Toronto Baseball Guys
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
  IOC Should Drop Five To Keep Baseball Alive
As the Beijing Summer Games fade into memory, and Chinese children deemed "uncute" are once again free to roam the streets, South Korea finds itself the reigning champions of Olympic baseball.

They're going to reigning for a long time.

Baseball, along with softball have been dropped from the games by the IOC for the forseeable future. Major League Baseball is "determined" to get the sport reinstated for 2016, but then they were determined to introduce a salary cap, too. How's that coming along, fellas?

There are several reasons to drop a sport from the games:

Strangely, none of these seem to apply to baseball. Maybe the IOC doesn't want to be associated with baseball's recent steroid shame, but that's kind of like Cheech telling Chong to go home because he can't stand the smell of pot.

Maybe there are just too many sports. After all, the Beijing Games featured 301 events, which is a lot to squeeze into 16 days. Perhaps baseball was just the victim of a numbers crunch.

If that's the case, here's a quick list of five sports that are MUCH better candidates to be bounced from the Summer Games in order to keep baseball and softball. It's not that any of these events aren't difficult or physically demanding; so is negotiating highway traffic on foot while blindfolded - doesn't make it an Olympic sport.

5) BMX - The IOC's lame attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the X-Games. There were only 16 other cycling events, so clearly this was filling a need. What to take away from the BMX competition in Beijing? It's quick, brightly coloured and full of crashes. Great, half-assed NASCAR has made it to the Olympics.

4) Taekwondo - So, first you dress up the competitors like extras from the movie Tron, then for six minutes, they attempt to kick and punch each other. So far, so good. Once a match actually starts, things go down hill. First off, the fighters spend a lot of time screaming incoherently at each other. Then there's the judging (the bane of many an Olympic sport) - to score a point, two of three judges have to ring in on their Nintendo Wii within a second of each other, or no point is awarded. This reached comical proportions during a preliminary bout in which the Canadian competitor kicked her Swedish opponent, knocking her to the ground, and yet didn't register a point. Apparently GRAVITY seeing the blow was not enough for these judges. Small wonder the sport's governing body is the WTF.

(Taekwondo's noble attempt to suck up by featuring both a Canadian medal and an irate competitor kicking a ref in the head is noted. Too little, too late guys.)

3) Synchronized Swimming - granted, the teams of eight are a step up from the days when synchronized swimming was featured as an individual event - begging the question "Who or what are you synchronized with?" That said, if part of your pregame ritual is putting on cosmetics, you can take your Shiny Happy Stepford Wives act elsewhere. It ain't Swifter, Higher, Tackier ladies.

2) Race Walking - it would be too easy to make fun of how the racers move - that little "something must be lodged up somewhere" waddle.

Instead, consider that this is the only athletic activity in which running is expressly forbidden. It's the only race in which it's cheating to go too fast - probably invented by frustrated marathoners. What's next? The slow race walkers band together and found Olympic Crab-walking? Speed-Crawling?

Just jog already!

1) Dressage - Horse dancing? Really?!? HORSE DANCING!?!?! Deft communication with horses should land you a Robert Redford movie, not a spot on the podium. When you're able to compete in a top hat and tails, you're not competing hard enough!

Baseball meanwhile, offers a 150-year history, is popular in the Americas, the Caribbean and Asia and has many features that adhere to the Olympic credo of Swifter, Higher, Stronger.

The sport offers a certain athletic purity, because while there may be umpires, judges don't have to confer to agree that a run has been scored.

And nobody's race walking to steal second.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
  Always Time For Jeter Mail
More than two years after it was originally posted, 100 Reasons to Hate Derek Jeter continues to inspire more reader mail than anything else on the site. These generally fall into three categories:

1) Non-Yankee fans, who love it.
2) The rare Literate Yankee fans, who get the joke and appreciate the list.
3) All other Yankee fans, who send grammatically challenged insults, threats and arguments against the list.

