Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pete Rose's Ban- 20 Years Later

There may not be a more polarizing figure in all of sports than Pete Rose. There are some who might be just as polarizing (Michael Vick?), but no one is more so.

This week marks the 20th anniversary of Rose's ban from baseball by then Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti. As part of the banishment, which Rose agreed to, Rose admitted that there was "a factual reason for the ban" and in exchange, MLB agreed to make no formal finding that Rose had bet on baseball. After taking his place on the Permanently Ineligible list, Rose had the right to appeal for reinstatement after one year.

20 years later, Rose still has not been reinstated.

Sports anniversaries mark time for writers, talking heads and every Joe, Bob, and Frank to voice an opinion about any particular topic, and this one is no different. Two baseball writers I enjoy tremendously have weighed in on the topic. Joe Posnanski writes that after 20 years, it's time to forgive Rose and allow him back into baseball. Jayson Stark writes that Rose still isn't in the Hall of Fame, and he never will be.

I take a harder stand on Pete Rose than either of these men. He's not in the Hall, he's not allowed in baseball, and he should never be allowed to do either.

It's there in every clubhouse in the major leagues. Rule 21(d):

"BETTING ON BALL GAMES. Any player, umpire, or club official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform shall be declared ineligible for one year. Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible."

You can't bet on baseball. Betting on football or basketball or horses or Popes isn't great, but it won't get you banned. Betting on baseball will. And Pete Rose did that. A lot.

The point isn't even one worth arguing. The Dowd Report offers painstaking detail and irrefutable proof that Rose bet on baseball, and in fact on the team he was managing, the Cincinnati Reds. (Note: I haven't read the whole Dowd Report, unlike the Mitchell Report... I have read the highlights though). Even after years of trying to refute the findings of the report, Rose admitted in 2004's My Prison Without Bars that he had in fact bet on the game that made him famous.

This fact, absent anything else, gives merit to Rose's place on the permanently ineligible list. And I am so sick and tired of hearing fans and media types alike whine about steroid-using players potentially winding up in the Hall of Fame, when Rose won't be there, and that this is such a crime. I could not disagree more. None of the players who took steroids put the integrity of the game itself in peril. The integrity of the record book? Yup. Of themselves? You bet. But the game? No. Everyone who used some sort of PED did it to try to perform better. Why did Pete Rose bet on baseball? To help his team win? Hardly.

Rose apologists point out that he never bet against his team. Hmm. Let's look at that a bit closer. Let's say this is true. The Dowd report also notoriously outlines how Rose usually did bet on his team- except when two pitchers, Mario Soto and Bill Gullickson, were scheduled to start for the Reds. So if he bet on his team every game, except when those two started, what message does that send to others betting that game? That's an implied bet against your own team if ever there's been one. Dowd also has publicly stated that he believes Rose bet against the Reds, but was unable to substantiate it enough to include in his report. (Note: that links to a story written before Rose's book confession).

So Rose is guilty of the crimes, no doubt about that. But what about 'second chances,' like we've heard so much about recently because of the other polarizing figure I've mentioned, Michael Vick.

I read an interesting article in Time about a month back about the last days of the George W. Bush Presidency, and how in that time, Vice President Dick Cheney pushed extremely hard for a pardon for his aide Scooter Libby, who was convicted of obstructing justice in the Valerie Plame CIA leak affair. The case is complicated and covers many of the shadowy areas of the political game, but basically Scooter Libby, who was Cheney's chief of staff, lied to the federal government about his role in the whole case, and was convicted of the associated crimes.

Cheney pushed hard for a pardon from Bush. Because of the relationship between the two men, Bush considered Cheney's request carefully, and dutifully researched the basis on which a pardon can be granted. From the Time article we learn "(The criteria for a pardon are): accepting responsibility for the crime, doing time and demonstrating remorse. 'Pardons tend to be for the repentant,' says a senior Administration official familiar with the 2007 pardon review, 'not for those who think the system was politicized or they were unfairly targeted.'" The other way a pardon can be granted is for a miscarriage of justice.

So there's the standard. If the President (or in this case, Commissioner) is to grant a pardon, some key expectations need to be met. Which of these has Rose met? He's been out of baseball 20 years, if that counts as time served, but that's it from what I can see.

And I'm not counting that 20 years as time served. You know why? Because for 15 of those years, Rose went around lying about his activities. He lied to you, he lied to me, he lied to all of us. He wrote a book in which he lied, he looked into the camera on countless occasions and lied, and he had no remorse for lying.

Then, in 2004, with perhaps a ray of light on the horizon, Rose decided to tell the truth. Did he have a press conference to announce his confession? Did he sit down with Bob Costas or Jeremy Schaap or Peter Gammons? No. He wrote a book, then tried to use the confession as the driving force to sell the book. Then, he released it the same weekend as the 2004 Hall of Fame inductee announcements, stealing the stage from Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley, two men who had legitimately battled their own vices and came out stronger on the other side. All the while, Rose has made no changes in his life. He hasn't quit going to the race track or gambling on other sports, he hasn't acted repentant or sorry or anything. Contrition? Remorse? Please, save it.

What about miscarriage of justice? Was Rose treated unfairly? The rules of baseball, and precedent, suggest no, he was treated exactly as he should have been.

In the Scooter Libby pardon situation, after the accused showed zero expression of remorse or contrition, Bush put the question plainly to a top deputy on the matter, saying "What's the bottom line here? Did this guy lie or not?"

The lawyer replied affirmatively.

"O.K., that's it," Bush said.

Say what you want about George W. Bush, but he is a man of principle. And seeing no reason to grant a pardon to someone who had been treated fairly, Bush let the punishment stand.

Likewise, there is no reason at all for Bud Selig to do anything for Pete Rose except to let the punishment stand.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Eric Bruntlett, The Walking Trivia Answer

Thinking about Eric Bruntlett over the past few days, a funny thing occured to me. For a guy with as little talent and accomplishment as he has, Bruntlett has carved out a nice little piece of Phillies history for himself.

Since arriving in Philadelphia prior to the 2008 season, Bruntlett is hitting .199 with two home runs and 21 RBI with the Phillies while appearing in 181 games.

