Saturday, May 08, 2004


Ouch. At least Stynes capitalized on Riggleman's brilliant defensive shift to avoid the ultimate humiliation. Nice effort by class-act Alvarez, who after the game commented `If they want me in the bullpen, I'll do it. I just want to win'.

'He threw a good ballgame, but we just didn't swing the bats at all,'McClendon said. 'It wasn't much of an effort on our part. He hit his spots, but we can hit the ball better than that. The fact is, we're in a funk right now.'

Tonight the Bucs hitters looked like E.T. in the creek- all weak and sickly. We've lost four in a row and are in the basement. BUT Perez looked good again and Bay is back, and we still believe in our .500 prognostication.

We hope everything's OK with Mondy and his family. Come back soon, big guy, your Pirate family needs you too.

Vogelsong vs. Nomo today, look for Bucs to rebound big.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Later date

Business and some pleasure has me on the road the next ten days & it's doubtful I'll have the time or the access to do any blogging. Scoop and Bones will keep up the rowdyism & generally elevate the quality of thought and writing about these parts. These should be exciting days for the Bucs and who knows, maybe there will be some long-anticipated and over-analyzed turn in the QB situation for the Steelers. Take care.

Hill pinch-hits

Sure, we're down 5-0, but Bobby Hill crushed a double leading off the eighth.

Lanny just pointed out that the Pirates only have eight pinch-hits. Hill has five of the eight. He's 5-for-11 with two walks as a pinch-hitter.

Down 5-0 late in the game.

This sucks. Makes me long for the day the Bucs return to the NL East.

D'Angelo Jimenez

Compare D'Angelo Jimenez and Jack Wilson. Jimenez has 21 walks and 102 at-bats for .216 / .343 / .352. Wilson has two walks and 102 at-bats for .363 / .377 / .549. Both bat at the top of the lineup. D'AJ has 17 runs and 12 RBIs; JW has 14 runs and 12 RBIs. The Reds have scored 130 runs and the Pirates have scored 102 runs, so percentage-wise D'AJ has scored 13% and driven in 9% of his team's runs. With JW the numbers are 14% and 12%.

Who has shown better plate discipline?


It's a full-on rush for the honor of Man Who Protects Baseball:
U.S. Rep George Nethercutt, a Washington Republican who is a former part-owner of the Greensboro Bats and the Michigan Battle Cats minor league teams, sent a letter to Selig protesting the decision.

"Little Leaguers deserve to see their heroes slide into bases, not ads," wrote Nethercutt, who is running for U.S. Senate.

They do not. Little leaguers, like all children, deserve good shelter, healthy food, clean water and air, lots of love from the grownups, high-quality medical care, and plenty of educational and economic opportunity. They do not "deserve" to watch baseball on television. They do not "deserve" to go see Spider-Man. If they "deserve" a trip to the ballpark, they do not "deserve" to see their heroes sliding into "bases, not ads." It's absurd that members of our government would take time off from our real problems to participate in such distractions. Do Pee-Wee League football players "deserve" to see their heroes run across a football field that does not have an ad at the fifty-yard line? This is vote-mongering, pure and simple. It's free to complain, right, and the media will lavish attention on politicians who make such complaints. Why can't we have a better media?

...did anyone blow his horn and rally the sheep to protest the painting of ads on the fifty-yard-line during bowl games? If little leaguers deserve to see their heroes sliding into bases not ads, don't pee-wee leaguers deserve to see their heroes crossing 50-yard lines not ads? Don't big wheelers deserve to see their heroes driving cars not ads?

Happy Mondy pt. 2

From Joe Rutter's article in the Tribune-Review:
To celebrate his good fortune, Mondesi went on a spending spree at Louis Vuitton yesterday. He bought a watch for left-handed reliever Mike Johnston as payback for Johnston giving up his No. 43 in spring training to Mondesi.

Mondesi also bought Louis Vuitton gifts for Tike Redman, Carlos Rivera and J.J. Davis.

"I have my money," Mondesi said, playfully jumping up and down.

That was all Mondesi would say about the matter.

"I really want to concentrate on baseball now," he said.

What a goofball.

