Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I have to get everything done (blogging, facebook, etc.) before 8:00 because our satellite is out. That means no DVR and we have to watch AI and Lost in real time, with commercials, no pause capability, and the rabbit ears. (I usually hit pause a couple times a show so that I can tell Rachel my theories that always turn out to be wrong, usually in that same episode.) Damages is on, too, but that's on a lot throughout the week so we can hopefully catch it later in the week. I guess the satellite signal won't go through an inch of ice, and I'm not going to get on the roof right now to work on it.

I can't imagine life without the DVR.

Stormy Weathers

Appropriately, on a day like today the Reds agreed to a contract with David Weathers. He gets $3.5 mil. That's $.5 mil more than the Reds offered in arbitration, but $1 mil less than he asked for. There is a club option for '10, with a $400K buyout, meaning Stormy is guaranteed $3.9 mil, closer to his number than the Reds', but a nice club option for the team.

Jon Garland

It looks like Garland has signed with the D'Backs in the N.L. West. Garland is (was?) a Blue Sock and one of my keeper options for '09. To be honest, though, I'm not that disappointed. I really didn't want to keep him and now I don't have to decide. Last year, I let Ervin Santana go, and I'm still regretting it. I can now let Garland go and not worry about him having a great year, as unlikely as I think that is.

Abreu and free agency

According to Buster Olney, Bobby Abreu (and perhaps other free agents such as Adam Dunn) may now be willing to take a one-year deal. I'm a little torn on what this might mean for the Reds. Obviously, Abreu would be a better outfielder than Chris Dickerson. With Castellini's win now approach it seems like a no-brainer. Go for Abreu and start selling season tickets again. But for Abreu to take a one-year deal, he would have to approach it from a "have a great season in '09 and hope that the market turns around next year" approach. This would be cheap for the Reds, but do they really want to pay about $8 mil. for one year of Abreu? Especially if that year is '09, the "year before" the Reds are ready to win. To me a much better approach for the Reds would be a one-year deal plus a club option for '10, if they can get Abreu to take that. But I don't see him taking the one year with an option. That defeats his purpose. What's more likely now is a two-year deal. If you're a club looking for a bargain, why not make it a two-year bargain? If Abreu won't do a year and an option, the Reds should go ahead and offer him two years. They can make a run at .500 this year and a run at the division in '10. (Harang and Arroyo can't pitch for ever, and if the Reds don't try and win in '09, they should trade both of those guys.) Look what the Rays did with Burrell; they got him for two years and at a great price. The Burrell deal is exactly what the Reds should have been doing.

And that leads me to my bigger point. I don't think it's the economy that is killing the free-agent market. I think it's the Rays and (lack of) steroids. The Rays proved last year that the way to win, and win cheaply, is to draft really good players, develop them, sign them through their arbitration years, and then let them go. Why pay a 36-year-old who finally made it to free agency a 4-year, multi-multi-million dollar deal? All you're paying for is the player's rapid decline. Instead, do the same, but much more cheaply, with a 26-year-old. By the time players reach their free agent years, especially in this age of non-steroids, they're declining rapidly in their skills. 32 is the new 38. If I'm right about this, then the market will not improve next year for the "older guys" like Abreu and they should get whatever they can this year in terms of number of years and money. Free agency, especially for hitters, has become a dinosaur. By the time you get there, you're not worth it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Walt Jockety on the MLB Network

Walt Jockety was just on the MLB Network and seemed to directly contradict what Bob Castellini told John Fay last week. Jockety complained that the Reds are just like every other team, suffereing from a bad economy, slow season ticket renewals, and decreased sponsorship money. Castellini told Fay last week that they didn't know yet how season ticket renewals were going (anyone who believes this is a moron; of course they know) but that sponsorship money was actually up. You can't believe anything that anyone tells the media. The only reason to even pay attention is to hear opinions from experts. Interviews with people directly involved are worthless.

Calling all Roto experts

Here are the guys that I can keep as minor leaguers for '09. I get to keep 4 and would like your opinion:

Taylor Teagarden
Kila Ka'aiuhe
Lars Anderson
Josh Barfield
Elvis Andrus
Travis Buck
Austin Jackson
Matt Murton

Clay Buchholz

I'm leaning toward Anderson, Andrus, Teagarden, and Jackson, while possibly keeping Buchholz on my major league roster.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Oscar nominees update

We saw The Reader on Sunday. No question it's a good movie, but it certainly isn't up to par with Slumdog and Milk. It was similar to The Wrestler in that it had great acting and an interesting story but I think I enjoyed The Wrestler a little more. I still haven't seen Benjamin Buttons or Frost/Nixon. I'm not interested in B. Buttons at all, but will likely see it because of the nomination (and so I can keep you, the valuable reader, updated). I'm not too interested in Frost/Nixon, but do think it will be good. Rachel wants to see it because she liked The Queen and this has some of the same folks.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Wrastler

Rachel and I went to see "The Wrestler" Friday night at the Esquire. It was our second try (it was sold out last weekend). I enjoyed it, but agree that it was not up to the best picture nomination quality of Slumdog and Milk.