However, look at what he's done...

- His arrival is a bit of a piece of history, given that he was part of the deal that brought Brad Lidge to Philadelphia. Lidge promptly went a perfect 48-48 in save opportunities through the regular and postseason.

- He scored the game-winning runs in games three and five of the 2008 World Series against Tampa, only the Phils second World Series championship in their long (long) history.

- Now he is the owner of an unassisted triple play on August 24th, 2009 against the Mets, only the second game-ending unassisted triple play in major league history.

What is especially interesting about Bruntlett is that none of his accomplishments really reflect any particular ability. Some baseball anomalies (four homers in a game, a 20-strikeout game) take a particular skill set that sets you apart even from other pro baseball players, such as tremendous power or a great set of pitches. Bruntlett's pieces of history contain none of that. He was a secondary piece as part of a trade for a closer, on his two game-winning runs in the World Series he pinch-ran and stayed in the game defensively for the historically slow Pat Burrell, and now he was covering second base as runners broke from first and second and a line drive was hit right at him, leaving him only to catch, step and tag.

For whatever reason Bruntlett, not Chase Utley or Jimmy Rollins or any of the other star players the Phillies have, consistently finds himself a part of unique Phillies history. And good for him.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Weekend Wrap-Up

- Cliff Lee continues to amaze. Now 5-0 with a 0.68 ERA while allowing 24 hits and striking out 39 in 40 innings since coming to the Phillies. Dominant.

- Cole Hamels, not so much. You can make a pretty decent case that Hamels is the Phillies fourth best starter right now, after Lee, Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ.

- Three fairly entertaining games between the Yankees and Red Sox over the weekend, which Tom Verducci wrote a nice bit about. I especially agree with his take on A.J. Burnett, who might well hold the keys to the Yankee puzzle in his right hand.

- Burnett as the Yanks game two starter in a playoff series should be a little unsettling to Yankee fans. C.C. Sabathia's career playoff ERA? 7.92. And that's with a two runs in six inning performance for the Tribe as a 20 year old eight years ago. Take that game against the Mariners out, and C.C.'s playoff ERA in all other appearances rises to 9.47.

- One point Verducci makes in his article is about the decline in numbers for the Sox players while the Yankees have all gone up. Well, Jorge Posada (up seven homers and 98 points), Mark Teixeira (seven homers and 39 points) and Johnny Damon (up eight homers and 25 points) all seem to be enjoying a little home cooking in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. Posada especially. Come on dude, 98 points!

- Verducci's note about Jason Varitek's declining production is telling.

- I think in the improbably of all improbabilities, Derek Jeter is actually flying a bit under the radar this season. Whatever, .330 is .330, and the only shortstop as old as Jeter to hit .330 in a season was Honus Wagner. That's heady company.

- Billy Wagner, sorry that in Philadelphia we expected you to do your job, and weren't too happy when you didn't, which seemed to happen too often in your most important appearances here. Paging Craig Biggio...

- One of the runners who scored ahead of Biggio on that home run was one Eric Bruntlett. You may have heard, Bruntlett turned an unassisted triple play to end Sunday's game with the Mets, only the second game-ending unassisted triple play in major league history. Just wow.

- The Rockies signed Jason Giambi. He's probably done, but a good low risk move. Why not?

- The Rays roughed up Roy Halladay on Monday night, dealing him his worst outing in two years. The Rays got to Halladay for seven earned runs and 12 hits in six innings. Sporting a 2.68 ERA on July 31st, Halladay has had an ERA of 4.50 during the month of August, and in his starts he's given up 12 hits, nine, and eight three times. I'm sure getting dangled for a month but not moved has nothing to do with it, J.P. Ricciardi.

- Speaking of embattled GMs, Omar Minaya looks like he'll be back for 2010. Philadelphia and Atlanta rejoice.

- Johan Santana on the shelf for the rest of the year. Hey, K-Rod, are you the team to beat? Apparently so, because everyone is.

- You can also revisit some 'expert' predictions for the 2009 baseball season. ( In case you're keeping track at home, that was 17 out of 21 writers and 13 out of 13 writers who selected the Mets to make the playoffs this year.

- I love when the Mets fall apart. Objective journalism and opinion on this topic? Not even close.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Thursday Through Saturday

- writer Cliff Corcoran explored a vital but underrated element of a baseball team in a column ranking the top 10 setup men in baseball today. Call me a homer if you want, but Ryan Madson has to be higher than sixth on that list. Which guy ahead of him has run through lineups with Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Manny Ramirez and Evan Longoria in the playoffs? Oh, that's right, none of them. I don't give a crap about WXRL, which Corcoran seems to rely upon heavily in his rankings. That's about as worthless as VORP. This looks like a case of letting stats override everything else. I don't know Madson's WXRL, and I don't care. He passes the eye test. He can blow you away with a riding 95-98 mph four-seamer, or make you look silly with an 80-82 dead fish change that disappears down and away from lefties.

- I really do like a lot of the guys on the list, though.

- On Friday's 610 WIP AM midday show, former major leaguer David Segui raised an interesting possibility about Brad Lidge's current struggles. While much has been made about Lidge's health and his mental state, Segui said that he thinks Lidge is tipping his pitches, which is especially harmful to a pitcher like Lidge with only two pitches, the fastball and slider. If Lidge is tipping pitches, a hitter can eliminate one, and just look for the other, thus making things much easier on the hitter. Part of Segui's resoning is that there are pitchers with arms and stuff far inferior to what Lidge currently has that are having success right now. While I agree that there's a possibility that Lidge is tipping pitches, I think his bigger problem is fastball location.

- Phillies starters went the entire three-game series against Arizona this week without issuing a walk.

- Diamondback reliever Daniel Schlereth bears a resemblence to his football playing father, Mark. I'm sure he's a nice kid, he's got some good stuff and a bright future in the bigs. However, he doesn't look ready for the majors right now.

- The Red Sox seemed to have put in a claim on Billy Wagner. Wagner could help them, but they'd be a lot better off if they could get their starting rotation in order.

- Of course, Jonathan Papelbon doesn't necessarily agree.

- The AL East race is OVAAAAAAA. But I think the AL Wild Card winner will come out of that division.

