 3:51 PM

Enter, Sandman. 

At The Hardball Times, Matthew Namee dissects Mariano Rivera's career in far greater detail than I ever would and determines that Mo isn't quite yet Hall Worthy.

Namee comes up with some beautiful statistical work, using TangoTiger's Leverage index to convert Mo's stats to something that attempts to control for the fact that Rivera is not purely a pitcher but a specialist pitcher to "prove" his point. But I'm not convinced. It's the Hall of Fame for Pete's sake. I'm not trying to decide what stock I should buy or how to get the best mortgage. Using advanced theoretical analysis to help teams decide how best to spend their money on players, how long to sign them for, how much money to give them etc. is fantastic. But to decide if the guy is worthy of the Hall of Fame??? I don't know. Maybe I'm hopelessly backwards here but if a guy hit a 5,000 foot home run, I'd want him in the Hall of Fame. Not because his Win Shares were great and his value over replacement level was unmatched but because it was MEMORABLE. Truly memorable and truly unique. And what Rivera has done in his baseball career especially in the post-season has been memorable and unique. To me thats Hall of Fame material.
# posted by Steve : 3:27 PM

The Evil Within (Yes you have to read the whole damn thing.) 

I've been away for awhile and am just now catching up with all that's been going on across the baseball and news landscape.

While I was on vacation I finished reading a book called See No Evil by Robert Baer. Baer is an ex-CIA operative whose insights into what is wrong with the CIA and what is wrong with the U.S. national security policy in general, are an invaluable insight. What I like about Baer's book is that he does not politicize the issue, well at least not in a partisan sense. If you are interested in Richard Clarke's take on what President Bush did wrong in the war on terror, you will find a great education in Baer's book. If Baer is to be believed (and I find him highly credible) the roots of the failings of the CIA are insidious and systemic. We have an intelligence system in this country that is broken, profoundly and chronically. To heap blame upon the Bush administration, which had been in office for a scant 8 months at the time of September 11th, is irresponsible and pathetically transparent. The demise of National Security began years and years before George W. was sitting in the White House.

The shockingly irresponsible behavior perpetrated against the nations (yours and mine) security went on during the Clinton, Bush Sr, and Reagan administrations at least! To pile on against Little George is just silly. I suppose it's fundamental attribution error at work, but come on. People need to realize the the world doesn't exist in a vacuum, what happens today is the result of things that were or were not done, 1, 3, 5, 10 years before. Life is longitudinal, ya know?

I'll point out that I have not read Clarke's book Against All Enemies and I don't relish the idea of reading it because Clarke seems to have an axe to grind, seems to be very politically motivated. Who knows, maybe Bush stiffed him on his March Madness pool winnings or something, maybe he has a legitimate gripe. But I'd rather read a book that that points out what is wrong with the system than a book that is anti-person or person as embodied by an administration. People come and go, systems will kill ya.

I'm going to refrain from critiquing any of Clarke's logical lines until I read his book, fair is fair after all, but some of the interviews that he's given seem just downright vitriolic and unrealistic. Oh yeah, and I heard he kicks dogs.*

If your interest is piqued with regards to Bob Baer, you can get a good sense of his insight and opinion in this interview with PBS from March of 2002 and this interview from December of 2002. The thing that became really sadly clear to me in wading through Baer's book was that the problems in the Middle East, the problems with terrorism, are phenomenally complex and insidious. They aren't going to be solved with a taskforce, they aren't going to be solved with diplomacy and they won't be solved with military interdiction and peacekeeping forces. They also won't be solved with political backbiting and resultant smear campaings. While pundits, politicians and policy makers waste their time throwing each other under the Metro, the sad truth will get even sadder. The Middle East is a MESS, I think the best we can hope to do is to try to protect ourselves, unfortunatley we have decades of foreign policy precedent that have in effect put our neck in a noose and it is going to be very very very hard to ever escape that noose, consider the following quote from this interview with Bob Baer, regarding U.S. international relations vis a vis Saudi Arabia,

"That brings me to the State Department. You’ve got ’95, ’96, and ’98 bombings that had a bunch of Saudis. The bombings in Africa [U.S. Embassy in Kenya] and the Cole [U.S.S. Cole] had a bunch of Saudis involved. And we were hit September 2001, and we still don’t have visa interviews for these people. How can you explain that? If you’re a Syrian, you have to wait 30 days. If you’re an Iranian, you have to wait 30 days before you get your visa. In Saudi Arabia, you just send your passport to the travel agent. It comes back, without an interview, without any sort of check, and you get a visa. And that’s what disturbs me."

Please read the rest of that interview to see the above quote in it's full context. It's disturbing stuff. Again, if you are interested in the recent media hoopla surrounding Richard Clarke and the 9/11 investigation, do yourself a favor and read See No Evil. It's eye opening.

