Unwritten Rules

April 27, 2010

I appreciate Joe Posnanski’s take on the A-Rod/Dallas Braden pitching mound incident of a few days ago. I agree that if the perpetrator were anybody but Alex Rodriguez, the focus of the negativity would be squarely on Braden – as it should.

Alex Rodriguez is a polarizing figure – that I understand. I can see that he comes off as arrogant, that he makes more money than he knows what to do with, and that some of his accomplishments include the specter of performance enhancement. This is true of Rodriguez and any number of other professional athletes. Why the hate is so zeroed in on Rodriguez is another matter.

It’s not that I am shedding any tears for the Yankee third baseman. He’s doing alright despite his villainous public image. I don’t like him in the way that a Twins’ fan shouldn’t like the best player on the Yankees, but I have to admit: I enjoy watching Alex Rodriguez play baseball.

He’s a great player – probably the best of his generation – yet underrated to the point where most casual baseball fans won’t even say he is the best player on his own team. The fact is, on the question of Jeter vs. A-Rod, the numbers aren’t even close. A-Rod is a better hitter and fielder, he hits for more power and historically gets on base at a better rate than the Yankee captain. You can argue which is a nicer guy, but on the field the choice is clear.

So the latest is that Alex Rodriguez walked on the pitching mound on his way back to first base after a foul ball. As unwritten rules of baseball go, this must be towards the back of the unwritten book. It may have been somewhat of a jerk move, I don’t know. It certainly doesn’t seem to warrant the attention that Braden gave it. I can give a young, fiery pitcher a break for something expressed in the heat of the moment, but to treat it as anything other than an overreaction by a young pitcher borders on silly – a transparent expression of the dislike for the man that existed long before this event occurred.


Play Ball … Faster

April 12, 2010

Baseball is my favorite game, but it is not perfect. One of the biggest flaws I have noticed over the past three decades is the pace of the game. It seems to be getting slower, with games involving the Yankees (and now the Red Sox) being the slowest of the slow. Post season games involving these MLB money-makers are even worse, generally grinding to a halt in or around the seventh inning (even without the ridiculously long seventh-inning stretch ceremonies at Yankee Stadium).

There are various reasons for the length of the games. Some of it is due to the fact that the hitters on said teams take a lot of pitches. It’s hard to complain about professional baseball players with habits that tend to make baseball players successful. I have no problem with that. A lot of the extra time, however, is due to the constant timeouts called by batters, trips to the mound by catchers, and other time wasting strategies employed by teams to give their relief pitchers more time to get ready. A few years ago, I decided to stop worrying about it. I figured this was going to be part of baseball for better or worse. The last thing Bud Selig is going to want to do is make his cash cows angry by telling them how to play the game. I’ll just go about my business and avoid Yankees and Red Sox games as much as possible.

Imagine my surprise, then, that an umpire of all people decided to speak up on the issue. I think Joe West used some hyperbole, and went a little far calling the teams “a disgrace to baseball,” but overall he clearly has a point (I also found Gardy’s thoughts entertaining – and he’s right, commercial breaks account for about 45 minutes in a typical nine-inning game).

It is a pet peeve of mine that football fans will often call baseball boring. Though there is a lot of down time in a typical baseball game, there is more potential for action at a given time than in a football game, where the actual contact time adds up to about 10 minutes. I will have trouble getting into basketball until they fix the end of games, where stopping the clock with intentional fouls has become a science and coaches seem to have unlimited time outs. Unfortunately, Yankees and Red Sox games are giving professional football and the last two minutes of basketball game a run for their money in pure down time.

A couple of ideas to get to a solution: expand the strike zone back to the rule book version and start enforcing even more strict limits on those things that are the biggest time-wasters: coaching visits to the mound, catcher visits to the mound, infield huddles, and timeouts called by batters and catchers.


Ron Washington and an Open House

March 19, 2010

Ron Washington has made some headlines in the past week, and it is of interest to this blog for no other reason than the fact that Washington played for the Twins from 1981-1986.  He was mostly a shortstop for the Twins. His busiest season was 1982 when in 470 plate appearances he hit .271/.291/.368. He ultimately lost the starting job to Houston Jiminez in 1984. Washington continued to play utility infielder behind Jiminez and later Greg Gagne. He may have missed his chance to be a permanent part of Twins fans’ memory when he was released by the team just prior to the start of the 1987 World Championship season. Washington likely became expendable when the Twins traded for Al Newman earlier that spring.

