Monthly archives: October 2003
Abercrombie & Switch?
Is the grass greener on the pitching mound - where this is no grass at all?
Ponder that as we discuss what David Cameron wrote on Baseball Prospectus today. Cameron broached the topic of minor league position players who salvage their careers by switching to pitching.
He notes that Dodger September phenom Edwin Jackson is one of the most remarkable by doing it by his 20th birthday, "having made the transition from high school outfielder to major league pitcher after the Dodgers selected him in the sixth round of the 2001 draft." Cameron took the discussion a step further than most would have, by interviewing player development personnel from various teams to determine the best candidates for a future switch.
One turned out to be 22-year-old Dodger outfielder Reggie Abercrombie, who batted .261 with 15 home runs and 28 steals for AA Jacksonville in 2003 but struck out an astonishing 10 times for every walk - 164 strikeouts, 16 walks. Cameron writes:
The Dodgers almost certainly won't give up on him due to his outstanding athletic ability, but his strike zone judgment is beyond repair, and several scouts suggested that his arm is the only one they have seen that compares to (Pittsburgh prospect Jeremy) Harts'. Barring a Jeff Pentland-inspired miracle, Abercrombie won't make it as a major league hitter, but it would be a shame to see his career end before we saw what he could do on the mound.
The Dodgers are obviously game for a switch - but I think the reason that might hold them back from a switch has less to do with Abercrombie's power and speed than the bare organizational outfield cupboard. If they add a strong major league outfielder, then perhaps they would consider it.
Dodger Thoughts will return in
Dodger Thoughts will return in the first week of November. Thanks for reading and making this a great first full season for the site. Enjoy the waning moments of the baseball season, and be sure to come back here for more!
That's a Good Calzone
From Toronto comes this look at the Dodgers by Jurgen Maas, on one of the more imaginitively titled baseball blogs, Some Calzone for Derek.
Next Week, Darren Dreifort Ponders a Move to Third Base
Ken Gurnick at MLB.com writes, "According to Evans, decisions have not been made on position switches for Shawn Green and Paul Lo Duca, and he has not discussed the subject with either player."
Were we discussing switching Paul Lo Duca's position? Has Position Switch Fever struck an unimmunized team?
Lo Duca, of course, has shown that he can play first base and left field. He has also shown that his offensive performance tails off in the second half of a given season, the reason for this generally assumed to be the proverbial wear and tear of playing catcher. (Wear and tear being proverbial because really, who needs the tear when you've got the wear?)
But how much offensive value does Lo Duca have when he isn't playing catcher, relative to the rest of the league?
One of the most curious things I came across in researching Dodger win shares this week was that Cesar Izturis did not lead the team in fielding win shares. Rather, it was Lo Duca, who generated more defensive win shares (10) than offensive win shares (9) in compiling 19 total.
Win shares are not gospel, but they do help you realize how much a player's position affects his value. Lo Duca was fifth in the National League in offensive win shares for a catcher. As a first baseman, he would have been 13th.
Want to see it another way? According to Baseball Prospectus, Lo Duca, who posted a .257 EQA, tied for 12th among major league catchers with at least 250 plate appearances in 2003. Move Lo Duca to left field, and he falls to 29th. Move him to first base, and he falls to 30th.
So okay, Lo Duca's offense almost certainly will improve without shin guards on for half the game. Move Moises Alou behind the plate and see how well he does, right?
Fair enough. But how much? The Dodgers cannot afford a single-digit home run hitter in the outfield - they can't really afford one in the teens. If you're going to move Lo Duca to a power position, he had better regain the form that brought him 25 home runs in 2001. If not, you'd better get those home runs from Dave Ross and Todd Hundley.
It makes sense to rest Lo Duca more during the season, and activate the power potential of Ross and yes, even Hundley. And sure, one can see putting Lo Duca and Ross in the lineup together on some days. Make no mistake, Lo Duca's versatility is an asset, and the Dodgers' depth at catcher is an asset.
But Lo Duca as a full-time non-catcher? Not unless you've solved a mess of other lineup problems first. This sounds like the kind of conversation you ponder having (remember - Evans hasn't had it yet) while waiting for your big transactions to unfold. Or, while waiting to see if you get fired.
The following is not science...
Last season, the Dodgers won 85 games. Let's say next season, you want them to more. How does that happen?
Win Shares, the player evaluation system developed by Bill James and now employed in depth by BaseballGraphs.com, assigns three win shares for each team victory. For example, a team that wins 85 games, like the Dodgers did in 2003, will have 255 win shares. For each additional win, the Dodgers need a net gain of three win shares.
What follows is a list of how the Dodgers got their 255 win shares, divided by roster slot.
If a player was on the active 25-man roster for all or almost all of the season, he gets a roster slot to himself, be he Eric Gagne (25 win shares) or Ron Coomer (0 win shares.).
(Parenthetically, win shares are broken down in three categories - pitching, batting and fielding - with a series of complex calculations performed to determine how much credit each player gets toward these win shares. So a player can actually perform in a significant number of games without getting any credit for a win share.)
When the roster slot was split because a player was disabled or discharged, I did my best to combine the players who shared the given slot. For example, Jeromy Burnitz essentially replaced Brian Jordan, so they share a roster slot.
Los Angeles Dodgers 2003 Win Shares by Roster Slot
Okay, so how do we generate a net gain of 45 win shares?
First of all, where might we lose win shares? There are six roster slots at significant risk of decline, because of age and/or because their 2003 performances were so extraordinary: Gagne, Brown, Nomo, Mota, Quantrill and Alvarez/Dreifort (mainly thanks to Alvarez).
No surprise that all six are pitchers, huh?
How do we quanitfy how many win shares they might lose? By comparing them to other players. For example, if the Gagne 2004 slot becomes like a Tim Worrell 2003 slot - decent but no longer overpowering - it would fall from 25 win shares to 12, a decline of 13.
After studying the league stats at BaseballGraphs.com, I've determined, ever-so-roughly, that:
Brown slot (-10)
It's not that all these declines will happen, but they are declines that I think the Dodgers must prepare to face. If it helps, remember that it's three win shares to a victory. Can't you forsee Kevin Brown losing three wins worth of value, or Eric Gagne, who led National League pitchers in Win Shares this season?
Okay, let's turn to the roster slots with upside potential. If the Dodgers kept their team intact, here are the safe predictions for slots that would improve.
Jordan/Burnitz slot (+5)
I'm basing these numbers on these slots being young and still developing, or being able to rebound from disappointing seasons. If you combine the total gain above (43 win shares) with the total decline way above (-40 win shares), you come away with a net gain of three win shares, or one victory - pushing the Dodgers to 86 wins in 2004.
Now of course, this gets a little more complicated, because unless Frank McCourt replaces Dodger general manager Dan Evans with David Blaine, who then locks himself in a box above the Thames, the Dodgers will make changes to their roster.
Here's a sampling of the impact that some potential acquisitions might have. Keep in mind that Win Shares takes park effects into account, so we don't have to mentally adjust for players coming into the Dodger Stadium offensive graveyard.
