Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Inverted W Does Not Cause Autism

By The Common Man
"What number does it have to be ... for people just to start listening to what [Dr. Mike Marshall has] been saying for years ... I told my [orthopedist] something happened ... after [he threw that fateful pitch] ?... Boom — the [lightning] was gone from his [arm]." Later, when [Dr. James Andrews] read a comment from the CDC stating that the vast majority of the science to date did not support [this] assertion, [random Mike Marshall supporter] replied, "My science is [Strasburg]. He's at home. That's my science."
-- A reappropriated quote from Jenny McCarthy's profile in Time Magazine.

For years, parents of autistic children clung to a study conducted by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a British surgeon and researcher who supposedly made a connection between the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine and autism in children. It helped them cope with their children’s illness, and gave them an external body to blame for the disease that altered their lives and inhibited their child’s ability to develop at a “normal” rate. It’s hard to blame these parents for looking for answers, when science simply cannot fully explain what happens in the human brain.

Wakefield, whose research was never replicated successfully, was ultimately discredited, and the journal that published his study retracted its claims. That said, the movement his work spawned still has significant life, through the high-profile support of celebrities like Robert Kennedy Jr., Jenny McCarthy, and Jim Carrey. Their activism has led to articles and profiles in Time and on CNN, Kennedy went on The Daily Show to talk about it, and McCarthy had an entire hour on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Similarly, whenever a hot young prospect gets hurt, the disciples of Dr. Mike Marshall, former NL Cy Young award winner and PhD in Kinesiology, trot out “the inverted W”, a position a pitcher’s body makes when he raises his pitching elbow above his shoulder.

SweetSpot Roundup 8/31

By The Common Man and Bill

Austin’s Astros 290 Blog: Chance to play spoiler continues with Cards
Austin previews the ‘Stros’ series with the struggling Cardinals.

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): Wolf Back In Form
“The xFIP suggests that Wolf may not be back to the level that earned him his big contract, but both numbers indicate that Wolf should be able to contribute for the Brewers for the rest of 2010 and into 2011.”

The View from the Bleachers (Cubs): Back to Earth We Go
“In a close game the Reds did what they needed to do. They moved the runners, made contact, and scored the runs. The Cubs on the other hand did what they do best, which is find a way to shoot themselves in the foot.”

Dodger Thoughts: This is Clayton Kershaw’s team now
“It's his team in the way that the San Francisco Giants became Tim Lincecum's team, partly through lack of other options and partly because of how precociously good he is. Kershaw is the Dodgers' pinnacle, in the present and the future, in a way that Matt Kemp and Russell Martin in their own ways haven't been able to sustain, and that Rafael Furcal hasn't been able to stay healthy for.”

Mets Today: The problem with Prospect Rankings
“The problem with rankings…[is] they add the illusion of distinction when, sometimes, as in this case, none is warranted.”

Nationals Baseball: Pre-emptive Strike
“It's sad enough when people feed off the winning - as if the team's accomplishments somehow prove you are accomplished. It's mind boggling when fans do the opposite and seem to feed off the losing.”

Ducksnorts (Padres): That went well
In lamenting the Padres’ lost weekend (getting swept by Philadelphia, Geoff notes that San Diego’s leadoff hitters have provided .220/.295/.293 worth of offense. Yuck.

Crashburn Alley (Phillies): Graph of the Intermittent Time Period
“Should [the Phils] be fortunate enough to reach the post-season for a fourth consecutive year, be it via the Wild Card or by winning the NL East, they will be the team the rest of the field least wants to meet.”

Fire Brand of the AL (Red Sox): Red Sox Should Turn Focus to Catching Yankees
Isn't that always the goal? Anyway, they're exactly seven games back of both the Rays and Yankees as of this morning, but they've got six games left against the Yankees. If only there were some way we could see those games, on national TV or something.

Sox Machine (White Sox): Manny questions while waiting on waiver deal
"He just needs to stay healthy, and therein lies the only true risk. If Ramirez’s calf puts him back on the bench, the Sox have flushed $4 million with nothing to show for it. But if he’s on the field (even as a DH), he changes plenty. He gives Paul Konerko another slugging threat in the middle of the order. He makes the Sox more watchable for the casual viewer. He makes the Twins a little less comfortable. He could be human smelling salts."

The B-List Indians Blog: The B-List Lite: August 27-29
Recapping Cleveland's weekend series win over the Royals.

The Daily Fungo (Tigers): The Detroit Tigers Podcast #121: Five Months Down, One to Go
I wouldn't normally choose a podcast (out of three new posts yesterday) without listening to it, but I'm totally going back to this one for the comments on Dan Shaughnessy and on whether Verlander or Scherzer is the team ace now.

Royals Authority: Blanco, Maier or Punt?
Looking ahead at 2011, with a focus on centerfield.

Nick's Twins Blog: Keep Your Eye on the Ball
Nick worries about getting too comfortable with the division lead, and worries a little about Manny Ramirez, too.

It's About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): Does It Matter Who Your Manager Is?
How much can a manager affect, really? Enough to make him worth giving up a good young player who'd be yours cheap for years?

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): When the Hype Goes Awry
"the Rangers are still multiple lengths ahead of the 7.5-game-back Athletics and heavy favorites to capture the division crown, but they're likely three weeks away from rendering that a fait accompli, and until then the bulk of the attention will be focused on preserving team health and other such things that assume extreme importance in October but just aren't very compelling topics right now." That's my favorite quote, but most of this piece is actually about struggling prospect Derek Holland.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Double Barreled Bullpen

By The Common Man

This weekend, the Twins unveiled their newest bullpen weapon, Brian Fuentes, who they acquired dirt cheap from the Angels. As Aaron has pointed out, while Fuentes is no longer an elite reliever, he’s still very effective, particularly against lefties. And while neither he nor the club’s other “closer”-type, righty Matt Capps, have the ability to replace Joe Nathan’s end of game dominance, together they form a two-headed attack that might be just as effective.

From 2007-2009, Joe Nathan posted incredible numbers against both lefty and righty hitters:


Now, that’s what an elite reliever is supposed to look like. Nathan strikes out a ton of guys, doesn’t walk many, and keeps the ball in the park. During the same time frame (minus Matt Capps’ out-of-character 2009), here’s what you get from a combination of Fuentes’ work vs. LHB, and Capps’ vs. RHB:


As you can see, there’s only a very slight bump in OBP (less than a .02 difference) and SLG (less than a .03 difference). The Capps/Fuentes combination suffers slightly because they strike fewer batters out, but they’re walk rate is also significantly lower than Nathans, and gives them a distinct advantage in K/BB. They also allow slightly fewer homers per nine innings than Nathan does.

This is not to say that the Twins are better off with Fuentes/Capps than they would be with Nathan. Because Nathan combines the best of both pitchers, he does not show a platoon advantage. Also, he only takes up one roster spot. But with the September roster expansion just two days away and the Twins carrying 12 pitchers anyway, there shouldn’t be a significant concern about the Twins being short on pitching for the last month of the year. Mixing and matching at the end of games based on matchups would give the Twins a stronger back end of their bullpen while Nathan is absent.

Gardy now has a bullpen that can mirror that of the Davey Johnson-era Mets (who, not coincidentally, Gardenhire played for), who had tremendous success using Doug Sisk, Roger McDowell, Jesse Orosco, and Randy Myers at various times to close out wins. Indeed, during Nick-Blackburn’s near shutout against the Mariners, Gardenhire made the smart play to bring Fuentes in to close out the win against Russell Branyon, rather than turning to “closer” Capps. If Gardy makes a habit of playing the match-up game like this, the Twins will be almost as unbeatable in the 9th as when Joe Nathan was healthy. And with Crain, Rauch, and whichever of Fuentes/Capps does not pitch the 9th available to pitch the 8th, the Twins have the ability to shorten games even further.

