Friday, August 11, 2006

Paul Ladewski: Every Day, Normal Idiot

A number of things piss me off when it comes to sportswriting. The first is one-sentence paragraphs, the Bill Plaschke specialty. Another is prevalent in the following article: shtick. If you're not funny, please do not waste my time with your attempts. Making pedestrian similes with an attempt at humor is a waste of words, and should be punished with termination if used frequently.

What follows is one of the most biased articles I've read. Yes, we all have a level of bias when it comes to our favorite sports team. But as a columnist, Mr. Ladewski is supposed to transcend that bias at appropriate times, providing us with objective analysis and insight; he fails in both regards here.

In lieu of pointing out every instance of shtick here on, I'm going to note the egregious offenders with italics.

In this corner, QuesTec out on strikes
Or: A stupid title for a stupid column

By Paul Ladewski, as printed in the Daily Southtown

[GET TO THE RIPPING!]White Sox general manager Ken Williams would rather kiss a pig on the lips than talk about it.

Off to a great start, Paul. I'm on the edge of my seat, anxiously pondering exactly what “it” is, and why “it” is so bad that Williams would rather smooch Babe than talk about “it.”

"I prefer not to get into it," K-Will said while his team prepared to square off against the New York Yankee$ at The Cell earlier this week.

More suspense! Oh, I'm just dying here. C'mon, c'mon, what is it? Oh, by the way, spelling “Yankees” with a dollar sign? Fucking brilliant. Get this guy a pulitzer.

Check that. Ken Williams wants to make a public issue of it the way he wants malaria.

What better way to follow up a cliffhanger than with more shtick! And if you’re counting at home, we have three paragraphs so far, all of which are one sentence, two of which provide inane idioms, and one of which is an unrevealing quote. Hats off, Paul. Hats off.

"You do want to me talk about it, don't you?" he said.

Well, uh ...

Say it, Paul. You want to know. You want to know bad, as badly as the public wants to know what the Bush administration is really up to. You see what I did there, Paul? I made a statement, and then succeeded it by making a stupid and irrelevant comparison. Man, I must be a great sportswriter.

"Excuse me," K-Will said. "I think I'll watch batting practice now."

I have ditched women for less teasing than this. And what the women were teasing was much more enticing than a Paul Ladewski column.

In that case, as a public service, at the risk of strangulation, allow me to reveal the dirty little secret around The Cell these days. As much as they rather not say so publicly, the Sox believe they haven't gotten a fair shake from the umpires this season. Specifically, that goes for their rotation, whose combined ERA is nearly one full run more than a year ago.

So it’s okay for the White Sox pitchers to benefit from a wider strike zone, but when the zone is tightened and they can’t react, it’s the umps’ fault? I assert that if Garland, Buehrle, and Garcia need a liberal strike zone to succeed, they aren’t necessarily good pitchers. (I’m watching the Yankees-Sox game right now. For the record, the ump is calling strikes plenty low.)

"No," pitching coach Don Cooper said flatly when asked if the team was afforded the same respect of a World Series ago. "No, we're not."

If I was the White Sox PR guy, that's not what I'd have Cooper say to the press. Rather, I think a more appropriate statement would be, “Yes, we're getting a fair shake from the umps. It's just that our pitchers all had exceptional years last year, and they're just on the other side of the mean right now. It's a shame, but that's baseball for you.” While that’s not the best way to describe your pitchers to the press, it’s a ton fucking better than sounding like a little bitch.

Cooper will talk about it — even if it makes him about as comfortable as a wool turtleneck in the summertime.

I can't even begin to point out how stupid this simile is. Did Ladewski stay up all night thinking of that one? (Nah, got to bed at 2, 2:30).

"We don't make excuses," Cooper said. "We get what we get. It is what it is. We have to be like the Marines — adapt and overcome — because (the umpires) won't adjust to us."

You know what I want to do to Don Cooper right now? I want to open a dictionary to the page containing the word “contradiction” and beat him over the head with it. You don't make excuses, Don? Didn't you just make an excuse, that the umps are being unfair to you? Oh, I think you did.

This also makes me want to take a shit in Coop's mouth. Not in a kinky, sexual, Cleveland Steamer kinda way, but in a, “you are a piece of shit, so it's high time you ate a piece of shit,” kinda way.

To say the least, the Sox are in a tough spot here. In the Williams era, especially since manager Ozzie Guillen took over, the complaint department has been closed for business. This is a team that takes pride in accountability, and we've seen the results. Frankly, I believe the gripe is legit, especially when you consider these are the defending world champions here. But as concerned as they are about it, the Sox come off as whiners or worse if they beef in public.

So the most compelling evidence for believing that the Sox are getting screwed is that they're the defending World Champions? In what world does that logic make sense? Yes, the umps have it out for the White Sox because they won the World Series last year. In fact, they’re always biased against the defending World Series Champions. That's why the Yanks weren't able to string together three straight in the late 90s.

And trust me, the Sox believe this is a big deal given the closeness of the AL wild-card race. So big that they've quietly spent a lot of effort and a lot of time to state their case to the major league honchos, who promised to monitor the situation, if nothing else.

