You can’t spell Ass Pan without Passan.

Note: This is by Rubie even though it was posted and (lightly) edited by me.

Yesterday, ESPN unleashed the latest news in MLB’s never-ending, never-escalating, “we’re really gonna suspend you guys, we’re totally serious, it’s coming soon” crusade to get to the bottom of whatever was happening at a glorified vitamin store in south Florida: according to the Mothership, Ryan Braun refused to answer any questions about Biogenesis or Tony Bosch when MLB investigators tried to interview Braun last month.

Of course, all the players MLB has tried to interview about Biogenesis have, on the advice of and at the urging of the MLB Players Union, refused to cooperate with the League. But that pesky detail didn’t get in the way of Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan, who decided it was time to dust off his hatchet and take aim at one of his favorite targets:

Ryan Braun is so, so good in public. This kills the people at Major League Baseball who believe he used performance-enhancing drugs and want to suspend him for it. He is handsome, well-spoken, authoritative. He projects as an alpha assurance special even in a sport of alphas.

Apropos of nothing, Take 1: “Alpha Assurance” totally sounds like it would be the name of one of the fragrances of that Old Style pit spray, with the commercials that feature a dude who’s a centaur or whatever.

Braun could swear the grass is blue and the sky green, flash a smile and sure enough some people would believe him. He’s that smooth.

“I have nothing to hide,” he likes to say. This is funny. For somebody with nothing to hide, Ryan Braun is a fireproof safe inside of an armed vault behind a Scooby-Doo pull-a-book secret door.

Apropos of nothing, Take 2: aren’t all safes fireproof? What the fuck good is a safe to store your valuables if it’s just going to burn down with the rest of your house?

And re: Scooby Doo: I always had a thing for Velma. I’m not sure why; it may have had something to do with the juxtaposition of the short skirt plus knee-high stockings and the oversized turtleneck sweater. She was like a mystery book where you got to read the first chapter and were just intrigued enough to want to read more.

Sorry, that got weird. Maybe we should start getting to the point here.

All he does is hide. When MLB asked him questions about his positive testosterone test more than a year and a half ago, he wouldn’t answer them, and now he’s all Mr. Fifth Amendment again as the league investigates players’ links to Tony Bosch, the alleged PED pied piper of the Biogenesis clinic near Miami.

To be all technical and lawyer-y for a second: I know Passan is using “Mr. Fifth Amendment” as a cheeky way to say “Braun’s not talking,” but he really shouldn’t, because: outside of a courtroom or a deposition or an interrogation by police officers, you don’t invoke your Fifth Amendment rights, and, more importantly, the Fifth Amendment is a right against giving a statement which incriminates you. And there’s really no indication that Braun went in and said: “I’m not talking to you about Tony Bosch because my answers could tend to incriminate me.” Instead, I think it’s likely that Braun (and everybody who’s been summoned before MLB’s crack investigation/Inquisition squad) told them to pound sand as part of a larger plan by the Players Union. More on that in a second.

Braun’s refusal to talk – first reported Tuesday by ESPN.com and confirmed by Yahoo! Sports – came as no surprise,

Which makes the premise for Passan’s column all the more bizarre, but whatever, we’re rolling here.

and not just because he has spent almost two years running from questions that could help clear his name. The MLB Players Association doesn’t want anyone saying anything, not after Bosch, his associate Porter Fischer and others have agreed to varying levels of cooperation with MLB. The unity of members is sacred, the strongest defense against a pursuit some within the sport fear has veered into witch-hunt territory.

I’m not sure it was intentional, but to say “the MLBPA doesn’t want its players giving statements because Bosch and Porter Fischer are cooperating with MLB” is really misleading. I don’t think the MLBPA is quaking in its boots at the thought of Bosch and Fischer turning Commissioner’s evidence, for the simple reason that Bosch and Fischer are (to use a term of art in the legal community) pieces of shit. If MLB’s case is built upon the word of two people who’ve, from all indications, shown a disturbing (but probably not surprising) tendency to shape their stories to please whomever’s willing to pick up their tab at Sizzler, then MLB doesn’t have much of a case at all. The MLBPA knows this, and it also knows that any lawyer worth his salt would eat Tony Bosch for breakfast and have time to sneak in 9 holes before noon.

That brings us to the larger picture: I suspect that the Union recognizes this Biogenesis nonsense is much, much bigger than Ryan Braun or Alex Rodriguez or even any of the 20 or so other players who might get suspended next week. What’s at stake isn’t merely Braun’s reputation, ARod’s career, or the livelihood of the lesser known players caught up in this scandal. This is about the continuing viability of the Joint Drug Agreement, and, on a much grander scale, the power of the Union vis-à-vis the Commissioner’s Office.

To be a little less obtuse: look at this from the Union’s perspective. The Commissioner (if what ESPN is reporting is true) is threatening to suspend a decent chunk of your membership pursuant to the terms of a drug testing program without a single one of those players flunking a drug test, under some amorphous concept of “just cause” (which, amazingly, isn’t freaking defined in the JDA). And not only that: the Commissioner’s going to treat at least some of these folks as second-time offenders, hammering them with 100-game suspensions because the Commissioner has concluded those players were lying about their association with Tony Bosch — which, in the warped mind of some underling in the League office, somehow constitutes an offense distinct and separate from the underlying association with Bosch and can be punished as such. (This is akin to charging someone with Super Duper Extreme Burglary because he robbed a home and then lied to the police about it. If that sounds kind of crazy, that’s because it, y’know, is.)

If you’re the Union, you have to take the hardest line possible against that kind of action (which, at best, is an aggressive interpretation of the powers bestowed on MLB by the JDA, and, at worst, is a gross abuse of authority), don’t you? And that means not only fighting MLB on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets, but also telling your charges: “They want to interview you? Fuck them. We aren’t participating in this farce any more than we absolutely have to.”