I should indicate that this post must be considered a spoiler, so you shouldn't read it if you don't want anything spoiled. If you plan to see the movie, go first, and then come back and read the blog.

The movie has three relationships, one the wrestler (Mickey Rourke, of "The Pope of Greenwich Village" fame) develops with a stripper (Marisa Tomei, in a very revealing role), one he tries to develop with his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood), and the one he has with the fans (even though the fans aren't in the movie). I think the relationship with the stripper is really a way of telling the story of the relationship between the wrestler and his fans. There's a scene where the stripper explains the rules between herself and her customers. She is essentially explaining to the wrestler what he already knows to be his relationship with his fans. The stripper is, of course, a professional, and can't have a "real" relationship with the customers. It is her job, as a stripper, to create the illusion of intimacy with the customers. The wrestler is also a professional and it is his job to create an illusion of competition for the fans. The fans go to the matches for various reasons, but for the most part they all know it's an illusion, just like strip club customers. The wrestler wants a real relationship with the stripper because he's losing his relationship with the fans. But what he really wants is a real relationship with his daughter, but he's no good at that. He understands this when he's confronted by a fan while working at his post-wrestling job. He realizes that he can no longer keep up the illusion, and he's failed with his other relationships. He then decides to go out with a bang so to speak.

I heard that the professional wrestling community is pleased with the movie, which (as Rachel pointed out) means it was likely realistic. The thing that struck me is the lengths the wrestlers went to, including incredible physical pain, to "compete" in wrestling matches that are fake and that everyone knows are fake. It would almost seem less physically demanding for them to wrestle for real. I guess this is why ultimate fighting has become so popular.

By the way, the picture is your favorite blogger dressed as professional wrestler Nacho Libre for halloween last year.

Sean Casey retires

This has been rumored all off-season, but Sean Casey has signed on with the new MLB Network and has retired from baseball. Casey hasn't been a Red for three years, but he was one of the most, if not the most, popular Red while he was here. I met him one year in the Westin Hotel lobby after the opening day game one year and he was certainly friendly to us. He was voted the friendliest player in a 2007 Sports Illustrated survey of major league players. For his career, he hit .302 with a .367 on-base percentage. Not too shabby. His .447 slugging percentage was what he was most critized for, making him a "Mark Grace" type of hitter. Kind of a left-handed compliment for a firstbaseman. His best year was 1999 when he hit .332 with 25 dingers, 99 rbi's and 103 runs scored. He hit .322 last year for the Red Sox (no relation) in a part-time roll, proving he could still hit, but with virtually no power. I look forward to seeing him on t.v. and wish him well in retirement.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Freddy Garcia

Looks like the Mets have signed Garcia, which makes him ineligible for my AL-only league. That's too bad, because he was one of my minor league eligible sleepers for this year. He signed a minor league contract last year with the Tigers and didn't get called-up to the Bigs until after August 31, meaning that I could have kept him as a minor leaguer even if he were in a rotation at the start of the year. That would have saved me a valuable roster spot. I guess this is why you go into the off-season with a lot of options. I'm still waiting to see where Jon Garland signs. If he goes with an NL team I lose him as well.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I copied a post from this afternoon on the blog. The guy that runs the site asked me to remove it which I did. Apparently, you can't do that. I obviously didn't know or I wouldn't have titled the post, "Copied from" My humblest apologies.

This is one of my absolute favorite websites. There is even a side bar that you can click on and look at rumors specific to the Reds. The site is basically links to other blogs and articles, but adds a lot of good commentary, etc. I encourage you to check it out and add it to your favorites.

Oscar nominations

The Oscar nominations are out and I've only seen two of the best picture nominations, Milk and Slumdog, both of which I wrote about on the blog. I'm sure I'll see the other three (The Reader, Benjamin Buttons, and Frost/Nixon) before the awards ceremony so check back for my thoughts on those and my predicted winners. Feel free to comment, but please don't post any spoilers. As Frank Castanza would say, "I've got to go in fresh!"


Spoiler alert! If you have not yet watched last night's season 5 premier, stop reading.

Has Lost jumped the shark? And if so "when"? With last night's premier and the continuing question of "when are we?" throughout the episode, I have to wonder.

The premier started in predicatable fashion, with a person readying for the day and playing a record (see Desmond in season 2 and Juliet in season 3) but hardly anything else was predictable (other than Anna Lucia being the cop that pulled Hurley over).

My current theory (and I haven't read Doc Jensen on EW yet) is that Faraday goes back in time to the discovery of the power source under the orchid and somehow blows a whole in the protective wall and realeses the energy, contrary to the warning in the opening scene by the Dharma video orientation guy. He does this to try and reverse history to save the life of his girlfriend, even though he steadfastly believes that you can't change history by going back in time (unless of course, it's Desmond, to whom the rules don't apply). The underlying relationship in seasons 2 through 4 was that of Desmond and Penelope. For seasons 5 and 6 it's going to be Faraday and Charlotte.

