Sports Outside the Beltway

But Sports Shall Ever Endure…

Crisis. Panic. Terror. Read on at your own risk, dear reader, for the peril that we face is too periilous for mere mortals to understand.

The next time a ball game gets rained out during the September stretch run, you can curse the momentary worthlessness of those tickets in your pocket. Or you can wonder why it got rained out — and ask yourself why practice had to be called off last summer on a day when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky; and why that Gulf Coast wharf where you used to reel in mackerel and flounder no longer exists; and why it’s been more than one winter since you pulled those titanium skis out of the garage.

Global warming is not coming; it is here. Greenhouse gases — most notably carbon dioxide produced by burning coal, oil and gas — are trapping solar heat that once escaped from the Earth’s atmosphere. As temperatures around the globe increase, oceans are warming, fields are drying up, snow is melting, more rain is falling, and sea levels are rising.

All of which is changing the way we play and the sports we watch. Evidence is everywhere of a future hurtling toward us faster than scientists forecasted even a few years ago. Searing heat is turning that rite of passage of Texas high school football, the August two-a-day, into a one-at-night, while at the game’s highest level the Miami Dolphins, once famous for sweating players into shape, have thrown in the soggy towel and built a climate-controlled practice bubble. Even the baseball bat as we know it is in peril, and final scores and outcomes of plays may be altered too. (Hat tip: David Pinto, who accidentally posted his thoughts on this)

Crisis. Panic. Terror.Pinto’s justification for his accidental commentary (which truthfully requires no justification is that “I don’t think the story is balanced at all. Only the worst case scenarios are cited, and to me that’s just bad journalism.” He’s correct of course. They teach objectivity in J-School, but failing that, journalists need to be fair, even-handed, accurate and thorough. The monstrosity that is a feature story for the week of March 12, 2006 is a journalistic abomination.

On my personal blog, which you can click on my name to access, I lambasted ESPN for taking its collective eye off sports, and focusing in Sauronic intensity on the bottom line. Sports Illustrated is playing monkey see, monkey do.

Read the article and wonder at the tangential connection to sports. I don’t read SI anymore. I haven’t for years. The Internet made Sports Illustrated irrelevant. Sports Illustrated attempts to finish the job, by not focusing on what the audience wants, sports coverage and instead preaching about an issue which in addition to be debatable science, but one that does not truly have an impact on the games we watch and play. Global climate change, even if caused by mankind occurs at a creep. It is a marathon, not a sprint. So the effects of individual winters or summers neither prove nor disprove the theory. Arguing against, I can cite this pesky and (dare I say) inconvenient truth.

February was cold. And snowy. One of the coldest in recorded history, which in terms of the life age of this earth, is not that long a period of time. And then there is this.

Mars is warming, but there are no stadiums on Mars that need to be redesigned.

Sports Illustrated should stick to sports coverage. People pay money for both the magazine as well as the ads in it on the expectation that the prominent editorial content will be sports. This does touch the world of sports. But in such a ham-handed and ridiculous was that it is laughable. Calls to advocacy using one-sided, alarmist reporting is more of an advertisement for the advocacy groups promoted within. Further, the energy reductions advocated which fans need to do, do not address the problems posed to our planet, if you believe the hype, by teams jetting from locale to locale.

Instead of a list of things fans can do, why not a list of things teams and leagues can do? The fans are the consumer of a product multi-billion dollar industries produce. But as always, the responsibility is on Joe Sixpack to save the day. Not the multi-millionaires playing the games or running the leagues. A tip to SI. Your initials stand for Sports Illustrated, not Self Importance.

Cross posted at: Ennuipundit


Rocket Roger Watches the Yankees

The AP has the story.

Roger Clemens hugged Joe Torre, spoke to George Steinbrenner and cheered for Andy Pettitte.

More than 10,000 people turned out to watch the Yankees play Cincinnati on Wednesday night. Only one of those fans, however, might actually help New York win the World Series this year, which is why it created such a stir when Clemens showed up.

The Rocket posed for pictures, signed autographs and worked an inning on the Yankees’ telecast. He skipped answering the question that everyone is asking: Will he play again this season?

“To totally be honest, I hear everybody. I understand. It’s very flattering,” he said. “There’s days where I’m excited about it, maybe I should try it, and then three days later I’m thinking that there’s no way. I don’t know that I can put my body through that again.