Davis probably out of here

Read between the lines. If Mac says can't play both corners, he's buried very deep on the depth chart. Davis understands the situation. He's even whining about it:
"I don't think they like me over here," said Davis, who is hitting .100 with two RBI in 14 games and who has struggled in the outfield.
Nothing against you personally, J.J., but your outfield play has been sad and you've been lost at the plate and we have a half-dozen guys who can do your job better than you.

A lot of teams could use him as AAA depth. On another team, if given the chance to play everyday, Davis could surprise people. I'm sure Littlefield's on the phone this week.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004


Does Roger Clemens always work this slowly?

Happy Mondy

He'll get his dough.

That high school guy

At the end of March we did a long rant about criticism of the way Littlefield has drafted and esp. with the Paul Maholm over Jeff Allison pick which embodied, for a lot of critics, the college vs. high school options. That long post may not have been our most shining moment, but there are some good points in there. FWIW, Allison is out of baseball again. At Lynchburg, in five starts and 30 innings, Maholm has allowed zero homers, eighteen strikeouts, nine walks, and 24 hits for a 1.29 ERA. He may never make the big leagues but he looks like a better prospect than Allison.

Flat Earth Society

Jay Jaffe has a nice full-on rant about some people at ESPN and their idiocy on OBP. There's a lot of good stuff there, like a run expectancy chart, and Jaffe's right.

I enjoy the anti-sabermetric backlash. We need to debate these things, and having all kinds of views on the new ideas is the quickest way to weed the weak ones from the strong ones.

FWIW, I rarely watch Baseball Tonight. It doesn't interest me. I haven't seen it since last season, and Jaffe's article does nothing to convince me that I'm missing anything. Give me games, games, and more games, and give me box scores to read and beat writers to read.

Bucs on Old Time Radio

Anyone know of any recordings of Pirates games from the mid-20s to the mid-50s? Not necessarily famous games but typical ones. Were they recorded? Do collectors trade them as they trade other old-time shows? I'd like to hear a few. If anyone knows how that could be accomplished, send me an email. The link is on the right. Thanks.

Ed Eagle's Q & A with Dave Littlefield

Ed Eagle asked some good, specific questions about players and got some nice answers from David Littlefield.

Littlefield is saying all the right things about Kris Benson. More than anything, we want him to pitch well and we want him to pitch well for us. It sounds like Sanchez is a ways from playing everyday and it sounds like Bay is going through a very cautious rehabilitation schedule.

Meyer on Davis

Great Q & A with Paul Meyer today. He knows things. One thing of interest to the discussion here: J.J. Davis, if claimed on waivers, can be assigned to AAA and stay there forever. In other words, there's zero chance that he'll slip through waivers. Putting him on waivers will be the same thing as giving him away.

It would be unfortunate but nothing that would sink the ship. Quality corner outfielders are easy to come by, and we have Ruben Mateo mashing it up for Nashville. The Bucs need to focus on developing up-the-middle players who hit the ball often and hit the ball hard. Our future success depends more on Jack Wilson, Jose Castillo, Bobby Hill, Freddy Sanchez, and Tike Redman than it does on the less graceful guys who field at the positions which don't command enormous salaries on the free agent market. Say Jack Wilson keeps this up and finishes the year .280 / .340 / .400. The Bucs would be out $4M-$5M per year to replace that production if they don't have an in-house option. Say they lose all their right fielders. For $2M per year they can sign a guy like Reggie Sanders.

Supporting your man vs. making excuses

Mac on Fogg:
"I thought Josh threw the ball extremely well," said McClendon. "That's a tough lineup over there and in this ballpark you are probably going to give up some long balls from time to time. He certainly kept us in the ballgame and gave us an opportunity to win the game."
It's one thing to support Fogg and to believe he can make another step forward as a starter. It's a totally different thing to excuse his propensity for home runs. Every time he starts, he gives up home runs. Fogg giving up home runs is as recurring a thing as Barry Bonds hitting them. You can't excuse them on a case-by-base basis every single time. That's sticking your head in the sand. It's weak and makes Mac look like he's playing favorites. Is he going to excuse Craig Wilson's boneheaded plays at first? "It's hard to play on the road and in the first inning, often your head isn't in the game." Will he excuse Chris Stynes's inability to hit for power? "The opposing pitchers are very good. One of those foul balls went a country mile. I think he's swinging the bat really good." Standing up for your guy is one thing, making excuses for him is another.

