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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Now Arriving On Track One From Obscurity: Dodgers 4, Rockies 2

Pop quiz: Let's say you were about to make a lineup to face Jason Jennings, RHP, starter for the Colorado Rockies, 11-12, 5.69 ERA in 32 games. Jennings' line against lefties is .339/.441/.573, while his line against righties is .268/.322/.407. Do you
  1. Use the standard lefty-righty lineup --
    Izturis LH
    Werth   RH
    Finley  LH
    Beltre  RH
    Green   LH
    Ventura LH
    Cora    RH
    Mayne   LH
    Lima    RH
  2. -- or do you do something creative and bold that forces Jennings to pitch to lefties at the top of the order --
    Izturis LH
    Green   LH
    Finley  LH
    Beltre  RH
    Werth   RH
    Ventura LH
    Cora    RH
    Mayne   LH
    Lima    RH
    with a little power at the three-spot?
In retrospect, I would have chosen (2), but that's with hindsight. Tonight, the Dodgers would threaten and then bounce out harmlessly whenever a righty would appear at the plate. The left-handed starters in today's game went 8-20, or .400. The righties were 0-16.

Maybe next time Tracy will do things a little differently.

Lima pitched brilliantly, one run in seven innings. Gagné, on the other hand, didn't look sharp at all, and I absolutely question Tracy's reasoning to put him out there given his late medical condition. Save him for the Giants and give him as much rest as you can. On the other hand, Tracy took two chances that paid off brilliantly: having Choi, who has barely seen a pitch this month, come up and pinch hit, and likewise Ross, who slugged the game-winner.

At least the magic number went down by one. We're guaranteed the Giants will have to sweep us at home and win a single-game tiebreaker -- in San Francisco on Monday, if needed -- to win the division. The bad news, though, is that the offense looked as feeble and wretched as it did last Wednesday, when I wrote off the team, not a good sign for the upcoming series.


Heartbreaks By The Score

Reds 2, Cubs 1

Mark Prior strikes out 16, Sammy Sosa ties Harmon Killebrew on the all-time homers list, and still they fall to the Reds. Once again the bullpen explodes, with Remlinger giving up the game-winner. The winning pitcher, Juan Padilla, had a 12.71 ERA going into today's game.

To get to the postseason now, the Cubs must hope all the other contenders melt down equally badly and that they can sweep the Braves.


Rangers 6, Angels 3

Absolutely, positively expected. No way do we sweep the Rangers, and not with Jeckyll-and-Lackey on the mound. The good news? Well, Kotchman got a hit. Vlad continued hitting well, with two homers on the day. But none of it mattered, as Rangers pitching just didn't give up a lot of baserunners.


Athletics 3, Mariners 2

As I mentioned yesterday, it's entirely possible that the A's loss of the division lead was just the spark they needed. Now it's a knife fight to the finish in their house starting tomorrow. This come-from-a-tie has to make them feel pretty good about their chances, especially getting a solo shot from Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Bobby Crosby.


Drag Outfit Saves Pitcher

Cleveland rookie pitcher Kyle Denney was saved from more serious injury by the USC cheerleader outfit he was wearing as part of the usual rookie hazing ritual. Two shots were fired into his team bus:
"[The players] heard a loud pop, and Ludwick felt something," [team spokesman Bart] Swain said. "Then Kyle eventually felt a burning sensation in his right calf. He didn't know what it was, but he reached down and saw blood."

Team trainers Lonnie Soloff and Rick Jameyson were able to remove the bullet on the bus.

Oddly enough, Denney was dressed in a USC cheerleader's outfit during the incident as part of the team's yearly ritual for rookies. The outfit, which included a blonde wig and knee-high boots, might have actually saved Denney from further injury, Swain said.

"Because of the boot, the bullet didn't go far into his calf," Swain said. "So that helped him. When Lonnie and Rick opened the boot, the bullet pretty much popped right out."

6-4-2, always on the side of tolerance and enlightenment, endorses such behavior, especially when it saves a life, a career, a season, or even a couple games. Cleveland, of course, has an exemplary history in this department, taking in all kinds of unusual talent at times when such moves might seem less-than-seemly.

The Mo(u)rning After

Athletics Nation is predictably dour, bedecked in black by the folk who believe the AL West a birthright. Four games left, guys, four games against your principle opponent, who is only one game ahead of you in the standings.

The fat lady hasn't even arrived at the auditorium.

Odds of winning the division:

Team    Odds
Angels   58%
Oakland  42%
Update: corrected for a late change in Clay's Playoff Odds Report; he missed the loss by Oakland last night.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Jinx Ain't Just A Cat

The Angels have been a better road team (45-32) than a home team (45-36) this year.

In the interests of trying to invert Murphy: they might have just won their last game for the year. Not that I necessarily think this, but baseball's a funny game, and hey, anything could happen.

The M's start 4-16, 5.03 ERA Ryan Franklin, while the A's start 11-12, 4.76 ERA Mark Redman. Franklin has a 2.70 ERA in his last three starts, while Redman has a 5.74 ERA in his last three.

Meantime: the Angels will put up John Lackey, 2.70 in his last three and clearly on a streak, vs. 6-6 4.75 ERA Chris Young, who shut out the Halos at home the last time we saw him. And we have to face him minus Garret Anderson, who left today's game early due to a sore knee.

So I'd say the odds tomorrow are pretty even. But losing first place might be the tonic to jolt the A's into action tomorrow. A one game lead is nothing. Like Mike said, we can celebrate -- maybe -- on Sunday.

Murphy's Law... Or Not? Rockies 4, Dodgers 1

If anything can go wrong, it will.
-- Murphy's Law
OP pitches a one-run game and gets another no-decision.

Nothing new.

The Dodgers offense is shut down by a bunch of guys with ERAs of, respectively, 5.15, 5.40, 5.65, and 4.26.

Nothing new.

Milton Bradley gets suspended and issues an apology.

Nothing new.

Eric Gagné has an MRI and turns up with with shoulder tendinitis and a cortisone shot in the joint.

Now, that's new.

Murphy's been at work tonight, again, with the Dodgers. Yet, somehow, the jinx failed. The Padres finally beat the Giants, 4-3, in extra innings. So the division could be decided before Team Halloween shows up in Chavez Ravine.

Dodgers' magic number: 2

Now How Much Would You Pay? Angels Edition: Angels 8, Rangers 7

Anybody wanna resign Troy now?

Either one. Or both.

Jes' askin'.

Update: WOO HOO! Bobby Madritsch clocks a 4-2 complete game victory for the M's. Not only did we end the Rangers season, we're in sole posession of the AL West!

Update: Angels' magic number: 4. Doesn't it feel nice to say that?

Bradley Suspended

Milton Bradley has been suspended for the remainder of the season. He will not appeal the suspension, and will serve it effective immediately.

A Knife Fight In A Darkened Room

It's hard not to look at the three races left in baseball and not get caught up in their dramatics. Clay Davenport's Baseball Prospectus gives the Dodgers a 95.5% chance of clinching the NL West, with less than a five percent chance for the Giants to win the division. Imagine you were a Giants fan counseling his team to concentrate on winning the division. The Dodgers need just one loss by the Giants against the Padres -- and two more wins against the Rockies -- to clinch the division.

Naturally, I would love to see them sweep the Rocks. The Rockies have played us pretty tough so far this year, though, and I wouldn't be surprised if we achieved a series split this time. It came close last night, and as Dodger Blues observed, the magic number might have remained at four up til the weekend. Likewise, I'm steeling myself for a magic number stuck at three until we meet the Giants at home.