“It’s a huge commitment because as you get older, you want to continue to be able to stay injury-free and still you have a high expectation of playing,” he said.

He doesn’t know whether he will play, but the evidence is focusing clearly as to where he will play.

Examining Clemens record last season shows the probable location for a Rocket Recovery. Clemens made 19 starts for the Astros after appearing in the World Baseball Classic for team USA. In those starts he pitched a total of 119 and one-third innings, and average of just under six innings per game.

In those innings he gave up an average of 7.1 hits per nine innings, 2.3 walks per nine innings, 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings and an ERA of 2.30. But he did not give any Astro team a full nine innings. At best he gave them seven. Remarkable, Houston proved to be less than capable of supporting Clemens, and went 9-10 in his starts. They scored a total of 75 runs in Clemens’ starts. Clemens yielded 34 and the Astros bullpen yielded 28 more in those games. Based on Bill James’ Pythagorean theorem of baseball records, the Astros should have won 11 of the 19 games at a bare minimum.

Houston’s anemic offense average under four runs a game in games started by Clemens was the primary culprit. Houston’s bullpen pitched league average innings in games started by Clemens. A run average of 4.70 is fairly good for bullpen pitchers in the National League. The run average in the NL was 4.88. Houston has hopes for an improved offense in 2007, welcoming Carlos Lee to Houston. They also hope for Morgan Ensberg to return to his 2005 form. If Luke Scott and Chris Burke can produce in full seasons what they put up in parts of seasons last year hitting in the second and the sixth slots in the lineup, the Astros could have one of the top five offenses in the National League.

Houston clearly remains the most likely destination. In the American League, the designated hitter replaces the pitcher. His advantage of getting two and sometimes three turns against the typically light hitting pitchers is reversed. Three David Ortiz or Jason Giambi plate appearances are not an ideal development for a 44 year old six inning starter. The more challenging American League lineups would turn a six inning pitcher into a five and a half or five inning pitcher. At a million per start, a team needs more than five innings.

In addition, Clemens could expect an negative adjustment of his peripheral statistics. His Hits/9 would probably increase to 7.5, his walks/9 to 2.5 and his K/9 would probably drop to something more like 7.6. Those are still rather good numbers, but the difference changes the calculus of success. Also a factor: those better offenses have a tendency to make mince meat out of the AL bullpens.

Boston and New York will play along. But Clemens is either headed off into the sunset or back to Houston.


Oriole Obligations

There’s the five year plan. They never work. In the time it takes to get all the pieces together, something dreadful has happened to a previously dependable component, rendering it useful and in need of repair or replacement.

There is the one year plan. Equally ineffectual. As documented in this space before, one year plans have the slapdash appeal of duct tape, baling wire, bubble gum and an assortment of different adhesives. They typically are junked six month in with the dismissal of the architects of those spruce gooses.

Baltimore’s baseball club has been engaged in a ten year plan to restore the glory of the franchise of Ripken, Palmer and Robinson (both Frank and Brooks). It hasn’t worked out so well. A brief sprint to the head of the AL East in 2005 ended with a fantastic self-immolation where the manager got axed a star player was instructed to leave and never come back.

But the Orioles seem serious to break back into the winning side of the ledger. And they aim to do it in the next three years.

The Orioles are close to a deal to extend Brian Roberts ‘ contract through the 2009 season. Melvin Mora ‘s contract extension, signed last May, also runs through 2009. Aubrey Huff signed a three-year deal in January. Top young pitcher Erik Bedard has three more seasons before he will be eligible for free agency.

So, if it appears that the front office is targeting 2009 as the year when the long-struggling Orioles must reach their full potential, appearances are not deceiving.

Perhaps you noticed that Miguel Tejada was not among the aforementioned class of 2009, but that was no oversight. Tejada’s six-year contract also runs out in 2009, which isn’t a coincidence.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Mike Flanagan confirmed that Tejada is the hub in this wheel of future fortune.

“A lot of the contracts are built around Tejada,” he said yesterday.

Baltimore has secured a solid core around which to progress. Bedard is a ace quality starter. Youngsters Chris Ray and Nick Markakis showed promise last year. Mora and Roberts are regular contributors. If Aubrey Huff can locate the power he had in 2003, he give the Orioles a dependable middle of the order (along with Tejada, Markakis and Mora). If Roberts continues to set the table atop the order and Ramon Hernandez, Jay Payton, Jay Gibbons and Corey Patterson can maintain better than league average production, then they have a respectable lineup.