If true, I would think this would be a big deal regardless of the circumstances. But that's just me.

So what's behind the perceived slight? Is it a Guillen backlash? Some sort of Fox Sports conspiracy?
Would you believe QuesTec?

Hear, hear! The machines are taking over. Get your Robot Insurance here.

"The bleepin' camera at the end of the dugout has something to do with it," Cooper said. "When the umpires come here, they know this is a QuesTec park. That's something we have to realize. That's the way it is."

QuesTec is the name of the electronic eyes that Major League Baseball uses to judge its umpires every season. In theory, QuesTec is the best idea since Barry Bonds behind bars. For years, umpires said to heck with the rule book and called balls and strikes as they darn well pleased. QuesTec was supposed to take care of that.

Paul, I agree with you -- in theory. In theory, communism works. In theory.

Trouble is, QuesTec has fewer friends than a former Enron official. From players to coaches to managers, almost nobody likes it. For one, not every ballpark is equipped for the technology at the moment. The system is capable of mistakes itself, as the manufacturer admits. Worse yet, when Big Brother watches, some umps become so defensive their strike zones are tighter than manhole covers, to hear some players and coaches tell it.

Okay, now I get to the meat of the argument. I could have stated this obvious idea at the beginning of the column, but I decided to wait until after the explanation of QuesTec. Laewski has purported that the Sox are getting screwed by the umps, and is now citing QuesTec as a major reason. But what he's implying is far more egregious: the umps are tightening the zone for the Sox, and widening it for their opponents. And that, my friends, is fucking ridonkulous. See, the idea of QuesTec is to grade the umps by creating an objective estimation of the strike zone. So if an umpire was to call balls and strikes differently for each team, he would be immediately outed. And that, in essence, is the greatest benefit of QuesTec. When a manager (or Hawk Harrelson) bitches and whines about the umps, MLB can look at the QuesTec findings and determine if, in fact, the ump was calling balls and strikes differently for each team.

Of course, no one working for the White Sox could ever come to that conclusion. They're too busy worrying about being screwed over, oblivious to the fact that there may be better teams in the American League. Because in baseball, if it's unfair for both sides, it comes out fair. Kinda like multiplying a negative by a negative results in a positive.

Hey, if you knew QuesTec grades determined postseason assignments, how would you react?

I would react by saying, “well, these guys best understand what Major League Baseball wants the strike zone to look like. They can call balls and strikes objectively, without bias towards a certain team.” Because really, all we’re looking for is consistency and a little sense.

"QuesTec is a tighter zone. It's as simple as that," Cooper said. "It sounds like a pitching guy talking, but that's the reality of it for me. It's a factor. How much of a factor, I don't know. What I do know is, the (strike) zone is different this year."

Yet, it's the same for both teams. Unfortunately, that idea is far beyond Cooper's comprehension.

Is QuesTec the reason why the Sox are on a pace to win only 96 games this season? Don't be silly. In fact, Cooper spoke only on the condition his words wouldn't sound like an alibi of some kind. "I don't want you to turn this into an excuse, because we have none," he said.

Wait, wait. You just spent all that time bitching and whining about QuesTec and how it's supposedly screwing your shitty finesse pitchers, and now you're writing it off? What was the fucking point of this column, then? And, as you may note, Cooper has once again contradicted himself. You go from, “it's a factor,” to, “we have none [excuses].” This makes as much sense as Matt Hasselbeck getting flagged for making a tackle. Man, I'm on a roll!

While I’m at it, I might as well bust Ladewski and Cooper for the “wouldn’t sound like an alibi” bit. It’s like the famous saying, “No offense, but you’re an asshole.”

But is QuesTec part of the reason why finesse pitchers Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland have seen their ERAs blow up this season? Could be.

You’re so repetitive that I have to be careful commenting on this statement, for fear of my own repetitiveness. But let's get this straight. The notion that QuesTec is the reason that the White Sox are on pace to win fewer games than last year is silly, but it could very well be the reason Buehrle and Garland have inflated ERAs. That's what you said. Now let's think about it for a second. The White Sox are scoring more runs than last year, so their offense is not the cause of the dropoff. Their defense has had one switch, Brian Anderson for Aaron Rowand, which is a push at worst. So, by that logic, the pitching would be the reason the White Sox are winning at a lesser rate. Get my point? Of course you do. Smart people can make that association. Ladewski? Not so much.

"The umpires are very aware of the zone east and west but not as conscious north and south," Cooper said. "That's what the camera has done. Is it the rule book strike zone? Absolutely not. Is it knees to the letters? Absolutely not."

Bitch, bitch, btich. But remember, he’s not making excuses here.

That's bad news for comparative soft-tossers such as Garland and especially Buehrle, who have to live on the edges in the absences of 90-mph heat. Or to put it another way, when the Greg Maddux Strike Zone is in effect, Buehrle and Garland are very difficult to beat. When it isn't, Home Run Derby has been known to break out sometimes.

