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Brief chronicles of our sporting times.

Chicken Parm vs. Diet Coke: Who’ve You Got?



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Chicken parm vs. Diet Coke: Who’ve you got?

Via the New York Post’s Justin Terranova: On his ESPN New York radio show (simulcast on the YES television network) yesterday afternoon, Michael Kay, rapacious consumer of the popular Italian dish, launched a nine-minute broadside at his No. 1 competitor, WFAN’s popular gasbag Mike Francesa:

According to Kay, Francesa was discussing his November interview with Alex Rodriguez on WFAN. A caller suggested the infamous in-studio interview, during which A-Rod denied PED use and blasted MLB, was the reason Francesa and YES Network parted ways.

Kay, the play-by-play voice of the Yankees on YES, has since taken over the afternoon simulcast slot from Francesa.

“And Francesa said, ‘That’s not the truth, they wanted a show where they can control the editorial and I wasn’t going to give them that,’” a heated Kay said of his rival.

“I don’t know how to say this without being blunt: Mike’s a liar. No one controls this show, but me and [co-host] Don La Greca. That’s it. We have never, ever been called by anybody at YES and critiqued on what we said and how we said it or the truth of it.”

Kay would later correct himself and say that the only time he heard from YES was after his initial simulcast, which he opened by dumping a bottle of Diet Coke, Francesa’s favorite beverage, in the trash. …

“To say they wanted editorial control, you’re lying to soften the blow that you got taken off a great network and saying we are a house organ,” Kay said. “You are wrong, I am sorry, you are wrong.

“Two reasons: 1. You ended up earning a lot of money, which you earned, but they were losing a lot of money on the show. 2. It’s obvious the proper decision has been made because our ratings are better than your rating when you were on YES.”

And then Kay attacked Francesa for his viral sleeping moment when he dozed off while talking to WFAN’s Yankees reporter Sweeny Murti.

“And let me give you a No. 3: Maybe they didn’t want to broadcast a show where someone was falling asleep on the air,” Kay said.

Will Francesa respond to Kay’s rant this afternoon? Those in the New York metropolitan area should tune to 660 on the AM dial. Others may listen via WFAN.com.

More here.

Tags: MLB

Maybe Know Moneyball Before Badmouthing It?



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When it was reported that the Dodgers would be hiring A’s assistant general manager Farhan Zaidi as its new GM, the move awoke the demon in former MLB infielder Ryan Theriot (.281/.341/.350, 8.0 fWAR). He took to Twitter to to exclaim about the decision to bring in the 37-year-old with economics degrees from MIT (undergraduate) and UC Berkeley (doctorate):

Followed by this explanation:

Free-agent pitcher Brandon McCarthy took note and promptly schooled Theriot:

As Paul Casella of Sports on Earth points out, neither John Mozeliak of the Cardinals (2011) nor Brian Sabean of the Giants (2012) have played professional ball. Moreover, Billy Beane, Zaidi’s now former boss in Oakland and the featured subject in the concentrated evil Moneyball, happens to be a former player. (Oops.)

Realizing the pickle he had put himself in, Theriot resorted to an Intentional Talk version of the mea culpa:

More here.

Tags: MLB

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Award Finalists Announced



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MLB.com’s John Schlegel previews the announced finalists for the major awards, here focusing on the MVP vote:

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Thursday, Nov. 13, 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network
National League
[Clayton] Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates
Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins

The votes already have been submitted — voting BBWAA members had to send their ballots by the end of the regular season — but the debate no doubt continues about whether a pitcher eligible for the Cy Young also should be considered for MVP. The Tigers’ Justin Verlander won both in the AL in 2011, but the last one to do it in the NL was the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson in 1968. Kershaw, however, made a very compelling case that he is deserving of both in 2014.

His peers made it clear where they stand. Kershaw already collected a trifecta of awards from the Major League Baseball Players Association, winning overall Player of the Year honors for all of Major League Baseball, the NL’s Most Outstanding Pitcher and the Marvin Miller Man of the Year for his contributions on and off the field. With a season in which he became the first pitcher to win four consecutive ERA titles, posting a career-best 1.77 ERA, Kershaw set a very high bar even while missing a month to injury.

So, too, did Stanton, whose stellar season came to a horrific end when he suffered facial fractures being hit by a pitch on Sept. 11. Before the injury, Stanton hit 37 homers, which stood up as the NL’s top total, and his 105 RBIs wound up being second in the NL — and that’s just part of the story for the strong-armed right fielder, who accepted the Hank Aaron Award for the NL’s top offensive player in October and was named the NL’s Most Outstanding Player in the Players Choice Awards. McCutchen is the reigning MVP, and he posted a season worthy of that status, helping lead the Pirates to a second consecutive postseason bid after being out of it for 21 years.

American League
Michael Brantley, OF, Indians
Victor Martinez, DH/1B, Tigers
[Mike] Trout, OF, Angels

The last two seasons, Trout played second fiddle in the MVP voting behind the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera, and another Tigers slugger enters the conversation this year with Martinez putting together a stellar season. But Trout, who won Most Outstanding Player in the Players Choice Awards and the AL Hank Aaron Award, put up another campaign that’s going to be hard to beat.

