Good News and Bad News: Halladay’s Not Hurt

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The Phillies would be better off if Roy Halladay was hurt. At least that would be a viable explanation for this sudden and cliff-diving decline from what he was to what he is. What makes the lost velocity and increased confidence of the hitters even more frightening is that there’s no physical malady or mechanical hiccup to fix and get the soon-to-be 36-year-old back to the greatness he’s exhibited for the past decade. His mechanics are fine and if he was ailing, the Phillies wouldn’t continue to put him on the mound. That was true in spring training as the “experts” speculated on what was wrong with Halladay and implied that there was an injury that the Phillies were hiding. What possible reason would they have to do that in spring training?

No. He’s not hurt. His arm slot is around where it was when he was at the top of his game with a slight deviation that has nothing to do with pain or compensation and isn’t going to revert him back to what he was if it’s “fixed.” He’s not finished and not in the last days of a great career. He can continue to pitch this way once he learns how to get hitters out more effectively with diminished stuff, but he’s not going to be the unstoppable, grinding, durable force he was. This is evidence of the ravages of time and work. In the past two decades, we’ve grown accustomed to pitchers continuing to perform in their 40s as they did in their 20s and for the most part in cases like Roger Clemens it was due to the evident use of PEDs, but with the new testing the one thing that can’t be quantified is when the body says enough’s enough. Halladay’s seems to be informing him that he has to figure something else out to be effective.

The sheer number of pitchers and players who weren’t simply maintaining their level of work in their supposed primes, but were surpassing it due to the use of certain substances made it seem normal when they should’ve been seen as a rarity. Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton were anomalies not just because they lasted into their 40s, but for the most part they maintained their effectiveness late into their careers pitching the same way they always did. There was no transition from what they were into something else.

Halladay’s velocity is down from a high of 96 and a consistent 94 at the tiptop of his game two years ago to barely hitting 90 last night. This has been a recurring issue all spring and spurred the worries that are rising with every subpar start. For the hitter, there’s a significant difference between preparing for 96, being used to 94 and seeing 89-90. That’s an eon of pitch recognition time. Add in that he doesn’t have the same pop you get the results Halladay’s produced in his first two starts.

Counting him out is silly. Pitchers like Carlton, Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris have been labeled as “finished” and come back to be productive, even Cy Young Award contending arms at Halladay’s age and beyond. He still has his intelligence and his stuff is good enough to get hitters out, but he’s got to learn how to do it and it doesn’t happen overnight.

On another note with the Phillies, the Charlie Manuel contract situation is going to get messy. Were it not for a blown save by Greg Holland of the Royals in which he couldn’t find the strike zone, the Phillies would be sitting at 1-6 with a lame duck manager, an angry fanbase and ominous speculation concerning the age of their roster. Manuel has no intention of walking quietly into the night at the end of the season as the Phillies clearly want him to do and he’s working with his clear heir apparent, Ryne Sandberg, on the coaching staff.

This has happened with Manuel before. With the Indians in 2002, his contract was up at the end of the season, he wanted to know where he stood and basically told them to give him an answer or fire him. The Indians were in a similar position then as the Phillies are now with an aging core and an unavoidable rebuild beckoning, so with the club 39-47 and far from playoff position, they fired him. Manuel deserves better from the Phillies after all he’s accomplished—an extra year on his contract as severance even if they have no intention of him fulfilling it and not having to look at the guy who’s going to replace him every single day—but he’s not going to get it and if this thing spirals out of control, Sandberg will be managing the Phillies by June 1st.

Or sooner.

Extended discussions of this along with predictions, player analysis, under the radar fantasy picks, breakout candidates, contract status of all relevant personnel—GMs, managers, players—and anything else you could possibly want to know is in my new book Paul Lebowitz’s 2013 Baseball Guide now available on Amazon.com, Smashwords, BN and Lulu. Check it out and read a sample.

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Reggie And SI Get What They Want

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I’m sure that a vast number of people reacting to the Hall of Fame yays or nays from Reggie Jackson in this Sports Illustrated profile won’t bother to read the entire piece, but if they do they’ll see that the Hall of Fame worthy/unworthy discussion is inserted into the middle of the article in what appears to be a blatant attempt to get people to websearch—not necessarily read—the rest of it.

He talks of religion; his baseball relationships from the past and present; and who he is as a person.

His Hall of Fame assessments don’t come from the extreme wings of the Hall of Fame camps with the stat people on one end and the old-school, “I know a Hall of Famer when I see one” on the other. It’s Reggie saying stuff—stuff that could change if you ask him again next week. Of course it’s capricious to say that Andy Pettitte’s PED use isn’t relevant while it is in the cases of players like Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez. Conveniently (or not) their unnaturally gained home run prowess negated some of his accomplishments.

There’s going to be head shaking and questioning of his motives when he says Jim Rice and Bert Blyleven aren’t worthy, but Jack Morris is. And there will be others who suggest that his ego is so enormous that he not only wants a museum dedicated to him and him alone, but it would have to have as few members as possible to fit the “magnitude of me” self-aggrandizement that he exemplifies.

With some the “Reggie” designation would be placed in quotes because it’s a persona and not a person. With this Reggie? It’s all him.

Here are the facts about Reggie Jackson: he was a Hall of Fame player; he knows how to irritate people; and that ability garners attention for himself. In the case of the article in Sports Illustrated, it looks to be a mutually advantageous exchange. He will make provocative statements to drum up webhits and conversation; SI will put the other aspects about him into the article that will get him back into the public consciousness if anyone actually reads it.

He was always a supreme marketer of his favorite subject—himself. At age 66, that hasn’t changed. Except now there are no teammates to anger and no media contingent following him around waiting for him to say something to continue the circle of Reggie-media-teammates-owner-fans-Reggie-media-teammates-owner-fans.

He wanted attention and he’s getting it.

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The Hall of Fame Debate Has Grown Tiresome

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Barry Larkin was the only player elected by the writers.