Again, these are not recommendations - just examples:
As I said at the outset, this isn't science. But I think this Win Shares exercise is a useful guide to the offseason. It allows you to quantify the Dodgers' potential improvement and decline, to gauge what kind of moves they need to make.
One trade might bring the Dodgers a gain of 5 wins.
That's 11 wins. That takes the Dodgers from 85 victories in 2003 to 96 wins in 2004.
It's not science, but it's interesting.
Green Moving to First - Pros and Cons
No, moving Shawn Green to first base may not be the answer. But what is the answer? Is there an answer?
As of Monday morning, comments on "The Shawn Green of Old Will Not Return" (thanks to Eric Enders for posting it on Baseball Primer) centered on the epilogue, which speculated about Green moving to first base.
The comments mainly were:
1) Green's injury is to his non-throwing shoulder, so why move him out of right field? Playing first base could exacerbate the injury just as much.
2) If Green's offensive performance is declining, moving him to first base, where the offensive expectations are highter, may not make sense.
I agree with the premise of both these comments. Moving Green to first base may be as sound as reducing the California car tax while trying to balance the budget. However, there is this to consider:
1) For the Dodgers, their biggest offseason priority was already bringing in a left fielder, beacuse the Dodgers were even poorer offensively at left field in 2003, relative to the rest of the league, than at shortstop. Basically, much depends on whether the Dodgers can find two outfielders, or as John Wiebe of John's Dodger Blog advocates, a first baseman like Richie Sexson.
2) The Dodgers began talking about moving Green to first base a year ago, before the injury manifested, when they came close to signing Cliff Floyd. They continued to talk about it toward the end of the 2003 season, so there may already be momentum for the move whether or not the team reads Will Carroll.
3) I still maintain that Green's defense in right field has declined to the point of worry.
But like I said, this is all a footnote. The big issue at hand, regardless of where Green plays, is that his best power days may well be gone. Which is not to say that it's all over for Green. He still had a better-than-average season as far as being a major-league ballplayer goes.
But the glory days? They do pass you by - and perhaps sooner than we expect.
Green took a cortisone shot toward the end of the summer that seemed to help his power production on the short term. Is that going to continue? Can it continue? If not, the Dodgers may be staring at another bloated contract.
The Shawn Green of Old Will Not Return
"Successful" was the term given to the press to describe Dodger outfielder Shawn Green's shoulder surgery last week. This comes as no surprise. Not too many athletes wake up from the operating table to read in the paper that they've had "unsuccessful" surgery, the "first, do no harm" medical ethic providing some assurance of that.
Therefore, for most media outlets, the news of Green's surgery to clean up the labrum in the back of his right shoulder was little more than a footnote in the Dodger offseason. The Dodger press reported 1) the surgery occured, and 2) that Green is expected to be ready for Spring Training.
For baseball medical expert and dogged reporter Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus.com, however, there was more news to convey - and it wasn't all that successy.
On Friday, Carroll wrote:
... instead of repairing the labrum, the damaged cartilage was removed. This is significantly more likely to cause future issues, and raises doubts that Green will recover to the level many expected from this great player.
I read this and went, "Whoa." And then I went, "Why?" It sounded like an either-or choice was made, and not a very good one at that.
I asked Carroll: "Can you give any insight as to why this decision would have been made? Would the doctors or the Dodgers dispute that it is more likely to cause future issues? Or is the type of surgery Green had less intense? Bottom line: what was the incentive for removing the damaged cartilage and not repairing the labrum?"
When Carroll replied, the first thing he did was clarify that the issue wasn't about doctors making a bad choice:
Man, I knew I was gonna end up having to explain that one more.
Honestly, when they went in, I'm reasonably sure the thought was repair (the labrum, instead of removing the damaged cartilage), but the tear was too big to suitably repair.
Okay, so the doctors did what they could. Still, this surgery doesn't sound like something so successful after all - at least in the eyes of any Dodger fans looking for 40-plus home runs from Green in right field again.
Doctors would say they did what was necessary and that [Green] should return to function, but doctors don't analyze baseball. I can't say for sure that he won't, but since he'll have bone on bone in at least part of the glenoid fossa now, there's a significantly raised chance of pain, and pain is never good for function.
Sure, he could feel loose and come back and play fine, but as one surgeon I know says, "Surgery isn't a fix; it's buying time until I have to do it again."
Surgery or not, Shawn Green still has a shoulder problem.
In the spirit of "teach a man to fish," Carroll gave me a couple of links to medical sites so that I could do further research. As someone who understands neither science nor fishing, this was problematic, but I waded in. After all, I did write an ER spec script once.
From Johns Hopkins, we learn:
1) "The labrum is a type of cartilage found in the shoulder joint." (This is apparently beginner's stuff, so you can see the level of expertise I bring to the pond.)
2) "The labrum has basically two functions.Ź The first is to deepen the socket so that the ball (of the shoulder - the humerus) stays in place. ... The second function of the labrum is as an attachment of other structures or tissues around the joint."
3) "A labrum tear can take several forms, and it is very easy to confuse these types."
4) "Because this cartilage is deep in the shoulder, it is very difficult to make the diagnosis of a torn labrum upon physical examination." (Just speculating here, but I find this significant in terms of the secrecy surrounding Green's injury throughout most of 2003.)
5) "If the labrum is frayed, usually no treatment is necessary since it doesnÕt usually cause symptoms.Ź However, if there is a large tear of the labrum, the torn part should either be cut out and trimmed, or it should be repaired.Ź Which treatment is used depends upon where the tear is located and how big it is."
There was even more information from Carroll's second link, the Orthopaedic Research Institute, but for now, I'm compelled to give you one item in place of all others:
6) "Do not attempt any procedures described on this website unless you are fully trained. Otherwise, serious injury may occur."
Anyway, having digested as much of this as I could, I went back to Carroll for some follow-up. Since time's getting short and this entry's getting long, I'll try to cut to the chase.
Carroll said that in 2004, Green will have some reprieve from the 2003 pain, but:
...you can imagine that the bone on bone will eventually become a problem - bone spurs or chips are inevitable. It won't be perfect, but it should be better.
Tear and fraying is degrees of the same problem. Green had a complete tear in the posterior aspect of his labrum. Bone on bone is NOT okay, but it's better than a torn labrum.
The Orthopaedic Research Institute also details the suture anchors that are often used to reattach the labrum. Carroll commented that many pitchers pitch with those anchors - however, as Green did not have a repair, he did not end up with one:
They merely excised the torn portion. Picture a tent. One corner of the tent comes up and flaps in the wind. You put in a peg and the tent is fine. That's what you do with a frayed labrum. If the tear is so bad that you have to cut off a section of the tent and hope that what's left keeps you dry, well, that's more like what they did with Green.
But eventually, it's gonna rain, right? Carroll says yes, although there's a limit to how wet Green will get. (When I'm not trying to be cute, this means that the next surgery will not necessarily be any more invasive than the last surgery was.)
Honestly, [Green] will probably have to have it cleaned up with a scope. They'll go in and catch some fraying, shave down the bone. Very similar to a "scrape and tape" on the knee that many get. He could also, were he not a baseball player, make it through his normal life with no problems.