Happy Birthday...

Kiki Cuyler!

There can't be very many Hall of Famers out there who aren't even the best players at their own position to be born on their birthday, but Cuyler is one (at least if the position is "outfield"); Cuyler would be 112 years old today, but one Ted Williams would be 92.

Hazen Shirley Cuyler was called "Kiki" -- not "key-key," as in your old sorority sister, but "kye-kye," as in, well, nothing else in the world -- because as a young man, he reportedly had a stutter, so that's how his last name would come out of his own mouth. All those nicknames and such back in the day were pretty great, generally speaking, but they could be awfully mean too.

Cuyler was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1968, which is very close to the time when Frankie Frisch was attempting to get every player he ever appeared in a game with into the Hall (though what research I've been able to do suggests that Frisch didn't really take over on the Vet's Committee for a year or two after Cuyler's election). In a lot of ways, Cuyler looks a lot like one of those head-scratchers; he has the pretty .321 batting average, but never won a batting (or an on-base, or a slugging) title. He hit .321 at a time when the average hitter (in Cuyler's park) hit .291. Cuyler didn't lead the league in much else, either; a doubles title, a triples title, several stolen base titles (in years for which we don't have caught stealing totals), and two consecutive times leading the league in runs at the start of his career...and that's about it. Cuyler's career wasn't particularly long, and he wasn't especially dominant in anything.

But at the same time, Cuyler was no Chick Hafey or Freddie Lindstrom. His 8098 PA is very low for a Hall of Famer, but still a good four or five seasons' worth more than Hafey or Hack Wilson. While Cuyler was never dominant, he was very, very good for a fairly long time, and paired it with some very good defense, as well. All together, his WAR (49.6 by Baseball-Reference, 56.2 per FanGraphs) is considerably lower than the most recent questionable Hall of Fame outfielder, Andre Dawson (57.0, 62.3), but a bit better than 2009's horrible choice, Jim Rice (41.5, 56.1).

So, where am I going with this? I have no idea. There isn't really that much of a reason to put a guy like Cuyler in the Hall of Fame, but he also shouldn't be lumped in with your Hafeys, Wilsons and Jesse Haineses. He was a damn good player, even if he's only the second-best mostly-corner-outfielder to celebrate his birthday on August 30.

SweetSpot Weekend Roundup August 30

Capitol Avenue Club (Braves): Brandon Beachy Scouting Report
"It’s hard to find a more interesting story in all of minor league baseball than that of Brandon Beachy.... [A] non-drafted free agent reliever convert becomes a dominant starter at AAA after just a bit more than two years of professional baseball, you probably wouldn’t find a story like this anywhere but with the Braves."

A View from the Bleachers (Cubs): In the News: Cubs Win! Booooo!
Apparently, some Cubs fans are upset that the Cubs are still trying to win, because it lowers their draft position. This is a troubling attitude in the NBA or NFL; it's downright batty in the MLB, where there is so very, very little connection between draft position within a round and future value. Alex Gordon and Jeff Clement were taken before Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Braun, etc., etc., etc.

Austin's Astros 290 Blog: Astros Spend Weekend Beating Themselves
"Well, it was definitely not a pretty end to the road trip.  The Astros followed up their impressive four-game sweep at Philly with an ugly matinee, dropping two of three in a series with the Mets when the Astros frequently fell to their own miscues."

Dodger Thoughts: Dodgers 6, Rockies 2: 'A modest thing,' and now what?
A win on Friday gives Dodger fans some hope for an improbable playoff run (though it was followed by losses on Saturday and Sunday). Also, of course: the Manny Ramirez decision.

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): John Lucroy's First 50 Games
Is John Lucroy the Crew's catcher of the future, or just a young version of old Jason Kendall?

Mets Today: Game 130: Win Over Astros
"Back to .500 -- now what?" Well, certainly not the playoffs, but that R.A. Dickey sure is fun to follow.

Crashburn Alley (Phillies): Down but Certainly Not Out
Posted on Friday after the ugly sweep at the hands of the lowly Astros, Bill points out that the Phillies still had a great shot at making a run. That was before the sweep of the Padres that put them in the wildcard lead, just 2 games back of the Braves for the division, and made their chances look very good indeed.

Ducksnorts (Padres): Friday Links (27 Aug 10)
Lots and lots of interesting links. Plenty of stathead stuff, and some really good general interest stuff too.

Bay City Ball (Giants): Labwork: 'Advanced' Offense Heatmap
Very interesting. A color-coded chart shows who's been pulling the weight in the Giants' offense, under a variety of offensive metrics (hint: it's mostly Aubrey Huff).

Fungoes (Cardinals): Cardinals More Lucky than Good Friday Night
The Nats' offense crushed the Cards' in every possible way on Friday, except in actually getting runners across the plate. Of course, most fans would chalk this up to the Cardinals being more "clutch" or some such. Pip knows better.

Nationals Baseball: See Everyone in 2013
And I thought the big news itself was depressing: "If any Nats fans were thinking about a two-year long vacation... now would be the time. Even if everything goes as well as possible, you're still looking at 2012 as a recovery year for Strasburg so you can't even plan on that being a good year."

The B-List (Indians): The B-List
“Lucky Mitch Talbot and Unlucky Mitch Talbot are the same Mitch Talbot”

Pro Ball NW: Not So Happy Pineda Day
“I decided to take in last night’s Tacoma Rainiers game as long as I was here, especially as it was a Michael Pineda start and he’s right near his innings limit for 2010. Unfortunately, Pineda showed that he is indeed right at his innings limit, and that there are nothing but good reasons to shut him down for the year, and to do it right now.” This just in: The Mariners listened.

Baseball Time in Arlington: Mike Kirkman’s Bizarre Odyssey
Where in the world did the Rangers’ new relief star come from?

Fire Brand of the American League: Jed Lowrie and the Sudden Chance to Shine
“Granted, he is a guy without a position, and if health is a skill, he is terrible at that — but we are talking about a player with pedigree who was developed by the Red Sox Minor League machine. This is a system that has brought you a cast of stars and superstars and will continue to do so. Think it over before you just write him off because of a tough run of luck and health during a critical initiation period.”

Royals Authority: Doubles and Double Plays
"Kevin Seitzer has taken a fair share of credit for the Royals increased batting average, but that’s empty praise. For a hitting coach to truly make a difference, he needs to work with players on an individual basis to get the most out of their abilities. This year, Butler has fallen short of his potential. He and Seitzer need to get together and work on refining his swing so he can generate more loft."

The Daily Fungo (Tigers): Tigers Today
I call shenanigans: “1966—Denny McLain tosses 229 pitches…to notch his 16th victory.”

Nick’s Twins Blog: Post-Waiver Wizard Waves Wand Again
“Fuentes, now 35, isn't quite the elite reliever he was during those prime years with the Rockies and he's now miscast as a closer. As a set-up man specializing in shutting down left-handed hitters, though, you can't do a whole lot better.”

Sox Machine (White Sox): Threets out, and no backup in sight
The Sox are conspicuously short on relievers, as everybody’s ending up on the DL. I’d feel bad, but these are the White Sox we’re talking about. By the way, check out the machine later today for some Manny Ramirez reaction.

It’s About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): Will AJ Lose His Rotation Spot?
It’s all there in the title. Should he? Probably.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Random Minor Leaguer of the Week: Chris Cates, SS, MIN

By Bill

Two Fridays ago, The Common Man came up with this awesome new weekly feature.

Last Friday, I forgot about it.

Won't happen again.

