Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Power of Blogs

...and why they're certainly the way of the not-so-distant future.

I'm sure at least a few of you have heard this story already. But, since it involves ESPN, the controversy has been mostly quelled, limited to blogs and some local Chicago media. It is for this reason that I feel compelled to spread the message via this blog. Roughly 120 people read this daily, and while that number isn't astounding, it's 120 people who may be unaware of this issue.

The story started back on Wednesday. Deadspin posted a story from the Cubs blog concerning an e-mail from a production associate for Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith. The contents were intended to attract Cubs fans to a taping of the show, on which Dusty Baker was to be interviewed. The line that struck a chord with GoatRiders:

"You guys can definitely feel free to BOO Dusty if you so please."

If you read the above link, you'll know that GoatRiders are far from Dusty Baker fans. It's one thing to dislike a manager and wish for him to be replaced. It's another to condone an ambush.

I was outraged after reading this, mainly because I think Stephen A. possesses little journalistic talent, his voice and vocal style are insufferable, and he -- along with colleague Scoop Jackson -- constantly plays the race card. I'm also adamantly against sensationalism in any aspect of journalism, and this story reeked of it. Dusty is clearly on the verge of losing his job, and it looks like the Quite Frankly crew is trying to muster up some ratings by cutting Dusty with a rusty blade.

Friday rolls around, and Deadspin alerts us about an article in the Chicago Tribune, in which Stephen A. accuses Deadspin of doctoring the letter. Problem is, Deadspin didn't even print the letter; they merely linked to the story at Stephen A. denies that his staff had sent out such an e-mail, which is a blatant lie, since more than one Cubs blog received the same letter. Furthermore, a "corrected" e-mail was subsequently sent to the same recipients.

Finally, GoatRiders received an e-mail from ESPN:

"The production company did a thorough review and it was brought to my attention that I was mislead. The word 'boo' was used. I trusted the individual and apologize for giving bad information. At the end of the day, the situation has been dealt with."

So, in the end, Stephen A. accused others of lying, but, in fact, he himself lied or was grossly misled. He handed out hefty accusations that proved wildly false. The situation "has been dealt with," which I take to mean that the Assistant Audience Producer was at least reprimanded. But what for Smith? Is he going to walk away scott free after accusing innocent men of lying? How does he or his staff retain any shred of credibility?

I know it may seem like a lot of reading, but I seriously encourage you to explore all of the links in this story. It fills in a lot of the gaps, and these pieces are written by people with more direct knowledge of the situation. And, on top of that, they're rather fine writers worthy of your time.

I'll close with a quote from one of my personal favorite writers, Will Leitch of Deadspin. This quote was buried in the middle of the Chicago Tribune article, but I think it speaks volumes:

"I don't think the blogs care about Stephen A. Smith one way or another," said deadspin editor Will Leitch, who hails from Mattoon, Ill. "I haven't noticed a vendetta. It would be a surprise to me if they all manipulated it [the boo Dusty Baker e-mail]."

Friday, July 21, 2006

Why Does This Stuff Even Circulate?

Rodriguez laughs off trade rumor

First off, the proposal is ridiculous. Second, there is no way the Yankees are trading Alex Rodriguez. Third, this is doing nothing but further bruising his psyche. It's clear at this point that his mind resembles that of a 15-year-old, so why fuck with him?

Obviously, Yankees haters are behind this. Because if you perpeturate such rumors, you obviously don't want to see the team suceed.

P.S. If anyone hears me boo Alex for the rest of the season, you have full permission to punch me square in the balls. The only exception would be him striking out with a guy on third and less than two outs -- UPDATE: Or grounding into a game-ending double-play. Thanks, Andy -- in a game that definitively means something (i.e. they lose this and they're mathematically out of the playoffs).

In fact, I think I'm done with the A-Rod moniker all together. He's Alex from now on.

We Blew It!

There are some games that make you want to lob a brick through the television. Vernon Wells inspired that notion last night. I'd like to say it took all my willpower to refrain from destroying my idiot box, but in reality, it was my lazy nature.

With a 3-0 lead in the sixth, I fell into a false sense of security. The Yankees had strung together some runs against Halladay, and Mussina looked like he was prepared to mow down the Jays right through the bottom of the ninth. And then came the double, and the error, and the double, the end of the sixth, I was an empty and dejected man.