Anyway, from the previous paragraph you see why I ask about jumping the shark. I will continue to watch and enjoy Lost, but will probably stop trying to "figure it out." It's just become too complicated. That doesn't mean I don't want to hear your theories. If you have one, post a comment.

By the way, it has to be Claire's mom who is trying to get the blood test from Kate. The attorney said he had a court order, and she seems like the only one with standing to get a court order. But how would she know about Aaron? Presumably, she knew Claire was pregnant when she boarded Oceanic 815, but wouldn't she just assume that Claire died in the crash and never gave birth? Unless Jack fessed up to her after his Dad's funeral and they haven't shown us that yet. Boy, good luck dealing with Kate if that's the case. And speaking of Kate, are Sawyer and Juliet going to be an item this season?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Ramon Hernandez has the most errors (82) of any catcher in MLB this decade.

Super geeks

If you are a super geek you should read this article on Harang's relief outing last May in San Diego and whether or not it (and Dusty) are to blame for Harang's down year.

Not as cheap right-handed power

The Marlins are apparently not interested in signing Dan Uggla long-term. He might be a good candidate for the Reds to target in trade. He will go to arbitration this year (if they don't settle -- they're about $1 mil. appart right now) and make a pretty good salary, but he is a decent fielder and can really slug homers. He's a second baseman, but could play third in a pinch. If the Reds traded for him, they could move BP to short, his original position. I would test the waters now, as he and his agent might be open to a long-term agreement. That would be a necessity if the Reds are to give up what it would take to get him. Plus, if they do it now they can move BP during spring training rather than during the season. But they could wait to see how the year is going and then try for him before the trade deadline. They might also work out an NBA-style sign and trade with the Marlins. The riskiest part of this move would be if it upsets BP, because you know Uggla will perform. Whether he can be had long-term would be the difference in what the Reds would be willing to give up.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Reds sign Jonny Gomes

The Reds just signed Jonny Gomes, a reserve outfielder on last year's Tampa Bay team although I don't think he was on the post-season roster. He's a former Blue Sock (and Water Buffalo). He had a break-out of sorts in '05 when he hit .282/.372/.534 with 21 home runs and 9 steals in 348 at bats. He hasn't come close since. In '07 in another 348 at bats he hit only .244/.322/.460, but did steal 12 bases and hit 17 home runs. Last year he was terrible, so I won't give the stats (but he was below the Mendoza line).

Despite that, I like the move. Given a chance to play, Gomes could have another break out. He's only 28, so he's not over the hill. He's not much of an outfielder, but the Reds aren't too far out on a limb with less than $1 mil. on the contract. If he doesn't make the team (he's on a minor league deal) he provides some organizational depth in Louisville. He'll grab fewer headlines than an Andruw Jones, but is just as likely to turn around a sub-.200 season as Jones. Although the player is different, this is the move I was calling for in my Right Handed Power post a couple days ago.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Ellen Parsons Project

The best way to watch a good t.v. series is on DVD.

Several years ago we started watching NYPD Blue every night on re-runs. We obviously had to tape some, but it was mostly one episode every night at 10:00 and we watched essentially the entire run (up to the point -- I don't think it had ended yet). It was a great way to watch the show because you were more invested in the story and characters and it was much easier to keep track of what was going on.

A couple of years ago we watched the first two seasons of Alias on DVD. The show was terrific, which of course helped, but I really enjoyed the process. One down side was that each episode ended with a mini cliff-hanger and it was very difficult, with the next episode right there with a click of the remote, to stop watching.

Since then we've watched a couple of other shows on DVD, like Veronica Mars and Friday Night Lights. We also re-watched classics like Undeclared and Freaks and Geeks, each of which only had a one-season run.

This weekend we just finished the 13 episode season one run of Damages, which Rachel got for her birthday on DVD. It may have been the perfect blend of content and medium. First, it was only a 13-episode season, so the time commitment was not as big as say the first season of Lost (which would have been great on DVD). But the show was really more like a movie (or mini series) than a t.v. show. Its plot was almost exclusively about one story line and there really weren't any characters to root for or to even like. Because the plot was so good, though it didn't matter. But over 22 episodes it might become tiresome to watch all of these bad people. It has just started a second season run (which we've DVR'd and intend to watch) so we'll see if the format holds up.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Spring Training

It has always been a dream of mine to go to spring training. In '05 I got close. Rachel and I went to Key Biscayne for a conference and I had a free day. I rented a car and drove up to Jupiter, home of the Cards and Fish and the closest spring training site. I was going to try and see a game between the Marlins and the Red Sox (no relation) but did not have a ticket. About a half hour before game time a guy tried to sell me a ticket for about double face value. Not that unusual as there were tons of Sox fans there (they had just won the Series) but, IT WAS POURING DOWN RAIN. I did not buy the ticket, but waited out the rain in a sports bar across the street from the stadium. It never did let up, but I was able to enter the stadium and check out the field, souvenir shop, etc. without paying. I have been to Dodgertown in Vero Beach (where most of the hair is Dodger Blue) but never during spring training. And when we were in college we played a tournament one year at the Houston Astros facility in Kissamee (home of the "Kissamee Astros") but again no actual game.