Anyway, the nice thing about a Random Minor Leaguer of the Week is that there's certainly no requirement that it be a good minor leaguer of the week, or even someone that you're ever likely to see take the field in the majors. So my first RMLotW is not R at all; it's my very favorite minor leaguer, 25 year old New Britain Rock Cats infielder Chris Cates.

Should We Have Seen This Coming?

By The Common Man

On Wednesday night, TCM took part in a massive, four-man podcast orgy that featured himself, Bill (the coauthor of The Platoon Advantage), Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs, and Lar of Wezen-ball.com. Out of the gate, the first topic discussed was Stephen Strasburg and Rob Dibble.

The Common Man wrote about Dibble on Tuesday and doesn’t want to belabor the point that Rob Dibble is an awful announcer, a stupid analyst, and probably likes to kick any friendly, adorable puppies he comes across. In a disappointing story, Dibble’s failure as a person even casually associated with the game of baseball is just a small part of that.

Stephen Strasburg, just 22 years old, who can hurl lightning from his fingertips is going to lose at least an entire season, perhaps more. Perhaps the terrific speed, location, and movement that made him a pitcher to begin with. Strasburg’s injury, despite the advances in orthopedic medicine, has the potential to be a career alterer, if not ender. That’s the point to take away from this.

But this wasn’t supposed to happen. Strasburg was special. He had “perfect” mechanics. He had a strong base. He had had no signs of injury. He was as perfect a physical specimen coming into the draft as anyone had seen. And the Nationals “babied” him, controlling his innings, his pitches. Watching for signs of strain and discomfort.

As Rob Neyer and Joe Posnanski pointed out earlier this week, Strasburg joins a long line of young stars, uber-prospects, that burned too hot and too fast. Prior. Wood. Avery. McDonald. Gooden. Norris. Nolan. Balor Moore. The list is virtually unending. It stretches all the way back to Monte Ward, Al Spalding, and Charlie Sweeney (sorry, Hoss).

As The Common Man discussed in the podcast (which you can listen to here), he wonders exactly how much velocity and movement the human arm can generate before it begins breaking down. Somewhere, there must be an upper limit to what a shoulder and an elbow can sustain. Each person has an unique physiology, obviously, but there has to be some kind of threshold, doesn’t there? After all, most cheetahs can run 70 MPH or so, but we’ve yet to find one that can run 100. The animal’s body would begin to break down. TCM guesses the same principle would apply to humans’ ability to throw a baseball. Injury experts like Will Carroll would know better what that limit might be, but TCM isn’t really sure anyone knows what that exact point is.* But it would seem that Strasburg is past it, that his hellacious cannon is too much for his arm to handle. At least for now.

If the Priors and Strasburgs of the world are, indeed, unlikely to hold up over a typical career length, TCM wonders what this may mean for them in the draft. If, indeed, these great pitchers cannot sustain their health, what good are they to the franchises that choose them? Isn’t a better strategy to take a marginally less talented, but far more reliable talent that has a much higher chance of being valuable for 6-10 years?  Perhaps our disappointment with the Strasburg injury (and the Prior injury...and the Wood injury.) is because of our own inability to comprehend that what they were doing was not sustainable.

Maybe it’s true, there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect. Or maybe, there’s such a thing as being TOO good a pitching prospect. Too talented. Too fast. Too baffling. Maybe we’re just not meant to soar that close to the sun. Maybe this is how the balance between hitters and pitchers is maintained.

*Carroll has pointed out that the injuries to Strasburg and Prior are vastly different. Strasburg’s is in his elbow. Prior’s was a shoulder injury. But TCM is not sure that that adequately explains away the question of why so many of these young hurlers (particularly the hardest throwers) have such a short half-life. If, indeed, the force with which these pitches are thrown does damage to a young arm, perhaps it does different damage to different arms according to mechanics and motion. Again, TCM’s not an expert in this field, so he’s reduced to speculating.

Update: via Tim Marchman, here's the list of under 22 pitchers with the highest K/9 rates.  Like him, I see a trend:

1 Kerry Wood 12.58 1998 21
2 Stephen Strasburg 12.18 2010 21
3 Dwight Gooden 11.39 1984 19
4 Mark Prior 11.34 2002 21
5 Oliver Perez 10.97 2004 22
6 Sam McDowell 10.71 1965 22
7 Mark Prior 10.43 2003 22
8 Scott Kazmir 10.14 2006 22
9 Oliver Perez 10.02 2003 21
10 Rick Ankiel 9.98 2000 20

SweetSpot Roundup 8/27

By The Common Man and Bill

Austin’s Astros Blog: Wandy’s magic completes sweep
“There are moments when a team begins to feel like its post-season dreams are gone….This very well may be that kind of moment for the Phillies….How good can it feel when you get swept in a four-game series at home by the fifth-worst team in the league?”

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): Capuano to the Rotation
“I’m not terribly excited that Parra has been removed from the starting rotation, as I would’ve liked to see what he could do in the last month and a half. That said, the bullpen may be the long term solution to Parra.”

Fungoes (Cardinals): Did Oquendo make the right call?
Oquendo held Randy Wynn at 3B in the ninth on Wednesday, and the Cards lost by a run. Pip breaks down the decision to see whether it was the right one at the time.

View from the Bleachers (Cubs): Cubs Win! Boo!
“The remainder of the 2010 season is going to play out as its going to play out. Yeah, there would be a benefit to being the worst of the worst, but there’s really no realistic way of competing in that arena. So let it go, let the team play and let’s hope the young players get as much good experience as possible.”

Dodger Thoughts: You think I’m licked? [ed. Note: um…]
The Dodgers are suddenly just 5 back in the Wild Card hunt, and may not trade Manny after all. Jon Weisman is delighted: “Cynicism be damned, the Dodgers are still playing meaningful games.”

Mets Today: Should the Mets Claim Manny Ramirez?
“If the Wilpons and Omar Minaya are absolutely serious about their conviction that the Mets are still in the playoff hunt, how could they NOT put in a claim for Manny Ramirez?”

Nationals Baseball: At least the pitching is shaping up…
Since wins and losses don’t matter, NB says to keep your eye on the mound, Nats fans.

Ducksnorts (Padres): Like Tom Browning and Kirk Gibson, but not really
Amongst other things, Geoff looks at Wade LeBlanc and sees Tom Browing, minus the whole not paying any child support thing.

Weaver's Tantrum (Orioles): Pie Steals Signs; Blog Shrugs
"If the White Sox don't like Pie's activities once he is on base, they can keep him off base. It is nobody's fault but their own if Pie goes 5-7 with a walk in two games." Well put.

Fire Brand of the AL (Red Sox): Josh Beckett: Home Runs, Endurance, and the Stretch
Some eye-opening numbers on the desperately struggling Josh Beckett. Most interesting is to me how the renowned workhorse is suddenly falling apart in innings 4-6. That can't be good.

Sox Machine (White Sox): Following Up: Bunting Pierre Over
Great stuff by Jim on how Ozzie Guillen doesn't trust stolen bases when one base is important. This has always fascinated me. If you've got a guy who is there in large part to steal bases (or entirely, like Pierre), what on earth are you doing bunting him from first to second with the game on the line?

The Daily Fungo (Tigers): Tigers Today: August 26, 2010
Tigers news and historical notes. Chad Kreuter turned 46 yesterday? Cripes. But my flannel shirts and hacky sack skills are still cool and relevant, right?

Royals Authority: See You in September
A look at all the extra Royals we might be treated to when rosters inexplicably expand from 25 to 40 in a few days here.

Nick's Twins Blog: Lee and Liriano
Always fun to read posts like this after you know how it all ends. Really, just the fact that one of these featured pitchers did well seems like news. Haven't all the other marquee matchups this year ended up looking like Astros at Rockies ca. 1999?

