Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Any Rainiers season ticket holders out there?

A few details are up about the April 1st Rainiers-Mariners exhibition game. According to the Rainiers website:
Tacoma Rainiers season ticket holders will have the first opportunity to purchase Mariners Day at Cheney Stadium presented by Wells Fargo tickets on Wednesday, February 1. Remaining tickets will go on sale to the general public at 9:00 am on Wednesday, February 15 at the Rainiers Ticket Office. Ticket prices for the exhibition game will be $20.00 (box), $15.00 (grandstand reserved) and $10.00 (outfield reserved). For further ticket and game information call the Rainiers ticket office at (800) 281-3834.

I want to go! I think it'll be fun. I just have to see if I can convince someone in Tacoma to go get tickets, assuming they don't sell out tomorrow. I wonder how many Rainiers season ticket holders there are, anyway. The answer is probably "More than there would have been otherwise."

Monday, January 30, 2006

Mariners Fan Fest 2006

(I deleted my "Fanfest liveblogging" post since it was largely incoherent anyway as typing on a Sidekick cellphone often is, and everything in there is covered in this post too. I promise. And here is my Fan Fest Foto Set, too.)

So, after only sleeping 4 hours, I came down to Safeco Field super-early to get in line to get in to Fan Fest. The line was already a block long and winding around indoors by the time I got there. PositivePaul and his brother-in-law Dave were both at the very front of the line because they got there super-duper-early, and Conor Glassey and his dad weren't showing up until almost 10, so I waited by myself.

The way the autograph vouchers worked, first you got your Fan Fest ticket scanned at the home plate gate, and then you went through one of four lines and got a voucher for an autograph session. It was specifically for one player at a particular time, so if you wanted several different players, your best bet was to bring your whole family and all get different vouchers and wait in different lines, which I think would be dead boring. The Felix and Johjima vouchers went pretty quickly, from what I understand; by the time Conor got there, they were gone. Fortunately for me, and the Japanese couple standing behind me in line, we were in time to get vouchers for Johjima.

I went down to section 123 first thing, which was where the Dugout Dialogue (the Q&A sessions) was being held. I immediately found Paul and his brother-in-law, and a little while later also found Conor and his dad. We stuck around for the first two sessions, which were one with Reed, Dobbs, and Felix, and one with Bill Bavasi.

Jeremy Reed and Greg Dobbs
Reed and Dobbs both enjoy playing in Anaheim,
because they're from South California.

Sadly, I didn't really take down notes or liveblog during their interview, so all I really remember is that it was amusing. Someone asked Felix the fastest he's ever thrown, and he said "99?" Jeremy Reed said he thought it was really important to get away from baseball in the offseason and just enjoy life; he likes to play golf and stuff. All the guys said they liked playing in Anaheim best, the first two because they're from the area and so all their friends and family get to come there and see them play.

They had a girl there to be a Spanish interpreter for Felix, although he was able to hear and answer most of the questions in English just fine, it seemed. A lot of people had questions for Felix, of course, and afterwards he was mobbed for autographs; he didn't stick around to sign many, though Jeremy Reed did. A shame, really, since I even had taken off my "Vote for Felix" shirt to see if I could get him to sign it. (I was wearing about five layers of clothes. It was COLD out!)

I guess it'll be a goal for me to get him to sign it sometime during the year, maybe.

Dobbs, Felix, and Felix's interpreter
He's a kinda cute kid, isn't he.

After that, Bill Bavasi came out. I'd seen pictures of him before, but this was my first time seeing him in person. Standing tall and lanky and wearing a long black coat, my immediate impression was that he looks like Christopher Lee (the actor most recently best known for playing Saruman in the Lord of the Rings movies). Very frightening. Anyway, Bill was pretty candid answering questions, and people asked him some pretty good questions, including ones like "So, why didn't you go after Jeff Weaver?" and he said something about Boras client prices and how Jeff's just "not the goofball he used to be" or something. They asked him about all the offseason acquisitions, and he said how he knew they needed pitching, a lefty hitter, a catcher, etc, and it was just luck that Johjima happened to get signed first that way, addressing the catching need. He said that he'd known Washburn since his college days, and was aware of his general personality and ability, and his great stats in Safeco, and thought he'd be good here, and said he had a great approach to pitching. As for Carl Everett, I remember that he was asked about him, but I forget what he had to say about him besides "I think he fits our need, and I don't think he'll be a problem." Someone asked Bavasi about sabremetrics, and he was basically like "Well, we care about stats, sure, and we try to use statistical analysis but... it's often too tough to use minor league stats effectively."

At first, one of the microphone girls came around like "Does anyone have questions? Pleeeeeease?" but by the time I finally came up with a question to ask -- about Meche's contract, and whether that meant they intended him to only be used as a starter or nothing -- there wasn't any time left. Doh!

After Bavasi's talk, he signed tickets for us, which was pretty cool. Did you know he's left-handed?

Bavasi and Positive Paul
Bavasi continues talking to PositivePaul.

After that, they were having Norm Norm Charlton and Mike Blowers talk, and we'd been sitting there for an hour, so we decided to go elsewhere, and ended up down in the bullpen after stopping to take pictures of some stuff. I should stop for a second and mention all of the various attractions that Fan Fest had to offer:


  • Home Run Challenge - they had tee balls in center field and you could try to hit them over the centerfield wall.
  • Steal Home Challenge - this was a "see how fast you can run 90 feet" thing, though rather than being on the actual infield, it was run out in right field on the warning track.
  • Speed Pitch - huh, come to think of it, I didn't even see this one.
  • Run Around the Bases - actually, you ran from first base to second to third and that was it. We saw some people being silly and sliding and stuff.
  • Pop Fly Challenge - just what it sounds like. Catch a ball on the Safeco field grass.
  • Pitch in the bullpen - this is the only one we actually did. I'll get to it in a second.
  • Major League Batting Cage - you could go take a few swings in the Safeco batting cage in the visitor's clubhouse.


  • Silent Auction - they had random memorabilia for sale, mostly bats and autographed baseballs.
  • Virtual TV Broadcast, Komo News Fantasy Play-by-Play - I'm not sure I saw these either, but you could supposedly make your own pretend baseball broadcasts.
  • "Inside the Game" - one stop you could talk to the head groundskeeper and learn about stuff like Turface, one stop you could see bats balls gloves bases scorecards etc from real games. And another, they had some players' uniforms that you could try on, which was pretty funny. I put on a Felix jersey, and Paul noted that Richie Sexson's pants were almost taller than either one of us.
  • Mariners Photo Zone, where they had some cardboard thingies to take your picture with. There was one that was a picture of Felix, Morse, and Betancourt, only they cut out Morse's face so you could stand behind it. (Conor, Paul and I all tried it, but all the pictures I took sucked due to flash.) They also had a table with a Hargrove cutout and the Mariners border, but again, the flash made my versions of these pictures look terrible. Paul got a decent one of me, though.
  • Roof Control Room Tours -- dammit, why did I totally forget about this? That would be cool to see.
  • Clubhouse Tours - you got to see the Mariners locker room and the weight room, pretty much.

  • Last Fan Standing Game Show - I'll talk about this more later.
  • Mariners Theater - they had chairs set up in the Diamond Club lounge, and a big TV with Mariners videos.
  • Northwest Baseball History - this was pretty cool too.

Also, the SABR guys had a booth set up and had some info about the upcoming 2006 Seattle SABR convention. Other booths included the Moyer Foundation, and the Aquasox and Rainiers, and some of the radio stations.

Anyway, we went down to the bullpen and waited in line for a little while, and then we got to throw pitches in the bullpen. They actually had someone being a catcher there all day, and we got to throw in the home bullpen, too. Each person got two pitches. I went first and couldn't actually throw the ball all the way to the catcher; I think I got it about 3/4 of the way there. Damn volleyball wrists. Paul went second and actually got in two good throws, as did Conor, and I didn't actually see Conor's dad throw because my camera battery died on me and I was taking care of it. Oops.

Conor Glassey
Conor Glassey, newest pitching prospect for the Mariners

We were exiting and walking back to where Paul's brother-in-law was hanging out, and I was just like "Dammit! I throw like a GIRL!" and Paul just looked at me like "And your point is?"

Paul and Dave and I went to get food after that (they had most of the Safeco generic concessions open, so you could get hot dogs and pizza and pretzels and all) and then we went to get in line for Johjima autographs, since it was 11:30am by then. Conor and his dad went off somewhere else. Oddly, the line for autographs actually started out by sitting in the stands at the back of the sections that they were using for the Diamond Dialogue, so we got to see most of Moyer and Johjima's Q&A, but from a distance, so I didn't really get any good pictures of it. Before the Q&A started, you could tell when Johjima had come out of the dugout because there was suddenly a huge swarm of the Japanese media people on the field surrounding him. He and Jamie had a huge crowd, probably the biggest I'd seen, and when they introduced Moyer, talking about having re-signed him for the year, there was a huge cheer from the crowd. The Q&A was really funny in general, though. Some of the quotes (not direct, but close):

Q: "Jamie, you guys had seven catchers last year. How do you feel about the fact that this year you have yet another?"
A: "Oh, well, um... I can't even name all seven of the guys we had behind the plate last year!"

Q: "This is for Kenji... umm, do you pronounce your name JOE-jima or joe-JEE-ma?"
A: "It is like JOE-jima..." (someone, Moyer I think, asked if they could just shorten it to Joe) "Yes! Call me Joe!"

A tall blonde-haired girl got up and asked in Japanese, "マリナーズで一番好きなピッチャーは、だれですか?" (Who is your favorite Mariners pitcher?)
Johjima smiled, looked to his left at Moyer, looked back at the audience, and said, "Of course it is Jamie Moyer!" to which he got a lot of laughs and applause.

Q: "Jamie, so far you've had to work with some Spanish-speaking catchers like Olivo and Rivera. Of course having Kenji here will be very different, do you plan to try to learn any Japanese?"
A: "I don't think so. I'm having enough trouble with English!"

