Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Paging Corey Patterson

"A talented player, he projected as a rookie who would hit, but didn't seem to react well to the challenge of earning the job.
Well, let's not be coy about it. I don't know how much truth there is in this, but what I was told is that, with a job virtually handed to him, he displayed what we might call a Miguel Dilone syndrome. He wouldn't put out any extra effort as a show of good faith., wouldn't take extra hitting practice or work on his defense; he just acted like the job was his. The worse he played, and he played quite badly indeed, the less receptive he became to help.
When a young player does that, people say that it doesn't seem like he wants the job. Well, of course he wants the job; every young baseball player wants to play. What this behavior suggests to me is a player with a deep-rooted lack of confidence. Men who are consumed with a fear of failing often protect themselves from the failure that they subconsciously anticipate by adopting a pose of indiffernece and hostility; any attempt to reach out to such a player would be interpreted as an attempt to force him to make an emotional commitment to the job, and thus would feed the fear and force the player to fortify his defense mechanisms. Such a player would exhibit external signs of self-confidence, and would refuse to make any special efforts to cooperate, as to do so would be a tacit acknowledgment of his unsteady position. Not until the player sheds the label of a hot prospect, and nothing more is expected of him, will the fear subside and the ability once more begin to assert itself.
What can be done about it? I don't think anything can. If a twenty-two-year-old athlete doesn't believe in himself, deep down, I doubt seriously that there is anything anybody else can do about it that will change that fact. He has terrific talent. He might have a big year sometime. If he can have two straight big years, he might even grow into the confidence that he needs. But I doubt that anybody will ever be able to control his talent."

--Bill James, in 1985, writing about Angel Salazar, whose career line ended up, over five seasons and 886 at-bats, being .212/.230/.270. He finished his career as a Cub, in 1988.

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Baseball brings people together

On our trip last year, two of the hangers-on for the game in Cleveland were Dan and Dianne. They're getting married next Saturday, and Levi and I are going to be in attendance -- in fact, Levi was apparently a last-minute addition to the wedding party.

The room we're sharing at the Hilton Garden Inn in Twinsburg, Ohio, does have free high-speed Internet (probably wired), but since this isn't a baseball-related trip, I wouldn't expect there to be much blogging going on for a few days.

Actually, on Thursday evening, Levi and I might be doing some live blogging aboard Amtrak train 354, in the coach where they put passengers bound for Ann Arbor, especially if he brings that Bill James book along:

Levi: Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Me: Now what?

Levi: (Quotes a Bill James wisecrack about some player I vaguely remember, because I wasn't paying as much attention to baseball in 1982 as Levi was)

Me: (Chuckles politely)

Now, since our first trip led directly to a marriage between two of the participants almost exactly a year later, whenever we do a second trip, I'm going to sharply curtail attendance to me, Levi (already happily married and therefore out of the equation), and whatever attractive single women I can convince to join us for all or part of the trip ("I swear, it's just a baseball game. I have no ulterior motives!").

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Friday, August 26, 2005


"Walk Away, Renee" and other favorites

Exactly one year ago to the minute from the time I'm typing this (6:04 P.M. Eastern time), Levi and I were really enjoying listening to the Fenway Park organist. In honor of that anniversary, here's an article about him from the Boston Globe last month.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Ten games for Steroids, Six for Milk

A Marlins batboy has been suspended for attempting to drink a gallon of milk on a bet before a game.

Many, many things about this story seem wrong to me.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005


That guy

King Kaufman is good even when writing about football:

"That's because pretty much everyone in the world knows someone who has a knack for getting in beefs and saying things like "'Everybody always wants to say everything's my fault.' And everything is in fact always that person's fault."


Monday, August 22, 2005


Three is a magic number

Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn writes today in his blog about the White Sox, their magic number, and his new concept, the "toxic number." (Which is a concept Bill James probably already had, 25 years ago.)

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From Bill James, again, from 1982:

Talk about your eerie coincidences. Mookie's real name is William Wilson, but they can't call him that, for obvious reasons. There is another major league player who does and doesn't do exactly the same things that this guy does, and who is the same age and color, and that man's name is Willie Wilson. To use the same name would invite unnecessary and unattractive comparisons.