Does Ladewski read his columns back to himself before he submits them? Because in case he wasn’t aware, copy editors only correct technical errors, not a writer’s misguided thoughts. What you said about the Greg Maddux Strike Zone reinforces my earlier assertion that if you absolutely need a liberal strike zone to succeed, you are not necessarily a very good pitcher.

Take the key sequence in the seventh inning Monday night. With Buehrle on the mound, the Los Angeles Angels' Tim Salmon got the benefit of not one, not two, not three but four strikes, replays showed. It was almost as if home-plate ump Eric Cooper said, "How do you like QuesTec now, buddy?"

If Buehrle wasn’t getting strikes on certain portions of the plate, he probably shouldn’t have thrown pitches in that locale.

Sure enough, Salmon eventually walked, the Angels scored three times and Buehrle did a slow burn on his way to the showers.

"I mean, I don't know ... " he said the next day. "I'll kind of wait on that and stay out of trouble. But I watched the game and hoped everyone else saw that."

Nothing snarky. Just pointing out that Ladewski is glorifying Buehrle’s whining.

Meanwhile, did you see the game Javier Vazquez pitched in Toronto last week? Wore out the corners for eight innings. Struck out 13. Rogers Centre doesn't have QuesTec, by the way.

Ladewski, you diabolical! You have the whole scheme figured out. Based on one game pitched by Javy Vazquez in a non-QueTec ballpark, you’ve proven beyond a reasonable doubt that QuesTec is the sole source of the White Sox woes. Is it possible to win a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize for the same column? Because if you can, I’d like to introduce the nomination committees to Mr. Paul Ladewski.

And you thought the Yankee$ were the machine that concerned the Sox most these days.

I think he’s referring to the Yankee$ (clever, even the second time around) as a corporate machine. However, the only Yankees machine the White Sox should be worrying about is the juggernaut that is the Yankee offense.

UPDATE: Commenter Ben V. from Sportzilla and the Jabber Jocks puts some numerical analysis to my lashings:

Somehow I doubt Ladewski bothered to look, but just for fun, here are Mark Buerhle's home and road splits:

Home: 4.34 ERA, 89.1 IP, 16 HR, 43/24 K/BB, .254 Opp BA

Away: 5.69 ERA, 61.2 IP, 8 HR, 24/12 K/BB, .329 Opp BA

Could QuesTec be trashing Buerhle? Sure. But why is he worse on the road this year, especially when he has a 3.70 road ERA over the past three seasons? Maybe he's just not pitching well.

Oh and Javy Vasquez walked six and K'd eight yesterday. That had to be the result of QuesTec and not the fact his stuff was likely all over the place.

ChiSox 5, Yanks 4

And we begin yet another edition of, “Oh, That Again,” the only show where the Yankees can manage 12 hits, but off-set them by leaving 15 men on base. Really, it was a pathetic effort on all fronts. Mussina didn't look great and his defense hurt him further. He was struggling through the second inning, and errors by Alex and Melky blew the game open to 4-0. It was surmountable, but you don't like to put that much pressure on your offense that early.

Then again, the defense didn't allow a double to Brian Anderson, which combined with the Podsednik single was the difference in the game. However, I'm not going to hold this over Mussina's head, because when you look at the game as a whole and factor in the immense damage of the two errors, it's clear that he put himself in position to win the game. The second inning was his only truly shaky frame, and as I've noted, it wasn't all his fault. And the damage could have been further, as Robinson Cano botched the transfer on a double-play ball. I'm just thankful he held on long enough to get Podsednik out at second.

The offense absolutely laid the groundwork for a breakout game, but couldn't quite fit all the pieces together. Javy Vazquez's final line was five innings, six walks, six hits, 111 pitches. And that should have been worth four runs. But instead, the offense managed half of that, and only mustered another two over four innings of bullpen work, where they usually thrive. The problem, I think, was the lack of walks drawn against the bullpen. There was only one, off Neal Cotts in the sixth inning. Brandon McCarthy (charge him with the Melky homer), Matt Thornton (who sucks, so there's no excuses), and Bobby Jenks didn't allow any free passes and nailed down the game.

Once again, Boston gaining a game would have made this hurt a lot. It wasn't as winnable a game as Tuesday, as you can't expect your offense to string together six runs every game. The Yankees simply fell victim to their own devices. Patience and power is a great formula, but the faults were evident last night. It takes hits to eventually drive in the runners that walk, and since the best players only succeed three out of 10 times, there are going to be games where you just can't bring enough guys home.

Many might think that the Yankees are cooling off, but I beg to differ. They may have dropped two of three, but they did it against a desperate team. The White Sox are far downhill from the AL Central leading Tigers, and the Wild Card race is as tight as your sister (too shticky?). They played as hard as they could, and damn near swept the Yanks. But each game was hard fought by the Bombers, and in each they caught a few unlucky breaks. So you move on to the next series, which thankfully is at home.

Sunday will be the game to watch against Anaheim, Chien-Ming Wang vs. Jered Weaver. I, for one, am totally down for handing Weaver his first Major League loss, despite the fact that he's the reason I've surged in my fantasy league. Preceding that matchup we have Cory Lidle vs. Joe Saunders (25-year-old rookie, 3-0, 1.29 ERA; yikes!), Jaret Wright vs. Kelvim Escobar (no matter what kind of season he's having, he scares the bejeezus out of me), and on Monday it's Randy Johson vs. John Lackey. I'd take a split any day of the week in this one.