Jack Morris’s percentage has risen to 66.7%.

With two years left on the writers’ ballot, Morris might get enough support to make it in by conventional vote. If not, he’s got a great shot on the Veterans Committee.

The debate will rage on until then.

You can make an argument for Morris (post-season hero; innings-eating winner and one of the dominant pitchers of the 1980s) or against him (high ERA; stat compiler).

Nothing’s going to change the minds of those who are for or against him.

Tim Raines received 48.7%.

Raines is seen as a no-brainer by stat people; others think he became a part-time player from his early 30s through the end of his career and he’s a “floodgate opener” whose election would necessitate the serious consideration of the likes of Johnny Damon and Kenny Lofton which would diminish the specialness of the Hall.

Lee Smith received 50.6% of the vote.

I don’t think anyone with an in-depth knowledge of baseball and from either faction whether it’s stat-based or old school thinks Smith belongs in the Hall of Fame.

No matter how convincing or passionate an argument made for the supported players, the other side is unlikely to put their prejudices, personal feelings, stereotypes or ego aside to acknowledge that they may be wrong; and they’re certainly not going to change their votes.

So what’s the point?

What’s made it worse is the proliferation of the younger analysts who may or may not know much of anything about actual baseball, but think they do based on calculations and mathematical formulas who are so adamant that they’re right, it’s impossible to even debate with them.

Bert Blyleven made it to the Hall of Fame, in part, because of the work by stat people clarifying how he deserved the honor and wasn’t at fault for a mediocre won/lost record because of the teams he played for. Another part of his induction, I’m convinced, is that a large chunk of the voters were tired of hearing about him and from him—Blyleven was an outspoken self-advocate and it worked.

I’m wondering what’s going to happen with a borderline candidate like Curt Schilling. Blyleven had likability on his side; Schilling doesn’t; and it’s going to be hard for Schilling to keep his mouth shut if he doesn’t feel he’s getting his due in the voting process. He’s not going to get in on the first shot.

Short of Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Ty Cobb and the other luminaries, you can make a case against any player no matter how great he was; on the same token, you can make a case for a player like Bobby Abreu, who is not a Hall of Famer.

Even Greg Maddux went from being a dominating pitcher from age 22-32 and became a durable compiler with a high ERA who begged out of games after a finite number of pitches and benefited from pitching for a great Braves team to accrue wins.

Of course Maddux is a first ballot, 95+% vote getter when he becomes eligible, but could a motivated person come up with a case against him? How about “he only struck out 200 batters once; he had superior luck with amazingly low BAbip rates; he only won 20 games twice; his Cy Young Awards all came in a row and he never won another; and he pitched for a great team in a friendly pitchers’ park for most of his career.”

It can be done for and against anyone.

Does Tommy John deserve recognition for the surgery that bears his name? I think he does. Others don’t.

Then there are the PED cases like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds—Hall of Famers both—who are going to have trouble getting in because of the writers’ judgments that they “cheated”.

At least they were implicated. Jeff Bagwell never was and he’s on the outside looking in with 56% of the vote this season. (He’s going to get in eventually.)

So which is it?

What makes a Hall of Famer?

Is it being “famous”? (Reggie Jackson)

Is it a long and notable career? (Don Sutton)

Is it the big moment? (Bill Mazeroski)

Is it being great at a particular part of the game? (Ozzie Smith)

Is it numbers? (Hank Aaron)

Is it propaganda? (Blyleven, Phil Rizzuto)

Is it the perception of cleanliness? (Al Kaline)

Is it on-field performance? (Carlton)

Is it overall comportment? (Stan Musial)

Is it domination over a time period? (Sandy Koufax)

There’s no specific criteria, so there’s no single thing to put someone in or keep them out.

But the back-and-forth has become vitriolic and dismissive with eye-rolling and condescension. If you even dare to suggest that Jim Rice is a Hall of Famer, your case is automatically ignored regardless of how organized and intelligent it is.

That’s not debating. That’s waiting to talk.

Simply because you disagree with someone doesn’t make the other side “wrong” especially in a judgment call like the Hall of Fame.

But there’s not much hope because few—especially in sports—are willing to listen to the other side, let alone allow themselves to be persuaded.

This is where we are and there’s no use in fighting it.

So why try?

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Hall of Fame 2012—Larkin and Raines and Pray for the Sane?

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Let’s talk about the Hall of Fame candidates for 2012.

I use every aspect of a player to assess his candidacy from stats; to perception; to era; to post-season performances; to contributions to the game.

Any of the above can add or subtract credentials and provide impetus to give a thumbs up/thumbs down.

Because the Lords of baseball, the owners, media and fans looked the other way or outright encouraged the drug use and performance enhancers, that doesn’t absolve the players who used the drugs and got caught.

Regarding PEDs, here’s my simple criteria based on the eventual candidacies of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds: if the players were Hall of Famers before they started using, they’re Hall of Famers; if they admitted using the drugs—for whatever reason, self-serving or not—or got caught and it’s statistically obvious how they achieved their Hall of Fame numbers, they’re not Hall of Famers.

As for stats, advanced and otherwise, it’s all part of the consideration process; certain stats and in-depth examinations make players (like Bert Blyleven) more worthy in the eyes of open-minded voters than they were before; the era and what they were asked to do (i.e. “you’re here to swing the bat and drive in runs” a la Andre Dawson and Jim Rice) fall into this category of not simply being about the bottom-line. Their career arcs; their sudden rise and fall and other factors come into the equation.

In short, this is my ballot and what I would do if I had a vote. If you disagree, we can debate it. Comment and I’ll respond.

Barry Larkin

Larkin should wait a bit longer.

He was overrated defensively and only played in more than 145 games in 7 of his 19 seasons. Larkin was a very good player who’s benefiting from certain factions promoting him as a no-doubter with the weak-minded sheep unable to formulate a case against him and joining the wave of support.

Alan Trammell is in the same boat as Larkin and is barely getting any support at all.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Yes.

