Sports Outside the Beltway

Ken Griffey Jr. hits 600 career homerun

He did it last night against the Florida Marlins.

Monday, Griffey became the sixth player in major league history to hit 600 home runs. He deposited a Mark Hendrickson first-inning pitch about a dozen rows up into Section 130 of the right-field bleachers as part of a 9-4 Reds win at Dolphin Stadium. Stuck on 599 since May 31, Griffey is 10 shy of eclipsing Sammy Sosa for fifth on the all-time list.

Just 10 of Griffey’s 600 homers have come against the Marlins, a team he did not face until 2000. Five of those have come at Dolphin Stadium, where he hadn’t hit one since June 1, 2004.

Here’s the video.

So far as I know, no one has mentioned Griffey as a user of steroids. Griffey, who began his career with the Seattle Mariners, will make the Hall of Fame. Abusers like Sammy Sosa will have a long wait if they ever do get voted in. As Mark McGwire is presently finding out.


Former MLB Catcher John Marzano dead at 45

He died Saturday after a fall down the stairs at his home. John was strictly a bullpen catcher, but he managed to stay employed at the Major league level for 12 years. Afterwards he went into broadcasting. RIP.


Bedard to Seattle!?

Following the Orioles mailing list last night there was this:

Adam Jones has left his Venezuelan Winter League team and flies to Baltimore tomorrow morning to take a physical so he can be dealt to the Orioles in exchange for pitcher Erik Berdard. No word yet on how many players going Baltimore’s way.

Jones did not mince words when he spoke to a reporter from Diario Panorama in Venezuela today. We have a relationship with the reporter and paper and they have graciously supplied us with quotes from the interview with Jones.

In short Jones was unhappy about missing the rest of the series, but non unhappy about the trade itself. Read the whole article.

Then there was this:

Andy MacPhail denied tonight that the Orioles have agreed to a deal that would send ace pitcher Erik Bedard to the Seattle Mariners for a package headed by young center fielder Adam Jones.

“We do not have an agreement with the Mariners,” said MacPhail, Orioles president of baseball operations.

This didn’t seem like a complete denial that anything was in the works. However Baseball Musings speculated:

Either Jones is playing with a reporter, or MacPhail is sticking to a strict line that they don’t have a deal until the physical is passed.

Back to the Mariners’ blog.

Many of you have started wringing your hands over this item in the Baltimore Sun, written after our blog post, saying that an Erik Bedard-Adam Jones deal had not been finalized. Well, yes, we know that. If it was finalized, then Jones would not be flying back to the United States to take a physical.

Sorry, I’m not trying to sound flippant here. But when you’ve got the Orioles and Mariners, two of the most media-shy teams in baseball, trying to make a trade, any leak is bound to be greeted as an event of earthquake proportions. Let’s all settle down and just look at the facts as calmly as we can, please.

As to the possibility that Angelos would scuttle the deal because Jones spoke out of turn, Baker writes:

Things to watch out for? Only one. Orioles owner Peter Angelos is notorious for scuttling even the best laid of plans at the last minute. I’m sure he can’t be thrilled that Jones told the world he’s about to be traded for Bedard. Would Angelos be upset enough over that to pull the plug on a deal? Some people actually think it’s possible. I say that’s crazy. You either like a deal, or you don’t. If you’re going to conduct business like that, using borderline rational behavior to guide you, then your team might as well forget about ever contending again. We’ve been told that after 10 years of watching the O’s slide into irrelevance, the franchise is now changing its ways and that Angelos will allow his baseball people to do their jobs. We’ll see.

“Borderline rational behavior?” Yes that’s something like what we’ve become accustomed to here in Baltimore over the past decade. Though I’m not convinced that there’s an “ir” missing from that phrase.

So right now it sounds good. Not that I’m anxious for Bedard to leave. I’m anxious for the Orioles to be good. If trading Bedard (and Tejada and Roberts) is the cost, the price is high, but it’s worth it.