The question is the rotation. With Jaret Wright and Steve Trachsel currently slated to start a bunch of games, the outlook is bleak. With a good lineup and a solid bullpen, the Orioles could be successful using a rotation of Bedard, Daniel Cabrera, Trachsel, as well as youngsters Adam Loewen and Hayden Penn. Wright, shifted to the bullpen, could find 100 effective innings in his surgically repaired arm.

Given three years to find the right mix, the Orioles might just find their way into contention once or twice. Take heart Oriole fans, this plan, has a chance.

Oriole Fans walk out in protest of the team's failures


Steroids and Baseball’s Unintended Consequences

Baseball’s get tough steroids policy approved by owners and players before the beginning of last season put into place much tougher punishments for the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs. In addition, baseball instituted rules governing the discipline of players who are found guilty, plead guilty or plead no contest on charges related to performance enhancing drugs. With the developing investigation of a Florida Pharmacy that allegedly supplied these drugs to a number of athletes, the conviction clause of MLB’s drug policy may come into play. That presents an interesting new problem for Gary Matthews Jr.

In addition to a 50-game penalty for a first positive test, baseball’s drug policy mandates a suspension from 60 to 80 games following a first conviction for “possession or use of any prohibited substance.”

The clause is triggered when a player is convicted or pleads guilty or no contest. However, Matthews could receive immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony in a possible trial.

“If he has immunity, he’s out of the woods on that clause,” said Brian Hennigan, a former federal prosecutor now with the Los Angeles law firm Irell & Manella.

Matthews Jr. may face that more stern penalty. But it is more likely he takes what he knows, offers it to help prosecutors in exchange for a grant of immunity, that keeps him from being charged.

That won’t fly in the court of public opinion, nor will it fly for Arte Moreno. (via Baseball Musings)

“He needs to make a statement to the fans,” Moreno said, clearly still unhappy 48 hours after Shapiro’s statement. “Our feelings were the best way was to be pro-active and talk to the fans immediately.”

Moreno issued his own statement Saturday night.

“Both the Angels and I have strongly encouraged Gary to cooperate with any authority investigating this matter,” Moreno said. “Specifically, the Angels have asked him to come forward and fully answer all questions surrounding the recent allegations against him. The organization continues to expect that this matter will come to a quick conclusion.”

Moreno said Monday he expected the Matthews matter to be resolved by Opening Day. But what that meant, he refused to say.

“That is one thing I won’t explain,” Moreno said firmly. “My frustration, or I should say all of our frustration, is the fact that we expected this to be handled very quickly.

“My expectations were that he would make a statement. I’m very disappointed.”

Moreno, speaking as both an owner and a fan, wants Matthews to speak unequivocally. But as is obvious, it is in Gary Matthews’ best interests to exercise his Miranda rights and remain silent. He well knows that anything he says can and will be used against him in a court of law.

For baseball’s policy to be successful, there must be stern punishments to discourage violation, but there must also exist a means by which players can be forthright regarding what they have been done. The integrity of both America’s judicial system and their national pastimes requires both fairness and transparency. Baseball’s system, despite its good intentions, encourages obfuscation over openness, stonewalling over straight talk and therefore fails.


Truth? You want the truth about Steroids?

You can’t handle the truth! But George Mitchell is going to try to find it, and handle it, and then present it to the public.

Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell is confident his investigation into steroid use in baseball will yield the truth of what went on, even though players aren’t rushing to cooperate.

Speaking in Augusta, Maine, Mitchell said his investigators have talked to hundreds of witnesses and reviewed thousands of documents. He said the investigation, while proceeding “at full steam,” is being slowed down because he does not have the power to subpoena witnesses or documents, making its work “extremely difficult.”

“I believe that despite my lack of subpoena power . . . that we’ll have a comprehensive report,” Mitchell said yesterday. “What the lack of subpoena power means is it will take longer, not that it will significantly alter the result.”

Mitchell’s probe is the attempt of Major League baseball to put the issue of steroids in the game to bed, for the last time. And if it gets up wanting a glass of water it’s grounded. Forever.

Mitchell not only lacks subpoena power. If he believes that his probe will get to the truth he lacks a firm grip on reality.

The truth of the steroids era will come out someday off in the future. When players feel like they can speak freely about what went on without damaging the collegial relationship of the clubhouse. People like Jim Bouton and Jose Canseco became pariahs in baseball. They broke the code. What’s the code, you ask?

