Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Book Review - Jim Bunning: Baseball and Beyond, by Frank Dolson

When I was about five years old, my mom decided to move our Phillies Sunday season tickets up to section 543 (we'd previously been in 330, from my grandfather's ticket plan. Sure, you never got rained on there, but Mom wanted to get a suntan if she was going to sit out at the games on weekends, plus we needed a third seat for my younger brother). During one of our first games that year, I looked out across Veterans Stadium, and I could see a yellow star with an S in the middle of it over one of the concourse entries in the 600 level.

"Mom," I asked, "What's that yellow star up there for?"

"Well," she told me, "That star shows where Willie Stargell hit a home run off of Jim Bunning. It was so high, they put a star in its place."

"Oh," I said. I knew who Willie Stargell was, even if he would retire after that year. "Who's Jim Bunning?"

"Remember what I told you about 1964? He was the reason we got there. And he was also the reason we didn't get there."

Jim Bunning: Baseball and Beyond by Frank Dolson

I'm not sure there's a single other name besides "Jim Bunning" that you can type into Google, and the first page that shows up is the page of a U.S. Senator, and the second page that shows up is a Baseball Hall of Fame biography.

While I may not agree with his political views, and while it's true that most of what I knew of him was that he was a no-smile, hard-working competitive player, I have to admit, this book really opened my eyes up to understand a lot more of his life. And honestly, I'm really glad I read it. I enjoyed it a lot -- there are a lot of really funny scenes interspersed all over the book where you'd least expect them, perhaps to echo Bunning's real personality.

It's true that this book may have been a little better as a first-person memoir rather than a third-person biography, and delved a little deeper into things, but if you're looking to hear the story of a guy who spent seven years in the minors before getting called up, then proceeded to win 100 games and notch 1000 strikeouts in both major leagues, as well as pitch a no-hitter in each league, the second a perfect game, and after a long and illustrious career settled down to try minor league managing, then being a player agent, a stock broker, a city councilman, state senator, and eventually get elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and to the US Congress at about the same time... well, then you want to hear Jim Bunning's story.

I laughed at the stories of his mishaps with the Mud Hens, and of creative bed check duckers. I almost cried when reading about the second half of the 1964 season. I learned some new stuff about government and candidate campaigning. All in all, I found this book very entertaining. There were a few parts where it dragged on, notably in the story of him running for Kentucky governor in 1983, and during the part where he got fired from the Phillies farm system. There's definitely a bit of propoganda strewn around the book, both about the Phillies and about the Democrats. But there are enough parts that are overly engaging to make up for that, notably the story of his first no-hitter, where apparently the Red Sox actually were stealing signs and knew everything he was going to throw before he threw it, and it still didn't matter.

Plus, it had the best reference to my alma mater that I've found in a baseball book yet:
    "It was so known I used pine tar," Bunning said, "that when I was traded to the Pirates [general manager] Joe L. Brown had a study done so the pine tar we would possibly use was clear."
    Brown figured it would be difficult to accuse somebody of using something you couldn't see. "I got a guy from Carnegie Mellon to develop a pine tar that was white and had no smell," the retired general manager confirmed. "Jim wouldn't use it. He said, 'I'm doing all right with the black stuff.'"
    Bunning's version of the Great Pittsburgh Pine Tar Experiment differed somewhat. "Unfortunately," he remarked, "I didn't stay in Pittsburgh long enough for them to develop it."

So, yeah. This book will probably only really be interesting to Phillies phans or for people who are really interested in hearing rants about the Players' Union and such. But, it's definitely different from your typical baseball biography -- they don't usually include a second career in politics.

Oddly enough, in terms of other Phillies books, today Phlogger Tom G pointed out that Mike Schmidt has a book coming out next week. In related news, my father, who still lives in Philly, is really good at getting hints, because when I sent him an email saying, "Hey, did you see this? Mike Schmidt's going to be signing copies of his new book at the Rittenhouse Square Barnes&Noble in two weeks!" he wrote back, "So, you're saying you want an autographed Schmitty book as an early birthday present? I'll see what I can do."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Mariners' Newest Southpaw, Bearemy Reed

I suppose this could be filed under "Posts that Deanna makes that you'd never see on a normal baseball blog". Yes, my weekend posts tend to be fluff, but I might be going overboard a bit this time. Bear with me.

