Maybe they should change their nickname to the Generals

Not all losers are lovable. The 2016 World Series featured two teams, both long-time losers, but it was clear from the beginning which team was the good guys, and which team was just in the way. The Cubbies were the lovable losers, with long-suffering fans who deserved to finally, finally get to win. The Cleveland Indians were just in the way, like Stewart Cink in the 2009 British Open (59-year-old Tom Watson was supposed to win) or whoever beat Nancy Kerrigan in the 1992 Olympics.

The Indians, in their minds, were every bit as deserving, their fans every bit as long-suffering, but it didn’t matter. To the world, they might as well have been the Washington Generals, trying to beat the beloved Harlem Globetrotters. They weren’t there to compete with the Cubs. They were there to lose to the Cubs. A win by the Indians would have ruined the narrative.

For most of my lifetime the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs were the most notorious “losers” in baseball, with championship droughts that lasted for several decades. The Red Sox, unlike the Cubs post-WWII, were often close, but they couldn’t win a game seven to save their life. 1946, 1967, 1975, 1986, and 2003 were reenactments of every western movie template, and the Red Sox were always Black Bart’s gang and never the good guys. They would inevitably get shot dead at the end by a sheriff who rode off with the town hooker, who turned out to be a long-lost relative of the Queen of England.

The Cubs, on the other hand, were more like Lupus. They were the fat kid wandering around in deep, deep, DEEP right field, wearing a football helmet and digging up worms, oblivious to the madding race going on around him. Occasionally the rest of the guys would bring him up to the plate to get a hit, but he would strike out or, if by happenstance the ball hit his bat, he would run down the third base line or back into the dugout.

Red Sox fans were the angst-ridden losers of Shakespearean lore. The Cubs were the bad news bears, but in a never-ending loop of the first half-hour of the movie. Matthau died, Wrigley got lights, Tatum O’Neal traded her glove for a crack pipe, and the Cubbies kept digging up worms. Until, finally, they hired a real general manager who washed the kid’s hair, wiped away the boogers, and showed him the way to first base.

The Cleveland Indians, much like their flesh-and-blood models, spent October fighting against seemingly insurmountable opposition, but ultimately got lost in the shuffle of the sexier national story. I root for both entities to triumph in the end. The world worships Shakespearean tragedy, and they root for the retarded kid to get a hit, but nobody roots for the Washington Generals.

In hindsight, though, a win by the Cubbies was the release of over a hundred years of tension. As sweet as that release was, we are going to miss the tension, the angst. Loveable losers no longer, if the Cubbies meet the Indians next year, who will be the Globe Trotters then? Well, still the Cubbies, but the national sportswriters might learn how to spell Kluber’s name right and be able to tell the difference between Chad Allen and Bryan Shaw.

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QBOP Major Leagues 1892-2016

QBOP is my quick and dirty (Q) base-out percentage (BOP). The number at the far right of the table – called MLRPG – is the actual runs per game scored in the major leagues in the seasons listed. QRPG is how many runs were scored per game based on my QBOP formula. As you can see, even a formula as simple as this one can generate accurate enough results to use for individual player ratings.

The formula is simple: (total bases + walks x 4) + (hits x 2) / 5. Take that number – I call it the TBA (total bases adjusted) and divide it by outs (in this case the simple version – atbats – hits) to get the QBOP. Multiply the QBOP by 27 (outs in a game) and divide it by 4 (the bases needed for a run) and you have the QRPG, or quick-and-dirty runs per game.

For individual players, you can use this number, balanced against the league runs per game adjusted by the player’s individual park factor, to generate his hitting winning percentage. I removed speed from the equation; this is purely a batting metric.

The logic behind the formula is as simple as its application. There are a number of ways to express the value of the various things that happen on a baseball field, but most of them wash out when they are soaked in the three basic outcomes*: batters are out, batters become runners, and batters advance runners.

Becoming a baserunner is worth .4 bases, and advancing yourself is worth .4 bases per base. Each total base carries an additional advancement value of .4 bases. This means a walk is worth .8 bases (.4 for becoming a baserunner, and .4 for advancing to first base) and a single is worth 1.2 bases (.4 for becoming a baserunner, .4 for advancing to first base, and .4 for the advancement value of the hit). Each additional base is worth .8 bases (.4 for the batter, .4 for the potential runners). A double is worth 2 bases, a triple 2.8, and a homerun 3.6.

* – not to be confused with the three true outcomes: strikeout, walk, and homerun. That’s a different premise, one that will come up in the pitcher formulas.

