March 31, 2021

Spin: 62 Musicians Predict The 2021 Baseball Season

SPIN Magazine "searched far and wide to get predictions for the upcoming Major League Baseball season", asking 62 musicians what they think and hope will happen. The best quotes are from angry and/or bitter fans.

Tom DeLonge, Angels & Airwaves (San Diego Padres)

What are your reasonable hopes?

My hope is that we see the Dodgers in the postseason, and that will be the real World Series. Two rivals, and having the underdogs conquer. That's my hope.

Patrick Carney, The Black Keys (Cleveland)

What are your thoughts on the team changing its name?

I am cool with the name change. I hope they don't pick the Cleveland Rockers or something like that. I think the Cleveland Fellers would be a cool name…

Steve Sladkowski, PUP (Toronto Blue Jays)

Despite the tough division, do you think the Jays have the talent to compete?

Absolutely! The Red Sox and Orioles are trash and I am contractually obligated to slander the Yankees . . . And the best Tampa teams currently in the city are from Toronto anyway (don't look that up). So of course the Jays are going to compete. Win the division? Why not!?

Dicky Barrett, Mighty Mighty Bosstones (Boston Red Sox)

What's your prognosis for the season? What happened to the mighty Sox?

Not good. Apparently, management decided they wanted to go in a different direction than fielding a winning team.

What's the ceiling/floor?

The ceiling is what I'm looking up at as I drink to mask the pain of the Sox failure and the floor is where I end up sleeping.

Who is your player to watch this year?

Mookie Betts. Because I'm a sadist.

What’s your record prediction?

They will lose more games than they win and they will score fewer runs than the opposing teams more times than the opposite.

Serengeti (Chicago White Sox)

What are your reasonable hopes? What's the ceiling/floor?

Ceiling: World Series champs in 4 games. Floor: World Series champs in 5 games.

Who is your player to watch this year?

The only player any person should ever watch is Luis Robert. He is like if Bo Jackson, Roman Reigns and RoboCop collabed to be a superhuman. Frank Thomas said he is a 6 tool player. What is the 6th tool? Nobody knows. It doesn't matter. Luis Robert is great.

Dave Hause (Philadelphia Phillies)

Thoughts on Bryce Harper? Is he worth the money or will he be forever a disappointment?

There's no salary cap in baseball, so I don't care what he costs and frankly, in any sport, I want the players to make as much money as is humanly possible. I mean who are we rooting for, the owners?! 

Joe Casey, Protomartyr (Detroit Tigers)

What's your prognosis for the season? Any hopes for the team?

Prognosis: Terminal. The hope is that this'll be a "rebuilding year" I suppose. I sure do miss "built" years.

Robert Ortiz, Escape the Fate (Atlanta)

What's your World Series matchup?

Easy. After shitting on the piece of shit Dodgers, [Atlanta] will obliterate the New York piece of shit Yankees.

Kay Hanley, Letters to Cleo (Boston Red Sox)

What's your prognosis for the season?

Given last season's flaming jalopy pileup into last place, Red Sox 2021 will probably be better without even trying. So there's that. Positives: Alex Cora is back and with a lot to prove, will be looking to re-establish his reputation and muzzle some fools. Pitching staff is improving top to bottom, which I admit isn't saying much, but having Eduardo Rodriguez and (hopefully) Chris Sale back plus a couple of interesting bullpen additions like Hirokazu Sawamura makes me feel like we're heading in the right direction. If Devers, Dalbec and Verdugo bats light up like we know they can, if JD Martinez can get his head on straight, if Eovaldi can stay healthy, if the weak outfield can be like, not a sieve. That's a lot of ifs. This is an IF season.

Will they be able to recapture the success of the past two decades?

In terms of winning? No. There are other ways to measure success when you rip the house down to the studs. Chaim Bloom's focus on fortifying the foundation through the minor league is great but I don't really think the "rebuilding phase" (a term of art that Red Sox [fans] are very used to hearing) had to be as fucking painful as this is and will continue to be for the next few years.

Who is your player to watch this year?

Kiké Hernandez. The chemistry plus history between Cora plus Kiké is intriguing. Dying to see what happens there.

What's your World Series matchup?

Dodgers and some team like the Twins or Yankees, who will lose.

JR Wasilewski, Less Than Jake (New York Yankees)

What are your reasonable hopes? What's the ceiling/floor?

The ceiling is the World Series. The floor is where Red Sox fans are gonna be from drinking to numb the pain so often. Probably.

Jon Snodgrass (Colorado Rockies)

What's your prognosis for the season?

Well, it's beyond ugly over here. We have a lot of rightfully angry & discouraged fans. They are threatening to boycott Coors Field, demanding the firing of Jeff Bridich, and to "SELL THE TEAM!"

Sam Anderson, Quaker City Hawk Nights (Texas)

What's your prognosis for the season? Any hopes for the team?

After asking Arlington taxpayers to take it in the shorts twice on new stadiums you would figure the Rangers front office would try to at least roll out an entertaining product. That does not appear to be the case this year.

What's your record prediction?

This front office has made all the moves you make before you sell a franchise.

Steve Earle (New York Yankees)

What's your record prediction?

We’ll win 97, 98.

What's your World Series matchup?

Dodgers vs. Yanks. Yanks in 7.

I am not happy to learn Steve Earle is a Yankee fan. I thought he was a smart guy.

Contest Reminder

Opening Day is tomorrow!

Today is your chance to enter the 2021 W-L contest!

March 30, 2021

2021 Predictions: Sports Illustrated, CBS, Yahoo, USA Today, FanGraphs, SB Nation, Mass Live, Dallas Morning News, FiveThirtyEight, Keith Law (The Athletic)

A bright spot!

FanGraphs projects the Red Sox to finish third!

