Friday, October 31, 2008

The word on the Mike Jacobs-Leo Nunez trade

You've heard? Mike Jacobs, nee Florida first baseman and now Kansas City's DH (we can only assume), was acquired in a deal that sent reliever Leo Nunez to the Marlins.

When we first heard about this we thought it was a fair trade: neither guy is perfect, making both of them expendable, and both are more valuable on their new clubs than their old ones, though for different reasons (the Marlins hate guys who make seven-digit salaries; that they still win around 80 games every year with their anemic payroll is a testament to club's front office, which is more potent, in my opinion, than even Oakland's, and how GM Larry Beinfest doesn't win Executive of the Year every year is beyond me).

A quick stroll through the Royals blogosphere, however, revealed roughly a 65/35 split against the trade, which shocked me. I understand that it's an attractive prospect for some folks, like Rany and Royals Review, to criticize this deal: Jacobs is exactly the sort of player that allows them to snap into analyzing mode and break down all his flaws, point out how he doesn't walk a lot, how he'll be more expensive now than before, etc. etc., and criticism always makes for more interesting writing. Here's the thing: we already know he's not perfect. We can read from the second paragraph of Dick Kaegel's news story (linked above) that Jacobs's OBP was a paltry .299 last season. But that's not the point: the Royals aren't expecting Mike Jacobs to be Mark Teixeira. They expect him to improve from years past -- and he should, considering his age and Major League experience -- and to be an upgrade over the Royals' current crop of corner infields.

Is there risk involved? Sure. But let's not blow things out of proportion here. Suddenly Dayton Moore's incompetent because he dared to trade for a young power hitter?

I like this trade, and like Clark Fosler of Royals Authority, I also would've done it. Consider these three points:

  1. All the Royals gave up was a reliever, and a middle reliever at that, and an inconsistent one, and one prone to injury.

    Here's how reliable relievers are in the Major Leagues: the 2007 Cleveland Indians' bullpen, anchored by Rafael Perez, Rafael Betancourt, Jensen Lewis and Joe Borowski, posted a 3.73 ERA, fourth best in the league. This past year's Cleveland Indians' bullpen of roughly the same guys -- with Betancourt closing to begin the season and Perez as the setup man, minus weak-link Borowski and adding high-profile Japanese free agent Masahide Kobayashi -- posted a 5.11 ERA, which was exceeded only by the Texas Rangers in crapitude.

    Look at the Tigers' bullpen woes. Look at the Mets. Look at the Rays, which came into this season with only two established guys -- Dan Wheeler and Troy Percival, who are supposed to be in their decline phases -- yet ended up having the third best relievers' ERA in the AL. You realize former Royal J.P. Howell, a guy who has consistently sucked over the course of his baseball career, suddenly posted a 200 ERA+ and became one of Tampa's most dependable relievers? Who can project these things?

    Here's the point: relievers are fungible, through and through. It wasn't too long ago that the Royals had the absolute worst bullpen in the league and looked liked they'd never get their act together. How long did it take Dayton Moore to get that turned around? Half a season? One at the most.

  2. Jacobs is young, hasn't peaked, is relatively inexpensive even in his arbitration years (3 to 3.5 million) and instantly becomes the Royals' best home run threat. You understand the Royals haven't had a 30-HR guy since Jermaine Dye's 33 in... you ready for this? ... 2000. The year freakin' 2000! No one wants to admit they play for the three-run home run, but no one wants to live with the prospect that they have no chance of ever hitting a three-run home run. (I understand the Royals hit plenty of three-run home runs last season, but you understand my point.)

    As Craig Brown of Royals Authority pointed out, "[Jacobs] homered once every 14.9 at bats, which ranked 10th in the Majors and among first basemen trailed only Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols."

  3. The Royals would otherwise enter spring training with a glaring weakness at either 1b or DH -- we're assuming Billy Butler will fill one but not both of those roles (I, unlike Rany, do not believe he has played his last game as a Kansas City Royal, and I'm disappointed that someone with as much mainstream journalistic legitimacy as Rany would devote five paragraphs to why Butler is so great and GMDM would essentially be an idiot to unload him, even at the right price, on nothing more than a hunch) -- as anyone who believes Ryan Shealy or Kila Ka'aihue is ready, right now, to play 140 games at the corner infield is kidding themselves. They could be ready by March, and maybe one or both of them will win a roster spot, but as of this instant both are merely Major League replacement-level players. Ka'aihue could use a full season in Omaha, and Shealy... well, who knows? He had one good month and suddenly everyone believes he's part of the corner infield of the future. (Okay, I admit: that's what I wrote in this blog's third-ever entry, but that was so 2007.)

