It is tempting to get snarky with Jim this week and whine about Thursday being so miserable here in Southern California, because it was all cloudy and everything. I mean, it's not like we don't have a rich vein of material to mine as we mock this "Arctic Vortex". What with Hollywood right here, not only have we seen it before, but we already wrote that script. But you know what all these states are getting with all the freeze and mountains of snow? Water. They are getting water. Lots and lots of water. All of the water we were hoping to get this winter as a matter of fact. And this summer we are going to pay a price. A pretty severe price. Folks elsewhere may end up paying a few pennies more for their food products, but at least they know that they can open a tap and take a drink whenever they want. Good on you guys, you popsicles, you!
It occurs to me that Greg Maddux will now only be on the HoF ballot once. He won't be back on any ballot in the future. So if you are one of the 16 knuckleheads who are curiously blessed with the rare privilege to make a difference and yet you left Maddux off your ballot, you just missed your one and only opportunity in life to place your mark of expertise alongside his name. Congratulations. You have just leapt voluntarily into the dustbin of irrelevance.
Out of the mist of the HoF hoopla this week, we got this tiny little nugget from one member of the MSM which reveals just how distant many of them remain from the real world: "Theoretically, reporters who cover the game on a daily basis are better-informed than fans who follow the sport from afar." - Bruce Hooley, ESPN Cleveland
And "sanctimonious" has become our Word Of the Week.
"No, YOUR sanctimonious!!"
"No, YOU are."
- Mark Mulder: Let's get excited, shall we? Alden Gonzalez gives us a look into the most recent status of Mulder's comeback and there is nothing but excellent news to report. To sum it up, Mulder is showing velocity, a smooth and repeatable stress-free delivery, great command of five pitches, and is working on endurance. "I haven't had the ball come out of my hand like this in a very long time, and it's fun," Mulder said. "I never threw like this in all my years in St. Louis...And I'm gonna run with it. I'm gonna see what happens." This Mulder guy might be a great story after all and I, for one, am pulling for him.
- Tanaka: Sometimes I wish I had a GoPro doing selfies while I hunted for items for this column. I truly wonder what the hell my face must have looked like when I read yesterday's update on the Tanaka situation. Here you have the Dodgers "in the feeling-out stage", and you have the Diamondbacks relating that Tanaka and his agent "have been good through the process", and you have the White Sox confimring a meeting that was "exploratory in nature", and the Red Sox "have been in touch". Tanaka is in SoCal for meetings and a physical, so these kind of prep signals prior to formal negotiation sessions are to be expected. But what about our skilful Front Office? What resources are we bringing to bear to compete for this rare opportunity? Well, "we know a guy". Read down the MLB Trade Rumors link and you will find that, erp, "Angels executive Hal Morris played ball with (Tanaka agent] Close in college." All that I could do was unscrew my giggles and say to myself, "You know a guy........Show Mr. Dipoto to an exit and call the Keystone Cops. I'm sure he is in violation of his hall pass."
Buy Stuff - Crazy-ass Baseball Finds On the Internet:
In honor of Hall Of Fame week, here is a vintage San Francisco Giants Willie Mays bobblehead, from back in the 60's...
This Date In Baseball History: 1945 - The BBWAA fails to elect any player to the Baseball HoF. Basically, they fail because they pretty much tried to elect everybody...........1957 - Commissioner Ford Frick decides to allow Bing Crosby, already a teensy-weensy part-owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, to retain his teensy-weensy part-ownership in an 11-man syndicate that had just made a purchase of the Detroit Tigers..........1983 - The New York Supreme Court intervenes and issues an injunction that prevents the Yankees, who were worried about completing their renovations, from moving their opening series against the Tigers to Denver, Colorado..........2001 - MLB hires the consulting firm of Arthur Anderson to start sticking holograms all over their official merchandise, and visually inspect game-used items as they are collected...........2008 - The Houston Astros sign once-Halo Darin Erstad to the first of what will be the final two years of his career.
Great Moments in Baseball Statistical History
We take a brief respite in recounting the stepping stones of important names to discuss the moment when America finally went stats nuts over baseball and we began to settle in on specific figures that would dominate the landscape.