 

Season AB H 2B 3B HR BB TB QBOP QRPG MLRPG
1892 63876 15630 2007 1010 417 6178 20908 0.579 3.91 5.09
1893 56898 15913 2197 1047 460 6143 21584 0.697 4.70 6.57
1894 57143 17662 2734 1287 627 5807 24851 0.800 5.40 7.44
1895 56576 16763 2407 994 484 5101 22610 0.725 4.90 6.60
1896 55570 16136 2166 1005 404 4854 21524 0.699 4.72 6.04
1897 56538 16499 2319 964 367 4716 21847 0.696 4.70 5.89
1898 62660 16955 2088 900 299 5092 21740 0.618 4.17 4.96
1899 62712 17707 2193 1008 350 4972 22966 0.654 4.41 5.25
1900 39132 10925 1432 607 254 3034 14333 0.647 4.37 5.21
1901 77105 20957 2931 1238 455 5465 27729 0.622 4.20 4.99
1902 76154 20317 2830 983 356 5435 26181 0.599 4.04 4.44
1903 75435 19776 3034 1161 335 5369 26137 0.595 4.02 4.44
1904 82484 20362 2851 1154 331 5580 26514 0.544 3.67 3.73
1905 81844 20300 2858 1120 338 6189 26412 0.556 3.75 3.90
1906 80056 19741 2632 1004 261 6169 25164 0.547 3.69 3.62
1907 80296 19696 2470 960 243 6099 24815 0.538 3.63 3.53
1908 80675 19279 2523 1001 267 5860 24605 0.523 3.53 3.38
1909 80598 19654 2659 1002 259 6503 25094 0.544 3.67 3.55
1910 81524 20330 2815 1160 360 7417 26545 0.577 3.89 3.84
1911 82236 21908 3265 1323 514 7838 29361 0.639 4.31 4.51
1912 82019 22036 3353 1355 442 7682 29425 0.642 4.33 4.52
1913 81188 21017 3070 1266 470 7267 28029 0.609 4.11 4.04
1914 122521 31116 4622 1738 709 11137 41341 0.595 4.02 3.86
1915 121680 30458 4532 1769 635 11120 40433 0.586 3.95 3.81
1916 81904 20282 2995 1141 383 7070 26708 0.570 3.85 3.56
1917 82032 20390 2909 1138 335 6907 26580 0.567 3.83 3.58
1918 67293 17081 2322 885 235 5745 21878 0.576 3.89 3.63
1919 74660 19622 2922 1048 447 5981 25981 0.607 4.10 3.87
1920 84155 23271 3609 1265 630 6817 31300 0.654 4.41 4.36
1921 85129 24775 3981 1363 937 6847 34293 0.710 4.79 4.85
1922 85333 24610 3943 1248 1055 7253 34214 0.708 4.78 4.86
1923 85205 24216 3922 1142 980 7562 33362 0.696 4.70 4.81
1924 84645 24265 4079 1175 895 7364 33379 0.701 4.73 4.75
1925 85412 24911 4336 1171 1169 7742 35096 0.731 4.94 5.13
1926 83745 23504 4142 1157 863 7703 32549 0.691 4.66 4.63
1927 84447 23958 4148 1150 922 7444 33172 0.696 4.70 4.75
1928 84452 23732 4223 1138 1093 7661 33510 0.699 4.72 4.72
1929 85181 24642 4482 1166 1349 7987 35503 0.738 4.98 5.19
1930 86549 25593 4755 1282 1565 7654 37607 0.762 5.14 5.55
1931 86606 24042 4508 1070 1069 7675 33897 0.685 4.63 4.81
1932 87160 24104 4579 1072 1358 7546 34901 0.691 4.67 4.91
1933 85209 22966 3944 967 1066 7342 32042 0.654 4.41 4.48
1934 85891 23957 4314 882 1344 7852 34067 0.696 4.70 4.90
1935 86430 24072 4264 987 1325 7834 34285 0.695 4.69 4.90
1936 87619 24860 4471 977 1364 8414 35377 0.717 4.84 5.20
1937 85918 23761 4213 997 1430 8441 34258 0.702 4.74 4.87
1938 84982 23285 4045 934 1475 8628 33623 0.699 4.72 4.89
1939 84858 23368 4138 916 1445 8478 33673 0.700 4.73 4.82
1940 85980 23001 4101 929 1571 8271 33673 0.679 4.58 4.68
1941 85822 22525 3958 867 1331 8881 32210 0.662 4.47 4.49
1942 83698 21171 3475 723 1071 8392 29305 0.618 4.17 4.08
1943 84676 21464 3466 757 905 8356 29159 0.611 4.12 3.91
1944 85651 22306 3653 808 1034 7927 30677 0.628 4.24 4.17
1945 84433 21975 3497 728 1007 8296 29949 0.631 4.26 4.18
1946 84275 21549 3579 783 1214 8794 30336 0.636 4.30 4.01
1947 84349 21991 3567 804 1564 9212 31858 0.668 4.51 4.35
1948 84333 22221 3684 833 1555 9616 32236 0.682 4.60 4.57
1949 84350 22161 3599 761 1704 10024 32394 0.688 4.65 4.61
1950 84791 22551 3714 792 2072 9949 34065 0.711 4.80 4.85
1951 84995 22180 3579 714 1863 9235 32776 0.676 4.56 4.55
1952 84182 21270 3388 677 1701 8775 31115 0.642 4.34 4.18
1953 84899 22442 3587 745 2075 8668 33744 0.687 4.64 4.61
1954 83880 21899 3455 789 1936 9019 32740 0.680 4.59 4.38
