Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mr. Silver Lining

The end of the World Series is traditionally accepted as the beginning of winter (aka The Season of Doom™) here at The Home Office. If not for hockey, I think I might just pull the covers up over my head and wait for spring. But, just to show even I have an optimistic side, here’s the good news that comes from the end of baseball season:

No Tim McCarver until next year.

For me, that means almost a literal year, as I avoid Fox games in season, in part because they start at 4:00 Eastern on Saturdays, but mostly to avoid him. Here are a few of his standout comments from the year’s World Series:

California became a state in 1850, just one year after the 49ers discovered gold there in 1849. (not just a master of the obvious, unnecessary comment, but a mathematician.)

What a headline: a home run and a flare. (After Edgar Renteria hit a home run to give the Giants the lead in Game 2, with a cross reference to his Series-winning single in 1997. I get the reference, and I still don’t know why he said this.)

Last night he was in rare form, criticizing Rangers’ manager Ron Washington for pitching to Renteria with two out and runners on second and third in the seventh inning of a scoreless tie. With first base open, McCarver wanted Renteria walked, even though he’d hit only 3 home runs in 243 at bats and Cliff Lee was pitching. McCarver—and too many others in baseball—want to walk everybody holding a bat. It started with Jack Clark in the 80s and reached its peak with Barry Bonds, where some managers would walk him in the first inning with men on and first base open. The best hitters make outs 70% of the time, and the greatest sluggers hit home runs less than 10% of their at bats. Cliff Lee is a legitimately great pitcher who was on his game last night. The worst part is, Renteria went deep, so we had to listen to McCarver and his smug little sidekick Joe Buck go on about how smart he is for the rest of the game.

Bottom of the seventh, Ian Kinsler up, 3-1 count. “He has to take here,” McCarver said. “Make Lincecum throw two strikes.” Sure enough, Kinsler was taking all the way and Lincecum walked him on the 3-2 pitch. I still think it’s a bad move. Down two runs (Nelson Cruz had homered to cut the Giants’ lead to 3-1), sit on a pitch you can hammer. The way Lincecum is throwing, getting a runner home from first is not a foregone conclusion, and Kinsler was, in fact, stranded.

After going on about how Kinsler had to take, McCarver had no issue with David Murphy swinging at a 2-0 pitch in the next at bat. Murphy was completely overmatched all night, swinging at pitched he couldn’t have hit with a bed slat, yet Kinsler should take and Murphy can swing. He swung at ball three and eventually struck out, stranding Kinsler.

A bonus from last night, after a brief video reminder of the Giants’ last World Series victory, in 1954: “That was 1954. Now they’re in San Francisco.”

As I’ve said before and will say again, Tim McCarver is living proof there is no just and merciful God.

Another good thing about the end of the Series is, we don’t have to listen to the Rangers’ organist playing that four-note “Let’s Go, Rangers” chant any more. You usually want to whip up the crowd when your team is at bat, but this was played with maddening frequency when the Giants were hitting. Even if you can’t trust your fans to sit for a single pitch without some intervention on your part, mix it up a little. I prefer the organ to that stupid “Everybody clap your hands” or “Day-O,” but show some variety.

I knew the Rangers were beat when Cruz hit his home run that might have given them life. He trotted around the bases like it was June, and no one came out of the dugout, just slapped hands as he came in. I expected to see him tear-assing around to fire up his boys, who had come onto the field to thank him for starting their potentially game-winning rally. Lincecum had them beat and they knew it, as was shown a few minutes later when Benji Molina pulled up a step short of the wall and let an easily catchable pop-up fall unattended. It didn’t hurt them—Feliz still struck the guy out—but it spoke volumes.

Congratulations to the Giants. They had the best pitching I’ve seen in a Series for years, and enough offense and defense to make it stand up. Depending too much on pitching is always risky—pitchers get hurt—but if this group can stay healthy—and theGiants can afford them—they should contend for several years.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Line of the Year

From Phillies' manager Charlie Manuel, after Roy Halliday's no-hitter put the Phillies up 1-0 in the NLDS:

"You saw some great managing tonight."


Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Guess He Was Teaching Them To Win

The Pirates have fired Altoona manager Matt Walbeck, who just guided the Curve to the Eastern League (AA) championship, supposedly for not following their developmental rules rigidly enough.

And here I was, thinking he might replace Russell. Dumb ass.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


The first two were fun. This is going to be work.

Ohlendorf and McDonald have earned opportunities to be in the rotation for a full year to see how things shake out. Both look like they have the potential to solid major league starters.

Zach Duke needs to cut a bargain. We have plenty of pitchers who can give us an ERA over 5.00 for a lot less money. He's been around long enough to figure things out. It's time to produce.

Paul Maholm is under contract for 2011, and he's been a stalwart on a bad staff before, so let it ride. He also needs to pick things up, or there's no reason to tender him for 2012.

Karstens is already penciled in as the emergency man, sixth starter and long reliever. He was probably the Pirates' most valuable starter for much of this year, stepping in and doing well when everyone was falling apart. He deserved a spot, assuming his arm is sound.

Charlie Morton is the most frustrating pitcher I've ever seen. If he ever gets the command and consistency to match his stuff, watch out. He's looked much better of late, but falling in love with a good month from a young pitcher is a sure way to get your heart broken.

