Balls, Sticks, & Stuff
10/22/2004
 
New Digs!
We've undergone a bit of a change here at Balls, Sticks, & Stuff, as we have moved to www.BallsSticksStuff.com (or in the case of technical difficulties, go to the site typepad directly). So, fix your bookmarks, and c'mon over and check out the new digs.

If you are the last one out, please turn off the lights and lock the door, I want to make sure I get my security deposit back on this place.

10/21/2004
 
MLB on XM
For several months now, I have been a subscriber to XM Radio, one of the two most prominent satelite radio services on the market (Sirius being the other). It's been a nifty little gadget to have, particularly on road trips. Not only is there a channel for just about any type of music, but there are also feeds of traditional media outlets as well such as Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, ESPN News, The Discovery Channel, etc.

Recently, Sirius and XM Radio have gotten into a bit of a war over obtaining the rights to sports programming. First, Sirius obtained the rights to broadcast NFL games. XM Radio made a weak counterpunch by obtaining the rights to PAC-10 and Big-10 football games. And today, it was announced that XM Radio made a much better effort in reaching a deal with Major League Baseball:
XM Satellite Radio will carry major league baseball games under a $650 million, 11-year deal...Starting with 2005 preseason play, XM will broadcast every major league game live. Some games will be broadcast in Spanish...XM also said its new Major League Baseball Channel will broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The channel will feature new content and rebroadcasts of classic baseball games.
The first question that comes to my mind is, "Will I be able to hear Harry Kalas for all 162?"

10/20/2004
 
October Madness
Drama is drama, and it can come in many forms. And because people are naturally drawn to drama - no matter what the source - the American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Red Sox is garnering attention from baseball fans and non-fans (most of the time) alike.

After falling behind three games to none in the best-of-seven series, the Red Sox have battled back to even the series score, winning in extra innings twice. Tuesday night's performance by the injured Curt Schilling was nothing other than epic. Hampered by a torn ankle tendon last week in Game 1, Schilling was limited to just a few innings of work after allowing the Yankees to take a sizable lead, and set into motion the events that would lead to Boston falling behind in the series and was discounted from returning in the series due to the injury. But after several days of experimentation with medications, wraps, and footware, and his teammates beginning the improbable comeback (no team has ever been down three games to none and forced a sixth game, much less a seventh) Schilling and the Red Sox proclaimed him as ready to start Game 6.

And so, on a cold, windy, rainy October night in the Bronx, with his ankle wrapped tight, medicated, and bleeding, Schilling took the mound against the Yankees and turned in a performance for the history books, holding the loaded Yankee lineup to just one run in seven innings. Bronson Arroyo, normally a starting pitcher, was brought in as Schilling's relief in the eighth inning, with the score and 4-1. The Yankees started to rally, closing the score to 4-2. To add to the drama, the score was momentarily closed to 4-3, the umpires conferred with each other, and Yankee Alex Rodriguez was judged to have committed interference while running to first. The play was wiped out, returning the score to 4-2. Kieth Foulke came in to pitch the ninth inning, his third relief appearance in as many days, and allowed two Yankees to reach base before finally striking out Tony Clark to end the game and force a Game 7.

What the world is seeing in this series is certain to be retold over and over again for years to come. Mike Lupica, writing in the New York Daily News:


They will play a baseball game tonight at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees and Red Sox will, that feels as big as any ever played, in a World Series or anyplace else. They play a Game 7 that was never supposed to happen, but does. They play Game 7 because the Red Sox won again last night, because they have come back from 0-3 down to tie the American League Championship Series. They play a Game 7, and if the Red Sox win it, if they come all the way back to beat this $194million Yankee team at Yankee Stadium and take the pennant from the Yankees, this ALCS will become one of the greatest sports stories of all time.


10/19/2004
 
The Eagles Are Hotter Than Angelina Jolie
The Eagles are hotter than Angelina Jolie. There, I said it. However, I haven't reached this conclusion without some thought first. A few days ago I walked to the end of my driveway and checked the mailbox. In it, I found bills, flyers, bills, newsletters, bills, offers to refinance my mortgage, and my mortgage bill. But I also found the November 2004 issue of Esquire magazine:



and the October 25, 2004 issue of ESPN the Magazine:



Naturally, I tossed the assorted junk mail aside and I looked back and forth at the cover of each magazine deciding which one to open first. I opened ESPN the Magazine and began to look for the cover story. That's right, I passed up Angelina Jolie for Donovan and T.O. (and because I began paging from the back of the magazine - doesn't everyone? - I stumbled across Dan Patrick's "Outakes" column featuring none other than Eagles safety Brian Dawkins). The fact that I chose Donovan and T.O. over Angelina Jolie can lead us to one of three conclusions:
  1. I am 31 going on 91.
  2. Somewhere deep down, Jolie scares
    me (admit it, she scares you too).
  3. The Eagles are hotter than
    Angelina Jolie.