The Angels, meantime, have managed to back into a possible division win. Sure, we're in first place now, but Clay still doesn't give us any love, nor should he: by his reckoning, the Angels have only a 35.5% chance of winning the division, while the A's are still clear favorites at 64%. The Angels and the A's are now in a knife fight in a darkened room, especially if the Angels should win tonight or tomorrow against the Rangers. Texas will start Kameron Roe, a soft-tosser -- exactly the kind of pitcher the Angels seem to have trouble hitting (see also, Jamie Moyer). The Mariners, to their credit, are playing like a team that wants to make it known they won't be this bad next year, and are going to make their mark on the 2004 postseason, one way or another. Surprisingly, none of U.S.S. Mariner, Mariners Wheelhouse, or Mariner Musings, the three sites I get most of my M's blogging from, have mentioned that the M's are 10-9 against contenders in September:
  Team   Record
  BOS      2-2
  ANA      2-2
  OAK      1-2
 @ANA      2-1
 @TEX      2-1
 @OAK      1-1
That's a decent record, and something to build on for next year. I won't be surprised -- either way -- if the M's lose or win tonight (though of course at 6-4-2 World Headquarters, we would prefer a win), but one thing's certain: the division will be decided in Oakland, starting Friday. Blez worries about the A's rotation turning "from gods to Joes", and he's right. Every single one of their starters has turned into a pumpkin, while the A's offense has stalled. That shouldn't make the Angels complacent; as Scioscia himself put it,
You know when it's going to matter? It's going to matter after Sunday's ballgame," Scioscia said. "This thing can change momentum in a heartbeat. There's no reason to put too much stock in where we are. If we were five out with five to go, it'd be different.
The Dodgers offense stalled and their rotation is as reliable as a used Yugo. But like the Giants, we can't count on the A's to collapse for us. If, as Richard suggested, a late surge by Vlad propels the club over the top to a division win, the halo of an MVP award might once more glow over his head.

But first, the knife fight.

So it is the National League Wild Card gets very, very wild. The Cubs, unable to muster the strength to beat the weakened Reds last night, fell to that club 8-3. As of this writing, the Northsiders are in a 1-1 tie again at Wrigley. Chicago and San Francisco once again are tied for the Wild Card, with Houston only a half game behind both. That, too, will be a brutal battle, and the surprise entrant might just be the Astros: playing a St. Louis team that's decided to coast into the playoffs, Houston just won two from the Cards and will finish their season with three against the Rockies.

Here's Clay's projections for the Wild Card among those teams really in it:

Team    Odds
Cubs   53.7%
Giants 19.8%
Astros 23.2%
What I wonder is, does his projection take into account the fact that the Cards are resting some of their most important players? Given the Cubs finish with three against Atlanta, it could mean the Astros are really the odds-on favorites to win the Wild Card, given how badly the Cubs are playing and the Giants' schedule.

Pickoff Moves, Stretch Edition

Things They Don't Show On The TeeVee

Jayson Werth practicing hand signs in left field at SBC Park over the weekend?
My voice is raw from screaming all day today at that punk Jason Werth [sic], who had the gall to hit a two-run homer in the first inning, then spend the rest of the game turning around and staring at the bleachers between pitches. He also responded to our frequent taunts with a raised middle finger, a few waves, and during a pitching change he pantomimed the act of flicking boogers at the crowd. Classy.
Taking lessons from Milton, maybe?

The Lord Of The Twins

Batgirl has the first part of a Lord of the Rings cycle going, as retrofitted to the Twinkies. I suppose that, if we make it to the postseason this year, the Angels won't have Adam Kennedy to beat up the Twins with. That could be a real problem.

Here Come The Extionals

You already know my opinion on what the new Washington, D.C. National League team should be called; but as it happens, I have no say on these things. Jayson Stark reports on the Expos' move to the nation's capitol, replete with attempts to guarantee a loss-free operation -- or exit -- to Peter Angelos. Idiots Write About Sports has a nice analysis of this particular handshake-and-drawn-daggers deal, of which I'll quote the following couple of grafs:
So suddenly, your old pal Bud Selig calls you up with a deal: he’s going to guarantee that you see so many millions in revenue no matter how many people make their way out to your ballpark next year and every year to come. It doesn’t matter if your team goes 0-162 and people avoid the Inner Harbor like there’s a federal quarantine — you know that, at a bare minimum, you’ll have X amount of dollars in the til at the end of the year.

So what’s to inspire you from bothering to field a competitive team? You know how much is coming your way, whether you’re paying for a line-up of all-stars or for a roster stacked with career minor-leaguers making the Major-League mininum. Or, to put it in economic terms, you know what you’re revenues are going to be. Wouldn’t you, money-grubbing villain that you are, look to minimize your expenses in order to maximize your profits?

In other words, this is the same bad problem that the current revenue-sharing agreement has: there's no requirement to spend such revenues to improve the team.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Breathless: Dodgers 5, Rockies 4

Well, I shake all over
And you know why
I'm sure it's love, honey
ain't no lie
'cause when you call my name
I burn like wood in flame
You leave me ... breathless, oh!
-- Ottis Blackwell
Could they have made that comeback go down any later? While I understand the compulsion to give all your bench players an opportunity to get in at-bats, the pair of Thurston and Grabowski can be counted on to do exactly nothing, even against the Rocks' pen. Best to let them sit.

Bradley: I hope his supension is short, and he understands -- which I think he will once it's explained -- why most of the fans were booing, which was because of his ejection, not because of what he did (which was lame). Taking the uniform top off before he entered the dugout was also lame.

Let us now praise Ishii for a clutch pitching performance... and as to the bullpen, well, Jackson's early exit, and those before him, leave bootprints over Brazoban, Sanchez, Carrara, and even Gagné.

Winner, Carpe diem award: Werth and Fins.

Image: Frank pumping a fist into the air, embracing Jamie as Jayson Werth rounds third and scores.

In a blue shirt.

There may yet be hope for the man. He looks like he knows what team he owns.

At last: a hearty "thank you" to Shawn Chacon and the Rocks' bullpen.

Dodgers' magic number: 3


Vlad The Impaler: Angels 8, Rangers 2

One of the expressions you learn early being married is, "You were right, I was wrong." It saves a lot of grief. So, I offer up a similar thought to Richard, who last week stared down the Angels' weak play.

Well: as I write this, the M's are ahead of the A's, 7-2 in the 8th. Update: final score, Mariners 7, Athletics 2.

The A's blogs will be, um, interesting.

I really had no hopes, going into September, of the Angels catching up to the A's. But thanks to an A's rotation collapse on top of an already weak bullpen, the A's are stumbling to the finish line. As well, offensive mainstay 3B Eric Chavez is barely hitting in September (.234/.309/.360). Watching the Dodgers unravel tonight -- they're down 4-0 after Milton Bradley dropped a routine fly ball -- I have some sympathy for that.

But not as long as the Angels have a shot. Which they do.

Back to the game: Vladdy with two homers, D-Mac with one, Anderson slugging one -- and Escobar finally, finally, gets some run support after pitching another brilliant game.

And tomorrow: the Rangers will be back four -- if the M's can hold their lead -- with an elimination number of two. They're sending Kameron Loe against Washburn; Loe first appeared September 26 when he pitched 2.2 innings in relief of starter Ryan Drese, who got chased early in a six-run pounding by the resurgent Mariners.

We can expect they'll fight like tigers (opposite Tigers).

But. This is so not over.


Baseball In The Time Of Influenza

Will Carroll reports the Padres have a virus running through the clubhouse, in addition to being four games out of the Wild Card. The division might very well be decided next weekend.

Even More On Guillen's Suspension

Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus comes out, dukes swinging at the Angels' decision to nullify Guillen's last weeks of the season:
The big story, which made the rounds in the middle of the game, was that Jose Guillen had been suspended without pay for the remainder of the season and any postseason action, following his tantrum upon being removed from Saturday's game.

I can't think of a precedent for this, where a team discards a starting outfielder with a week to go. I do know that the punishment doesn't fit the crime it followed, and it seems disproportionate even if it capped a series of unpublicized incidents, as was implied by Bill Stoneman in this story. This being the media era it is, I'm sure we'll learn more about whatever Guillen's offense was; secrets don't keep these days.

On the field, this creates another opportunity for the Angels to show off their depth. Adam Riggs started in left field last night and got two hits before coming out for defense. His replacement, Jeff DaVanon, will get the bulk of the playing time in left field, starting against right-handers.