Brad Lincoln. Showed flashes, but not enough. Needs to come up big in spring training and establish something in the SHow before the kids currently at Altoona start pounding on the door and he becomes the staff's forgotten man.

Daniel McCutchen, Chris Jakubauskus, Bryan Morris, Donnie Veal: Step up, boys. Plenty of chances for everyone.

Got to give Huntington credit, he can build bullpens. Had a good one and blew it up at the deadline, and already has the core of a good one in place. Keeping Hanrahan and Meek was a good start, but I don't think anyone can say they haven't been surprised by Chan Ho Park and Chris Resop and keep a straight face. Bullpens are inconsistent by nature, but Huntington has given reason for optimism on this front.

The Outfield

Continuing on...

Left Field - Jose Tabata. This one's easy.

Center Field - Andrew McCutchen. Another gimme.

Right Field - Enough candidates that a healthy platoon arrangement would be great to get everyone some at bats while things sorted themselves out, but...all the best candidates hit left-handed. (Lastings Milledge is, at best, a fourth outfielder on a mediocre team.) Bowker has shown flashes, Presley is an intriguing player (though the Pirates really need a corner outfielder with some pop), and Brandon Moss drove in 96 runs for Indianapolis (though with pedestrian OBP/SLG/OPS numbers). Garrett Jones can't be left out of the mix. His not quite outstanding power numbers can be carried better in the outfield than at first, and he's not a bad outfielder. Aside from catcher, right field probably has the most questions, but also the most potential answers.

The Infield

The season ends this weekend, so I decided to get my thoughts on the Pirates down before hockey takes over. (Yes, I know it's football season. I'm just not jazzed about it this year, and I'm not 100% sure why not. Maybe watching the Baltimore game on Sunday while wearing my Hines Ward shirt will rev me up.) The Pirates have played pretty well down the stretch, winning seven of nine on their last home stand, beating St. Louis impressively last night. (Sure, it's a St. Louis AAAA team, but Pujols and Holliday played, so I'm taking full satisfaction.) The home record was 40-41, so even a return to being bad on the road next year can lead to quite a bit of improvement. (Just winning one of three on the road would have made this season's final record 67-95, which stinks, but we'd all take it right now.)

I'll get the whole team during the week. I'll start with the infield.

Catcher - Not really a weakness right now, but not a strength, and no one can afford to spend what will probably be at least 25% of next years budget on one position that's not better than this. Doumit can hit, can't catch; Snyder can catch, but can't hit. One of them has to go. It looks like the hitting might be coming around in other positions, and this will be a young staff that might benefit from a better receiver, so I'm thinking Snyder stays. The backup has to have a bat, so one may have to be obtained, unless they want to roll the dice with Eric Kratz, who hit well in Indianapolis. Tony Sanchez is on the way, but not before 2013.

First Base - If Garrett Jones hits like he did the second half of 2009, this position is set. If he hits like he did this year, he could be a decent left-handed half of a platoon if you can find a right-handed bopper. Getting half a player is easier than getting a whole player, so this might work out. (Steve Pearce, anyone?)

Second Base - Neil Walker. Boy, did our crack scouts miss the boat on this one.

Shortstop - Ronny Cedeno stinks. I'm not scout, but even I can see why teams keep giving him a chance. 2010 was his sixth year in the Show; if he was going to show any consistency, he would have shown it. He continues to make errors on routine plays, which a contact pitching staff such as ours can't afford. On offense, he has some pop, but his average is low, and only Stephen Hawking walks less. A key position to upgrade.

Third Base - Pedro Alvarez. Coming on strong, closing holes in his swing. Looks like he might be as good as they said he'd be.

Next: The Outfield

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Slipping Under the Radar

The NHL salary cap has been a great equalizer for the league, and has probably save a few teams from folding or moving, notably the Pens. Still, teams with money can get around it too easily.

New Jersey got a lot of ink and flak for its 17-year, $102 million contract with Ilya Kovalchuk, a deal that so blatantly circumvented the spirit of the cap the league had to intervene. (The contract's voiding was upheld by an arbitrator and new jersey signed Kovalchuk to a slightly less offensive contract. The league's subsequent $3 million fine was piling on.) The league was right to step in in this sort of contract, of which several had been signed. (Most notably the Blackhawks' deal with winger Marian Hossa.) Still, there's another loophole that's being increasingly exploited that only rich teams can take advantage of: minor leagues.

The cap only counts players on the major league roster. There is some relief for long-term injuries, though it appears to be hard to get. What's easier, and becoming more popular, is to avoid a cap hit by sending the player to a minor league, as the Blackhawks did this week with goalie Cristobal Huet.

Yes, Pittsburgh did the same thing with Miroslav Satan a couple of years ago to make room for Bill Guerin during their 2009 Cup run, but that was at the end of the season where they had some cash to play with. The Hawks have send Huet yodeling off to Switzerland for the entire season, eating $5.5 million. The article doesn't say whether he can be recalled. Even if he can't that's a hell of lot of cap relief if you can afford to pay for it.

This makes the cap more like the tax code, allowing for assets to be shifted to they don't count. Anytime anything is compared to the tax code, you know there's something unfair about it.