It's About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): Game 127: Yankees 3, Blue Jays 6
Recap of a really bad day for Phil Hughes and Javy's bullpen debut.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

SweetSpot Roundup 8/26

By The Common Man and Bill

Capital Avenue Club (Braves): Wednesday Post
Some unwelcome reason about the shocking Omar Infante: "Really, I’m not convinced this is anything other than a severely exaggerated BABIP spike (BABIP: .393*, xBABIP: .328).  He’s striking out slightly less than he has in his career, but he’s walking less and not hitting as many extra-base hits.  I expect his production going forward to resemble the career line more than his current line."

The View from the Bleachers (Cubs): Five Questions...Among Many
With nothing left in 2010 but 120 or so hours of terrible baseball, Chet starts to scratch the surface of the many, many questions facing the club for 2011 and beyond.

Austin's Astros 290 Blog: Ryan Howard goes all Prince Fielder
You know, I happened to be listening to the Philles' radio broadcast the other night when Ryan Howard was ejected with nobody left on the bench, and the announcers immediately laid into the umpire for not showing more restraint and thinking about the situation before he tossed him. My immediate thought: how can you say that? How on earth do you know he didn't totally deserve to be kicked out? And if Austin's recounting of the incident is accurate, it sounds like it was worse than that; if he threw his bat, of course he should've been ejected, and the announcers should've recognized that. If Howard wants to screw over his own team, it's certainly not the ump's job to stop him. I have to admit, though, I don't get the reference in the title.

Dodger Thoughts: Classic 1965 Sandy Koufax Interview
Snippets from an interview Koufax did on being named the SI Sportsman of the Year. Good stuff. Also Dodgers-related news and notes; the first one made me laugh.

Mets Today: Mets Game 125: Win Over Marlins
"They're not dead yet!" [Editor's note: they're not?] News and notes from a walk-off win.

Crashburn Alley (Phillies): Umpires Are to be Seen and Not Heard
Bill Baer with a very, very different take on the Howard incident from Austin's above: "It doesn’t matter what Howard says and does short of physical violence, he stays in the game. The umpire sucks it up and doesn’t put his ego ahead of the credibility of Major League Baseball games. Scott Barry didn’t do that. As Meech described, Barry had the gall to mock Howard before ejecting him with the shortest fuse known to man."

Ducksnorts (Padres): Me Elsewhere: There but for the Grace of Steve Finley...
Geoff wrote an excellent piece for Hardball Times, reassigning players from the 1987 draft based on what we know now. He only got through the first 8 picks in the first part, and the Padres picked tenth, but one of those first eight picks has kind of an interesting butterfly effect on the alternate-universe Padres.

Fungoes (Cardinals): Pedro Feliz Reality Check
In the weekend roundup, you saw what Fungoes thinks of Pedro Feliz. Based on that, you could guess what they think about his batting .381 through his first five Cardinals games (hint: they're not...overly optimistic).

The B-List (Indians): B-List Lite 8/24
What does Gio Gonzalez have on the Indians?

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): Stuff That Makes You Wonder
Are the Rangers really looking at trying to build a new ballpark? And how do the recently released financial documents play into that possibility?

Fire Brand of the American League (Red Sox): The Arquimedez Pozo Awards
Who has the best name in Major League Baseball. Fire Brand digs deep and finds the answer is actually close to home.

Royals Authority: Yuniesky The Magnificent
I refuse to believe this is true: “Starting on August 3, Betancourt began his assault on American League pitching. Since then, he’s had 61 plate appearances, crushed six home runs and hit .373/.383/.712. Just an extraordinary and unforeseen turn of events. It’s because he’s improved his plate discipline.”

The Daily Fungo: Tigers Today
In which we remember that Mark McGwire hit his first homer off Walt Terrell in 1986. Surely only goodness and love would follow this All-American kid for the rest of his days.

Nick’s Twins Blog: Bottom Flores
“Unfortunately, at this stage of the season, the cupboard tends to be a bit bare, so all the Twins could come up with [to fill in for injured lefties Ron Mahay and Jose Mijares] was Randy Flores, a 35-year-old left-hander who had been pitching out of the Rockies bullpen up to this point.”

Sox Machine (White Sox): The Manny Ramirez Debate, Why is there one?
“Thank God. Claiming Ramirez, if he makes it to the Sox through the waivers, whenever he’s placed on them, is the only option. There’s no argument against. I don’t know how much Ramirez has left, but even with his injury issues, he’s still hitting .312/.404/.508.”

It’s About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): Is Joe Girardi the next Cubs manager?
With his contract up this offseason, and his historical ties to the Cubs, would Joe Girardi jump ship?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Omar Infante's Success Raises (largely trivial) Questions

By The Common Man

Two days ago, Rob Neyer wrote about Omar Infante and his chances of winning the batting title in the National League and points out
“There is a loophole, though. Usually it's a small loophole. But this year it's a loophole big enough for Omar Infante to drive a truck through it.

If a player doesn't finish with 502 plate appearances, you can the add necessary hitless (and imaginary) plate appearances to get him there. If his new (imaginary) batting average is still good enough to lead the league, he gets his batting title.”
Here’s where it gets confusing to TCM:

The Cost of "Playing the Percentages"

By The Common Man

The Common Man tries not to write and complain too frequently about the Minnesota Twins in this space. After all, this is a general baseball site, and TCM’s not one of the more pessimistic Twins fans out there. That said, last night’s ninth inning demonstrated in sharp detail how a flawed roster and manager can conspire to snuff out a team’s chance to win a ballgame.

It's Podcast Day!

Well, it's a Wednesday, and that means there's a one-in-two chance that at 9:00 p.m. Central, it'll be time for our biweekly podcast. And, guess what -- this is, in fact, one of those Wednesdays! You can click here to listen, either live or after the fact. The player below should serve the same purpose, but eh, who knows?

Lots on the agenda tonight (as you might expect of a baseball podcast in late August), including Rob Dibble, Johnny Damon, Sweet Lou and Czar Bud.

Not on the agenda this evening is regular podcast...er (member? comrade? compatriot?) Lar from Wezen-Ball. Turns out he's leaving his Mom's Basement to go and Watch the (Brewers) Game, which means he's no longer one of us and will no doubt come back next time and tell us that the MVP can't have less than 120 RBIs, or that Mark Teixeira must save about 200 runs a year with his glove or something.

But The Common Man and I are very pleased to be joined instead by FanGraphs' Carson Cistulli, both because (a) he's funny and interesting and (b) official podcast bylaws state that at all times, at least two of the Three Guys who Talk About Baseball must live in Wisconsin.

Hope you'll join us tonight at 9!

Listen to internet radio with TheCommonMan on Blog Talk Radio

SweetSpot Roundup 8/25

By The Common Man and Bill

Pro Ball NW (Mariners): AquaSox: Three Games, One Post

Conor got the royal treatment in three games with the Mariners’ single A affiliate in Everett, WA, and comes back with a full report, including video and scouting reports.

Weaver’s Tantrum (Orioles): http://weaverstantrum.blogspot.com/2010/08/on-deck-chicago-white-sox_24.html
“The Orioles are 12-9 in August with 7 more games to go. They need to win three of those games to have their first winning August since Fiona Apple was pumping out hits. The Orioles are 12-9 in August with 7 more games to go. They need to win three of those games to have their first winning August since Fiona Apple was pumping out hits.”

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): Rich Harden’s Wild Ride (Part V)
“I'm not going to call this a spectacular start from Harden, because the simple fact of the matter is that it wasn't; he did a good job of inducing weak contact on the whole, but five walks per seven innings will kill him sooner rather than later. It was, however, clearly enough to buy him at least 1-2 more starts.”