Batting Average had gained a significant level of importance all on its own well before we got to the year 1900. And fans already had figured out that the .300 mark was some kind of special value point. Players too. But in 1910 everything changed. Hugh Chalmers was president of Chalmers Motor Company, which would produce automobiles up until 1923 until they folded production of their own. (Chrysler Motors was born out of the ashes of Chalmers-Maxwell.) Chalmers decided to give a new car to the best hitting baseball player in the Major Leagues. And the metric that would be used to determine who was best was well accepted to be BA. Over in the NL, Sherry Magee of the Phillies would lead the league batting .331, leaving the real race to be decided between Ty Cobb and Nap Lajoie up in the .380 range.
Because of the prize, publicity surrounding the race was fever-pitched for weeks and weeks as the two players battled against each other's success. Updates were published daily, but because the numbers were so grossly conflicting nobody really knew which player was officially ahead - nor would they until after the season when MLB made their final numbers public. In this chaos, Ty Cobb senses he has the lead and chooses to sit out the final two games rather than risk a slump. But Cobb is hated, and the lowly St. Louis Browns, Browns skipper Jack O'Connor has his infield play dead and allow Lajoie to go 8 for 9 on the final day. The press screamed in protest over the fix, and differing publications had differing victors based on their own, unofficial, calculations. League President Ban Johnson rushed to have his official results tabulated, wherein Cobb was named the winner .385 to .384. Hugh Chalmers ended up giving a car to both players, the crowds were wildly enthused over the entire enterprise, and the idea of baseball stats mesmerizing - and even dominating - the national dialog was born. Not to mention the notion of a baseball MVP award.
One might think that this story would end there. Later on, when we get to the era of independent (think "outsiders") tabulations by "geeks", we will learn that an error was made in Cobb's records that season and one game was double-booked. The corrected results, as you can now find here in modern records, now show Lajoie as the winner. And it will take a "stat-nerd" to get that error corrected.
- PEDs & BBWAA: Setting aside all the hoopla over Dan Le Batard, my new personal hero that might motivate me towards an entire essay, we can still find a tremendous amount of written word from the BBWAA voters as they try to navigate the PEDs era in determining their vote. Personally, I suspect many of them to be lashing out on this issue in order to deflect attention away from their individual failure to present the biggest story of their generation, when it was right in front of their noses. And I read too much bullshit about hiding behind procedural rules of journalistic integrity (as opposed to doing the hard work of satisfying those rules in order to get the story out). Well, at least one person is pulling back the curtains of history, and has begun the work to sum up the timelines and the knuckleheads and the heroes of the MSM back then. Bryan Curtis over at Grantland provides a nice intro behind the scenes of the scribes' activities and decision-making "skills" during the glory days of steroids use and is an excellent read.
- HoF Thoughts: Jon Heyman drags us back into that same old pit of stupidity when he argues on behalf of Jack Morris, post-vote, with the comment: "He is also one of those guys where this saying may prove truest: You had to be there. A dissection of his numbers in retrospect doesn't do justice to his career...So his impact far exceeded his career totals". Well, Jon, let's just stick with the opinions of the BBWAA members who were there, Ok? As I commented elsewhere, during Morris' entire career, there were 504 first-place votes cast for American League Most Valuable Player. And Heyman's fellow scribes voted for Morris, while they were there and looking a the guy, exactly 0 times. There were also 504 first-place votes for American League Cy Young Award. And Heyman's fellow members favored Morris, while they were there and looking at the guy, with exactly 6 of those votes. For his whole career. Ever. And, from this level of in-person, at the time, in context, subjectivity, we have grown a mythical mushroom of Dominance Of His Era??
- Knuckling Under: Rather counter-intuitively, it turns out that the success of the R.A. Dickey knuckleball comes when Dickey throws it with a higher velocity. I need to spend some time interviewing the physics scientist in the family to explain why it is that a knuckleball has more chance to behave unexpectedly when it has less time in the space within which to do it. But this is pretty potent:
Time KN V ERA WHIP K% April-July 2013 75.3 4.66 1.3 17.70% Aug-Sep 2013 77.1 3.35 1.13 21%
"As the velocity improved, so did the strikeout rate and with them, the ERA and WHIP. Again, not quite 2012 Cy Young levels...but a major improvement, and an encouraging one. He also allowed slightly fewer home runs, but those are probably never going away, especially at Rogers Centre."