What this decision really does is cement the Angels' position that chemistry, attitude, whatever you care to call it, matters as much or more to the team's management than performance does. It's a bold decision to suspend a major player at this stage, but consistent with the philosophy of a franchise that has spent a decade choosing personality over talent. [emphasis mine]

Watching the way the club goes about acquiring talent, his comments have the whiff of truth to them. Given the ridiculous contracts handed out to underperformers like Erstad and Anderson -- guys who simply don't excel offensively relative to their defensive positions, and/or whose contracts were only marginally defensible at the time they were signed -- the club must be using some other metric than on-field performance for assigning value. While we are in some means pleased to see former Angels staffers propagating this approach elsewhere, it's unrealistic to assume Ken Forsch will be running things in Oakland any time soon.

Sheehan's comments have the whiff of truth, but just that. Jose's recent production had fallen off dramatically from his early-season exploits, and in particular, from one week in which he virtually was the offense. The success of Guillen's appeal of the suspension, given the grounds we've seen, strikes me as highly likely. Even if Raul is right, Angels' management has overreacted by suspending him for so long, but it conceals a bigger problem: Jose's bat had gone stone cold. Addition by subtraction.

So, why would Angels management go so far to punish a player this close to the end of the season, with the team still in the hunt? I'm thinking it might have been a cumulative problem, not just with Guillen, but a number of players. The club has several whiners on -- and off -- the roster, and wanted to set an example to all of them. (Note I include Paul in this group because of his absurd demand to be traded off the Cubs' roster; it's a business, Josh. Get over it.)

The Stuff, Alright

Cooper: ... All you got here is your local gentry, and you got your Navy and Marine pilots over here -- who're they trying to fool?

Slayton: C'mon Gus, none of these guys is up to Air Force standards. I hear they've got some fifty-some guys trying out for seven spots. After they pick us three, there's only gonna be four spots open.

Grissom: Where do we go from here?

Shepard: You go in that door.

Cooper: Who are you?

Shepard: (effecting a Spanish accent a la Bill Dana) My name... Jose Jimenez.

Grissom: You talking to us, buddy?

Shepard: All Air Force pilots go in that door. When they all go in, they all look the same. But when they all come out, they all look different.

Slayton: How's that? Fella, I said, how's that?

Shepard: When they all come out... they all look scared.

-- The Right Stuff

Monday, September 27, 2004

Pixie Dust In My Pocket: Dodgers 8, Rockies 7

There's no Orel this time, no magic streak to cinch the team to, Gagné's save record now in the books. The starting pitching, in fact, is on the ropes. Edwin Jackson, a pitcher the club would have rather avoided using at the start of the season -- did avoid, in fact -- started tonight, and got chased before the fourth.

We may have to wait a while before his promise turns into proof.

So, what then? Belly's 49th homer, another pearl strung onto an already long necklace? Finley? The random prestidigitation of Cora in San Francisco to clutch slugger extrordinaire? Bradley, who came up with tonight's game-winner in the ninth? Is it DePodesta's adroit -- yes, that's the right word -- acquisitions?

I don't know.

What I do know is that, even if we don't win the division -- a possibility now decreased by one game -- this has been the best ride the Dodgers have given us in years. Today, we can savor ecstasy's brief ride, and pray for strength in October's brutal chill.

Magic number: 4


Go Figgins: Angels 5, Rangers 3

You appreciate Kennedy in his absence, the smooth glove that rarely faltered. Figgins, his replacement, made an error today that cost the Angels a run, though he made up for it by getting a game-winning hit.

Everything's exciting, everything's the most spectacular win of your life, everything's a heart attack waiting to happen. Colon had maybe the most clutch performance of his career as an Angel today against a Kenny Rogers who looked like he was going to walk away with this one. Two runs, eight innings and two batters. I don't trust him for thirty seconds in the postseason, but that's another day, another problem.

And Percy... well, the argument for keeping him seems to be growing. I'm unconvinced either way; if he wants his current contract, forget it. But, dang... he's been great lately.


Suspend Guillen, Unlock The Treasure Chest

"Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You'll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you'll be classy. If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press will think you're colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you are a slob."
-- Crash Davis, Bull Durham
Chronicles has a nice summary of the around-the-blogosphere reaction to Guillen's suspension, which passed largely unremarked-upon in these parts. I see no compelling reason for keeping Guillen outside of his absurdly streaky bat, and generally agree with the wrist-smacking he got. In the absence of actual production, he needed to be treated like the pouty AAA player he was. Instead, for a change, I take this time to consider the wonderful opportunity the Angels now have to do a couple things that the team desperately needs to do:
  1. Clear the outfield of its present logjam. Yes, logjam. I still want Erstad back in center. Anderson isn't cutting it in center, hasn't all year, and won't do so next year. Put a quality flycatcher back there and an extreme flyballer like Washburn might have a shot at another 18-win year. Just make sure Erstad knows he's not supposed to kill himself -- he's still got better speed than Garret.
  2. Find a place for Kotchman. Kotchman needs to come up to the majors; his record in the minors shows he doesn't have much left to learn there.
  3. Resign Glaus. The fear with McPherson seems to be his defense, though I've seen him play sparkling D so far. Fair enough -- let's assume he's not ready and needs another half-season in the minors to clean up some things. Bring back Glaus. After Shawn Green's early season collapse, he recovered and started hitting well. I don't know of a reason Glaus couldn't, and his home runs since coming back from the DL are a good sign. We'll need a good stick; why not his?
  4. Get another starting pitcher. Sure, Guillen's something like damaged goods at the moment, but why not make a run at a quality starter using Jose as tradebait?
All these things are good, and unloading Guillen is the linchpin for getting them started. Let's go.

A Neglected Record

By closing out Sunday's game, Gagné becomes the first man ever to record 45 or more saves in three consecutive seasons. Dennis Eckersley came close from 1990 to 1992, but missed by two games in '91. I think Tracy said at one point, he'll take a lot of years off you if you can get the game to him. Thank you, Eric.

Playoff Report

The Marlins are done, thanks to the Braves. The Cubs, who lost to the Mets 3-2 in a game that Kerry Wood lost for them with a horribly shaky first inning, need to hope they magically clinch over the next four games, their last series against a weak team; they end their season against Atlanta. The Reds are even worse than when we saw them last, with closer Danny Graves and 10-6 starter Paul Wilson spending time on the DL, though both are back now. San Francisco's E number for the Wild Card is seven, so the Cubs really need a sweep of the Reds to push the matter home, and for San Francisco to drop three of their upcoming series against the Padres to clinch before Friday. The Cubs lost to the Mets Saturday, 4-3, putting in doubt a return trip to the postseason, though more optimistic Cubs fans will note Clay Davenport's postseason projections still have them as 3:1 favorites. The Giants play their remaining games on the road, the Cubs at home; the Cubs should clean up, but as with the Phillies, the Marlins, and even the Reds, what should happen and what has happened are two very different things.

On that thought, you can ask Cap'n Happy how much happier he is in New York, especially after getting shelled by the Red Sox, giving up four runs in the first inning. The Yanks' season isn't really in doubt, of course; they've clinched a playoff seat one way or another, and the Red Sox are only a game or two away from that goal as well; the Angels' E number for the Wild Card is now two, so it's division-or-bust for the Halos, whose playoff chances doubled overnight; Clay gives them a 16% shot at the division.

From Surgery To Amputation

Jon showed some concern that the Times Sports section was about to undergo surgery, losing all manner of small features and undergoing a general reduction in size to fourteen pages a week. That's nothing if you're an A's fan, however, as the San Jose Mercury-News is planning on losing their A's-covering reporters completely, instead leaving the section to be written by the Contra Costa Times. "This move will save us nearly $50,000 in travel costs alone. ... No one will be laid off as a result of this move." But you can be sure certain people will be thinking about it.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Suicide Is Painless: Angels 6, A's 3

Jose Guillen's line, last week: .227/.227/.292
Jose Guillen's line, last 30 days: .229/.260/.313
... I really don't care what Jose Guillen does or says, as long as he's hitting. I suppose he's not really hitting all that well right now....
-- Richard
Translation: don't worry, Richard, it's just not that big of a loss.

