All Posts by Rob Neyer 2014-01-28T14:19:11-05:00 2014-01-28T14:19:11-05:00 2014-01-28T14:19:11-05:00 There will always be room for Jamie Moyer <img alt="" src="" /> <p>A long time ago, in a job far, far away, I decided we needed a new way to think of our outstanding baseball players who didn't finish their careers with Hall of Fame-worthy numbers.</p> <p>Oddly, I began to think of this "Wing of Amazing" because of Omar Vizquel. Why oddly? I'll get to that in a few minutes.</p> <p>I've actually nominated (and selected!) a few players for the Wing of Amazing. My standards are exceptionally high. <a target="_blank" href="">I began with Jamie Moyer</a> (and that was <i>before</i> he came back and recorded a victory after his 49th birthday). <a target="_blank" href="">Then came Jim Abbott</a>, <a target="_blank" href="">followed by Bo Jackson</a>. After R.A. Dickey's Cy Young season, <a target="_blank" href="">I added him to the Wing of Amazing</a>. A few months later, our most recent nominee: <a target="_blank" href="">Terry Mulholland, who just couldn't be run on</a>.</p> <p>Now, about Omar Vizquel ... <a target="_blank" href="">He was actually my first nominee</a>, largely because I wanted to provide an "out" for Hall of Fame voters, and there are a lot of them, who just know, deep down in their guts, that Vizquel should be <i>rewarded</i> for his amazing career. If only there was a <i>Wing of Amazing</i> -- just as there are made-up <i>wings</i> for writers and broadcasters -- maybe the voters could do that for Vizquel, instead of electing (or trying to elect) him to the actual Hall of Fame.</p> <p>The problem is that my ideal <i>Wing of Amazing</i> changed almost immediately. While there were probably tinges of sarcasm and self-righteousness in my nomination of Vizquel, the following nominations utterly lacked cynicism, and were offered purely as celebrations of one-of-a-kind players who did outstanding things on baseball fields. No snark. No ill-disguised passive aggression. Just good plain baseball love.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="Omar_vizquel_medium" class="photo" src="" width="100%"></a><font size="1"><i> Omar Vizquel, 1989. (Getty Images)</i></font></p> <p>Well, I'm afraid Omar Vizquel just doesn't qualify. He was a fine player for a long time, but that just doesn't quite do it. Harold Baines and Elmer Valo were both fine players for a long time. What distinguishes Vizquel is that he played until he was 45 years old. But frankly, he probably shouldn't have been playing when he was 45. Or 44. I might be more charitably inclined if he'd still been playing shortstop in those last few seasons. He was not. I might be more charitably inclined if he'd been able to hit decently in those last few seasons. He was not. While I admire Vizquel's talents and all the other qualities that kept him in the majors for 24 seasons, I'm just not inclined to place him in the same class as Jim Abbott and Bo Jackson. With apologies.</p> <p>So who else <i>does</i> belong in the Wing of Amazing? I've been struggling with this one. Remember (or believe me), players with Hall of Fame-quality numbers aren't eligible. Which leaves out everybody from Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds to Tim Raines and Curt Schilling. The Wing of Amazing is for players who <i>don't</i> belong in the Hall of Fame, but <i>do</i> deserve to be remembered for being amazing players. I'm inclined to nominate Pat Venditte. Yes, Greg Harris once pitched in a major-league game with both arms. But he did that just once. Venditte has been doing that for <i>six years</i> ... alas, all in the minor leagues. So maybe this is premature. Maybe we should wait.</p> <p>For what, though? Until he pitches in the majors ... or until he pitches in the majors on <i>merit</i>? What if he's got a 4.38 ERA with Scranton next season, but the Yankees promote him to the big club in September just to reward him for all his hard work over the years? Does that automatically qualify Venditte for the Wing of Amazing?</p> <p>I'm inclined to suggest that it doesn't. That while he doesn't have to pitch effectively in the majors, or at least not for long, he has to prove that he belongs in the majors with Jim Abbott and R.A. Dickey and the rest of them. So I'm afraid I'll leave you today without a new nominee. And maybe that's okay. Maybe the Wing of Amazing should be so exclusive that nominees shouldn't come easy. The last time I threw the floor open for suggestions, nobody blew me away. So maybe we'll just have to wait for Pat Venditte or someone else to come along.</p> <p>While we're waiting, I'd like to circle around to Jamie Moyer. Recently, I read <a target="_blank" href="">his book</a>. I wish I could recommend it, but I'm afraid you're probably better off reading a good magazine article about Moyer and -- if you're an athlete -- one of Harvey Dorfman's books. Without many of Moyer's thoughts about his teammates and opponents, there's just not enough meat here for a 288-page book. But Moyer's story <i>is</i> worth the telling, and the remembering.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="Jamie_moyer_medium" class="photo" src="" width="100%"></a><font size="1"><i> Jamie Moyer, 1987. (Getty Images)</i></font></p> <p>In 1990, when Moyer was 27, he went 2-6 with a 4.66 ERA with the Rangers. After the season they released him, with the general manager telling Moyer, "We don't see you helping us."