After the Q&A, we were ushered up to the terrace club to wait in the line for Johjima's autograph. It took about 45 minutes, during which I chatted with Paul, his brother-in-law, and some people in line, including a guy who was standing behind us who said he wasn't much of a baseball guy, but he was from DC and all of his friends were so excited about baseball there that he'd started to pay attention to it again; being from VA, he was more of a NASCAR guy. He saw my book with the Japanese baseball cards and that I had the issue of ベースボール with Johjima on the cover with me, and was just like "Wow, you must be crazy, I've never seen anyone who cares so much about Japanese baseball!"

Oh, also, Mike Hargrove was walking around and shaking hands and signing stuff, so that was pretty cool! I actually had brought my 1985 Hargrove card along just in case, so I got him to sign it :)

Mike Hargrove signing stuff
Mike Hargrove, signing stuff.

Actually, Hargrove looked really good, though I didn't realize until msb and Paul pointed it out to me later that he's lost a ton of weight since last year.

After quite a while, we finally finally finally got to Johjima! The autograph area was actually in the Hit it Here Cafe, which I'd never been in before, so that itself was pretty exciting to me -- we saw all these pictures of home run hitters up on the wall as we entered, Hank Aaron, Eddie Murray, I forget who, and I'm like "Sadaharu Oh? Mike Schmidt?" No Oh, but Schmitty was around the corner. The cafe looks pretty cool though -- it's the one part of Safeco I still have yet to sit during a game, so that's a goal for this year, I think.

Oh, right, Johjima! He was at a table with his interpreter and with a lady who was taking items and handing them to him to sign. Dave and Paul were getting bats signed - most people there had Johjima t-shirts or jerseys fresh from the team store to sign, or baseball bats or baseballs. I think I may have been one of the few people, at least non-Japanese, who actually had a baseball card of him. When I got to the table he asked first "Black or Blue?" about sharpie markers to sign with, then he noticed it was a card, and said (in English) "Oh! In Japanese, yes?" and I nodded. He signed it and gave it back to me and smiled.

I had planned to say "城島さんは,英語が上手ですね!" (Johjima-san, your English is very good!) but the flow of things just didn't seem to make it work. It's probably just as well.

A funny thing happened next. I went away from the table and was waving the card around to make sure the signature had dried before I put it in my book again, and two Japanese guys with big big cameras and "media" nametags were standing there talking, and one pointed at me with the card, so I went over to him and he said "Can I see it?" and I showed him the card, and the two guys started talking between them in Japanese (saying something like "huh, interesting, I wonder where she got it") so I just blurted out something like "三年前日本で買いました" (I bought it in Japan three years ago), to which the guy replied "そうね。写真を撮ってもいい?" (I see. Can I take a picture?) and I nodded, so he took a picture of it, or maybe it was of me holding it, I'm not sure. Still sort of funny!

Johjima signing
Johjima asks whether to sign in Japanese or English.

Unfortunately, Conor called me right after we got out of the Johjima autograph to say that he and his dad were leaving. Aww! But immediately after that I saw a semi-familiar face as the USSM Super-Commenter herself, msb, was walking towards us. So, that was pretty cool -- and at last I finally have it confirmed in my memory that msb really WAS the person who said "Cool shirt! I have one too!" to me about my Jason Kendall shirt at the USSM pizza feed in December 2004. She hung around and talked to us for a bit, but was also leaving after that.

We walked back to 123 after that. Rick Rizzs and Dave Valle were talking at that point. Valle was pretty cool - someone asked him who his favorite player was growing up, and he said Roy White was his role model. That's very cool - I'm a little bit too young to remember Roy White, obviously, but I read about him playing in Japan, where he was apparently the "perfect gaijin", the sort they wish everyone coming over there was, just a great personality and work ethic. To be fair, that blew me away so much that I don't remember much of the rest of Dave Valle's Q&A :)

After that, Howard Lincoln, the Mariners CEO, came out for a Q&A. Again people asked about Everett, and people asked questions about how the Mariners intend to get to the World Series now that the Seahawks are getting to the Super Bowl and all, and most of Lincoln's answers seemed kind of canned. He did seem like a nice guy, though.

Rizzs and Lincoln
Rick Rizzs and Howard Lincoln

I wanted to get him to sign my ticket too - thought having Lincoln and Bavasi would be pretty cool, but he ran out of time after signing one or two things for other people (by the way, he is also left-handed), so I got Rick Rizzs to sign instead. I also asked Rizzs about his glorious singing career, and he actually admitted that the holiday thingy this year was mostly a joke and just done in pure fun, but he wants to do a serious holiday CD next year, with like 5 or 6 songs about baseball and Christmas. Hee!

Rizzs actually came up to Paul's brother-in-law and said "Hey, man, how're you doing?" and shook his hand and all. Dave actually had a 8x10 picture printed of him with Rizzs from one of the Mariners Caravan stops -- and he gave it to Rizzs. Rick's like "Should I sign it?" and Dave's like "No, man, this is for you, buddy!" and he was like "Oh, cool! Thanks! Awesome picture!"

I want to take this moment to mention something, actually - Paul's brother in law knows, like, EVERYONE at Safeco, it seemed. I mean, he recognized Conor from the Seattle Team Stores, and he knew a bunch of the stadium staff, and some of the people at the various booths, and no matter where we went around the stadium people kept saying hi to him. It was sort of funny. Dave also had about ninety billion stories about going places to get stuff autographed -- and when we were admiring autographed stuff in the Team Store later on, he was coveting the Ryne Sandberg autographed picture (to which I scoffed, "Worst trade the Phillies ever made!"), and I was saying how cool the Johnny Bench picture was, and Dave immediately chimes, "Johnny Bench is signing out in Mill Creek later this week." It was sort of scary! :)

After Lincoln was the Q&A session with J-Rod and J-J, which was actually really entertaining, and no, not just because Jarrod Washburn has the bluest eyes in baseball (but, you can't deny it, he does). Jarrod seemed a little dazed at first, but he eventually warmed up to the crowd a lot, and he has a great sense of humor, seriously.

Q: "Who was your favorite player growing up?"
Putz: "I grew up in Detroit, so it'd be Lance Parrish."
Washburn: "Don Mattingly, he's a great guy."

Q: "JJ, I've heard they might be running a 6-man or a 7-man bullpen this year, which one do you like better?"
Putz: "I don't care, as long as I'm in it!"

Q: "Who's the toughest batter you've faced?"
Washburn (total deadpan): "Okay, guys, I gotta be straight with you... the most deadly batter, that gives me the most trouble ever, is WILLIE BLOOMQUIST."

Q: "What was your first major league game like?"
Washburn: "It was in Kansas City, and it was pretty crazy, there were like three bench-clearing brawls." (First batter he faced? Johnny Damon.)

Q: "How do you stay in shape in the offseason?"
Washburn: "Snowball fights! Fly fishing!"
Putz: "Um, weightlifting..."
Washburn: "Actually, I'm totally kidding. I work out and I also swim. Lots of swimming."

Washburn also was asked where he's from, and he said how he still lives in Webster, Wisconsin, which has about 600 people total; his high school class had 28 people in it. Craziness.

Rizzs, Putz, Washburn
R-Rizzs, J-J, and J-Rod

One lady in the audience asked Putz about how his three-month-old twin daughters are doing, and on their way out, another lady actually handed Putz what looked like a bag of baby clothes -- wacky.

Oh, they also asked them what teams they like pitching against -- and Jarrod said that his new favorite team to pitch against is going to be the Angels. When someone asked him why he'd decided to come play for Seattle, he said how he had wanted to be an Angel for his whole career, and had even told them that, but when they didn't try to keep him there this offseason, like any job, he went where he got a new job offer. He also mentioned he liked Safeco Field, thought the fans in Seattle were great, and that he had a lot of respect for a lot of the guys playing on the team (yes, he said he thought it'd be great being here to watch Felix too).

They also asked J.J. what it was like being in the bullpen with Eddie Guardado, and he said something to the effect of "Oh, he's a crazy man. You gotta watch out for him or he'll do all these pranks to you, set your shoes on fire, that kind of stuff."

Anyway, after that, we went down to tour the Diamond Club level. We toured the clubhouse, which means we saw the locker room and the weight room. The locker room was sort of funny, they had names up on various lockers -- I don't know if those are the real locations, but for example, they had Sherrill next to Felix. In one corner was Morse, Thornton, and Putz. There were big plush couches and big TVs, and a station with some computers, and then the weight room was pretty standard, and that's about all we saw.

The Diamond Club area was very nice, with lots of comfy chairs, a bar, etc. Right now they had the Northwest Baseball History stuff set up there, though, which was pretty cool and featured stuff all the way back to the 1800's.

We checked out the Last Fan Standing contest, which was a game show like thing, you'd get a ticket when you entered the room, and if your number was called, you'd get up on stage. They'd have 5 people per preliminary round, and they'd pick a category (like "Mariners who have hit more than 20 home runs in a season"), and each person had to name someone or something in that category. If they couldn't name anything, they sat down -- and whoever was standing in the end from naming correct answers was the last fan standing. They'd then take winners from three rounds and have them go up against each other. The prize for the prelim rounds looked like a Mariners hat and stuff, the prize for the overall was apparently four box seats to a game. Dang!

The sad part was, the categories we saw while we hung out there, I could have totally aced everyone on. Top 30 MLB RBI hitters, Top 25 MLB Base Stealers, Top 20 MLB At-Bats. It was practically KILLING me how in the second one, they got Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock immediately, and NOBODY even thought of saying Ty Cobb! I even named the next few guys (even Billy Hamilton, who everyone always forgets). Sigh. So then they had a tie-breaker because everyone ended up sitting down, with "How many wins does Jamie Moyer have as a Mariner?" and had people write down an answer, closest to correct without going over would win. I immediately say to Paul, "136." The actual answer was 139. The answers people gave were things like "365", "200", "160", etc... one guy said "75", and he won the round for not going over. Sigh. Sadly, it was already past 3pm by then, so we decided not to hang out for the last few rounds.

So, note to self: next year, enter trivia contest, so I can actually get something for being an obnoxious loudmouthed know-it-all. Much better prizes than I get at pub quiz, that's for sure!