UPDATE: Now Washington is admitting to use of both amphetamines and marijuana during his playing days. The plot thickens…

In happier news, this weekend I will get my first look at Target Field during and open house for season ticket holders. Pictures and a full report will be posted on Monday.

Maybe there will be an announcement about a certain catcher signing to make the weekend even better.


The one good thing about the ALDS

October 20, 2009

The 2.5-year-old took an active interest in the games. He even, in a moment of anger, called his mother a Derek Jeter.

watching the game by you.

Yes, that is his official Target Field hard hat and his Joe Mauer batting champion wiffle bat. The best part is that he asked to get all of the baseball props out while he watched the game.

As I was watching Game 3 of the ALCS last night, he asked for about the fourth time in the last week “when are the Twins going to play?” How do you explain the concept of offseason to a kid who probably has no memory of the last time the Twins didn’t have a game tomorrow?


On Instant Replay in Baseball

August 25, 2008

It is now all but inevitable that baseball will begin to use instant replay during the 2008 season.

While it sounds like replay will only be used to determine home run calls at first, it is not difficult to imagine that a successful “test” through the end of this season could lead to more reviewable plays by the time teams take the field for the 2009 season.

It remains to be seen how replay might impact baseball, though smart money is on making games longer, though I don’t think the potential breaks for an occasional home run call will be the end of the world (though it will probably lengthen games enough to undo all of the gains made by the new directive to enforce the 12-second pitch rule).

The main argument of those who are in favor of replay is that umpires should use all of the tools at their disposal to get the calls right.

The NFL has had some form of instant replay since 1986, with the current coaches’ challenge system taking effect in 1999. A few observations from the football games that I have watched over the years:

1. There is no television moment less compelling than a referee sticking his head under a video replay hood, and

2. Somehow, even with the instant replay system in place, calls are missed.

Someone who likes football better than I should do a study on the subject of instant replay and correct calls. I don’t know what the numbers would look like, but it doesn’t seem particularly rare, based on my observations, for a call to go to replay only to still be missed (or at the very least bad calls are upheld due to a lack of “indisputable video evidence”).

I am willing to be proven wrong, but it all just doesn’t seem worth it at this point. For a handful of correct home run calls a season, baseball fans and players will be subject to delays, technology problems, and arguments over replay usage.


“The Red Sox have taken the suspense, fun and interest out of baseball”

October 31, 2007

Yesterday’s “Letter of the Day” from the Star Tribune Editorial page:

World Series is about bucks, not baseball

I’ve followed the World Series since the ’50s and have rooted for various teams over the years. However, with the close of the 2007 season in Denver, I’ve watched my last Fall Classic. The Red Sox have taken the suspense, fun and interest out of baseball.

With a players’ payroll of $143 million, nearly three times that of Colorado, Boston has once again proven that the team with the most money wins. Before the final game was over, TV sportscasters were announcing which Boston and which Yankees players would be switching uniforms and leaving their teams as free agents. If I ever hear one more Red Sox fan whining about the “curse” or see a video clip of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner humiliating one of his managers before firing him, I will run screaming from the room.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld put it best when he said we’re no longer cheering for teams. We’re cheering for laundry. Expensive laundry at that.

M.L. KLUZNIK, MENDOTA HEIGHTS

I’m not sure how much the Red Sox are to blame, but I always find comparisons to the “good old days” of baseball to be fascinating.

The truth is, professional baseball has always, and will always be about money. It was in the 1950′s when owners counted the money while occasionally throwing a nickel the players’ way; and it is today with the $143 million payroll and the perpetually increasing ticket prices. Baseball was very different in the 1950′s, but it would be a mistake to suggest that it wasn’t about money.

Now, complaining about the TV sportscasters; that is a rant that I can get behind. It’s amazing that a network-that-shall-not-be-named had rendered the biggest event in the season of my favorite sport almost unwatchable. It’s a good thing that baseball still works with the volume turned down.


