Saturday, July 17, 2004

Simple Mistakes 

I must be getting better at this baseball-watching thing.

I saw about 3 innings of last night's 6-2 D-Backs loss to the Dodgers, most
with the sound off. I turned on the TV in the bottom of the 3rd to see the
D-Backs with a 2-1 lead. Oh my, I thought, we actually scored two against
Ishii! Then the ugly 4th inning. A walk by Webb. An error in right by
Terrero. A sacrifice fly against Webb (wait, he's not supposed to give up
fly balls) to score Bradley. Another walk. Then, worst of all, a perfect
bunt by Cora to score Green. The Dodgers did all the little things right;
the Diamondbacks did all the little things wrong. Boom, 3-2 lead for the
Dodgers, and the sense that things weren't going to change.

Even in the bottom of the fourth when Cintron hit a triple into left center
field and the throw back into the infield was wildly off base, the Dodgers
(Ishii, presmably) had backed up the throw, giving no opportunity for
Cintron to score.

I turned the game off in the 6th.

The reason I say that I must be getting be better at this baseball-watching
thing is that the game wrapup in the Arizona Republic (buried on page C6)
mentioned the same things I was planning (last night, even) to write about.
So maybe I'm learning something.

Other things from the Republic:

* Randy Johnson's agent said the D-Backs haven't asked Johnson to waive his
no-trade clause, Johnson hasn't asked for a trade, and he "has certainly not
presented a list of teams he would be willing to play for, now has the team
asked him to present a list." I tell you, it's the feeding frenzy of the
New York papers that I think might cause Johnson to refuse a trade to the
Yankees, if it even happens (which it won't unless the Yankees add a real
player to the list of "prospects" they have).
* From the "Cheers" section of the boxscore -- "Nobody went on the disabled
list." You know it's bad when lack of injury is the best they can do.
* At least Terrero went 2 for 4 in the leadoff position.

[Note: When I first tried posting this via e-mail, I got an error,
appropriately enough. I didn't spell the e-mail address correctly.]

Friday, July 16, 2004

Exit... Stage Left 

"'There's nothing that enters my world on the days I pitch,' [Randy Johnson] said afterward.
'Nothing. Nobody.'
Johnson didn't sound like a guy dying to get out of Dodge. He joked about the warm indoor temperature, was generous with his praise of teammates and hosted several friends in the clubhouse afterward, including Rush singer Geddy Lee."
-- After last night's 4-3 D-Backs loss to the Dodgers, from Paola Boivin's column in the 07/16/04 Arizona Republic

[Scene: A living room in an expansive Phoenix home. A tall, tall man -- OK, it's Randy Johnson -- is sitting on his couch, flipping through channels on TV, when the phone rings.]

RJ: Hello, this is Randy.
Theo: Randy? Theo Epstein here. How are ya?
RJ: Fine, thanks.
Theo: Listen, Randy, sorry about the game last night. 4-3 loss to the Dodgers. Relief staff blew the game for you. AGAIN. Grand slam, Shawn Green. Who'd've thought Choate would've picked that moment to give up his first home run in more than two years? Sorry. Aaaaanyway, as you know, we're trying to get you up here to Boston, which, of course, you'd have to waive your no-trade clause for. We'd love to have you join the Sox, because, you know, you ain't seen nothin' yet!
RJ: Huh?
Theo: Hey, we're all about takin' care of business, wink wink nudge nudge.
RJ: I have no clue what you're saying.
Theo: C'mon! "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet?" "Takin' Care of Business?" Those are classic Rush songs!
RJ: Uh, no, they're not. That's Bachman-Turner Overdrive. They're Canadian, but that's about the only thing those bands have in common.
Theo: Really, I asked Curt to do some internet research on Rush, 'cuz he likes that sort of things, and this is what he gave me.
RJ: Listen, I got a call on the other line. I'll call you later...
Theo: But, wait -- [click]
RJ: Hello, is Randy.
Terry: Randy? This is Terry Ryan. I hope I'm not calling too late?
RJ: No, that's fine. You know, Terry, I'm surprised to be hearing from you... You do know I'm getting paid $16 million this year and $16.5 million next year, right? That seems a little out of your league, if you don't mind me saying.
Terry: No, I don't mind. And, yes, it'd be tough, but we're willing to make some sacrfices. I know some friends have already put out some feelers. Look, we're a great state, high quality schools, parks, outdoor activities. Plus, and I think you'll really enjoy this, we can get you Rush in Rio.
RJ: Wow... are you saying you'll fly me down to Rio next time Rush plays there? That's pretty nice.
Terry: Er, no. I was talking about the Rush in Rio CD set. Picked it up for $19.99 at Best Buy.
RJ: Listen, I really don't think this is a good fit here...
Terry: Hey, we can get you a second copy for the car -- [click]

[Randy's wife walks in with a Federal Express package.]