That, I believe, is why the players are refusing to answer MLB’s questions.

Of course, Braun could break from the pack if truth-telling were his ultimate imperative.

For one: when has any player openly defied the Players Union in the manner that Passan’s suggesting? Remember what happened when ARod wanted give back some of his salary so he could join the Red Sox ten years ago? For two: if you can think of any reason it would benefit Braun to piss off one of, if not the, most powerful unions in the history of the world, I’d love to hear it. I’ll hang up and listen.

It isn’t. It never has been. He drives his narrative, saying what he wants while dodging anything that might actually answer how he ended up entangled in this mess. Braun’s conduct throughout the process – the vehement denials against strong evidence, the unconscionable smearing of sample collector Dino Laurenzi, the grand and sweeping statements of innocence and, yes, the public vows that he has nothing to hide – have steeled MLB in its pursuit of him.

Keep this “steeled in pursuit” line handy, would you? I think you’ll find it comes in useful in a few moments, when Passan derides anyone who thinks MLB has a “vendetta” against Braun as a “Braun truther.”

Let’s skip past the rehashing of Braun’s successful appeal of his positive PED test, because yawn, and move on to this:

Baseball values the truth because it deserves it.

I wish I had the words to convey to all of you how hard I just rolled my eyes. I’m not the writer Jeff Passan is, so suffice it to say: I rolled my eyes really, really, really, really fucking hard just now.

Even if the rules are draconian – no professional sport has yet to have an honest discussion about PEDs, because it would go against so much of what the last decade-plus has established – they are rules the players themselves bargained through their union, rules by which they agree to adhere and rules with clear punishments for those who run afoul.

We can debate whether the punishments authorized by the JDA fit the crime, but that’s not really the point, because the problem isn’t with the punishments, the problem is with the rules, which fall woefully short of adequately detailing exactly when the Commissioner is authorized to impose those severe punishments in the absence of a positive drug test. And, to be sure, the Union and its lawyers deserve a healthy portion of blame for not insisting on a definition of “just cause” for a non-analytic positive in the JDA, but to say: “Well, you agreed to this” skips a whole bunch of crucial steps, the most important of which being: agreed to what, exactly?

Braun declined comment to reporters through the team Tuesday, like he’s done since releasing his statement following the Biogenesis link. The Braun truthers will do what they’ve done from the start and focus more on the peripheral aspects of the case – MLB’s supposed vendetta, or Bosch’s credibility, or the sample being spiked – because it’s easier to do that, to believe a smile and empty words, to rail against the system when the player is the one corrupting it.

Many Brewer fans, myself included, think Jeff Passan has something of a hate boner for Ryan Braun. They’ll cite as proof, for example, columns like the one we’re currently dissecting – where Passan pulls five words (“I have nothing to hide”) that Braun’s apparently said twice over the last year, pairs it with Braun declining to answer questions about Biogenesis (after being asked to do so by his Union), sprinkles in a pinch of “yeah, he beat the positive test, but you know that was bullshit, right?”, and then spends 1000 words rubbing his hands together at the thought of Braun being knocked from his pedestal.

Passan scoffs at the suggestion that he’s got it out for Braun, repeatedly insisting that’s he’s presenting all sides of the story. But when you categorize anyone who thinks Braun might’ve had a good point about the handling of his urine sample in the first appeal, or anyone who’s slightly disturbed at the measures the Commissioner’s office is apparently willing to employ to crush anyone associated with Biogenesis, as a “Braun truther,” and dismiss things like the credibility of the League’s essential witness as a “peripheral aspect of the case,” you can kind of see where we’re coming from, right?

Right?

Yuni The Unlucky

Yuni’s played in 81 games and had 266 PAs. Ron has referred to him as unlucky. Other people have referred to him as unlucky.  They usually cite his BABIP.

Yuni isn’t unlucky, he’s bad. Math says so. If he is unlucky it’s not by very much. In at least one case he’s SUPER LUCKY. That stat is HR/FB. Currently, 11% of Yuni’s flyballs are leaving the yard. His career rate is 5.4% and his previous career high is 8.2%. He’s been fantastically lucky in this regard. 

Of course it would help if he actually hit a flyball every now and then. He’s hitting 1.21 grounballs for every flyball he hits, the 2nd worst rate of his career (assuming flyballs are good and grounders are bad). His groundball rate is a career high 46.9%. His line drive rate is a career low 14.2%. His flyball rate is the 3rd lowest of his career, and in the two years in which is was lower he hit far more line drives.

This brings us to his BABIP, which is frequently misused as an excuse. Sabermetric shorthand says that to figure out expected BABIP, take LD% and ad .12*. We expect Yuni Betancourt’s BABIP this year to be roughly .260. 

His actual BABIP is .213. That’s not a huge difference. In fact, given that all of his peripheral numbers indicate that he’s routinely making terrible contact, I would expect his BABIP to be under his expected BABIP to some degree.

As I said before, we’ve played 81 games and in those 81 games Yuni has 52 hits. The difference between his BABIP and his expected BABIP is 9 hits, or 1 hit every 9 games. If you add those 9 hits to his resume and attribute those 9 hits in accordance with his current breakdown of hits (basically, give him credit for six additional singles, one additional double, and two additional home runs), his slash line goes from .206/.237/.348 all the way up to .241/.277/.380. Yay.

So yes, Yuni’s bad luck has made a terrible player into a terrible player. By the way, his career slash line is .262/.287/.389. He’s a terrible player. Let’s never talk about luck and Yuni again please. 

*It’s not exact, but it will do, and it probably overstates his expected BABIP if anything. I suspect that as guys get down into truly awful territory we should expect more bad contact, and hence, expect a lower BABIP. 

“This Time It Counts!”