On to Baseball: I got a lot of comments on my post about Rivera and his hall worthiness. A few people think I'm oversimplifying by only looking at Mo's rate stats, and others thought I was off base for comparing Mo to a bunch of starters. The latter complaint is true because it makes the analysis not kiwis to kiwis but maybe something like cumquats to persimmions or some such thing. I'm glad that people have their own opinions and felt moved to comment. It's good to keep the discussion going. When I do an analysis I don't pretend to examine the issue from every side, but I did think it was compelling to look at Mo's rates of success in comparison to some legendary pitchers. If you think it's meaningless because I didn't look at A,B,C and D, then that's cool too.

The regular season starts tomorrow, at least for the Yankees and the Devil Rays and the Japanese. Couple of things, Matsui hit a big bomb in an exhibition game back in his old Kentucky home which was neat for the fans and the media. I like Matsui, I think he's a good story and a solid player and I'm gald to have him on the Yankees.

Also, Kenny Lofton is pissy because he's now going to be hitting 9th. Isn't this the same guy who said he'd "Park Cars" if that's what they needed him to do? For my money, I'd rather have Sheffield who maybe a malcontent but is also one of the best hitters in the League, than Lofton who is an over the hill whiny malcontent. I love this move, Jeter has a slightly higher career OBP than Lofton (.387 to .373) and last year Jeter's OBP was .393 to Lofton's .352. TIm McCarver likes to say that he doesn't understand all the fuss about batting order since how often does the leadoff hitter actually leadoff, after the first inning. Well Tim may be right but what's more important is that the leadoff hitter gets the most Plate Appearaces over the course of a season. Don't you want the guy who comes to bat most frequently to be really good at getting on base? I do. Lofton is sad :( because he is used to batting leadoff. Well sure, he used to be really fast and people like really fast guys at the top of the lineup because then they can steal bases, but pretending for a second that Lofton was still the stolen base threat he was in his prime, let me say this about that....

If the Yankees try to steal a lot of bases this year, they are NUTS. Ok let's see, we have a lineup that has the following hitters somewhere in the middle, Sheffield, Giambi, A-Rod, Bernie, Posada.... let's try to steal bases!! Ummm this Yankee lineup ain't built with station to station in mind. If the Yankees don't attempt a steal all year I'll only be moderately shocked.

Anyhow, Lofton should shut up already or George might really take him up on that car parking thing, and then he probably wouldn't get dental benefits. As Uncle Junior might advise him, "Go shit in your hat!"**

*Legal Disclaimer: The sentence attached to this diacritical mark(*) herewith known as and represented by the diacritical mark (#) is intended to draw the readers attention to this legal disclaimer. THe author of this piece is irresponsible and scurrilous, and has no knowledge of facts or rumors that support the above assertion that Richard Clarke (henceforth know as 'Dick' and represented by the following diacritical mark '!') 'Kicks dogs." To the contrary it is the author who kicks dogs.##

** Legal Disclaimer 2: Neither the author of this sentence, his legal representation, or any individuals working as 'agents' on his behalf , David Chase, James Gandolfini, Dominic Chianese, or anyone else affiliated with the Sopranos actually recommends that Kenny Lofton "shit in his hat."

## Legal Disclaimer 3: The sentence above attached to this diacritical mark (##) is a bunch of hogwash.
# posted by Steve : 12:01 PM

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

How Big is Your Hall? 

The title of this post, How Big is Your Hall, is borrowed from a commentator over at Baseball Musings. The comment, "How big is your hall?" was directed at David Pinto's assertion that Mariano Rivera is HoF worthy. If someone is actually suggesting that Mariano isn't HoF worthy or somehow the Hall has to be enlarged to find a spot for Rivera, I must ask, 'How big is your bias?' or maybe, 'How big is your Red Sox cap?' Or 'How big is your Yankees Suck! t-shirt?' You get the idea.

There is a lot of bias against relievers when it comes time to HoF arguments. There seem to be a few reasons for this:

1) Relievers pitch far fewer innings than starters
2) Relievers don't put up anywhere near the number of Wins as starters
3) Specialist closers like Rivera only have to pitch to a handful of batters per game and so somehow that makes their job easier.

Well while reasons 1 and 2 are true, I don't think they have anything do do with how well a pitcher actually pitches. Relievers pitch fewer inning than starters because they are relievers, not starters. They are handicapped by the nature of their job and I don't think that is any reason to devalue their effectiveness when they ARE pitching. Next. Relievers don't get as many wins as starters. This is also true, as a matter of fact if I see a closer with a bunch of wins I know that he likely sucks and likely gets bailed out by his offense. In any event relievers don't get anywhere near the number of opportunities to get a Win as starters do, again this has nothing to do with their effectiveness as a pitcher.

So how do we measure how good a pitcher is? I think evaluating and comparing pitchers based on their Won/Loss records is one of the WORST ways to evaluate how good a pitcher is. Wins and Losses are significantly effected by offense (runs scored). A pitcher who plays for the Yankees and gives up 4 runs a game is a lot more likely to win than a pitcher who allows 4 runs a game and plays for oh, say the Dodgers.

