Saturday, October 30, 2010

Week 8 NFL Picks

Addiction is a terrible disease.  Gambling addiction ruins lives.

Norm MacDonald would joke that the problem with his gambling habit isn't even the thousands of dollars he's lost on bad bets, but rather, the thousands and thousands of hours he's wasted.  He could have been productive during that time.  He could have spent time with his family.  It's more sad than funny, but hasn't that been MacDonald's shtick after Dirty Work came out?

If you gamble money that you can't afford to lose, or are spending time at an OTB when you should be with your kids, do your self a favor.  Stop reading this and get some help.

If you are a healthy gambler or just happen to be in Las Vegas, then I suggest betting on the opposite of what we pick below.  Without further ado, here are our Week 8 NFL Gambling Picks!

KC -7.5 vs Bills
Cowboys -6.5 vs Jags
Rams -3 vs Panthers
Broncos +2 @ London 49ers
Lions -2.5 vs Redskins
Dolphins +1.5 @ Cincinnati
Packers +6 @ NY Jets
Titans +3.5 @ San Diego
Bucs +3 @ Arizona
Vikings +6 @ New England
Raiders -2.5 vs Seahawks
Steelers +1 @ New Orleans
Texans +5.5 @ Indy

The locks this week are the Broncos, Bucs, and Texans.  Enjoy the games, and Happy Halloween!

The Best Shortstops Before My Time

A little less than four weeks ago, we contemplated the bright future of Logan Morrison.  That verbal jaunt took a handful of first basemen from throughout history and attempted to see how LoMo stacked up.  His numbers, through the age 22 season were greater than or equal everyone we looked at: Mark Grace, Keith Hernandez, John Olerud, Enos Slaughter, Will Clark, Paul O'Neill, Bobby Abreu, and Don Mattingly.

This essay began as a look into the bright future of Brett Anderson, but there didn't seem to be as much of a story to tell.  Let's just say that that all of us here at the ol' blog are very bullish on Brett Anderson.

While researching old scouting reports and anything else for one of the Oakland A's young and talented starting southpaws, I was distracted by thoughts of shortstops throughout the history of the game.  How great have the Edgar Renteria moments in this World Series been, so far?  The home run in game 2, of course, but even the plays in the field bring nostalgia and grace to the 106th Fall Classic.  How good is Elvis Andrus?  How good will he be in a few years?  Like I said, I just started thinking...

A little background and a trip down memory lane: I played baseball throughout my childhood and often played shortstop.  It was a glamorous position, and I was blessed with enough of the skills required to get nonathletic, suburban peers out on routine ground balls.  Unfortunately, I was not gifted with the nimble footwork, soft hands, and rifle arm that land scholarships.  Physically speaking, I was closer to what an old coach used to say about some kids, that they have "a 99 dollar glove, and a 59-cent body".

At the very least, I knew from listening to Steve Stone that I had a good head on my shoulders.  I began
 watching baseball over 25 years ago, catching glimpses in 1983 and ‘84, before getting completely hooked by Harry and Steve, on WGN, the next few years.

Stoney has this uncanny ability to inform the TV viewer of what will be happening on the next pitch.  I'd say he hovers around a 95-95% accuracy rate for predicting pitch type and location throughout the game.  Wading through the relatively subdued craziness that could come from Harry Caray, Steve often brought a level of sanity back to the broadcast.  We all loved when he'd start a brief lesson with, "For all you youngsters out there..."  Harry and Steve were a match made in heaven, as Cub fans and WGN viewers from the 80's and 90's will attest.  It's true what they say, all you ever needed to know, you learned from your local baseball announcers.

Shawon Dunston made his Major League debut in 1985 and quickly became one of my favorite players.  He was always hustling and smiling.  Even the way he wore his hat up high on his head, while in the dugout was cool.  His throws were erratic, and he’d strikeout a lot... especially on breaking balls bouncing in the dirt, nowhere near the strike zone.

Heads Up!
Shawon was a fan favorite because of his hustle and excitement.  Although they didn’t help the team, Dunston’s wild throws over the 1st basemen’s heads were exciting to behold.  Scalpers charged more for seats behind first base, while warning that Dunston could hit you with a ball going between 90 and 100 mile per hour.  "Cool!" many people would say.

Occasionally, some fans would gripe that, instead of taking Dunston with the #1 overall pick, the Cubs could have drafted Dwight Gooden, who went #5 overall to the Mets.  In 1985, the season Dunston debuted at shortstop for the Cubs, Doc was 20-years old and having the best season of his career.  He won the Cy Young after finishing second in 1984 to the Cubs' Rick Sutcliffe.

Also in 1985, about 90 miles north of Wrigley Field – the same distance as between the United States and Cuba – Hall of Fame Brewer Robin Yount moved from shortstop to the less demanding outfield in Milwaukee County Stadium.  During the past 25-years, especially when Arod, Jeter, and Nomar were STARS, it has been fairly well documented that we are in a golden age of shortstops.

In addition to the four players listed above, we've seen the 
tremendous careers of Cal Ripken Jr., Ozzie Smith, Alan Trammell, Davey Concepcion, Barry Larkin, Miguel Tejada, and Omar Vizquel.  (Jeter could learn something from Robin Yount and take great pride in moving to the outfield.)  Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez could also join their ranks in a few years, if they haven't already.