Alan Trammell

Trammell was a fine fielder and an excellent hitter in the days before shortstops were expected to hit. He’s being unfairly ignored.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Maybe, but not by the writers.

Jack Morris

Morris was a durable winner who doesn’t have the statistics to get into the Hall of Fame. To be completely fair, his starts on a year-to-year basis have to be torn apart to see whether his high ERA is due to a few bad starts sprinkled in with his good ones and if he has a macro-argument for induction. It was that endeavor which convinced me of Blyleven’s suitability and I’ve yet to do it with Morris.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? His percentage has risen incrementally but with three years remaining on the ballot, he’s got a long way to go from 53.5% to 75% and probably won’t make it. The Veterans Committee is his only chance. They might vote him in.

Tim Raines

Are you going to support Kenny Lofton for the Hall of Fame?

By the same argument for Lou Brock and Raines, you have to support Lofton.

And how about Johnny Damon? And if Damon, Lofton and Raines are in, where is it going to stop?

The Hall of Fame building isn’t going to implode with Raines, but it might burst from the rest of the players who are going to have a legitimate case for entry and going by: “if <X> is in, then <Y> should be in”.

Let Raines wait.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Yes.

Jeff Bagwell

How does this work? Someone is a suspect so they receive a sentence of exclusion when nothing has ever been proven? Bagwell’s name has never been mentioned as having been involved in PEDs and the silly “he went from a skinny third baseman to a massive first baseman who could bench press 315 pounds for reps” isn’t a convincing one to keep him out.

Bagwell’s a Hall of Famer.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? No. Bagwell is going to get caught up in the onrush of allegations of wrongdoing and people will forget about him.

Mark McGwire

Under my Bonds/Clemens criteria, McGwire wasn’t a Hall of Famer without the drugs, so he’s not a Hall of Famer. McGwire admitted his steroid use and apologized as a self-serving, “yeah, y’know sorry (sob, sniff)” because he wanted to work as the Cardinals hitting coach.

An apology laden with caveats isn’t an apology. He’s sorry in context and that’s not good enough.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? No.

Juan Gonzalez

Gonzalez won two MVPs and his stats weren’t padded by playing in Rangers Ballpark to the degree that you’d think because the numbers were similar home and road; Gonzalez has a viable resume but will get caught up in the Dale Murphy category and be kept out.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? No.

Edgar Martinez

I’ve written repeatedly in response to those who say a pure DH shouldn’t get into the Hall of Fame: it would’ve been more selfish for Martinez to demand to play the field for the sake of appearance so he’d have a better chance at the Hall of Fame.

He was a great hitter without a weakness—there was nowhere to pitch him.

Martinez is a Hall of Famer.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Maybe.

Larry Walker

He batted .381 in Colorado with a .462 on base and 1.172 OPS. That’s going to hurt him badly.

But he was a Gold Glove outfielder who rarely struck out and had good but not great numbers on the road.

He was never implicated in having used PEDs.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? I don’t think so.

Rafael Palmeiro

In my book, arrogance and stupidity are perfectly good reasons to exclude someone.

Palmeiro could’ve kept his mouth shut or not even gone to speak to Congress at all—the players weren’t under any legal requirement to go. He didn’t jab his finger in the faces of the panel, he jabbed it in the faces of you, me and the world.

Then he got caught.

Then he piled sludge on top of the gunk by offering the utterly preposterous excuse that he didn’t know how he failed the test.

This is all after he began his career as a singles hitter…in Wrigley Field!!

Conveniently, he got to Texas and came under the influence of Jose Canseco to become a basher.

Don’t insult my intelligence and expect me to forget it.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? No.

Bernie Williams

Combining his stretch of brilliance from 1995-2002 and his post-season excellence, he’s not an automatic in or out; over the long term he might garner increasing support.

He was never accused of PED use and is a well-liked person. Looking at his regular season numbers, he falls short; memorable playoff and World Series moments will help him as will his Gold Gloves (in spite of the numbers saying he wasn’t a good center fielder).

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Possibly.

Larkin and Raines might get enshrined in 2012 by the “we have to have someone” contingent which pretty much proves the silliness of the way players are voted in, but it will only be those two.

Ron Santo is going in via the Veterans Committee and he’s dead; Tim McCarver is deservedly going in via the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting and a large crowd won’t gather to see McCarver as the only one speaking in August. So politics and finances may play a part for this class.

Raines and Larkin had better hope they get in this year because in 2013, Clemens, Bonds, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa and Craig Biggio are on the ballot.

I’m quite curious about Sosa to the point of supporting him because: A) I’d like to see the color of his skin now after a strange Michael Jackson-like alteration from what he once was; and B) I want to know if he learned English since his own appearance (alongside Palmeiro) in front of Congress.

It’s worth the vote in a non-linear sort of way.

Apart from that, it’s 2012 or wait, wait, wait for Larkin and Raines.

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MLB CBA: The Wild Card Play-In And Expanded Replay

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Let’s look at some more of the changes to the game in the new collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association. You can get an understandable explanation of everything in the deal here on Baseball Nation.

I’ll talk about the draft changes tomorrow. They’re complicated and convoluted and will take some time to sift through.

The Wild Card play-in game.

There will be an added Wild Card team, but it’s not exactly an expansion of the playoffs. It’s a one-game playoff. The three division winners in each league automatically make the playoffs; the next two best records will play one another to join the party.

I’ve gone to great lengths to formulate a better set-up for the leagues. You can read it here, but the gist would be to eliminate the leagues; place the teams in divisions based on locale; and expand the playoffs to 10 teams.

Shifting the Astros to the American League is simplistic and stupid.

The extra Wild Card team isn’t exactly an “extra” team in the playoffs. They’re getting a chance and that’s it.

This will provide incentive for teams to win the division—no one wants to roll the dice in a one-game playoff if they can help it—and will improve late-season competition.

