Sports Outside the Beltway

Edgar Allan Tex?

The Baltimore Sun reported last week:

The Orioles have apparently made it to the final four of the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes, though it remains to be seen whether they’ll be able to offer enough money to lure the free-agent slugging first baseman back home.

However, the club has made a strong bid, offering a seven-year contract for between $140 million and $150 million, one industry source said.

But maybe there’s something more going on:

Free agent first baseman and Severna Park native Mark Teixeira will be a guest of Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos at today’s Ravens-Steelers game, according to ESPN.

Orioles fans have been desperate for any sign of hope with the organization, and it seems like they have been looking to land Teixeira for several seasons now. The O’s have been mentioned as one of four teams that are in the Teixeira sweepstakes, although most sports news outlets have been reporting that the contest is down to the Los Angeles Angels and Boston Red Sox.

According to one of the contributors to the Baltimore Orioles e-mail list, the Orioles Hangout is reporting that the Orioles are now raising their offer to 9 or 10 years for $200 million.

Peter Schmuck is skeptical.

UPDATE: Bury the rumor. Bummer. Someone from the Orioles mailing list suggested that it’s a Boras ploy to start rumors and drive up his players’ prices.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.

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Penalty shot

The Las Vegas Wranglers are planning a Rod Blagojevich night, Jan 30, 2009.

The hockey club is holding Blagojevich night on Friday, January 30th.

The team will wear vintage prison uniforms, the kind with the stripes.

Their jerseys will feature prison numbers, and a seat between the two benches will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

After the game, those prison uniforms will be signed and auctioned for charity.

(h/t LA Times, Sean and Frank Show)

The Wranglers seem to be bi-partisan in taking shots at politicians.

In 2006, the team attracted national attention by hosting Dick Cheney Hunting Vest Night to mock the vice president’s aiming skills while hunting.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.

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No boos for Moose

Early in Mike Mussina’s career, a co-worker asked me why it was that the Orioles fans booed him. It took me a moment, but then I realized that they weren’t booing him. They were calling “M-o-o-o-s-e.”

From 1991 – 2000, Mussina was a fan favorite and when he bolted to New York, many fans and broadcasters wouldn’t forgive him. But it wasn’t his fault he left Baltimore.

Here’s what still irks me.

While ace pitcher Mike Mussina begins weighing offers from other teams, starting with the New York Yankees’ opening bid on Tuesday, the Baltimore Orioles continue holding on to hope that they can keep him, pointing to Mussina’s promise to give them the last bid.

Instead of bidding seriously to re-sign Mussina they fell back on “… well he promised!”

Of course the Yankees would have none of that. They were serious about signing Mussina while the Orioles were passive. The Yankees offered Mussina a generous deal on the condition that he not shop it around and that he respond in short order. What should Mussina have done? Gone to the Orioles and lost the Yankees offer? Would anyone have done that?

Ken Rosenthal has more on the Orioles passivity in the face of their star’s possible departure in a withering column in which he describes the Orioles (mis-)management of that era.

Under owner Peter Angelos, the Orioles have lost one of the game’s top broadcasters (Jon Miller), one of the best managers (Davey Johnson) and the man who almost single-handedly transformed the franchise (Frank Robinson).

They’ve lost many of the game’s brightest executives, from Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt to Padres president Larry Lucchino, Mariners general manager Pat Gillick to Rangers G.M. Doug Melvin.

And now they’ve lost Mike Mussina, their latter-day Jim Palmer.

When will it end? By now, the answer should be obvious: When Angelos, 71, no longer is owner.

His team is a laughingstock. His tenure is a flop. But he isn’t likely to sell, not when the team’s value is uncertain because of the threat of a competitor moving to northern Virginia–and not when his sons, John and Louis, are in position to assume control.

The Orioles under new GM Andy MacPhail might finally have started turning things around, but they still haven’t had a winning season since 1997. We’ll see how long Angelos will stick with MacPhail if the Orioles don’t improve fast.

Regardless the villain of Mussina’s departure wasn’t Mussina, but Angelos (and the wreck of a front office the team had back then.) So I wish Moose the best. I wouldn’t boo him. And I hope in five years or so he will be elected to the Hall of Fame. I’d love it if he wore and Orioles hat for that occasion, but if he doesn’t, I certainly understand.