Well all of that is about to change. For my birthday, Rachel snagged some Reds' Spring Training tickets for this spring, the Reds' last in Fla. as they move to Az. next year. I could not be more excited. We have pretty good seats (2-game packs went on sale this morning) to a game against Toronto and a game against Boston. If anyone has good info on where to stay while down there, etc. please let me know.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The New York Yankees

I have been wanting to write on the Yankees ever since they acquired Mark Tiexiera, finishing off (are they done yet?) a spending spree that has some small market owners calling for a salary cap. If you're interested in a counter argument to the one I'm about to make there is an impassioned one at Grim Rippers Report, which you can click on from my blog list on the side bar.

First, let's look at how the Yankees did. From a pure baseball standpoint, putting dollars aside, they got the two best baseball players available in CC and Tex. Let's start with Tex. Has there ever (and I'm talking in the history of the game) been a more attractive free agent? He's young, but still has a lot of major league experience. Most free agents are at least entering the decline phase of their careers. (I'm planning a post on modern free agency and why it may be dead.) Plus, in addition to being a great hitter, he's a gold glove first baseman. By signing him, the Yankees improve in every aspect of the game. First, he solidifies first base for them. Second, he makes the other infielders better. No doubt Jeter and A-Rod will appreciate him not only snaggin' their errant throws, but he gives the two of them more confidence which will result in fewer errant throws. With improved infield defense, he also gives a boost to the pitching staff, especially Wang, who is a ground ball specialist (and a Blue Sock). And as a switch-hitting OPS machine in the middle of the line-up it's hard to imagine a better signing. The only negative, from a team standpoint, is that he is represented by Scott Boras. Finally, the Yanks kept him away from Boston, who arguably needed him more. Tex would have done all of the above for the Red Sox (no relation) just as he will for the Yanks. Roco Baldelli will not.

Skipping to A.J. Burnett (who the Blue Sox traded last year for Wang) I don't like this deal at all, and perhaps this is where my analysis below is the weakest. The Yankees, more than any other team, can afford this kind of terrible signing. Giving AJ that kind of contract is ludicrous when the only full seasons he's had (two) came in contract years. The guy is good when he pitches, but doesn't pitch enough. But does it matter to the Yankees? The Reds signed Eric Milton to a bad contract (I was excited at the time, so this is all hindsight) and suffered for three years, unable to do what they wanted for lack of payroll flexibility. (Jr. was also part of that problem.) But the Yanks sign Kei Igawa and Carl Pavano, both clearly disasters that would have crippled most teams, and they barely skip a beat.

I also don't believe Cashman when he said he didn't trade for J. Santana because he was waiting to sign CC and didn't want to trade the players to get Santana. But he now has CC, who had the most remarkable run at the end of last season for the Brewers since Orel Hershiser for the Dodgers in '88. Had Cashman traded Melky Cabrera and Phil Hughes for Santana and signed CC, think where they would be. And Santana might have made the difference last year for the Yanks in trying to keep their post-season string alive. (They wouldn't have missed Melky and Hughes, both of whom were big disappointments last year. By the way, the Blue Sox are sorely in need of a bounce back from Hughes (traded to the Blue Sox last year for Pettitte) but now it looks like he won't even get the chance to start.)

So where are we? I'm not sure. Tex is a big help, but will AJ and CC make that much of a difference? Last year, Mussina (who retired) and Pettitte (who declinded the Yanks' contract offer) are going to be hard to replace. Let's look at the four pitchers' stats from '08:

Pitcher: Starts - Wins - IP - K/W - era - whip - HR allowed

Moose: 34 - 20 - 200.3 - 150/31 - 3.37 - 1.22 - 17

Pettitte: 33 - 14 - 204 - 158/55 - 4.54 - 1.41 - 19

Total: 67 - 34 - 404.3 - 308/86 - 3.96 - 1.30ish - 36

CC: 35 - 17 - 253 - 251/59 - 2.70 - 1.12 - 19

AJ: 34 - 18 - 221.3 - 231/86 - 4.07 - 1.34 - 19

Total: 69 - 35 - 474.3 - 482/145 - 3.34 - 1.20ish - 38

Clearly AJ and CC had the better year combined. But by all accounts CC had a huge year, and there is at least a question as to whether he can duplicate that work load. He was clearly tired in the playoffs last year. And AJ hasn't had that kind of season ever. So if CC and AJ regress even a little the Yanks have only replaced Moose and Pettitte. If one of them gets hurt (my guess is AJ) then the Yanks have gone backwards. Put another way, I have a lot more faith that Moose and Pettitte, who turned in typical years (Moose's win total was atypical) could duplicate their '08's than I do that CC and AJ will duplicate theirs. Of course, the Yanks will have Wang back for a full season. As you recall, Wang broke his foot last year in June running the bases in interleague play and was lost for the year.