To me counting stats like wins and losses and saves are a pretty goofy way to tell how effective a pitcher is. We've all heard the stories of the guy who pitched a no-hitter and lost the game because of errors or a walk here and there. The pitcher didn't stink but because he got an L put next to his name, someone who loves stats like Wins and Losses will tell you he does. But, after all what is a pitchers job? To keep runners off the bases and keep runs off the board. So to me a great pitcher doesn't give up a lot of hits, doesn't give up a lot of Walks, strikes out enough opposing batters to take the pressure of his defense, and doesn't give up a lot of runs. In order to be HoF worthy he needs to do it consistently and in a pretty dominant fashion.

So that brings us to Rivera, I did a quick and dirty comparison of some of Mo's rate stats, against the same stats of the following 10 HoF pitchers:

Jim Bunning
Nolan Ryan
Steve Carlton
Don Drysdale
Lefty Grove
Whitey Ford
Bob Gibson
Phil Niekro
Satchel Paige
Cy Young

Not a bad list if you ask me. And it was randomly selected. Ok so how do they stack up? I'm glad you asked. Let's look at a basic stat first, ERA. Average number of Earned Runs allowed per 9 innings:

Mariano Rivera 2.49
Whitey Ford 2.74
Bob Gibson 2.91
Don Drysdale 2.95
Lefty Grove 3.06
Nolan Ryan 3.19
Steve Carlton 3.22
Jim Bunning 3.27
Satchel Paige 3.29
Phil Niekro 3.35
Cy Young N/A

Are you kidding me? Mariano Rivera is better at keeping runs off the board than the other esteemed pitchers who ARE in the HoF? Must be some mistake. Actually no it isn't a mistake and other stats bear this out. Rivera ranks second only to Nolan Ryan in Hits allowed per inning (.794,) he's number one in WHIP, defined as Walks+Hits per inning (1.066,) and he leads the pack again in K/BB striking out 3.3 batters for every free pass issued.

Add to the impressive measures of effectiveness I've spelled out above, the fact that Rivera has been closing the door since 1998 for the Yankees, he's done it with basically one pitch in a predictable location, he's been to the post season every year since 1996 (so it isn't like he's sneaking up on anybody,) he won the World Series MVP in 1999, and the ALCS MVP in 2003, and the Rolaids Relief award in 1999 and 2001, and I can't imagine how you could think this guys isn't Hall worthy.

Bottom line, besides Michael Jordan, Mariano Rivera is the most dominant athlete I've seen in my lifetime, if he doesn't walk into the Hall of Fame, I'll have yet another reason to find the Hall little more than a spiritual nice idea in a beautiful bucolic setting.
# posted by Steve : 1:33 PM

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Gone Fishin' 

In case anyone cares, I'll be blogging very very sporadically over the next week or so. I'm going on vacation starting tomorrow evening and will have no access, then the following week I'll be travelling on business before heading to St. Louis to hang with my lovely (seriously, she is lovely) girlfriend. I'll try to post a little during the business trip, there should be some long lonely nights in hotel rooms.

Upon my return I'll post the first in a series of reviews of the new baseball video games. There's a good crop this year so if you're into gaming stay tuned.


# posted by Steve : 3:04 PM

Balls 

Over at Baseball Musings, David Pinto posted a post that posited that pitcher Jason Schmidt thinks MLB has some pretty big balls. To be sepcific Schmidt thinks that the baseballs they are using in Spring Training down in Arizona, are bigger than the balls he pitched with last year. Of course I have no idea if they are or are not but Schmidt suggests that one explanation for the balls being larger is the dry air in Arizona.

This hypothesis is incorrect, dry air would make the balls smaller as is pointed out in this quote I found on CNN/SI.com that was reporting on the Humidor Experiment in Coors Field,

"The chamber, which works much like a cigar humidor, is designed to keep balls from drying out and shrinking in the low humidity of Denver."

So maybe the balls are bigger, but the dry air in Arizona ain't the reason why.


# posted by Steve : 9:40 AM

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Fashionably Late 

I have to admit, I'm not a joiner. I don't like belonging to the club, the gang or the fraternity. I much prefer to be the detached outsider because it gives you enough distance and space to criticize those who ARE in the club without feeling like a hypocrite. I suppose a therapist would say it was a weak ego thing, don't join the group and you never have to worry about being rejected. I bring all this up because when you write a blog about baseball, you are sort of part of a fraternity, you link to other bloggers and they link to you. They mention worthwhile pieces you write and in turn you get more readers. You return the favor and we all help to perpetuate each other. But relying on others for approval is not something I relish. Then, there's the fact that I have a bit of a narcissistic streak (I think all writers and artists do actually) so I'm not necessarily the first to direct attention to other people.

Maybe this is the underlying reason that I didn't post an entry yesterday mentioning the new arrival into the blogsphere (I mean really, can we come up with some better terminology, "Sir you seem to have a hemmorage in your blogshpere just between the third and fourth Islets of Langerhans,") The Hardball Times.