1955 83521 21603 3251 700 2223 9040 32923 0.682 4.60 4.49
1956 83818 21647 3339 725 2294 8992 33318 0.684 4.62 4.45
1957 84810 21851 3393 672 2201 8145 33191 0.664 4.48 4.31
1958 83779 21614 3392 654 2240 8123 33034 0.669 4.51 4.28
1959 84192 21616 3476 591 2250 8177 33024 0.665 4.49 4.38
1960 83965 21427 3442 658 2127 8381 32566 0.661 4.46 4.31
1961 96927 25046 3974 754 2728 9888 38712 0.680 4.59 4.53
1962 110640 28518 4313 853 3001 10929 43540 0.670 4.52 4.46
1963 109766 27035 4097 791 2704 9591 40826 0.618 4.17 3.95
1964 110402 27659 4270 760 2761 9615 41732 0.630 4.25 4.04
1965 109670 26936 4196 787 2687 10035 40767 0.621 4.19 3.99
1966 109353 27188 4117 819 2742 9320 41169 0.624 4.21 3.99
1967 109027 26439 4078 792 2296 9643 38989 0.599 4.04 3.77
1968 108593 25703 3869 697 1995 9152 36951 0.569 3.84 3.42
1969 131245 32579 4840 849 3119 13427 48474 0.634 4.28 4.07
1970 132103 33546 5234 927 3429 13727 50921 0.661 4.46 4.34
1971 130502 32542 4931 808 2863 12530 47678 0.625 4.22 3.89
1972 124783 30433 4652 746 2534 11724 44179 0.603 4.07 3.69
1973 132328 33998 5223 789 3102 13099 50105 0.653 4.40 4.21
1974 132230 33964 5207 847 2649 12962 48812 0.641 4.33 4.12
1975 131386 33850 5439 887 2697 13392 49154 0.652 4.40 4.21
1976 131504 33596 5240 966 2235 12389 47473 0.626 4.23 3.99
1977 143949 38035 6440 1170 3644 13757 57747 0.684 4.62 4.47
1978 141516 36497 6185 1020 2956 13562 53590 0.651 4.39 4.10
1979 142772 37907 6415 1066 3433 13600 56753 0.681 4.60 4.46
1980 144118 38136 6345 1076 3087 13188 55894 0.665 4.49 4.29
1981 94420 24147 3999 659 1781 8864 34807 0.635 4.28 4.00
1982 144063 37632 6314 964 3378 13289 56008 0.662 4.47 4.30
1983 143512 37439 6462 1033 3300 13516 55867 0.664 4.49 4.31
1984 143775 37370 6211 985 3258 13314 55325 0.657 4.43 4.26
1985 143051 36773 6422 965 3602 13836 55931 0.664 4.48 4.33
1986 143103 36880 6511 855 3813 14226 56540 0.672 4.53 4.31
1987 144079 37891 6792 896 4458 14388 59849 0.702 4.74 4.72
1988 142563 36244 6386 840 3180 12984 53850 0.639 4.31 4.14
1989 142799 36289 6306 868 3083 13527 53580 0.640 4.32 4.13
1990 142750 36813 6526 865 3317 13851 55020 0.659 4.45 4.26
1991 142929 36551 6497 894 3383 13980 54985 0.656 4.43 4.31
1992 142880 36542 6563 845 3038 13682 53909 0.646 4.36 4.12
1993 154980 41085 7449 940 4029 15110 62501 0.689 4.65 4.60
1994 110265 29742 5723 702 3306 11131 46787 0.723 4.88 4.92
1995 138567 36974 6957 824 4081 14238 57822 0.713 4.81 4.85
1996 156791 42320 7987 855 4962 16093 66903 0.728 4.91 5.04
1997 155423 41467 8004 883 4639 15663 65154 0.713 4.81 4.77
1998 167101 44488 8741 899 5063 16446 70216 0.711 4.80 4.79
1999 167128 45325 8740 931 5528 17891 72511 0.743 5.01 5.08
2000 167276 45244 8901 952 5692 18236 73125 0.747 5.04 5.14
2001 166194 43869 8812 928 5458 15804 70911 0.711 4.80 4.78
2002 165595 43274 8701 921 5059 16248 68994 0.699 4.72 4.62
2003 166747 44057 8827 934 5207 15889 70373 0.706 4.77 4.73
2004 167355 44523 8919 898 5451 16222 71591 0.717 4.84 4.81
2005 166337 43992 8863 888 5017 15207 69682 0.699 4.72 4.59
2006 167341 45073 9135 952 5386 15847 72270 0.724 4.89 4.86
2007 167783 44977 9197 938 4957 16079 70921 0.713 4.81 4.80
2008 166714 43972 9014 886 4878 16337 69392 0.702 4.74 4.65
2009 165849 43524 8737 949 5042 16620 69285 0.704 4.75 4.61
2010 165353 42554 8486 866 4613 15778 66611 0.675 4.56 4.38
2011 165705 42267 8399 898 4552 15018 66118 0.663 4.47 4.28
2012 165251 42063 8261 927 4934 14709 66980 0.667 4.50 4.32
2013 166070 42093 8222 772 4661 14640 65842 0.655 4.42 4.17
2014 165614 41595 8137 849 4186 14020 63988 0.637 4.30 4.07
2015 165488 42106 8242 939 4909 14073 66953 0.662 4.47 4.25
2016 165562 42276 8255 873 5610 15088 69107 0.684 4.61 4.48