    The other guy, Ross Gload, isn't worth mentioning. We can only assume he will not be the Opening Day starter.

The arguments against the deal are sensible, but, again, let's keep some perspective. I have a hard time understanding why this deal is such "a terrible idea," and, frankly, don't know how anyone can say so with such impunity -- other than, of course, because all bloggers reserve the right to be as big or small of a jackass as we please, and lest we forget, we are all jackasses.

Welcome to Kansas City, Mike. We at IDWT embrace you with open arms.

Although... you could draw a few more walks next year. Just sayin'.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A post-celebration video from Philadelphia

Via Deadspin:


POSTSCRIPT: And a post-game column worth reading, from Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

There was a police officer standing along the warning track near the Phillies' dugout. Fans were throwing him things - towels, paper, whatever - and he was scooping up just a bit of the dirt and throwing the souvenirs back. It was one of the most beautiful things you could see.

When I came to the clause "fans were throwing him things," my mind automatically read that as "fans were throwing things at him." Nice to see Philly's happy side for once.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies, 2008 World Series champions


Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Now let the bad headlines flow like champagne:

ESPN: Phinally!
SI: Philly's Drought Ends
Yahoo: Phinally Phillies (this is the sound of me groaning...)
Fox News: Wonderphil!
MLB.com: Phil up your shopping cart with WS champs gear and OctoberPhest: Philly completes historic clincher! (I swear I didn't make those up.)
NBC
: A Phillies Finish Worth Waiting For! (This is me shocked -- shocked! -- to see, not one, but two F's in a headline.)

And fphinally...

AP: A long time coming: Phillies win the World Series

And this time they didn't even have to beat the Royals.

A win well deserved.

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The 2008 World Series...


...is on.

In Hong Kong for the weekend, so I'll just recommend this analysis of Dayton Moore's trades from the folks at The Royal Tower.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bill James on the Royals' young talent

He ranks the Royals fifth. Gotta like that.

And this, as he writes in the Bill James Handbook 2008, to be published Nov. 1:

They have little veteran talent, but if a couple of guys step forward, they could win 85-90 games in 2009."

Via Jeffrey Flanagan's Over the Top blog.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Introducting: Royals Prospects, a new blog

The Major League Baseball season may be winding down (there's some sort of serious series coming up later today?), but fall and winter leagues around the country are just warming up. A good way to stay updated: Royals Prospects, a new blog run by a former Rangers fan who just moved to Missouri from Dallas, Texas, and who now calls himself a Royals fan through and through. (This isn't the same Rangers fan as Rangers Fan, who's appeared on this site before.)

As Internet savvy Kansas City baseball fans have known for a long while, the Royals have as devotees some of the best bloggers and baseball writers in the country -- folks like Joe Posnanski, Rany Jazayerli and Rob Neyer (if you can still call him a fan), so well known I don't even have to link them. And sites like Royals Review and Royals Authority employ, hands down, the best writers in their respective companies (Sports Blog Network and Most Valuable Network). And there are the inveterates, folks who have been writing about the Royals for years, like Lee Warren, and team-run blogs like The Royal Treatment that could, we're guessing, field one heck of a softball squad. And show me one other baseball blog written by an artist whose work appears in a New York erotic magazine.

Still, with all that, Royals Prospects fills a need: where else are we to get updates from the Arizona Fall League and Hawaii Winter League, or to learn the exploits of fan favorites and soon-to-be favorites like Rowdy Hardy? (He's not doing so well.) The Pipeline has filled that role admirably for some time, but it never hurts to get a helping hand.

Welcome to the blogroll, RP.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The King is dead. Long live the King

TBS showing a sign held by a Rays fan to open the 9th: "The Improbable Dream"
Chip Caray: "The improbable dream indeed."
Next sign shown, also by a Rays fan: "The Pit of Dreams."
Chip Caray: Confused silence.

Congratulations to the Tampa Bay Rays, your 2008 American League champions.

And boy were they deserving.

Congratulations to David Price.

Congratulations to Matt Garza, who made me eat my words from earlier this morning.