Rightfully speaking, most arguments of best shortstop ever include Honus Wagner and players from the past 25 years.  Although it’s an arbitrary cutoff point, I thought it’d be fun for bar stool argument’s sake to dig up some history on the best Shortstops I’ve never seen play.  (For the record: Rogers Hornsby is a Second Baseman).  Who were the best shortstops in baseball before the Robin Yount/Davey Concepcion generation?  Let the random debates begin!

20.) Jim Fregosi, 1961-78, California Angels, NY Mets, Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates
I guess since I know Fregosi as a manager, I always thought he was a catcher.  In reality, he was a good offensive catcher, with 41.1 oWAR in 11 seasons with the California Angels and an overall career 113 OPS+.

19.) Bobby Wallace, 1894-1918, Cleveland Spiders, St. Louis Perfectos, St. Louis Browns and St. Louis Cardinals
Here's a passage from The Baseball Page: "In the first decade of the American League's existence, "Rhody" Wallace was the best shortstop in the loop. He finished in the top ten in runs batted in eight times in his long career, despite playing for losing teams most of the time. He played in the big leagues until he was 44 years old, largely because of his defensive savvy and intelligent play. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1953."

18.) Maury Wills, 1959-72, Brooklyn Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Montreal Expos, and Los Angeles Dodgers
Wills was known for his speed.  He won the National League MVP in 1962, with 104 stolen bases.  He wasn't the best hitter, as his career .330 OBP suggests.  Unfortunately, for Wills, he wasn't given a chance in the show until after he turned 26.  It's unclear how much of that was needed minor league seasoning and if any of it was due to racism/segregation.

17.) Luis Aparicio, 1956-73, Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and Boston Red Sox
Aparicio must've been one heck of a defensive player.  He's in the Hall of Fame, and the nine Gold Gloves must have a lot to do with that.  His career 82 OPS+ (100 is average) and career .636 OPS is comparable to Rabbit Maranville and Bert Campaneris.

16.) Phil Rizzuto, 1941-56, New York Yankees
The Scooter gets major points for losing three of his prime seasons to WWII.  He was a legendary character, fan favorite, natural team leader, above average defensive player, and beloved announcer.

15.) Pee Wee Reese, 1940-58, Brooklyn and LA Dodgers
Reese also went to war and was a beloved member of the old Brooklyn Dodgers.  To some extent, he could be the poster boy for Scrappiness.  His numbers don't jump off the page (98 OPS+), but all accounts point towards consistency and leadership that doesn't show up in a box score.

14.) Dave Bancroft1915-30, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Giants, Boston Braves, and Brooklyn Robins
From the very neat Baseball Biography Project"Dave "Beauty" Bancroft was Honus Wagner's successor as the National League's premier shortstop. A brainy on-field leader with tremendous defensive range, Bancroft was especially adept at scooping up bad-hop grounders and cutting off outfield throws to hang up runners between bases. He believed that "the business of batting and fielding is a contention between minds," crediting his uncanny intuition in the field to a rigorous study of opposing batters, but he also had extremely quick hands and could move gracefully in either direction. Though he batted only .248 during his five seasons in the Deadball Era, the switch-hitting Bancroft became known as a "timely swatter and a good waiter"; he ranked second in the NL in bases on balls in 1915 and third in 1916 and 1918."

13.) Vern Stephens, 1941-55, St. Louis Browns, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, and Baltimore Orioles
In 1948, Vern Stephens joined the Red Sox and moved Johnny Pesky to 3rd base.  The odd thing is that Stephens was the more powerful hitter.  Together, they formed an outstanding left side of the infield.  Stephens often played the role of sidekick to Ted Williams as Superstar.  In his first three seasons with the Red Sox, Vern Stephens, had 137, 159, and 144 RBI.  His career was extremely limited by injury after his 30th birthday, which submarined his hopes for the Hall of Fame.

12.) Johnny Pesky, 1942-54, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Washington Senators
I love Johnny Pesky.  We met during my season working for the 2006 Portland Beavers, and I got to know him rather well.  He would come to most games throughout the summer, and I'd have a chance to sit with him for an inning or two here and there.  Mr. Pesky was born and raised in Portland, graduating from Lincoln High School, where I would referee basketball games about 70 years later.  Mr. Pesky is as wonderful and gracious as any person can be, a true legend and national treasure.  Sentiments aside, he also lost three prime seasons to the War, and his career .307 batting average and .394 OBP dwarf most shortstops of all time.

11.) Joe Sewell, 1920-33, Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees
At first, Sewell was known as the person who replaced Ray Chapman, the only player ever killed on a baseball field.  The Hall of Famer sported a career .391 OBP and was the most difficult player to strike out in the history of baseball, striking out just 1.6% of the time.

10.) Bill Dahlen, 1891-1911, Chicago Colts, Chicago Orphans, Brooklyn Superbas, New York Giants, Boston Doves, Brooklyn Dodgers
"I'm Bad."
About ten weeks ago, Dahlen was the starting shortstop for our 1st Annual non-Hall of Famers Team.  He was an outstanding all around shortstop.  I love his nickname "Bad Bill".  It reminds me of how Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart would say, "I'm Bad.  I'm Bad Blake."

9.) George Davis, 1890-1909, Cleveland Spiders, New York Giants, Chicago White Sox
The next two players on our list put up Hall of Fame numbers in the deadball era.  Davis once held the record for most base hits by a switch hitter.  He wasn't inducted into the Hall of Fame until 1998.  Before induction, many historians claimed he was hampered most by Joe Tinker's shadow after Franklin P. Adams's Tinkers to Evers to Chance verse.  This website says that after retiring from baseball, Davis was also a professional bowler and automobile salesman.

