April 2010

Honey Nut Ichiros?

I absolutely love this: CBS Sports.Com’s list of the 200 most frequently used team names in its 100,000 fantasy baseball leagues. 

Most of these names are absurdly obvious or overly familiar (Gashouse Gorillas, Chico’s Bail Bonds, Boys Of Summer, Naturals, etc.) But many of them provide tremendous insight into the nature of the rotisserian’s mind, and maybe a little bit into what’s popular in baseball and what isn’t:

1 Evil Empire

5 Bronx Bombers

6 Yankees/New York Yankees

7 Bombers

20 Murderer’s Row

42 Highlanders

86 Yankees Suck

131 Damn Yankees

136 Pinstripes

169 Beantown Bombers

I’m beginning to sense a little theme there. Obviously “Evil Empire” probably vaulted to the top with the help of more than a couple of Star Wars/Not Yankees fans, but still, that’s a lot of Yank reverence (honestly, how many “Beantown Bombers” could there be? No hard numbers are offered here – by 169th place three of one team might be sufficient).

But what on earth is that 6th entry. You call your fantasy team The New York Yankees? What part of “fantasy” is unclear to you. Thankfully that’s the extent of the pure rip-offs of extant franchises.
Or not:

2 Springfield Isotopes/Isotopes

9 Red Sox/Boston Red Sox

10 Cubs/Chicago Cubs

13 Mets/New York Mets

16 Tigers/Detroit Tigers

19 Brew Crew

23 Braves/Atlanta Braves

29 Indians/Cleveland Indians

32 Big Red Machine

39 Dodgers/LA Dodgers

49 Cardinals/St. Louis Cardinals

54 Redbirds

60 Phillies

61 Mudhens

75 Reds

76 Brewers

80 Splendid Splinters

81 Red Sox Nation

87 Durham Bulls

92 Amazins

100 Rangers

108 Mariners

115 Tampa Bay Rays

118 Gas House Gang

121 Cubbies

122 Minnesota Twins

123 Louisville Sluggers

129 Kansas City Royals

132 Astros

137 Orioles

140 Expos

162 Dodger Blue

165 San Diego Padres

166 Florida Marlins

172 San Francisco Giants

178 Toronto Blue Jays

180 Rockies

184 Chicago White Sox

185 Senators

188 Homestead Grays

190 Washington Nationals

Your fantasy team is named The Chicago White Sox? I mean I get “Washington Nationals” if you live in the state, or in Washington, PA. If you’re Jay, “Toronto Blue Jays” sounds pretty cool. But where are the Ed Sox, Dead Sox, Fred Sox, Ned Sox, Ted Sox,
and ‘Nuf Ced Sox?

Here is yet another subtle theme:

14 Roid Rage

37 Juiced

57 Balco Bombers

64 Balco

82 HGH

127 Roid Ragers

170 Balco Boys

All right, enough ripping. Five of these I really liked, the first because as cliched as it might be, it represents an epic failure to come up with a fake name in a different context and might thus be described as “meta”:

35 McLovin

43 Kenny Powers

51 Honey Nut Ichiros

128 Little Lebowski Urban Achievers

139 Jeters Never Prosper

I would definitely be proud to call a team of mine “Jeters Never Prosper,” or, especially, “Honey Nut Ichiros,” which is inspired – as long as you’re not in an NL-only league.

For the record I have largely tried to avoid puns for my teams (my teams this year are homages to my Dad: The New York Watoshes and Still Mad They Traded Souchock). But I have operated franchises called New York Annyongkees (I was in a league with a bunch of guys from “Arrested Development”), Somali Pirates, and Keith Myaths (the last one must be said aloud to get the full effect – but may be offensive to, I don’t know, somebody).
Tangentially, if you’ve read this far, a couple of fantasy tips that also seem relevant to the real game. First, it sure looks like the jig is up in Colorado for Clint Barmes, and a line-up spot (in fact a lead-off spot) has been opened for Eric Young, Jr. I’d grab him, and Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals if you have not, to say nothing of the guy who might be the annual “I Wouldn’t Touch Him…They’ll Figure Him Out Soon…I Passed On This Guy 10 Times?” award winner: Carlos Silva of the Cubs.

