The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Friday, May 28, 2004

"Dream" Weaver Impresses Through Four, But Suffers First Defeat

The Miami Hurricanes took the first game of the regular season’s final series last night from Long Beach State. In the process, the Canes gave Dirtbags’ starter Jered Weaver his first loss on the 2004 campaign (check here for the Miami version of the events and here for the LBSU take on things – the articles have decidedly different perspectives).

Weaver’s performance wasn’t particularly bad (he did strike out eleven) but it wasn’t particularly good either (seven earned runs, four home runs, and four walks in six and one-third innings). On the surface, those stats probably sound worse than they were in reality. Weaver shut out the Canes through four innings, although a number of balls were hit well. In the seventh, when Weaver was well over 100 pitches for the night, things started to fall apart. Jered was lifted from the game with one out in the seventh with runners on first and second. By that time he was clearly tired, and few of us in the stands understood why he had been left in the game so long. The official count states that he threw 127 pitches in the game, which is definitely a lot, but certainly not a record number either. I would think it’s more than the Padres would have wanted to see him throw (and yes, there were a lot of scouts at the game tonight – the most seen at the Light this year since opening night against the Florida Gators when Justin Hoyman took the hill). If I was LBSU’s coach, it would definitely have been more pitches than I would have wanted to see from my pitcher, particularly with post-season play just one week away; but, I’m also sure that the LBSU, just like Miami, knows that this will be a tough series and that last night’s game was the closest thing that LBSU had to a guaranteed win, at least on paper.

Weaver’s breaking pitches were masterful and bordered on being unhittable. For much of the game it appeared that the Canes sat on his fastball – refusing to offer at any offspeed pitches unless there were two strikes. Until the fifth, this passive strategy seemed to be working against the Canes because Weaver was getting ahead of many hitters and that inevitably meant that breaking pitches were on the way when the Canes were behind in the count. Eventually though, the Canes started to get some fastballs when they were expecting them (or so it appeared), and they were able to drive those balls and score some runs. Surprisingly, Weaver’s fastball seemed to be particularly flat, although definitely hard (and Weaver seemed to reach back at times – particularly later in the game – for a harder than usual fastball).

On the negative side, Weaver’s mental preparation (documented in this ESPN article here – subscription required; and sorry, but it seems to be protected, so I can’t share any of the text here) almost seemed to suffocate him last night. Weaver has a lengthy pre-inning routine of, after he receives the ball back from one of his infielders, walking behind the mound, stretching his back and legs, shaking out his arms, and some other things. Once back on the mound, he stares in for his sign, comes set, takes a visibly deep breath, composes himself, and pitches. The frustrated person sitting next to me timed this exercise repeatedly throughout the game last night and noted that often, after Weaver steps onto the rubber, he takes upwards of twenty seconds to begin his delivery. Apparently this is part of his preparation routine, but last night it seemed to be a rather lengthy and unproductive process.

Last night’s game was just one start in what will likely be a very long career for Jered Weaver. Going into the game I was prepared to be impressed, and for much of the game I was. But given the hype that this young pitcher has received – including the possibility that he’s such a finished product as a pitcher that the Padres might call him up to the majors to pitch in a pennant race this fall – seems to be somewhat overblown. Miami’s lineup features some solid bats, including Ryan Braun, who Weaver played with on the US National team, but it is not the same sort of lineup that featured the likes of Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff, and Jason Michael in the late 90s. There are far fewer major league caliber players in this lineup, but they found a way to beat a major league talent on the hill. Weaver is still the best pitcher in college baseball, but he’s definitely not as invincible as we might have thought yesterday.

Interesting trivia tidbit, or at least I believe it to be: Long Beach State’s media information provided at last night’s game indicates that Jered Weaver was not drafted by a pro team coming out of high school. Given his older brother’s abilities, this surprises me. But I also thought that it was interesting that he went undrafted just three years ago and now stands to be the first pick in the 2004 draft. I believe the last player to go undrafted out of high school, but to be picked first overall after three years in college was Miami’s Pat Burrell. Interesting that those two clubs are playing against each other right now. Please correct me if I’m wrong.


Welcome to the latest edition of the mailbag, our not-quite-frequent-enough public response to your emails. Unless you tell me it’s ok when you send me your note, I will leave your name and hometown off of your question in order to protect the innocent. Also, please note, some of the “mail” below wasn’t exactly sent to me, but I took a question or two that was posed to another writer elsewhere and claimed it for my own. You can see what the original author responded with by following the associated link.

So Mike, when are you going to do an update on funny searches that you see finding your way to your site? That “Find it for me Mr. Google” hit you talked about awhile back made me laugh so hard that the coffee I was drinking came out of my nose and onto my keyboard.

Great question! I’ve been wanting to do another post like that one for awhile now. Frankly though, I don’t think that anything will ever live up to the Mr. Google search. I find myself asking Mr. Google to find things for me around the house now. I’ve also been a little afraid of some of the searches that I’ve seen lately – particularly the ones for Craig Minervini. That just seems wrong and I’m bothered that this site is associated with such things (Thom Brenneman too - although I suppose that I should stop writing about both of them too and then the hits I get reltaed to them will stop). There have also been a number of click-throughs relating to free donuts, which I am obsessed with, so it's hard to complain.

Andrea (TCNJ): Everyone made a big deal about that Almonte kid because he was two years older than his competition. Do you think that's why Bonds has been so dominant lately? He seems to have a huge age advantage.

How does the saying go? I think it's "you cannot be serious." For those of you who don't remember, "that Almonte kid" is Danny Almonte, a 14-year old who played in the Little League World Series a few years back and dominated. It was a great story. Well, it was until everyone realized he was fourteen, since the age limit for the tournament is 12. For those of you who didn't play Little League, playing on a 12-year old's field at age 14 (remember that 12-year olds still play with a 46-foot mound and 60-foot bases) is a decided advantage. Think about it. Go out there and play all out against your 10-year old. You'd look pretty good.

But to assert that the Danny Almonte phenomenon is what's benefitting Barry Bonds in his recent dramatic run up baseball's all-time record books is beyond absurd. To me it indicates that the person who formulated the question may not even be a human. Have you gotten older? Do you remember what it was like when you were 12 and later 14? How does that compare to when you were 20? 25? 30? 40? I'm 26 and I can tell you already that I don't feel anymore like I did when I was 14. I can only imagine what it will be like when I'm 40.

What Barry is doing is because he's a freak of nature, has specialists all over the place (cooks, people who stretch him, etc), and he works hard and takes care of himself. (Sure, he might have used an illegal substance or two, but that's all speculation and we really don't know). If aging made players better, you'd see a lot more 40-year olds in the major leagues than 20-year olds and the draft every year would consist of guys from beer leagues instead of guys finishing high school and/or a couple years of college.

Hey Mike - what's up with the quotes changing all of the time? I don't get it...

Yes, I do tend to change the quotes a lot. Sometimes I find the quotes to be funny - like the Bill James one about outlawing soccer. I was surprised too to see that a number of you took umbrage with me taking down the stadium deadline counter (which by the way, has long since passed and Mr. Samson has not yet gone through with his offer of jumping off of a bridge).

I suppose none of that really answers your question though... I just change the quotes when I feel like it. So deal with it. Or suggest a quote of your own even.

...the NCAA is considering making the 12th game permanent. Is this something you see possible? I would love to see Florida play Miami every year again.
--Jeff, Jacksonville

I'd like to see the 12th game become a permanent part of the NCAA football schedule too. There's little else I like more in the fall than football on a Saturday afternoon. But if you really think that the Florida Gators would agree to play Miami annually if a 12th game was a possibility each year, you may need to move out of Jacksonville. Apparently the stench from Canesville, er Gainesville, is getting to your brain. Florida was happy to schedule Miami for the last two years, but only because that scheduling was done in the late 90s when Miami was on probation and not playing up to the dominant level that we've all become accustomed to seeing over the last twenty-some years. The only way the Gators would agree to play Miami in football each year, heck, they won't even play them in baseball regularly anymore, is if the Canes would agree to have the game played in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (they don't have the audacity to call it the Swamp anymore do they?) or possibly in Orlando.

Mike - How come there aren't ever any pictures on your page?

Well, the truth of the matter is that I'm less technically literate than I would like for y'all to believe. It's sad but true. There are a few pictures though. The Bonds counter on the right, for instance, is technically a picture - one which I stole from another blogger, who had already stolen it from some newspaper.

Since you asked about pictures though, I'll share one that I came across today that I found funny. Now politics aside, I don't like to make fun of the President, regardless of my personal feelings about him - pro or con - but this picture struck me as funny. I'm sure all of us could be photographed at some time during the day in a funny pose like this, and I just thought it was good for a laugh.

Andrew (Madison, WI): Why can't Josh Beckett pitch significantly above .500?

The simple answer I'm afraid, without sending Mr. Beckett to a sports psychologist - which I hope the Marlins are doing, is that Beckett is still a thrower and has not yet developed into a pitcher. He's still young and there's definitely time for him to emerge into a true pitcher, a la Greg Maddux - or more appropriately Roger Clemens. But I also think it's fair to say that it's starting to become less and less likely that Beckett will have a career like Roger Clemens (not that anyone else in modern times really has) and that he's just going to be a good or slightly better than average pitcher.