I decided that while #1 and #2 are very likely, #3 is undeniable. The Eagles, at 5-0 are one of only three teams that remain undefeated in the NFL. Donovan McNabb is third in the NFL in passer rating (103.5) and Terrell Owens is second in the NFL in touchdown catches (6). As a team, the Eagles are averaging 27.3 points/game (third in the NFL), plus 5 in turnover differential, and defensive coordinator Jim Johnson has used 13 different players to record at least a half-sack. I could go on and on. What is even more fun to think about is that the Eagles next two games are against a mediocre Browns team and a Baltimore Ravens team that will be without Jamal "I Sell More Drugs Than Rite-Aid" Lewis.

Entering the season, my two greatest concerns about the Eagles were the depleted cornerback position and the ability of Terrell Owens to fit into the Eagles culture. So far, neither of those have been a concern. For the last several seasons, Johnson has had the luxury of blitzing quite often, knowing he had Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent locking down receivers man-to-man. So far, the formula hasn't changed, Johnson has been able to continue to blitz early and often due to the good play of Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown. As for Owens, all you have to do is read the ESPN the Magazine coverstory and know that has not been a problem:

Owens: Donovan has made me friendlier. Him being loose, free spirited. If you are around a person you respect, it rubs off. When I met Don in Hawaii a few years ago at the Pro Bowl, we took to each other. I can't put it into words to explain it. We just clicked.

McNabb (on Owens history of outspoken disruptive behavior): T.O. doesn't even talk in our huddle. He doesn't say much because he is so tired. We're running him around pretty good.
The Eagles are hotter than Angelina Jolie. Maybe if the folks at Esquire had used the Eagles Cheerleaders as their cover story, I might chosen their magazine first.
 
Do Not Adjust Your Monitor
As I watched all seventeen hours of Game 5 of the ALCS in my study/office/second guest bedroom, I realized that the green of the weblog was exactly the same color as the green in the room. I had two choices: (1) leave the room or (2) change the blog layout. Since leaving the room was not an option (c'mon Big Papi!) I decided to tweak the ol' blog. Hopefully this is a cleaner look and a bit easier to read. Feedback is always welcome, so if you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to sound off.

Speaking of feedback, the email address for Balls, Sticks, & Stuff has changed from a Yahoo account to a Gmail account. I've been using Gmail for a couple of weeks now and I highly recommend it. If you would like an invite, drop me an email.

Again, speaking of feedback, (read this sentence in your cheesiest DJ voice): J. Michael Weitzel of Virginville has a request for something other than the Badlees on the sidebar. I'll leave the Badlees up there, because no one outside of Pennsyltuckey has any idea who they are, but I'll add a local musician from the Richmond area, Jason Mraz, who has described his music as being similar to another Virginia fave, Brunswick stew. It's impossible not to like his stuff, if you haven't already obtained one of his CD's, do so now.

10/15/2004
 
Crazy High Standards
Thursday, the Phillies continued the marathon of manager interviews by bringing in Grady Little for a little chat. And I phrase it that way - "for a little chat" -because it is informal, laid back, and folksy, just as Grady Little's personality has been described. I even typed it with a drawl. By all accounts, Little used his folksy charm to endear the Phillies, the media, and the phans by making self-deprecating jokes about his home-life and talking about the often forgotten humanity of professional baseball players. That Grady, ain't he a good fella?

I'm sure Grady Little is a good man, a good person. And as anyone who has read this weblog (both of you) before knows that I think creating an atmosphere that allows the players to relax is important. And I also agree with those that say, including Little himself, that a manager shouldn't be judged by a single decision he made in one single game. But Little's series of gaffes in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS wasn't what got him into trouble with Theo Epstein and the rest of the Red Sox management. What got him into trouble was the lack of preparation he displayed all season long. The gaffes of Game 7 were merely a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. An anonymous reader of Balls, Stick, & Stuff sent an article from the Eagle-Tribune (a smalltown paper in Massachusetts) by John Tomase from October 28, 2003, detailing the behind the scenes rationale for the Little firing. Anyone who thinks Grady Little makes an excellent candidate for Manager of the 2005 Phillies should read it.

I might be a tad crazy, but I believe a good manager should be able to both create an atmosphere conducive to winning and prepare before a game for the decisions he will be faced with as the game progresses. I know, I know, that's crazy talk.

10/14/2004
 
The Leader in the Clubhouse
There is an expression often used at golf tournaments - "the leader in the clubhouse." Technically, the first player to finish can be called the leader in the clubhouse, but the expression is usually reserved until someone finishes with a score that could realistically be considered as good enough to win after the remaining players on the course have finished.