Another Heir Apparent, Uke, And Papi Pinch-Hit For

The estimable Hank Schulman of The San Francisco Chronicle adds to the previous post about Heirs Apparent that the insider for the Giants’ manager’s job the next time it comes open is former catcher Steve Decker, now managing for them at Fresno. He was, briefly, part of the Giants’ Black and Decker battery, which could be revived in the NL West if he got the San Francisco job while Bud Black is still running San Diego.
Good thoughts for Bob Uecker, who you know is one of the great baseball announcers and baseball people. You may not have had the honor I’ve had, to have worked with Bob during the ’97 World Series, and to stay in touch ever since. They do not make them better than Uke and metaphorically speaking, that they are treating his heart means they will have something big and robust to work with.

Lastly, when Tito Francona pinch-hit Mike Lowell for David Ortiz with the lead run on in the 8th and righty Kevin Gregg coming in at Toronto in the 8th, I thought, gee I like my AL predictions four weeks after I posted them here:

Here is the unasked question in BOSTON: would the Red Sox rather have David Ortiz at DH this year… or Luke Scott? Where, production-wise, will Not-So-Big-Papi fall in 2010? I think he’s behind Guerrero, Kubel, Lind, Matsui, Scott, and maybe others. If the demise of the beast continues, the Red Sox are suddenly presenting a very pedestrian line-up…keep the Ortiz thought in the back of your mind. What if the second half of ’09 was the aberration, not the first half? Will the Sox have to bench him? And if so, could the twists and turns of fate find them suddenly grateful that they had been unable to trade Mike Lowell?…As I have written here before, I am not buying the premise that what in essence was a trade of Melky Cabrera, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, for a full-time Brett Gardner plus Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson was necessarily an upgrade – even if Javier Vazquez (9 career post-season innings; 11 career post-season earned runs) was thrown in, in the bargain… In TAMPA BAY, I’m betting 2009 was the fluke and not 2008. What does one not like about this team? Is rightfield confused? Stick Ben Zobrist there and let Sean Rodriguez have a shot at second. That doesn’t work? Wait for mid-season and the promotion of Desmond Jennings. You don’t like Crawford and Upton? Bartlett and Longoria? Pena? The law firm of Shoppach and Navarro? The Rays seem to summon a fully-grown starter from the minors each year – Price in ’08, Niemann in ’09, Wade Davis in ’10. 

Heir Apparents, Part Two

As promised over the weekend, part two of the “Informed Speculation” about the likeliest successors for each American League managerial post where the incumbent to vanish tomorrow. As I offered in the NL version a few posts down, the breakdown of where the 30 current skippers came from, offers the speculator little hope he’s right:

Managers promoted from own AAA team            0

Managers promoted from coaches                     6

Managers already working in organization           5

Hires directly from other organizations               19

That makes identifying those heir apparents a dicey game. Nevertheless:
BALTIMORE: The Orioles believe Brad Komminsk, managing for them at Bowie, is one of the minors’ top prospects. Fans of the 1983-87 Braves will find this more than a little ironic, since they considered him one of the minors’ top prospects as an outfielder. Interestingly, the other guy in the NL thought to be in Komminsk’s class in the same era? Billy Beane of the Mets, better known as Mr. Moneyball. For outside hires the O’s are said to like Phil Garner.
BOSTON: An interesting question now that Brad Mills has moved on. Before Joe Girardi got the Yankee job, there was a brief whiff of a rumor that Boston pitching coach John Farrell was a candidate there. Between his rapport with the staff and his front office experience, he would seem a likely managerial prospect. Tim Bogar is also highly regarded.
CHICAGO: Joey Cora. Like Oquendo in St. Louis, this is only if somebody else doesn’t get him first.
CLEVELAND: I thought Sandy Alomar (Junior) would be a big league manager back when he was the potent catcher for the Tribe, and I still think so. No change is anywhere near imminent – they like Manny Acta’s style.
DETROIT: Oddly given Jim Leyland’s approaching 25th anniversary of taking over the Bucs, I don’t hear a lot about this. Two men who succeeded him in Pittsburgh, Gene Lamont and Lloyd McClendon, would be obvious choices.
KANSAS CITY: John Gibbons. Hiring a recently dismissed, no-nonsense ex-manager as your bench coach, is the standard process for anointing an heir apparent.
LOS ANGELES: Having already spun off one top manager (Joe Maddon), Mike Scioscia might have another one or two. Ron Roenicke is the bench coach, and Dino Ebel has a ton of minor league managerial experience.
MINNESOTA: Since the Twins hired Gene Mauch in the off-season of 1975-76, only once have they looked outside the organization. In fact, only once have they not looked to their own coaching staff – and even then they hired a coach (Ray Miller from the Orioles, in mid-season 1985). Johnny Goryl, Billy Gardner, Tom Kelly, Ron Gardenhire, and who? This would point us at Scott Ullger.
NEW YORK: Another one not likely to be soon addressed. Third base coach Rob Thomson seems too low-key, bench coach Tony Pena too peripheral. They do think highly of ex-Reds’ skipper Dave Miley, who has produced two firsts in four years managing at AAA. Could there be a Don Mattingly reunion? Only if they ask him – before the Dodgers do.
OAKLAND, SEATTLE: No earthly clue.
TAMPA BAY: Could easily be bench coach Dave Martinez. New hitting coach Derek Shelton was a helluva managing prospect in the Yankees’ system.
TEXAS: See the entry for Kansas City above. Clint Hurdle has “Clint Hurdle will replace Ron Washington for at least the rest of the season, Nolan Ryan said,” written all over him.
TORONTO: Nobody’s said anything formally but it’s Brian Butterfield. He’s been training for this since switching from minor league player to instructor in 1984, but he’s still only 52. Unless the Jays feel some burning need for a name to succeed Cito Gaston, or the desire to bring in a 1993 Toronto great like Alfredo Griffin or Huck Flener, it’s Butterfield. The other prospect in this system, though just a year and a month away from the active roster, is Sal Fasano.