I make the comment about Beckett needing to see a sports psychologist because it is starting to become more apparent that Beckett can lose his focus - both on the mound and off of it. He seemed to be more upset about Ken Griffey staring into the dugout/crowd the other night after his home run than Griffey was about having the batter in front of him intentionally walked. The media in South Florida has also regularly begun to report about Beckett's moodiness and surliness, and to date this season he's failed to live up to his declaration before the season that he would be the "ace" of the staff this year. Brad Penny and Carl Pavano have both been more consistent than Beckett, and Dontrelle Willis has shone brighter at times.

Hopefully Beckett can put it together and become less of a .500 pitcher and more like a 20-game winner each year, but so far, I'm not counting on it.

So Mike - do you ever do anything that's not baseball related? I remember you talking about Hurricanes football once in awhile, but that's still sports. Do you do anything else other than baseball?

Truthfully, only occassionally, and I try to avoid such extra curriculars as much as possible. But as you can see from my book list, I do read and I even read some things that aren't baseball related.

In fact, to show you that I'm a little bit more well rounded than might come across on this blog, I'll give you a link to a website that I'm thinking of making a donation to. Check it out. Even if you're not into the cause, I'm sure you'll find it amusing, particularly this post about a hotel room in the middle of nowhere. This fellow seems like an interesting character. For those of you too lazy (or to loyal to this site) to click on the link: a man is riding his bike across America this summer in order to visit all 30 major league baseball stadiums. Surely you're now saying "but Mike, that's clearly baseball related," and it is, but he's also doing it to raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Interestingly, his wife is supporting him in this endeavor, even though it means he has been forced to sell his house (as I'm imagining there's not a lot of money coming in when you're off riding your bike across America, literally). I give the guy credit though, I wouldn't have been willing to ride my bike from Miami to Tampa, as he's already done - and that was one of the shorter legs of his journey.

I just read your article on the Cardinals' very real possibility of losing Renteria to free agency. Any hope for the Marlins to enter those sweepstakes? I know they just signed Alex Gonzalez to an extension, but the guy is absolutely brutal at the plate (even though he's equally as brilliant in the field).
-- Justin Varnum, Tampa, Fla.

A truly delicious thought, but definitely too much to hope for. Although most of those who did the unloading following the 1997 World Series Championship are long gone, I still can't see the Marlins taking back Renteria to replace Gonzalez, since much of the reasoning for getting rid of Renteria in the first place was because Dave Dombrowski, amongst others in the organization, felt that Gonzalez was the better player and would evidence that very quickly. Now it's six years later, and other than a few quick flashes, none of us has seen that anywhere. Besides, Renteria would probably cost as much as the rest of the fairly well paid infield (Lowell, Castillo, and Choi) combined, so I just don't see it happening. I would love for it to happen though.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

College Regular Season Winding Down

Thursday night marks the start of the Miami Hurricanes’ last regular season homestand of the year. They will face off against the Long Beach State Dirtbags (LBSU goes by the 49ers for other sports), owners of not only possibly the best nickname in college baseball, but a 2004 record of thirty-six wins and sixteen losses and an eleventh place ranking in the latest polls. These are two of the more premier clubs in college baseball: the Hurricanes currently have twelve former players on major league rosters and the Dirtbags have a total of six. If you’re in Miami, it’s probably worth stopping by the Light for a game or two (because of the post-season announcements that start this weekend, the 3-game series is of the Thursday through Saturday variety). At least one of these games, either the Thursday or Friday night game (depending on who you ask), will be on College Sports TV, but I don’t know anyone who gets that station at their house as of yet.

They also have this year’s uber-prospect, Jered Weaver, brother of current major leaguer Jeff Weaver (you may have heard of Jered’s cousin Jed, who plays football for the 49ers; apparently the Weaver’s are an athletically gifted bunch, although their baby name book didn’t come with options other than those starting with “J”). Jered has won a slew of awards and accolades so far this year, with the most prestigious of them being named a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, which is given annually to the best player in college baseball. He is also, logically, a finalist for the newly renamed Roger Clemens Award (the Rocket pitched at the University of Texas way back when), which is supposed to become the Cy Young Award of collegiate baseball. To earn all of these accolades, Weaver has put together a glittering 2004 stat line of a record of 14 – 0 with a 1.25 ERA and 182 strikeouts against 14 walks in 122 innings pitched). Granted, college baseball statistics are gaudy for star players, but these numbers are ridiculous. Weaver could double his ERA, walks, hits allowed, etc. and still be a legitimate contender for All-American recognition. For more on Weaver, go here (subscription required) at Baseball Prospectus or here for the semi-official blog of Jered Weaver and LBSU baseball (aka Rich's Baseball Beat).

The series will likely provide momentum series for one of the clubs. These same two teams met last year to close out the regular season, as they will again this year (post-season regional sites will be announced on Sunday and seedings on Monday). Last year’s series took place out West, with Miami taking two of the three games. The Canes took the momentum gained in that series through the regionals and super-regionals and on to a (relatively) suprising berth in the 2003 College World Series.

Should Long Beach be able to take the series this year, in Coral Gables, I would expect them to make a run similar to the one the Canes were able to put together last year. One of the key ingredients to a deep post-season run is having a dominant ace-pitcher, which the Dirtbags have in Weaver. Equally, if not more important, is to have pitching depth, as post-season games are played much closer together (there are fewer off days) than in the regular season. The Dirtbags’ starters on Friday night (Cesar Ramos) and Saturday afternoon (Jason Vargas), bring ERAs of 2.09 and 3.94 into the weekend, indicating that the club has some pitching depth.

The same could have been said of the Miami club as of a few weeks back, but with George Huguet and Sean Valdes-Fauli dismissed from the team, the bullpen is not quite as deep as one would have expected it to be. In addition to that, the team has lost (in part or in total) the Figueroa brothers, Brian Barton, Dan Touchet, and Ryan Braun for various stretches. Yes, this team has a lot of experience, including last year’s College World Series, but it’s not quite as deep as many of us expected that it would be coming into the season. This weekend’s series should provide some good insight into how the Canes might fare in the post-season this year. Winning two of three games would be a strong signal of good things to come, sweeping the series would be too much to hope for, particularly since it would require beating Weaver, but more impossible things have happened (in 1996 the Canes beat then uber-prospect Kris Benson, of Clemson, twice in the College World Series).

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Does anyone remember this guy?

The Marlins lost last night to the seemingly unbeatable Cincinnati Reds last night. The decisive blow came on a three-run home run from a centerfielder named Ken Griffey Jr. You may remember him. He was named a member of Major League Baseball’s All-Century team. Many called him the player of the 1990s (and nearly all of those same people thought that he would continue to dominate the game well into the new millennium).

Since arriving in his hometown of Cincinnati though (for the 2000 season), Griffey has not been the player we all knew him to be during his career with the Mariners. More than anything, this appears to be due to injuries, although age is starting to play more and more of a factor. Still, Griffey had amassed 491 career home runs going into last night’s game and he remains a certain Hall of Famer.

That is why the scene that unfolded with Griffey last night in the bottom of the sixth inning was so implausible. Let me set the stage for those of you who may have missed it:

With the score tied at one entering the bottom of the sixth inning, Ryan Freel singled to center. Another future Hall of Famer, Barry Larkin, followed Freel to the plate and grounded out to the shortstop, moving Freel up to second base. Here is where it starts to get interesting: with one out and a runner on second, Marlins Manager Jack McKeon ordered Josh Beckett to intentionally walk Reds first baseman Sean Casey.

This, on its own, without looking at the rest of the Reds lineup, seems to be a fairly logical decision; Casey is hitting .379 for the season, and has been on a bit of a tear of late (like the rest of the Reds) and has been getting on base in more than half of his plate appearances (counting walks). So, the odds were good that Casey would be successful and possibly score Freel from second (thus putting the Marlins behind late in a close game).

However, it’s not as if Jason LaRue, or Wily Mo Pena, or even Ryan Freel bats after Casey in the Reds lineup. The aforementioned Ken Griffey Jr. bats after Casey. This is probably a large part of why Casey has been able to hit .379 this year. You’re likely to see a lot of good pitches when a healthy Ken Griffey is behind you because the other team doesn’t want to see Griffey bat with men on base.

Still, given the scenario, this wasn’t exactly a bad strategic decision by McKeon. Casey is hot and there’s only one out. Putting Casey, who is very slow, on first base automatically takes the bat out of his hand and prevents him from knocking in Freel. It also sets up a potential double play as there is now a force play at third and second base. At least that’s the logic of it – you set up the force play/double play. The odds of turning the double play are relatively low in reality though – they only seem high to us because the double play does a lot to change the momentum of a game, and it’s much more memorable than a standard fielder’s choice (say something like Larkin’s groundout earlier in the inning).

Now Griffey strides to the plate with runners on first and second and only one out. Everyone is on the edge of their seat waiting for a great duel between the young ace, Josh Beckett, and the aging slugger, Ken Griffey. Griffey’s walk to the plate lasts longer than the at bat though as Beckett releases a flat fastball over the heart of the plate for his first offering. The collective, immediate groan from the Marlins dugout is almost instantly overwhelmed by cheers and excitement from the Cincinnati crowd, as it’s a foregone conclusion that Griffey will deposit such a pitch somewhere in the neighborhood of four-hundred to five-hundred feet away from where he was introduced to it.

And he did. Three-run home run to right-centerfield. Reds lead 4 – 1 and go on to win 5 – 2. Ballgame.