After just two candidates have been interviewed for the job of Manager of the 2005 Phillies, it is realistic to consider that Charlie Manuel will grab the title. Nearly all of the other candidtates lack the gravitas to manage a team that could sport t-shirts in spring training imprinted with "Now Could be the Last Time But Let's Try and Relax Anyway". Don Baylor, Buddy Bell, and Grady Little do not have a history of winning as managers (by the way, is it a coincidence that both Bell and Baylor have been managers at Coors Field, another stadium considered to be a launching pad? I hope not, because CBP is not Coors Lite). As was reinforced on Swing and a Miss, the Phillies organization can not afford to have the manager become the story yet again in 2005.

The only two managerial candidates (that we know about, according to PhilliesNation.com, Ed Wade has requested permission to speak to someone on the playoff teams...Joe Maddon?) that have strong track records are Charlie Manuel and Jim Fregosi. Fregosi, however, does not make sense as a final choice because of his sometimes gruff demeanor. Behavior such as this could also make the manager the story, again, something the organization does not want to repeat in 2005.
By process of elimination, this leaves Manuel. Yes, he is Jim Thome's guy, but it goes further than that, because by reading between the lines, the Phillies were quite impressed by the presentation Manuel gave to begin the interview, complete with handouts, charts, and graphs ("as you can see here by looking at these two lines, a pitching staff's ERA is directly correlated to the number of mini-tantrums thrown by a team's manager" and "the research seems to show that Leo Mazzone has never been punched out by a relief pitcher, which is indicative of a good rapport with the staff"...sorry, I had a Scrubs-like daydream there). Manuel also seems to be under the impression that he would enjoy managing the Phillies. Enjoying your work and not trying to drink away the pain also seems to be a characteristic that would make Manuel a good fit.

Phans, we have a Leader In The Clubhouse (insert golf clap here).
10/13/2004
 
Phillies Net Win Shares Value
Curious to know which Phillie was the biggest drain on the team's payroll? Interested to know which Phillie was the best bargain Ed Wade managed to obtain? If so, the folks at The Hardball Times have developed a tool called the Net Win Shares Value Calculator. According to THT:
Net Win Shares Value is an estimate of how much a player was worth, given his contribution to the team's wins and the conditions under which he signed his contract (free agent, arbitration, etc.). A positive amount means he contributed more value (performance per dollar paid) than the average player in his category, and a negative amount indicates that he delivered below-average value for his contract.
The authors plan on publishing their data in the The Hardball Times 2004 Baseball Annual in a few weeks, but who has the patience to wait a couple of weeks?

Here are the "particulars", copied from the THT output (salary data from Baseball/Sports Weekly/USA Today and ESPN.com...players are listed in order of overall WS):

Bobby Abreu's Net Win Share Value is $ 8,894,744
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 37
Win Shares Above Replacement: 22.8
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 12
Salary: $ 10,600,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 19,494,744

Jimmy Rollins's Net Win Share Value is $ 6,945,044
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 25
Win Shares Above Replacement: 10.8
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 3
Salary: $ 2,425,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 9,370,044

Jim Thome's Net Win Share Value is $ -3,429,417
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 22
Win Shares Above Replacement: 10.0
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 14
Salary: $ 12,166,667
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 8,737,250

David Bell's Net Win Share Value is $ 2,649,800
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 20
Win Shares Above Replacement: 8.0
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 5
Salary: $ 4,400,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 7,049,800

Placido Polanco's Net Win Share Value is $ 1,201,419
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 17
Win Shares Above Replacement: 5.8
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 4
Salary: $ 3,950,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 5,151,419

Pat Burrell's Net Win Share Value is $ -153,238
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 15
Win Shares Above Replacement: 4.5
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 5
Salary: $ 4,250,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 4,096,763

Jason Michaels's Net Win Share Value is $ 3,550,831
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 11
Win Shares Above Replacement: 4.3
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 0
Salary: $ 335,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 3,885,831

Ryan Madson's Net Win Share Value is $ 5,062,350
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 9
Win Shares Above Replacement: 6.0
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 0
Salary: $ 300,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 5,362,350

Mike Lieberthal's Net Win Share Value is $ -8,465,588
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 9
Win Shares Above Replacement: -1.5
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 9
Salary: $ 7,500,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ -965,588

Billy Wagner's Net Win Share Value is $ -4,114,169
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 8
Win Shares Above Replacement: 4.3
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 9
Salary: $ 8,000,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 3,885,831

Chase Utley's Net Win Share Value is $ 2,420,244
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 8
Win Shares Above Replacement: 2.8
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): -0
Salary: $ 200,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 2,620,244

Eric Milton's Net Win Share Value is $ -8,278,138
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 8
Win Shares Above Replacement: 0.5
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 10
Salary: $ 9,000,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 721,863