This will be a good World Series.

An in-game question

Q: How many pitchers does it take to protect a two-run lead?
A: As many as it takes.

Dan Wheeler, J.P. Howell, Chad Bradford... now bases loaded and it's your turn, David Price. No pressure, rook.

UPDATE: Well, that was a ball, but... nice job.

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox, your 2008 American League champions

It's inevitable. Believe that. When the Red Sox won Game 5, I saw a commenter say the Red Sox were "up two games to three." Was there any doubt they'd win Game 6 behind Josh Beckett? And, really, is there any doubt they'll win Game 7?*

Contrast Beckett's expression in the picture below with his expression here, from last season's ALCS.

AP

And I have a sinking suspicion it won't be close, though I'll be rooting for a good game.

*Yes. That's why you should watch.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Unbelievable

In the middle of the game TBS's cameras caught a Rays fan in Fenway giving the crowd the shush sign. At that moment Tampa was up 7-0 behind its ace Scott Kazmir and was well, well on its way to clinching in five, much as the Phillies did the day before. Who can blame the guy for feeling good about himself and his team, boisterous and boastful?

Except someone forgot to give him a history lesson.

The team that can score off Mariano Rivera while down three games to none can surely score off Grant Balfour. The team that can come back from a three games to one deficit to a scrappy Indians squad in 2007 can surely brush aside that "scrappy" label when applied to another up-and-comer. And the team that plays the best version of modern baseball I've ever seen can surely come back from a seven-run deficit. Right?

I just didn't expect it.

Who did?

Four runs in the 7th, three more in the 8th, with the first and last of it coming with two outs -- this in front of a crowd of 38,437, which is 105.2% capacity. And wouldn't you know, the rally in the 9th started with two outs, culminating in the game-winning run. 8-7 Red Sox. The biggest comeback in postseason history in 79 years, folks.

The fire gods rejoice!

Chip Caray asked a poignant question: as devastating as the Game 2 loss was for the Red Sox, could this loss be equally devastating for the Rays? I know this whole "momentum" business doesn't amount to much, but it's interesting to ponder, is it not? We all know, of course, what happened in the two contests after Game 2.

A screenshot from our friends over at D-Rays Bay.

Via the same website:


Comment of the day: Kill a Sox fan...it'll make you feel better.

POSTSCRIPT: In Dayton We Trust neither encourages nor condones the killing of Red Sox fans.

UPDATE: Just noticed Joe Posnanski also titled his postgame blog post "Unbelievable." And beat me to it...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies

“This is for the city for Philadelphia,” manager Charlie Manuel said.

AP

World Series-bound.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A wistful moment

Cole Hamels, the Phillies' young lefty ace, has the Dodgers by the tail and on the brink of elimination. It's at a time like this I'd like to make an observation.

I don't care how many times I see it, Greg Maddux's strikeout pitch -- you know the one, the two-seamer that cuts into the inside corner of the plate against lefties after getting them to buckle their knees because it starts that in -- is always a thing of beauty to behold, every time. Other pitchers have that sinker, but I'm not sure any use it as well, or have used it as well for so long.

Fox showed a 1987 Cubs team picture with Maddux standing beside Jamie Moyer -- now on the Phillies -- prompting Tim McCarver to say the most poignant thing I've heard him say all series: "Yesterday when we were young."

Indeed.

POSTSCRIPT: Maddux's pitch is much better than this, which was, really, high and outside.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How the Phillies won Game 4

I'm really not sure. The Dodgers looked like they'd ride their bullpen to an easy victory, and I could see all the next-day newspaper storylines: small-ball prevails, Dodgers' big park works to team's advantage, home team wins yet again, etc. etc.

And then the Phillies struck: a long ball by Shane Victorino that snuck over the low right-field fence. A moonshot by Matt Stairs that soared into the night. These were off LA's two best active relievers, so there was nothing cheap about them. Just like that, the Phillies led7-5 in the 8th and were on their way to taking a three games to one lead.

A good series so far, and I hope it continues.

***

"Who are these guys?" one of the TBS announcers just said about the Rays. I'm just as incredulous: they're up 13-2 in the bottom of the 8th.

They've outscored Boston 22-3 in Fenway. Of course, certain other teams have had chances to clinch at Fenway without being able to do so. Yankees 2004, up 3-0, had two chances and lost both before losing the series. Indians 2007, up 3-1, went into Fenway needing to win one of two -- you remember, of course, they did not.