The Hardball Times looks on paper to be a daily must-read, contributing writers will be Larry Mahnken and Alex Belth among lots of others. Mahnken and Belth are already 2 of my favorite bloggers so THT should be a slam-dunk, can't miss, grand slam, 3-Game sweep of a blog, based on that alone.

Aaron Gleeman, the uber-prolific Peter North of blogging, is one of the sites founders and editors and gets the ball rolling with a look at the Top 50 prospects in baseball. As an aside here, it's funny that you very rarely hear Yankee fans talking about the Top 50 prospects in baseball. People who root for other teams indulge in that but Yankee fans don't seem to give a hoot about prospects, I guess it's because we know that the price you pay for having All-Stars at every position is having a bunch of nobodies in the Farm System. Smaller market fans look to the minors and see the future, Yankee fans look to the A's starting rotation and see the future. I'm not saying it's healthy, just saying how it is.

Back to The Hardball Times, it's a veritable smargasbord of baseball comment that comes at you from almost every angle. Here's a sampling of topics that are being addressed:

Batter’s Box - Statistical Evaluations of College Hitters
Fantasy Rankings: First Base
Rivals in Exile: Off-Season Review

Not bad huh? And keep in mind this site has been up for exactly a day. So that's the deal, Head on over to The Hardball Times and tell 'em I sent ya. Or not, I don't need you, I don't need ANYONE!!!
# posted by Steve : 12:11 PM

The Mechanics of Great Hitting 

The study of sabermetrics has definitely educated me but at the same time it leaves me frustrated and here's one reason why. Sabermetric analysis is a great way to clearly articulate WHAT happened and predict what MIGHT happen in the future but it doesn't tell you WHY things happen.

I believe that there are two fields of baseball related science that may help answer the WHY question. First is the Physics of Baseball, baseball is after all, a cacophony of objects in motion. Simple enough. Second is the Psychology of Baseball; the underlying reasons why people do or don't do things. I'm committed to studying both subjects this season. Partly because there are so many sabermetrically inclined blogs out there that I don't really have much to add to the subject on a regular basis and second because Psychology and Physics (vis a vis baseball) are not as well covered subjects and frankly are fascinating.

With that in mind I came across this article on a website simply called Batspeed. From what I can tell the guy who did these studies, Jack Mankin, is a former Little League coach and most likely a physicist, although he doesn't come right out and say it, he does refer to batspeed as ..."The bat's rate of angular displacement," so you do the math. Mankin is committed to the issue of batspeed and what the best, most effective methods of producing batspeed are.

The most timely and presicent article on the site is entitled "Rise in Offence (sic) Stats-Research." It's a snappy title I know, but try not to get lost in the melody of the words, and consider this passage from the opening of the article,

"Subject: In 1993, I predicted (on videotape) that the number of homeruns would sharply rise and the 60 home run level would be challenged by a number of players.

Over the past few years there has been much speculation about the cause for the sharp rise in offense numbers, especially home runs. Normally, a 50 home run hitting performance would be fairly rare, today it is becoming more common. Most of the experts claim this rise is the result of players getting stronger and the lack of good pitching. Others would blame it on juiced balls; although manufactures claim it isn't true. Research I conducted leads me to a very different conclusion.


The first line of the second paragraph is interesting in light of what's going on around baseball because one of the factors cited for the rise in offensive production is steroids. The author doesn't mention this although he does say "Most experts claim this rise is the result of players getting stronger," which could certainly be attributed to performance enhancing drugs. The authors conclusion though has nothing to do with andro or creatine or HGH or even HGTV, no, it's a lot more honest than that,

"My findings show that the rise in offense stats is more due to a growing number of players who have mastered a type of swing mechanics that allows them to generate much greater bat speeds."

Read the rest of the article and check out the other articles on his site, it's interesting at the very least.
# posted by Steve : 11:25 AM

Monday, March 15, 2004

Monday Morning Sing Along 

Slow and Mournfull Gospel Spiritual
Sung to the tune of Ol' Man River
Bloated Payroll, Dat Bloated Payroll
It Must Have Limits, But like the rear of J-Lo
It just keeps rollin, it keeps on rollin along

It buys you taters
And it buys you heroes
But dem healthy pitchers
Just end up Astros
And dat bloated payroll, it keeps on rollin along

Selig and Henry bitch and moan
"Steinbrenner's the Emperor on his throne"
Payroll Tax and Sal'ry Cap
Revenue Sharing won't fix this crap
But Bernie's Gimpy
And Lieber's Cryin
On Kevin Brown I won't be Relyin'
But that Bloated Payroll it just keeps rollin along

Jeter's at Short, A-rod's at Third
And Cashman he don't think dat's weird
The unearned runs pile up like nuts
But the seats they all stay filled with butts
Add a Starter and a Reliever
So long that starters name ain't Jeff Weaver!
And that Bloated Payroll It just keeps rolling along

# posted by Steve : 9:49 AM

Friday, March 12, 2004

Only Lunatics Matter 

John Perricone, proprietor of Only Baseball Matters, thinks I'm a raving lunatic. I'm not too offended by that. John suggests that my views are based in some party line. I guess that's a reasonable assumption but it's not true. I'm strictly against any party that doesn't involve Snoop Dogg and Cristal.