I think that Baseball Musings is correct that if Seattle makes Bedard a good offer, he’d stay.

UPDATE: Well, unfortunately it appears, even with MacPhail on board, the new boss is the same as the old boss. The deal with Seattle is either delayed until Angelos can evaluate it or it has possibly been nixed by the Orioles. This leads Baseball Musings to observe:

It’s a good thing Adam Jones has a big mouth, otherwise we wouldn’t be having so much fun today!

Fun, if you enjoy following intrigue. But if you’re an Oriole fan who hoped that years rudderless drifting were over, this is not fun at all.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.

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Fernando Vina

Of all the criticisms leveled in the on-going baseball steroid scandal, the one receiving the least attention is the effect media blindness played in the unfolding of the scandal. As it happens, ESPN has in their employ a player named in the Mitchell Report. Fernando Vina had a fairly long major league career spanning 12 seasons.

Fernando Vina played several positions with five teams in Major League Baseball from 1993 until 2004, the Seattle Mariners, New York Mets, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, and Detroit Tigers. He played in the 1998 All-Star game and won two National League Golden Glove Awards as a second baseman. During the 2007 baseball season, he was a commentator for ESPN’s Baseball Tonight.

While Radomski was working for the Mets as a clubhouse attendant in 1993, he met Vina, who was then in the Mets minor league system. Radomski stated that he sold anabolic steroids or human growth hormone to Vina six to eight times during 2000 to 2005. Radomski produced three checks from Vina. Radomski stated that these checks reflected a March 2003 purchase by Vina of human growth hormone, an April 2003 purchase by Vina of steroids, most likely Winstrol, and a July 2005 purchase by Vina of Deca-Durabolin.

ESPN suddenly has a dilemma. During the season, discussion of steroids and performance enhancing drugs occurred often. At no time did their analyst Vina step forward and acknowledge what is alleged in the Mitchell Report. This creates a credibility gap with the network mockingly referred to as the WWL (World Wide Leader in sports). Does ESPN sacrifice Vina to attempt to save some aspect of their credibility, or do they choose to stand by their guy?

Consider that even analysts have a responsibility in a news organization to the truth. That Vina was linked to this report demands both a reckoning on ESPN’s part, and some kind of statement from Vina as to the veracity of these claims. He can deny them, and without more evidence, that would be that,a he said, he said spat. But the reality of the accusation must be acknowledged.

My axe is ground against the media, who with their access to athletes knew more about this scandal than they let on. Some reporters have acknowledged that they could have and should have dug deeper to get to the story. But Vina’s case points out the difficulty that is faced in sports journalism.

Stories are gained by access to the clubhouse, to the athletes and to the support personnel. Write up something that puts a player in a bad light and a reporter might mind him or herself shut out. As a former player, the primary reason to appear on shows or in print is because of the forged contacts made as a player, contacts that give an advantage at understanding the inner workings of the game. Quite literally in this case, inside baseball.

Would Vina retain his value to ESPN if he with one of the reporters broke a story about that particular aspect of the Mitchell Report? Clearly the answer is yes. That’s investigative journalism. And the Ennuipundit loves himself some good old fashioned well-researched tasty investigative journalism. But it would be a Pyrrhic victory, as the access to the players that Vina had would be compromised by the exposure of the misdeeds of his former teammates.

In the modern era of reporting, which is little more than the dutiful recitation of carefully worded press releases crafted by agents and publicists and fed to a media, nominally devoted to truth, but profitted from running a well-oiled hype machine, such exposes are becoming frustratingly rare.

ESPN’s credibility is compromised by Vina’s continued presence as an in studio analyst, precisely because he has access to players, which is used selectively not in the furtherance of truth, but rather to promote an agenda. ESPN, the WWL, profits from the broadcast of major league baseball games. They have a vested interest in being able to provide that coverage with the dugout interviews and other nonsense, which in all frankness, detracts from the experience of watching a game. To lose that access would damage their bottom line. And so the stories go untold. The truth about whether a game is clean or not is obscured.