Sports Illustrated

Yankees 97 65
Blue Jays 91 71
Rays 86 76
Red Sox 80 82
Orioles 62 100

"Order, restored: The Yankees should match the AL’s highest payroll with the league’s best record. . . . [The Red Sox] may not have actively torn down any more this winter—but they sure didn’t start building back up."

American League Central: White Sox
American League West: Angels
National League East: Atlanta
National League Central: Cardinals
National League West: Dodgers

CBS Sports

All five members of the "Eye on Baseball" team pick the AL East the same way:

Blue Jays
Red Sox

American League Central: White Sox 3, Twins 2
American League West: Astros 5
National League East: Atlanta 3, Mets 2
National League Central: Cardinals 5
National League West: Dodgers 5

AL Pennant: Yankees 4, White Sox 1
NL Pennant: Dodgers 4, Atlanta 1
World Series: Yankees 3, Dodgers 2


All 13 staff and contributors pick the Yankees to win the AL East.

World Series

Dodgers over Yankees (3)
Dodgers over White Sox (2)
Yankees over Dodgers (2)
Yankees over Mets
Mets over Rays
Mets over White Sox
Atlanta over Yankees
Atlanta over White Sox
Padres over Yankees

AL MVP: Mike Trout (6), Bo Bichette (2), Shohei Ohtani (1), Anthony Rendon (1), Tim Anderson (1), Giancarlo Stanton (1), Aaron Judge (1)

AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole (8), Lucas Giolito (3), Shane Bieber (1), Tyler Glasnow (1)

NL MVP: Ronald Acuna Jr. (4), Juan Soto (4), Fernando Tatis Jr. (2), Mookie Betts (1), Corey Seager (1),  Freddie Freeman (1)

NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom (13)

USA Today

Yankees 94 68
Rays 88 74
Blue Jays 87 75
Red Sox 80 82
Orioles 60 102

"Nobody won this division in the off-season, but the Yankees did less to lose it: Retaining DJ LeMahieu while the Rays shipped off Blake Snell and shed a half-dozen other members of their pennant-winning club. But Tampa Bay's unmatched depth will keep it just a tick above the Blue Jays, who made this a top-heavy and far more delightful division with George Springer the cog around which their young core shall rotate…The Red Sox remain in no man's land, but should field a more representative squad this season and possibly welcome future contributors, such as outfielder Jarren Duran, to the mix. ... Alas, the Orioles remain in the business of shedding rather than adding, with Adley Rutschman's march to the big leagues the most compelling issue this season."


Yankees    95  67
Blue Jays  88  74
Red Sox    86  76
Rays       83  79
Orioles    67  95

SB Nation

3. Who will win the MVP from each league?

Andrew Mearns, Pinstripe Alley: AL: Mike Trout; NL: Juan Soto.
Brady Klopfer, McCovey Chronicles: AL: Mike Trout; NL: Juan Soto
Sara Sanchez, Bleed Cubbie Blue: AL: Mike Trout, NL: Juan Soto
Kris Willis, Talking Chop: AL: Mike Trout; NL: Ronald Acuña Jr.
Ashley MacLennan, Bless You Boys/DRaysBay: AL: Mike Trout; NL: Fernando Tatis Jr.

5. Which team will be the biggest disappointment?

Sara: Yankees. For the past three years I feel like all I've heard is how great the Yankees will be, but it hasn't gotten them another ring. . . . I know the projections love the pitching staff, but ace Gerrit Cole is one of the pitchers most likely to be impacted by MLB's stated intention to crack down on substances because of spin rate discrepancies, Corey Kluber is a huge injury risk, Jameson Taillon is a good addition - who has thrown 37.1 innings in the last two seasons. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are both injury prone, and Gary Sánchez has shown no sign of turning it around at the plate. This is the same team that hasn't delivered in the last 4 years, they are just a year older.

7. What is your World Series matchup prediction?

Andrew: Dodgers/Yankees. . . . The door is wide open in the AL for the Yankees to return to the World Series, and if not now, then when? But also, no one's beating the Dodgers unless something goes seriously wrong.

Brady: Padres/Yankees. I have the Pads finally eclipsing their big brother Dodgers in a stacked NL, while the Yankees run circles around the competition in the AL. And it all makes for a star-studded World Series, that San Diego wins in seven.

Sara: Padres/White Sox. . . . The Padres are a brilliantly constructed team and they are built to beat the Dodgers. . . . The Yankees should be a juggernaut, but they are fragile. . . .

Kris: Dodgers/Yankees. . . . It seems like there are a lot of things that could go wrong with the Yankees' pitching staff, but I do not see anyone else in the American League that can match their fire power.

Ashley: Padres/Rays. I cannot imagine a more fun final showdown than this, especially with former Rays Tommy Pham and Blake Snell in the mix for the Padres. . . .

Mass Live

AL East: Yankees (5)

"As a staff, it's clear we're pretty high on the Yankees despite the questions in the starting rotation. . . . Note none of us think the Red Sox will make the postseason. . . ." 

AL Pennant: Yankees (4), White Sox (1)

NL Pennant: Padres (2), Dodgers (1), Mets (1), Atlanta (1)

World Series: Padres (2), Dodgers (1), Atlanta (1), Yankees (1)

AL MVP: Mike Trout (2), Alex Bregman (2), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (1)

AL Cy Young: Lucas Giolito (3), Tyler Glasnow (1), Corey Kluber (1)

AL Rookie: Bobby Dalbec (2), Jarred Kelenic (2), Wander Franco (1)

NL MVP: Fernando Tatis Jr. (2), Mookie Betts (1), Ronald Acuña Jr. (1), Cody Bellinger (1)

NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom (2), Walker Buehler (2), Blake Snell (1)

Red Sox Finish:

86 wins / 3rd place
86 wins / 3rd place
85 wins / 3rd place
82 wins / 4th place
74 wins / 4th place

