Sports Outside the Beltway

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.

| | Permalink | Send TrackBack

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

| | Permalink | Send TrackBack

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.

| | Permalink | Send TrackBack
  • Soccer Dad linked with I don't like sundays...

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.

| | Permalink | Send TrackBack
  • Soccer Dad linked with Venditte, vidi, vici...

Toronto Blue Jays fire Manager John Gibbons, bring back Cito Gaston

Another day, another MLB manager fired. This time a pink slip was issued north of the border.

PITTSBURGH — John Gibbons was fired Friday by the last-place Toronto Blue Jays and replaced by Cito Gaston, who led the team to World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.

The Blue Jays began the day 35-39, having lost five straight and 13 of their last 17 games to fall 10½ games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the AL East.

He is the third major league manager to be fired this week, following Willie Randolph of the New York Mets and John McLaren of the Seattle Mariners.

“The team just wasn’t doing what was expected of it, and maybe changes were needed,” Gibbons said in a conference call. “There was a lot expected this year, we came in riding high and speaking high. And that’s not the results we’re getting now.”

Gibbons, who became manager midway through the 2004 season, had a record of 305-305 with the Blue Jays. His best season was in 2006, when the Blue Jays went 87-75 to finish second in the AL East.

But that 2006 season was also when Gibbons challenged Shea Hillenbrand to a fight after the infielder wrote on a clubhouse bulletin board “play for yourselves” and the “ship is sinking,” and a month later had a physical altercation with pitcher Ted Lilly in a dugout tunnel following an argument on the mound.

The Jays, who were in Pittsburgh to open a weekend series against the Pirates, also fired three of Gibbons’ coaches — Marty Pevey, Ernie Whitt and Gary Denbo.

The 64-year-old Gaston becomes the Blue Jays’ first two-time manager. He previously managed the team from 1989 to 1997.

As Soccer Dad reminded me this morning, Gaston was very successful as Blue Jay manager after taking over the team in May 1989. Gaston taking Toronto to 4 division titles and two world series appearances. The Blue Jays were World Champs in both 1992 and 1993.

After 1993, the Blue Jays have been generally mediocre. Cito Gaston worked magic in his first takeover of the Blue Jays, I doubt it will happen this time.


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.

Tags | Uncategorized ,
| | Permalink | Send TrackBack

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.

| | Permalink | Send TrackBack

Investing in minor leaguers

More and more teams are discovering that the most cost effective way to build a team is to draft well. Athletics Supporter demonstrates how this worked in the case of drafting Mark Mulder. (h/t Baseball Musings) If you want to build a team, invest in minor leaguers.

It might also be a way to build a portfolio. Writing in Slate – “Bullpen Market” – Josh Levin tells of a minor league pitcher’s who’s selling his future earnings.

Yesterday, I bought a professional baseball player. It only took a minute. I surfed over to Real Sports Investments, clicked the “Buy Now” button, and purchased six shares of Randy Newsom. Along with my Slate colleagues John Swansburg and Dan Engber, I am now the proud owner of 0.0096 percent of a minor-league pitcher’s future major-league earnings. Mr. Newsom, I wish you a long and prosperous career—emphasis on prosperous. If Newsom makes $1,000,000 over the course of his major-league career, the Slate investment group will take a loss, earning a piddling $96 on an initial investment of $143.82. If he makes $10 million, we’ll get $960. And if he makes Barry Zito money? I won’t be retiring early, but I’ll be able to watch my baseball-playing property on some nice plasma TVs.

The 25-year-old Newsom, a midtier relief pitcher in the Cleveland Indians organization, is the first pro baseball player to hold a self-IPO. Real Sports Investments, the company Newsom hatched last year with two ex-ballplayer business partners, is fantasy baseball minus the fantasy. Newsom is selling off 4 percent of his potential MLB earnings at $20 per share. (A 15 percent “player valuation and share allocation fee” and a 2.9 percent “online processing fee” bump the price up to $23.97). A total of 2,500 shares will be offered, netting the pitcher $50,000 if they all get sold. As of today, investors can only buy shares; selling and trading will come soon, once RSI launches a snazzier Web site. And according to Newsom, this isn’t a “one-player thing”: In an interview with Baseball Prospectus, he says RSI is in talks with lots more minor leaguers.

Once upon a time baseball cards were thought to be great investments. I suppose with the popularization of statistical analysis, they could still be, but why not invest in a baseball player. Actually, there’s a possible reason not to.

Will it work as a market? Jeff Ma, the co-founder of ProTrade and the leader of the Vegas-busting MIT blackjack team, says it’s a winning concept for minor-league ballplayers like Newsom. A ballplayer’s career carries substantial risk, Ma says, and it makes sense to shave off potential wealth in exchange for insurance against never getting a major-league payday. (If Newsom doesn’t make the majors, his investors get nothing.) Ma is skeptical, though, that players with higher earning potential will care to participate, and without these higher-tier prospects, the market won’t be as attractive to investors. “You’re not talking about Barry Bonds or [future stars like] Billy Butler or Tim Lincecum selling their future upside,” Ma says. “How many people will want to speculate on the Randy Newsoms of the world?”

My guess (especially after reading the article) is that people might invest, but probably less with the idea of making money on the deal than in being invested in a professional athlete and whatever psychic benefits that brings.

Once upon a time – maybe even as recently as 20 – 30 years ago – being a part owner of a minor league team was not out of reach for a middle class investor. Now he could, at least, invest in a minor leaguer.

Crossposted at Soccer Dad.

| | Permalink | Send TrackBack
  • Soccer Dad linked with Investing in minor leaguers...

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.

| | Permalink | Send TrackBack

Visitors Since Feb. 4, 2003

All original content copyright 2003-2008 by OTB Media. All rights reserved.