“A bet is a tax on bullshit” – Alex Tabarrok

I think Major League Baseball gets far too much guff for using the All-Star Game to decide who gets home field advantage in the World Series. Frankly, I don’t think there is enough at stake. I hate watching “exhibitions”. The Pro Bowl is awful because no one cares. Maybe the NBA All-Star game is worth watching, I wouldn’t know. And the NHL’s is alright, but that’s because hockey players are insane.

I remember when Randy Johnson faced Larry Walker and no one took anything seriously. Walker turned his helmet around, hit righty, ended up drawing a walk. The whole thing made me want to wretch.

Herman Edwards may be a terrible football coach but I fully agree with his “playing to win the game” mantra. Having an exhibition is meaningless. It only serves to placate those who follow sports as a means of celebrity worship because they’re too embarrassed to just break down and subscribe to Us Weekly. The only other reason to have the All-Star game to bribe cities to build new stadia. But hey, if you all want to keep your celebrity-worshipping, billionaire-subsidizing bit of baseball onanism, be my guest.

Just don’t complain when people try to turn it into a real game. And if we’re going to have a baseball game, it would be nice if everyone involved treated it like a real baseball game, because, and I can’t stress this enough, people trying to win is what makes sports exciting.

“But Paul?” you say in your absolute whiniest voice, “the World Series is important, and the All-Star Game is not, and one should not influence the other.”

Oh. Oh is home field in the World Series super important? Is it? Is that why everyone gets to play in the All-Star Game and why Matt Harrison (career 4.15 ERA 1.387 WHIP) was once allowed to give up runs in an All-Star Game? Or why noted top pitcher Matt Thornton was allowed to pitch in a high-leverage situation with the bases loaded*?  Or why Mariano Rivera was saved for a SAVE SITUATION in this game?

That’s why I say there’s not enough at stake. The guys managing the All-Star Game, who theoretically have a chance to be managing in the World Series, don’t seem to give a damn about home field.

I have some more bad news for you too.

The correct way to decide home field advantage will make you even madder than all of the incorrect ways.

The old way was not the correct way, but it was every bit as dumb as the current method and didn’t have the side benefit of increasing the stakes in a boring exhibition game. The leagues used to alternate. You get half, we get half. That’s it. No one got it on merit, we just went with good old communism.

Most of you complaining about the current system neglect to mention this fact and instead assume that the replacement for the current system would be that the best team gets home field advantage. What you mean by this is the team with the best record.

It is at this point that I like to point out that:

  1. The team with the best record is often, and I would say usually, not the best team in baseball, that
  2. The NL plays mostly the NL, the AL plays mostly the AL, and teams mostly play within their own divisions, and therefore strength of schedule varies greatly, and
  3. A worse team in a terrible division can often put up a great record compared to a great team in a great division.

So “the best record” is really just a lazy proxy for giving home field to the best team because let’s face it, work is hard. We can, of course, figure out the actual best team. We do things like that all the time. We could just invent some kind of power ranking that accounted for strength of schedule, 3rd order record, actual record, and the like called something like, I don’t know, the Baseball Championship Statistic and rank teams based on this BCS**…oh, you don’t like that suggestion? But I thought you wanted to be fair and reward the best team.

So anyway, managers don’t seem to care enough about the All-Star Game for my taste even with the added stakes, so I have a few additional suggestions:

  1. Winners get a bunch of money. Losers get nothing. This one is self-explanatory.
  2. Winners have a year of service time added to their resumes so they reach free agency faster, if applicable. Losers are subjugated for an extra year. If applicable. Vets get no-trade protection added/taken away.
  3. The managers of the winning team are allowed to wear casual clothing the rest of the year instead of uniforms. (Work uses this one sometimes. Seems effective.)
  4. Since players don’t seem to like playing in the All-Star Game, if you win the All-Star Game, you don’t have to play in next year’s All-Star Game. If you lose you must return next year.
  5. Change the rule that requires every team to have an All-Star. As an owner, if your team fails to produce an All-Star, you must reimburse your community 1/3 of whatever stadium subsidy you received immediately. Since you’re saving so much on baseball operations you can surely afford it.

I think any of these suggestions would really add to the fun of All-Star weekend and, more importantly, turn the stupid thing into a real actual competitive event.  Let’s make it happen.

*OK, so it was a lefty-lefty matchup and not that terrible, but still, Matt Thornton made a fricking All-Star Team.

**Yes, yes, the BCS was horribly constructed and didn’t really work, especially when people started messing with it because it didn’t line up with the polls enough because we developed a system to deal with the fact that the polls were flawed. My god we’re dumb.

When Clint Coulter was sent to Helena, did it spark Jorge Lopez’s breakout?

I want to start off by saying a few things about this little experiment with a few disclaimers, and an explanation, because (spoilers!) my theory turns out to be at best un-provable and at worst (and most likely) junk*.  But sometimes it’s good to look at the things that don’t work out, and anyway, someone might actually be able to make use of this data at some point.

I got the idea for this post when AK and I went to see the Rattlers play a few weeks ago. At that game Jorge Lopez threw an absolute gem and, I thought, 3rd string catcher Brent Dean caught a great game. He frequently brought low balls back up into the strike zone and controlled the running game when guys did get on.

If you follow prospects you probably know of Clint Coulter. Coulter is believed to have some of the highest upside in the organization, and the Brewers hope to turn Coulter into a catcher in order to make the most of that upside. Coulter started the year in Appleton but has since been sent back to Helena for some more seasoning.

Jorge Lopez is a decent prospect in his own right and is considered to be having a breakout season. Since I saw Dean basically make Lopez better, I thought it might be worth looking into whether Coulter made him worse. If Lopez is having a mid-season breakout, perhaps it coincides with better guidance behind the plate.