Red Sox MVP: Xander Bogaerts (2), Bobby Dalbec (1), Rafael Devers (1), Alex Verdugo (1)

Red Sox Pitcher of the Year: Eduardo Rodriguez (2), Nathan Eovaldi (2), Nick Pivetta (1)

Red Sox Bold Prediction:

Chris Cotillo: Kiké Hernández makes the AL All-Star team
Chris Mason: Darwinzon Hernandez is the closer by the end of the year
Jim Pignatiello: J.D. Martinez is traded by the July 31 deadline
Chris Smith: Josh Taylor is Boston's best reliever
Matt Vautour: Hirokazu Sawamura saves more than 12 games

Dallas Morning News

AL East: Yankees 6, Rays 1
AL Central: White Sox 4, Twins 3
AL West: Athletics 3, Angels 2, Astros 2
NL East: Atlanta 6, Mets 1
NL Central: Cardinals 4, Brewers 3
NL West: Dodgers 7
AL Pennant: Yankees 4, White Sox 2, Rays 1
NL Pennant: Dodgers 4, Padres 2, Atlanta 1
World Series: Dodgers 4, Padres 1, White Sox 1, Atlanta 1


Yankees    97 65
Rays        88 74
Blue Jays   84 78
Red Sox    80 82
Orioles    63 99

Keith Law, The Athletic

Yankees    100   62
Blue Jays   89   73
Rays        87   75
Red Sox     80   82
Orioles     58  104

The Yankees are clearly the class of this division, and arguably of the American League . . . They have some starting pitching depth that wasn't there in the last few years as well. . . . The Blue Jays were aggressive this winter and could easily push themselves into the 90-win range, enough for a wild-card spot. . . . The Rays traded their best pitcher in Blake Snell, and might be without reliever Nick Anderson for half the season or more, so this team is worse on paper now than it was in 2020 . . . They're still a possible contender, but their margin for error is smaller this year. . . .

The Red Sox had an above-average offense last year and should do so again, maybe slipping into the league's top 3, but their run prevention was the worst in the AL last year and I see no cause for optimism on that front. Even the return of Eduardo Rodríguez, assuming he's fully recovered from COVID-related cardiomyopathy, won't make this an average rotation.

ALCS: Yankees over Twins
NLCS: Dodgers over Mets
World Series: Yankees over Dodgers

AL MVP: Anthony Rendon
NL MVP: Fernando Tatis, Jr.
AL Cy Young: Lucas Giolito
NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom
AL RoY: Randy Arozarena
NL RoY: Dylan Carlson

* * *

The Athletic also has some "articles" that look like predictions for MVP and Cy Young winners, but they are actually thinly-disguised advertisements for online gambling websites. I like The Athletic quite a bit and their Red Sox writers avoid the outdated, agenda-driven nonsense of various now-easily-avoided writers. It's sad to see other websites acting similarly (though on a smaller scale) to MLB's full embrace of gambling. MLB sees nothing wrong with chasing dollars in every direction, with little or no thought  to how it might cause damage the game and further alienate the sport's increasingly older fan base.

March 29, 2021

MLB's Extra-Inning Baserunner Gimmick Saved About 75 Seconds Per Game In 2020

Here's a hot take: It was a horrible decision for Major League Baseball to trash 150 years of how baseball games are played to shorten the average game by merely 75 seconds.

2019 to 2020: The average time of an extra-inning game shrunk from an all-time high of 3:10 to 3:06, but the average time of a nine-inning game increased from 3:05 to 3:07 (the highest in the sport's history).

Society For American Baseball Research
Baseball Records Committee, Spring 2021
Trent McCotter, Editor

In the Summer* and Fall** 2020 newsletters, with the help of Pete Palmer and Al Yellon, we predicted the effects of MLB's supposedly temporary rule of starting extra-inning games with a runner on second base, for the purposes of ending games sooner. It was unclear whether this was designed to (1) make such games more exciting, (2) reduce the time players spent on-field and thus conceivably reduce the chances of catching COVID, or (3) both.

Using historical data of extra-inning rates, we predicted that about 75 games would go to extra innings in 2020. Thanks to research by Jim Wohlenhaus, who catalogued all the extra-inning games in 2020, we can confirm that our prediction turned out to be right on target – 75 games in 2020 went into extras.

Further breaking it down confirms how close real life was to our prediction, which was based on a combination of how many games went X innings historically and how often one team would outscore the other if both began an inning with a runner on 2nd base and nobody out:

Games Going Exactly X Innings    Real-Life    Prediction
          10 inn                     53           50
          11 inn                     17           15
          12 inn                      4            4
          13 inn                      1            1
          14 inn                      0           <1

Under both the old and new rules, the 10th inning would be played no matter what, so there were only 28 "extra-extra" innings in 2020 (i.e., the 11th or later). The expected total under the old rule would have been about 84 such "extra-extra" innings. So we saved about 56 innings of play with the new rule. That is very close to our predicted total of 58 saved innings.

This confirms our prediction that in the end, this new rule saved only about (on average) 75 seconds of time on the field in each game, given the average time of an inning. Other disagree, but as for me, I'd rather give up 75 seconds, get rid of the gimmicky rule, and revert to the one that was good enough for the first 150 seasons. But MLB has announced it intends to keep the new rule despite its minimal time savings.

Note: MLB also started doing 7-inning doubleheaders in 2020, so for any of those that went into extra innings, the 8th inning is treated as the 10th inning (and so on) for purposes of the stats above.

* Summer 2020

Without a doubt, the most bizarre new gimmick for the 2020 season is that extra innings begin with a runner on second base, ostensibly designed to save time in extra-inning games, apparently under the theory that fans will gladly pay attention for 9 innings but then suddenly demand that the game be ended – by any means necessary – as soon as the 10th inning begins.