Fire Brand of the American League (Red Sox): If not Judas, who?
Since Johnny Damon has rejected a trade to the Red Sox, Charlie Saponara looks at some alternatives who could help the Sox for the stretch drive. But will it matter?

Royals Authority: David Glass 2.0
“How exactly does one grade an owner? At the most basic level it has to be about how well a team produces on the field…. So if you were to judge him on the record of the ballclub alone then you have to rate him as one of the worst owners of all-time. Other than moving the team out of the city, he couldn’t have been worse.”

The Daily Fungo (Tigers): Two for Tuesday: Damon Decisions, Ordonez Operations
“With Damon’s decision to stay, he makes the Tigers a better team by his mere presence if not his on-field production. Right now we can only hope that this once-promising season ends with the Tigers north of .500 and they have a much better chance of achieving it with number 18 in the lineup.”

Nick’s Twins Blog: A Plea to Nick Blackburn
“You are a pitcher who has had many ups and downs in your young career. This season has mostly been a valley, but you can erase a lot of ill will by stepping up now, in the rotation's time of need.”

Sox Machine (White Sox): White Sox running the bases backwards
“Ozzie Guillen isn’t afraid of letting his players run … at least until a stolen base would count the most.”

It’s About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): Race, Baseball, and Third Base Coaches
You really, really, really just need to read Mark Smith’s article: “Just like in all other areas of life, race still remains a difficult and controversial issue, but how much does race have to do with the disparity in minority hiring between first and third base coaches?”

Austin's Astros 290 Blog: Myers Wins in return to Philly
Austin recaps Brett Myers' return to The City of Brotherly Love.

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): The Manny Parra Post
"I'm not ready to give up on Manny Parra."  Jack seems to be the only one left.

View from the Bleachers (Cubs):  Cubs Next Manager Power Rankings
Daver's got you covered from Sandberg to Trammell.

Dodger Thoughts: Merry Barajasmas!
A recap of the Dodgers' big win over the Brewers, with their new catcher as the star.

Mets Today: Tuesday Morning Mets Links
Ah, the link dump, the lifesaver of the busy blogger. What? Don't look at me that way. Some of us have jobs.  By the way, one of the links includes an argument that you should boycott the Mets today (but not Mets Today).  By reading this, you've already failed.  Scrub your eyes out and start anew.  Like that second chance at virginity thing.  What am I saying? If you're a blogger, you're still on your first one.

Nationals Baseball: Jesus, Dibble
Speaking of religious contradictions... "Dibble is a man, sorry A MAN, who was an inaugural subscriber to STUFF magazine and uses only body wash that comes from dark blue bottls, so of course he thinks Strasburg shoudl just keep playing through the pain."  That's a good take.  TCM's partial to his own, of course.

Ducksnorts (Mets): How Good are the 2010 Padres at Run Prevention?
So good they just beat Depends in a nationwide test. (Hi-oh! Very good sir!)  Ducksnorts' answer is less funny, but more informative, I guess.

Crashburn Alley (Phillies):  Was Michael Bourn Out?
Baserunning shenanigans caused some controversy in Philadelphia on Monday night, when Michael Bourn may have gone out of the baseline to reach first, and a run scored.  Bill Baer has got a great look at the play in .gif and photo form.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rob Dibble Wants His Doomed Past to Repeat Itself

By The Common Man

As most of you know, baseball’s resident troglodyte, Kenny "Effing" Powers...er, Rob Dibble, crawled out of his primordial ooze yesterday to criticize Stephen Strasburg for coming out of a game with elbow stiffness, saying

"I also look at this from the player's standpoint, that this is your job. This is what you do. You're never going to be 100 percent healthy, feel perfect. So you have to take accountability that you're gonna throw sometimes, your arm's gonna hurt. You're gonna be out there on the mound sometimes, the mound is gonna be terrible and the dirt is gonna be a little loose and it might not be so great. You can't constantly be complaining over every little thing.

"So for me, a little bit has to be put back on Strasburg here. Ok, you throw a pitch, it bothers your arm, and you immediately call out the manager and the trainer? Suck it up, kid. This is your profession. You chose to be a baseball player. You can't have the cavalry come in and save your butt every time you feel a little stiff shoulder, sore elbow.”
Dibble has walked back his comments today, claiming that his two paragraph statement above has been taken out of context,
“If you're hurt, you can't suck it up, so that's a moot point, but if you're not hurt, that's what I was talking about. If you're not hurt and your arm's fine, then keep pitching....Our opinions are formulated through facts, not fiction, not their little chat room jargon, and so they can try and twist it any way they want, and if a guy's hurt, he's hurt, he's going to go on the disabled list, it's a moot point. But if he's not hurt, get your butt out there and play....They're two totally different scenarios, so, you know, stick to what you know, which is nothing, and stick to your little blogs."

Prince Albert and the Crown...Again

It was about a year and a week ago that I wrote that Albert Pujols had the best chance at a triple crown that we'd seen in a very long time. I did a few little quick-and-dirty things to try to gauge how plausible it was, and later in the day, David Pinto chimed in with his real-life math and determined that his chances were actually even quite a bit better than I would've thought.

Well, it didn't happen, of course. But it was fun to follow along while it lasted. And he did lead the league in OBP and SLG, which is really a lot more important in terms of runs and wins, but it's just not the same, is it? I don't care about batting average or RBI -- or even home run totals, really -- but I really want to see another triple crown winner at some point. It would just be cool.

Last year, though, Pujols was on fire right out of the gate, hitting around .340 in the first two months and his 30th homer by the end of June. This season he had just 18 homers on the same date, and his batting average hit a low of .295 as late as July 30. There have been debates over whether Pujols was on the decline, and whether he was even the greatest player in baseball anymore.

Well, don't look now, but he's actually in an even better position to win the triple crown than he was a year ago.

SweetSpot Roundup 8/24

Fire Brand of the American League (Red Sox): Daisuke's First 100 Innings
A rare positive (and very thorough) look at "Boston's favorite failure," Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Sox Machine (White Sox): 22 hours, 31 innings, two losses
Jim on that crazy, deflating, Joe West-ing Royals series: "The series also brought out every emotion, and I think my lasting one is 'amused.' The situation didn’t cause the Sox to lose two of three, and besides, I like a good story. It’s not often that a series against Kansas City gains notoriety, but it’s going to be nearly impossible to top this clusterlove of circumstances."

The Daily Fungo (Tigers): Video: George Kell Interviews Tigers Players After They Clinch 1968 Pennant
Kell would have turned 88 yesterday; Mike celebrates with some pretty awesome video.  Also see Part 2 and Part 3.

Royals Authority: Chasing WAR
Here's a take I've never seen before: trying to figure out where the Royals might find enough WAR to make up the difference between the 2010 squad and the division's best.

Nick's Twins Blog: A Test in Texas
The Twins have been beating up on a lot of non-playoff teams, so this is the big test. What percentage of the grade was "narrowly avoid being no-hit with one out in the ninth inning"?

It's About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): Jeter's Contract...Again...But This One's "Fair"
Mark really attacks the inevitable Jeter contract from all possible angles (and generates quite a lot of discussion in the comments). I'll say this (in agreement, I think, with Mark): I know he's Jeter and there's pride and all that, there's probably a limit to the amount that even the Yankees can pay to 41 and 42 year olds to probably not play much baseball (and certainly not well).

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): Play It One More Time, Julio
Julio Borbon came into 2010 as the Rangers' centerfielder of the future, and maybe he still is, but he's also the forgotten fourth outfielder of the present. Joey ruminates on Borbon and living with diminished expectations.