FIP by Catcher:

Parker Berberet – 4.356

Brent Dean – 6.5

Clint Coulter – 3.857

I’m using FIP just because minor league defense is such garbage I figured we’d stick to what he has some control over.  If you just look at FIP Coulter looks to have been Lopez’s best friend, but it’s not quite so simple. Lopez has appeared in 14 games this year. In his first two starts on April 7th and April 16th, he was absolutely destroyed. This is Lopez’s first year above Rookie ball, and it’s not really surprising that this would happen, and while I’m loathe to simply discount stats I don’t like understand that:

  1. Dean and Berberet caught those first 2 starts.
  2. Lopez has allowed 6 HRs on the season. 4 came in those first two games (3-Dean, 1-Berberet).
  3. That in his 2nd start against the Cedar Rapids Kernels (52-33), Lopez recorded only 1 out while the Byron Buxton led Kernels batted around.  Lopez’s FIP for that game was 223.2. Which is bad.
  4. Lopez struggled in his first turn with Coulter behind the plate as well, though not to such a disastrous extent. He made it through 5.1, but allowed a HR and walked 2 (and drilled a guy) while only striking out 2.

If we eliminate the month of April, things look better for everyone involved.

Berberet – 3.610

Dean – 2.2

Coulter – 3.138

So again, things look good for Coulter. Dean jumps a ton only because he only caught Lopez twice and this eliminates a game. At this point I’m just including him for the sake of completeness. The funny thing about this is Berberet has caught every recent game – Lopez’s “breakout” – but you can make a decent argument not only that Coulter was better behind the plate, but that Lopez’s breakout happened as early as May 5th.

Now, there are a few other things worth mentioning. In May, Lopez alternated starts and relief appearances. If we remove relief and just look at starts:

Berberet – 3.917

Coulter – 4.819

Coulter looks much better due to two Lopez relief appearances. On May 5th Lopez worked 4 innings of relief, walking 1 and striking out 3 for a FIP of 2.45. On May 17th he worked 3.1 innings of relief walking 2, but striking out 6 for a FIP of 1.265. Coulter caught both games, and while Lopez did throw significant innings, relief is often easier for a number of reasons (working against the bench, able to throw your best stuff more frequently, etc.).  With Coulter behind the plate Lopez has K’d 22 batters in 22 innings, but relief appearances contributed greatly to that. With Berberet it was only 20 Ks in 29 and two thirds.

The bottom line is as follows. From April 29th to May 23rd, (early) Coulter caught Lopez. In starts he had FIPs of 6.14, 5.53, and 3.36 (in chronological order).   Lopez had his only two instances of 5+ walks in two of those starts but he also had his only 7 K performance.

From May 28th through July 3rd, (recently) Berberet and Dean caught Lopez. In his starts he had FIPs of 4.033, 2.87, 2.2, 3.93, 2.7, and 2.6 (in chronological order).

And at this point I will simply declare that you can’t tell anything about the catcher’s influence on anything. It would make as much sense to say that he was simply bad/adjusting early and got progressively better. Sure he wasn’t as good in 3 starts with Coulter but that hardly seems fair, and he did get progressively better with him over time. The fact that this progress continues as time goes on is merely an indicator of a pitcher continuing to get better. I was looking for a drastic jump and for Lopez to be consistently bad under Coulter but there’s certainly not enough data to say that, and even looking at what we have, Berberet and Coulter are too close to draw any firm conclusions without resorting to statistical gymnastics.  Cutting out all relief appearances is hardly fair when they’re 3+ innings, and it involves not only cutting out some of Coulter’s best appearances, but also one of Berberet’s worst, a one batter relief appearance in which Lopez allowed a HR.

Just to cover my bases a bit I took a look at the two pitchers who have thrown more innings for the Rattlers than Lopez**: Tyler Wagner (3.63 ERA, 89.1 IP) and Eric Semmelhack (4.68 ERA, 75 IP).

Tyler Wagner, FIP by catcher:

Berberet – 2.40

Coulter – 4.15

Dean – 6.18

Tyler Roberts – 5.577

Looks good for Berberet, but…

Eric Semmelhack, FIP by catcher,

Berberet – 5.323

Coulter – 5.033

Dean – 4.19

Roberts – 8.1

So in answer to the title, probably not.

Breaking Down the Haudricourt Chat

(I’m filling in for AK since he’s busy doing something else.)

Welcome back Mr. Haudricourt! Now this is a sight for sore eyes.

Let’s take a look at some winners and losers. Of course with Tom back, we’re all winners.

Loser

  • Q: Larry Ervin, Brookield. WI - Hey Tom How are you? I’m doing ok.Hey are the brewers really considering getting rid of Gallardo? Thet would be kid of silly if you ask me?What does it look like on Corey Hart contract status? Hope not.I see Weeks is starting to come around now since Scooter is here now? To late now Rickie.I think has Rickie’s job.I think they waiting til all-star to tell Weeks that he lost his job.Thats too bad.How is Braun doing ok?Well lets do somehin or do something soon.They will bring up Scooter and get rid of our clohes.Ok take care. Larry E.

 

Larry says he’s doing OK, but I beg to differ. I’d like to keep my clohes on, but I will take care.

Winner, and still Undefeated and Undisputed Champion

  • Q: Derek, Superior - Hi Tom. Are there any players either in the Brewers minor league system or otherwise available as a free agent who are actually better players than Yuni B? I know he is an excellent defender and an extremely patient hitter with massive power potential. But it seems he is going through a bit of a slump. On the other hand, I would hate to quit on the guy too early and have him turn it around for the Royals later this year. After all, he has produced above replacement level as recently as 2008. I guess these are the hard choices GMs have to make.

 

Derek and Tom together again! The sarcasm, it drips off the page.  It cuts like a knife. We love Yuni-bashing, especially subtle Yuni-bashing, and for that reason Derek will also be a winner in our hearts, because Derek gets it.