Today we got to see suicide squeezes in two games, one by the Dodgers and one by the Angels; the Angels executed theirs successfully when Benjie Molina bunted Guerrero home. It struck me as an indicator of the kind of year the Angels have had: at times brilliant, and looking more than ever like they could, if they could focus for a whole season, win the division. But one thing after another prevents them from doing that. It's why I'm not sure, after the Angels' late play, that this game really means all that much; the Angels would have to get a tremendous amount of help from both the A's and the Rangers for them to sneak up on the division and win it, not unlike the Pholding Phillies of 1964. For that reason -- and for the reason that Guillen might have come out of his slump at any moment -- I'd have to say that the Angels are as hard-pressed as I've ever seen them. Clay Davenport's projection software reports they have, as of this morning, an 8% chance of winning the division, but that was before tonight's Angel win, and the Mariners' 9-0 drubbing of Texas.

Mulder's velocity was down -- way down -- and the Angels treated him roughly. I seem to remember that Tyler had been concerned at some point recently that Mulder was pitching injured; a velocity drop would certainly point that way, anyway. One doubts Adam "Angees" Riggs would have done much against a fully functional Agent Mulder. As it was, he got run-scoring double, and Glaus got two off him as well, including a two-run shot. Tyler's not quite in full-on panic mode, but he's getting there:

Am I being delusional at this point? This team is struggling mightily and while the optimistic fan inside tells me to remain calm, my realistic exterior has me reaching for the panic button.
I hear you, Tyler.

Meantime, Lackey was, if not brilliant, darn close, keeping a slumping A's offense cold the whole night. Frankie did his job, too, albeit a little shakily, and Percy came in to do what he's done so many nights before. I'm already starting to miss him, just a little.

Angels E number: 7


Dodgers 7, Giants 4

So I say D
I say D-O,
The team that's all heart,
All heart and all thumbs,
They're my Los Angeles, your Los Angeles,
Our Los Angeles...
Do you think we'll really win the pennant?
Ooh, ooh, ooh dem bums.
Did I overreact back on Wednesday? Well. I have two tickets to the Division Series (thanks, Helen!) that I might -- might -- get to use. It's stuff like today's game that makes you believe, no matter how ridiculous it feels after they lose a home series to the Padres, that the Bums could maybe pull one out. A brilliant game by Jeffy -- and a quality start to boot -- along with good pitching to the very end, and critical -- amazing, even -- homers from Werth and Cora. Green got respect -- or was it wobbly pitching that landed him four walks? In all, the Dodgers got an astonishing eight walks on top of their seven hits. OBP wins ballgames, kids, but the Good-Luck-Bad-Luck Fairy seemed to be bopping the Dodgers with each at bat and sometimes each pitch. Example: The Dodgers would eventually load the bases, and Shawn Green would walk in a run.

Yeah, it was that kind of an afternoon for the Giants, who just couldn't assemble themselves. Tomko, who threatened to become Cy Young against the Dodgers, instead got chased after four and two thirds. Jeffy did the minimum to qualify for a quality start -- three runs in six innings -- with Duaner Sanchez, Giovanni Carrara and Gagné working to polish off the Giants.

What a game. What a series.

Magic number: 5


Pickoff Moves

God, I Love This Town

Even the streetcorners come with instructions.

Blog Updates

In the same category, Supermodel Personals has a mess of new stuff up. And Tyler redesigned Athletics Nation very nicely, too.

Plaschke's An Idiot

But that shouldn't pass for news, right? Here he bags on DePo's trades again, only this time -- get this -- because the bullpen is "overtaxed". Well, duh, that's why he got a starter. Moron.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Not A Grand Outing For Yhency: Giants 9, Dodgers 5

Rough and tumble all the way -- and even an Alex Cora home run. Yhency's meltdown -- which had to happen sometime -- doesn't count too much against him.

We've come a long way. Is it over? Not yet, anyway. But we're still in first place, by the hairs of our chinny chin chins.


Two Games

A's 6, Angels 3

Well, D-Mac's making the Angels look mighty dumb for not calling him up earlier.

Other than that: The Angels struck out eight times against Rich Harden and Octavio Dotel. McPherson wasn't among those K's.

The more I watch Vlad, the less impressed I am with him. It's moments like these that he starts acting the big, dumb Dominican slugger who doesn't have an ounce of plate discipline and never saw a walk he liked. In fact, he hasn't walked in seven consecutive games! And that's not to mention his all-too-frequently sloppy fielding. Sometimes, you overpay for counting stats. The home runs you see; the strikeouts you don't, but they sure add up.

Does anybody think this is just a cruel joke by the Angels? Unlike Richard, who called for Mickey Hatcher's job should the Angels sink to third place by season's end, I'm not so sanguine that such a move would have appreciable impact; the problem is systemic. It's only been a month since the Angels had swept the Yankees in the Bronx, and I actually believed the postseason was a real possibility. The weekend after that feat, Joe Sheehan analyzed the Angels' play at Baseball Prospectus:

The Angels are once again executing an unreliable plan as well as it can be executed. If you live and die by batting average, you can win when you hit .280. Be a little bit worse--as they were in 2003, when they hit .268, or in 2001, when they hit .261--and you can't score enough runs to win because you don't have enough runners on base. They don't walk; only the Royals have fewer than the Halos' 344 bases on balls. Their isolated power of .145 is just 10th in the league, and by far the worst of any good AL team. They hit singles better than anyone else, though, and in '04, they're doing it well enough to have a winning lineup.
Sheehan went on to say "This Angels team looks almost exactly like the 2002 version, and it's entirely possible that, in an AL that lacks a great team, they're on the same path they were on two years ago." While that's as nice to hear as Eric Chavez's early-season effusiveness, what he missed was the team's continued failures in starting pitching, not to mention a dreadful decline in defensive efficiency (as of this writing, the Angels are 10th in the AL, vs. first in 2002). The offensive approach needs to change, and Hatcher is a symptom, not the root of the problem.


Dodgers 3, Giants 2

Rueter got off lucky. We should have pounded him much harder than that, but five double plays will tend to put a damper on the evening's offense.

What a dramatic game. The Dodgers got everything they could have asked for: OP shook off his recent troubles and gave us a big game, pitching eight solid innings, resting the bullpen -- except for Gagne, who walked to go through Bonds to get the save. Meantime, the offense kept threatening to bust the game open and get into the bullpen early, but Reuter somehow managed a quality start.

Despite some people's feelings about the matter, Eric's control didn't strike me as all that bad; I got the impression his A stuff was left behind, maybe in some luggage his wife forgot to pack. Snow's at bat seemed more like Gagné was trying to pitch around him than he was trying to make his spots and missing. But I won't lie to you, either; I leapt when Werth recorded the final out. It was the most exciting regular season game I've seen since Jerry Reuss's 1980 8-0 no-hitter -- also against the Giants.

So we're guaranteed a division lead at the end of the series now. Not that the Bums won't blow it tomorrow, but with the Cubs' light schedule (two remaining against the Mets, four against Cincy, and three vs. the Braves, the last seven at home), the odds remain quite strong that there won't be a postseason slot for whoever comes in second in the NL West. Clay Davenport's playoff odds report still has the Dodgers as division champions in 72.9% of the scenarios, and the Cubs the Wild Card winners in 78% of the scenarios. Gotta, gotta, gotta win the division. And the nine games remaining are a long, long way in the future. But -- our magic number is now seven. Let's hope it gets to five this weekend.


Friday, September 24, 2004

OT: Too Many Dodger Dogs? Here, Take This

Okay, I'm so waiting for this. MIT biology professor Leonard Guarante has discovered a single gene that, when activated, causes the individual to lose weight, live longer, and retain a youthful appearance. Guarante says his company, Elixir Pharmaceuticals, hopes to conduct human trials within two years.

And you thought Viagra was big!

Pickoff Moves

Astros 5, Giants 3

Thank God for Lance Berkman and the Giants' bullpen. At least we're taking a lead going into the enemy's territory, tenuous as that lead might be.