The White Sox did clinch at Fenway in 2005, so it's not as if it can't be done. But I'm hoping this series gets extended. Give me cowbell, or give me death!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Royals hire former All-Star, former Blue Jays manager

The credentials are good on these two: Jay Gibbons, former Blue Jays manager, is the new bench coach (Dave Owen moves off the bench to fill Luis Silverio's vacated position as third base coach), and Kevin Seitzer, former Royals third baseman, is now the hitting coach.

Story here.

With Dayton Moore's emphasis on getting on base, you may wonder what sort of practical, real-world experience Seitzer brings. In his four full seasons in Kansas City -- including his excellent 1987 rookie season, when he made the All-Star team and finished runner-up to Mark McGwire for Rookie of the Year -- he posted OBPs of .399, .388, .387 and .346. If we throw in his 115 plate appearances in 1986 and 263 PAs in '91, his final season in Kansas City, we'd get an OBP of .378. Over 12 seasons, he got on base at a .375 clip, or better than anyone from the 2008 Royals with the exception of Kila Ka'aihue, who posted a .375 OBP in 24 plate appearances. (David DeJesus's .366 OBP led the team among qualified players.) In other words, it looks like Moore's serious about this on-base business.

As for Gibbons, far from being remembered for leading the Blue Jays to a second-place finish in the ultra-competitive AL East in 2006, he's probably known as the guy who got into publicized phsyical confrontations with two of his players, Shea Hillenbrand and Ted Lilly. For the record, Gibbons calls himself "easy-going, fun guy," and we're not worried about those past skirmishes. As we all know, the Royals don't employ thugs like those baby seal-killers out north.

And if I may squeeze this in: Mac-n-Seitz -- Seitzer's baseball company in Kansas City -- sounds an awful lot like a promotion for a monster truck rally, does it not? Mac-n-Seitz: Monday! Monday! Monday!

This whole 9=8 thing...

From an interesting read by Yahoo's Jeff Passan:

This proof, provided by Michigan State assistant math professor Ignacio Uriarte-Tuero, would seem to prove that, in fact, nine does equal eight, as Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon has asserted all year.

It doesn’t, of course, as nine can’t equal eight. Though the error is difficult to spot. Can you find it?

Step 1: Let x = y. Multiply by y to get
xy = y2

Step 2: Subtract x2 to get
xy − x2 = y2− x2

Step 3: Factoring, we get
x(y − x) = (y − x)(y + x)

Step 4: which simplifies to
x = y + x

Step 5: and now using that x = y we get
x = 2x

Step 6: Simplifying again, we get
1 = 2

Step 7: so that when we add 7 to both sides we get
8 = 9

Step 8: or put in other words,
9 = 8

And if it hasn't already been brought to your attention, the Rays won Game 2 of their series 9-8, in 98 innings, in the 98th year of Red Sox baseball, at precisely 9:88 p.m. on the 9th of 8 with 9 men on an octagonal field...

For my money, Phillies-Dodgers has proven the more interesting series. Last night Russell Martin got hit again (twice!), while Dodgers pitcher Hideki Kuroda -- who looked like a dead-man walking the next half-inning, dreading what he had to do -- threw a ball above Shane Victorino's head in retaliation, prompting, after getting Victorino to ground out to first, a bench-clearing staredown. If this, my friends, were a mystery novel, we'd say Game 3 has moved us out of the exposition. And soon, the murder.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Appreciating the baseball playoffs

As this MLB.com article puts it -- calling out Royals fans in a manner of speaking -- anyone can appreciate the postseason:


Just because these two clubs aren't kissin' cousins doesn't mean the Mets, and really, New Yorkers, can't appreciate what the Phillies have done. They can appreciate it just as much as Royals fans, Mariners fans or Padres fans can. At the end of the day, it's baseball.

It's not just baseball. It's Actober!

Oh wait... that was last year. Here's the 2008 version:


Who comes out on top? We do.

POSTSCRIPT: Funny sign at the Red Sox-Rays game in St. Petersburg, Fla.: "South Florida: a colony of Red Sox nation."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Red Sox-Rays Game 1 live blog

We pick it up at the conclusion of the 5th inning, where Dice-K has eight strikeouts and four walks. He has not allowed a hit.