The Bucs have scored 100 runs in 24 games. That's 4.16 runs per game. If your starter is going to "keep you in the game" and your offense only scores 4.16 runs per game, your starter can't allow more than 3 runs in seven innings (well, 3.24 runs) without leaving the game in a such shape, as Fogg did yesterday, that the bullpen has no margin for error. How many times will the Bucs be "in the game" after the starter gives up four runs? Are you really giving your team much of an opportunity to win if you give the ball to the bullpen in a position where they can't allow a single run more? If Mac honestly thinks that it's the starter's job only to not get blown out, he needs to re-examine his priorities. Do we play the game to win, or do we play the game to lose by just a few runs?

We support the decision to stick with Fogg a little while longer, but we're not buying the half-truths. Josh Fogg will be just fine in or out of the rotation, and he'll make plenty of money as a big-leaguer, and he has a long career in baseball ahead of him if and only if his managers recognize his abilities for what they are. They need to put in him in a role where he can be effective.

Speaking of making excuses, Mac doesn't have them for J.J. Davis:

"It didn't look good out there [in right field] tonight," McClendon conceded. "I don't know if it was the wind or what it was. It didn't look very good. [He was] not very confident out there tonight."
No excuses - that's good. J.J. Davis is a big boy. You don't have to be Dusty Baker to say the truth about poor play. If you'll do it for Davis, you gotta do it for Fogg.

One last thing. Ed Eagle quotes Mac as summing up the loss this way: ""We just didn't get the big hit when we needed it," McClendon said." Every out could have been a big hit, of course, but let's not piss on Bobby Hill and Abe Nunez. Both those guys came through as pinch-hitters. The game wouldn't have been close at all if Hill didn't drive in Castillo and later, make it home to score just ahead of a tag at the plate. The only starter to leave more than two on was Jason Kendall, and we're not going to listen to people run that guy down for not getting the hits when the team needs them most. In the rush to make excuses for Josh Fogg, don't pin blame on the hitters.

It was a subpar start from Josh Fogg - two homers, four earned runs. It may be good by Josh Fogg standards, but it's not good if winning is your standard. And it was an average performance for the hitters.

If you don't speak the truth, you compound the problems which make the truth difficult to speak.

Davis vs. Hill

Here's some idle speculation to start a new day. Should the Bucs risk losing Davis on waivers? The answer might be yes.

Davis's play has been shaky in all aspects. The Bucs have a number of AAA outfielders who have earned big-league playing time. Ruben Mateo, for one, and maybe even Tony Alvarez. Luke Allen could be serviceable. It's not like they don't have depth in the outfield in the high minors. With Wilson, Mondesi, Redman, Bay, and Mackowiak, it's not certain the Bucs would have to tap that depth unless there was a trade or a plague of injuries.

The extra bench players should be good bench players. I've heard speculation that the "loser" of the 2B derby will be the first to leave the roster. That seems very wrong to me. Jose Castillo is doing too well and is too young to move to a lower level of competition. Bobby Hill has been dynamite in his part-time play. A case could be made for demoting him so he can play everyday and work on his defense. If the Bucs lose Jack Wilson in the offseason, Jose Castillo could start at SS and Bobby Hill could start at 2B next year. Hill is a little old to put back in the freezer, I think, and his upside with the bat is too appealing to not explore more fully at this level.

There's more. For the purposes of winning now, building attendance, and thus giving the team a chance at higher payroll numbers, Bobby Hill is a guy to keep on the bench and in the lineup several times a week. The Castillo/Hill platoon is working well now. Why fix what isn't broken? They should take Stynes, Nunez, Davis, and maybe Carlos Rivera off the big-league roster, and not necessarily in that order, before they return Bobby Hill to the minors. What has Stynes done as a hitter? His strong defense at 3B makes him a valuable defensive replacement. There's no good reason to keep both Stynes and Nunez on the bench.

