August 22, 2002

Pennant Races and Wild Cards

Rob Neyer wrote a good column yesterday about the 3-way battle going on in the AL West.

He talked about how great it is to wake up in the morning and look in the paper (or on a website) and see, as you would have today:

American League West

Anaheim 75 50 .600 -

Oakland 76 51 .598 -

Seattle 76 51 .598 -

And I agree, nothing beats that.

Well, almost nothing.

For this to truly be a compelling race, like say the 1993 NL West, the team or teams that did not finish in 1st place would have to actually not make the playoffs.

As it is now, with the Wild Card, the loser of this division race will likely end up getting into post season play as the Wild Card.

So, instead of 3 teams fighting for 1 spot in the playoffs, we have 3 teams fighting for 2 spots in the playoffs.

Kinda takes a little bit of the drama out of it doesn't it?

Which brings me to the Wild Card.

First of all, I am 20 years old, so I don't think I could be considered "old school" or a "purist."

That said, I do not like the Wild Card.

I realize that, as this point, it is here to stay.

I could actually see Budzilla adding even more teams to the post season in the future.

But, I still don't like it.

It was nice that Oakland was able to be in the playoffs last season after winning 102 games and finishing 14 games back of Seattle.

And it was fun to see Pedro and the Red Sox in the 1999 playoffs after finishing 4 back of New York.

And the 1999 Subway Series was great and was made possible by the Mets winning the Wild Card after finishing 6.5 games below Atlanta.

Heck, the Florida Marlins were the Wild Card in 1997 and the ended up winning the World Series.

But unless I am missing something, those are pretty much the best things the Wild Card has given us.

And what has it taken away?

Well, a lot...

Not including this season, there have been at least 8 good, old-fashioned division races that were ruined:

In 1995 the Colorado Rockies won the Wild Card after finishing 1 game back of Los Angeles.

In 1996 the Dodgers won the WC after finishing 1 game behind of San Diego.

And that same year, the Baltimore Orioles won the Wild Card after they finished 4 games below New York.

In 1997 the Yankees won the WC after finishing 2 games back of Baltimore.

In 1999 the Red Sox won the WC, finishing 4 games behind of New York.

In 2000 the New York Mets won the WC after finishing 1 game worse than Atlanta.

And that same year, over in the AL, the Mariners won the WC after finishing 1/2 a game behind Oakland in the AL West.

How did they finish 1/2 a game behind?

Well, they had the Wild Card to fall back on, so they didn't even care about trying to win the division, thus Oakland didn't even have to play the final game!

Last season, the Cardinals and Astros finished tied for the division lead in the NL Central, both at 93-69.

No one bothered playing a 1 game playoff, because they both made the post season, one as the division winner and one as the WC winner.

And this year?

Well, it will likely take away what would have been a pretty great 3 way race to the AL West division crown.

Instead one team will win it, and another will get in the playoffs by finishing 2nd.

Instead of Seattle having to battle to finish ahead of Oakland and Anaheim in order to make the playoffs, the just need to manage to beat one of them.

I understand wanting to allow more than 2 teams from each league into the post season, but don't do it at the expense of one of baseball's greatest things, the true Pennant Race.

Maybe expand to 32 teams (see, I told you I'm not an "old school" "purist") and make 8 4-team divisions, 4 in each league.

The 8 division winners would be the teams in the playoffs.

That might not be the best solution, but I know it is better than waking up in the morning and seeing:

American League West

Anaheim 75 50 .600 -

Oakland 76 51 .598 -

Seattle 76 51 .598 -

Followed by:

American League Wild Card

Anaheim 75 50 .600 -

Oakland 76 51 .598 -

Seattle 76 51 .598 -

Boston 71 53 .573 3.5



Where is the fun in that?

August 21, 2002

Dick Richie

I was (and still am) watching the Yankees/Angels game on the YES Network this afternoon (as I write this, the score is 1-1 in the 6th).

The announcers for the game are Michael Kay (play-by-play) and Jim Kaat (color).

Something Jim Kaat (whom I really like as an announcer) said really got my attention.