After that, we trekked down to the Mariners Team Store, where Paul had to go get something for his son, and I decided to get a Johjima shirt after all. (A t-shirt, which was $20. The jerseys were $210, and people bought a ton anyway.) They also had all these game-worn jerseys, which were REALLY expensive, but there were several cool ones in the mix - a bunch of Snellings, a Borders 37, a Price 34, even a Morse 46, some Olivo and Torrealba, a Boone or two, a Jacobsen, a Madritsch, and of course, a Sherrill... but rather than spend 350 bucks on a jersey, Paul and I just decided to take pictures of them. So here's us as Free George Sherrill and the Pat Borders Fan Club. Whee!

And wow, that was a loooooooooong report to type up. I have more pictures, though a depressingly large amount of the pictures I took came out crappy due to the lighting in Safeco with winter and the roof closed and all... I'll put a few more online, though, maybe for Future Friday Foto Fan Fest Fodder or something. We'll see.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday Foto

Bill Bavasi is very proud of his perfect record regarding arbitration -- he's still never had to go through it.

Today the Mariners signed Gil Meche to a 1-year contract, avoiding arbitration. I've heard varying reports on the actual contract -- it sounds like it's for $3.7 million, but $225k of it is incentive-based, where he will receive $25,000 for reaching 190 innings, $50,000 for 200 innings and $75,000 each for pitching 210 and 220 innings. Various other sources have said something about the contract itself being non-guaranteed, but that may have just been a misinterpretation.

To me, this contract sounds exactly like what you’d expect after Bavasi’s comments in the USA Today article the other day where he said that "we need Meche and Pineiro to pitch to their potential". In fact, I'm surprised it wasn't even more incentive-laden and less base salary, to be honest. Though, the most interesting point about this contract to me is that it says the Mariners only want to see Meche as a starter, not in the bullpen, because if he did go to the bullpen, there's no way he'd pitch anywhere near 190 innings.

Oh, what were you saying? It's Friday, Deanna, where's the Foto? Right, here we are:

"Is this a baseball which I see before me, the
sweet spot toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee."

It's funny remembering the game I took this at. June 14, 2005. It was the first of the three Phillies-Mariners games. I was wearing a Thome jersey and rooting for the Phillies, and therefore Meche had to go throw 8 innings and only give up three hits and one run in what was one of his best games of the year. Dave Hansen hit a home run, and Ichiro got his 1000th major-league hit, though Randy Winn had a batting average ten points higher than him at the time. Given how Meche usually hates pitching against lots of lefties, it's really quite amazing that he wasn't fazed by the Phillies lefty-loading their lineup, what with J-Roll, Lofton, Abreu, Thome, and Utley.

Anyway, I hope Meche does well this year, I really do.

Also, they put up the scheduled appearances for Fan Fest. For player appearances, it looks like King Felix, Dobby the Bench Elf, J-Rod the Washburninator, J-Reed, J-Putz, and J-Jima are there both days; J-Moyer is there only Saturday and Richie Sexson is there only Sunday.

As far as blogger appearances go, I believe that myself, PositivePaul, and Conor Glassey are confirmed for Saturday, and I don't know about Sunday. I will try to conspicuously wear my Vote For Felix t-shirt; come say hi if you see me! I look sort of like this.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Uncle Rico's Back Again!

In the midst of all the joy about the arrival of our new catcher Johjima, I wanted to mention that the Dodgers signed Pat Borders to a minor-league contract and gave him an invitation to spring training. As one of the last known members of the Pat Borders Fan Club, I'm really happy for him!

Looks like the Las Vegas 51's (the Dodgers' AAA affiliate) will be in Tacoma from July 17-20 (Mon-Thu) and August 19-22 (Sat-Tue). If I don't get to a Rainiers game before then, you can be sure I'll make a run for the Borders sometime during those games.

Also, I bought my ticket today for Saturday's Fan Fest, so I'll definitely be there. Yay!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Book Revue: Moneyball, the Musical!

I was asked a couple of weeks ago why I hadn't reviewed the book Moneyball, being as it's one of the most prominent recent baseball books. The reason I hadn't reviewed it is because I felt like so many other people had already said everything I could ever say about it; I didn't want to be just another person reviewing it in the exact same way.

Well, um, a few days ago I came up with a way to review it that I'm pretty sure has never been done before. See, I started writing a parody of the Michael Jackson song "Billie Jean" about Billy Beane... and then I came up with some other songs along the Moneyball theme as well... and next thing you know, BAM! I've got an 18k file full of lyrics and dialogue!

So, here, in all its glory, is the first draft (ha!) of my stage parody interpretation of the Michael Lewis book. Hope you enjoy it. I made it a separate page because it's too big to make a blog post out of. I've listed and linked to the songs themselves incase you don't feel like reading the rest of it, or if my liberal application of swearwords to Billy Beane's speech patterns offends you.

Moneyball: The Musical!

A musical book revue in two acts
By Deanna Rubin

Billy Beane as the General Manager
Paul Depodesta as the Computer Guy
Michael Lewis as the Narrator
Eric Kubota as the Head Scout
Jeremy Brown as the Draft Pick
Scott Hatteberg as the Pickin' Machine
and various scouts, family members, and a book reviewer


Act One

1. Prologue - Moneyball Tonight ("Comedy Tonight", from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum)
2. Draft (Main theme from the musical "Rent")
3. The Ballad of Swisher's Kid ("The Ballad of Sweeney Todd", from Sweeney Todd)
4. I Just Get On Base ("I've Just Seen A Face" by the Beatles)

Act Two

1. Fixing the Hole ("Fixing A Hole" by the Beatles)
2. Giambi's Face ("The Rain in Spain" from My Fair Lady)
3. Scott Hatteberg, Pickin' Machine ("Truckin'" by the Grateful Dead)
4. Finale - Billy Beane ("Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson)

Constructive criticism is welcomed, of course, as is appropriate wording to include to make it obvious that it's a work of parody and I'm really just being a goofball and not intending any harm to Michael Lewis, Billy Beane, or anyone else.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Mariners introduce Johjima at Safeco

SEATTLE -- Kenji Johjima has been eager to show Mariners fans that he's working hard to learn English and fit in with his new Seattle teammates.

The new Mariners catcher -- and first Japanese player at his position in Major League history -- didn't waste much time displaying that effort at his first American press conference Tuesday morning at Safeco Field.

"Hi everybody," Johjima said to formally open the proceedings. "How are you doing? Thank you for coming today. My name is Kenji Johjima. I am from Sasebo, Japan.

"I am very happy to sign with Mariners. I like Seattle city and Safeco Field. I love baseball fans. I want to succeed in the Major Leagues. Do you have a question ... in Japanese?"

Monday, January 23, 2006

Around the Net in 42 Seconds

Okay, so actually, while there's not a lot of BIG news going on, there's a lot of pretty weird or funny news going on lately.

In the Mariners world, Japanball has an article about Johjima showing up in Seattle last night. He'll be presented in a press conference this week sometime, and will be at Fanfest next weekend. I love some of the quotes from this article, though:

Johjima, who has signed a three-year deal that will make him the first Japanese catcher in the majors, added he hopes to overcome the language barrier through his enthusiasm.

"I want to talk with pitchers to gain trust. Even if they don't understand what I say, they'll know I'm eager to communicate. I've heard Jamie Moyer likes wine, so I've decided to drink wine too," Johjima said.

Johjima also mentioned speaking to Shiggy, and speaking of Shiggy, the rumours around Westbay-san's forums are that Shiggy is retiring, which isn't inconceivable. However, as far as we know, he hasn't officially made any decision yet, and some of the Japanese tabloids just jumped the gun. Whoops.

(EDIT> Okay, apparently Shiggy has now formally announced his retirement. Seriously, I'm sure he'll be able to find some work -- his "other" skills (people skills, language skills, baseball knowledge) are way too valuable these days.)

Kazuhisa Ishii is going to play for the Yakult Swallows again next year. It's really not surprising, given that he played on the Swallows before and grew up near Tokyo. The Fighters (and Eagles) did make him an offer -- and that makes me wonder whether the geographical distance to Sapporo (or Sendai) is akin to the geographical distance to Seattle when it comes to luring free agents.

Remember the other day I was complaining about Seung-Yeop Lee getting released by the Chiba Lotte Marines? Well, they went ahead and re-signed Franco and Pascucci, which is good, but their replacement for Dan Serafini is apparently Kevin Beirne? What? Oh, and to add insult to injury, Lee signs with the Yomiuri Giants. To put this in perspective, it'd be like if... hmm. It'd be like if the White Sox said to Paul Konerko, "Hey, thanks for helping us win that World Series. By the way, the contract we're offering you for next year is exactly the same as the salary you're making now," and Paul Konerko said, "Screw you, I'm going to go play for the Yankees," and the Yankees said "Okay, but we're basically going to pay you the same salary too. But wait! We'll give you a signing bonus to make it seem like more, okay?"

Um, yeah. Stupid Giants.

Hey, so stuff happened on this side of the Pacific too. For example, the Mets traded Anna Kris Benson to the Orioles for for Jorge Julio and John Maine. A familiar sentiment in that article would be that "Perhaps because of his lofty draft status, Benson has always been noted for potential rather than performance." I mean, is he really supposed to be a TOR starter? I dunno. Either way, his wife Anna has gotten herself onto ESPN's Page 3, and it's pretty hilarious.

Oh yeah, and the Red Sox are trading for Coco Crisp, which I'm a little confused about. Huh. It sounds like a better deal for the Red Sox than anything, but who knows. I do wonder about the part where the Indians might try to trade Rafael Betancourt or Arthur Rhodes to the Phillies for J-Mike, though. The Phillies could use more bullpen help and do have a ton of excess outfielders, it's true. Either way, I blame Theo Epstein, now that he's officially back with the Sox again and all. The other good part about this is that maybe the "Reed to Boston" rumors will finally stop once and for all.

(EDIT> Well, if the rumors that it's Crisp, Riske, and Bard for Marte, Shoppach, and Mota are true, maybe it's not a better deal for the Red Sox. Whoa.)