If Bay is ready to play the field every day before the next random injury makes room on the roster, the strong play of Ruben Mateo may make J.J. Davis expendable. Davis is definitely not worth keeping just for the sake of keeping. The value of a player is relative; every guy on the big-league roster is worth only as much as he's an improvement over the guy who would replace him. If Davis stays and Hill goes, Davis better start walloping the ball as a pinch-hitter or the team will be more of a loser.

What the Pirates could really use is a trade, but what could they get for J.J. Davis? A draft pick? Money? A low-A left-handed slugger? Who could use Davis right now?

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Better than Haynes but still a loser

The hits and walk numbers were OK tonight but the man gives up too many home runs. This isn't a new or fluke thing. It's recurring, it's consistent, it's been part of Fogg's pitching profile since the very start. He's easy to hit hard. That's a serious problem. Tonight it was two homers and four earned runs in seven innings. And the Bucs lose 4-3. Fogg's an innings-eater when he's good but when he's good he's still below average. He lets the other team score too often. Home runs will do that. I guess he's buying time for the minor league guys to get it together.

If you want to be positive, you can also note that he was better than Jimmy Haynes tonight.

Tike walks

Work it, Tike, work it.

.378 OBP = poor plate discipline?

Idly touring about different basball sites, in two places we find writers expressing cynicism about high-BA, low-walk-rate hitters this year. Adrian Beltre and Jack Wilson are the objects of "enlightened" skepticism (as though enlightenment and cynicism ever go hand-in-hand). Both are hitting in the .360s with just a few walks. Since there's no risk in predicting that both players will finish the year with lower batting averages, it's absurd to venture that argument like a prophet, even if you come bearing evidence of low walk rates.

Sure, no one expects either hitter to keep up that batting average. But here's what I don't get. If you are hitting .360, how can it be said that you have shown poor plate discipline? The point of plate discipline is hitting pitches with authority. A guy who hits .220 with few walks is a fair target, but anyone hitting in the .360s has shown great plate discipline in my book. You can't hit in the .360s without being selective and judicious at the plate.

Another thing to consider is that the prototypical high-BA, high-OBP slugger (e.g., Albert Pujols) draws a lot of walks because teams pitch around him or refuse to give him anything good to hit. Jack Wilson doesn't have the power to draw those kinds of walks. Over the last 21 days, he's hitting .338 with one walk in fifteen games. Only five of his fifteen hits have gone for extra bases. If he does that all year, the man has awesome plate discipline. That .358 OBP considerably exceeds our hopes and dreams for the little guy. He won't be Albert Pujols but he will be a big plus in the number two hole if he can maintain this kind of production. If the walks don't pick up when the hits fall off, then we can start to question his approach at the plate. Until then, let's not be fools and whine that he's not walking as often as Albert Pujols or Manny Ramirez.

Tike Redman is a good example of a guy who should be encouraged to show more patience at the plate. He's hit .216 with one walk in his last 74 appearances. This guy is pressing and the few walks don't suggest he's just going through a spell when he's not getting pitches to drive.

...8pm update: Steve Novotney at the Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register reports that Jack Wilson has a .400 OBP as a goal this season. Don't tell me he doesn't want to draw walks when he doesn't see a pitch he can crush. And speaking of crushing pitches - holy crap - Jack Wilson just crushed a monster home run off Andy Pettitte. Wow.

Sitting on deck is the Bay

Bay's playing at Nashville:
Rehabbing outfielder Jason Bay ripped a sixth-inning RBI double into the left-field corner to plate pinch-runner Luis Figueroa and record his first hit of the 2004 season. Figueroa pinch-ran for Shumpert, who suffered a left hamstring strain while stealing second during the frame. Bay exited in the top of the seventh, finishing the contest 1-for-3 with a walk and a pair of strikeouts, one swinging and one looking.
Sure will be interesting to see how he gets into the lineup.

...8pm update: Bay's not in the Nashville lineup tonight. Check that link later for the box score.