Becoming the first player to lead either league in runs scored his first three full Major League seasons with 115 this year, Trout kept his unprecedented start to a career going. Trout set or tied career highs in doubles with 39, triples with nine, home runs with 36 and RBIs with 111. Martinez certainly offers some strong numbers for his case, setting career highs with 32 homers and a .974 on-base plus slugging (OPS), tops in the Majors, while truly defining the word “valuable” for the Tigers. Brantley, meanwhile, became the first hitter in Indians history to go for more than 200 hits, 40 doubles, 20 homers and 20 steals — a strong showing for any franchise.

My guess: Kershaw and Trout capture the MVP Award, Kershaw and Felix Hernandez take home the Cy Young hardware, Matt Williams and Mike Scioscia get Manager of the Year, and Jacob deGrom and José Abreu win Rookie of the Year.

More here.

Tags: MLB

Reveille 11/3/14



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Good morning.

First, a brief comment:

I sympathize with the Keith Olbermanns of the world who were less than thrilled to see a Finals World Series featuring the team with the fourth-best record in the American League squaring off against the club with the fifth-best record in the National League. 

Just don’t place all of the blame on the second-wild-card formula introduced in 2012, okay?

From 1995 until 2011, only one wild card was awarded per league. Unlike the present scheme, however, that team immediately advanced to play the top seed in a best-of-five division series. In those 17 seasons, an astonishing 53 percent — 18 of 34 — of wild card clubs triumphed. Additionally, five wild card teams won the World Series, an absurd 29.4 percent rate. A wild card team was represented in the World Series each year from 2002 to 2007, with both wild cards — Angels and Giants — appeared in the 2002 Fall Classic. 

As evidenced by this year’s results, the second wild card is no panacea. However, by having the wild card teams face each other in a one-game playoff, at least MLB may have implemented a system that will ultimately reduce the odds that teams who fought tooth and nail for six months to post the best record in the league get knocked off mere days later. Perhaps extending the division series to a best-of-seven format would help as well.

And with that . . . here are several links from the past week that will make your Monday at the office a bit more bearable: 

Over these five seasons, the Giants own the seventh-best regular-season winning percentage in the majors:

Yankees .563

Cardinals .557 

Braves .554 

Tigers .552 

Rays .551 

Rangers .540 

Giants .538

Even if you include their amazing 34-14 record in the postseason since 2010, their overall winning percentage climbs to just fourth-best behind the Yankees, Cardinals and Braves and one percentage point ahead of the Tigers and Rays. 

They were never the best team in the majors in the regular season during any of their title seasons, either: 

2010: 92–70, fifth in majors, second in NL 

2012: 9468, tied for fourth in majors, tied for third in NL 

2014: 8874, tied for eighth in majors, tied for fourth in NL 

The Giants have also benefited all three years from playing fairly mediocre World Series opponents as far as World Series teams go. This is one of the results of a playoff system that allows 10 (or eight teams before 2012) in as opposed to four or two: The best regular-season teams may be eliminated before the World Series due to the nature of short series, where upsets are common. . . . 

If anything, the moral of the Giants’ success story is a reminder that in this particular era, with so much parity and few great teams and the more wide-open structure of the postseason, the goal is just to get into the playoffs. At that point, what happens in the regular season is irrelevant. The Giants didn’t win it all in 2011 or 2013 because they didn’t make the playoffs. 

Multi-Position – Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals

“This is the first year of the Multi-Position Fielding Bible Award. The goal of this new award is to recognize players who bring versatility to their teams with their ability to play multiple positions, and who play those positions well defensively. Lorenzo Cain was so good in 2014 that if he played full-time in either center field or right field, he might have won the Fielding Bible Award at either position. He saved 14 runs in center field in 93 games he started there for the Royals on the season, and another 10 runs in right despite only 29 games started there. Cain’s ability to play right field gives the Royals the best outfield defense in baseball by a wide margin with fellow FBA winner Alex Gordon in left field and baseball’s fastest player, Jarrod Dyson, in center. In the closest of margins in this year’s balloting, Cain edged out Mr. Versatility, Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays, by three points, 92 to 89.”

First Base – Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles Dodgers

“Adrian Gonzalez has been the best defensive first baseman in baseball over the last six seasons but somehow he has never won a Fielding Bible Award. Until now. Gonzalez wins his first Fielding Bible Award, leading all of baseball’s first basemen by saving 11 runs defensively for the Dodgers in 2014. That brings his six-year total to 62 runs saved, 12 more than Albert Pujols’ second-place total of 50. Every aspect of Gonzalez’s defensive game is superb. He fields his position well, does a great job with difficult throws, and handles bunts and double plays with the best of them. But he’s not flashy. Just consistently excellent.” . . . 