</p> <p>In 1991, Moyer went 0-5 with a 5.74 ERA with the Cardinals. When he got sent to the minors, Joe Torre said, "We don't win when you pitch."</p> <p>In the spring of '92, the Cubs released him. They did offer him a coaching job.</p> <p>"I'm not interested," he immediately responded. When the Cubs' farm director asked him to think about it, Moyer said his thoughts weren't going to change. And they didn't. His father-in-law, a famous man with powerful friends, suggested that Moyer find himself a real profession. Moyer's thoughts still didn't change, even though he was nearly 30 years old and owned 34-54 record in the majors, with a 4.56 ERA.</p> <p>So Moyer stayed in shape. Nobody called in April. Or most of May. Finally, in late May the Tigers called. They were looking for a long reliever. A mop-up man. For their Triple-A club. Moyer signed. For $12,000.</p> <p>Moyer spent the rest of that season in the minors, and opened the next season in the minors, too. But yes, of course he did finally get back to the majors in 1993 and would win another <i>235 games over the next 20 years.</i></p> <p>A few months ago, I heard <a target="_blank" href="">an episode of RadioLab that I'll never forget</a>. It was about <i>blame</i>. The show led off with a story about a guy who committed some disgusting crimes and went to jail for a while. His crimes could be directly linked to his brain chemistry, and there seemed to be little chance of recidivism. But did he deserve to be imprisoned in the first place?</p> <p>The next segment featured a neuroscientist, David Eagleman, who believes the brain science is irrelevant; <i>all</i> that matters is the statistical chance that someone will commit a crime again. We just don't know enough about brain chemistry, Eagleman argues, for brain chemistry to become a meaningful piece of legal proceedings. We will, though, learn a great deal more in coming years. We'll be able to find the soul, the ghost in the machine. We can see brain tumors now, but that's just the beginning. How to use that information, though? Eagleman:</p> <blockquote> <p>The point is, it cannot be a just legal system that in one decade says, "Well, you're blameworthy," and then the next decade says, "Hey, you have Schmedley's Disease, and we didn't realize that, so now we're lumping you over here with the people with the brain tumors."</p> <p>Blame-<i>worthiness</i> is the wrong <i>question</i> for a legal system to <i>ask</i>. That's the point. This whole notion about blame-worthiness and saying that if we have a biological mitigator, then we'll bring that up in court and say it's not exactly his fault, and if we don't have a biological mitigator, we'll say it is his fault -- the reason none of this makes sense nowadays, is that because saying was it the person's fault, or was it something about his biology, doesn't makes sense as a question. They are inseparable.</p> </blockquote> <p>So Eagleman suggest that we simply forget about blame, and focus entirely on "possibilities of future recidivism."</p> <p>How? "You crunch the numbers."</p> <p>Turns out it's already happening in some places with sex offenders, up for parole. You can ask a bunch of questions, check the offender's file, and come up with a score that's designed to measure the chance that he'll do it again.</p> <p>Of course, traditionally you would ask people who have followed the guy's case. Experts. Those experts are correct about half the time. You might as well flip a coin. But with the point system, the predicted accuracy is about 70 percent.</p> <p>"In order to get that accurate," co-host Jad Abumrad semi-complained, "You kind of have to turn people into data, into types."</p> <p>Eagleman:</p> <blockquote> <p>I know it seems like, "Where's the humanity in that?" But the question you have to ask is, "Compared to what?" So the way it currently goes, ugly people get much longer sentences than attractive people in courts. This is a well-known bias from juries. Is that somehow better than having a scientifically informed legal system?</p> </blockquote> <p>This question seemed to leave Abumrad and co-host Robert Krulwich speechless for a moment, but Krulwich finally said that, "Statistics don't have mercy; they only have statistics." To which Eagleman responded, "Are we good at being merciful?"</p> <p>Maybe it's a stretch, but when I listened to all of this, I couldn't help thinking about Jamie Moyer. If Jamie Moyer had looked only at his statistics in 1992, would he have pitched for Toledo? Or would he have taken that coaching job with the Cubs, or gone after the (relatively) big money with one of Digger Phelps' rich pals?</p> <p>This analogy breaks down at the team level, because the Tigers probably didn't care at all about his statistics or any other indicator of Moyer's future prospects when they signed him; they just needed someone to fill out the Triple-A pitching staff, and Moyer just happened to be available. The Tigers never called him up that season, and he opened the <i>next</i> season with the Orioles' Triple-A team. It wasn't until later that spring that he returned to the majors for good.</p> <p>If everyone had just looked at the data, would Moyer have kept getting work for all those years? I'm not sure. If he hadn't, though, we would have missed out on a tremendous story. A few years ago, I read a book that essentially argued that <a target="_blank" href="">data's not really so important</a>; a year or so later, <a target="_blank" href="">Clint Eastwood starred in the movie version</a>. Both were terrible, misguided, one-sided efforts with almost nothing worth saying about either baseball or life.