So he pinch hit. The hitting has been fine, it's the fielding that is shaky. Shoulder surgery is serious business. I can't believe Bay is close to being able to play centerfield at PNC if he sat tonight because he was sore from playing the field the day before. There is no rush, of course, to bring him back. We'd hate to lose him for a longer period of time because he came back too early.

Wow, Ruben Mateo hit his ninth homer.

Politicians and baseball

Ralph Nader blew a gasket over the ads on the MLB uniforms. In a letter to Bud Selig, Nader wrote that the ads "ambushed fans across the country and left them shaking their heads at this obscene embarrassment."

Uh, no. Fans complained about a lot of things but the ads were hardly near the top of the list. Does Nader think he can make a good name for himself by defending baseball from advertising? "This overcommercialization," he also wrote, "is sapping the fun out of being a fan of major league baseball."

Note to Nader, and note to President Bush, who spoke in the SOTU address like he couldn't wait to score points off the BALCO investigation: the danger is not overcommercialism but overpoliticization. Stop monkeying with the games we play for escape. Get to work on the more urgent problems that make the games necessary.

...Weds update: Dave Pinto is talking sense on the question.

Pirates take on Space Cadets

The Buccos start a three-game series with the Astros tonight at Enron Minute Maid park. The park has a strange footprint and the field is kinda square and appealing for right-handed hitters. It's the anti-PNC.

Tonight it's Josh Fogg (no comment) against Andy Pettitte. Since the Astros moved into Enron, they've only had a few left-handed starters - Jeriome Robertson, Ron Villone, and where-is-he-now Carlos Hernandez. In the off-season I had a premonition that Pettitte would struggle at Enron. I dunno why or if it's a smart thing to premonate but his one start at home this year was pretty bad. He's obviously a cut above those other lefties.

Tomorrow it's Kip Wells and Roger Clemens, who needs only a few Ks to reach some kind of milestone. Hopefully they'll stop the game, give him a plaque, and get everyone distracted so the Bucs can sneak a victory at the end. Day after tomorrow we'll see Kris Benson against Wade Miller.

No one said a winning season would be easy.

Craig 'Triple Crown' Wilson and Jose 'That Rolaids Guy' Mesa

Hats off to Craig Wilson for carrying us around on his back. In case you're chained in the cave with Chris Kahrl, Wilson had 2 GWRBI in Beertown and is stroking it to the tune of a 1.154 OPS, third in the NL to San Francisco OF and that beefy Ned Beatty-looking guy. Nice work giving Craig the love he deserves, Rowdy, but Brian Meadows for MVP? Esteban's been great, but Fabio gets my co-MVP vote.

The other half of the MVP goes to a guy I've always respected and who deserves some major props right about now. Jose Mesa is 9 for 9 with a 0.79 ERA, giving up 1 ER, 6 H and 2 BB in 11 2/3rds with 7 Ks. Think about that for a second. The Bucs have won 12 games, and Mesa is 9-FOR-9. (At this rate, when the Bucs take the division with 92 wins, Mesa would have 69 saves.) Where are all the Mesa-haters now? Pretty damn silent. Meanwhile, Mesa has crept into 20th place on the all-time saves list. Mesa earned my eternal respect a long time ago, with his justified opinion of show-off/Salsa-jar-painter/tattletale Omar Vizquel. You have to respect hatred when it predetermines the future of baseball: 'If I face him 10 more times, I'll hit him 10 times. Every time.' By the way and for the record, Omar stunk in the 1997 world series. So keep keepin' it real Jose, and if you get an 11th chance, bean Omar for me.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Chris Kahrl latest victim of dread IHOP virus

In his most recent Transaction Analysis (won't link to it or quote it since it's "premium" content), Chris Kahrl of Baseball Prospectus shows symptoms of IHOP infection.

For those of you in the dark, the IHOP virus - Irrational Hatred of Pirates - has been particularly vicious the last six months. Some trace the outbreak to the false delicacy and outrage shown when the Pirates lost a minor-league DH and others in the Rule V draft.

Kahrl notes that Randall Simon has gone on the DL and uses this as an opportunity to complain that Mac is not playing Craig Wilson every day. We hope a friend will tell Kahrl that Fabio has started every game this year. Craig Wilson has more plate appearances than Jason Kendall. All IHOP sufferers should also be dosed with the truth that Wilson's strongest defensive position is the outfield.