To add interest to the sequence of events, Griffey takes a long hard look into the Marlins dugout on his trip around the bases, apparently scowling at Jack McKeon (although McKeon claimed after the game that he didn’t see it). Most of the coverage of this part of the event claims that there’s ill-will between Griffey and McKeon that traces back to Griffey’s first year in Cincinnati, which was also McKeon’s last. Griffey is also a fairly moody guy, by most accounts, and having the man in front of him walked so that the opposing team could face him did not sit well with him. Apparently Griffey channeled his frustration appropriately though, as he was collected enough to drill the first pitch well up into the bleachers. Personally, I took Griffey’s look into the Marlins dugout as he came around the bases more to say “are you guys stupid?” or “did you forget who I am?” than anything regarding a personal vendetta against McKeon.

The other fallout from the event was the now regular second guessing of McKeon and the Marlins. In hindsight, it was obviously a mistake to walk Casey to get to Griffey. Casey couldn’t have hit a three-run home run – at most he could have hit a two-run home run, so that would have been better than what Griffey did. At the time, however, it made sense, and this is why:

Casey comes to bat with a man on second and one out. Casey is very unlikely to strike out (so far this year he has struck out 16 times in 182 at bats – or about one time in every twelve plate appearances; he did strike out last night though). If Casey doesn’t strike out, he’s very likely to move Freel up to third and/or score him from second. It’s also very likely that Casey could move Freel up to third without even reaching base on his own – either via a sacrifice fly or a groundout. There’s also the chance that even in trying to pitch to Casey, Beckett could walk him and expend more energy than he would by walking him intentionally. He also could ground out (say to the third baseman), leaving Freel on second – this would be about all that the Marlins could hope for, as it would leave Freel where he is, not get another runner on base, and would generate an out.

An alternate theory that some have proposed is that the Marlins not only should have walked Casey, they should have walked Griffey too. This would have allowed them to face Adam Dunn with the bases loaded and one out – with opportunities for a double play elsewhere. This option fails to consider that a wild pitch or unintentional walk also scores a run. This is not my favorite option by far. It’s almost like picking your poison. Casey is hot. Griffey’s a lock Hall of Famer. Dunn is a beast at the plate, but he’s been struggling lately. Do you really want him at the plate in a tie game with the sacks full? I don’t think so.

In reality, McKeon’s decision wasn’t a bad one. He was at least as likely to get beat by Casey as he was by Griffey, and if Casey had done the damage, everyone would be screaming today that they should have walked Casey to get to Griffey since first base was open. McKeon was in a no-win position here, especially when his pitcher floated a pitch over the center of the plate. The Marlins would have had a better chance of getting out of that inning had they been able to get a quality pitch or two across to Griffey.

That didn’t happen though, so the Fish lost. But they get a chance to make up for it today.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Fun and Disappointment

The Marlins survived their recent seven game home stand with four wins and three losses. After losing two of three games to the Astros to start the week, the Marlins roared back to defeat the Diamondbacks in three of four games over the weekend. Not surprisingly, the Marlins lone loss against the 2001 World Series Champions came against ageless wonder Randy Johnson. Despite the loss, that day’s marquee pitching match-up (Johnson against Dontrelle Willis) drew a crowd of more than 40,000 to Pro Player Stadium (in something oddly reminiscent of last season, when the largest regular season crowd of the year also came for a Johnson – Willis match-up).

Beginning today, the Marlins play three games against the Reds in Cincinnati, before returning home for six more games. A few weeks back, and certainly coming into the season, this Reds series was definitely one that you would have circled on the calendar and marked as two certain wins and possibly a sweep for the Fish. However, the Reds are hot right not – and are likely playing over their heads. Going into last week, I felt the Astros might be the best team in the National League. But then the Astros went into Cincinnati over the weekend and lost four straight games to the Reds. This doesn’t bode too well for the Marlins, even if the Reds pitchers and batters aren’t overly intimidating. Sure Sean Casey, Adam Dunn, and that Griffey guy are all nice players, but they don’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of opponents like some of the Marlins other foes.

Enough about that though… you’ve probably read all about that on and and other such sites. Instead, today I’d prefer to give you a little recap of the weekend that was at Pro Player Stadium, from my perspective (no – nothing about urinals this time).

As you may know, I’m a big fan of tailgating. Up until recently I wasn’t a big fan of baseball tailgating, but I’ve always been a big fan of football tailgating. I’ve started to come around recently on the baseball tailgating though. I know that I should be embarrassed to admit this, but my Coleman Extreme cooler (which allegedly will keep ice frozen for five days – and I believe it) and my Coleman propane grill are two of my most prized possessions. I know that, at age twenty-six, I’m reaching an age where I should be more concerned about things like a mortgage, a marriage, and a family, but at the same time, I’m pretty content for the time being with drinking beer in a parking lot and having a hot dog, fajitas, pancakes, or whatever might be coming off the grill on a particular day. Yes, I know that coming into this year one of my New Year’s resolutions was to spend less time drinking alcohol in parking lots. I think I’ve made that “resolution” in each of the last two or three years. But I didn’t even make it through the first day of the new year without violating my resolution, as I spent a fair portion of the day in the Pro Player Stadium parking lot with beer, jello shots, and ribs. After that rolling start to the year, I figured why stop a good thing. Plus I figured that if I kept at the tailgating thing I could at least live up to another one of my New Year’s resolutions, which was to better theme tailgating festivities to the day’s opponent (sure – you could argue that the two resolutions I’ve mentioned here are completely at odds with each other, but they’re my resolutions, so leave me alone about it).

Regarding the resolution to better theme my tailgating, I have to say that I have more than lived up to my expectations to date this year. As an example, for opening day against the Montreal Expos, our spread featured a variety of Canadian beers. For Saturday’s game against the Diamondbacks, we had some of Crazy Ed’s (of the Satisfied Frog variety for those of you familiar with the Cave Creek tourist mecca) Chile infused beer as well as fajitas, flan, and other Mexican/Southwestern themed dishes. I was quite pleased with the spread.

My pleasure with the day’s events quickly faded though as I went to enter the stadium. Pro Player Stadium and the Marlins (you have to list both here, as both refuses to accept accountability for much of anything) are amazingly inconsistent in their application of policy. I attempted to bring a small bag, similar to one I had brought into the stadium recently, with me. The bag contained two small bottles of water, binoculars, a scorebook, a small radio (“walkman”), and sunscreen. The first ticket taker refused to let me enter with the bag, since in her estimation it was a “backpack” – which it isn’t, but apparently backpacks are forbidden. At a previous game, I was also denied entry at one gate with a similar bag, but allowed in with another, so I walked a little ways away to another gate and tried to enter there. That didn’t work either, so I was forced to return to my car and leave the bag behind. However, I was able to fit the water, sunscreen, etc into my cargo shorts. I didn’t absolutely “need” the bag to get my things into the stadium, but it definitely would have been more convenient. I guess I don’t understand what the big deal is regarding bringing a bag into the stadium. I have seen ladies argue with the security about whether their purses are too big to be brought in or not, and this too – from what I’ve been told seems to be handled inconsistently. It doesn’t seem like rocket science though (although the administrators of the policy – at least at the gates themselves – will never be confused with rocket scientists). Why don’t they set up a portion of one gate to accommodate guests with bags? Sure the line will be longer and will take more time to get through, but then people can bring in their things with less disagreement. Sure, some things like alcohol, glass bottles, weapons, etc will still be banned, but I think the point of the rule is more to keep dangerous things out of the stadium than simply to keep bags out. Writing a policy with the intent to keep bags out just doesn’t make any sense to me. Plenty of other places – Disneyworld for example – allows you to bring bags into the park with just about anything inside of them – even food that you might otherwise buy at their outrageous prices once you are inside. I’m not even suggesting that the Marlins or Pro Player Stadium do that. I suppose we’ll never see it happen though, because the Marlins will point their finger at Pro Player Stadium and Pro Player Stadium will point its fingers at the Marlins (yes, it’s true – the stadium itself has fingers, walk around and look for them).

I took the time to look at the Marlins' policies about what can and cannot be brought into the stadium. Apparently the limit on bags is 8 ½ by 11 inches. I don’t understand the logic behind limiting bags to be of this size, other than that it’s the size of a piece of paper. My bag is bigger than that so I suppose I have no argument, except that the bags the credit card people give away inside the stadium (or are they selling newspapers or something else? I’m not really sure) are bigger than those dimensions and people walk around with those regularly. The people who sit in front of me regularly bring beer in glass bottles into the stadium with them, which is also against stadium policy – check it out here. I guess this is part of what bothers me too – that the policies seem to be applied arbitrarily and I don’t really feel like I’m doing anything wrong by trying to bring a bag in with water, sunscreen, and a scorebook. It’s not like I’m hiding drugs, alcohol, and weapons inside – and I’d be happy to have someone look to see if any contraband was in the bag. Actually – I would appreciate it. Apparently glass bottled beer is making it into the stadium, which is a dangerous thing in a confined space on a number of levels. Who knows what else is making it inside?