Rheal Cormier's Net Win Share Value is $ -590,688
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 7
Win Shares Above Replacement: 2.5
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 3
Salary: $ 3,000,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 2,409,313

Tim Worrell's Net Win Share Value is $ -973,481
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 7
Win Shares Above Replacement: 1.8
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 3
Salary: $ 2,750,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 1,776,519

Randy Wolf's Net Win Share Value is $ -1,965,688
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 7
Win Shares Above Replacement: 2.5
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 5
Salary: $ 4,375,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 2,409,313

Marlon Byrd's Net Win Share Value is $ -1,320,588
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 6
Win Shares Above Replacement: -1.5
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 0
Salary: $ 355,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ -965,588

Corey Lidle's Net Win Share Value is $ 276,519
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 4
Win Shares Above Replacement: 1.8
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 1
Salary: $ 1,500,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 1,776,519

Todd Pratt's Net Win Share Value is $ 268,725
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 4
Win Shares Above Replacement: 1.0
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 1
Salary: $ 875,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 1,143,725

Tomas Perez's Net Win Share Value is $ -239,069
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 4
Win Shares Above Replacement: 0.3
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 1
Salary: $ 750,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 510,931

Vicente Padilla's Net Win Share Value is $ -2,721,863
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 4
Win Shares Above Replacement: -0.5
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 3
Salary: $ 2,600,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ -121,863

Kevin Millwood's Net Win Share Value is $ -11,754,656
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 4
Win Shares Above Replacement: -1.3
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 13
Salary: $ 11,000,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ -754,656

Brett Myers's Net Win Share Value is $ -2,593,175
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 3
Win Shares Above Replacement: -3.0
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 0
Salary: $ 362,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ -2,231,175

Felix Rodriguez's Net Win Share Value is $ 354,656
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 2
Win Shares Above Replacement: 1.3
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 1
Salary: $ 1,000,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 1,354,656

Gavin Floyd's Net Win Share Value is $ 1,254,656
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 2
Win Shares Above Replacement: 1.3
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): -0
Salary: $ 100,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 1,354,656

Amaury Telemaco's Net Win Share Value is $ -435,931
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 2
Win Shares Above Replacement: -0.3
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 0
Salary: $ 525,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 89,069

Ryan Howard's Net Win Share Value is $ 210,931
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 1
Win Shares Above Replacement: 0.3
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 0
Salary: $ 300,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ 510,931

Todd Jones's Net Win Share Value is $ -271,863
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 1
Win Shares Above Replacement: -0.5
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): -0
Salary: $ 150,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ -121,863

Roberto Hernandez's Net Win Share Value is $ -2,137,450
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 1
Win Shares Above Replacement: -2.0
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 1
Salary: $ 750,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ -1,387,450

Doug Glanville's Net Win Share Value is $ -2,570,244
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 1
Win Shares Above Replacement: -2.8
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 0
Salary: $ 550,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ -2,020,244

Paul Abbott's Net Win Share Value is $ -1,565,588
The Particulars:
Contract Status: Include All Contracts
Win Shares: 0
Win Shares Above Replacement: -1.5
Expected WSAR (based on Salary): 0
Salary: $ 600,000
Expected Salary (based on performance): $ -965,588

Fine Print: The salaries of Lidle, Utley, Rodriguez, Jones, and Floyd were prorated to reflect the actual time spent on the Phillies roster. Player values were compared to "all contracts" so as to compare to the market as a whole, rather than just against other free agents or arbitration eligible players. Obviously some players have been left out, but all of the regulars and semi-regulars are here, and I do have a day job that comes first and a golf game that comes second (pretty much).
I think the trend here is that the hitters, in general, performed very well and the pitchers underperformed in relation to market value. Best bargain? Despite having one the largest salaries on the team, Bobby Abreu was still the best bargain. Kevin Millwood, on the other hand, was a colossal waste of team resources.

Does anyone know the janitor at the Phillies' Clearwater facility? I'd like to have him slip this onto the desk of Ed Wade.
 
How the Yankees/Red Sox Rivalry Hurt the Phillies
As the sports world turns its attention to the storied Red Sox/Yankees rivalry as it renews itself in the form of the American League Championship Series, Phans should take a moment to consider how the rivalry has hurt the Phillies.

According to the book Chasing Steinbrenner: Pursuing the Pennant in Boston and Toronto by Rob Bradford, the Atlanta Braves offered Kevin Millwood to both the Yankees and Red Sox prior to the 2003 season. However, at the time, the Yankees and Sox were engaged in a bidding war over the then recent Cuban defector Jose Contreras. Both teams decided to concentrate on Contreras and the Phillies were eventually offered Millwood. They accepted in return for catching prospect Johnny Estrada, and in the two seasons the Phillies have had Millwood, he has put up fourth-starter-type ERA's while taking home first-starter-type money.

