Rob Iracane: January 2010 Archives

Oh how I wish it was Tommy Lasorda himself and not his older brother Eddie who was getting harassed by scam artists trying to make a buck off an innocent senior citizen. If it was Tommy, a public figure whom we've had our fun with in the past, I'd unleash an tsunami of barbs and verbal arrows at my doddering old paisano. Instead, I shed a single tear at the idea that poor Eddie was confused and frightened by the avalanche of junk mail promising big cash prizes.

Courtesy of our man Meech, the video:


And yes, that is a Snoopy phone in the sheriff's office.

With deference to the late, great Mel Allen and the good people at Eater.com, we present the inaugural edition of This Tweet in Baseball, your weekly rundown of all our favorite players, managers, gadabouts, and cads around the Baseballtweetosphere:

Our favorite steroid truther brags about being in demand and misuses an apostrophe like it was a fly ball and the sentence was his head:


Former Seton Hall Pirate Jason Grilli is obviously having trouble accessing his favorite adult websites and needs some tech support, STAT:


Professional fashionista and bumbling brotard Nick Swisher engages his followers with deep, thoughtful questions:


Utility man Mark Teahen, however, objects to Nick's assumption:


Oft-opinionated relief pitcher C.J. Wilson took his entourage out for a fancy night on the town:


And what would a weekly rundown in the Twittersphere be without our old, old friend Tommy Lasorda recklessly dropping a famous dead guy's name:


Thoughts? Feedback? Any idears of other baseball folks we should be following on Twitter? Let us know.

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The World Umpires Association ratified an new labor agreement with Major League Baseball on Monday that will give them at least five more years of making the right call 99.6% of the time and getting the business from fans, owners, announcers, columnists, beat writers, bloggers, your Aunt Helen, managers, players, and peanut vendors the remaining 0.4%:

"It wasn't unanimous, but it was the most overwhelming vote I've ever participated in," said Joe West, the veteran umpire who is president of the umpires' union. "Everyone is very happy and pleased that we could work through this. This was a good day for baseball and a good day for the umpires. We will make every effort to keep baseball and professional umpires first. We will all work hard to make it right."

Translation: Country Joe West is just happy they included a clause that covers any medical expenses stemming from stomach-stapling surgery. So, what exactly is new in this plan?

As part of the agreement, Commissioner Bud Selig will have more flexibility to dictate expansion of the instant replay system and umpires will now be able to work in successive World Series. There was also a modest pay raise that increases over the course of the contract and buyouts that will allow veteran umpires the ability to retire early.

Emphasis mine. Of course the emphasis is mine, MLB.com doesn't embolden certain passages in their press releases.

But what does this mean, umpires will be allowed to retire early? Wouldn't they get a benefits and pension plan if they stayed in the game until a certain retirement age was reached? Or is this merely a ploy for baseball to force early retirement on aging umpires whose aging judgment they feel has declined enough to warrant dismissal?

The way it works now, umpires are not like players, because they can stay in the game as long as they want. Umpire skills, unlike player skills, don't fall off a cliff at age 35. They do, however, sometimes fall off a cliff at age 55, which is why Bud Selig and his boys decided the only way they can persuade an old fart like Ed Montague to take a trip to Shady Pines would be to drive a dumptruck full of money up to his door.

Don't forget that this is still a young union, only in existence since 1999, the year former Major League Umpires Association president Richie Phillips led his minions into ill-fated tilt at the windmills of relevance. That was the old, stronger and centralized union. This is a new union, well under the thumb of Herr Selig. Still, a union is a union is a union and the umpires are well-compensated for their full-time job and in far better shape than most organized labor in this country.

So if you start to see a handful of veteran umpires getting their gold watches a bit early and heading off into the sunset in a brand new Cadillac, you'll know who nudged him in the right direction. Exactly, the robot umpires.