Bottom line: This is why, as Carroll said at the outset, that while Shawn Green's operation leaves him better off today than he was during the 2003 season, the operation was not a cure. Green is likely to need more shoulder surgery in his career, and even more likely to have to contend with pain in the shoulder. If playing with pain is the reason for his performance decline in 2003, then the home run hitter of previous years is probably gone for good.
One final thing. I asked Carroll, "Is this as good a reason as any to move Green to first base? (And believe me, with the lack of gusto with which he has come to play right field, there are reasons to move him already.)"
Carroll said, "Yes."
Friendly postscript: If, after reading this article, you have come away with either of the following conclusions, I humbly recommend that you go back and read the article again.
Baseball America has published its season wrapup on the Dodgers.
Of the Top 10 Dodger prospects entering the season, only September callup Edwin Jackson and Southern League ERA champ Joel Hanrahan exceeded expectations. If you talk about only the second half of the year, you can add lefty Greg Miller to that group as well. And infielder James Loney had a solid season that leaves him as the team's best offensive prospect for the second year in a row.
However, while Chin Feng-Chen improved offensively, but his best position is still designated hitter. Joel Guzman and Reggie Abercrombie led a group of position players who performed well if you ignore their lack of strike zone mastery. Pitchers Jonathan Figueroa and Alfredo Gonzalez struggled with physical issues on their way to mediocre years.
Just Another Hotshot 20-Year-Old Third Baseman
You know how disappointed I am about the Cubs losing to the Marlins. I'm so disappointed that I can barely muster interest in seeing the other team of Job, the Red Sox, try to make their peace.
I do want to say that I have nothing against the players on Florida, who seem to be a likeable bunch from one end of the roster to another.
And from a Dodger perspective, you can't help but notice the contributions made by Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera is a 20-year-old third baseman, the same thing that Adrian Beltre was in 1999.
In the 2003 playoffs, Cabrera has batted .318, based .375, slugged .568, OPSed .943, all while showing precocious versatility by playing four challenging positions: third base, shortstop, left field and right field.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Cabrera, who started the season in Double A, looks like a jewel.
Beltre, of course, hasn't had the opportunity to play in the playoffs. Let's compare the regular season statistics between both players at age 20. (Because the two players were closer in games played when Beltre was 19 - like Cabrera, Beltre was originally a midseason callup from AA ball - I'll put those stats in too.)
As you can see, Cabrera was clearly the superior player in his first partial season. However, when you match them up at the same age, it's basically a split decision. Cabrera wins on OPS, but no doubt thanks to park factors, Beltre wins by a hair on EQA.
Beltre, of course, has gone on to have a mixed career, affected to some unquantifiable extent by the appendectomy that was apparently performed on him with a butter knife in 2000.
If you were looking at these two players, side by side, at age 20, there is a reason to think Cabrera was the one with the brighter future, even if Beltre had the Cal Ripken of appendices. Cabrera had more power at a young age.
However, Cabrera, like Beltre has, may face some hurdles as he approaches car rental age. This season, Cabrera walked 25 times (against 84 strikeouts) - a walk every 14 plate appearances. His walk rate is poorer than Beltre's was at age 20: Beltre walked 61 times (against 105 strikeouts), or one walk every 10 plate appearances.
Further, unlike Beltre, who walked more often than he struck out in his minor league career, Cabrera has never walked all that much. He did walk 56 times this year with Florida and AA Carolina, a rate of one per 11 plate appearances that just about places him on par with Beltre. But of course, Beltre did not spend half a season in the minors at age 20.
Next year, Cabrera may undergo the rite of passage in which major league pitchers work him outside the strike zone, to see if he has the judgment to take a walk or the recklessness to swing away.
Here are Beltre's stats at age 21:
Beltre, 2000: 138 G, .290 BA, .360 OBP, .475 SLG, .835 OPS, .286 EQA
That 2000 season remains Beltre's best. His stats improved in every area - for the last time. Beltre has not broken the .310 barrier in OBP since his appendix went. It's not that I think that the appendix could have affected Beltre's eyesight, but something has just been wrong with Beltre ever since. I'm still not convinced Beltre doesn't need a nice new pair of glasses at Christmas.
Even in 2003, even with his second-half power surge, Beltre ended the season by walking once every 16 plate apperances. That is not promising.
Cabrera may have some struggles ahead. But he may also have a bright future that will leave us wondering why South Florida did so well with its hotshot 20-year-old third baseman, and Southern California did not.
News Corpus Mentis
Ro'ee Levy wrote a letter relating to the impending ownership change. I'm going to intersperse my response within his letter. Ro'ee's words are in italics; mine aren't:
I wanted to write and ask about the new owner.
As far as I can tell, everyone agrees that News Corp. was terrible, but I don't understand why. As far as I can tell there have been two explanations so far:
1) Large media companies shouldnÕt own baseball teams. I know this can be bad for baseball (mostly related to selling of TV rights) but is this really specifically bad for the Dodgers?
I don't think anyone's saying that by definition, a large media company can't operate the Dodgers to general satisfaction. However, it would take a very unique company to do so.
There is a reasonable assumption that any media company decision regarding its baseball team will serve the needs of the media company first and the baseball team second. Sometimes the two have the same needs, but when there's a conflict, the media company's needs will win out. This potentially affects everything from the type of ballplayer that you sign, to the atmosphere of the ballpark.
2) The whole Kevin Malone environment - overpay every semi-star and sign him to a long-term contract. We all agree Kevin Malone was horrible, but I think he should get the blame for his failure (and that's why he's been replaced), not the owners. Sure, the owners set the high payroll but that was one of the advantages of Murdoch, it gave us more options Š the fact is that the Dodgers wasted it.
The fundamental reason for everyone's hostility toward News Corp. ownership was its decision - before Malone was hired - to trade Mike Piazza to Florida. The ill will this created in Los Angeles can hardly be overemphasized.
Following that, Kevin Malone certainly earned plenty of blame for his tenure. However, I think that just as Malone bears responsibility for the performance of the players he acquired, News Corp. bears responsibility for the general manager that it hired and how long it let him run amok.
Scary that Malone might still be general manager if it weren't for T.J. Simers making a big deal out of the skirmish between Malone and the fan in San Diego.
In addition to the high payroll, ticket prices weren't expensive.
I don't have the data that would compare Dodger ticket prices to those of other baseball teams, or to other events in Los Angeles, but I think it's safe to say that there are many people in Southern California who would flat-out disagree with your statement.
Anyway, I'm not very involved in local L.A. news, and I didn't follow the Dodgers closely a few years ago, so there's probably something I'm missing. My question is: What? Why does everyone hate the current owner?
Summing up, News Corp. traded Mike Piazza and failed to generate a playoff team.
Since I don't have much against Fox/Murdoch, I must say I'm not thrilled with the selling of the team.
Well, as you may know, I do worry about the unknown with the new owner. The elimination of one poor regime does not guarantee that its replacement is worth celebrating.