There's plenty of blame to go around for this loss, and I'm going to start with Ken Singleton. Yes, I am pinning 1 percent of this loss on the asinine commentator. The reason is simple: he's a fucking jinx. He was the first to mention Randy Johnson's no-no on Memorial Day (how he beat Michael Kay to the punch is beyond me), and soon thereafter it was no more. Then, in that ridiculous loss to the Indians, he did it again. Second inning, Travis Hafner up with two on.

Singleton: “For all those home runs Pronk has hit, he's never gone deep against the Yankees.”

KABAM! 7-0.

Last night, it was worse. Kay and Singleton were discussing how Toronto closer B.J. Ryan has allowed only one home run all year.

Singleton: “Well, Mariano hasn't allowed ANY this year.”

And we all know how that one turned out. Now, I'm not superstitious, but most baseball players are. I think Al Leiter needs a cattle prod in the YES booth to keep his cohorts in line.

While I'm on the subject of the YES crew, I'm going to make a confession: I actually agreed wholeheartedly with Michael Kay last night. I thought it was impossible, too, but apparently the guy does have some semblance of a thought process. When John Gibbons removed Halladay in favor of Ryan to face Jason Giambi, Kay was dumbfounded. True, the stats say that Giambi has fared well in the past against Roy, and that must have been Gibbons's motive for the switch. Why else swap out your Cy Young candidate ace for your closer with two outs and none on in the eighth?

Kay's argument was that with a low pitch count, there was no reason for Halladay to not finish the inning. He's the ace, and, as Kay astutely pointed out, he's a better started than Ryan is a closer. You can point to Ryan's ERA all you want, but he hasn't been doing it as long and dominantly as Halladay.

Of course, I'm not complaining about the move, since a single, a walk, and a broken bat single tied the game. I'm just pointing out the inefficient use of resources.

I've refrained from ripping Torre in this space for a few weeks now, probably because we've been winning. But really, his bullpen decisions have been sound of late, an optimistic sign heading into August (burnout month). When interviewed by Mike Francessa yesterday, the issue was brought up about the overuse of Mariano Rivera. Joe said that he doesn't like using him for two innings, and that they're going to try to get away from that. His response, paraphrased, was that he would base Mo's appearances and innings on his current workload.

Then why pitch him two innings last night? It makes very little sense when you remember that this is a four-game set. Why take your closer out of the next game when you don't have a day off for another week? The one inning I was perfectly fine with, but the second inning is just begging for Mo overkill. And this isn't a second-guessing or hindsight notion. Trust me, I was pretty pissed when I saw him trotting out for the 11th.

I guess my only other gripe would be with Mr. Rod, for obvious reasons. Throw it home, throw it to first; I don't care. Just make sure the throw is accurate. I'm actually wondering about Alex's intentions when throwing home in the sixth. Obviously, he had enough time, but the play was clearly to first base (hence the infield back). Maybe, in the jungle that is the psyche of A-Rod, he feared the same result as his previous throw to first base, a six-bouncer scooped by Andy Phillips. It was a great play, no doubt, but he blew it by spiking it like a touchdown celebration. So was it fear that caused Alex to make the wrong play – and throw errantly?

Pressure's on Wright now, because the Yanks simply can't afford to lose tonight's game. Pressure's on A-Rod, too, to supply the offense.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Coulda Used That Sweep

One of the themes of this season, to this point, has been, “I'll take two out of three.” And, normally, taking two out of three is a desirable season outcome; that's a 108-win season. But when you're going for a sweep and lose a winnable game, well, that's just not acceptable, no matter what the circumstances.

Things just weren't clicking from the beginning. Text messages flowed to my phone, all along the lines of, “dude, Gilgameche is no-hitting the Yanks!” Having the game on MLB Radio, I knew what was going on, but I was fairly confident the Yanks would get to him sooner or later. They're too patient a team to be no-hit at this point. Just a few mistakes, and you have guys batting with hitter's counts who aren't afraid to take a walk. And that's where the flood gates supposedly open.

I'm going to table my complaining, though, after the gift of a game we got Tuesday night. Mike Reilly certainly made some suspect decisions, and I can't blame Mariners fans for wanting five minutes alone with him.

Not much else to say about the series. Wish we could have swept, disappointed we lost a winnable game to complete said sweep, but given Tuesday night's circumstances, I'll take the two games and focus my attention to Toronto, who scare the bejeezus out of me.

Right off the bat we've got the marquee pitching matchup, Mussina v. Halladay. Moose had better bring his A-game, because Halladay had a nifty record against the Yanks lifetime – 9-4 with a 3.08 ERA. He's 12-2 with a 3.06 ERA this season.