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...if Carlos Beltran distrusted them so much that he used his own personal physician to scope out his arthritic knee? Beltran will miss 8-12 weeks (or shorter, if you believe Will Carroll) after having the surgery, which allegedly happened without the Mets' knowledge. As per Joel Sherman of the NY Post:

And for now, the Mets and one of their key players are clearly in conflict. A person familiar with the situation told the Post that the Commissioners Office and the Players Association have been alerted that "the Mets are claiming this was done without clearance and that the Mets are threatening to take some form of action. There is a potential issue out there."

You can understand the Mets' concerns about potentially losing their best player for a month or so, especially after he missed half of 2009 because of ouchies. But regardless of whether the punishment will be monetary or a public shaming-by-dunking in Flushing Bay, the team is going to come off looking like the bad guy. Yes, even though the Mets fans are a bunch of unappreciative doofuses who take every opportunity to disparage of the best center fielders of his generation, the team will look really ridiculous if they give Beltran the business for just doing his best to get healthy.

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Please welcome Walkoff Walk reader and commenter Matt DeTura as he contributes this timely and informative guest piece. Take it away, MDT:

By the time you read this (or after you've attended the session and then taken a nap if you're crazy enough to show up live in THIS weather) the Supreme Court will have heard oral arguments in American Needle v. NFL, one of the more important sports cases to come across One First Street's docket in a while.

The core of the case centers around a lower court decision that held that the NFL was a single entity - not a collection of teams in competition - and therefore exempt from section 1 of the Sherman Act governing anti-trust law which prohibits "concerted action that unreasonably restrains trade". American Needle challenged the NFL's exclusive contracts with suppliers like Reebok which made them the only providers for things like hats. ANI appealed the decision all the way up the ladder, and in an unusual move, the NFL supported the appeal, knowing that if it could get the Supreme Court to affirm the broadest decision it would be exempt from the Act (since a single entity can't engage in concerted action).

This, as a baseball fan, is the point at which you're allowed to yawn and say "Football. Who gives a damn?" And the short answer is that, as a baseball fan: you don't have to. Let's discuss why after the jump.

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Last night, the MLB Network scored a major coup as Mark McGwire, with an assist by former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, sat in front of a bunch of cameras and chatted with TV sports gadabout Bob Costas. McGwire shocked the nation with his revelation that he used steroids for most of his career while Bob Costas shocked the nation by telling us that he packed two suits on his most recent road trip.

Because I am just as opinionated as a roomful of crusty old columnists, I give you my report card for the interview and the fallout:

  • Mark McGwire, B: Probably cried authentic tears, but never really broke down into a full "boo-hoo" cry that would have convinced a nation of amateur psychoanalysts that he was sincere. He never admitted that steroids helped him hit home runs, nor should he have said such a ridiculous statement. The drugs helped him heal; the drugs helped him get far more at-bats than his body would have allowed; the drugs helped him extend his career. You gonna hate a man for doing anything and everything to extend his multi-million-dollar career? Also, Mac never pimped himself as a HOFer, even refusing to answer the question if he would vote for himself; instead, he came off like a family man who wanted nothing more than to work as a hitting coach under a convicted drunk driver. The American dream!

  • Bob Costas, A-: Avoided both snark and softball questions (until the end, when Mr. Costas peppered Big Mac with such questions as "Are you going to miss your kids when you're on the road?"). Perhaps due to the peculiar camera angles, we were able to see Bob's classic blue suit in full, accompanied by a diagonally striped tie. Costas knew last week that he'd be doing this interview so he packed an extra suit with him on his previously scheduled football trip to Dallas. Now that's planning. Would have been an A+ if Bob asked Big Mac about how steroids affected Little Mac.

  • Interior decorators, D: The room where the MLB Network folks set up shop for Costas to conduct the interview was relatively plain and looked something like your nana's living room. Kudos, however, to whomever decided to display an elegant Italian platter in front of the fireplace.

  • Herr Bud Selig, B-: Bud released a statement yesterday that praises McGwire for coming clean all the while digging that knife into the players' backs, with this: "Being truthful is always the correct course of action, which is why I had commissioned Senator George Mitchell to conduct his investigation." Oh right, I forgot George Mitchell stopped baseball players from using drugs, stupid me!

