Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pride and Shame

C.C. classily said goodbye to C-town via a full page ad in the Plain Dealer, thanking the fans, the team, and others for 10 great years. (10 years!) C.C. is clearly proud to have played in Cleveland, but he seems ashamed of Chief Wahoo. How else to explain the complete absence of Wahoo in the three shots in this picture? Note:

Upper-right hand picture: C.C. has doffed his cap so that we cannot see Wahoo, and he sports "Cleveland" on the chest.

Left side picture: C.C. wears his cap backwards, so that our eyes are spared the sight of the O.G. Redman.

Main photo: C.C. wears this year's sharp Sunday alternate throwback-style uni, complete with more baseball-appropriate than Wahoo block letter "C."

Stay classy (and gassy), C.C. And get classy Tribe.

See y'all in the AK-Rowdy this weekend. Go Aeros.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Choker by Committee

Sabermetricians can use line drive rates, zone ratings and a myriad of other statistics to predict a player or team's future results or explain the past performances. While the analysis between the foul lines has become more and more advanced, there is still one frontier that no expert has yet to crack: the analysis between the ears of a relief pitcher. Forget Bill James, Rob Neyer and Nate Silver: we need to call in Dr. Phil.

The concept of a closer by committee seems extremely logical. Why not use your best pitcher in the highest leverage situations? Why not match up a team's lineup with a righty or lefty specialist, even if its the ninth inning? Why have a pitcher in the bullpen who can only enter the game with a lead of three runs or fewer, and often pitches ineffectively when asked to pitch in a tie game or blowout? Newly hired Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and his advisors, including Bill James, pondered these questions prior to the 2003 season after seeing how volatile Ugueth Urbina could be, and made the infamous decision to move forward with a closer by committee comprised of Alan Embree, Ramiro Mendoza, Mike Timlin and others. After some highly publicized blown leads early in the season-ESPN and other media outlets treated this experiment with high scrutiny- Red Sox managment converted Byung-Hyun Kim, acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks midseason, to a reasonably effective closer until his meltdown against the Oakland Athletics in Game One of the Division Series. Understandably, the Red Sox gave up on the experiement and traded for Keith Foulke the following winter, and the rest is history.

So this brings us to last night, when Duaner Sanchez, a fairly reliable set up man called upon to hold a three run lead against the fifth due to closer Billy Wagner being sidelined -eerily similar to his absence in parts of August and September last season-with shoulder spasms, sixth and seven spots of the Philadelphia Phillies admitedly potent lineup. Several flat fastballs and meatball changeups later, the bases were loaded with no one out. The opposing batters were right on top of his pitches, not swinging and missing a single time -it would be difficult for the Mets to blame sign stealing this time, as they were at home. So how do you chalk it up? Just a bad night? Perhaps Sanchez was too confident up three runs and didn't feel inclined to put as much zip on his pitches? Regardless, having any pitcher inherit the bases loaded is a recipe for trouble, and despite shortstop Jose Reyes miscalculation of a Joe Smith induced chopper, the blame for the ninth inning meltdown has to be solely placed on Sanchez, though Pedro Feliciano surrendering a deep drive to banjo-hitting outfielder So Taguchi is also inexcusable -you can't blame left fielder Endy Chavez for having it go over his head, as Taguchi's bat doesn't exactly warrant a no-doubles defense. By the time shortstop Jimmy Rollins was up, you knew the game was over, as when it rains for Feliciano, it pours-the issue of inheriting runners is also an important one, as some releivers are just awful at handling them.

Other teams have also experienced trouble patching together the latter ends of games, including the Milwaukee Brewers after they shelved Eric Gagne. It took them some time to find a suitable replacement until Salomon Torres took over the closer's role, and the Mets may have to do the same -Houston Street?- if they want to contend without Billy Wagner.

What is it about closing games? Is it getting pumped up by loud metal music? Feeding off the psychological pressure of the 'save?' Be sure to see my poorly timed post in that entry regarding saving a three-run lead. And if the ghost of Jerome Holtzman wanted to spite me, well I'll just pay you back in Hell, Jerome.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Beating, Throttling, Pummeling and Eviscerating a Dead Horse

In support of Cleveland Frowns' quixotic crusade to rid the world of Chief Wahoo I offer this proposal for a new cap logo, which in my mind would be a compromise by retaining Wahoo's distinctive feather while chucking his ugly mug. It also suggests an interlocking 'C' and 'I' for the Cleveland Indians. It also represents history by evoking the Tribe's pre-Wahoo wishbone "C" cap logo without causing confusion with Cincinnati.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Midsummer (World Baseball) Classic

That's Big Mo. He's as bald as our nation's tearful eagles that soar free for freedom.

Tonight! Live! From that steep-tiered 31-year old "cathedral" in the Bronx, it's the All-Star Game! Corey "Allegory" Hart digging in against Cliff "Curse of Chief Wahoo" Lee! Chase "Boo?Fuck You!" Utley against Joakim "You'll be" Soria!!!!! WHEEEEEE!!!