What's always amazed me about Dice-K is his ability to adapt to the game. I don't know any pitcher who's so unfazed by allowing walks, because it just always seems like he minimizes the game of baseball to a simple confrontation between himself and whoever's in the batter's box, tuning everything else out. And I think he believes he can get a strikeout any time he wants.

10:20 p.m. ET: Give it to these Rays fans: they know how to make noise. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have metallic tintinnabular instrumentation.

10:25 p.m.: Second baseman Dustin Pedroia just robbed Carlos Pena of the team's first hit with a sliding stop of a one-hopper... in the outfield.

Evan Longoria, swinging on 3-0 (as he should have), just popped out to J.D. Drew in foul ground.

Last year, while Clay Buccholz was en route to tossing a no-hitter in Fenway, there was talk of whether to pull him in the 9th if he came to his pre-assigned pitch limit. That discussion probably isn't happening tonight with Dice-K. This was a man, remember, who threw 250 pitches in a 17-inning game in high school -- and won, of course. Two games later, after pitching the previous game in relief, he threw a no-hitter for the championship.

10:33 p.m.: The announcers just asked themselves whether Mark Kotsay, with runners on first and second and none out, would try to bunt.

"I think they do," said Buck Martinez.

To which I thought: c'mon. These are the Red Sox, who employ a Harvard grad as GM and Bill James, among others. This is a team that knows modern baseball and has little use for sacrifice bunts.

Kotsay did not bunt, instead popping out to Akinori Iwamura behind second base.

10:35: Jed Lowrie should have been called out on the 0-2 pitch. Perfect curve ball by James Shields ruled high.

Four pitches and two minutes later, the ump gives Shields a pitch that may have been high. You give a little, you get a little, I guess.

10:39: Pop-up. Inning over. God Bless America.

I thought it was only Fox that used American Idol rejects for the singing of God Bless America.

David Archuleta wasn't half bad though, and the Idol connection may have been coincidental -- a Miami native, Archuleta makes a believable case for being a Rays fan... as much as anyone can make that claim, anyway. (Tampa's got some incredible bandwagon fans, probably the best in the country. Remember when the Lightning made their run at the Stanley Cup? No? Oh, right... cause they play hockey.)

10:44 p.m.: Carl Crawford, hard hit to right.

Dice-K's opposing BA with runners in scoring position was .164 during the season, which isn't all that surprising: he gets tougher in jams, deploys more of his weapons, almost as if, knowing you want a sacrifice fly, he has you where he wants you.

Dioner Navarro looked overmatched with runners on first and third and none out. He could have been called out on a 1-2 sinker; instead, he popped out to shallow left. Then Gabe Gross swung meekly through a 3-2 two-seamer, this before swinging and fouling off a 3-1 change-up that was out of the zone. Next batter grounded into a fielder's choice to short.

"He continues his masterful work," Chip Caray said. Masterful indeed.

Nice to have two and a half aces, Boston.

11:01 p.m.: Pitching change for Rays. Time for my MLB.tv International Postseason streaming to buffer up.

I said buffer up!!!

Former Royal J.P. Howell is on the mound. He promptly allows a stolen base.

A note to Gabe Gross: it's called a layout, and it looks like this. Try it next time a ball falls just three feet in front of you.

Crawford can't come up with a sinker off Kevin Youkilis's bat and the Red Sox now lead by two.

11:15 p.m.: High and tight pitch drills J.D. Drew on the right shoulder. Scary.

11:18: Grant Balfour blows a 3-2 fastball by Jason Bay with the bases loaded. Gutsy execution.

It's precisely moments like these that seem suspended in time when viewed from the present tense. In about five minutes, we'll look back at this moment, with fans rising out of their seats and bells banging at an ever-quicker, ever-madder pace, and see it as a "turning point," either when the Red Sox blew the game open or the Rays somehow managed to get out of this veritable jam. And when looking back, this moment will have context, shape, contour. Now, however, in present tense, it's as if our everyday flow of things has been stopped -- our breathing, our blinking -- as we await the next pitch. Nothing else happens. The future is untold. The path unforked. The choice yet unmade by the forces which dictate the direction of our universe.

Pop-out. On to the bottom of the 8th!

