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October 26, 2007

There's a new idiot in town!

Let’s all agree on one thing…Eric Byrnes is an idiot.

No, not the happy go lucky 2004 Boston Red Sox-type “idiot”…but a pure bred douchebag. Normally, he’s the type of player that I like…scrappy, plays with a TON of heart, mouths off on occasion, BUT, this post season (much like his 2003 shoving incident with Jason Varitek) he is proving that he hasn’t a clue what he is talking about.

We’ve all heard him say that the Colorado Rockies got some “lucky breaks” while they swept Byrnes and his Arizona Diamondbacks RIGHT out of the playoffs, but then he went on to say that "the nation is going to be SHOCKED how good Colorado is" when they play the Red Sox.

Really? Shocked?!?

Well, I could mention the 13-1 drubbing the other night, the eight days off (of which Byrnes said WOULDN’T affect the Rox) or I could say nothing…the last two nights have spoken for themselves.

Byrnes, on the other hand, was STILL singing the praises of the Rockies prior to Game Two. If you listen to him…Josh Beckett was the LONE factor to the BoSox victory the other night. Matter of fact, AFTER the second game, he warned of the Rockies getting momentum back should they win Game Three in Denver.

What’s with this guy?

He’s right, though. Josh Beckett WAS masterful the other night. And you know what…he should be. The Red Sox gave up plenty to acquire him (and Mike Lowell) before last season and he was brought in to do EXACTLY what he’s been doing. Win the big game.

Now, flash forward to Game Two.

Curt Schilling was scheduled to take the bump. Prior to the 2004 season, Schill was brought in to do EXACTLY what Beckett was brought in to do a couple years later. HOWEVER…the media, for some reason, was pretty much writing him off. Apparently his blood soaked star had fallen.

Memo to newswriters...Schilling was Josh Beckett BEFORE Beckett was Beckett.

He was the NLCS MVP in 1993 with the Philadelphia Phillies. Almost ten years later (in 2001), he followed it up by being named the World Series Co-MVP alongside Randy Johnson. I won’t mention the “bloody sock” (again) or his postseason winning percentage.

Curt is good…DAMN good.

That being said, is he Hall of Fame good?

My buddy E talks about the “smell test”. Does a player pass the Hall of Fame smell test? If so, you look deeper and see whether or not he is worthy. EXAMPLE: a guy like Tim Raines smelled like a Hall of Famer at one point…now he smells of Kenny Lofton. Since we’re talking lead off hitters (for some reason) a Rickey Henderson smells like fine wine aged to perfection.

That being said…Schilling smells like a rose.

216 victories, 3116 strikeouts, FOUR top five finishes in the Cy Young voting, six All-Star games…not too shabby for a kid out of Anchorage, Alaska. When it comes to his strikeout to walk ratio…only one pitcher was better and he last toed the rubber in 1884. He died, ironically enough, in Boston.

All that said…if you look closer, like Raines, Schilling doesn’t smell as good as you would initially think.

True, his postseason stats are phenomenal…but you can’t induct him on that alone. Sure, they warrant mention, but induction based SOLELY on that…um, no. If so…open the doors to Bernie Williams, Cooperstown!

216 wins, while impressive, only ranks him eighth among all active pitchers. Four of the seven ahead of him on the list (Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson) are WAY ahead and certain Hall of Famers. The other three (Mike Mussina, David Wells and Jamie Moyer) couldn’t pass the “smell test” if they carried Pedro Martinez around in a headlock.

Add to the 216 wins that Schilling’s win percentage is .597 and you’ve got, over the span of his career, a very good pitcher…not a great one.

Strikeouts. Schilling’s four years of 290-plus Ks are crazy good. Of the 13 pitchers with MORE than Schilling’s 3116, only Bert Blyleven is not in the Hall, while Clemens and Maddux will surely go in when the time comes. Consider that 1228 of his strikeouts came in the afore mentioned four 290-plus years, and that he’s only got ONE 200 K season outside of that…the 3116 seems kinda suspect.

What I’m saying is this…give me 15 years of 200 or more strikeouts and I’d be MORE impressed than Curt’s five years of 200-plus scattered over a twenty year span.

