Monday, January 31, 2011

Farewell, Rob

Once upon a time (Fall of 1997), The Common Man enrolled in college, and got his first extensive exposure to the Internet.  Being a sports fan in general and a baseball fan in particular, he made his way to the old  And there he ran across Rob Neyer.  And what TCM read blew his mind.

How in the hell could Scott Rolen be better than Vinny Castilla?  What do you mean that the sacrifice bunt is a bad idea?  Why was Rick Aguilera overrated?  Who in God's name was Arky Vaughan?  I was excited, and I sent word to my good friend Bill to check out Neyer's work. 

Bill's version of this story is essentially reversed, as he claims to have discovered Neyer first and sent it to The Common Man.  But Bill's a lawyer, so take that into a account when you assess his credibility.  [Note: this isn't true. Bill's version of the story agrees exactly with TCM's. But I'm leaving it anyway.]

Anyway, since then we're pretty sure we've read darn near every word that Rob has published, from his work at ESPN, to his exchanges with Rany Jazayerli on their Royals, to his insightful and entertaining books (available now on Amazon!).  And we've always come away learning something.

Look, we have no idea what the first column we read by Rob Neyer actually was.  But it forever changed the way that we looked at baseball, writing, baseball writing, and the world at large.  You're going to accuse us of hyperbole, but because of Rob Neyer's work, we became a bigger fans of baseball, better writers, more critical thinkers, and, because of these skills, ultimately better people.  Because Rob helped me learn to think critically, to not accept "truths" at face value, and to have a strong curiousity into how underlying systems worked.

I received The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract in the late 1980s as a present.  I read it cover to cover.  But I didn't really understand Bill James and what he was trying to say until I read Rob Neyer.  And I don't think I would be writing about baseball at all right now if it weren't for Rob showing all of us how it could and should be done.

So, a week ago, when Rob informed members of The SweetSpot Network that he was going to be leaving ESPN, it felt like a bomb had been dropped on our Gmail accounts.  We were shocked and sad.  Because Rob Neyer's invitation was the reason we joined The SweetSpot Network.  And because Rob Neyer is the father of baseball writing on the Internet.  Rob's gift was not necessarily the math, but his ability to communicate the math, to vouch and argue for it, and to inspire others to carry the torch for modern baseball analysis.  Baseball Prospectus.  Baseball Think Factory.  The Hardball Times.  Hardball Talk.  Fangraphs.  Hell, even Bleacher Report.  They all stem from Rob's work on ESPN.  From the intellectual curiosity and ambition that he and his mentor, Bill James, fostered in others. 

We have been incredibly proud to have gone, in the past few months, from his fans to his colleagues.  And we hope that we're also his friends.  So we're sad to see him leaving the website and the blog network he helped build.  But we have no doubt that Rob's going off to do something amazing.  And that he's going to be incredibly successful at it.  We're excited to find out where he's headed next.  Bill and I both wish him only the best of luck. 

Doug Melvin at SABR Day Milwaukee

By Bill

Saturday, January 29 was SABR Day. Around the country, local chapters of the Society for American Baseball Research held special meetings meant to celebrate that wonderful organization and attract new members. And the one that went on in New York seemed overwhelmingly awesome, but I myself was pretty blessed to get to drive up Highway 94 to Milwaukee and the meeting of the Ken Keltner Chapter. There was great food and a handful of interesting presentations (including a reprise of the Peanuts presentation by Lar from last year's annual convention), but the highlight of the event would have to have been the talk by Brewers GM Doug Melvin. (Picture to the right stolen without permission from Larry, because his came out better than mine.)

It was impressive enough that Melvin was there at all, but then he stayed and talked to us for nearly an hour and a half, starting with perhaps twenty minutes of entertaining off-the-cuff speech about the team and the offseason and then patiently and directly answering questions from the audience for an hour.

As you may know, I'm not actually a Brewers fan. Which might actually make my impressions of what he had to say more interesting (or that's what I keep telling myself). Here they be:

Friday, January 28, 2011

SweetSpot Roundup 1/28

The Common Man is gone for the weekend, so...more fun! Last time I was left to my own devices, I did everything in exactly eight words. This time, every summary starts and ends with the same letter. That may even mean I end a sentence or two with a preposition, but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make for you.

The View from the Bleachers (Cubs): Five Questions on the 2011 Season
How many steals for Starlin Castro? Also, more fantasy-based questions, on Aramis Ramirez, Brett Jackson and such.

Redleg Nation: It's a good time to be a Reds fan
So Jay Bruce is apparently a really good guy. So is Chad Cordero, which is good, because he's not all that great anymore at throwing baseballs Good lord. People, don't ever drink and link. Why on earth would I have thought this was about not-even-a-former-Red Chad Cordero and not actual-current-Red Francisco Cordero? I really have completely lost my senses.

Austin's Astros 290 Blog: Astros get bargain on Wandy's extension
That's probably true, but is Zito really the benchmark to compare him against?

Dodger Thoughts: Will James Loney turn his doubles into home runs?
No, after looking at this list of guys who have hit lots of homers but relatively few home runs, I really don't think he can.

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): Miller Park's New Scoreboard, Looking Good!
Yes, it certainly is. Jack created a .gif of the pictures of the installation of the new big screen, which is huge and fancy.

Mets Today: 19 DUPACR: Anthony Young
Anthony Young is one of the most interesting players in history. "Lost" 27 games in a row while posting a 3.89 ERA.

Crashburn Alley (Phillies): Comparing the Phillies' and Giants' Rotations
The Giants' is good, but Bill finds (and this Bill agrees) that the Phillies' is better, and by a lot.

Ducksnorts (Padres): Cantu Hear Me Knocking?
Padres sign Cantu. I think Geoff overstates Cantu's ability to play defense of any kind at all at any position, but $850K is a nice price for a bench bat with some pop.

Bay City Ball (Giants): WAR Bubbles for First-Round Pitchers
Some graphs of the Giants' pitching draft picks' performances.

Fire Brand of the AL (Red Sox): It's Time to Lay Off Jonathan Papelbon
Everybody, Darryl says, needs to stop worrying and learn to love the Jon Papelbon era before it's over. I'd agree (especially about the sports radio silliness), but getting that huge undeserved salary off the books will be nice.

Royals Authority: SABR in KC
Tomorrow is SABR day everywhere, and the event in Kansas City promises to be pretty great, including our own Craig and Nick, along with Jeff Passan, fresh off that great Voros McCracken article. I myself will be heading up to Milwaukee, to hear a presentation by our friend Lar and perhaps, rumor has it, Doug Melvin (I'm not a SABR member, yet, and it's my understanding that part of the point of this day is to attract non-members). You should definitely check out your own local event.

Nick's Twins Blog: Kevin Slowey: Know When to Hold 'Em
Nick brings a little enthusiasm into a dour offseason with the affordable arbitration-avoiding signing of Slowey. "Still only 26, he seems like a prime candidate to have a breakout year, recapturing and building on his success from the '08 season."