8.) Hughie Jennings, 1891-1903, '07, '09, '10, '12, '18, Louisville Colonels, Baltimore Orioles
During seven seasons for the Baltimore Orioles from 1893-99, Hughie Johnson had a .447 onbase percentage.  In 1,284 games, he 1,526, not many walks (347), but a boat load of hit by pitch: 287 HBP.  Jennings played over 100 years ago, but a triple-slash line of .312/.391/.406 with 359 stolen bases play well in any era.

7.) Willie Wells, 1924-1948,San Antonio Black Aces, Detroit Wolves, Homestead Grays, Kansas City Monarchs, Cole's American Giants, Newark Eagles, Chicago American Giants, New York Black Yankees, Baltimore Elite Giants, Indianapolis Clowns, Memphis Red Sox, Birmingham Black Barons
There aren't a lot of statistics out there of the old negro leagues and Mexican leagues.  Here is a nice, informative passage from"While compiling a lifetime batting average around .300, often taking the Negro National League batting title (hitting .403 in 1930), Wells displayed fielding talents which earned him 8 nominations to the East-West all-star game. This remarkable feat was accomplished despite the fact that Wells had played nine of his finest seasons before the inaugural All-Star Game in 1933.  During the early 1940s Wells spent four seasons playing in Mexico where his legendary fielding skills prompted frustrated hitters to dub his El Diablo (The Devil)."

Wells probably has a good case to be in the Top 5 on this list.  If he's anything like the best negro league players at other positions: Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Hilton Smith, and others, then he would certainly fall in the top 3.

6.) Ernie Banks, 1953-71, Chicago Cubs
Growing up a Cubs fan, I thought Ernie Banks was the best shortstop of all time until I was about 22 years old.  You hear about the Mr. Cub stories, "Let's play two!", the 512 homeruns, and you figure no-one could be better, not even Shawon Dunston.  His .330 career OBP and 1,259 games at first base, compared with 1,125 games at shortstop, penalize his ranking on this list.

5.) Luke Appling, 1930-1950, Chicago White Sox
Stability has more often than not been a trait of Southside Chicago shortstops.  They have had three different shortstops with over 1,500 games played: Luke Appling (2,422 games; 1930-50), Luis Aparicio (1,511 games; 1956-62, '68-70), and Ozzie Guillen (1,743 games; 1985-'97).  Luke Appling was a Hall of Fame player, but he suffered through 20 years of futility with the White Sox.  According to The Ultimate Baseball Book (c) 1979, "No player in the game's history would play for so long with a club that was never once in contention. [snip] In his 20-year White Sox career, they never finishEd Higher than third.  Fortunately, wrote Warren Brown, Appling 'was completely relaxed at all times, winning or losing.'"  On a possibly related note, Leo Durocher was quoted as saying, "Show me a good loser, and I'll show you an idiot".  Appling makes the top 5 of our list primarily for a career .399 OBP, his 2.47 BB/K ratio, and an outstanding 1936 season, where he hit .388 - the highest batting average by a shortstop since 1900 A.D.

4.) Joe Cronin, 1926-1945, Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Senators, and Boston Red Sox
Cronin was blocked in Pittsburgh by #2 on this list, Arky Vaughan, so the Senators were able to get him on the cheap, about $7,500.  In 1933, Cronin was named player/manager at the young age of 26.  He responded by leading the team to a pennant, and the only trip to the World Series of his career.  The following year, Clark Griffith, the owner of the Senators introduced Cronin to his niece, and the two youngsters were married later that year.  That didn't stop Griffith from selling Joe Cronin to the Red Sox for $225,000.  Cronin showed more power than the shortstops ahead of him on this list, but much of that was attributed to his surroundings and moving to Fenway Park, where he thrived as a hitter.  Overall, Cronin's career could be a sappy Disney movie.  He spent fifty years in professional baseball.  In addition to his managerial record, where he had 11 winning seasons in 15 years, Cronin was a general manager at 42, and became President of the American League at 54.  Joe Cronin is no longer a household name, mostly for being overshadowed by the likes of Branch Rickey, Bill Veeck, and numerous Red Sox legends.

3.) Lou Boudreau
, 1938-1952, Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox
Amazingly, Lou Boudreau became player/manager of the Indians in 1942, as a 24-year old.  He played and managed the club for the next nine seasons, compiling a 728-649 Won-Loss record, and capturing the 1948 American League MVP and World Series Championship along the way.  He received MVP votes in ten different seasons and retired with a .380 career OBP and 120 OPS+.

2.) Arky Vaughan
, 1932-1948, Pittsburgh Pirates and Brooklyn Dodgers
Pittsburgh doesn't get enough respect for being Shortstop City, USA.  Imagine for a minute that you were born in Pittsburgh the year Thomas Edison invented the light bulb: 1879.  So you're growing up in Pittsburgh in the nineteenth century.  Not too much is going on.  As a child, you are fortunate to not be affected by the nearby Johnstown Flood of 1889.  When you're 20 years old, the hometown Pirates trade for Honus Wagner.  Ten years later, Wagner leads the Pirates to a World Series Championship over Ty Cobb's Detroit Tigers.  When you're 33 years old, a 38-year old Wagner finishes 2nd in MVP voting to the New York Giants "laughing" Larry Doyle.  Fast forward to 1942; you're 63 years old.  The life expectancy of a US male in 1942 was 65 years, so this is possible.  Let's say you stayed in Pittsburgh your whole life, as a Pirates fan.  You would have not only experienced the Honus Wagner era, but you would have also just witnessed another Hall of Fame career by Arky Vaughan, where he received MVP votes and/or an All-Star selection in all 10 seasons for the Pirates.  In 1935, Vaughan had an almost unimaginable .491 OBP and .385 batting average.