Simple. What happens in our clubhouse stays in our clubhouse. Darn right, we’re not here to talk about the past. And we hope that our colleagues succeed, except when they are playing us. Let’s recall important words of wisdom for the mentor of Ebby Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh.

Learn your cliches. Study them.
Know them. They’re your friends.

Crash hands Nuke a small pad and pen.

Write this down.
“We gotta play ‘em one day at a


Of course. That’s the point.
“I’m just happy to be here and
hope I can help the ballclub.”


Write, write–”I just wanta give
It my best shot and, Good Lord
willing, things’ll work out.”


“…Good Lord willing, things’ll
work out.”

It’s not now, nor has it ever been about the truth. Mitchell’s probe will point to a few obvious examples, but without cooperation from players and the real power to get the truth out of people, (guarantees of immunity and subpoenas) no new ground will be broken. The complicit media will dutifully report this “truth” but it will not be over.

This scandal will hound baseball as Bonds chases Aaron through the summer. And it will come back with McGwire second time on the ballot. The announcement that executives will be drug tested won’t make this go away. The sunshine of true disclosure will disinfect the festering mess that plagues baseball. Don’t expect sunlight to break through the clouds of obfuscation anytime soon.


Manny is Manny

Michael Silverman in the Boston Herald pens something I have known for a long time.

There is no secret to Ramirez.

Manny was being Manny long before he came to Boston, and he’s going to keep on being Manny after he leaves – and well after he delivers what is going to be one hell of a Hall of Fame induction speech.

Ramirez can infuriate, he can behave inexcusably and he can change his mind before he makes it up. In the end, however, he wants to be one of the best hitters in baseball. That truth is as plain and simple as Ramirez is.

Manny is not simple in the sense that he is not bright. He is bright and dedicated. But his authenticity confuses and befuddles the folks who are used to dissemblers and charlatans. In a world where we celebrate the folks who reinvent themselves every few years, a person with a focus and a purpose is going to confuse them.

Manny did thus. He just wants to hit. He wants to excel at his craft. He wants to be the best he can be. Too many fans approach that explanation with a jaundiced view. They point out his lapses in the field or his occasional lollygag to first. These are fair criticisms. In the interests of full disclosure, I am a Manny apologist. He won me over with his dedication to hitting and his consistency at the plate. He is the consummate professional hitter.

The pursuit of perfection in a discipline should engender respect and curiosity. Manny’s devotion to his craft is in the same mold as Isaac Newton’s devotion to physics. Both were geniuses at what they did, and both were deeply misunderstood by their critics and adored by their supporters. Newton invented Calculus. Manny hits a small round ball real hard. For many a mathematically challenged student, advantage Manny.

Folks in the Mainstream Media ought to relax — he doesn’t return my phone calls for interviews either. Appreciate the artist for what he does well. And that’s rake.


Steroids and Gary Matthews Jr.

Gary Matthews Jr. may be feeling the intense scrutiny of the American Sports Media’s obsession with steroids in baseball. Because this doesn’t sound too good.

The Times Union has learned that investigators in the year-old case, which has been kept quiet until now, uncovered evidence that testosterone and other performance-enhancing drugs may have been fraudulently prescribed over the Internet to current and former Major League Baseball players, National Football League players, college athletes, high school coaches, a former Mr. Olympia champion and another leading contender in the bodybuilding competition.

The customers include Los Angeles Angels center fielder Gary Matthews Jr., according to sources with knowledge of the investigation.

Sources also said investigators from the New York Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, which is part of the state Department of Health, recently interviewed a top physician for the Pittsburgh Steelers about his alleged purchase last year of roughly $150,000 of testosterone and human growth hormone.

The revelations about the Pittsburgh Steelers is very troubling. But Matthews is the biggest name, and having just signed a five-year $55 million contract, he is subject to a lot of scrutiny. A sabermetrician friend of mine who goes by the nickname of Valentine was curious enough about Matthews career performance that he looked into the numbers.

Matthews ISO [Isolated Slugging or Slugging Percentage-Batting Average] over the past three years has been remarkably steady at .186, .181, .182. His secondary average (includes BBs) has been in decline at .318, .295, .281. His OPS jumped last year PURELY because he hit more singles, and that is more likely a random fluke than the result of strength training. I would expect his BA to return to the .260-.275 range this year (even without taking park effects into account), which should return his OPS to the .750-.800 range. Steroids or no, he’s not going to be able to keep up last year’s pace.