# posted by Steve : 4:57 PM

Thursday, March 11, 2004

The Straw that Stirs the Shiznit 

Reggie Jackson had a respectable if not stunning career OBP of .356. This morning though, Reggie is off base, way off base. Jackson opines that "Someone is guilty," refering of course to everyone's favorite topic, steroids. Jackson then goes on to essentially point a finger at Barry Bonds saying,

"Henry Aaron never hit 50 in a season, so you're going to tell me that you're a greater hitter than Henry Aaron? "Bonds hit 73 [in 2001], and he would have hit 100 if they would have pitched to him. I mean, come on, now. There is no way you can outperform Aaron and Ruth and Mays at that level."

Why Reggie, why? Why is there no way to out perform Aaron and Ruth and Mays? Why isn't it conceivable that Barry Bonds is just simply a recent and worthy addition to that Pantheon of Great Hitters. Whether or not he took steroids Barry Bonds is the greatest hitter I've ever seen in my life. Just becuase he has usurped some of the legendary hitter of the game doesn't mean that he had to cheat to do it.

I believe that the effects of muscled enhancers would translate to home runs being hit farther not necessarily more home runs being hit. Reggie is showing an in group/out group bias that is unfortunately laughable.


# posted by Steve : 9:29 AM

Monday, March 08, 2004

You can get with This or You can get with That.... 

....When I think of that song I think of Christopher Walken, and when I think of Christopher Walken I think of two things. First, the movie "The King of New York." This is one of the most underrated gangster flicks I've ever seen. In addition to Walken as a classically creepy drug dealer, the movie features Wesley Snipes, Laurence Fshburne (in his best role EVER) and David Caruso. I can't stand Snipes or Caruso but they work in King of New York. Just a great example of modern film noir.

The second thing I think of when I think of Christopher Walken is Jay Mohr on SNL doing Christopher Walken in a commercial for Skittles. "They're bite sized! They come in fruit flavuh's! ........Grape! No one...will know!"

Ok now that that's out of the way, you'll be happy to know that I am finished with the steroid topic for at least the next 3 months. It's a self imposed moratorium necessitated by the fact that the entire issue makes me crazy, and I don't really have that much spare sanity lying around, I need to protect what I have.

I'm more than a little bit disturbed by this piece on ESPN.com. It seems everyone's favorite ex-Hotlantan jammed and reinjured a thumb injury. Normally I wouldn't think too much of this but when Brian Cashman says he's worried, well, I'm worried. I'm certainly no Will Carrol and I don't know a darn thing about injuries but I would suspect that hand and wrist injuries can really affect a hitter. Ugh.

The Yankees have a 3-1 spring training record and they beat the Red Sox yesterday, which is always nice but when they do most of their damage against a guy named Jason Shiell and their own castoff Ed Yarnall, well let's just say it's Spring Training so nothing to get too excited about. Cliff over at Cliff's Big Red Blog is doing a fantastic job of recapping the games, as well as providing some wonderful background on the Yankess Non-Roster Invitees. If you aren't a regular reader of the BRB you should be. Cliff is money, and he doesn't even know it. Well, maybe he does know it, I frankly have no clue.

Dork Alert: Stop Reading Here if you have some semblance of a life.
Tomorrow begins an annual tradition for me when EA Sports releases it's entry into the Playstation2 Baseball game lineup. There are several different games being released this month but EA's MVP Baseball 2004 is the first out of the gate and the one game getting pretty glowing reviews.

I aim to get all the games and do an extensive review/comparison of the different titles. I'll post it to the blog if anyone cares. Stay Tuned there will definitley be more MVP Baseball posting in the coming weeks.



# posted by Steve : 1:40 PM

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Hypocrisy and The Big Lie 

As noted in my previous post the guy who writes a blog called Only Baseball Matters took a shot at my opinion on the steroid issue. He summarily dismissed my points that steroids have been linked to dangerous health complications, and he ridiculed my assertion that the FDA (In the absence of any other organized regulatory body) should restrict and regulate steroids. The direct quote can be found in the post below.

Well it's funny you know. Because while this writer so sanctimoniously passed judgement on my opinions he contradicted himself. I took the time to peruse his blog and found the following comment from one of his readers, the bolding of the first line of the second paragraph is my emhasis,

"What continues to boggle my mind about this whole brou-ha-ha is the pious pontificating about the threat to the "sanctity" of baseball's records. When, exactly were baseball's records ever sacrosanct? In the 19th Century, when players threw games on a regular basis and cheated with impunity on the field (read Richard Scheinin's Field of Screams for a great description of 1890's thuggery)? Before 1920, when pitchers could do anything they wanted to a baseball and the same ball was used for the entire game, no matter how disgusting it got? In the 60's and 70's, when amphetimine use became commonplace in every baseball clubhouse? For that matter, how many "sacred" records are dependent on the whims of some bozo of an official scorekeeper?