As for the suggestion that one team might wind up playing another team that was double-digits behind them in the standings, it’s not unprecedented and teams that benefit from that accident of circumstance need not apologize.

The 1973 Mets of Tug McGraw, Yogi Berra, Willie Mays and “ya gotta believe” and “you’re not out of it ’til you’re out of it” went to the World Series after winning the war of attrition NL East, then upset the Big Red Machine Reds in the NLCS.

The 1987 Twins with two starting pitchers—Bert Blyleven and Frank Viola—won 85 games, upset the Tigers in the ALCS and won the World Series.

The Marlins have won two World Series, yet have never won a division title.

They’re quirks. They happen. And will happen again and again, expanded Wild Card or not.

Expanded replay.

When does this end?

Now it’s trapped balls and foul lines?

How about base plays?

Balls and strikes?

Pickoff plays?

Checking home runs was enough.

Because there are so many high-profile blown calls and the proliferation of HD replays and over-and-over viewings, the mistakes are more glaring; it’s ignored that the umpires do a tremendous job getting it right most of the time.

To keep game lengths from going out of control, managers have to be given a challenge on those new additions to replay; they get one and that’s it for the game.

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Viewer Mail 4.18.2011

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Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the commenter who called me an idiot and my retort:

I can hear this dude sizzlin’ and fizzlin’ after that beatdown…

He never got back to me. Strange.

Fart (for real) writes RE Curt Schilling‘s Hall of Fame candidacy:

Check out Schilling’s Twitter, 3/20/2011: “Do I think I am a HOF? No.”
He’s not going to whine like Blyleven did. Smart move that might work in his favor.

He certainly ain’t getting in first ballot – those regular season stats are just sad for a HOF candidate. Nice WHIP and K/BB, and 3000 K’s, but Blyleven had all of that and more, and needed 14 ballots to get in. Then 2014-15 are loaded with sure things like Pedro, Johnson, Maddux, Glavine. Schilling may be the pitching version of Mr. October, and I say he gets in eventually, but he’s going to have to wait in line. Still, based on the tweet above, I expect him to keep his trap shut about it.

I think Schilling’s using reverse psychology trying to be Mr. Humility and appear as if he’s this common man who was pleased to have his opportunity to do his job—a job that happened to be in the spotlight.

It’s the Joe the Plumber fallacy.

One thing that has to be accounted for is his success in the steroid era; that’s something Bert Blyleven didn’t have to deal with. Blyleven was suffering from the perceptive indifference that voters had toward his mediocre record; the prevalence of statistics, a well-presented case for his enshrinement and a grass-roots movement got him in.

Schilling’s silence/openness about the voting may depend on how close he gets on the first couple of ballots. If he’s an “eventual” candidate who gets enough votes to foretell a groundswell of support growing incrementally until he’s inducted after 6 or so years, then he’ll be quiet. If he gets 40% of the vote the first year and it dwindles, he’ll start squawking. Loudly.

Norm writes RE the Mets:

I realize it’s somewhat unfair and cliched to pile on Alderson and his exec assistants at this juncture, but this whole thing is beginning to smell as bad as I feared it would.
The picking up of Emaus is symptomatic. Not that he is necessarily a bad player,or that he wasn’t worthy of a Rule 5 pickup. Just that it is a bad sign for JP to pick up a player he scouted and probably signed as a Blue Jay GM: I know this happens all the time, but it’s indicative to me of a lazy GM who ‘knows’ his ‘own’ players better than he does players from other teams and organizations. Add it to the genuine unease I feel at Alderson’s smarminess (although I loved the battle of pomposity between him and Francesa) and his pointless hiring of two ex GMs to, in essence, pick up players from scrap heaps (as the team has no money to sign or trade for expensive players) and I feel that we are in an Isiah as GM situation.

The Mets had a choice: either get aggressive and do what they did under the prior three GMs—something ridiculous like offer $200 million for Cliff Lee; or wait out the bad contracts, look for bargains and start rebuilding the organization from the bottom up.

They were smart to do the latter.

Brad Emaus‘s numbers in the minors are excellent; the Mets don’t have a second baseman; he’s worth a legitimate look instead of the reactionary, “two weeks and begone”. It’s understandable for scouts/executives to cling to players they believe in. Sometimes it works out.

I’m no basketball guy, but you can’t compare Sandy Alderson to Isiah Thomas. Thomas had no success whatsoever anywhere as an executive in any capacity; Alderson has had success and, at the very least, has a plan.

I was a frequent critic of J.P. Ricciardi as a GM even though I thought he was better than people suggested; Paul DePodesta was an atrocious GM, but he’s shown his attributes as an assistant with the Padres and Athletics.

Because someone failed as the boss doesn’t mean they have no discernible use.

The Mets weren’t going to be good this year regardless of expectations, hopes, and fantasy. It’s a bridge year where the barn will be cleaned out of rats and excrement. No more, no less.

Max Stevens writes RE the Mets and the doubleheader loss to the Rockies:

How much longer do you think it will be before Terry Collins‘ head explodes?  I suffered through both games of that doubleheader yesterday and felt really envious of the Rockies.  They execute.  They don’t make mental errors.  They come to play every night.  They battle back.  They’re everything the Mets are not.  I understand that they simply have much more talent on their roster right now than we do, but the Mets just don’t look prepared.  I thought Collins was all about preparation and “playing the game the right way.”  And those stands at Bailout Park looked really empty.  It reminded me of going to games at Shea in the late 70s when there were maybe 3000 people in the ballpark and you could hear the players talking to each other on the field.  Let the rebuilding begin sooner rather than later…

Collins, like Alderson and his people, isn’t stupid. He knows what the talent level is; of course that doesn’t preclude them from playing the game correctly—and there’s no excuse for not being able to throw the ball pitcher to catcher; screwing it up twice was unconscionable. Fundamentals have to be established from the bottom up.