Stay tuned, as I have cooked up another edition of Rip the Columnist. I'm particularly proud of this one, as it is one of the most moronic columns I've ever read. And it's actually about baseball, too, so it should be extra sweet.

P.S. Sorry, Rob, for failing you on the graphing front. I didn't get home until 1:30. No way I was doing anything but passing out at that point.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

This Win Should Have Been More Satisfying

It was a win, but it sure didn't feel like redemption for a game we should have won on Tuesday. Maybe that's because Kyle “I'm a pussy; please don't pitch me two days in a row” Farnsworth can't, well, pitch two days in a row. His entrance was suspect from the beginning, as the Yankees were leading 7-2. Why bring in Farnsworth with an 8-run lead?

I imagine Torre was thinking about the White Sox propensity to whale on the ball and bring themselves right back into a ballgame. Hell, after six no-hit innings, they touched up Randy Johnson in the seventh, plating two runs and leaving runners on second and third before recording an out; and that out wasn't even Johnson's doing.

Even though the Yanks took the game, I did not go to bed a happy man. As recently as the top of the sixth, I was feeling relieved. In fact, on the Pinstripe Alley message board I posted something along the lines of, “No Mo tonight!” after Robbie went deep to lead off the inning. After Tuesday's debacle, the bullpen could have used the rest.

But apparently I had forgotten that Randy Johnson is no longer Randy Johnson, but rather some carbon-dated pitcher who doesn't quite understand the inner workings of his degenerated body. I mean, you'd think that after six innings of no hit, one walk ball that he'd at least be able to finish off the seventh. Hit or no hit, at the time there was no reason to believe the Yankees wouldn't go into the eighth inning up 7-0.

But Johnson's antics forced Villone, Farnsworth, and Rivera into the game, all of whom will be unavailable for tonight's game. This puts the pressure on Mike Mussina, who hasn't been very sharp of late. The Yanks desperately need seven innings out of him tonight so that they can turn the game over to the bastardized crew of Jose Veras and Scott Proctor to close the game. Though I would expect Mike Myers to make some sort of appearance.

The problem with writing a recap for a game like this is the lack of preparation. Before the seventh inning, I had planned to keep this short and sweet, praising Randy and the offense for some sweet revenge over a team that stole a game the night prior. But then everything changed so quickly. Randy exited, but Villone picked up the pieces. There ya go. There's the story right there.

But Kyle, oh Kyle, you had to ruin everything for me. The story went from, “awesome win, we totally needed that,” to, “we were goddamn lucky to escape that one.” No team up 7-0 in the seventh should have to invoke such thoughts. Teams that are up 7-0 in the seventh should head to the hotel after the game and rest easy, knowing that they completely shut down a team.

For the rubber game, we square off against Javier Vazquez. He's been mostly terrible this year, though his last outing was a gem to the tune of 13 strikeouts, two hits, and just one earned run over eight innings. This does not bode well for the Yankees; Javy should be amped up for this game.

"I've had four consistent seasons in the major leagues, and for one bad second half it's unfair that they want to trade me," Vazquez said. "I still trust in my abilities, and if the Yankees trade me, they will regret it."

Let's see if he comes through with that promise.

I'd like to close this by thanking David DeJesus (fantasy sleeper pick; go me) and Mike Sweeney for their efforts in Kansas City's ninth inning comeback. Papelbon blew another save, further distancing himself from comparisons with Mariano Rivera. And I don't want to hear it about how Mo blew a save Tuesday. That's not even the point.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

ChSox 6, Yanks 5 -- Hey, At Least Boston Lost

This is the first instance in a long time where I'm more pissed off at a loss the morning after. This is easily explained: the game ended later, thus I was a bit more tired (and a little, uh, medicated). Coupled with the Boston loss, I was content heading to bed.

But reality struck this morning, as I couldn't get the thought out of my brain: we lost a winnable game. There is nothing that irks me more, especially when the loss is in the first game of the series. That now puts the pressure on to take the next two, which is no simple task against the White Sox. Thankfully, we get the back of the rotation and they get our No. 1 and No. 3.

After his last few outings, this simply wasn't expected of Wang. The Podsednik double should have been an indicator of how the night would go, but since Wang induced two groundouts to end the first, everything looked hunky dory. But then Paul Konerko led off the second with a double, followed by a Jermaine Dye double, and we knew there'd be trouble. And when he gave up a two-run single to Alex Cintron, I was afraid we'd be seeing Ponson.

My blood pressure thanks Wang for kind of settling down, allowing just a Joe Crede solo homer in the fourth, leaving the game tied at four. Four runs in five innings isn't exactly “keeping your team in it,” but with the Yankees lineup and bullpen, it could have been enough to eek out a win.

Then again, we did get a few breaks along the way. The game would have progressed in a far different manner – likely favoring the White Sox – had Scott Podsednik been called safe at third in the first inning. Same with Machowiak's dinky grounder right back to Wang. And then there's the whole matter of Ozzie sending steal signs, only to be rebuffed by catching stud Jorge Posada.