Relative Conditions

Pitchers throw harder now than they used to. Back in the 1970s a pitcher throwing 90 miles per hour was considered a power pitcher; today a pitcher who throws 90 is considered a finesse pitcher. Bob Feller famously hit 98 in a test in the 1940’s, and it was considered a freakishly fast pitch. Nolan Ryan hit 100 mph in the 1970’s and, again, it was considered to be the work of a freak. At least two dozen pitchers can hit 100, including Aroldis Chapman, who has reached 106, and hundreds of pitchers can hit 95. Few pitchers get away with throwing 90 anymore, unless they throw the knuckleball.

Some people argue that radar guns are simply set at a higher speed – recalling the notorious fast guns of the 1970s – but radar technology has improved dramatically. The guns are digital, and accurate to several decimals. The target moves in a consistent direction, and the distance is always 60 feet, 6 inches. It’s possible that the readings were set slower before digital technology, but I haven’t read about this factor in other areas that use radar. Were 1970s speedometers slow?

– The PPA (number of pitches per plate appearance) has skyrocketed in the last 40+ years. The accepted pitch limit (100-120 pitches today, it was roughly 100 for all of my lifetime) for a starter in the 1960’s was almost always enough to complete a game if they were effective, often with enough room to spare that a complete game might actually be considered an “easy” start (less than 90 pitches). Today, it takes more like 150 pitches to complete a typical game, and the 100 pitch complete games are rare. Every starter is compelled to pitch to his fatigue level almost every start. The average number of pitches per start is well over 100 for almost every rotation regular in the league. This is because:

-Virtually every player in the league works the count. Vlad Guerrero, in 2008, saw 3.58 pitches per plate appearance. The league leaders see, typically, 4.5 or so. If Guerrero, a notorious hacker, is up there for 3.58 pitches every time, multiply that by the roughly 40 plate appearances per team per game. It’s over 140 pitches – for the most notoriously free swinger in the league. I don’t have the data that I would like for this. Does anyone have PPA data for the league as a whole and/or individual players?

