Apparently, the design for the Independent League Amarillo Sox' mascot didn't turn out quite the way they had hoped.
"Is this the way to Amarillo?
Every night I've been hugging my pillow
Dreaming dreams of Amarillo
And sweet Marie who waits for me."
You may not even like baseball much. It doesn't matter. Just watch this short video of a play today in Chicago.
bq. "The green line is the Yankees, and the other lines reflect the rest of the league [ranked by spending] at five-team intervals (the No. 5 team, the No. 10 team and so forth). Notice that through 1993, the top 20 or so teams are relatively closely bunched.... Even after the Yankees became the (almost) constant No. 1 team, the pace of salary separation between the charted teams remains fairly constant for eight years.... But then what has happened since  is clearly illustrated. While the spacing of the other intervals remained fairly consistent, the Yankees payroll skyrockets... [and is now a] full 75 percent higher than the No. 5 team in the league."
The Red Sox have largely matched this spending, but as the graph shows, everyone else has not been able to match. And the unbalanced schedule of playing your own division's teams 19 times and other teams 6 times has made things worse. Result? In the last 11 years, only 1 team other than the Yankees or Red Sox has even made the playoffs from the American League East.
Ultimately, this could lead to folded franchises in Toronto and Tampa, and no-one willing to be in that division. Which is probably what it will take before any changes are made. Baseball isn't 30 or so individual businesses; it's really one business, in competition with other entertainment options across the country. But that isn't its financial structure, and the sport typically needs near-death experiences to produce any change.
"Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I've taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons.
"I want to apologize to Mr. McCourt, Mrs. McCourt, Mr. Torre, my teammates, the Dodger organization, and to the Dodger fans. LA is a special place to me and I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I'm sorry about this whole situation."
According to ESPN, the drug in question was human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). It can be used to reset the body and start testosterone production again after steroid use, hence its presence on The List. It's also used as a fertility drug, both for females, and to treat male "hypogonadism" (hypo = underperforming). If that was the "personal health issue," one can understand why Manny wouldn't be rushing to talk about it. On the other hand, he and his Brazilian wife Juliana (married since 2000) already have 2 sons, and there's his son Manuelito from a previous relationship.
If you're paying much attention to the news these days, you've probably heard about allegations that Alex-Rodriguez (aka. A-Rod, Pay-Rod, A-Roids...) would "tip" pitches. Specifically, that he would see the sign from the catcher and relay information about upcoming pitchers to opposition players during blowout games. This would be done in order to help them improve their numbers, with the implicit understanding that the favour would be returned another day so he could improve his.
The allegation comes in a Sports Illustrated article, and the reporter is standing by her story, insisting that she has corroboration from multiple sources. See this interview with Bob Costas. On the other hand, Harold Reynolds makes the case that this would have been pretty hard to pull off, for a number of reasons. Major League Baseball has said it will investigate, but the burden of proof will be high.
If they get it, it would be explosive. In my opinion (which Ken Burns seems to share), if that's true, he should be out of baseball - for life. So, too, should anyone who collaborated with him. The difference between these allegations, and Shoeless Joe of the 1919 "Black Sox", is narrow: Shoeless Joe is alleged to taken money immediately for the purpose of betraying his team, while A-Rod would have done so in the name of longer-term financial gain.
Steroids are one thing. This is a whole 'nother ball game. There's no place for it, whatsoever, in baseball. Or for anyone who would ever do it.
The amazing, relentless Tampa Bay Rays, versus the Red Empire of Boston, for the American League title. As it should be. 9 = 8 (9 major league players, playing hard with no letup for 9 innings every game, will be one of the 8 playoff teams) has now become 9 = 4. Unless Boston is really on its game, 9 will equal 2.
The come from behind again Phillies (putting an end-of-season stake through the Mets' heart once again) face the Manny-turbocharged LA Dodgers for the National League crown. That wasn't how it was supposed to be; the Cubs' 0-3 departure has left a very bitter taste in Chicago. But that's the way it is, and this is going to be a tough battle for both teams.
I do not envy the team that must face the American League winner.
2,715 hits. A .289 career batting average, with 1,208 RBIs, 1,077 runs scored, 498 doubles, 174 home runs, 450 walks drawn, just 453 strikeouts, and a career fielding percentage of .991 over 20 years from 1970-90. And one play in 1986, when his ankles were giving out on him so badly he had to wear hightop shoes, and Mookie Wilson's grounder rolled through his legs at 1st base in Game 6. The Red Sox, up 3 games to 2, lost game 6 on that play, then lost game 7 and the series.
It's very doubtful that Buckner could have reached 1st base before Wilson, even if he had stopped that ball. Nor would I give good odds that in a magical do-over world, the Sox could have escaped the resulting bases-loaded jam in a 10th inning tie game that was already falling apart on them. And of course, they had every chance to go out and win Game 7. Did they? No.