I won't explain exactly how or why I ended up in the Build-a-Bear Workshop up in Alderwood Mall today, but suffice it to say, when given the choice of what to build my bear with, it was fairly obvious I was going to do the baseball thing, which didn't surprise any of my friends, of course. Build-a-Bear itself has some sort of deal with MLB, because on their site you can order tons of licensed bear uniforms and t-shirts of all the teams, and they even have a Build-a-Bear workshop at Citizens Bank Park where you can make your own Philly Phanatic.

Anyway, it was actually pretty fun putting this guy together. You start with a deflated stuffed animal, pretty much, and can choose a sound chip for them if you want -- I got him one to play "Take me out to the ballgame" when you press his left paw. Then you stuff them and give them a heart, and then pick out an outfit and stuff. I chose the Mariners uniform and the spikes and the glove/ball/bat combo. I had to give him a name for their "bearth certificate" thingy, and since this particular bear type is already named "Bearemy", unlike the other bears who are called things like "Brown Bear" or "Velvet Bear" or "Butterscotch Bear", I figured what the heck, and typed in his name as "Bearemy Reed", then complained that they didn't have a left-handed glove for him. (If you look closely, you'll see that I actually put the glove on his right paw upside down. I figured since the sound button is in his left paw, I didn't want to put the glove on over it; and since Jeremy Reed is lefthanded anyway, it made more sense for the bear to be lefthanded too.)

Bearemy Reed
Oh my god, bear is diving! How can this BE??

Right now his name is Bearemy Reed, but I was trying to think up some better names for him. What do you guys think would be good? Some of the ones I came up with were:

- Adrian Beartre
- Felix Bearnandez
- Jarrod Washbear
- George Bearrill
- Dave Bearba
- Robearto Petagine

I'm quite sad that we've lost Jolbeart Cabeara, too. He would have been a fine Beariner.

Okay, maybe I should just keep him as Bearemy Reed. I was debating just naming him "Snelling", since I think The-Outfielder-Known-as-Doyle is really sort of like a big cuddly teddy bear himself and it'd be a great name for a stuffed animal, but I don't want to jinx him any further.

EDIT> OMGBEAR! How about "Teddy Beardado"? He can still stay left-handed, even!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Friday Foto

I couldn't come up with anything cool for this week, so I just wanted to point out the picture that so far is my absolute favorite of the Spring Training shots from AP Photo. It's very Dali-esque. (No, I didn't take this one, which is why it's not direct-linked.)

I finished reading an awesome biography of Jim Bunning yesterday; hopefully I'll write up a review of it shortly.

EDIT> It's apparently Friday Foto time in some other baseball blog circles, too, as there are scans posted of the Joe Mauer Fashion Shoot over in Bat-Girl-land. I must say, Joe Mauer definitely beats Joe Mamma in terms of being Joe Model, that's for sure.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Don't cry for me, Constantino

I feel like Tino Martinez retiring deserves its own post, though I'd been waiting to see an official announcement making the rounds first. I'm not really sure what to say, though.

Unlike most of the other people in the Mariners blogosphere, I never actually saw Tino as a guy on the home team. I wasn't here for the Edgar-Tino Super-Martinez-Combo, nor did I live in New York or St. Louis or Tampa or anywhere else he played. However, for some reason, I've always had a lot of respect for the guy. I know this sounds like a huge cliche, but Tino always just seemed like, well, a ballplayer. For even more of a cliche, a "throwback" ballplayer. No bullshit, no flashy or flamboyant stuff, just a talented guy who went out there every day and played his heart out with class and dignity.

It's funny. With Olerud, and with Tino as well, I think the worst word I've ever heard anyone use to describe them was "slow". Most players, even the greatest ones, have something that fans and critics complain about; their skill, their attitude, how much they get paid, their family, their accent, their steroid suspicions, whatever. But some players are just a class act, and Tino is one of them. He's the kind of intelligent, thoughtful, well-spoken guy that you'd want to have as your next-door neighbor, if he wasn't the first baseman for the hometown nine. He was the Yankee I could cheer for. Last season I had a conversation with a Yankee-hating friend that went something like:

YH: "It doesn't matter. Once a guy goes to the Yankees, I hate him. Pure and simple."
Me: "I bet I can come up with at least one or two guys on the Yankees you don't hate."
YH: "Try me."
Me: "What about when Olerud was there?"
YH: "That didn't count. He wasn't there long enough to lose his soul, so he wasn't REALLY a Yankee, so I didn't have to hate him."
Me: "Okay, fine, what about... Tino Martinez?"
YH: *long, long pause*
Me: "See? Everyone loves Tino."
YH: "I don't love Tino. But you're right, I don't hate him. I just hate the uniform he's wearing again."