- The Nationals removed the 'interim' tag and named Mike Rizzo their full-time GM on Thursday. Rizzo has a long way to go in rebuilding the image and baseball operations of a team in shambles after the Jim Bowden fiasco, but signing Stephen Strasburg and making some decent trade deadline moves are positive first steps.

- Today's edition of why the Mets are the greatest... Gary Sheffield demands an extension, doesn't get one, and leaves. I wouldn't extend him either. Way to show yourself to have mellowed and matured at age 40, Sheff.

- Brad Lidge looked about as good as he has all year in a perfect inning Saturday night against the Mets. Two strikeouts on nasty, nasty sliders.

- Finally, Brett Myers did make his first rehab appearance on Thursday night for Class A Clearwater after being delayed with an eye injury that may or may not have been the result of a bar fight. Myers allowed two hits, but struck out the side. Or, as my roommate put it "I'd prefer to say he had three punchouts." Perfect.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

All-Presidential Name Team

As a member of the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR), I get many emails regarding different elements of baseball's history (Quick side note, I'm in SABR for the history of the game, not to make up new statistics or try to argue why Bobby Abreu is a top 10 player all-time). One email series that I am a part of is the 'Theme Teams', whereby a theoritical team will be made up with one thing in common (recent examples have been the 'All-Mullet Team' and the 'All-Played For More Than One Team With Pat Gillick as GM Team'). Combining my love of baseball with my love of American history, I present to you my All-Presidential Name Team...

Everyday Lineup
C- Gary Carter
1B- Conor Jackson
2B- Adam Kennedy
3B- Charlie Hayes
SS- Ron Washington
OF- Shoeless Joe Jackson
OF- Otis Nixon
OF- Hack Wilson
DH- Reggie Jackson

Starting Rotation
SP- Walter Johnson
SP- Whitey Ford
SP- Randy Johnson
SP- Matt Harrison
SP- Dave Bush

C- Terry Kennedy
INF- Reggie Jefferson
INF- Tony Taylor
INF- Howard Johnson
OF- Von Hayes
OF- Claudell Washington
OF- Craig Monroe
OF- Trot Nixon

CL- Brian Wilson
RP- Mark Grant
RP- Terry Adams
RP- Mudcat Grant
RP- Grant Jackson
RP- Reggie Cleveland

Manager- Davey Johnson

League President- Ban Johnson

Wednesday in the Bigs

- Can Cliff Lee really be this good? After last night's complete game, two-hit, 11 strikeout performance, he is now 4-0 with a 0.82 ERA and two complete games in four starts with the Phillies. He's even 5-13 (.385) at the plate. The graph in the linked story shows the comparison of Cliff Lee's first four starts with Philadelphia this year and C.C. Sabathia's first four starts with the Brewers last year. Very interesting.

- Lee threw 106 pitches, 81 for strikes. Wow. Granted, it was against the same Diamonback lineup that I downplayed after Jamie Moyer's appearance on Tuesday, but there was an obvious difference in 'stuff' between Lee and Moyer.

- Arizona leftfielder Ryan Roberts, tattoos and all, may be a very nice guy, but he's been struggling in the outfield during the Phils series.

- Could Roy Halladay be pitching any better than Cliff Lee is right now? Doubtful. And Lee didn't cost the Phils any of their top prospects.

- Halladay has been less than stellar since the trade deadline, and got hit around a bit by the Red Sox last night.

- I bet you don't realize how good a season Shane Victorino is having. I don't, and I watch him everyday.

- Longtime Phillies writer Bill Conlin opines today that Victorino is the best centerfielder in Phillies history. I don't know if I agree just yet, but I know that if Bill Conlin says it, I'll at least have to consider it.

- The Mets have placed Billy Wagner on waivers in an attempt to move him. Apparently he's looked great in rehab outings, but he's 38, coming off of Tommy John surgery, and expensive. Someone will take him, I'd guess, but only if the Mets eat alot of money.

- The Angels may be the best team in the AL, but I don't trust any team that's most important offensive player is Bobby Abreu.

- The Yankees might have something to say about the claim that the Angels are the AL's best.

- Maybe Brett Myers did injure his face in a fight after all.

- The Sawx and Rangers are on the sea-saw now for the wild card lead. Can the Rangers really hang in and take it after so many late season disappearing acts? Mike Maddux is not getting nearly enough credit for the work he's done with that pitching staff.

- Don't look now, but the Rockies are now only 3.5 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West.

- Reid Gorecki is 'Moonlight' no more. He flew out on the first pitch in his first big league at-bat, and then got a single and an RBI in his second trip to the plate in the Braves 15-2 win over the Mets on Wednesday night in Queens.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Since Friday

- I'm glad that Stephen Strasburg and the Nats were able to come to an agreement, as it's the best thing for both sides. No one ever comes out of it well when draft picks don't sign.

- Can we all agree one and for all that Scott Boras is just a pompous blowhard? Boras insisted that Strasburg was worth a $50 million bonus, only to have the latest greatest Wunderkind sign for $15.1 million. Now, $15.1 million is a lot of money, a record for a drafted player in fact, but it's also barely 30% of the ridiculous amount Boras publicly clamored for. What a clown.

-Royals draft pick Aaron Crow, who never signed after getting drafted by the Nats last year, still isn't signed. The August 18th deadline doesn't apply to him because he's exhausted his college eligibility, but dude, come on, sign your name on the line and go pitch in pro ball.

- Good to see David Wright is okay after a scary beanball on Saturday night. Even more amazing is that Hiroki Kuroda is alright following a line drive off the coconut that same night. The ball that hit Kuroda actually caromed all the way out of play. Awful.

-Interesting article by Tom Verducci about the beanball culture taking root in the modern game. The best point about all of this that I've heard was actually on TV the other night. I don't remember who said it (I think Peter Gammons?), but the point was that aluminum bats have changed the way hitters grow up. Because aluminum covers over hitting mistakes, pitchers stay away, away, away from hitters growing up, which in turn keeps hitters from learning how to react and protect themselves (hitting wise and getting hit wise) on pitches in, and pitchers don't learn how to effectively and safely (pitching-wise and harming a hitter wise) throw inside.