It's About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): My evening with Don Mattingly and Brian Leetch
A bunch of the IATMS guys and friends got to attend a Q&A with those two guys (I admit, I had to look Leetch up; former star in some weird ice-based sport with which I'm not very familiar). Jason has the story, and was very active with his Flip camera.

Baseballin' On a Budget (Athletics): Top Fives: Best Right Fielders in Team History
It's funny how quickly these lists drop off, almost any team and any position you look at. Not that Wally Moses, Socks Seybold and Elmer Valo were bad players or anything, but it's a long way from them to Reggie and Canseco. Know what's a great word? Teriyaki.

Pro Ball NW (Mariners): The Best Player In Baseball
Great work by Jon, who looks at the leader in WAR (and second- and third-best) over five year periods all the way back through history and then comes up with an all time progression of how one might say the title was passed down. Pretty fascinating.

The Ray Area: Take me out with the crowd
Mark responds to a writer who opined that watching a game in HDTV is better than attending one live, and ends (Mark does) by inviting that writer to a ballgame. I don't remember what life was like without my HDTV, and I don't want to...but I'd also rather be at the game, and can definitely see where Mark is coming from.

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): Dazed and Confused
"This is not really an analysis of that deal [for Napoli], however.  This is about trying to make sense of what the Rangers are doing in general. And failing to make sense of it."

Ghostrunner on First (Blue Jays): Stuck Between Stations
Excellent analysis of the Vernon Wells trade and what it means for the franchise in the big picture.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Underrated Is an Understatement for Choo

The Common Man is away on vacation, and I'm swamped at work. Luckily, we've got a guest all lined up for you: Jonathan Mitchell writes all kinds of smart baseball stats-y things at Figure Filbert, and you can follow him on Twitter. Here he writes about one of my favorite players [editor's note: I don't think I underrate him at all, I just still think people underrate Utley that much]. Enjoy!

I love underrated players. They not only make me look good when fantasy baseball rolls around but they make for good topics of discussion.

Shin-Soo Choo is a player that is often considered underrated, if not completely overlooked. Heck, there are probably some people that think he still plays in Seattle or in Korea. Choo’s name only comes up in discussions of underrated players, fantasy baseball drafts, and when the World Baseball Classic is being played. Nobody seems to ever mention Choo in the conversation of best players in the game, but I do.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nicknames For All! (except for Drew Butera)

By The Common Man

The Common Man is working on something else right now, but frankly this was too much fun to ignore for any longer. On Twitter today, TCM proposed a couple new nicknames for his favorite Twins today. Batgirl used to be terrific at this, but since she's no longer active and there are a lot of new faces, TCM thought it was time for some new ones.  In the spirit of that, here are TCM’s nicknames for most of the Opening Day roster:

Joe Mauer = Captain America

He’s the All-American boy and he plays like a superhero. Also, he has a mitt and padding to shield him, and he wears a mask. 

First Base: Justin Morneau = The Mountie

He’s big and burly and from Canada. And he needs a rugged nickname to counteract the perception that he’s somehow a wuss for having a concussion. Finally, you know you’d buy a comic book that had Captain America and The Mountie facing off against The Evil Empire.

Second Base: Tsuyoshi Nishioka = Yoshi

After the adorable dinosaur that tried to ruin Super Mario games.  TCM predicts better things for this Japanese import.

Third base: Danny Valencia = The Hebrew Hurricane

Valencia is Jewish and went to the University of Miami. Sometimes these write themselves.

Shortstop: Alexi Casilla = The Question Mark

Who is he? A shortstop who was mismatched at second base? A good hitter who had terrible years? A bad hitter who got lucky? Something tells TCM that we’ll find out in 2011.

Leftfield: Delmon Young = Skates

Because he plays leftfield like he’s on roller skates, or ice skates, whichever you prefer. Young’s defense is terrible. This used to belong to Lonnie Smith, but he’s long retired. We could update it to Blades instead.

Centerfield: Denard Span = The Nard Dog

The first one to suggests “Denarded” gets kicked in the solar plexus. Hard.

Rightfield: Michael Cuddyer = The Champion of Chesapeake

Remember geographically based nicknames? The Duke of Tralee? The Reading Rifle? Yeah, that’s all TCM’s got here. He’ll accept other suggestions, however.

Outfield-DH: Jason Kubel = Jerry

As in, Kubel should always work with a partner to dull his obnoxious inability to hit lefthanders. Alas, like Jerry Lewis, he often works alone and spoils his talents.

Designated Hitter: Jim Thome = The Masher


Starting pitchers:
Francisco Liriano = FranKKKKie or The Cisco Kid

Either is acceptable. Cisco is more about his youth and being a gunslinger. FranKKKKie denotes the strikeouts he rings up. TCM is happy either way.

Carl Pavano = The ‘Stache

God-willing, it will make a comeback.

Scott Baker = The Kid

Because even with that fake goatee last year, Scott Baker looks like he’s 12 on the mound.

Kevin Slowey = Bullseye

Slowey doesn’t walk anybody and, frankly, TCM’s always thought that Hawkeye was an uninspiring Avenger.

Nick Blackburn = Mugsy

Because somebody’s gotta have a cool, 1940s-esque nickname.

Brian Duensing = The Dunce

Hey, TCM likes Brian Duensing and thinks he should be in the rotation in 2011. But if he didn’t want an insulting nickname, he should have changed his last name.


Joe Nathan = The Executioner

Is this taken already? Boy, TCM hopes not.

Setup: Matt Capps = State Farm

He’s the expensive insurance policy in case Joe Nathan isn’t healthy to start the year.

Setup: Jose Mijares = Lumpy

Again, not all nicknames are nice, even though TCM like Mijares a lot. And Mijares kind of has a slovenly look about him on the mound.

Setup: Pat Neshek = The Freak

Neshek can keep his nickname. Also, he’s awesome.


IF: Matt Tolbert = Bump

He can’t hit, and doesn’t really field that well. Best if he just sits there like a bump on the bench and doesn’t move for nine innings.

Backup OF: Jason Repko = The Human High-Five

With Thome and Morneau back, Repko’s not going to get as much playing time this year, so he needs to work on his high-fiving skills on the bench and live up to this name.

Backup C: Drew Butera = Drew Butera

Frankly, The Common Man can’t be bothered to come up with a nickname for Drew Butera. He’s just worthless. If he just stopped coming to the ballpark, the only person who would notice is Carl Pavano.

(Update: Check the comments, as reader Taye's got a great suggestion for Drew Butera. TCM's pleased he didn't have to expend energy on that one.)

3 Questions: Cleveland Indians

By Bill

I've been going through the AL in order of 2010 record, best to worst. So far, every team I've covered has been above or right around .500. Wins in the AL went like this: 96, 95, 94, 90, 89, 88, 85, 81, 81, 80,
69, 67, 66, 61.

Yeah, so we've just hit the wrong end of that big ol' gap. The Angels were OK, and have gotten at least a bit worse; Cleveland was already really stinky, and hasn't really done anything to get less stinky.