No one believes that the inane ramblings of the “announcers” at WWE wrestling events have any connection with truth. They are employees of the WWE and are compensated solely and wholly to say what Mr. McMahon wants them to say. Adherence to the bottom line has taken such a priority over pursuit of truth in sports coverage, that much of what is passed off as sports information is unwatchable. Do the suits at ESPN have more sway than the journalists when deciding stories? The answer sadly seems to be yes.


Former MLB player David Segui admits to steroid use

I wonder if any other retired players will come forward with the Mitchell report out due soon. From AP-

BALTIMORE – Retired first baseman David Segui admitted Monday that he used steroids and purchased shipments from former New York Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski, The Sun reported on its Web site Monday night.

Segui also repeated his June 2006 admission to ESPN that he used human growth hormone with a prescription.

He told the newspaper that he refused to talk to former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, whose report on performance-enhancing drugs is expected soon. Segui said he didn’t want to betray the trust of other players.


Radomski pleaded guilty in April to federal charges of illegally distributing performance-enhancing drugs. As part of his agreement with the government, he was required to cooperate with Mitchell’s investigation.

Segui said he met Radomski after being traded to the Mets in 1994. They became close and still talk by phone several times a week — usually about fishing and family.

I remember Segui from my Star Tournament days. A slick fielding 1st baseman who didn’t have the power most players at that position possessed. A check of Segui’s career stats confirms it, his career high was 21 homers in 1997.

So all that HGH and steroid taking didn’t produce much for Segui. One day when feeling ill for some unknown reason, will he make a link to his foolish drug use years earlier? He was dumb to the stuff, one assumes his intelligence hasn’t all that much since his retirement.


The value of Bedard

via ballbug

The Sun quotes Andy MacPhail saying that his priority is not to trade Bedard. At the same time he has to listen to offers.

The Dodgers and Orioles have been talking about Bedard for several weeks, with outfielder Matt Kemp, reliever Jonathan Broxton and pitching prospect Clayton Kershaw among the names discussed.

The Orioles also met with the New York Mets this morning, but one club source said today that the Mets, who had been reluctant in previous discussions to move their top prospect, outfielder Fernando Martinez, aren’t considered a top contender for Bedard.

MacPhail was also expected today to meet with the Seattle Mariners, who have long coveted Bedard and would certainly get the Orioles’ attention with an offer headed by outfielder Adam Jones and pitcher Brandon Morrow. The Cincinnati Reds are also in the mix for Bedard, though one team source said on Monday that they aren’t willing to include top prospect Jay Bruce in the deal. The Toronto Blue Jays have also expressed interest, but it remains unlikely the club would trade him within the American League East.

I don’t think that any Orioles fan wants to see Bedard go elsewhere. Still there’s a feeling expressed on the Orioles’ mailing list (and I’m sure elsewhere) that the Orioles have precious little talent in their system and that the only way they can hope to contend is to rebuild. Given that Bedard is one of the few talents the Orioles have, trading him is one way to (hopefully) speed up the rebuilding process.

Based on his statements, it seems that MacPhail feels the same way. He’s in no rush to trade Bedard, even if the Orioles can’t convince him to sign an extension, the team still controls him for another two seasons. That gives the Orioles some leverage. This does too.

In fact, Bedard is so attractive the Tigers and Phillies – clubs initially told by Baltimore they do not match up – were still pressing to try to find ways to get involved on the talented lefty.
. . .
One NL talent evaluator who loves Bedard said, “Bedard is closer in talent to Santana than Haren is to Bedard. In fact, it is not impossible to believe that in a year, we will all think Bedard is better than Santana.” An AL executive said, “Here is what impresses me about Bedard, he pitches in the AL East against the Yankees and Red Sox. So, to me, he can pitch anywhere and excel.”