The real surprise in looking at Matthews career is the jump in power between 2003 and 2004. His BA was steady, but his SLG jumped 80 points! Yes, he moved to Texas (and a good HR park), but that alone doesn’t explain such a large change. Especially not for a player whose early-career power was so thoroughly mediocre.

It is completely reasonable to assume that Matthews used something. Whether it was the then legal HGH or a banned substance is in question. Matthews himself was non-committal when talking to reporters yesterday.

Matthews, speaking to reporters at the Angels’ spring training camp in Mesa, Ariz., said he wasn’t “in a position to answer any specific questions.”

“I do expect it to resolve itself here in the near future. … Until we get more information, I just can’t comment on it,” he said Wednesday.

Matthews clearly can comment on it. In fact, he can clear up this whole mess by saying simply, yes, I used them. Alternately, he can vehemently deny that he did. But he can and should address the issue. Chances are he’ll keep himself clean, keep his mouth shut and let his numbers say what he is unwilling to.

Writers in the blogosphere are not generally as excitable about the steroid nonsense as the more enlightened scribes in the professional ranks of print journalism. And frankly I am not too vexed if Gary Matthews Jr. used HGH or other performance enhancing drugs. What irks me is that Matthews and the other accused dopers are unwilling to acknowledge or even speak forthrightly about what is going on. Two of the prominent athletes who have failed drug tests have accused their teammates of wrongdoing. Some have blamed confusion about supplements. Others have thankfully acknowledged their guilt and gone about their careers or in some cases concluded their careers. Admitting guilt, like Matt Lawton did, effectively ended his career.

Athletes are not obligated to confess to any indiscretion that appears in print about them. However, when athletes play the game of deny what is deniable for as long as it is deniable, it damages the credibility of the clean players. The responsibility to root out the miscreants lies with the Union. The players are demonstrably affected by the misbehavior of a few in their midst. They have the most motivation to police the clubhouse from within.

Until athletes are frank about what they have done, and until MLB management is forthright about what they knew, the sports credibility will remain damaged irreparably. That such stories cannot gain traction against the NFL is mind-boggling. But MLB seems to have a special place as the press’ steroid whipping boy.

Closing on a note of levity, the indispensable Deadspin contributes this comment:

More names are expected to come out in the coming weeks. The investigation focuses on an Internet copy, which means somehow, Jay Mariotti’s gonna figure out a way to blame this on the blogs.



Behold the Dinosaur

Murray Chass delights in writing about baseball. But Murray Chass loathes the measures employed by younger analysts of the National Pastime. And he makes no bones about what he thinks about sabermetrics and the statistics that have been introduced into the sports lexicon by sabermetricians. Take it Murray:

I receive a daily e-mail message from Baseball Prospectus, an electronic publication filled with articles and information about statistics, mostly statistics that only stats mongers can love.

To me, VORP epitomized the new-age nonsense. For the longest time, I had no idea what VORP meant and didn’t care enough to go to any great lengths to find out. I asked some colleagues whose work I respect, and they didn’t know what it meant either.

Finally, not long ago, I came across VORP spelled out. It stands for value over replacement player. How thrilling. How absurd. Value over replacement player. Don’t ask what it means. I don’t know.

I suppose that if stats mongers want to sit at their computers and play with these things all day long, that’s their prerogative. But their attempt to introduce these new-age statistics into the game threatens to undermine most fans’ enjoyment of baseball and the human factor therein.

People play baseball. Numbers don’t.

How shockingly obtuse. Quickly a primer on VORP. The value over replacement player is a measure of the true value a baseball player brings to his team. To understand the statistic a fan needs to understand what is meant by a replacement player, as well. A replacement player is essentially a triple A callup or a guy the team can claim off the waiver wire at no cost. By definitional, a replacement player is someone who is not on the major league roster on opening day. He represents the minimal acceptable offensive output for a major league baseball player.

To calculate VORP, Baseball Prospectus uses a series of formulae to determine the theoretical statistical profile of a replacement player. That value is then compared to the actual performance of major league players. The idea of VORP is that it can quantify a players performance.