I liken to Schilling to Sandy Koufax…kinda. Both of their legend has been based on a handful of select years. Koufax, however, did his in consecutive years at the end of his career before he fell victim to an arthritic wing.

Schilling spread his out over a couple of decades.

He was a stud in 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2004 (an 83-30 record and 1031 Ks)…but that was about it. You COULD make an argument that outside of the win/loss record (8-9), Schilling was on his way to a GREAT 2003 season before he got injured...which happened WAY too often.

Curt was, undoubtedly, MUCH better over the second half of his career compared to the first. Hell, he’d even agree to that and he doesn’t like ANY of the unfavorable press he gets!

Koufax, over his last four seasons, notched a 97-27 record and 1228 strikeouts. So, yeah, not EXACTLY the same, but Sandy had nearly 200 innings pitched than Curt.

Watching Curt Schilling work, he carries himself like a sure-bet Hall of Famer who is winding down a great career…but so did Jack Morris. Putting him into perspective, he starts to come across like many of the pitchers that have made it into the Hall over the last 20 years…he’s a guy with some longevity, a handful of years of greatness and some postseason success. And that's not a TERRIBLE thing...just ask Don Sutton, Phil Niekro or Gaylord Perry.

Arguably, he wasn’t always the best pitcher on his staff and only a few times would he have been considered one of the most dominant pitchers in the league. He never brought home the hardware that Cooperstown LOVES to look at (a la Robin Yount’s TWO MVP awards), but he was solid. He has a respectable ERA (3.46) a couple of World Series rings and is a great character.

First ballot guy…probably not. He’ll be competing (potentially) with the likes Clemens, Maddux and Glavine as far as starting pitchers go. Take into account that there will be a slew of position players also vying for their enshrinement and it might take Schilling a while to get through the doors.

Let me know what you think…how does Schilling smell? Does he pass the test or just get tossed aside like some bloody, old sweatsock?!?

***Note: The "is Curt Schilling a first ballot Hall of Famer?" poll garnered the following results...Yes-10%, No-90.***

Ballhype: hype it up!

October 18, 2007

Wave goodbye, Joe!

***Note: E is back. Check out his normal ramblings HERE!***

So, the Yankees have been unceremoniously ushered from the postseason by a Cleveland team full of 26-year old nobodies. And, since this is becoming a fairly regular thing, the time of scapegoating is upon us. And, since a team not being to able to perform is always the manager's fault, of course Yankees' skipper Joe Torre has fallen directly in the crosshairs.

I, for one, think the Yankees' front office of George Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman are aiming at the wrong guy. They should be aiming at themselves.

It's no secret that the Yankees have a tendency to try and win championships by buying them, paying top dollar for the best talent available. It's also no coincidence that this practice started roughly the same time that Steinbrenner took over the team.

And, on paper, it's a great idea.

But it doesn't work (not all the time, at least). Del Webb owned the Yankees for 19 years; he won 11 Series in that time. Steinbrenner has owned them for 34 and counting; he's won six. In the Steinbrenner era, before Torre (who's been the manager for 12 years), the Yankees went to the postseason six times, winning two Series. Since Torre, they've gone to the postseason every year, and won four Series.

And they could probably win more, if, every year, Cashman and Steinbrenner didn't saddle him with their real-life rotisserie team that they've paid WAY too much money to put together. And they aren't getting much for their $195 million, which $50 million more than the second-highest team, namely because they just throw money away.

By contrast, three of the four teams remaining in the postseason are in the bottom eight in payroll.$28 million for Roger Clemens, who turns 56 this year, to pitch whenever the Hell he feels like it.

$23 million for Jason Giambi to, apparently, do nothing but blow the lid off the whole steroid thing.

$10 million for Carl Pavano to remain in a constant state of disability.They also love to sign players well after the iron has cooled.

Johnny Damon: Great player...with the Royals and Red Sox.

The Andy Pettitte they brought back from Houston (at top dollar) is not the same Pettitte that left for Houston.

And losing Soriano and assuming the debt load on Alex Rodriguez's contract may have seemed like a good deal at the time, but...hey, that A-Rod sure puts up some great numbers, don't he?