Third Base – Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics

“Josh Donaldson led all MLB third basemen with 20 Defensive Runs Saved. Here’s another way to measure Donaldson’s excellence. Baseball Info Solutions tracks a stat invented by Bill James called Good Fielding Plays (GFP). It’s not as easy as it sounds to define a Good Fielding Play—there are 28 different categories of GFPs. Donaldson’s total of 77 GFPs is 13 more than the 64 good plays handled by Colorado’s Nolan Arenado. Donaldson is especially good making plays to his right where his excellent reaction time and strong arm really stand out. Nolan Arenado was second in the voting: Donaldson 114 points, Arenado 104.” . . . 

Left Field – Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals

“It’s a three-peat for Alex Gordon. Three Fielding Bible Awards in three years. And it was unanimous. Every voter had Alex Gordon ranked first. Gordon saved 27 runs for the Royals on the year. This is the highest total ever recorded for a left fielder since the tracking of Defensive Runs Saved began in 2003. Christian Yelich of Miami was a distant second with 13. Gordon’s converted third-baseman arm has always set him apart. It counted toward nine of his runs saved in 2014, but his excellent range also makes a huge difference. His range in left field has been above average every year since he started playing there in  2010, but this year he had his career high with 16 Plus/Minus Runs Saved.”

  • The “Greek God of Walks” has said goodbye to baseball. Over the Monster’s ”BrendanOToole” shares his fond memories of one of Boston’s most colorful characters in recent memory, Kevin Youkilis.

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!

Tags: MLB

Game 7 Saves Fox’s World Series Ratings



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The San Francisco Giants weren’t the only winners in Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday evening.

Deadline’s Dominic Patten explains:

After a bunch of strikes and walks, Fox finally hit a 2014 World Series ratings home run. . . . We knew the drama alone of a Game 7 was going to be a high for this year’s struggling Major League Baseball championship series, but . . . at a packed Kaufman [sic] Stadium ran all the bases for the broadcaster. In metered market results, Fox’s broadcast of the 3–2 win by the San Francisco Giants over the Kansas City Royals got a surging 15.2/24. . . . 

After the lowest rated World Series on record so far, Fox really needed last night’s unexpected Game 7 to turn things around and have America’s pastime grab America’s eyeballs. With smaller market and wild card teams making up the match-up and most of the games’ blowouts, the series and Fox distinctly suffered. Not only was it down from the sturdy numbers of 2013 but this year’s World Series also dipped from the 4-game series of 2012, which had been a record low. The rush of attention and viewers that last night’s Game 7 drew will allow Fox, MLB and the advertisers some much desired breathing room and to make up traction in a sport that has seen audience interest distinctly wane in recent years. Needless to say, Fox is looking pretty good to top Wednesday’s primetime both among adults 1849 and in total viewership.

Maury Brown of Forbes adds:

2014 may be the most uncompelling, competitive World Series in history. While it went the distance, five of seven games were lopsided blowouts. Already saddled with a couple of aspects that meant it would be a challenge to have solid numbers (the Giants returning so many times in recent years coupled with the Royals being in baseball’s smallest market), with the lack of compelling play it had many a writer running for the “Pacing to be the Worst Ever Ratings” headline.

It wasn’t. . . . 

Game 7 was also FOX’s highest-rated prime-time broadcast of the television season, and the network’s best (excluding Super Bowl Sunday) since January 2013.

Game 7 also ranks as the network’s best non-NFL rating since Game 7 of the 2011 World Series

More here and here.

Tags: MLB

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Nate Silver: Third-Base Coach Should Have Sent Gordon



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Nate Silver set aside midterm-election handicapping this morning to answer the burning question on everyone’s minds:

Should Kansas City’s third-base coach, Mike Jirschele, have sent a chugging Alex Gordon in the direction of home plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7? 

Nate responds in the affirmative.

Here’s what I know: Gordon should have tried to score even if he was a heavy underdog to make it. It would have been the right move if he was safe even 30 percent of the time.

Between 1969 and 1992 — I’m using this period because it better approximates baseball’s current run-scoring environment than the offensive bubble of the 1990s and aughts — a runner scored from third base with two outs about 27 percent of the time, according to the tables at Tangotiger.com. We should probably round that down a bit in this example. The Royals had Salvador Perez at the plate — a league-average hitter — and the light-hitting Mike Moustakas due up after that.

More importantly, they were facing Madison Bumgarner. That Bumgarner had been so dominant in the World Series is not as relevant as you might think. There’s extremely little evidence for a “hot hand” in pitching: In-game performance tells you next to nothing about how the pitcher will fare in future at-bats. Instead, you should look toward longer-term averages. Still, I feel comfortable asserting that Bumgarner was an above-average pitcher at that moment: Certainly not the first guy you’d want to have on the mound if you were the opponent. . . . 

What if Gordon rounds third and tries to score? If he’s successful even 30 percent of the time, the Royals’ win probability is at least 15 percent — a 30 percent chance of Gordon scoring, multiplied by a 50 percent chance of the Royals winning in extra innings. But it’s slightly higher than that. The 30 percent of the time that Gordon scores, Perez still has his 6 percent chance of scoring the winning run in the ninth. That brings the Royals’ overall win probability up to about 16 percent.

We’re splitting hairs. The point is that if even Gordon had been a 2-to-1 underdog to score, he should have tried.