Even so, it's that one play that came to define Bill Buckner - not just in baseball, but for life. He ended up moving his family to Idaho to escape, but never really did. Until... until last night's 2008 Fenway Park home opener, when he was invited to come and throw out the first pitch for the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox.
The standing ovation lasted 4 minutes (see video). And at long, long last, another curse was laid to its rest.
Whatever it is, it happened just before the end of season last year. Suddenly, Red Sox uber-slugger Ramirez became this semi-philosophical, non-reclusive, personal guy with observations that were interesting. His team-mates have all said - for attribution, and for many years - that Manny was from another planet. Whatever the reporters were asking about today, the response became just go with it, man, it's only "Manny Being Manny." A lot of folks on the outside looked askance at him, even as he put up huge numbers.
That turned around, and it wasn't a change in his production that did it. It's kind if fun to see, even if he does play for one of the 2 Evil Empires of the East. Bit of a head-scratcher, though. There's a really, really interesting case study somewhere in there, from a PR/ celebrity point of view.
Rich "Goose" Gossage was the only candidate inducted into Cooperstown this year by the writers. He got 466 votes, over 85%. You need 75% to qualify for the Baseball Hall of Fame. If there was a Hall of Fame for mustaches, Goose would have been inducted long ago. I'm glad for him, because he has waited for a long time, but my personal feeling is that he's kind of on the bubble in terms of players who should be admitted.
Boston's Jim Rice fell 16 votes short this year at 392, 72.6%. Next year will be his last shot. Which is fine - to me, Rice is the poster boy for an All-Star player, a wonderful player, who is not a Hall of Fame player. If you're a Boston fan, chill out and wait 6-7 years for the grand party that will be Curt Schilling's well-deserved induction.
Mark McGwire got exactly the same number of votes he got in 2007 - 128. Which is unusual, usually it goes up. Looks like the steroids issue is really biting. It's quite possible that he will never make it in... Sosa is an almost certain "no" now, and even Bonds is in question. 5 years ago, could you have imagined that?
The only guy I'd vote for who did not make the Hall in 2008 is Lee Smith. I'd think about Bert Blyleven, and Tommy John too.
The blog at BattersBox.ca consistently provides better analysis of baseball moves and developments than the largest newspapers in an urban region with over 5 million people. Recently, one of their threads pointed me to an article on USS Mariner called "Letting Ichiro Leave For Nothing."
The author, Dave, has looked at 34 baseball players from 2000-2006 that were all all-star talents who were traded in the midst of a highly productive season, were free agents at the end of the year, were unlikely to re-sign with the club, and would be classified as Type A Free Agents (2 high draft choices as compensation picks if the player left via free agency). Then he looked at 21 more Type A free agents who were allowed to walk in return for those 2 draft picks.
Many teams would be better off letting their all-stars walk, and taking the draft picks.
Over the last 7 years, the 41 prospects & players coming back for the 34 qualifying "rental players" traded before the deadline have yielded 2 all-stars, 6 solid players, and 33 flame outs or marginal players with very low value. That's about 1 in 20 odds for all stars, and 1 in 7 for solid players. If you get 3-4 players back for your all-star, do the math.
And the 42 draft picks from the 21 Type "A" free agents let go?
3 have been big successes, 4 have been good enough, 3 others are among the most valuable young players in the game today, we’ll have to wait a few years to figure out the fate of 4 more because it's too early, and 27 of the picks could be labeled as busts, even though a couple still have a shot to turn into major league role players down the road.
These draft picks have trade value in blue chips for all stars deals in a couple of years (vid. Detroit's trade for Cabrera & Willis this off-season), something that's harder to do with prospects in the high minor leagues because their value is much more certain by then.
Which leads to my question.
Why isn't this the kind of column turned out by our paid media folks, who never let an opportunity slip by to congratulate themselves on their supposedly higher standards?
Then again, the guy lied to a federal grand jury, when he knew that Balco was raided and that he had given them blood and/or urine samples. The 5th was written for that very circumstance, but he didn't use it. So, can he be indicted? Certainly. Should he be indicted? I think the whole thing fell into the "utter waste of time" category from the get go, and the fact that some idiot in Washington thought it was a good idea doesn't make it holy writ. Can't say as I'm a huge fan of Barry or his behaviour; never really liked the guy, actually, but I'm even less of a fan of the folks who are after him. Enough, already.
Maybe if we ship truckloads of mosquitoes to Washington every year, we can encourage fewer people to stay anywhere near the place with time on their hands. I'm sure a few other parts of the country would happily spare the mosquitoes...