Baseball Crank makes the HOF case for Mussina. And Rob Neyer (via Baseball Musings) notes that Mussina is in select company: one of only 5 Major League pitchers to win 20 games in his final season. One is Sandy Koufax, you probably haven’t heard of the other three.

For me there will be no boos for Moose.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.


Life imitates Dash Parr

From the Incredibles.
Dash: You always say ‘Do your best’, but you don’t really mean it. Why can’t I do the best that I can do?

Outside the Beltway links to a story about a little league pitcher who’s too good.

Nine-year-old Jericho Scott is a good baseball player — too good, it turns out. The right-hander has a fastball that tops out at about 40 mph. He throws so hard that the Youth Baseball League of New Haven [Connecticut] told his coach that the boy could not pitch any more.

Eugene Volokh though says that the problem is not that he’s too good for his age, but that he ought to be allowed to compete against older boys, who are at his level of talent.

Players who excel far beyond their age group should of course still be playing. They just should be playing against others who are roughly their equals in ability. It sounds like the other players in New Haven Youth Baseball are out of Scott’s league (in a more literal way than usual for that phrase) — and they should indeed be in different leagues. (If the next higher league doesn’t allow Scott because he’s too young, even if he’s good enough, then that should be the target of criticism, it seems to me, and not the actions of the Youth Baseball league.)

(h/t Instapundit)

Yes, let him compete against a higher level of competition. But I think MLB is a little much. Even the Orioles.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.

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Steelers for sale

Not my usual beat but I noticed that Pittsburgh’s Rooneys Quietly Shop the Steelers

Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney, the eldest of the brothers, wants to consolidate his control through a 10-year plan to buy out most of their shares, but a well-funded prospective buyer has emerged after some of Mr. Rooney’s brothers and their children raised questions about his offer.

Stanley Druckenmiller, billionaire chairman of Pittsburgh’s Duquesne Capital Management, has expressed interest in acquiring the Steelers, people briefed on the negotiations said.

The family disagreement that could lead to the sale is described:

In a statement Monday, the Steelers said Mr. Rooney “wants to stay in the football business while some of his four brothers plan to get out of the [National Football League] and focus their business efforts on their racetracks and other interests.” The statement said that Mr. Rooney and his son, Steelers President Art Rooney II, are arranging a financing plan to buy the brothers’ shares in the team in order to continue substantial ownership of the franchise by the Rooneys.

“I will do everything possible to work out a solution to ensure my father’s legacy of keeping the Steelers in the Rooney family and in Pittsburgh for at least another 75 years,” Dan Rooney said in the statement.

Follow the link to a timeline of the Steelers franchise history as well as the valuations of recently sold sports franchises.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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I don’t like Sundays

The Orioles have an awful record on Sundays.

With Sunday’s come from ahead loss, the O’s have now dropped 12 straight Sunday games.

I don’t know if it will work, but the team is instituting a “We win, you win” promotion. If the Orioles win this coming Sunday against Texas, fans will be offered limited free tickets to a future game:

Here’s the deal: If the Orioles win, all fans who attend the game get a complimentary ticket in the same seating category to any future non-prime game (there would be 33 of those during the rest of the schedule). The offer is good for paid tickets only to the July 6 game. If the O’s win, the ticket office will stay open after the game so that fans can get their free tickets. Redemption can be made through Aug. 31.

A contributing factor to the Orioles woeful Sunday performance this year, is their performance during day games. When the sun is shining the O’s have the second worst offense with a .681 OPS, scoring 100 runs in 26 games. That’s less than 4 runs per game. (Only Cleveland is worse with a .650 OPS and 79 runs scored in 24 games.)

The culprits are (regulars with sub .700 OPS) Jay Payton .637, Kevin Millar .479, Adam Jones .554, Ramon Hernandez .495, Melvin Mora .474 plus assorted shortstops.

The pitching overall is fine with a 4.02 ERA in the daytime so far. The one exception is George Sherrill who is carrying a worrisome 9.39 ERA and has a WHIP of over 2 during the day.

What’s going on? Could it be that these players need some sort of vision correction?

(The Orioles offensive output in games in a domed stadium isn’t much better. In 11 games they’ve got a .696 OPS indoors and are scoring a little more than 3 runs a game. That would argue that the problem isn’t the sun.)

Maybe the Orioles haven’t solved their daytime problem, but they did come up with a good promotion out of it.

Crossposted at Soccer Dad.