This new change will have several noticeable effects on record keeping. For example, this baserunner somehow got on base despite his team having never even batted, meaning it is now possible for a team to have more runs scored than baserunners – a logical impossibility under the rules used for the last 150-plus years of baseball. . . .

It seems the likely outcome of this rule will be either: (1) the batting team will attempt to bunt the runner to third, then hit a sacrifice fly or punch a single over the infield; or (2) the fielding team will walk the first batter to put runners on 1st and 2nd, then attempt to get a ground-into-double-play.

In other words, if the goal were to generate excitement, the rule will fail to deliver. If the goal were to end games quickly, the Commissioner might as well have said that any game that goes past 12 innings will be a tie.

And longtime member Pete Palmer reports that the new rule will actually not end up saving that much time anyway. . . . 

There will be about 900 games played this year, with an estimated 150 of them going to extra innings, based on past experience. Under the old rules, about 78 of those games would make it to the 11th inning; under the new rule, about 38 will do so. Under the old rules, about 41 of the 900 games would make it to the 12th inning; under the new rule, about 9 will do so. And so on . . .

Add it all up, and the new rule will be expected to save about 110 innings over the course of the entire shortened season. By comparison to the 8,100 regulation innings played (1st through 9th for 900 games), the savings in terms of time is ultimately rather negligible (1.4% of the regulation-inning total).

Given that the average of all games is a little over 3 hours, this new rule will save, on average for the entire season, about 2.5 minutes per game . . . 

** Fall 2020

In the Summer issue, we discussed the 2020 gimmick whereby extra innings would begin with a runner on second base, ostensibly designed to save time in extra-inning games. We estimated that about 150 games would enter extra innings this season, and the new rule would save about 110 total extra innings – working out to about 2.5 minutes saved per game on average.

Committee member Al Yellon noticed that this estimate was actually far too generous. Because of a calculation error in the newsletter, there would actually be only about 75 games that would go into extra innings (not 150), meaning the new rule would save about 55 extra innings over the course of the shortened season. Given the average time of an inning, that amounts to about 75 seconds saved per game.

March 27, 2021

Barnes Tests Positive For COVID-19; Andriese Also In Quarantine

Matt Barnes tested positive for COVID-19 today. Reliever Matt Andriese is one of "a few people" now in quarantine, according to manager Alex Cora. The news comes only five days before the start of the season.

Barnes had thrown five shutout innings this spring, allowing only two hits and three walks, with eight strikeouts. Adam Ottavino might be the team's main closer as the season begins.

Cora got the news early Saturday morning:

We just have to be patient throughout the day to get more information about it. Hopefully instead of adding people to it we subtract people from that list, but we have to be very careful . . . You start thinking about, "What if something else happens? Where are we going to be in a few days?" . . . It's one isolated quote-unquote incident. Let's hope that's the case. . . . There's a process and they talk to Matt, what he's done the last three or four days . . . what he did from breakfast to dinner, who he spent more time with . . .

Male Sportswriter: Breaking News! Female GM (With 30 Years Prior Experience In MLB) Turns Out To Be Smart And Prepared For Her Job!

I should start a new series: "Belated". It would consist of posts I drafted and meant to publish before I got distracted and forgot about the post and then happened to notice it about two weeks later marked "draft" and thought Didn't I post that? or I went looking for the published post only to find out that I never published it. . . . This would be the first post in that series.

Before we start:

Kim Ng has been working in major league baseball front offices for 30 years. Nearly all of the comments are right on point:
If Ng was Black, those reviews would also mention she is "well-spoken" or "articulate". Or perhaps even "clean".

That thread also includes a few comments which prove sexism is so deeply entrenched in American society that it has become invisible to some people. . . . This is water.

Rodriguez ("Dead Arm") Scratched From Opening Day Start; Eovaldi Will Get Ball

Eduardo Rodriguez has been replaced as the Red Sox's Opening Day starter. Nathan Eovaldi will get the start in G1, as he did last year. The Red Sox begin the season at home on Thursday against the Orioles.

Rodriguez pitched only two innings on Monday and skipped his bullpen session on Wednesday.

Manager Alex Cora said Rodriguez

didn't feel as strong as the previous outings, arm-wise; shoulder, arm . . . Eddie was honest about it, we've been talking the last few days and that's a decision we made. . . . He took it as a professional. I think the communication is very clear, very genuine.

Also: This is a reminder to enter the W-L Contest

March 26, 2021

The 2021 All-Star Game Should Not Be Played In Atlanta

It is now a felony offense in Georgia to give a person waiting in line to vote a drink of water or something to eat, according to Senate Bill 202, a wide-ranging anti-voting measure signed into law (behind closed doors, in secret) by Governor Brian Kemp (a Republican, as if I needed to tell you).

Section 33 of SB202 states:
No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign material, nor shall any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector, nor shall any person solicit signatures for any petition, nor shall any person, other than election officials discharging their duties, establish or set up any tables or booths on any day in which ballots are being cast.

Conceivably, someone who donated a case of bottled water to a volunteer group who later handed out those bottles of water to thirsty voters waiting in line for six or seven hours could be charged with a felony crime of "participat[ing] in the giving of . . . drink". 

When Park Cannon (who represents the 58th district of Georgia) knocked on Kemp's door because she wanted to be present for the signing ceremony, since the new law would affect all of her constituents, she was arrested. One officer actually pulled out his taser, but thought better of using it.

The Georgia Constitution states lawmakers "shall be free from arrest during sessions of the General Assembly" except for treason, felony, or breach of the peace. The Fulton County Department of Public Safety stated Cannon was charged with willful obstruction of law enforcement officers by use of threats or violence and preventing or disrupting general assembly sessions. I imagine I'll be waiting a long time for even a somewhat coherent explanation of how a knock on a door is a disruption worthy of arrest.
SB-202 will limit absentee voting and in-person voting before election day, and gives voters fewer locations to drop off completed ballots. It also requires additional identification in order to cast a ballot. Republicans claim the laws are needed to ensure "election security", but they have been unable to produce even one piece of evidence showing that any election insecurity exists.