1. Who is Grady Sizemore now?
Two years ago, Sizemore was coming off a third straight All-Star season, with two Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger and a bunch of down-ballot MVP votes. From 2006-08, he averaged 160 games played with 28 homers and 31 steals, hitting .279/.380/.499. In the two seasons since, he's played only a total of 139 games, hitting .239/.328/.410 with just 18 homers and 17 steals (in 27 tries).

A knee surgery sidelined him for most of 2010, and it's unlikely that he'll ever have the speed he used to (and the team won't miss the steals, but it's potentially kind of a problem for a center fielder). But he's still just entering his age-28 season, and the bat, at least, certainly could bounce back.

It's hard to pretend he's a key to the future success of this team, really; his contract ends after either 2011 or 2012 (it's a player option), so if he's still around to help the next contending Cleveland team, it'll be under a whole new contract. But the current team is a lot more interesting when Sizemore is healthy and good.

2. Is Carlos Santana feeling better?
That's a really obscure and terribly unclever reference to an obscure single by an artist I don't know anything about. Thanks Wikipedia! Anyway.

This is the other big injury question, and it is one that has big implications for the team's future, because if he's healthy, they could well have a superstar for basically no money for about the next five years. Santana was stolen from the Dodgers back in 2008, and the first 42 games of his MLB career, in 2010, were pretty fantastic: .260/.401/.467, with 2.2 WAR (something close to an MVP pace). It remains to be seen, of course, whether Santana can actually keep that pace up over a full season even if healthy, but between that sample and his minor league performance, it's pretty clear that they've got a very good hitting catcher on their hands. Santana badly injured his knee in a collision at home plate in August. He's reportedly doing great right now, but that's the kind of thing you hear a lot of in January. This doesn't figure to be a terribly exciting year for Cleveland, but it'll be an awfully important one for their future.

3. Is the next really good Cleveland team already in the system?
The big club has Santana, Matt LaPorta, Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Brantley, and maybe the most underrated player in baseball (I'd probably still put him second to Chase Utley), Shin-Soo Choo. The minor leagues have Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall, future star infielders who could be in the majors for good before the end of the season, and Drew Pomerantz, the 2010 first-round pick and left-handed pitcher with a chance to turn into a superstar. The system doesn't have nearly the talent of the Royals', but it's got some high-quality pieces, and coupled with the young talent already in the majors, they could be a pretty excellent squad in a couple years. Following those guys' progress promises to be a lot more fun than paying attention to the team's wins and losses this year.

SweetSpot Roundup: 1/25

Austin's Astros 290 Blog: Finding optimism in non-roster invitees
The Astros are inviting fewer retreads and more prospects this time around, and Austin hopes this is a good sign.

Capitol Avenue Club (Braves): Leaving His Mark
Frank Wren's put together a new Rookie Development Camp for Braves prospects that brings the youngsters to Atlanta to work out with the Big Leaguers and get a taste of the Majors.  CAC approves heartily.  Sounds very cool.

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): What do we look for in a Rickie Weeks contract extension?
Jack points out that, when he's healthy, Ricky Weeks might be the best player on the Brewers.  But can he stay healthy long enough to make a multi-year extension an acceptable risk?

Fungoes (Cardinals): Pujols and contract comparables
Pip looks at the benchmarks to which Prince Albert will want to be compared and, well, it doesn't look good for St. Louis.

The View From the Bleachers (Cubs): A look at the prospects in the Gorzo Trade
Joe tracks down fellow SweetSpotter Harper Gordek of Nationals Baseball, and gets his reaction to the latest Cubs acquisitions.

Dodger Thoughts: The 2011 National League West, A First Look
Jon Weisman's got a solid preview of the NL West and thinks the Dodgers are looking up at at least one of their rivals.

Bay City Ball (Giants): BCB's Top Prospect List #5-1
Otis and Chris shepherd you through the best players in the Giants' farm system.

Mets Today: Ike Davis, Mets LOOGY?
The craziest damn idea you'll hear today: "Of course, there are some issues to work out, such as getting Davis enough warmup pitches prior to the inning in which he’d be used. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of whether he’d be good enough to retire MLB hitters.  But the idea isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds, considering that Davis — son of former late-inning reliever Ron Davis — was a pretty good pitcher in college."

Nationals Baseball: The Education of Mike Rizzo
"There is value in security and bringing in Gorzelanny gives the Nats more security that a healthy major league caliber arm will be filling a rotation spot. It may not be flashy but it's an important step in being a respectable team."

Ducksnorts (Padres): Great Pitchers Duels in Padres History
Everybody remembers Andy Hawkins lost a no-hitter 4-0, but they often forget that he was a pretty good pitcher too, from time to time.  Here, Hawkins goes toe-to-toe with Orel Hershiser in the middle of his consecutive scoreless innings streak.

Redleg Nation: On Bob Castelini
Not every fanbase hates the fatcats in charge: "Castellini has been at the helm as a ship that had been drifting for a decade was finally set back on course. He deserves immense credit for leading this resurgence, and getting the right baseball people in the right places."

Baseballin' On a Budget (A's): Top Fives, The Best Centerfielders in Team History
The A's have had a lot of solid centerfielders, but no real superstars.  Number one is a surprise, but it's also one of TCM's favorite players and Carl Weathers lookalikes.

ProBall NW (Mariners): Will the Spending Catch Up to the Angels?
"So far they’ve survived, winning the AL West five times in the last eight seasons.  They’ve seen some very bad contracts come and go over the period, but they’re far from being in the clear.  How much longer can they keep being competitive while taking on overly rich deals?"

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): Paying the MVP
And if you don't, what happens when he leaves?  "The corresponding P.R. hit could be massive if he's permitted to walk away and is still producing All-Star numbers, but the front office has increasingly shown that it's more interested in making judicious baseball decisions than catering to the fans' every whim, and if there's one thing we learned about a bad P.R. image in 2010, it's that winning cures everything. Absolutely everything."

The Ray Area: So. Anything happen over the weekend?
On the Manny and Damon signings: "We got better because the Rays made a bold statement to all the teams in the AL East (including their own): we are still the defending champs and we still think we have a shot to repeat in 2011.That bold gesture had two positive effects. Everyone in this community was talking about the Rays this weekend.  More importantly, the players that are still in the Rays’ clubhouse got a nice reminder from management that no one has given up on anything in 2011."

Fire Brand of the American League (Red Sox): Can Salty Hack it in 2011?
"While the Yankees are staring down the possibility of starting Sergio Mitre as their #5 rotation-mate, the Sox are staring down the barrel of a different gun — that of Jarrod Saltalamacchia beginning the season as the club’s #1 catcher.  No one’s excited about it."  Not true.  I'm sure he has a mother.  Probably a girlfriend.

Royals Authority: The Butler Extension
Why is Clark not worried if Billy Butler has to become a fulltime DH?  Read on.

The Daily Fungo (Tigers): Tigers' Treatment of Sparky Anderson Descends From Sour Grapes to Bush League
"Yes, the fact the Tigers are honoring Sparky is a good thing — and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Dave Dombrowski that finally convinced Ilitch that the Great Sparky Schism needed to end.  But still, two months after his death? 18 months after the last, best opportunity?  Sorry.  “Better late than never” just doesn’t work for me in this instance.