Steroid use presents serious risks to an individual, and I believe that it should be regulated and restricted. To claim that it undermines the integrity of the game, however, is ludicrous. This isn't Olympic sh-amateurism, but professional athletics. These guys have enormous incentives to enhance performance, and to expect them not to take advantage of anything that could provide that enhancement is Pollyannaish at best. Bans and witchhunts will work about as well as they have in the rest of the War on Drugs; that is, not at all."

The bold line above come from a reader of Only Baseball Matters. And it says in essence exactly what I am saying. So naturally our esteemed blogger Mr Perricone sanctimouniously dismissed him right? Check this out, (Warning it's a pretty intense and graphic dressing down of this poor fellow,)

"Absolutely awesome! That's a hell of a rant, and dead on. Thanks, Mark."


Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. Dead on huh?

Look, being that this Only Baseball Matters dude is obviously a Giants fan and obvioulsy a Barry fan I guess his defensiveness is totally expected. He covers all the bases. Basically Perricone contends that,

1) Barry never took roids

2) If he did it doesn't matter because there is nothing wrong with roids

3) People who complain about roids messing up the sanctity of the game are wackos.

Ok let me point a few things out, 1) I never said that Barry took steroids. I KNOW that it is possible that he did. And I think it's likely that he has. But I also think it's just as likely that Sheff and Giambi have too, so it has nothing to do with who I root for. But the point is I don't know and neither does anyone else. 2) I think there is something wrong with people taking untested, unregulated and un prescribed pharmaceuticals. 3) I don't give a shit about the sanctity of the game. Why should the game have sanctity? Baseball has an essential ethereal beauty in its complex simplicity. That is what is holy about the game to me. Watching kids play in a field on a warm summer night, that's a beautiful thing. But at the end of the day I really don't care who hit 700 HR's or whether he was on the juice or whether or not he was a tax evader, gambler, wife beater or whatever. That crap has nothing to do with baseball as far as I'm concerned. I just want to watch Soriano grin, and Jeter do that squinting thing as he steps in, I want to hang on the drama of a 1-2 count in the late innings of a playoff game. I want to watch my Yankees win so i can keep watching them play unitl there are no more games to play. I want to see the flashbulbs going off like fireworks in that Palace in the Bronx, on a chilly October night.

For that matter, I want walk along the Embarcadero on a summer Tuesday on my way home from work and stop to stand behind the gate in right field at Pac Bell. And I want to get there just in time to see one of Barry's missles strafe over my head and plunk into the Cove (That moment and my attendance at Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS are by far the highlights of my life as a baseball fan.)

Frankly, I don't care what Barry is doing when he's not playing the game. For crying out loud these guys aren't heros. If they're juiced I don't give a damn. It's like looking at a supermodel in a push up bra and wearing a ton of makeup. It still looks pretty even though it might be a lie. In my Real Life, I want authenticity. But if Barry Bonds hit's 900 home runs or never hits another, I won't sleep any less at night.

But I do care about the law, because without the law this society would have fallen apart a long long long time ago. If there are standards for pharmaceuticals, let's uniformly enforce them. To just cave in and say, "Oh well it's no skin off my apple. Let the animals run wild because that's what they want to do." Well that's admitting defeat and then rationalizing it away. Saying "Well, we can't stop them from doing it so let's instead just ignore it," is pathetic.









# posted by Steve : 3:35 PM

Talking Smack 

Only Baseball Matters is an informative, relatively well written blog about baseball and specifically the Giants. The proprietor, a John J. Jingleheimer Perricone, takes me to task in no uncertain terms regarding my post about the steroid issue , "As pointed out above, Steve is wrong here. There is little evidence that proves any of these claims about the dangers of steroids, and as for the FDA, please. The FDA approves drugs that have harmful side effects as fast as lightning, provided they are manufactured by a company that has well-paid lobbyists."

When he says "pointed out" he means "as OPINED" above. Here's the quote that opines that I'm wrong, "Tracy Olrich, of Central Michigan University's Department of Physical Education and Sport, says the emerging consensus is that benefits of therapeutic steroid use vastly outweigh the risks, and points out that, for decades, according to conservative estimates, over a million people at any one time have taken illegal steroids. Only eleven deaths, and most of them only indirectly caused by steroids, he says, have been linked to their use. "Compare that," Olrich prompts, "to smoking, liposuction or bicycle riding."

Liposuction's shockingly high death rate is estimated to be between 30 and 1000 per million patients. An equally useful comparison would be to the sporting activities steroids supposedly imperil; amateur football, for example. According to the University of North Carolina-based National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injuries, out of the approximately 1.5 million American football players in junior high, high-school and college. Fifteen died in 2002 -- down from 23 in 2001."