This is voter suppression, which should be blatant to anyone not under the corrosive spell of the GQP Cult. The bill will give partisan officials in Georgia additional power to affect the certification of an election by disregarding the results of the popular vote. If the new measures had been in place last year, Republicans could have interfered when Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger refused Donald Trump's plea (made among his 18 desperate phone calls to Raffensperger's office) to "find 11,870 additional votes" (allowing The Former Guy to carry the state by a single vote) and certified Joe Biden's victory.

On Friday, Biden outlined some of the law's discriminatory aspects, calling it "an atrocity", the "Jim Crow of the 21st Century", and "an un-American law to deny people the right to vote":
Among the outrageous parts of this new state law, it ends voting hours early so working people can't cast their vote after their shift is over [the US still refuses to make Election Day a national holiday]. It adds rigid restrictions on casting absentee ballots that will effectively deny the right to vote to countless voters. And it makes it a crime to provide water to voters while they wait in line — lines Republican officials themselves have created by reducing the number of polling sites across the state, disproportionately in Black neighborhoods. . . . If you want any indication that it has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency . . . [y]ou don't need anything else to know that this is nothing but punitive, designed to keep people from voting.
It is one of more than 250 bills the Republicans are trying to pass nationwide after their unsuccessful attempts to overthrow the incoming government (and "cancel" 81,268,924 votes), failures that culminated in an insurrection on the Capitol in early January that led to the deaths of five people (including two suicides), injuries to more than 140 police officers, and more than $30 million in damages.

But disenfranchising tens of millions of Americans, making it harder to vote than to purchase a semi-automatic weapon, is not all the Party of Sedition has been doing. They have also been whining for the last four weeks about Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head.

MLB partnered last summer with several major corporations under the slogan: "We're 100% In For Democracy". It encouraged teams to use its ballparks as polling places for the 2020 election and supported voter education efforts across the country. It gave employees the day off on Election Day so they could vote and/or volunteer. In September 2020, Commissioner Rob Manfred stated: "The right to vote is a pillar of American democracy, a privilege that we should all appreciate and exercise."

Now is the time for MLB and Commissioner Manfred to prove those statements were not only for show. As of this moment, the 2021 All-Star Game will be played in Atlanta on Tuesday, July 13. Now is the time for Manfred to declare that the state of Georgia will not be rewarded for its blatant and undisguised suppression of the right to vote.

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes that there is ample precedence for "stripping Atlanta of a great sporting event in the interest of social justice" (links added):
In 1990, Arizona voters rejected a proposal to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a state holiday. The NFL responded by moving the 1993 Super Bowl from Tempe, Ariz., to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Voters later approved the holiday, and the NFL awarded the 1996 Super Bowl to Phoenix.

In 2016, after North Carolina adopted a law that directed transgender individuals to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate, the NBA branded the law as discriminatory. The league moved its 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte to New Orleans. The law later was repealed, and the NBA awarded its 2019 All-Star game to Charlotte.

Stacey Abrams, a Georgian politician who founded Fair Fight Action:
There should be no silence from the business community when anyone in power is trying to strip away the right to vote from the people.
Craig Calcaterra (Cup of Coffee) writes:

If MLB actually believed the stuff it says in feel-good press releases aimed at making itself look like it cares about voting rights and race, it'd be all over this.

One strongly suspects, however, that MLB does not actually believe that stuff. One suspects that, when it matters, as it does now, the league will side with those who are suppressing the vote. They're the ones, after all, who give the league taxpayer subsidies and favorable regulatory treatment. They're the ones who deliver legislation Major League Baseball wants with respect to labor laws, gambling laws and everything in between. MLB knows that its fans, particularly in Georgia, skew white and conservative too, and they'd dare not upset them either.

In light of this, I expect Major League Baseball to do and say nothing about the new laws in Georgia. And I expect it to play the All-Star Game in Atlanta this July. And I suspect the American flag they display in the outfield before the game will be absolutely tremendous.

In between then and now, I expect Major League Baseball to laud Jackie Robinson and Henry Aaron as it offers its usual, empty civil rights platitudes, conveniently ignoring the fact that those men and others fought hard against exactly the sort of racist and undemocratic bullshit Georgia is pulling right now.

MLB's inability to do the right thing, whether because of stupidity or ignorance or cowardice, is legendary. In 2011, MLB kept quiet and hoped the numerous calls to boycott the All-Star Game in Arizona would blow over. 

I'm surprised to say I don't think I'm as cynical as Calcaterra (yet). I think there might be a "non-zero" chance Manfred will shock the world and do the right thing, assuming he has some supporting noise behind him (from players and fans). . . . We shall see.
So many things so hard to say as you stumble
To take refuge in your offices of shame . . .
I say that someday . . . you stand up unafraid to believe in justice

March 25, 2021

Greatest Linescore Of All Time? (Part 2)

Roughly ten years ago, I posted about a remarkable minor league linescore from 1922 (Virginia League):

Richmond - 131 232 0 - 12 Norfolk - 131 232 0 - 12

Last night, looking through issues of The Sporting Life from 1887, I found another linescore that is equally remarkable. It's from a Western League game on May 8:

Lincoln - 450 331 203 - 21 20 4 Omaha - 450 331 200 - 18 20 4

Not only do the teams match each other for eight innings, but they ended the game with the same number of hits, putouts, assists, and errors! (Although I'm curious why they both don't have 27 putouts.) Each catcher also made two errors. Both teams had all nine batters get hits and eight players on each team scored.