Get well, Chris Kahrl. We wish you a speedy recovery from this painful, sometimes paralyzing illness.

Quotes of the day

Robert Dvorchak collects some good quotes in his Pirates report:
"That guy's Randy Johnson. I didn't know who he was. I had to look him up and saw he came in the [Brian] Giles deal. He's filthy." -- Geoff Jenkins on Oliver Perez. (Jenkins struck out twice and had a two-RBI single off Perez last Saturday.)

"The hardest job in baseball is a bench player, and it's certainly difficult for a young player." -- Lloyd McClendon

"I know my time is coming. When it comes, the world is going to know. Now that I'm here, I'm going to stay here. When you don't play, you have to work harder." -- J.J. Davis

Quotes from other places:
"Hey, if he keeps hitting like that, he can grow it all the way down to his knees if he wants. It's gotta be the hair." -- Lloyd McClendon on Craig Wilson's hitting

"Who's Fabio?" -- Craig Wilson, in response to the taunting he received in Milwaukee

Here's the photo of the day: a nice shot of Wilson's mane.

The tough decisions of Andy Pettitte

Dear Shelly Anderson: Andy Pettitte made $46M during his years with the Yankees. For a little context, at $40K per year, your average Methuselah would need 1150 years to make $46M. It's hard to argue that it requires much heroism to put home before money when you already have more money than most people could spend in a lifetime. Andy Pettitte is a great guy and we wish him well, but let's not lose ourselves in some fantasy about the sacrifice he made to play for the team of his choice.

More on the new color line in Western PA baseball

Go read Chuck Curti's latest piece.

Face it, people: baseball has gentrified. The owners, the managers, the players, the fans, and even the advertisers have never been more well-off or even downright aristocratic. (I don't begrudge Derek Jeter one dime or one adoring look, but just want to point out that the man, like many ball stars, is revered as royalty. And when Jeter graduated from high school, he was "torn" between becoming a doctor (like his pop) or becoming a baseball player. This is a guy who knew, at fourteen, that he would make some money as a grown-up even if his career as a baseball player didn't work out.)

Baseball is no longer the sport of choice for the working, lower-middle, or even middle classes in this country. Pro basketball owners, fans, and players may be just as aristocratic (e.g., "King James") but there's a common perception that more basketball players embody the classic rags-to-riches story that gives this wealth and high position an ironic and alluring edge. A huge reason basketball and football appear to offer more opportunities for economic advancement lies in the fact that they do, in fact, offer more opportunities for economic advancement. Education is the surest path of upward mobility, and today's colleges and universities focus on basketball and football and thus offer many more scholarships for those sports. Youngsters with plenty of dough don't regard their sport of choice as their best chance to attend college. From Curti:

Emphasizing one sport usually means that the goal is to gain a college scholarship. Football and basketball offer many opportunities for athletes to get into college - and perhaps get noticed by pro scouts - via full scholarships.

Baseball, however, does not have the same luxury. The NCAA permits Division I baseball teams to have a maximum of 11.7 scholarships, hardly enough to fill out a roster of 25 to 30 players.

Garrido says most college baseball players are on one-half to one-quarter scholarships. And many colleges don't even get the full 11.7 to offer. Duquesne University, for example, gets eight.

"There's just not much incentive for African-American athletes," says Garrido.

These guys are looking for financial incentive and baseball does not provide it. No doubt many African-American athletes won't attend college without some kind of athletic scholarship. Until more African-American families live in affluence, not so many pre-teen African American athletes will choose baseball. College athletes who fail to make the NBA or NFL can at least graduate with a college degree. College-aged baseball athletes who are good enough to warrant the support of a pro team are going to play in the low minors. Last I checked, four years at Williamsport, Hickory, and Lynchburg will not qualify a young man for other lines of work as will four years at State College.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Bucs in third place

I like the way the standings look tonight.

Now that the Pirates (.522) have a better winning percentage than Secret Agent Shelton's Tigers (.520), do you think they'll get any love as the feel-good story of the hour?