Nick's Twins Blog: Saying Goodbye
We aren't the only ones flummoxed by the Twins' refusal to bring Nick Punto back for less than a million dollars.

It's About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): R-E-R-E-B-R-E-B-O-U-N-D, Rebound for Tex and A-Rod?
If these two cornerstones of the Bombers bounce back, the AL East is going to be a lot more interesting.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Latest Fiscal Waste in California

By The Common Man

Last night, TCM went out to get a new computer and have dinner and by the time he got home, the drama over the Vernon Wells/Mike Napoli trade was largely over.  Having missed out on the fun of Tony Reagins' career suicide, TCM thought he'd offer his thoughts today.  Friend of the Blog, James at True Grich, is pretty bullish about the trade,

Pundits are blasting the deal and I couldn't be happier. The way I see it, the talking heads of baseball are often wrong and when this many of them are so sure the Angels did something horrible, it just makes me smile.

I'm smiling because I won't have to watch Juan Rivera resemble a penguin in quick sand while trying to catch routine fly balls. I'm smiling because Vernon Wells just might bring a little swagger back to Anaheim.

I'm smiling because I am putting my rose colored glasses back on and looking at this addition as a step in the right direction. I know some people have issues with his contract, but right here, right now - I'm only focusing on the fact that the Angels just got a little bit better offensively and defensively.
Alas, James, you'll have to count The Common Man in with the rest of the pundits and forgive him if he's not quite as ecstatic.

This trade makes the Angels even more top-heavy, and brings in a non-elite player at an extremely elite price.  Wells, as has been noted everywhere else, is owed $86 million over the next four years, including another $20 million this year alone.  There is almost no way that Wells, now a corner outfielder and 31 years old, is going to be worth that money when he's even less mobile defensively and 36.  And don't think there's a chance in hell that the Angels will be able to move that contract before 2014 (and then, only with significant financial relief as part of the package).  Fewer and fewer teams are being run with the kind of short-sightedness that seems to have infected the Angels.

Excellent Angels blogger Garret Wilson, at Monkey With a Halo, writes that this is not a franchise killing deal for LA, given "after 2012 they have almost no guaranteed money on the books... like literally nothing aside from $4.5 million in option buyouts for Ervin Santana and Dan Haren."  While technically true, there's little to no chance that Reagins and Moreno are not going to pick up those options, meaning the Angels would already be committing $49 million to three players.  And keep in mind that, on top of that, Kendry Morales will be in his third arbitration year.  Even with the prospect of some salary inflation, that's a ton of money.  While the Angels have a decent farm system, and perhaps the best prospect in baseball in Mike Trout, they will still have to fill out some of the rest of their roster (especially their pitching staff) with expensive free agents.

As for production, it's unclear exactly how much Wells still has in the tank.  Moving to an outfield corner will help his defense, but his power spike came during a huge offensive explosion in Toronto, and it's doubtful that that is going to carry over given he hit just .227/.301/.407 outside of the Rogers Center last year. 

Toronto, meanwhile, has taken on two one-year commitments at $5.25 million (Juan Rivera) and what will probably be between $6-7 million in arbitration (Mike Napoli).  Rivera is likely gone after this season, and may not be a productive player in 2011.  However, his power is still real and he may experience a similar boost from the Rogers Center that Wells got last year.  That would help him to go back on the market as a Type A or B free agent, and allow the Blue Jays to squeeze some extra value out of him, in the form of a draft pick.

Meanwhile, Napoli is the big prize here, with legitimate 25 homer power out of the catcher position.  And, as he read yesterday (and promptly forgot where, if you know, drop TCM a line and he'll give it its proper attribution), Napoli's actually thrown out a higher percentage of baserunners than Angels starter Jeff Mathis, and prevented past balls at a better rate.  Napoli also offers some flexibility to the Blue Jays, who can use him behind the plate until JP Arencibia is ready, put him at 1B once that happens, or let him just DH and rake.  Again, with the power Napoli has shown in the past, surge of home runs is entirely possible in Toronto.  Last year, even spending 70 games at 1B and with his OBP down, Napoli was a 2-3 win player.  Look for him to eclipse that in 2011, and probably be even more valuable than the man he was traded for.

Alex Anthopoulos has taken advantage of a desperate Angels franchise who has been frustrated by  their inability to land big-name free agents this year, and who essentially announced with the Dan Haren deal last year, that they'd be remaining competitive this year.  It was an amazing trade for Toronto that has TCM wondering how long AA was able to hold his poker face before calling Reagins back to accept, so as not to spook his mark.

Despite this clear victory for Toronto, Los Angeles will likely be better in 2011 as a result of this deal simply because it gives Mike Scioscia a person he'll actually write into the lineup regularly who is better than Juan Rivera.  As Scioscia seems hell bent on playing Jeff Mathis and, with the return of Kendry Morales, there was no real spot for Napoli other than DH (where the Angels were exploring additional free agent options to further block him).  So at bats would have been few and far between.  The addition of Wells will allow Scioscia to move Bobby Abreu to the DH spot, while sporting an excellent defensive outfield with Peter Bourjos in CF and two former CFers (Wells and Torii Hunter) flanking him.  But it still doesn't excuse the long term damage to this franchise's health, nor would it have been necessary if Scioscia and Reagins had deployed Napoli correctly and Moreno and Reagins not failed so miserably over the rest of this offseason.

Now, if you'll excuse him, The Common Man has a 1999 Honda that he bought in in 2004 for $47,000, mistakenly believing it was a Mercedes.  He's going to call Tony Reagins this afternoon about assuming ownership and the payments.

That's a really, really old baseball

By Bill

This morning, my wife happened to be watching a recorded episode of Antiques Roadshow that premiered earlier this month, recorded in Miami Beach. I don't figure we have a large crossover audience with that particular program, so I thought this little beauty was worth drawing to your attention.

The photo to the right (from is a hand-stitched baseball, stamped to commemorate a game that was played on that day indicated, 6/23/59 -- that is, 1859. The appraiser for Roadshow, Chicago's Jasmani Francis, identified the "Atlantic" across the middle as referring to the team the Brooklyn Atlantics, the first champion of the National Association (which had been formed in 1857 but didn't award its first championship until that year, '59), but wasn't able to identify the meaning of the number 29 or "TIME15" on the stamp. (You can watch the initial, as-aired appraisal here.)

Not satisfied with his partial answer, Francis went back and did a little research, and came up with some more info:
I discovered in perusing this history-laden book [the Book of American Pastimes] that "Atlantic 29" and "Time 15" refer to the score of the baseball game that was played on June 23, 1859, between the Brooklyn Atlantics (who were also known as "Atlantic") and the Baltimore Pastime.
That's right, 29-15. Hey, you try catching that little rock-like thing without a glove! I think I'd just step out of the way and wait for it to stop rolling, myself.

