Derek Jeter is one of the best players of his generation, if not the best. When he announced that this would be his last year, my Jeter-crazed daughter and I planned on going to New York for his farewell game on August 26th against the Orioles.
We were told that individual game tickets for Master Card holders would go on sale online on Wednesday, February 19th at 11am.
We had a plan. We would both go on-line simultaneously, my daughter from her work cube in Chicago and me at home then correspond via text.
We both got on precisely at 11. And waited. And waited. A full 15 minutes before we even gained access to the site. Both of us were then bounced back and had to wait…another 15 minutes. The long and short of it is that we wasted over 35 minutes just trying to gain access to the site while never really getting to the purchase tickets page. What a waste and what a racket.
After we both gave up I suggested we go to E-Bay that refuge for money mongers. Voila! We found many tickets there and even more on Stub Hub at ridiculously high prices…some as high as $1777.00 apiece for the nosebleed section. So while two real fans wanted to attend a once in a lifetime game, getting tickets on line at the Yankees site was a farce and buying them from the shysters on Stub Hub who have no interest other than suckering other people out of their money was out of the question.
What’s a real fan to do? The scalping of tickets online for marquee attractions at an obscene profit should be investigated. A limit on the most one can sell them for, say 50% of face value, should be explored.
A 50% profit is hefty and far exceeds what most fair and honest businesses can expect. While some might say that this prevents people from exercising their right to make transactions on the open market place I say it doesn’t if there is a level playing field. With a maximum profit level set, you might even see some scalpers and brokers undercut others to sell their tickets. This favors the buyer who would still have to pay a robust price.
If they can do this selling fuel (where the rule is just the opposite; one cannot sell fuel for less than a set profit) then they can do it for ticket sales. The average family should be able to buy tickets at a marquee event for a reasonable price, not one that requires you to take out a loan.
So unless some miracle happens, we will watch the game on television 780 miles away from the action and wait another five years when we will be there to welcome him to Cooperstown.
Well, after a one year hiatus, I’m reinvigorated and ready to begin my eighth year of baseball opinion.
There are many topics from which to choose for this resumption of commentary: the abomination that is A-Rod, the ridiculous expansion of replay and the stubborn refusal by the Brewers to improve their team.
But let’s begin where I left off last year with the Hall of Fame voting. I have published an annual tirade about the voting. Each year it seems that someone is voted in that doesn’t deserve it while others are left out.
This year, the three who were elected, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas all are worthy. But there are others that belong and are still on the outside looking in. Let me make the case for four of them.
Morris is no longer eligible after getting ignored for 15 years. The only way he can get in now is through the veteran’s committee. This is a shame. Morris had the most wins than any pitcher during the 80′s (162). He won 20 games three times, had a lifetime .221 BA against, and allowed less than 1 HR per inning. His WAR is a very Hall-worthy 56. Tom Glavine’s was 64. Jim Palmer’s, 52. In the postseason, he was as clutch as they came. Some will consider him to be borderline eligible and that’s OK because borderline players have been elected recently anyway (Dawson, Rice, Sutter).
Lee Smith was the all-time saves leader before first Trevor Hoffman then Mariano Rivera broke it. Yet shamefully he remains unelected. Let’s compare some stats with the three most recent closer inductees.
ERA SV W SO% WAR
Smith 3 1 3 1 3
Eckersley 4 2 1 4 1
Sutter 1 4 4 2 4
Gossage 2 3 2 3 2
This is, I believe, a fair measurement of comparison and proves that it is long past due for Lee Smith’s entrance.
Alan Trammell is one of the few players to have played for just one team. He manned shortstop for the Tigers for 20 years and was a key contributor to thier post-to-post pennant year of 1984.
Now let’s compare Trammell to two of his contemporaries who were recently elected, Ozzie Smith and Barry Larkin. I deliberately excluded Cal Ripken and Robin Yount because they played other positions.
AVG OBP DEF* WAR
Trammell 2 2 2 63.7
Smith 3 3 1 67.6
Larkin 1 1 3 67.7
Smith got in by virtue of his defense and there’s no arguing he belongs. His defensive rating was an eye-popping 375.3
Based on the above, Trammell should be voted in.