I should be feeling pretty good in about an hour. We'll be raising the Jolly Roger around the old sangria well.

Cleaning up today

Doing a little spring cleaning today. First I picked up all the dirty laundry in the bedroom and bathroom. Then I gathered up all the stray dishes - mainly wine-stained cups and mugs. Then I GOT OUT MY BROOM AND SWEPT THE BREWERS the second floor. All this with KDKA cranking through the 2270. Lanny just did a hilarious "Raise the Jolly Roger" thing to toast the sweep.

Bucs have won six straight on the road and run the record to 12-11.

Secret agent Jeff Bennett served the game-winning home run to Jim Thome Craig A. Wilson. He'll get plenty of high fives when the Brewers return him later this season.

Brian Meadows for MVP.

Vogelsong good today

Doesn't matter what happens if he comes back for the seventh. Vogelsong pitched out of a huge jam (bases loaded, no outs) in the sixth and has been solid all day.


We love the Derby and planned to post some bets but forgot in the rush of other things that we do when we're not parked in front of the computer. My horse was Imperialism, who showed, but I wouldn't have made enough on the race to pay for all the exacta boxes I'd have placed with him. We've been gambling on Kent Desormeaux since the mid-80s. I forget if it was Delaware Park or Pimlico, but he was winning 25% of his races - easily better than the rest of the jockeys - and there was nothing better than Desormeaux on a 6-1 horse.

Complete game victory

Bob Smizik tossed a gem for today's PG. I dunno what the Bucs will do if they expect to win, grow the fanbase, and keep the payroll as low as it is right now.

Steve Blass and Tom Seaver

Now on KDKA (yeah I'm working Gameday audio), Tom Seaver and Steve Blass are talking about pitch counts. Some of it is harmful macho bullshit, and some of it wily veteran wisdom. You decide which is which.

Seaver says a pitcher only has velocity, movement, and location, and that he must maintain at least two of those three weapons to be effective.

Seaver says that if these radar guns are accurate and today's kids are throwing 95, then he was throwing 105, 110 and Nolan Ryan threw 120.

Seaver says that it is a "huge mistake" to develop pitchers "that go five or six innings."

Seaver says he used to go 12 innings, and Spahn used to go 14 innings.

Seaver says his pitch count was 135. He knew his pitch count when he left the dugout to pitch the seventh inning and wouldn't use eight pitches on a number eight hitter. 135 is where he ran out of gas so he worked hard to stay under that number.

Seaver says that every pitcher should have a different pitch count.

Someone ask Seaver what adjustments he used to make when he was pitching to a lineup full of home-run hitters on a windy day with the wind blowing out. Did he nibble more, or did he smoke it down the middle the same way he did against teams of utility infielders playing in huge parks?

Someone should also ask Seaver if he thinks the lack of foul territory in today's ballparks means that today's pitchers have to throw more pitches to get through an inning.

The Bucs pay Steve Blass to coach the fans on KDKA. It's obvious that he has tremendous respect for Tom Seaver, but someone should sit down with Blass and let him know that it would be OK to disagree with - or at least temper - some of the dramatic exaggerations that drop from Seaver's mouth. I shudder to think that some ten-year-old in the back of a minivan thinks that Oliver Perez is a wuss because he only throws 100 pitches and leaves after five innings.

Ned Yost thinking in terms of pitch counts

On the pregrame show coming out of Milwaukee, Ned Yeast Yost (Brewer's manager) noted that the Bucs pitchers are very young, throw very hard, and very tough to hit "when they're on." He said yesterday with Perez "throwing 94-96 MPH with that big breaking ball," they were only able to hit him by hanging in there and "getting his pitch count up." If that's the opposing manager's strategy - get the pitch count up - Mac should do what, tell Vogelsong to throw strikes? Shit I think the manager better say that before every game.

Chuck Curti on the "re-drawn" color line in baseball

The first of three articles by Chuck Curti on the shifting demographics of baseball playing has appeared in today's Times.