  • Brian Williams, F: For wasting our time as a nation by opening the evening news with a prepared statement throwing McGwire under the steroid bus and not even having the balls to call Big Mac an asshole.

  • Any boob who links McGwire and Tiger, F-: Stop demanding that our celebrities apologize. It's embarrassing for all parties involved.

  • Baseball fans who think McGwire and Sosa saved baseball, D: Sure, it was a cute story back in 1998, but if you were one of the dopes who thought that famous home run chase "brought baseball back," go back in time and punch yourself in the face. The United States courts supported the players union and issued an injunction against the owners in March, 1995. That's what saved baseball. Good ol' fashioned litigation.

  • Jim Thome, A+: For coming clean on his own personal demons.

Who else deserves to pass this test or fall flat on their face?

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Did you know that people in Cincinnati like to serve their chili on top of a heaping pile of already-soggy and overcooked spaghetti? No? Haven't you been reading WoW for long enough now to note that every time the Reds are in the news we mention Skyline Chili?

Anyway, the Reds, under the direction of G.M. Walt Jocketty and team owner Marge Schott's racist dog's ghost, have signed Cuban defector and pitcher-of-the-future Aroldis Chapman to a five year, $30 million deal that will make him the most notable Chapman since Grizz.

Folks say that Dusty Baker will absolutely ruin this talented kid's young developing arm, but in reality, ol' Dusty might be canned by the time Aroldis and his Livan Hernandezesque rate of five walks per nine innings reaches the big leagues later in 2010 or in 2011.

Of course, because a middling team like the Reds paid the big bucks for Aroldis, we laugh and taunt. But had a big budget monolith like the Red Sox signed him, we'd sigh and say "Again, the rich getting richer!" Or something like that.



Good thing he didn't give Saban the swirly move or perhaps Alabama doesn't walk away with a tidy win last night.

Andre Dawson: in. Bert Blyleven, Roberto Alomar, and Todd Zeile: out. And since the BBWAA stole our collective souls today, I stole their HTML for this nifty chart that displays their utter inability to disperse votes to reputable baseball players. The voting results:

2010 Hall of Fame voting
Name Votes Pct.
Andre Dawson 420 77.9%
Bert Blyleven 400 74.2%
Roberto Alomar 397 73.7%
Jack Morris 282 52.3%
Barry Larkin 278 51.6%
Lee Smith 255 47.3%
Edgar Martinez 195 36.2%
Tim Raines 164 30.4%
Mark McGwire 128 23.7%
Alan Trammell 121 22.4%
Fred McGriff 116 21.5%
Don Mattingly 87 16.1%
Dave Parker 82 15.2%
Dale Murphy 63 11.7%
Harold Baines 33 6.1%
Andres Galarraga 22 4.1%
Robin Ventura 7 1.3%
Ellis Burks 2 0.4%
Eric Karros 2 0.4%
Kevin Appier 1 0.2%
Pat Hentgen 1 0.2%
David Segui 1 0.2%
Mike Jackson 0 0.0%
Ray Lankford 0 0.0%
Shane Reynolds 0 0.0%
Todd Zeile 0 0.0%
Note: 405 votes (75%) required for enshrinement. Induction July 25, 2010 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Thoughts?

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Notoriously outspoken critic of advanced statistics Jon Heyman has a Hall of Fame ballot and he's not afraid to wave it in your face in a taunting motion, all the while dancing around in endless circular reasoning that is jeopardizing the candidacy of one of history's greatest pitchers. Like a dog chasing its own tail, Heyman's arguments for keeping Bert Blyleven out of Cooperstown are not based on sound analysis but rather on an endless loop of doublespeak and his own profession's inability to recognize brilliance.

More on the circular logic claims in a bit. In his annual ballot explanation column, Heyman explains that he won't vote for Bert Blyleven because Bert was a "great compiler" and not a "great player." First, let's read along while Heyman claims to hate statistics but, in the same breath, professes his love for numbers. Which is weird, because what is a statistic except a series of numbers interpreted in a clever way to prove something new and different?