Edgar Allen Poe wrote a story about a man who was haunted by another man of the same name, same build and talents and face. The idea was that you were supposed to catch on that his personality had split, and he was merely projecting himself into another character of the same description. The two men's names? William Wilson. Swear to God.

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Friday, August 19, 2005



Through the efforts of a friendly librarian I know, I recently was able to check out a Bill James collection from 1989, This Time Let's Not Eat the Bones: Bill James without the Numbers. There's some good stuff in there about 80s baseball, much of it still of interest and still applicable today.

But some of it is just plain fun as a trip down memory lane with the irascible James as a guide. I'll share some of it over the next few weeks, until the book's due back at Bezazian Library.

So here's James on Lonnie "Skates" Smith, writing in 1986, when Smith had been a Royal for a few years:

I wouold try to tell you what a bad outfielder Lonnie is, expect that I confess that I would never have believed it myself if somebody had tried to tell me. I will say, though, that the real cost of Lonnie's defense is not nearly as great as the psychic impact of it. He makes you wail and gnash your teeth a lot, but he doesn't really cost you all that many runs.

One reason for that is that he recovers so quickly after her makes a mistake. You have to understand that Lonnie makes defensive mistakes every game, so he knows hot to handle it. Your average outfielder is inclined to panic when he falls down chasing a ball in the corner; he may just give up and set there a while, trying to figure it out. Lonnie has a pop-up slide perfected for the occasion.

Another outfielder might have no idea where the ball was when it bounded off his glove. Lonnie can calculate with the instinctive astrophysics of a veteran tennis player where a ball will land when it skips off the heel of his glove, what the angle of glide will be when he tips it off the webbing, what the spin will be when the ball skids off the thumb of the mitt.

Many players can kick a ball behind them without ever knowing it. Lonnie can judge by the pitch of the thud and the subtle pressure through his shoe in which direction and how far he has projected the sphere.

He knows exactly what to do when a ball spins out of his hand and flies crazily into a void on the field. He knows when it is appropriate for him to scamper after the ball and when he needs to back up the man who will have to recover it.

He has experience in these matters; when he retires he will be hired to come to spring training and coach defensive recovery and cost containment. This is his specialty, and he is good at it.

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Monday, August 15, 2005


I read the articles so you don't have to

The September issue of Playboy has an article about Jose Canseco's ex-wife Jessica, to go along with some photographs of her in which she's wearing ballet shoes but seems to have forgotten to put on her tutu, or her leotard, or anything else a ballerina might wear. Actually, I take that back -- she's wearing leg warmers in a couple of the photos.

Anyway, the article is chock full of fascinating facts. For example, Jose met her at a Hooters in Cleveland, where she was only in her third day on the job -- and the very next night, Jose made blooper-reel history with the home-run-bouncing-off-his-head incident. She says he likes his women "meaty," so he often encouraged her to eat more. Also, she claims to have had sex with him in Fenway Park. And, yes, she reports that there was a lot of steroid-related testicular shrinkage, but since he was also taking human growth hormone, the other part of the frank-'n'-beans combo was larger than normal. (They did have a daughter together, so everything was apparently working well enough.)

Things went badly once she realized he was cheating on her; she found such items as Jose's private cell phone (she cracked the voice mail password and found messages from four women) and a little black book in which Jose had made copious notes about physical descriptions of various women so he could remember who was who. Her last-ditch effort to save the relationship was a menage a trois involving her, Jose, and a friend of hers, but it didn't work.

Elsewhere in this issue of Playboy, we learn that "when you're Hef, every day is an adventure," as we have been learning in Playboy for over 50 years now. (I mean the royal "we," obviously.)

Actually, there was some useful information in this Playboy, although it's not baseball-related: I learned of the existence of this upcoming Rhino box set, although I'm a little dubious about the August 30th date, since it's listed on neither Amazon.com nor rhino.com (although rhino.com only lists their releases for the 16th and 23rd).

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Friday, August 12, 2005


The days they come, the days they go

Some days, you look out your office window and wish you'd taken the day off to go see the Cardinals and Cubs at Wrigley Field, like you used to always do back when tickets were more readily available after the first day of tickets sales and such outings didn't, therefore, have to be so rigorously planned.

Other days, you don't.