Loser

  • Q: Matt - Why is Morris regarded as the heir apparent at first and Gamel not in the conversation? Gamel seems more advanced as a hitter and not any worse a fielder. Is his knee so bad he’s on the scrapheap? Is it his attitude which at times seems to have been questioned?

 

Oh, sure. “Matt.” Clever alias with the two Ts. We know who you are.

Winner

  • Q: Ball Girl, Madison - Hi Tom, I’ve read your comments regarding MLB adding a 5th umpire and I totally agree with your thinking. My question is do you think MLB is giving this serious consideration? Thanks.

 

  • Q: Ball Girl, Madison - Hi Tom, Do the Brewers have any legitimate prospects at 3rd base or is there anyone you think could be moved to the position. This seems like a weak area organization wide. Thanks.

 

  • Q: G-Man, Reeseville WI - Tom, Players on the bottom of the roster who might go back and forth to the minors many times, are they paid differently each time they are moved? I would think there would be a big difference in salary, right?

 

Solid questions Ball Girl. Short, focused, to the point.  Nicely done.  G-Man also shows genuine curiosity, keeping it short and sweet. We all learned something from these people. And learning is for winners. 

Loser

  • Q: Lee Harrington, Ludington, michigan - Hello Tom, While I am not advocating this I have to ask…..with the PED episode surrounding Ryan Braun and with the mediocre condition the starting pitching staff is in might this be time to trade Braun for some starting pitching or a great group of prospects. With Gomez, Lucroy, and Segura as our future core maybe it’s time to add pieces to the team. Any thoughts? Nice to have you back. Lee

 

Everybody, they’re not trading Ryan Braun. It’s not happening. Knock it off.

Finally, our two biggest Winners.

  • Q: Derek, Superior, WI - Is Cesar Izturis avaialble to play 1B for the Brewers. I think he has the skill set the organization looks for in this position. Former SS, check. No prior experience playing 1B, check. Terrible hitter, check. Has played for the Brewers in the past, check. Seems like an obvious fit. Maybe Bill Hall? Jose Hernandez? So many options.

 

Double the Derek is double the fun! Cesar was so excited at the thought of being mentioned by Derek that he went 3-4 with a double yesterday for the Reds. I’d like to kick the tires on Billy Spiers, myself.

  • Q: Andy , Chicago - Glad to have you back Tom! In a recent mailbag Adam McCalvy told the story of how you had sprinted from the airport gate to buy a hat before you got on the plane, was wondering what your side of the story was, and if you have any good Adam McCalvy stories you’d like to share in response?

 

And Tom did! That’s some nice work from “Andy from Chicago,” whoever you are. We’ll probably never know. 

What’s wrong with this stupid quote?

“With Frankie getting the 300, it makes it easier for me — now we just pitch the guys who I think are pitching the best” – RRR

Let’s break it down:

  1. Ron is admitting that he would have/did stick with K-Rod for non-performance based reasons.
  2. Ron is admitting that he cares about a stupid statistic and will manage accordingly.
  3. Ron is admitting that he cares about a big round number in front of that stupid statistic and will manage accordingly.
  4. Ron is admitting THAT HE KNOWS BETTER, and now that big round milestone number has been achieved he can play his best players in the proper situation again.
  5. You may be doing this, but DON’T SAY IT. He was pitching well, that’s enough.  It can be a happy accident that he got to 300.

Twitter defenses and why they are wrong:

  1. But they’re losing anyway! Well la-di freaking da. Let’s have everyone swing as hard as they can every AB then, try and set all HR records. NO SINGLES ALLOWED.
  2. But Ken Macha did the same thing with Trevor Hoffman! That team finished 77-85, and Hoffman was a big contributor to that. It was dumb then, it’s dumb now.
  3. But K-Rod WAS the best guy for the job! Maybe he was, but his stated process was idiotic.

Dealer: Player showing 19…

RRR: Hit me.

Dealer: Are you sure? Dealer shows a 5 and…

RRR: You heard me. I’ve successfully hit 34 times in a row.

Dealer: Very well sir.

RRR: Damn right.

Dealer: A two, player has 21.

RRR: See, 35 times! Now I can go back to hitting at the appropriate moments!

Cougars-Rattlers: Your RRSMB Farm Report

AK and I attended the Kane County Cougars-Wisconsin Timber Rattlers game on Friday to do some “scouting” and because there was some guy named Rock Shoulders playing*. The Rattlers dominated the contest behind a strong performance by Jorge Lopez with an assist by gigantic 5th/3rd Bank Ballpark, which has high fences and is 335 down each line.  Here’s a brief report on the major contributors:

Brent Dean:

Brent Dean is 26 year old catcher playing in Single-A ball, and I suspect is only seeing action right now due to an injury to Clint Coulter (Note: Just found out that Coulter was demoted back to rookie ball). Being a 26-year-old in A-ball says a lot about your potential future as a major leaguer (you don’t have one), but guys like Dean stick around for a reason. On Friday starting pitcher Jorge Lopez was masterful, and a good chunk of the credit for his performance should go to Dean, whose work behind the plate was one of the only things in the game that stuck out as major-league caliber.  Lopez was able to work consistently low in the zone and Dean brought a ton of balls back up for called strikes. He set an excellent target, didn’t flinch or reach for balls, and made great use of Lopez’s ability to locate. He also gunned down Alfredo Almora attempting to steal second, showing a plus arm and quick release.

Dean was not just a defensive superstar either.  He crushed an RBI double off of Cougars’ starter Mike Heesch in the 6th which was probably the hardest hit ball of the night by anyone not named Vogelbach.  Dean then proceeded to steal third. He might not ever play above A-ball going forward, but on Friday Brent Dean showed why he gets paid to play baseball.