I don't have anything against Frank McCourt either (don't know a thing about him), I just don't want Evans and/or Tracy fired. As I see it Tracy is a very good manager. Hey, even mainstream baseball writers (in the manager of the year voting) and Baseball Primer writers agreed on that. I also agree with you that the organization seems to be heading in the right direction, and I don't want the whole process stopped.
I don't know that there's widespread agreement about how good a manager Tracy is, but certainly I believe that both he and Evans deserve at least another season. However, I would entertain a Billy Beane discussion.
Furthermore, I read that there have been concerns in the past about McCourt's financial backing. Now that might mean lowering the payroll.
A valid concern at this point.
An advantage cited to McCourt it that he says heÕll be an "hands-on" owner. In my opinion as long as the owner sets a reasonable payroll and has a good GM, being "hands-on" isnÕt that important.
If anything, a hands-on owner scares me much, much more than it excites me.
Basically, Ro'ee, I share your skepticism toward the mainstream analysis of the ownership change. While News Corp. torched its relationship with the city with its trade of Piazza, there's no guarantee whatsoever that McCourt will be an improvement. But as they say, there is upside potential with McCourt.
I think we all need to be patient and see what develops before passing judgment on McCourt. However, it's never too soon for people to advocate what they think the new management should do. I welcome any discussion on this point.
The Human Being Who Made a Stupid Mistake
The Chicago Sun-Times has identified the fan as Steve Bartman.
"... he is not coming to work today because of the incident," Suzanne Zagata-Meraz, a spokeswoman ... said this morning. "That was a decision that Steve and [Human Resources] made together. We have been in contact with Steve."
The paper also writes:
A man who answered the door at the Northbrook home where friends and a neighbor said Bartman grew up defended him, saying he only did what came naturally when a foul ball came his way.
"He's a huge Cubs fan," said the man, who responded to "Mr. Bartman." "I'm sure I taught him well. I taught him to catch foul balls when they come near him."
The home where Bartman grew up backs up to a baseball field where his dad would hit pop-ups for him and his friends to catch, said Ron Cohen's son, Gary Cohen, 34. He said Bartman's favorite player growing up was Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg.
I almost feel like I'm passing along the name of Kobe Bryant's accuser here, but that's silly, right? Not the same thing.
And, I know that my audience knows how to handle this information responsibly and understands why I'm presenting it - to show that this fan, whatever mistake he made, is a person.
Lore'd, Have Mercy
Enough lore. Enough color. The Cubs need a win today.
If you're rooting for the Baby Bears' penance to end, like I am, cling to a loved one. For this is starting to feel like the final charge up the hill in Glory.
I called my Dad, who attended the Cubs last World Series appearance as a 10-year-old in 1945, after the game. I don't believe I've ever heard him sound so quiet.
* * *
The Game 6 loss is not about the fan who may have prevented Moises Alou from catching the foul ball, but you can't not talk about him.
First of all, he was not the only one going for the foul ball. Hands were reaching in the cookie jar from all sides, but only one guy actually got, if you'll excuse the expression, caught.
So let's dial back the hyperbole about this man being the villain of the century. In particular, people like this (in Bill Plaschke's column in the Times today) shouldn't be quoted for color. They need to be set straight.
Jim Cuthbert, a longtime fan from the suburbs, was outside because he had been ejected after he dashed down 20 rows to the fan and confronted him.
"After that play, I had enough," Cuthbert said. "Ninety-five years and this idiot gets in the way? I yelled, 'What's wrong with you!' He was smirking, high-fiving his buddy.
Do you believe this story? That by the time Cuthbert made his way 20 rows to the fan, the fan was high-fiving, when his transgression was immediately apparent? That Cuthbert got close enough to see a smirk?
Or do you believe this account in the Chicago Sun-Times?
Matt Gries, 26, of Los Angeles was sitting nearby and said the man who interfered "was sad and nervous. He just looked like he wanted to bury himself in the dirt.''
It seems much more likely that Cuthbert, with or without malice aforethought, is trying to make a bad situation worse, drawing a black mustache on the Wanted poster. Villain or not, that's shooting the guy in the back.
The punishment for this fan has already begun and will continue. Let's not be ridiculous about it.
Now, let's also dial back the hyperbole saying any fan in the same position would have done the same thing.
Yes, it a natural instinct to go for a foul ball when you're in the stands. Except when you are seated in the front row. Except in a game with obvious implications. Except with the left fielder coming right at you. I don't think it takes a conscious decision for you to let the baseball player - especially the one on the team whose hat you are wearing - have the first shot at the ball. There's a common sense instinct in us as well.
In that situation, you don't go after anything. You cower. You put your hands up to protect your head and let it smash your knuckles before you try to catch it.
* * *
My sport is baseball. For a Cubs-Red Sox World Series to slip away and be replaced by Yankees-Marlins, that's joyless.
Fear and hope, my comrades on either shoulder for another day.
New Blogs (Including an L.A. Sports Blog)
After three days off (yes, I work at a place that gives you the Columbus Day holiday), I'm reading too much good stuff on the Internet.
A new site, Insider's TV Info, gives you a cool look from a seven-year ESPN employee at how things work at ESPN and in the sports broadcasting world in general.
Bigger news for this audience is that a rookie has entered the world of Dodger blogging. (Well, we're all rookies, but strangely, we are not eligible to win the Rookie of the Year award.) Rick Todd, a reader of this site, wrote to tell me:
Instead of bugging you non-stop like some sociopath who writes to the editor of his local podunk newspaper over the garbage trucks making too much noise all the time, I've decided to waste mine and other people's time with a new blog I've started. It's at DodgerKid.blogspot.com.
Peruse it, if you like it, comment about it, if you don't, ignore it completely. It will focus mainly on the Dodgers, but a little bit on the Lakers as well. I didn't go to USC or UCLA, I went to Boston University, so I doubt I'll be able to write (or care) about those teams. It's a little more vulgar than yours (well, actually a lot), so if you put up a warning about that, I understand completely.
Rick has hit the ground running with some serious entries on what makes a Dodger playoff team, the pending ownership change, and "What would Billy (Beane) do?" Looks like Rick means business, so give him a read.
The Anathema Anthem
Sean Forman at Baseball Primer points us to a great story in the Detroit Free Press about a watershed moment in national anthem history - courtesy of Jose Felciano - that took place 25 years ago at Tiger Stadium.
Did people make fun of Jose with "Oh say can you see" jokes?" I hope not.
That Feeling of Grrrrgh
The events in and around Saturday's Yankees-Red Sox playoff game have sparked a discussion among the baseball blog world about fans becoming too emotionally invested in their teams.
Edmund Cossette at Bambino's Curse started the discussion, and David Pinto followed up at Baseball Musings. Now, Alex Belth has put in his thoughts and invited all to comment on the collective postings.
I particularly like this comment from David:
I would suggest what is really bothering people like Edward is that there was a shift of virtue from the Red Sox to the Yankees Saturday. It's been going on for a while, but Saturday the fault line moved. When it was Nettles and Jackson and Rivers against Lynn and Fisk and Lee, it was easy to see the Yankees as the evil team that deserved to be vanquished by the Red Sox. But on Saturday, it was Pedro and Manny who caused the trouble. Here they were in game the Red Sox had to win, and their antics came close to having them thrown out. Up until Zimmer charged Pedro, the Yankees did nothing wrong. Someone watching a baseball game for the first time would come away from Saturday thinking the Red Sox are a bunch of evil jerks and the Yankees were just defending themselves.