Every team has their gaffes and the Mets have the penchant for making other teams look good. The Rockies are well-schooled and run by Jim Tracy, but it wasn’t long ago that they were dysfunctional and staggering with Clint Hurdle fired and GM Dan O’Dowd in the final year of his contract. Had they not caught fire when Tracy took over, O’Dowd would’ve been gone after the 2009 season.

This panic is misplaced. The Mets are what they are. They’re essentially starting over; to think that the new regime would walk through the door and have everyone playing the game correctly immediately was a classic overreach of change being the cure-all. It’s not.

They’ll have to suffer this season and regain the trust of the fan base. There’s no other way.

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Viewer Mail 2.5.2011

Hall Of Fame, Hot Stove

Norm writes RE Mike Francesa, the Wilpons and Bernie Madoff:

Listening to Francesa’s newfound financial ‘expertise’ re. Madoff, ponzi schemes, the SEC etc, I cannot help but think that he should next tackle the Egypt crisis. He is quite versatile.

Btw, I find it amazing that no one at the Fan or in Franceca’s family (for example his little kids) have told Mike that he should stop talking about certain matters because he just reveals his ignorance and idiocy. I.e. anything involving basic mathematics—Mike should probably stop trying to do basic math on air.

I haven’t listened to him all that much regarding the Madoff thing but from what I did hear, I have to provide him with a lukewarm defense in that he was expressing his lack of knowledge regarding the investment machinations.

Of course, knowing him, it was a reaction to the backlash against his pompous and omnipotent “I know everything about everything” tone that he exhibits about, well, everything.

It’s quite odd to me when someone openly admits they just “give the money to their financial guy and tell them to do whatever”; this is how these Ponzi schemes and lost fortunes happen in the first place.

Francesa clings to things—it’s what he does. It might be a fervent belief in what he thinks; or, more likely, it’s a desperate attempt at being seen as “right”.

The smart, credibility-accumulating maneuver would’ve been for him to say, “I thought the idea that they owed a billion dollars was ridiculous and I said so; we won’t know ’til the details come out, but it might be a billion dollars!”

Then he could’ve deferred to financial people who can explain it succinctly; he has so many listeners especially in New York and in the financial arena, it would’ve been easy to find someone to teach it like a college professor and tell everyone what the case against the Wilpons entails.

Again, I’ve listened to him briefly, so he might have done that already.

Francesa wants credit. It’s an egomania that’s fed with accolades whether they’re valid or not.

In the battle of credit vs credibility, I always prefer credibility. It takes longer to build, but it’s more worthwhile in the long run.

Two comments from Jeff at Red State Blue State relating to the Yankees, Bartolo Colon and Andy Pettitte:

I think Bartolo Colon is worth signing for that ridiculous haircut alone.

Personally, I’m glad this story is over. I’m a bit tired — no, make that EXTREMELY tired — of hearing the whining from Yankees fans. In fact, the pleading and whining and crying they’ve been doing this offseason was starting to make them sound like Red Sox fans.

I’m still trying to get past Colon’s listed weight of 185 lbs. I’m 185 lbs!!!

As I said earlier this week, I have no issue with them signing Colon or Freddy Garcia—both have proven relatively recently that they can possibly be of some use; the Mark Prior signing was worth a gamble; but now they’ve signed Eric Chavez.

This is a colossal waste of time because he is not going to stay healthy—no way, no how and it literally makes no sense even as a shrugging, “let’s have a look” move.

With Pettitte, it really was enough in every conceivable sense. Saluting a baseball-related warrior is one thing; going on and on endlessly with whimpering as if the man died is another. And the tributes? How long is this going to go on?

It is refreshing to see the Yankees not get everything they want as a matter of course; naturally you see some ignorant fans take their frustrations out—like an abusive older sibling—on the Mets; this is more of a reflection on them and their rampant insecurities than anything else.

Pattie writes RE Andy Pettitte:

“Pettitte has been as clean off the field as he was gutty on it; he wasn’t going to wilt in the spotlight; Knowing someone’s going to be there and not cower in the face of danger is a valuable asset; always consistent; durable and money in the playoffs; he’s the guy you want protecting you. If he lost, it wasn’t due to a lack of conviction or courage; it was because he got beat; he won five championships; he behaved professionally and with class; he made a lot of money; and he told the truth” That’s out of your own mouth. He’s also been in the top 10 Cy Young voting 5 times; he’s the second-winningest active pitcher in baseball (240 wins), and the winningest postseason pitcher (19 wins) of all-time; best pickoff move in baseball. All this isn’t great? I usually agree with you, but come on, your lordship, give the man his due!

“Greatness” is a subjective term and you can make a case for Pettitte being a better pitcher than other pitchers who are perceived as “great” because he was able to perform amid all the pressures of New York and in the playoffs.

The Cy Young voting, many times, is based on competition more than individual performance. He won all those post-season games because the playoffs added a third tier right when Pettitte broke into the big leagues and he was on teams that made the playoffs every year.

In order to truly determine his worthiness for the term “great”, all of these things must be taken into account.

Calling me “your lordship” is a good way to get me to see your side of the argument though!

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Andy Pettitte:

Good summary of Andy and his career. There’s nothing like having a pitcher you can always count on to give you 100%. Andy did that and more.

It’s hard to be cynical when he sounded so sincere in that his passion wasn’t there and his refusal to sign on if he wasn’t all in; this is in spite of people calling him, begging and telling him how much they needed him and, especially, that his family was on-board for another season.

The $12-15 million is another factor that is hard to fathom turning down.

Joe writes RE the Yankees and Pettitte:

Good post. I agree that Pettitte isn’t a HOF. And even though I hate the Yankees, I believe Clemens, Jeter, Rivera, and maybe even Posada are HOF’s. Unsure about Posada though.

As a catcher on five championship teams with those offensive numbers and dealing with an eclectic group of pitchers in both mood and stuff, Jorge Posada is a Hall of Famer. More so than a Barry Larkin-type and definitely more than Tim Raines.