What Steinbrenner and Cashman don't seem to understand is that the Yankees of the '00s are not the Yankees of the '50s: they just aren't going to win every year.

And throwing more money at the problem isn't going to help.

Remember the Cleveland Indians? Two years after closing out the '90s with five straight division wins and two trips to the Series, they flushed the entire franchise down the toilet and started over again. And now they're playing for another trip to the Series.

I think the Yankees need to take a look at this strategy. They have close to $100 mil in contracts coming due, and it might not be wise of them to spend all of that in one place, as they usually would. There IS affordable talent out there. You don't have to sign the entire All-Star roster. Hell, the Yankees' best pitcher isn't even making $500,000; there are more (younger) players out there who are that good.

But, these are the Yankees.

They've fucked themselves by putting all of their eggs in the same basket, letting A-Rod's contract come up the same year as Posada, Abreu, and Rivera's. So, they either lose a good portion of their of their team and start over, or they resign the whole thing and end up with the same team next year that couldn't do anything this year.

And all this is Joe Torre's fault HOW?

There is a ray of hope: reports are coming down that Steinbrenner is giving up control of the team to his sons. Hopefully, they're a little bit more sensible than their old man. And they'll keep around the best manager they're likely to see in a long time.

Ballhype: hype it up!

October 7, 2007

Wait 'til Sunday, year!

It’s alright, Cubs fans…according to your field general, staff ace Carlos Zambrano will take the bump Sunday against the Diamondbacks.

Wait. Wha…the Cubs lost and WON’T be playing Sunday?!?


Let’s break down Pinella’s decision…just in case you thought it was a good one (it wasn’t). Zambrano was pulled after six innings of four hit ball and in the midst of a 1-1 ballgame. His 85 pitches thrown and 22 batters faced were the SECOND SHORTEST of the season. On July 18, Zambrano threw 80 pitches and faced 19 batters. Of course, the Cubs won that one 12-1.

In case you think 85 pitches is a lot for “Z”…think again. In his 34 regular season starts, he averaged 108 pitches per outing (a mere 23 MORE than what he went for in Game One) and threw more than 120 five times! If Zambrano is such a gamer and Pinella such a great manager, Carlos Marmol is not out there in the seventh inning Wednesday night…Carlos Zambrano is.

If Tom Kelly can send an octogenarian out there in the tenth inning of Game Seven of the 1991 World Series…the Cubs can trot out 26 year-old Zambrano.

Lou Pinella should be drawn and quartered.

Of course I was referring to one of the most memorable performances EVER in the World Series (with all do respect to Don Larsen and Curt Schilling)…that of one JOHN SCOTT MORRIS on October 27, 1991.

By comparison to Zambrano’s outing, Morris ended up throwing 126 pitches that game…19 over his 1991 season average. Matter of fact, here’s a fun fact…Morris won FOUR games (both of his ALCS starts and two of his three World Series starts) in the post season that year for the Twins making him their all-time post season wins leader. The next season he went on to lead the Blue Jays to glory.

I guess there was nothing more for him to accomplish in his ONE season back home in St. Paul.

Morris’ successes in the early 90s aside…it was in the 80s where Jack made a name for himself. It’s safe to say that if the Hall of Fame decides to start looking at pitchers who made their bread and butter throughout the 80s…Morris would be at the top of the list.

Let’s break down the facts.

Consistency and durability, while not THE reason to induct someone, Jack was the epitome of a pitching Iron Horse. Matter of fact, this innings hog (he had eleven seasons of more than 235 innings pitched) hold the record for most consecutive opening day starts…14.

And if you thought Cal Ripken’s streak was impressive (it was), Morris went nearly 500 starts without missing his turn in the rotation. He only appeared on the disabled list twice.

Again, not a reason to bronze his head…but not too shabby either.

On to more conventional stats, Morris notched a career 254-186 record…good for a .577 winning percentage. For the record, 254 wins is more than Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal and Whitey Ford among plenty of others. Hell, in the 80s alone…Morris went 162-119 (again, a .577 winning percentage and the most victories in the 80s) and exhibited his amazing consistency by finishing in the top ten of the Cy Young Award voting in half of the decade’s contests. He finished in the top five in 1991 and 1992 as well.