Minor league teams in the 1887 scored early and often - 20 runs in a game did not stop traffic (there probably wasn't much traffic in those towns in 1887, anyway). From May 12-16, Memphis swept a four-game Southern League series at home from Mobile 38-8, 31-5, 25-7, and 25-6. In the first game, Memphis scored 16 runs in the fourth inning and 10 in the eighth. They scored in every inning in the second game (212 938 114). In fact, they scored in 29 of the 35 innings.

When I noticed a game in which a team had scored in eight of nine innings, I thought I'd make a note of it, but I quickly saw it was not all that rare. The Sporting Life published box scores from several minor leagues, including the Western League, New England League, Pennsylvania League, Southern League, and Ohio League. It happened in one of those leagues four times in one week (April 16, April 20, April 21, April 23)!

Here's the April 21, 1887 game, from the Western League. The home team batted first.
Denver - 526 911 086 - 37 40 8 Hastings - 220 111 023 - 12 18 16
A full nine innings and only three scoreless half-innings.

March 24, 2021

Can Robot Umps Learn How To Skate?

"The Day Randy Johnson Killed A Bird" (An Oral History)

I enjoy reading oral histories of certain events.

It might be the cult television show Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, Aerosmith's Toys in the Attic, Legs McNeil's Please Kill Me, the earthquake before Game 3 of the 1989 World Series, Pedro's relief performance in Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS, the movie Office Space, or the three impossible-to-believe weeks of the 2004 Red Sox's postseason. (I really like that last one.)

Zach Buchanan (The Athletic) has published an oral history of a brief moment in a spring training game from March 24, 2001, between the Diamondbacks and Giants, in which a pitch from Randy Johnson to Calvin Murray struck and obliterated a bird flying in front of home plate. Buchanan spoke with 17 people who were there that afternoon.

Mark Gonzales, Diamondbacks beat reporter for The Arizona Republic: It kind of struck me as one of those old "Batman" episodes where someone gets punched and — POW! — you see all the feathers fly. Everybody froze. . . .

Jim Currigan, Diamondbacks video coordinator: What was actually going through my mind at the time is almost silly to say out loud.

Calvin Murray, Giants outfielder: My initial reaction was the ball had exploded. I thought it was a practical joke or something, that he threw some tricked-up exploding baseball. It just took a minute for it to process.

Currigan: Oh my god, that's outstanding that he thinks the same thing. That's exactly what I thought. I thought we threw an exploding-ball trick into the game . . .

Henry Schulman, Giants beat reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle: It's incredible when you consider the diameter of a baseball, the millions of square feet where that bird could have been at that very moment, the timing of the pitch . . . The funny thing was that I actually put in my story that the umpire called it "no pitch." Like, no kidding. . . .

Murray: It was probably 25 feet from home plate when it got hit . . . Randy has had people swing at sliders that hit them before, but it would have been really bad if I had swung at a pitch that never got there. . . .

Rod Barajas, Diamondbacks catcher: The next day, I'm sitting by the dugout and two birds fly right by home plate. They did a flyby for the bird that passed away, in remembrance of their buddy. . . .

Currigan: I'm running the only camera in the building, and I'm sitting in the center-field camera well, 420 feet away from home plate. I had a separate Hi-8 tape for every player. . . . When we're pitching, I can just pop in the Randy Johnson one and all I've got to do is start, stop and record in between pitches. . . . Randy Johnson is set and looking in and getting ready to pitch . . . I'd just hit record. And I obviously stopped recording at the end and I wish I hadn't. I wish I'd grabbed the camera and zoomed in a little bit. I wish I would have done all of that. But I had no idea what had happened. When I was rolling all my equipment back to the clubhouse after the game, I walked by Richard Saenz, who now does stuff for the Spanish-language broadcast. He goes, "Dude, please tell me you got Randy killing the bird." I look back at him and said, "Is that what that was?"

Mike Swanson, Diamondbacks PR director: I literally ran down to our clubhouse after the game. Jim was at the tape deck.

Currigan: He's like, "If you got this, I need copies immediately." I popped in the tape and cued it up on my monitor. Everyone's first reaction was the same as ours. "Oh my god, that is unbelievable that we got that on tape." I'm grabbing every blank tape I have and I'm going through and making a copy. I don't even know how many I made. I remember asking him, "What do we need copies for?" He's like, "Everybody wants to see this. I need ESPN, I got local TV. I got Peter Jennings and World News Tonight."

Swanson: We literally ran the VHS over to the local TV stations and they distributed it from there. . . .

Schulman: Maybe I've gotten more PETA-ish as I've gotten older. I look back at my story, the few paragraphs that I wrote, and I'm mortified of how much light I made of it. We're all a little more attuned to the value of life and all that. I believe we had to write about it, because it was the big story of the day. But in the end, Randy was right. I don't think it's funny. I think it's remarkable, but not funny. . . .

Murray: I guess it's a fun fact for a lot of people who don't realize I was at the plate. I mean, I didn't actually do anything. Sometimes I'll get introduced with: "This is the guy who was hitting when Randy Johnson hit the bird." I'm like, "… Thanks." I did wind up with a double that at-bat.

"No pitch"? . . . Come on, ump. It was obviously a fowl ball.

March 22, 2021

Ohtani Batting .636, Crushing 460-Foot Home Runs, And Throwing 100+ MPH Fastballs

Shohei Ohtani is healthy and seems poised to have an incredible, and potentially unprecedented, season.

On Sunday, he was the Angels' leadoff hitter and reached base in all three plate appearances (two hits and one walk). He's batting .636 (14-for-22) this spring and he leads the team in home runs (4), hits (14), and runs scored (10), and is tied for second in RBI (7). Ohtani, who will turn 27 this summer, also pitched four innings, allowing only two hits and striking out five Padres with a fastball clocked at 102 mph.

"I would love to do this during the season. If I could get run support for myself, that will give me extra confidence on the mound to be more aggressive."

Because throwing gas at 102 is not aggressive enough, apparently.