Francis' additional research confirmed his opinion of the value of the ball: between $20,000 and $30,000. Commence daydreaming, sports fans.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thoughts On the End of the Nick Punto Era

By Bill

This morning, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Joe Christensen noted that, given that the Twins' payroll has swelled to about $113 million -- reportedly beyond their 2011 budget already -- the seven-year Twins career of free agent Nick Punto has likely seen its end (note: while I was writing this, "likely" became "definitely"; it was announced just moments ago that Punto has signed with the Cards). Christensen paints it as something of a day of celebration for the blogging community and many Twins fans, even mentioning (though sadly not by the creator's name) the Andrew Keeland-created Nick Punto Day last February. The idea of Christensen's column, basically, is that it looks like we won't have poor Nicky Punto to kick around anymore.

Craig Calcaterra's take is shorter and of a more analytical, on-the-field bent:
Punto was useful the couple of times his average was high, but he is a career .247/.321/.322 hitting utility infielder — albeit an overused one — who has made $4 million a year recently.  That’s a guy you cut bait on a long time ago in favor of a veteran who will take a minor league deal and maybe make a million bucks, max. It took the Twins a couple of years to figure that out, but now they have. 
Nothing against either Christensen, who is one of the best media guys covering the Twins, or Craig, who is a friend of TPA and is just excellent all around, but I think both these assessments miss the mark rather badly.

SweetSpot Roundup 1/21

UPDATE: Extreme apologies to Jason Rosenberg of the excellent It's About the Money, Stupid, for accidentally omiting his site from this roundup.  Jason and his crew have been knocking it out of the park in examining the Yankees' power structure in the wake of the Soriano deal and the Pavano non-deal, and the team's new payroll.  Check them out.  And sorry, Jason.

Fire Brand of the American League (Red Sox): Looking Ahead to Interleague Play
It's never too early to preview the most frustrating and pointless part of the MLB schedule. The Sox-Philly matchups will be fun this year, though.

Sox Machine (White Sox): Sox Machine: Feb. 1, 2006 - Jan. 19, 2011
That's a remarkably long time for a blog. Jim closed down his site on Wednesday, and will keep doing his excellent work over on South Side Sox. Sox Machine was an excellent blog, even if it was about my least favorite team in the world, and it will be missed.

The Daily Fungo (Tigers): Robert Fick: Ultimate Friend and Teammate
The headline is sarcastic, poking some fun at a famously prickly former Tiger, but the post is mostly about Matt Anderson's attempted comeback, which is a pretty awesome story.

Royals Authority: What to Expect from Luke Hochevar
"Over time, I have gotten over the angst of what could have been in that 2006 Draft (after all, I thought the Hochevar pick was a good one at the time) and taken Luke Hochevar at face value.   He will never live up to what we think a overall number one pick should be, but there are signs that Hochevar could be a solid major league starter."

Nick's Twins Blog: Insanity
Nick with some strong words about the Twins' $7 million+ contract with Matt Capps. Words that have the approval of...well, I don't want to speak for TCM, but at least 50% and very probably 100% of this Twins-fan-run blog.

Pro Ball NW (Mariners): Non-Roster Invitees
Some more interesting/familiar names than you'd usually expect to see on this list, including Gerut, Robertson, Kennedy and Langerhans.

The Ray Area: Baseball Prospectus schools the Ray Area on the value of "closers"
Discussing a very informative post by Colin Wyers at BPro, and what it means for the famously bullpen-challenged 2011 Rays.

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): On Michael Young's "Flexibility"
The plan, post-Beltre, is for the displaced and defensively challenged 3B to DH and shift around the infield when guys need a day off. Joey is understandably a bit concerned about how many times Young's limitations might get exposed this season, especially at second or short.

Ghostrunner on First (Blue Jays): The First Step in the De-Citofication Process
The AL SweetSpotters are having a pretty sweet headline day. "I come today not to bury Cito. Nor do I plan to excrete anything on or around his grave. I hope to pose a simple question1: should Vernon Wells continue as the Blue Jays cleanup hitter? The easy answer is no."

Capitol Avenue Club (Braves): Kenshin Kawakami vs. Nate McLouth
"Why is Nate McLouth essentially being handed the starting center field job in 2011 while Kenshin Kawakami is being shown the door?"  Given the terrible 2010 each player had, it's a fair question.

View From the Bleachers (Cubs): Don't Quote Me On That
 Chet reacts to the latest news from Wrigleyville, including the possibility that the Cubs might have messed with Sam Fuld's development.

Dodger Thoughts: Dodgers invite Gabe Kapler to Spring Training...
In with a lot of Dodger transaction news comes word that LA has signed one of the more beloved players in baseball.

Bay City Ball (Giants): Bad Soup
The Jeff Suppan signing underwhelms Otis: "Add him to the list of guys you hope don’t pitch meaningful games for the Giants this year."

Mets Today: Mike Pelfrey Named Mets Opening Day Starter
Things that Joe worries about: "The pessimistic side of me has two concerns about this decision to make him the #1 starter. First, I hope it doesn’t jinx him; can’t you just imagine something freakish happening in spring training to prevent Pelfrey from beginning the season? Sorry, as a Mets fan I always assume I’m walking on thin ice. Second, I’m a little concerned about Pelfrey regularly going up against the #1 starters of every other team."  First, sacrifice a goat or something and everything should be fine. Second, he's only going up against aces for the first couple weeks of the year.

Nationals Baseball: Coffey and Hairston
A couple of minor signings that strengthen the Nats if the players are used properly. Harper is cautiously optimistic.

Ducksnorts (Padres): What's a Few Million Dollars Among Friends?
Surprise, the Padres seem to be wildly profitable.

Crashburn Alley (Phillies): Should Phillies Fans Cheer Logan Morrison?
"A certain segment of Phillies fans on Twitter think the @LoMoMarlins love has gone too far, and worry that Philadelphia’s reputation as a tough sports town and the Phillies’ home field advantage are in jeopardy if fans openly cheer for Morrison at home games."  As Bill points out, those people are morons.
Bonus Crashburn:  You won't find a funnier salary discussion than the one Bill dreamed up between Ruben Amaro and Kyle Kendrick.  It's funny because it's true.

Redleg Nation: Reds sign Johnny Cueto for 4 years/$27 million
Here's hoping that some of Kicky McCueto (can this be his new nickname, please?)'s newfound fortune makes its way into Jason LaRue's pocket.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Minor League Journal Part II: A Whole New World

By Ian Heisel

(Editor's Note: Ian Heisel was a minor league pitcher in the Pirates organization for two years before joining Independent League Washington Wild Things for two seasons.  Ian has agreed to share his story as a minor league ballplayer with us here at The Platoon Advantage.  The first installment of his story, in which he describes being signed by the Pirates, is here.  Today, he discusses the whirlwind his life became after signing with Pittsburgh and heading down to Bradenton for Extended Spring Training.)