-The Mets lineup was already awful, and now if David Wright really is out for the year, they may not play .400 ball the rest of the way, never mind .500 ball.

-If you're a Mets fan, how many guys on that roster do you even want back next year? Wright, Reyes, Santana, Beltran, K-Rod, and... who?

-Learn to like it, Met fans, as a high payroll, underperforming team and millions of dollars of Wilpon family losses in the Bernard Madoff scandal mean the Mets are unlikely to make big changes this offseason.

- The Rangers, who need all the pitching help they can get, decided to get rid of Vicente Padilla. He's got great 'stuff', but he's evidently a space cadet, a bad teammate, and seemingly a bad guy. The Dodgers may be kicking his tires though.

- Brett Myers says he told a tall tale about how he hurt his eye because he didn't want to look like an idiot. Well, saying you got hurt playing catch with your son then changing the story hours later makes you like like, well...

- John Smoltz' absence from baseball appears to have been brief. If you've ever wondered about how difficult it is to find pitching, just look at the demand for a 42-year old with a 2009 ERA over 8.00.

- The Rangers reaquired Ivan Rodriguez yesterday, bringing him back to the site of the most productive years of his career. Pudge is 37, but it feels like he's been in the bigs forever, because he almost has. His years in Texas may or may not have been fueled by some, uh... help, if you will.

- Jamie Moyer had a nice outing for the Phils against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night, and carried a bit of an attitude with it. As long as the attitude doesn't become too big, that can only help the Phillies, as healthy competition rages for coveted spots in the playoff rotation and bullpen.

-I still say Jamie Moyer isn't on the playoff roster. Yes, he had a nice outing last night, but come on, the D-backs three hole hitter was someone named Gerardo Parra.

-Raul Ibanez looks worn out to me.

-Congrats to a fellow former Blue Hen, Reid Gorecki, on getting the call up to the Majors with the Braves earlier this week. Gorecki, 28, played two innings in the field for the Bravos on Monday without getting an appearance at the plate. Hurry up and get the kid an at-bat, Bobby Cox. You don't want the albatross of Moonlight Graham hanging over the kid any longer than it has to. In any event, all members the Blue Hen baseball tradition celebrate with you.

-Speaking of Graham, there's a new biography out about him entitled Chasing Moonlight: The True Story of Field of Dreams' Doc Graham. Written by Brett Friedlander and Robert Reising, it looks like quite an interesting read. It's on my list.

-My 'list' is quite extensive, though.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Few Days Prior and Ahead

-Where is Bud Selig? Where? Some of the things going on right now are ridiculous. From more steroid fallout with Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, to a fairly prominent pitcher flaunting that he doesn't pay any attention to the banned substances list, to beanball wars, The Commish has to show that he's in control of his sport. Do I believe he is? Negatory.

-As referenced above, Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo spoke openly and honestly about his supplement usage in a recent interview with USA Today. Arroyo stops just short of saying he doesn't care if he fails a drug test, but does seem rather cavalier about what he's doing. Regardless, he does make some good points, especially the one about not enough care being given to the players' long-term health.

-Pedro Martinez was alright in his Phillies debut on Wednesday againt the Cubs. He had some good movement on his slider, reached into the lowish 90s on his fastball, and showed a good change up. He also was clearly done at the conclusion of five innings, which is inline with how he's pitched in his most recent incarnations in the majors. One thing he definitely was --- better than Jamie Moyer.

- It was pointed out to me the other day that Pedro might very well be the best pitcher the Phillies have ever had. Not in his current condition, of course, and you can argue his greatness versus that of Steve Carlton. But Pedro is on the short list.

-Can Cliff Lee really be this good? Another solid outing for the newly acquired Lee, who's now 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 24 innings with the Phillies. So far, so good.

-I never thought the day after Cliff Lee shoved it to the Cubs for his third straight great outing after arriving in Philadelphia that hardly a word would be spoken about him. Turns out, when your local football team signs a quarterback who spent time in federal prison, THAT is a pretty big story too.

-Jake Peavey made a rehab start.

-Brett Myers is about to.

-It doesn't look good for the Nats signing Stephen Strasburg.

-Jonny Gomes hit three home runs in his first three at-bats last night against the Nationals. A natural hat trick, if you will, which Nats centerfielder Nyjer Morgan knows all about as a big hockey fan.

-Finally, I have been remiss in not mentioning Josh Willingham's two grand slams in one game against the Brewers on July 27th. Willingham pulled a feat actually more rare than a perfect game, as in MLB history there have been 18 perfect games while only 13 players have ever hit two grand slams in one outing. The two most famous of these (in my mind) are Fernando Tatis hitting two grand slams in the SAME INNING in 1999 against the Dodgers and Bill Mueller hitting a grand slam from both sides of the plate against Texas in 2003. Both Mueller and Tatis are the only players in major league history to pull their respective feat. Maybe most amazingly, Tatis hit both of his slams off of the same pitcher, current Phillies reliever Chan Ho Park.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pedro to Start; Moyer to Sulk

I'm not going to lie... I'm pretty excited about the first start of Pedro Martinez' Phillies career this evening. He may not have thrown a major league pitch in 11 months, but I think he can help the Phils out. Barring injuries, he's not going to start in the playoffs, but that's not a bad card to be able to deal out of your bullpen. My guess on Pedro's line tonight? 5.1 innings, 6 hits 3 runs, a walk and five strikeouts. Whether or not that's good enough enough to win is probably dependent upon the dormant Phillies offense getting back on track.

To make room for Martinez, senior statesman Jamie Moyer was moved to the bullpen. Moyer has gained immense popularity in Philadelphia as a local boy who done good, and a model of class and professionalism. Which is why it was such a shock when he openly expressed his dismay about being demoted to the bullpen.

You've got to be kidding me. Jamie Moyer's whining now? And what's he whining about? He stinks. Yes, he's got 10 wins, but he's averaging over seven runs a game in support in those wins. He's got an ERA of 5.47 and has allowed 148 hits in 123.1 innings. His WHIP is over 1.5. Shut up. And then to claim that he was 'misled' or that he was promised a spot... are you serious? You've been around the show for 22 years. There's no such thing- in any sport- of being guaranteed a particular spot if you're not performing. You don't want to get moved? Pitch like J.A. Happ or Cliff Lee have recently. I'm really annoyed by this.

