Sisyphus (not to be confused with Seraphim, which would be Angels), was a mythical Greek king who was punished for being a lying bastard and forced to roll a large rock up a hill, only to watch the rock roll back down the hill and repeating his effort for eternity. It's a morality story against being as asshat, wrapped in the notion of futility. Let's focus on the futility part.
Since the season ended, Dipoto recalled Michael Roth, Brandon Sisk and Nick Maronde. And he added Josh Wall. #UPTHEHILL. Then he dropped Sisk, Robert Coello and Andrew Taylor. #DOWNTHEHILL....And the clock ticks...#DOWNTHEHILL...Then he added Robert Carson. Sean Burnett and Kevin Jepsen came off the DL, and Dipoto signs Orangel Arenas, Chris Volstad, Wade LeBlanc and Michael Monster. #UPTHEHILL.....And the clock ticks...#DOWNTHEHILL...Jason Vargas signs with the Royals. #DOWNTHEHILL. Dipoto spends two of his prime chips and doesn't get a pitcher in return. #ALLTHEWAYBACKDOWNTHEHILL. Dipoto signs Joe Smith. #UPTHEHILL.....And the clock ticks...#DOWNTHEHILL...Juan Gutierrez gets DFA'd...#UPTHEHILL...while Tommy Hanson and Jerome Williams are non-tendered and become Free Agents. #DOWNTHEHILL.
As time slips past, the opportunity window decreases AND the shopping pool decreases AND the competition between teams losing starting pitchers increases (hello, Cleveland!). Tim Hudson, Josh Johnson, Dan Haren, Wandy Rodriguez, Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Scott Kazmir...all off the board. #DOWNTHEHILL.
Time only serves to increase the level of despair and decrease the negotiating leverage. Dipoto's rock challenge only worsens. The upcoming Winter Meetings (December 9-12) are going to cost us dearly, I am afraid. By this time next week, I may have moved off of Greek mythology and up to The Spanish Golden Age.
Meanwhile, aren't #HASHTAGS the worst!?
(P.S. - Join us next weekend when, on Sunday the 15th of December, I publish my [now] annual Holiday Ode to Baseball! This year I go after those who tend to get a little 'green' with envy...)
- A Call To Arms Continues: This week it has been reported that Dipoto added even more meat to the dumpster. As sportsaddict77 called to our attention, we signed what could potentially become the #1 ordered MLB jersey candidate, Michael Monster (official MLB scouting video here, A player profile of Monster is here). Yes, that's his real name. By the way, not even the MSM can remain connected to anything going on inside Fort Katella. The LA Times tweet that tipped off sportsaddict77 was more than a week after his hometown news broke the story up in Canada............More timely, Clay Rapada helped accelerate the news of his signing last night. Which was nice, since it saves all of us from having to penetrate the OCR to find this out.
- Trout Porn: What kind of world has this already become when somebody writes up yet another tally of Trout's amazing accomplishments, and it is obviously little more than a need to fill up some word count assignment? On the other hand, Trout seems to provide so much awesomeness that there appears to be no end to fresh angles for the clever. Neil Weinberg over at Beyond The Boxscore pulls out the most impossible of goals, to remain the fWAR career leader every year: "Instead of taking Babe Ruth's 168.4 fWAR and dividing it by the number of years we expect Trout to play, let's take a slightly more interesting approach. We know that through age 21, Trout has accumulated more fWAR (21.1) than anyone else. He had the best age 20 season in history and the best age 21 season in history. What we want to know now is how many wins he would need to add on average in order to have the most fWAR at every age?"
Buy Stuff - Crazy-ass Baseball Finds On the Internet:
How about your very own early 20th century baseball mitt? You know, the kind that looks like something Santa Claus will be wearing in a couple of weeks? Note the comment in the description: "circa very old"!! No?, Well, sticking with the Christmas theme, you can still nab a vintage set of satin baseball tree ornaments. Item condition called "all good". Who the hell would think putting this on their holiday tree would be a good idea to the extent that they even manufactured these critters?? Oh well, go ahead and bid if it's your thing. Except, apparently, if you are one of our international brethren here at HH. The seller is admonishing all of you with "OH! INTERNATIONAL CUSTOMERS DONT ASK US TO LIE ON A CUSTOMS FORM. WE WON'T."