Those breaks, however, were off-set in the eighth inning. With Abreu on first and Jeter on second, Alex ripped a single to right-center. Problem was, he hit it hard right at Brian Anderson, forcing Larry Bowa to hold Jeter at third. Neil Cotts entered the game to face Jason Giambi, promptly hitting him on the elbow (x-rays negative) and forcing in the go-ahead run. Still bases loaded, still one out, and Jorge stepped up batting from the right side. And, as if it was nothing but payback for the Machowiak play, mighty Jorge had grounded into a double play.

S'all good though, right? Farnsworth in the eighth, Mo in the ninth, another game gained on the Red Sox. Well, Farny did his job. Unfortunately, Mo was the culprit in this one, surrendering a solo blast to Paul Konerko leading off the ninth to tie the game. That means extra innings, which for the Yankees means swinging for the fences on every pitch. They did not fail to deliver.

There was a glimmer of hope in the 10th, as Alex drew a two-out walk. Surely Giambi would react to the pressure and bring home the go-ahead run once again. Problem was, Giambi's elbow had swelled up, placing Bernie Williams into action against Bobby Jenks. Had the Yankees been losing at that point, I would have left the room. I'd say the odds of Bernie catching up to and hitting a Bobby Jenks fastball is about 10 percent, if that. Like clockwork, Bernie looked foolish on a pitch up by his shoulders.

As for Proctor, well, I'm not so pissed at him. He wasn't even supposed to have pitched tonight, yet came in and fanned three straight in the tenth before losing it in the 11th. At least he lost it to the heart of the ChiSox order; I would have been fuming right now if Alex Cintron drove in the game-winning run. Jermaine Dye, however, is having a monster year, and like with Mariano and Vernon Wells, I can forgive Proctor for this gaffe.

All in all, it wasn't the way you want to start an endurance stretch. Not only did Wang's performance force the bullpen into heavier action, but the extra innings put a bit more wear and tear on them. More than ever, we need Randy to pitch deep tonight. With two questionable performances preceding this one, I think it's fair to expect that he'll rack up seven innings and allow three or less runs. But Randy's been known to disappoint in the past.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Time To Visit the Garden

The Yankees start in a half-hour, giving me ample time to complain about my favorite topic: the New York Knickerbockers. That rascally GM was up to it again, using the Knicks only means of player acquisition to land Jared Jeffries. Allow me to set this to an analogy:

Isiah:Shitty Players::Crakhead:Crack

To be fair, Jeffries may not be a shitty player, per se, but he’s certainly not a player who can help this Knicks team. News of Isiah’s interest broke a few weeks ago, to which I responded, “who? Oh, thaaaaat guy.” At which point I realized that we’re now committing $12 million per year to the alliterative tandem of Jared Jeffries and Jerome James. I absolutely foresee Walt Frazier referring to Jerome Jeffries and Jared James early in the season.

At this point, the Knicks only hope is that they come down with Three Stooges Syndrome. The problem with that is even a slight breeze could…


Let’s look at some quotes from Isiah to shed some light on this matter:

"One of the things that was written and said was true about us: chemistry wasn't right. What Jared brings to us more so than talent, he brings chemistry.”

If that chemistry is in the form of a Mr. Wizard Science set, I am totally on board.

"His ball-handling skills are pretty unique for a player of his size, and his passing skills are pretty unique," Thomas said. "He's pretty complete as a player. Every night you can mismatch your lineup.”

So he’s pretty…unique? Though that’s not nearly as hilarious as his assertion that you can “mismatch your lineup.” You sure can, Isiah. You sure can.

The article then goes on to more standard Isiah bullshit, about how this one guy is going to make all the difference, blah blah blah. Let me all remind you of what Isiah said last year at the signing of Jerome James:

“When I look at Jerome, the first thing I see is his shot-blocking ability, presence, and ability to clog up the middle -- and that is what we lacked last year,” President, Basketball Operations Isiah Thomas said. “We needed a space eater. We also needed some intimidation in the middle. Well, we definitely have a presence in the middle now. He provides all of that.”

It was Benjamin Franklin who famously said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” One of our forefathers would have believed that Isiah Thomas is insane. Who are you to disagree?

I Guess This Guy Doesn't Like Baseball

Editor's Note: Yep, looks like I swung and missed on this one. This has taught me an important lesson: you can't force snarkiness. In the long run, all it means is I won't run this feature weekly unless I get something good.

End self-deprication sequence.

Cards' torrid bats, Weaver put Reds in their place
By Bernie Miklasz

Welcome to the big series, the showdown by the river, the Cardinals vs. the Reds in a mighty struggle for the soul and control of the National league Central.

Or something like that.

Something like that, indeed, Bernie. Except replace “the soul and control of” with “the lead in,” and you're pretty much accurate. Oh, and the one-sentence paragraph count is now at two.