External perception of one's team can really affect one's self-esteem (although, as my wife told me last night, self-esteem is something that is hopefully formed for you in childhood, in such a manner that independent events in your adulthood don't affect it).
As for me, I wrote about this topic back in March. That entry really explains why I've been writing this site in the first place, so if you haven't read it already, I'd love for you to. As I say in a comment at Bronx Banter, there's a reason for the adverb in the message at the top of my site, "Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers and baseball."
Here We Go
By KEN PETERS
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Frank McCourt, a Boston real estate developer who failed in two earlier attempts to buy major league teams, has reached an agreement to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers from News Corp, both parties said Friday.
McCourt will head an investment group that reportedly has offered as much as $400 million for the team, Dodger Stadium and adjoining real estate, plus training facilities in Vero Beach, Fla., and the Dominican Republic. Terms of the deal were not disclosed in a joint statement.
Major league team owners must approve the sale before it can be finalized.
Paranoiacs, start your engines. This means people like me, who don't assume that things like ownership can't go from bad to worse. It's bad enough that Schwarzenegger says he can balance the budget without raising taxes or cutting essential programs. What will McCourt's plans for the team contain?
Having said that, I'll try to be positive. Most of all, I'll try not to jump to conclusions, positive or negative, about McCourt, until more information comes in. I feel like I know less about this guy than (take your pick) Nottingham knew about Robin Hood or Iowa knew about Prof. Harold Hill.
Dodger Pitching - Top Five All-Time Dodger Hitting - Bottom Six All-Time
From Tom Tippett at Thoughts From Diamond Mind:
The Dodgers allowed opposing teams to score runs at only 70% of the league-average rate. On the all-time list, you've got three teams at 69% (the Cubs of 1905, 1906, and 1909) and one at 70% (the 1939 Yankees), so the Dodgers are now in the top five all-time when measured this way. A lot of people complain that the word "great" is overused in the sports world, and I agree. But this, friends, was a great pitching staff, and the defense behind it deserves some of the credit, too.
On the other hand, the offense was almost equally dreadful, scoring runs at only 73% of the league average rate. Only five teams since 1901 have been worse. Even the Tigers rallied to finish at 75% of the AL average this year.
McCourting the Dodgers
More on Frank McCourt, who the papers are saying has acquired exclusive negotiating rights for the purchase of the Dodgers. Hammond writes:
"Any transaction would include Dodger Stadium, and a source said McCourt would leave the team there, even though his 2001 bid for the Boston Red Sox included a plan to move the team from Fenway Park and build a waterfront stadium in south Boston."
Meanwhile, Jason Reid and Ross Newhan tell us in the Times that "McCourt, realizing he is currently the only viable bidder, apparently has taken a hard-line stance on some of the remaining issues." Further, the understandable fear in the organization is that the length of time required for the approval process of McCourt - even if he agrees to terms this month - will hamstring offseason moves for the team.
You knew Shawn Green is scheduled to have surgery, but did you know that Hideo Nomo and Paul Shuey just had it? Rich Hammond of the Daily News provides the operating room roundup.
On Karros, From Chicago
Nice column on Karros today. Allow me to point you toward my column, "In Praise of Erik Karros," from June.
Also, while all the numbers you cite are true, consider these as well:
That's Karros' AVG/OBP/SLG against lefties this year. He murders 'em. His numbers against righties are so poor (246/286/397) that his overall numbers have been dragged down, but I submit that that is not Karros' fault. It's Dusty Baker's. Instead of recognizing that what he had was a deadly platoon player, what Baker thought he had was an everyday player. So, he ran Karros out there almost every day, to the detriment of the development of young Hee Seop Choi. Karros responded the way you'd expect him to respond, which is to say, not very well. It wasn't until Jim Hendry went out and got Randall Simon that Karros' PT was curtailed, and even then he still started pretty regularly against righties.
Karros is, at this point, a platoon player.
Walter O'Malley Turns 100 - In Cyberspace
This is sort of out of the blue (or Blue), but I got two announcements Wednesday of a website: www.walteromalley.com.
I thought this was rather random, but it turns out that this is a serious endeavor.
Debuting on the 100th anniversary of O'Malley's birth, the site was commissioned by Peter O'Malley and his family. If I may be so pedestrian as to quote from the press release, "With more than 600 pages, www.walteromalley.com is one of the largest biographical web sites on the Internet." But judging it by size would appear to sell the site short.
Besides a detailed review of the Walter O'Malley era, the site posts many, many obscure photos, personal and business correspondence, and film and video clips (examples: B-roll from a 1978 Vin Scully interview of O'Malley, and rehearsal outtakes from what is apparently an apperance by O'Malley on the television show, Branded).
Again from the release: "Among the rare offerings are stories about young John F. Kennedy, before he was President, and Joseph Kennedy's attempts to buy the Dodgers in the early 1950s, communication from Cary Grant, the Marx Brothers, Walt Disney, Coretta Scott King, Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth."
I'm quoting from the release because I'm too impatient to do a thorough review of the site before sharing it. I'm assuming the release is citing the highlights, but you can almost pick a link out of a hat and find something interesting. The first document I went to was: "Report of Findings - Chief Administrative Office of Los Angeles County," in which "The Chief Administrative Office of Los Angeles County publishes its 1955 report displaying facts why the city of Los Angeles should receive strong consideration for a Major League Baseball team." On the cover is a handwritten message:
I urged this survey. Some of it is faulty but I think you should read it regardless. Could offer something.Among other things, the report states that "several suburban and downtown sites are available which, by reason of proximity to centers of population and traffic arterials, are feasible locations for a Big League Baseball Park."
This site looks like a place where we can spend hours.
Not that his batting average doesn't matter at all, but here is why so many people have problems with Mark Grudzielanek on defense. From Joe Sheehan at Baseball Propectus:
Mark Grudzielanek made an early run at being this series' Jose Cruz Jr. with two poor efforts in the ninth inning, one mental, one physical.
On the first, when he bobbled a Luis Castillo ground ball and never did tag Juan Pierre, I don't understand why he didn't throw to second base for the force play. He had to know he'd blown the tag--great call by Fieldin Culbreth--and in that situation you must get one out. Not doing so was critical, because there's a huge difference between two outs and two on, and one out and three on.
The next play didn't get the attention, but it highlighted the Cubs' main problem coming into this series. Ivan Rodriguez hit a line drive past Grudzielanek that, had he just fallen down from where he stood, he might have caught and at least would have kept in the infield.
Hot Topics, Continued
Bill Simms connects the two topics of the week: the Dodger-Cub comparison and the Dodger-Marlin comparison - with this e-mail:
You do have a valid point regarding the Marlins' success. Maybe they don't deserve as much credit as I've given them. Things broke their way, the stars aligned. And it could just as easily happened to the Dodgers. McGriff stays healthy, Jordan stays healthy and Green has his normal year and the Dodgers win the wild card.