Red Sox up 2-0 and Matsuzaka is back on the mound to face the top of the order. I'm not sure about this decision to leave him in. The 108 pitches don't mean much: it's the fact that he labored so hard the previous inning, and after escaping without allowing a run he must have felt a certain sense of relief or satisfaction. Now he's asked to rebuild that intensity, this after cooling down on the bench while the Red Sox took their sweet time scoring their run last half-inning.

Iwamura singled, then Dice-K sails a pitch past Jason Veritek's glove. I'm convinced: Terry Francona should've gone to his bullpen.

11:34 p.m.: Francona goes to his bullpen again, this after Hideki Okajima, on a 3-0 pitch, retired the one batter he was brought in to retire.

I was fine with giving the batter the green light on a 3-0 pitch when Matsuzaka was pitching a no-hitter and not making any mistakes. When you have runners on first and second and none out and you're into the opponent's bullpen? No. Absolutely not.

Evan Longoria followed by grounding into a double play, and suddenly an entire state of baseball newbies learn about the precious devilry of following this excruciating sport. It'll tempt you and tempt you and tempt you to the edge of Shangri-la before pulling the carpet and sending you tumbling into a pit of darkness and despair.

David Price is awesome, and it's an incredible shame the Royals were only two losses away (100 losses to Tampa's 101 in 2006) from getting the rights to draft him last year. I just want to put that on the record before we head to the last half-inning of this game.

Here's how the 9th inning went:

11:55 p.m.: Jonathan Papelbon blows three fastballs past Carl Crawford: 95 mph, 95 mph, 96 mph. (with one ball in there).

11:59: Infield pop-out.

Midnight: am I seeing this right? With the game still going on, there're two people leaving? From the exit right behind home plate? Tell me I didn't see that right.

12:01: Navarro strikes out swinging.

See you tomorrow. I only hope the Rays don't get swept, because these Red Sox are really, really good.

NLCS: Two games in Philadelphia

That sound, persistent and dizzying, during the 6th inning of Game 1 of Dodgers-Phillies wasn't just a buzz: it was a stadium's full-throated acclamation for its hometown heroes. Or it may have been an infestation of locusts. Either way, this was, mind you, before Chase Utley's game-tying home run. Under these environs, you just knew something would happen.

And it did. The turnaround -- from 2-0 to 3-2 -- was stunning, happening so fast it may have been legerdemain. Utley's homer barely in the books, Pat Burrell took advantage of an obviously tiring Derek Lowe and sent a screamer into the left field bleachers, with Manny barely moving. The Phillies would not relinquish their lead, nor would the fans lose their voice.

Then there was Game 2, which we'll just jump straight to the finish: Nomar Garciaparra, always known as a free swinger, made up his mind to swing three times before he got to the plate. Three Brad Lidge sliders later -- each going a bit farther out of the zone than the preceding -- and we all witnessed the easiest strikeout we'll ever see in postseason play.

2-0 Phillies. But this series is coming back...

POSTSCRIPT 1: A columnist war? Philly Inquirer's John Gonzalez on LA Times's T.J. Simers:

For shame, Simers. If you're going to be lazy and clich├ęd, you can't half-(rhymes with pass) it. You must press your full backside against the keyboard.

In his defense, Simers works in a city teeming with dispassionate transplants. When catering to the botox crowd, you have to write in broad generalities, lest they furrow their brows in a vain attempt to understand.


POSTSCRIPT 2: This is awkwardly worded, but nonetheless (MLB.com):

Tampa Bay sold out and won both of its games in the AL Division Series, and it went 23-2 this season in front of a home audience of more than 30,000. The Rays' growing attendance, coupled with a newfound belief that they can win, has the Trop finally lending some identity to its oft-beleaguered franchise.
23-2 in front of home crowds exceeding 30,000. Almost makes up for the fact that the place looks like a cankersore patch.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dayton Moore on the record

From a Joe Posnanski column:

“That’s it,” he says. “We’re at a point now where you will never, ever hear me say again that we have young players who are improving. You will never, ever hear me say again that we are rebuilding. That stuff is over. I’m sick of all that.

“We’re not a young team anymore. We’re not an improving team anymore. There are no more excuses. It’s not like we made a lot of excuses before, but I’m sick of all that. It’s time now.”