These decisions can be counterintuitive. Sometimes a strategy that’s successful less than 50 percent of the time — like splitting eights in blackjack — is still the right move because the alternative is even worse. In this case, the alternative involved trying to score against Bumgarner with your catcher at the plate and two outs, and then having to prevail in extra innings.

Additionally, FiveThirtyEight’s proprietor expresses disappointment for a more emotional reason:

It would have made for one of the best plays in baseball history. We’re talking about the tying run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7 of the World Series: Even a sacrifice fly can be thrilling under those circumstances. But this would have been in a league with Bill Mazeroski and Kirk Gibson and Bill Buckner: under serious consideration for the greatest play of all-time. (The play already had a little Buckner in it, with Blanco’s and Perez’s misplays in the outfield.)

Unlike any of those moments, it would have involved an incredibly gutsy decision. It’s an extraordinary play if Gordon scores. It’s an extraordinary play if there’s a collision at home plate — and baseball needs to decide whether to invoke the “Buster Posey Rule.”

And if Gordon were thrown out, it would have been the most extraordinary way to lose a game in the history of baseball.

More here.

Tags: MLB

All Hail MadBum



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Feel free to argue that Alex Gordon should have tried for a game-tying, inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Feel free to debate whether three titles in five seasons constitutes a “dynasty.”

Feel free to try to pinpoint the season-altering moment for the Giants.

I merely wish to posit that Madison Bumgarner’s five innings of dominant, scoreless relief capped off possibly the most dominant pitching performances in postseason and World Series history. 

As Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles recaps:

Then came Game 7.

What was Bumgarner good for? Two innings, maybe. If the Giants have a lead and he’s pitching well, maybe three. It was hard to see him doing more than that. It was also easy to see this whole endeavor not working out. His first pitch was 85 and away from the target by a bunch. He fell behind, 2-0. He gave up a hit to the first batter he faced. If the next three hitters doubled, who here would blame Bumgarner? It was the situation that was a jerk. It was a team with no better choice than a 39-year-old with an ailing hip and floating sinker, with the backup plan being a young pitcher on two day’s rest. A young pitcher who was going to set a postseason record for innings pitched.

He fell behind 2-0 again, this time to a hitter who was trying to make an out on purpose. Ned Yost says that Alcides Escobar was bunting on his own, and I believe him. It was still a bad baseball play. It was going for one run when there were five on the table. That was the time. That was the time when it all fell apart.

Bumgarner took the free out. Not before looking at second for a moment that FREAKED ME OUT, but he took the free out. Then he blew a snotrocket, looked at the moon and whispered, “Someday, I will ride one of those snotrockets all the way to you, big feller, and I will claim you for my own.” Probably.

Regardless, everything changed after that. A celestial breaker flipped, and the World Series ended. It took 14 more outs to do it, technically, but as soon as Bumgarner got his first out, he was as brilliant as he’d ever been. There was a sketchy moment immediately after, when Norichika Aoki lined a ball to left, but Juan Perez was perfectly positioned. After that, the sketchy moments were mostly wisps and phantoms that were easy to ignore. Bumgarner was dominant after that.  . . . 

For a pitcher who threw 50 strikes [out of 68 pitches], where are the hittable strikes? There were three pitches in the middle of the zone, all in the ninth inning. That ninth was probably all Bumgarner had in him, but he could still get the fastballs above the zone to [Salvador] Perez in the last at-bat.

Me? Once Gregor Blanco dove-not-dove and Juan Perez kicked the ball around, I would have melted into a puddle of goo. Just trembling, wriggling goo. Bochy would have gone out with a Dixie Cup, scraped me in, and called for Casilla. Bumgarner gave exactly zero bothers. He snotrocketed a snotrocket and pumped fastball fastball fastball by a hitter who just couldn’t lay off. He looked as strong as he did in his first pitch in Game 1.

Madison Bumgarner, the high school pitcher drafted when the Giants were desperate for a college hitter, the pitcher who lost his fastball and was going to be relegated to the what-if of prospect purgatory, the pitcher who was neck and neck with Tim Alderson on the Giants’ prospect lists for a while, the pitcher who already had two stellar World Series starts and victories before he turned 24. He was already a World Series legend, something to put on the dust jacket to get you to buy the book, not a footnote. Then came Game 7.

Then came Game 7.

We’ve seen a lot over the five years, most of it things we were sure we’d never see. Then came Game 7. There will be a century of World Series highlights between now and 2114, and they’ll still be talking about Madison Bumgarner.

So there’s only one more question remaining:

What are you doing next, MadBum? (Cue Disney music.)

 . . . 

Get some cold cuts! Get some cold cuts!

More here.

Tags: MLB

The Rays Are Not Becoming Les Rayons



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General manager Andrew Friedman has left St. Petersburg.

Skipper Joe Maddon has left St. Petersburg.

Is the entire Rays franchise now leaving St. Petersburg?

And to Montréal, of all places?

In his Sunday New York Daily News column, Bill Madden wrote: 

According to sources, [Rays owner Stuart] Sternberg has had discussions with wealthy Wall Street associates about moving the Rays to Montreal, which has been without a major-league franchise since the Expos were transferred to Washington in 2005.