One of the biggest oversights of all time is the continued exclusion of Dick Allen, I wrote a piece about this a few years ago and it is repeated here:
Dick Allen Why Do We Ignore Him?
Allen played 15 years (1963-1977) with 5 teams but made his biggest impact during his first seven years with the Phillies where he was the 1964 Rookie of the Year and two prolific years with the White Sox. In 1972 while playing with Chicago, Allen had one of the most productive years ever for a hitter. He won the MVP while leading the AL in Home Runs (37), RBI (117), Walks, OBP (.420), Slugging (.603), OPS (1.023) and OPS adjusted to ballpark (199). In 506 AB he grounded into only 13 double plays. His RAR (Runs Above Replacement – Batting + Fielding + Replacement + Positional) was a phenomenal 72.3
Over his career, Allen hit 359 HR, had 1,119 RBI, a .293 average and a superb .912 OPS. His career RAR was 593.2 and his WAR was 67.9. Baseball historian Bill Jenkinson ranks Allen with Jimmie Foxx and Mickey Mantle and a notch below Babe Ruth among the top long distance sluggers of all-time.
By comparison, the recently elected Jim Rice had 382 HR, 1,451, a .298 average, a .854 OPS. His RAR was 532.1 and his WAR was 56.1 while playing in 341 more games.
In 1997, his last year of eligibility, he garnered a ridiculous 16.7% of the vote. By all measurements and other standards, Allen should be in the Hall.
So why was he denied? It has to do more with the era than to the career. During his playing days, the country was engulfed in heightened racial tension, a difficult transformation trying to adjust to the surging civil rights movement. Any African-American athlete who was considered “outside the norm” was deemed to be “different, moody, unresponsive, unapproachable” and patently disliked.
Writers admonished him and according to admirer Mike Schmidt, “The baseball writers used to claim that Dick would divide the clubhouse along racial lines. That was a lie. The truth is that Dick never divided any clubhouse.”
Fans soon came to loathe him for his Milton Bradley – like persona. In this highly toxic racial environment, he soon became a symbol of fan prejudice. While he was with Philadelphia, he was greeted by fans with racial epithets, and later, with fruit, ice, refuse and flashlight batteries.
Yet just a few years later another brash African-American player would arrive on the scene – Reggie Jackson – “the straw that turns the drink” who had no problems being voted in.
Dick Allen was different. He was known for his colorful quotes such as:
“If a horse won’t eat it, I don’t want to play on it.” - Regarding playing on artificial turf
“I never worry about it. I just take my three swings and go sit on the bench. I’m afraid if I ever think about hitting it, I’ll mess up my swing for life.” – On hitting the knuckleball
“ Gibson was so mean he would knock you down and then meet you at home plate to see if you wanted to make something of it.” On the great Bob Gibson
“ I can play anywhere; First, Third, Left field, anywhere but Philadelphia” – On playing in Philadelphia
There is no question, Dick Allen was denied because of the era he played in not for the player he was. This injustice needs to be revoked.
BWA. Shame on You!
Anyone who bothers to read this knows that since its inception nearly eight years ago, I have been disillusioned by how the BWA has voted for the Hall of Fame.
I mean, Bruce Sutter and not Lee Smith? Andre Dawson and not Dale Murphy?
Legitimate players like these get shunned and borderline players like Jim Rice get in.
There are many more examples in my archives.
But the most shameful act is voting for players who cheated during the steroid era.
Voting for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, etc is a slap in the face to players like Willie Mays, Bob Gibson and Hank Aaron.
If these dummies insist on voting for them, then let’s set up a “Cheater’s Wing” in the Hall since they do not deserve to be in the same space as the others.
What happened to integrity? Should that not be important criteria for election or have we come to the point where anything goes? Dick Allen wasn’t voted in because he was unpopular with fans and the writers despite the fact that by any means of measure he deserves to be in. Yet we’ll turn the other way when it comes to Bonds.
Now come the Jayson Stark’s of the world who vote for Bonds, Clemens, and Sammy Sosa using the lame excuse that they would have made the Hall even if they did not take illegal substances. That’s like saying that Joe Schmo deserves to be treasurer of the bank despite the fact that he stole money because he has a Harvard MBA.