Ok first of all things can be permanently debilitating and injurious without killing a person I don't think death rates are the end all be all here. Second of all let's stop being so disingenuous, "Liposuctions shockingly high death rate." Well that death rate is number one an ESTIMATE, and number two part of a pretty big range. 30-1000 per million. So that's a RATE of .00003 to .001. That's a huge swing and if all you've got to work with are ESTIMATES, then don't tell me I'm wrong. Thanks.

Secondly, I am not saying the FDA is perfect, far from it. The FDA does get things wrong, but you know what, if it weren't for the FDA, what would stop Flonase from putting a little liquid heroin into the mix to hook everyone on their product.

You can't just say, let's legalize steroids without A) defining what exactly you are talking about, and B) submitting them to research and scrutiny.

As for the statement, "...and as for the FDA, please. The FDA approves drugs that have harmful side effects as fast as lightning, provided they are manufactured by a company that has well-paid lobbyists." This is unequivocal BULLSHIT.

The typical pharmaceutical product is researched, tested and sent through the FDA approval process in a time frame of about 7 years. Now if you're a smart guy and go to the FDA website they will tell you that it takes 6 months for approval under their new streamlined process, but that is only AFTER years of clinical trials are concluded. If that fits your definition of fast as lighting, then you probably thought Tino Martinez was a hell of a stolen base threat.

As for the well paid lobbyists this is also crap. In my non blogging life I work with pharmaceutical companies (not as a lobbyist) and I can tell you that they ALL have well paid lobbyists and the number of drugs that are rejected by the FDA or internally scrapped even BEFORE they get to the FDA is staggering.

You don't like the FDA good for you. But please don't suggest that we don't need some type of testing and regulation and supervised administration of potentially mood altering substances that by design have a profound effect on the muscular, skeletal, cardiovascular and endocrine systems of the body. It's not all about death rates.

One other pet peeve. Let's not talk about tobacco and alcohol. I do not speak on behalf of the FDA, I am making no point about whether or not booze and cigarettes should be outlawed. So let's debate the topic at hand. Not some handy strawman.
# posted by Steve : 12:51 PM

The Canonization of Saint Barry 

There's a guy who writes a pretty regular column on ESPN.com's Page 2 named Ralph Wiley. Wiley is an interesting character. He is essentially an editorialist, his columns are generally based on opinion, and his own experience with the athletes and games he's covered in his long and distinguished career as a sports writer.

According to his byline, "Ralph Wiley has written articles for Sports Illustrated, Premiere, GQ, and National Geographic, and many national newspapers. He was one of the original NFL Insiders on NBC. His many books include "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir," "Why Black People Tend To Shout," "By Any Means Necessary: The Trials and Tribulations of the Making of Malcolm X" with Spike Lee, "Dark Witness," "Best Seat in the House" with Spike Lee, "Born to Play" with Eric Davis, and "Growing Up King" with Dexter Scott King and the children of Martin Luther King Jr. He contributes to many ESPN productions, and bats cleanup on a weekly basis for Page 2."

There is something I find attractive about Ralph's writing, it has a poetic, somewhat musical quality to it. He writes like a jazz musician, he invents characters to dilogue with and he uses words like sharps and flats to keep the reader guessing. In short, He doesn't write the way any other columnist writes, he's essential, he's 'couture.' And I like that, I like couture.

There are things about Wiley that I don't like though. Wiley's hook, his motif, his fallback device is race. Now I understand that race is a fairly important topic especially in America, as such maybe I am being terribly insensitive to marginalize the topic by calling it a hook or a device. But when Mr. Wiley writes a column like the one that was published today, I have to believe it's a cheap drum that Ralph is beating because it's the easiest way to stir things up.

The column is titled: Is it Steroids or Sour Grapes?

In the column, Wiley flat out says that the allegations of steroid use against Barry Bonds are nothing more than sour grapes. He implies that, there is some sort of media conspiracy to devalue Bonds as he closes in on the Babe's home run total. This is of course understandable. The media, which as we all know is controlled by unilaterally bigoted white people, can't stand the fact that a non-white person might unseat the Great White Hero of Baseball. So they have concocted an investigation, called a phantom Grand Jury, probably BALCO is a figment of some shadowy white man's imagination, all in order to bastardize the accomplishments of one Barry Bonds. Gary Sheffield is not within sniffing distance of the Babe so it's rather peculiar that he was named in the investigation. Jason Giambi is a white man but he of course was implicated just for the sake of appearances.

Yes, the great, noble Barry Bonds, the poor unfortunate man is being torn down by a conspiracy, because the white establishment is jealous that he may break Babe Ruth's home run record.

Certainly it is OUTRAGEOUS to suggest that Barry Bonds may be taking illegal performance enhancing supplements. There is no way he could be doing that. If he were taking illegal steroids, Wiley argues, how do you explain his longevity. It's not possible that Barry Bonds is smart enough to take steroids in a new and ingenious way so as to minimize the negative effects on his body. No, Barry is a Saint but he's not that smart.