New Blog

Speaking of leads, new blogger The Fourth Outfielder was nice enough to link to me in an article reminding everyone that the season isn't actually over -- well, it's darn close, but it's not over, not just yet, anyway. He throws a little cold water on my observation that the Giants' starting rotation is hotter than a New Orleans summer:
Has anybody been paying attention to who these teams have been playing? In the Giants last 17 games, they've played nine against the Brewers and D'Backs, who place 29th and 30th in baseball in runs scored despite playing in parks that favor hitters. Their last five games have been against the Padres and Astros, who are 8th and 6th in the NL in runs scored, respectively. In those five games, they've allowed only 11 runs. Seems like a hot staff, right? Well, it could be that, but it's much more likely that they've simply had their luck come all at once. Have we forgotten who we're dealing with here? After Jason Schmidt, who hasn't been effective since returning from his groin injury, the Giants staff consists of:
  • a 30-year-old posting a career high in Defense-Independent ERA this year... at 4.37.
  • a 33-year-old with a K:BB ratio under 1.0.
  • a 23-year-old with a 2.56 minor league K:BB ratio and a 2.72 K:BB ratio in 13 starts this year- good, but no ace.
  • a 24-year-old who, between AA, AAA, and the NL has a 1.32 K:BB ratio.
Is that the worst staff in baseball? No. Is it good? Heck no. Is it the kind of staff that can be said to be hot? I wouldn't say so. It's full of guys who've feasted on weak competition recently and there's only one guy in the group (outside of Schmidt) who can be expected to be average or better, and that one (Lowry) might reasonably be expected to hit a rough patch. When you factor in that the Giants have a pretty terrible bullpen, this is not a staff to be afraid of.
Ah, Tom, you haven't been a Dodger fan in recent years. (Heck, you've probably never been a Dodger fan. Assuming you live up north, it's just as well for your safety, I'm sure.) We're waiting for the other shoe to drop, and with ten games left to play, the likelihood of a Dodger choke is only increased by Penny's loss. The Dodgers have been playing teams with excellent (Cardinals) or adequate (Rockies at Colorado, Padres) offenses -- and losing to them all month.

Update: I'm wrong. Tom, watch your back up there.

Yanks Clinch

The Yanks clinched by beating the Devil Rays 7-3. A-Rod was his characteristically egotistical, arrogant self, declaring of the division clinch, "It's nice, but we expect that coming in." Salary cap? How about a cap to the back of A-Rod's inflated ego?

Update: The Yanks didn't clinch the division, only a playoff spot. The magic number for the division is still 6.

Braves One Away, Rangers Tie Angels

The Reds, who went from a two-game lead in the NL Central as recently as June 6 to 70-82 division punching bag somehow managed to stave off the Braves' clinching their thirteenth consecutive NL East division title by beating them in Atlanta, 3-2.

Meantime, the Rangers somehow found some of their early-season magic in Buck Showalter's duffel bag somewhere and beat Octavio Dotel and the A's 5-4 in Arlington, accomplishing a home sweep of the A's. Despite the Angels' best efforts, the A's are trying as hard as they can to give us the division. I just don't expect it will happen.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Channeling Dodger Blues: Dodgers 9, Padres 6

We replaced today's normal ranting and raving with a replacement column from Dodger Blues. Can any readers tell the difference?

Ishii Ishitty, Dodgers Win Anyway

Look, you're a Dodger fan, right? That means you know what September's all about: the team taking a dump all over you, while Tracy scratches his butt. No matter how good they look in April, no matter how good they look in August, there's one thing surer than Tommy Lasorda's third helping of lasagna, and that's a 0-20 finish. Don't let this win fool you into thinking they're gonna pull it out. Ishii didn't even last long enough to qualify as one of Britney Spears' publicity-stunt husbands. And to top it all off, Goggle Boy couldn't go through two innings without giving up a couple runs, making his sweaty, 2,000 year old cap even smellier than it was before. No wonder nobody talks to him before he comes in. Brazoban got the win after pitching two, and we here at Dodger Blues take a moment to salute the guy, a rare bright spot in a crumbling Dodger lineup. Better to do it now before Carrara gives him pitching tips, and his 0.93 ERA goes up to about 152.00.

We Interrupt Our Mourning For This Shawn Green Alert

Shawn Green, it turns out, has decided to sit out Saturday's game in observance of Yom Kippur. Fine for him; but unlike Jon, I can't get the whole business of a religion that inserts itself in the middle of a pennant race. I quote now from the other scriptures, those of the late H. L. Mencken, who thought often about such matters, and expressed his conclusions, which agree with my own, in a far better way than I could ever hope to:
... it seems to me sheer vanity for any man to hold his religious views too firmly, or to submit to any inconvenience on account of them. It is far better, if they happen to offend, to conceal them discreetly, or to change them amiably as the delusions of the majority change. My own views in this department, being wholly skeptical and tolerant, are obnoxious to the subscribers to practically all other views; even atheists sometimes denounce me. At the moment, by an accident of American political history, these dissenters from my theology are forbidden to punish me for not agreeing with them. But at any succeeding moment some group or other among them may seize such power and proceed against me in the immemorial manner. If it ever happens, I give notice here and now that I shall get converted to their nonsense instantly, and so retire to safety with my right thumb laid against my nose and my fingers waving like wheat in the wind. I'd do it even today, if there were any practical advantage in it. Offer me a box of good Havana cigars, and I engage to submit to baptism by any rite ever heard of, provided it does not expose my gothic nakedness. Make it ten boxes, and I'll agree to be both baptized and confirmed.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Season's Over

Congratulations to the Giants and A's on their pending wins of their respective divisions. Both the Angels and Dodgers unraveled playing their division inferiors tonight, and both came unglued on starting pitching. I was at Angel Stadium tonight and wondering when Mike would pull Bart; six runs later in the third I got my answer.

I'm too tired of both teams' apathy to care myself. Penny fell apart after throwing 75 pitches and "experiencing discomfort in his pitching arm" in the fourth. This time if it's his arm or something similar that could have been detected in a physical, DePodesta indeed deserves to be hung.

The Giants will have the division lead by Friday, and it will be the Dodgers' last sight of the postseason this year. The Dodgers don't have anything left in the tank; neither do the Angels.

The Enchanted Giants

              ==== September ====    ======= 2004 ========
Player        ERA  GS  W  L  IP       ERA  GS   W  L    IP
B. Tomko     1.17   4  3  0  30.2    4.15  29  11  6  182.0
K. Reuter    3.04   4  1  1  23.2    4.82  31   8 11  177.1
J. Schmidt   6.26   4  1  2  27.1    3.24  29  16  7  205.2
N. Lowry     3.86   3  2  0  18.2    4.09  12   5  0   77.0
B. Hennessey 3.27   2  1  0  11.0    4.40   6   2  2   30.2
Repeating my commments at Jon's, we are so boned. The Giants starting rotation, with the exception of Schmidt, are all getting hot at the same time.

OT: "They Walked Away Flipping Us The Bird"

Cingular is about to absorb the carcass of AT&T Wireless. It's not like the former Ma Bell unit couldn't see it coming. Once number portability kicked in, everyone -- myself included -- who was an AT&T Wireless customer became an ex-customer:
Years of substandard customer care, spotty coverage and dropped calls had taken their toll.

"The line from the company was that we lost those people out of bad luck," said a regional sales manager. "But they walked away flipping us the bird. They aggressively walked away from us. They couldn't wait to get away from us."

By the spring, it was obvious not only that AT&T Wireless was hemorrhaging customers but also that rivals, especially No. 1 carrier Verizon Wireless, were snapping them up. Customers were making a choice, and that choice was not AT&T Wireless.

For the record, Verizon is a huge improvement over AT&T Wireless. I almost never drop calls anymore -- though the cell tower at my office sometimes will give me half a call -- I can hear the other side of the call but they can't hear me. AT&T's answer to me whenever I had problems with dropped calls was "buy a new phone". They were actually really good when they were LA Cellular, but as AT&T, service declines and a newfound unwillingness to listen made worse by changes to their voice menu system made the choice to leave a no-brainer.