Since when in this country do we give cheaters a free pass? Let me make this perfectly clear: THEY CHEATED! THEY DON’T DESERVE TO GET IN!
I don’t care what your stats are, you cheated to get them. You hid in the back of locker rooms or went to the sleazy “Athletic” club to get injected. Then denied it.
Anyone who voted for these cheaters should have their voting privileges rescinded.
BWA. Shame on You.
And one last point. If Bonds, Clemens and any of the other cheaters get in then you must also let Pete Rose in. Yes what he did was unconscionable but no worse than filling your body with illegal chemicals.
Were the Washington Nationals wrong for shutting down Stephen Strasburg with only two more starts the rest of the season?
Yes in so many ways.
- The team is close to winning their first title of any kind (including when they were in Montreal which joined the league in 1969). Why risk this by not using your ace pitcher?
- The team has robbed Strasburg of being part of this excitement down the stretch. After all he’s done doesn’t he deserve better? Now he’s banished to the bench nothing more than a spectator while his teammates are in the middle of a pennant race.
- His numbers scream Cy Young Award. Will they hold up the rest of the season?
- The team is hosing its fans who are have paid good money all year to get this point only to be told that their team’s star pitcher is too fragile to continue.
- Teddy, one of the racing Presidents was finally looking to win his first race the day the team clinched the division!
So what is really behind this?
The team seems more interested in protecting its investment than winning, and if that is the case, shame on them.
From this fan’s 50+ years of following the game, there are many pitching trends in today’s game that are downright brainless. Pitch count, few complete games, bullpen overload, one hitter “specialist” and now ace “shutdown”.
I wonder what Sandy Koufax, the late Don Drysdale, Juan Marichal and Bob Gibson, all Hall of Fame pitchers I saw as a kid would feel about this?
The Nationals are totally wrong about this and they know it.
To all of those who rushed to the premature idea that Ryan Braun took a banned substance, shame on you.
There are two main culprits to blame in this unprecedented incident: the handler of Braun’s urine sample and the person who leaked the results to ESPN.
Today, Braun went through extraordinary lengths explaining how the process works and where it broke down. The identified flaw in this incident was the handler who waited a full 44 hours until he dropped Braun’s sample off at FedEX, the official courier of all MLB test samples. Not only that, bUt the handler admitted keeping the sample in his refrigerator over the weekend.
Once the sample is placed in the cup, it is identified by a number in order to keep the identity of the donor anonymous. Only two people in the entire process know whose sample it is, the player himself and the handler. After the sample is numbered, the handler is to take it to FedEX as soon as possible so as to protect the integrity of the test.
So why did it take 44 hours from Saturday evening at 5pm until Monday afternoon at 1PM to deliver the sample? What occurred during that time gap? The handler AND MLB need to provide answers.
Just as important is who leaked the test results to the reporter for ESPN, which hastily and irresponsibly put the story on-air. Revealing any kind of medical results is a violation of HPPA laws and the one who leaked this should be found and prosecuted.
As for MLB, instead of recognizing that a grievous mistake was made, it threw Braun under the bus by not admitting that despite the stringent testing protocol something like this could happen.
When the results were reported, Braun submitted every one of his weekly weigh-ins and regular strength tests, which indicated nothing that may have caused an alarm. He did not gain weight or add more speed. There was no dramatic change in his physical appearance.
Yet he was considered guilty until proven innocent. This is a result of not only the way the process is set-up, but the automatic presumption based upon the original group of cheaters – Clemens, Palmiero, Sosa, McGwire and especially Barry Bonds – who lied to try to claim their innocence. This set the tone for all who have been accused since.
There will be some who even in the face of all this evidence will think that Braun got away with something. I pity them.
I railed against ESPN in my last post. As Braun stated during his remarks,
“There were a lot of times I wanted to come out and tell the whole story, attack everybody as I’ve been attacked, as my name has been dragged through the mud, as everything I’ve ever worked for my entire life has been called into question. … I could have never, ever envisioned being in this position today, discussing this subject with you guys.”
Thank ESPN for that. Ruining one’s reputation is the new standard of reporting for this farcical network.
Ask Ryan Braun how he gets his good name back, for no matter what happens from here on out, there will always be this stigma.
I could gloat and say I told you so, but this whole sleazy episode is too pathetic for even that.