1.) Honus Wagner, 1891-1917, 
Louisville Colonels and Pittsburgh Pirates
Honus is the best ever.  Historians often say that if not for Babe Ruth, everyone would talk about early 1900’s as The Honus Wagner Era.  His on base percentage was at least .395 every season for 14 consecutive seasons, from 1899 through 1912.  For traditional and advanced stat geeks, over 21 seasons, Honus Wagner’s career batting average was .328 and career OPS+ was 150.  He had over 3,200 hits and 142.1 avWAR.  If you have any Honus Wagner baseball cards, take good care of them.

Honorable mention to Joe Tinker and Marty Marion.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

World Series Preview

The only thing we know for sure is that Bengie Molina will be winning a World Series ring this year.  Most of you probably know this by now, but it bears repeating because it's pretty cool.  After everybody's All-American, Buster Posey, won the starting catching job for the San Francisco Giants, the team traded Molina to the Rangers for prospect Michael Main and journeyman reliever Chris Ray.  It would have been much cooler if they had traded for filmmaker Michael Mann.

In an effort to build exciting anticipation for the Fall Classic, here is our overly simplified position by position breakdown.

Catcher: Buster Posey, Giants
1st Base: Aubrey Huff, Giants
2nd base: Ian Kinsler, Rangers
Shortstop: Elvis Andrus, Rangers
3rd base: Michael Young, Rangers
Left Field: Nelson Cruz, Rangers
Center Field: Josh Hamilton, Rangers
Right Field: Vladimir Guerrero, Rangers
RH Pinch Hitter/DH: Jorge Cantu, Rangers
LH Pinch Hitter/DH: David Murphy, Rangers
Util IF: Mike Fontenot, Giants
4th OF: Julio Borbon, Rangers
Game 1 SP: Cliff Lee, Rangers
Game 2 SP: Matt Cain, Giants
Game 3 SP: Jonathan Sanchez, Giants
Game 4 SP: Madison Bumgarner, Giants
Relief/Setup: Lopez/Affeldt/Romo/Mora, Giants
Relief/Closer: Neftali Feliz, Rangers

The closest call above was Neftali Feliz over Brian Wilson.  Wilson has had a tremendous year and is on the upswing of a promising career.  He may have been the best closer in the game this season.  The reason we take Feliz is purely on the strenght of his scintilating fastball.  We're wearing our scouting hat and are drooling all over the triple-digit readings of the radar guns when Feliz gets his arm cranked up.

We decided not to rank the field managers because there is no way to accurately say who will do a better job managing their teams in this World Series.  When it comes to funny baseball card pictures, Bochy never stood a chance against R-Wash.

We love the musthache, but...

... the Jheri Curl trumps all.

Back to the games, the most striking development, for me, is the Rangers refusing to start Cliff Lee on short rest to allow him to pitch games 1, 4, and 7.  Perhaps I'm making too much of this, but there is a time for babying a prized pitcher's arm, and there is a time to push it and go for the championship.  The fact that Cliff Lee has never pitched on short rest is baffling to me.  We're not talking about him having a poor track record on short rest.  We aren't suggesting that they push him to throw on 2 days rest.  The word on the street is he's not "comfortable" doing that.  Well, I'm sorry, when you're making $9,000,000 this season and are looking for an offseason pay day exceeding $150,000,000 from your next team, I think it is reasonable for you to be pushed a little past your comfort zone in the last week of the postseason.

In our opinion, the Rangers have the edge in many of the position head to heads.  Of course, this isn't basketball, so it's not like Ian Kinsler will be playing man-to-man against Freddy Sanchez.  Pitching wins championships, right?  Sometimes, I think it means pitching wins postseason births and luck/timely hitting wins championships.  That's where the futility of these predictions lay.

Still, we're here.  We need a prediction.  I'm going to side with pitching and experience.  We give the pitching edge to the Giants in each game, except Game 1.  Why?  Well, as Joe Posnanksi put it, Cliff Lee has pitched like "a little bit of Glavine AND a little bit of Maddux."  If the games when the Giants are underdogs are the games when Tim Lincecum pitches, I think they will do just fine.

Pick: San Francisco Giants in 6

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

1900's Cubs Photos

Special thanks to Bill Burgess, who shared these photos on Baseball Fever back in 2003.

1902 Chicago Orphans

1903 Chicago Cubs

1904 Chicago Cubs

1906 Chicago Cubs

1907 Chicago Cubs

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Week 7 NFL Picks

Just for fun because, as Drew Magary said...
"because making brutally incorrect predictions never stops being enjoyable. Plus, if one of these predictions stumbles bass ackwards into being correct, then I can totally say I'm way smart for foreseeing it."
here are our Week 7 NFL picks.  As we suggested last week, if you're in Vegas or otherwise inclined to gamble, you should probably gamble on the opposite of these...