For example, Joe Mauer has a higher value over replacement player than does his teammate Justin Morneau. Mauer’s value is primarily because a replacement player at the catching position is typically woefully worse than a replacement player at first base. A replacement catcher would be Ken Huckaby, who in 161 career games has a line of .222/.256/.281. Mauer’s sparkling .347/.429/.507 is clearly superior. VORP measure how superior it is, while providing an apples to apples comparison for other players. VORP attempts to answer the question of what player made the biggest difference to his team in a given year.

Continuing the Twin theme, was Mauer, Morneau, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan or Francisco Liriano more valuable to the Twins? The answer according to VORP is Johan Santana, followed by Mauer, Morneau, Liriano and Nathan.

The biggest problem with VORP is that Baseball Prospectus keeps it a proprietary statistic. This is reasonable. Keith Woolner invented it and the information of how to compute it belongs to him. There is a downside. OPS, which is an intuitive statistic, has caught on, whereas VORP remains primarily within the parlance of sabermetricians and their mathematically challenged acolytes. This is changing as more and more writers, enabled by the modern free press of the Internet, comment on the utility of VORP and other modern statistical measures of baseball.

Chass’ complaints and snippiness are not solely because he can’t figure out VORP(either its meaning, utility or its computation), however. He is taking his annual shot at sabermetrics (yes, he snipped about Moneyball last February), because alternative ways of approaching baseball diminish his traditional way of evaluating players skill and talent. He sees the players play and therefore his judgment, like that of the all-seeing, all-knowing oracles of lore is unquestionable. Even if his judgment is patently questionable.

“Stat mongers”, as Chass derisively calls them, are trying to enhance a fan’s appreciation of the game by introducing new perspectives and new voices. The stifling of dissent by baseball writers is common. They preach about their rightness, whether it is that Bert Blyleven doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame or that winning a baseball game is the hardest thing you can do, even though it happens every time a game is played.

Chass’ comments have drawn a lot of fire in the blogosphere. The younger and more open-minded writers who are willing to give new statistics a chance, understand the nature of VORP and what the statistic was created to do. They want clarity and common sense in their discussion of sport. And most of all they cannot stand pompously ridiculous comments from curmudgeons.

Tim Savage, who tipped me to Chass’ column, wrote this:

Come on! As if legions of fans would drop their beers and run screaming for the exits if scoreboards at major league stadiums started flashing a players’ VORP instead of just his batting average, home runs, and RBI.

Chass’s crotchetiness is perhaps understandable. He has, after all, been doing his job for a long time, and it’s not surprising that he would resist the young whippersnappers who are coming in with all their newfangled computer stuff and taking attention away from the old time beat writers like himself.

What is shocking to me is the level of editorial oversight that would allow a column like this to be published, particularly in a paper that presumes to contain “all the news that’s fit to print.” Here a writer attacked an idea which he admitted he didn’t take the time to even try to understand. Now, I realize that Mr. Chass is very busy these days watching Scott Proctor run wind sprints, but surely he could find five minutes to visit the BP website to find out what this statistic actually is that is making him so apoplectic.

As an editor, I would never allow an article that attacks something without bothering to find out what it is, and ends on a sweeping generalization that purports to speak for millions of other people while providing no evidence of what they actually think. Sure, covering baseball isn’t as important as, say, reporting on the White House’s plans to attack Iraq, but doesn’t the New York Times hold its sportswriters to any kind of journalistic standards? Is there anything Murray Chass might write that his editor wouldn’t print?

The firebrands at Fire Joe Morgan chipped in with:

You can feel the sneer curling on his face as he writes “electronic publication” with a quill pen in Olde English, then rolls up the parchment and sends it on its three-day horseback journey to his publisher, Lord Sulzberger, Jr.

He’s kidding about the e-mail of course. He doesn’t have an “e-mail address.” E-mail is for new age wack jobs.


I actually believe that goofy, anthropomorphic numbers with arms and legs and silly oversize white gloves play all of the games we know of in what we call professional baseball. Call me crazy, but that is what I believe.

And of course, Baseball Prospectus answered their critic as well with an open letter to Murray Chass penned by Nate Silver:

Fans today have a lot of choices about how they consume baseball in general, and their baseball media in particular. Baseball Prospectus’ mission is to provide them with an informed and independent perspective that helps to accentuate their enjoyment of the game.

I am not sure whether you have made a habit of clicking on those links in our daily newsletter, but if you do, you will find that we are talking about many of the same things that you are. We’re talking about how the Oakland A’s can win the World Series, how the Veterans’ Committee is doing a poor job of recognizing the contributions of players like Ron Santo, and how recent moves in the baseball industry are shoving baseball’s most devoted fans aside.