Austin’s Astros Blog: Starting Pitchers to Offense—Can I get a little help here?
“It’s gone overlooked because of their records and because it’s the Astros, but their starting pitching has been great this month. Their current five starters have a 3.38 ERA in August, but just a 4-4 record to show for it.”

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): David Riske released
“Basically, the Riske deal has hamstrung Brewers management in Free Agency for two straight offseasons. Perhaps, with his deal and various other toxic deals off the books, the Doug Davises and Braden Loopers can turn into Joel Pinieros, and the Brewers could actually have a respectable starting rotation in 2011.”

Fungoes (Cardinals): Garcia throws best game of career
Pip breaks down Jamie Garcia’s shutout on Sunday, and unleashes the rookie’s new nickname: El Gato. TCM was unaware, but likes it. You?

Dodger Thoughts: Dodgers Cogs and Dogs
Jon ranks the Dodgers by impact on the club. Congratulations Travis Schlictling, your name appears in print.

Mets Today: The Argument for Ken Oberkfell
“I don’t believe it makes sense to promote someone simply for showing up and hanging around for a long time. That may sound harsh, and of course Oberkfell does more than just “show up”, but the point is, he hasn’t shown the ability to lead a group of men to consistent winning.”

Nationals Baseball: The Easy Tough Decision
“Fans, media members, and most importantly the fate of their jobs, all say shut Strasburg down. Only cold robot logic and possibly Jim Bunning say keep pitching him. That's not much of a choice at all.”

Crashburn Alley (Phillies): Astros Country
The Astros have a plethora of former Phillies on the roster: Pedro Feliz, Michael Bourn, Jason Michaels, Brett Myers, J.A. Happ, and Nelson Figueroa. Is this just a coincidence or does Ed Wade (a former Phillies employee himself) fetishize those red pinstripes?

Monday, August 23, 2010

What to do with Danny Valencia in 2011?

Last night, TCM got an interesting Tweet from Tim Bouvine that asked, in essence, whether the Twins should consider dealing Danny Valencia this offseason, if they can get something of value for the young 3B. It’s an interesting question (Tim asks a ton of those, actually, interesting questions), made even more relevant by Valencia’s second major league homer last night, which gave the Twins their lead.

Valencia has been a terrific addition to the Twins lineup in 2010, hitting .328/.372/.441 in 191 plate appearances. As the Twins have dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness from Nick Punto, Brendan Harris, and Matt Tolbert, Danny has solidified the hot corner and turned the position from an offensive black hole into an asset.

That said,Valencia has been playing above his head. A nineteenth round selection in 2006, it’s safe to say the Twins didn’t have big plans for Danny V. But he hit well at every level, and gradually moved up the minor league ranks until he seemed to stall out at AAA. Already 25, Valencia underwhelmed when he posted a .289/.322/.421 line across parts of two seasons in Rochester. And his fielding was not viewed as particularly strong either, after a lackluster 2009. After looking at his minor league equivalencies, The Platoon Advantage’s own Bill, back on his own site, even wrote as late as June, “Valencia, as a Major League player, looks a lot like Nick Punto, except without any of those things that make Punto a useful player. Put yet another way: blech.”  So what gives?

Skipper Sendoffs Part Deux

By The Common Man

Bill brought up some managerial mysteries in his skipper sendoff post from earlier, noting that it's not immediately apparent why some legendary managers walked off the job when they did. Here are the conditions under which the 18 managers currently in the Hall left the game:

Walter Alston
Bill wrote: "Because I haven't been able to find the actual reason for the weird timing, I'll have to assume that he saw J.R. Richard's sparkling three-hit shutout (with, uncharacteristically, zero walks and just five strikeouts), running the 26 year old's record to 19-15, and figured he was finally beat once and for all."

What happened: Tommy Lasorda had long been considered Alston's heir and had waited patiently for Smokey to move aside, even passing up multiple other managerial offers. Finally, in 1976, Alston decided he was done in the dugout. With the Dodgers 10 games back of the Reds, and mathematically eliminated from the postseason, Alston wanted Lasorda to get his feet wet, telling reporters, "I think it would be good for Tommy to take over from this point on and get a little background for next season. I think I'll just turn it over to him right now. But I want to warn him what he does will go on my record."

Sparky Anderson
Bill wrote: "George Lee Anderson stuck it out to the bitter end of the Tigers' 60-84, strike-shortened 1995 season."

What happened: Sparky resigned, saying, "I knew it was time. This city has to change, and it must change with someone else." Sparky was either being incredibly optimistic, or was a true visionary about what was going to befall Detroit. The parting seems amicable. Tigers President John McHale called Anderson, "one of a handful of greatest managers in big league history. He leaves today as he came: his own man. Cherish him, remember him. We will not see his likes again." Sheesh. Anderson was hoping to catch on with another club at 61 years old, but that never materialized.

Ned Hanlon
Bill wrote: "There was nothing he could do for the 1906-07 Cincinnati squads, who went a combined 130-174 under Hanlon's helmsmanship. Leaving after the season was at least ostensibly Hanlon's decision."

What happened: Hanlon did not go quietly. In July of 1907, he publicly announced his intention to retire at the end of the year after a power struggle with Reds President August Herrmann. "Mr. Hanlon said when he was last here [Baltimore] that he made up his mind to quit Cincinnati, as matters there are not to his liking, and he has reached the age and fortune where he does not have to submit to unpleasant features." According to the same reporter,
"Mr. Hanlon has never been the real manager...since the season of 1907 began. He has been manager in name and has had to bear the brunt of the club's misfortune, while players have been signed, released, forgiven for their misdeeds, and allowed to run themselves and their alleged manager by Mr. Herrmann.... Mr. Herrmann's desire to be a 'good fellow,' his well-known easy going nature, and his determination to be at the top of everythinbg connected with the club have negatived [sic] any good managers such as Mr. Hanlon might do."

Bucky Harris
Bill wrote: "The Tigers went 82-72, and it's not clear to me whether Harris left on his own terms or the Tigers'."

What happened: Harris resigned on September 25, 1956, effective at the end of the season. It had been a rough one for Harris, as the AP reported that "Harris earlier this season had been under heavy fire both by the public and by [Tigers President Spike] Briggs himself. Later, after the club was sold to an 11-man syndicate for $5,500,000; Briggs and the new owners announced that Harris would be retained at least until the end of the 1956 season." Translation: The new owners wanted their own manager.

Whitey Herzog
Bill wrote: "Now this was a good one to go out on...if you had to leave in the middle of a terribly disappointing season."

What happened: Whitey quit midway through the 1990 season with two more years left on his contract, saying "I still enjoy managing, but I just don't feel like I've done the job. I feel like I've underachieved. I can't get the guys to play....It isn't that I can't stand losing, if I feel like the club is playing up to its capabilities. I'm just bewildered. I can't believe this team is playing as bad as this team is playing. It's really bad. I felt like I just wasn't getting it done."

Miller Huggins
Bill wrote: Pretty safe to say that Babe Ruth made Huggins a Hall of Famer, right (see also Lazzeri, Combs, Meusel, Hoyt, etc.)? Anyway, this was another late-season exit, game 147 in the Yanks' 1929 season."

What happened: Huggins took ill with influenza that was severe enough that he was hospitalized. While there, he contracted a rare facial infection that eventually put him in a coma and ended his life.

Al Lopez
Bill wrote: His final years with the Sox read like Billy Martin's time with the Yankees, but I'm not clear on whether he was getting fired or quitting/retiring.

What happened: Lopez retired after the 1965, saying he was tired of managing and wanted to work on his golf game. His hand-picked successor, Eddie Stanky, did all right for two years, before the bottom fell out in 1968. Lopez was coaxed out of retirement to take the reins, but had a significant stomach ailment that led to an appendectomy and kept knocking him out of the dugout. He had to take time off in '68, and after being weak throughout Spring Training in 1969, he was forced to resign again after just 17 games.