Another policy that I noticed on the Marlins web site was this: “Be a team player, please restrict movement in the seating to breaks in the action.” This made me laugh out loud. First of all, it’s completely obvious. Anyone who is capable of reading that sentence is also likely capable of not needing too, because they will simply adhere to it out of common decency and not because they have been reminded of it. It also made me laugh because Marlins President David Samson, for one, rarely restricts his movement to breaks in the action. On many occasions last year I sat in the same section as Mr. Samson (Founders Field seats towards the Marlins dugout) and was constantly interrupted by Mr. Samson running back and forth from his seat to somewhere else underneath the stadium. He was usually on his cellphone and oblivious to the goings on of the game, but this is beside the point. Sure, Mr. Samson is an important cog in the Marlins organization, but this does not give him the right to be discourteous to his fellow spectators. But apparently the inconsistency and random application of stadium policy starts at the top, as even team President David Samson does not even adhere to the rules posted by his organization.

Doug Pappas

Although I doubt that any of you who knew of him and his work is hearing this news for the first time on this site, I still wanted to pass on the news of the passing of Doug Pappas. Joel Sheenan wrote a nice article about Doug, with links to various sources of Doug’s work. Like Joel, I did not know Doug well at all. Actually, we had never met in person or spoke on the phone – I had never even seen a picture of him until I saw his obituary on the SABR website. I did know Doug through email and blogging though and I thoroughly appreciated his work. Somewhat ironically, I received my copy of Baseball Prospectus 2004 in the mail on Friday, shortly after learning of Doug’s passing. Please take a moment to check out some of Doug’s work (links can be found in Sheehan’s article) and if you are bold enough, do a little bit to carry on his work.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Test Post

One of the features of the new Blogger is that you can post from any
email address if you know the secret address (that you, the blogger,
sets up). I'm testing it out here to see if it works.

If this does work, it's simply brilliant, and further evidence that
Google is taking over the world as we know it.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Amusement and Scary Things

I'm sure this will come as a great disappointment to y'all today, but I don't have a heck of a lot to say. Yes, the recent performances by the Marlins are disappointing, but it's late May and they're solidly in second place, only one game out of first, so it's hard for me to complain. I honestly didn't expect that they would be in this good of position at this point in the year, so on the one hand I'm pleased, but on the other, given how they've looked at times this season (and of course last year), you could easily argue that they should have a commanding lead in the division right now.

That said, there's a new Joe Morgan chat wrap on Mike's Baseball Rants. Be sure to check that out. I also found this story from a link on Baseball News Blog, which is quite distrubing. Keep reading below and you'll see that this isn't this fellow's first post on the Toronto Blue Jays' waitress. Granted, I have seen a few Blue Jays' games this year (and many more in prior years), but the waitresses have never particularly caught my attention. Maybe I'll have to keep a closer eye on them this time...

Wednesday, May 19, 2004


I have seen the new way of the world, and it is Gmail. Unfortunately, I don't think most of you can use Gmail quite yet, but I can and it's awesome. Learn more about it here. Also, if you're using an old address to contact me, please update your address book and send to my new Gmail address.

Things I'd like to see

A week or so ago what I would have used to head up this list would have been something along the lines of seeing the Marlins use Dontrelle Willis as a pinch hitter. Well, we saw that this weekend, and while the results weren’t great (he grounded out), it was exciting nonetheless. Here are some other things that I would like to see sometime soon, but probably won’t. Please feel free to suggest your own via email or the comments section.

1. Derek Jeter dropped in the Yankees lineup and moved to second base. Jeter isn’t having much luck at the plate this year; he’s much more of a hacker than a hitter. Since the Yankees are likely to be in a tight race for the playoffs all season, it doesn’t make much sense for the Yankees to let him work himself out of his season long funk at the top of their lineup. Move him down in the order Joe, and give those at bats to someone who is actually going to get on base.

It is also probably time to move Jeter from shortstop to second base. Yes, I’m well aware that Jeter’s fielding percentage is amongst the league leaders so far this year. But by that same logic, I haven’t made any errors at shortstop this year, and I’m sure that some of you would argue that I – in poor shape and not having taken a grounder in years – have as much range as Mr. Jeter. Defensive statistics such as zone ratings and range factors are limited and imprecise, but they consistently (over the years and this year) come back saying that Derek Jeter is not a great shortstop. Plus, the best shortstop of the modern era, and possibly of all time,, is playing in the same infield as Jeter, so let play short.

In addition to all of this, the crop of potential new second baseman for the Yankees was severely diminished recently when Expos’ second baseman Jose Vidro signed a four year contract extension. There has also been talk recently that former Yankees’ third baseman, and off-season basketball player, Aaron Boone may be healthy enough to return this year. Sure, Boone could play second base, but signing him and playing him at third would free up to play short, which then allows Jeter’s lack of range and defensive abilities to be hidden at second base (question to Yankees fans – would you rather have a 2B-SS combination of Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter or Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez? Too bad Alfonso Soriano and Alex Rodriguez isn’t an option).

In addition, since Boone is likely to be relatively affordable to sign when he’s healthy enough to return, this will keep additional dollars available (c’mon – at some point the Yankees have to at least blink when they’re talking about this kind of money – have you seen what they contribute to revenue sharing?), which could likely be applied to the acquisition of Royals’ super-star center fielder Carlos Beltran. While I’ll be sad to see the Yankees add another All-Star to their star studded lineup, I will be glad to see Beltran leave the AL Central Division (assuming of course that the White Sox can’t find a way to acquire him).

2. The Florida Marlins should trade Josh Beckett. Yes, Beckett is the reigning World Series MVP and was a star throughout the playoffs and late last year during the regular season. He’s young and was a high draft pick (2nd overall) not that long ago.

He’s also relatively expensive (making somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.5 to $2 million per year) in Marlins terms and his salary will only increase as he approaches free agency eligibility. He also owns a .500 winning percentage to date for his career. My mother would likely compare Josh Beckett to the girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead. When he’s good, he’s very, very good, but when he’s bad, he’s very, very bad. The problem with Josh – sometimes he’s great and sometimes he’s a lot less than great, but you never quite know what you’re going to get. That isn’t really a reason to trade Beckett though.

The reasons to trade Beckett are much deeper than the performances Beckett has actually delivered on the field. It’s about his potential. Beckett is 24 years old and is a prototypical fireballer, even straight to the Major Leagues, just like Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, and Kerry Wood before him. Scouts look at Beckett and drool. Opposing managers and general managers do the same. The consensus around the league is that Beckett has the potential to be a top of the rotation, number one starter for the next decade or so, possibly even the better part of the next two decades (if he’s able to sustain Nolan Ryan or Roger Clemens-like health).

What that means is that other teams will be willing to pay to acquire Beckett. In many ways, this could be a smart move for the Marlins, particularly because Beckett has, at least so far – sans the 2003 post-season – lived up to the hype that surrounds him. Typically teams wait until a player is in a free agent year (or approaching free agent eligibility for the first time – as would be the likely case with Beckett) before they start to consider trading the player (or offering a long term contract). The problem with this strategy is that by that time, other teams already know that you’re in a bind. They know that you’re about to risk losing this player in free agency, at which time every team will have an equal shot of negotiating with said player. What typically happens when such a trade goes down is that a high caliber player, such as Beckett, is usually traded for less than their fair market value because the acquiring team almost sees it as a rental situation (or the team holds onto the player, loses him in free agency, and is compensated with a highly speculative draft pick in the next year’s amateur draft). They’re getting the player’s services for the remainder of the season, but they have little or no guarantees after that. If the Marlins were to trade Beckett in such a scenario they could expect to receive some journeymen and/or so-so prospects in return.

By trading Beckett now, when the acquiring team would have the opportunity to use Beckett’s services for more than part of one season (actually, for nearly three seasons) before he became eligible for free agency, the Marlins are much more likely to be able to acquire value in return for him. This will help the Marlins to stave off the likely result of eventually losing him (since he will one day command a top dollar, long term free agent contract – which for a pitcher is rarely a good bargain, at least from the team’s perspective) and would allow them to receive players in return who would allow them to be competitive now and in the future.

In short, Beckett’s trade value will probably never be higher. I’m also not convinced that his ceiling is really higher than what we’ve seen of him so far in his career. If he’s going to be a .500 pitcher for the rest of his days in the majors, the Marlins might be best served to trade him, since a .500 pitcher is generally available in the farm system, via free agency, or via a trade. Trading Beckett especially makes sense if another team still sees the top of the rotation, build your team around this guy type of potential in Beckett that so many (including the Marlins) apparently have over the years.

3. Move the Expos to New York. This analysis will be sufficiently under-developed, but I think that most of you will understand my point. Moving the Expos to Northern Virginia, the DC area, Portland, or Mexico is not significantly better than just leaving the team in Montreal. If the team was run by an owner with deep pockets and was run well, the baseball product could work as well in Montreal as it would work in any of the potential relocation sites.

Better than any of that though would be to move the Expos to New York. Although it’s before my time, way back when, back when New York was smaller and when there were fewer teams in the league, New York supported three viable major league franchises (the Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers). Sure, the Giants and Dodgers left town, but that was more because of opportunities out West than a lack of support in New York. New York City is the biggest city in the country, and as evidenced by the Yankees and Mets abilities to continually spend money lavishly on players, there’s plenty of fan interest. Adding a third (and possibly even a fourth or fifth) team to the New York metro area would reduce the Yankees dominance (at least in terms of acquiring players if not in terms of World Series rings of late) and would help restore competitive balance (in terms of each team’s ability to acquire players) throughout the league. This wouldn’t make the Yankees or the Mets a poor team or the equivalent of a small market team – not by any stretch. It would simply put them more towards the stratosphere of the Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs, White Sox, Phillies, and Braves in terms of resources. This would, essentially, be good for everyone except the Yankees and Mets.