Oh, never mind that the first-place Cardinals came into this donnybrook with a 29-34 record since May 24, and that the second-place Reds were 21-30 since June 8.
No, Bernie, I'm pretty sure you need to mind those records. After all, your record determines your post-season status. Unless you don't care about the post-season. Apparently Bern doesn't, though. He explains in the next sentence – which makes for a column record two-sentence paragraph:
In the NL Central, we'll take the drama where we can find it. We are not opposed to manufacturing it.

In the AL East, we'll take the drama where we can find it, too. But we don't need to manufacture it. It kinda happens out on the field. I thought it did in all of baseball, but apparently I was mistaken. Isn't it great that sports columnists don't find the games interesting enough?

[MORE]Yes, there was some build-up in St. Louis as the Reds and Cardinals prepared to meet for a four-game series here, followed by a three-game set next week at Busch Stadium.

These seven games certainly could influence the race.
Gotta interject mid-paragraph here, buddy (a three-sentence one!!!!). A first place team squaring off against a second place team, separated by 3.5 games? That goes beyond your notion that “these seven games certainly could influence the race.” These games WILL influence the race. Even if they go 4-3, it will influence the race. This is certainly a more important series to the Reds, who trailed the Cardinals by 3 1/2 games in Monday morning's standings. That's why the Reds tried desperately to pack The Great American Ballpark by enticing fans with half-price tickets and $1 hot dogs.

Let's start with the second sentence in that paragraph. This series, while vitally important to the Reds, is also important for the Cardinals, who are sliding like crazy. One team fighting to get in, one team hanging on. That sounds like equal importance to me.

Based on the series-opener, if Reds made a bold statement on their home turf, it was along these lines:

We are not worthy.

We cannot even beat Jeff Weaver.

Okay, that was good. Gotta chalk it up.

Monday night, the Cardinals quickly reaffirmed their superiority with a five-run first inning en route to a 13-1 victory. After an eight-game losing streak, the Cardinals have pieced together three impressive wins to open a 4 1/2-game lead in the division.

Of course, getting Cardinals manager Tony La Russa to crow about winning the first of a four-game series would be like hearing baseball's most celebrated vegetarian announce he was taking on Kobayashi in the annual 4th of July hot-dog eating contest.

Let's compare Paragraph A and Paragraph B. Paragraph A talks about baseball. The sentences are nicely structured, and the message is clear and concise. Full of facts, just like a baseball column should be.

And then we get to the abomination that is Paragraph B. Naturally, it's of the one-sentence type. And it reeks of shtick. This is the fatal flaw of most sportswriters; they get too caught up in themselves and actually believe that they're funny. How many managers in baseball would “crow about winning the first of a four-game series?” If any did, they'd surely be out of a job. You go out there and say it was a good win for the team, and that's it. The joke itself: not funny. Not even concisely written. Nothing about it lends itself to the column as a whole. Next sentence/paragraph.

Here's La Russa's reaction to his impressive team's five-run, first-inning barrage against helpless Reds starter Elizardo Ramirez:

"I was sweating bullets."

Well, Weaver was pitching, you know.

Okay, that was another good series of thoughts. After that, I'm sure you have some insights as to the enigma that is Jeff Weaver.

But Weaver was the surprise of the evening. I am not going to be a phony here; I thought Weaver was a candidate to get rocked. You and everyone else who has an elementary understanding of baseball. He had an 8.68 ERA in his first four starts for the Cardinals, and had been blast-capped for six home runs in 18 innings. Moreover, Weaver was entering the danger zone of a rocket-launcher ballpark; 175 homers were hit in the first 58 games played this season at The Great American Ballpark.

Call it nit-picking, but doesn't the phrase “entering the danger zone of a rocket-launcher ballpark” sound, I dunno, stupid? Plus, it makes me think of Kenny Loggins.

If any pitcher seemed incompatible with this shooting gallery, it was the extremely laid-back Weaver, the SoCal surfer dude who reminds me of the "Spicoli" character in the classic comedy, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Do you really need to qualify that? Hasn't everyone seen Fast Times? And if you haven't seen it, do you think the qualifier really makes a difference in your understanding of your point? But the Reds only hurt Weaver once, on a solo homer by Javier Valentin in the second. Weaver's six-inning, one-run, seven-strikeout performance bolstered La Russa's credibility.

Bolstered La Russa's credibility? How so? Because he rolled the dice and it came up box cars this time? What will it say for his credibility when he carts out Weaver in five days and he resumes sucking?

"It's not pressure that I'm feeling," Weaver said. "As much as just wanting to do well for my teammates and this organization. They went out and traded for me when I was really struggling and that means a lot."

“When I was really struggling,” is a bit of an understatement. You were, after all, DFA'd, so a trade or release was imminent. And the Cardinals only traded for you because their next best option was Sidney Ponson...

After Weaver got blistered by Philadelphia at Busch Stadium last week, I thought La Russa had eaten some bad tofu or otherwise flipped out when announcing Weaver as his starter for Monday in Cincinnati. But score one for the skipper and the surfer: Spicoli was focused Monday. Sure, it helps to have a 5-0 lead before throwing a pitch, but he pitched very well.

In fairness to La Russa, he doesn't exactly have many options.