Connie Mack
Bill wrote:
"The A's 52nd win against 102 1950 losses was the last win for Mack, who won 3731 of them (but lost even more) in 53 seasons before finally calling it quits at age 87."

What happened: Well, he was 87. Mack's sons had purchased the team from him in 1949 and announced that their father was welcome to manage for as long as he wanted to, despite public calls that he had become a burden on the team he built. Mack lasted one more miserable summer, before giving way to Jimmy Dykes, saying in that stilted way of his, "I am retiring from active management of the baseball club but will remain as a director."

Joe McCarthy
Bill wrote:
"He made his name with the Cubs and (especially, of course) Yankees, but he'd also had great success in 1948 and '49 with the Sox. The 5th consecutive loss on June 18, 1950, though, dropped the team to just 31-28, and the 63 year old McCarthy was done."

What happened: Well, this was just a cluster. McCarthy was sick, and was planning a break from the team. Earlier that evening, he had scoffed at the notion that he was leaving, saying, "Those reports that I'm resigning are really too silly. I'll never quit under fire, and you can bet your last dollar that as soon as I'm well enough I'll be back." Then Red Sox traveling secretary Tom Dowd contradicted McCarthy, telling the press that McCarthy was indeed resigning and being replaced by Steve O'Neill. Sounds from here like McCarthy was forced out.

John McGraw
Bill wrote:
"The New Yorkers led 2-0 after six, but gave up one in the 7th and three in the 8th. I imagine McGraw just left in a disgusted huff and never looked back."

What happened: McGraw had been sick for several years with a "sinus condition" that often kept him from traveling with the Giants on the road (except, of course, to Brooklyn). When the condition worsened, and his doctor advised him not to travel at all anymore, he handed over the team to 1B Bill Terry, saying "It is my desire that a man be appointed who was so thoroughly familiar with my method and who had learned his baseball under me." McGraw stayed on as a team stockholder and Vice-President.

Bill McKechnie
Bill wrote:
"As with Alston, McKechnie lasted until the team's final four games in his final season (1946, here), and as with Alston, I can't figure out why."

What happened: Also like Alston, McKechnie was leaving ostensibly to give his successor some time in the dugout. He told the press, "I felt it was advisable to have the matter settled at this time so that both the club and myself could make definite plans for the future." He had hoped to catch on with another team, but no job presented itself.

Wilbert Robinson
Bill wrote:
"Another long-termed Dodgers (er, Robins) manager, Robinson saw his 18th season with the team through to the end in 1931."

What happened: Robinson had survived several coup attempts by his team's board of directors, and eventually succumbed, though he admitted being "surprised" at the move, especially since the Dodgers had made it back to the first division in 1930 and '31. His replacement, Max Carey had one good year before the Dodgers succumbed to habit and became Dem Bums again.

Frank Selee
Bill wrote:
"He started '05 a very respectable 37-28 but was replaced anyway by another Hall of Famer, Frank Chance, who went on to player/manage the team through easily the best seven years of its history."

What happened: Selee took ill with what was being called "severe indigestion" in July, and was forced to give up the club. In reality, he had tuberculosis. He moved west and managed a team in Pueblo, Colorado, and died in Denver in 1909.

Billy Southworth
Bill wrote:
"The Boston squad, with which Southworth had been successful--if not nearly as successful as with his earlier work with the Cardinals"

What happened: Southworth was a tough guy to play for, even without all the booze and before his son died in World War II. His players revolted in 1949, and he walked off the job. In 1951, he did it again. Guy Butler of The Miami News wrote, "After winning the pennant his first year, 1948, in a five-year contract, it seems the man who did a great comeback once before after shunted off to the minors as a manager, could not forget. He grew hard, bitter, tough on his players. Dissension reared its ugly head, the team wasn't winning, and --well, Billy decided to chuck it all and go back to Sanbury. Maybe this time for keeps."

Casey Stengel
Bill wrote:
"You'd probably guess Stengel's exit was horrid -- he finished with four and a half god-awful years at the head of the expansion Mets -- and you'd be right."

What happened: Well, Stengel got pretty old, and allegedly his doctors told him to hang it up, as he cited "medical advice" in his farewell press conference. He took a ceremonial job in the Mets front office, but was cagey about whether he'd come back, I wouldn't want to say. I have this new job now and that's all I'm thinking about at this moment. You never know what will happen later." Right.

Earl Weaver
Bill wrote:
"Weaver tried to come back after just two and a third seasons off, and the magic was gone."

What happened: Indeed, it was gone. Weaver didn't have a lot of fun in '86, and privately told friends he wouldn't come back the next year as early as mid-August. He told reporters, "The facts the way they are is that I'm not interested in 1987, but I'm very interested in the remainder of 1986." His eventual replacement, Cal Ripken Sr., didn't believe him, equating him to the 1980s baseball version of Bret Favre, "Earl always leaves the door open. As he says, 'I can always change my mind.' He's very disappointed in the ballclub right now but if he sits down later, he might think he can come back and turn the thing around."

Dick Williams
Bill wrote:
"Managing the late-eighties Mariners is not the way a Hall of Fame manager should have to end his career. He was canned after this ho-hum loss dropped them to 23-33 and 16 games out of first on June 5 of '88."

What happened: The players revolted. Mark Langston complained about being left in too long, and other players were less than complimentary. So the Mariners fired Williams, "in the interest of the current season as well as for the future," according to team President Chuck Armstrong. GM Dick Balderson piled on, "I think in the last couple of days Dick Williams lost control of this club. I just don't think the players were responding to him at all. I don't think Williams was getting all he could out of his players." After that, the gloves came off. Mike Moore told reporters, "When you're a player, you like a pat on the back once in a while. You never got that from Dick Williams. Instead, you were kind of in limbo." Michael Brantly expressed frustration too, "A lot of guys didn't know what Dick wanted from them. Guys on the team didn't know their roles." Harold Reynolds: "I think this move will be good for the team. We're a better club than we've shown." Dave Valle: "Whenever something like this happens, it's bound to be good." Alvin Davis: "Over the last three weeks, there has been a change as far as the decision the manager has made. I really don't know why." Mark Langston: "I'm excited to get things going again. I think this is a very positive decision. It's got to take a big burden off the players." Ouch.

Skippers' Sendoffs

By Bill

When Lou Piniella called it quits yesterday, it's not as though he was planning his perfect exit. You have to respect a guy for just realizing that his family situation required him to leave, even though that the leaving would be forever, even though he was leaving a team that was 51-73 and facing a much, much better team. This was to be how 49 or so years in pro ball all ended, and it didn't figure to be good.

And boy, wasn't it! The Cubs kept it to 5-3 entering the seventh, but then the Braves scored eleven runs in Piniella's last three career managerial innings, and it ended 16-5.

So I got to thinking: I think Piniella will probably be in the Hall of Fame eventually. Just the one World Series berth, but he's managed the 13th most games in big-league history, has the 14th most wins, a bunch of playoff appearances, that 116-win season, and of course has that memorable character and reputation.

So here's how it ended for the other Hall of Fame managers (those who are actually specifically in the Hall as managers):

Walter Alston: Astros 1, Dodgers 0 (loss)
Alston's almost-23-year run as manager of the Dodgers ended with just four games remaining in the 1976 regular season and his team at 90-68 (the last four games, and next twenty years or so, were handled by Tom Lasorda). Because I haven't been able to find the actual reason for the weird timing, I'll have to assume that he saw J.R. Richard's sparkling three-hit shutout (with, uncharacteristically, zero walks and just five strikeouts), running the 26 year old's record to 19-15, and figured he was finally beat once and for all. Actually, it's entirely fitting that the manager of the 1960s Dodgers went out on a 1-0 game.