Funny enough, you don't have to look too far to find how one should handle himself in a spot like this. One needs to look only around the clubhouse and follow the example of... Brett Myers?!?!? Brett Myers who was arrested for hitting his wife on the streets of Boston? Brett Myers who once responded to a question from Philadelphia Inquirer writer Sam Carchidi by calling him a 'retard' (coarse language in the link)?

Yes, that Brett Myers. Amidst a terrible first half of the 2008 season, the (at the time) 27-year old, sixth-year player was demoted to AAA Lehigh Valley. And what did he do? Did he punch Charlie Manuel? Did he call GM Pat Gillick nasty names? No. He stood up like a man, acknowledged he wasn't getting the job done and wasn't helping the team, and took his assignment to AAA, where he worked out a few kinks, returned to Philadelphia and won two of his three playoff starts in helping the Phils win the World Series.

Myers started opening day for the Phils in 2008, yet by July was sufficiently humbled enough by his performance to take a demotion in stride.

Myers' ERA the day he was sent down (July 1st) was 5.84. Jamie Moyer's ERA today (August 12th) is 5.47. Myers went at getting better like a champ, while Moyer wants to gripe.

Perhaps Moyer could learn a thing or two from a boisterous character 20 years his junior about how to handle disappointment in a professional manner.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What's Missing From Baseball had front page piece today titled 25 Things We Miss About Baseball. On the list, I'd say I really don't miss...

- Catchers wearing cloth caps, as getting cracked in the dome on a follow through does not produce good times.

- Wimpy middle infielders. Why do I have to miss them when I still have David Eckstein?

- Bullpen carts. Harkens back to the days of relief pitchers being either a) fat or b) often mistaken for computer programmers. Could you see a tough-guy reliever like J.C. Romero or Jonathan Broxton rolling in on a cart? No way. Man up, fellas. also ran a companion piece entitled 10 Things We Don't Miss About Baseball. Many of the items on this list are inarguable, but I do have a few quibbles...

- I wouldn't say I miss terrible uniforms, but I kind of do. I miss them enough to enjoy the few games a year where teams bust out hideous '80s uniforms. One of my favorite examples was a weekend series in the summer of 2002 between the Braves and Phillies where both teams wore uniforms (bad ones) from the early '80s. I attended the Sunday afternoon game at the Vet. The old school uniforms were part of a promotion called 'Viagra Triumphant Glory Weekend.' Make your own joke for that one.

- I do miss the spitball. Assigning blame for the death of Ray Chapman to the spitball is lazy journalism. There were a myriad of other reasons for the Chapman incident, including the time of day of the incident (dusk), Mays' delivery (submarine), and the fact that the ball was dirty (which is why the incident led to umpires becoming required to replace any ball with dirt, smudge, scuff, anything on it). Chapman never moved, presumably because he never saw the ball coming at his head. Regardless of this, the spitball in and of itself is fun. Gaylord Perry was fun. Hitters thinking the pitcher is throwing a spitball is fun. Nothing wrong with a little good, clean, needle-free cheating.

Monday, August 10, 2009

August 7th-9th

-The Yankees looked awfully impressive in a four-game sweep of the Red Sox over the weekend, their first four-game sweep of the Sawx in 24 years. The Bronx Bombers are in a pretty good spot right now, up 6.5 games in the AL East.

-The Red Sox need to get some things (read: starting pitching and shortstop) in order like yesterday. Tampa is breathing down their collective neck for the wild card. Cristian Guzman may be on the way to help.

-As much as you have to give the Marlins credit for sweeping the Phillies this weekend, the Phillies looked fairly uninterested and unfocused all weekend.

-At one point in Sunday's game, a graphic was shown that the Phils were 6 for their last 106 with runners in scoring position. That's a lusty .057.

-This week the Marlins got swept by the Nationals, and then swept the Phillies. Go figure.

-As far as I can tell, no one has ever seen a centerfielder get thrown out of the game by the home plate umpire. But Ed Rapuano threw out Shane Victorino late in yesterday's Phils- Marlins game from 300 feet away. That doesn't make Rapuano look like a preening schmoe or anything.

-The Phillies are 3-8 since acquiring Cliff Lee, with the three wins being Lee's two and J.A. Happ's complete game shutout.

-Sounds like a case of the 'we-got-Lee-and-we're-winning-the-division-by-27-games-itis' to me.

-BREAK UP THE NATS! Look at that, eight straight wins for the boys from D.C. Clearly they were all collectively worried about getting moved at the trade deadline, so now that that has passed, they're playing relaxed, free and easy. Or they're just playing well right now.

-The Nats are only 12.5 games behind the Mets for fourth in the NL East. Given the Mets recent late-season history... Nah... Could they?

-Someone (presumably the White Sox) put in a claim on Alex Rios. Don't ask me why. J.P. Riccarid should be jumping for joy right now. This is a great opportunity to say "here ya go" to whoever claimed him.

-Howard Bryant steps up huge again, by no surprise. He dissects the differences between the weekend apologies from David Ortiz and Josh Hamilton. Very interesting.

-Let's be clear here: Ortiz admitted nothing, and would not have addressed one thing if he had not been outed by the New York Times. Hamilton, immediately after the incident took place several months ago, confessed his misdeeds to his wife, his family, his organization and everyone else he needed to, and addressed it head on to the media when it became public knowledge.

-So I win on my prediction that Ortiz would trot out the "tainted supplements" excuse.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Thursday That Was

-Yesterday's 3-1 win over the Rockies was pretty much exactly how the Phillies drew it up... Seven strong innings from Cliff Lee, Ryan Madson holds the line in the eighth and Brad Lidge slammed the door in the ninth. Well played.

-Good move by the Phils in keeping J.A. Happ in the rotation.

-However, I hate the idea of a six man rotation.

