Archive for January, 2006

My (Not So) Expert Opinion on the WBC

Sunday, January 22nd, 2006

As we get ready to put the month of January to a close, we move closer to the first World Baseball Classic. There are mixed reactions and opinions on this new idea invented in the Selig regime. Until recently, I have not really cared to think about it. Now, as we are very near to it’s birth, I’ve decided to weigh in with my thoughts on the idea, as well as opinions on criticisms I’ve heard mentioned.

Why I like the idea of the WBC

1. It allows us to cheer for our country – It’s always fun when the Olympics come around. As a kid, I used to hate waiting four years for the next time I could cheer on my country. Who cares that we didn’t really know a lot of the competitors names, aside from what the commentators and networks told us. It was just fun watching your country take on the best of the rest and come away as the winner. This World Baseball Classic gives me the opportunity to cheer on the United States as our best players represent the country that invented the game we love. What can be better than that?

2. It allows me to see some of the world’s unknown stars – It’s always fun when rumors begin to fly about a foreign star that is about to sign a contract to come play for a team in the United States. Usually it is the Yankees, Dodgers or the Mariners that end up reaping the benefits, but it is still fun nonetheless. The problem is, because we are not able to watch baseball that goes on in Japan, and because their websites are all in Japaneese, we do not know much about the players that come, other than what we are told. What a cool way to get to see some of the best in the world, live with our own eyes. Maybe someone will stick out for me and when that player comes over, I’ll have seen him play before. The more intimate you are with a sport, the more fun it is to follow it. Hopefully the WBC will give us that opportunity.

3. It allows me to watch the greatest players in the major leagues play before opening day for something that matters. – I hate watching spring training games because of the fact that players are simply going through routines to get themselves ready for the season. The players that are considered the “locks” to make the squad are not concerned with impressing the team or the fans in the spring. They are doing what they need to do to make sure they are ready for the season. Now, with the WBC, they will be playing for the pride of their country. As a result, the hope is that they will be giving it their all and playing for pride. Obviously that doesn’t mean sliding hard to break up double plays and bowling over catchers, but certainly players will play harder than they do in spring training, and for that I am excited about watching.

Why people do not like the idea of the WBC

Some people will argue against the WBC with the following arguments. I say phooey on them, and here is why:

1. It makes the baseball season that much longer – Is it possible to watch too much baseball? For some, like Ernie Banks, no. For me, and I am sure for some of you though, there comes a point where you need baseball games to go away for a month or two so you can rest and recharge for the next season. Now with the WBC, it makes the length of meaningful baseball that much longer, right? Wrong!!! We still have our couple of months off from baseball games. Because the WBC is in March, when spring training is taking place, it doesn’t increase the length of the season at all.

2. We are running the risk of injuries to our players – This is not a strong argument against the WBC, in my opinion, but it’s one that comes to mind anyway. Sure, we do run the risk of injury to our players, but then again, so does the other teams in the league. St. Louis could easily lose Albert Pujols for the season, just like we could lose Derrek Lee. Am I worried? Sure I am. But, what I have got to believe is that injuries can happen at any time. Whether it happens while a player is playing in the WBC or in Spring Training is irrelevant. Players are at risk as soon as they put on their uniform. We can’t think about it or it will eat us alive.

3. Pitchers will be forced to work too many innings – Do you really think this is true? If I read the schedule correctly, the US could play a max of 7 games if they win the whole thing. That takes place over two weeks. So basically you have a game every other day for two weeks. That is nothing compared to the usual cumbersome schedule that a player is forced to go through during the regular season and especially the playoffs. With the teams allowed 30 players, that figures to mean that each team will carry anywhere from 12 to 16 pitchers. With that being the case, lets look at some of the numbers.

Assuming that each of the seven games goes nine innings, that means a total of 63 innings for pitchers to pitch. If you got each man equal amount of time on the mound, that accounts for a total of 3.9 innings of work for the entire WBC. That is far from pitcher overuse. Obviously starters will go longer than four innings, but even if they do, how much will going seven hurt? Starters will get one, maybe two starts at most. When you figure in what they would normally get in that span of spring training, it seems to work out to less from the WBC. Because of this, I am not worried about pitcher overuse during the event. Because we have the best of the best out there for our countries, we should also be able to put in any player and be confident that they will get the job done. With that being said, the need for overuse should be eliminated as a result.

Conclusion

While many people are skeptical and bitter at the idea, I think it will be a tremendous success. With the addition of Cuba to the mix, the tournament can now be billed correctly as a tournament of the best in the world. Because of this, I say “Bring on the WBC…Go USA”

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Fool Award for the Day

Sunday, January 22nd, 2006

As I am watching the 76ers / Timberwolves game today, Bill Walton, who in my opinion is a moron as a broadcaster, comes out with the statement of “It’s difficult to win when you are outscored each quarter.”