I heart TBS (and other random October thoughts)

October 10, 2007

OK, maybe that is a bit of an overstatement, but TBS has been , by far and away, the best national baseball broadcast I have seen in a long time. I particularly enjoyed the Ted Robinson/Steve Stone team that did the Red Sox/Angels series. Chip Caray aside, the announcers, as a whole, seem able to let the game do the talking, and aren’t always trying to say the perfect things for the highlight reel. The TBS graphics are informative, but don’t over power the game (I’m looking at you, FOX). In short, I wish that TBS would do all of the remaining games of the baseball post season. Imagine, a Joe Buck and Tim McCarver-free World Series that doesn’t have robots flashing across the screen after each play. I can see it now…

Of course, I was happy to see the Yankees lose again. I love that a team that wins 90+ games and makes the playoffs year in and year out suddenly needs dismantling each time it loses a series. I hope King George does get rid of Torre, Rodriguez, and all of the other “losers” who are responsible for the post season failures; while holding on to Captain Jeter and his four rings. I would like nothing more that to see a team that includes Alex Rodriguez eliminate the Jeter-led Yankees from contention next year.

The Yankees are in a similar boat with the 2006 Twins. Of course the Yankees are under a much larger microscope in their market (and with their payroll), but they made a very strong run to succeed in a year that looked lost early on. After charging back, just like the 2006 Twins, they are considered failures based on 3-4 games at the end of the year that are considered more important than the 162 that came before. I don’t shed any tears for the Yankees, but would like to see a little more emphasis on the accomplishments of the regular season (particularly since I pay so much for tickets over the course of the season).

Overall, I wasn’t too excited about the American League field in this year’s playoffs, but am surprisingly looking forward to the ALCS – even if it will be on FOX. On the National League side, I am just hoping for a good series. I would like to see Todd Helton have some success, but typically prefer for Wild Card teams to stay out of the World Series mix. I’m not sure if MLB is starting to listen to my constant complaining about the late start times of playoff games, but have been pleased to see a lot of games starting at 7:00 local time or earlier. It means I have already seen the end of more games than I am used to. Even the Pacific time zone game in the NLCS will start a a decent hour. Bring on the baseball.


The “Worldwide Leader in Sports”

October 1, 2007

I had some rare time to just sit and watch television Sunday afternoon, and I was looking forward to watching some meaningful baseball. I figured that with four teams challenging for two playoff spots in the National League, there would be a pretty good chance that at least one of the meaningful games would be televised; or, even better would be that I could follow them all. I vividly remember watching ESPN on the final day of regular seasons past as they bounced from game to game trying to catch the significant moments.

Instead of televising any baseball on the final day of the regular season, ESPN and ESPN2′s schedules included a reality show, bowling, horse racing, hunting, and fishing. No baseball. ESPNEWS was covering all things NFL, and would occasionally flash a baseball score. There would be no meaningful baseball for me. I flipped between the Twins and a football game instead (though I was pleased to see that the Vikings were wearing throwback uniforms, otherwise known as “what they were wearing last time I cared”).

Incidentally, I was 1-for-6 in pre-season predictions, 1-for-8 if you count Wild Card teams (though I correctly named four of the eight playoff teams). I guess that’s why I write about history, it’s much easier to be right.

With my prognosticating record, I will skip the playoff predictions, but say that my rooting interest currently lies with Philadelphia.

Born October 1
Roberto Kelly 1964
Jeff Reardon 1955
Rod Carew 1945


On Bonds

August 10, 2007

It finally happened. Earlier in the week Barry Bonds hit number 756, and somehow life goes on. Since I waited a few days to react, there is probably nothing I can write that hasn’t been written. I don’t have any particular love for Barry Bonds. I find his public persona to be surly, arrogant, and not particularly likable. That said, there are a number of people who have spent time with him and said that he isn’t as bad a guy as he comes across. Either way it should be irrelevant. Despite his shortcomings, I have found him to be somewhat of a sympathetic character over the past few weeks.

Meanwhile, I was once again saddened to be reminded of who is in charge of the game I love. Bud Selig, the man who looked the other way for more than a decade while it became more and more apparent that there was a problem in the game, was presumably too busy counting the money he has made to be at the game in which the record home run was hit.  Suddenly Mr. Selig is the moral authority on all things performance enhancing, and has declared through his actions and delicately chosen words that Bonds’ record is tainted. Selig, who is as much to blame as any player for the problem, has chosen to leave Barry Bonds hanging out to dry, and has taken several opportunities to point out how much he has done over the past few years to clean up the game. There has been no word from Bud about what he was doing during the mid-to-late 90′s.

The big question, of course, is if the record is tainted. While it is pretty safe to say that Bonds did use some form of performance enhancing drugs in his career, the extent of his use is unknown (as is the extent of the use of the pitchers he hit his home runs against). 756 is a lot of home runs, and if it was a simple as taking a PED to get there, Bonds would not be the only one.