Here's my point (finally) the Yankees high spending is not the problem. The problem as I see it are two, the first being teams like the Florida Marlins who don't even spend on payroll what they get back in revenue sharing and teams like the Nats and Pirates that are "rebuilding" but don't have the competance to do so. (Note to Leather Pants: If you want to be the Rays and build through being the worst team and getting the best draft picks, you have to at least sign the picks.)

What happens if MLB adopts a payroll cap? What would it be? Most caps are based on a specific percentage of revenue going to the players. So let's say the cap is $150 mil. There has to also be a floor. What would that be, $100 mil.? (Remember a certain amount of revenue has to go to the players.) Do you really think teams like the Marlins and Pirates want a payroll cap? There's no way they want to spend $100 mil. on payroll. So the Yankees, who generate a ton of money not just for them but for all of baseball (road ticket sales, luxury taxes, etc.) get criticized for spending money they have and trying to put the best baseball team they can on the field, while teams that don't even spend what they get from revenue sharing (ie. the Yankees) get a free pass? That doesn't make any sense.

Baseball has proven over and over again that you can't buy a championship. Do the Yankees have a huge advantage? Sure. Does it guarantee victory? Absolutely not.

The second problem I see is this. Players want to win. So even if the Yankees don't outbid everyone (The Nats offered Tex more than the Yankees did) they still get their player. As does Boston. Look at Smoltz. He's clearly at the tail end of his career. Does he take a chance with the Braves, or go to Boston where he will almost certainly make the playoffs? So even on the little deals, the big guys get the player. Baldelli is another example. The Reds wanted him and can clearly afford him, but who would you rather play for, Boston or Cincinnati?

When all of the teams are spending near $100 mil. and the Yanks are doubling that, then talk of a payroll cap is legit. But until that starts happening, it's just sour grapes and propaganda designed to take the focus off of the incompetent teams and the cheap owners.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cheap right-handed power

I'm going to renew my call to the Reds to invite Richie Sexson to spring training on a minor league deal. The Reds don't really have a spot for him, but if he bounces back (iffy) they could have a real find with him in the GAP. Remember, he hit in Seattle for several years, where it's hard to hit a dinger.

It also appears that the Dodgers are going to flat-out release Andruw Jones. The conventional wisdom is that he'll head back to Atlanta, also in desparate need of outfield power. Again, I think he'd be a good risk for the Reds. He will obviously be cheap to sign (he could be had for the minimum unless a bidding war starts, which seems unlikely). And we actually have a spot for him in left or right field. He's always been a good fielder and if he's not movtivated now, he never will be. I even heard he might go to Atlanta on a minor league deal. Surely the Reds can beat that! (This just in, Jockety's response: "Stop calling us Shirley.")

Both of these guys are old and clearly declining, but there's no long-term commitment here. Worse case scenario, neither pans out and the Reds are out a little bit of money. But both have a chance to rebound and could really help the club. And even if they do succeed it only moves back the timetable on any young player 1 year. Right now, none of our young guys (non-Bruce/Votto category) seem ready so what's the harm in moving them back a year?

Plus, and this is probably the most important consideration for the Reds, I need people in my season ticket group, so we need to sign somebody to get the interest level up.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

American Idol Season 8

American Idol is back. Last night was two hours of mostly mediocre auditions, but the big news is the new judge, Kara. I thought she did a great job and has brought much needed freshness to the judges' panel. Even "Simy" seemed happy to have her. It sounds like, in addition to being a good song writer, she can sing a little too, as she did during her sing-off with bikini girl.

As far as the contestants, I liked the Ellen look-alike the best ("Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay")although the girl with the ear discs (I don't know what you call those) sounded good. (She's the one that would have to quit her band to do Idol.) I thought her dress was inconsistant with her look, but Rachel disagreed. I will defer to Rachel on that one.

I thought they should have given pink cowboy hat a pass to Hollywood. (She was the one with the songbook.) Her voice wasn't great (who's was?) but I thought she had real potential to surprise.

All-in-all, I'm happy Idol is back, but not too impressed with the competitors...yet. I do like the new judge, though.


This is the thirty-something anniversary of a very important event for this blog.

About this time in 2006, I was invited to a birthday party of a law school classmate. I ran into another classmate at the party who said, "hey, are you a baseball fan?" I said I was, although my interest in anything other than the Reds (my faovorite team at the time) had seriously waned. Rachel and I would go to the games at the GAP but that was about it for me. He proposed that I join his fantasy baseball league. I joined for basically three reasons: 1. It was American League only, so it would not conflict in any way with me rooting for the Reds; 2. It was "roto", so I could basically draft and watch, and not have to put any time into it; and 3. I wanted to meet some of the folks involved. I had no idea how much I would enjoy fantasy baseball and how much a part of my life it, and baseball in general, would become. If not for my renewed interest in baseball, through fantasy (how I joined the N.L. only league is also a pretty good story) this blog would either not exist, or would be completely different.