-Players are in vastly better condition, and are a good bit bigger and stronger than in the past. Stan Musial was famous for stretching and running in the winter in the 1940’s. Now, everyone does. Carl Yastrzemski was famous for lifting weights in 1967. The articles from the period argued about whether lifting weights would be damaging to a ballplayer’s skills, much like articles from the 1890’s argued about the hit and run play. Now, everyone lifts weights in a program with fitness counselors 12 months a year, in some cases working out twice a day or more, to focus on small muscle groupings. This isn’t some players, this is ALL players, and the weaklings are the ones that “only” work out once a day.

We run Bloomsday every year in my hometown, a road race that gets up to 60,000 runners. Pasta feeds and steak feeds, where they could be found, were major conversation points on every newscast leading up to the race in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Now, while a few places hold on to the pasta angle (mostly Italian restaurants), the TV stations talk about high protein diets and Gatorade, and trying not to eat too much before the race. This is right in line with the eating habits of modern players. Steak and pasta were the famous “performance” foods of the old days. Now, most players have a pharmacy in their kitchen, and a blender that they fill with a scientifically balanced bomb of energy food for breakfast. No ham and eggs for today’s players. Wave a freaking cheeseburger in front of them and they would run away, screaming.

The end result is that anyone that wants to compete with today’s version of a ballplayer needs to be in almost perfect shape. The few exceptions are usually pitchers, and those exceptions are also known for not being durable. Nick Johnson is probably the most notable “normal looking” player today. What is he known for? Working the count, and getting hurt. His ability to work the count is up there with the best in the game, but his inability to get himself in the kind of shape that would enable him to stay on the field has made him something of a vagabond. The fat pitchers used to include guys that pitched 300 innings or more every year, like Lolich and Gaylord Perry. In the 1980’s Sid Fernandez was famous for getting hitters out up in the zone, being fat and getting hurt. In today’s game, almost all of the “fat” pitchers end up in the bullpen, unable to show enough durability to be starters.

I kind of liked having the fat players in the game myself, but the point of your thread isn’t about what we wish was true. It’s about what IS true. I have no proof that baseball has gotten tougher to play over the years. I do have eyes, and a very good memory. It’s obvious to me that it is tougher to compete in today’s game, and that the average regular of today would be a star in 1927. My opinion is that the best players of 1927, given the modern conditions to work in and being able to take advantage of every modern advantage, would mostly be stars today. It is also my opinion that, if today’s players had been born in 1900, they would not be any better in 1927 than the ones that populated the league at that time. The players are players, but the conditions are the conditions. The modern conditions are so far advanced from 1927 that the 1927 Yankees would be lost in today’s game if they were simply time warped to today. Had they all been born 83 years later, though, they would be very competitive with the best of the modern teams.

Sorry for being so overly wordy. The real point is that the conditions have changed a ton, but people of 1927 weren’t substantially different than people of today. 23 gene pairings, 2 eyes, etc. To determine what you are trying to prove, you have to deal with that question: Are the 1927 Yankees coming in a time warp and the 2004 Red Sox going back in a time warp? If so, the Red Sox would destroy the Yankees. However, if they all go back and get born in a different time, I don’t see any reason why the Yankees wouldn’t still be murderer’s row.

The Test – Adrian Beltre

Might as well run him through the test.

 

1 (career): His career was — C

  • A: top 25
  • B: top 75
  • C: top 150
  • D: top 250
  • E: top 400
  • F: top 750
  • G: top round

There is plenty to argue about in his career numbers. He’s currently around 40th in several of the counting categories, which would indicate a B player. He’s 29th in career games played, 23rd in atbats. He’s 196th in career slugging and off the lists in batting average and onbase percentage, indicating a D at best. Black and gray ink are way below the mark for an average Hall of Famer. The Hall monitor that leans on career accomplishments has his above the gray area, while the monitor that leans more on signature accomplishments has him firmly in the middle of the gray area.

Overall I think he’s a clear C, easily one of the 150 best careers but dubious for the best 75. Only an extreme career-leaning analyst would make the B argument, and only an extreme dominance-leaning analyst would make the D argument. In the middle is usually where the truth sits.

  • 2 (prime): His prime was — C
  • A: top 25
  • B: top 75
  • C: top 150
  • D: top 250
  • E: top 400
  • F: top 750
  • G: top sirloin

He has been a regular for 18 years and an above average player, for the most part, since 2004. Unfortunately for him he didn’t take to Safeco Field, so he spent what should have been his peak years treading water as a hitter. Overall, his prime – which is still going – has lasted 13 years (a high number) with an ops+ of 124 (mediocre). Even a defensive force would have to beat that number significantly to make the argument for an A or B. Again, though, the volume is truly impressive and a Gold Glover with 13 years of 124 ops+ is at the absolute worst a borderline C/D. Given the length of Beltre’s peak (that he’s still adding on to), I think he slides into a C grade without a throw.