</p> <p>Which seems a shame, because there was plenty of well-meaning talent involved in both projects. Both, I think, were built on a foundation of fear; fear that baseball nowadays is losing its <i>humanity</i>, leaving no room for <i>mercy</i> and <i>intuition</i> and all those other things we think make us, us.</p> <p>I just finished another book: <i>The Sabermetric Revolution: Assessing the Growth of Analytics in Baseball</i>. It's also well-meaning and I also can't recommend it, unless you haven't been paying attention over the last few years. Do we really need two chapters explaining that <i>Moneyball</i> (both the book and movie) didn't tell us the whole story about the 2003 Athletics? I think most of us probably don't.</p> <p>I do enjoy a section that systematically measures which teams have been the most sabermetric. Here's a big surprise: the most sabermetric teams over the last decade or so have been the Red Sox, A's, Yankees, and Rays.</p> <p>Yeah. You knew that already. Me too. But here's the good news! If you've followed any of those teams closely, you also know there's not been any shortage of humanity! Real people with real desires and emotions and neuroses and biases have been running all those teams! Even with all the data!</p> <p>One can imagine a baseball team where all the roster moves are dictated by a computer program. One can imagine almost anything. But we're so, so far away from anything remotely approaching such a thing that it won't happen while I'm alive, and probably not while you are, either. One might argue that baseball teams could use a little less humanity, or a little more. But it's not going away. If you're really worried about that, you don't understand baseball. Or humanity.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="Sunset_medium" class="photo" src="" width="100%"></a><font size="1"><i> (Getty Images)</i></font></p> <p><b>A personal note:</b> This is my last column for SB Nation, at least for a good little while. When I signed up three years ago, I wanted a different kind of adventure and that's what I got. At various points along the way, I was blessed to work every day with Grant Brisbee, Jeff Sullivan, and Al Yellon; their passion and commitment continue to inspire me. Jim Baker and Jason Brannon have been with me for the whole adventure, both of them doing things you simply couldn't find anywhere else. My bosses were Tyler Bleszinski and Kevin Lockland, and treated me better than I probably deserved.</p> <p>Grant's still around, of course; with him and Steve Goldman and Marc Normandin and Justin Bopp and all the other talented people covering baseball here, this site remains in wonderfully capable hands. I'm grateful to everyone above, and of course I'm forever grateful to you for reading. At some point in the next couple of weeks, I'll be writing about baseball again, and I hope you'll find me again.</p> <h4>More from <a href="">SB Nation MLB</a>:</h4> <div> <a href="" class="twitter-follow-button">Follow @SBNationMLB </a> <div style="height: 20px; overflow: hidden;" data-send="false" data-show-faces="false" data-action="like" data-layout="button_count" data-colorscheme="light" data-height="The pixel height of the plugin" data-href="" class="fb-like"></div> </div> <p>&bull; <a href="">Grant Brisbee: The most baffling offseason in baseball</a></p> <p>&bull; <a href="">Byron Buxton tops Baseball Prospects' Top 101 list</a></p> <p>&bull; <a href="">5 top MLB free agents still seeking a new contract</a></p> <p>&bull; <a href="">David Ortiz says it may be "time to move on" from Red Sox</a></p> <p>&bull; <a href="">2014 MLB salary arbitration tracker</a></p> <p><iframe src="" frameborder="0" seamless="true" marginwidth="0" mozallowfullscreen="true" webkitallowfullscreen="true" name="39163-chorus-video-iframe"></iframe></p> Rob Neyer 2014-01-28T11:08:00-05:00 2014-01-28T11:08:00-05:00 Big Game pitcher? How about the BIGGEST? <img alt="" src="" /> <p><a target="_blank" href="">As I mentioned last week</a>, Bill James has been writing a long series of articles about big-game pitchers; or as he puts it, "Big Game pitchers."</p> <p>In Monday's entry, <a target="_blank" href="">Bill listed his top 11 Big Game pitchers</a> (sorry, subscription only). While Bill's Big Game methodology doesn't include postseason contests -- because we've already got those records -- he did consider postseason performance in these rankings. I'm not going to go through the whole list here, because some of the pitchers aren't real surprising and some aren't especially relevant (at least in terms of the Hall of Fame). I will mention that Hall of Fame candidate Mike Mussina comes in 11th, and Hall of Fame candidate Andy Pettitte comes in seventh. You'd think that should count for something, no?</p> <p>I will also give away Bill's top guy ...</p> <blockquote> <p><b>1. Roy Oswalt</b></p> <p>And no, I am not just being provocative. Gibson's won-lost record in regular-season Big Games was 36-14; Oswalt's is 37-9. Gibson's teams were 40-17; Oswalt's were 46-12. Think about it: 46-12 in Big Games. Gibson's ERA was 2.26; Oswalt's was 2.63. When you adjust for context, I suspect that Oswalt wins that one. Oswalt pitched 80 fewer innings than Gibson, but struck out almost as many batters (341 to 352) and walked half as many (73 to 144).