When history remembers Barry Bonds and his home run record (which is likely to be broken in a few years by Alex Rodriguez, who, by the way, is not a true Yankee), it will be understood in the context of his era. Similar to some of the great pitchers of the dead ball era, Bonds put up the biggest number in a time of big numbers. Like it or not, Barry Bonds is baseball’s new home run king.

Meanwhile, the AAA team that stole the Twins’ uniforms and began to play in their place continues to struggle in the run-scoring department. There seem to be two distinct camps that Twins fans fall in these days:

1. The fault lies with Mauer, Cuddyer, Morneau, and Hunter. Call this the Barriero camp. These are the guys who are expected to perform, but have struggled with the team. Joe Mauer seems to be a particular target in this regard, though I did overhear a guy at the Metrodome claiming that Justin Morneau is the problem. Not that Morneau is struggling, mind you, but that he is the reason the Twins are losing.

2. The fault lies with team management, who have stocked the rest of the team with piranhas who seem to lack bite. It is Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire’s job to stock the team with hitting talent. Beyond the top four, the team is pretty thin in that department, and has done nothing to improve as it has become more and more apparent that there are some major holes in this lineup.

I tend to lean more towards the second camp. When a team loses to the Royals 1-0, however, there is plenty of blame to go around.

Born August 10, 1927
Bob Chakales
The Golden Greek pitched for Washington from 1955-1957. As a relief pitcher, he walked more than he struck out, but could handle a bat, hitting .271/.278/.333 lifetime.

Born August 10, 1923
Bob Porterfield
Porterfield won 22 games for the Senators in 1953, but his best statistical season was 1952. Though he finished with a 13-14 record, his ERA was 2.72 and his ERA+ was 131, compared with 3.35 and 117 in his 22-win year.

Born August 10, 1916
Buddy Lewis
John Kelly Lewis took over at second base for an injured Buddy Myer in 1935. Though Myer returned, Lewis was shifted to third base and continued to play with Myer, who took the 18-year-old under his wing. Myer eventually passed on his nickname to Lewis, who played mostly at third base for Washington until the war. After returning from the service, he finished his career in the outfield. Lewis was a very good player who lost some of his prime years to WWII.


If I were Commissioner…

July 9, 2007

…here are some of the changes I would make.

1. Get rid of inter league play. MLB loves to point out the attendance spike that IL play causes, but in reality IL play has little to no effect on attendance. On the other hand, without the regular season match ups, the All Star Game and World Series will take on extra importance (and there will be no need for the ridiculous “winner of the All Star Game gets home field in the World Series” rule). As set up now, IL play is unfair as teams in the same division usually play very different schedules. If folks in New York and Chicago still want to have their city rivalries, they can have post season exhibitions like they did in the old days (if there is so much interest, it won’t matter that these games “don’t mean anything”).

2. Only division winners will be eligible for post season play. My preference would be to realign back to the four division, two league format. That presents some scheduling difficulties without expansion (mainly because I like the unbalanced schedule – teams should play more games against those in their division), so I would be open to different ways to make this happen. Mainly, I don’t want to see second place teams winning the World Series.

3. Speed up the game. Some ideas: bigger strike zone, give the umpire discretion to award balls and strikes for slow play, and possibly limit rosters to 10 pitchers in the AL.

4. No more black outs. We make plenty of money from TV and MLB.com, there is no reason that a paying customer should not have access to in-market games on MLB.com or Extra Innings, and FOX should not have a monopoly on Saturday afternoon games. Instead, the network should have to provide superior coverage to get fans to watch, not simply be the default because there are no other games available (incidentally, superior coverage does not include anybody named John Buck, McCarver, or Morgan).

5. End all this Mitchell investigation nonsense. Nothing good can come from digging up all of the PED use in the past. Continue to tweak the current testing program and let it do its job to do everything possible to end PED use in baseball. Also, as commissioner, I would make sure to be at the ballpark when Bonds hits home run number 756.

6. Limit the use of alternate uniforms. Allow only one alternate jersey for each team and limit its use to no more than once per week. Additionally, financial incentives might be available for players who wear stirrup socks.

7. Resign. The Commissioner should be elected by equal representation from players and owners. That is the only way that the “best interests of baseball” clause can be properly executed.


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