|Hitters of the year|
|Barry Bonds||Vladimir Guerrero|
|Pitchers of the year|
|Randy Johnson||Johan Santana|
|Most valuable batters|
|Miguel Cabrera||Travis Hafner|
|Most valuable pitchers|
|Oliver Perez||Bronson Arroyo|
|The 2004 regular season is drawing to a close Ė a good AL West race, a good NL wild card race, and phony frenzy over the Yankee-Red Sox games. The deity achieves another milestone, further ensuring that we wont know if he is truly God-like before it is two late. Two players whose service to their teams goes underappreciated.|
|Barry gets 700. Another jewel in his crown, with the big prize coming into view. The fact that he will ďonlyĒ hit around 45 home runs this year does not diminish his greatness compared to the 73 dinger year. His on base average is .608 Ė Todd Helton is second in the NL with a .464 OBA. His slugging pct is .820 Ė Jim Edmonds is second at .679. He wonít produce the legendary 200 runs produced year, but a team of Barrys would score over 21 runs each and every single game. Only 131 hits this year, but 215 walks! On base 346 times, and has made only 221 outs! Take him and Schmidt out of the Giants roster and your team is going sub-.500.
Still the thing about Barry Ė is he or isnít he clean? And the happy triumvirate of Barry, the players union, and MLB are to blame on this one. Barry could put this thing to bed once and for all very simply, but refuses to do so. He would not be setting any precedent for any other player, because he is not remotely like any other player. He is the special case personified. MLB could take a more vigorous stand on this one, even though the power drunk players union would once again stand in the way of progress (10 years ago I could not dream of uttering such a sentence). MLB wonít touch the issue now, there is too much pub and money to be made in the 2005 Barry chase for the dream. And what if they did, would you put an asterisk next to Barryís record? Would you put an asterisk next to a team winning the World Series on financial steroids?
|Ichiro chases Sisler, and the naysayers come out of the woodwork. Now to be honest, even if Ichiro overtakes Sisler, one should not confuse his season with Sislerís, or with any of the legendary seasons of yore. He is going to have close to 700 at bats this season, and as many sabermeticians have pointed out, his secondary average is appalling low for such a hitting weapon. Then there is matter of the Marinerís whining that he twice bunted with two outs and runners in scoring position. OK, all true. Now letís look at it the other way. He is going to get over 250 hits, an achievement by any measure. With a slight push he could overtake Guerrero for the AL lead in runs produced. Thatís right, he could actually be the top AL run producer despite hitting ďonlyĒ singles. Shows what hitting a lot of singles can do. As far as helping the team, he will probably finish first in the AL in Game State Wins. This, batting leadoff, and on a team that does not provide him with many ďhigh game state chancesĒ. He has scored only 93 runs while batting leadoff and getting over 250 hits. His teammates ought to look hard about where the lack of Mariner runs are coming from. I may have a soft spot for players like him and Pete Rose, a beautiful hitter. However, Ichiro actually deserves a serious look-in at MVP, even his chances of landing it are remote given his team standing and his anti-ESPN hitting style.|
|In New York, where they claim poverty when their 6th starter is down, and go rabid over series with the Red Sox despite both teams have virtually clinched playoff spots, there have been mumblings that A-Rod hit yet another home run with a 6 run lead in the ninth. Now, Gary Sheffield is a legitimate MVP contender, (along with Damon and Ramirez), and actually has posted slightly better numbers than A-Rod. But Rodriguez is actually fourth in the AL in GSW, behind Ichiro, Damon, and Sheffield. So it canít be that all his hits come when the game is over, and NY fans may want to reconsider their opinion of his contributions.|
| Whatís wrong with this picture? Is it the empty seats in the front rows? No, this is Montreal. But whatís with the full seats behind the aisle? Turns out the Expos ran a special where seats went for $5 (Canadian) and hot dogs for $1. 11,000 showed up. Now, $1 sounds like a normal price for a hot dog anywhere other than a ball park ($3), the Hard Rock cafť ($7) or the US tennis open (imported from Vienna, $13) And $5 bucks is pretty cheap for a seat, but for a last place team strip mined of every bit of talent it ever had, itís not out of the question. And itís actually more sensible than the $95 ticket charged by the Yankees to itís Wall Street crowd. Letís face it, I donít buy tickets on my expense account, and $600 for a family of four is not in my equation. 11000 a game 80 times get you 10% short of a million, which back in the day was par for a last place team. Price things right, and the people will buy. Unfortunately, with current player salary structures, the price cannot be right.