Big Ben's taking his talents to...
Steelers -3 @ Miami
Falcons -3.5 vs. Bengals
Jags +9 @ Kansas City
Eagles +3 @ Tennessee
Redskins +3 @ Chicago
Saints -12.5 vs. Browns
Ravens -12.5 vs. Bills
49ers -2.5 @ Carolina
Rams +3 @ Tampa Bay
Seahawks -7 vs. Cardinals
Patriots +2.5 @ San Diego
Raiders +7 @ Denver
Vikings +3 @ Green Bay
NY Giants +3 @ Dallas

Our "locks" are the Redskins, Rams, and Eagles.  We feel good about the Monday Night pick of the Giants, too.

Enjoy the games, if you get them on TV.  Go Bears!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Perceptions of Yankee Fandom

Editorial note: this may lead nowhere, no hard feelings if you stop reading what I think may be a nonsensical and misguided diatribe.  Thanks for stopping by.

Jealousy* (n.): resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage, etc., or against another's success or advantage itself.

Pride (n.): a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.

*We decided to try something other than, so tonight's definitions are courtesy of

Hank Borowy went 11-2
with a 171 ERA+ for the Cubs
after they bought him from the
Yankees for $97,000 in July 1945
Something else occurred to me in the last few days while watching the postseason through the eyes and hearts of different fandoms.  If you've read this space regularly, you'll know that I subscribe to the belief that sports fans should be able to pick whom to root for in postseason matchups when their favorite teams are not involved.  It's not full blown bandwagon hopping because no-one should really go crazy if the side they choose wins.  It's more or less a way to watch the game with some rooting interest, even if you're not gambling or playing fantasy baseball.  As a Cub fan, I'm a seasoned veteran of choosing sides in the postseason.  In fact, ALL Cubs fans have had to choose a consolation championship to root for in the World Series since 1945.  This postseason, I've rooted for the Twins, the Yankees (the night Carl Pavano pitched for the Twins), the Rangers, the Reds, and the Giants.  We're not here to talk about bandwagons or second favorite teams.  Let's try to have an impartial look at Yankee fandom.

As many of you know, I live in lower Manhattan. I say "many of you know" because I imagine only about a dozen readers, knowing most of you personally.  So, as you know, I'm surrounded by Yankee fans, even married to one.  They don't like that I'm rooting for the Rangers.  What's the appropriate response to them? Is "bafangoo" good?

Because of my neighbors, local media, and spouse, I have intimate knowledge of the angst Yankee fans feel when their team isn't winning.  It is with a palpable disbelief and disgust that these fans react to the lead the Rangers have taken. Let's ignore the fact that the Rangers have been pummeling the Yankees.  If it weren't for a complete R-Wash and bullpen meltdown in Game 1, the Yankees would have been swept.  We sit here, as the teams board planes for Dallas to play a Game 6, exposed to the real 'Pride of the Yankees'.

Lou Gehrig is the Iron Horse, a truly amazing story.  These days, team pride, winning, even mystique and aura, make up the fabric of real Yankee pride.  A high opinion of one's importance and superiority comes with 27 world championships.  Where is the tipping point for the fans who have an inordinate amount of pride?  Probably somewhere around five championships in the past fifteen years.

Let's sign Lee, Beltre, Werth, Crawford
and win a couple more of these.
"The Yankees are LOSING?! Change the channel."  I've seen this at home, and we've seen this at the ballpark.  There were less than 5,000 people in the stands for the final outs of Games 3 and 4 in Yankee Stadium.  These fans are spoiled.  On the northside of Chicago, each postseason inning is a treasure.  In the Bronx, it's a birthright.  If the Yankees can't beat Cliff Lee, just throw $160 million at him in November and win the title next year.  Other teams' fanbases don't have that mindset, which may lean towards the root of why people hate the Yankees, why people hate Duke basketball, the Lakers, LeBron James, the Dallas Cowboys... jealousy.

People hate the Yankees, but they'd love their team to BE the Yankees.  Who wouldn't want a team that competes EVERY SEASON?  Maybe a communist, but even communists make great baseball teams.  Just ask Yunesky Maya what it's like to play for Fidel.

Sorry for doing this, but I must take you on tangents with me.  Are we even talking about real "pride"?  There are good attributes to being proud.  Probably more than negative.  Perhaps, we're talking more about a sense of entitlement.  I mean, there are other forms of pride that don't result in resentment, jealousy, and hate.  For example, how about this piece from our favorite writer, Joe Posnanski... It is a piece on then Royals' manager Tony Pena... He has unmistakable pride, but I couldn't imagine hating on it...
Tony Pena drove slowly on the bumpy dirt road, past banana trees. "Juan Marichal lived not so far away," he said softly. But his mind drifted elsewhere. He was quiet again. He could not stop looking at the trees.
"People don't know how heavy bananas are," he finally said. "You drag them and drag them until you cannot move. People don't know. Your whole body hurts. You can't even sleep at night because your whole body hurts."
Pena said he has never lived a day — not a single day as player or coach or manager — when he did not think about what might have been. He imagined himself pulling bananas, the way all his friends, all his loved ones, everyone he grew up knowing, ended up pulling bananas."
People in the Dominican are so happy," he said. "That's what I love about my country. People are so poor. They have no money. They live in these little houses. Everybody thinks they must be very sad. But they are not. They are so happy."
He cried again. And he drove over a ditch into a little town. In the center of town, there was a dirt field. Children played baseball.
"Look," he said. "My country."
I mean, sh*t man. That's pride, too. To digress, I have to go back and look at elements of the definitions.  These are the parts of the definitions that I think are at the root of Yankee fandom.