After all the excitement I had with my family in PNC Park when I signed my contract, it was time to get down to business. Merk, the scout I signed with, told me that I fly down to Bradenton, Florida in a few days to get my physical done early and get started before the other draft picks. Some kids have all summer to get what they needed to go away for college. I had just 4 days to clear out my room at college, get my car fixed because my engine blew up, pack, and say goodbye to my parents!


Last night, The Common Man sat down with his co-blogger Bill, and our good friend Larry Granillo of to talk some baseball.  It was a terrific and far-ranging discussion that touched on a lot of issues that we've been thinking about for a while.  Specifically, we covered Milton Bradley and whether he still had any future in Major League Baseball.  Then we swapped stories of our "favorite" clubhouse cancers, Derek Bell, Albert Belle, Bobo Newsom, and Hal Chase.  Carl Pavano's new deal with the Minnesota Twins got our thumbs up, and Bill was highly amused at the outrage Yankee fans felt that Brian Cashman suggested the Mustache make a return to the Bronx.  Finally, we talked about the just past MLK Day, and baseball's largely undiscussed role in the fight for Civil Rights.  In particular, we highlighted the work done by players who are not often discussed in this context, Frank Robinson, Larry Doby, and Satchel Paige.  Give us a listen after the jump.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

3 Questions: Chicago Cubs

By The Common Man

TCM had a big back yard perfect for playing “baseball” one-on-one in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Given that his friends always wanted to be the Twins, TCM was forced to have a fallback option, and so he chose the Cubs. And he grew to love the Cubbies for a short time. TCM spent the summer of 1990 hitting like Jerome Walton in Little League. He thought he had the cannon arm of Shawon Dunston. And he felt certain that Mike Bielecki was just as good a pitcher as Greg Maddux.

Oh, how the times have changed. Walton hit .269/.333/.376 for his career in just 1760 plate appearances. Dunston had a career OBP of .296 and was actually a pretty terrible defensive shortstop. Bielecki would go 40-47 over the next 8 years, while Maddux would go 310-189 over the next 19. And the Cubs would go on to be one of the most frustrating free spenders in Major League Baseball, losing almost all of their charm in the process.

So now, disillusioned, what questions could The Common Man possibly want to ask the Cubs? Here are three of them.  (Reminder, to see a list of our other entries in the 3 Questions series, click here)

Question 1: How good is Starlin Castro?

Castro started 121 games last year as a 20 year old, and hit .300/.347/.408, good for a 97 OPS+. Since 1950, only eight players have gotten more than 400 plate appearances as a SS at 20 years old. Here’s the list:

NameYearOPS+Runs Created
Alex Rodriguez1996160157
Edgar Renteria199610363
Starlin Castro20109762
Robin Yount19759064
Alan Trammell19788952
Elvis Andrus20098265
Gary Sheffield19898239
Edgar Renteria19978069
Robin Yount19767655
Jack Heidemann19705135

As you can see, Castro’s in some pretty elite company, and has outperformed Hall of Fame caliber players in Alan Trammell, Robin Yount, and Gary Sheffield, which bodes extremely well for Castro’s potential offensive development. Even Edgar Renteria has had a fantastic career.

The only hesitation Cubs fans should have about Castro’s future is regarding his defense, about which Fangraphs and Baseball Reference disagree vehemently. claims that Castro was 1.2 wins below replacement in the field, and the worst fielding shortstop in the National League according to Total Zone. Meanwhile Fangraphs rates Castro in the middle of the pack defensively, according to Ultimate Zone Rating, probably due to his high error total (27 errors in 1073 innings). It made a huge difference in the final analysis, as calculated that Castro was worth just 0.4 WAR because of his alleged awful defense. Fangraphs, meanwhile, rated him at 2.0 Wins Above Replacement.

But even if you accept’s poor rankings, prospect mavens have been bullish on his defensive potential as well. In 2010, Baseball America wrote that Castro “excels defensively…with range to both sides, body control and arm strength to make any play. Managers rated him the best defensive shortstop in the Florida State League. The Cubs also like his instincts, charisma, and work ethic. Castro just needs to time to fill out and polish his game. He made 39 errors last season, which isn't a high number for a young shortstop, but shows that he needs to play more under control.” Kevin Goldstein was also high on him, writing “His defensive fundamentals are outstanding for both his level and his age, with smooth actions, soft hands, a quick transfer, and a plus arm.” Either way, Castro looks to be a strong building block for the Cubs going forward, perhaps a future MVP candidate, and easily a championship-caliber player.  At any rate, he's not going the way of Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith.

Question 2: Is Mike Quade the right man to lead this team?

When Mike Quade took over for the distracted and uninspired Lou Piniella last year, the Cubs were 51-74. Under Quade, for the last month and a half of the season, the club played strong and finished 24-13. Since then, Quade has survived the official hiring process and gotten the “interim” label removed from his job title, at the expense of Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg. But was that 24-13 a fluke? Or was Quade really the inspiration the Bear Cubs needed?

Of managers who took over in midseason (and managed at least 20 games), Quade finishes tied in winning percentage with Phil Garner of the 2004 Astros for 10th all time with a .649 mark. Here’s the list of those managers, and how they did in subsequent seasons:

YearTeamManagerWinning PercentageOverall year 1 WPYear 2 WP
1912IndiansJoe Birmingham.750.490.566
1924GiantsHughie Jennings.727.608DNM
1927GiantsRogers Hornsby.688.597DNM
1932CubsCharlie Grimm.673.584.558
1950Red SoxSteve O’Neill.663.610.565
1938TigersDel Baker.661.545.526
1925GiantsHughie Jennings.656.566DNM
1919IndiansTris Speaker.656.604636
1999AngelsJoe Maddon.655.432DNM
2004AstrosPhil Garner.649.568.549

First, the good news: Every manager on the above list finished the following season with a record above .500, which bodes well for the Cubs in a weak NL Central. But here’s the bad news: First, none of them actually improved on their performance under these managers in year one. It’s pretty easy to understand why, as few teams could actually sustain a winning percentage of around .650 over the course of a season, as that’s the equivalent of a 105 win team. However, it’s also worth noting that four of the six managers saw their club’s overall winning percentage fall in year two, with only Joe Birmingham in 1913 and Tris Speaker in 1920 heading teams that were better than the previous year’s overall performance. The historical upshot for Quade is that there is little evidence that the enthusiasm factor for a new manager carries over into a second year at the helm. So while the Cubs players may have been lobbying for their interim skipper in 2010, they may change their tune if Quade can’t pilot the club to a better mark in 2011.

Question 3: So can the Cubs compete for the NL Central in 2011?

Sure, why not? They’ve upgraded their pitching (a very strong move in acquiring Matt Garza, and a good cheap pickup in Kerry Wood), and picked up a good buy-low candidate to man 1B. Zambrano looked like he was back on track at the end of 2010. They’ll have Castro for a full season. Aramis Ramirez can’t put up another .294 OBP again, can he? He had a .245 BABIP last year, but looked to still have his power, so he’s a decent candidate to rebound. Alfonso Soriano is never going to play to his contract, but he seems to have recovered at least some of his productivity (particularly on defense, if Fangraphs is to be believed).