Speaking of the sale - topic No. 3 of the week - the Times follows the Daily News Tuesday report that new candidates were entering the (snail's) race to buy the team by naming one: a real-estate developer from Boston, Frank H. McCourt, to replace the local real-estate developer that is also dropping out, Alan Casden.
Jason Reid writes that "the sides are moving quickly to resolve the numerous remaining sticking points." So I'll hedge my judgment that the sale was going to drag on for quite a while, keeping in mind that we've been hearing about sides moving quickly for quite a while.
Finally, if you are looking for a Florida perspective on the playoffs, check out a new blog, The Book of Mike. Subhead: "Three More Games Until the Cubs Are Eliminated." Go there now to be one of the first 300 visitors there ever. In today's entry, not surprisingly, Mike is forced to consider whether Marlins manager Jack McKeon has made a deal with the devil. (Perhaps Dan Evans' biggest problem is he won't trade with Satan.)
For the Cubs' side of things, stick with the excellent Christian Ruzich at The Cub Reporter.
More thoughts about the Dodgers being at risk of becoming the Cubs of the 21st century, courtesy of reader Rick Todd:
Going to have to disagree with you on us becoming the Cubs. First of all, making predictions of a team's future 60 years in the future, is silly, and tenuous at best. (Jon's note: It's not a prediction; it's a fear. Big difference.) There are no stats in this past season that can determine something so far into the future. Literally anything can happen. The Red Sox were bad for so long because they were consistently a racist team for so long, being the last team to assimilate, and had a vastly white roster well into the 80s (even today's roster is pretty white, clumsy big guys who are bad on defense). The Dodgers are just the opposite, and are the second-most minority team after the Expos. And this is with a white GM picking the players.
You have stated that Dan Evans and Tracy are actually a good team, and should stay on. I agree. With it becoming more and more evident that the Dodgers will stay unsold, Evans and Tracy's jobs are safe. That means some things are guaranteed to happen.
The next problem we come to is position players. We need offense. Evans isn't an idiot, he knows not sign old guys like McGriff any more, even if they have good stats. They're ticking time bombs. Expect someone like Palmeiro to NOT be signed. Sexson is the big rumor, and if we get him there's one bat. Shawn Green should make a great recovery; it's not unheard of in this day and age for a player to have a bad year, have surgery, and come back. Then, we have some money left over from the dumping of Jordan, Ashby, McGriff etc., and we sign one other person, perhaps Juan Gonzalez or someone who's been spotty but capable the last few years. Tada, we have an offense.
The Dodgers have two large factors going for them: One, they play in a weak division, and two they play in a city where players want to play. Most players grew up in SoCal because of the warm weather which promotes high school talent and all-season playing. And most free agents want to play here, because to play here means to hobnob with the stars. Remember, when this team does well, that means Hollywood takes notice (remember when Karros and Piazza were in Pert Plus commercials, and had huge beach parties in Manhattan Beach). Talent comes here because it is born here, and wants to live here.
Finally, we have the budget. It's large, and getting more wieldy with every passing year, as Malone detritus washes off. The Cubs historically have never had that, with smaller revenues from a smaller park. This team's future is bright, so bright that I would say the one thing that ran against it these ten years was MERELY an insane front office. That has been removed, and winning can be achieved. I really think this team can win the division next year. It has the biggest budget in the division, and there's no guarantee Bonds wants another year on a choke team. Expect him in red next year as the Angel's DH. And expect the Dodgers getting a playoff berth.
I might disagree with some of the details, but Rick and I are in essential agreement about the future of the Dodgers. But to be clear, my point has been that if the Dodgers aren't careful, they could become the Cubs of the 2000s. Again, it's not a prediction. Call it, if you will, an alternative reality to consider.
In my opinion, Dan Evans has led a movement to be careful, and that's why I'm cautiously optimistic. But clearly, that movement to be careful is what's tenuous. Radical or impatient decisions by ownership, old or new, could scuttle this carefully honed direction.
Confronting the Karros Demon
"Karros is tumbling from mediocrity to uselessness."
The quote is mine, carefully retrieved by Karen from this January 14 entry.
To which I reply: No, not useless. Still mediocre.
My angst over the all-time Los Angeles Dodger home run leader is better documented in this entry a month later: Eric Karros: Sparring Partner. Karros was once a hero to me - a precursor to Paul Lo Duca, a grinder working his way up the system, becoming a bright light in a particularly dismal season, 1992. However, Karros came to embody much of what was wrong with the Dodgers on the field. He was an overrated player - hitting his 30 home runs a year, but providing little else in offense. He brought no fire to the game - acting aloof, even contrary at times.
Knowing full well the lackluster commodity the Dodgers were getting in Todd Hundley, I was glad to see Karros go. We can all agree that the Dodgers needed help on offense for 2003. Well, Karros was unlikely to be the man who provided it. Further, I did not anticipate that he would accept the part-time role that Dodger manager Jim Tracy would otherwise have had in mind for him.
Still, back in February, I wrote:
I am hoping the Dodgers made the right decision in getting rid of Karros for their sake, but I admit that I also have the same hope for my sake. I really donÕt want my opinion of this move to be wrong.So, am I the inflatable Bozo?
From a team standpoint, of course, the results aren't pretty. Karros is playing October ball; the Dodgers are not.
But what about the player?
Let's start with the postseason, to address first the specific point raised in Karen's e-mail. With two home runs (and I'll assess no penalty points for them both coming in a losing effort), Karros has an OPS of 1.125 in 16 plate appearances. Look, that's outstanding. At this point. Karros would have to go about 0 for 8 before he reaches mediocre, and 0 for the series before reaching useless. If you only want to judge Karros on what he's done in the playoffs, well, you've got yourself one heck of a first baseman.
But in the postseason, the Cubs have played six games. Karros has played four. Not much to go on. And the fact that he's been benched for two games brings us to the larger point.
In the regular season, Karros played in 114 games. He missed 48 games - 30 percent of the season - and not because of injury. He missed them because Dusty Baker, a manager who places his faith in veterans like almost no other, didn't have a role for him in those games. So right there, you're starting with a player who is 70 percent of your ideal.
You're also talking about a player who plays the game's easiest defensive position, meaning that whatever stats he produces on offense should be at a level better than those of players at any other slot.
When he did play, Karros posted a batting average of .286, his highest since 1999. But again, this was a Slim-Fast stat. Karros had an EQA, according to Baseball Prospectus, of .271. Among major league first basemen with at least as many plate appearances as Karros had, Karros was tied for 18th in EQA.
Using another Baseball Prospectus stat, Runs Above Replacement Value, which accounts for the fact that there were some games in which Karros literally did not produce at all, Karros was tied for 26th among first basemen.
And again, because of the lack of defensive value that Karros provides, here are some Dodgers that Baseball Prospectus ranks as more valuable:
However, to answer the question of how useful Karros is, that answer is, not very.