RJ's wife: This just came for you.

[Randy opens the package. It's a cell phone. It rings.]

RJ: Uh.... hello?
Brian: Randy, Brian Cashman here. I'm glad you got the phone. Go ahead and keep it. It's got 3 billion pre-paid minutes on it. Compliments of the Yankee organization.
RJ: Er, thanks. I think I can guess why you're calling.
Brian: Well, if you think that we're going to try to convince you to join the Yankees, you're right. Look, Randy, we've got more money than anybody, it's the biggest stage in the world, and if you think we're going to let some pipsqueak National League expansion team -- no offense, Randy -- beat us in the World Series this year, you're wrong. But beyond that, the big man wanted to let you know just how big of a Rush fan he is.
RJ: George, a Rush fan? Isn't he like more than 70 years old?
Brian: Oh, Randy, you're proving that people shouldn't judge people by their age. He's been a big fan of Rush going way back.
RJ: You're kidding.
Brian: Nope -- "2112," "Moving Pictures," and "Signals" are all great albums. The big man kinda lost touch when they sold out -- "Time Stand Still" was such a blatant attempt at the pop charts -- but ever since "Test For Echo," he's been a big fan. In fact, he can arrange a meeting with you and them.
RJ: But they were here tonight, I don't need George's help.
Brian: Because the big man arranged it.
RJ: But that's because they're playing here in town tonight.
Brian: Because the big man arranged it.
RJ: Listen, Brian, I really appreciate the interest, but I'm going to have to think about it.
Brian: You do that. We look forward to hearing from you. [Click]

[End scene]

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Future Baby Names (Part 3, D-Backs Review) 

See here for the outfield and infield reviews.  As always, the four numbers are:
1. 55% of 2003 VORP
2. 2004 YTD VORP
3. 2004 Win Shares
4. 2004 Win Share Above Average

-- Randy Johnson (6.1, 30.9, 11, 5) -- Uh, yeah, his season's been OK. But, then again, we're paying him $16 M per year, this is what we'd expect for that.

-- Brandon Webb (27.1, 7.8, 5, 5) -- He returns to earth, though other, smarter bloggers than I would argue that he's pitched better than his stats indicate.   I don't necessarily disagree, but a drop like that is at least partially his fault.

-- Steve Sparks (2.6, -7.6, 2, -2) -- Worst of all, he hasn't eaten up enough innings. I wish that the coaching staff would just let him get shelled now and then. Or, rather, shelled for 7 innings rather than 4.

-- Elmer Dessens (2.2, 0.6, 2, -2) -- He wants to be a starter. But it's clear that at this point in his career, he shouldn't be doing anything more than long relief or set-up.

-- Casey Fossum (-0.8, -8.8, 0, -2) -- A GM can dream, can't he? Theo Epstein, laughing still.

-- Casey Daigle (xx, -10.0, -1, -3) -- Insert your own Jennie Finch joke here.

Relievers (in Win Share order of usefulness this year)

Mike Koplove (6.9, 1.7, 3, 0)
Randy Choate (-0.5, 2.5, 2, 0)
Stephen Randolph (5.2, 1.6, 2, 1)
Jose Valverde (8.5, 1.5, 2, 0)
Andrew Good (-0.1, 0.5, 1, -1)
Brandon Villafuerte (3.0, 3.6, 1, 0)
Brian Bruney (xx, 4.3, 1, 0)
Oscar Villarreal (11.7, -2.8, 0, -1)
Scott Service (0.8, -3.0, 0, -1)
Gregori Aquino (xx, 0.7, 0, 0)
Edgar Gonzalez (0.8, -3.5, 0, -1)
Shane Reynolds (1.0, -4.7, 0, -1)
Lance Cormier (xx, -6.2, 0, 0)
Shane Nance (0.4, -1.4, 0, 0)
Matt Mantei (9.5, -8.3, -2, -4)

The holdovers haven't done as well. Whether that's due to overuse last year, overuse this year, or because they're not very good, is not resolved. As I've said before, I think they're just not very good. The new additions haven't managed to exceed their comparatively abysmal levels of last year. And this is just more proof that Matt Mantei has been the biggest waste of money this year. I didn't have a great feeling about him coming into the year, but even I didn't expect this.