So far, this attitude has manifested itself in non-player changes, such as the firing of scouting director Deric Ladnier, hitting coach Mike Barnett ("'We have to understand the importance of on-base percentage,' Moore says, and he repeats those words — 'on-base percentage' — about 29 times during the interview") and third-base coach Luis Silverio. There's little room for free agents -- not with Gil Meche and Jose Guillen making $23 million next year, about half the payroll -- and it's unlikely we'll get any blockbuster trades, since the best tradeable parts -- Zack Greinke, Joakim Soria -- are players nearing primes that may vault them to superstar status.

Here's an interesting quote, the kicker:


“I just can’t predict what kind of opportunities we’re going to have,” he says. “All I can tell you is that there’s a lot more urgency going forward. We’re going to create as many options as we can. We’re going to do everything we can to make changes. There’s a lot of room for us to get better. And right now, that’s all that matters. We have to get better.”

There's a lot of room for us to get better is both the most obvious and most revealing quote in the article. Precisely because there is a lot of room for improvement, one has to wonder whether improving just six games from 2007, in a season when the division was arguably its weakest in years, was enough. As we move forward, we have to expect the rate of positive change to level out as the team presses up against external factors. The win-total graph as plotted against time will not slope upwards indefinitely, and certainly not at the derivative rate of one. I think this is what Dayton Moore was getting at: it would have been so much more comforting if the team could have jumped to 82 wins this year. As is, we're left with the unsettling idea that this rebuilding process -- or are we not to call it that again, ever? -- is still two years, at least, from fruition. Maybe Moore understands -- sees as plainly as anyone -- that another six-win improvement won't make the Royals relevant, thus the heavy and urgent rhetoric. I hope so, because this I know: abandoning plans is not what we need.

A few days after speaking with Poz, Moore spoke with Dick Kaegel of MLB.com:

"We're going to try to upgrade every place on the field. That's what we're going to have to do," he said. "Realistically, you're not going to change out 25 players, but we've got to develop a mind-set where we've got to upgrade every place on the diamond."

Nothing terribly revealing in the article, but the desire to improve -- hastily -- is apparent. In the coming winter months, it'll be interesting to see how that desire manifests itself.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Postseason 2008, so far

It's nearly impossible keeping up while traveling in Yunnan Province (I'm writing from a Lijiang Internet bar as we speak), but this must be said: the baseball playoffs are absolutely amazing. I just got the first inning of the second game of the Dodgers-Cubs series on MLB.tv, and when Manny Ramirez struck out on three pitches, I momentarily forgot everything I'd read about how Cubs fans have given up on the team and hate the team and are saying "It's Never Gonna Happen" and etc., etc.

Of course, then I remembered: this was when the series was still 1-0, before the Cubs would commit four errors the next inning while giving up four runs, lose 10-3, then get swept.

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I don't know what to say about losing a series due to a missed suicide-squeeze bunt. Gut-wrenching. The call was absolutely correct, though: Reggie Willits was out.

I think Thom Brennaman put it best: "Sometimes you play for a run. Sometimes you lose by a run."

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Another word on Boston: I don't know what it is about Fenway, but the place just looks different in the postseason, in a way you can say about only a few other stadiums or arenas. I don't just mean the paint and bunting: it feels different, even on Internet TV. Hard to explain.

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Milwaukee's crowd > Philly's crowd? Philly's crowd vs. LA's... no contest.

Not sure if any of them compare with the White Sox crowd, however, with their black out. White homer hankies are so 1991... and not to mention they inhibit people from applauding.

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Evan Longoria is awesome. And sort of related: Harold Reynolds may have plenty of detractors, but I for one am happy to hear him back in the booth.

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A World Series prediction: Dodgers over Rays in 6.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

"We'll wait"

This seems as good a time as any to reprise this:


To Cubs fans: we'll wait with you. Because this now-100-year saga can only end one way.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Jerry Reinsdorf thanks the Royals

After the White Sox beat the Twins in the one-game playoff, from Yahoo:

“To beat three different teams in three days, thank God for the Kansas City Royals,” said Reinsdorf, acknowledging that there would not have been a playoff unless the fourth-place Royals had beaten the Twins twice over the weekend.

“A little thing happened this weekend; I don’t know if people noticed. The Royals, the Indians, the Tigers, they were out of it, but they all played their asses off. They could have just packed it in.

“In any other sport, when you have a team that is in position to win and the other team is going nowhere, they don’t even show up, but these guys, it’s really a great tribute to our game the way those teams played.”

You're welcome.