Just curious: Does Sternberg have middle-class Wall Street associates too?

Anyway, does it matter whether Madden’s “sources” are accurate? After all, 13 years remain on the lease with Tropicana Field and there’s no sign yet that a new ballpark in Montréal is in the works — let’s be clear: Olympic Stadium is a worse venue than the Trop . . . and it’s not even close — so it’s highly unlikely Evan Longoria and Chris Archer need to parlez français anytime soon.

Nonetheless, Field of Schemes author Neil deMause observes that it hasn’t stopped outgoing commissioner Bud Selig from weighing in on the situation one last time, once more implying that the politicos and the voters of the Tampa–St. Pete region ought to pony up the funds for a spanking new facility: “We’re going to miss you, Bud. Nobody does passive-aggressive threatmongering like you.”

More here and here.

Tags: MLB

Keith Olbermann, Traditionalist



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“ . . . World Series preview — I’m sorry. MLB Finals preview. MLB Finals preview. This isn’t a World Series. The World Series used to feature the pennant winners of the American and National Leagues, not one team that finished fourth versus a team that finished fifth. That’s Bob Costas’s phrase, his great fear about what the wild card might do: superimpose an NBA-playoff quality over baseball’s traditions and leave us with a tournament, where a good but hardly the best team on a hot streak could reach the title round — or two of them.”

So said Keith Olbermann. He too has taken to calling the World Series, disparagingly, “the MLB Finals.” Hard left in his politics, the ESPN2 commentator is, mirabile dictu, a hardcore traditionalist in matters baseball. I just came across this video from last Tuesday:

 

 

Lamarr Houston Has the Stupidest Play of Week 8



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Sammy Watkins’s premature TD celebration in the Bills–Jets game seemed like the sure winner . . . until a little later in the afternoon Lamarr Houston attempted to perform a sack dance with his Bears team down 25 points in the fourth quarter to the Patriots.

David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune commented:

Houston sacked Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo before setting the Week 8 standard for stupidity, skipping three steps before his right knee buckled upon landing. You could chastise Houston to act like he’s been there before but, at least in 2014, he hadn’t. Tellingly, it was the disappointing free agent pass rusher’s first sack of the year.

Oof.

We’ll soon know from a MRI scheduled for today whether Houston’s knee got blown out during the blowout.

Tags: NFL

Reveille 10/27/14



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Good morning.

First, a comment:

Jim Caple of ESPN kindly requests that we quit Tweeting our opinions about certain in-game tactics by the World Series skippers:

Hey, I know it’s fun to second-guess managers; I do it myself. But there should be some limit to our criticism. So can we please have a moratorium on ripping every single managerial move, including the ones that work out?​

Some were ripping Bruce Bochy on Twitter for not pinch hitting for Yusmeiro Petit with two outs and a runner on first base in the fourth inning of Game 4 on Saturday. I can understand briefly questioning the move — the Giants were behind, and Petit had five hits in 103 career at-bats — but it was relatively early in the game, and Bochy also knew he needed (and probably would get) some quality innings from Petit. I mean, just look at what happened to the Royals when their middle relievers were unable to get the job done.

The crazy thing is that the criticism continued even after Petit singled to center. Some people still were contending Bochy should have pinch hit Michael Morse for Petit, as if it were an absolute that Morse would have gotten a run-scoring, extra-base hit rather make an out or single like Petit.

I agree that the move was defensible and perhaps even the right call. However, it’s downright silly to suggest that others had no basis to argue once Petit reached base and, presumably, after the Giants won the game. Does Caple really not understand that process is far more important than results? Is the player at the blackjack table who hits on 18 and is subsequently dealt the three of clubs a genius? 

Or as Rob Neyer, editor of Fox Sports’ Just a Bit Outside, put it in a piece mentioned below:

We’re still, even well into this Moneyball century, quite often hung up on results. If the manager won, then he must not have made any mistakes? Or even if he did make a mistake or two along the way, who cares? It’s all good, bro.

If it makes Caple feel better, the most questionable calls by Bochy and Yost have been 22-carat gold compared to the quality of the Fox broadcasting team. Hmmm, I think I miss Tim McCarver.

Yes, yes, I really do. . . . 

And with that . . . here are several links from the past week that will make your Monday at the office a bit more bearable: 

4. Kelvin Herrera . . . just, the whole stupid thing

Where do we start? Replacing Guthrie with Herrera is defensible. Not double-switching isn’t as defensible, since Herrera’s spot would come up fourth in the top of the seventh. Wishing Jarrod Dyson would make an out in the seventh so Herrera wouldn’t have to bat isn’t as defensible. Letting Herrera bat for himself with a runner aboard isn’t as defensible. Letting Herrera pitch to Hunter Pence, leading off in the bottom of the seventh is defensible. Letting Herrera pitch to lefty-hitting Brandon Belt isn’t as defensible. With three straight left-handed batters coming up — first Belt, then Travis Ishikawa and Brandon Crawford — not going immediately to lefty Brandon Finnegan isn’t as defensible. Finnegan finally did come on to face Ishikawa, and retired both him and Crawford to end the inning. But Herrera had thrown 27 pitches.