While making small talk, Kay asked Kaat if he ever "hung out with" any hitters when he played.

Kaat quickly said that, yes, he often hung out with the catchers.

Kay then asked Kaat if he ever hung with any hitters that were not catchers.

Kaat's response? "Hmmm...let me think about that..."

And he literally did. The 3rd out of the inning was made and they went to commercial as Kay said, "and Jim will get the next half inning to think..."

When they came back from commercial Kaat was ready with his answer...

"The hitter I hung out with the most was probably Dick Allen. . .great teammate, great player. . .we shared an interest in horses. . .when we were in Cincinnati we went to see Secretariat. . .he was a delight to play with because he learned under Gene Mauch and he loved to play the game the right way. . .he was great to be around. . .his nickname was "Mose" because he was the Moses that led the White Sox out of the wilderness."

I am too young to have seen Dick Allen play (in fact he retired 7 years before I was born) so all I know about him is what I have read.

After digging around my room for a while (see what I do for you people!) I found the book I was looking for:

Bill James' Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?

Here is what James had to say about Dick Allen:

"[Allen] did more to keep his teams from winning than anybody else who ever played major league baseball. And if that's a Hall of Famer, I'm a lug nut."

I've never met Bill James in person, so I am not sure if he is, in fact, a lugnut.

James also said:

"Allen never did anything to help his teams win, and in fact spent his entire career doing everything he possible could to keep his teams from winning."

"Allen was a jerk."

There was an interesting thread going over at BaseballPrimer.com a while ago about Dick Allen.

Don Malcolm (from BigBadBaseball.com) wrote a piece entitled "The Man on the Outside Looking In," about Dick Allen's Hall of Fame credentials.

A few quotes from Malcom's piece:

"Dick Allen is the only player being kept out of the Hall due to something people think he did. In Dick's case, that would more accurately be phrased "something people think he is.""

"Such an occurrence is definitely a form of discrimination, but it's still something that can be rectified. Everyone knows that Dick Allen was a great hitter; there's just all that other baggage that they're afraid to open. One gets the impression that everyone is worried that if he were to be up on the dais at Cooperstown, he'd expose himself or something. The whole thing would be funny if it weren't so sad."

So, having not been alive when Allen was playing and having read such things about him as James' book and Malcolm's piece, you can see where I could be a little surprised at what I heard Jim Kaat say about him this afternoon.

James also said this about Allen:

"As time passes, the evaluation of a player comes to rest more and more on his statistics. There is a simple reason for this, which is that everything else tends to be forgotten. His statistics remain the exactly the same, and eventuall the statistics become the central part of the player's image."

That quote basically sums up my feelings about Dick Allen and his Hall of Fame credentials.

I never saw him play and, although I have read things about his personality, the thing I look at the most are his stats.

And let me you, if you didn't know already, Dick Allen could flat out hit.

He ranks 20th all-time in career Adjusted OPS+, tied with Willie Mays and ahead of guys like Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio, Frank Robinson, Ralph Kiner, Mike Schmidt, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell, Harmon Killebrew and a lot of other great hitters.

Just like Tim Raines, Dick Allen belongs in the Hall of Fame.

August 20, 2002

News and notes

Random thoughts while wondering if my beloved 2002 Twins will turn into the 1994 Expos...

Rock...

My uncle had a really good friend that pitched for the Univerity of Minnesota (the school that I now attend) years ago and spent some time in the Expos' minor league system in the late 70s, before blowing his arm out.

When I was a kid, probably like 11 or 12, I was playing catch with him one day (it was really fun, he thew sub-marine style and really fast) and I asked him who the best player he ever played with was.

He immediately said Rock Raines.

I didn't know who Rock Raines was (I was just a kid and not yet the total baseball geek that I am today).

He explained to me that Tim Raines' nickname was "Rock."

I asked why and he said, basically, that Tim Raines had a head filled with rocks.

Since then, I have seen Raines play on TV and have heard him refererred to, many times, by Expos or Marlins announcers as Rock Raines.

A couple of times the announcers went so far as to explain the nickname.

They said, basically, that Tim Raines has always been in great shape, his body is like a rock.