Pride: "an inordinate opinion of one's superiority"
Jealousy: "resentment against a rival's advantage"

Jealousy obviously comes from wanting what someone else has.   It's a natural feeling.  It's only a sin to covet thy neighbor's wife; it's okay to covet their car, yard, pool, deck, grill, windows, satellite package, Spanish style roof, or the way they seem to always win.  Sure, you could be a better person and simply admire them, but isn't it just easier - and more satisfying - to be jealous of them.  If they have some sort of unfair advantage, then forget it.  Jealousy is almost a necessity.

"Nobody likes you, Pavano!"
Yankee fans don't want to admit it, and haters won't let them forget it.  The Yankees have an unfair advantage because of the size of the market they dominate and the amounts of revenues they bring in.  It leads to the highest payroll in the league.  You can't buy championships, but with an astronomical payroll, you can buy a perpetual contender.  What's the simplest, most accurate explanation as to how?  It's by covering up your mistakes.  Did you accidentally overpay Carl Pavano by $35 million or AJ Burnett by $50 million?  Don't worry about it; just sign Cliff Lee, a few good bullpen arms, and a couple more baseball lifers as front office executives.

That's it. That's capitalism, the American way. We want to Win.  Baseball fans, sports fans, business people, are the same: they want to win.  Unless your ballpark hosts a daily cocktail party, with bikini drenched sunbathing in the bleachers, cough ahhemCubs cough, you're going to want to win.

So, you still don't think people
hate the Yankees and Cowboys?
When did this become a socio/psychology blog?  I can't believe if any of you made it to this point already, where the heck is this headed?  I think we have to leave this discussion here because it's just getting too weird.  The thought process now goes to hatred of rivals that do not have an obvious advantage.  Why do people hate the Cowboys?  Football traditionally has a salary cap.  Is it how pride can lead to an inordinate amount of superiority?  Does the hatred of Duke basketball come from a more immature version of jealousy?  They don't really have an unfair advantage, compared to most NCAA teams.  Duke haters are jealous of their success.  Maybe they just hate the attitude of Duke players.  Christian Laettner stepped on that guy's chest and basically thought he was entitled.  They're smug.  They're arrogant.  That's right, isn't it?  It's funny because someone who's smug will never admit it.  There's a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and it's almost like beauty in that it belongs in the eye of the beholder.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Adrian Beltre Sweepstakes

The Detroit Tigers signed Brandon Inge to a 2-year $11.5 million contract extension this afternoon.  Inge is known for being versatile and playing very good defense at third base.

Adrian Beltre is by far and away the best free agent 3rd baseman this offseason.

After Adrian Beltre, the 2nd tier drops to guys like Jorge Cantu, Miguel Tejada, and expected non-tender players like Edwin Encarnacion.  Brandon Inge is good.  He's really not bad.  This was a nice, safe move by Detroit because he could have been the 2nd best free agent, if he had hit the open market.  However, please stay with us, Brandin Inge not nearly as good as Adrian Beltre.

Let's look at some basic numbers:

Adrian Beltre: .390
Brandon Inge: .314

Ultimate Zone Rating
Adrian Beltre: 11.8
Brandon Inge: 3.1

Wins Above Replacement (Baseball-Reference)
Adrian Beltre: 6.1
Brandon Inge: 2.5

Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs)
Adrian Beltre: 7.1
Brandon Inge: 2.1

With all the money the Tigers have to spend this offseason, I'm a bit surprised by the move.  I thought Detroit was a likely destination for Beltre, but I guess we can cross them off his list of potential landing spots.  For now, it looks like Adrian Beltre will likely end up with one of the following teams:

Red Sox
Blue Jays

Other teams are known to look for a third baseman, but I just don't see Cleveland, Florida, or Oakland taking the necessary financial plunge.  Scott Boras, you're on the clock.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A New Breed of Yankee Fans

I have two friends from college who are from Baltimore, were Orioles fans, and somehow adapted and became Yankee fans.  At different times, I've given them each grief over the matter.  I mean, those are bitter rivals.  Should I abandon the Cubs and become a Cardinals fan?  (Don't answer that.)  Actually, I really like the Reds right now.  Sheesh.  Anyway, I may be infatuated by several guys on the Reds, but I'm not worried about becoming a Reds fan.  I'll never be a Reds fan, unless my son or daughter to be named later becomes their GM one day.

Anyway, I was thinking about these two friends this evening, when three immediately notorious Yankee fans played a part in making sure the Rangers Nelson Cruz didn't intercept Robinson Cano's homerun in the 2nd inning of tonight's ALCS game 4.  Those fans have already been called "obnoxious" and "jersey shore".

I wondered if these friends have any bad flashbacks to the Jeffrey Maier scene?  They probably hated that kid, and now they're probably rooting for the three neanderthals that helped Cano?  I guess it's not so complex, but still there has to be a little Orioles fan inside of them crying to be saved.

Yeah, Sindler and Margie, I'm looking at you.

2010 Ex-Cub Factor

There's reason for hope in Philadelphia.  Although Roy Halladay lost game one of the NLCS, the infamous ex-Cub factor, which was orignially penned by Ron Berler in the Boston Herald on October 15, 1981, gives hope to the Phighting Phills.  It was a scalding essay about the Billy Goat Curse following former Cubs to their next destination, and any team with more than three former Cubs was doomed from postseason success.

