17 October 2005


On our way over to the new Barnes and Noble on 46th and 5th, Erin and I got split up a bit by some traffic, and I ended up on the cross streets a bit quicker than she did, and standing propped up by a streetlamp was the original Hank Kingsley himself, Ed "the Monster" McMahon. Weird. So I stuck my hand out and introduced myself. What a nice guy. Really tall too- bigger than I am and he's my Nana's age.

Apparently he was near the aforementioned B&N because of the spate of celebrity book-signings on their schedule includes one Mr. Edward McMahon tomorrow. I have no idea what book he wrote. Anyway, today's signing was Iman, and we checked her out once we were inside- but not too well, as she sat so far away. Erin was getting pretty stalker-y so they had to kick her out of the Art section (true story). I tried to end-around and get a camera-phone picture of her but then I thought "well, this Iman. What the hell do I need a picture in my phone of Iman for?" So I dropped it.

Still pretty cool.

Yankee fans fucking suck at life. Seriously. Give me a goddamn break, man. There's really nothing more obnoxious than a writer that fulminates on baseball decisions and player moves from the viewpoint of "Joe Fan." This, of course, happens from the "Yankee Fan" perspective a lot. Check some of this shit out:

Ever have a girlfriend cheat on you? There's no pain greater. You put your trust in a woman, show off your love publicly, and then bang — she makes you look like a fool in front of all your friends, family, and colleagues. In the process, she breaks your heart. Now, imagine after proving herself over an extended period of time, taking that girlfriend back, only to have her cheat on you AGAIN. That's what this roller coaster ride of a year has felt like for Yankee fans trying to come to terms with A-Rod. He let us down last October, earned our trust and faith back over the course of this season, and then bang — broke our hearts again when it mattered most.

Oh yea, the only thing I love more than, say, Patriots/ Red Sox compare/ contrasts is the ol' ballplayer-as-girlfriend-for-comedic-effect analogy. Didn't Bill Simmons beat that horse into the afterlife already? How do guys like this get baseball columns? No really, how do they? I could crap this stuff out in my sleep if that's what it takes...

All that being said, he can never be a Yankee again. Not after 0 RBIs in this year's ALDS. Not after that heart-shattering double play. Not after that error in Game 2. Quite simply, A-Rod's gotta go.

For the past two years, the Yankee fan/A-Rod relationship has become similar to Nick and Jessica's. On and off, on and off, really on ... and now, really off. This love affair never started off right, anyway. A-Rod, and his embarrassing price tag, came to the Bronx as a symbol of the "New Yankees." Long gone were the Paul O'Neill's, Scott Brosius', and Orlando Hernandez's of the world. In came the new breed — the Rodriguez's, the Kevin Brown's, and the Javier Vazquez's. It was like when Jack Horner moved from Dirk Diggler and went with Johnny Doe and the VHS tapes in Boogie Nights. It never felt right. It never felt true. Nevertheless, these were the new Yankees. Rodriguez wasn't the only one, but he stood as the symbol of both the greed and futility that the new blood meant. He didn't ask to be a Yankee, but here he was — the Bombers' newest centerpiece — the face of the team.

Jesus... where have I heard this before...

Oh right. Everywhere. Let's see, the "Regular Guy" Yankee-fan column- we're gonna need a reference to the old dynasty, a stupid solution to a bigger problem, mild pop-culture reference, some Jeter fellating- hold on:

Rodriguez's futility shined so much brighter because of whom he followed in the Yankee lineup. Derek Jeter, the girl next door, this generation's "Mr. Yankee," seemed to make one clutch play after another. Immediately after him, Rodriguez consistently failed to come through in the clutch. It was like going through the ultimate high, then the ultimate low — time and time again. Like a CD on repeat or an episode of The Real World: Austin, it was the same thing every single time.

...there it is. Phew. OK, column complete! Yes! I can't wait for "Cheap Seats" to come calling so I can sit around with the Sklar boys and trade pot shots at old episodes of "Battle of the Network Stars"!

I swear to God, if I was a Royals fan listening to all this fucking moaning and handwringing and disgust over having ALEX FUCKING RODRIGUEZ on your favorite team, I'd buy a huge wrench, get on a plane to NYC and get off swinging as hard as I could. What a bunch of spoiled, dickless brats.

Ugh. Hey, Pete Schrager- die in a fire, bro. Next...

Watched a really great special last night on HBO called City on Fire, the story of the 1968 Detroit Tigers, and the effect their World Series title had on the riot-torn city.

A couple things I'd never realized about that team- first, none other than Eddie Mathews, then in the twilight of his career, was acquired from Houston mid-season for nothing but a PTBNL. He contributed 3 HR in 52 ABs.

Of course Al Kaline was injured and limited to only ~350 ABs. But, the balance of those missed ABs was picked up by pinch-hitting specialist and bench-player extraordinaire Gates Brown, who was featured in the film as a prominent member of the Detroit black community. Brown hit 6 HR in 92 ABs with a .370/ .442/ .685 line that was good for a team-best 234 OPS+ in (arguably) the greatest pitching-season in baseball history. In fact, the park adjusted league average ERA in the AL for 1968 was 3.01. Mickey Lolich, World Series MVP, had a 94 ERA+ with a 3.19 ERA. Remarkable.