In fairness, I have to eventually do as I did with John Smoltz and Bert Blyleven and examine Pettitte’s career from beginning to end—gamelogs, competition, other pitchers in the league in comparison—and truly decide whether he has a case for the Hall of Fame. At first glance, it’s a clear “no”; but it was the first glance that kept Blyleven out for so long. Perhaps Pettitte has a legitimate case for serious consideration.

I’ll withhold judgment….for now.

Viewer Mail 1.11.2011

Hall Of Fame, Hot Stove

Joe (DaGodfather on Twitter) writes RE Bert Blyleven and the Hall of Fame:

I heard something interesting this week about him. I forget who said it but they said something to the effect that he was never a number 1 and never was a game 1 or game 7 pitcher. In fact, there was one year where his Twins made the playoffs and he didn’t even pitch in that series. So basically, forget the numbers, look at what his coaches, scouts, and GMs thought of him at the time. Do you really think they were ALL wrong and don’t know what they are doing?

Also, you never said, or at least I never saw, you say anything about whether you think Palmeiro, McGwire, and Bagwell should be HOFers. Personally, I think they should. You are not comparing players in different eras. You are comparing them to the people they played with. Seems to me that most of the players in the Steroids Era were using, hence the name. So, like it or not, they were the best of that era. And the HOF is a museum. A museum is supposed to present the facts of what their particular topic is, in an unbiased fashion. You don’t have to like the steroid era. You can wish it never happened but you can not pretend it did not and wish it away. Put these guys in, let everyone make up their own minds about them.

In general, I don’t buy into the assigned “numbers” for pitchers. Much like my argument against pure stat zombieing, these are human beings with different abilities—maximums and minimums. I’ll take a chance on a player who I think can be much more than his statistical parts suggest; I also like having players from whom I know what to expect; it goes without saying that any team can use a C.C. Sabathia or Roy Halladay who are going to provide consistent excellence whether or not they have their good stuff.

A year ago, I went through Blyleven’s career season-by-season when he just missed induction and he was harmed by being on bad teams much of the time—link. His contemporaries didn’t do him much good as Jim Palmer was the best pitcher in the American League and Catfish Hunter was on a great A’s team and padded his statistics that way.

How do you pigeonhole pitchers on mediocre teams? On great teams? Who was the “number 1” starter on the Yankees during their dynasty? In season, it didn’t make much difference who was starting a game; in the playoffs, even though he was despised, when David Wells was at the top of his game, he was who they wanted pitching; I’d put Orlando Hernandez ahead of Roger Clemens from those teams as well.

You can take that analogy to your Phillies as well. Do you want Halladay (who pitched a post-season no-hitter)? Cliff Lee (with his playoff success)? Cole Hamels (a former NLCS/World Series MVP)? Or Roy Oswalt (a fearless, unflappable veteran)?

The “numerical” designation is more about identification and ego than any realistic judgment in reality.

As for the statement that Blyleven was with the Twins during a post-season series and didn’t pitch. I assume you’re referring to 1970 when he was a 19-year-old rookie. The Orioles swept the Twins in three games in the ALCS; he was on a staff with veterans Jim Perry, Jim Kaat and Luis Tiant and a young lefty named Tom Hall whose numbers were devastating. Blyleven did pitch in relief in that series.

I’m not as passionate a defender of Blyleven as Rich Lederer and the stat-obsessed are; in looking at his numbers, his contemporaries and the full context, plus the pitchers like Don Sutton who are in the Hall of Fame and is comparable in every aspect to Blyleven, then Blyleven is a Hall of Famer too.

I’m iffy on Jeff Bagwell—he may get caught up in the allegations that he was a skinny minor leaguer with no power and turned into a beast. I would not vote for Rafael Palmeiro—statistically his numbers took a wondrous jump at a strange time, a time in which PEDs were en vogue. I would’ve voted for Mark McGwire had he not embarrassed himself at the congressional hearings and then confessed to his steroid use out of personal convenience more than purely sincere regret. Now? No.

You don’t have to give them a plaque to have “everyone make up their own minds about them”. That’s rewarding them to foster discussion; the two things are not connected; that they’ve been excluded creates more of a debate than inducting them would.

If you want to look at contemporaries, look at Barry Bonds. He played clean and kept up with the users; he played with PEDs and dwarfed their numbers. It’s a transference onto the same playing field and he blew them away in both. Bonds is a Hall of Famer with or without drugs as is Roger Clemens; these other players weren’t and wouldn’t have been had they played straight.

Joe (StatMagician) writes RE Barry Bonds:

You used the words “BONDS,” “friendship,” and “loyalty” in the same sentence.

It’s interesting with Barry Bonds. Which is better? An affable “everyone’s friend” teammate? Or Barry Bonds who was aloof—even nasty—but was one of the smartest and best players of his era, steroids or not? For all the bickering and negativity between Bonds and his Pirates and Giants teammates, it was Bonds who had a profound influence on Matt Williams and Jeff Kent. He was always helping teammates with tips to be used on the field.

I don’t seecamaraderie as irrelevant, but in some cases it’s not necessary.He wasn’t his teammates’ friend? So what?

And Joe, are you buying my book this year or are you gonna keep being a mooch?

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Rafael Soriano:

Soriano gacks up big games? And wouldn’t pitch more than one inning for the Rays? Uh-oh. I don’t want him anymore for the Yankees.

It’s his history. He gives up big homers because he appears to try too hard in important spots. We saw it in game 5 of the ALDS when he allowed the backbreaking homer to Ian Kinsler in the ninth inning to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 5-1 deficit. I don’t know that I’d trust him to handle New York either.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Carl Pavano:

I wonder if we’re perhaps too hard on Pavano in regards to his hellish Yankeedom. I mean, did he really just mail it in and sit on the beach while being hurt with a smile on his face or was he genuinely upset that he couldn’t perform?

His body language in his first season was atrocious; then he got hurt. It’s possible that he got his money and lost desire; it’s happened before and if he had a mental issue with New York, the pressure and his station in life—“I got paid, now what?”—that’s understandable; but as time went on, it looked as if the perception was such that he felt there was no way to rehabilitate his image with the organization, media and fans and he gave up trying.