The classmate with the birthday was none other than my main inspiration to begin blogging -- Scutch, a.k.a. "UK Football Fan." But for him, there is no way I would be blogging. Today is his birthday, so head over to his blog and wish him a "Happy Birthday" in the comments section. While you're there, tell him to rev back up "Scutch Speaks" a more general (and perhaps to most of you, more interesting) blog than the UK Football blog (although the writing is equally good).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hall of Fame and Steroids

I didn't get my post up on the hall of fame before the announcement, but I'm sure you've heard that Ricky Henderson and Jim Rice were elected. I didn't get a ballot (if Scutch can't get a media credential at the Liberty Bowl, I certainly have no hope of getting into the BBWAA, let alone being in it for ten years). But if I did, I would have included Henderson, Tim Raines, Bert Blyleven, Alan Trammell, and Mark McGwire. I hated Henderson almost all of his career and for most of his career he was my least favorite player, but a hall-of-famer none the less.

If any of you want to share your thoughts on the others, I would love to hear from you.

I have been beating the drum for McGwire on this blog and will do so one more time. I don't think there is any question that McGwire is being left off ballots because he took steroids. (Nor, to me is there any question that he took them.) But if your going to leave him out because he took steroids, then you should just close the hall of fame. To blame him, when baseball itself was clearly complicit in the steroid problem, and just let everyone else go about their business is just plain wrong. There was no rule against steroids in baseball. (And don't give me, "but it was against the law." A lot of guys have broken the law and are in the hall of fame.) But more than that, arguably baseball encouraged steroid use. The game was in so much trouble after the '94 strike (and attempt at replacement players before the '95 season belatedly got under way) that it had to have fans come back and the home run was the way to go.

I thought of this last night while watching a replay of game 4 of the '89 ALCS on the MLB Network. (It specifically says "geek" in my profile -- so no need to comment on this.) LaRussa came out for like his 10th pitching change (man I hate that guy) and I thought, "there's no way LaRussa didn't know these guys were juiced."

But finally, and to me this is the most salient point, the baseball writers had to know these guys were juisced, and none of them had the courage to write about it, exchanging journalistic integrity for access to the club house and the chance to live out their dreams vicariously. These are the guys that are judging McGwire and leaving him off of their ballots? The height of hypocrisy.

I have no issue with picking on McGwire's stats because they were obtained in the steroid era, but there are perfectly acceptable statistical ways to determine how a player performed relative to his era. I also have no problem judging a guy like Rafael Palmiero harshly, as he had a positive drug test after the ban was in effect. But baseball should live with its complicity and give the steroid users a fair shake.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Reds tickets for 2009

My season ticket group is looking for some more people. If you're interested at all, drop me an e-mail,, and I can give you the details. Basically, we have four seats that are in the fifth row behind the visitors' dugout. These are the extra-wide padded seats. You can get as few as four or five games, and the tickets are only $212.00 per game. The Reds have not raised the price on these tickets for season ticket holders since the ballpark opened, even though these seats are a lot higher if purchased on a single game basis.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It's not about the money . . .

Whenever a professional athlete says it's not about the money everyone knows exactly what that means: it's about the money. Not true with fantasy baseball which is done for pure love of the sport. How do I know this? I was cleaning out my drawer yesterday and found the check for my winnings for finishing in second in the bgal in '07. (I know 2nd to 8th, what a disaster.)

So here's the question: what to do with the check? I e-mailed our commish (who wrote me the check at last year's draft -- April '08) and informed him that I had failed to cash it. If he's anything like me, he has no idea that the check wasn't cashed and is now looking at a $130 something defecit for no apparent reason. But there's no reason that I shouldn't cash it now, right? Anyway, I'm opening this discussion up to my valuable readership? What should I do? Cash it? Tear it up? Neither of these options seems fair. Some sort of interest penalty? That doesn't seem fair either. But some sort of penalty seems appropriate, right? I told the commish to read the blog before letting me know what I should do, so I'm looking for some real good analysis here.

By the way, Scutch, of UKFootballFan Blog fame, and his wife may have a thought on this; I did the same thing to them a couple of years ago when they sent me a check for a hotel room I had paid for in Chicago when we auditioned for the World Series of Pop Culture on VH-1. (Hey that would be a great blog entry -- except for the ending.)

What say you?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Is this a great country or what?

So they have this new network called MLBN where you get 24 hour baseball coverage in HD. Awesome. (I know frequent reader and commentator Blumer is already on board!)

Joe Magrane is one of the commentators. You'll remember him from his days as a Cardinal, but he's now a radio commentator with the Rays. He was asked about the Reds' rotation and here's what he said:

Current rotation: Harang, Arroyo, Volquez, Cueto, and Owings.

He said he would trade Arroyo and Harang and sign Randy Wolf (a lefty) and Jon Garland (a ground ball guy -- and current Blue Sox player). This is actually pretty intriguing, but of course would depend on who they get for Arroyo and Harang. But I bet you could get some pretty good bats for those two guys.

What do you guys think? Trade those two are make a run with them and the current offense? Is Micah Owings really the fifth starter? And if he is, the Dunn trade looks a lot better doesn't it?