It’s clear that the Orioles could get the most talent in return for Bedard. If they choose to trade him they have no excuses for failing to get a great return of talent on the deal.

Crossposted at Soccer Dad.

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Kansas City Royals Sign Jose Guillen

If published reports are to be believed, the Kansas City Royals have decided to continue the fine pharmaceutical heritage that began with Ewing Kauffman by signing outfielder Jose Guillen to a 3-year, $36 million deal on Tuesday.

The potential steroid suspension aside, are the Royals spending David Glass’s new found money wisely? How about some charts!

Below are two charts showing Guillen’s On-Base Percentage (OBP) and Slugging Average (SLG) by age. The difference between the top chart and the bottom chart is that Guillen’s partial years have been removed (in ’99, ’01, ’02 and ’06, Jose appeared in fewer than 100 games for the season).

By removing the partial seasons, we can see that the Dominican fellow has followed a pretty standard career path, peaking at age 27-28 in the power department while maintaining some positive growth in the ability to get on base.

Walks as a percentage of plate appearances:

Again, Guillen has shown an improved eye at the plate over the course of his career.

Extra base hits as a percentage of hits and plate appearances:

Here is where it gets sketchy for the Royals. At first glance, Guillen appears to have a somewhat erratic ability to hit the ball hard when he makes contact, but overall looks like he is trending upward.

However, when you remove the years most likely to be affected by small sample size blips, he begins to look like any typical player. In terms of full-season ability, Guillen’s power potential seems to have peaked when he was 27.

The Royals have just “fixed” their middle order power problem with a guy who looks to be on the decline in terms of hurting the baseball over the next three years.

The good news is that while Guillen now becomes the highest-paid player in team history, his contract is not exorbitant in the current market. Three years is a short enough time frame that Kansas City can cut their losses if Guillen fails to find rejuvenation in the fountains at Kauffman stadium.

That said, I’d still rather see them go after Miguel Cabrera.


Torre Takes Mattingly, Bowa to Dodgers

Joe Torre was officially announced as the new manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers today and he’s bringing Don Mattingly and Larry Bowa over with him from the New York Yankees.

Paying tribute to one of baseball’s most successful franchises, Joe Torre was front and center for his introduction as the new manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

His news conference Monday was held in center field at Dodger Stadium to accommodate the overload of media, a first according to team spokesman Josh Rawitch. Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully began the news conference attended by team owners Frank and Jamie McCourt and general manager Ned Colletti.

“Wow! This has been wild here. The last two weeks have been a whirlwind for my wife Ali and me,” Torre said. “You say goodbye to one prestigious organization and you say hello to another prestigious organization.”

Don Mattingly and Larry Bowa are joining Torre, he announced in his introductory remarks. Mattingly may be the team’s hitting coach, according to a source cited by 1050 ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand. Mattingly was the Yankees’ bench coach under Torre last season. He was the hitting coach for three seasons before that.

Bowa told Marchand that he’ll be with the Dodgers, either as Torre’s bench coach or third base coach. He was the Yankees’ third-base coach last season. Bowa had been rumored to be ticketed for a coaching position with the Seattle Mariners.

It’s a good crew. Then again, Torre has been an average manager in recent years despite the richest payroll in American team sports. We’ll see if he can win World Series rings without an incredible array of young pitching and hitting talent like he had in his Yankees heyday.


Umpires vs. technology

As I’ve said before, umpires need help. And I refer you to a piece I wrote over a year ago on this very same subject. Baseball (and sports in general) is far behind the times in utilizing modern technology where it can, specifically to improve officiating.

I’ve thought about this topic for a long time. I think Questec is a good thing. (For those who dont know, it’s a computerized system that measures ball & strikes, and compares it to what the umpire actually called.)