Jean Afterman Talks A Little Smack

As Joe Girardi and President Obama held the World Series Trophy, the verbal jousting at the White House between The White-Sox-Fan-In-Chief and an “unidentified” member of the party of New York Yankees has already been wildly misquoted to include words like “hate.” It actually went thusly, according to a careful review of the audio on the videotape:

Yankee: Wanna hold it? You may not get the chance to again!

President: And you wonder why the other teams don’t root for them.

The “unidentified” speaker is Jean Afterman, Vice President and Assistant General Manager, and the executive in charge of the Yanks’ international player procurement.

Hey You Kids, Get Off My Mound; And The Next Manager Is…

I have to agree with Dallas Braden – it was a sign of disrespect, or an attempt at gamesmanship, for Alex Rodriguez to cut back to first across the mound in the afternoon in Oakland. And I have to agree with Rodriguez that Braden’s temper tantrum in the dugout was bush league. And I have to agree with whoever investigates Braden’s comments that they probably already constitute a threat, or certainly something to watch in future meetings.

Here in New York the Cubs just completed a somnambulant series loss to the Mets and the listlessness of the team makes one wonder if Lou Piniella has just had enough of his underachieving, poorly-designed team. The irony here is that Cub starting pitching may not have been this good in decades – good enough that I entirely buy the idea of moving Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen, at least unless and until Carlos Silva or Tom Gorzelanny collapses.
But Piniella’s ennui and the unlikely fact that two other big league skippers are already official lame ducks has made me think, and put out a few calls, about who would be the likeliest successor to each of the current 30 big league skippers. There are some interesting facts to consider: none of the current managers were promoted to the big league job from having been manager of the team’s AAA affiliate, and only six (Gardenhire, Geren, Jerry Manuel, Riggleman, Trembley, Tracy) were promoted from their own team’s coaching staff (although Cox, Gaston, Girardi, Hinch, and Charlie Manuel were working in their organizations in other jobs when they became the boss). 
Thus 19 of the current 30 big league managers are outside hires, making predicting successors a dicey business. Still we’ll try – and none of these names are meant to suggest I know anything about any imminent changes – I’ll start in the NL and try the AL over the weekend. Where I have no clue, I’ll say so:
ARIZONA: No clue and given the last hire, it could come from almost anywhere.
ATLANTA: Maybe Chico Cadahia or Eddie Perez, but I think the best bets are two former Cox lieutenants, Fredi Gonzalez of the Marlins, and ex-Brewers boss Ned Yost. If the latter were the obvious choice, he’d probably be back on the staff, not an advisor in KC.
CHICAGO: It’s Ryne Sandberg. If Lou walked away suddenly there’d be a good chance Alan Trammell would be an acting skipper, but in any kind of orderly transition, it’s Sandberg.
CINCINNATI: No obvious candidate. Possibly Mark Berry – it would be nice to see AAA skipper Rick Sweet given first shot, but he may be a victim of his own development ability.
COLORADO: No clue.
FLORIDA: It would be Carlos Tosca short term, but the Marlins would probably like a name if they made a change.
HOUSTON: Very unlikely that any change would take place. Dave Clark would probably get another chance if Brad Mills runs screaming into the street.
LOS ANGELES: Mattingly. How odd will that look?
MILWAUKEE: It was a surprise that given how well Dale Sveum handled what could have been a sinking ship, coming in weeks before the playoffs in 2008, that he didn’t keep the job. Even now when Ken Macha goes, it could easily be not Sveum but Willie Randolph.
NEW YORK: Bob Melvin, Major League Scout. His managerial track record is pretty good. Ironically, the man for whom he took over in Arizona after the briefest off-season tenure in managerial history, Wally Backman, is the top minor league possibility.
PITTSBURGH: They like Carlos Garcia. How much, I don’t know. The Bucs (despite the 20-0 loss) have a serious conviction they are breaking through under John Russell.
SAN DIEGO: No clue.
SAN FRANCISCO: No clue. Last internal hire was Dusty Baker.
ST. LOUIS: Jose Oquendo, unless somebody else has grabbed him first.
WASHINGTON: Pat Listach. That may not be soon, but that may be the plan.