If you haven't switched already, it's well past time to do so.


It's Just Part Of The Show, Folks

Reminding myself that it's all just entertainment -- adirectional notes not necessarily related to baseball --

For Sale: Sentient, Insane, Homicidal Computer

The Cinerama 160 degree Fairchild-Curtis lens used to represent the HAL 9000 computer in the sci-fi classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey, is available for sale on eBay. Most of the other props used for the film have subsequently been destroyed; the current bid is $150,000. As a friend of mine remarked when I alerted her to this breaking story, "The first time my toaster oven tries to take over my house, I'm unplugging the damn thing!"

The Infinite Cat Project

Okay, now this is silly. (An explanation of said silliness can be found here.)

Jeeves Loses Weight

askjeeves.com, one of the Internet's many search engines and a contractor for the company I work for, changed their eponymous mascot, the butler Jeeves:

Jeeves, before New Jeeves

Not only has he lost weight, he's tan and got a nose job. Sadly, along with the site redesign, the answer to an easter egg question about Jeeves' recreational preferences was lost; the new answer has far less charm and is, in keeping with their new focus on profitability, basely commercial.

Notes On Richard's Pitching Roundup

I couldn't help but notice Richard's pitching preview; I had a couple comments which were too long for the comment section.

Alvarez Out

Wilson Alvarez, who replaced the ineffective Ishii in the rotation, tweaked his left hamstring. He will miss his next start, and the ineffective Ishii will replace him. No comment.

DePodesta's Folly

While coming home from the Hollywood Bowl last night (the traffic getting there was ungodly terrible, the traffic leaving amazingly light), I turned on the Dodger Talk show to hear a caller Steve mention that some-scout-or-other had resigned because DePodesta had decided to trade for injury risk Brad Penny over his advice to the contrary. Well, what should we find in the Times today but reportage on the same issue:
"There's probably a bad joke in here about getting documentation like CBS News before people say some of the things they've said, but it doesn't really bother me," said DePodesta, accompanying the team in San Diego. "I know my conversations, I know our thought process, I know what went on and I know what our plans were. If people want to speculate on what we were doing and why were doing it, I can't let that bother me."

Among the criticisms of DePodesta is that Penny — who last started Aug. 8 because of a nerve problem in his right biceps — did not undergo a physical before the trade.

As I said earlier, this trade will be the one for which DePodesta gets pilloried. Ironically, it was exactly because he foresaw a starting rotation meltdown (which the team is undergoing) that he acquired Penny in the first place. You just can't please some people, I swear.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


No. It’s not over. Any game now, the pitchers can return to being their adequate selves.
So why does it feel over, Jon?

I just don't have anything to add anymore. I need to take a break from this garbage. The Angels are playing badly (and AK's done for the season), the Dodgers seem to have forgotten there's 162 games in a season -- is this team really built to only win in 154? -- and neither team acts like they want to win.

Enough, already. If the Dodgers choke, it'll be the worst collapse since the "Giants win the pennant!" year of 1951. You can also be certain Paul DePodesta, rightly or wrongly, will be hung out on the Dodger Stadium parking lot along with effigies of Paul LoDuca and Guillermo Mota.

A Blogger And A Gentleman

Wil Wheaton -- actor, blogger, geek, and Dodger fan. Does it get cooler?

Pickoff Moves

Japanese Players Back... Or Not

The strike lasted only a weekend, the players are back, but no settlement has been reached. "Further talks are likely to start Wednesday, but the strike may continue on the remaining weekends in September if no agreement is reached."

ESPN Stats Follies

Christian Ruzisch at all-baseball.com points out the noteworthy decline in ESPN's baseball stats, using Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez as an example. I've got two more: Troy Glaus did come back from the DL, and so did Chan Ho Park, the latter of whom was not traded to the Atlanta Braves. Neither of the two players are shown to have played any games subsequent to their returns. Yeah, it's getting bad.

RWBB: Another Abstract from the Abstracts

Rich Lederer has another abstract from the Abstracts. Since you can't buy the 1983 Abstract -- or any of them, really -- Lederer's synopsis is a good thing to read. In particular --
Although stating that the home field advantage decides one game in ten, James acknowledges “there is some evidence to suggest that the more unique or distinctive a park is, the greater the advantage.” Notwithstanding a park’s uniqueness, James says it is “an unavoidable fact that the teams which play in the best hitter’s parks in baseball—Fenway, Wrigley, County Stadium in Atlanta, Tiger Stadium—win obviously fewer championships than their share, and that the group of teams which play in the pitcher’s parks—Yankee, Memorial in Baltimore, Dodger Stadium are in the group—win more than their share.” James believes “there is a connection,” that it is “easier to build and maintain a starting rotation in a pitcher’s park than it is in one that favors the hitter.”
The Cards' park has played as a pitcher's park in late years (and even this year, for the most part), but it has wavered over the years.

One And Done: Twins Clinch

The Twins clinched by beating the Chisox, the team that spends more of its time trash-talking and less winning. (Aaron Gleeman has more on this.) No, I don't necessarily believe that the Twins will repeat last year's one-and-done debacle at the hands of the Yankees, but their history isn't a good one. Aaron Gleeman thinks the man on the mound yesterday, Santana, deserves the Cy Young, but I'm not as convinced; his threat "I hope to find out which voters cast their ballot for Schilling, so that I can avoid reading their work for the rest of my life" only makes me realize he's not reading my blog anyway, so I can, with some safety, say that Santana didn't have to face the Yankees eighteen times in the season. Remind me to be impressed when that happens.

Cards Clinch

Despite what Lee Sinins thought, the Cards actually clinched yesterday when the Cubs lost the second half of a double-header to the Marlins. Of the latter, the Marlins are almost certainly done for the year, as late-season double-header ties go to the club that's ahead in the standings.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Angels 5, Mariners 2

Never find your delight in another's misfortune.
-- Pubilius Syrus, Maxim 459
Bottom 1st: M's starter Ryan Franklin plunked Vlad in the head (cue tweeting birds). Mikey promptly got himself ejected.

Bottom 2nd: D-Mac got his first major league hit, a double, and the only extra-base hit of the evening for either side. (No, this game doesn't prove the offense has picked up, any more than Friday's did.) Kennedy sac flied him home. Anaheim 1, Seattle 0.

Top 3rd: Lackey retaliated (?) for Vlad's plunking by plunking Randy Winn. The umpires issued a warning -- again -- but nobody got ejected. (Bonus points for anyone who can explain why the current hit-by-pitch rule is either (a) working or (b) a good idea.) Uncharacteristically, Lackey got out of a two-out, two-on jam by striking out Bret Boone.

Bottom 3rd: Eckstein and Vlad-replacement Curtis Pride both got infield singles. GA then grounded out, advancing both runners. Guillen scored a run on yet another infield single. Erstad grounded out, scoring yet another run. Benjie Molina grounded out for the third out. This illustrates the weakness of "pitch-to-contact" when you have less-than-stellar defense. Anaheim 3, Seattle 0.

Top 4th: McPherson, playing back, had no chance at Jeremy Reed's bunt single, but he redeemed himself by getting a grounder for the final out of the inning.

Top 5th: Ichiro singles and AK went down retrieving it for an infield hit. He then stole second, and scored when Raul Ibañez singled and Bret Boone got yet another infield single to drive him home. Another run would score with Cabrera's infield single, but Jeremy Reed flied out to end the inning. Anaheim 3, Seattle 2.

Bottom 5th: Erstad and Molina would both single, and D-Mac drove in a run, his first RBI in the bigs. Molina, temporarily believing himself capable of running, gets thrown out at third by about ten steps. Anaheim 4, Seattle 2.