Alfredo Rodriguez:

The Rattler lead-off hitter and 2nd baseman went 2-5 with a double and 2 RBI.  At this point I would like to mention that with the exception of Victor Roache, Mike Heesch, Rock Shoulders, and Dan Vogelbach, every player in this game looked to be about 12 years old and 145 pounds. Alfredo was no exception even though he’s 23 and listed at 6 feet tall. He made solid contact several times and to my untrained eye, was competent at 2nd. He’s played SS in the past but has been moved over (I assume) for Orlando Arcia.

Orlando Arcia:

Orlando had a rough game at the plate, going 0-5. He didn’t strike out, which was a positive I suppose. He did have some nice elevation to his swing and got the ball in the air with some power a few times, and I can see why scouts are optimistic. He acquitted himself well on defense though no one on the infield was really tested much. He was quick, moved laterally well for the opportunities he was given.

Tyrone Taylor:

Taylor had one of the least impressive 4/5 nights in history.  He reached on a bunt in the first and was caught stealing.   He hit a nice line drive single in the 4th but was stranded.  In the 6th he led off with an infield single and eventually came around to score on a sac fly, but it was a minor league infield single.  Finally, in the 9th he singled on a fly ball, but was subsequently picked off by Shawn Camp. You can see Taylor’s athleticism as he runs very well, but he was reckless on the base paths and his defense in CF can charitably be described as a work in progress as his speed bailed him out of bad reads on several occasions.

Victor Roache:

Roache stood out as one of the men among boys in this game. He’s only 21 but already looks powerful. The knock on Roache from what I read is his ability to make contact. That wasn’t a problem on Friday as he hit the ball hard several times, going 1-3 with an HBP.

Jorge Lopez:

Lopez was outstanding allowing only 2 hits and one walk over 6 innings while striking out 6. He missed bats, induced a bunch of weak contact, and kept the Cougars off balance all night. According to the stadium radar gun he mostly sat high 80s occasionally touching the low 90s.  He kept his breaking stuff down and excelled at locating his fastball. If he can add a few ticks to that fastball they might have something here.

Some Cougars

Albert Almora:

Almora is one of the top prospects in the Cub organization, and quite possibly their top prospect.  He’s only 19 and has been destroying Low-A to this point. This was not the greatest game to display his talents as he reached on a single in the first but was caught stealing, and was quiet for the rest of the game. He seemed to cover a lot of ground in CF, I will say that. 19-year-olds will have the occasional unremarkable game.

Rock Shoulders:

The man with the best name baseball had one of the Cougars five hits on the night, a harmless infield single in the 9th. Other than that, Shoulders mostly looked intimidating while grounding out.  He looks to have outstanding power potential and hit one out on Saturday, but Lopez had his way with him on Friday.

Dan Vogelbach:

Dan Vogelbach will not be selling any blue jeans. Vogelbach is generously listed at 6’0” and his build is distinctly Fielderian.  I hear he’s actually cut a lot of weight and if he can keep himself in shape he may have a bright future. BP lists him as having 80 raw power and in a smaller park he would have had at least one home run on Friday. You’ve probably already guessed that he’s limited to first base.   He went 1-4 with a harmless ninth inning bloop single to left (beating the shift), and was gunned down trying to stretch it into a double, but had a few loud outs to go with it.

Best play of the night:

1-unassisted.  I have to confess in my memory the 3rd baseman made this play unassisted, but according to the box score it was instead gigantic lefty starter Michael Heesch. With Orlando Arcia on 1st, Tyrone Taylor laid down a bunt and 3rd baseman Jeimer Candelario tried to barehand the ball but overran it. Since there was no one covering 3rd Arcia just kept running. Heesch picked up the ball, sprinted over to 3rd, dove, and tagged Arcia just before he got in. Taylor was subsequently caught stealing for a truly TOOTBLAN-y single-A inning.

Overall experience: AK and I sat 3 rows back just on the home base side of the rattlers dugout for 12 bucks each. They have an excellent beer selection and a nice fireworks display after the game which allowed us to beat traffic as we don’t really care about fireworks. The food was solid and the between-inning Jimmy Buffett music was just fine. Also, due to a lack of between-inning commercials and some efficient pitching, the game only lasted two hours and twenty-five minutes. Not too shabby. A great baseball experience if you don’t mind going all the way out to Geneva, IL.

*And it was Jimmy Buffett night, which mainly just increased the quality of the music between innings.

Things that are worse than PEDs in baseball

I have always found it odd that we mandate people wear seat-belts while simultaneously allowing people to ride motorcycles. And not just ride motorcycles, but often ride them without helmets. Those are pretty much the same activity, but one is several orders of magnitude more dangerous and we have chosen to regulate the safer one. There are many reasons for this, but I’d say the primary one is that the government loves to look like it’s doing something, especially for the children. Bikers are a lobby so they’re able to escape such things, and biking is more of a lifestyle. Not wearing a seat-belt is not a lifestyle, inspires no lobbying, and thus is subject to regulation even though this makes no sense when lumped in with motorcycles.

People have this strange ability to compartmentalize certain activities while completely losing the broader context.  What I’ve described above is basically insane, but it’s also common.  This human tendency is the foundation of basically all stand-up comedy. Baseball has it in spades. Here’s a list.

Baseline: PEDs result in a 50-game suspension.

Reason for penalty: Player protection. PEDs are not allowed in theory because they’re dangerous, and like any drug, if they’re abused they are. Moreover, if some players are allowed to take possibly dangerous PEDs, it puts pressure on other players to take them to keep up. Player safety is the reason for the 50-game suspension the first time you are caught.  Now, on to things that are punished less severely, or actively encouraged.

