Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mid-Week Mashup

Nice win on Tuesday night. I felt frustrated for Moose, who pitched well, was screwed over for the umpteenth time this season by an Alex Rodriguez bobble, and got a n0-decision for his aggravation. He seemed genuinely pissed off when Torre came to get him after he walked the leadoff man in the eighth inning. One of the upsides of the lineup being so stacked is that they tend to score even when the offense isn't having a good night, which is the way it worked against the Orioles on Tuesday. Johnny Damon was raking (although his "triple" was another data point in favor of eliminating the error as a stat) and Robbie Cano provided a clutch double to open 'er up. A few notes:

  • Tuesday's game was the rare game I got to catch on WOR (Channel 9 in the NYC area), the local broadcast channel that used to host UPN. Now that UPN and the WB have merged to form an abomination called the CW (they're running one of the absolute worst ad campaigns I've ever seen on busses in Long Island. All closeup photos of the leads of the networks' series, seemingly all staring at the camera with their mouths open. Not an attractive look, ugly green motif to the ads, even an ugly font.
The funny part is that since the two networks--which used to be carried on Ch. 9 and Ch.11--will both be on only one spot on the TV "dial" WOR now has to go back to being a non-network station. Apparently, this involves a move into softcore porn. So WOR had cast members of their new Skinemax series--er, I mean dramas--Desire and Fashion House at Tuesday's game. Unintentional comedy gold as they kept on cutting to these actors, carefully "dressed down" for the ballgame, whose reactions ranged from "How long is this damn game, anyway?" to "They gave me this Yankee cap but it's going to mess up my hair!"

Welcome to show business, I guess. Also fun was when they showed a clip of the cast members being introduced to Derek Jeter during BP. Jeets looked over the two busty actresses from the delegation with all the intensity of a gourmand at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
  • Back to the game. I have to make an admission: I've been in denial about the Boogie Nights moustache Jason Giambi's growing. Easy to do, I guess, since his facial hair's about three shades lighter than the mop atop his head. It looked like his upper lip had somehow gotten a bit dirty. Still, this is a facial hair disaster in the making. I sense Sal Fasano's hand in this...
  • You'll notice I'm mum on tonight's game. Well, I haven't really gotten to see it, yet, but it figures. Adam Loewen's a rookie, and it seems like the key to beating the Yanks in '06 is starting rookies against them. The quality of the rookies in question seems to have little to do with their success. Once rosters expand in September, I fully expect the Yanks' opponents to be starting full squads of guys out of AA rest of the season.
  • With the Red Sox coming back to beat the Tigers tonight, the division lead stands at an incredibly vulnerable two games. The Yanks can tack on another half game to that lead if they beat Rodrigo Lopez tomorrow afternoon. The Bostons are idle, preparing for their five-game Fenway showdown--yep, that's a Friday Day/Night doubleheader, plus individual games Saturday through Monday.
  • Bill Simmons has prepared for the weekend's showdown by trying to reverse-jinx the Yankees with praise in his latest column. Nice try, I guess, just not as powerful a reverse jinx as publicly giving up your team for dead or leaving a playoff game early the year they won the World Series. The whole column is a testament to the power of fantasy leagues, since Simmons probably wouldn't know enough about baseball--beyond the Sox and a little bit of the Yankees--to write about the rest of the American League otherwise. Note that whenever he talks about the state of baseball, he restricts himself to the American League, since he's in an AL-only fantasy league. NL? Doesn't exist. Beneath notice. But get the guy a team in an NL-only 5x5 keepers league, and I'm sure he'd get some opinions about the Senior Circuit right quick, above and beyond "Barry Bonds should be in jail."
  • Yeah, I get catty when someone tries to jinx my team. I like Simmons, he's one of my featured links to the right. But if the Red Sox go four of five (or even three of five) this weekend, he's gonna be insufferable. If the Yanks win four of five, he'll say "See? I told you it wasn't the Sox' year!"
  • Strange, and I think semi-unintentional, bit of point-counterpoint in the New York Times Sports Page today. Stacked one on top of the other, Murray Chass and Selena Roberts took extremely divergent points-of-view on the Paul LoDuca/Gambling story. Chass was spouting the Mets' (and MLB's) company line, unfiltered:
Major League Baseball, a baseball official said yesterday, has no problems with Lo Duca and what has been reported to be his gambling habits. An incident last year was thoroughly investigated, the official said, and was found to have no basis for concern. In addition, baseball has no concern about another reported incident this year.