</p> <p>In certain ways we are not as good at making myths now as we were a generation ago. The Wild Card system DOES create more Big Games, I believe, but sometimes it creates Big Games for second-place and third-place teams. The story lacks the clarity and symmetry of a pennant race; it is a harder story to tell.</p> <p>Roy Oswalt won a tremendous number of Big Games for the Astros in the mid-2000s, but when there are six pennant races to follow and two Wild Cards, things get lost in the shuffle. Oswalt's constant drumbeat of Big Wins late in the season didn't have the impact of Bob Gibson winning 7 games in September of '64. But ... just the facts. Oswalt has won 80% of his Big Games. Wow.</p> </blockquote> <p>Not including pitchers who are either on the Hall of Fame ballot (Mussina and Roger Clemens) or will be (Pettitte, Randy Johnson and Jamie Moyer), there are only three pitchers with more than 250 career wins who haven't been elected to the Hall of Fame already: Tommy John (288), Jim Kaat (283) and Jack Morris (254).</p> <p>Kaat never received support from even 30 percent of the Hall of Fame voters, while Morris came very close to election last year (and somewhat less close this year, his last on the BBWAA ballot). There are two explanations for this. One, and probably the more important, is that Kaat was overshadowed by his contemporaries while Morris -- in what's probably just a fluke of history -- was not. But another is that Morris is widely considered a tremendous BIG GAME PITCHER, while Kaat seems to have been hardly considered much of anything at all.</p> <p>Bill hasn't given us Morris's BIG GAME credentials yet. But while Kaat didn't make that Top 11 list, James did devote <a target="_blank" href="">an entire article earlier in the series to Kaat's credentials</a>. And Kaat was really, really good, just missing that list. Yes, some might quibble with Bill's methodology. But the point is that there <i>is a methodology</i>. It's now been a few decades since every literate baseball aficionado became aware of Bill James, which means just about every Hall of Fame voter. And I'll bet that most of <i>them</i> will answer, if asked, that of course they believe that sabermetrics are important, etc.</p> <p>I believe them. But it's one thing to reference BABiP or Zone Rating from time to time, and quite another to reach conclusions -- or better yet, <i>tentative</i> conclusions -- after reviewing and weighing evidence, instead of constructing the argument <i>after</i> reaching a conclusion. Baseball writers say BIG GAMES are important ... but how many baseball writers have defined and counted big games? How many have then filled out their Hall of Fame ballots with a systematic method at hand?</p> <p>I'm going to take a wild guess that the answer is zero.</p> <p>But that's why Bill James is Bill James and everybody else isn't. You can't really blame Hall of Fame voters for not being Bill James, because Bill is <i>sui generis</i>. But now the information's out there. It wasn't before. Last week somebody asked me if we should still consider Hall of Fame candidates of a century or so ago, candidates who have been passed over time and time again. My answer is that of course we should consider them. We should especially consider them when there's new information at hand. Which there will be. There will always be new information.</p> <p>Nobody's ever counted Big Games before. Now somebody has. Turning a blind eye to this new information is simply unconscionable.</p> Rob Neyer 2014-01-27T11:09:02-05:00 2014-01-27T11:09:02-05:00 The next great baseball movie? <p>Yeah, maybe. What we learned from <i>Moneyball: The Movie </i>is that a great story, however unfilmable it might seem, can be turned into a great movie in the right creative hands. Well, people have been trying to turn the Portland Mavericks into a movie for decades, because it's a great story. Finally,<a target="_blank" href=""> that story might fall into the right creative hands</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>The wild tale of the Portland Mavericks looks to be coming to the big screen via one of its former employees. "Little Children" director and former Mavericks batboy Todd Field is in talks to direct and write an adaptation of the documentary "The Battered Bastards Of Baseball," I've learned. Helmed by Chapman Way and MacLain Way and featuring multiple appearances by their uncle and former Maverick himself Kurt Russell, the docu launched in the Documentary Premiere section of this year's Sundance Film Festival on January 20 ... In play right now with several buyers at Sundance, according to sources close to the film, Battered Bastards chronicles how in 1973 Bonanza actor Bing Russell formed what at the time was America's sole independent baseball team. Seen as a real-life version of the Bad News Bears, the Mavericks lasted three years before they were pushed out of Portland by the return of the major-league-backed Portland Beavers.</p> </blockquote> <p>This story should be inspiring to aspiring artists everywhere. The Way brothers started with a great story and some great contacts, but very little experience or money. But they're good guys who kept plugging away, learning as they went along, and suddenly they're in the pink. They've made a documentary that's received good notices at Sundance, which is a stunning achievement no matter what happens next.</p> <p>And of course it's possible that nothing will happen next. It's quite possible that <i>The Battered Bastards of Baseball </i>is <i>not</i> coming soon to a theater near you. It's quite possible that nobody will option the documentary for a feature film. And even if it's optioned, the great majority of optioned projects don't actually get made.