To summarize: Yost allowed Guthrie to bat, and Guthrie recorded exactly zero outs afterward; Yost allowed Herrera to bat, and Herrera recorded exactly one out afterward. This is what we sometimes refer to as “poor roster management.”

  • Via Michael Wagaman of the Associated Press: Do you know who threw out that game’s ceremonial first pitch? It was Little League superstar Mo’ne Davis, who threw a strike to Andrew Susac, San Francisco’s back-up catcher.
  • Courtesy of SB Nation’s Rodger Sherman: Click here if you’d like to see Jason Vargas, an American League pitcher who doesn’t come to the plate all that often,  jog toward first base after taking ball . . . three. 
  • MLB.com reported last night the very sad news that one of the top prospects in the game, Oscar Taveras, 22, and his girlfriend perished in a car accident near his home in the Dominican Republic. Below watch the highlight of his way-too-short big-league career, a game-tying home run against the Giants in the NLCS. Rest in peace.

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!

Tags: MLB

Joe Maddon Opts Out of His Rays Contract



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Via Mike Axisa of CBS Sports’ Eye on Baseball:

Manager Joe Maddon has exercised an opt-out clause in his contract with the Rays and is leaving the organization effective immediately, the team announced. . . . 

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports Maddon is not considering the Dodgers at this time. He was able to opt-out of his deal as soon as [former Rays general manager] Friedman left [for Los Angeles] and Heyman says there were some “contentious” days between the Rays and Maddon since that happened.

During his introductory press conference last week, Friedman told reporters Don Mattingly will “definitely” return as manager of the Dodgers in 2015. Mattingly’s contract runs through the 2016 season.

The Rays went 754-705 (.517) under Maddon from 2006–14. He led the team to two division titles, four postseason appearances and the 2008 AL pennant.

Well, that was unexpected. Sorry, Rays fans.

More here.

Tags: MLB

No One Is Safe From Peyton Manning’s Ire



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Peyton Manning made clear after last night’s 35–21 victory over the Chargers that even the Invesco Field scoreboard operator will be held accountable for his sins.

Via Yahoo Sports’ Shutdown Corner:

The Broncos, stealing the University of Wisconsin’s bit, started playing the House of Pain song “Jump Around” in the stadium. Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib, on the sideline, got into it and started dancing. They showed Talib on the big screen, the crowd got even more fired up. It was fairly typical stuff at the end of a big Broncos win.

And quarterback Peyton Manning was not happy about it.

Manning wants the crowd to be quiet when the offense has the ball. He likes calling out audibles at the line, and every once in a while he’ll theatrically motion for the crowd to quiet down. After the two-minute warning the Broncos got a false-start penalty, although it didn’t seem that was due to the crowd noise. He wasn’t mad at the fans this time; he was mad at the Broncos scoreboard operator.

“I have no problem wih our fans, our fans are great,” Manning said. “I’ve got a problem with our scoreboard operator. I’ve got to have a little talk with him.”

Some reporters in his press conference laughed. Manning did not. Manning often has a very dry delivery on his jokes, but it certainly appeared he was dead serious about not being pleased with the scoreboard operator.

More here.

Tags: NFL

‘Marlins Man’ Has the Best Seat in the House



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Via the Miami Herald: America, meet Laurence Leavy, who for the past two nights at Kauffman Stadium has been occupying a primo front-row seat, behind home plate, that is clearly visible from the Fox Sports center-field camera:

In a sea of blue, Laurence Leavy’s orange “Marlins” shirt stands out in the crowd, especially in the pricey seats behind home plate where the TV cameras focus.

Leavy, a 58-year-old Miami lawyer known as “Marlins Man,” said he just loves being part of the game.

But the sight of Leavy in Miami orange rattled the home team enough that he said stadium officials asked him to move — or at least cover up with a Kansas City Royals shirt.

Marlins Man would have none of that Tuesday night. And he was back at it again Wednesday in Game 2 of the World Series in the same seat.

“The owner of the Royals was extremely upset that I was there,” Leavy said Wednesday.

They offered him a private suite if he would move. They tried enticing him with free World Series goodies if he would get rid of the jersey.

No way, Marlins Man said.

Leavy paid $8,000 for that prime seat to see Royals vs. Giants, and he wasn’t about to give it up.

A Royals spokesman said no one asked him to leave his seat or to take off the jersey.

He sure gets around:

Marlins Man has been buying the best seats to major sporting events for years. By his count, he’s gone to 27 Super Bowls, more than 200 NBA playoff games, and at least 85 World Series games, and many Triple Crown horse races.

He’s been a Marlins season-ticket holder since the team’s first year in 1993, is a rabid Florida State fan (he was on hand for the FSU-Notre Dame showdown in Tallahassee on Saturday before heading off to Kansas City), owns more than 100 thoroughbreds, and rarely misses a Miami Heat or Dolphins game.