Bottom 6th: New pitcher Matt Thornton walked Chone Figgins on four straight pitches. Bench coach Joe Maddon, who apparently had been asleep during the previous five and a half innings, then instructed the Human Walk Machine to bunt. He did so, but none of Eckstein (flyout), Pride (infield single), or Anderson (inning-ending strikeout) could send him home. The wasted out cost a run; anyone wondering why Mike sac bunts/runs on contact/etc. too often might observe that the flaw is organizational.

Top 8th: K-Rod didn't -- didn't strike out Jeremy Reed, that is, walking him instead on a 3-2 count. With Miguel Olivo batting, the Angels get hit with what has got to be the worst call of the year, in which 2B umpire Chris Guccione allows himself to be talked into recanting his original -- and correct -- call of out at second base; Dallas McPherson's slightly off-line throw pulled replacement 2B Amezega off line, but only after he'd made the play at second. With Frankie exhibiting his worst stuff in recent games, it looked all but certain the bullpen was about to undergo another collapse. Except -- not. Frankie pulled his chestnuts out of the fire, getting two groundouts and a strikeout to end the inning. It's even possible to suggest that the added pressure on Frankie from the bases loaded situation actually straightened him out.

Bottom 8th: New pitcher Matt Williams walked the leadoff batter, D-Mac, and Chone Figgins, both on five pitches. The M's then pull him in favor of ex-Angel Shigetoshi Hasegawa. Jeffy flies out, and then Eckstein hits a groundball to short. D-Mac makes a baserunning error by attempting to run home -- or is this the less-than-wise counsel of the Angels organization telling him to run on contact again? McPherson is out at home on the fielder's choice, Figgins safe at third. Then, Eckstein steals second safely, the play falters at second, and Figgins alertly steals home. Pride strikes out swinging. Angels 5, Mariners 2.

And that was the night, such at it was. The Angels blew multiple opportunities to increase their scoring, pitched badly at times (but came back when they needed to), were helped by good luck, but also suffered from bad luck and terrible umpiring. They failed to get the ball out of the infield except for the rookie McPherson's double. McPherson's performance tonight was just spectacular, and he earned his "player of the game" designation, though you can definitely see his infield defense needs some work; he offered at least one bouncer in the dirt to Erstad, who neatly recovered it. It's easy to get a little too excited about a rookie player; look at Kotchman for the example. But. Keeping fingers crossed.

Vlad is okay, say the broadcasters. But AK might not be, and as Richard surmises, his likely replacement is Chone Figgins, meaning more starts for Dallas. Hopefully he can keep up this kind of performance.


You Are Wrong, Mr. Long

Simply, completely, utterly wrong. Vinny is the best that ever was, your benighted opinion notwithstanding.

Jaffe's Sheffield, Part 3

Jay Jaffe has part 3 of his review of Gary Sheffield's career up. I've already said what I'm going to say about Jaffe's biases in this matter, but that point aside, it's still worth reading.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Some Games

Dodgers 7, Rockies 6

Today for the first time, it truly felt like autumn. The air's been too warm or humid before, but today was crisp, the clouds high, the sky deeply blue. Through all of it, a steady, chill breeze. And in Colorado -- remembrances of the 2002 Angels with their strings of comeback wins. The Dodgers have but rarely enjoyed early leads, making their fans ever-so-nervous: for their wins in September, here's a breakdown of the innings in which they took a lead alongside the number of runs of the lead:

DateOpp.Inning Lead Was Taken (Size of Lead)
9/2@ Arizona8th (3)
9/7vs Arizona3rd (1), 5th (2)
9/8vs Arizona5th (1), 9th (1)
9/9vs Arizona5th (1)
9/10vs St. Louis2nd (1), 7th (2)
9/11vs St. Louis4th (1), 8th (1)
9/14vs San Diego1st (1), 4th (2)
9/17@ Colorado1st (1), 10th (2)
9/19@ Colorado9th (1)
The Dodgers have let a lot of leads slip away. It's a nervewracking time to be a Dodger fan, especially with the Giants so close on our heels; it's all part and parcel with the Dodgers failing to split with the Pads at home. Green's game-winning home run was nice and all (my, how those walks hurt you), but wouldn't it have been better if it weren't necessary at all?


Rangers 1, Angels 0

So Mike scolded the team after its second shutout game in a row? Heh. Washburn finally pitches like we know he can, and the team just chokes with the bat. Now we know the real reason the pitching's been so lousy all year long: they've seen Escobar's example, and just how much run support he's gotten.

Diamondbacks 3, Cardinals 2

Did anybody notice this? The fargin' Snakes beat the Cards? With Mike Gosling on the mound? Whatever, all it means is St. Louis will clinch against the Brewers. But -- the Cards are actually 4-6 in their last ten. It's probably the worst they've done all year.

Everybody Else In The Wildcard

Man, what a static race. The Cubs beat the Reds in dramatic fashion, pulling four runs out of their hats against closer Danny Graves. Roger Clemens struck out 10 on his way to a 1-0 victory against the Brewers. The only movement in the Wild Card was that of San Diego heading closer to the bottom, as the Giants beat the Pads 4-2. The Fish beat the Braves 3-0 behind -- hold on -- Ismael Valdez, but lose the series to Atlanta, falling to 4.5 games back in the wildcard. The Giants remain 2.5 back of the Dodgers in the NL West, and a half game over the Cubs in the wildcard; the Padres sink to four games out.

Save Ross Porter

I didn't write anything about the possibility, noted by Jon, that the Dodgers' radio booth might not contain Ross Porter next year. It's unlikely, of course, but with the team having tryouts for a color job -- an enormous break with Dodger tradition, as the team always has one man working solo on the game -- Porter's job seems on sandy ground. LAist presents a "Save Ross Porter Now" entry, suggesting people write "new Dodger marketing pinhead" Lon Rosen and let him know what a dumb idea that is. I'm not averse to new blood, but Porter's too much better than the likely alternatives that I'll commend his suggestion.

Pickoff Moves

High-Def Baseball Notes

Yesterday's Angels game was the first I've watched in HD, thanks to FSN. Unfortunately, FSN decided to broadcast it in 4:3 rather than 16:9, the preferred format that INHD always uses for their games-of-the-week. Now Time Warner is finally picking up ESPN in HD, something ESPN's been flogging all year on "Baseball Tonight" ads. I'll let everyone know if their HD coverage is worthwhile later on. Elseways, it would be great if we could get more than one game a season broadcast in HD -- let's get on it, Arte!

Speaking of INHD, their next three nationally broadcast games will be Yankees at Red Sox, which should be great; they always have the best camera work of any of the HD broadcasters. We've watched Phillies at Padres and one of the Red Sox games earlier in the season, and INHD does a great job wherever they go, it seems.

Terry Kennedy Out

For some reason, there seems to be a contingent of Dodger fans who thought Las Vegas 51's manager Terry Kennedy would make a good manager of the big club. Well, it's no longer an option: he's been released after this year.

Nomo In The Bullpen?

The Riverside Press-Enterprise reports Nomo has been moved to the bullpen. It's hard to imagine he'll see any use there if reports of another velocity decline are accurate.

Fins Back In 2005?

From this Times article:
Said agent Tommy Tanzer: "I talked to McCourt at the time of the trade and was impressed by his upbeat attitude and positive view of the future. I think he and his wife are dedicated to doing it right, but whether the finances are there or not, I don't know.

"I do know that Steve now realizes what a phenomenal place L.A. is, and what McCourt said to me was, 'If he fits in and does well, why wouldn't we want to keep him?' "

"whether the finances are there or not, I don't know." Chilling words, no?

Saturday, September 18, 2004

The Mariners' Too-Course Meal

When you're bad, there's no hiding it in the standings. And if the team's losing, the fans don't show up. It's hard to go places if you don't have a fan base, either.

Catch-22, right?