No Bill, you fool, It would be IMPOSSIBLE to win if you are outscored each quarter.

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Seriously?

Saturday, January 21st, 2006

How much more white trash can you get?

WHEATON, Illinois (AP) — A woman got a 30-day jail sentence for leaving her three young children home alone for several hours, while she and her boyfriend attended a videotaping of “The Jerry Springer Show.”

CNN.com – Full Article

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Keeping Score

Saturday, January 21st, 2006

*WARNING* This post pertains to one of the most insidious creations of the last 20 years – sports talk radio.

I will admit (under duress) that I used to listen to quite a lot of sports radio. I still do listen occasionally, but having only 2 stations in Chicago (670AM WSCR and AM1000 WMVP) can quickly burn a person out on these personalities. This post in particular deals with 670, better known to its listeners as The Score. The Score likes to bill itself as the fans’ station. Several of their on-air personalities had no broadcasting or sports journalism experience when they were hired (and it often shows), because these were supposed to be just regular guys, talking sports, free to rip the local teams without fear of retribution. One of the Score’s better moves came following the 2004 season, when they hired Steve Stone, who had just resigned from his job with the Cubs, to do baseball analysis for the station. It was a good move, as Stone obviously has a built in following, his baseball knowledge is excellent and they could promote him as the man who was too “dangerous” to work for the Chicago Cubs. immediately, the Score began billing Steve Stone as the guy who would “tell it like it is”. Stone played his own part well, starting a small war of words with Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood over his mechanics, before settling down and doing his usual terrific job talking baseball. The Score hosts, in particular ex-bleacher bum Mike Murphy, seemed to go out of their way to fan the flames of controversy, usually by attacking new hire Bob Brenly and accusing him of being a homer and a company mouth piece. When Brenly finally settled into the job and began to offer more pointed criticism from the booth, Mike Murphy responded by asking whether Brenly was going to be fired for telling the truth, like Stone had been (despite the fact that Stone resigned).

So, obviously, WSCR is a station of principle. They want to bring the best sports analysis that they can to listeners, and they certainly would never violate their principles by caving into pressure from one of the local teams, right? Maybe not. You see last summer WSCR aquired the rights to broadcast Chicago White Sox games, starting in 2006. Jerry Reinsdorf, the Sox owner, is known for wanting a say in the talent that works on the stations that air his teams’ games. Back in 2004, Reinsdorf is said to have played a major part in forcing Jay Mariotti out at AM1000. So I guess it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise when the Score announced today that longtime contributor Jimmy Piersall was being let go. Piersall and Reinsdorf have never gotten along, stretching all the way back to the early 1980′s when Jerry bought the White Sox and inherited one of the most critical announcing team in history; Jimmy Piersall and Harry Caray. Reinsdorf wanted “company men” in the booth and Caray saw the writing on the wall and jumped to the Cubs, with Jimmy being fired shortly afterwards.

Piersall is exactly what the Score says they want in an analyst, smart, knows his game, and is unafraid to speak his mind. In fact, comments he made on the station several years ago resulted in his firing as a minor league outfield instructor for the Cubs (putting him in the dubious company of Bruce Kimm and Larry Himes, as men who’ve been fired by both Chicago ballclubs). I hope Jimmy catches on somewhere else. The best 20 minutes of the Score’s broadcast week came when Piersall would call in and hijack Mike Murphy’s show. He was funny, he was informative, and he was fearless.

Too bad I can’t say the same for the Score.

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Where will the Cubs be on Memorial Day?

Thursday, January 19th, 2006

I’m flying up to Chicago to see the ATL/CHC games on May 27th and 28th with my father, so I was kind of wondering where the Cubs would be at that time. What are y’alls thoughts? Who will be in first place and where will the Cubs be?

My guess is that the Cubbies will be within four games of the first-place Milwaukee Brewers, with platoons pretty much in effect at short (Cedeno and Neifi) and left field (Murton and Grissom.) And Wood will be back in the rotation pitching well.

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They are not long, the laughter and the sorrow…

Thursday, January 19th, 2006

Not much of a newsworthy day, so I thought it might be fun to see where the prominent members of the 2003 Chicago Cubs are now (RET=retired, OOB=out of baseball, FA=free agent.) Let us know if you have any news about the ones that are out of baseball, free agents or if you have corrections!

Damian Miller: MIL
Eric Karros: RET, Color Commentator, ESPN
Mark Grudzielanek: KCR
Aramis Ramirez: CHC
Alex Gonzalez: FA
Moises Alou: SF
Corey Patterson: BAL
Sammy Sosa: FA (talking to WAS – minor league deal possible)
Ramon Martinez: FA (close to signing with COL – Rotoworld)
Kenny Lofton: LAD
Hee-seop Choi: LAD
Paul Bako: KCR
Troy O’Leary: OOB
Tom Goodwin: OOB
Mark Bellhorn: SD
Randall Simon: FA/OOB
Tony Womack: CIN
David Kelton: Invited to Braves spring camp
Bobby Hill: SD
Carlos Zambrano: CHC
Mark Prior: CHC
Kerry Wood: CHC
Matt Clement: BOS
Shawn Estes: SD
Juan Cruz: Invited to A’s spring camp
Sergio Mitre: FLA
Kyle Farnsworth: NYY
Todd Wellemeyer: Invited to Cubs spring camp
Antonio Alfonseca: FA

Out of a misty dream, our path emerges for a while, then closes within a dream.