19 Win Shares for the starters, 10 Win Shares for the relievers/leftovers. Not good times. Really, besides Randy and Brandon, is there anybody that you'd miss? Admittedly, we don't have too many cheap replacements for some of these guys, and maybe Koplove, Valverde, and Bruney might turn out to be useful relief arms, but the more I think about it, the more I'd prefer spending our free agent walking-around money on pitching than on Sexson. (Well, I want both, but I'm beginning to think the free agent pitching market will be more of a buyer's market and we could pick up a couple decent (e.g, #2 or evan #1 in Randy's absence) starters).

Future Baby Names (Part 2, D-Backs Review) 

Part 1, covering the outfield, is here.

On to the infield. Cover your eyes, folks. (But you knew that already.) Again, the numbers following the players' names are as follows:
1. 55% of 2003 VORP
2. 2004 YTD VORP
3. 2004 Win Shares
4. 2004 Win Share Above Average

Third Base

Chad Tracy (xx, 7.5, 6, -1), Tim Olson (xx, 1.6, 1, 0) -- Not stellar, but OK considering the utter lack of major league experience, and an improvement (on the field and on the balance sheet) over last year's Counsell/Williams combo.


Alex Cintron (21.4, -2.7, 3, -5) -- Think about it, a 24.1 swing in VORP over little more than half a season, or 43.8 for the whole season if the trends continue. Only three NL players have a worse WSAA figure.

Second Base

Matt Kata (4.6, 1.1, 3, -1), Scott Hairston (xx, 5.3, 3, -1), Robbie Alomar (7.4, 4.2, 2, 0) -- Combined, it's not absolutely awful, but at least Kata and Hairston were cheap. Alomar was not.

First Base

Shea Hillenbrand (12.1, 19.4, 6, -2), Richie Sexson (32.3, 6.9, 4, 1) -- And, part two of why we're not winning as many games as we might have expected. Clearly, Shea has had a decent season (as much as we like to criticize him), but Sexson's absence is as pointed as Cintron's. (At least Sexson has an injury-based excuse.) The gap will only get worse as the season progresses.


Robbie Hammock (6.2, -4.4, 2, -2), Brent Mayne (-1.0, -1.9, 0, -2), Juan Brito (xx, -4.8, 0, -2) -- That's right, the catching position has combined for 2 win shares, 6 below average. Competes with shortstop for season's biggest failure.


The infield positions combined for 30 win shares, same as the outfield. That's not a good split.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Future Baby Names (Part 1, D-Backs Review) 

In a former life, my wife was a teacher. As the good, caring boyfriend/fiancee/husband I was/am, I would sometimes help her grade papers.

Goodness, what a tedious process. To some extent the grades did help provide distinctions between students, separating out the bright and hard-working from the dull and lazy. But it was an awful lot of work. (And I only did a small portion of it.)

Once you graded enough papers (or entered their grades into the grading software), you could figure out which ones my wife did not enjoy teaching. And sure enough as we started talking about baby names for our child (we didn't know the gender ahead of time), several names were nixed because they belonged to a particularly unpleasant (or dull, or both) student.

I relate this because as I begin a review of the first half (or 55%) of the D-Backs' season, I wanted to clarify why I won't be issuing formal grades. I also wanted to explain why the likelihood of us naming any future kids after the 2004 Diamondback squad is small.

Also, it should be noted that since I started after the start of the season, I don't have any predictions or expectations to compare to. Lucky me. Also, I'm not going to try to be exhaustive. Scott Hairston played the outfield once or twice. We'll just assume he played 2B, OK?

We'll start with the outfield. The statistics following players' names are as follows:
1. 55% of 2003 VORP
2. 2004 YTD VORP
3. 2004 Win Shares
4. 2004 Win Share Above Average

Left Field

Luis Gonzalez (29.3, 23.2, 11, 2) -- Luis' year isn't quite as good as last year's thus far. Sexson's absence has probably hurt, but it doesn't explain the drop-off from last year. Still, he's got the most Win Shares and Win Shares Above Average of any position player. Now, if only Luis could look the ball all the way into his glove (which he's failed to do at least twice this year). Luis is the most untradeable Diamondback -- the only place he's going in August is the operating room for elbow surgery (maybe). I like Gonzo -- my favorite D-Back -- but don't like the name Luis.