There is no doubt that both the Yankees and Red Sox felt that Contreras would become an excellent pitcher (they were wrong), but the rivalry between the two teams also fueled the bidding war as neither team wanted to let the other team sign Contreras. Because the Yankees and Red Sox were too busy trying to out-do each other, the Phillies were able to land Millwood. At the time, nearly everyone who followed baseball thought the Phillies got the better end of the deal from the Braves. The conventional wisdom was that the Phillies had gotten a potential ace for only a slightly-old-for-a-prospect catcher.

As it turns out, Millwood's poor performance and injuries helped to bring down the Phillies hopes of a playoff berth in 2003 and 2004. Johnny Estrada on the other hand, was a 2004 All-Star and has become one of the better catchers in the league. Had either the Yankees or Red Sox been willing to take their eyes off of Contreras to seriously look at Millwood they may have accepted the trade offer (the Braves wanted Casey Fossum from the Sox, who the Sox eventually traded to Arizona for phormer Phillie Curt Schilling). And had that happened the Phillies would still have Estrada to take over for the rapidly aging Mike Lieberthal, and may have been able to use the eight-digit salary they have paid Millwood for the last two seasons on a free agent or two that may (or may not) have served the Phillies cause better.

Hindsight is certainly 20/20, but as we watch the ALCS and read about the Phillies interviewing managerial candidates, phans should consider if there own team is cursed in a similar manner as the Red Sox. Because the Yankees were able to acquire Babe Ruth in 1918 the Red Sox have the Curse of the Bambino, and because the Yankees and Red Sox were obsessed with Jose Contreras, Phillies phans have to suffer from the Curse of the Cuban.

10/12/2004
 
League Championship Series Predictions
I'm not sure if I should pat myself on the back for the vision to get two of the four divisional series outcomes correct or just attribute my success rate to chance. Whatever the effect, I'm willing to step up to the tee for the Balls, Sticks, & Stuff Official League Championship Series Predictions:

Houston Astros - St. Louis Cardinals
Prediction - Cardinals win in six.
The Logic - The Cardinals have been both mashing and playing great team baseball all year, and have had a few extra days to get their pitching staff lined-up for the series, whereas Houston will have to put things together on the fly after the Braves took them to a game 5. Also, I am predicting a similar emotional let-down for the Astros to what I predicted for them entering the playoffs in the first place.
Best Reason to Watch - Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens will test the adage "good pitching beats good hitting" when they try to navigate their way through Walt Jocketty's fantasy baseball lineup.

Boston Red Sox - New York Yankees
Prediction - Yankees win in seven.
The Logic - The Sox have better pitching, better offense, possibly a better defense, and are definitely more fun to watch. But it is still the Yankees and the Red Sox. You can say the Red Sox will find a way to lose or the Yankees will find a way to win, but at any rate, those are two reasons why the Yankees will advance.
Best Reason to Watch - Take your pick from The Curse, The Don Zimmer Incident, The Varitek vs. A-Rod Incident ("we don't throw at .260 hitters"), Petey after 100 pitches, Yogi-isms, Manny-isms, "Jeter Swallows" bumper stickers, Teddy Ballgame's frozen head, Mickey Mantle's swollen liver, Monument Park, Yawkey Way, Big Stein, and the Monstah.

10/11/2004
 
Doooooks!

Go vote for the Duke Dog in the Capital One Bowl Mascot Challenge!


 
Mind Over Matters
As a yoot (coalspeak for "youth") I was a fan of all of the Philadelphia professional sports teams. Living in the South prevents me from appreciating hockey (an ice storm shuts Richmond down for a week, so they aren't about to watch a game played on ice) so the Flyers are off my radar. As for the 76ers, I lost interest when Charles Barkley left, and like most white suburban males in their early 30's, I now find the entire NBA to be unwatchable.

That leaves the Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies, all of my eggs being in two baskets. The Eagles have enjoyed a high (higher but not the highest) degree of success for the last few years. And, in the grand scheme of things, if you look at the entire history of the Phillies, the last four season have been relatively good as well (simply because over the last four years they won more games than they lost). But yet my attitude towards these two teams could not be more different.

For instance, recent articles in the Philly papers illicit two completely different reactions in my head. In the Sunday edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bob Brookover details the Eagles' long-term plans for securing Brian Westbrook. After I had finished the article, I came away thinking the same thing I usually do after reading an article that contains the words "Andy Reid": Wow, these guys really have it together, they really seem like they know what they are doing, I'm sure they will make the right decisions. After all, in this era of the NFL, to have been to the NFC Championship game three years in a row and to be favored to do so for a fourth time and still have the third most room under the salary cap of any NFL team, you have to be reaching genius proportions. Not only are the Eagles extremely competitive this year, but I expect them to be so for several more years at least. The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades.