Here's the thing about Roy: his strikeout totals are way down. This is in combination with a slight rise in walk rate and equally slight rise in innings per start. Really, his peripherals do not match the outcome, and normally I would expect regression. But this is Roy freakin' Halladay. He's scary whether he's striking out batters or inducing weak grounders off the end of the bat.

After Halladay, it's A.J. Burnett vs. Jaret Wright on Friday, Chien-Ming Wang vs. our old buddy Ted Lilly on Saturday, and caps off with a Sir Sidney/Shaun Marcum Sunday. Just looking at the pitching matchups, I'd predict a split. I'd also predict a split because it's the easiest prediction in the book...

But flip over to the offensive side. Everyone talks about the war-torn Yankees, but the Blue Jays are in equally sad shape right now. Not that he's a bad player or anything, but you know you're in a little doo-doo when Gregg Zaun is DHing. This is what happens when your breakout star goes down with a worse-than-initially-thought leg infection, and your All-Star third baseman is day to day – and your normal DH has been DFA'd.

(Note: There is no possible way Shea Hillenbrand goes to the Yankees. Period. Not that I'd particularly want him here. Just saying.)

I wish there was more I could say about the Blue Jays, but I'm kind of afraid. They're nipping at our heels, and if they take three of four, they're in real good shape. However, we're not the Red Sox, so we don't flail like little girls against the Canadians.

If there's a trade rumor today, you'll be sure to see it here. Check back.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Game Was Late and So Is This Post

Did I say I'd return with the Win Expectancy today? Obviously, I had not factored in the rain delay, because once Melky hit that bomb, I was in no shape to be plugging numbers into an Excel spreadsheet.

Main story: Mariners got screwed, but not as badly as they'll purport. There is no disputing that Jorge was out, which would have completely changed the course of Damon's subsequent at bat. The Yankees crew (and just about every M's fan) was quick to point out that Damon's fly to center would have meant the end of the game, with the Mariners leading 4-3. However, I'm certain that Damon wouldn't have been swinging deliberately for a fly ball had there been two outs. With the tying run on third and one out, however, you know Damon was just looking to get under a pitch, which he did marvelously.

And then there's the whole business of the rain, which I don't think anyone can really complain about. I understand the Mariners complaint; it was freakin' pouring, and under normal circumstances the tarp would have been rolled out long before. However, it was the bottom of the freakin' ninth, so you know the umps are going to stretch it to the limits. I shouldn't have to even point this out, but if the Mariners were rallying in the bottom of the ninth at Safeco and the skies opened up, you wouldn't hear anyone complaining that the game wasn't called.

Heh, I made it a whole three paragraphs before mentioning Alex Rodriguez. Yeah, he effed up a little, and that strikeout wasn't very pleasant on the heels of a two-hour rain delay. In his defense, the strikeout was a pretty shitty call, but I don't think M's fans are going to care much about that sentiment. It was nice, though, to hear the Yankees fans erupt when A-Rod was announced as a pinch hitter. Too bad they ruined it by reverting to the boos once he made out.

You know what pissed me off most about the whole Alex thing? When he was facing Putz in the ninth, the man looked like he had that killer instinct. The YES crew were doing close-ups between pitches – probably because A-Rod is usually pursing his lips, breathing heavily, and in general acting uncomfortable in these situations. But this time, he looked focused. He looked like he was ready to cream anything in the zone, and take a walk if he didn't get what he liked. And then, 3-1, Mike Reilly comes racing towards the mound, arms flailing, as if he knows A-Rod is going deep on this pitch.

Living in New Jersey, I didn't think the rain would last long; it was only drizzling around my parts, as the heavy stuff had passed. After checking back on every commercial during Reno 911 and the Daily Show, I figured it was a lost cause. But, on a whim, my brother flipped back and voila! We've got A-Rod facing Julio Mateo. We all know the outcome...

The second best part of extra innings: Kyle Farnsworth throwing GAS. I know the YES radar gun isn't to be trusted for accuracy, but using it as a comparison tool, yeah, Farny throws the ball kidna hard. Proctor can hit 96 on that gun, while Mo usually hovers around 94-95. Farnsworth usually dallies with 98-99, but last night the gun was showing 100-101. I'm eager to find out if he's doing something differently, or if the network is just inflating the gun numbers.