In this light, the offense was mostly remarkable, but also abysmal in two specific areas. Catcher Bill Freehan had an MVP- level season (batterymate Denny McLain won), weighing in with 145 OPS+ and 25 HR. Four Tiger starters had 20+ HRs (Freehan, Jim Northrup, Willie Horton and Norm Cash), and only three of the starters had an OPS+ under 125. One of them, Mickey Stanley, had a 102- which meant that the five OF with the most ABs in 1968 for the Tigers had the following OPS+ numbers:

GATES BROWN (92 ABs)-____________234
WILLIE HORTON (512 ABs)-_________165
AL KALINE (327 ABs)-_____________146
JIM NORTHRUP (580 ABs)-__________129
MICKEY STANLEY (583 ABs)-________102

Now, the other two with OPS+ numbers under 125 were, of course, SS Ray Oyler and 3B Don Wert. Wert was pretty freakin' bad, even in an offensive poor 1968- he had a line of .200/ .258/ .299 for an OPS+ of 67, and hit 12 HR. Doing that for over 500 ABs is pretty significantly damaging to the team, but this one was able to absorb it. Worse though was the three-way SS platoon of Ray Oyler, Tom Matchick and Dick Tracewski. How bad? Take a look:

RAY OYLER(215 ABs)-____________20
TOM MATCHICK(227 ABs)-_________60
DICK TRACEWSKI(212 ABs)-_______43

Those are OPS+ NUMBERS!! Oyler had the most ABs at SS, and Matchick and Tracewski were spread out over the infield. That has to be some of the worst production over an entire season at one position for a Championship team of all time.

That being said, this was a fantastic team, and that includes the offense as well of former Red Sox (first black pitcher in team history) Earl Wilson, who had a .489 SLG, a 118 OPS+ and 7 HR, in Tiger Stadium. Not bad.

The Immortal Denny McLain won 31 games, Mickey Lolich won 17, and Pat Dobson and John Hiller combined for 22 starts, 86 appearances and 253 IP total (most out of the bullpen) at an ERA under 2.55, with 171 Ks.

What an amazingly talented team- and they beat the best- Bob Gibson (he of the 1.12 ERA and the distinction of never being removed from a game all year- the only games he didn't complete were late inning pinch hitters) IN St. Louis, with Jim Northrup's immortal 3B to score two and ice the game.

Probably the most amazing stories of the film involved Lolich and Willie Horton- in 1967, during the heat of the riots- Lolich left the team to join his National Guard unit, and Horton, upon hearing of the riots beginning- ran right into the heart of them after the game in his uniform trying to calm some people down.

I finally finished Mind Game this weekend, and though it was an enjoyable read, as I watched the SABR- negating White Sox cruise into the World Series, it was not only ringing a tiny bit hollow, but some of the ideas seemed a little logically inconsistent.

I certainly acknowledge that BP made it very clear that a lot of luck went into the Series win- it always does, for every team (except maybe the 1975/ 76 Reds). Just a few things rubbed me the wrong way. To wit-

  1. First, some factual errors. In describing David's HR in Game 5 to bring us within one in the 8th inning, the author says it was a HR "to right field." This, of course, as 99 out of 100 Red Sox fans can tell you, is wrong. It hit the Volvo sign over the Monster, opposite field. Now, this may be (likely is) rather insignificant- certainly has no bearing on the points they were making. Instead, as a book interested in a scrupulous chronicling in the construction and performance of the team, small stuff like that gets on my nerves. Not a huge deal, though.

    There are a few more like that, but nothing Earth-shattering or worth chronicling.

  2. Throughout the book there seems to be some logic-bending to argue a point. At one point, one of the authors attempts to argue that Johnny Damon doesn't directly lend himself to any set lineup spot due to his wide-skillset offensively- he could hit, for instance, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th, 8th or even 9th, depending on how you saw him fitting. They go on to point out that Damon being put in the leadoff spot was a bold, progressively thinking move.

    I don't buy it- Damon batted leadoff in KC and Oakland before coming to Boston, and from everything I've seen of Damon, he is a prototypical leadoff hitter. I think it's possible I'm misinterpreting that point, but that was the impression I got.

    There is also the trade for Dave Roberts- a non-SABR type who is valued mostly for his speed and defensive abilities, abilities traditionally overvalued on an open market. The book attempts to posit that the acquisition by Epstein wasn't as it appeared- the overvaluing of speed- but instead a deviously brilliant contingency plan for a specific, late game postseason situation that may require a stolen base. Now, this thought may have existed on the periphery of his thinking on the deal, but at the time, it seemed like Theo was taking an OF Depodesta couldn't use in LA for very little, and using him as insurance for the brittle Nixon and as a decent rest-day option for Johnny Damon. As such, he performed both of these roles well.

    I guess I just don't see anything particularly impressive about a GM giving much of anything up for that sort of depth- I would rather a guy in that role that had a wider skillset spread out, instead of such a situationally-specific skill that he excelled at. Of course, I'm not complaining with the results- just suggesting that my initial impression to the reason/ use of the trade is as likely to be right as BP's, but BP is the one drawing assumptions as to it's truth.

Most of the issues I had with the book were some fishy assumptions they made to base their ideas on- even stuff like criticizing Torre for not pinch running for Sheffield late in ALCS games- something Grady Little did constantly in 2003 for Ortiz/ Ramirez, to the detriment of the team.

There is, however, some great stuff, including historical studies on teams post-brawls, a dissection of Mariano Rivera and the Red Sox, and Will Carrol's chapter, which is the highlight of the book for me.

Worth reading- I don't mind a faulty premise as long as it's fun to read in the process.

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