Switch gears. The Phillies. If it was any other team in any other city with any other history, the fan base - including me - would be encouraged. Seriously, looking at just the numbers, both statistically and financially - mentally erase the Phillies masthead and the players' names on whatever website you consult - and you would think the team is headed in the right direction. You would see several good players signed to large but manageable long-term contracts. You would see some help in the farm system on the way to help offset the large contracts. You would also see a new ballpark in a large northeast city with the potential to be a consistent and fruitful revenue stream for years to come. Now, add the "Phillies" to the mental image I just described and immediately, you start to wonder if it will be possible to become a champion. My head says, "Keep things in perspective, they are on the right track." On the other hand, my heart says a lot of four letter words.

So, as the Eagles ponder what to do with players like Brian Westbrook, I sit back just enjoy every Sunday during the season. And as the Phillies search for a manager, I contemplate sending letters pleading for logic to win out over Grady Little and Don Baylor. My head says it will, but my heart...

10/08/2004
 
Here Comes the Pendulum
OK, OK, enough with the post mortem's (actually I do have one more little nugget, which I haven't seen anywhere else - according to the most recent issue of Sports/Baseball Weekly, there was an incident at some point this summer when Tim Worrell punched Joe Kerrigan, has anyone else heard this?) let's look to the phuture, because thankfully, the Phillies are. Next week, the Phillies are expected to interview Don Baylor, Charlie Manuel, and Grady Little. Rumors regarding other people have been mentioned, but let's take a look at the three that will definitely be interviewed.

Don Baylor
The Resume: Baylor is often mentioned as a candidate for open managerial positions around baseball, but is often passed over. Baylor does have previous managerial experience, taking the 1995 Rockies to the playoffs (something of an accomplishment) and several less than memorable years at the helm of the Cubs, back before they cared about winning.
The B.S. & S. Take: In sports, coaches/managers are constantly being recycled, and the large number of times it happens has always perplexed me. Baylor has proven to be a fine hitting coach, but little more. Pass.

Grady Little
The Resume: Managed the Red Sox from 2002-2003, surpassing 90 wins each year. The Sox reached the wild card in 2003 and I think we all know how that ended.
The B.S. & S. Take: When I first heard of the possibility of Grady Little managing the Phillies, I was phlabbergasted:
I realize the Pendulum of Managerial Style at the Phillies is swinging towards a laid-back manager, but isn't that a bit too far? This guy was so lethargic he let Pedro talk him into staying in one of the most important games in the team's history after he had just let 5 of 7 batters reach base and was clearly fatigued.

The way their team is playing, the Red Sox Nation may survive Grady Little. Asking Phans to survive even the announcement of the hiring of Grady Little after being asked to survive this season is way too much to ask.
I'm sure Grady Little is a fine man, and he is probably even an above average manager, and I honestly believe he should be given a second chance - just not with my team, let him prove himself somewhere else. Pass.

Charlie Manuel
The Resume: Randy Miller does a good job of "synopsisizing" Charlie Manuel's lengthy career in baseball in PhillyBurbs.com, but the strongest points are that he managed the Indians to a division title in 2001 and he has a high comfort level with Jim Thome.
The B.S. & S. Take: Yes, Manuel is technically another managerial retread, but he was fired after his team was gutted of talent (something else I have never understood in sports - how can a good manager suddenly become a bad one after all of his talent is taken away? Phil Jackson feared this more than anyone). Of the three candidates that will be interviewed next week, Manuel would get the Official Balls, Sticks, & Stuff Seal of Approval, but I wouldn't mind if the Phillies continued to look around with the idea of coming back to him later.


10/06/2004
 
Bowa Postmortem Ad Pukem
"Bowa Fires Back"...
...is the headline in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. Todd Zolecki summarizes the interview L-Bo gave to WCAU-TV (Channel 10), and so here is an excerpt of the excerpt:
Larry Bowa said the Phillies deceived him.

Bowa, fired Saturday after nearly four seasons as Phillies manager, said in an interview with WCAU-TV (Channel 10) yesterday that he believes the Phillies had made up their minds to fire him before the season started, if they failed to make the postseason.

"No matter who was available, who was unavailable, who had good years, who had bad years, I think they made a decision that if they don't get to the playoffs, they are going to make a change," Bowa said.

"The other thing was at the end of August when a certain writer had something in there that I definitely wasn't coming back. I literally talked to [general manager] Ed [Wade] and he told me they hadn't made up their mind. And from that day on, we went 21-9, so I don't know what changed from that day except we played real good for the last 30 games."
Is that so wrong? To make up your mind that your manager gets one more try to get a team to the post-season? If Bowa is right - we don't know for a fact that Phillies brass had this attitude entering the season - then the Phillies probably should have told him so entering the season. The case can be made that the Phillies management did not handle the firing well (though it is hard to be sure because only two people, Wade and Bowa know 100% of the information), but every day, all across America, employees are given one more chance by their employers.