Another proposal, launched half in jest I think on's page 2 last week (which I unfortunately can't find a link to), was to sell the Expos as a public company. This is possibly the most fabulous idea that I have heard to date. I haven’t run the numbers, but I think this would make sense for the greedy owners who are collectively running the Expos currently (as the IPO could be set up to make them obscene profits) and would likely turn the Expos (or whatever they’ll be renamed to) into one of – if not the – most popular team in all of Major League Baseball (besides, then all of us regular people could become like George Will and sign our tax returns each year as “Baseball owner” for our occupation). Think about it – you’d probably buy a few shares. That would be a nice little certificate to buy and hang up on your wall. Only a few teams are publicly held today – the Green Bay Packers and Boston Celtics come to mind – and I don’t believe any of them are in Major League Baseball. Make the Expos a publicly owned company and relocate them to Las Vegas and I think you’d have something pretty interesting.


In case you missed it last night, Mike Hampton pitched a pretty good game last night for the Braves. He went all nine innings and gave up only two runs. All 23,381 fans who were in attendance in Atlanta last night probably gave Hampton a standing ovation as he left the field after the top of the ninth last night in appreciation of his outstanding performance.

Well, they would have (maybe) if Randy Johnson wasn’t in the midst of throwing a perfect game. You probably already knew that by now. It’s all over the news, other blogs, etc. That’s pretty much to be expected. In the history of major league baseball, last night’s gem by The Big Unit was only the 17th such occurrence. So it’s pretty rare to say the least.

In case you weren’t able to see the highlights, Johnson’s performance was all around ridiculous. To set the stage, Randy is 40 years old, way past his prime for any ballplayer (supposedly) and certainly so for a 6 foot 10 inch power pitcher; he’s surrounded by a team of has-beens and might-never-bes. Despite this, Johnson went out and threw a complete game, with no hits, walks, hit batsmen, or errors, in 117 pitches (along with 13 strikeouts for good measure).

What was even more impressive than Johnson’s stat line was how those stats were earned (granted, I didn’t watch the whole game, but I saw TBS’s at-bat by at-bat wrap up at the end, and I did watch the last two innings live). Rarely have I ever seen a major league batter – even a pitcher – swing and miss by as much of a margin (even once) as Braves’ hitters did against Johnson last night. His slider was particularly nasty, appearing to almost go from the left handed batters box to the right handed batters box from the time the ball left his hand until it reached the catcher’s mitt, and almost always sweeping across home plate just in time to be called a strike. Truth be told, Diamondbacks’ catcher Robby Hammock probably deserves almost as much acclaim as Johnson, because Hammock didn’t drop any third strikes which might have allowed a runner to reach base, thus costing Johnson his perfect game.

In other anomalies last night, the White Sox won a game. Hooray! And in an even bigger shock, “closer” Billy Koch earned the save in the game with one solid inning pitched (zero hits, three strikeouts, and thirteen pitches).

Oh, and my theory with He Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken completely fell apart last night as the Marlins were trounced by the Astros, who could quite possibly be the best team in the National League. I’m not sure what I’m going to do now about writing about my favorite current ballplayer. I suppose I’ll start writing about him again.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The week in Preview

After struggling through another week on the road, the Marlins return home for six games this week, followed by a three game set in Cincinnati, and then back home for six more games. This is a relatively winnable stretch of games for the Fish, well, once the Astros leave town after Thursday’s game. The Diamondbacks (this weekend’s opponent) are struggling, have lost last weekend’s series at home to the homeless Expos (lost in recent news was the encouraging signing by Montreal of Jose Vidro to a 4-year, $30 million extension; it’s rare for the Expos to be able to keep one of their superstars, particularly when their future is so uncertain).

After four games with the D-backs, the Fish will play three against the Reds and then quickly return home to play three with the Mets and three more against the Reds. The game on the 28th against the Mets will, unusually, be the Marlins first game against a division opponent since April 25th.

Also of note, given the relative struggles of the pitching staff of late, yesterday was the Marlins last off day until June 7th. Beginning today, the Marlins are scheduled to play 20 games in 20 days without an off day. Optimistic forecasts have former ace A.J. Burnett returning to the fold around the time of that next off day. Burnett is scheduled to pitch in a single-A game in Jupiter today. Hopefully his arm will hold up for that performance.

Looking at just the games for this week, the Marlins appear to be catching a break in that Roger Clemens will not be pitching for the Astros while they are in town. Unfortunately for Fish fans, the Astros will put Roy Oswalt on the mound Thursday night, where he likely will face Marlins ace Josh Beckett. Whether good Josh or bad Josh pitches that night is still questionable.

Over the weekend, Marlins fans will likely be treated to an appearance by Randy Johnson on Sunday. Last year, Johnson faced off against a Marlins rookie lefty in a memorable matchup that drew a huge crowd, including a huge walkup. By the way, that same pitcher, you know - HIM, pitches again tonight.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

That Guy Whose Name I'm Not Saying

Lately I've been hyping the starts of a certain 2003 National League Rookie of the Year Award winner prior to his starts. I was trying to do my little part to make sure that all of you around the globe were tuning into Marlins games when this exciting young phenom took the hill.

I didn't do this early in the year; early in the year this pitcher started out 3 - 0 with a 0.00 ERA and a 1.000 batting average. Statistics that were simply sick. Then I started hyping him; then he started struggling. Now, I'm not a superstitious sort of a guy or anything, but some things are just bad luck.

And after last night's performance, especially where He Who Must Not Be Named (at least on this site) comes out and pitches a complete game (91 pitches!) against arguably the best offense in the National League, when I didn't mention a thing about it before hand, I'm really forced to think that my hype is working against this potential runaway trained. So we're going to take a "Harry Potter" style approach here and not refer to my favorite pitcher by name for a while and see how he does...

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Prepare yourself

Blogging will likely be light for the next few days, as I will be away from my computer. While this is good for my eyes, it is probably sad news for those of you who have come to count on my always witty commentary and analysis of current events. Ha! Well, at least I amuse myself – that’s what my mother always says.

Seriously though, on a non-baseball related note, I am very curious to see “Supersize Me” when it comes to movie theaters in Miami. So far I haven’t seen it scheduled anywhere, but I am eagerly awaiting its release. For those of you who don’t know, the film is a documentary about a man who eats all of his meals at McDonald’s for one full month. During that time he gains about twenty-five pounds and starts to develop some health issues. This move could probably be considered a horror film in some respects, but for people like me, who think nothing of driving through a fast food joint for a meal on the run, it could be a real eye opener.

I also hope that this movie explores the issue of McDonald’s chicken, or chicken like products? Am I the only person who is genuinely disturbed by the distance between “white meat” and “chicken” in McDonald’s new advertisements for their new and improved McNuggets and Chicken sandwiches? I am sure that this is not just some clever marketing ploy, but something inspired by the company’s legal department which surely knows that reasonable people would assume that the “white chicken meat” (if it was written or described that way) would imply to people that the sandwich contained meat that came from a chicken. The way their products are worded though makes me think that they might actually contain “white meat” from some kind of animal with some “chicken” also mixed in. That’s just my opinion though, and is in no way meant to construe that McDonald’s is doing anything less than something on the up-and-up. I’m not going to be eating any chicken there though anytime soon though either.

Why would you though? Other fast food places have plenty of good new options. Burger King has their new chicken sandwich on the corn crusted bread, or whatever they’re calling it. Wendy’s has one too – and it’s grilled, not fried – plus it comes with some tangy sauce.

Ok, that’s all for this post for now. I’m disgusted with myself for writing about chicken sandwiches.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Flat Earth Society Membership Offer Extended to Mike Mordecai

On my ride in to Sunday’s game I heard super-sub Mike Mordecai being interviewed by the radio team. Mordecai was asked how concerned he was about the team’s recent struggles (going into Sunday’s game, the Marlins had lost six of their last eight games). Mike responded with the typical cliché of “baseball is a marathon and not a sprint.”

He went on to add to this statement with what could become the theme for the Flat Earth Society. (Now I’m paraphrasing here, but) Mordecai, who has “Sweet Home Alabama” played prior to his at bats, used a quote from former Alabama football coach Bear Bryant to explain his take on the team’s woes: “You can’t win a game in the first quarter, but you can lose it; you can’t win a game in the second quarter, but you can lose it; you can’t win a game in the third quarter, but you can lose it; you can win a game in the fourth quarter.”

On the surface this is a nice quote. I’m sure that it has inspired many a member of the Crimson Tide on to victory on the football field. Mike Mordecai also probably finds it to be a motivational tool when he’s mired in a slump or the team isn’t playing up to expectations.

But if you dig into it a little, the saying doesn’t really make much sense at all. Let’s just look at the first part of the statement: “You can’t win a game in the first quarter, but you can lose it.” Here, and throughout the rest of the statement, the speaker presumes that you (Team A) cannot win a game in the first quarter, but that Team A could lose the game (through errors of their own). By default, this statement implies that Team B can win the game in the first quarter, if only because of mistakes made by Team A that will force that team to lose the game in the end. This is obviously not a true statement; in equitably played games, both teams have an equal shot at achieving victory at all times. If Team B can win in the first quarter (inning), than so can Team A. Sure, the results won’t be official until the end, but if you’re able to put a few runs on the board early, your odds are better than not.