Monday, January 5, 2009

More top-ten all-time moments

4. Blair/Nixon: The first game I remember was in the bleachers at old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore circa 1970. We lived about a mile from the stadium and you could see the light standards from our front yard. I remember staring at the lights and dreaming of being a ball player. (I remember crying on the front porch as my brother, in full uniform, headed off to the little league opening day parade. I was too young.) Reds fans will recall that the Orioles (obviously my favorite team at the time) were pretty good in the late '60's/early '70's. They lost the '69 series to the Mets, beat the Reds in '70, and lost to the Pirates in '71. (My parents went to a '71 series game but didn't take us kids -- my second worst "my parents won't take me to X game" story -- the first being my Mom not allowing me to go see Larry Bird (his junior year at Indiana State) play Central Michigan even though I had a season ticket and Bird had just been on the cover of Sports Illustrated. My crime: falling behind in 6th grade independent math.)

I don't remember much about that first game, but I do remember that Dave Leonard came in early in relief and completed the game for the win. (I did a quick search on and found no Dave Leonard, so I obviously have the name wrong, but that's my memory.)

My favorite player at the time (besides Dave Leonard -- who doesn't exist) was Don Buford, a short left fielder who batted lead-off. I saw him a couple seasons ago at the GAP as a bench coach for Frank Robinson's (who, as my Dad explained around that time, was no relation to Brooks Robinson) Washington Nationals. Paul Blair, who later played for the Yankees in their late-'70's series runs, played center, and, of course, Frank was in right. I remember arguing with my Dad about who was more famous, Paul Blair or Richard Nixon. My Dad tried to explain that Nixon could be on the front page of just about any newspaper in the world. I countered with, "yeah, but Blair starts in center for the Orioles."

Brooks played third (no need to remind Reds fans of that), Mark Belanger (all glove - no stick) played short, Davey Johnson (why isn't this guy managing? because he got divorced?) played second, and Big Boog Powell was at first. Elrod Hendricks and Andie Etchebarren split at catcher, and Merv Retmund was the main pinch hitter off the bench. Of course, Jim Palmer lead the rotation with Pat Dobson, Dave McNally, and Mike Quellar. One year, all four of those guys won 20 games.

5. More Orioles: The year Camden Yards opened I called before the season started and got three really good seats between the dugout and home plate on the visitors' side, I think we were row R, for a Saturday afternoon game. Not bad for a new stadium that sold-out the entire season. I no longer lived in Baltimore (Lexington actually) but had to go to a game. I took my brother (a Md. grad student at the time) and my Grandfather, who lived in the D.C. area. It was a real treat to have a job and be able to treat my grandfather to a game after all of the games he took me to as a kid, including a Colts/Raiders overtime playoff game at the aforesaid Memorial Stadium, where The Snake out-dueled Bert Jones -- a game that is often replayed (I think on "the Ocho") as one of the great NFL games of all time. They played the Mariners, so I got to see both hall of fame Jr.'s on the same field.

6. More Orioles (sort of): I was in the right field bleachers of Bush Stadium (1.0?) watching the Cards take batting practice with a couple of friends, one of whom I think was Rod Keillor. Anyway, Andy VanSlyke (for a long time my favorite player) was chatting with Danny Cox, when suddenly he turned around and through a baseball out of the stadium over the right field wall. I imagine it went something like this:

Cox: Andy, do you think you could throw a ball out of the stadium?
VanSlyke: dunno (throws ball out of stadium). Yup.

Years later, I was sitting at BWI waiting for Rachel to fly in. Right across from me at the gate (this was pre-9/11 when you could wait at the gate) was Andy VanSlyke. I wanted to ask him if he remembered throwing the ball out of Bush Stadium. This seemed like the kind of thing that a celebrity wouldn't mind discussing, especially with no one else around, but I chickened out. A couple years ago when I was in line with Marty Brenneman at the cheese and crackers table at the CBA tour of the Reds' hall of fame I thought of that moment with VanSlyke and decided to go for it, asking Marty whether he was looking forward to working with his son Thom in the booth. He said he was.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


This blog is supposed to be original stuff from me, but I wanted to share this article from my favorite baseball writer. I would just link to it, but you can't read the whole thing without a subscription to Baseball Prospectus.

December 30, 2008

Prospectus Today
The OBP Pit
by Joe Sheehan

I am almost always too optimistic about the Reds.

Predicted Wins vs. Actual

Year Sheehan Reality
2008 82 74
2007 72 72
2006 83 80
2005 81 73
2004 80 76

Before I was predicting records, I picked the Reds to win the division in 2003 as well. They went 69-93 and finished last. I suspect that I've been overrating the value of their left-handed power—typically Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr.—while not docking them enough for poor defense, mediocre back-end pitching, and some lineup holes in each season. In any case, I have usually seen them as a .500 team with some upside, and they haven't been relevant in the NL since BP was an entirely free site.

Now, the team's composition has changed considerably over the last calendar year, as some young talents (Jay Bruce, Joey Votto) have earned lineup spots; as Dunn and Griffey have been traded away; as young starters Johnny Cueto and Edison Volquez took rotation slots and combined for 63 starts of 3.96 ERA with good peripheral statistics. The 2009 Reds are going to be built . . . well, let's let GM Walt Jocketty tell it.