A starting pitcher that also bats leadoff is about as rare as a team that comes from 0-3 to win a best-of-seven postseason series.

The last time a major league player batted leadoff and pitched more than one inning was 119 years ago, when Jim Jones of the New York Giants went 0-for-4 and allowed six runs, losing a six-inning complete game to the Cardinals.

But that game seems like a bit of a lark, as it occurred in the second game of a doubleheader at the end of the season (September 30, 1901) and Jones was an outfielder in 88 of his 90 career games. (In his initial pitching foray, he gave up 22 runs in six innings.)

More recently, on May 17, 2009, a lineup card mistake forced Rays pitcher Andy Sonnanstine to bat third.

Earlier this month (March 3), Ohtani crushed a 468-foot home run over a high wall in dead center. He did it again two weeks later, but that dong went only 464 feet (off last year's Cy Young Award winner). Both of those travelled farther than his longest regular season home run.

Ed Armbrister (1948-2021)

It was interference.

The Red Sox and Reds split the first two games of the 1975 World Series.

In Game 3, Boston trailed 5-1 after five innings, but came back, tying the game 5-5 in the top of the ninth on Dwight Evans's two-run homer. In the home half of the tenth, Cesar Geronimo led off with a single to right off Jim Willoughby.

Ed Armbrister, batting for the pitcher, attempted to bunt. The ball bounced high in front of the plate. Armbrister froze, then took a step or two before Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk bumped into him. Armbrister stood still. Fisk pushed him out of the way. He grabbed the ball and threw quickly to second base. The ball sailed over Rick Burleson's glove and into center field. Geronimo went to third and Armbrister ended up at second.

Fisk immediately began yelling at plate umpire Larry Barnett, saying Armbrister interfered with him. Boston manager Darrell Johnson also argues, first with Barnett, then with first base umpire Dick Stello, then with Barnett again. It's a lost cause. Barnett refuses to change his call of no interference. Johnson walks off and then Fisk starts in with Barnett, and Johnson quickly returns.

The Red Sox walked Pete Rose intentionally, loading the bases with none out. Lefty Roger Moret struck out pinch-hitter Merv Rettenmund, but Joe Morgan singled to center, scoring Geronimo and winning the game.

Fisk was fuming after the game. "Of course he interfered with me. You all saw it. He stood right under the ball."

Armbrister initially explained: "The ball bounced high, and I just stood there for a moment watching it. Then Fisk came up from behind me and bumped me . . ." He later changed his story, erasing the part about standing around watching the ball, and put all the blame on Fisk: "As I broke for first base, [Fisk] hit me in the back and reached over my head for the ball before I could continue on to first base. I stood there because he hit me in the back and I couldn't move."

I was annoyed at Armbrister, who passed away last Wednesday in the Bahamas at the age of 72, for many years, but Barnett is the true asshole here. And he rightfully remains one of the top villains in Red Sox history.

March 18, 2021

2021 Athlon Annual: Red Sox Predicted To Finish Fourth In AL East

American League East

Blue Jays
Red Sox

AL Central: White Sox, Twins, Cleveland, Royals, Tigers
AL West: Astros, Athletics, Angels, Mariners, Texas
NL East: Atlanta, Mets, Nationals, Phillies, Marlins
NL Central: Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, Brewers, Pirates
NL West: Dodgers, Padres, Diamondbacks, Giants, Rockies

Wild Cards: Rays, Twins, Mets, Padres
ALCS: Yankees over White Sox
NLCS: Dodgers over Padres
World Series: Dodgers over Yankees

Red Sox

Here's all you need to know about the 2020 Red Sox — it didn't take world events to make their year miserable. From trading MVP Mookie Betts to (temporarily) parting ways with scandal plagued manager Alex Cora to losing ace Chris Sale to Tommy John surgery to finishing with the fourth-worst record in baseball, the Red Sox gave their fans no shortage of reasons to change the channel. Now begins the process of winning them back. It won't happen immediately because outside of some nice offensive weapons, the overall talent base just isn't there. . . . The good news is that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has already started remaking the farm system with a series of shrewd deals. The bad news is that they're early in a process that can't be rushed.  . . . 

Rotation: Including openers, the Red Sox started 16 different pitchers during the 60-game season, and most of them will not be remembered fondly, or at all. . . .  Sale is expected back sometime in June or July; Rodriguez resumed physical activities shortly after the season; and righthander Nathan Eovaldi is coming off his best campaign, such as it was. Righthander Tanner Houck shocked everyone by going 3-0 with a 0.53 ERA, and the Red Sox have high hopes for hard-throwing righthander Nick Pivetta . . . They'll be sure to acquire someone else, but until they know exactly what they have in Sale and Rodriguez, this will be a group in flux.

Bullpen: The Red Sox should benefit from the return of lefthanders Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor, setup men who were revelations in 2019 and then largely sidelined by COVID in 2020. . . . The closer should be veteran Matt Barnes, a hard thrower who . . . is entering his final season before free agency. . . . The rest of the bullpen needs some work, though righthander Ryan Brasier rediscovering his 95 mph mojo is a welcome development.

Middle Infield: Xander Bogaerts [is] everything the team could ask for in a star — talented, homegrown, accountable and entering his prime. . .  . [H]is defensive range is a concern. Second base will likely be manned by Christian Arroyo . . . Another option is slugging Michael Chavis, who's also in the first base mix but is dangerously strikeout-prone.

Corners: When it comes to raw power, no two players in the organization possess more of it than third baseman Rafael Devers and first baseman Bobby Dalbec. . . . Like Chavis, Dalbec strikes out at an alarming rate, but unlike Chavis, he also draws walks. One area to watch is defense. Dalbec graded as an above-average defender at third base throughout the minors, while Devers leads all big leaguers in errors there over the last three years. If Devers continues to struggle with the glove, a swap of positions can't be ruled out.