Lyrics from the song “Call Me” are in the thoughts of the 273 unsigned free agents, as Spring Training is about to begin. The list is a conglomeration of veterans near the end of their careers, fringe players and those who are victims of the salary syndrome (too old, too much money).
Among the latter that should have this song as a ring tone are hitters Ivan Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, Johnny Damon, Jason Kendall, Magglio Ordonez, Edgar Renteria, Derrek Lee, Pat Burrell, Raul Ibanez, Hideki Matsui and Kosuke Fukodome. Surprisingly, Kelly Johnson at age 30 has not been signed.
The top pitchers on this list include Roy Oswalt, Javier Vazquez, Tim Wakefield, Brandon Webb, Jon Garfield, Brad Penny, Rich Harden, Arthur Rhodes, Chris Young and Damaso Marte.
Harden and David Aardsma are also 30 but both are coming off serious injuries.
Are any of the above still productive? Generally, yes. I believe Guerrero, Damon, and especially Lee still have something in the tank but must be willing to take big pay cuts to still play.
The same goes for Oswalt who could be a stopgap starter on a team waiting for their prospects to develop (Seattle/Baltimore/Pittsburgh/Colorado?). Having earned $16,000,000 over the two seasons while a member of the “Greatest Rotation of the Decade”, Oswalt is affordable. But apparently he is holding out for more than what clubs are willing to pay. He has banked nearly $92,000,000 over his career so this is more about personal pride and whether he has the desire to keep playing.
A few seasons ago, Jermaine Dye walked away rather then taking less pay and that’s what will happen to these players who want A-Type salaries for diminished skills.
For a few less bucks, they might find a job. In the meantime they’ll have to wait for the dubious ring tone “Call Me”.
There has been little to write about recently other than which player went where, why and what the impact will be. Been there. Done that. This has been most likely the topic of many fellow BBA’ers.
But a recent incident reported by ESPN stirred enough of a reaction to post this. Accept for live events, I gave up watching ESPN years ago. It went from showing informative and somewhat irreverent Sports Centers to hype-central. I swear they must get a kickback from the NFL since it seems like nearly half their programming is NFL-related. With ESPN it’s hype-city.
Their baseball coverage has been borderline good with Tim Kurkjian and Buster Olney being the best of a mediocre crop of reporters. The MLB Network in much better. (Watch anything that Bob Costas does).
Besides the hype, the thing that has really gotten me keyed up is their reporting on players who have had misfortunes. They go non-stop with columns, quotes and worst of all conjecture.
This happened earlier when they broke the Ryan Braun story all but announcing him guilty without knowing all of the facts. If Braun is exonerated or even receives a reduced suspension, he should seek defamation of character.
Now comes the story of Josh Hamilton being seen in a bar with a drink. We all know about Hamilton’s brave fight against addiction, how he is willing to talk about it, how he has someone travel with him during the season so he doesn’t give in to temptation. We admire what must be an awful situation and how disciplined he’s been.
One slip-up and it becomes a feature story. Is this news? Of course it is, but ESPN carries it too far. Already there’s been a column posted by Jean-Jacques Taylor saying that the Rangers should not consider re-signing him because of his relapse. Relapse? It’s not like he was found roaming the streets incoherent in an alcoholic stupor. He had a drink. Know one knows why. That’s for his doctor and the ballclub to determine. Why doesn’t Taylor think the Rangers’ should have dismissed manager Ron Washington when he admitted taking marijuana earlier in his career?
Perhaps he is still despondent over the ball-throwing incident last season in which a fan unfortunately fell to his death trying to retrieve it. Something like that is sure to make a dent in an already fragile makeup.
We don’t know why Hamilton had a drink. That’s all he did, have a drink, and it’s not anyone’s business to try to probe why. Not even ESPN. They would presumably respond that it is their “duty” to report incidents like this, and, of course, it is. But report it and get over it. Follow-up when something has been decided. But no, they have to keep hammering away at an athlete’s character without all of the facts and without consideration of the impact it has on his friends, family and fans.
How many more athletes must ESPN tarnish before people say enough is enough?
With Ryan Braun’s playing status for the start of the 2012 season still in doubt, do the Brewers have a Plan B?
Let’s look at some options.