Yeah, not really feeling the All-Star game. Judging by the flat ratings not many of you are either. There was a time in this country when people genuinely enjoyed watching the game of baseball. People, children and adults, played the game. In the days when the two leagues were almost-independent fiefdoms fans were eager to see stars face off against each other.

These days, factors such as interleague play, a fading in rivalry between players of each league, the same umps for all games, fantasy baseball, and highlight saturation have robbed the midbummer classic game of much of its appeal.

Most importantly, and this is just a hunch, despite record attendance figures, people do not enjoy watching the game itself. Oh sure, people will watch their own team play, but I think the main reason that national regular season broadcasts, such as Espn's Sunday Night Baseball, don't do very well is because people's tolerance for the sport does not extend beyond their own teams, no matter how marquee the Sunday night matchup may be. As an aside, and this is a topic for the future, I think the main reason for record attendance figures in recent years is the rash of new ballparks and their 'beer garden' atmospheres.

Anyhoo, the All-Star game is outdated and lacks any juice to make it must-watch TV. My only memory in recent years is Larry Walker batting right-handed against Randy Johnson. Zany!!

The All-Star highlight of the past 10 years?
What follows is not my original idea, but is an idea worthy of consideration, why not stage the Final Four of the World Baseball Classic in lieu of the All-Star game? The lesser countries, such as China, Italy, Canada, and the United States, could battle it out over the winter in qualifiers, while the top four, Japan, Cuba, D.R. and South Korea, could receive byes until the last eight perhaps. The last eight could be narrowed down to four in two days during the first week of spring training, and then the semifinals could be played during the current All-star break.

It's quite likely that the U.S. wouldn't make it to the final four, but I'd still rather see Japan taking on the D.R. tonight than the A.L. take on the N.L. in a glorified exhibition. Judging by the large crowds and healthy ratings for the inaugural WBC final four in 2006, which the U.S. did not partake in because they were terrible, I think many would agree.

Of course, owners and players would howl about playing these games in the middle of the season. It's a fair argument, but it would only be two games and the pitchers would be on pitch counts. For comparison's sake, World Cup qualifiers are played during the club footy season, as are all manner of friendlies. If anything, it's healthier to play such games in the middle of a season than at the very beginning of spring training, when their bodies are not warmed up to the daily grind of baseball.
And if the U.S. were to somehow make it into the final four, why, there'd be more juice than the Kool-Aid Man taking a wicked pissah. "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" is a far catchier chant than "Jun-ior Cir-cuit! clap! clap! clapclapclap!" And besides why should we fight amongst ourselves on A.L.-N.L. fault lines when we can fight the rest of the world? We're used it in real life anyways.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Not Your Father's Yankee Stadium

The upcoming Major League Baseball All Star Stadium being held at Yankee Stadium celebrates the final season of the facility, and like clockwork, baseball writers over 40 flood the print media and airwaves with memories of the Mick, Joe D and sometimes reaching back for the Iron Horse and the Babe. That's fine and dandy, but let's recall those legends played on a field that was seven feet higher than the existing one, was enclosed by fences in left and center field far deeper than the dimensions we know today -including Monument Park being part of an even more intimidating Death Valley, covered by a roof trimmed with the iconic brass frieze, not aluminum paneling over the remade upper deck shell and recorded by a far more informative scoreboard. Much of the original structure is intact, but to say the the two incarnations of the ballpark are the same ignores the two years spent to reconfigure the park: this is no seat replacement and paint job a la the tweaks the Mets made to Shea Stadium made in the early 80s. Some sources, such as the ESPN Sports Almanac, refer to the pre-1974 park as 'Yankee Stadium I' while other publications keep the continuity.

It is this tie to the past that allows writers like Mike Vaccaro to glorify the park with gems such as "the chance to come see Yankee Stadium, one last time, in all its resplendent splendor." Resplendent Splendor? In those cramped concourses? Embarassingly understaffed vending pool? Two inning lines for hot dogs or restrooms? OK, so their elevators are in better shape, not that the average fan would know. Maybe they have better pregame dessert carts for members of the press. If Mike Francesa, one of the biggest Yankee fans and historians around today, literally and figuratively, could get worked up about the need for a new venue, no nostalgic rose-colored glasses of the park are needed anymore -it is worth noting that debate between Francesa and Chris 'Mad Dog' Russo was one of their most fiery of the year, though that discussion included the issue of public funds for a stadium, which can be addressed here another time.

EDIT: Another nostalgic sportswriter who has no idea what he's talking about.

Yankee Stadium information provided by Wikipedia.
Yankee Stadium images provided by Baseball Fever.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Frownie Faithful's Worst Nightmare?

Is this a vision of Cleveland's worst nightmare? (Well, up there with Byner) How appropriate that The Chosen One stand in Upper New York Harbor, betwixt Money-Makin, Bucktwon and Dirty Jerz?
"Hovie on line one, Donnie Walsh on line two, baby...."
"Oh word?........"