The Mets Are Shallow

Carlos Beltran holds a lot of sway over the young Mets

That’s right.  Jon Niese of the New York Metropolitans was given the gift of a new nose by teammate Carlos Beltran.  No word yet on whether the operation will help his control or not.

“One of the most popular procedures today is the nose job. The technical term for the nose job is rhinoplasty. Rhino? I mean, do we really need to insult the person at this particular moment of their life? They know they have a big nose, that’s why they’re coming in. Do they really need the abuse of being compared to a rhinoceros on top of everything else?
When someone goes in for a hair transplant, they don’t say, “We’re going to perform a cueball-ectomy on you, Mr. Johnson. We’re going to attempt to remove the skin-headia of your chrome-domus…these are the technical terms, of course.”” – Jerry Seinfeld

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Preaching Temperance in Boston

"We've got to do something....to save the children" - Gil Scot Heron

It is being reported that the Boston Red Sox have decided to ban alcohol of all sorts from their clubhouse.  Ex-Manager, Terry Francona has called the move a “PR ploy.”  The Red Sox, and Terry Francona, did not look great at the end of last season when the reported breakdowns in their locker room and lackluster play on the field were linked to excessive fried chicken and beer before, and during, home games.

It’s no secret that Bobby Valentine has had issues with players consuming alcohol in the locker room and playing cards during games.  Perhaps he is actually serious about this rule and wants to assert his domination from the get-go.  It’s a move that I don’t think endears any manager to their players.  Athletes can be spoiled brats at times and telling a grown man he isn’t allowed to have alcohol because of what a few players (some of whom have now retired, been traded or undergone surgery) did is certainly not going to create an atmosphere of comraderie.

Maybe it’s a PR move just to lure Josh Hamilton to their team.  I am sure the Red Sox would love to add Josh Hamilton to their lineup to protect Adrian Gonzalez.  Who wouldn’t?

They have not, yet, banned fried chicken but it can only be a matter of time.  Updates to follow.

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R.I.P. Gary Carter

April 8, 1954 - February 16, 2012

Hall of Fame catcher, Gary “The Kid” Carter,  has lost his battle against Brain Cancer.  The Kid was only 57 years young.  Our thoughts go out to his friends, family and teammates.

Carter, who retired in 1992, is best remembered for helping the New York Mets achieve a World Series title in 1986.

Kevin Costner’s backyard better make room in the dugout for one more.

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Big in Japan

This looks more like an NFL stadium than an MLB stadium.

If the Yu Darvish signing bonanza has taught me anything, it’s that Puro Yakyū (Professional Japenese Baseball) uses a different sized baseball than MLB.  The difference? The ball in Japan is slightly smaller.  This is a huge difference, no?  It’s like asking Diana Turasi, or some other WNBA player I haven’t heard of, to just start playing with the NBA ball (referring of course to the size and not just the stripes).

That is just the beginning of the transitions that a pitcher, or any position player, must make when joining an MLB team after a successful career in Japan.  For example, Yu Darvish threw over 140 pitches in a game 9 times last season.  He threw 120+ pitches 15 times. You can bet that he won’t throw 140 pitches in a single outing ever in a Rangers Uniform.  Japanese pitchers have also been known to have extensive work out regimes (see Kei Igawa) which  leave them completely exhausted, in American eyes, come game time.  This, along with stuttering wind-ups, is just the beginning of the changes and adjustment that will need to be made.

Since I mentioned him, Kei Igawa was an all star pitcher in Japan who is now being paid $46M to pitch in AAA.  To call him a bust is putting it mildly.  The guy is the highest paid AAA player of all time.  Why was Kei Igawa signed by the Yankees at such an exorbitant rate? Kei Igawa’s contract was a competitive signing answering the Red Sox signing of Dice-K Matsuzaka.  Although fairing a bit better, Dice-K has never seemed to “figure it all out” either.  Just to stress how overpaid a guy like Dice-K ($9M) is, Baseball-Reference has John Maine ($3M) listed as the most similar pitcher.  Why is it that these supposed phenoms just can’t adjust to MLB?

Aside from the size of the ball, there is often a language barrier, less days in between starts, a longer season and much more travel.  Transitioning from College ball to the Majors presents more challenges than that transition and thousands of players have done it.  I think the major difference is a cultural difference in the sports of MLB and Japanese baseball.  Japanese pitchers do not pitch inside which is a time tested way to have success in MLB.  (There was a great discussion of this point on ESPN’s Baseball Today podcast.)  Haven’t you noticed that the way Ichiro swings takes away the ability to pitch him inside effectively?  You have to work him on the outer corner of the plate.

This is Japanese baseball, a near inversion of MLB.   A completely different set of ideals, strategies and theories when on the field.  It’s not that MLB is better, it’s just different.  It’s always hard to change or adjust the thing you have spent your life perfecting and we can’t expect Dice-K or Yu Darvish to immediately dominate MLB.

It will be interesting to watch the relationship between Bobby Valentine, who has coached in Japan, and Dice-K this year.  Maybe their mutual understanding of Japanese baseball will allow Dice-K to finally learn to throw the gyroball inside.  Until then, MLB teams will continue wasting massive sums of money (we’re talking European Soccer-like sums of money) on Japanese pitchers that don’t often pan out as planned.

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Lay Off the Whiskey and Let That Cocaine Be!

Is Cocaine really that much different than HGH?

The teaser released from Oil Can Boyd’s autobiography states that he used Cocaine many times (2/3 of games) during his baseball career.  He even admits that he used cocaine in a manner that enhanced his performance on the field.