1.) 40 Man roster
There doesn’t appear to be an outfielder on the current 40-man roster ready to step in.
Brock Kjelgaard has played no higher than a half season at Double A Huntsville.
Caleb Gindl turned in a solid season at AAA Nashville but has yet to play in a major league game.
Logan Schafer just turned 24 and has all of 3 AB from a late season call-up.
Unless Gindl has a solid spring, there will be no help here.
2.) Current Outfield Staff
With Mark Kotsay’s departure to Oakland, the club has only Corey Hart, Nyger Morgan and Carlos Gomez as experienced outfielders.
Morgan and Gomez are best suited for a platoon, which worked well last season. Gomez’ weak bat and poor decision making is not conducive to being an everyday player and Morgan just doesn’t have the pop they’ll need in the lineup.
Corey Hart can also play there but he’s being considered as a candidate to replace Prince Fielder at first. If he moves, that leaves a huge mess in RF. So look for him to stay in right.
There are two other possibilities that are on the roster. Taylor Green performed well during his late-season call-up and has most likely made the club in 2012. His normal position is 3b and after the Brewers gave up on Casey McGehee, Green seemed like the probable starter. But the acquisition of Aramis Ramirez disrupted his chances. He’ll probably get a long hard look in left field in the spring if Braun is, indeed, suspended,
The other player is Mat Gamel, a player who has yet to play up to his enormous potential. Gamel is listed on the roster as a third baseman, which, like Green, is his normal position. He does have the power to partially fill the Braun-less lineup and has played the outfield in the minors, but he is also being considered for first base. This will be a make or break year for Gamel so there’s no guarantee he’ll even be with the club on opening day.
3.) Free Agents
Any free agent outfielder will need to be willing to fill-in for Braun then become part of the outfield rotation. There are a few intriguing players who could fill the bill, but most would need to play for far less than they’re accustomed to. The two most interesting would be Johnny Damon and Magglio Ordonez. Damon is close to achieving some career numbers that would make him a candidate for the Hall of Fame, but at age 38 can he play everyday until Braun comes back? If Ordonez, also 38, stays healthy in April and May then platoons, his bat would definitely be a plus. Other free agents to consider who have been everyday players are Luke Scott, Cody Ross and Ryan Ludwick.
4.) Norichika Aoki
The 30-year old Aoki is a three-time Japanese League batting champion now looking for a major league team. The Brewers worked him out on Sunday and are now mulling over their next steps. He seems best suited for cf so signing him would be an upgrade. He could play lf until Braun comes back if his appeal is not upheld.
This is the least attractive option. First, there is little incentive for the other team to trade assuming that the starters are untouchable (and that better be a correct assumption). The farm system has few, if any, prospects good enough to be included in a trade for a top-line outfielder.
So if you were Doug Melvin what would you do?
I would take a flyer on Magglio Ordonez who has a history of being a run producer and can fill in at least adequately until Braun returns. It’s a risk because of his past injury patterns, but remember, the most important factor is getting someone who has power and can drive in runs.
While Aoki would be a splendid addition to the team, he is like most Japanese hitters who have come over and played: left handed batter, good OBP, above average fielder but no power. This has Kosuke Fukodome written all over it.
I like Ordonez, but would be equally delighted with Ross or Scott. Either way, if Braun is suspended, and with Fielder gone, there is an enormous gap to fill in the lineup, Ramirez can hit but it won’t be nearly enough.
The best thing that can happen of course is that Braun’s appeal is granted.
We can only hope.
What a way to get this humble blogger away from a self-imposed hiatus.
The ruckus that ESPN has created around Ryan Braun testing positive for banned steroids has caused him to be considered guilty until otherwise admonished.
Let’s look at the facts. During the playoffs all participating players are tested. Apparently Braun’s was the only sample to come back positive, although I’m sure others might still be in the system but properly remain anonymous. However, later reports indicated that the amount of banned substance in his system would’ve have killed him.
Braun vehemently denies the result and has repeatedly requested re-tests, one of which was granted and came out clean.
In the past, the existence of steroids in a player’s system could be evident by his statistics, which historically would show vast improvement over his average before taking them. This is not the case with Braun who has been exceptionally consistent since he broke in during the 2007 season.