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Losing no-hitters

Last night you might have heard that Angels pitcher Jered Weaver and Jos̩ Arredondo pitched a no-hitter against the LA Dodgers Рand lost.

Here’s how the run scored:

Weaver (7-8) was victimized by his own fielding error with one out in the fifth inning that allowed Matt Kemp to reach first.

Kemp’s spinning squibber rolled to the right of the mound and Weaver rushed toward first base to grab the ball, but bobbled it. The ruling on whether it was a hit or an error was a close one, since Weaver would have had to field the ball cleanly — and first baseman Casey Kotchman was off the bag. Official scorer Don Hartack ruled it an error.

“I believe if he just picked it up with his bare hand and flipped it, he gets him by a good step and a half,” Hartack said. “So my thinking was, it really wasn’t a bang-bang play. I looked at the replay once and it looked like Kemp was a good seven steps away, so my thinking was Weaver had plenty of time to make the out.”

Kemp completely agreed with the scoring.

“I hit it off the end of the bat and it had a little funky English on it,” he said. “He could have made the play, but he just dropped the ball. It was an error. I mean, if they’d have given me a hit, I’d have been happy. But it was an error by far.”

Kemp stole second and continued to third on catcher Jeff Mathis’ throwing error, then scored on Blake DeWitt’s sacrifice fly.

This was the fifth time in baseball history that a team pitching the no-hitter lost. The complete list:

Allowed 0 Hits, Lost Game
Year Pitcher(s) Team
2008 J. Weaver, J. Arredondo Angels
1992 Matt Young Red Sox
1990 Andy Hawkins Yankees
1967 S. Barber, S. Miller Orioles
1964 Ken Johnson Colt .45′s

Last night’s game does not count as a no-hitter as MLB changed the rules to only count it as no-hitter when the pitcher(s) pitch at least 9 innings and complete the game.

I knew that the Orioles had once lost a no-hitter to the Tigers 2 – 1 but I just saw that the worst such loss was suffered by Andy Hawkins of the Yankees. He lost to the White Sox 4 – 0 on July 1, 1990.

Hawkins suffered the defeat when a two-out fly ball hit by Robin Ventura with the bases loaded was dropped in left field by a Yankee rookie, Jim Leyritz, allowing three runs to score. Ventura scored another run when Jesse Barfield, blinded momentarily by the sun, dropped a fly ball hit to right by Ivan Calderon.

Hawkins wasn’t certain how to separate his emotions afterward. Fans cheered him when the game was over and his teammates applauded him when he entered the clubhouse, but he never allowed himself to smile.

”I’m stunned; I really am,” he said, still standing on the field. ”This is not even close to the way I envisioned a no-hitter would be. You dream of one, but you never think it’s going to be a loss. You think of Stewart and Fernando, coming off the field in jubilation. Not this.”

The next year, Hawkins was a little more philosophical.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.


Venditte, vidi, vici

The Yankees have a fascinating prospect at Single A Staten Island, Pat Venditte Jr. He’s a relief specialist. But he’s no LOOGY. He’s ambidextrous.

The pitch was nothing remarkable: Pat Venditte, Creighton University’s temporarily right-handed pitcher, threw a fastball past a Northern Iowa
batter for a called strike three. It was his next windup that evinced this young pitcher’s uniqueness and, perhaps, professional future.

As his teammates whipped the ball around the infield, Venditte smoothly, unthinkingly, removed his custom glove from his left hand and slipped it on his right. Moments later he leaned back, threw a strike left-handed to the next batter, and finished the side in order.

Venditte is believed to be the only ambidextrous pitcher in N.C.A.A.
Division I college baseball, the ultimate relief specialist. A junior, he throws left-handed to lefties and right-handed to righties, and effectively. In a home game in Omaha last Friday, he allowed only one hit in five and a third shutout innings to earn the victory against Northern Iowa.

Go to the article not just for the pictures of him pitching, but also for his custom glove. In addition to the standard finger slots, it has two thumbs.

Practically speaking, what happens when he goes up against a switch hitter? That question occurred Thursday night:

Still pitching right-handed, Venditte allowed a single by Nicholas Giarraputo. Up next was designated hitter Ralph Henriquez, and he and Venditte engaged in a routine more vaudeville than Mudville.