Maybe. The boys at U.S.S. Mariner have cogitated, unsurprisingly, about next year for a long time now, much longer than those of us still naively caught up in an ultimately unwinnable (for the Angels) division race. Dave Cameron takes on what the Mariners organization perceives to be a unique fan culture. In particular, he bounces off an Art Thiel column in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer containing the following enormously interesting paragraph:

... new GM Bill Bavasi acknowledged that the fan base in Seattle "is different" than any in his experience. President Chuck Armstrong agreed, saying that the club's fan research reflected for years that the club has more female fans than any in baseball, and that the strong loyalty many fans had toward individual players was a factor in the bosses' reluctance to make some roster moves, which caught up to the club in a grim way this season.
That is to say, the club, by their own research, is visited -- indeed, dominated -- by fans like Maya. It also suggest that Bavasi has actually adhered to the big front-office business plan with his 2003/2004 offseason maneuvering, disastrous results and all. But that's not to say things have to stay that way:
In thinking about these reactions as the 2004 season flushed toward an ineptitude that may prove historic, my take was that ownership has been so focused on a success measurement that works for board rooms or stockholders, as well as some casual fans, that they missed a change in local baseball culture they helped create:

After investing $380 million in a ballpark, as well as about $150 per family of four per outing, there's a whole lot of Northwest fans who now demand excellence, and answers if there isn't excellence.

In other words, 1995 is SO over. And "over" is what fans will get regarding the departure of familiar faces, once expectations of winning big are met.

But Cameron disagrees that any such change needs to occur; rather, he suggests Thiel is misreading the Mariners' front office, wholesale:
The M’s organizational philosophy has always been to cultivate a permanent hope in the casual fan, and those fans have not needed a big ticket acquisition to have that hope the past years. Now that it’s required to avoid alienating a part of that fanbase, the M’s will respond in turn. But the underlying organizational philosophies of fiscal responsibility and competitiveness every year aren’t changing (and I’m one of the few who feel this is a good thing). The M’s aren’t going to become the Baltimore Orioles, trying to spend their way to a pennant. But they will do what it takes to keep the majority of fans interested in the team, and that will entail a big free agent signing this winter.
But it's hard to reconcile this notion -- that the club will open its wallet to fix the team's problems -- with the large number of holes the club needs to repair. Centerfield defense and corner infield power both need addressing. Likewise, the M's need a certain amount of bullpen help as well as starting rotation repair, and none of this -- especially the starting rotation -- is liable to get fixed in the near term from the farm. When you see the names the Zumsteg's kicking around (Glaus, Beltre, Carlos Beltran) you realize at least a few are as unrealistic as supermodels giving out their home phone numbers at science fiction conventions. But there's also some real possibilities there, and you have to remember that this offseason the M's have the motivation of a man in a burning house to take action. The question before the house: will Bavasi net a Beltran? Or another Mo Vaughn?


Props to Richard for discovering the Curse of A-Rod blog. Too bad I saw that one coming.

Pickoff Moves

Red Sox To Expand Fenway

Fenway, that "lyric little bandbox" that seats a mere 36,298, is set to expand by another 2,000. It being they've sold out their entire season, maybe they figure they can sell out 2,000 more. Of course, the question is, where would they put those seats? As it is, there's no outfield foul territory, and shrinking that further would make the park even more hitter-friendly than it already is.

Red Sox 3, Yankees 2

Speaking of the Sox, beating the Yanks' closer -- and the Yankees, 3-2 -- has to feel especially good, but I have to wonder whether the Red Sox watched the Dodgers' June 20 game against the Yanks in which Roberts turned a Hideki Matsui error into an inside-the-park home run. Did Theo scratch his chin and say, "Hmm..."

Rockies 8, Dodgers 1

For six innings on Tuesday, things were looking good. The Dodgers were up 5-0, and Shawn Green had snapped out of his funk with two home runs. Then Jim Tracy struck. After Kevin Brown gave up a run in the seventh, and with guys on first and second, Tracy brought in Giovanni Carrara. Fair enough. But when the guy gives up a 3-run blast on his first pitch, YOU TAKE HIM OUT. But Tracy left him in. And Cararra then walked Eric Young. But Tracy left him in. And then Carrara gave up a double to Jeffrey Hammonds. But Tracy left him in. And then Carrara walked Richie Sexson. But Tracy left him in. And then up stepped Geoff Jenkins, who—go figure— crushed a Carrara pitch deep into the right field stands, giving the Brewers an 8-5 lead. Only then, after letting a late-inning game get completely out of reach, did Jim Tracy slowly walk to the mound. Even to a friggin' retard watching the game upside down, it was obvious after the first batter that Carrara had nothing. But Jim Tracy—Mr. Personality— left him in for SIX GODDAMN BATTERS!!! Brilliant decision. Really.
-- Dodger Blues, May 21, 2002
Sound familiar? Well, except for the being ahead part. And the opponent being the Brewers.

Rangers 2, Angels 0

I made the mistake of viewing this live, and for my troubles, got to watch the Angels do what they've done so well lately: flail wildly at offspeed pitches and ground out: And so it went. Pitch recognition, dammit.

Cards Ace Leaves Game With Strained Bicep

Aww. He can ask Brad Penny how long it takes to recover from those.

Angels 9, Rangers 5

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself -- well...how did I get here?

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the money’s gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.

Talking Heads, "Once In A Lifetime"
There's a school of thought that says Talking Heads was a performance art piece by Brian Eno, without whom the band -- not to mention artistic center David Byrne -- were unable to exist. There's something to that: Byrne's increasingly pretentious post-Heads albums didn't do anything to lift his status. The real genius of the Talking Heads left behind, Byrne's ego overran his talent, and he languishes today as a creator of vanity records for a small audience.

While the Heads are a story of squandered talent, Bartolo Colon's is one of talent nearly realized. His early years with the Indians revealed a tremendous amount of potential, but the old adage about "those whom the gods would destroy, they first label 'promising'" seems applicable. Whether it's the pressure of a big-money contract, age, weight, or simple decline, Colón's first year with the Angels has to be written off as a near-complete bust. He's got one of the highest ERAs on the staff, and enjoys the won-loss record he does thanks to spectacular run support rather than quality starts.

Sean viewed the series loss to the Jays as a fluke, but I'm not inclined to do that, not after subsequently splitting with the last-place M's. Take the series with the M's and one more from the Jays and today we're tied for first with the A's or maybe even a game up. If you think that today's loss to the M's will get repeated again, well, the Angels are in good shape, but this hasn't been that kind of year for the club; they get some breaks, but we just can't count on Oakland's bullpen turning into a pumpkin.
And you may ask yourself
How do I work this?
And you may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!
Looking at this matchup on paper, it seemed pretty even: Bart and Chan Ho Park have had about equally terrible seasons measured by ERA, though Colón had come off two pretty good starts against Toronto and the Chisox, where CHP (is there a Ponch and Jon joke hiding in there?) has had only two quality starts in five since he returned from the DL in August.

So: Bad Bart showed up for the first inning but settled down to Good Bart for the remainder of the game. This is becoming something of a pattern for him; his first innings have a .899 OPS against, but his .796 OPS against in the 4th through the 6th, while hardly putting him in contention for a Cy Young, still amounts to a huge improvement. Luckily for the Angels, the lingering effects of Chan Ho Park's back problems, the same ailment that kept him down the previous year, kept him down again. Unluckily for the Angels, Park is only signed through 2006; the crapshoot that is Bartolo Colón is signed through 2007.

Aside from the Angels' chronically moth-eaten lineup -- how many times do they have guys with 0-fers in the lineup in the first three lately? -- Vlad finally -- finally -- came through with some power. Moreover, Glaus had his first multi-hit game since the Boston series in August, including a home run, the first in nearly a week. And, despite losing Garret's bat -- a thing of questionable utility considering his 0-8 run in the last two games -- at this point we know there are far better options in center than Anderson. Whether DaVanon is one of those remains to be seen, but I'd rather give him more time than the creaky Garret.

Finally -- somebody needs to figure out why Donnelly has acquired a 3.71 ERA. Is it the bone chips in his elbow? Is he another Ben Weber waiting to happen in 2005?


Coda: I'm really, really, really getting sick of Blogspot. I've been trying to publish this entry since 4:30 this morning or so (insomnia -- don't get me started), to no effect. Anybody know of a good/cheap blogging package to use? I don't want to have to use my server at home thanks to poor upload performance.

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