I, of course, know the real reason for the nickname.

I suspect the announcers do to, but you aren't likely to hear this on a Marlins' telecast:

"Tim "Rock" Raines steps to the plate...he is hitting .257 on the year...you know, they call Tim "Rock" because he is a complete idiot...Raines takes the first pitch for a strike..."

As for Rock as a player?

Well, he was pretty great.

In fact, I believe Tim Raines is one of the most under-rated players of the last 20-30 years.

He played for the Expos, which didn't help him get noticed and his game was getting on base and scoring runs, not hitting homers and driving in runs, which usually gets someone noticed.

Also, he was only the 2nd best guy at doing the things he did, because there was a guy named Henderson who got on base a little bit and stole some bases.

Tim Raines broke into the majors in 1979, at the age of 19, playing in 6 games, stealing 2 bases and not batting a single time.

In 1980 Raines got another small taste of the bigs, playing 15 games, stealing 5 bases and actually getting to the plate 27 times.

In 1981 Raines, 21, was up for good.

He had 313 at bats and hit .304/.391/.438 with 71 steals.

A 21 year old, in his first season in the majors, hitting .300 with good plate discipline (45 walks in 313 ABs) and stealing almost a base per game (71 SB in 88 G).

Wow. That is what I would call a star in the making.

And he was.

Starting in 1981 and lasting for 18 straight seasons, Tim Raines had an on-base % over .350.

And, most of the time, it was way over .350.

Included in the streak were on-base percentages of: .391, .393, .393, .405, .413, .429, .395, .379, .380, .401, .374, .383, .403 and .395.

The 18 year streak was ended in 1999 when he had an OBP of only .337.

Raines retired after that season because he was suffering from lupus.

He took a year off and then came back last season with the Expos, hitting .303/.413/.449 at the age of 41.

This year, Raines has struggled and he announced that this will be his final season.

Although he is still getting on base a lot (.360 OBP), he is hitting only .179 and slugging just .269.

He has only started 2 games all season and has only 67 at bats.

I still think, given some at bats for a veteran team in need of a 4th outfielder, Raines could be having a productive season, sort of like that Henderson guy I mentioned earlier.

In 5 years when the time comes to vote, I hope Tim Raines is elected to the Hall of Fame.

I think it might be a struggle, especially on the first try, but he absolutely deserves it.

Lieberthal's deal...

The Phillies recently agreed to a 3-year contact extension with catcher Mike Lieberthal.

The contract is for $22.25 million, or about $7.5 million a season.

For those of you who don't remember, I wrote an entry a while ago about Darin Erstad's 4-year contract extension with the Angels, which was worth $32 million, or $8 million per season.

Basically, I thought (and still think) that the Erstad deal, while certainly not a great signing, was a decent one.

If I had a team with a mid-sized payroll, which the Angels (15th in payroll this season) do, I would not be against signing Darin Erstad for $8 million a season, for 4 years.

That said, I think the Mike Lieberthal signing is a pretty bad one.

There are some obvious similarities between the two situations.

The Phillies, like the Angels, have a mid-size payroll (17th this season).

And the contract, like Erstad's is for about $8 million a season.

So, you might asking, "Why do you think one signing is good and the other is bad if they are so similar?"

Well, I am glad you asked...

The Angels signed a player who played in 157 games in 2000 and 157 games in 2001, to a 4 year contract that covers his age 29, 30, 31 and 32 seasons.

The Phillies signed a player who played in 108 games in 2000 and 34 games in 2001, to a 3 year contract that covers his age 31, 32 and 33 seasons.

The kicker is, and I haven't mentioned it yet mostly for dramatic effect, Mike Lieberthal is a catcher.

So, as bad I think signing any player who has played in 108 games in 2000 and 34 games in 2001 to a contract that pays him until he is 33 is, it is exponentially worse to do so with a catcher.

All that said, Mike Lieberthal is having a nice (and pretty healthy) year and when he isn't injured, he is a good hitter.

But, he has shown the ability to not stay healthy and he is already on the wrong side of 30, which is bad for any player, but even worse for an oft-injured catcher.

More on Burnett...