This Date In Baseball History: Normally, daily history during this time of the year tracks signings and trades. Boring. But not today. Most definitely not today!..........1920 - A Federal Court of Appeals reverses a lower court decision and upholds The Reserve Clause, protecting baseball from anti-trust litigation. The litigant was a baseball team, the Baltimore franchise of the Federal League, which was a third league created precisely to avoid the reserve clause, and represented the very first instance of Free Agency in American pro baseball. The Federal League sued the NL and AL for anti-trust, which was infamously allowed to gather dust while the Federal League went bankrupt. The judge who pocketed the lawsuit was none other than Kennesaw Landis, who would later be rewarded for this behavior by being named Commissioner of Baseball (and then immediately and swiftly will ban the Black Sox from baseball, including "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. Anyway, the NL and AL eventually bought out a lion's share of the Federal League. A couple of teams merged into NL/AL teams, and the Baltimore owners rejected the offer made to them. They sued. They lost. They disappeared...........1946 - MLB reverts to fan selection voting to determine the non-pitcher All-Star roster. Not that this has been any better. This lasts only until 1957 when the Cincinnati fans organize and stuff the voting to elect their players, forcing the league to overrule the fan voting and give the selection back to the managers (adding coaches and players). After 1957, fans won't get the vote again until 1970..........1952 - The American League institutes two-league controls over the waiver wire system in order to halt inter-league trading post-June 15th. Left unchecked, this was going to grow into a serious problem later. (I always wonder how this super-secret process worked before the computer age?)
1960 - The American League awards their first expansion franchise, to be based in Los Angeles, to the ownership team of Gene Autry and Bob Reynolds. I'll bet you didn't know about Bob Reynolds, did you?!
1964 - MLB, taking their sweet time and dragging out the suspense, finally release their official year-end statistics and Tony Oliva is confirmed to be the first rookie to win a batting title, with an BA of .323. The Rookie comes in second in the AL MVP voting to Brooks Robinson, who had the highest batting average (.317), the highest OBP (.368), the highest SLG (.521) and the highest OPS (.889) of his entire career. 1968 - After only three years in the seat, William Eckert steps down as Commissioner, opening the door to the Bowie Kuhn era. Just in time for Eckert, as that seat will get red hot (The Reserve Clause, Curt Flood, Free Agency, Charlie Finley, Ted Turner, "best interests of baseball", players strikes, etc.).........2001 - In a stunning display of brass balls on the side of the Corporate America, Bud Selig testifies before the House Judiciary Committee that due to the existing Collective Bargaining Agreement, Major League Baseball cannot be competitive and are bleeding money. ''The idea that somehow what I have presented today is not an accurate picture of the industry's economics is utter nonsense,'' he said. Remember, we are talking about this economic system...
HISTORY BONUS: Some nice sleuthing to recover some lost Negro League baseball history once buried in Baltimore.
Great Moments in Baseball Statistical History
Henry Chadwick, Part 2
(We are going to stick with Mr. Chadwick for a bit because of the prodigious impact he had on what we know as baseball today.)
Let's reset on Henry, shall we? Chadwick tripped across his first game of "base ball" in 1857 and immediately made the game his focus. (There are major social themes behind all of this and I encourage you to study his bio.) At that time, the game itself was completely flipped from what it is today. Today, it is dominated by the contest between the pitcher and the batter. Back then, the pitcher was merely an enabler of the action, mandated by rule to soft toss (underhanded!) the ball over the heart of the plate, as best he could in the location the batter requested (?!?). the game then was more about the contest between batter and fielders, all of whom played bare-handed. A huge amount of stats were already being gathered and some of those stats might seem odd at first, but they also represent a very advanced look - even by today's standards - into the action that transpired. For but one example, statistics recorded would include how many times a batter made an out at 1B, and at 2B, and at 3B. This was the game into which Henry Chadwick appeared. But already, by 1861, he saw major deficiencies between what was being recorded as important, versus what he was witnessing to be impactful on the field of play. Thus he wrote "In order to obtain an accurate estimate of a player's skill, an analysis, both of his play at the bat and in the field, should be made, inclusive of the way in which he was put out; and that this may be done, it is requisite that all...contests be recorded in a uniform manner."(1)
Henry Chadwick would have adored Mike Trout.
Chadwick, with his background in statistical recording of cricket matches, set about to improve on the information being recorded. And his access to the baseball world via his annual publication "Beadle's Dime Base-Ball Player" gave him an influential path to the statistically starved, everywhere. He did not disappoint, Almost immediately Chadwick created a new method for manually recording real-time action in-game, which could later be mined to populate statistical databases later on. That method, which you know as the scoresheet, remains almost perfectly intact to this day. In creating the scoresheet, it was Chadwick who invented the "K". And in his post-game box scores, it was Chadwick who invented the inning by inning tallies of runs scored that you see on every scoreboard of every official baseball field all the way down to Little League Baseball, all around the globe. (We are far from down with Chadwick's creativity!)