The worst part of extra innings: I missed Melky's home run. Of course, I blame this on my time-oblivious brother, who got caught up in American Wedding of all movies and didn't get back to the game in time. All we saw was everyone rushing into the dugout as we eagerly awaited a replay. I had been sour on Melky all night, mainly because he was making crappy contact and grounding out weakly. Obviously, that homer made up for his four previous shitty at bats.

And now for that fatass Aruban. Doom seemed impending in the first inning, as he let Richie Sexson park one into the left field seats. This wouldn't have been a problem if this was 2004, but for Sexson v.2005 and beyond, it's inexcusable. I'd like to say he settled in afterwards, allowing just one run and pitching through the seventh. But he still looked a little erratic, not throwing enough strikes even as he began keeping the ball in the park. He's earned another start, and surprisingly I'm not too pissed about that. Innings, people; we just need a starter to eat up some innings.

And finally, we get to Mr. Kris Wilson, a man I touted as the possible answer to the fifth starter conundrum. We all remember when he refuted my argument against the D-Rays, effectively removing himself from the rotation. However, he has now pitched three beautiful innings out of the bullpen. He looked spot on last night, painting the corners with his slider. Another effective bullpen component? I think he deserves at least a few more appearances, maybe in some higher leverage situations.

I hijacked some speakers from my mom's computer so I can listen to the game at work today (thank you, MLB Radio). This, I think, will be a deceptive pitcher's duel; both teams are going to be assed out from last night, so let's see if Randy can come up with some fireballs and keep the Mariners in check.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Yanks 4, Ms 2

Laziness issues precluded the use of the WE chart yesterday. Stupidity is today’s cause. After running everything through the program, I typed the table into Word and saved the graph, but only an HTML version of said graph remains. True, I could probably get the JPEG out of that file, but as evidenced Monday, that’s not really going to work.

Lookout Landing’s WE Graph. Unfortunately, that still doesn’t tell us who did what, but from what I remember, Wang was .316, Cairo was something like .154, and the next closest was Giambi, who was at .034 or thereabouts. On the low end, it was A-Rod at -.182. Everyone else fell into the less than .100 but greater than -.100.

So the “story” of the night was A-Rod’s three errors, which couldn’t have come during a worse game. We all know Wang’s tendencies, and to misplay routine ground balls limits his effectiveness. Thankfully, Wang and the pitching staff have figured something out, because he’s pitching considerably better with men on base than he had back in April. This is why he’s looking like a No. 2/3 starter.

All in all, this was as solid as Wang can be without reaching the realm of the great. Nineteen (19!) groundball outs to a mere five in the air, which completely compensates for the lone strikeout he added to his paltry season total. The only thing that irked me in that regard is that he issued two walks. For the most part, Wang has had it right this season: keep the ball on the ground and don’t walk guys. He’s walking roughly two and a quarter guys per nine, which is good, but not as good as he’ll need to be.

I see guys who are shaky on Wang, saying that this low strikeout total and mediocre K/BB ratio are major causes for concern. However, I don’t see the same issue. He’s still relatively young, and is pitching his second big league season. Thankfully for him, control is a learned trait. I have faith that he’ll hone his control and wind up dropping his BB/9 rate below two within the next year or two. That would amplify his circa 3.00 ground ball to fly ball ratio. And, as comes with control comes at least a menial boost in strikeouts. Just ask Moose.

Tonight we have the debut of Sidney Ponson, an event about which I’m not particularly excited. Anxious maybe. Curious probably. Thankfully, he’s matched up against Joel Pineiro, who, according to Jeff at Lookout Landing, is an abomination. Oh, and word is that Seattle passed on the Chacon-Pineiro swap, which I would guess is in their best interest. They would really gain nothing except a guy who has had trouble going deep in games. At least Pineiro sometimes can give you some innings. Still, I’m predicting at least one Giambi homer off this schmuck.

And while we’re at predictions, I’m very confident in predicting Alex Rodriguez’s presence in the lineup. His toe may be in a little pain, but I think the severity of the injury was embellished for the media as to give him an excuse for a, well, inexcusable night. This may fall into the category of wishful thinking, however, as I’m pretty sure that even Joel Pineiro can manage to put away Nick Green with ease.

Back with the WE tomorrow.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Roberto Hernandez Rumor

From the glorious time-killer that is

I love this site, and since we're near deadline time, I'm checking it multiple times per day. The best part is that the author doesn't pretend to know more than he does.

The same can't be said, I'm afraid, for the source of this information, Gotham Baseball. I've lambasted them on this site before, mainly because I thought their winter rumors were completely unfounded. But that's my opinion, and I must keep it clearly labeled as such. I'll refrain from further bashing the site, mainly because they've diplomatically responded to my allegations, and I appreciate that.