This is the closest any Cub has come
to celebrating a title in 102 years.
The only season when a team survived to win the World Series with a large ex-Cub contingency was in 2001, when the Diamondbacks defeated the Yankees.  That team from Arizona had Mark Grace, Luis Gonzalez, Miguel Batista, and Mike Morgan.

This year, it looks like the Phillies have the billy goat on their side, the Giants aren't looking too bad, but the two American League teams have a bit of stink on them.

The Phillies only carry one former Cub, and that is Ross Gload, who is 0 for 2 in two pinch-hitting appearances this NLCS.  Not only is Gload the only former Cub on the Phillies' NLCS roster, but he only played 18 games for the Cubbies way back in 2000.

Kung-Fu Fontenot
The San Francisco Giants, who are facing the Phillies in Game 3 of the NLCS this afternoon, have Mike Fontenot on the active roster.  In fact, he's been starting most games because Kung-Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval, stopped hitting.  Fontenot was a big part of what the Cubs failed to accomplish the past few years, so you never know what that can bring to the team.  As far as inactive players, the Giants also have Mark DeRosa on the DL and in the dugout.  We're not sure what that means.

Over in the American League, the Ex-Cub Factor is more prevalent.  Which is worse?  The Rangers have a utility infielder named Andres Blanco, who was on the Cubs as recently as last year.  Uh oh.  They also have a lefty reliever, named Clay Rapada, who already contributed in the Game 1 loss.  Rapada faced one batter for the Major Leage Cubs in 2007.  At least he got that guy out.  What is unclear is whether or not the Ex-Cub factor affects Josh Hamilton, whom the Cubs drafted in the Rule 5 draft and immediately sold to the Reds.  I'm leaning towards not counting him.

"We have faith in A.J."
If this curse means anything, the Yankees are likely in trouble.  They have Sergio Mitre in long relief and Kerry Wood in charge of the 8th inning(s).  They both pitched for Dusty Baker in Chicago, which is a bad sign.  Not only that, the Yankees' manager, Joe Girardi, played seven seasons for the Cubs in two stints from 1989-92 and 2000-2003.

Perhaps, no team will actually suffer from this curse, since none of them have more than two active former Cubs.  Still, if less is more, I think we can expect a Phillies/Rangers World Series.  Speaking of a Phillies/Rangers World Series, why did the Phillies trade Cliff Lee to Seattle again?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Gambling with George Costanza

Sometimes with playoff baseball, I think you just need to let the games speak for themselves.  We can try to write our feelings over what's been happening on TBS and Fox, but the game doesn't need just more noise.  Instead, we think everyone should be able to appreciate the LCS's for what they are and have been so far.

In order to keep our minds nimble, I thought it'd be fun to look at the NFL schedule and see which games I would gamble on if I were in Las Vegas.  If any of you readers are near a sportsbook, gamble online, have a legal bookie, my advice to you is this: bet the opposite.  George Costanza pioneered the Do-the-Opposite movement in the mid 90's.  Trust me when I say that is wise when looking at my picks.

Today is Turner the Burner Day
For this exercise, I looked at all the games without a point spread and tried to guess who'd win and by how much.  Then, I check the spreads and see where I get the most points based on my crude predictions.  I would only bet on the games I feel extra comfortable with, even though it usually ends in a loss.

This week, it looks like we got three* "locks":

Atlanta +3 @ Philly
Baltimore + 3 @ New England
Minnesota -1.5 vs. Dallas

*If you're inclined to take Monday night's game, we feel very good about Tennessee -3 @ Jacksonville.

Again, I do NOT suggest anyone putting any money on these three picks.

If you really want to make some money, you could best against all of my picks for this week - if forced to bet on all the games.  Here are the picks.  It'll be fun on Monday and Tuesday to see how bad these are.

Atlanta +3 @ Philly
Baltimore + 3 @ New England
Minnesota -1.5 vs. Dallas
Chicago -7 vs. Seattle
Detroit +10 @ NY Giants
St. Louis +9 vs. San Diego
NY Jets -3.5 @ Denver
Indy -3.5 @ Washington
Tenn -3 @ Jags
Pitt -14.5 vs Cleveland
Green Bay -3.5 vs. Miami
New Orleans -5 vs Tampa Bay
Houston -5 vs. Kansas City
San Francisco -7 vs. Oakland

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Bobby Cox Tattoo

A picture is worth a thousand words.  What about a picture of a 23-year old's Bobby Cox tattoo on his leg?

h't PTI.  This has left us speechless.  All we can say is that Wilbon was right when saying that this kid needs to do some quad work because his thigh is so thin, it looks like a forearm.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Best Free Agents

W're working on a few things over here including:
  • a revised Game Score formula that sort of feels more right, with IFFB data
  • our look at 1973 awards
  • Mark Prior
  • Sandy Alderson's next move
I'd think that at least two of those posts will see the light of day.

If we don't get to the Sandy Alderson thoughts before he makes another move, can we at least consider the exasperation Mets fans would be able to feel if the team doesn't at least make Alderson an offer?  Missing out on Kevin Towers was bad, but looking past the competitive advantages Alderson can bring would be indefensible.  Speaking of Mets fans, I was at peezy party in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, last night with some extremely colorful characters.  A couple of fellows tought me that Mets, unfortunately, is an acronym for:


They used a less family friendly word than 'stinks' and added that they've been saying it for years.  Overall, they were glad that Omar was not GM anymore, but it's almost like they don't even know that they lost Johan Santana to shoulder surgery.  The acronym isn't really that funny or creative, but I'm just surprised I haven't heard it before from overabundant, snarky Mets fans.