As Henriquez walked to the plate, Venditte, assuming Henriquez would bat left-handed, stood behind the pitching rubber with his glove on his right hand and the ball in his left. Henriquez, looking out at Venditte, then stepped across the batter’s box, determined to hit right-handed and gain a righty-lefty advantage. Seeing this, Venditte quickly switched his custom-made glove to his left hand and put the ball in his right, hoping to gain a righty-on-righty advantage.

Henriquez stepped out and began asking the home-plate umpire, Shaylor Smith, to lay out his options, then summoned his third-base coach. With the matter unresolved, Henriquez again stepped across the batter’s box in an attempt to bat left-handed. Again, Venditte switched glove and ball. The cat-and-mouse game reached full comedic gear when Henriquez again strolled across the batter’s box to hit right-handed, and Venditte responded with the old switcheroo, setting up as a righty.

The question is, if there a player’s allowed a single switch, who must commit first?

On Thursday night it concluded:

McMahon, who said Friday that he was waiting for an official ruling from higher baseball authorities on the subject of switch-pitching to switch-hitters, said that the way he understood it, “the rule dictates that the hitter establish the box and the pitcher establish the throw, and then each team can make one move, and then it’s play ball.”

“That’s the rule that we got from the rule book of minor league baseball,” he said.

Apparently that will be the rule in MLB too.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.

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A batty trade

Minor league pitcher, John Odom, was traded for 10 bats.

During three years in the low minors, John Odom never really made a name for himself.

That sure changed this week—he’s the guy who was traded for a bunch of bats.

“I don’t really care,” he said Friday. “It’ll make a better story if I make it to the big leagues.”

For now, Odom is headed to the Laredo Broncos of the United League. They got him Tuesday from the Calgary Vipers of the Golden Baseball League for a most unlikely price: 10 Prairie Sticks Maple Bats, double-dipped black, 34-inch, C243 style.

That actually was good news for the small company, Prarie Sticks.

News of pitcher John Odom’s trade to the Laredo Broncos of the independent United Baseball League, which became necessary when Odom had trouble crossing the border into Canada, was just a few hours old when it began to spread like a virus across the Internet. It moved to television, then even deeper into cyberspace once video became available. And at every turn, the name Prairie Sticks popped up.

The proof was in the PDA when Greenberg and Zinger woke up to resume their trip home.

“All these orders came in between midnight and 5 or 6 a.m. while we were sleeping,” Greenberg said.

People from California to Connecticut wanted Prairie Sticks bats.

Odom shouldn’t be too insulted, future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson was once traded for baseballs!

Baseball men often will say of a washed-up player, “You couldn’t trade him for a bag of balls.” Technically, the Dodgers didn’t trade for Rickey Henderson. But they did give up a bag of balls. The Newark Bears, an independent minor league team, were contractually obligated to release Henderson, 44, if a major league club wanted him. But when Henderson departed, the Bears made a special request of the Dodgers, asking for a shipment of balls. The Dodgers happily obliged with six dozen, establishing a new going rate for a future Hall of Famer: approximately $130,000–the prorated portion of the minimum salary the Dodgers will pay Henderson–plus 72 balls.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.

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O-pening day

The beginning of the baseball season is a time for optimism for all teams. Even the Orioles this year. After all, all teams start off 0 – 0.

Hope springs eternal!

And then you read that Angelos is getting ready to sell the team at the end of the season and that the Orioles have just traded Brain Roberts for a serious package of prospects – including Felix Pie – from the Cubs.

Then you realize it’s #$@&* April 1.

Still with something like 160 games left for the season here are some nice previews.

The Wall Street Journal’s Daily Fix runs through MLB with previews built on the beat witers for each team.

Baseball Prospectus has its projected standings. And if you wish to get involved in a group project it also has Predictaron 2008 that you can participate in.

Check out the Power Rankings at Fox Sports.

Baseball Crank has his six divisional Win Share projections up.

And of course, check out the predictions at Baseball Musings.

UPDATE: Last week, former major leaguer, Doug Glanville inaugurated a column in the NYT, The Boys of Spring. I very much like the first effort:

Everyone who makes it to big league camp was a baseball legend at some point in his life. It was big fish from big and small ponds thrust into the biggest pond of their lives, most of us just trying to find some plankton of an opportunity in the last slot of a 25-man team.

I had sparkling college All-America and first-round draft pick credentials, but I found out pretty quickly that I didn’t have any idea how to approach a major league curve ball.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.

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