The Brewers are still poised to be the favorite in 2011, and the Reds are the defending champs. But Milwaukee has absolutely no depth in case of injury and Cincinnati’s young pitching is suspect. The Cubs could easily sneak in, assuming they aren’t bit by the injury bug themselves.

SweetSpot Roundup 1/19

Capitol Avenue Club (Braves): Arbitration Forecast: Jair Jurrjens
Peter with an educational overview of the arbitration process generally, and then a look at some precedent in predicting how it might come out for Jurrjens.

The View from the Bleachers (Cubs): Video Book Review: No Angel
Dave, "thecubbiedude," provides a video review of a book about Hell's Angels. If putting our faces in front of a camera and talking to it becomes an SSN staple, I'm going to have to retire. Good job by Dave, though.

Redleg Nation: Joey Votto agrees to three-year contract
"I’m underwhelmed. Basically, the Reds have bought out all of Votto’s arbitration seasons. Meh." Seconded...

Dodger Thoughts: Dodgers invite Gabe Kapler to Spring Training, exchange salary arbitration figures with Kuo and Loney
Kind of an underwhelming news day for Dodger fans, I suppose, but I like Kapler and hope he plays forever, .578 OPS and all.

Disciples of Uecker (Brewers): Milwaukee Brewers Notes From The Dugout Club Winter Baseball Banquet
Jack got to go to a dinner with Craig Counsell and Gord Ash, and came back with some nice insights.

Mets Today: 28 DUPACR: The Hammer
That would be Days Until Pitchers And Catchers Report. They're counting down by celebrating a Mets player who wore the uniform number corresponding to the number of days remaining. Cool idea! Today it's John "The Hammer" Milner.

Crashburn Alley (Phillies): Kyle Kendrick's Arbitration Case
Bill imagines a discussion between Kendrick, his agent and Ruben Amaro. Very funny.

Ducksnorts (Padres): What's a Few Million Dollars Among Friends?
The Padres had the fifth-highest operating income in MLB in 2009. He's not exactly sure what the implications of that are (and neither am I), but it's awfully surprising. Also, he links to the Bill James piece I wrote, and that's awesome. His linking to it, I mean.

Bay City Ball (Giants): Top Prospect List, #10-6
Part two of the top prospect list, Surkamp to Parker.

Fungoes (Cardinals): Hall of Fame: Who's Next After Blyleven and Alomar?
Great, thorough, saber-friendly breakdown of deserving HOFers on the outside looking in (not limited to the current ballot either, refreshingly). I'm behind every one of them except Rick Reuschel...I know what the WAR says, but I just can't get my head around that one.

Nationals Baseball: He's Number 1! He's Number 1?
Looking at the (then-rumored, now mostly official) Gorzelanny trade.

Baseballin' On a Budget (A's): Balfour, Fuentes, and Everybody Talking A's
"I’m worried about using all the relievers that will be on the 25-man at any given time, because there are a lot of talented guys who will need work.  But…maybe the A’s are planning to keep the starters’ work loads down this year....Having seven guys in the bullpen that can be trusted in a lot of situations will not only shorten games, but it could maximize everyone’s talents."

Ghostrunner on First (Blue Jays): Fetch Me a Polish-to-Spanish Translator!
"If you factor in more park effects than simply HR/FB see what I mean. Marc Rzepczynski has all the tools to be a league-average starter— and a history of using them. Considering a few similar starters, he starts to look even better."

Pro Ball NW (Mariners): A's Stockpiling Relievers or Trade Chips?
Jon is impressed that, even if the A's falter in 2011, they've got plenty of guys to use to acquire talent at the deadline.

Baseball Time in Arlington (Rangers): Ranger Revenue and Payroll Projections
"Assuming the 2011 revenue projection presented at the top of this article is reasonably accurate, there appears to be some room for taking on salary either through free agency, trades, or extensions for pre-arbitration players."

The Ray Area: Winter Rankings
"Friedman’s prudence might be rewarded this summer (when the Rays should have enough flexibility to add a piece at the deadline if they are in the hunt) or next winter when they supplement their newly tested parts to make another run in 2012.  That said, when the Rays hoist the World Series trophy in 2012 or 2013 we might look back at this winter and remember that those teams were built on patience and prudence."

Royals Authority: Is Gil Meche's Retirement a Moral Issue?
"Making that choice isn’t a right or wrong thing, it’s just what Gil Meche wanted to do. I think assessing value judgments on people based on whether or not they chose to accept the money owed to them on a contract seems to be a slippery slope."

Fire Brand of the American League (Red Sox): 2011 Projections, Dice-K
"The bottom line is that Dice-K needs to change something, because what he continues to do year-after-year is wearing Red Sox Nation thin. Without any drastic effort to change his approach, I can’t project much more than another 4-plus FIP season."

The Daily Fungo (Tigers): Tuesday Tananas
The Brad Penny signing, Armando Galarraga DFA, Jeremy Bonderman joblessness, and Hank Greenberg sale to the Pirates.

Nick's Twins Blog:  Jim Thome and the (Modest) Price of Insurance
"Should worse come to worst with Morneau, it's comforting to know that the team now at least has someone on the roster capable of making up for even a fraction of that missing power production."

Sox Machine (White Sox): Soriano deal proves why White Sox, Boras don't mix
"Soriano’s contract concedes nothing. It’s the kind of contract that only the Yankees and Red Sox could absorb, so they’re better off having him. Nevertheless, the next time you start to consider the White Sox pursuing a marquee Boras client, remember this deal. This is why it never happens."

It's About the Money, Stupid (Yankees): Kevin Millwood?  I'll Take That
"He’s nowhere near the 5 win player he was in 2006 anymore, but for the likely cost and a one year deal, he strikes me as having enough upside to be worth a flier in a rotation that needs some upgrades on the back end in the short term."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

3 Questions: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

It wasn't a very long time ago that you could sit there on March 31 and just pencil the Angels in for the AL West division title. But they've taken a step back over the last year or so, while at least two of their division-mates have taken large steps forward. This winter, they seem to have taken the "wait and see wait and wait and wait" approach to improving the ballclub. What will it mean for 2011?

1. What on earth are they doing?
Well, I suppose "nothing" is the answer, but the question is: why?  Coming into this offseason, the Angels were fringe contenders in a very winnable division who appeared to have the most resources in the division.  They were favorites to land Carl Crawford, then Adrian Beltre, and have been linked now and again to a number of other big names.  But as The Common Man noted in ranking their offseason 30th out of 30, none of that happened.  They've added nothing at all except two relief pitchers (only one of them any good) who aren't likely to have a whole lot of leads to protect.  They do presumably get Kendry Morales back for a full season, and that's good, but that's it. In the end, Arte Moreno, once one of the fan favorites among owners (not that that's saying a lot), and Tony Reagins and company end up looking like overconfident tightwards who were way, way behind the curve of the new, apparently post-recession baseball economy. 