Center Field

Steve Finley (21.9, 26.5, 9, -1) -- Finley, a notoriously slow starter, warmed up faster this year and has the most VORP of any position player, ranking 2nd only to Jim Edmonds for NL CFs. Even so, his Win Shares are actually below average. I like Fins and have never quite understood the depth of feeling regarding his poor defense as he looks OK to me, which says everything about my own lack of knowledge of the game. With my name Stefan, you think I'm going to name a child similar but different?

Right Field

Danny Bautista (1.5, 19.6, 10, 1), Quentin McCracken (-5.8, 1.2, 1, 0) -- Bautista has exceeded any reasonable or even unreasonable expectations after a poor 2003 season. Q, well, it's going to be hard to get back to his 2003 level of play -- he's going to have to start throwing games. Daniel's not a bad name, and while Quentin's got its good points, I'm ruling it out on performance reasons.

So, overall, when three guys get exactly 1/3 of your win shares, I can't really assign much blame to the team's failures to the outfield who, as a group, are exceeding their 2003 production. Whether or not they're earning their salaries, that's a subject for another time.

Final note: the D-Backs' Win Shares get pummeled because of the D-Backs' record. I know, I know, that's the whole point of Win Shares, but as I've noted before, the D-Backs have the worst "luck" in the league when comparing to their Pythagenport record (OK, the Red Sox and the Mariners now beat them out slightly). Use the 3rd order record instead of their actual record, and you'd add about 21 Win Shares to the team's total, of which Gonzo, Fins, and Bautista would each claim about 2 of.


I love to feel the RAIN IN THE SUMMERTIME
I love to feel the rain on my face
-- The Alarm, "Rain in the Summertime"
The monsoon arrived sometime earlier this week. But like many new businesses or resorts, it conducted a "soft opening," in which it works out the kinks before official festivities begin. And so for two days it did nothing more than make the outdoors feel like a sauna and spread the dust around like a baker sneezing into a pile of flour. But last night, around 11:00 or so, the monsoon began. It rained emphatically, with lightning and thunder punctuating the downpour. And so, with the loud drone of rain, the flashes of lightning, and a worrisome roof (don't ask), I went to the family room and watched the rain in the back yard.

I love the rain but live in this city -- Phoenix -- which is spectacularly unsuited to accepting it gracefully. The ground is parched and paved over, while underpasses were designed by people who thought, "No, we'll never get rain at all." So rather than the rain we so desperately need being taken into the ground, it runs into the sewers, sweeping away the dirt, the grass, and the cars in the underpasses.

And as I sat there, my thoughts turned to Randy Johnson. Now, when it came to the debate over Bob Brenly, I was fairly passive. I didn't think he absolutely had to go (especially in mid-season), but understood why, and didn't lose any sleep over it when he did.

But Randy. This firestorm (another Arizona summer specialty) has swept across the city quickly and has made me, well, sad. So, Joe, Jerry, do whatever it is you're going to do. Trade him, keep him, trade the entire damn team. Just do it now. I don't want Randy to be traded, but more than that, I don't want to think about it anymore. I'm tired of listening to it on the radio, reading it in the papers, writing about it in here. Because I read 6-4-2 on a regular basis, I'm aware of the Southern California perspective on a Randy trade (here's the latest update). Checking the Yankee or Red Sox blogs would make me too depressed, however. I just want to get out from under all this talk and enjoy my baseball again.

I want the monsoon to wash it all away.


So the AL won the All-Star Game. Looks like the D-Backs won't get homefield advantage in the World Series.


Oh, yeah. Sorry.


On a completely unrelated note, but a necessary antidote to the relatively depressing tone of what's above, here's something sent to me by my friend Evan, a Yankee fan, but a stellar person in every other respect. It's Jon Stewart's commencement address at William & Mary.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Three Weeks, Three Questions (All Randy Edition) 

Three Weeks

The Week That Was

Could this have been the worst week of the season? Even worse than when the D-Backs were on their 11-game losing streak? Uh, yes. 1-6. Randy went 0-1 and got into an argument with Luis Gonzalez. The worst record in baseball at the All-Star Break belongs to Your Arizona Diamondbacks!