“He’s not guilty of anything,” said the official, who was granted anonymity because Major League Baseball does not generally comment on investigations.

A little more defensively, Chass goes on to say:
Baseball does not take reports of gambling lightly. Pete Rose didn’t happen so long ago that baseball officials have forgotten. They hear “gambling” and look reflexively into possible betting on baseball.

When security people investigated Lo Duca’s alleged offshore debt, they didn’t end their probe there. They asked pertinent questions. “There have been a lot of conversations, then and now,” the baseball official said.

Stop the presses! "Pertinent questions" were asked! No need to look into this further, I guess. Except, Chass's colleague Selena Roberts seems to disagree, in an article aptly titled "Truth Stays Hidden If Nobody Looks For It" (sadly, behind the Times Select curtain). This bit seems like a direct slam at Chass's recital of the company line:

Major League Baseball has cleared Lo Duca; the Mets have done their self-check as well. Everyone is at ease with the situation, and so is Lo Duca.

"The Mets said it for me," Lo Duca said last week. "I don't need to say nothing else."

All is well, right? So why fret over Lo Duca? Why probe for details?

Because teams and leagues have no credibility as sleuths. Because teams and leagues are culprits of learned ignorance. The incurious make lousy detectives.
  • In other sports journalism news, a federal judge has decided to uphold the subpoenas issued against Game of Shadows authors Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, with the purpose of making them divulge the sources of grand jury leaks they reported in that book and in the SF Chronicle. As you may recall, when the subpoenas were issued, the reporters' argument against being forced to comply were basically a) sure, it grand jury testimony is a secret, but it's not an important secret, and b) look at all the good the reporting did, pointing at the congressional steroid investigation, MLB re-opening its CBA to get a new steroid agreement, et cetera. Guess that didn't wash.
  • My question is, who plays Fainaru-Wada in the inevitable film version of this tale? I'm guessing either Ed Norton or Brent Spiner.
  • Octavio Dotel joined the team today, and got into tonight's game, allowing a hit and a walk in the eighth inning before giving way to Scott Proctor. Let's see how he feels tomorrow before we start penciling him into the Yanks' plans, shall we?
  • This week, my Game of the Week for Baseball Prospectus was Sunday night's pitchers duel between Greg Maddux and Jason Schmidt. Here's a taste, with my take on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball's color commentator, the one and only Joe Morgan:
But since we have a game announced by Joe Morgan--a controversial figure in sabermetric circles--there are a couple of moments in the bottom of the eighth which bear mentioning. After Maddux leaves the game for pinch-hitter James Loney, Morgan goes on a rant about why this is a good idea--it's a confusing flurry of verbiage about how Maddux wasn't brought in to be the Dodgers' "horse," he used to be a horse but he isn't a horse anymore, and you wouldn't want him thinking that you want him to be a horse when that's someone else's job, and Jason Schmidt, now he is the Giants' horse, so that's different…

Huh? Maddux threw 68 pitches. Morgan knows this, if he's been listening to his announcing partner, Jon Miller, who has mentioned Maddux's low pitch count repeatedly. Where does that fit in with all of Morgan's equine metaphors? Does asking a guy to pitch the ninth inning, even if he hasn't yet thrown 70 pitches, makes him a horse?

Still, it's easy to nitpick, and hard to speak extemporaneously on live television for hours on end. A few moments later, Morgan shows us the other side of the coin. Furcal singles on a hard bunt toward Vizquel. With the speedy shortstop on first and one out, Kenny Lofton comes up and shows bunt, but pulls it back. Miller comments that this is a strange situation for Lofton to be showing bunt, but Morgan points out that showing and pulling back the bunt serves a purpose--it helps the baserunner by preventing the catcher from getting forward momentum to throw.

Now, that's not a mind-blowing revelation, but it is a nice detail to keep in mind when you see someone square up in a non-bunt situation. That, and the occasional funny anecdote, is really all that we ask from a color announcer. When Morgan's not ranting about statistics or "that book that Billy Beane wrote," he's able to put a couple little nuggets like that out there per game.

More on Friday, I guess.

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