I look at numbers, too, and while my numbers may be slightly more simplistic than WHIP, WAR or VORP, I think they tell a story of a pitcher who was extremely good, consistent and durable but not quite Cooperstown-worthy.

Slightly more simplistic? That's an understatement. Heyman's favorite number to examine when evaluating a pitcher is 'wins'. That's a simple counting stat. A kindergartner could comprehend the concept of counting. Heck, a dead retarded squirrel could understand the numbers Heyman looks at. But! Let us be inclusive, for one mustn't need a B.S. in Mathematics to understand WHIP or ERA+ or WAR, you just need a link to Alex Remington's didactic and entertaining work.

Besides, if Heyman is going to look at 'wins' as his triumphant number, wouldn't it stand to reason that Blyleven and his 287 wins deserves the honor more than Jack Morris (who Heyman did cast a vote for) and his 254 wins?

Heyman then repeats the same mantra that Blyleven naysayers have been spouting for years:

Only four times in 22 seasons did he receive Cy Young votes (he was third twice, fourth and seventh once), only twice did he make the All-Star team and only twice did he win more than 17 games.

Jon Heyman won't vote for Blyleven because he didn't get enough Cy Young votes in his career. The Cy Young Award is voted on by members of the BBWAA. Jon Heyman is voting for the Hall of Fame, which requires him to be a member of the BBWAA for a certain number of years. Heyman himself represents this organization of baseball writers that does the voting in both situations. To put Heyman's argument into simpler terms:

I, Jon Heyman, member of the BBWAA, won't vote for Bert Blyleven for the Hall of Fame because my fellow BBWAA members in the 1970s and 1980s didn't vote often enough for Bert Blyleven in the Cy Young Award races.

Did Blyleven ever deserve to win the Cy Young Award in any year of his career? Probably not, but for a guy to finish in the top ten in ERA a whopping ten times, top ten in strikeouts 14 times, and top ten in shutouts ten times, you'd think he should gotten a few more votes in a few more years. Is it his fault that wins were over-valued during that era by the BBWAA voters? No. Is it his fault that he only won 20 games once? Partly, but not entirely.

It's circular reasoning and it's wrong. Ask Heyman why writers like him don't pay enough respect to Blyleven's career and he'll tell you, "Well, writers like me didn't pay enough respect to Blyleven's career." The BBWAA is made up of very talented writers who sometimes inadvertently regress to personal biases when they rate players (see: Morris, Jack). We should be using new, advanced statistics to eliminate or maybe just soften these biases; we should be evaluating both active and historic players with a fair eye.

Heyman continues:

My contention regarding Blyleven is that almost no one viewed him as a Hall of Famer during his playing career, and that is borne out by the 17 percent of the vote he received in his first year of eligibility in 1998, followed by 14 percent the next year.

Did you go back and interview the 3,701 batters that Blyleven struck out in his 22 year career, Jon, and ask them if they ever thought Bert was a Hall of Famer as they flailed at a wicked curveball? And do writers ever make mistakes in their HOF voting that they later correct?

Or do we ever take a step back and realize that perhaps our initial thoughts about a situation were incorrect and the time has come to reevaluate using new information? It's like Heyman is convinced that Blyleven has weapons of mass destruction in his bedroom closet and refuses to issue an apology for breaking into his house and rifling through his linens only to find an unsold crate of "Circle Me Bert" t-shirts.

Smarter people have spelled out Blyleven's candidacy in more elegant ways than I, and smarter people have given Heyman the business over his persistent campaign of anti-Bert sentiments. But let us not ignore the fallacies in Heyman's arguments that make it seem like his campaign to keep Blyleven out of Cooperstown is more like a personal vendetta against smart folks and not an honest evaluation of one of baseball's greatest pitchers.

And yes, Mr. Heyman, I may be just a youngster but I remember Blyleven's excellent comeback season in 1989 with California, but I still don't think one needs to witness greatness in person to realize the existence of a historic talent.