As alluded to earlier, Jack was the ACE three World Series teams (he was injured and couldn’t play in 1993 or else there’d be a fourth)…the Tigers, Twins and Blue Jays. All that AND he threw a no hitter.

Instead of repeating myself…suck on these numbers from 1979-1992.

Jack Morris...233
Bob Welch...192
Dave Stieb...174
Nolan Ryan...168

Jack Morris...169
Fernando Valenzuela...107
Charlie Hough...106
Dave Stieb...103

ERA(2,200 IP min.)
Nolan Ryan...3.21
Bob Welch...3.32
Fernando Valenzuela...3.34
Dave Stieb...3.39
Dennis Martinez..3.61
Jack Morris...3.71 (8th)

I think the main reason Jack gets overlooked is his career ERA of 3.90. He never led the league (much less came close to it) and made no bones about the fact that he gave up a shitload of runs. HOWEVER, his teams produced behind him and regardless of his ERA…he virtually always managed to stay BELOW the league average.

Will Jack get into the Hall? Perhaps.

Does he DESERVE to? Absolutely.

The Veterans Committee DOES like to look at players that got close (Morris appeared on a best 41.2% of the ballots in 2006) but not close enough. And some day…the 80s won’t be as overlooked as they have been in the past.

I’m pretty sure that Jack Morris would still be pitching SOMEWHERE if not for the two reasons in my mind. One, he believes that people are useless once they turned 40 and vowed never to show his grizzled mug in public after reaching such an age and two…he last signed with the Reds not knowing about the anti-facial hair policy. That alone is enough to make ANY man (much less Jack Effing Morris) walk away from the game.

Ballhype: hype it up!

October 6, 2007

Just put him in the Hall now...why wait?

"It feels great, man. It's been a long time I don't do something special like that. But I haven't been right all year long. But when you don't feel good and you still get hits, that's when you know you are a bad man."

October 2, 2007

Sometimes being twelfth best is all it takes!

***Note: E is back. Check out his normal ramblings HERE!***

Well, they did it.

A year after finishing dead-ass last in the NL Central, the Chicago Cubs have messed around and won the division. They managed to win the division despite the fact they finished a mere four games over .500.

They needed 160 games to put it away. And, in the last week of the season, the only reason the Cubs magic number kept going down was because the second place Brewers couldn't win a game either. In fact, had the Cubs and Brewers not won and lost, respectively, their games last Friday, I believe the division would be tied (and I'm sure some stat wonk will correct me on that if I'm wrong).

Basically, the Cubs backed right into a division win. Of course, none of this would be possible without the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Brewers were this year's "Pick to Click" in the NL Central. Many analysts picked them to win the division. And, up until May 12, they actually had the best record in baseball. And then, the slide started. By the 15th, they had the best record in the NL. By the 27th, they had the worst record of any division leader in all of baseball. And they just kept going backwards.

By the end of August, they were a sub-.500 ballclub, all the way back in 3rd, behind the Cubs and Cardinals. But, the Cardinals' resurgence was short-lived, and the Cubs, well, they're the Cubs, and the Brewers climbed back on top by the 2nd week of September. But, the Brewers threw away late-game leads (via Derrick Turnbow, the Cubs' best player, who won at least 15 games for the Cubs, even though he plays for the Brewers), and the Cubs just continued playing.500 ball.

Eventually, they got their magic number down to two, and just happened to win a game the same day the Brewers lost.

And there you have it: The new NL Central champs.

Not that any of this matters. These ARE the Cubs, who haven't even BEEN to a World Series since World War II. And this is where Cub fans will haul out the old "Steve Bartman" argument, because, had Bartman not touched that foul ball that Moises Alou maybe would have caught, the Cubs' pitching staff wouldn't have given up eight runs that inning to lose Game Six.

And not many people know this, but he also caused the Cubs to lose Game Seven as well. If not for that guy, the Cubs would (probably not) have gone to the World Series.

Anyhoo, congrats, Cubbies.

After you get knocked out of the playoffs this year, you can get all geared up to finish last next year. Because, after all, you ARE the Cubs, and that's what you do.

Ballhype: hype it up!