Go ahead and be impressed by Karros' performance this season, but realize that you are being impressed by mediocrity.
If you acknowledge that the Dodgers would not have signed McGriff had they retained Karros, then Karros' departure from the team had virtually no negative impact on the Dodger performance this season. That the Dodgers' trade with the Cubs looks bad in hindsight is mainly a reflection of the offensive divergence of second basemen Grudzielanek and Alex Cora, not Karros.
As for me, well, I've documented my desire for the Cubs to seize the opportunity before them and win the World Series. And if Karros contributes to that, then congratulations all around. Though I may have low expectations of the player, I don't wish Karros anything ill at all.
But if the Cubs do find the magic, I would hate to see people in these parts record in their personal histories that Eric Karros was the magic wand.
Still On the Market
The Malcolm Glazer family's bid to buy the Dodgers is on "life-support," according to Rich Hammond of the Daily News.
Hammond adds that "other potential buyers are likely to enter the picture" alongside the most-mentioned remaining candidates, former Seattle Mariners owner Jeff Smulyan and real estate developer Alan Casden.
Hammond's report is based on anonymous sources.
Is it just me, or are any of you starting to think that the sale of the Dodgers will drag past Opening Day 2004?
The Fast and the Furious
Dan Reines has finished atoning and realized the following:
You mentioned something not long ago about the Dodgers running the risk of becoming this century's Cubbies (It's true, I did.), which of course seems absurd at first. But then I started thinking about it yesterday (gave me something to ponder while not eating and standing for extended periods of time at Yom Kippur services).
First of all, it's been 15 years since the Dodgers' last series win/appearance, and with every year that goes by, that number rises closer to the "years and years of futility" label that gets pasted on teams like the Cubs and the Sox (both Sox) and the pre-2002 Angels. And it occurred to my fast-addled mind yesterday: Since '88, even with the repeat successes of the Yankees and the early-'90s Jays, there've been nine different World Series champs, and 14 different teams have won their respective leagues. That's almost half the major leagues, including two teams that didn't even exist when the Dodgers last won.
Of course, the Dodgers haven't even won a post-season *game* since then, which puts them in a class with, as far as I can figure, only five other teams: the Expos, the Brewers, the Tigers, the Royals, and the Devil Rays, who of course didn't happen until 1998. In other words, the Dodgers are currently nursing the fifth-longest postseason futility streak in all of baseball.
Jon, the Dodgers may already *be* the Cubs. Except that the Cubs are lovable.
I can't tell you how much more difficult this made my fast.
Yep. I'm telling you, it's serious, man.
Readers Make Their Case for the Marlins
In response to my provocative anti-Marlins posting Monday, these responses:
From Gregg Rosenthal of Gregg's Baseball, Etc.:
As a Sox fan who doesn't really hate the Yanks as much as my cohorts, I can identify somewhat. Especially after watching the Twins/Yankees and wondering if I wanted a Sox/Yanks series, etc.
But I write because I think it is possible to root for the Marlins - I sort of have been. I usually root for fan bases or organizations too: In that way, the Marlins are an impossible sell - as you pointed out.
As a baseball fan, though, I've watched them a decent amount this year - and they play exciting baseball. Maybe it's just because they play so different than the rest of the league (speed and defense) - it's exciting. I'll be happy for them or the Cubs, whoever wins - but the Marlins a much more fun team/style to watch. And I don't need a flogging lobotomy...
Well, I like exciting. I don't know that the Marlins play defense so differently than the rest of the league, but they do anecdotally seem to go for the extra base like the Angels of 2002.
My point was not that the Marlins' players or their style were not likable. It was that how could anything they do, no matter how likable, be likable when it was assembled with such apparent haste. It was about fate and justice, notthing personal.
Though he rooted for the Marlins against the Giants, Bob Timmermann takes up this point in another letter:
I can't think of another pro team comprable to the Marlins. They just sort of show up, do well, and then disappear into the woodwork.
Quite mysterious. However, I feel I have to be consistent in my hatred of the Giants. I would have pulled for the Giants against the Yankees in the WS however.
A Yankees-Marlins World Series would suck however. I can't imagine anyone thinking that Florida would win that matchup.
Another whose dislike for the Giants trumped all was Bill Simms:
I have to completely disagree with you when it comes to rooting for the Marlins and the Giants. I can't imagine anything worse than a Giants championship. Maybe it's different because I live in northern California. I have to concede to Giants fans that their team has been run better than mine for the past 10 years, but at least we have some trophies.
I can understand your feelings about Marlins management. But, they have put together a pretty good team. While they seemed to have wasted a lot of pitching talent over the last couple of years, you have to give them credit for having assembled a lot of great arms. They made several moves that I thought were wasted because I didn't believe they could contend this year (Rodriguez, Urbina, Conine & holding on to Lowell), but it turns out they were right and I was wrong. Who knows, if Torborg had been replaced in spring of 2002, A.J. Burnett might have made their rotation even better this year.
First of all, I don't know what the "Dusty Baker hamstring game" was, so I look forward to being educated/reminded.
Bill's got some good points. He's correct that the Marlins probably would have been better sooner - and therefore this year's success wouldn't have seemed such a fluke - if their pitching hadn't been abused under Jeff Torborg's management. He's also right that Dusty makes managerial moves that seem to work despite themselves - his reliance on over-the-hill veterans being atop the list, with his high pitch counts for his young pitchers coming up fast.
Bottom line, though, Bill is simply more gracious than me. Saying the Marlins were right and he was wrong in the spirit he does is wonderful. Me, I am pouting that their moves have worked so well. I mean, where does Juan Pierre come off getting 200-plus hits outside of Colorado? That's drawing to an inside straight, or however that goes.
So I'll cancel the lobotomies, but let me say this. A lot had to go right for the Marlins this year to get this far - they beat the odds. There are lessons in what they did this year, but there are also things they did that are not lessons at all. We need to stay clear on which is which.
The Chevy Chase Show Is Back
That's because a) I've always thought the Dodgers' biggest enemy wasn't the Giants, but the Dodgers, and b) I don't understand how one can take pleasure in Florida advancing.
Except for the excitement that they brought to the first week of the playoffs, the Marlins deserve success about as much as Chevy Chase deserves another talkshow.
The Marlins won a World Series as a wild card in 1997, in their fifth season of existence. Great - Cinderella story. However, following a fire sale by its owner, the team wallows around in the muck for five more seasons and part of a sixth. Four months later, they are back in the National League Championship Series - the lone roadblock between a team that embodies suffering, the Cubs, and their first World Series in 95 years.
If you have no misgivings about the postseason glory that has twice come to the Marlins since the Dodgers' last playoff appearance, then you forfeit the right to have any critique of Dodger baseball.
Florida's success mocks logic. It sends a message that any team can get hot for 4 1/2 months, no matter how much the team has mismanaged its resources.
Florida's success mocks poetry. This is not the Cubs, or the Angels with their 42-year drought. This is not even the Dodgers, with their 15-year postseason drought. This is one of only four teams to win the World Series in the past seven years, playing in front of a fan base that abandoned the team when things turned south.