The Two Weeks That Will Be

3 blessed days off, then 11 straight at home -- 4 against the Dodgers, 2 against both the Giants and Houston, and 3 against the Rockies in what I'm sure will be an eagerly anticipated series across the, uh, Four Corners region? Randy, if he's around that long, would be on track to pitch 3 of those games.

At this point, since I only talk about teams a week in advance, I'll skip talking about the Dodgers. We know them too well at this point. They lead the division, albeit barely -- this is a series they have to win if they want to compete in October. This will be a familiar refrain in the next 73 games as the D-Backs play a lot of games against teams who want to win (or at least have a playoff-based reason for winning) much more than the D-Backs do. We shall see how the D-Backs respond.

Three Questions

Let me preface these questions by stating my biases: I like Randy Johnson and don't want to see him traded. I've stated too many times to even link that I didn't think he would be traded, most recently because I think the division is winnable in 2005. Having said that...

1. Will Randy be traded?: Randy seems resigned to (or is perhaps trying to push the team into accepting) a trade. There certainly are no shortage of possible suitors, even if they are restricted by their won-loss record: "I'm not going to leave to go to a situation where they have a theoretical chance to win. There has been no list of teams [that he would accept a trade to], just teams that have a [good] chance to win. That's the only way."
2. "Do you feel lucky, punk? Do ya?": Meaning, do you feel like Joe, Jr. can make this trade worthwhile? As I said, I don't want to trade Randy, but if you're going to do, please please please steal someone of value in return. Nobody over the age of 26, please. I'm sure the other bloggers here have a better perspective of the prospective magic beans available to us than I do, so I'll leave that to them.
3a. What does Steve Finley do?
3b. What does Richie Sexson do?
Don't you feel like Fins, if he had something approaching a public ego, could be walking around saying, "Randy, Randy, Randy" just like Jan Brady walked around saying "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia?" Look, if you're Steve Finley and Richie Sexson and the D-Backs just traded away their best player, do you re-sign for 2005? Or do you figure that 2005 is a rebuilding season, too, and sign elsewhere, thinking, San Diego and Seattle are awfully nice places to be in the summer. Some of you may prefer this approach. (I, however, am not one of them. Not yet, anyway.)

Monday, July 12, 2004

Blogging Weight 

I enjoy movies, but for me to make a movie allusion here might require a
familiarity with Major League 3 or Rocky 4 that I sadly lack. I've been on
vacation, and my knowledge of the D-Backs' series against the Giants is
limited to Saturday's Republic Sports section and a little Channel 3 TV and
talk radio this morning. Being away for so long makes it hard to get back
into blogging, leading to distressingly passive thoughts such as:
-- "Randy and Gonzo fighting in the dugout... who cares!?!"
-- "The Yankees' Rivera and A-Rod are going to try to convince Randy to
waive a no-trade clause... yeah, whatever..."
-- "Luis Terrero up with the major league squad... hope he does fine..."

As you can guess, for me it's the blogging equivalent sitting around, my
weight ballooned up to 346, popping Snickers bars into my mouth like they
were going out of style. I'm sure that sequels in Major League and Rocky
("Rocky 3," perhaps?) both have a similar scene. (Probably Roy Hobbs in the
"The Natural," too.)

So, recognizing that I need to start somewhere to get back into the swing of
things, here's what I've gathered about the D-Backs (since, as I've stated
before, I write my entries before reading others'):
-- The D-Backs went 1-3 against the Giants.
-- Andrew Good got his first win this year, though not as a starter.
-- Oh, yeah, Gonzo made a lousy error Friday night, leading a big brouhaha
with Randy.
-- Scott Service on the DL, Luis Terrero up to the D-Backs. It's addition
by subtraction, if not actual addition by addition.
-- I'm not sure I heard this right as I worked out this morning, but Brad
Cesmat thinks that Randy will be traded this year. Consensus seems to be
heading toward trading him...
-- Steve Finley's still a D-Back. (By the way, thanks to the D-Back
organization for holding off on trades until I came back so I didn't feel
too left out on D-Back news.)

The All-Star Break comes at a good time, then, letting me ease my way back
into blogging. By Thursday (if not sooner) I'll have worked up a full head
of steam, I promise.