While the work-in-progress posts simmer in draft form, we thought it would be nice to keep our minds limber, by anticipating the upcoming hot stove.  When your team is out of the postseason, it's fun to root for your choice of teams in each series, but it's never enough.  That's why the hot stove has gotten so much attention in the past twenty years, or so.  The NFL Draft is a big spectacular on ESPN and NFL Network every summer, but they don't have an entire hot stove season that captures the imaginations of fans everywhere.

Here is a breakdown of the most notable free agents to consider at each position, in order of our own quick rankings.  The player's 2011 age is included in parenthesis, and guys with an asterisk have a 2011 team or mutual option where we aren't sure how they'll play out.

Victor Martinez (32) - Type A
Yorvit Torrealba* (32) - Type B
Miguel Olivo* (32) - Type B
John Buck (30) - Type B
Matt Treanor (35)
Henry Blanco (39)

First Basemen
Adam Dunn (31) - Type A
Lance Berkman (35)
Paul Konerko (35) - Type A
Aubrey Huff (34) - Type B
Jorge Cantu (29)
We expect a nice bounceback
from Lance Berkman next year.
Adam LaRoche (31) - Type B
Carlos Pena (33) - Type B
Derek Lee (35)
Lyle Overbay (34)
Troy Glaus (34)
Xavier Nady (32)
I would also include Victor Martinez in this list, maybe in the 2nd spot.

Second Basemen
Orlando Hudson (33) - Type B
Nick Punto (33)*
Juan Uribe (31) - Type B
Bill Hall (31)
It's a terrible offseason to try and buy a middle infielder.  I wouldn't want my team to sign any of these guys, unless it was a drop in the budget bucket and he was to be our 8th best starting player.  The shortstop list is just as pitiful.  We're not actually considering having Derek Jeter on the market, but feel free to add Juan Uribe and Nick Punto's names to the lame SS list, as well...

Slim pickings at 2b/SS
Edgar Renteria (35)
Alex Gonzalez (33)* - Type B
Orlando Cabrera (36)* - Type B
Jhonny Peralta (29)* - Type B
Cesar Izturis (31)
Adam Everett (34)
Omar Vizquel (44)
Christian Guzman (33)
Bobby Crosby (31)

3rd Basemen
Adrian Beltre (32) - Type A
Jorge Cantu (29)
Jhonny Peralta (29)* - Type B
Miguel Tejada (37) - Type A
Crawford would look good in
many different uniforms.
Brandon Inge (34) - Type B

Left Fielders
Carl Crawford (29) - Type A
Jayson Werth (32) - Type A
Jason Kubel (29)* - Type A
Pat Burrell (34)
Johnny Damon (37) - Type B
Austin Kearns (31)
Rick Ankiel (31)*
Bill Hall (31)
Willie Harris (33)

Jayson Werth (32) - Type A
Coco Crisp (31)*
Jayson will be partying
after his next contract.
Pat Burrell (34)
Corey Patterson (31)
Rick Ankiel (31)*

Right Fielders
Jayson Werth (32) - Type A
Jason Kubel (29)* - Type A
Rick Ankiel (31)*
Xavier Nady (32)
Andruw Jones (34)
Magglio Ordonez (31) - Type A
Brad Hawpe (32) - Type B

Designated Hitters
Jason Kubel (29) - Type A
Kubel may be on the move.
Lance Berkman (35)
Vladimir Guerrero (37)* - Type A
Jim Thome (40)
Johnny Damon (37) - Type B
Manny Ramirez (39) - Type A
Pat Burrell (34)
Hideki Matsui (37) - Type B
David Ortiz (35) - Type B
Hank Blalock (30)
Jose Guillen (35)

Starting Pitchers
Cliff Lee (32) - Type A
There's a BIG dropoff in the
SP market after Cliff Lee
Ted Lilly (35) - Type A
Jeff Francis (29)*
Jorge de la Rosa (30)
Andy Pettitte (39) - Type A
Brandon Webb (32)
Carl Pavano (35) - Type A
Hiroki Kuroda (36)
Pedro Martinez (39)
Jamie Moyer (48)
Aaron Harang (33)
Jon Garland (31)*
Jake Westbrook (33)

Rafael Soriano (31) - Type A
Kerry Wood (34) - Type B
Rafael Soriano wants a big bag of $$
Jon Rauch (32)
Frank Francisco (31) - Type A
Kevin Gregg (33)*
Brian Fuentes (35) - Type B

Right-handed Relievers
Grant Balfour (33) - Type A
Jason Frasor (33) - Type A
Jose Contreras (39)
Guillermo Mota (37)
Bobby Seay could be great signing.
Chad Gaudin (28)

Left-handed Relievers
Pedro Feliciano (34) - Type B
Bobby Seay (33)
Scott Downs (35) - Type A
Hisanori Takahashi (36)
Arthur Rhodes (41) - Type A
Dennys Reyes (34)
J.C. Romero (35)*
Randy Choate (35) - Type B

Cot's Baseball Contracts and (mostly) mlbtraderumors was used in the creation of this list.