Let me say that there are worse relievers out there than Hernandez.

Suh-weet Suh-weep

The forecast called for scorching 95 degree heat in New Jersey, which means it would only be hotter in the Bronx. And in the bleachers of Yankee Stadium, it would surely feel like 110. But would that stop five guys from witnessing the final of three games against the defending World Champions? Pshaw!

Armed with no outside beverages (we're stoopid), we braved the 4 train all the way from Union Square up to 161st Street. Mind you, this is a decent ride for a Saturday afternoon game; however, there is no express service heading up on Sundays, leaving us to stop every eight or so blocks along the way. It's not ideal, but we were, how can you say, occupied. How so? Well, to retain a bit of subtlety, let's just say that butter impeccably absorbs THC.

You'd think that with this ingestion, our reactions would be slowed and we'd stumble into the game 20 minutes late. This is what happens normally with this crew, and it bothers the crap out of me; with Jon and Andy, I don't think I've ever watched the first pitch. Yesterday, however, we walked up the ramp just as the National Anthem began. That in itself was exciting.

We were quickly deflated, however, as J-Wriggidy put men on second and third before recording an out. At this point, my brother turned to me and quipped, “doesn't look like Wright's gonna make five [innings].” Somehow, I refrained from cursing Wright, and it paid off, as he got out of the inning with minimal damage. A pitchers' duel this would not be.

Now we're in the bottom of the first, and we get to Yankees Game Pet Peeve No. 2: people never sit in their assigned seats in the bleachers. Ever. Ours were all the way at the end of a row in Section 49, right next to the black seats. Seeing that three of our five seats were occupied when we arrived, the consensus was to take the six seats immediately accessible, and wait for the fallout. And, of course, a representative of the 5-oh kindly asked us to move seconds after Jeter parked the tying run. Literally four groups of people had to move because of this. And, illogically, the group sitting in our seats got mad, because that meant they had to shoo the people sitting in their seats. Steinbrenner will plop $200 million on payroll, but he can't write a check for more ushers.

As my ass hit the hot metal of the bleacher, I heard a mighty crack. Looking at the plate, I saw Alex Rodriguez take his first steps towards first base. My head turned to the right, futilely searching for a white ball on a bright day amidst a sea of white shirts. No dice at first, though I got a great view of it landing in the visitors bullpen. Back to the basepaths, I noticed someone running in front of A-Rod; during the whole musical chairs session, I had missed the entirety of Giambi's at bat.

There's not really much to report from then on, other than a few jams that got the White Sox contingency all riled up. Every time a guy got on base, they'd be waving their blanket and starting Sox chants. At first, the boos drowned them out. Then we all realized it wasn't worth it; these chumps were about to be swept.

Other randomness: Phillips hit streak in my presence continues: he had a sweet ass double and was driven in by Cairo, who was driven in by a Bubba Crosby double. It was nice to see some production from the black hole of our lineup.

After the last out was recorded, all the signs at the stadium lit up, commemorating Mariano Rivera's 400th career save. This I did not know before the game, nor during. And I'm quite glad. There is nothing more insidious than hearing Michael Kay chirp about something like that all game. And, because Mo had a rare 6-out save, he would have had even more time in which to discuss this feat. Congrats obviously go to Mo, who is undoubtedly the greatest closer in the history of the game.

Is anyone else of the opinion that Carlos Pena should get a stab at being the backup first baseman? Phillips is okay, I guess; he rakes, but he's inconsistent and can't even keep his OBP at .300. Pena, on the other hand, has a demonstrated ability to get on base, has a decent glove, and could provide a better bat off the bench. I'm not saying it's the be all, end all answer, but I think it's at least worth a week-long experiment.

More great news came during our ride through New Jersey: Oakland had won again. This is why we don't get overexcited when the Red Sox take a four game lead in the division. Because what's that lead now? A half game? And their second “ace” pitcher got rocked again over the weekend, adding to his ML leading home runs allowed total. As bad as things may have appeared ten days ago, they're looking bright now.

I don't think I've ever extolled the virtues of a 162-game season like this year and last. You simply can't write off a team the caliber of the Yankees on the basis of even a half season. Granted, there is plenty of concern to go around, and there is no guarantee that the pitching will hold up, just as there's no guarantee on the returns of Sheffield and Matsui. But, as we've all come to learn, baseball is a game not conducive to guarantees.