This is a team that wasn't as good as the A's or Rangers last year, and that sat back and simply got older while those two teams got better.  This is a team of guys in their late twenties to mid thirties that, if there's a reason for its being constructed this way at all, was built to win now, not to wait for Mike Trout to come around a year or two or three down the line. And they're just not very well set up to do that.

What Do Voters Owe to the Past?

By The Common Man

Jim Reeves turned the Hall of Fame Sanctimony up to 11 today in describing his role as a voter, saying,
"Judge and jury? Moral compasses? Gatekeepers? Yeah, maybe so, because that's the responsibility we accept when we qualify to become a Hall of Fame voter. Because of the steroids issue, it's a responsibility that has become so charged with controversy, I have even considered rejecting that honor and asking that my name be taken off the rolls as an active voter. It was a difficult and often agonizing challenge before the steroids era descended upon us. You can only imagine what it's like now.

But I haven't quit as a voter -- not yet, anyway -- because I consider it a sacred responsibility to the great players of the past to keep their exclusive club as clean and pure as possible. And yes, I say that with full knowledge that there are already a few in there with questionable credentials and backgrounds. All I can do is the best that I can. I owe that to late greats such as Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig, Eddie Matthews and Roberto Clemente. I owe it to Nolan Ryan and Fergie Jenkins, to Alomar and Blyleven.” (h/t to Craig Calcaterra)
Really, though, here's what The Common Man can't figure out:  Where does this idea that BBWAA members "owe something" to past players come from?  Most of the players in the Hall of Fame are dead and gone, and a lot of them weren't all that great people to begin with.  What could Jim Reeves possibly owe to them, and why? Did he ever meet Joe DiMaggio or Lou Gehrig? Did he ever cover Eddie Matthews or Roberto Clemente? Does he even acknowledge that baseball was not clean during the careers of Nolan Ryan, Fergie Jenkins, Roberto Alomar, and Bert Blyleven? 

No, of course not. What Reeves means is that he owes it to his idea of what these players were, and how they supposedly competed. But that’s ridiculous. These are not great men. These are ballplayers. Yes, Americans love to watch them play and tend to idolize and glorify them. But, ultimately, they are only ballplayers, just as human as a typical doctor, teacher, engineer, or lawyer (well, maybe they’re better than lawyers). DiMaggio was, by most accounts, a jerk of a human being who was almost indescribably arrogant and unpleasant, and only got along with Lefty Gomez…because everybody got along with Lefty Gomez. If Reeves had to cover DiMaggio, he likely would have hated the chore of getting anything out of the reclusive great.

Clemente was a humanitarian, but he also punched an autograph seeker in 1966 (later calling it "a misunderstanding") and played on teams with known drug and PED users (such as Dock Ellis, who famously combined LSD and Amphetamine use).  Isn't that now the same evidence being used to hang Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza?  That they "associated with" PED users? 

And Fergie Jenkins was caught, during his playing career no less, with cocaine, marijuana, and LSD in his possession. Didn't Reeves want Ron Washington fired for testing positive for cocaine use?  Didn't he argue that Lawrence Taylor shouldn't be allowed in the NFL Hall of Fame because of cocaine use (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Jan. 30, 1999)? 

So what does Reeves owe to those players?  Nothing.  After all, they are in the Hall because their playing careers were more important than whatever personal issues they may have had.  If anything, Reeves should respect that these players were good enough to overcome those issues and apply that precedent accordingly to modern candidates.

But does Reeves owe anything to his forerunners in the Baseball Writers’ Association to keep the Hall “pure?” Well, it’s not like they were terribly concerned with keeping it pure to begin with. After the 1926 season, Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker, after all, had been jointly accused of throwing a ball game in 1919. Dutch Leonard alleged that he, Cobb, Speaker, and Joe Wood had arranged for Cleveland to lose the last game of the year, thereby allowing the Tigers to clinch third place (for which every player was awarded a bonus from the league). Leonard also alleged that the four had put money down on the game, since they knew the outcome, arranging to bet through a Tigers employee, Mark West. While Leonard’s testimony was scrutinized heavily, Cobb admitted something was afoot. Testifying to Judge Landis, Cobb reported that Leonard had come to him with help in arranging a bet on the game, and that he had set the pitcher up with West as “a man they could trust.” Joe Wood similarly admitted that he had knowledge of this, while Speaker denied knowing anything.

Nevertheless, there is at least as much evidence that Cobb and Speaker threw a game as there is that Jeff Bagwell or Frank Thomas or Mike Piazza used steroids, and they were ushered into the Hall in the first two classes by Reeves’ ancestors in the BBWAA. Indeed, while their rhetoric may indicate otherwise, writers have never had regard for the Hall as something sacred. They've always (except in the case of Joe Jackson) allowed talent to trump "purity."  So Reeves doesn’t owe them anything either in terms of keeping the Hall of Fame somehow "pure" and "above reproach."

What Reeves and today's BBWAA voters do owe is an explanation. Reeves, for instance, needs to explain how he can sit in judgment now while he, in his 40 years covering the Texas Rangers (one of the organizations most tainted by steroid and PED allegations), neglected to write a single article about steroid use in baseball until 2004 when he began arguing that Barry Bonds “should not be allowed” to pass Hank Aaron (Fort Worth Star Telegram, December 4 and 15, 2004).   (The Common Man doesn't often do this, but he is admitting he was wrong.  Reeves did write about steroids on May 31, 2002, when he wrote that steroid users "should all be wearing a scarlet 'S,'" and that Rusty Greer never saw steroids in the Ranger clubhouse.  He also defended Gabe Kapler against steroid accusations in August of 2000.  And on August 25, 1998, he said, wait for it, that the story about Mark McGwire's andro use "is overblown" and that "You wouldn't begrudge Nolan Ryan his Advil, would you? Troy Aikman his Met-RX? Popeye his spinach?"  He continued to write about steroids on occasion between 2002 and 2004, all excoriating steroid users, never questioning his profession's role in missing them for so long, and he did not, at any point in that time, seem to admit the Rangers' entanglement in the problem with the exception of Ken Caminiti.)  In 2005, he wrote,

“As a baseball beat reporter from the mid-'70s to the mid-'80s, I was always a little uncomfortable with that mantra. It was my job to see that what happened in the clubhouse didn't necessarily stay there.

Drug usage, for instance, wasn't something that was going to stay covered up.

There might have been a time when jars of "greenies" -- amphetamines -- sat openly on tables in the clubhouse, where players could grab them as they walked by, but either they were gone by the time I started covering the Rangers, or I was too green myself to recognize them. Same goes for steroids. If they were there, I didn't see them or recognize them, and players certainly weren't sticking needles into their bodies in front of snoopy reporters….I did my share of sniffing around, but not, if I could help it, in the bathroom.” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Feb. 13, 2005)
This is part of an article that criticizes (without apparent irony) Jose Canseco for “violat[ing] the code of the clubhouse.” Reeves and other BBWAA voters owe you and the players they covered an explanation as to why they care so much about steroids in the Hall of Fame vote today, when they apparently couldn’t even be bothered to go in the bathroom to look for them 15 years ago.