</p> <p>I haven't seen <i>Battered Bastards</i> yet. Soon, I hope. Here's what I think is likely, though: Thanks to the wonders of streaming video, you will be able to see the movie at some point in 2014, and you'll enjoy the hell out of it. Chap and Mac already beat the odds, and I couldn't be happier for them.</p> Rob Neyer 2014-01-27T09:36:00-05:00 2014-01-27T09:36:00-05:00 There's no I(njury) in TEAM <img alt="" src="" /> <p>Remember last spring when the National League's best team had a second baseman who couldn't hit his weight? <a target="_blank" href="">As we figured then</a> and know for sure now, <a target="_blank" href="">he really, really shouldn't have been playing</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>The 26-year-old spent last offseason unable to lift weights because of a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder that he suffered late the previous year. Then, on April 14, he was hit by a pitch that caused a small fracture in his right wrist. Espinosa played through what originally was diagnosed as a bone bruise and didn't go on the disabled list until early June. After less than two weeks off, he began a rehab assignment at Syracuse and spent the rest of the season there, hitting only .216 with a .566 OPS in 75 games.</p> <p>"There was times I couldn't pick my bat up with one hand," said Espinosa, who believes his rotator cuff wasn't a problem. "So my wrist was just in a bad place, and I shouldn't have been playing on it, but I made the choice to try to play on it.</p> <p>"I shouldn't have been playing. But at the same time, I'm not the doctor reading the film. So I shouldn't have been playing on a broken wrist the whole year. But you're told you have a bruise, you have to play through a bruise. Everyone plays through bumps and bruises. I'm not gonna play through a broken wrist. If I'd have known it was a broken wrist, I wouldn't have been playing."<br><br>The Nationals and team physician, Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, were not available for comment.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's indisputable that pennants have been lost because players have played when they were injured. For example, <a target="_blank" href="">Pete Reiser shouldn't have played</a> after suffering a brain injury in 1942. For another example, <a target="_blank" href="">Dwight Evans shouldn't have played</a> after suffering a brain injury in 1978. In both cases, the managers' stubbornness probably cost their teams championships. But of course it's also true that pennants have been won <i>because</i> players played while injured; sometimes an injured player is simply better than his replacement.</p> <p>Not here, though. After getting hit by that pitch on the 14th, Espinosa was allowed to start 32 games, in which he batted .153 with two walks. Basically, everybody blew it, from Espinosa to general manager Mike Rizzo and everyone in between. And upon reflection, I'm inclined to blame Espinosa less than anyone else, because he's stuck in a culture in which you're simply supposed to play unless you've got a note from your doctor. Don't play, and you're not a <i>team guy</i>.</p> <p>I wouldn't necessarily argue that Espinosa's action cost the Nationals a playoff spot. They finished four games behind the Reds for the second wild card, and his replacement (Anthony Rendon) wasn't very good. And the Nationals made only one "give-up" move; four days after trading <i>for</i> David DeJesus, the Nationals traded him away. Even that's a red herring, as the Nationals didn't have room for DeJesus in their starting lineup anyway.</p> <p>Yes, if they hadn't fallen so far behind in the standings, they might have made some efforts to improve in July and August, but a) Espinosa was hardly the only reason they fell so far behind, and b) once Rendon was installed at second base in June, the Nationals really didn't have any gaping holes in the roster. They just had too many guys who weren't quite good enough.</p> <p>But it's frustrating to see this happen again and again, year after year. Yes, thanks to the NFL's dreadful wrongness, baseball teams are getting a handle on the concussions. That's good news for everyone. But it would even better news if concussions weren't the only injuries considered dangerous not only to the player, but to his team's pennant chances.</p> <p>By the way, it seems that Rendon is probably the Nationals' top second baseman, with Espinosa fighting for a spot as a utility infielder. But I'm not sure that's quite right. If Espinosa's really healthy this spring, he's nearly as good a hitter as Rendon, and a significantly better fielder. But of course nobody will believe he's really healthy until he plays well in March. Which probably gives Rendon the edge.</p> Rob Neyer 2014-01-24T13:45:14-05:00 2014-01-24T13:45:14-05:00 Nope, the Red Sox aren't the Yankees <img alt="" src="" /> <p>Boy, this must be a wonderful day to work in the Angels' scouting or player-development departments. just released <a href="" target="_blank">their annual Top 100 Prospects list</a>, and guess which team didn't place a single young player ...</p> <blockquote> <p>All but one team is represented on this year's list, with only the Angels shut out. Two teams, the Brewers and the A's, have one prospect each, and there are nine organizations with two representatives. On the other end of the spectrum is the Boston Red Sox, leading the way with nine on the Top 100. The Cubs and Astros are next, with seven representatives each. The Pirates have six, and the Twins and Rangers each have five.