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim naming trials continue, as the city of Anaheim would really like them to return to using "Anaheim Angels" to describe the team. Quite frankly, so would I -- it's been a year of making fun of the name switch now, and the jokes have gotten old. At least the Angels have done some productive things in the last few weeks, signing all of their arbitration-eligible guys, most recently Scot Shields to 1 yr / $2.1 million, and Brendan Donnelly to 1 yr, $950k. Well, that's good -- Shields doubles his salary, and given how generally awesome he is, I'm happy for him. Donnelly used to be one of my favorite pitchers too.

As far as other players I like go, there's an article about Mark Grudzielanek suggesting he switch his nickname to "Stubblebeard". As if that wasn't funny enough, the article's full of words like "grit" and sentences like "He's a ballplayer."

Hm, I think that's about it. Well, except maybe for Ozzie Guillen becoming an American citizen on Friday:

In his own engaging and unique style, Guillen quipped that one of the questions on the exam was to name the mayor of Chicago. Guillen's response was "Ozzie Guillen." Even Mayor Richard Daley would have a tough time marking that particular answer as incorrect.

Oh, and in that other sport, the thing I have been joking about for several weeks, a Seahawks vs Steelers Super Bowl, is actually going to happen. See, I lived in Pittsburgh for 8 years before moving out to Seattle, so this is pretty crazy. As a matter of fact, the funniest part is that there'll be a couple hours where I'll basically know exactly how far from a television set all of my friends are. Actually, no, the funniest part is how many people actually can spell "Roethlisberger".

I'm not really sure who I'd be rooting for, either, mostly since I'm really not that into football in general. I suspect in a Pirates-Mariners World Series I'd root for the Mariners, but in a Phillies-Mariners World Series, my head would just explode and I'd end up in the hospital for a week comatose. I'd wake up and ask, "Did we win?" and be told, "Yes," and then have to ask, "Which we?"

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Book Reviews: "Idiot" and "You Never Forget Your First"

I finished reading both of these books this week in tandem (you'll understand why in a second), and since I'm trying to do book reviews to also keep myself updated on my "what I've read" list, I figured I should write something about them.

Idiot, by Johnny Damon (with Peter Golenbock)

I am sure you've all seen or heard of this book already. The paperback edition even contains COOL PICTURES FROM 2005! Since, after all, this book was originally written and published in the winter of 2004 following the Red Sox winning the World Series.

Anyway, I found this book to be pretty entertaining, although it's not necessarily a "you absolutely must read it" sort of book outside of Red Sox fans, and even then, due to his new uniform, maybe not even then. As you'd expect, only the first 1/5th of it is about pre-Red-Sox Johnny Damon -- growing up, getting drafted, playing for the Royals and the A's, and then, BOOM, free agency, here we come Boston. After that, aside from bits and pieces of personal life details, the rest of the book is pretty much all about the Red Sox, mostly about 2003 and of course 2004. So, if you're a Red Sox fan, you still would probably enjoy reading this book, because it's sort of like re-living those seasons and championships, just through a different perspective. And if you aren't a Red Sox fan, you might enjoy reading this book anyway just because Johnny Damon's got crazy stories to tell about all the guys on the team (well, mostly he makes fun of Kevin Millar for being a loudmouth).

However, the biggest irony I must mention is that Johnny Damon spends a good half of the book always interspersing little details about how "We have to beat the Yankees" or "The Yankees and George are always trying new things to foil our plans" or "We're just proving that the Red Sox are not second fiddle to the Yankees", etc, etc. Lots of anti-Yankee stuff... and where's Johnny Damon playing now? The Yankees! Hee! So it's definitely pretty funny to read some of his sentiments during this book (and about his hair) now that we know where he'll be playing in 2006. On the other hand, he does spend a good chunk of time talking about how awesome Jason Giambi and Derek Jeter are, so I guess he's covered there.

You Never Forget Your First, by Josh Lewin

Now this IS a "you totally should read it" sort of book.

Also, as far as being a bus book, this is about as perfect as they get.

Basically, Josh Lewin (one of the TV voices of the Texas Rangers) went out and interviewed a ton of baseball players, asking them about their MLB debut, what was going through their head, what strange circumstances led up to it if any, what were they thinking when they got the phone call saying "You're going up!" and so on. So in a 250-page book, you have 120 players covered, each around 2-3 pages. Each player's section has a couple paragraphs summarizing who the player is and the highlights of their career, then has a couple paragraphs from the interview about their MLB debut, then has the box score of that game, plus little random factoids about the date, usually connected somehow with the player. (For example, Jamie Moyer's is "Also on June 16, 1986: Simply Red begins its rise on the pop charts with their hit single 'Holding Back The Years'. AUTHOR'S NOTE: 'Holding Back The Years' is precisely what Moyer has been doing since his mid '90s renaissance, pitching into his forties for Seattle.")

Almost all of the interviews are really interesting and entertaining, like Torii Hunter telling how he was put in a pinch-runner and Terry Steinbach messed with him pretending he wasn't going to get off base, and Hunter started running back to the dugout, only to have Terry yell "No, man, I'm just kidding with you!" as the stadium's all laughing like "Ahh, rookie." Or did you know that Mike Hargrove is the first person Roger Clemens ever struck out? And then there's Justin Morneau talking about how Larry Walker was such a big hero to him as a Canadian player, and his first game he happened to be playing against the Rockies, and Walker sent over an autographed bat for him saying "Welcome to the show. Make Canada proud." Joe Nuxhall (the youngest player ever, during WWII) mentions coming home the day of his debut like "School was fine, and oh, by the way, I pitched to Stan Musial!" And Eric Byrnes talks about how in his debut, he was doing okay, getting a few hits, then Steve Reed took offense at something and beaned him, which started a big brawl -- "Welcome to the big leagues. Two veteran teams going at it, and just because I had taken a big swing against Steve Reed, I guess. Whoops."

The biographies of the players are pretty cool too, with random trivia. Byrnes can name all 43 US Presidents in order. Tony LaRussa got his law degree the year before he became the White Sox manager. Kevin Millar himself described his bearded look as "Amish Porn Star". In addition, Millar trivia includes that he was never drafted for baseball, not in highschool or college, and worked his way up through the independent leagues, with the St. Paul Saints. Steve Stone is proud that he and Sandy Koufax are the only Jewish winners of the Cy Young. Alan Trammell snuck into Jack Murphy Stadium when he was a kid to watch Roberto Clemente take batting practice. Juan Samuel named one of his kids Samuel Samuel. And how did I never notice that the Tigers great Al Kaline's name spells out "alkaline"?

As if this wasn't enough to be fun reading, even just looking through the box scores of all the debuts is really awesome, and seeing names of players you'd totally forgotten about. Since this book features people who debuted anywhere from 1944 to 2004, there are all kinds of crazy lineups to see. Seeing the players who debuted in the early 80's either for the Phillies or against the Phillies just brought back a shock from lineups I hadn't seen since my childhood. A shocking number of people in this book, including Jamie Moyer, debuted against Steve Carlton. Heck, even A-Rod's debut in July 1994 made me think "whoa!" as he mentioned that the Mariners pitcher that day was Dave Fleming, a man I'd never heard of until a USSM post this week. And actually, the craziest Mariners-related debut featured in this book was that of Ron Wright, who basically appeared in exactly one game for the Mariners, managed to produce 6 outs in three at-bats by way of a single, double, and triple play -- and never got into an MLB game again.

This book is pretty fantastic, especially if you're the sort who's really interested in players' rookie cards and years and all. I happened to pick it up in a bookstore one day and read through a couple of the players' stories, but thought, "Gah, I don't want to pay $25 for this in hardback" and put it down. A week or two later I saw it in another bookstore, picked it up, read a few more players' stories, thought "Awesome! But ugh, $25, I wonder when it'll come out in paperback?" A week or two after that I was in yet another bookstore, saw the book again, picked it up, read it for ten minutes, and thought "You know, I'll be saving myself a lot of trouble if I just BUY THE DAMN THING ALREADY", so I did that. And I don't regret it -- this was not only a great bus book but also hugely entertaining.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Friday Foto

I took this picture while walking around Safeco Field during batting practice before a game against the Oakland A's. I wanted a picture of the Phillies logo square, I think.

behind the LF scoreboard
Behind the left field scoreboard, where the righty homers fly

I just think the lines are kind of cool from this angle. A lot of times when trying to take "artsy" perspective shots of stadiums, I end up with some stupid-looking picture of a foul pole or something.

Plus, wow, they have pretty high numbered squares back there! I guess that's for when the Mariners have a 22-0 blowout against the Yankees this year, right?

Okay, well, since I just looked it up out of curiosity -- trivia question: what's the highest number they've ever needed to use on the Safeco Field scoreboard during a Mariners game? (You can cheat if you want.)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Nerdiest Baseball Player List -- Call For Submissions

You can kind of sort of blame Bat-Girl for this one, although indirectly. Today she posted a link to an article about the Twins Caravan, where their bus got a flat tire and stranded Gardenhire, Rick Anderson, Jason Bartlett and Lew Ford in a middle school teacher's lounge for a while, and they sat around chatting baseball and doing crosswords and sudoku puzzles. "Nothing like doing Sudoku puzzles, huh?" said Ford with a smile.

Sudoku puzzles! A baseball player! Wow! That's so cool! I already liked Lew Ford for being a nerd, but that just amused me to no end.

So, as a result, I'm trying to come up with a list of the nerdiest baseball players. This is Seattle MariNERDS after all, right? So, here's the guys I can think of so far -- but I'm sure there are plenty I'm forgetting. I'm mostly trying to come up with people who are active or were active in the last year or two.

1. Curt Schilling

I'm pretty sure that for many people, if you asked "Who's the nerdiest/geekiest/dorkiest baseball player?" the first person that'd come to mind is Curt Schilling. I mean, he's got it all -- he keeps a ton of pitching data on his laptop and sits there studying it in the locker room -- and he's always been kind of dorky -- but, if you didn't already know, Curt not only is president of a tabletop board game publishing company, but he's also a huge video gaming geek, and is quite infamously known to be avid Everquest player, and more recently Everquest II, as he has been known to go around in an EQII baseball cap. Ah, Curt. He's the coolest geek EVER.