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Thursday, August 11, 2005



The gloy of the hidden ball trick was shewn forth again last night at the Marlins/Diamondbacks game. The simplicity of it was, as usual, its beauty: Mike Lowell took the throw from the outfield, then simply didn't toss the ball to noted homophobe Todd Jones. Seconds later, he applied the tag to an unsuspecting Luis Terrero.

Harold Reynolds on Baseball Tonight broke it down nicely, pointing out the way Jones noticed what Lowell was up to and, instead of heading to the mound, casually circled it. One thing I learned from this is that, if the pitcher steps on the mound, the ball is dead; his presence on the mound suggests that he intends to pitch, and therefore being on the mound while the ball is elsewhere is, apparently, a no-no.

National goddam treasure Retrosheet.org has a list of all the known successful hidden ball tricks here. Ozzie Guillen, whom I believe Bill James pointed out as one of the dumbest baserunners ever, was caught three times. Fool Ozzie once . . .

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Tales of baseball stupidity not involving Rafael Palmeiro

You know, I look at those nets over the stands behind home plate, and sometimes they don't look like they can even hold more than one baseball at a time, much less a person.


Monday, August 08, 2005



Well, we've found out what it takes to get Congressmen pissed off about being lied to under oath these days: .289/.371/.516, with 569 home runs, 1834 RBI, and 3018 hits. The chair of the House Committee on Government Reform, Tom Davis III, has asked for information from MLB about Rafael Palmeiro's positive steroids test. The committee is expected, says Congressional Quarterly, "to pay close attention to the timeline in baseball records" to determine whether the juice might have been responsible for the convincing bristle in Palmeiro's mustache as he denied ever having been juiced.

Us ordinary folk, we just have to settle for writing a letter to the editor when we're outraged. Congress is special. They can do something! They can order Palmeiro to shave that mustache and let them test every hair if they get a mind to.

You close followers of Congress in the audience will note that this is the first time Congress has paid close attention to anything since their surprisingly close interest in Mary Carey's gubernatorial campaign.

And it's the first time Congress has been outraged over possible perjury since the good ol' innocent days in the summer of 1998, when, so a reliable source tells me, the most-searched terms of the online posting of the Starr Report at a certain major daily newspaper were "Sosa" and "anal."

Too bad Palmeiro can't be impeached! Think of the lesson that would teach America's children about the seriousness with which Congress takes their duty to . . . uh . . . do whatever it is they do. Has the White House issued marching orders on Palmeiro yet?

Then again, if it does turn out that Palmeiro lied brazenly to Congress, then surely Karl Rove won't waste any time before hiring him. After all, lying smoothly under oath is a skill that could come in mighty handy at the White House as Patrick Fitzgerald's Amazin' Prosecutin' Machine keeps rolling.

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Devil or angel, please say you'll be mine

(This "ticket" is a printout, courtesy of a season-ticket holder who didn't want to see this classic battle of good vs. evil represented by the Angels and the Devil Rays, although I can't imagine why someone would turn down the chance to see the Devil Rays!)

Let's get this anecdote out of the way first: as I was walking through the concourse of Angel Stadium on my way to the concession stand, proudly wearing my Devil Rays cap and Rocco Baldelli T-shirt, an Angels fan pointed at me and yelled, "Holy crap! They do exist!" I said nothing; unfortunately, it wasn't until much later that I realized my comeback should have been, "There are dozens of us! Dozens!" That has the advantage of being a reference to "Arrested Development."

Yes, at my suggestion, Jason, Rachel, Chris, and I went to Angel Stadium because my beloved Devil Rays were in town.

We were early enough to see the tail end of batting practice...

And they were showing the White Sox-Mariners game live on the giant screen...

At Angel Stadium, you can sometimes spot cameramen in their natural mountain environment...

Exchanging lineup cards; Lou Piniella looked like he was in a good mood...

Angels starting pitcher Chris Bootcheck, which I believe is also the name of a Windows XP utility...

Carl Crawford at the plate...

Devil Rays starting pitcher Mark Hendrickson, who is 6'9", but doesn't look quite as intimidating as Randy Johnson from way up here in the "view" level...

Why, these "view" level seats are high enough up that we can see Arrowhead Pond, home of the Los Angeles Mighty Ducks of Anaheim...

On the scoreboard, Jose Molina has to be "J.Molina," but Bengie Molina gets to be just plain "Molina"...