No matter where you come down on the Bowa-issue, you probably can't quabble with the other statements quoted by Zolecki. And, Larry (I'm tired of typing Bowa) even said something I couldn't agree with more:
"If they want to make a change and think they can get where they want to go, that's fine. That happens in baseball all the time. The only thing I say is if you're going to make a change, you better win the division next year because we came in second. We came in second, and if you are going to make a change, you better take the next step and win the division."
Even More Time of the 'Equal' Variety
In yesterday's post, I referred to Perpetual Off Night, written by someone on the "Bowa Was Framed" side of the arguement. Today, he responds.

10/05/2004
 
Bowa Postmortem Ad Naseum
A Hollow Celebration
Initially, when I heard on ESPN via XM Radio the news about Larry Bowa and the Phillies officially parting company on Saturday, I was elated. I called my brother. Then, I decided I was going to have a minor celebration. I stopped and bought a cigar. I stopped and bought a Philly-style cheesesteak (in the South, you have to add "style" because it isn't really a genuine Philly cheesesteak, though the large influx of Yankees such as myself to the Old Dominion has certainly helped the cause). When I got home, I took the cigar, the cheesesteak, a glass of Kentucky distilled spirits, and our laptop out to the deck to watch the next to last game of the season on MLB.tv in the cool autumn evening.

Ironically though, just like the Phillies season never gained any momentum, neither did my own little impromptu celebration . Maybe it was the fact that the cheesesteak was a bit chewy. Maybe it was the fact that I was saddled with the Marlins broadcast feed on MLB.tv, or maybe it was the fact that I have no idea what to look for in a cigar. But I think what really retarded my festivities was the fact that it finally sank in what the firing of Bowa represented. It means another lost opportunity, another instance where the Phillies couldn't get the job done. It wasn't supposed to happen this way. When Bowa was hired several years ago, I thought it was a good move. Finally, I thought, the Phillies are serious about winning. And what is really disappointing is that the team has been serious about winning now for three or four years, and they are seemingly no closer to reaching the World Series than they were before they got serious.

Misguided Phans
Living outside of the Philadelphia area, it is difficult for me to get my finger on the pulse of Joe Phan. So when I read statements from Jayson Stark (referring to the Phillies collapse during August resulting in a 1-9 homestand) such as this...

Larry Bowa was such a popular guy in a town that can't forget the only World Series its team ever won, the GM (Ed Wade) and the team president (David Montgomery) couldn't bring themselves to pull that particular trigger. Not yet.
...I have to believe he doesn't have his finger on the pulse of Joe Phan either, secluded from the world in an ivory tower in Bristol, CT. Look at the results compared to the payroll, there is no way someone can look at that team and realize Bowa isn't a big part of the problem, after all:

What matters is that Bowa's intensity never translated into motivation for the players. There was a disconnect there from the beginning. Really, it's the difference between intensity with a snarl and intensity with a scowl. Bowa's was and is the latter.

The disconnect showed itself in one of the few constants during Bowa's tenure. Players took turns going into profound, inexplicable slumps. You can't blame Bowa for Pat Burrell's funks, or Marlon Byrd's or Mike Lieberthal's or Brett Myers' - but you start to wonder when it keeps happening.

Maybe there is something wrong with the environment. Maybe the atmosphere isn't what it should be. All of these players have demonstrated they have the physical ability. Slumps like these are mental blocks. They happen. But they shouldn't happen over and over to different players on the same team. ( Phil Sheridan, Phila. Inq., 10/3/2004 )
If I can see that when I watch a game on MLB.tv and read it between the lines on Philly.com day in day out, surely the good people in Phillies Land can see that too. But apparently not, because according to reports, there were instances of the sell-out crowds this weekend at Citizens Bank Park chanting, "We Want Bowa" and "Fire Wade". Are they drinking the Bowa-flavored Kool-Aid (probably colored flaming red) so much that they truly believe that the bad luck of injuries cost the manager his job? Have they stopped to consider that the 2004 Phillies were in trouble long before the injuries began to mount? Did the Astros and Braves let injuries stop them from making the playoffs? I think it is also worth considering that it is possible that Kerrigan and Bowa somehow contributed to the injuries through improper use of the pitching staff or conditioning of the entire team (admittedly, impossible to prove).

I can understand the phans preferring to see Ed Wade fired as well (though for now, I disagree), but to want Bowa's job to be preserved means that the phans are more concerned with having a manager that supposedly reflects the city's personality than with having a winning team. Tom Durso at Shallow Center often describes the Phillies as an organization that can't get out of its own way - I'm beginning to wonder if the fan base isn't in a similar state of mind/denial.

