This is what columnists do when they can’t think of anything to write. The difference is I don’t get paid.

August 4th, 2006 → 11:34 am @

How about you spend three nights in August on a nice, long vacation

The Cardinals have lost seven in a row and are 2-8 in their last ten games. I blame Tony La Russa. There are plenty of good reasons La Russa deserves some of the blame; mine, however, are fairly irrational. For one, I simply don’t trust a man who takes his fashion tips from Corey Hart. For another, I’m still shocked at how La Russa has managed to skirt responsibility in baseball’s steroid controversy. This is, after all, the manager who pretty much copped to the fact that he knew Jose Canseco was roiding up in Oakland; he then went on to oversee the Mark McGwire era in St. Louis. (And people wonder why there are those who think Albert Pujols should be under a bit more scrutiny.) Finally, any manager who finds a way to get swept in two World Series (with the A’s in 1990 and the Cardinals in 2004) has to be a bit of a dolt.

All hail the greatest hitter of all time

To put Ted Williams’s .406 batting average in 1941 into some perspective: during Chase Utley’s current 35-game hit streak (tied for the 9th longest since 1900), Utley’s hitting .405.

Irrational optimism
It hasn’t been a pretty week for the Sox. Theo Epstein stood his ground at the trading deadline; Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek both went down with injuries; Josh Beckett continues to get lit up like a rigged pinball machine; and the Sox have fallen a game behind the Yankees in the AL East. So let’s look at reasons not to despair. Tek and Nixon’s absence will hurt, but it’s not unreasonable to expect Wily Mo Pena–who is hitting like he has some kind of vendetta against the Wall–to outproduce Nixon–and it’s not like Jason Varitek was exactly tearing up the basebaths. This year, much like last season, has been a testament to the Sox’s depth: despite losing more than half of its starting rotation to injuries, Boston is on pace to win more than 95 games, and a playoff spot. The team isn’t far behind in 2004, when it had a starting five that didn’t miss a start, a healthy Keith Foulke, and an entire team that seemed to put up career numbers. The addition of Javy Lopez should help things behind the plate (or at least spare Red Sox fans the sight of Doug Mirabelli constantly looking in to the dugout because he has absolutely no idea what pitch to call for in any given situation). And the Yankees, while on a tear of late, can’t be expected to play like this for the rest of the year. Every team has hot streaks, and every team has funks. The mistake is assuming that means much of anything in the middle of a 162-game season.

Potentially rational pessimism, Mikes edition

On the other hand, Mike Lowell is hurt and Mike Timlin has sucked as of late.

The stopper

During Schilling’s two healthy years with the Red Sox, one of his most impressive stats has been his numbers after a Red Sox loss. Right now, Schilling is pitching in the rotation immediately after Josh Beckett. Looks like he’s going to get plenty more opportunities to staunch the bleeding.

Post Categories: Albert Pujols & Chase Utley & Curt Schilling & Javy Lopez & Ted Williams & Tony La Russa

More good news for Cardinals fans

June 25th, 2006 → 11:24 am @

The Cardinals have lost five straight, Mark Mulder is out of commission until at least the All-Star break–and possibly much longer–with a frayed labrum, and Jim Edmonds has missed three straight starts with a concussion. At least Albert Pujols is back from his oblique strain. How could that not be good news?

Here’s how: in today’s Boston Globe, the always enterprising Gordon Edes–a reporter whose columns are full of interesting scoops and tantalizing nuggets–has a quote in his Baseball Notebook from a Buzz Bissinger interview on XM Radio. Bizzinger, the author of Three Nights in August, about the Cardinals, says the following: “One thing I remember about Pujols is he was…a little bit overweight as a minor leaguer, and he came into camp the following spring looking like a million bucks. Unfortunately, because the owners allowed drugs in the game, you just have to wonder, and it would be an absolute tragedy. I hate to say this…but no one is immune from this stuff, including Albert. It’s an unfortunate aspect of the game, and it may take a generation of baseball, baseball players, a generation of testing to get rid of steroids, HGH, and everything else.” It’s not the first time a journalist has questioned Pujols’ transformation, but it’s the first time someone who had such prolonged access to the Cardinals raised the issue.

I think the players union is more at fault for the current mess, but certainly there’s plenty of blame to go around. Bizzinger’s quote is more evidence that regardless of who is eventually revealed to have been using and what revelations are still to come, there’s going to be a lot of speculation and a lot of finger-pointing until a relaible testing program is put in place.

Post Categories: Albert Pujols & Baseball & Boston Globe & Gordon Edes & Players Union & Steroids

In a minute it will all be coming down.

June 8th, 2006 → 11:42 pm @

Remember when Deadspin’s Will Leitch predicted that those blacked out names from the Grimsley affidavit would eventually leak out? He’s a prescient one: earlier today, Leitch posted some of those names, which he says he’s fairly confident about. Sammy Sosa’s name is apparently one of those blacked out, which comes as a surprise to approximately no one. Then there’s also this revelation: Leitch, a devoted Cardinals fan, says Grimsley named Chris Mihlfeld as the “fitness trainer to several Major League Baseball players” who directed him to a source that provided “amphetamines, anabolic steroids, and human growth hormone.” So what, right? Well, Mihlfeld–not the source who’s said to have served as Grimsley’s personal pharmacy–is not only a former strength and conditioning coordinator for the Royals, he’s also Albert Pujols’ personal trainer. Think anyone will start poking around now? (And why is it that Leitch, a hell of a blogger and apparently a decent reporter too, is the one breaking this news? As good as he is, he’s one dude being paid slave labor wages by a charming Brit. You’d think one of the thousands of accredited MLB reporters in the country might have come up with some of this…)

Post Categories: Albert Pujols & Baseball & Ben Folds Lyrics & Deadspin & Jason Grimsley & Sports Reporters & Steroids

Albert Pujols, home runs, and steroids

June 5th, 2006 → 8:46 pm @

Albert Pujols, the most exciting player of the 2006 season, is out for at least two weeks and maybe much longer with an oblique strain.
As former Sports Illustrated senior writer Jeff Pearlman points out in a recent Slate article, Pujols’ power surge–after 55 games, he was on pace to hit 74 home runs and rack up 180 RBIs, both of which would be new Major League Baseball records–has gone oddly unquestioned. (Pujols says he’s already passed three drug tests this season, and by all accounts is a great guy.) Pearlman makes an excellent point. After several years in which baseball has been regularly humiliated with steroid revelations, most of the sports media seem to be accepting what many experts call a seriously flawed testing program. Clubhouses, executive suites, and newsrooms alike know that the untraceable human growth hormone (HGH) is the new performance-enhancing drug of choice…not that anyone seems to really care. Jason Giambi’s performance fell off a cliff after he all but admitted using steroids; still, he was wholeheartedly embraced even after he appeared to have gained, lost, and re-gained enormous amounts of muscle. Pearlman’s article lays the blame for the lack of old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting into the performances of people like Pujols (and Roger Clemens and Joe Mauer) at the feet of the country’s sportswriters who fear being shut out by the teams they cover. Fans, who often turn a willfully blind eye to the foibles of their local stars, share in the blame. Sports, like movies, is an escapist pastime; unlike movie fans, however, sports fans often choose to willfully ignore their heroes’ warts.

Post Categories: Albert Pujols & Baseball & Steroids