Say, here's something stupid and distracting: cell phone text messages on the scoreboard...

While we're at it, note that the Dodgers are "LAD" on the scoreboard here in Anaheim...

The Devil Rays somehow manage to light up Bootcheck, but as evening turns to night at Angel Stadium...

...the Angels have the bases loaded in the bottom of the 6th...

However, the Angels only put 3 runs across in the 6th, and so the Devil Rays are ahead 6-4 going into the bottom of the 9th with Danys Baez on the mound. After some anxious moments, Danys Baez has to call time because he's broken his belt; he has to walk over to get a new one...

And then both the umpire and catcher Toby Hall get to watch him closely as he puts the new belt on...

The "broken belt" ploy works, and, holy crap, the Devil Rays win...

Happy Rays...

Happy Jim...

After the game, we wait in the parking lot for the traffic to clear. Rachel and Jason leaning on Jason's car...

Chris and Jason...

Poor Angels, now tied with the A's for the American League West lead...

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Thursday, August 04, 2005



It appears that Bob's suggestion has been taken up. The Carmi Times Sports Department is now sponsoring Bob Sykes's page at Baseball-Reference.com.

I guess I'll have to get on with sponsoring Mark Sweeney's page.

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10 innings

Acting as if I'm a real columnist having a lazy day, I present a "News and Notes" column!

1) Headline in the Sun-Times following the Palmeiro news: Caught 'roid-handed. Another good headline this week, despite not being baseball-related, was the Trib's headline announcing the appointment of a federal monitor to watch the city's hiring practices: City gets a Hall monitor. I imagine the headline writers are all staying up late these days practicing their headlines in the hopes of Daley being indicted. Me, I'm just practicing my gleeful chortle. Maybe I'll get to warm it up chortling over Rove.

2) Palmeiro and Sandberg are linked yet again, this time in Sandberg's Fire Sermon in Cooperstown on Sunday being followed so closely by Palmeiro essentially giving back his "Redeem in five years" ticket to the Hall. Those of you up on Cubs gossip will know how they were linked before, but if you need a refresher, contact me in some way that enables me to tell you the story while not being sued for libel.

3) Albert Pujols has stolen 11 bases this season without being caught. Next up for Prince Albert: some work in the offseason on his change-up so he can pick up some innings out of the bullpen.

4) Speaking of running, poor Lenny Harris, in legging out a three-run double against the Cardinals the other night in Florida, catapulted himself to the top of my list of worst baserunners in the game. He's been a slow runner for years, plagued by leg and weight problems, but these days, his build is Kruk-like and he runs as if he's on two peglegs. If this were a backyard whiffleball game, everyone would agree on special slowness rules for his ghost runner.

5) TV Guide is changing its format to not have nearly so many listings. How will I ever know when Scooter's going to grace my television? I guess I'll have to go to Jeanniezelasko.com to find out. I wonder if Jim has any thought about the changes to TV Guide?

6) In a discussion at work the other day about how to encourage bloggers who have written about our products, the idea of just contacting them with a thank-you came up. Or maybe we should send them minor-league baseball tickets?

7) After the Sox/Tigers game I attended recently at Comiskey, I was walking out next to a girl who said to a friend, "There's my bus, gotta go." She looked up to the ballpark, blew a kiss, and said, "Love ya, Comiskey."

8) After today, there's a third of the season left, and Ken Griffey Jr. has still not visited the DL.

9) For a while a few weeks back, an image search for Johnny Damon brought up a certain pumpkin as the fourth response. It's fallen back to ninth lately. Get to work, readers!

10) The Post-Dispatch reports today that the Cardinals are, after all, leaving KMOX and buying 550 AM KTRS. I think it's a big mistake, as do many other Cards fans, and I'm sad to hear about it. KMOX was the Cardinals for me for my childhood. But this is really a topic that deserves its own post soon.

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Monday, August 01, 2005


Mmm, pre-game chicken

I guess I should call attention to the fact that someone from my hometown (in fact, we're both alumni of the same high school) was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this past weekend. The Tampa Tribune was apparently giving Wade Boggs saturation coverage all last week. And his plaque mentions the Devil Rays!

Levi (or Toby): any Carmi connections to the Hall of Fame?

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