Edited in, 1/27 -- from this ESPN Page 2 interview:

Schilling: As a member of Sox Nation, the closer we get to spring training, the less rational and reasonable you are supposed to become. I am fully expecting a two-page column on the current Sox lineup and their projected VORP as it compares to the Yankees.
Simmons: It bothers me that I don't know what VORP is, I feel inadequate.

2. Doug Glanville

I'm calling out Doug Glanville because Curt called him out as being another Everquest junkie. Ever since that infamous Jayson Stark article where Glanville explained that he hit two home runs off Schill for getting his dwarven paladin killed, well, Glan's just been in for the nerddom. But that's not all. There aren't many recent major-leaguers who attended Ivy League colleges, but Glanville got his bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania. They have a bio of him on their alumni page, describing how strong he was in academics and how he not only got his degree in systems engineering, but continues to work in the field.

3. Todd Pratt

If I call out Doug and Curt, the Everquest trio requires I call out Todd Pratt. (Wow -- notice a trend so far -- these guys were all Phillies for large chunks of their career!) But, Todd has also done a memorable mlb.com interview where he talks about his gaming hobby -- from playing Dungeons and Dragons in the late 70's, to the recent trend of MMORPGs such as Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot, and of course, Everquest. (One wonders if the guys play World of Warcrack, but I haven't found anything on that yet.) Anyway, Todd not only dresses up as his D&D persona at rennaissance festivals, but he's even got an entire website devoted to video games and his RPG/etc character Ian Stormbringer. Wow.

3.5 Brian McCann

This isn't really calling him out, but since Tank's gonna be down in Atlanta "mentoring" McCann next year teaching him "good habits" which may or may not include playing MMORPGs, I must repeat how adorkable it was when McCann described hitting that home run off Roger Clemens in the NLDS as "it was really neat", and talking about how he and Jeff Francoeur hung out playing X-Box all night before the game. Though that might not really be all that geeky, relatively, these days -- the other little Braves are also known to indulge in videogames and Star Wars and such.

4. Lew Ford

The man who started this entire post. But even before there was Lew the puzzle nerd, there was Lew the guy who played Doom online, as mentioned in Bat-Girl's article Excuse Me, Haven't We Fragged Somewhere Before?, as apparently Lew went out to dinner with some of his Doom clanmates when the Twins were out in Anaheim once, and confused Gardenhire quite a bit. But even so, people are always pointing out how Lew got a 1400 on his SATs, and majored in computer science and engineering in college, and apparently fixes his teammates' computers from time to time. Even Bert Blyleven calls him "way too smart for baseball". And Lew is always saying crazy dorky things, according to legend, although he would apparently also like people to stop harping about his SAT score. Nevertheless, Lew is a cute goofy nerd, no matter how you slice it.

5. Scott Rolen

Well, maybe not as nerdy as these other guys, but certainly a bookworm. I mean, baseball players reading Ayn Rand? What will they think of next, playing Mozart in the clubhouse? (I'm kidding.)

6. Shigetoshi Hasegawa

If the fact that Shiggy came over to the United States and pretty much taught himself English by diving in and just absorbing the language as quickly as possible isn't enough to convince you of his cerebral nature, perhaps the fact that he's authored several books may convince you? One of which is even how he learned English, which has a priceless cover full of Engrish, but still. Shiggy reportedly kept a ton of books around his locker at all times, on business and on mental strengthening and such. It'll be interesting to see where he heads next in his career with that great mind of his, what with the increase in NPB-MLB relations every year.

7. Jason Szuminski

Actually, I'll be honest, I never heard of this guy until today, but he's apparently the only major leaguer to ever come from MIT. I'm not sure exactly what his status is now either, but he did pitch in several games for the Padres last year. Graduating with an aerospace engineering degree from MIT pretty much automatically labels you as a nerd no matter which way you cut it, though.

Any more?

While I probably read too many books and articles for my own good, I'm pretty sure I have no clue how many great nerds there are out there in MLB right now, and I'm certainly forgetting people. So, this is where I leave it to all of you. Nominate a nerd!

(By the way, in case it isn't obvious, I consider myself to be a bigger nerd than any of these guys, and I'm not trying to make fun of them. I just think the idea that these major leaguers are also whiling away the offseason reading books and playing games is completely awesome.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Willie Nelson

...sounds a lot cooler than "Jeff Bloomquist" as a title for this post.

Willie signed a 2-year deal with the Mariners today, avoiding arbitration.

Rotoworld says: "Willie Bloomquist's two-year deal with the Mariners is worth $1.525 million. He gets a $50,000 signing bonus, $625,000 this year and $850,000 in 2007. He can earn $150,000 om performance bonuses this year based on plate appearances and $250,000 in 2007. In addition, his 2007 salary can escalate by up to $250,000."

(I'm not bothered by this contract; I don't think it's that bad. 125 Bremertonians per home game at $30 per average ticket will make up $300k above replacement cost in gate sales. I sit next to way too many Bloomquist fans at Safeco to believe there's less than 125 per game. I'm glad they'll still have their cult hero to cheer for next year, unlike those little kids in my section who were in tears when Boone got axed.

EDIT> Or, as I said in a comment on Lookout Landing, "To put it in perspective, for $650k you could either have a 2-bedroom house in Greenlake, or you could have Willie Bloomquist.")

Nelson, as in Jeff, signed a minor league deal with the St. Louis Cardinals yesterday.

MLB.com says: "The deal is a Minor League pact with an invite to Spring Training, and ESPN.com reported that Nelson would make $800,000 if he makes the big league club."

So, I guess we're keeping Shotgun Willie, and Jeff Nelson is On The Road Again.

If it weren't for those four bad starts, eh?

Over on USSM today, Derek pointed out an article on the Hardball Times by Craig Burley called Phranklin, which is an interesting read, regardless of whether you're a Mariners or Phillies fan, or just like to read people discussing whether a particular pitcher is bad or seems bad.

The upshot of the THT article is that "Pat Gillick claims if you just remove Ryan Franklin's four awful starts, he really wasn't that bad a pitcher" -- and Burley sets out to prove that no, really, he still was that bad a pitcher. Which makes you wonder whether it's a valid claim at all, and contrariwise, how much worse would a good pitcher be if you just took out a few of their good starts?

Well, because I just finished tallying up the 1940 game log for Hughie Mulcahy tonight (though, sadly, my numbers, the NYT season numbers, and baseball-reference's numbers don't agree -- I have him at 91 walks and 81 strikeouts, NYT had him at 90 and 81, and b-ref has him at 92 and 81; I'm going to check the Baseball Encyclopedia tomorrow), let's see if I can do this four-worst and four-best thing on him. Since, after all, my original thought was that he wasn't such a bad pitcher either, but was just cursed by run support and by being on the 1930's Phillies. This is a guy who got named to the 1940 All-Star team despite a 7-10 record at the break, who would work his way to a 12-10 record before dropping 12 straight decisions to go 13-22 for the season.

Here's Hugh Mulcahy in 1940, with all his games, and then adjusted to remove his four worst starts - I'm using baseball-reference's numbers for now; I added in FIP and WHIP to Craig Burley's numbers:
          GS  W-L    IP      H   R   ER  HR  BB  SO  ERA   FIP   WHIP
Real 36 13-22 280 283 141 112 12 91 82 3.60 4.15 1.336
Adjusted 32 13-18 263.7 253 111 83 9 80 77 2.83 3.97 1.263

For the day, Mulcahy really wasn't so bad a pitcher, if you think about it. In 1940, you could lead the NL in K/9 with less than 5 (as opposed to today's near-10s), could lead in K/BB in the mid-2's... of course, there weren't really relief pitchers back then, either, at least not as we know them today. (The guys leading the leagues in saves had 7.) The AL had slightly higher numbers to lead their pitchers that year - well, higher K/9 but lower K/BB and such.

Yes, a guy with a 2.83 ERA still would have lost 18 games. Why? Because the Phillies that year suuuuuuuuuucked. This is a team that scored 494 runs, allowed 750 (87 of which were unearned -- Bobby Bragan alone made 49 errors that year in 132 games) and averaged 3.23 runs scored per game. As I calculated it, the team scored 115 runs of support while Mulcahy was on the mound, and he allowed 141 runs total, 112 of which were actually earned.

If you calculate the Pythagorean expected W/L on his games, real and adjusted for removing the 4 worst:
             RA    RS     PW-PL          ER      RS      PW-PL
Real 141 115 14-21 112 115 18-18
Adjusted 111 109 16-16 83 109 20-12

Ahh, and there he is, a 20-game winner, if not for all those damn errors and those four bad outings! The funniest part is, there was an article in the July 31, 1940 New York Times actually saying "Will Mulcahy be the first 20-game winner the Phillies have had in the last 24 years?" Naturally, that was right before his 12-game losing streak.

Now, I'm going to do this the other way, taking out his four best starts (I'm going on earned runs to pick them -- he had three shutouts, and I'm including what I thought was his best start outside them -- a 13-inning complete game on May 23 where he gave up 15 hits, walked none, struck out 10, and of course, the game-losing run came in on Chuck Klein's error):

          GS  W-L    IP    H   R   ER  HR  BB  SO  ERA   FIP   WHIP
Real 36 13-22 280 283 141 112 12 91 82 3.60 4.15 1.336
Adjusted 32 10-21 240 250 137 109 11 85 67 4.08 4.30 1.396

Real 141 115 14-21 112 115 18-18
Adjusted 137 99 11-21 109 99 15-17

Hmm. Yeah. Still bad, of course, but really not as atrociously bad as one would expect a guy to be to win a moniker like "Losing Pitcher". And if he'd been playing on a team like the Pirates where they were averaging 5.19 runs scored per game, he might have even had a .500 record.