“Some of the best games I’ve ever, ever pitched in the major leagues, I stayed up all night; I’d say two-thirds of them. If I had went to bed, I would have won 150 ballgames in the time span that I played. I feel like my career was cut short for a lot of reasons, but I wasn’t doing anything that hundreds of ballplayers weren’t doing at the time, because that’s how I learned it.” – ESPN.COM

Anyone surprised?  Of Course not. The 1986 Mets have proven that camaraderie and cocaine and greenies can win you a World Series Championship.  So this brings us to the question, “why do we differentiate between performance enhancing drugs?”  Babe Ruth ate hot dogs. Mantle drank beerDwight Gooden snorted CokeBonds did Steroids.  One of those men has a severely tarnished legacy in the game.  Spoiler alert: it’s Barry Bonds.

So why are we so much more harsh towards Barry Bonds?  Dwight Gooden has readily admitted that he doesn’t remember throwing his no-hitter on May 14, 1996. Do we think Cocaine abuse played a role in his seemingly endless tank of energy on the mound?  Of course.  So why is it that Barry Bonds and Co. are vilified?

Steroids are a synthetic drug that is taken to gain an advantage over someone else.  It’s usually not shared with friends (unless your Clemens and Pettite).  It’s usually done in the shadows and in a shroud of shame and humility.  But are they really worse than any other performance enhancing substance?

I argue that they should not be treated like villains.  Baseball has had four major eras:  Segregation (divided into 1. the dead ball era; and 2. the live ball era), 3. Integration; and, currently, 4. The Steroid era. It’s sad to admit that we are living in The Steroid Era, but it’s time to come to grips with it.

We will never be able to prove that even our biggest and most honest heroes playing in the 90′s and aught’s didn’t do steroids.  In fact, we don’t know what will be classified as a steroid moving forward.  The list of banned substances published by MLB keeps growing year by year.  Therefore, we just have to accept that a lot of players used performance enhancing drugs, and even worse, used them to break records that stood for a long, long time.

People were angry with Hammerin’ Hank Aaron when he broke Babe Ruth’s record in a nearly empty stadium in Toronto.  Why? I assume it’s because the old guard of baseball wanted to protect the record of the game’s greatest white player, Babe Ruth.  People didn’t want Roger Maris to break the single season record in 1961.  People didn’t even want Roger Maris to edge out his contemporary and teammate Mickey Mantle.  Now we disparage, and by doing so refuse to legitamize, Barry Bonds’ home run record because he “cheated.”  Did steroids hit all 762 home runs for Bonds?  No.  It was a combination of a nearly endless well of talent, a rigorous workout routine and some performance enhancing chemicals that were invented by an ex-jazz bassist.  The point is, we need to get past the fact that we just hate seeing longstanding baseball records broken and some records are more than just records: they are our memories.  And we don’t want to lose those memories.

It’s time to update our thinking and get with the times.  Let all the steroid users in the hall of fame and admit that baseball has been inundated with chemical substances that alter the physical condition of the human body.  Admitting it is the first step to beginning the healing process.  Remember, at the turn of the century Baseball had a massive gambling problem.  A few players paid dearly for their involvement in that gambling.  But baseball admitted it, set harsh rules and moved on.  It’s time to do the same with steroids so we can usher in a 5th exciting new era of America’s pastime.

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There’s No Luck in Swordfishing Here

AJ Burnett may have to find a new tattoo parlor to finish those sleeves.

There have been rumblings about several teams expressing their interest in adding AJ Burnett to their rotation.  If that is true, the Yankees may be about to unload a player with a behemoth contract and an enigmatic inability to succeed. Not to mention that the move could really help Cashman’s image right about now.  And with the excess of starting pitching in the Yankees Locker Room, it may just be the best thing for Burnett.

Burnett, 35, is coming off another sub-par season pitching for the New York Yankees.  In 20111 he posted a 5.15 ERA over 190.1 IP.  That number is down from his prior ERA of 5.26 over 186.2 IP.  Burnett is the first pitcher in Yankee history to post an ERA over 5+ while making 25 or more starts.  That is a mind-boggling statistic when you actually think about it.  The Yankees have existed as long as baseball and yet no one has been so consistently bad yet still given a chance every 5th day.

Burnett’s control problems are  legendary.  Remember, he walked 11 in his no-hitter.  In 2009 he led the league with 97 BB.  In 2011 that number had only decreased to 83 (despite pitching nearly 20 less innings).  If you’re wondering about how good he is in the post season you can stop.  He is exactly the same.

So why would a team be interested in adding Burnett to their staff considering he is set to make $33M over the next two years.  Well, one reason, that old saying, “he has great stuff, if only he could harness it.”

The team that makes the most sense is the Pittsburgh Pirates.  They have money, they have a less than invasive media presence and most importantly, they have a much easier league in which to pitch.  For Burnett it could be a fresh start at a mature age.  A chance that most players don’t get.  It could represent a chance for career redemption.  As Americans we are conditioned to appreciate second chances and therefore people somewhere are rooting for Burnett to finally succeed.  I doubt it will work out but crazier things have happened.

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The Miami Marlins are on LSD

Miami has found the perfect solution to the boring batter's eye that so many parks employ to aid batters.

We all get that the Miami Marlins are a joke, right?  First off, their uniforms are completely ripped off from the monumental, breakthrough film, “Baseketball.”  Second, they are building that hideous monstrosity in Center Field.

If it wasn’t bad enough that this is their logo, they decided to put actual money into that thing. At this point I just can’t figure out what kind of fans they are trying to attract down there in Florida.  For some reason they think that alternate Marlins standing on their tail and snout are going to symbolize baseball?  Why are some of the Marlins dancing above like dolphins?

This stadium is beginning to look more like a bad acid trip than a ballpark.

With only a few weeks before pitchers and catchers report to spring training I can only imagine what kind of furious construction effort is being put forth by Jose Reyes and crew to get that gingerbread house finished.

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