"The way we evaluate him is, each time he's gone out there he's done something better,'' La Russa said. "He may not be at his best yet, but if you look at history, there's something to work with.''

Okay, Bern, you get a reprieve here, because it is La Russa making the absurd statement. Of course, he's just defending his player, which is totally acceptable. But could he find a more accurate way to praise Weaver? He hasn't done better each time out; in fact, as Bernie pointed out, he allowed seven runs over three and a third innings his last time out. The time before that, he allowed four runs over five and two-thirds. And even before that, he allowed one run over the same number of innings. So La Russa's assertion is just plain false.

It's heartwarming. If Weaver is Spicoli, then La Russa is Mr. Hand -- the gruff, hard-edged teacher who eventually turns Spicoli around.

That is, if Weaver doesn't flop his next time out. And, judging by his past, he certainly will.

As if getting shut down by Weaver wasn't enough, boisterous groups of Cardinals fans had the loudest voices in the crowd of 34,262.

In this somewhat forced but interesting division-race drama, Cincinnati wasn't ready for a close-up.

Forced drama? I just don't get it. They have a legitimate division race going on, and you have to force drama? For baseball fans, the drama is already there. For fans of – actually, I'm not sure what Bernie is a fan of – well, you can make up your drama. Just don't go misleading the actual fans out there.

See, this column wasn't completely moronic, a la the Vaccaro one from last week. Hopefully, with all 30 teams playing tonight, some moronery will appear in tomorrow's papers. In fact, I'm just waiting for Phil Rogers to completely embarrass himself. I could have ripped him today, but I'm waiting for a Type A Rogers column. He's been putting out Type B ones lately, ones that are pretty moronic, but not over the top. Once he steps in with another “A-Rod should be traded to the White Sox for players of little value” type column, I'll be all over it.

As always, if you notice any egregiously stupid baseball columns, e-mail them over. The more I get, the more I rip. And the more I rip, the better it gets.


Nothing like an off-day to clear your head. See, I spend way too much time thinking about baseball. Even at work, there's always something baseball related open in a Firefox tab. I'm constantly minimizing windows and pulling up phony spreadsheets so that I can mask this obsession. But it's there, and it's not going away any time soon. I've got the baseball bug so bad that I usually complain of drab off-days.

Yesterday, however, was different. Maybe it's because I know we're entering a huge stretch and I needed to gear up. Maybe it's because I've overloaded myself with baseball and I needed a day off. But whatever the reason, I'm back and in the motivated mood. The only problem is that I can't really think of anything new to say about the Yankees.

Normally, I do my thing when I get into work at 8:20 in the morning. When I sat down at the keyboard, I had nothing. I guess I could go onto a tangent about how smart Torre is for setting up his rotation so that his three best go against Chicago's three worst; that's pretty sweet. But to prattle on about that for 700 words is no fun.

My next idea was to shift up my columnist-ripping charade a day. The plan was to run it every Wednesday, but since there was no Yankee baseball yesterday, today seemed like the perfect opportunity. Too bad there weren't any egregiously moronic columns today. Except, of course, for one penned by Mr. Jay Mariotti, but I'm not touching that one. In fact, I'm just going to pretend that Mariotti doesn't even exist. He won't be missed.

Alas, I've rambled.

In researching an idea for my weekly drubbing of a print columnist, I stumbled upon Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He's not a class A moron in the Chris Russo mold (man, would I love for him to pen a weekly column), but he speaks plenty of non-baseball talk. Call it a warm-up for when I read something completely moronic.

Oh, wait, I did this morning. Mike Celizic of MSNBC wrote a piece asserting that we would, in fact, have a Subway Series this year. This is the perfect column to rip. However, the fellows at Fire Joe Morgan have, for all intents and purposes, called dibs on ripping him. Plus, they're a lot funnier than me.

I'll post my Bernie drubbing in little bit...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Livan Dealt

Proving that I don't check the major sports sites very much, I found this little bit on Yahoo! Jim Bowden sent Livan Hernandez packing for a pair of minor league pitchers.

This is quite surprising, given Bowden's failure to trade Alfonso Soriano. Twenty-three year olds Garrett Mock and Matt Chico were the compensation. As you can see from their stats, it appears Chico is the more promising of the two, but that's based entirely on a quick statistical analysis. I'm not sure as to their projections.

I don't know if it's a knee-jerk reaction to question Jim Bowden while trading, but I fail to see the sense in this. As stated, this comes with little to no knowledge of either Chico or Mock, but I certainly haven't heard their names making it around prospect circles. If anyone (Mike A., I'm looking at you) has any further information on these guys that would mitigate Mr. Bowden, please forward it along.

Apparently, Bowden's hope was that Hernandez would clear waivers, but the pitching starved D-Backs put in a quick claim. And I'm kind of figuring that the Red Sox put in a claim as well. In fact, with the pitching needs of most of the top teams, one wonders if Bowden truly believed that Livan would clear. If that in fact is the case, Bowden should be fired right now.

It would make more sense, to me, for Livan to be traded over the off-season. There isn't much pitching help available, making Livan an attractive option come Winter Meetings time. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see Arizona flip Livan and his inflated salary the Meetings for a better return than Mock and Chico.