You can't compare Losing Pitcher Franklin and Losing Pitcher Mulcahy easily, to be honest, but I'm working on it. They both definitely had one thing in common: they went out there and threw a metric crapload of innings for a pathetically bad team (albeit one with a much better defense, that's for sure) and came out looking much the worse for the wear.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Blog Cabins, falling down

This is a bit of a meta-post. I use my "Baseball Blogs" list in the sidebar of this blog as my "blogs I check almost every day" list, so as a result I recently culled off a few blogs because I was sad that I'd keep looking there and see no new posts. I used "hasn't posted in over a month" as my culling criteria; they're just commented out though, as I expect several blogs to start up again once Spring Training is underway. Notably, I took off the Seattle PI blog, Marty's Mariners, and, sadly, my "blog sister" Moira's Mariner Housewife... hopefully she'll start posting again next season? Anyone hear from her lately?

Actually, are there any other female-written Mariners blogs that slipped past my radar? Aside from msb being a prolific USSM super-reader-and-commenter, I'm largely unaware of any female influences on the M's blogosphere these last few months. (Hell, I'm not even sure *I* count as an "influence", although I've realized that there may actually be more than two or three people who read this thing regularly these days.)

Anyway, the actual reason I'm writing this post is -- does anyone know what happened to the Ball-Wonk? I really enjoyed reading his blog, even if it is about the Nats, and as far as I can tell, he hasn't posted since December 9th, with no particular indication of going on vacation or anything. I did send him email a while back and never got a response, so I'm curious what's up.

(EDIT> Ironically, the day I post "Where the hell is Ball-Wonk?" is the day Ball-Wonk decides to resurface to the blogosphere. So, that's answered, at least.)

Whole Lotte Shakin' Going On

Chiba releases Seung-Yeop Lee

I was a little disappointed when Dan Serafini ended up leaving the Marines to go sign with Orix, but Lee being released was a bit more of a shock to me; I was under the impression he'd agreed to a contract for next year.

Yeah, I know .260/.315/.551 might not make him Superman, but his 30 HR and 82 RBI led the Marines this year, and he pretty much did catapult them into the Japan Series, as well as attract a whole ton of Korean fans to Chiba Marine stadium. Lee (who set the single-season record for home runs in Korea) coming to Japan was kind of like Hideki Matsui coming to the US; it'll be interesting to see if he can also make the jump to MLB, but my guess is the Giants or some other NPB team will get him instead, at least this year. Still, I think Lotte should have offered him more money to stay with them -- when he hits 10 home runs in Chiba Stadium as part of another team, they'll be sorry.

I dunno, the free agent movement hasn't been that interesting lately. Danny Miceli, who seemed to be at the end of his road when he was sucking it up for Yomiuri last year, apparently signed a two-year, $1.5 million deal with the Devil Rays, and Kevin Millar signed with the Orioles for 1 year and somewhere around $2 million; the question is, is he Jeff Conine's backup or is Jeff Conine his backup? I'm not sure, but I've heard that Millar's got the better singing voice of the two, so let's hope he gets the lead vocals.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Reconstructing Hughie - More Fun With Box Scores

I wanted to make this post yesterday, but I spent three hours banging my head against this and didn't have an answer then. I still don't exactly, but I figured, hey, let me unleash my latest thing upon the world and maybe they'll have some input for me.

This is probably too dorky/nerdy/geeky/whatever for almost anyone reading this, but hey, this isn't Seattle MariNERDS for nothing.

Anyway, as some of you know, I like puzzle games a lot. I participate in events like Microsoft Puzzle Hunt and play an inordinate amount of puzzle video games and such. I like to solve puzzles for the heck of it, and I'm usually pretty determined to figure things out.

So, in the midst of attempting to calculate some game-by-game breakdowns for my latest baseball history obsession/project (which I'm almost dubbing "The Truth About Losing Pitcher Mulcahy" in my mind, sort of like my Jack Nabors thing a few weeks ago), I've been reading box scores from the New York Times from the Phillies 1940 season, trying to get Mulcahy's game-by-game log, which means figuring out his earned and unearned runs per game. Sometimes this is really easy, like if (as he often did) he pitched 9 innings and nobody made any errors. Sometimes it's not that simple but the flavor text in the article gives it away by saying when the errors were made.

And sometimes it's nigh impossible to reconstruct the game events at all.

In other words, I've stumbled across a boundless set of baseball logic puzzles. This is both beautiful and frightening.

Currently, I'm puzzling over the box score from a game between the Giants and the Phillies on July 5, 1940 (PDF file, copied from the New York Times archive, I hope I'm not going to hell for this). My goal is to figure out: when did Mulcahy get taken out of the game, and how many earned runs were assigned to him?

Let's see what we know, shall we? I'm going to retype the box score just because I know some of the numbers are hard to read on the original scan, and I'll include the relevant text from the bottom (the fact that there were 4702 paid patrons and 5532 ladies since it was Ladies' Day is irrelevant, I think):

Philadelphia New York
Schulte, 2b 5 0 1 0 4 0 Whitehead, 3b 6 1 3 2 1 1
Mueller, rf 3 0 0 1 0 0 Rucker, cf 4 1 1 2 0 0
Marty, cf 4 0 0 0 0 0 Moore, lf 5 2 2 3 0 0
Rizzo, lf 4 1 1 3 0 0 Young, 1b 5 2 2 7 1 0
May, 3b 3 1 1 1 3 0 Danning, c 4 0 1 6 1 0
Bragan, ss 1 0 0 0 0 0 O'Dea, c 1 0 0 1 0 0
Monchak, ss 3 0 1 3 0 0 Ott, rf 4 2 1 3 0 0
Mahan, 1b 4 0 2 8 3 0 Cuccinello, 2b 4 2 2 1 0 0
Millies, c 0 0 0 1 0 0 Witek, ss 4 3 2 1 1 0
Warren, c 4 0 1 4 0 0 Melton, p 5 2 3 1 4 0
Mulcahy, p 0 0 0 0 1 0
L. Brown, p 3 0 0 3 0 1 TOTAL 42 15 17 27 8 1
Atwood ph 0 0 0 0 0 0

TOTAL 34 2 7 24 11 1

Philadelphia 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2
New York 2 8 0 3 0 2 0 0 x 15

Runs batted in - Young 3, May, Melton 2, Whitehead 5, Moore 2, Danning,
Ott, Cuccinello, Mahan. Two-base hits - Danning, Whitehead. Three-base
hit - Whitehead. Home runs - Young, May. Left on bases - New York 7,
Philadelphia 8. Bases on balls - Off Mulcahy 2, Melton 3, L.Brown 2.
Struck out - By Melton 7, L.Brown 4. Hits - Off Mulcahy 6 in 1 1-3
innings, L.Brown 11 in 6 2-3. Wild pitches - Melton, L.Brown.

Relevant notes from the flavor text include:
"Young opened fire with a two-run homer in the first inning"
[in the second inning] "Two passes and four singles routed Mulcahy. Three more hits greeted Brown which, with an error, made the Giant total for the inning eight."
"A cluster of three runs came in the fourth, a triple by Burgess Whitehead banging in these three. Whitey also drove two more tallies across in the sixth with a double, his third blow of the day."
"When Brown, along with his catcher, Benny Warren, entered the game in the second..."

Irrelevant notes from the flavor text include:
"Young was so elated over his homer, his third of the year, that on rounding first he tripped and went sprawling inelegantly right in front of all of the ladies."

So, much like a logic puzzle, let's gather facts and try to piece together this crazy second inning and see if we can figure out the earned runs per pitcher. Welcome to my brain, ladies and gentlemen -- it's going to be a bumpy ride, so hang on to your hats!

Firstly, Burgess Whitehead hit in 5 runs -- three in the fourth inning and two in the sixth inning, which we found out in the text. Babe Young hit in 3 runs total, and 2 of them were in the first inning off his home run. If you're looking at the inning-by-inning count of runs... Every other run batted in by a Giant batter happened in the second inning. Namely, RBIs were collected in that inning as such: Moore and Melton both got 2, and Young, Danning, Ott, and Cuccinello each got one.

Secondly, as far as I can tell, no plate appearance counts for two outs. In order for Whitehead to have gotten 6 at-bats, there must have been at least 46 plate appearances by the Giants -- 5 times around the order is 45, and thus his 6th at-bat was a 46th. Well, in 8 innings the Giants were put out 24 times, plus they got 17 hits, plus there was one error, plus there were 4 walks (2 by Mulcahy, 2 by Brown) given them. If you add up 24 + 17 + 1 + 4, you actually get EXACTLY 46. Meaning that the very last at-bat of the 8th inning was Whitehead and he made an out somehow. (He couldn't get a hit then because the double in the 6th inning was described as "his third blow of the day" and the box score shows he only got 3 hits.) They DO list Hit-by-Pitch and Double Plays AND sacrifices and such generally in these box scores, so there just weren't any HBP, Sacs, etc.

Taking that, you know that the four men who walked were Rucker, Ott, Cuccinello, and Witek, because they don't have 5 at-bats each. (Ken O'Dea came in to replace Harry Danning at the plate during the seventh inning or so and managed to get an at-bat.)

Now, let's piece together the first inning to figure out who led off the second inning. Now, here's something interesting. If you make a grid and start filling in frames like a scorecard, you'll see that Moore had to be the batter driven in on Young's two-run homer in the first inning. Why? Because he scored two runs during the game, and there's no way the No. 1 hitter Whitehead could have driven him in during the 4th or 6th inning; it's simply impossible. Therefore, he scored one in the first inning and one in the second. (He can't have scored two in the second. With eight runs scored and three outs, even with three men left on base, that's a maximum of fourteen possible at-bats, which wouldn't get all the way back around to him.)

Okay, so in the first inning, Whitehead made an out, Johnny Rucker made an out, Jo-Jo Moore singled, Babe Young hit a home run. Harry Danning made an out. We know this because Whitehead and Rucker couldn't have also gotten on base or it would have been more than a two-run homer. Harry Danning also made an out -- we know this because he had exactly one hit all game, and he drove in a run -- meaning that hit HAD to come in the second inning. Therefore Mel Ott led off the second inning.