As you shall see, Chadwick was also very insightful into what kinds of data should be tracked to identify meritorious accomplishments. Get this, it's 1870(!), and it occurs to Henry that "The best player in a nine is he who makes the most good plays in a match, not the one who commits the fewest errors."(2) As the author points out, Chadwick was taking the first machete to what would eventually be the trail we know today as range factor.
(1) The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination With Statistics, Alan Schwarz (2004) Thomas Dunne Books, p. 6
(2) The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination With Statistics, Alan Schwarz (2004) Thomas Dunne Books, p.10
- Boston Sux: I know that I am preaching to the choir here, as we are all non-Boston fans, but in the event you cross paths with any Boston fan you are going to have them whine about how unfair it is that they seen to be such losers. So just bring up Ellsbury. Their persecution mentality exists even while the room still reeks from the fresh and shiny metals of their brand new WS trophy. And then, in their outrage, they cannot even be counted on to communicate with the rest of us at a 6th grade level. But, let it not be said that Boston fans don't know how to support their local fire fighters...
- Contracts: Speaking of Ellsbury, did anyone else notice this about themselves? Why is it that when I read about the regretful nature of the long-term impact of the Pujols contract I cringe out of embarrassment, but when I read about that same contract situation hitting any other franchise I really don't give a shit?
- Betting On Health: What's the difference between smart and stupid? Last year the Halo brain trust placed a bet on the health of Ryan Madson, signing an arm that was broken in the hopes that it healed. It didn't. They got nuthin' back and Madson was gone before the season was over. This year, Oakland has placed a bet on the health of Scott Kazmir, a once-broken arm that proved viable once again and was getting better as last season go on. And the reviews of this signing of a back-end starter are showing signs of further Billy Beane brilliance...
- Mariner Mania: The Seamen of Seattle are rowing hard to navigate their Cano into harbor. Including their serious interest in David Price, they clearly have learned nothing from the Big Splash lessons of Pujols/Wilson. But perhaps the most fun is how the whole Cano saga might prove to be a litmus test for hidden bias among media members. For starters, my guess is that Ken Rosenthal just rolled up his editorial sleeves and revealed his Yankee heart. Mets media seem to think that they currently have the inside track. Personally, my guess is that Jay-Z doesn't want anything to do with the city of Seattle, but does want to see how the Mets will react, and one of Jay-Z's accounting types knows that there are no state taxes in Washington and thinks that he/she is being very clever.
Video Of The Week
(How to blow and infield grounder, old-style!)
(Having troubling viewing the video? Click here.)
Do you love physics? Do you love math? Do you love baseball? Then, good, you need to spend some time enjoying this tidbit I am going to leave in your Christmas stocking..........Wait? What?? You liked that lesson on a sinker? Well, OK, here's another one on the physics of the fastball. The Posting System rules go left, then the Posting System rules go right, and all along everybody wonders how that might give them the inside edge for Masahiro Tanaka. How funny would all that be if it ends up that Tanaka isn't even posted?..........Jackass, Major League Baseball Edition...........Great find by Fangraphs. Good for a fast little chuckle!..........Hardball Times launches The Battle of the MLB Mascots, and we lose in the early rounds. Clearly, HBT has yet to read the Book of Revelations...........Apparently, the Seattle Mariners have learned nothing from the Pujols/Wilson Big Splash.
And now, being the full service weekend linkage institution that we are, here is the obligatory moment we take out of each Friday...for beer...
(Most of this weekend are Tree Lighting Ceremonies, all over the place. And parades. And performances of The Nutcracker Ballet. it's a good weekend for the Nutcracker, oddly. I would not anticipate much beer in these celebrations.)
Friday: But, up in Eureka, there IS the Humboldt Artisans Crafts & Music Festival. They advertise "food, and a little holiday cheer", so there is a chance. And this rolls all weekend..........The Napa Museum hosts Repeal Day Party to celebrate the end of Prohibition. Considering the source, one would worry about the wine focus (as if that was something to worry about), but beer is advertised.
Saturday: Golden Road Brewing in Los Angeles stages the BevMo Holiday Beer Fest..........Pizza Port, the one in Carslbad and NOT the one in Tomorrowland, is doing their own Pizza Port Strong Ale Fest..........Out in The Inland Empire, Hangar 24 in Redlands is the scene for Pugachev's Barrel-Aged Beer Festival..........And XL Public House in Salinas hosts a VIP Party, featuring Firestone Walker.
BEER BONUS: Happy Repeal Day (which was yesterday, by the way...)