“I never had any kids, nor have any wife,” Leavy said. “You don’t have to pay for a wife and kids, so you have money in the bank.”

​More here.

Tags: MLB

The Royals Are No Blueprint for Success



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While congratulating the Royals in securing a World Series berth for the success-starved Kansas City fan base, Russell Carleton of Baseball Prospectus, writing at Fox Sports’ Just a Bit Outside, makes the important point that the team’s three months of winning isn’t a blueprint for other teams to rush out and follow:

Point 2: The Royals hit the fewest home runs and struck out the fewest times in MLB.

Again, both are true, although I somehow doubt that was by design. I’m assuming that the Royals were hoping that Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas would all be hitting 30 home runs a season by now, rather than the 33 total that they combined for (9, 9, and 15, respectively) this year. While it’€™s perfectly reasonable that the Royals would look for hidden value, it would seem silly for a team to not pursue value if it’s available, and — I can’t believe I’m saying this — home runs are valuable. The fact that the Royals struck out the fewest times was certainly nice, but the Royals were merely a league-average team when it came to getting on base, suggesting that they simply made outs in other ways.

Some have pointed to the fact that the Royals lack of power as a rejection of “big ball” in favor of “small ball” even though the Royals had only 33 sacrifice bunts all year, just above the American League average. For what it’s worth, contrary to earlier research, bunting is actually something of a break-even strategy and if you do it right (and don’t fall in love with it) it can provide value.

Verdict: The Royals seem to have won in spite of their power outage. I gather that there’s a small faction of baseball fans who see the Royals’€™ lack of home runs as something morally noble. While the Royals have shown that a team can get to the World Series without a big bopper, a big power hitter can still provide value, too, and teams would be silly to get rid of one to try to follow some sort of Royal Line of Success-ion. You work with what you have.

Perhaps the real lesson from the Royals’ recent success is to keep the young ones on the 25-man roster staying clear of Clash of Clans and other attention-grabbing video games. Here’s Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star:

The sight unnerved Rusty Kuntz as he entered the visitors’ clubhouse at Fenway Park on July 20. The Royals had just dropped their third game in a row, silenced by Boston ace Jon Lester, and had fallen below .500 for the first time in a month. They had tumbled from first place in their division and appeared content with floundering through the season’s second half.

When Kuntz walked inside the room, he saw a scene that had become all too familiar in recent weeks: a collection of Royals with their heads down, eyes locked on their iPads. The game was called “Clash of Clans,” and for a period of time this summer, its excessive usage by members of this club exasperated the coaching staff.

“At that time, in that situation, it’s really disappointing,” said Kuntz, the team’s first-base coach. He added, “You just got to a point where you go, ‘What’s the priority here? Is this just three hours out of your time, spent away from what you’re actually being interested in?

’We’ve got to find a way to get this changed, so that the priority is the game, and all this other stuff is secondary.’”

Over the next three months, the Royals evolved into a well-oiled machine built for October, a club undefeated in these playoffs and the hosts of game one of the World Series on Tuesday against San Francisco.

Hmmm, who knew that a video game featuring a wizard with Michael Lonsdale looks and Comic Book Guy voice could be as harmful to a clubhouse as beer and fried chicken?

After another suboptimal postseason performance on the mound, James Shields has demonstrated that he’s unworthy of the “Big Game” moniker. (David Schoenfield, ESPN SweetSpot: “Before his World Series Game 1 start, he had a career postseason ERA of 5.19 in nine starts. He’s now allowed 28 hits and 15 runs in 19 innings this postseason, after his early exit Tuesday.”) A healthy measure of sympathy is requested, however, since according to McCullough, the front-line starter recently revealed that he passed a kidney stone (shifts uncomfortably in chair) sometime during the American League Championship Series.

More here, here, and here.

Tags: MLB

Reveille 10/20/14



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Good morning.

Before we hit the links, I need to get something off my chest:

It’s important to differentiate between exciting postseason games and an exciting postseason. There’s no doubt that most of the contests played to date have been must-see TV. When not one of the six postseason series played so far have lasted more than one game above the minimum length, however, it’s clear that fans have been denied the latter. Four nights will have passed in between the national anthems being played, cracks of the bat, and strikes three getting called.

There’s no one to blame, of course, but this is the obvious downside when the NLCS lasts a mere five games and ALCS features a sweep. /rant

Anyway, here are several links from the past week that will make your Monday at the office a bit more bearable:​

4. Craig. Craig. Craig. Craig. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG. CRAIG.​ 

How to attack Herrera? He almost always throws a fastball on the first pitch — 89 percent of the time, saving his changeup and occasional curveball after he gets ahead in the count. Batters have hit .387 when putting the first pitch in play. Trouble is, opponents know to be aggressive against Herrera, as he has the highest first-pitch swing percentage of any pitcher on the Kansas City staff. It’s easy to say “swing at the first pitch,” but harder to execute when it’s a 99 mph fastball up and in or up and away.

Herrera had a gopherball problem last year when he allowed nine home runs through July. It looks like that was primarily an issue of location: more fastballs down the middle. Compared to 2013, his fastball location has gone to the upper corner of the zone.