Mulcahy was taken out after 7 batters in the second inning. We know this because he is listed as pitching 1 and a third innings, so there must have been one out credited to him. The text in the article says "two passes and four singles routed Mulcahy." Therefore he definitely had to come out before Danning's double. If Ott led off the second inning, then Mulcahy faced Ott, Cuccinello, Witek, Melton, Whitehead, Rucker, and Moore.

Now the question is... how many earned runs were charged to him? And what exactly transpired in that second inning?

The easy answer to the first part is that 8 earned runs were charged to him total. 2 for the first inning, and 6 for all of the runners in the second (since 8 runs were scored, it stands to reason that all of his runners scored). But it's possible otherwise, especially in trying to figure out how that first out happened and also when Brown's error occurred.

And this is sort of where I'm stuck right now. I can't quite reconstruct a plausible second inning. I'm close, but I don't think it's quite right.

I mean, what we know is that in the second inning, Young, Melton, Moore, Danning, Ott, and Cuccinello had RBIs (and also importantly, Witek and Whitehead and Rucker did NOT). And we can also deduce who HAD to score in the second inning:
-- Whitehead, because he is credited with a run but could not possibly score in another inning (he batted in all the runs after the 2nd without a homer -- and he could not have scored on a wild pitch because all the runs are accounted for with RBIs)
-- Rucker, for the same reason. Batting AFTER Whitehead, he could not be batted in during a later inning, and is credited with a run, so it had to come here
-- Moore, same reason as Rucker but credited with 2 runs, one of which happened in the first inning
-- Young, same reason as Moore
-- Witek, because he scored 3 runs, meaning he was batted in this inning and twice by Whitehead's later hits
-- Ott, credited with two runs, could not have scored both of them behind Whitehead's triple and double (do the math, with Cucc, Witek, and Melton scoring 7 runs between them total but only 5 runs batted in by Whitehead in those later innings, even if you gave them all runs in the 2nd that still accounts for 4 out of the 5 runs Whitehead batted in, so only that fifth could have been taken by Ott)

Also, curiously, Danning did NOT score in the second inning, according to the box score. I wonder if the box score was just wrong -- because THAT is the trickiest wrench to deduce.

So, here's the sequence I'm working with right now:

Ott - out
Cuccinello - walk
Witek - walk, Cuccinello to second
Melton - single, batted in Cuccinello and Witek (2 runs so far)
Whitehead - single, Melton to second
Rucker - single, Whitehead to second, Melton to third
Moore - single, batted in Whitehead and Melton, Rucker to second (4 runs)
Pitching change : Lloyd Brown replaces Hugh Mulcahy.
Young - single, batted in Rucker, Moore to second (5 runs)
Danning - double, batted in Moore, Young to third (6 runs)

This works out fine so far -- Moore was Mulcahy's last batter and he's scored. Great. Now here's where I run into problems. Danning somehow has to get out before crossing the plate, but Cuccinello has to get an RBI, as does Ott -- but DANNING CANNOT SCORE. So I *think* the following is possible, assuming Ott would get an RBI for a fielder's choice. This also assumes the error didn't actually lead to a run being scored.

Ott - Fielder's choice, Danning out at third, Young scores, Ott to second on the throw home. (7 runs)
Cuccinello - singles, Ott scores. (8 runs)
Witek - reaches base on error, Cuccinello to second.
Melton - makes an out. Inning over.

I think this works for the other innings --

Third inning - Whitehead, out 1. Rucker, walked. Moore, out 2. Young, out 3.
Fourth inning - Danning, out 1. Ott, singles. Cuccinello, singles, Ott to second. Witek, singles, Ott to third, Cuccinello to second. Melton, out 2. Whitehead, triples, bats in Ott, Cuccinello, Witek. Rucker, out 3.
Fifth inning - Moore, out 1. Young, out 2. Danning, out 3.
Sixth inning - Ott, out 1. Cuccinello, out 2. Witek, singles. Melton, singles, Witek to second. Whitehead, doubles, bats in Witek and Melton. Rucker, out 3.
Seventh inning - Moore, out 1. Young, out 2. O'Dea, out 3.
Eighth inning - Ott, walked. Cuccinello, out 1. Witek, out 2. Melton singles, Ott to second. Whitehead, out 3.

To sum up:
Whitehead - 1st: out. 2nd: single, run. 3rd: out. 4th: 3-RBI triple. 6th: 2-RBI double. 8th: out. 6 AB, 1 R, 3 H, 5 RBI
Rucker - 1st: out. 2nd: single, run. 3rd: walk. 4th: out. 6th: out. 4 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 0 RBI
Moore - 1st: single, run. 2nd: 2-RBI single, run. 3rd: out. 5th: out. 7th: out. 5 AB, 2 H, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Young - 1st: 2-RBI home run. 2nd: RBI single, run. 3rd: out. 5th: out. 7th: out. 5 AB, 2 H, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Danning - 1st: out. 2nd: RBI double. 4th: out. 5th: out. 4 AB, 0 R, 1 H, 1 RBI.
O'Dea - 7th: out. 1 AB, 0 anything.
Ott - 2nd: out. 2nd: RBI FC, run. 4th: single, run. 6th: out. 8th: walk. 4 AB, 2 R, 1 H, 1 RBI.
Cuccinello - 2nd: walk, run. 2nd: RBI single. 4th: single, run. 6th: out. 8th: out. 4 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 1 RBI.
Witek - 2nd: walk, run. 2nd: Error. 4th: single, run. 6th: single, run. 8th: out. 4 AB, 3 R, 2 H, 0 RBI.
Melton: 2nd: 2-RBI single, run. 2nd: out. 4th: out. 6th: single, run. 8th: single. 5 AB, 2 R, 3 H, 2 RBI.

Mulcahy 1.1 IP, 6 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 HR.
Brown 6.2 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 0 HR.

So, um, if you happen to have access to play-by-play data from this game and want to back me up on my reconstruction of the game, [Lumbergh]that'd be greeeeeeeeeeat[/Lumbergh]. For now, I'm going to sleep, because I've been thinking about this too much. I may or may not edit this down in the morning; I really just wanted to do a brain dump of it all, because dang, my brain's about to explode.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Friday Foto, a few days early

After a whole lot of stress finding a place to park downtown today while I was at work, I did manage to make it down to IKEA in time for the kickoff Mariners Caravan autograph session.

George. JJ, and Jamie
George Sherrill, J.J. Putz, and Jamie Moyer

The flier had advertised "Mariners players and broadcasters answering questions" and "the Mariner Moose taking pictures", but in reality, there were no broadcasters, and there were just the three players, and no Mariner Moose. Ah well.

They had us wait in line in the cold parking garage for a while -- the actual autograph session was in a little space adjoining the cafeteria. While we were outdoors, a lady came by with raffle tickets for everyone. It was pretty chilly out there, but once we got indoors, there was this IKEA guy with a microphone who was rambling out really dorky things along with some trivia. The trivia wasn't so bad ("One of these three guys at the table went to the University of Michigan. Do you know which one?") but the dorky stuff was. ("Ladies and gentlemen, we have another Mariners celebrity here tonight -- Edgar Martinez! Well, that is, we have a little kid wearing an Edgar jersey. But he looks JUST LIKE HIM!")

After waiting in line for quite a while, I finally got up to the table. They were giving out these cute IKEA Mariners Caravan mini-posters, which are basically 8.5"x11" pictures of Safeco Field printed on poster paper with the 2006 schedule at the bottom and a lot of wide open space that's just perfect for signatures on the field part of the picture. However, I'd say over half the people there had actually brought things to be signed, from baseballs to gloves to bats to photos to baseball cards. Me, I brought baseball cards just in case the posters were lame, and decided to get the cards signed anyway. The lady in front of me in line had brought cards for her son to be signed too -- an '89 Donruss Moyer card, a recent Putz card but I forget which manufacturer, and a 2005 Rainiers Sherrill card. I had brought a 1987 Topps Moyer card, which is his rookie card, and a 2004 Rainiers Putz card, and the same 2005 Rainiers Sherrill card.

I get up to the table, and I first hand my Moyer card to Jamie Moyer. Having just signed the '89 card for the lady in front of me, he looks at my card and his face lights up like "Hey J.J., take a look at this one, now THIS is my first baseball card!" and he signs it and hands it back to me grinning. Then I hand my Putz card to Putz, who just sort of signs it ambivalently, and then I give my Sherrill card to Sherrill, who's been looking awfully bored at the end of the table since a lot of people get stuck at the Moyer bottleneck getting pictures taken with him and whatnot.

Well, since the person behind me is, infact, still taking pictures of his kids with Jamie Moyer, as Sherrill hands my card back to me, I say to him, "By the way, I had a question for you.. umm... do you have a brother who posts to the Mariners blogs and websites sometimes? Goes by El Sid or something?" And he looks at me blankly for a second and then goes "Huh? Oh yeah! Yeah, Sid's my brother. Heh." And I just stammer out "Oh cool. Uh, thanks!" and walk off feeling like a dork.

After that, there was only like 5 minutes left until the IKEA people were doing their raffle thingy, so I hung out a few more minutes. They raffled off a Mariners baseball cap, a Mariners t-shirt, one of the new batting practice jerseys (Dorky IKEA guy was like "If you win this, you can take batting practice with the Mariners at Safeco Field! And I am *totally* making that up! By the Mariners I mean uh the IKEA store employees and by Safeco Field I mean uh our parking garage!"), four tickets to a Mariners game, and a $350 IKEA store gift certificate. Needless to say, I didn't win anything. I left shortly after that.

I did wear my Vote For Felix shirt, but I don't think anyone actually noticed it.

The upshot is, I'm not sure it was worth the effort to go to this, especially the part that involved parking downtown during work and then driving to IKEA at rush hour. But if you're in one of the other cities they're going to and it's convenient for you, hey, free autograph session. Unfortunately, most of the other ones don't look nearly as cool -- the schedule shows Sherrill and Putz (no Moyer) for the rest of this week, Morse and Rivera next week, and Dobbs and Rick Rizzs (!?) the week after that, and then there's Fan Fest. I still don't know if I'm going to go to Fan Fest -- mostly depends on whether I can find other dorks people to go with. If there are any current blogizen gangs planning to rampage through, feel free to let me know.