His injuries were real, but it was the sheer ludicrous nature of how he got hurt—crashing his Porsche with his model girlfriend; a bruised buttocks—that exacerbated his nightmare.

As a competitor, I’m sure he was embarrassed; no one wants to see such awful things written and said about themselves, but if he holds anyone responsible for his unforgettable (and not in a positive way) stay in New York, he need look no further than a mirror.

Check ‘Ya Self

Hall Of Fame, Hot Stove
  • The NFL banned excessive celebrating for a reason:

The reason, I think, is that it starts fights. Mostly. But there are other cause-and-effect responses to one side or the other “winning” an argument; a game; a turf war and overdoing it with the taunting.

We saw the logical conclusion of the stat zombie “revolution” in Moneyball; and it’s going to start up again once the ridiculous—and altered—movie from the twisted bit of literary skills displayed by Michael Lewis in selling snake oil to the masses.

With every small victory (perceived or real), they’re emboldened to push a bit further, harder and with more false bravado from their afterglow of victory.

One such victory was getting Bert Blyleven elected to the Hall of Fame after his candidacy seemed dead early in the cycle.

To be fair, without the proliferation of stats and deeper analysis, Blyleven would’ve been left out completely; he’d have fallen from the ballot and treated with a Mike Francesa-like, “Bert Blyleven is not a Hall of Famuh!!!” as a dismissive end to any and all debate.

But such pomposity isn’t relegated to the Francesas of the world; it extends everywhere and that includes those who think that winning one round means winning a fight; that getting Blyelven elected will result in their way being taken as the template.

And it won’t.

Nor should it.

Like any religion or belief system, it has to be taken with nuance and put in the proper context.

Blyleven deserved to be inducted, so the zombies are justified in strutting for the time being. But, like with Moneyball, this too is going to reach it’s logical conclusion; since many of them run when confronted as individuals it’s going to cause the group dynamic to try and exert what will they have on those who see things differently and aren’t afraid to say so.

What we’ll see as this evolves is what we saw with Moneyball; there will be an attempt to take over the world with like-minded individuals. Like something out of George Orwell or the Twilight Zone, the mysterious “they” that generally makes up any supportive mass of humanity will rise and recede; only courageous enough to take a stand when they’re among their brethren, they’ll retreat to safety when faced alone.

Watch.

Tim Raines—a borderline Hall of Famer in my eyes—will be supported by the numbers. Well, I think Tim Raines was a fine player who has a legitimate case for enshrinement, but a slam dunk Hall member? No, he’s not. And I don’t care about the statistics suggesting he is.

Barry Larkin? We again get into the “if he’s in, then why isn’t he in?” with comparable players like Alan Trammell.

When debate is stifled by shouting of one group over another; when the excessive celebrating reaches the proportions as it did during the heady days following Moneyball (and degenerated into the predictable disaster soon to get worse), we all lose.

Just as those who relentlessly drove Blyleven’s Hall bonafides up until his election, do they truly want to have their “movement” stifle anyone who dares disagree with them on a player like Raines? For years, the stat zombies tried to keep Jim Rice and Andre Dawson from the Hall when they were deserving members. They failed. They claim that the inductions of Rice and Dawson diminish the quality of the Hall itself.

It doesn’t.

Much like the Blyleven election and the Raines support, I suppose there are viable and logical tenets upon which to base the disqualification of Rice and Dawson. That doesn’t make either side “right” like it’s a math equation.

This is the problem the stat obsessed encounters when coming to any of their conclusions: they think people can be boiled down to their statistical parts.

And they can’t.

  • Viewer Mail 1.7.2010:

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the Orioles:

For me, personally, watching the decline of the Orioles over the last decade has been a real downer. Growing up they were one of the most consistently awesome teams in the game. I have always had great respect for the “Oriole Way” and hope that that way is found again with these new additions. They can only go up from here… so that’s a good sign.

You’re a little younger than me, so you probably don’t remember what a disciplined, well-oiled machine they were under Earl Weaver. They and the Dodgers were the template of how to do it right—building a team correctly and winning consistently.

Buck Showalter will get them back, but it’s not going to be as fast as the burst over the last two months of 2010 suggested.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Hall of Fame:

I’m glad for Alomar and Blyleven. They deserved entry. What I’ll never understand about the HOF voting, though, is why someone doesn’t get in one year but gets in the next. Were they less worthy last time around? Or is there a message sent: “You’re good but not first ballot good?”

I disagree with many of the justifications certain voters use to explain themselves (if they’re at all competent in their baseball analysis to start with), but the first ballot is reserved for the no-brainers.

Tom Seaver, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle—players who even non-baseball fans know around the world fall into that category. Even players I support like Dawson and Rice didn’t warrant first ballot election.

To me, John Smoltz isn’t a first ballot member (he’s going to have to wait, I’ll guess, 3 years); while his Braves brethren Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine will walk in on the first ballot. And they should.

Matt at Diamondhacks writes RE Curt Schilling:

“Unlike Blyleven, [Schilling’s] a guy who’s going to lose support the more he talks.”

I laughed, because it’s true.

I’ll see your laugh and raise it with a near-spitting out of my water when I read the opening of your latest posting:

Jeff Bagwell, a decent minor leaguer with a future in bodybuilding, who eventually hit 449 MLB homers, didn’t enter the Hall of Fame on his first try.”

Future in bodybuilding!!!!

Humanity And The Hall Of Fame

Hall Of Fame

Before anything else, I went into Bert Blyleven‘s Hall of Fame candidacy in painstaking detail almost a year ago to this day—Prince of NY Baseball Blog, 1.9.2010.