-Today's Mets-are-the-greatest-thing-ever moment is from the bottom of the third inning of last night's game against San Diego. With the bases loaded and one out and the Padres ahead 4-0, Everth Cabrera hit a tailor made double play ball towards second baseman Alex Cora. As Mets play by play announcer Gary Cohen excitedly yelled "A double play ball!", Cora proceeded to bobble the ball, thus ruining chances for a double play, but recovered and threw to first, just in time to NOT get Cabrera. 5-0 San Diego, and everyone is safe. The Pads added another run in the inning and cruised to an 8-3 win.

-The Marlins led the Nationals 6-0 and 8-3 yesterday. And lost the game.

-The Marlins just got swept by the Nats, heading into a weekend series in Philadelphia. If the Phils win two of three over the Fish, the competitive phase of the NL East race is over.

-John Smoltz' days as an effective Major League pitcher sure appear to be over.

-Joba Chamberlain needs to settle down. He had a 9-3 lead in the fifth inning last night, walked the bases loaded, gave up a run, then struck out Casey Kotchman and Nick Green to get out of the jam. He then gave a hearty uppercut and yelled somethin in jubilation. Easy there, cuz. You have a five-run lead in the fifth inning, you walked seven in those five innings, gave up four earned runs and could barely last long enough to get yourself a win. You weren't exactly dealing out there.

-I love Dustin Pedroia. He's scrappy, dirty, huge heart. Love him.

-The new Yankee Stadium is a joke. Six home runs last night. Let's just say they weren't all majestic blasts.

-On Saturday, David Ortiz will apparently address his failed drug test from 2003. If he offers anything other the "tainted supplement" "something impure from my home country" excuses, I'll buy you a protein shake.

-When is a player that hasn't been outed as a steroid user going to just come out and say "You know what? I used steroids. And it worked. It made me bigger, stronger and better, and I got paid a ton because of it. The culture was accepting of everything, and I did it. And given the choice, I'd do it again."

-That guy would get a standing ovation in his next at-bat.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

J.P. Ricciardi: The Gambler

You got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run

You never count your money
while you're sittin at the table
There'll be time enough for countin
when the dealin's done

-The Gambler by Kenny Rogers, 1978

Kenny Rogers' classic tale of The Gambler has a specific application to major league baseball in the summer of 2009 in the person Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi.

Ricciardi held in his hot little hand the ace of all aces, righthanded pitcher Roy Halladay, and he (correctly) recognized the value in trading a piece like 'Doc', seeking to use dealing the popular pitcher to restock his organization with players ready to help at the big league level in both the present and future.

As we all know by now, Halladay was never traded. So what happened?'s Jon Heyman offers a laundry list of things that went wrong from the Blue Jays' point of view.

Let me just say this... J.P. Ricciardi botched the Halladay situation. Bad.

He held considerable leverage, but could not take advantage and was completely outmanuevered and out classed by Phillies GM Ruben Amaro.

In my mind, Philadelphia was the only place Halladay realistically could have been traded. They had a clear need for a top starter, money to take on payroll, prospects to give up, a desire to get things done, and Halladay almost broadcast that his preference would have been to relocate to the City of Brotherly Love. All the other suitors had a prohibitive factor (money, prospects, whatever) that excluded them from really making a push at Halladay.

With that, for almost two weeks Amaro and Ricciardi engaged in a high-stakes, very public poker game. Amaro's initial offer of prospects was clearly less than they were willing to deal, and Ricciardi doggedly demanded the Phillies top three prospects (RHP Kyle Drabek, LHP J.A. Happ and OF Dominic Brown). As the days went by, the sides appeared to get no closer, and Ricciardi did nothing to help the situation by issuing his own deadline of July 28th (total bull), saying Halladay could go to the Red Sox or Yankees (which never would've happened without a huge intra-division markup) and like nine other things that were stupid to say publicly.

I believe that Amaro knew Ricciardi had no other options, and that Ricciardi thought that Amaro had no other options and therefore needed to get a deal done with him.

As deadline week began and both men remained entrenched in their positions, a report surfaced that Philadelphia was talking to Cleveland about 2008 AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee. Ricciardi probably assumed this to be a smoke screen, and why not, everything he himself was floating was untrue, so why would Amaro be any different?

Ahh, but it was. On Wednesday July 29th, two days before the deadline, word came out that the Phillies were close to trading four prospects to Cleveland for Lee and reserve outfielder Ben Francisco. I'm sure Ricciardi couldn't believe this, particularly since none of the four players headed to Cleveland were the top tier players he was holding out for in exchange for Halladay.

610 WIP radio host Anthony Gargano reported on-air that a source close to the negotiations said the Phillies expected to receive a final call from Toronto about Halladay before completing the deal for Lee.

No call came. Lee headed to the Phillies.

Ricciardi was screwed. Even if another team decided it could deal for Halladay, the price had dropped considerably because the Phillies, the strongest suitor, were out of the running after acquiring Lee.

Ricciardi immediately went into damage control mode, publicly stating that he never really wanted to trade Halladay, and that the righty would remain with the Jays through the rest of his contract.

False. Ricciardi dangled Hallady for about a month, clearly looking to hold out for maximum return. When the Phillies got Lee, that possibility went out the window.

SI's Tom Verducci writes that Ricciardi is now the subject of unfair criticism asking, How can a team be considered a loser at the deadline if they hang on to the best pitcher in baseball? I like Verducci, and his writings are among the best you'll find of the modern crop of baseball scribes. But he's flat-out wrong on this one.

Roy Halladay will not be with the Blue Jays long-term. Whether he's traded now, or after the 09 season or he walks in free agency after 2010, he's leaving. And the Jays aren't winning anything in 2009, and they're not winning anything in 2010 either. In this scenario, the prudent thing to do if you're the Blue Jays is to get something back for your prized player. And the time to do that was by July 31, 2009. It only makes senes... you get a higher return for a player with a year and a half left on his contract than one with half of a year left. Look at Mark Teixiera. The Rangers got four stud prospects (Neftali Feliz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Matt Harrison, Elvis Andrus) from Atlanta by moving Tex with a year and a half left before free agency, while the Braves, who moved him with only half a season left, got only Casey Kotchman from Anaheim.