</p> <p>While having a lot of prospects on the list is certainly not a bad thing, it also doesn't instantly mean that an organization has the best farm system, because it doesn't necessarily reflect depth in a system or where talent is along the organizational pipeline. For the last few years, though, we've used a weighted scoring system to determine which system has the most impact or elite talent. After awarding 100 points to the team with the No. 1 prospect, 99 to No. 2 and so on, it turns out the team with the most prospects on the list does not rank atop the "prospect points" standings.</p> <p>That honor belongs to the Houston Astros, whose seven prospects netted 439 points. The Red Sox are close behind with 436, while the Cubs (393), Pirates (364) and Twins (342) round out the top five. The Rangers, while having five prospects like the Twins, finished 14th with 167 points due to their Minor Leaguers landing a bit further down the list.</p> </blockquote> <p>The Red Sox have nine prospects on the list. The Yankees have two. Which reminds me of <a href="" target="_blank">something that Tyler Kepner wrote</a> in the wake of the Tanaka news:</p> <blockquote> <p>This is what the Yankees do. They understand there is a better and cheaper way, they just cannot execute it. While the Yankees missed the playoffs last fall, the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals reached the World Series with just two players, one per team, on nine-figure contracts. Counting the suspended Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees have six such players.</p> <p>The Cardinals win with a few stars and a self-sustaining farm system that pumps out impact players every season. The Red Sox won last year with a discount version of the playbook the Yankees are following now.</p> </blockquote> <p>The Red Sox won last year with a <i>heavily</i> discounted version of the Yankees' 2014 playbook <i>and</i> the Red Sox have a far better farm system than the Yankees. In fact, the Yankees' farm system has been comically non-productive. With all the opportunities that came last season because of all those injuries, the Yankees' best under-27 hitters -- really, their only under-27 hitters -- were Eduardo Nu&ntilde;ez, Austin Romine, David Adams, and Zoilo Almonte ... and being quite frank about this, all four of those guys were awful, with<i> </i>Nu&ntilde;ez the best of the lot.</p> <p>In 2005, Robinson Can&oacute; finished second (behind Huston Street) in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting. Since then, Yankees have shown up in the balloting exactly twice: In 2008, Joba Chamberlain got one fifth-place vote, and Ivan Nova finished fourth in 2011. Yes, they've traded a hot prospect here and there. Ian Kennedy and Jesus Montero come to mind. And it's more difficult to draft well when you're finishing at or near the top of the standings every year. But the Yankees and Red Sox are directly comparable in these regards, and yet the Red Sox always seem to have a crop of sterling young players whilst the Yankees doth not.</p> <p>Usually it doesn't matter, because $$$. Last year it did. This year it might, even with all the $$$.</p> Rob Neyer 2014-01-23T15:51:21-05:00 2014-01-23T15:51:21-05:00 Finally, the Greg Maddux scandal you've been waiting for <img alt="" src="" /> <p>First, from <a href="" target="_blank">the Hall of Fame's Thursday press release</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>In conjunction with the Hall of Fame, the six members of the class of 2014 have made their selections for the logo inclusion on their Hall of Fame plaque: <a href="">Bobby Cox</a> &ndash; <strong>Atlanta</strong>; <a href="">Tom Glavine</a> &ndash; <strong>Atlanta</strong>; <a href="">Tony La Russa</a> &ndash; <strong>no logo</strong>; <a href="">Greg Maddux</a> &ndash; <strong>no logo</strong>; <a href="">Frank Thomas</a> &ndash; <strong>Chicago White Sox</strong>; and <a href="">Joe Torre</a> &ndash; <strong>New York Yankees</strong>.</p> <p>&ldquo;The Museum staff works with each inductee by suggesting an appropriate logo option, or no logo at all,&rdquo; said Jeff Idelson, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. &ldquo;For those whose most compelling contributions clearly took place with one team, a logo makes sense. For those whose careers were built significantly among multiple teams, not having a team logo is equally acceptable. Regardless of the selection, a Hall of Famer belong to every team for which he played or managed, as well as every fan who followed his career.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Next, the outrage!</p> <p>...........</p> <p>...........</p> <p>Actually, I haven't seen any outrage. But that's probably because I didn't look. I keep seeing <i>references</i> to outrage, though, so I'm going to assume it exists among a particularly rabid segment of Braves fans. Because Greg Maddux didn't choose a team. Even though the Braves were the obvious choice.</p> <p>Here's how this works: If a Hall of Famer has a preference -- and I'm guessing the vast majority of them do -- the Hall's not going to squawk much unless the preference is patently ridiculous. For example, there was a story about Wade Boggs essentially selling his preference to the Devil Rays (with whom he finished his career). That's clearly inappropriate, since it's not actually Wade Boggs' plaque; it's the Hall of Fame's plaque, and ultimately it's the Hall of Fame's prerogative.