On the plus side, Tony La Russa’s still is under .500 in World Series games

October 28th, 2006 → 12:19 pm @

There were a number of very weird things about this year’s Fall Classic.

* For the first time ever, Tony La Russa was involved in a World Series that went more than four games (although that may have only been because of Kenny Rogers’s extra, um, assistance).

* David Eckstein passed himself off as a power threat.

* The Detroit Tigers pitching staff singlehandedly lost the Series on their errors. I guess there are some drawbacks to having such a young pitching staff.

* Jeff Weaver somehow transformed himself into a big game pitcher.

Now we can focus on the hot stove season. And honestly, I’ll get around to those post season wrapups…

Post Categories: 2006 Playoffs & Tony La Russa

Today in baseball: Everybody’s talking at me

October 25th, 2006 → 11:56 am @

In an effort to spice up one of the least watched World Series in history, sports writers around the country keep on searching for some gold in what’s now commonly known as Dirtgate. A couple of my favorite pieces (blatantly cribbed from Buster Olney’s daily wrapup on ESPN.com) are this NY Post story by Mike Vaccaro and this piece by the Toronto Sun’s Bob Elliott.

Vaccaro finds a new angle with which to slam Tony La Russa and, well, I’m a fan of any story that slams Tony La Russa (and I’m a fan of Vaccaro’s to boot). In the wake of Tony’s claiming he didn’t ask the umps to inspect Kenny Rogers’s hand during Game 2 because he didn’t want to hurt the purity of the game, Mike suggests La Russa apply for the job of Little League commissioner: “Then he can he can bathe himself in sanctimony all he likes and he can tell us all again about the high plane of baseball ethics he subscribes to.” My favorite section is the following: “La Russa knows the rules – jeez, if there’s one thing we can say with certainty in baseball, it’s that La Russa knows the rules. The same guy who held up Game 6 of the NLCS by questioning a balls-and-strikes count when it was obvious to everyone in Shea Stadium what the count was – apparently, that was well within the spirit of competition – didn’t go the distance this time.” Also, my obligatory sunglasses rant: Tony, man, take off the fucking shades already. Even Corey Hart is lets people see his naked face these days.

Elliott, taking a more humorous approach, chronicles all the varied instances of cheating, touching on well-known suspects (Gaylord Perry) and less-known ones (Nolan Ryan). My favorite anecdote involves Eck; this story is from the 1989 ALCS in which the A’s played the Jays. “The night before, a clubhouse attendant from Dunedin, helping with the laundry, found an emery board in Eckersley’s glove. When Eckersley finished his warm-up, and with the A’s leading 4-2, [Toronot manager Cito] Gaston approached plate ump Rick Reed asking him to check the closer’s glove. Crew chief Davey Phillips arrived and checked Eckersley’s glove. Finding nothing, he returned to Gaston, who claimed Eck put something down his pants. ‘I can’t ask him to pull down his pants in front of 50,000 people,’ Phillips said. When Eckersley struck out Junior Felix to end the game, A’s catcher Terry Steinbach gave the Jays dugout the finger. It wasn’t inspected, either.” No ambiguity about that, and for that reason alone it might top the infamous Derek Lowe crotchchop as one of the best screw-you’s in baseball history.

Post Categories: Cheating & Dennis Eckersley & Mike Vaccaro & Oblique references to Harry Nilsson songs & Sports Reporters & Tony La Russa & Uncategorized

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