Equal Time
To read the opinions of a phan who seems to take views 180 degrees from mine, check out Perpetual Off Night here and here.

Heir Unapparent
Many names have been dropped by pundits for the 2005 Phillies manager - Davey Johnson, Jimy Williams, Cito Gaston, Jim Fregosi, Charlie Manuel, Grady Little, Ken Macha - and to my knowledge, none have been quoted expressing an interest in managing the Phillies next year. But I think it is safe to say that whoever becomes the manager, he will have a personality opposite of Larry Bowa. Despite Ed Wade's insistence that this will not necessarily be the case, expect someone calm, cool, and collected with a history of winning.

10/04/2004
 
Divisional Series Predictions
The dust has finally settled, and the playoffs have been seeded. Without further ado, the Balls, Sticks, & Stuff Official Divisional Series Predictions:

Minnesota Twins - New York Yankees
Prediction: Twins win in 5 games.
The Logic: The conventional wisdom for most of the season has been that the Yankees do not have the starting pitching to get them deep into the playoffs. Just as there is often a reason stereotypes are true, there are often reasons why conventional wisdom is right, and the Yankees simply do not have the pitching to get by the Twins. However I do think it will be a close series because the Yankees do know how to win and will therefore make it close, but in the end, the Twins will prevail.
Best Reason to Watch: Johan Santana has been on a tear in the second half of the season, setting a Twins record for most strikeouts in a season averaging 10.46 K's per 9 IP.

Boston Red Sox - Anaheim Angels
Prediction: Red Sox win in 5 games.
The Logic: Again, it comes down to starting pitching. Curt Schilling is a Cy Young favorite and a big-game pitcher. As is Pedro Martinez. The Angels on the other hand have a pitching staff that has been up and down all year and the Red Sox can flat out rake. Another point to consider is that the Angels are coming off an extremely tight division race with the A's and may find it difficult to focus after such an emotional high. The only reason I think this will go 5 games is that the Red Sox always find a way to make a series tighter than it should be.
Best Reason to Watch: Tim Wakefield pitching against Vladimir Guerrero. Vlad the Impaler has never seen a pitch he doesn't like and Wakefield's knuckleball will probably look like a floating beachball to him. If Wakefield's knuckleball is "on" when they face off, we could see some crazy swings with unpredictable results. Good stuff.

Los Angeles Dodgers - St. Louis Cardinals
Prediction: Cards in 4.
The Logic: The old adage is that good pitching beats good hitting, but in this case it is going to be great hitting beating decent pitching. The Dodgers staff has a 5.09 ERA against St. Louis this year.
Best Reason to Watch: Sit back and admire the balanced hitting, pitching, and defense the Cardinals bring to the table. It's hard to find a weakness on this team.

Houston Astros - Atlanta Braves
Prediction: Braves in 4.
The Logic: I considered leaving this prediction to a coin flip. This series pretty evenly matched, and the two teams are similar in that both were considered to be non-contenders at one point or another during the season, both have good but not great lineups, and both have great closers that are supported by good starters and mediocre set-up men. In the end I settle on the Braves because Bobby Cox has the Braves playing as a team, the Astros could suffer a similar emotional let down to the one I predicted above for the Angels, and the Braves have had the Astros number in several recent playoff series.
Best Reason to Watch: It may not be the best reason to watch, but the matchup between the slightly old Roger Clemens and the definitely old Julio Franco should be quite interesting. Clemens loves to come inside on batters and Franco almost exclusively tries to hit pitches to right field.

10/01/2004
 
On the Blog Circuit
B.S. & S. has received several compliments lately via email and posts on other blogs. Additionally, the hit counter continues to grow (more hits than Willie Mays). To those of you who have paid me such compliments, particularly Iain, Brian, Tom, and Tom - thank you very much, it's always good to know that someone is out there reading and enjoying. Your blogs are all a great influence on B.S. & S. To those of you who have posted comments, I appreciate your input, and to those of you who have stealthily stopped by without posting a comment or sending an email - thank you and y'all come back now, hear?

If you have been kind enough to link to me, I appreciate it. I continue to update the Balls, Sticks, & Stuff links page and the sidebar, so if you've linked to me and I haven't returned the favor, feel free to send me an email.

Speaking of Iain (an English baseball fan living in France who appreciates a good double play as much as I do) at The Baseball Desert, he is so excited about the upcoming playoffs he is planning on getting up at 2 AM every night to watch on MLB.tv, just as he did last year. Now that is certainly giving it 110%. Way to hustle, Iain, you're getting your uniform dirty.

In other blog news, Brad Dowdy of No Pepper fame has rekindled his golf blog, Making the Cut. I can't help but be impressed with a guy who is obsessed with both baseball and golf. If he is incredibly smart and good looking, he just may be my long lost twin.


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