More Yankee Stadium

I know this is getting close to maudlin or even macabre – and I’m going to try to fulfill this latest promise to stop after this – but my friend Rick Cerrone, long-time Media Relations Director of the Yankees, emailed these to me today to commemorate the 87th and final birthday of The House That Ruth Built. They are beautiful in there own way – and striking.

Rick and I have known each other for something like 3/8ths of those 87 years. He now has his own communications company and you may have seen him on the show the night of the Alex Rodriguez revelations. He also has a spectacular piece in the current edition of Yankees Magazine on the enduring mystery of the guy standing next to Babe Ruth in the Yanks’ 1927 team pictures, a man named Don Miller – who never played in a major league game. I’ll let him tell the rest of that story.
First these stunning images from the Bronx today:
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And Here Come The Photos (Now With Video Link)

Ike Davis, savaged by Jeff Francoeur during Kevin Burkhardt’s interview (shaving cream hits about 0:45 in SNY.TV post-game report) on SNY after his 2-for-4, 1 RBI debut tonight:

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I don’t know about you, but I think at lower left Davis looks either like Mr. Met, or the Full Body Cast Soldier in “Catch-22.” The best part of this was Davis continuing to answer Burkhardt’s question as he desperately tried to avoid suffocation.
And to steal some of my own photos: I mentioned posing Davis’s father Ron on July 30, 1978, a day after his major league debut which temporarily left him with an ERA of infinity. That’s a rather discolored version of it on the left (look in his glasses – the photographer is reflected). On the right a somewhat more professional job from 1980.

The Ike And Ron Davis Review

On Saturday, July 29, 1978, with Bob Lemon having gotten six unexpectedly good innings out of Ken Clay and the Yankees leading the Twins 7-1 at Yankee Stadium, Lemon thought it was a good time to break the new kid in.

He had been obtained from the Cubs a month before in the repatriation of Ken Holtzman to Wrigley Field, and had dazzled in AA at West Haven. He was greeted by Minnesota catcher Butch Wynegar, who walked. Hosken Powell followed with a single. Roy Smalley then walked. I was there, but my scorecard is stored somewhere, so I don’t know if he actually threw any strikes before Lemon came and got him, and – in a move that would presage 1979, 1980, and 1981 – Rich Gossage was summoned to clean up the mess.

The next day, in my capacity as part-time free-lance semi-pro not-real-good photographer, I posed the kid on the field in the Bronx. “I guess you better get the picture before they get rid of me,” he said with a laugh that didn’t disguise his discouragement. I told him that he was 22 and I was 19 and even if neither of us was still in the majors the next day, he’d be back – and I’d never get there. That cheered him up.

I think they did send him back the next day, or soon thereafter. His next appearance in the majors was in September. The next year, amid an otherwise horrible season in New York, he’d go 14-2 (all in relief) with nine saves, and he’d stay in the majors through 1988.

His name was Ron Davis, and hours from when I write this his son Ike will debut, also in New York, also (almost) directly from AA. Wish I could be there.


Got asked a great question on twitter about any kind of theory that could even partially explain why, after Ubaldo Jimenez’s gem, the Mets could remain one of the franchises that has no no-hitters to its credit. Suddenly the light bulb turned on.