Even in retiring, Tino didn't make a big deal about the whole thing. A week ago, there was an article in the St. Petersburg times with the lead:

"Tino Martinez didn't want to make a formal announcement. If he'd had his way, he just would have not showed up for spring training and gone on with his life. But with a new high-profile gig at ESPN about to start, he figured people might notice."

I thought it was cool that another article said that he'll be doing some work with ESPN and also taking classes at the University of Tampa to finish his degree. I'm really happy for him; it sounds like a good arrangement.

And while this isn't about his retirement, a guy wrote this article about Tino back when he had that home run streak last May (mostly against the Mariners, heh). I think he expressed the "everyone loves Tino" sentiment pretty well, though.

Sometimes nice guys DO finish first. Here's to Tino - to a great guy, a great career, and a great future!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Look out Mariners' Wives; here comes Olga Petagine

The Mariners made a pretty good move and signed Roberto Petagine to a minor-league contract and gave him an invite to spring training; he should show up there tomorrow. You'll note that it was a year ago when people around the blogosphere were saying it was a good move when the Red Sox signed him as well.

I think Jeff at Lookout Landing said it best -- Petagine's upside is a decent lefty bench bat, better than Greg Dobbs, and his downside is giving Tacoma a possible PCL MVP candidate. I have no idea who the heck is playing first base in Tacoma this year anyway. AJ Zapp left via free agency last winter, and Aaron Rifkin departed via the Rule 5 Roulette this winter.

And of course, it means we can make more Olga Petagine jokes. Those never get "old"!

Okay, okay, that was a low shot, and I don't actually mean it. For those that don't know, Petagine's wife Olga is 58, and he's 34. He met her when he was playing in the Venezuela winter leagues; she was the mother of one of his friends. He went over to their house for dinner one night and fell in love with his friend's mom. Sounds sort of like a bizarre fairy tale, doesn't it? The Japanese press never seemed to tire of calling attention to their marriage, though, and when Yomiuri stopped playing Roberto as often, claiming his knees were shot, Olga totally went postal on the club and openly criticised them for the way they were treating her husband. As I mentioned a few days ago, that's a really good way to get yourself deported from Japanese baseball, and besides, none of the teams felt like paying $8 million a year for Petagine any more, no matter how many home runs he hit. (Huh. No Tuffy, no Peta, I wonder who the top paid player is this year. Alex Cabrera, maybe?)

In all honesty, I have to respect them for putting up with the Japanese press for as long as they did, really. Imagine the field day the press would have if Kris Benson went to Japan?

Anyway, the thing is, he put up a .317/.446/.633 line in 6 years (756 games) in Japan, with 570 walks against 550 strikeouts, and 223 home runs. (stats from Westbay-san's site) Also, Jim Albright's NPB->MLB translations were pretty good for him as well. He wasn't too shabby in the handful of games he played in 2005 when the Red Sox called him up, either.

Unfortunately, I only saw him play in one game in Japan, the same one I posted that picture of Tuffy Rhodes from. Petagine was terrible; he went 0-for-4 and struck out three times. Hopefully my presence is not an unlucky charm for him (unlike how every time I see Jason Giambi play, he completely kicks ass).

Monday, February 20, 2006

The (Uniform) Numbers Game

So, there was an article saying how Adrian Beltre is going back to his old uniform number of 29, now that Bret Boone's sorry ass isn't using it. And that's cool. If he thinks it'll help him, great.

If you glance at the Mariners 40-Man Roster and their NRI list, though, you'll notice some other things besides Beltre's number switch. Well, first, on the NRI list, Dave Burba has a number assigned to him. It's number 34. Does this mean that Felix isn't going to be taking #34, or is this a sign that Burba's really going to have to earn his way onto the roster and arm-wrestle Felix for it later?

Second, and this is a little weirder, but Yuniesky Betancourt has a new number. Now, maybe it's just me, but I thought there were a few numbers that were sort of "untouchable" even though they weren't officially retired on the Mariners roster. #24, for Junior. #11, for Edgar. And, well... #3.

Pokey Reese dared to try to wear #3 last year, and look what happened to him.

As far as I can tell (at least glancing at the lists on Baseball Almanac), nobody's worn #3 on the Mariners in an actual game since Alex Rodriguez did in 2000. This does not bode well; I think the number may be cursed. The last thing we need is for something bad to happen to Betancourt. Do we really want to see Morse at shortstop this year, or worse, Bloomquist?

And for the random Johjima note of the day, both Johjima AND the Japanese press seem pretty confused as to why on earth people would be calling him "Joe Mama". (Pretty funny to run across that article after seeing the same thing from the English press side of things.)

Also - I saw the rest of the Ichiro episode of Furuhata tonight! It was very cool. The funniest moment was probably when Furuhata's investigating the crime and he comes to talk to Ichiro in the weight room and Ichiro just looks at him like "What, do you want me to sign more stuff?" Either way, I'm really, really impressed with his acting in the show, seriously.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Friday Foto

Yeah, I'm boring, and this isn't even that good a picture. But when I read that Tuffy Rhodes signed a minor league deal with the Reds, and wrote a short entry about it, it got me looking through some of my Japan pictures again, and I even found one I'd taken of the big screen during said post-game MVP speech, so I figured, what the heck.

Tuffy on the Big Screen
T. ローズ / 本塁打 三振 三振 本塁打
T. Rhodes / HR  K  K  HR

This is pretty much what Tuffy Rhodes did in Japan -- hit home runs and strike out.

By the way, I'm not bitter, but the Rainiers site says that "Less than 15 minutes after individual tickets went on sale, there were no seats left for Mariners Day at Cheney Stadium." Goddamnit. You know, considering that a season ticket mini-plan for 7 games at Cheney costs less than one Lower Box seat ticket to one game at Safeco Field, and I will undoubtedly go down to Tacoma to stalk Pat Borders see a few games at Cheney this year anyway, perhaps it would not have been too ridiculous to spring for one of those plans in order to get tickets to the April 1 exhibition game as well, but alas, I hadn't bothered to do the math.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

More Piecemeal Posting

My calendar informs me that today was Billy Hamilton's birthday. My guess is that most people (or at least everyone at the "Last Fan Standing" thing from FanFest) are saying, "Who?" Billy Hamilton was one of the greatest early Phillies ever. Imagine the 1894 Phillies, a team where the entire outfield batted above .400 (none of which even led the league, being as Boston's Hugh Duffy hit .440) and the team still only placed 4th. The pitching mound had been moved back to 60'6" a year or two prior, and most pitchers, Phillies included, were suddenly hating their lives. Anyway, Billy Hamilton got on base a lot (his career mark of .455 is only behind Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, and John McGraw), and once he was there, he liked to run; he's third on the all-time list for career stolen bases. He also scored a LOT of runs, and is one of the few players out there whose career number of runs scored exceeds the number of games he played in. He was a fast dude.

Trivia Question: Who are the other two players besides Billy Hamilton who were in over 1000 games who scored more runs in their career than the number of games they played in? (Well, at least, I found two other guys...)

As it is, 110 years after Billy Hamilton was born, another fast dude, Eric Byrnes, was born. I really like Eric Byrnes, because he's a crazy hyper funny weirdo who's really fun to watch when he's running all over the place with his hair flying behind him. I bet his birthday wish is for a productive and stable season against many lefty pitchers, and I hope he gets it!

The rumor going around the last few days is that Tino Martinez is retiring to take an ESPN job. I like Tino. (Doesn't everyone?) When I see an official announcement, I'll think of more to say.

Also, pitchers and catchers have reported, but I'm not really sure what to say about it all yet. The Japanese newspapers have taken great pleasure in reporting how Johjima talks in English with his pitchers, and even the Seattle PI is getting into the enthusiasm: "Apparently Johjima's heavy immersion in English (and Spanish) is paying off, because at the end of the session, Barron patted the top of Johjima's helmet and said, 'Bueno, bueno.'"

When the Going Gets Tuffy, the Tuffy Get Going... to Cincinnati

Japanese baseball fans should be pretty familiar with Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes by now. After a pretty mediocre career in the states, he went over to Japan, where he pretty much became a superman, clubbing 360 homers in ten years, including tying the single-season HR record of 55 in 2001. Rhodes was around so long that he became a free agent by the NPB service time requirements; at that point he was technically a Japanese player and no longer counted as a foreign player for teams' foreigner quotas. Unfortunately, he sort of went nuts this year and started openly criticizing the Yomiuri management, which is a pretty good way to NOT stay around in Japan (just ask Roberto Petagine's wife). The fact that he also holds the NPB career record for ejections from games is an impressive but career-hindering feat.

At any rate, I always thought Ro-zu was pretty cool. I went to a Giants game in Tokyo a few years ago, and the co-MVPs of the game were Rhodes and the pitcher Takahashi. Rhodes got it for hitting two home runs, and Takahashi got it for pitching a complete game (because the Giants' bullpen was absolutely abysmal). They had the guys say a few words into the mic, and Rhodes muttered some stuff about how happy he was to help the team in English, and the staff were like "In Japanese, please?" and he said pretty much the same exact thing in Japanese. What I found amusing was that I could understand him in Japanese better than I could in English.

Anyway, I did sort of wonder what was going to happen to the Tuffmeister this year, and it appears that he'll be on this side of the Pacific, signing a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds. Gosh, it'd be funny if he made it up to the outfield with Griffey. "I hit 360 home runs in ten years in Japan!" "Yeah? Well, I hit 360 home runs in ten years in America, and more."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

(Bobby) Valentine's Day, and Beerleaguer's cool interview sound clips

So, as I mentioned, I discovered Bobby Valentine's blog the other day. On February 14th, which was actually almost two days ago now on their side of the planet, Bobby actually did a streaming video greeting for Valentine's Day... speaking in Japanese, even! (Don't worry, the English version of the site has it translated.)

I also finally downloaded and listened to the sound files that Jason the Beerleaguer (an excellent Phillies blogger) had put up on his site of interviews from the media schmooze session at the Phillies Winter Tour a few weeks ago. They're really awesome to listen to. He has a very candid conversation with manager Charlie Manuel, ten minutes of chatting about anything from managing the team to breakout players to some of the prospects to Pat Gillick to David Bell's fielding, all kinds of stuff. He also taped an interview with closer Tom Gordon. Since most of us don't usually get to be a fly on the wall (or a beer on the wall) at these sorts of events, I really enjoyed getting to listen to these. I've linked to the blog entries, not the actual files, in case he either moves or takes them down. But still. Very cool stuff, you should take a listen.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Potpourri: Free agents, Japan stuff, Ichiro the actor, etc

Yeah, so I know people might think I dislike Scott Hatteberg after my Moneyball "revue", but actually, I was being entirely honest when I said that I thought the Hatty chapter was the best chapter in the book. Therefore, I was extremely happy when I loaded up the Free Agent Tracker this morning and saw that the Reds signed Hatteberg to a one-year, $750k contract. I'm glad he found somewhere to go, though I wonder if this'll be his last year playing.

Hmm, I haven't commented on the free agency game in a while, so let's see.

Josh Fogg goes to the Rockies. I can't imagine that'll be any better for him. It reminds me again, though, that I'm excited about the Pirates' starting rotation this year, for once. Well, except for Kip Wells, of course.

The Blue Jays pick up Bengie Molina. Man, the AL East may be almost as crazy this year as the NL East was last year. Have I mentioned how funny it'd be if there was another Toronto-Philly World Series?

The Nationals picked up Matthew LeCroy the other day. My brother, who lives in DC, has been ranting at me a bit these days about how the Nats management sucks and how they're going to undoubtedly lose the team in a year or two and they can't sign anyone good and they trade cool people like Bluegrass Brad for people like Arbitration Alfonso, and there's the whole Sammy Sosa thing. Hopefully Jolly ol' LeCroy will bring some joy to RFK this year. After all, what other player looks so good in a bow tie?

Speaking of catchers who look good, yeah, it's old news now, but the Padres signed Mike Piazza, which is interesting more in the context of looking at their 40-man roster, which now contains 5, count 'em, 5 catchers. Also, when did they pick up Walter Young (the only man in baseball who makes Bucky Jacobsen look small)? Weird. In another one of those irrational-attachments-to-random-players things, I really hope David Ross ends up somewhere that he can actually get some playing time.

Over in Japan, Damian Moss has already been dismissed by the Yokohama Bay Stars. Poor him. In other fun news, the Yakult Swallows signed Shingo Takatsu. I'm telling you, taking on ex-MLB Japanese guys is really a brilliant way to save on foreigner quota roster space and still get vaguely MLB-quality players, and Yakult managed to get Ishii, Takatsu, and Kida this year.

Also, I have to give a major shout-out to Gary Garland over at Japan Baseball Daily, for even though his site aesthetics make my head hurt and he has a few typos in names, his English coverage of Spring Camp news has been absolutely great and entertaining to read. (Without it, I wouldn't have found Bobby Valentine's blog! Heh heh.) An amusing storyline in Gary's spring camp writeups is that the Softbank Hawks apparently have a dummy they've been setting up as a right-handed hitter for pitchers to pitch around to practice location, but its stance looks so much like Johjima that they've named the dummy "Kenji-kun".

Speaking of Japan stuff -- a friend of mine got a copy of the new year's Furuhata Ninzaburo specials, and we started watching them yesterday. We got through the first episode and a half, meaning I only saw half of the Ichiro episode -- I have no idea how much detail people have or haven't seen/heard about it, but I'd be happy to provide a synopsis and maybe some screen shots eventually. It starts with Tamura Masakazu, Furuhata himself, coming out and saying something to the effect of "This episode features a very well-known major league ball player, but in the show, he is not really himself!" Which is obvious as about five minutes in, you find out one of the characters is supposed to be Ichiro's older brother, and well, Ichiro doesn't HAVE an older brother as far as I know. (EDIT: ok, I'm wrong about that, it's been a few years since I read the Whiting book and it just didn't make SENSE for a younger kid to be named Ichiro) Also, he does kill someone, which I'm also pretty sure Ichiro hasn't done in real life. It's really not a "cameo" as we think of them -- Ichiro is actually a main character in a full 2-hour episode. Anyway, I've seen a bunch of Japanese cop shows and from what I've seen of the episode so far, Ichiro is actually a pretty good actor!

(oh -- duh, the official Furuhata site has a page about the episode and even an interview with Ichiro about it, with some pictures.)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Fan Fest Fotos

Hey, I finally had a spare bit of time to sit down and finish cropping some of my Fan Fest pictures, so here they are:

Fan Fest Pictures

This has really felt like a baseball-apathetic week for me, honestly. Hopefully something inspiring will happen this week.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Random Stuff

The Penny Arcade guys, who live in Seattle, apparently also experienced the Super Bowl fallout. I don't know, I thought it was pretty funny.

I have a feeling there might not be very much baseball blog content from me for the next few days - I'm sort of overwhelmed with other stuff.

So on that note, I saw the musical stage adaptation of The Wedding Singer at the 5th Avenue Theater yesterday. It was pretty awesome. Highly recommended. I was actually surprised by how good it was, given that last time I went to a big hyped "pre-Broadway" thing there, it was Princesses, which isn't likely to ever see the light of day in New York. Wedding Singer, on the other hand, is slated to open in March, I believe. The other interesting thing is that they're changing the musical from day to day, apparently -- there were at least two songs in last night's performance that weren't even listed in the program. So go see it.

My mom got me the "Take Me Out To the Ballpark" wall calendar for 2006, which is hanging by my desk at work. (This month? Astrodome.) It has a baseball person's birthday and year on every day. Sometimes, this is neat because you see that Hank Aaron's birthday is February 5th, and Babe Ruth's was February 6th. Today, it mentions Joe Black's birthday (in 1924). However, it also has Joe Black listed as the birthday on February 14th (also 1924, so it's not a different Joe Black). Well, they can't both be right, can they? And even so, wouldn't they know how obvious a mistake it was if they had them BOTH on the calendar? Baseball-reference says Feb 8th, so that's what I'd believe.

Some days it's obvious why they picked a guy, but some days I have to wonder. Tomorrow, they have Bill Veeck's birthday listed, rather than Vladimir Guerrero, Todd Pratt, John Kruk, Mookie Wilson, Clete Boyer, Vic Wertz, or Heinie Zimmerman. Then again, Joe Black typo aside, I'm not even sure who they'd pick for February 14. Damaso Marte? Candy LaChance? Or at least they could have been funny and typoed it as Bobby Valentine's birthday or something.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss

But apparently the Yokohama Bay Stars do.

Damian Moss
Hey, I think I saw this guy in Tacoma last year!

So I was poking around the random Japanese baseball team sites looking for more spring training videos. The "Everyone Loves Shinjo" autograph chase on the Fighters' site is pretty funny. The Marines have been putting up player clips/interviews, though; today's is my favorite rookie switch-hitting shortstop Nishioka, the other day they had that punk Imae, too, featuring things like Bobby Valentine shouting "Move yer ass!" at the Japanese players taking fielding practice.. I'm waiting for the Watanabe one...

But, I digress. The point is, I loaded up the Yokohama Bay Stars site, and they had a Macromedia slide show thingy, and the second picture was of a pitcher who looked vaguely familiar to me, as if, perhaps, he had been on the Tacoma Rainiers last year. It couldn't be, could it?

Yes, yes it could.

Damian Moss is trying out with the Yokohama Bay Stars at their spring training camp. Crazy, isn't it? Upon looking around for more articles, I see that Japan Baseball Daily did mention it yesterday; apparently Moss was invited to try out with the Bay Stars in camp and nobody bothered to tell the manager about it. Whoops. Today's report says that Moss throws like a girl, though with good control. ("Damian Moss threw in the bullpen today and manager Kazuhiko Ushijima just rolled his eyes, as Moss' fastball had nothing on it at all (getting up in the low 80's, if that) and he is five pounds overweight.")

Oi! Yokohama! I'm a lefty who throws like a girl! Can I come to spring training camp too?

Monday, February 06, 2006

This is not a football blog

The first thing you need to know is that in general, I couldn't care less about football. I know enough about it to watch a game and follow the play, after years spent watching football games from the middle of a marching band. I pay enough attention to know what's going on, but I don't invest the kind of time or energy in it that I put into baseball.

The second thing you need to know is that I lived in Pittsburgh for eight years before moving to Seattle.

After living for years and years as a baseball fan in Pittsburgh, I can tell you that it's a football town above and beyond anything else. One semester in college I even had a Bettis Bus Pass. And until the last few weeks, Seattle really didn't feel like a football town to me at all. Even despite the shitty Mariners, I was more likely to see a kid in an Ichiro shirt going down the street than a guy in a Hasselbeck jersey.

Something I noticed a few days ago, as an odd coincidence, is that Seattle's football and baseball teams both share the blue/silver color scheme, as Pittsburgh's football, baseball, and hockey teams all share the black/yellow color scheme. Isn't that sort of neat?

I watched today's game mostly just wanting to know what happened, rooting for neither side. To be fair, though, I went to the house of another Carnegie Mellon alum to watch it, and he was rooting for the Steelers. I probably spent the first half just yelling "GET HIM, GET HIM, GET HIM!" at pretty much EVERY play, no matter what side it was on, but by the second half when the Steelers really started playing, I found myself actually rooting for them a bit. Because it hit me that I knew a hell of a lot of football fans back in the Burgh, and honestly, none of my friends out here are football fans. Heck, when Jonah gave me a free copy of Pro Football Prospectus at the Baseball Prospectus talk a few months ago, I couldn't even find anyone out here who was interested in it.

By the end of the game today, I was even predicting that either Randle El or Ward would be the MVP for that crazy trick play which really cemented the game. I realize that Ben Roethlisberger wasn't playing his best game ever, and that sort of sucks. I realize there was definitely some questionable officiating, and that also sort of sucks. I wanted to see the Manny-Ramirez-like Polamalu make some exceptionally cool play, and he didn't, and that sort of sucks. But I'm happy for Jerome Bettis, and I'm happy for all of my friends back in Pittsburgh.

I am sorry, Seattle guys. I know as a Seattle sports team blogger, I'm supposed to be pissed off about it, but I honestly can't feel too bad about the results of this Super Bowl. At least look on the bright side -- the Seahawks still haven't beaten the Mariners to a world championship, eh?

And before you all kill me, let me leave you with an odd but amusing thought: Mick Jagger looks a hell of a lot better for a 62-year-old than Joe Namath does.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Book Review: Mind Game: How the Boston Red Sox Won A World Series

Mind Game: How the Boston Red Sox Got Smart, Won a World Series, and Created a New Blueprint for Winning, by Baseball Prospectus Writers

(I feel a little weird reviewing this book, since I sort of know a few of the authors, which is why I've procrastinated on it)

The amazing part about this book is how it's written by 20 different people, but it flows really well, for the most part, as if one author wrote it. Towards the end of it I almost felt myself playing a game with the book -- I'd be reading a chapter and come across a particularly witty phrase (for example, "...ever since Bill James discovered America...") and immediately think "Okay. Who wrote this chapter?" Sometimes I'd be right, sometimes I'd be wrong. The fact that I was more often wrong than right says something about the quality of editing and the ability of most of the authors to keep to one style and produce a homogeneity of writing quality.

The unamazing part of this book is the numbers. While I'd say about half of the numbers in the book were genuinely useful, interesting, timely, and proved a point, I'd say there were plenty of superfluous ones as well, which mostly just interrupted the flow of the book for me as I paused to look at them; often they were based off Prospectus equations which aren't easy to find or remember, even if you're familiar with the results and the use of the statistics. Fortunately, most of the time the gratuitous numbers segments were at the end of chapters, which meant you could look at them, decide whether you wanted to spend the time to really grok them, and then either go on to the next chapter or immerse yourself in math for a few minutes. I have to admit that I just skimmed the 40 pages of lists at the end.

As a result, this was a terrible bus book for me; it was slow-going and had a lot of context to keep, if I didn't finish a chapter on one ride. I have a feeling it'd be a bit better if I had read it at home and was able to look up the stats that I didn't recall offhand, although that too would have interrupted the reading flow, I think.

However, despite this, it was a genuinely interesting, informative book. I learned a lot from reading it. It was sort of cool to see them apply prospectus-isms to some older Red Sox teams, and some of the number-crunching actually really helped me better understand some points (the chapter on deconstructing Mariano Rivera was particularly good). I thought some of the tangents felt unnecessary (there seemed to be a lot about baseball brawls, although maybe that was a bigger part of the 2004 Sox than I personally recall?), but overall, things were good.

The "Caveman Cleans Up" and "Holy Gospel of On-Base Percentage" chapters were particularly amusing to me since I recently read "Idiot" and revisited "Moneyball". Infact, in general, this was a very odd book to read right after reading "Idiot", because it was a complete 180 on viewpoints. Johnny Damon would tell you something about a player being a great guy, and BP will give you the numbers about exactly how great he was.

So, while "Idiot" is a pretty quick read if you want to revisit the 2004 Red Sox for fun, "Mind Game" will be a much longer read, but you'll learn a lot more. If you enjoy reading Baseball Prospectus articles in general, you will probably adore this book. If you're the sort of baseball fan that goes "Ack! Numbers! Whatever, you gotta have HEART!", then you probably won't like it.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Friday Foto

Blogger was on the fritz last night, so I didn't post this then.
My computer was on the fritz the last few days, so I haven't really finished my Fan Fest photos. I had figured they'd be my Friday Foto this week, but maybe next week. Sorry!

I'm sure some of these bats have plenty of hits left in them.

In the meantime, here's a picture of a cave of bats.

I finished reading Mind Game yesterday at long last, so hopefully I'll have a chance to review it this weekend.


Who am I rooting for in the Super Bowl? I don't really know. I'm not even sure I have plans cemented to actually watch the game yet. My gut instinct says the Stillers are going to win. Troy Polamalu will then get traded to the Yankees and have to cut his hair.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

It's Spring Somewhere Else

Hey, so "camp" has started for Japanese baseball teams! No more of this "29 days until spring training" stuff for me!

Even better, the Hiroshima Carp are broadcasting a video feed of their camp from Okinawa.

It's dorky, but it's better than nothing. It looks like it'll be starting at 9am Japan time (4pm Pacific) every day -- I'm not sure how long it goes, since when I first loaded the page there was a note saying "Camp is over for the day, we will rebroadcast at 17:00", and well, I just tuned in, and they're showing stuff. (5pm Japan time is midnight Pacific.)

To be fair, it's just a bunch of Carp players running around the field, pitching, hitting a little, fielding, doing drills, but, hey, baseball! Spring training! I've just had it going in the background on my computer while I write this. Occasionally a player or two even comes over to the camera to say hi. Whee! Besides, the Carp uniform looks sort of like the Phillies or Reds... if they had their mascot Slyly (who looks like a blue Philly Phanatic) there, I'd almost be doing a double-take.


Huh, I even see one of the foreign pitchers, Juan Feliciano, taking drills with everyone. Neat.

I don't see any other team with major amounts of footage online. Some teams don't even really have camp pages yet, but some have pretty good ones.

Fighters: camp page with two clips of them arriving in Nago (the one of Shinjo is pretty funny)
Marines: camp page with info about Geelong (they're in Australia for camp!)
Hawks: camp page with clips of the opening ceremonies in Miyazaki
Rakuten: camp page with lots of pictures and some funny blogs from players.

Yakult also has some players blogging spring camp and the Giants currently have a camp page with a picture of a grumpy-looking Tatsunori Hara.

Well, anyway. Happy February!