3 (peak): His established peak was — D

  • A: top 25
  • B: top 75
  • C: top 150
  • D: top 250
  • E: top 400
  • F: top 750
  • G: top of old Smokey

Beltre’s career is tree-trunk wide, but he did not put up a consistently high peak. His 2004 season (163 ops+) stands out almost as a fluke year, considering how consistent Beltre has been over his career. His ops+ by team:

  • Los Angeles – 108 (including the 163)
  • Seattle – 101
  • Boston – 141
  • Texas – 131

His best five-year stretch was 139, which ain’t all that great in a cosmic greatness context. There are easily 150 players with higher established peaks than Adrian Beltre. He’s probably a D on this question.

I can see the argument for a C, though: his peak wasn’t all that much higher than his 13-year prime. In other words, even his peak was far wider than anyone else’s.

 

4 (metrics): According to the metrics, he was — B

  • A: top 25
  • B: top 75
  • C: top 150
  • D: top 250
  • E: top 400
  • F: top 750
  • G: Top of the morning
  • WAR says top 50 and I ain’t making the defensive WAR over-rewards the left end of the defensive spectrum argument here, so give the man his B.

5: (contemporary position): At his position he was _____ his generation’s top player — C

  • A: easily
  • B: arguably
  • C: frequently
  • D: occasionally
  • E: rarely
  • F: never (but he was above average)
  • G: aware of

The best third basemen in his league during Beltre’s career were Scott Rolen early, Arod in the middle, and Beltre himself late, though there always seemed to be someone else they preferred to give the spot to in any given season. Beltre’s poor record in all-star and silver slugger voting reflects the fact that he was often the bridesmaid but rarely the bride. Still, he was always one of the best, which we all (I think we all) see as the definition of a C player.

6 (historical position): At his position he ranks — C

  • A: at the top
  • B: on the positional Mt. Rushmore
  • C: in the positional top 10
  • D: in the positional top 20
  • E: in the positional top 40
  • F: in the positional top 75

I think he has work to do if he’s going to get on the mountain, but I think he’s in the top ten.

G: in the name of love

  • 7: (comps): when his comps were HOF eligible, — C
  • A: they were elected immediately
  • B: they were elected quickly
  • C: they were elected by BBWAA
  • D: they were elected by old-timers
  • E: they are candidates for old-timers
  • F: they are candidates for someone
  • G: they joined witness protection

Beltre’s best career comp might is Brooks Dawson Molitor Santo. A couple of those guys got in right away, but I don’t think Beltre has the cache they had (at least not yet). He has already far outlasted Santo and he was a more substantial defensive force than Dawson, and he was on some winners. I think he’s an easy C, but arguably a B in the Robbie Alomar, Carlton Fisk tradition. To me, though, Alomar and Fisk were actually C level players, so I’m going back to the C.

8: (fame): Who would have heard of him? — C

  • A: everyone
    B: people who pay any attention to sports
    C: casual sports fans
  • D: serious sports fans
    E. casual baseball fans
  • F: serious baseball fans
    G. most of his immediate family

I’m pretty sure this is a D, but I could be talked into a C without much of a fight. Since he’s been a C on virtually every other question, I’m going to give in and skip the fight.

9: (impact): He would get his own — C

  • A: chapter
  • B: chapter section
  • C: page
  • D: paragraph
  • E: sentence
  • F: mention
  • G: copy

It won’t be written in blood, but a long career leads to a long list of things to talk about. He’s probably borderline C/D, but again I’ll lean to C. I could write a page on him.

10: (intuition): If you are the Hall of Fame doorman, you send him to the — C

  • A: penthouse
  • B: VIP suite
  • C: banquet hall
  • D: gallery
  • E: lobby
  • F: line
  • G: ticket window

Beltre is going to be the third Adrian in the Hall of Fame, and he’s most likely going to get in through the BBWAA. Will he get in right away? I doubt it. My guess is he gets the call 5-7 years in, but he might be sweating to the end of his eligibility – or even have to wait a few years for the Veterans’ Committee – if the ballots are too crowded.

 

Conclusion: Beltre is a point or two north or south of a perfect C on the Test. In a good mood I might get him up to a 2.2, but in a bad mood he could drop down to the mid 1’s in my peak-obsessed mind.