Years ago, one of the Stats Inc guys did a wonderful analysis of the amount of fair and foul territory in current and historical parks – I’ll have to find the book. But the gist was, the amount of fair territory in which hits could drop in the Mets’ first home (The Polo Grounds) was enormous (centerfield was nearly 500 feet away from the plate). In Shea it was still pretty damn big, and in Citifield, it is, especially when measured against other new parks, proportionately just as bad as at Shea.

That might be one explanation. Interestingly, if my list is complete, there were only five no-hitters ever thrown at the “last” Polo Grounds (Rube Marquard, Earl Caldwell, Jess Barnes, Carl Hubbell, and Rex Barney) over 69 seasons (57 by the Giants, 2 by the Mets, 10 by the Yankees) and only two (Jim Bunning, Bob Moose) in the 45 at Shea.

UPDATE, 5:30 EDT: Just to clarify, obviously this would only explain half of the Mets’ no-hit drought. One might wonder if years of pitching inside a big-fair-territory-area might influence how the same pitchers would throw in road parks, but lord knows there isn’t any stat to measure that. 

Ike, No Ikettes; C.J.; More Yankee Stadium Demolition

Good call here by me about the Mets not calling up Ike Davis soon.

I was right, it wasn’t soon. It was now. But it may not be intended as a permanent solution. Daniel Murphy is still in the team’s thinking, he can’t play the outfield, there’s nothing for him to do at third base, and they’d still like to keep Davis from Super-Two status. It is plausible that unless Davis sets the world ablaze, he could still be headed back to Buffalo if and when Murphy heals. And given recent experience with Mets’ position prospects (Carlos Gomez, Fernando Martinez), setting the world ablaze seems to be more difficult than we think.

In the interim, the Mets have reliever Tobi Stoner (no relation to ex-MLB pitching prospects Brandon Puffer and Jung Bong, or as one of my fellow Twitterites added, Herb Hash of the 1940-41 Red Sox).

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This would be my fellow tweeter @Str8edgeracer after a busy weekend that saw him pitch effectively against the Yankees, then saunter out to my old digs in Secaucus, New Jersey to work with the MLB Network folks for about half an hour. I’ve seen a lot of active players presage their later broadcasting careers (Joe Magrane was my analyst for the local pre- and post-game shows for the post-seasons of 1990 and 1991 on the CBS station in Los Angeles) but almost none of them have come close to the Rangers’ pitcher. He’s a natural: honest, self-effacing, easily understood, and, best of all, proactive about discussions – not just answering questions but asking them. And, of course, we took this picture for the benefit of the Great World Of Tweeting (@KeithOlbermann here).
Not going to keep doing this but a couple of new angles were available on the demolition of Yankee Stadium:
Ground level, obviously, looking from what used to be more or less dead center.
I was surprised this one worked well – taken from a moving 4 Train, showing you the exact spot where it’s no longer standing, and where it still sort of is.
From 161st Street Station. Says most of it, if not all of it.

Jackie Robinson Night – Finale

The superb symmetry did not end with two homers by Robinson Cano – named, of course, for Jackie Robinson. The Yankees were forced to get the last out in a 6-2 win over the Angels from the last man grandfathered in to wear Robinson’s uniform number 42, Mariano Rivera.

Mentioned earlier: Rachel Robinson’s marvelously youthful presence as she nears her 88th birthday. We steal a “screen grab” to show you Rachel, right…

Jackie and Rachel’s daughter Sharon, on the left, with Yankee manager Joe Girardi, and Rachel on the right.
Less impressive photography – we continue to watch the slow-motion demolition of the old Yankee Stadium, with perspective provided by the Elevated train station at 161st Street:
What remains of the stands used to stretch from the plate to first base. The serrated quality of the concrete chunks in the foreground suggests they were either from the Upper Deck in left, or the bleachers in left-center. Just one more:
I guess this one speaks for itself. Foreground, of course, the stairs from the Downtown “4” train. Towards the back, towards the left, the large upright object is, of course, the giant “bat” (an exhaust pipe) that still stands in what was the plaza behind home plate. It sure looks like it’s been taped up like an old fungo bat.
One last note about destruction. First it was The Sporting News, discontinuing in 2008 the annual Baseball Guide (publication of which they took over from Spalding in 1941) and the annual Baseball Register (which they rolled out in ’41). Now the New York Yankees have stopped distributing “sets” of MLB media guides to non-beat writers. An annual tradition of spring has been the lugging of the ever larger of 30 books to the car (or if you’re city-bound, via subway) and then home. 
The beginning of the end: the Yankees are offering the guides… as a flash drive!

Can we slow down? I only started tweeting last week!