To suggest that there is racism throbbing like an evil tumor in this country is one thing. It is sad and it is destructive but it is true. To state that we don't know all the facts about Barry's supplement habits is also true. I don't know the facts, you don't know the facts, Ralph Wiley doesn't know the facts either. But to suggest that these allegations are springing up because there is some vast White Wing Conspiracy that is only interested with preserving the sanctity of Babe Ruths' home run total is completely insulting.

I like Ralph Wiley's writing but I wish he'd spare me from these invented pieties.
# posted by Steve : 11:45 AM

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Fun With Out of Context Quotes 

It looks like Toronto GM J.P Riccardi has a new plan for funding the Blue Jays,

"If we get a little crack, we've got to take advantage of it. It might be the only crack we get."

That's a good attitude J.P. Also if you get some trucker speed you should take advantage of that too.

# posted by Steve : 1:33 PM

Roid Rage 

I'm afraid that this will be a day that lives in infamy. For the first time in the BALCO investigation, specific players are being named.

Most notably, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds are implicated in statements made to federal prosecutors. Statements, that say that BALCO delivered steroids to the three players. Predictably the players are denying that they ever took the Performance Enhancing Substances (PES,) or they are claiming that they never knowingly took any illegal substances. Is this possible? Sure. Jason Giambi receives an unmarked vial of pills and calls up his buddies at BALCO and asks them, "Hey what are these blue pills?" And the guys at BALCO say, "They're to remind you to take the red pills...WINK WINK." It's possible, sure it is. But it's not likely, not when it's their business to know what they are putting in their bodies and why. I highly doubt a man of Barry Bonds intelligence and fanatical preparation, ingests anything without knowing what it is and what it does.

Sadly, Major League Baseball will most likely do nothing here. Even if it's proven that these athletes knowingly took illegal substances. In the absence of a positive urine test or blood test, MLB will say that technically these players didn't violate the rules in the CBA and, "Sorry our hands are tied." Either that or they'll back whatever unlikey story the players come up with to totally wash their hands of the whole thing.

MLB has its head in the sand but unfortunately, they're not the only ones.

I know that some people that I respect a great deal believe that steroids can be just another tool in the workout regimine, Just another technical advancement and should be regulated and legalized. Fine, if you really believe that, but to excuse players who are now testing positive? To say essentially, "what's the big deal it doesn't tarnish the records, Maybe Barry is on steroids and Babe Ruth wasn't (unless you believe the nonsensical ramblings of everybodies favorite truck washer,) but Barry also plays in a different era, uses better bats, weight training, juiced balls, suckier pitching...why should steroids tarnish the record if those other things dont?" But that's bunk and it's beside the point. Fooling around with pharmaceuticals is dangerous business. If these things are really harmless, let's put them through the proper channels, get them tested and approved by the FDA, prescribed by doctors, then you can tell me that they are perfectly inocuous, similar to a protein shake. But steroids have been linked to heart disease, jaundice, violently agressive behavior (which doesn't stop after the athlete stops athleteing.) In athletes who have not yet physically matured, steroids have been linked to premature bone disease where in the bones stop growing while the rest of the body continues growing.

What's interesting of course is that for all of these side effects there are rationalizations. People say, "well you have to take them correctly, you have to be supervised." Fine let's do that then, let's maka rule that in order to take them you must be supervised by a doctor and you can't take any substance that hasn't been approved by the FDA for a specific purpose. If steroids are so harmless I don't see the problem with this approach.

Until that day, they are illegal, banned and uncontrolled. The potential for injury and profound illness is very real when we have a bunch of mad scientists running around trying to make their clients x % stronger or give them x% more stamina. In reality what they may end up with are paranoia, clinical narcissism and borderline mania.

I hate to get so political, and possibly polarizing on this blog but then again where else am I gonna do it? I do 't care if steroids are potentially harmless when used "correctly." First of all, I think that the mood altering qualities of steroids need to be studied much more intensely, not to mention the deleterious physical effects on the drug user. But the bottom line is this, if steroids are illegal at the time you take them, you have broken the rules and what good is a rule unless it comes with a penalty for violation.

All of this saddens me. I believe that without steroids, Giambi, Sheffileld and Bonds would still be three of the greatest hitters of their era. I don't like the fact that to the casual (more easily jaded) baseball fans this will make all baseball players look like a bunch of goons. It will devalue their real talent because people who don't really understand how hard it is to hit a little ball moving 90 mph with a stick, will just say, 'yeah but wasn't that the guy on steroids?' Poof! Just like that the reputation is shot and that is a sad sad thing.

I can see a malestrom coming and unfortunately this whole mess is going to get a lot more messy in the weeks and months to come. I have a bad feeling about the effect on the game.
# posted by Steve : 11:19 AM

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