One of the biggest and most frustrating problems in pro sports are bad calls by umps/refs. What I’d like to see is the steady removal of the so-called ‘human error’ from sports; I’ll talk specifically about baseball:

When umps are unsure when a ball is fair or foul down the line, why can’t a system be installed like they use in tennis? They could use technology to determine whether balls are just that, fair or foul.

Also, on disputed HRs, they must use instant replay. There’s no other fair way. An ump should be stationed in the park somewhere near a TV, like in the NHL. He should have the final word, since he’ll have access to the replay.

On balls and strikes, why not use Questec or ESPN’s ‘K-Zone’ (for example) to actually call the strikes? The only problem is that strike zone height is different for every hitter, but width is exactly the same, 17 inches (the width of homeplate). Rickey Henderson had a smaller up/down zone because he was short and crouched, and Richie Sexson’s up/down zone is bigger because he’s 6’8″. But their side-to-side zone is exactly the same. Therefore, computers/technology should be used to tell an umpire when a ball hits the plate or just misses. For the time being, umps will still need to call the up/down pitches (because every hitter is different), but will know for sure when a pitch crosses the corner or not. Or an ump could be assigned to determine the upper limit of each hitter’s strike zone dependent on his stance.

It also sucks when a pitcher throws a strike, but it’s not where he meant to throw it, the catcher has to reach for it, so the ump automatically calls it a ball. It doesn’t matter where the pitcher MEANT to throw the ball, it only matters whether it’s a strike or a ball.

For out/safe calls, when the closest ump feels the play is too close to call, he could send it to the ‘booth ump.’ TV technology is such today that it could be done in 30-60 seconds. Or (ala the NFL) managers should have two replays to use per game.

These steps would help legitimize the officiating and would make for fewer arguments from players and managers. You can’t argue with Questec strikes – it’s 100% consistent and 0% prejudiced (for veterans, or against rookies). Instant replay would also ensure the right call, and isn’t that worth waiting (at most) 60 seconds for – especially in close and/or playoff games?


Yanks drop opener to M’s, 7-1

Yanks wildcard lead wittled to one after Labor Day loss to Seattle.

It had been more than 13 years since two opposing starting pitchers had a greater age difference than the Yankees’ Roger Clemens and the Seattle Mariners’ Félix Hernández. The Mariners, a foil for some of Clemens’s greatest moments, made him look his age today in a 7-1 victory at Yankee Stadium…

The Yankees scored once in seven innings off Hernández (11-7), who allowed five hits to help the Mariners snap a nine-game losing streak. The loss whittled the Yankees’ lead in the American League wild card race to one game over Seattle and two and a half over the idle Detroit Tigers. The Yankees have lost three of four.

Clemens and Hernández were born 23 years and 247 days apart; according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last match-up with a wider gap came in 1994, when Charlie Hough of Florida opposed Salomon Torres of San Francisco.

Clemens was helped by two double plays, but so was Hernández, who got sparkling defense from Yuniesky Betancourt, his Gold Glove-caliber shortstop. Betancourt also had two doubles and three runs batted in.

After the Yankees scored in the first on a bloop single by Alex Rodriguez, the Mariners broke through in the second. After a single and a walk, Clemens tried to field an infield dribbler by Jose Lopez. But the ball was perfectly placed, and Clemens slipped on the grass with his right foot, nearly doing a split and getting up gingerly.

He retired Betancourt for the third out, but Suzuki lined a leadoff homer to right in the third, after Clemens fell behind 2-0 and tried an 89-mile-an-hour fastball. Seattle battered Clemens for three runs on three hits and a hit batsman in the fourth, with Betancourt’s two-run double to left the key blow.

Clemens was removed after the fourth inning, and the mound essentially turned into a laboratory. Mussina was seeking a remedy for his recent slump, which caused him to lose his place in the rotation.

The Yanks are really counting on Wang tomorrow, who nearly pitched a perfecto against Seattle back in May.


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