NY press sanctimoniously goes on about the poor support for the NJ Nets, who are being dismantled to make their move to the prestigious digs in Brooklyn a bit lighter. Nets tix go for $35 in the nose bleed section, and $70 where you can make out the players faces. Gotta tell you, I could walk to the games but my wallet doesnít have what it takes for the quality of the entertainment.
The hockey strike looms ominously for baseball. Hockey is the oldest sport in North American other than baseball, and, like baseball, is restricted by a set of archaic business operating rules. Football is blessed with brains (and youth), and basketball by a benevolent dictator, neither of which are in possession of either hockey or baseball. Much blood will be shed before a sensible environment where good valued entertainment provided by clubs whose success is not determined by willingness to spend is established.
My favorite statistic - and a baseball icon
A rerun from Bob's retirement last year
It's interesting to think about what makes up your baseball experience, the things that really touch you and make you enjoy the game. First and foremost, it's got to be playing the game, not on any particular level, but just playing the game. Like having a catch with your Dad or with a bunch of friends. What happens to a bunch of strangers in a stadium is fun but really pretty secondary to playing ball yourself.
But when you're not playing you might as well be watching, and who you watch and listen to makes a big difference. Growing up in NJ in the 60's, most of the NY games were on free broadcast TV, and there were plenty of great voices on the air. One of the best was Phil Rizutto, the Yankee shortstop who put a lot of time in the broadcast booth. He could never get away with it today, but his announcements of First Communions or Bar Mitzvahs, critiques of the cannoli he had last night, what a creep Eddie Stanky was, trivial arguments with Bill White (you huckleberry!) all enriched the ballgame beyond the play by play.
Do Rhoids - not roids.
It seems natural that Rhoids should check in on roids. So here goes. Steroids are bad for baseball. OK, thatís out of the way. But why are steroids bad? For that, we need to examine why we play sports, and what virtues and values we embrace towards playing, winning and excellence. In sports, or any other walk of life for that matter, we play primarily because we enjoy the game, and we take steps to make us better at it. Some of us are blessed with an abundance of natural skill, but all of us get better when we exercise, practice, train, study the game. We are pleased that when a team or player that practices hard wins, because we naturally want to reward these virtuous practices. These practices are virtuous not only because they improve our performance in that sport, but they are disciplines which enhance the overall quality of life.
Is baseball a team game?
Is baseball a team sport? Obviously, it's a sport played between two teams, but is it a team sport? That is, how much of baseball is played by the team as a whole, and how much of it is the sum of a series of individual contests? Baseball, maybe more so than any other sport, falls somewhere in between, which makes the statistical analysis of it so complicated but possible.
Individual sports are easy to identify. If there is no team playing, then it is impossible to be a team sport. Golf and tennis are America's favorite individual sports. When an individual wins an event in one of these sports, there is no question as to who is responsible for the game's outcome.
If you're not lucky enough hear WFAN broadcast out of New York, you're missing a treat. However, after this you are just lazy as the best of their shows are available as audiocasts over the web. Their top rated show are hosted by Mike Francesca and Chris Russo, who know their stuff and provide great entertainment in discussing baseball. They give call in guests ample opportunity to express their views, but you better come with your best stuff because they are smart and they do their homework. They are, however, flatlanders. The current Red Sox series has incited them to attack the Red Sox style of baseball, which is code for Bill James, Moneyball, Theo, Billy Beane (everyone must pick on Billy, all the time) and all who dare question the wisdom of the stolen base, sacrifice bunt, and the game winning RBI. They blame the appearance of Red Sox lethargy on emphasis on base percentage and good pitching, at the expense of little ball ways of moving runner over. One of their correspondents indicated that sabermetric methods were just plain wrong, as he had overwhelming anecdotal evidence as to how stolen bases and sac bunts directly lead to winning ball games. This naturally deevolved into a rant that stopped just short of the Red Sox being un-American and the virtues of high payrolls.
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