The Most Valuable Housewives of Cooperstown County

Baseball is a show. You can call it a reality show,  or a game show, or loosely scripted performance art show, but the emphasis is on “show.” Baseball is a competition, but it isn’t in the competition business. Baseball is in the drama business. Show business. Baseball doesn’t care who wins – as long as you care who wins. To illustrate, we need go no further than the roots of the modern Most Valuable Player award.

The first MVP award, given out by the Chalmers automobile company in 1911, came about as the result of one of major league baseball’s biggest scandals. The original Chalmers award, given out in 1910, was given to the batting champion. The popular Napoleon Lajoie – pronounced LAZ-shoe-way – and the unpopular Ty Cobb were locked in a tight battle for the title, the award and the car. On the final day of the season, Lajoie was allowed to drop several bunts in front of a third baseman who was playing so far back that the left fielder kept tripping over him. The subsequent outcry led to what became, after a few minor tweaks, the same MVP award handed out today.

I doubt the guys who invented the first Most Valuable Player award sat in a room and said, “hey, we need to make this award ambiguous, so there is something to argue about.” But they named it “most valuable player,” rather than “best player.” Was it a mistake, or an act of accidental dramatic genius?

“Best player” awards – of which many are given out every year – suck the drama out of the room. Without ambiguity, Honors have no staying power. After a moment of glory, the souvenir trophy is stored on a dusty shelf and forgotten.

Arguments are the essence of lasting, memorable awards. A perfect award is a dead award.

I’d be offended if I knew what impugned means

November 20, 2013

Political correctness is all around us, but for the most part it’s a benign obsession we can avoid. We just have to stay away from soccer moms and limit our social associations to other assholes who know they are assholes, and as a result don’t get all uptight about it.

Occasionally, though, the PC virus pops up out of the fetid swamp of self-righteousness it spawns in, forcing the rest of us to deal with it.

The most common PC virus in sports is the team nickname virus. The afflicted acquire strong feelings about the notion that calling a professional sports team by a human term is offensive. I usually ignore these occasional breakouts, mostly because it’s a pretty stupid thing to worry about. Recently, however, ESPN’s 06010 podcast decided to take a stand against using the term Redskins to describe a team called the Redskins.

It doesn’t bother me that Nate Ravitz took this particular stand. Lots of people get the virus, and Nate isn’t immune to the occasional bout of windmill tilting. We all have our moments. But in the same podcast he called the  Kansas City Chiefs the Chiefs. On the baseball podcast he calls Atlanta Braves Braves, and he’s been known to call the Minnesota Vikings Vikings, too, if you can believe that.

I could care less about any of it, but if we are going to stop using Redskins, what other mascot names should we be worried about? What other groups are we denigrating?

For the hell of it, I made a list of baseball teams. Who should be offended by their nicknames?

  • Dodgers – I dunno…. jaywalkers? Draft dodgers?
  • Giants – Andre’s family? Patrons of big and tall shops?
  • Padres – The clergy? Maybe people who hate fecal color schemes on their uniforms?
  • Rockies – mountain ranges? People with really hard heads? Adrian’s husband?
  • Mariners – Seagoing captains? hearing impaired Italian chefs?
  • A’s – valedictorians? The Fonze?
  • Angels – your kids when you are looking
  • Devils (hockey) – your kids when you are not looking
  • Rangers – Chuck Norris and whatever he’s selling on HSN these days
  • Astros – Scooby Doo knockoffs who like treadmills
  • Pirates – One eyed parrot enthusiasts
  • Cubs – baby bears and the mothers who love them
  • Reds – commies, gingers, speed freaks and used books
  • Cardinals – those birds that look like they just came from the Alamo, uppity priests
  • Brewers – Laverne and Shirley fans, every 38 year old married suburban male on the planet
  • Tigers – Elin, the mistresses who never got to pose for Maxim Magazine
  • White Sox – Dilbert
  • Indians – Every Cleveland fan except Drew Carey; Drew loves casinos and he always suspected that Tonto was hoarding conjunctions
  • Royals – Inbreds with no visible means of support
  • Mets – Orthodox leaders? I’m reaching, I know … I’m offended by their outfield defense
  • Yankees – all patriotic Americans and some who are just here for the cheese
  • Red Sox – Ankle bleeders and anemic Donnie Osmond fans
  • Orioles – Vanna White
  • Blue Jays – Dopey Smurf
  • Rays – the teeming masses who don’t, in fact, love Raymond
  • Twins – amoebas, Pamela Anderson
  • Braves – Tomahawk salesmen who can’t get licenses to sell inside the stadium
  • Nationals – Nobody, they are just glad to get rid of the nickname Senators. They were going to be nicknamed the Congressmen, but Congress hasn’t agreed on anything since the turn of the century. Don’t ask me which century, that just makes me feel old.
  • Phillies – girl horses, cheese steaks
  • Marlins – You’d think they would have evolved a way to retract their sword by now, like a switchblade. French kissing must be really awkward
  • Diamondbacks – snakes

I also think it would be funny if Campfire Girls picketed the Cleveland Browns.