This consistency has been the result of vigorous training, so much so that he has been told to ease up on it during the season.
Ryan Braun is not a bonehead and he certainly knows the rules. It’s incomprehensible that he would knowingly risk his career over something that his performance indicates he doesn’t need.
Yet a great many people want to get on the bandwagon and accuse him of cheating before all of this is cleared up.
If it sounds like I’m defending him, so be it. Those here in Milwaukee who are real fans know that this accusation is so contrary to the Ryan Braun they have seen.
Next to his good friend Aaron Rodgers, he is the most popular athlete in the state.
He owns a popular restaurant in Milwaukee and has proven to be a good team representative going out into the community during the season.
He understands that many young boys emulate him much the way I emulated Hank Aaron when I was a kid. It would be devastating to those kids if this turns out to be true.
Performance is fleeting but image is everything. I have to believe that if Braun did take it and got caught he would’ve admitted it.
So let’s not jump to conclusions.
And if it does indeed turn out to be a mistake, then ESPN owes Ryan Braun an apology for tarnishing his reputation; for no matter what happens from here on out, there will always be that dark disturbing and fleeing thought every time he steps to the plate.
And whom will the Brewers sign to replace him?
Prince Fielder is about to become a very rich man, not that his 2011 haul of $15,500,000 was pauper’s pay. The speculation on which team will dole out over $25 million per year for his iconic bat and his iron-clad glove will soon begin so let me be one of the first to foolishly predict.
First, let’s look at the big spenders (over $100 million in payroll). Boston, the Yankees and the Phillies are set. The Angels should be pleased with the production of rookie Mark Trumbo, but Arne Moreno doesn’t mind spending money if he thinks it will draw more people than the Dodgers. The White Sox have a couple of years left with Paul Konerko. The Twins won’t dole out this kind of money despite questions surrounding Justin Morneau’s ability to return from a debilitating concussion. The Tigers are set with Miguel Cabrera, while the Dodgers need to shore up their internal issues first.
The Mets used to play in this park but are now in the midst of discarding burdensome salaries with Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran already jettisoned and Jose Reyes soon to follow.
The Cardinals, fresh off their World Series win have issues of their own not only trying to plead with Albert Pujols to stay but now also having to replace the “irreplaceable” Tony LaRussa,
The Giants seem committed to Brandon Belt.
That leaves the Cubs who are most likely going to show Carlos Pena the door. New GM Theo Epstein will need a headliner move to prove he can make things better in the land of eternal hope.
Two other teams are being mentioned as being interested – the Nationals who must be putting themselves in more debt than the federal budget and the Mariners, which is not as puzzling as it might appear. They have shown in the past that they will spend money. There’s no doubt that the Mariners’ offense is feeble and having Fielder’s big bat around would have a precipitous impact. The Mariners’ also hold an advantage no other team has. General Manager Jack Zduriencik was the Brewers farm director when they drafted him.
So where do I think he is going?
The finalists will be the Mariners, Cubs and Angels. Notorious agent Scott Boras will play one against the other until he gets what he wants.
My early money in on the Angels, but it would not be a shock to see Prince hitting bombs onto Sheffield Ave next year much to the total annoyance of Brewers’ fans.
Remember, Prince is competing with Albert Pujols for free agent largesse but my instincts are that he will stay at Busch Stadium.
Now whom will the Brewers sign to replace him? So far General Manager Doug Melvin is playing it close to the vest. He says that the club can move Casey McGehee over there, but he was so lost at the plate this year he would need a GPS to find it.
Taylor Greene will have a shot at taking over at third base this season. Options in the minors are limited but perhaps Mat Gamel finally gets his chance.
My take is that Melvin will see that one player cannot replace Fielder’s run production so he will look at bolstering another position to supplement whatever he does at first.
Here’s what I see happening:
The Brewers make a strong push for Jose Reyes to replace the already departed Yuniesky Betancourt and trade with the Angels for Kendry Morales who had a breakout year in 2009 (34/108/.306/.355/.924) but has been sidelined with fluke injuries ever since and did not play at all in 2011. It’s a low risk, high reward option for Melvin because Morales would be available and has a modest salary.
The addition of Morales and Reyes will certainly strengthen the team next year but it will still leave a Fielder-size hole in the lineup.