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Let me tell you all a story

Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

I met this guy back in the mid 1980s, I can’t remember exactly when. The Yankees used to have their AA ballclub here in Nashville, and prospects such as Don Mattingly, Steve Balboni and Willie McGee all spent time here. Anyway Billy Martin used to come down to Nashville to check out the Yankees’ prospects, and he was also a huge country music fan. At the time I ran a limosine service that catered to celebrities and guests of a now-famous Nashville restaurant, the Nashville Union Stockyard Restaurant.

At the time the owner was a big-time country music publisher named Buddy Killen, so the people who performed in the nightclub downstairs (the Bullpen Lounge) were absolutely first-rate. When Billy came down to Nashville I used to pick him up in the limo at the Opryland Hotel and take him back afterwards (usually after a considerable amount of scotch I might add.)

The last time I drove Billy was about ten days before his death. Some of the Yankees’ minor league people saw him come in and said: “Was that Billy Martin?” Another responded: “Yep, sure was, he headed straight for the bar.” Billy had recently been made a Vice President for the Yankees, he told me that he was real frustrated with his “so-called promotion” because he cared a lot about the Yankees and wanted to help, but nobody in their front office would listen. A fan came up to him while we were talking and had some disparaging things to say about George Steinbrenner but Billy wouldn’t even listen. He just bit his tongue and walked away.

About thirteen scotches on the rocks later I drove Billy back to his hotel, I must say he held his liquor well. I had no idea that it would be the last time I saw the man. Ten days later Billy died in an accident; in eulogizing Billy George Steinbrenner said it was an untimely loss because Billy was “chomping at the bit” when it came to performing in his new job.

All of a sudden it dawned on me – everybody in baseball knew that Billy was in the late to chronic stages of alcoholism and so did George. I knew during all those hirings and firings that Billy was drawing a Yankee paycheck – it seemed there was an inexplicable bond between the two men that transcended their employment. Steinbrenner knew that Billy wasn’t “chomping at the bit” for a made-up job – he just wanted his old friend to go out in style. And so he did.

Nowadays I still hear people say things about George Steinbrenner and most of ‘em are true. But I still take ‘em with a grain of salt because of how he was with the only baseball personality I ever really knew – Alfred Manuel Martinez, aka Billy Martin.

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How Crazy is This?

Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

Look at these two Rotoworld stories:

1) Reds agreed to terms with outfielder Austin Kearns on a one-year, $1.85 million contract.

2) Orioles agreed to terms with outfielder Corey Patterson on a one-year, $2.8 million contract.

What the heck is that? Both Outfielders played like garbage last year, but how can the Orioles not tell Corey to shut up and take a pay cut? Are they that fearful of an arbitrator? What case does Patterson really have?

2005 Numbers (avg / obp / hr / rbi)
Kearns: .240 / .333 / 18 / 67

Patterson’s numbers were: .215 / .254 / 13 / 34

Corey Patterson is stealing every bit of that 2.8 million and Kearns, who I think is due for a BIG year will be severely underpaid in 2006.

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Questions for Hughes

Monday, January 16th, 2006

Alright guys, I am getting ready for my annual offseason interview with Pat Hughes. He called me today to ask when I’d like to interview him and I told him it would be at the end of the month. So, that gives you this week to let me know some of the questions and topics you would like to see me ask him. If you haven’t listened to last year’s interview, it is a good listen. So, if you have some you’d like to get in, e-mail me, catch me on AIM or leave it in the comment section.


On an unrelated note, I noticed this in an article the other day on Fox Sports.com. Normally I would not nit pick, and I have great respect for Ken Rosenthal, but this error made me chuckle.

The Cubs are intent on improving their defense, which is one reason they’re open to trading second baseman Todd Walker. The problem with moving Walker is that would cost the Cubs too much offense. Walker’s .789 career on-base percentage is 84 points higher than Jerry Hairston’s and 108 points higher than Neifi Perez’s. The Cubs conceivably could keep all three players and use Hairston as a super-utility man who could contribute in the infield and spell each of their outfielders.

Todd Walker gets on base 78% of the time? Hairston gets on 70%? And Neifi gets on at just under a 70% clip? Goodness that is some production. Poor Ken Rosenthal actually meant that Walkers OPS, which is On Base plus Slugging % was that high. It’s OK, it’s always nice to dream.

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