Saturday, October 29, 2005

October 29th, 1920

Ed Barrow Hired

Once again suffering technical problems, I will rely once again on the man who saved me from my technical problems in the past, Ed Barrow

Friday, October 28, 2005

October 28th, 2005

The Year in Review, Part II

Continuing our Year in Review, today we come to those stories worth updating with current history:

Carl Everett (June 3rd): One of the classic theological quesitons is why bad things happen to good people. The reverse question, of course, is equally baffling. Carl Everett everyone might not regard Carl Everett as a bad person--although I'd bet the majority do--but although he suffered a brief peroid playing with in front of sparse crowds the world over for the Expos, Carl has now made a rather substantial amount of money playing baseball, and even won a World Series. So why do good things happen to bad people. Your guess is as good as mine

Roger Clemens (June 13th): Whatever mistakes I made, I sure look smart on this one. Clemens led the league in ERA this year by more than half a run over his teammate Andy Pettitte and had the thirteenth best ERA+ since 1900. The debate about Clemens may increasingly be less if he is the greatest pitcher of the past forty or so years and more if he is the greatest pitcher ever.

Yadier Molina (July 13th): So, having watched all three Molinas in the playoffs, I can safely say that why Yadier is no speedster--he'll never be mistaken for Ichiro! going down the line to first base--he is easier the fastest Molina. Now, that may just be an age thing, he's just 22 while Bengie and Jose are 30 and 29 respectively, but they've been slow for as long as I can remember. So I must remove Yadier from the list of Molinas worth going to the ballpark to see run, he's just plain old ordinary slow, not the molasas-in-January pace of his brothers.

Shawn Wooten (July 24th): Shawn Wooten appeared in just one game this season--with the Red Sox--having just one at-bat (he made out) and playing two innings behind the plate. Corey Lidle finished 13-11 with a dead-on league average ERA for the Phillies. Even with those however, it was a still a damn fine year for the one-time teammates of
South Hills High School. After a slow start, Jason Giambi recovered to finished with an OPS+ above 150 and the quartet's previously least noted member, Aaron Small, was a savior for the Yankees finishing the year 10-0 with a 3.20 ERA. The performance of the "South Hills Four" has varied fairly erratically over the years, so who knows what next year will bring but for 2005, it was the Yankees, Giambi and Small as Kings of the Mountain.

Alex Rodriguez (August 17th) and Pedro Martinez (August 19th): Two of the all-time greats, both tackled by my able guest writers, rebounded in 2005 from seasons in 2004 which although excellent by many measures were below their standards. After a forgettable--the whole Championship thing aside--2004 Pedro Martinez signed with the Mets and rebounded to post the National League's fourth best ERA and lead the Amazins in virtually every meaningful pitching statistic. After a rough adjustment to New York, Alex Rodriguez returned to MVP form (he'd have my vote) in 2005, and while the media has harped on his playoff shortcomings, evidently forgetting he virtually carried the Yankees as recently as the 2004 ALDS, if the Yankees continue to get seasons out of A-Rod like his 2005, he will be worth every penny of the contract.

Orlando Hernandez (October 11th): And finally wrapping up with another member of the World Series champions and one--unlike Everett--I was glad to see get a(nother) ring. The World Series gave Hernandez another chance to lower his postseason ERA, and he did so, pitching a scoreless inning the marathon Game Three. So light up, Duque and celebrate, you deserve it.

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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

October 26th, 1965

Gil Heredia Born

The Yankees won their 26th World Series--and third in four years--in 2000. It could be said, however, that they made it out of the first round for two reasons: Terrance Long and Gil Heredia. Heredia was the A's starter in Game One--opposing Roger Clemens--and outpitched the Rocket, giving up three runs in six innings to take the victory. The Yankees would take Games Two and Three, but Clemens--pitching on short rest--got shelled, and the series returned to Oakland.

That game saw Heredia, on full rest, facing Andy Pettitte with both teams' seasons on the line. In the top of the first however, Heredia was shaky. He loaded the bases on a walk and two hits and gave up a sacrifice fly to give the Yankees a one run lead, and then reloaded the bases with another walk. Heredia then induced Tino Martinez to hit a long fly ball to center field. Although battling the sun, Terrance Long should've made the play and limited it to a sac fly. Long lost it in the sun however, and the ball fell in for a 3-run double, bringing the Yankees lead to four. It would be six by the end of the first, and the Yankees held on to win by a final score of 7-5.

The Yankees 2000 season ended in a dogpile on the mound at Shea Stadium, but they survived on the shaky pitching of Gil Heredia and the shaky fielding of Terrance Long.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

October 25th, 1943

Leo Durocher Hired

"Leo the Lip" was re-signed by the Dodgers for his sixth year at the helm. Although 1943 had been Leo's worst season guiding the team (they finished just 81-73) the wartime conditions meant the Dodgers put more stock in Leo's back-to-back one hundred plus win seasons in 1941 and 1942 than they did in the 1943 season. Of course, on-the-field concerns were perhaps not the Dodgers' only interest, as an interesting clause in the contract demonstrates. Durocher was to be paid a base salary of twenty thousand dollars. On top of that however, Durocher's contract called him for to receive an extra five thousand for each 100,000 fans over 600,000 that Dodgers drew that season. Durocher was obviously hoping the Dodgers could return to the attendance level of 1939-42 when they averaged 1,051,157 per season rather than the war depressed total of 661,739 in 1943.

As it turned out, Durocher had no such luck on two fronts as the Dodgers both slumped to their worst record ever with Leo in command, and the worst of his managerial career, a brutal 63-91 and their attendance dropped even lower, down to 605,905, bringing Durocher's attendance total bonus to a grand total The team would rebound performance wise the next year and would draw nearly 1.8 million by the last year of Durocher's contract in 1946 but by then the attendance clause was long gone.

Monday, October 24, 2005

October 24th, 1977

Dave Bristol Fired

Bristol's firing at the hands of Ted Turner is not of particular interest to me; what is instead is the man who followed him. That would be Bobby Cox, the current Braves' manager. However, Bobby's first run at the helm of the Braves wasn't quite as successful as his second. In fact, Bobby finished with a .451 winning percentage his first try in the manager's seat, topping .500 just once, in 1980. However, Bobby has some pretty good company in that regard when it comes to the other leading managers of his time. Tony LaRussa--the active leader in wins--was better in his first go-round as a head man, but still managed only a .506 winning percentage with the White Sox, posting four seasons above .500, four under and one right-on. Joe Torre--number three in active wins--was even worse in his first gig, posting a brutal .406 winning percentage across several seasons including one of ninety-nine losses.

So did these guys get better as managers or did they simply take over better teams? Honestly, it was probably some combination thereof, but it's worth noting that perhaps your local manager having a tough time in his first run might someday be quite the skipper.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

October 23rd, 1832

William Hulbert Born

Although the first President of the National League was technically Morgan Bulkeley, he would go on to a career in politics and served the role for just a year largely as figurehead before he was replaced by William Hulbert. It is Hulbert who truly made the post his own and he is arguably one of the ten most important figures in the history of baseball. When Hulbert took over the National League it was beset with problems including gambling, franchises folding and drunkenness and rowdiness among the players and fans. Hulbert tackled these problems head on, sometimes less ethically than others (to eliminate at least some of the need for the kind of players who would show up six sheets to the wind Hulbert led raids on other leagues). He set up a regular schedule (and kicked two teams out of the league for a failure to follow it) and in his first year uncovered a game-fixing scandal. He also banned alcohol from ballparks. Hulbert died in 1882, having left the state of professional baseball miles ahead of where it was when he entered it.

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