The Marlins are in baseball's Final Four neither through excellence nor penance. It has just been luck.
In the offseason, the Marlins picked up Juan Pierre, a castoff from Colorado. At the midseason trading deadline, they acquired Jeff Conine, a castoff from Baltimore.
They signed their biggest preseason acquisition, Ivan Rodriguez, after a bidding war against ... no one.
The Marlins have not earned their success, mentally or spiritually. The only reason they are still playing this week - and I say this with all irony and without it - is that for some reason, they keep ending baseball games as the team with the most runs.
Throughout the Giants-Marlins series, I did have to remind myself that I was rooting for the Giants. Believe me, I wouldn't have taken much pleasure in their victory. San Francisco itself seems to cobble winning seasons out of nowhere. Having Barry Bonds is like being granted Boardwalk and Park Place before the first dice are rolled. It has become such a built-in advantage, how can the Giants not be around at the end of the game?
But the Giants have had Bonds since 1993 - the same year that Florida joined the National League. And the Giants have had less postseason success than the Marlins.
The Marlins are the most disturbing organization in baseball today. Florida is the dumb oaf who gets all the girls - in high school and college. Florida is the Quick Pick lotto winner who got to retire at age 30. Florida the guy who sold his first screenplay.
If you take any pleasure in the Marlins' success, even at the expense of the Giants, then you're endorsing a world in which it doesn't matter who plays for your team. Just tell us what the score is. The end justifies the means.
Perhaps the proximity of the Giants in our state and in our psyche makes it too hard for some to root for them in anything. And sure, the Chicago Cubs have written their own legend with mistakes on the field and off.
But the Cubs have suffered for their sins like no other. If there is anyone outside Miami-Dade County rooting for the Marlins against the Cubs this week, they need a flogging lobotomy.
Investing in Beane Futures
Or, extracting the Money from Moneyball...
Steve Galbraith, Chief Investment Officer at Morgan Stanley and Red Sox fan, has published a report about investing, "Searching for the Financial Equivalent of a Walk," using theories from Michael Lewis' baseball book, Moneyball.
You can imagine Galbraith probably isn't too excited about discussing anything to do with the A's this morning, but here are some excerpts from his report:
The book revolves around the seemingly inexplicable success of the Oakland A's, who, in finance terms, consistently and significantly outperform the market with players (stocks) that other teams (investors) deem rejects. The added twist to the story is that the A's General Manager, Billy Beane, was a former wunderkind whom scouts once viewed as a can't-miss propsect - a kind of Enron of the sandlot if you will...
The beauty of the baseball-team-as-stock-portfolio analog is that, as with money management, both growth and value styles have shown an ability to win. As much as we hate to admit it, the Yankees, with their absurdly high-P/E players, have consistently outperformed the market. In contrast, the Mets, with equally high P/E's, have massively underperformed. Conversely, the A's, made up of players trading below book value, have continued to shine, while Tigers fans seem to be getting just what their management is paying for - the 1962 Mets...
Nevertheless, Galbraith writes that growth stocks are the "financial equivalent of a .280 hitter with a .290 on-base percentage." (Looks like Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford is your growth stock of the year.)
Everybody "knows" the bullet-tossing prom king will be a success, so scouts overpay for him. Investors similarly fixating on growth rates are often playing in a picked-over field. If high degrees of success have already been achieved or are forecast, where's the upside...
What is an even more obvious way of underperforming than drafting a strapping slugger who runs a 4.40 40-yard dash or a company that has achieved wonderful recent success in increasing earnings. How about buying a stock that has just gone up - a lot...
In baseball terms, walks = success. But walks are boring. Walks are passive. Walks do not illicit oohs. As such, walks are grossly undervalued ... Price to earnings, price to sales, and yup, even price to book are the financial equivalents of walks. Again, if one were to buy systematically the cheapest quintile of sotcks on these metrics while selling short the dearest, one might enjoy an early retirement...
Moneyball has confirmed to us that baseball is not only a metaphor for life, but also for finance. Just as being a Red Sox fan prepares one much better for the realities of life than being a Yankees fan, understanding the nuances of baseball can translate to the nuances of investing. In both fields, sizzle is vastly overrated. In an era characterized by corked bats and corked financial statements, give us steak, give us walks, give us cheap stocks.
The thing about this report is, the people who would really benefit from it are baseball team officials - and certainly the media covering those teams - more so than your average investor. Many baseball insiders have misinterpreted Moneyball (assuming they read it at all), thinking it a book merely about the virtues of on-base percentage, rather than what it is - in fact, a book about making good investments.
Perhaps this report is a way to get them to understand. It's about value. The name of the game is not always the names of the game.
100 Touch 'Em Alls
Six Dodgers made ESPN.com's list of the 100 Greatest Home Runs of All Time.
Sept. 18, 1963: Nen's 9th-inning, pinch-hit HR ties the game for the Dodgers against pennant-race rival St. Louis. The Dodgers go on to win in 13 innings. It is Nen's only hit of the season.
Oct. 25, 1981: With the series tied 2-2, Dodgers Pedro Guerrero and Yeager hit back-to-back homers off the Yankees' Ron Guidry for a 2-1 victory. The Dodgers win the series in six games.
May 23, 2002: Green's HR in the 9th at Miller Park caps a 6-for-6 day, sets a record with 19 total bases (he also doubles and singles) and ties a record with six runs scored.
Oct. 9, 1988: Doc Gooden leads 4-2 in the 9th when Scioscia -- with just three HRs in '88 -- ties the game with a two-run shot. Dodgers win the game in 12 and the series in 7.
Oct. 19, 1981: Monday sends the Dodgers to the World Series with his ninth-inning solo shot off Montreal's Steve Rogers for a 2-1 win.
Oct. 15, 1988: The great Vin Scully: "All year long they looked to him (Kirk Gibson) to light the fire and all year long he answered the demands. High flyball into right field. She is gone! [pause] In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened." Indeed. A 4-3 A's lead turns into a 5-4 Dodgers stunner.As of this writing, in a poll on ESPN's site, Gibson's home run was leading as the greatest of all time - but not as the greatest World Series home run of all time. Just shows you the vagaries of plurality voting - recall proponents take note.
On the other hand, Dodger pitchers were on the wrong end of 11 of the top 100: Nos. 96, 95 (sort of) 70, 63 (sort of), 45, 31, 21, 16, 13, 9, 3 and 2.
Rather than further abuse fair use privileges and print them all here, I'll let you try to guess what they were. Hint: Chan Ho Park leads all pitchers by having allowed three of the 100.
The Dodger Playoffs
It was our kind of baseball - without us.
The postseason opened Tuesday with three taut playoff games, with scores of 3-1, 2-0 and 4-2.
The six teams that played combined for 36 hits. They combined for one home run.
Three of the six teams delivered three hits apiece.
Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood had the only double in Atlanta, one of two extra-base hits in that game.
Edgardo Alfonzo had the only extra-base hit in the Marlins-Giants game.
Jon Weisman's outlet
for dealing psychologically
with the Los Angeles Dodgers
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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09 08 07
Jon's other site:
Thank You For Not ...
1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity