Saturday, February 27, 2010

I needed photographic evidence to believe it

But yup... Bob Geren is indeed still the manager of the Oakland A's.

How does he still have a job?

Is it really the whole "he's buddies with Billy Beane" excuse?

But he is starting his 4th season... and under his stewardship, the A's, a team that made the ALCS just prior to his arrival and constantly put a contender on the field even with a low budget and free agent defections, have been a consistent sub .500 non contender in his 3 years.

And worse than not contending, they've been flat, boring and irrelevant... even in the Bay Area.

I called for his head last year (as did every A's fan I know.) But then again, I thought Charlie Manuel was dead wood before 2007... so who knows? Maybe the A's, like their former city mates the Phillies, will rattle off three straight division titles, two straight pennants and a World Series title.

The Angels have taken a step back this year and the west is winnable (didn't I say that LAST year?)

But if the A's come out stumbling this year, there is no excuse... even for Billy Beane's best buddy. (say that three times fast.)

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Harold Baines… 7 hits a year from the Hall of Fame

Remember that scene in Bull Durham where Crash Davis talks about how close he was to being a .300 hitter. He calculated he was a hit a week shy from .300?

“You get one extra flare a week--just one--a gork, a ground ball with eyes, a dying quail--just one more dying quail a week and you're in Yankee Stadium!”

Well, that applies in a very different way to former White Sox star Harold Baines.

I was looking up some stats about the 3,000 hit club about a post I am going to write about Derek Jeter, who barring injury will join the club sometime in 2011.

I saw that every single player within 200 hits of the 3,000 hit club is either a Hall of Famer or named Barry Bonds.

George Sisler, Charlie Gehringer, Brooks Robinson, Jesse Burkett, Mel Ott, Frankie Frisch, Zack Wheat, Al Simmons, Rogers Hornsby, Wee Willie Keeler, Jake Beckley, Frank Robinson, Sam Crawford, Sam Rice, Bonds and some guy named Babe Ruth all hit between 2,812 and 2,987 hits.

All immortals in Cooperstown or will eventually be after a lot of hand wringing and talk about steroids.

There’s one exception.

Harold Baines, who finished his career with 2,866 hits.

And I have to say, seeing his name on the list kind of stopped me in my tracks. Assuming that the two active hit leaders (Ken Griffey Jr and Derek Jeter) will each get 28 hits and pass Andre Dawson for 45th place on the all time hit list, then each of the top 47 names on the hit list would have had Hall of Fame careers (including Pete Rose and Bonds)… except Harold Baines.

I’ve always liked Harold Baines as a player. He was a good solid if unspectacular hitter. He had a good average, good power (he led the league in slugging in 1984) and was reliable.

He never was a top 5 MVP candidate. He never finished in the top 5 in batting average, on base percentage, OPS, doubles, homers or adjusted OPS.

He finished 5th in hits and 4th in RBIs in 1985, the year he had his personal best showing in the MVP vote. (He finished 9th.)

As I said, Baines was not spectacular but he was steady. He was a DH for more than half of his career. In his last 15 seasons, he played in the field 24 times… TOTAL.

And yet he had that hit total.

He played for 22 seasons, many of them partial injury plagued years towards the end. But he spread his productive seasons out over a long stretch. He was a 25 homer, 105 RBI man in 1982 with the White Sox.

He was a 25 homer, 103 RBI man batting .312 with an OPS of .919 for the 1999 Indians.

He broke in with the White Sox when LaRussa was managing, the team wore lapels and Chet Lemon was in Centerfield. (For a few games he was teammates with Minnie Minoso.)

He finished his career with the White Sox where he was teammates with Paul Kornerko and Mark Beuhrle.

He stretched from the lapels on the uniform era for the White Sox…

To the disastrous SOX across the chest monstrocities

To the utterly forgettable cursive uniform

Before finishing his career in the classic ChiSox duds.

He was a respected steady veteran, but not a superstar. Not a dominating force.

And yet he had that hit total.

He has barely survived four Hall of Fame ballots, peaking this last year with 6.1% of the vote… and he doesn’t have a realistic chance of ever being elected.

But just imagine this scenario, similar to Crash Davis’ dilemma.

If Baines got 7 more hits a season… he would be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

7 hits a year over 22 seasons would give him an extra 154 hits… and put his career total at 3,020… and as Stan Ross knows, 3,000 hits equals a ticket to the Hall of Fame.

There would be no denying him. It would be a lock, automatic in the first try.

He would be sitting in the background of Hall of Fame inductions forever with Bob Feller, Willie Mays, Whitey Ford, Hank Aaron, George Brett and Ozzie Smith.

His statue and retired #3 in Chicago would not be a tribute to a respected and loved star but a fitting send off to an immortal…

If he got 7 additional hits a year.

I’ve never met Mr. Baines, but he seems like a nice enough guy through interviews and the fact that teams kept employing him for nearly a quarter of a century.

He had a nice career, played in the post season in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, became a millionaire several times over and earned a World Series ring as a coach with the 2005 White Sox.

But I can’t help but wonder… does he think about those 7 extra hits a year? Does he think about a great catch made on a ball he hit? Does he think about an official scorer ruling a hit of his was actually an error? Does he think about a close call at first base that could have gone either way?

Does he think about games lost to the strikes of 1981 and 1994? Does he think of time lost to injuries later in his career?

A hit here, a hit there… a flare a gork, a ground ball with eyes, a dying quail here and there… and he’d be off to Cooperstown.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Johnny Damon... Hall of Famer?

Now color me as someone who never thought of Johnny Damon as a Hall of Famer. He’s a terrific player and a champion, but not an immortal.

He had statistically three elite seasons, was never among the best in on base percentage and wasn’t exactly a Gold Glove winner.

Yes, he had guts, played hurt, had some big post season moments and would literally crash into walls for his team.

Heck, a team of 25 guys who played as hard as Johnny Damon would be invincible.

You could say the same about Paul O’Neill and he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame either.

But I tip my cap to friend of Sully Baseball, Brad Templeman. In his (great) blog Baseball in Depth he makes the case for Damon as a Hall of Famer. Granted it is in one category… but it is a big one.

Runs scored.

Scoring runs is kinda sorta important. And yes, it relies on other people knocking him in… but if you score 1,500 runs over a career, you can’t chalk it all up to luck.

Damon needs to score 17 runs this year to join the 48 players in history to score 1,500 times.

Of the 48 in that list 38 have been retired long enough to be in the Hall of Fame. 35 of those are.

The three who aren’t are Robbie Alomar (who will be in the Hall next year), Tim Raines (who should be in the Hall of Fame) and Pete Rose (Christ Pete… why didn’t you stick to betting on the ponies!)

And the 10 who are either active or not Hall of Fame eligible yet, they include sure fire Hall of Famers (Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey Jr, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell) juicers (Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Rafael Palmeiro, Gary Sheffield) and Kenny Lofton.

Pretty good company (and no doubt a good case will be made for Kenny Lofton as well someday.)

Not 100% sure I am sold yet… but there is time to sway me either way.

But if he does get in, there is a more intriguing question:

Which hat does he wear?

Seriously, the Hall of Fame decides these things and sometimes it goes against the wishes of the player.

Andre Dawson wanted to go in as a Cub, but he’ll have an Expos cap.

Gary Carter is also enshrined as an Expo, even though he wanted to have a Mets cap on.

Wade Boggs wanted to have a Devil Rays cap… I’m serious!

Damon spent 4 years as a Red Sox and became a champion and an icon for Boston fans.
Then he spent 4 years as a Yankee and became a champion and a heart throb in New York.

But knowing the Hall of Fame, they’ll just look at which team he played the longest for and slap that logo on the plaque.

So folks, if he gets elected, I am predicting he’ll go in as a Royal.

That’s a good compromise I think.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Olympic Hockey is everything the WBC wants to be... but can never acheive

How big was today's win in Vancouver by team USA over the Canadian hockey team?

My wife, who is hardly a hockey fan, read that and said "Wow!"

And it was indeed a wow. A tense game which Red Wing Brian Rafalski playing for Team USA became the offensive hero.

Devil's captain Jamie Langenbrunner provided some offense for USA while Penguins star Sidney Crosby scored for the Canadians.

Caps star Alexander Ovechkin plays for the Russian team as does Evgeni Nabokov of my San Jose Sharks.

Anaheim's Teemu Selanne plays for Finland. Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom plays for Sweden. Former Hart Trophy winner Jaromír Jágr plays for the Czechs.

And those are just a few of the NHL stars that this casual hockey fan recognizes.

The biggest names are on the ice... and they are playing full speed. The intensity of today's game was enormous and it wasn't even a medal game!

I wonder if Bud Selig was watching. I am guessing he was. I am sure he looks at this and says "Why can't the World Baseball Classic be more like this?"

And sure, it would be great to see an American team filled with all of the American superstars...

And a Domincan team playing at full strength and full speed.

And a Venezuelan team playing one brand of baseball while a Japanese team plays a different kind.

But this is just one thing hockey will have over baseball.

Remember how the WBC actually unfolded: Many star players saying "thanks but no thanks." Stadiums 2/3 empty. Indifferent fans. And with the exception of Ichiro, all of the marquee superstars mercifully back with their teams by the finals.

And lest we forget the level of play! Pitch counts. Players going at half speed. Pitchers "trying to get their work in" during potential elimination games.

The Olympic medal actually means something, unlike the WBC trophy (which I am dubbing the "Selig Cup.")

Be thankful hockey fans that you get a tournament like this. It is unique. It is special.

And it ain't happening in baseball.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tiger didn't owe me an apology, nor you

Yup, Tiger Woods apologized in public and all the world stopped to listen.

I loved the CNN caption. They felt the need to put the subtitle "Pro Golfer."

Is that for the 2 people on the planet Earth who have never heard of Tiger Woods?

I think it was written by a sarcastic news producer at CNN... as if to say "Yes, we are stopping all reporting in the world to tell you a golfer cheated on his wife."

Now I am sure he meant it when he said he was sorry.
And if you thought his wife was p*ssed at him, you should have seen his mom.

I found it refreshing that he didn't try to blame the media or make him a victim. Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire should take note.

And of course the nanosecond he wins a golf tournament, all will be forgotten. Don't believe me? look how quickly A-Rod went from womanizing steroid using albatross to beloved World Champion.

But Tiger didn't owe me an apology. I'm not a big golf fan, but I love watching him play. The only apology he owes ME is if he doesn't ever play again and golf goes back to being populated by a bunch of fat white Craig Stadler looking guys.

Now of course he owes his wife an apology.

He owes his kids an apology.

He owes the person whose tree he hit an apology.

And he owes his sponsors an apology. Seriously, Buick and Gilette and all of the other companies that poured tens of millions of dollars into his available balance weren't paying for a golfer. They were paying for an image... an image of coolness and someone who can never be rattled.

Although I find the whole endorsement thing to be a bit silly. If I am weighing the pros and cons of buying a car, I'm not going to think "How did Tiger do in the U. S. Open?"

But I did think that Tiger picked the wrong decade to be the dominating sports figure of his era.

Let's just for a moment, imagine a baseball player who is damn good.

No, better than that. Like Tiger Woods, becomes larger than the sport, smashing the record books in more ways than seems possible.

He is the highest paid player, the biggest star and does the most endorsements.

Now let's also imagine that he has such a drinking problem that he had to have a clause in his contract that he would knock off the booze.

Imagine that he fought with management and managers. Imagine that he was suspended to start one season and his hard drinking and bad eating lifestyle caused him to miss much of another.

Imagine that player throwing dirt and an umpire and climbing into the stands to confront a fan.

Imagine if that player was caught stealing in the bottom of the 9th of a 1 run Game 7 of the World Series... and that bone headed decision ended the series.

Imagine if that player ran around with women (and frequented brothels) while he had a wife and child living in another town.

And eventually that woman he was married to died in a fire.

Can you imagine the scrutiny a player like that would have endured?

Yet a player like that DID exist.

That would be Babe Ruth...

He'd have be considered bad for the game today.

He'd have people wringing their hands that kids want to emulate him.

He etched his name into the record books as a hitter and a pitcher... and today he'd also set unbreakable records in number of press conferences where he breaks down.

Remember how people treated Robbie Alomar spitting at John Herschbeck as if it were the end of civilization?

Or Ron Artest's going into the stands in Auburn Hills being an event tantamount to the Hindenberg disaster?

Or Michael Irvin's partying? Or Wade Boggs' affair? All earth shattering. Well Ruth did it all... and to this day remains a figure that towers over the sport.

He represents a supposedly more innocent time... a time when reporters kept quiet when you returned from a brothel smelling like booze.

Is it better now where anyone with a camera phone and a Twitter account can bring someone down?

Was it better then when myths were created and some unpleasantness suppressed?

I am not sure. But I DO know it is better now that our star athletes can't endorse tobacco anymore.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Women's Curling Is Awesome

Yeah, I watched women’s curling with other people at the office today. And I don’t apologize for it either.

It was awesome. Me and my other office mates were hooked.

Yeah it is basically shuffle board on ice.

Sure, it was probably started by a couple of drunk people who brought a big rock and some brooms to a frozen pond and now people can call themselves Gold Medal Olympians based on their sweeping abilities.

But I guess the beauty of the Olympics is getting hooked on sports that you would never have noticed.

Oh, and speaking of beauty did you SEE the women curlers?

They are cute!

I had no idea curling had any sex appeal, but it does.

Liudmila Privivkova of Russia?

Stella Heiss of Germany?

Moe Meguro of Japan?

These two from the Danish team who could be twins?

Look, far be it for to tell NBC how to cover the Olympics… but in 2014 when the Winter Olympics head to Sochi, Russia… play up the Women’s Curling a little.

It’s fantastic!

I should note that the most beautiful woman I associate with curling is actually my wife.

On our first date, we met at Kettle of Fish, a bar in Greenwich Village. When we met, the TV was on showing a curling match at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

So forgive me for romanticizing curling.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sully Baseball Honors THE LATE JIM BIBBY

Jim Bibby passed away yesterday in Virginia.

He was only 65.

He played for several teams over his 12 year career, but none that means as much to me as the 1979 Pirates.

As anyone who has read this blog knows I have a huge spot in my hear for the 1979 We Are Family Pirates as they won the first World Series I have any memory of.

Jim Bibby started Game 7 of that World Series… yes the same game I gushed about this off season.

So in his honor, let’s list a few things about Bibby.

Bibby was originally a Met farm hand but never played in Flushing.

In yet another brilliant move by the Mets in the mid 1970s, Bibby was sent packing along with Art Shamsky and 2 others to St. Louis.

None of the players picked up by the Mets (Jim Beauchamp, Chip Coulter, Harry Parker nor Chuck Taylor) did squat with the Mets.

He threw the first no hitter in Texas Rangers history on July 30th, 1973.

He pitched it against the Oakland A’s, who were in the middle of three straight World Series titles.

A’s regulars like Bert Campaneris, Sal Bando, Reggie Jackson and Gene Tenace all played that day.

The start prior to his no hitter, he threw a complete game 2 hitter against the Angels.

He out pitched Nolan Ryan, who would know a few things throwing no hitters in a Rangers uniform.

So in two starts he pitched 18 innings and let up 2 hits.

Not too shabby.

He didn't exactly wear traditional unis...

He pitched in the burgundy unis of the 1970s Indians… and the all yellow unis that the Pirates wore in the late 70s.

He made those ugly uniforms look good.

Jim was an All Star

Jim played in his lone All Star in 1980 at Dodger Stadium as a member of the Pirates.

He came into the game in the 7th inning with a 1 run led and got future Hall of Famer Robin Yount to fly out.

Willie Randolph then singled but Cecil Cooper grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Bibby was credited with a Hold. Actually he wasn’t. There were no “holds” back in 1980. But Baseball Reference gave him one retroactively.

Jim contended for the 1980 Cy Young Award.

1980 was Bibby’s best season. He won 19 games, tying his career high and finished the season with the best winning percentage based on his 19-6 record.

He finished third in the Cy Young voting behind Steve Carlton and Jerry Reuss

Jim was a Terry Harper single away from perfection

On May 19,1981 he led up a lead off single in the first inning to Atlanta’s Terry Harper.

He went on to retire the next 27 batters for the 5-0 complete game hitter.

The last batter he faced was Greg Walker

Bibby finished his career on May 26th, 1984 doing a mop up relief appearance for the Rangers against the White Sox.

The White Sox loaded the bases on him with one out, but he got Mike Squires and Greg Walker to pop up and he escaped the game (and his career) with no further damage,

He is the uncle of former Sacramento King and current Atlanta Hawk Mike Bibby

Unlike his Uncle Jim, Mike never could get that ring.

Bibby appeared on the 1990 Hall of Fame ballot. He received one vote.

I'm not saying he deserved a Hall of Fame vote... but I wonder who that one voter was.

And if that one voter is still alive, I hope the Bibby family invites him over for dinner.

So rest in peace, Jim Bibby. Know that you will always be part of the Fam-A-Lee of 1979.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Ahh those magical four words:
Pitchers and catchers report.

When players for the Orioles, Cubs, Reds, Rockies, Royals, Yankees, Phillies, Pirates, Cardinals, Giants and Mariners show up tomorrow at the respective spring homes, the off season will be over.

Players will be in uniform.
Jobs will be on the line.
And each team will not only be 0-0 in the standings, but players on lousy teams will be thinking about the 2008 Rays... the 2007 Rockies... the 2006 Tigers... the 2003 Marlins... teams that were not given a chance by the experts and yet made it all the way to the World Series (and in the Marlins case, won the whole thing.)

It's a great time of the year.

It's dawn.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

My first and last Biathlon post

So I actually watched some of the Winter Olympics yesterday afternoon. I caught some of the biathlon.

(My spellcheck won’t accept “biathlon” nor should it.)

I love that the biathlon exists. Basically someone saw the opening of “The Spy Who Loved Me” and said “That should be an Olympic event!”

For those of you who don’t know what that event is (and why would you?) basically it is a cross country skiing race where you carry a rifle on your back.

Then you stop, crouch like a sniper, and fire at some targets. If you miss a target you have to do a penalty lap.

I suppose this prevents various Swedes and Danish skiers from just firing wildly like Tony Montana.

I got hooked on it a for a while, which I guess is the charm of the Olympics.

Every time during the Olympics, I find myself thinking “I can’t believe I am watching this sport.”

I think this sport would get a little more year round popularity in America if they stopped to shoot at the ski jumpers.

And frankly that would help ski jumping’s popularity as well.

And for those of you who didn't get my Spy Who Loved Me reference... watch this clip and tell me how it differs from the biathlon.

(The Biathalon needs that disco version of the 007 theme!)

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