Oh, and PositivePaul is totally going to make fun of me for this, but the one thing I did notice at the autograph session is that George Sherrill is pretty cute. And now that Chad Bradford moved to the NL, I'm thinking Sherrill may be a reasonable candidate to make the 2006 All-Cute team in the category of cute AL relief pitchers. I'd never really seen him close up before, and he's got this look of... I'm not sure what to call it, but he reminds me of Ben Affleck, almost. Here's another picture I took tonight of Sherrill and Putz that might illustrate it a little bit better. See what I mean?

EDIT> Paul had a much better adventure the following night in Olympia, and even ended up in the newspaper. You can read about his adventure here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Around the Net in 80 Seconds

Well, beyond the normal mlb.com stuff, such as a headshot of Doyle in the latest Mariners mailbag, or the news that we've picked up two more old guys as NRI's, and the Mariners Caravan starting at IKEA today with Jamie Moyer, George Sherrill, and J.J.Putz appearing (and hopefully I'll make it there in time), there's some other fun stuff going on these days:

Sour Cream and Archives

A couple of days ago, I discovered that if you have a membership to the Seattle Public Library, you can log in to their website and search old newspapers without actually having to go to the library. This is fantastic -- for example, they have the entirety of the New York Times from 1851 onwards, in PDF image form, with searchable text (though it's not entirely reliable). So, for example, I'm trying to find out about a particular player's saga through the 1930's, and all I had to do was a text search on his name -- and it came up with tons of newspaper articles and box scores for me to peruse! It's very addictive.

You can either just look at the articles you were specifically searching for, or you can look at the "page map", which is an imagemap where you can see the actual newspaper page and click on the individual articles to read the PDF versions. It's great fun to see advertisements and pictures from the day (like in 1940, an ad for a truck that was "extremely affordable! Prices start at $453!") and to get cultural contexts for the baseball events.

The articles from the 1880's are really the most entertaining -- very vivid descriptions of the games and the crowds and everything. Eventually I might even finish the actual project I originally set out to do here and tell you all a pretty funny story.

The Chat in the Hat

Jeff Sullivan wrote Mariner Chat Room, Volume Two on Lookout Landing today -- if you don't already read Lookout Landing, you have to go read this post at least. It's brilliant and hilarious.

And only a month before Valentine's Day

Dave Haller over at Baseball Prospectus has been running a Diamond Mind simulation of what he calls the Battle of Champions -- the 2005 Chiba Lotte Marines vs. the 2005 Chicago White Sox. Both of these teams are near and dear to my heart, and the first two games of this simulation looked eerily similar to actual Marines games -- in Game 1, the Marines win 10-1. Sound familiar? It should if you were paying attention to Game 1 of the Japan Series. And then in Game 2 of the simulation, Masahide Kobayashi imploded in the 9th inning to give up a 4-1 lead to make it 5-4. Sound familiar? It should if you were paying attention to Game 3 of the second stage of the Pacific League Playoffs. And now, in Game 3, the White Sox won 7-6 as Yabuta blew a save... okay, wait, this one doesn't sound like a Marines game. I think this sounds more like a White Sox game.

(Edit: Game 4 is now up, the Sox winning again. Grrr.)

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see what comes out of this overall -- I still do honestly believe, as I asserted in a USSM thread, that if this series happened in real life, the Chiba team would have a reasonable shot to take a couple games from the White Sox and maybe even win the series. I'd love to someday see an actual formal matchup between the World Series and Japan Series winners -- sort of like the Konami Cup was for Asia this year. Maybe the WBC will help make this become a reality.

Another acronym for the Hanshin Tri-gers

Speaking of goings-on in Japanese baseball, I was scanning Yahoo Japan baseball news as I do most days and came across the funniest article I've seen in a while -- 'CIA' formation! A 40-win starting pitcher trio!. I can't find an English version of this article anywhere, so let me summarize. Essentially, a couple weeks ago the Hanshin Tigers acquired pitcher Chris Oxspring for the 2006 season. So they've decided that this year's marketing gag, to go along with the famed 2005 Hanshin relief trio of "JFK" (for setup men Jeff Williams and Kyuji Fujikawa and closer Tomoyuki Kubota), they're going to have the starting pitcher trio of "CIA", for Chris Oxspring, Kei Igawa, and Yuuya Andoh. Even funnier, they later explain that "Since the CIA is the information agency that helps the president of the United States, our CIA will of course help support our JFK". Oh man. I *love* Japanese baseball. Even when they're not being total nutballs like this. I almost want to see the Tigers do something crazy like deciding they need to make acronyms for *everyone*. Like, making "KISS" out of Kanemoto-Imaoka-Sheets-Sekimoto in their lineup or something.

I'll HOF and I'll puff and...

In about twelve hours, they'll announce whether anyone was actually elected to the Hall of Fame this year, and I'll edit this post appropriately. If the MLB exit polls of a few of their writers is indicative at all, it looks like it might finally be the Year Of The Goose. Whether or not it'll finally be the year for Bert remains to be seen, though. Also, it might be a function of when I grew up and watched a lot of baseball, but I'll never forget Orel Hershiser's amazing run in 1988. It was the best of times for the Dodgers, and it was the worst of times for the Phillies. If I could choose only one guy on the ballot to vote in, it'd be the Bulldog -- but who knows what'll happen.

(Edit: Apparently Bruce Sutter is the only guy to make it in this year. Goose got 64.6% of the vote, but with next year's eligible guys including Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken Jr. and Mark McGwire, it'll be a really tough field. Still, I just don't see putting in Sutter and not Gossage. It doesn't seem right.)

Monday, January 09, 2006

Book Review: The Juice is Loose

You know how sometimes you pick up a book in a bookstore and start thumbing through it, and despite that your brain tells you that it's an awful book, you find yourself somehow morbidly fascinated with it and keep on reading, until you decide to actually buy the book and bring it home and read the whole thing?

Well, I went through that experience a few days ago, and since then have been sucking my brains out of my head through a very small straw as I read through the following two books:

Juicy : Confessions of a Former Baseball Wife by Jessica Canseco
Juiced : Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big by Jose Canseco

See, I don't really care about steroids. I really don't. I just don't find them interesting to discuss at all. Hence, I hadn't bothered reading Jose's book when it came out. And I honestly can't tell you what made me think Jessica's book was worth buying. Like I said, it was some sort of morbid curiosity, despite thinking with every word in the book, "Geez, what a goddamn bimbo!"

Let me give you some advice, if you do think of reading these books:

1) Don't read them.
2) If you absolutely must read one of them, read Jose's and not Jessica's.
3) And if you do read Jose's book, keep in mind that he's insane.
4) I dare you to find more than two consecutive pages in either book without the word "steroid" on it.
5) If you are going to read either or both, don't buy them, or at least, don't buy them for full price. Libraries exist for a reason, and Juiced has been out long enough that there shouldn't be a long wait for it at most places.

Reading both of these books back to back is almost like... it's almost like if two of your friends split up, and for some reason decide to keep telling *you* about all of their relationship issues, which means you get to hear both of them tell their side of what happened, which of course are completely different stories, and they want you to take their side and not believe their scummy ex, and you don't know who to believe, so in the end you decide they're both totally psychotic and ignore them both.

That said, Jessica's book isn't really a baseball book at all, so technically I shouldn't even be reviewing it here. She admits through most of it that she has no clue about sports or baseball. The entire book is pretty much her talking about how she met Jose, then how she slept with him for several years, during which he was a lying cheating bastard, and she stayed with him anyway, eventually got pregnant, got married, had a kid, split up, got back together, split up, got back together, split up... yeah. Whatever. Read this book if you really want to hear some deranged chick talking about having sex with Jose Canseco; otherwise, skip it.

Now, on to Jose's book. Since I read Jessica's book first, it was really sort of strange how Jose would talk about certain things, since I'd first heard her viewpoint on it, so I'd be like "Wait... he's lying. Wait... maybe she's lying. Oh for crying out loud, who CARES?" At least this was somewhat a baseball book, and I found some parts of it genuinely interesting. He talks about his life and career, which would probably be a lot more fascinating if he didn't punctuate most of it by injecting the word "steroid" into every paragraph to bulk up his word count.

The thing is, some people have compared this book to Ball Four, and that's an even bigger insult to Jim Bouton than the insults most ballplayers actually shouted at him. Ball Four was a genuinely hilarious and revolutionary book which gave readers a different look at the inside workings of baseball. Juiced is a vaguely amusing at times book which gives readers a different look at the inside of the bathroom stalls of various major league clubhouses.

At any rate, it felt like Jose wanted people to like him more after this book -- sort of like how Ty Cobb's biography by Al Stump had been tailored to make him seem like a good guy (until Stump published the "what a bastard" biographer's cut thirty years later, at least). And yet, this book just made me think he was more paranoid than I would have otherwise. Not counting Jessica's assertions of how Jose would spy on her, he spends a good chunk of the book saying how pretty much everyone in the world was against him -- his teammates, the media, the owners of the teams he played on, and Major League Baseball in general; sometimes he seems sure it's because he was Latino, and sometimes just because he was Jose Canseco, and sometimes I'm not sure what he's thinking. And maybe he's right to some extent, but it's hard to read his assertions without thinking "Err, um, really? Say what? Paranoid much?"

So, read his book if you want to hear a lot of stories about baseball players sticking needles into other players' butts, or if you're curious about the whole Madonna incident, or if you want to hear who he's calling out as juicers besides Giambi, Palmeiro, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, etc. But if you're like me and don't care much about steroids, I would say you're no worse off if you don't bother reading this one, unless you were actually a Jose Canseco fan like pretty much every guy I used to trade baseball cards with as a kid. And in that case, you've probably already read the book anyway, and are about to tell me off for insinuating that Jose sucks.

(Which, to be fair, isn't really true. He doesn't have a co-author or ghostwriter listed for this, and if that's the case, then he actually did a pretty good job putting together a bunch of stories. Honestly, Jessica's book is just plain terrible in that aspect. So, yeah. Remember how I said a few weeks ago that I only talk about good books on here? I knew I'd find a way to break out of that streak...)