I’ll be forwarding this comment on to Joe Morgan and Harold Reynolds, chairpersons of MLB’s Flat Earth Society.

Homestand Slide, Donuts, and Barry Below .400

Yesterday concluded the Marlins third homestand of the 2004 campaign. This six game set was not the Marlins most successful of the season – they won three games and lost three others. Many fans have been quick to note that the Fish should have won Tuesday night’s game against the Dodgers (which they lost in extra innings after at least three defensive miscues) and Saturday night’s game against the Padres (lowlighted by three strike outs in a row in the sixth inning with the bases loaded).

There were, however, a number of highlights during the week: Alex Gonzalez and Ramon Castro hit well during Sunday’s game, possibly indicating that both are poised to break out of their (so-far) season long slumps. A few more games like they had yesterday and Gonzalez and Castro may get out of I-95 and Mendoza line territory.

Other than that, there were Krispy Kreme giveaways twice this week (each time the Marlins record 12 hits at home, everyone with a ticket gets a free dozen donuts). I was fortunate enough to partake in this after yesterday’s game. Although, I must admit that I felt a little guilty about it. The Marlins ended up with a total of exactly twelve hits, and the twelfth came on a Juan Pierre ground ball to the second baseman which was thrown into the Marlins dugout. The official scorer credited Pierre with an infield single and Juan took second base on the throwing error. This was questionable at best, and simply playing to the “we want donuts” chanting crowd at worst. The Marlins had eight hits through the first two innings and at that point the donuts seemed like a lock. But they only managed four hits over the last six innings in which they batted, and for a long time were stuck on eleven for the game.

Despite the disappointing homestand, the Marlins are still 18 – 13 with a two game lead over their Eastern Division foes. The Phillies are surging right now and the Marlins are struggling, relatively at least. I suppose it’s still early to tell whether the Marlins are playing below their abilities and the Phillies are playing above them, or if the trends we’ve seen over the past two weeks are indicative of what we are likely to see over the remainder of the season.

This week should be another challenging week for the Marlins, with visits to Houston and St. Louis on the schedule (interestingly, the Marlins will not face an Eastern Division rival until the Mets come to Miami beginning on May 28th. By that time, the Marlins will have gone more than a month – since April 26th – and will have played 29 games since matching up against and intra-division foe). The marquee matchup of the week comes tomorrow night when new Astros ace (or possibly co-ace) Roger Clemens faces off against Brad Penny. For the Marlins and Clemens this is a rematch from last year’s World Series, where Clemens pitched well, but where the Marlins prevailed.

In other areas around baseball, the White Sox were swept over the weekend by the Blue Jays in Toronto. While the Sox remain tied for first place with the Twins, this is probably a little misleading. To date, the Twins have suffered numerous injuries and have played a relatively tough schedule. The White Sox have also been extraordinarily lucky – winning ten of eleven one run games. It is highly unlikely that the Sox will continue to be able to win one-run games at such a pace (particularly if Billy Koch continues to pitch like the Billy Koch of 2003 and not the Billy Koch of 2002 or earlier).

You probably also noticed that Barry Bonds was noticeably absent from baseball headlines, or at least the superlatives, last week. To recap the week’s Bonds highlights: Bonds missed a few games with a sinus infection, and then ran off an 0-for-15 stretch at the plate. Barry also managed to work in some unusual interviews where he talked about retiring, advertising on the bases, and other subjects (although I must admit that I preferred Phil Mushnick’s take on the Spiderman flap; Phil pretty much said it was silly – that the kids who could see the logos on the bases at the stadium would obviously be superheroes – with extraordinary vision – or aliens, and not the traditional target market that these advertisers would be looking for). He was still walked 14 times during the 0-for-15 stretch, which was as much a testament to his other worldly abilities as the ineptitude of the men that surround Bonds in the lineup, giving him an onbase percentage of .483. Incredible.

What was lost in this cold streak by Bonds recently was that his batting average has now dipped, for the first time since April 11th, below .400. A few weeks back, many people were writing that Bonds was a near lock to hit .400 for the season. The most commonly cited reason for this was that Bonds was locked in and would need a record low number of hits to accomplish the feat (since he is walked so much). While true, this analysis often failed to mention that the downside to being walked so much – in terms of it improving your ability to hit .400 – is that a fairly small number of at bats can quickly bring your average below .400, as the 0-for-15 slide did to Bonds over the weekend. Sure, Barry could still hit .400 for the season – another tear like he started the year on and we’ll probably be talking about if he can hit .450 or .500 and not just .400.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Spiderman Program Explanation Defies Logic

I've stayed out of the fray on the Spiderman issue since it's been pretty much covered to death everywhere else. I thought it was interesting though how MLB talked up the program as a way to reach out to kids... but they're getting paid for it. If baseball wanted to reach out to kids, wouldn't a more traditional marketing approach be to actually get your product in front of kids somehow? You know - send ballplayers to schools or parks around town. Something like that. Yes, it costs money, but that's what businesses generally have to do in order to generate interest and revenue.

More power to baseball if the Spiderman following is so strong that small children will encourage their parents to buy baseball tickets and merchandise because they've seen Spidey logos on the on-deck circles and on the bases. If MLB was able to generate interest and sales by getting another company to pay them for it, more power to them, and they must be much smarter than I (and most of the rest of you) give them credit for.

I don't think that's what happened though. This was just a money grab, and that's the way of the world today. Someone just reacted and half-thought through the reaching out to kids statement.

Marlins let stadium deadline pass again

The May 6th deadline for a stadium financing plan, the latest deadline the Marlins have given, has passed. I guess this now means that we are in the scary sounding "or else" phase of the stadium negotiations. I know that I swore that I wouldn't talk about this sort of stuff anymore, but it looks like everyone else did that too, since I haven't seen it covered anywhere since the 6th. That's probably because other things - like Iraq and the Spider-man thing - have taken over the news, but still, I thought it deserved comment here in this little portion of the universe.

A little more than a week ago, David Samson promised to jump off of a bridge if the stadium deal wasn't put together. So far I haven't heard anything about this either, although it wouldn't be the saddest news I could hear today. It will probably turn out that David was just talking, as he was with all of the other deadline talk, etc.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

The team I'd pay to see

One major website recently published an article about players who hustle. That was interesting, but not that meaningful, in my opinion, because like the author of another article stated (paraphrasing here) “everyone can hustle, even I hustle in my own beer league.” Recently though, I had been thinking of putting together a fantasy lineup of guys I would pay to watch (not that that is much of a stretch – I pay to watch baseball plenty often). What was interesting to me is that a good portion of my lineup and the hustle lineup overlap.

Players that I would pay to watch possess one or more of a variety of characteristics: super-star level ability, they actually look like they are having fun playing the game, or they are obviously not the most talented on the field, but have worked hard and have succeeded in the game. You also won’t necessarily see the biggest names in the game here – Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Roger Clemens are not going to top my list – because the biggest names are generally the easiest to see. They are on national television regularly, covered in your newspaper, and on Sports Center so much that it makes you want to puke (and if you do, you can probably buy an puke clean up towel on because some guys are just that commercial). Without further ado, here are my favorite players that I enjoy watching play the most, by position:

Catcher – Choosing a player for this position was a difficult one. In my time, I’ve seen greats who I have liked (Carlton Fisk) and who I didn’t like (Gary Carter), but for the purposes of this list, I’m sticking to current players.

Ivan Rodriguez would be an easy pick. As sad as I was to see him leave South Florida this off-season, particularly with the way the whole contract negotiation went down, I have very much enjoyed watching him play in a Tigers’ uniform so far this year. Pudge is off to a great start and remains a sure-fire Hall of Famer. I didn’t think I would cheer for Pudge anymore after the way he left town, but I think what he has done for Detroit, so far, has turned me around. If he really does contribute to turning them into a winner, he will go down as one of the all-time greats in my book, given his other accomplishments in Texas and Florida.

My pick though for the catcher that I’d pay to see is Mets’ backstop Mike Piazza. Sure, maybe when the Mets come to town Mike won’t be catching anymore, but that’s all the more reason to try to catch a game with him behind the dish. Mike only has so many games left in those knees and each time you see him you know that you will be seeing one of, if not the, greatest catchers of all time. This is even more remarkable when you consider (as Harold Reynolds pointed out last night) that Mike was a 62nd round draft pick. He was, for all intents and purposes, a courtesy pick by the Dodgers, as then Manager Tommy Lasorda was a family friend. Mike, who played briefly (and at second base no less) for the Miami Hurricanes for one season, was probably not even going to stick with the Dodgers’ rookie team until he volunteered to play catcher late in his rookie year. You know where the story goes from there.

First baseman – Initially I thought that I would pick Carlos Delgado as my dream-team first baseman. Delgado is a largely unappreciated superstar, although he is off to a slow start this season. Upon further review though, I came up with someone else…

Todd Helton is one of the best hitters in the game and he has one of the prettiest swings you’ll ever see. Sure, his numbers aren’t hurt by playing his home games at Coors’ Field, but Helton would be an All-Star wherever he played. Plus Helton just goes about his business, doesn’t get into trouble, and seems to be a decent enough guy (not that you ever really know about any of these guys – and for the purposes of this exercise, I don’t really care. I’m just picking baseball players).

Second baseman – There’s a lot to pick from here: Luis Castillo, Ray Durham, Jeff Kent, Bret Boone, Jose Vidro, and Alfonso Soriano, all of whom would be worth selections.