Many Baseball writers have become tiresome scolds or anachronistic dinosaurs or both. They alienate future readers at their own risk.


Johnny Damon Still Loves the Sox

He just can’t get over them letting him go. Let’s go to the quoted text:

Damon, now in his second spring with the Yankees, believes the Red Sox had the money to sign him, they just decided he wasn’t worth it.

“I knew they had the money back when they were negotiating with me; they just took their stance,” Damon said. “I was probably the only guy who never begged them to sign me.”

In Damon’s mind, he had done everything possible to earn a new deal from the Red Sox, who offered him four years and $40 million. If they didn’t want to give him one, he would find what he wanted elsewhere.

That it was the Yankees who gave it to him was simply a bonus.

“They had a chance for a month and a half after the season, but when they don’t talk to you or offer you a contract in that time, it tells you they don’t want you,” Damon said. “That’s fine with me. I wasn’t going to be in a situation where they didn’t want me. I think they just looked at it as, ‘Johnny loves it here.’ It was great, but this suits me a lot better. I’m a happier person because of it.”

Damon was offered a deal by the Red Sox, which he rejected, because he felt the offer was lacking. Rather than moving on from the split, he continues to talk about how he was surprised that they wouldn’t up their offer to keep him, Johnny Damon. Why he continues to discuss a year old deal mystifies, and while the Yankees did get the better of the deal last year, how does it strike Yankee fans that the team’s starting centerfielder is pining for his old club and unable to get over their decision to move on?


Editorial: Let Manny be Manny

The below represents the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the other writer’s at Outside the Beltway Sports, its ownership, management or its sponsors.

Manny apologist alert – Consider yourself warned.

The amount of scrutiny applied to a professional baseball player in Boston is outlandish. If he cleared his absence with the team, then who cares what he is doing with his time. Number one, fans indirectly pay Manny’s salary, by attending games and buying team related merchandise, however, they do not make the decisions regarding his salary. That doesn’t mean they cannot complain. Of course they can, but to do so is to take more involvement in an issue that fans have no ability to control. Manny may be a public figure, but he is not a public official. He loves classic cars. There was a very nice story in the Globe about 18 months ago about how he spent his off day in between Interleague series in St. Louis and Chicago by overseeing the restoration of a car he was to give to his father. The car is the one that is to be auctioned. The photo essay of Manny’s trip is here.

He shows up when he wants to and probably gets sick and tired of listening to people complain about his choices and decisions. Since those choices do not materially affect our lives, why does it matter? Is he a great role model? Maybe not. There isn’t enough information to judge. And the little information there is has been filtered through the media lens of the bile belching Boston Baseball beat writers. Who knows what kind of a husband, father, friend Manny is? His wife, son and friends, and they aren’t telling us. Is he a good hitter? You bet. Can I live with the lack of the information about the former with the abundance of the latter. Yeah I can.

One of the things that I think bugs me is the amount of scrutiny we apply to athletes. It’s not like they are leasing a pricey Cadillac DTS using taxpayer money or hiring a scheduler for his wife that gets paid much more than I do using taxpayer money. Those are worthy of boos. Manny being Manny is just not that big a deal to me.

Other fans disagree, and it is reasonable to do so. Some folks need their sports heroes to be spotless role models. And that is their choice. Maybe I am cynical. Players are people, not some gilded statue without flaws, without selfish feelings. Not many people are capable of dealing with the harsh glare of the adversarial media, especially in a sports obsessed town like Boston.

I cannot, nor would I want to forget that he led my team, the Boston Red Sox, to a World Series victory. He helped them win in a magical season. Credit is due and deserved. When former Sox closer Keith Foulke announced his retirement, many Sox fans recalled with fondness his gutty contributions to the Sox 2004 Title. Why is it different with Manny, who arguably has produced more to the Red Sox success in his career with the team, than Foulke did in his Sox career?

Manny’s contract and frequent missteps with the team has made him a lightning rod for controversy. And the Boston media has whipped every misstep into a paper selling, channel-flipping adventure. As a result fans pay more attention to his mistakes, his lapses and his lolly gagging, which only compounds the whole situation. Let Manny be Manny, Boston. We have enough real worries in this world to allow ourselves to get vexed about Manny showing up on the mandatory day players must report to camp, rather than early like the clubs prefer.


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