Here's the latest:

Derek Jeter overrated????????????!!!!!!!
Do overrated players have the most hits in the major leagues since 1996? And have four World Series rings? And carry a .315 career batting average? And play gold-glove defense? And get their 2,000th career hit before they turn 33? And win the World Series MVP award? I could go on and on. NO HE IS NOT OVERRATED

Joseph Senecal

Thanks for writing Joseph. At least you've tried to raise some counterpoints, instead of simply assembling all of the curse words in your vocabulary and sending that, like so many of your Yankee-worshipping brethren.

Let's tackle your points one at a time:
Do overrated players have the most hits in the major leagues since 1996?

Most hits since 1996 doesn't really tell us much. We can infer from it that he's consistent and durable - both valuable traits, but it tells us nothing about what kind of hits he's getting or how often he's getting them. Those numbers would be much more useful in determining a player's value.

Jeter's also had nearly 200 more plate appearances than anyone else since 1996, and thus more opportunities than any other player to collect those hits.

Johnny Damon and Garrett Anderson are also in the top 5 in hits since '96. Gary Sheffield and Vladimir Guerrero aren't. Who would you rather have on your team?

Mark Grace had more hits than any other player during the 1990s, a fact that won't be appearing on a Hall of Fame plaque any time soon. Pete Rose is baseball's all time hit leader, and you'd have a hard time arguing that he belongs among the top 100 hitters in the game's history.

Simply put, most hits doesn't equate with best player.

And have four World Series rings?
True, Jeter does have four World Series rings, making him the equal of Jeff Nelson, Mike Timlin, Gene Tenace and Amos Strunk. Gene Woodling has 5. Joe Collins, who batted 400 times in season twice in his career, played in 7 World Series, winning 5. Johnny Murphy won 6.

Not that any of these guys were bad players, but multiple rings has a lot more to do with being on the right dynasty at the right time than it does with individual greatness.

And carry a .315 career batting average?

Well, now you're just making it easy. There's no baseball statistic more overrated than batting average, a tradition that dates back to the sport's beginning, to the point that the "batting champion" is the player with the highest average. Never mind that he's seldom the league's best hitter. Batting average is far from meaningless, but all it tells you is how often a player hits singles.

Forget .315, George Sisler hit .341 over his career, but that only translated to a .379 OBP and .468 slugging percentage, unremarkable totals, particularly in Sisler's era.

But you asked if a .315 hitter can be overrated, so how about Lloyd Waner? He hit .316 lifetime, but didn't walk or hit for power, and was actually a below average hitter.

At 34, it appears as though Jeter is entering his decline phase. Look for his average to drop at least 10 more points before he's finished.

And play gold-glove defense?
In Jeter's 13 full seasons, his Range Factor (Assists plus put outs) per 9 Innings has been better than the League Average once. That means he consistently makes fewer plays than the league average shortstop.

Yes, he won 3 gold gloves, because of his bat, his notoriety and because he's made some famous plays. Mostly he won because the 2003 winner, Alex Rodriguez, was no longer playing short, and because the Gold Glove voters are generally clueless. These are the same people who once voted Rafael Palmeiro a Gold Glove on the strength of a whopping 29 games at first base.

And get their 2,000th career hit before they turn 33?
Joining such immortals as Del Ennis, Harvey Kuenn, Buddy Bell, Stuffy McInnis, Willie Davis and Jimmy Sheckard, along with 78 others - none of them bad players, of course, because who in their right mind allows a bad player to stick around long enough to amass 2,000 hits?

It's a nice little accomplishment, but all it means is that a player came up and held down a regular job at a young age.

And win the World Series MVP award?

David Eckstein, Pat Borders, Ray Knight, Bucky Dent, Rick Dempsey, Darrell Porter... Nice week to get hot though.

All of these accomplishments make nice bullet points on a resume, but they don't tell us anything that we don't already know - that Derek Jeter is a very good player.

The biggest flaw in your argument, Joseph, is that you've confused the word overrated with bad (ironically, #13 on the list). Jeter will one day have a plaque in Cooperstown, one that he'll deserve - but he's the definition of overrated. His mystique far exceeds his reality.

