August 16, 2010

Baseball bits...

I love basketball - high school basketball especially.  I've only ever shown even a lick of talent in playing tennis.  But baseball is America's sport.  Its draw to me is spectacular.  I don't find myself reading about the stats and history of basketball like I do for baseball throughout the long, hot summer months.
  • Re-examining 300 - back in 2004, on the eve of Greg Maddux's 299th win, Hardball Times looked at what it takes for a pitcher to get to 300 wins.  At the time, Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemons were the only new 300 game winners since 1990 with Maddux about to join them.  Randy Johnson and Tom Glavine have since joined the club in spite of the article's doubts about their chances.  The article's conclusion is that pitchers need to be at 75 wins by age 25 and 150 wins by age 29.  At the time, the only pitcher who looked to be on pace was CC Sabathia (54 wins at age 23).  Looking at the current active leaders, the only pitchers who look to have any chance are still CC Sabathia (150 wins and counting at age 29 and maybe Felix Hernandez at 65 wins and counting at age 24).   Looks like it could be a long, long while until we get another 300-game winner.  That generation of Maddux, Glavine, Randy Johnson, Clemons, and Smoltz was pretty phenomenal.
  • Rob Neyer's SweetSpot Blog - On Tuesday night, three straight entries from Rob Neyer dealt very directly with the Reds - Is Prince Albert still king of first basemen?...Reds' Brandon Phillips calls out Cardinals...Mike Leake's roller-coaster ERA...All three are moderately interesting reads (I particularly enjoy Brandon Phillips', I guess, which seems to have lead to a bit of a donneybrook in Tuesday's game) but the story to me is that the Reds are worthy of stealing three straight posts there.  The last time the Reds bounced up like this from one season to the next was - as Rob Neyer points out in another post - pretty amazing.

    I just got this great new book about the 1990 Reds, and was reading the story about shifting Norm Charlton from the bullpen to the rotation in the middle of the season. Charlton had been a starter as a rookie in 1988, pitched OK but nothing special. Moving into a relief role in '89, Charlton went 8-3 with a 2.93 and became one of the Nasty Boys. He got off to a fine start in 1990, and when the Reds needed a starter in the second half, Charlton got the nod, and went 6-5 with a 2.60 ERA in 16 starts.

    Did it have to work? Hardly. But as the authors write, "The move was just another in a year when everything seemed to work."

    We know it didn't have to work because the Reds were not, in that period, an outstanding franchise. The year before they won the World Series, they went 75-87. The year after they won the World Series, they went 74-88. Same manager in 1991 as 1990. Same general manager. Many of the same players. It was just one of those years.
  • Will A-Rod Make Hall of Fame? - That's a stupid, stupid question.  I've written my opinions on steroids before, but to put a quick summary on that post: "I don't care."  There was (I hope not still is) an era of major league baseball - from the early 1990s through the mid 2000s when a large percentage (we have absolutely no clue what that percentage is as estimates place it anywhere between 10% and 100%) of major leaguers were taking performance enhancers - steroids, HGH, something.  The offensive numbers during those years are comical.  (For example, of the 41 times that a player has hit 50 or more home runs in a season, 17 of those came between 1995 and 2007.  The six highest single-season totals all came in 1998-2001.)  All of the numbers from that era - from every batter and pitcher - are equally suspect and at the same time equally valid.  They were earned in the conditions of that era.  Major league baseball was tacitly - if not actively - permissive of the conditions and culpable in creating them.  Chicks dig the long ball.  We all dig the long ball.  The best players during that era - Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, Roger Clemons - deserve to be in the baseball Hall of Fame because they were the best of that era.  Babe Ruth doesn't deserve to be taken down a notch because he didn't play against black players.  Hank Aaron isn't a lesser player because he didn't play against Asian players.  Pete Rose isn't a lesser player because he gambled.  Alex Rodriguez shouldn't be denied the Hall of Fame because he came up in a permissive era.  Deny him being a first ballot Hall of Famer on some weirdo protest vote?  Fine, whatever. They've denied Mark McGwire so far, and they'll probably deny Barry Bonds the same way.  But they're both among the greatest of this era - as is Alex Rodriguez, and they deserve their plaques.

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