"With the addition of Willy Taveras and Ramon Hernandez, along with Alex Gonzalez and Brandon Phillips, our defense substantially improves up the middle." (AP)
Well, just two of those are technically additions, and neither is clearly an upgrade. The Reds did sign Willy Taveras to a two-year contract over the weekend, and Taveras should make their center-field defense better by enough to make a difference in the team's run prevention . . . except that his numbers have been lousy the last two seasons in Colorado; a net negative defensive player per the Plus/Minus system, eighth of ten NL qualifiers in Revised Zone Rating last year, and below average in the same stat in '07. Taveras has the skill set of a good center fielder, but he has not performed like one since he was in Houston, so it's a jump to conclude that he'll make a big difference in Cincinnati. Hernandez had lousy defensive numbers the last two seasons in Baltimore, throwing out just 44 of 211 basestealers. Gonzalez was a slightly plus defender at 29 and 30 years old; he'll be 32 and coming off of a season missed to knee surgery. Of Jocketty's four examples, only Brandon Phillips is clearly an asset with a glove on.

What the four players do all have in common isn't helpful:

Age OBP/2008 OBP/Career
Hernandez 33 .308 .326
Taveras 27 .308 .331
Gonzalez 32 N/A .295
Phillips 28 .312 .308

I encourage you to try and construct a lineup with those four players (and a pitcher) that doesn't break down very badly at some point. Acquiring Taveras exacerbates a real problem for this team, something that Jocketty doesn't seem to recognize:

"Willy Taveras fills two significant needs for our ballclub, a speed base-stealing threat at the top of the order, and superior defense in center field."
The second part, as noted, is in question. The first isn't actually a need. It's 2008, nearly 2009, and you can still hold a GM job saying stuff like the above. I do not get it. The most important thing that a leadoff hitter does is not make outs. You need a high-OBP guy in that slot to bat in front of what should be your best hitters in the second and third slots, the players who bat for average and power that will advance the runner around. Basestealing actually matters less for a leadoff hitter, because the cost of an out is high and the value of the marginal base is low given the caliber of batters to follow. This is all basic stuff, Sabermetrics 040 for the kids who didn't pass in high school, and yet Walt Jocketty thinks Willy Taveras and his .331 career OBP—.308 last year, .333 or less in three of four seasons—is a leadoff solution.

The problem with Taveras is that his only skill is speed. He never walks (115 unintentionals in 2,170 PAs, or a bit more than once a week in his career) and he has no power (.054 ISO, and even that is inflated by "leg" extra-base hits), which means he has to bat .320 to be a viable offensive player. He did that once, in '07 with the Rockies. With a career strikeout rate of one every six at-bats or so, he needs to hit .370 on contact, minimum, to be a viable player. Hie career mark is .338. There just aren't enough actual skills here to build a regular baseball player. Taveras can run, and that's just about all he can do. He strikes out too much for a player with no power, and he doesn't walk enough for a player with his batting average. Ichiro Suzuki or Luis Castillo, guys who Taveras might emulate, both do at least one thing better than he does.

Now, in the short term, this could work out well. Taveras' value is in some large part determined by what happens when he puts the ball in play, and the outcomes there can vary a bit. What would make him a contributor, and would make Jocketty look like a genius, is if he could get a slew of bunt singles, find some holes, and accidentally hit .330 in 2009. That's the entire upside, the potential for an on-contact career year that gets Taveras to first base 36 percent of the time.

As much as the Reds needed a center fielder, they needed OBP more. This lineup spot would have been better used on one on the many corner outfielders lurking on the market, leaving Jay Bruce to patrol center field for another season. Adding Taveras to the many low-OBP right-handed batters already in Cincinnati is likely the straw that breaks the offense's back. When Joey Votto hits .304 with 31 homers and 77 RBI next year and gets derided as "unclutch," remember this signing.

The Reds have some upside. Their front four starters match up with any NL team's outside of Chicago and San Francisco, and in Votto and Bruce they have the beginnings of a championship lineup. The hole in left field is apparently going to be filled by Chris Dickerson, but you have to look at Bobby Abreu, or even Adam Dunn, and wonder how cheaply the Reds could get a hitter to bat third who would make a 20- or 30-run difference for them. The Reds are going to have to score in the middle of the lineup, because the Hernandez/Gonzalez/pitcher/Taveras/Phillips stretch is going to be out-tastic, and they certainly have the money on hand for a short-term improvement.

They could also bargain-shop and snag Juan Cruz, who would not cost them their number one pick, but rather their number two, which won't come up until well past the 60th overall selection. That would give them a bat-missing hurler to pair with Jared Burton in front of Francisco Cordero, and perhaps turn the bullpen into a strength. Add in the aforementioned rotation, and you can see where the Reds might, with just a couple of additions, become a player in the soft National League. They would have looked better, however, without adding another OBP sink to a lineup loaded down with them.