Sparky Anderson: Orioles 4, Tigers 0 (loss)
Wow, two-for-two in shutout losses so far! George Lee Anderson stuck it out to the bitter end of the Tigers' 60-84, strike-shortened 1995 season. In the finale, Mike Mussina stymied them in a complete game, two-hit, two-walk, seven-K gem. Like Richard above, Mussina was 26 and won his 19th game in the great manager's walk-away loss. Buddy Bell took over for Anderson, and was...less successful than Lasorda.
This game was also the last for Lou Whitaker, making it the finale for the Trammell-Whitaker should-be-hall-of-fame keystone combo.

Ned Hanlon: Redlegs 13, Pirates 1 (win)
No boxscore available. Hanlon made the Hall (nearly sixty years after his death) on the strength of his work from 1894-1900, when he led Baltimore and Brooklyn teams to five NL pennants in seven years. There was nothing he could do for the 1906-07 Cincinnati squads, who went a combined 130-174 under Hanlon's helmsmanship. Leaving after the season was at least ostensibly Hanlon's decision. Just 49, he was invested in a Federal League team, and was involved in the landmark Supreme Court suit that ended up creating the deplorable MLB antitrust exemption.

Bucky Harris: Tigers 8, Cleveland 4 (loss)
The final game of Harris' 29 year managerial career brought his career record to within 61 games of the .500 mark (managing the Senators for 18 years can do that). "Shortstop" Harvey Kuenn went 3-for-5, 21 year old vet Al Kaline hit a two-run triple and Billy Hoeft came on in relief in the 4th inning to walk away with his 20th win on the last day of the season. The Tigers went 82-72, and it's not clear to me whether Harris left on his own terms or the Tigers'.

Whitey Herzog: Cardinals 4, Padres 1 (win)
Now this was a good one to go out on...if you had to leave in the middle of a terribly disappointing season. It was the Cards' 80th game in 1990, and raised their record to just 33-47. Tied 1-1 in the 9th, the Cards exploded to score three runs off of Greg Harris in a rally that, fittingly, included both a sacrifice bunt and a stolen base. Whitey was somewhat improbably replaced by 67 year old former Cards great Red Schoendienst, who kept the seat warm for Joe Torre for a few weeks.

Miller Huggins: White Sox 7, Yankees 0 (loss)
Pretty safe to say that Babe Ruth made Huggins a Hall of Famer, right (see also Lazzeri, Combs, Hoyt, etc.)? Anyway, this was another late-season exit, game 147 in the Yanks' 1929 season. Chicago pitcher Hal McLean walked six and gave up two hits to Ruth, but allowed just two other hits for the third shutout loss in six so far. Art Fletcher finished the season, then Bob Shawkey for 1930, and then some guy named McCarthy came in in '31.

Tommy Lasorda: Dodgers 4, Astros 3 (win)
The Dodgers scored two in the 8th off of Billy Wagner to tie it at 3, and then Mike Piazza, the kid of Tommy's family friend, won it with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth. It would've been a perfect sendoff...except Lasorda had no intention to make it one. He had a heart attack the next day, officially ending his career a little over a month later. It also ended a pretty incredible run; Alston and Lasorda managed the Dodgers for a combined 43 seasons, and they've had six managers in the fifteen years since.

Al Lopez: Royals 5, White Sox 4 (loss)
A Joe Foy single in the bottom of the 12th ended Lopez' impressive career (no world championships but a .584 regular season winning percentage), just 17 games into the 1969 season, after which he retired. His final years with the Sox read like Billy Martin's time with the Yankees, but I'm not clear on whether he was getting fired or quitting/retiring.

Connie Mack: A's 5, Senators 3 (win)
The A's 52nd win against 102 1950 losses was the last win for Mack, who won 3731 of them (but lost even more) in 53 seasons before finally calling it quits at age 87.

Joe McCarthy: Tigers 10, Red Sox 2 (loss)
He made his name with the Cubs and (especially, of course) Yankees, but he'd also had great success in 1948 and '49 with the Sox. The 5th consecutive loss on June 18, 1950, though, dropped the team to just 31-28, and the 63 year old McCarthy was done. Ted Williams hit his 275th career home run in the losing effort. Steve O'Neill took over the rest of the way, and went 63-32.

John McGraw: Phillies 4, Giants 2 (loss)
McGraw's 33rd year as manager (and 30th as manager of the Giants) ended after just 40 games, in which the Giants had gone 17-23 and were in 8th place. The New Yorkers led 2-0 after six, but gave up one in the 7th and three in the 8th. I imagine McGraw just left in a disgusted huff and never looked back. The next manager, Bill Terry, lasted nine more seasons.

Bill McKechnie: Reds 6, Cardinals 0 (win)
As with Alston, McKechnie lasted until the team's final four games in his final season (1946, here), and as with Alston, I can't figure out why. Great one to go out on, though, as Bucky Walters and the Reds' defense blanked the eventual world champion Cardinals. He was replaced by Hank Gowdy, who only ever managed those four games (going 3-1).

Wilbert Robinson: Robins 12, Giants 3 (win)
Another long-termed Dodgers (er, Robins) manager, Robinson saw his 18th season with the team through to the end in 1931. His boys thumped the second-place Giants, with every player including the pitcher collecting at least one hit (mostly in the first three innings off Freddie Fitzsimmons). Joining the hit parade with a 2-for-4 was a 22 year old catcher named Al Lopez.

Frank Selee: Reds 6, Cubs 0 (loss)
No boxscores from 1905. Selee made the Hall of Fame (almost a century later) for his work with the Boston Braves before the turn of the century, but he'd had some success in Chicago. He started '05 a very respectable 37-28 but was replaced anyway by another Hall of Famer, Frank Chance, who went on to player/manage the team through easily the best seven years of its history.

Billy Southworth: Cubs 3, Braves 0 (loss)
Another shutout loss! The Boston squad, with which Southworth had been successful--if not nearly as successful as with his earlier work with the Cardinals -- in most of his first five seasons, fell to 28-31. Bob Rush threw a four-hit, four-K shutout. Tommy Holmes (hey, read about him here!) took over after the game as player/manager.

Casey Stengel: Phillies 5, Mets 1 (loss)
You'd probably guess Stengel's exit was horrid -- he finished with three and a half god-awful years at the head of the expansion Mets -- and you'd be right. Jim Bunning shut them down in a two-hit, 12-K complete game, running the Mets' 1965 record to 31-64 and Stengel's career Mets record to 175-504 (.302). I bet most people don't realize that even after 12 wildly successful years with the Yankees, Stengel's career record fell all the way back to just barely above .500 (.508, to be exact). Wes Westrum somehow suffered through most of the next three years, and then Gil Hodges took over and things got better.

Earl Weaver: Tigers 6, Orioles 3 (loss)
Joe Gibbs should've taken a lesson; Weaver tried to come back after just two and a third seasons off, and the magic was gone. The Orioles weren't terrible for most of 1986, but lost their last five games and ten of their final 13 to finish 73-89. Really nothing worth reporting about that final game. Cal Senior took over in '87, and certainly didn't do any better.

Dick Williams: Royals 7, Mariners 3 (loss)
Managing the late-eighties Mariners is not the way a Hall of Fame manager should have to end his career. He was canned after this ho-hum loss dropped them to 23-33 and 16 games out of first on June 5 of '88. There were a lot of great things in Williams' career, and Alvin Davis, Jim Presley and Rey Quinones played no part in any of them.

Quite a few ignominous endings in there, but nothing quite like the 16-5 drubbing Piniella took home with him yesterday.