All the hand-wringing about the few African-American teenagers interested in baseball may be misguided. I can relate to people who are interested in diversity for diversity's sake, and think a baseball team is best if the players look different and talk different and think different and thus bring people together. Historically, that's been one of the major contributions of baseball (and later, all pro sports). The MLB playing field has never been so diverse, however, as the major leagues draw in players from all corners of the globe. We have South American players, Korean players, Japanese players, Mexican players, and so on.

So the "problem" outlined in Curti's piece is not one of growing homogeneity at the big-league level. No top-quality players are systematically excluded from professional rosters because of the color of the skin. No one can complain that the big-league teams are turning qualified players away for such foolish reasons these days. That's why the state of baseball today does not compare so well with the state of baseball before the integration of Negro league players.

The "problem" is the growing homogeneity - described as "whiteness" here - of baseball players on the American sandlots, Pony league fields, high school, and college teams. It's not that high schoolers aren't playing baseball. It's that not too many African-American high schoolers are playing baseball. Plenty of people of color are playing ball in their teenage years - but not so much in this country.

I've noticed a trend among ballplayers that echoes the broader trend responsible for the whitening described by Curti. The problem is not race but economics. It seems like every other hot prospect is the son of a millionaire former ballplayer and that every front-office heartthrob has come from the Ivy Leagues. Baseball was once the great sport of immigrants. Sure, there was Christy Matthewson, but it was Honus Wagner who popularized the sport for most of the people in the stands. The cheap seats are gone and now every seat is a luxury seat. Compared to the "good old days" of the deadball era, baseball games today are terribly expensive events (so are movies). Over the last fifty years, the disposable income of the lower and middle classes has been evaporating as a combination of factors (e.g. the stagnation of wages, the rise in property and commuting costs) has forced a growing percentage of lower- and middle-class families to be supported by two or more full-time jobs. The lower and middle classes not only have less money to spend for baseball tickets that are relatively more expensive, they also have less time to attend games. As the mass of park-going fans has trended upscale, it's no surprise that the sport has lost most of its lower-income fans. The move from day to night games and from radio to television broadcasting has also compounded the problems which have driven away the poorer fans. How can you follow the game when you can't afford to go to the ballpark, and almost all the ballgames are at night, on television, up against other kinds of programming that you prefer to watch? Before 1960, the average baseball fan listened to games on the radio if they couldn't go to the park. Football and basketball make more compelling television, for whatever reason. If you want more fans among poor people, baseball should do more to market their product on the radio so working people can follow the team while they do their jobs. Why not rebroadcast games at 1pm every day? Many people would prefer to listen to baseball at work than the same old classic rock station or the same old right-wing rantfest.

Of course, since poor people have less money, not too many big-money entertainment businesses instinctively cater to (much less sympathize with) their needs. The truth is, major-league baseball does not want to grow their fan base among the immigrant, the poor, the lower middle classes. At least I see no evidence that this is the case.

Until baseball recaptures the imagination of the working poor, no one can expect the demographics of teenage ballplayers to match anything other than the upscale demographics of the modern fan. I've always found the bean-counting diversity standards (how many whites? how many blacks?) economically oppressive. I've known many "elite" people who were proud of the racial diversity they lived in, but, at the same time, harbored the most offensive prejudice against poor people. My guess would be that a majority of the African-American high school and college players are just as well-off as their white teammates. Baseball has been gentrified and the process of gentrification shows no signs of slowing down.

In the end, though, we have to remember that baseball is a game. There's no great moral imperative for diversity and balance on the playing field the same way, for example, there is for diversity and balance in government. Why should a baseball purist care if high-school baseball is becoming something like golf, tennis, or polo in America? There is no shortage of local and international talent to stock our professional leagues. This really isn't a grave issue. It doesn't hurt a community terribly to have no black American baseball players on the diamond at City High. It does hurt a community terribly to have no black American politicians down at City Hall.

Doug Davis's facial hair

This guy needs show more self-respect and stop playing games with his face. WTF? How is that going to help with the ladies, or intimidate your opponent? When I see a guy with shit like this on his face I think he lives in some kind of aristocratic cocoon, like he's some kind of trust-fund college boy who can afford to be cheerfully oblivious of the snap judgments most people make when they see this. Try showing up for work at Cracker Barrel with this kind of Raul Julia skate-rat look.