  1. Beanballs. Last night Ian Kennedy hit Zack Greinke in the head with a baseball on purpose, and then participated in a big brawl. For this, he will probably be suspended 5 or 10 games (1 or 2 starts). He could have killed or severely hurt an All-Star caliber pitcher. In my humble view, actions that can kill people immediately should be punished more harshly than PED use, but that’s just me. Like, if Matt Kemp tried to run over Martin Prado with the bullpen car* I’d like to think he’d be suspended more than 50 games. It’s really not that different than head-hunting.
  2. Brawls. Earlier this year Greinke had his collarbone snapped by an angry Carlos Quentin upon plunking him (almost certainly not on purpose). Bean balls are quite dangerous, and physically assaulting someone with your fists is also pretty damn dangerous.  You know, it’s illegal in normal society and can get you thrown in prison and stuff. MLB basically allows this to happen.  Quentin got 8 games. I suppose if you’re on steroids and decide to beat the snot out of everyone you should get a little more. Mark McGwire was basically Bane yesterday.
  3. Equipment. Pitchers are not required to wear helmets. Last year Brandon McCarthy took a line drive to the head. He was seriously injured and, even 10 months later is still experiencing occasional seizures. Batters have to wear helmets and many choose to wear armor. This makes sense because they have a 90 mph ball heading towards them. Pitchers, on the other hand, are the exact same distance from hitters as hitters are from pitchers, and there is often a 120 mph ball headed back at them.  Moreover, they are often not in a position to defend themselves and due to their follow-through, actually closer. Jon Olerud played the field with a helmet, it can be done. Plus it looked awesome.
  4. Dr. Wily Style Traps. The wall in Wrigley field is made out of brick. The Astros stadium has a hill in center field with a pole in the middle of it. Bryce Harper is lucky he wasn’t in Wrigley when he inexplicably ran into that (still too hard) wall the other day. He’d be a dead man. As it stands, Wrigley has done a number on plenty of outfielders.  For years the “turf” in Montreal destroyed the knees of promising players and basically ruined Andre Dawson.  We’re lucky that Fenway never had traditional lava pits or thwomps because they would still be embraced today due to tradition.
  5. The MLB schedule. It used to have more off-days due to more frequent double-headers. There were more day games. There was more time for players to rest. Lost revenue has ended the era of the regular double header, and TV schedules (and box office too) limits the number of day games. This creates an atmosphere where players are on bizarre sleep schedules and have less time to recover. If MLB actually cared that much about PEDs they’d make life easier on their players again. But that would cost money.
  6. Catcher Collisions. These are technically against the rules but they’re allowed because of old-school machismo and stupid nonsense. Sure it cost baseball a year of Buster Posey, but how else are you supposed to stop someone from getting to a base except for the same way as with all the other bases. Destroying a catcher usually gets you no suspension. Neither does stupidly blocking the plate.
  7. Drinking. MLB doesn’t suspend players for DUI. MLB also has no trouble with people getting loaded at games. I enjoy a beer or two or three at a game as much as the next person and I’m not calling for a ban or anything, but I’d wager that morons being over-served has done far more damage than PEDs. Yovani Gallardo blew a .22 earlier this year. Nothing happened.

I’m pretty sure that, at most, Ian Kennedy will get 10 games and I’ll be pretty shocked if it’s more than 5.  And the reason that PEDS will get a 50 game suspension is exactly the same reason that seat belts get regulated. Well, not the same reason. It’s actually worse.

The MLB Owners want to appear concerned about player safety, and this is one way to do it, however it has the added benefit of making their bargaining opponents look like criminals. For Joe Sportsfan it puts the owners on the moral high ground and allows him to look down on the millionaire drug-using player.  The fact is that there are a lot of other ways to care about player safety, but this is the one that ESPN truly cares about.** The important thing to remember about baseball owners is that they spend much of their time trying to think of ways to give less money to all of those damn players. Basically everything they do should be viewed through that prism. PED regulations are one of their crowning successes. But really, who cares if Ian Kennedy cripples Zack Greinke?

*I miss bullpen cars. BRING BACK BULLPEN CARS!

**Probably why they hire steroid experts like Golic.

Classic Begel

Someone on Twitter asked me about FJMing Begel the other day, and at this point I think I’ve decided that he’s in that rare spot beyond parody, and that we should mostly just sit back and take in the glorious gift that is a Begel sports column. That said, I did FJM him once at an old retired sports blog, and since there isn’t a game tonight and you may need something to read, I present it to you here in full. From December 13th of 2011:

Should “women” play “sports?”

 
What’s that? A Women’s NBA? The Kaiser didn’t take my leg so I could see strumpets in hoops skirts tossing the old leatherball into perfectly good peach baskets, no sir! In my day women toiled 23 hours a day pausing only momentarily for sleeping, eating, the “lower” tasks, and perhaps 15 minutes of Bridge, which is, if you ask me, the only thing that should be played by women.

And with this new-fangled “Liberal Media” good luck finding someone to agree with someone like me. Fortunately you can still find sense on this glowy-technobox that my great granddaughter installed at the end of my death-cot last year in the form of Dave Begel of OnMilwaukee.com.

“With a nod to Julie Andrews and “The Sound of Music,” here are two of my favorite things:”

Julie named “a few” of her favorite things which, in many parts of this great country is considered to be more than two, but I think we should cut Mr. Begel some slack since Julie is pretty needy in that song. 

“Women.”

Who else would fix my oatmeal and clean my bedpan?

“Basketball.”

The boys and I did enjoy a fine game of “horse” when killing time between slaughtering Turks. 

“And then there is women playing basketball, which doesn’t even make the top 1,000 on the list of my favorite things. And please note that getting hit by a car but luckily only suffering a broken ankle does make my list.”

Indeed. My favorite things list stretches over 100,000 entries, and well over half includes me suffering some sort of affliction less severe than that which could reasonably be expected. Then again I’m a bit of a masochist. And a sociopath.

“The only reason I’m thinking about this is that I heard a pretty good rumor that two guys in Milwaukee are looking into the idea of having a WNBA team. They have already made preliminary forays into seeing what kind of dates and rent could be had at the Milwaukee Arena, which is now called something else but I forget what.”