I can’t pick Kent though because he doesn’t even really like baseball, or so he claims. He doesn’t watch games he’s not playing in and doesn’t claim to be a fan of the game. This just rubs me the wrong way. Lie to us Jeff. You’re making millions of dollars to play baseball and that huge salary you receive is largely a bi-product of fans shelling out their money on tickets, cable packages, internet subscriptions, etc. You were willing to lie about how you injured yourself a few years back – riding a motorcycle during spring training, err… washing your truck, so why not let the rest of us think that you don’t mind playing a game the rest of us would love to play?

Bret Boone falls into the same category with me. He is absolutely a great player (although the late in the career power surge is at least as questionable as that of B.L. Bonds), but his smug personality just does not sit right with me.

While I enjoy Luis Castillo and acknowledge that he is a key cog in the Marlins machine, he’s not my top pick at second base.

This leaves us with a fearsome trio of second baseman in Durham, Vidro, and Soriano. I would be happy with any of the three. Durham is probably more a sentimental pick than anything because I enjoyed watching him play so much with the White Sox in the early part of his career. When he left, I was happy to see him traded to the A’s, another team that I enjoy watching. And now that he’s with the Giants, I see him play quite frequently, because I like to watch B. L. Bonds so much.

Jose Vidro is about the opposite of Ray Durham, in the sense that they are both fantastic players who are exciting to watch, but it is difficult to watch Jose Vidro for two reasons. One, Expos games are just not on television very often – apparently it’s expensive to broadcast from San Juan and their television contract with Montreal broadcasters is not the same as what the Yankees or Braves have, to say the least. Also, if you do find an Expos game on the tube or in person, they are not exactly the most exciting team in baseball. While I can do it, I would think that very few semi-serious baseball fans could name five current Expos not named Vidro, (Orlando) Cabrera, (Livan) Hernandez, or (Crazy Carl) Everett. Few fans could probably even name the recently acquired ex-Yankees (Nick Johnson and Juan Rivera). This does not work in Mr. Vidro’s favor, unfortunately, but he will be a free agent at the end of the season, and once the Yankees overpay for him, Mr. Vidro will not be only unconscionably rich, but he will also be unbelievably famous.

This leaves me with Alfonso Soriano, who is certainly not a bad pick. Soriano couldn’t live up to the Yankees expectations, but he should be a 40-40 (home runs and steals) threat for years to come.

Third baseman – This is another tough position to choose, one that is starting to be filled, after a few rough years recently, with some young talent, including: Troy Glaus, Eric Chavez, Scott Rolen, Mike Lowell, and Adrian Beltre.

Beltre is off the list because his production on the field has never lived up to his off the field hype over the course of a season. Lowell’s not a real candidate both because his career year is probably behind him, and he is as un-flashy as he is productive (kind of like a poor man’s Tim Duncan).

Scott Rolen is a heck of a ballplayer, but really doesn’t do much to excite me. I think his upside is better than Lowell’s over the next few years, but in terms of excitement, they rate about the same, so Rolen is out too.

That leaves us with a So Cal – No Cal match up between Glaus and Chavez. Chavez recently signed a $48 million extension which will keep him with the A’s for a few more years. This will probably keep him hidden away from the game’s more casual fans except for the annual All-Star game and an interview after his team loses a decisive game five of the ALDS annually.

My pick here is Glaus, but for un-compelling reasons. I am sure you could argue that Chavez is an all around better player. I wouldn’t really argue back with you; you would be right. But Glaus can mash and I have decided to pick a guy, who in any given at bat, could hit the ball six hundred feet. His eyesight is reportedly better now too, after off season laser eye surgery, so maybe those long blasts will become a more regular occurrence.

(Oh yeah, there’s that guy, but I’m just not picking him because that would be too easy).

Shortstop – The remaining triumvirate of shortstops in the American League (now that has been moved to third base) is Derek Jeter, Miguel Tejada, and Nomar (that’s his middle name) Garciaparra (when he’s healthy). I’m not picking any of those guys because it would be too easy.

Coming into the year, the fashionable pick might have been Angel Berroa of the Royals. He hasn’t lived up to his rookie campaign so far this year, so he’s not on my team.

The White Sox Jose Valentin could be the pick here too, although his hands of stone, which are so capable of putting runs on the board when he’s at the plate, are also too capable of putting runs on the board for the opponent when he is in the field.

Instead my pick at shortstop is the Angels David Eckstein. I’ve followed Eckstein for some time now, as he played college ball for the Florida Gators (making his selection to my team that much more painful). Honestly, he didn’t even really stand out on a star-studded Gators team, which was led by current Expos jack-of-all-trades Brad Wilkerson.

This is even more remarkable to me because I know that I must have seen Eckstein play in person ten or so times while he was in college, but I don’t remember him in particular at all. Of all the college players now in the major leagues who I saw play in person, Eckstein is the only one who didn’t stand out and distinguish himself in particular on the field.

Coming into last season and during the post-season of 2002 this was a fashionable pick. Eckstein had a down year last year, or more probably a year that we can more fairly expect out of him regularly. Eckstein played over his head in 2002, as is not uncommon on teams that win the World Series. He’s worth watching though because he’s something like the rest of us in the field. Eckstein’s hands are so small that he has to have a special grip on the ball to throw it and the distance from the hole at shortstop to first base forces him to almost shot put the ball across the diamond. While this is not something many of us would want to admit that we can relate to, we can at least empathize with Eckstein’s limitations as they relate to his major league peers.

Left field – There isn’t really even any discussion here. Yes, at other positions I have eschewed the game’s biggest superstars, but at times, exceptions must be made to the rules. This is one of those times. Barry Bonds is arguably the greatest player of all time. If he is not the greatest player, he is definitely one of the top three or five players of all time. Throw the names of Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays into a hat and you could argue that whichever name you picked out first was the greatest player of all time.

Yes, there are arguments about career longevity and the impact of the changes of the game (expansion, integration, relief pitchers, etc), but nearly everyone will agree that these are the top four players. You might argue that Bonds would not be on this list if it had been proven that he has taken steroids or some other performance enhancing drug, but that hasn’t been proven yet. It may never be proven. It will certainly never be proven that Bonds didn’t take such drugs – that would be impossible. All we have to go on is the lack of a positive test result and Barry’s word that he hasn’t taken anything illegal. That’s all we have on any of these guys (Bret Boone, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa on down), so that’s what we have to go with.

Regardless though, even if you took away the power numbers (which is ludicrous), Barry Bonds is still a Hall of Famer. With more than 500 stolen bases and eight Gold Gloves, Barry is a speed and defense combination with few peers. He will also likely total three thousand hits over the course of his career, which as far as I know is still worth a guaranteed ticket to Cooperstown.

But Bonds does have the power - an unbelievable amount of power. He’s been on a run since 1999 or 2001 that is unmatched in the history of the game. Sure, you might think he’s a jerk or not someone you’d want to date your daughter, but he’s a heck of a baseball player. If you have the chance to see him in person, don’t miss it. I know that I won’t.

Center fielder – Another tough call with lots of qualified candidates, including: Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones, Jim Edmonds, and Garrett Anderson.

I through Anderson into the mix because he is receiving so much hype right now that I think it might be the obligation of everyone who writes about baseball to talk about how great he is. Well, I really don’t think that he is. Yes, he’s a nice player and seems to be a nice guy off the field, but that’s about it. His numbers total up well, I suppose, but that’s an incomplete look at the total picture. Garrett has racked up a lot of hits, but he doesn’t walk very often. His RBI totals are impressive, but again, he hacks a lot and thus has a lot of opportunities that guys like Bonds and Frank Thomas pass up for the good of the team. No disrespect to Garrett Anderson intended here. He’s a nice player on a good team, but he’s not the top centerfielder in the game. He’s not even really a centerfielder.

Jim Edmonds is good for highlight reel catches, some power, and lots of strikeouts, but that’s about it. Edmonds lacks the grace in the field of Andruw Jones, and like Jose Valentin before, he’s a little more advanced in age than the other contenders, so he’s disqualified on that regard.

That leaves us with Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones. Surely by now you’re saying “Juan Pierre? Mike’s a homer.” This is possibly true. Juan Pierre is a poor man’s Andruw Jones, which is something like what I intended this team to be about. But it’s more than that. Pierre is kind of like the shadow to a poor man’s Andruw Jones. Don’t get me wrong, I love Juan Pierre’s game and how his dedication to his craft has made him the player that he is today. He simply just doesn’t have the arm or the power (or a lot of other things) that Andruw Jones does.

Granted, Jones doesn’t seem to work as hard as Pierre does, but it also doesn’t seem like he has to. The game comes easily to Jones – or rather, he is simply, extremely talented – as in, all-time great talented. Jones worked very hard to develop his skills by catching coconuts on the beach in Curacao, allegedly – although that seems like it may be more myth than reality, no doubt, but there is also no doubt that Jones is extremely gifted. He is a pleasure to watch in the field and at the plate, and the Andruw Jones show is definitely one that I wouldn’t want to miss (although I would pass on his show at the Gold Club).

Right field – This is another gimmie position where I probably shouldn’t even waste time talking about the other “contenders.” There is only one – Vladimir Guerrero, now of the Angels. Most casual fans have gone unaware of Guerrero over the early part of his career because he played for the Montreal Expos. Now that he is in Southern California with the Angels, I expect that Vlad will become a household name. His natural abilities are, arguably, without equal. He’s not someone you will see interviewed frequently or written about much, mainly because he is not fluent in English and I don’t expect that he’ll be doing much to learn it anytime soon. This is not because Guerrero is slow or anything like that, but rather just one way for him to ensure that he can keep himself out of the spotlight.