This is When It Gets Tough

Let's just say this was an acceptable weekend. We won two out of three, which is always acceptable for a division foe. It is extra acceptable when the Red Sox drop two out of three, moving us up a game in the standings. One quick thought before I get to Mike Mussina.

I don't think the importance of sweeping the Blue Jays is adequately stated at this point. If the Yankees make it to the World Series this year, you can look right back to the Jays series as a serious turning point. Of course, the obvious place to look is the sweep of the White Sox in the series after the All-Star break, as the Yankees have been hot ever since. But to sweep a division rival and for all intents and purposes knock them out of the AL East race is just huge. The Jays can play great ball for the rest of the year, but because the Yankees utterly dominated them for three straight games, they stand only a minimal shot of playing past October 1.

Now on to the Moose. The bats are in order and are only going to get stronger. This means, as we've known for quite some time, that we're going to need some top-notch pitching out of Wang, Moose, and Randy. They're our top guys, they have to anchor the rotation so that when Wright and Lidle inevitably screw up, we'll be able to recover. While stellar in April and May, Mussina fell off a bit in June, recovered at the end, and slipped again in July. August didn't get off to such a hot start, either.

In his final two July starts, Mussina was spot on, going seven innings and allowing one run while striking out six and walking two. He followed that up with a four-inning shutout of the Mets, but was unable to continue on after a lengthy rain delay. And, if you remember, he complained of a groin problem when exiting. It appears that the injury lingered throughout July. His numbers from July 5 through August 5


There's only a slight shift in peripherals, so it appears that luck is a big factor here. He's still striking guys out at a more than acceptable rate, and still refuses to walk too many batters. All of his ratios appear to be in order, though he could do himself well by cutting back on the homers. It's mainly due to his extreme flyball tendencies, as he's sitting on a 1.02 ratio His hits per nine has increased over the aforementioned period, so inducing the ground ball may be the remedy for Mussina's woes. Of course, that's much easier for me to sit here and write than for Mussina to do, but yeah, that looks to be the problem.

Have I mentioned that I'm on the Bobby Abreu bandwagon? The more he plays, the more I see that he's the perfect fit in this lineup. As the No. 3 hitter, he adds a threat to the basepaths. Damon, Jeter, Abreu, and Alex all pose basestealing threats, making pitchers especially uneasy. And then you have Giambi batting fifth, where his low average/high OBP/high Slugging make him a perfect fit. The top four are hitting and on-base machines, and Giambi packs the base clearing power.

Enjoy the day off today, folks, because we're hitting the 2120-day stretch. No days off, so there has to be at least a prayer going out for rain at some point along the way, preferably on Thursday the 17th, a home game against the Orioles that immediately precedes the five-game stint in Boston. Not only will that give the team a rest, but it will allow for a bit more flexibility in the rotation.

There's more injury reprieve on the way. We know that Cano will return on Tuesday (good timing by Cairo on that injury), and now there are whispers circulating about Carl Pavano and Octacio Dotel. Not that I have faith in the return of either, but they're both working in the minors, hopeful for a September return. Dotel has been working out in the Rookie league, and Pavano is set to make a start on Thursday for the Tampa Yankees.

I know everyone is down on Carl Pavano, and for good reason. The guy signed a huge contract and came in with corresponding expectations. He pitched like crap upon arrival, which has everyone thinking that he's a bum. I don't disagree. However, I do think that he was injured some time in Spring Training 2005, and pitched at far less than 100 percent until he was sidelined in early July. The bone chips he just had scoped out almost certainly existed throughout 2005. So to judge his effectiveness for the Yankees on his abbreviated stint last year isn't exactly fair.

We all know how good Pavano can be. We also know how disappointing he's been. There doesn't seem to be a place on this team for him, but with the two huge question marks in the rotation, he could provide some innings down the stretch. However, since he's been out all year, I don't expect he'll be able to build up enough stamina between now and September 1 to really play a part in the rotation. The bullpen may be his home in September and October, where I think he could be put to quality use. He'll replace Sidney Ponson, which makes plenty of fans happy. And, bum or not, I would think the guy could tough it through one inning at a time, providing an even more solid bridge to Mariano. If the Yanks can stock the bullpen with Villone, Pavano, Proctor, Dotel, and Farnsworth before Mo, they'll be set. This gives you multiple options, meaning that many of the guys won't have to pitch back to back days.

This is all speculation based on a notion that Dotel and Pavano can not only come back, but be effective. But dammit, we have to have some hope in us that those investments will pay off in some way. It's not like the stock market where we can sell off these failed endeavors. No, Dotel and Pavano are like Certificates of Deposit: you're stuck with them until a certain maturity date, lest you pay an early withdrawal penalty (the penalty being the remainder of the contracts...not so attractive). In these situations, all we really have is hope. Now I feel like a goddamn after school special.

Tomorrow will be another edition of my weekly drubbing of a sports columnist. I'm trying to pick an author in a different region, but if anyone has seen some especially bad New York sportswriting today or over the weekend, forward it along to me.