A sentence about a “pretty good rumor” in which two men are “looking at the idea of having a WNBA team*” would have gotten one dishonorably discharged in my unit; however we should offer our charity to this scribe. He clearly has not experienced the same level of modern technology as I. If I can get the operator to ring this Begel I will offer to send my great granddaughter to his house to show him the Google on his glowy-technobox and we can finally unearth the name of this theater. 

“When I was doing my usual amount of thorough research for this column, I had to go online to find out when the Women’s National Basketball Association (known colloquially as the WNBA) played.”

Oh. 

Perhaps his version of Google does not look up theater names. Good people of Milwaukee, someday this feature will arrive, I promise!

“I wasn’t sure if they played in the dead of winter or the heat of summer or somewhere in between. I think summer is the answer with a slight overlap into early fall.”

Perhaps he was foiled after all, and really why provide solid facts when we can use conjecture and guessing?

“I’ve thought a great deal about the differences between the men’s game and the women’s game, and why the women’s game puts me to sleep.”

It is undoubtedly the lack of mobility created by the bustle, the lack of appropriate footwear, the general female temperament, and, of course, the necessity of placing feinting couches every 20 feet in case of exhaustion or mania.

“Men play like they have jets attached to their shoes, women play like they have cement shoes.”

Ha! I’m sure we call got a good chuckle out of his juxtaposition of futuristic speed shoes with mafia execution devices. I know I did. 

“Men play in the air, soaring above the fray, women play like a rugby scrum, unable to slide a piece of paper between their shoes and the floor.”**

Back in Europe we would occasionally take on the Brits in the vulgar version of Canadian football know as Rugby, and without question the most difficult portion of every game was obtaining a piece of paper to ensure everyone adhered to the “no lifting your feet while playing like a rugby scrum” rule. It was always an odd game made more striking by their inability to use proper English despite being English. That said I’ll never forget our stirring war cry, “Play like a rugby scrum today!”

“Men slap five when they make a good play, women clap furiously.”***

Just yesterday I was watching the Rams play on my black-and-white (color is vulgar and stunts the imagination) and went to high-five my nurse on a particularly tough Stephen Jackson run. Her subsequent furious clapping gave me such a start that I had to be sedated!

“Men push and shove and hit each other and dive into the stands, women say “ouch” and kind of wave at balls headed out of bounds.”****

It’s true. I just threw a Basket Ball at my nurse’s head and she just said “ouch” and waved. 

“Just so people know that I am not strictly opposed to women playing basketball, I want to make it clear that I’m only opposed to and bored by them trying to play men’s basketball.”*****

It was hard enough to get them to change the Women’s Men’s National Basketball Association to just the Women’s National Basketball Association.

“I love softball and women’s tennis and skiing and golf and the lingerie football league (Let’s get one of these teams, because these girls can really play) and even women’s hockey. It’s just basketball.”******

Don’t forget Foxy Boxing!

“And living up to my life goal of always trying to be nice and help people, let me offer an alternative. An alternative with lots of historic precedent as well.
Women should return to the way they used to play the game. The good old days.”

Let me just use the google on the thing…. Ah! The old 3-3 game. How I’ve missed you! Why, I’d almost forgotten…

“There are six players to a team. Three forwards and three guards. The forwards play on one side of the floor and the guards on the other. The forwards are the offense and the guards are the defense. A foul is called if a player steps over the half-court line.”

…during the inevitable slow-down that came from playing like rugby scrums the unoccupied side of the court would fix tea and crumpets for the male attendees. Occasionally we would engage in courtly dances, and I still remember old Johnson who courted, married, and witnessed the birth of his first child during a fe-male basket ball match.

“I am also in favor of making a few other rule changes, all of which have some historical precedent.”

You’ve made so much sense so far I look forward to hearing your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

“Women would be allowed only two dribbles. They would then have to pass or shoot.”

This rule is unnecessary as no woman is coordinated enough to dribble more than twice, however I also see no harm in it and one day some woman could conceivably master the third dribble. I’m in favor.

“A foul would be called if both feet of a player were off the floor at the same time.”

And the woman in question would have to immediately clean the scuff marks! 

“If you touch an opposing player, it’s a foul. If you touch an opposing player more than once, it’s an automatic ejection.”

If it happens a third time we will keep an ignited stake courtside. 

“And finally, I would add a mercy rule. If the game, which has only one period of 30 minutes, finds one team up by 20 points or more, the game is called and we all go home.”

And the ladies make us dinner. It is good to see that the wisdom of the early 1900s still has a champion in this day and age. 

*Presumably by impregnating an NBA team?

**I must break misogynistic old dinosaur character to point out just how terrible this sentence is, and just how remarkable it is that someone was apparently paid to write it. None of these clauses go together. The tortured metaphor about the piece of paper refers back to the cement shoes from the sentence before when it should be referring to the rugby scrum comment. It doesn’t really matter because the rugby scrum comment doesn’t make any sense anyway. Rugby is an exciting, constantly moving game and it is in no way insulting to compare any form of basketball to any part of rugby. I suspect he’s never seen rugby. I’ve read this sentence like 25 times now and my brain hurts, so let’s move on.

***One of the reasons I wrote this as a senile 130-year-old war veteran is that doing a straight FJM on this is almost impossible because it’s almost too dumb for words. Seriously, men high five and women clap? Women clapping is a stereotype? Is it like how all Polish people where Rugby shirts.

****It was at this point in the article that I realized he may be going for a George Carlin “Baseball/Football” thing, and I’m still not 100% sure. I am 100% sure that George Carlin would claim that he is not. 

*****Yeah, I didn’t know where he was going with this either.

******I just wanted to point out that he puts the qualifier “women’s” on tennis but not on softball or skiing or golf. Or lingerie football. Presumably he thinks men should never play these things?