So the best bet is to be aggressive early in the count and hope Herrera leaves one of those heaters down in the zone. Lefties did fare a little better against him, which could help the Giants as six of their eight position players hit from the left side (or switch-hit). 

The good news is that they don’t need to add much of anything that’s both new and expensive, and they can always designate a reliever for assignment or decline an option if they think they have enough depth but need a couple of million to work with. They won 96 games without a half-decent Chris Davis, with half-a-season of Machado, with a month of Matt Wieters, and with Ubaldo Jimenez making 22 starts. The 2015 Orioles need less Ubaldo and more of the other three, and things should work themselves out from there.

The rest of the AL East is in a similar state, to a degree. The Yankees need the hundreds of millions they spent on free agents a year ago to mean something, and they could also use a little more of the old Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia in their lives. The Blue Jays need to fill holes both from within and externally, but that’s been the story with them for decades: they’re a real, honest-to-goodness divisional threat once they manage that feat, if they manage it. The Red Sox and Rays were both teams with loads of talent that produced losing seasons for a variety of reasons, but if the Sox fill their rotation holes and the Rays find some hitters, both will be worthwhile opponents for the Orioles. The Orioles have their own questions going forward, but Baltimore is the most complete of all the AL East teams at the moment in spite of that.

  • While “D.R.,” writing in the Economist, admits that analytics-driven, front-office executives like Billy Beane of the A’s and Andrew Friedman, now with the Dodgers, have “impressively managed to stay a few steps ahead of their rivals,” he still believes they are being overvalued on balance

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!

Tags: MLB

Mike Matheny Deserves No Sympathy



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Regarding the Cardinals’ elimination from the postseason last night, courtesy of a walk-off, three-run blast courtesy of Travis Ishikawa, Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports’ Hardball Talk cuts right to the chase.

When Mike Matheny was asked after the game about his decision, with the season on the line in the ninth inning of a tie game, to forgo closer Trevor Rosenthal in favor of starter Michael Wacha, who had not seen any action since September 23, the St. Louis skipper replied, “We can’t bring him in, in a tie-game situation. We’re on the road.”

In response, Craig blurts out, “The save stat dictated what the manager of a team facing elimination did with his bullpen. That’s just . . . amazing.”

And by “amazing,” he means “brain dead.”

More here.

Tags: MLB

A Wildcard World Series: Wait, What?



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Back in 2007, Joel Sherman of the New York Post advocated for MLB to add a second wildcard to postseason play.

His reasoning?

Under this plan, you get the best of all worlds. By making the October road harder for wild cards, you amplify the importance of winning the division and also building the best record in the league. In addition, you expand the chances for more teams to compete for a playoff spot and, thus, potentially expand interest in the game.

Commissioner Bud Selig implemented such a proposal for the 2012 playoffs.

And wouldn’t you know? Travis Ishikawa wants you to know that winning the division in 2014 was way overrated.

In just the third season under the new format, both participants in this year’s World Series, Kansas City sporting a .549 winning percentage and San Francisco at .543, will be wildcard teams. Moreover, the National League’s entrant, the Giants, wouldn’t have even qualified under the old system.

Just . . . wow.

The Fall Classic gets underway on Tuesday at 8:07 p.m. EDT on FOX.

Tags: MLB

Twelve Inches: The Worst Pitch Call of 2014



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Tom Hallion isn’t working either this year’s ALCS or NLCS, but, having just tooled around with Bloomberg LP’s pitch-tracking data, I thought now would be as good a time as any to have a little fun at the veteran umpire’s expense.

As you will see in this video, back in mid August Elvis Andrus was the victim of a strike-one call on a pitch precisely 12.01 inches off of the plate, the most egregious call of the year. 

To be fair, Hallion, who has been a big-league ump for 25 seasons (1985–99, 2005–), is, overall, correct 85.86 percent of the time, an average that rests comfortably in the meaty portion of the curve.

More here, which as of the time of this posting, features the worst call of last night’s NLCS contest, 8.80 inches, courtesy of Bill Welke.

Tags: MLB

Reveille 10/13/14



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Good morning.

Here are several links from the past week that will make your Columbus Day at the office a bit more bearable:

  • Lorenzo Cain showed off both his speed and leather on Saturday with a great grab off the bat of J. J. Hardy.
  • Why should Royals and their fans worry about 2015 when they can enjoy watching Mike Moustakas rake in the postseason, asks Marc Normandin of SB Nation?

The reality of the situation is that Moose probably still is the same guy. It’s hard to believe that a switch flipped for him once the calendar turned to October — remember that Moustakas batted .247/.287/.296 in September, with the only real difference between that and his other bad months being that he failed to go deep at all instead of just a few times. You don’t want to read about that, though, not right now. Whether Moustakas is going to be a key piece of the Royals going forward or not is irrelevant in this moment, where he’s been a huge piece for a team that can use all the offensive help it can get as it attempts to make it to its first World Series since 1985. Thanks to Moustakas’ first two games in the ALCS, as well as his previous postseason play which helped bring them here to begin with, they just might pull it off.

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!

Tags: MLB

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