Let's not depart the subject of R.A. Dickey without going all goo-gaw over this (from Reddit, h/t to BaseballNation):
- Baseball Biz, Something to think about: In tracking the Nats/Camillo announcement (below in Slap Hitting), I followed some click leads back in time to learn about an ongoing dispute between the Nationals and Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN). I learned a lot. For example, I learned that when MLB went through that whole set of shenanigans concerning the Montreal Expos, Jeffrey Loria, and the Florida Marlins, MLB handed over the broadcast rights to Nats games to MASN. I learned that MASN is owned by Peter Angelos. Angelos happens to be the owner of the Baltimore Orioles. Imagine, if you will, Magic Johnson owning the broadcast rights to Arte Moreno's baseball team. Well, this has caused an interesting situation. At the end of the 2011 season the Nats were entitled to renegotiate terms. Of course, the Nats want Big TV Money like everybody else is getting. And the Nats are using the same arguments in their favor. But guess who it is that doesn't think that Major League Baseball broadcast rights should warrant those kinds of deals? You guessed right: Major League Baseball owner Peter Angelos and the Baltimore Orioles. That would be Baseball, having it both ways. Poor Uncle Bud, stuck as he is right smack in the middle between MLB being a very valuable media commodity, and MLB not being a very valuable media commodity. His only way out of messes like this is going to be to retire.
- More Baseball Biz: Last Friday I shared the news that the Phillies had jumped on board the TV contract gravy train. This week, Wendy Thurm has a post over at Fangraphs which delves into the econ of this particular deal and announces that things might be cooling off in that market. Thurm is, a phenomenal source of analysis on this topic and I recommend that all of you similarly interested in this topic make a point to seek out here opinions. She takes the Angels and we fans to task for our very poor broadcast ratings as she compares the Phillies deal to the Angels deal. And hten she gives us this: "The Phillies now have a local TV contract on par with other MLB teams in big-city markets like the Angels, Rangers and Giants...But those deals were negotiated several years ago, when the sports TV market appeared to have no ceiling. Now, RSNs must be concerned with recouping these long-term investments in an environment where cable and satellite operators are balking at paying the rates the RSNs want to charge to carry their network...the economic forces at work in creating the sports TV bubble and the factors that may result in a burst." And, at the end, she closes and reinforces her point by updating the Dodgers/TWC contract, referencing challenges they are having in signing up cable/satellite operators.
Video Of The Week
(Quite topically, Cold Weather Baseball, with the Angels well represented!)
(Having troubling viewing the video? Click here.)
Congratulations to the Washington Nationals and to Valerie Camillo, for advancing the cause of competent women in the workplace of MLB front offices...........Tony Kornheiser has a math problem. He claims that "There is nothing more democratic that the voting for the Hall Of Fame: one man, one vote". I hate to break it to you, Tony, but it's actually: 571 mysteriously authorized men & women, 10 votes each. It couldn't be more fundamentally elitist if they tried...........The Pittsburgh Pirates are phasing out the Jolly Roger logo, and this little pirate is extremely sad...........Admittedly, this has absolutely nothing about baseball. But it has a lot to do with the world of sports in Southern California, wherein our favored Angels are occupied. If you have not spent much time here, sorry, but this essay about The Rose Bowl left me in awe..........Our fan base is dominating the MLB Fan Cave, with a 2nd place followed up by a 1st place in the only two events so far. Here is your chance to sign up and extend our rule.
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...
(In this most festive time of year, Beer Holidays are few and far between. Enjoy the bonuses!)
Friday: We have a pulse! A tiny, faint, little pulse. Beltramo's up in Menlo Park is hosting a New Arrivals beer tasting & release event. It runs from 4PM until 6:30PM............Not having a damned thing to do with beer, although it makes for a good excuse to socialize and then grab a few afterwards, Solvang is hosting their annual Christmas Tree Burn, a public gathering where all the townsfolk bring their pine needle fire bombs to a sponsored bonfire. It's one of the largest gatherings and largest public fire demonstrations in the entire Central Coast of California. It's the end of Julefest, and held at the Old Mission Santa Ines.
BEER PUZZLE OF THE WEEK: Which country consumes the most beer, per capita: the Czech Republic, China, the United States, or Ireland? [The answer to last week's puzzle question is: the annual bottle limit for production in order for a brewer to remain classified as a microbrewery is 14,999.]
BEER BONUS: steelgolf sends us all a picture of his holiday conquest!
Stay safe, everyone!