Swing Thoughts: Satchel Paige

Satchel Paige- It would be one of the biggest boons to baseball historians ever if more footage of Satchel could be found. I’ve seen him throw exactly 5 pitches, and 2 of them were obviously not thrown in a game situation even though one of them actually was (that pitch was one of probably tens of thousands that Satchel threw in those exhibition games when he only pitched because it was part of the team’s contract to play that game. He would throw to a batter or two, and leave the game). That left me three pitches to get a sense of his motion. Pitch by pitch:

– 1948, Cleveland is getting blown out and Satchel comes in for one batter. He got a flyball out on the one pitch. This pitch was from the stretch, and there were no histrionics. Satchel’s motion was abbreviated, almost a slide-step, and the one notable thing was that he got his torque from a very late “shrug” of his shoulders and cock-whipping the ball, along with a strong move forward from his stretch position.

– The other 2 pitches came from the same game. My best guess is that it’s from a game when he was with the St. Louis Browns. He was one of the best pitchers in the AL in 1952 (12-10, 3.07 era for a terrible team) and was named to the 1953 all star game at the age of 47. The pitches:

– The first pitch was delivered normally, but almost sidearm. The second pitch was delivered with Satchel’s signature double backwards loop before going into his windup, and delivered closer to overhand. The motions were similar overall: He would wind up backwards like most pitchers, then kick his leg out and hold it stiff while he lit a cigarette, ate a sandwich, and called for a cab.

There was no hip windup, no shoulder turn. He just stood there, suspended, then he leaned forward while his arm went back behind his left shoulder, out of sight (it was once spotted in Nova Scotia, but the reports were spotty) and he whipped the ball towards the hitter like his arm was made out of rubber.

One of the soft tosses was from an earlier period of his career, and even then his hip motion wasn’t very pronounced. He seemed to get most of his power from his long, limber, whip-like arm and his late forward move. Some guys just have those long, limber whips. I remember Jeff Nelson with the Mariners. His pitches always moved like whiffle balls, and his arm seemed to swing around like a monkey’s arm would.

Swing Thoughts: Warren Spahn

Warren Spahn (1948)- He brought the ball and his mitt up together right up on top of his cap without a lot of early motion, then he kicked high, rocked back towards second base, twisted his hips around, leaned back towards the third base dugout, twisted his hips violently back around towards the plate and delivered the ball over his right shoulder, almost completely overhand, with a wide yet urgent sweeping motion.

This footage was from a game in 1948, early in his career, so he might well have changed his motion later in his career. He almost would have had to. He was trying to get all of his torque late in his motion, wasting the first half of it entirely.

Swing Thoughts: Bill Dickey

Bill Dickey- I didn’t get much to go on, but I did get enough to see that he copied Lou Gehrig’s weird backwards step as he followed through with his swing. He appears to have kept his bat low in his waiting stance, though he did cock it up and back as he took his stride before driving the bat through the zone. He did not have a big uppercut; he kept the bat fairly level, which made it look like he was trying to toss the bat at the pitcher but couldn’t let go.

Swing Thoughts: Hal Newhouser

Hal Newhouser- His motion isn’t all that different from the other lefties that I’ve been talking about, though I would say that it was less dramatic. He used his arm more, and his body less, than Grove or Koufax. He threw low overhand, and he had really long arms and that natural, athletic way of delivering the ball that always looks so impressive. He used more arm action than most pitchers that I’ve been looking at. The M’s closer, Brandon League, has a similar way of delivering the ball though he is right handed.

It was bugging me, that I knew a modern pitcher that threw like Newhouser: David Price. Price is even more violent in his late arm “shove” than Newhouser, but their motions are similar. Price rocks back to front more than Newhouser, who swept around like most pitchers of his era did. I don’t honestly know what caused the change, but my guess is that the newer version makes it easier to control and command the fastball. Fewer moving parts, and everything is moving in the proper direction.