Ricciardi held out for a package like the one Baltimore got for Erik Bedard, who stinks. Look J.P., just because Baltimore robbed Seattle on a bad deal two years ago, that doesn't mean another team will overpay now. After the Lee trade, there was a report that Toronto asked the Dodgers for six or seven prospects for Halladay. Why not just ask for Billingsley, Kershaw, Martin and Ramirez too?

Jon Heyman's article states that the Phils had offered J.A. Happ, Michael Taylor, Carlos Carrasco and Jason Donald for Halladay. I don't know what Ricciardi thought of that offer, but I do know this... it's better than anything he'll get for Halladay now. Happ continues to impress, throwing his second complete game shutout of the season against Colorado last night. Ironically, his first came in Toronto.

So now where do we stand? Philadelphia is happy, as they got Lee to be a front of the rotation starter, and held onto Happ, who looks poised to help the big club down the stretch. They also got to keep Drabek, Brown and Taylor. Meanwhile, Toronto got nothing but a disgruntled Halladay, who has refused to talk about the trade deadline since it passed. And they're about to get nothing for Halladay, while continuing to not win, buried in the AL East behind Boston, Tampa and the Yankees. When Halladay walks after 2010, they'll get two draft picks in 2011, meaning they won't see any actual benefit for losing Halladay until 2013 at the earliest.

J.P. Ricciardi had a great hand, no doubt, the type of hand that you should win a whole lot more than you lose. But, as Kenny Rogers reminds us, it's just as important to know when to fold as when to hold.

Even when you're holding an ace.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Thoughts From Around The League

-The Padres released Mark Prior on Tuesday, apparently after deciding that he had not made enough progress to help them out this season. Has there ever been a more meteoric rise and fall than Prior's? Reading Buzz Bissinger's wonderful book Three Nights in August, you'd think Prior was Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan and Greg Maddux all rolled into one. The book makes mention of what injuries can do to a promising pitching prospect, and Prior is no exception. Despite his self-described 'perfect mechanics' that would keep him from ever getting hurt, Prior hasn't thrown a big league pitch since August of '06 and has been allowed to walk by two franchises. His release caused barely a mention amidt the sea of MLB news on an average August day. Is this really the end of one of the most heralded pitching prospects ever? One who actually had some success in the majors? I believe it is.

-Can the injury situation get any worse for the Mets? Jon Niese tore his hamstring off the bone in the Mets' 9-0 win over St. Louis on Wednesday afternoon. That just sounds painful, nevermind what it must've felt like to Niese. Just another long-term injury to a long line in a dismal season for the Mets.

-Not to pile on, but here's the next reason why the Mets are the greatest. Luis Castillo sprained his ankle descending the dugout steps in Tuesday night's game against the Cardinals, and looks to be out for at least a few weeks. You never like to see anyone get hurt, but when it involves something like this and the Mets, you don't feel quite as bad about it.

-The other great thing about Tuesday's Mets-Cardinals game? K-Rod blowing a two-run save for Johan Santana, then the other jokers in that bullpen giving up five runs in the 10th inning, including a grand slam to Albert Pujols. Priceless.

-The Phillies cannot take J.A. Happ out of the rotation. Can't do it. I didn't think you could do it before last night, and after his second complete game shutout of the season, I really don't think you can do it now. What a contrast to how Jamie Moyer looked against the same lineup one night before.

-After allowing 10 earned runs in the month of July, Jorge De La Rosa allowed seven earned runs against the Phils last night. I predicted a somebody-got-to-pay game... that was close.

-Pedro Martinez struck out 11 in six innings in a AA rehab start on Wednesday night. He also made it clear he's getting antsy to get to the big club. My guess? Pedro makes his Phillies debut next week in Chicago.

-And that's why Jamie Moyer needs to leave the Phillies rotation. And because of his 5.55 ERA.

Phillies Thoughts For Wednesday

-Jamie Moyer is done. He gave up six earned runs in five innings, walked four and gave up six hits in his start against the Rockies last night. At this point, I have the same feeling when he's on the mound that I had last year when Adam Eaton pitched. Which is to say, I'm surprised when he doesn't get hit around. Yes, he leads the Phillies with 10 wins, but that 5.55 ERA is on merit.

-Moyer's next start is this weekend against the Marlins, whom he has also owned. The only times he hasn't been hit hard this year are against the Fish or another young, free swinging team, like Arizona. If he can't get it done against Florida, you've got to sit him down. He's a nice guy and everything, but if you can't get the job done, it's time to move on.

-Moyer will face Josh Johnson this weekend. Wouldn't be a good time to get bombed.

-Moyer's ERA against Arizona, Washington and Florida this season is a combined 2.39. He has a 0.00 against Arizona, a 3.75 against Washington, and a 2.37 against Florida.

-Moyer's ERA against everyone that isn't Arizona, Washington and Florida is 7.03.

-J.A. Happ's ERA is 2.97.

-I'll be really disappointed if Happ gets demoted to the bullpen. He's in a position to get hosed because of his versatility, in that he can pitch as a starter or reliever, while Jamie Moyer can't. At this point, Happ is a much better pitcher, period.

-The Phils are slumping now, but they're coming up on a somebody-got-to-pay game. Good luck to whoever's on the mound when that happens. The score will likely be in the teens.

-Pedro Martinez was in the house with the Phillies last night, and is scheduled to pitch for AA Reading tonight. Pedro could make a crowded staff even more crowded, which is fine, because you really never can have too much pitching.

-GM Ruben Amaro has hinted that a six man rotation could be used by the team down the stretch in order to give some guys more rest. Well, you want Lee, Hamels, Happ and Blanton going every five days, and Moyer every Marlins series... that translates to an average of about every six days, right?

-The Clearwater Threshers (A) locker room right now has a row of lockers that says "Romero-Durbin-Myers-Condrey"... the problem is that today is August 5th, not March 5th when all of those guys should be in Clearwater. However, that does mean that reinforcements are on the way for the big league club.