Vladimir Guerrero is a baseball player pure and simple. He does not wear batting gloves or study DVDs of pitchers. Reportedly, there are times when he reaches the batter’s box (or at least the on deck circle) before he is made aware of whom that day’s opposing pitcher will be. Others have said that Guerrero does his scouting on future opponents by using the Playstation in the locker room. I find this to be a refreshing departure from the over-analysis employed by Curt Schilling and other stars in the game. This is not to take anything away from the accomplishments of others, but it is just enjoyable to watch Guerrero succeed based on his natural abilities. He is simply a fun player to watch because he plays every game with such reckless abandon. Even during a spring training game he is fun to watch, because he always runs hard and is looking to stretch a single into a double and a double into a triple.

I do wonder though how his brand new Angels helmet is already so covered in pine tar.

Designated hitter – I suppose this argument comes down to Frank Thomas and Edgar Martinez. Both are excellent hitters and borderline Hall of Fame candidates. Despite long careers, neither has won a World Series or even done much in the postseason. Frank Thomas has won two MVPs (compared to Edgar’s zero), and if you asked Frank, he would probably tell you that he really deserved five or six awards, if not one for every full season he played.

As I alluded to in the previous sentence, Frank is not widely regarded as a peach of a guy. Given that, and that Edgar Martinez takes batting practice with a weighted bat (usually with a donut or two on an old broken bat), I’m taking Edgar here. I would really like to see Mr. Martinez take batting practice with a weighted bat. You have to be a really good hitter to do that; otherwise I would imagine you could really hurt yourself by mis-hitting a ball.

Starting pitcher – I put this one off as long as I could (you may have noticed that I listed the positions in traditional scoring position order, starting with catcher – going past the pitchers spot). If you’ve ever read this bog before, you know who the pick here will be – no questions asked, no need for other candidates. Dontrelle Willis.

The second year pitcher personifies fun and excitement. He brings a funky delivery to the mound and a solid bat to the plate. For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to watch Willis in person, you owe it to yourself to make it out to the park one night when he’s pitching. Normally he tops out in the high 80s or low 90s with his fastball, or so the radar gun will tell you. Now, I’ve never stood in against Willis, but just from watching him from the stands (and I have sat very close behind home plate for a handful of his starts) it always seems to me that Willis’s fastball gets up on hitters more quickly than other pitchers because of his unorthodox delivery. I have regularly thought that Willis was throwing harder than Josh Beckett or Armando Benitez (who top out around 96 or 97 fairly frequently), only to be surprised to see the radar gun display a speed of 90 or so.

Besides his pitching ability, Willis is also quite a hitter. He’s already hit a home run this year (two in his career) and he runs the bases like an everyday player. More than anything, though, the thing that distinguishes Willis from the crowd is his passion and enthusiasm for the game. He plays the game with the spirit that we would all like to think that we did as children. Most of us probably didn’t, but Dontrelle still does. Whether he’s pumping his fist coming off the mound after a big out or signing autographs for fans before the game, Dontrelle always seems to be having a good time.

Relief pitcher/closer – I thought about making this into two separate categories, but when it comes down to it, non-closing relievers don’t see predictable enough activity, nor do they generate enough excitement with me to warrant me being willing to pay to see one of them exclusively (and I suppose that means that I just don’t have enough disposable income). So that leaves us with closers.

I’m taking current and former Marlins closers off the list for a variety of reasons: Benitez – melt down waiting to happen, Looper – melt down waiting to happen, Alfonseca – meltdown waiting to happen, Urbina – too much post game kissing, Nen – injured, and Hoffman – deserving but just not picked.

That leaves some of the game’s top closers: John Smoltz, Mariano Rivera, and Billy Wagner, to name three. Smoltz and Rivera would be too easy to select, so they’re out. Wagner would make for an interesting pick too, if only because he’s not very tall (5 foot 8) but somehow reaches 100 mph more frequently than Randy Johnson (or at least he did last year). Still though, Wagner isn’t that interesting for any other reason than that he throws heat - big time heat.

The guy I would want to see though, and who I might be able to see tonight (although I hope there isn’t an occasion for him to make it to the mound) is Dodgers’ closer Eric Gagne. I have seen Gagne pitch in person before, but that was a long time ago. Way back in the early part of the millennium when Gagne was still a highly touted prospect as a starter (somehow that endeavor failed). Since then, Gagne has turned into a closer with an unbelievable track record. He has now saved more than seventy (70!) consecutive games without blowing a save. Granted, saves are not the best measure of a pitcher’s ability (as few of the generally accepted pitcher’s stats are), but to have saved more than seventy games in a row is an unbelievable achievement. His presence in the Dodgers’ bullpen effectively shortens each game to an 8 inning affair. That might not seem like a big deal to you, but if you were Dodgers’ manager Jim Tracy it would. You’d be happy if you had 11% fewer things to worry about, wouldn’t you? That’s effectively the situation Gagne has created for Tracy. Figure out a way to get a lead through eight innings and Gagne will take care of the ninth.

Well, except for tonight, hopefully. Hopefully Dontrelle Willis will throw a shutout, hit a home run, steal a couple bases, and score a few runs and we can go into the ninth not unconcerned about who might enter the game.


All in all, that’s a pretty good lineup. It’s not necessarily the way you would assemble it in terms of a traditional lineup. I don’t really have a solid top of the lineup guy, but as you work your way through it, there aren’t any easy outs. Here’s how I’d put it together:

1 – Alfonso Soriano, 2B
2 – Vladimir Guerrero, RF
3 – Barry Bonds, LF
4 – Todd Helton, 1B
5 – Troy Glaus, 3B
6 – Mike Piazza, C
7 – Andruw Jones, CF
8 – David Eckstein, SS
9 – Dontrelle Willis, P

I think you’d win a couple games with that lineup.

Harold Reynolds Unwraps the Mysteries of Baseball

The Marlins won last night against the Dodgers, evening the series at one game apiece. You probably knew that already.

If you were at the game last night, you may have missed “Baseball Tonight” while you rode home from the stadium. If you did, you missed Harold Reynolds’ earth-shattering announcement that he has figured out the keys to beating Roger Clemens. Even if you didn’t hear Harold’s analysis live, you were probably aware that it happened, because there was, immediately, a palpable buzz throughout the baseball world as soon as Harold revealed his news: The key to beating Roger Clemens is three-fold – one, hit his fastball; two, bunt; three, steal.

For obvious reasons, I won’t get into reasons two and three very much. They’re just silly remarks and don’t warrant any commentary. However, Harold’s epiphany about hitting the fastball is truly amazing. I wasn’t able to find Harold’s career totals against Clemens, but I’m sure that if Harold had this knowledge while he was still a player, he would have hit .500 or .600 against the Rocket. We will probably start to see a lot of hitters do that against Clemens now that they’ve been tipped off to this fastball thing.

As I sat on my couch listening to Reynolds’ dissertation last night, I was sure that I could hear a collective “how did I miss that for the last twenty years?” from scouts across the country. I, myself, was thinking the same exact thing. I’ve been watching Roger Clemens for a long time and it never occurred to me that hitting his fastball would be a key to success.

Announcers throughout baseball regularly refer to hitters as “good fastball hitters.” This always makes me laugh. The notion that particular hitters are “good fastball hitters” seems to imply that other hitters are not good fastball hitters. I find this truly hard to believe. There are probably less than a literal handful of players (not counting pitchers) on major league rosters today who are not “good fastball hitters.” Those who are not good fastball hitters more likely have a hard time making it out of Little League than of sneaking their way onto a major league roster.

Obviously, not all major league hitters are good hitters, at least not by major league or professional standards. This is not, at least not very frequently, because they lack the ability to put the bat on the ball. Go out to the stadium early, the next time you have a chance, and count how many outright swings and misses you see in batting practice; if you see one, I will be surprised, and you could probably watch a full week’s worth of batting practice before you see another. Instead, the difficulty in making contact with the ball stems from the fact that pitchers, like Roger Clemens, not only throw fastballs, but they also throw breaking pitches and other off-speed pitches that make it difficult for a hitter to make contact. A batter must recognize the pitch, swing, and make contact with the ball in a fraction of a second. Simple changes in velocity can make that sequence of events nearly impossible to complete. Major league pitchers, however, throw the added complication of breaking balls, pinpoint location, a variety of arm angles, and an arsenal of other acts of deception to make hitting difficult.

To me, saying that someone is a “good fastball hitter” is almost an insult because it sounds as if the hitter is not skilled at identifying or hitting other pitches. If that pitcher facing such a hitter is stupid enough to actually throw a fastball to a “good fastball hitter” he will have to deal with the consequences.

Sadly, we are subjected to such inane commentary on baseball tonight because Harold Reynolds, John Kruk, Jeff Brantley, and crew were at one time major league baseball players, so they obviously know more about the game than the rest of us. I think I’m going to have to start reading more and watching less ESPN. It’s no longer entertaining, and it’s quite often just inaccurate or biased, and more often than not the “programming” is just a clever promotion for another ESPN product (The Magazine, the website, Fantasy Games, another network, upcoming game broadcasts…). I’m going to go be sick now.