</p> <p>That said, you can imagine any number of reasons why the Hall of Fame wants to keep the Hall of Famers happy.</p> <p>Catfish Hunter did the great majority of his work for the Oakland A's, but didn't want to wear an A's cap on his plaque. Why not? I don't know. But George Steinbrenner treated Hunter exceptionally well, from his record-breaking contract to various post-career honors. On <a href="" target="_blank">the cover of Hunter's 1988 memoir</a>, he's pitching in pinstripes. Steinbrenner actually wrote the foreword (and makes the seemingly bizarre claim that the Yankees retired Hunter's number, <a href="" target="_blank">which does not seem to be true</a>). So Hunter remains logo-less, despite winning 161 games with the A's and only 63 with the Yankees. It seems that Hunter thought of himself as a Yankee. It's possible that he actually wanted a Yankees cap on his Hall of Fame plaque, and no logo at all was the compromise.</p> <p>Greg Maddux won 194 games with the Braves, plus three of his four Cy Young Awards. The choice seems obvious ... unless you're Greg Maddux, and perhaps you've got a grudge against the organization for some reason. Or, more likely, you just don't want to close any doors in Chicago, where you started your career and ultimately won 133 games. It wouldn't have been difficult for Maddux to convince the Hall of Fame that he couldn't choose one team over the other. So now he gets to have it both ways.</p> <p>Well, sort of. He's probably made a few Cubs fans happy, and a few more Braves fans unhappy. Without closing any doors, though. And ultimately only a few crazed aficionados like us will even remember.</p> Rob Neyer 2014-01-23T13:09:14-05:00 2014-01-23T13:09:14-05:00 Looking for Big Games (and Big Game pitchers) <img alt="" src="" /> <p>Over at <a target="_blank" href="">Bill James' website</a>, he's in the middle of a sprawling series of articles about big-game pitchers.</p> <p>What's a Big Game? As you might imagine, Bill's come up with a precise definition. Which takes up, as you might imagine, a whole article of its own. So I will summarize: a Big Game is a regular-season game toward the end of the season that materially affects your team's chance of reaching the postseason. Using Bill's method, roughly 8 percent of all the games since the middle 1950s were Big Games.*</p> <p><i>* Caveat: I can't figure out if it's 8 percent of all games, or 8 percent for one team or the other, or 8 percent for one or both teams. But I <b>think</b> it's actually 8 percent of all pitchers' games started. So Bill could have named it Big Start (BS) instead of Big Game. Maybe. But probably didn't because nobody talks about <b>big-start pitchers</b>.</i></p> <p>I don't want to give too much away -- there's a reason they charge for this stuff, after all -- but these 11 pitchers have started at least 70 Big Games in the last 60-odd years: Andy Pettitte (82), Jim Palmer, Roger Clemens, Don Drysdale, Steve Carlton, Don Sutton, Johnny Podres, Whitey Ford, Juan Marichal, Sandy Koufax. As Bill notes, if his study went back a few more years, Ford would rank higher, but wouldn't knock off Pettitte. James:</p> <blockquote> <p><span>The first guy on the list that you might not have expected to see there is Jerry Reuss, who started 70 Big Games.<span> </span>Reuss spent most of his career with the Pirates (1974-1978) and the Dodgers (1979-1987)&mdash;both perennial contenders, and Reuss did win 220 games in his career, although he failed somehow to become a household name. Roy Oswalt, John Lackey and Tim Hudson are contemporary guys who have made a lot of Big Game starts.</span></p> <p>--snip--<span></span></p> <p> </p> <p><span>On the other side of the ledger:</span></p> <p><span>Zach Duke, 169 starts, mostly for the Pirates of the last decade ... never started a Big Game.<span> </span><span></span>Duke made more starts than anyone else, though, who completely missed the opportunity to start a Big One.<span>..</span><span> </span></span></p> <p> </p> <p><span>More notable than any of those, though, is Randy Jones, Padres of the 1970s, a 20-game winner in 1975 and 1976, and the National League Cy Young Award Winner in 1976.<span> </span>Jones&mdash;many of you will remember him&mdash;was a lefty who was a ground ball machine, didn&rsquo;t throw hard.<span> </span>Jones made 285 major league starts&mdash;one Big Game, by our standards.<span> </span>September 6, 1978, the Padres were 71-68, in fourth place, eleven and a half out but still alive.<span> </span>The Padres were in Atlanta that day, Jones started against Mickey Mahler, and the Padres won the game, 5-3.<span> </span>But they lost 4 out of the next 5, dropped out of contention.<span> </span>That was the one and only Big-Game start of Randy Jones&rsquo; career.</span></p> </blockquote> <p>I thought that was interesting, about Randy Jones. What's more interesting, I suppose, considering that Bill originally framed this discussion as a way of evaluating claims about Jack Morris, is that Morris started only 46 Big Games in his career, which is 58th on the list. Bert Blyleven (if you're keeping score at home) started 47 Big Games (actually a smaller percentage of his career starts than Morris, though).