-I had an interesting discussion yesterday about Ryan Howard and his long-term status with the Phillies. Howard, and his family, have made it clear that they view Ryan as an unprecedented player, and will seek to break the bank when he hits free agency after the 2011 season. That's a nice thought, but without some serious changes, it's not going to happen. As of today, Howard is hitting .260 with 26 home runs and 78 RBI. Very nice stats. Jayson Werth is hitting .270 with 22 home runs and 66 RBI. Very comparable stats. Howard is making $15 million in 2009, Werth is making $2 million. Hmm... Examine Howard's stats a little closer... Against lefthanded pitchers in 2009, Howard is hitting .179 with three home runs, 17 RBI and 59 strikeouts in 156 at-bats. That's terrible, and shows just how completely neutralized against lefties Howard has been this season. While his defense is improved, he's still a below average first baseman. And he strikes out way too much, against lefties and righties. Now, Howard is the type of player that can carry a club for a stretch, which Jayson Werth is not. But is he worth A-Rod money? Pujols money? No, he's not. And he's not as good as those guys either. Even if he were, after looking at the graph in The Sporting News showing how many significant Red Sox pieces you can get with just the money A-Rod gets, I'm not sure I'd want to sign anyone to that kind of deal.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Past Several Days...

-Roy Halladay's refusal to speak to the media in the aftermath of the trade deadline tells you everything you need to know about his feelings on remaining with the Blue Jays after being publicly dangled for a month. J.P. Ricciardi is probably on thin ice in Toronto anyway, so any sort of negative comment from a figure as popular as Halladay would seal J.P.'s professional fate. I'll have more to say about J.P. soon enough. (Ooohh, a little blog teaser...)

-Edinson Volquez had the dreaded Tommy John surgery within the past few days, and now he's out until at least this time next season. Fair or not, this is another young star pitcher that has fallen victim to major arm injury under the watch of manager Dusty Baker. Volquez just turned 26 and pitched a full major-league season in 2008, followed by winter ball and the World Baseball Classic. That's alot of pitching in a calendar year.

-Arizona's super sinker Brandon Webb also had recent surgery, this one a shoulder cleanup. Shoulder injuries tend to rob pitchers of stuff more than elbows do, but apparently Webb didn't need anything fixed, just tidied up a bit. Also interesting in that Arizona has an $8.5 million option on him for 2010, which if not exercised, makes Webb a free agent. $8.5 million is a bargain for a pitcher of his stature and accomplisments, but Arizona's not going anywhere anytime soon. I still think the Diamondbacks will bring Webb back, and with little deliberation.

- Evidently I have pitching on the brain today...

- Interesting article in this week's Sporting News about the differences between the Yankees and the Red Sox, and why the Yankees haven't won it all since 2000 and the Sawx have won it twice since '04. (Unfortunately, I can't link to it because it's only in the print version). Among the points included... 1) The Red Sox know when to say goodbye. (Ex: Pedro Martinez was allowed to leave in the championship afterglow of '04... Nomar was traded, and was never as good... the Yankees gave Jorge Posada, an old catcher, a four-year contract...) 2) The Red Sox place a higher emphasis on pitching 3) The Red Sox didn't get A-Rod (Ex: this point actually doesn't explore why A-Rod stinks when it counts, it actually lists all the players that the Sox have that make less combined than A-Rod. A list that includes Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Lowell, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and like 10 other players... think about that).

-Of course, as I write that, the Yankees are half a game up on Boston in the AL East

-I don't think that's how it will end up, however. At the deadline the Red Sox added Victor Martinez, the Yankees added Jerry Hairston. And Boston's probably better anyway.

-I'm not convinced Joba Chamberlain isn't better off in the bullpen, where he can just let it fly.

-Am I actually about to defend the Mets? I think so. I'm not a doctor, and I don't play one in the blogosphere, but something's wrong with the care the Met players are getting. Original diagnoses of a week or two for some of their brightest stars (Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado) have turned into months on the shelf. Why? Maybe these guys were always that hurt, but why were the Mets told they'd be brief injuries? Jerry Manuel has taken public shots at the medical staff in Flushing, and apparently he's justified in doing so.

-Back to ripping the Mets, last night's 10 pm EST edition of Baseball Tonight put up a graphic that shows the leading home run hitters at Citi Field this season. First is Gary Sheffield with five (five! that's all it takes to lead?). Second is David Wright with four. And who's tied with Wright for second place? MARK REYNOLDS! Mark Reynolds of the DIAMONDBACKS! Mark Reynolds who has played THREE games in Citi Field this year. Wow. Just to compare, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jayson Werth each have 12 at Citizens Bank Park, while Raul Ibanez has 11.

-Cubs pitcher Randy Wells was "acting like a number one starter" in his start against the Reds last night, to quote Orel Hershiser. Wells has thrown well this year, but clearly is not a number one at this point. But it's going well for him, and don't look now, but the Cubs are now in first place in the NL Central.

-Cole Hamels looks strange to me. He's pitching ok, not great. He had an uninspiring outing against the Giants on Sunday, and then seemed unimpressed and unconcerned about his performance. Kid Cole is a different kind of guy, full of the Southern California cool, but I'm not sure he can switch it on and off as easily as he thinks he'll be able to once crunch time rolls around.

-The weekend matchup of the great pitcher and a great lineup was won by Tim Lincecum, as he pitched his Giants past the Phillies, 2-0, on Saturday evening in San Francisco. Lincecum threw eight shutout innings, allowing seven hits, walking one and striking out eight against the potent Phillies lineup. Lincecum proved once again that good pitching beats good hitting, and showed why he's on the man crush list.

-Speaking of man crushes, welcome to Philadelphia, Cliff Lee. Lee was dominant in his first appearance for the Phils, hurling a complete game while allowing one run on only four hits and striking out six. Lee even collected two hits (doubling his career total) and scored a run. After the game, his aww shucks personality was on display in a postgame interview with Phils broadcaster Gary Matthews. Lee concluded the interview with Matthews by saying "Thank you, sir", thus prompting my roommate to say "No Cliff, thank YOU." That sound you hear all around the Delaware Valley is the explosion of a ginormous man crush on one Clifton Phifer Lee.

-What are the Reds doing trading for Scott Rolen? They're not going anywhere, and Rolen is eight years older than the third baseman they gave up in the deal, Edwin Encarnacion. I'm serious, I think GMs of bad teams get bored sometimes, so they make trades.

-That's alot of notes. So I'm done for now.