Thursday, October 27, 2005

October 27th, 2005

The Year in Review, Part I

The office--GWU Office of Study Abroad--where I work part-time has a selection of magazines for students to read as they wait to speak to various people. One of them, a foreign policy journal, always catches my eye, not for its stories but for its name: "Current History." This always struck me as a bit of an oxymoron, but also gave me an idea. As we are now, sadly, finished with live Major League Baseball for 2005, and Congratulations to the White Sox and their fans, especially those at Baseball Think Factory, I thought I would do a year in review, providing "current history" on players whose past history I reviewed over the last ten months. It is also appropriate because yesterday was the 300th blog I have published here, so I can do my Year in Review in two parts, dividing those 300 posts in half. So without further ado, I give you current history:

Jermaine Dye (January 17th): I have probably never been more wrong more consistently about a team over the last few years than I have been about the Chicago White Sox. I thought, among other things, that Ozzie Guillen was going to be an absolute train wreck at the head of the team, that trading for Jose "The Big Enigma" Contreras was going to be an expensive mistake, that trading Carlos Lee for Scott Podsednik was a mistake and of course, that signing Jermaine Dye--that's World Series MVP Jermaine Dye, to you--was Kenny Williams "proving that there will always be people with more money than sense." Well, oops.

Alan Embree (January 23rd): The Red Sox victory in 2004 might've saved Alan Embree "from being remembered as 'The Guy Who Should've Come in For Pedro' in Game 7 of 2003" and allowed him to achieve a legacy as prototypical middle reliever, but Embree's performance in 2005 illustrated another point about middle relievers: With a handful of exceptions, middle relievers are like fireworks shows. Great flashes mixed with periods of darkness ending, ultimately, with darkness. Splitting time between the Red Sox and Yankees this year, Embree posted an ERA over seven. He will be thirty-six next year and is left handed so he figures to receive a spring training invitation at the least, but the Alan Embree Fireworks show may be coming to a close.

Bob Melvin (January 24th): Well, I stand by my assertion that managing two different teams which lose ninety-five games would be some kind of record, but obviously I missed the boat a bit as the Diamondbacks finished the season with just eighty-five losses, ten away from the total I said they had a "a decent chance" of reaching. Nonetheless, having a two year record with two clubs (in two leagues) of 140-184 (.432) is still probably some kind of record.

Jared Fernandez (February 2nd): Jared Fernandez, he of the fast knuckleball, did not appear in a single Major League game in 2005. Neither did another of 2004's knuckleballing trio, Steve Sparks, leaving Tim Wakefield as the only man throwing the knuckleball in the majors in 2005. It is almost always foolish to announce the extinction of anything, but the knuckleball is most definitely on the endangered species list.

Clyde Wright (February 20th): Nothing has changed about Clyde, so far as I know, but having been wrong about the White Sox and wrong about the Diamondbacks, I would like to take time to point out that I said I was "not holding my breath" for Jaret Wright--Clyde's son--to maintain his level of performance from Atlanta. At least I got one right.

Mel Stottlemyre (March 29th) and Grady Little (March 30th): Two men here, long since past playing age, but whose careers are on quite different paths. Stottlemyre recently retired after several successful years as a respected pitching coach around the league. In contrast, Grady Little, who left his last gig in rather less successful and respected circumstances has recently re-entered the game as the bench coach for the Milwaukee Brewers. So, while Mel rides gracefully into the sunset, Grady is attempting to rehab a broken image. Sounds like there's more current history yet to be written.

Fidel Castro (April 1st): So far as I know, Fidel is still the head man down in
Cuba, and has no plans to make a comeback, even if Washington does have a team again.

David Eckstein (April 3rd): Speaking of being right, how about this one? Cristian Guzman was an absolute disaster for the Nationals, hit .219/.260/.314, and needed a hot September (he hit .325) just to cross the Mendoza Line. Eckstein, on the other hand, hit .294/.351/.395 for the Cards. And he made less money doing it. So that's two on the plus side for me.

Brandon Backe (April 5th): Of course, here's another one for the minus column. Not only did I say that "it is unlikely the Astros will repeat their success of 2004 this season" but I also managed to imply that Brandon Backe's performance would be a major element of whatever success they had. As it turned out, Backe was worse in 2005 than the year before, and a below average pitcher, but getting six hundred seventy-five innings of below 3.00 ERA pitching from your top three covers a lot of sins. Backe was also not able to repeat his 2004 playoff excellence, but did still manage to post, his all-in-vain start last night included, a playoff ERA of 3.06 in seventeen and two-third innings. Now, if he can keep that form, then the Astros really will be set.

Ken Griffey, Jr. (April 10th): Reading this one over, I realize it comes off as more as an "I come to bury Griffey, not to praise him" speech than I intended, but such is life. Griffey played just one hundred twenty-eight games this year; he's not played in more than one hundred thirty since 2000, his first year with the Reds. But he managed to hit thirty-five homers in that time and batted .301, earning the NL Comeback Player of the Year award.

Darren Dreifort (May 3rd): Dreifort collected thirteen million, four hundred thousand dollars from the Dodgers this year and pitched as many innings for them as you or I did. Over the five-year life of the contract (2001-05) Dreifort pitched a grand total of two hundred five and two-thirds innings while being paid fifty-five million dollars, a mind boggling $267,423 per inning pitched or $287,958 per strikeout. For comparison's sake, if Roger Clemens
was paid that much per inning , he would've made $56,426,253 for the this year alone. Also of note from that column, the ethics aside, after his own Comeback Player of the Year performance, Jason Giambi has now contributed three excellent offensive seasons to the Yankees and all but erased the idea that his contract was worse than Dreifort's.

Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas (May 27th): Finally, a pair of guys who I mentioned as being forever linked were connected once again as both their teams went to the World Series, and both were non-factors (Thomas not playing at all, Bagwell limited to DH and PH duties batted just .125). However, for perhaps the first time in their careers there was a major difference as Thomas' team triumphed, leaving Bagwell still pursuing a World Series title.

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