I already vented my anger on this topic already, so I will try to be brief. A.J. Burnett is likely out for the season and there are some interesting quotes coming from various Marlins.

First and foremost...

"We would never do anything to hurt him. With the future the guy's got? No way." - Marlins' "manager" Jeff Torborg.

I already touched on this quote yesterday, in great detail, but basically, they did almost everything to hurt him.

Specifically huge pitch counts and unnecessary complete games, which add up to him being, at only 25 years old, one of the most abused pitchers in baseball.

And then this one...

"We didn't see this coming. He has been a workhorse all year. He has been terrific." - Marlins' GM Larry Beinfest.

This quote just made me angrier.

It is almost as if the Marlins' think that the very things that likely caused Burnett to become injured (pitching long into games and being a "workhorse") are things that should have prevented him from getting hurt.

Which is like saying, "We didn't see this coming. Joe got drunk and drove home every night and never had a problem. He is a great drunk driver."

A.J. Burnett constantly throwing tons of pitches and being a "workhorse" are what caused his injury, not what should have prevented it.

Just like a guy getting drunk every night and driving are what caused the car crash, not what should have prevented it.

See, now I am all worked up again...

August 19, 2002

I hate to say I told you so...

This blog was started way back on August 1st of this year.

My first ever entry was about Marlins' pitcher A.J. Burnett.

Here are a few quotes:

"Burnett has been one of baseball's top pitchers throughout the season and he was awesome tonight, but the way his manager, Jeff Torborg, is using him has me worried about his future."

"There is just no way that a 25 year old pitcher in his 2nd full season in the majors should be allowed to consistently throw that many pitches, start after start after start."

"Burnett has been great this year and he looks like he will be a stud for years to come. But the way he is being treated makes me think he is in line for some arm troubles."

Since that post, Burnett has started 3 games.

93 pitches on August 7th

123 pitches on August 12

117 pitches yesterday

And today, just as I predicted, A.J. Burnett was placed on the disabled list after complaining about a sore elbow.

According to what I have read, he is likely done for the entire season.

In addition to what this does to my Diamond-Mind keeper league team (I was counting on A.J. to be the ace of my staff next year) this really pisses me off.

One quote by Marlins' "manager" Jeff Torborg really got to me.

When asked if Burnett would be rushed back into the rotation, Torborg said:

"We would never do anything to hurt him. With the future this guy's got, no way."

What a F@!%ing moron!

This kid is 25 years old and he is averaging 112 pitcher per start!

He is second only to Randy Johnson in pitcher abuse!

He has 7 complete games!

This year he has games of 124, 125, 125, 121, 128, 127, 128, 132, 128 and 123 pitches!

All while pitching for a team that is over 20 games back in their division!

What Jeff Torberg and the rest of the entire Marlins' "organization" has done to this kid is criminal.

I only hope that the rest of this season is all that they have taken away from Burnett.

I suspect it will probably end up being more than that.

They may end up taking away some velocity or some command or the majority of his career.

But hey, as Torberg says, "We would never to anything to hurt him."

Sponsoring

I have found something new to spend what very little money I have on.

Over at Baseball-Reference.com (which happens to be the best baseball site ever) you can now "sponsor" the various player and/or team pages.

Depending on how popular a player is, the prices range from $5 to hundreds of dollars.

If you wanna check out what a "sponsored" player page looks like, check out Adam Dunn.

Yep, that's right, Adam Dunn is now property of yours truly.

I also am proud to own Torii Hunter, Bobby Kielty, Miguel Tejada and Johan Santana.

I think it is a pretty cool way for a great site to get funding and it is extremely addictive.

And, hopefully, it will be a good way to get people to check out this blog.

If I actually had any money, it could really get out of hand.

I have seen this on other small (free) sites and I am not sure if there would be any interest in it on this one, but if anyone was interested in possibly "sponsoring" a player in my name (or the name of this website) I would really appreciate it.

You can get some pretty good players for $5 or $10.

It would be a nice way of showing you enjoy my site and it would also help get others to discover the site.

If you want to do it, just drop me an email and we can decide on a good player to sponsor.

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