Having nothing to do with his politicking and pressuring the voters to induct him; nor his iffy win totals, Blyleven was up there with the great pitchers of his day in everything but winning percentage; he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

It’s interesting to note that Blyleven’s support was almost non-existent until the new metrics and proliferation of stat friendly writers and bloggers began pushing him so aggressively. As more stat people were allowed to vote and present their case to those that in prior years weren’t receptive to Blyleven, many slowly had their minds changed to vote yes.

With Felix Hernandez going 13-12 and (deservedly) winning the Cy Young Award a year after Tim Lincecum won the award with a less-flashy winning percentage and ERA than Chris Carpenter and a lower win total than Adam Wainwright, the numbers are having a profound affect on the post-season awards and the Hall of Fame.

Will this continue as Curt Schilling—a loud proponent of the candidacy of…Curt Schilling—gets ready for his career to be put to the ultimate test in two years?

Blyleven’s consistent harping on his own worthiness clearly had a positive influence on some of the voters; but Blyleven was well-liked in his day as a team clown; Schilling was respected on the field, but loved hearing the sound of his own voice and playing up his team-oriented nature and “gutsy” performances exemplified by the bloody sock in the 2004 ALCS.

Are Schilling’s credentials better than those of Kevin Brown? Brown was loathed by the media because he made their lives difficult— seemingly on purpose—but was gutty in his own right; his intensity to win and discomfort with the media caused many of his problems. Should he be seen in a less flattering light than Schilling because of that?

Brown was better than Schilling in the regular season—people don’t realize how good Brown really was because of his injuries and bad press; Schilling was lights out in the post-season. Along with Bob Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Dave Stewart to name three, there aren’t many pitchers you’d rather have on the mound in a make-or-break post-season game than Curt Schilling.

You didn’t see Brown schmoozing and cajoling to get his due in the HOF balloting.

Schilling?

Put it this way: people like Blyleven personally and got tired of hearing him whine; Schilling is the epitome of polarizing; he was a great pitcher who put up big post-season numbers; he’s done some incredibly nice things with his time and money in terms of charity; and he’s a relentless self-promoter who casts himself as a representative of conservative causes with his hand over his heart and waving of the American flag as if that’s the definition of right in the world regardless of context.

I truly don’t know what’s going to happen with Schilling, but I doubt he’ll get in on the first ballot and the longer he waits, the less likely he is to keep his mouth shut. Unlike Blyleven, he’s a guy who’s going to lose support the more he talks.

Regarding the other candidates, I think Barry Larkin and Tim Raines should wait a while (maybe a long while) before meriting serious consideration; that Jack Morris is a Hall of Famer; that Fred McGriff is a Hall of Famer; Edgar Martinez and Alan Trammell deserve more support; and if Blyleven’s in, then Tommy John should be in. In fact, John has a better case than Blyleven in my eyes for the combination of success on the field and that he revolutionized the game by undergoing the surgery that’s saved scores of careers, is so commonplace that it’s no longer a pitcher’s death sentence and now bears his name—a name that many mentioning it don’t realize belongs to a pitcher who won 288 games.

Roberto Alomar also deserves his election to the Hall for his on-field accomplishments. He was a great fielder; an excellent, all-around hitter; a terrific baserunner; and a clutch player. He also fell off the planet in his numbers at a young age and his career was sullied by the incident while playing for the Orioles in which he spat in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck during an argument.

Then there were the PED cases Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro; the “lumped in with the offenders” types like Jeff Bagwell; and the “ballpark question from playing in Coors Field” of Larry Walker.

McGwire and Palmeiro aren’t getting in. Ever.

I don’t know about Bagwell and Walker; fairly or not, I’d say on January 6th, 2011, that I doubt either will be enshrined.

Here’s the point: are McGwire and Palmeiro being punished because of the judgments of people without a clear cut series of rules that govern how they vote? And where does this judgment begin and end?

Since the PED issues with McGwire and Palmeiro are going to prevent them from ever receiving any kind of support, does that equate with the off-field allegations about Roberto Alomar?

People have been reluctant to discuss this, but what of the continued accusations from Alomar’s former girlfriends and his ex-wife of having unprotected sex with them while knowing he’s HIV-positive?

As much as people try to claim a separation of on-and-off field behaviors in casting ballots, which is worse? A player doing what a large percentage of his contemporaries were doing during the so-called “steroid era” and putting up massive numbers? Or going beyond the scope of humanity with a repulsive selfishness as Alomar is accused of doing in his romantic life?

You can claim there to be no connection to the Hall of Fame with the allegations against Alomar and I’ll agree with you; but to equate someone using steroids to the devaluation of one’s humanity in taking another person’s long term health as nothing to be concerned about—as Alomar is repeatedly alleged to have done—is a greater level of moral repugnance than any drug use could ever be whether it’s recreational or performance enhancing.

Alomar and his representatives “kinda-sorta” deny he has HIV, but if you read between the lines, it’s not a denial. It’s parsing.

Only he knows if he’s been behaving this way and possibly infecting lovers with a dreaded disease, but if it became publicly known to be true, would that seep into the voters’ minds?

As much as it’s suggested that players’ personalities and off-field tendencies have nothing to do with their careers, how long did Jim Rice have to wait for induction based more on his prickly relationship with the media than the proffered reasons for keeping him out?

The people who dealt with a borderline candidate like Brown aren’t going to be as supportive as the prototypical “blogger in the basement” who had no reason to dislike him and is simply looking at the numbers.

On the same token, Dale Murphy was considered one of the nicest, most decent men to ever put on a baseball uniform; he has a somewhat legitimate candidacy for HOF consideration, but has never come close; nor will he.

The spitting incident with Hirschbeck was said to be a major reason Alomar didn’t get in on the first ballot; but what if it was revealed that yes, he’s been putting people with whom he had intimate relations at risk due to his own denials and insistence to not practice safe sex? Would that cause anyone to hesitate?

As long as there are no clear cut criteria and people like Blyleven get results from a propaganda tour and outside support that grows exponentially, it’s not something to dismiss.

It’s a hard question to answer and I’d have to think very seriously before casting my vote for or against someone if that were the case.