Jeter's the only league average hitter hawking razors and sports drinks on national TV, and - like most players to reach free agency - he's grossly overpaid for his level of production. As a hitter, he's basically Roberto Alomar, with nowhere near the defensive value. He's not among the top 20 players of his generation.

I could go on and on.
Oh, please don't. At least not until you've installed something like this:

Friday, August 08, 2008
  Perfect Storm Brewing in New York
For a Blue Jays team that looks to have finally gotten over the .500 hump for good, they still find themselves seven games out of the playoffs, which means they're about an 8-10 game winning streak away from true post-season relevance.

But while the playoffs might be out of reach, there's another goal that could prove almost as beneficial to the team long-term: Catch the Yankees.

For all their canny deadline moves, their hot streak coming out of the All-Star Game, and the seeming inevitability of a second-half run by the Bronx Bombers, the Yankees are in trouble.

They're chasing two teams in Tampa and Boston that are healthier than they are, particularly when it comes to starting pitching. Of the Yankee starters currently in the rotation, exactly one, Mike Mussina, has an ERA better than league average. Joba Chamberlain, arguably the Yankees best starter, is now on the 15-day DL, and has just had his first visit with Dr. James Andrews.

In their last year in Yankee Stadium, there has to be enormous pressure for the final game in The House that Ruth Built to be a playoff game, if not a World Series game. If they don't make it, it could spell the downfall of the Evil Empire.

Let's consider:

1) They're very old. Giambi's 37, Jeter, Abreu and Damon 34, Pudge 36, Mussina 39, Pettitte 36 and Mariano Rivera is 38.

There's the common perception that the Yankees can just go out and buy whatever they need. That's not far off, and I fully expect Mark Teixeira to replace Giambi at first base in 2009, but there are certain commodities in baseball that just aren't for sale.

During their dynasty years, the Yankees held a competitive advantage over just about everyone else because of their strength up the middle. Nobody else was running out shortstops and catchers who could hit like Jeter and Posada. With Jeter a pedestrian hitter this season and Posada out for the year, that advantage is on the wane, and the Yankees can't just go out and buy the Hanley Ramirezes or Geovany Sotos of the world.

2) The young pitchers haven't performed. Kennedy and Hughes have been injured and inconsistent. Chamberlain has pitched as advertised, but is now on the DL - that's what can happen when you turn things over to young pitchers. Developing young starters requires patience, and there's little patience in New York, where the team is expected to contend every year.

3) Brian Cashman didn't sell the farm for Johan Santana. This was a good move, since the young starters could well form the foundation for the next Yankee dynasty. That said, Santana went to the cross-town rival Mets, where he's outperformed every Yankee starter.

4) There's a new Steinbrenner in town. Hank, taking over for papa George, is now the figurehead of the Bombers. Based on his rant after Chien-Ming Wang went down with a baserunning injury, he's capable of being just as crazy as dear old dad. For those who missed it:

"The National League needs to join the 21st century. They need to grow up and join the 21st century. Am I (mad) about it? Yes. I've got my pitchers running the bases, and one of them gets hurt. He's going to be out. I don't like that, and it's about time they address it. That was a rule from the 1800s."

So, with all of these pieces in place, here's the plan to sink the good ship Yankees.

1) Jays catch the Yankees, Bombers finish 4th in the AL East.
2) Santana pitches the Mets into the playoffs in the final season at Shea Stadium.
3) Hank Steinbrenner freaks out.
4) Brian Cashman is allowed to walk at the end of the year (making a perfectly serviceable Blue Jays GM should they decide to make a change).
5) Steinbrenner takes a more "active role" in the day-to-day operations of the club, trading those disappointing young pitchers and prospects for some "proven" expensive guys.

A simple five-step plan and suddenly we're back in the halcyon days of the 80s and early 90s, when the Yankees stunk. It might not even require the Jays to pass them, but a fourth place finish should cement a Steinbrenner meltdown, and that's good news for baseball's other 29 teams.
Discussion of all thing Blue Jays.

Christopher Casuccio
Sean Doyle
Rob Metcalfe
Matthew Graf
Yoni Grundland
Mark Rottmann
Jim Turner
Joel Williams


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