</p> <p>Next week, I guess, we'll find out how well Morris (and Blyleven!) actually pitched in those Big Games. But there are bigger issues here. While most Hall of Fame voters pretty obviously don't believe so -- <a target="_blank" href="">except in very special and specific cases</a> -- I think that <i>we</i> can agree that postseason performance matters, and maybe a lot.</p> <p>But if we agree that postseason games matter, shouldn't we also agree that Big Games matter more than non-Big Games?</p> <p>Or maybe you don't agree with either of those things. It's been argued that such thinking <i>penalizes</i> pitchers with teams that aren't good enough to play in Big Games. Well, sort of. Pitchers on bad teams don't have chance to pitch well in Big Games ... but they also don't have a chance to pitch <i>poorly</i> in Big Games. Let us imagine that we have three pitchers with identical regular-season numbers, except</p> <p>Pitcher A pitched poorly in Big Games,<br>Pitcher B pitched well in Big Games, and<br>Pitcher C didn't pitch any Big Games at all.</p> <p>If all three were on the Hall of Fame ballot, would you simply ignore the Big Game information, so helpfully provided by our old friend Bill James? Or would you instead rank them Pitcher B, Pitcher C, Pitcher A? Because I would.</p> <p>Among the pitchers we've mentioned above, the actual performances -- once Bill reveals them -- might actually have a bearing on the pending Hall of Fame cases for Morris and Pettitte. I would like to see where Mussina comes out, too. I wish I could say the same about Reuss and his 220 career wins, but I'm afraid his league-average ERA and nondescript postseason numbers leave him in the Hall of Very Good, regardless of his Big Game numbers.</p> <p>Really looking forward to seeing the numbers, though! Please write faster, Bill James.</p> Rob Neyer 2014-01-23T12:18:06-05:00 2014-01-23T12:18:06-05:00 Yes we're talking about baseball in Portland again <img alt="" src="" /> <p>I don't know. This seems to come up every few months, so maybe it means something. But I'm on the ground here in Portland, and I just don't see any good reason to get excited about Major League Baseball here yet.</p> <p>Here's <a target="_blank" href="">the very latest coming up</a>, via's Tracy Ringolsby:</p> <blockquote> <p>Portland's backers of baseball have the blueprint for a state-of-the-art baseball-only stadium, which would have a retractable roof and seat 35,000. They have community support, including that of the current city administration. A site, endorsed by mayor Charlie Hales, has been chosen, next to Memorial Coliseum and the new Rose Garden, home of the NBA's Trailblazers.</p> <p>"We have the land and the infrastructure," said architect Barry Smith.</p> <p>The supporters believe they can find an ownership group, possibly a major Japanese firm, along the lines of Nintendo, which owns the Seattle Mariners.</p> <p>All the folks in Portland need is a team.</p> <p>They would welcome an existing team, or an expansion club if Major League Baseball reaches a point of deciding to add two teams to create two 16-team leagues. Portland folks believe their city would be a perfect location. Right now, however, baseball seems to be in a holding pattern in terms of relocation and expansion.</p> </blockquote> <p>Professionally speaking, the single best thing that could happen to me would be Major League Baseball in Portland. So I have every reason to cheer for a story like this.</p> <p>But I gotta tell you, we folks in Portland need a lot more than a team.</p> <p>Let's suppose that tomorrow the Athletics were up for grabs. Here's what else we would need:</p> <p><b>1. An owner or owners with $500 million to purchase the A's</b><br>This person probably does not exist in Portland, or anywhere nearby. I don't really know where this "possibly a major Japanese firm" comes from, but there are plenty of billionaires outside of Japan and Oregon who want to own baseball teams. And Portland's a lovely place to spend a summer.</p> <p>Oh, but that $500 million? That's probably way, way low. Without even including the many millions probably needed to indemnify the Mariners for their loss of revenues.</p> <p><b>2. A ballpark</b><br>Nobody has "the land and the infrastructure." What that means, I <i>think</i>, is that ballpark advocates have a favorite site, and that favorite site is well-served by public transportation. True enough. But environmental-impact studies? Site acquisition? Sign-offs from neighborhood association? I don't believe that anything of those things exist, or nearly exist.</p> <p><b>3. Public and political will</b><br>It's not at all clear that enough people care. Actually, forget about the <i>people</i>; time after time, municipal authorities have ramrodded publicly financed ballparks through, despite the apathy and sometimes even the outright resistance of most voters. In Portland, that would mean the mayor and a majority of the city council, and perhaps the support of a suburban governmental authority, too. Well, none of those people are talking about a baseball stadium. The other day, <a target="_blank" href="">the mayor was interviewed for 30 minutes</a> and baseball wasn't mentioned. I read the newspaper every day -- well, every day it's actually delivered, <a target="_blank" href="">which isn't actually every day any more</a> -- and this just isn't among the top 20 things that anybody seems to be talking about.</p> <p>Yes, maybe if a franchise <i>were </i>available, all these things could happen in a hurry. But we're not going to know until then. And hurry doesn't seem to be in a lot of vocabularies around here.</p> Rob Neyer