Outfield: Right fielder Alex Verdugo could shift to center . .  . The Red Sox also added free agent outfielder Hunter Renfroe, whose monster right-handed power seems tailor-made for Fenway Park and whose underrated defense should play in either corner. . . .

Catching: The Red Sox are in good hands with starter Christian Vazquez, a defensive whiz who has added legitimate pop at the plate. . .  . With an affordable team option for 2022, Vazquez could be trade bait if the Red Sox fall from contention.

DH/Bench: [J.D. Martinez is] coming off a surprisingly horrible 2020 that saw his mechanics betray him and inside fastballs handcuff him. Martinez ended up hitting only .213 with a .680 OPS, numbers he hadn't approached since his dismal final season in Houston in 2013. . .  .

Management: Cora's a gifted communicator who oozes confidence, but he wasn't always Bloom's first choice, so theirs will be a relationship to watch. As for Bloom, he remains in his honeymoon phase, but he has already demonstrated a willingness to act aggressively. It's safe to say he plans on turning over the bulk of the roster, sooner rather than later.

Final Analysis: [The Red Sox] alienated a number of fans by trading Betts and then really lost them with a last-place finish. While there's something to be said for teams that exceed expectations, we should recognize this team for what it is — not good enough, at least not yet.

Opposing Scouts: "I know they had injuries last year, but it looked like they weren't even interested in competing. Just a lifeless team killing time for 60 games. Now that Alex Cora is back, he'll light a fire under them. . . . J.D. Martinez looked disinterested last year; his bat speed was down, and he wasn't making the in-game adjustments like he used to. . . . My only worry with Devers is his weight; he's young now, but he's got to get in better shape to have the long, productive career he's capable of."


After winning at least 100 games in consecutive seasons, the Yankees sputtered last year, going 21-21 to start the abbreviated season . . . They need much more consistent starting pitching and better health from their injury-prone lineup . . .

The Yankees' rotation let them down last year, with the standout exception of Gerrit Cole . . . Behind Cole, though, the Yankees' rotation outlook is murky as they wait for Luis Severino to return from Tommy John surgery. Lefty Jordan Montgomery . . . threw harder than ever and fanned 47 in 44 innings, but his ERA was 5.11. . . . Aroldis Chapman has . . . allowed crushing homers in elimination losses in each of the last two seasons. . . .

Gleyber Torres mostly had a year to forget, with subpar defense and a sharp drop in power . . . The Yankees need a full season from right fielder Aaron Judge, which they haven't had since 2017 . . . Judge will be 29 in April . . . The Yankees soured on Gary Sanchez late last season, which happens when your two-time All-Star catcher hits .147. Sanchez's framing of borderline pitches continued to lag, too — he ranked 54th in strike rate in 2019 and 38th last season . . . Yet for all that, the Yankees still tendered Sanchez a contract for 2021 . . . 

[W]hile manager Aaron Boone is great at communicating with the players and the front office, he can seem overly bound by data-driven decisions. . . . The Yankees . . . may be too shaky in the rotation, too right-handed in the lineup and too vulnerable to injuries . . . they have to deal with the defending AL champion Rays and the fast-rising Blue Jays . . .

Opposing Scouts: "I don't care how good their lineup looks, the Rays' pitchers can neutralize it. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton simply can't hold up all season. . . . I don't know why they held on to Gary Sanchez. I'm not sure I've seen anybody look that bad if it's not on purpose. His offense was just putrid, and Kyle Higashioka is so much better behind the plate. . . ."


Since losing to the Dodgers in the World Series, the Rays have parted ways with two of their top three starting pitchers, Blake Snell and Charlie Morton, along with a few other players, while making only moderate additions. . . . The roster-churning and rebuilding on the run are nothing new to the Rays. But this offseason felt different. . . .

The key will be how the Rays configure their starting/bulk inning pitchers beyond returnees Tyler Glasnow and Ryan Yarbrough and free agent addition Michael Wacha. . . . [T]hey figure to be without Yonny Chirinos and Jalen Beeks for all of 2021 due to Tommy John surgery and Brendan McKay for at least a few months as he recovers from shoulder surgery after having missed all of 2020. . . .

Cash was heavily criticized for pulling Snell early in World Series Game 6, but similar moves worked repeatedly during the season, and he won AL Manager of the Year honors. His ability to get players to buy in to the team-first approach and matchup-based moves is a true key to their success . . .

The Rays overcame a lot, especially a string of pitcher injuries, to battle through the abbreviated 2020 season . . . Losing two of their top starters, especially for a team built on pitching and defense, will make it much tougher to repeat, especially over a longer season. . . . A return to the playoffs may be possible, but another deep run seems unlikely.

Blue Jays

[T]hey enter the new season as a team to watch in the American League. . . . Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. remain the guts of the club . . . Teoscar Hernandez's emergence as an MVP-caliber force will be closely watched for regression.  . . . [T]he club's depth of arms [was] leveraged creatively over the shortened season but now [face] the burden of a full haul. . .  .

Hyun Jin Ryu performed like an ace and finished third in voting for the AL Cy Young Award . . . There isn't much certainty behind the veteran lefty in the rotation . . . Guerrero [was moved] across the diamond to first when he reported for summer camp at 282 pounds. The young slugger apologized to his teammates for not keeping in better shape during the lockdown and then worked relentlessly to get into better shape throughout the season and over the winter. . . . 

The Blue Jays were a fun group in 2020, leaping over obstacles like a hurdler on a path to the finish line. . . . The big leap forward was always projected for 2021, and now the expectations will be even higher, depending largely on their ability to augment the roster as well as their internal growth and development.


1. Mike Trout, Angels
2. Alex Bregman, Astros
3. Aaron Judge, Yankees
4. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland 
5. Gerrit Cole, Yankees . . .
9. Rafael Devers, Red Sox

AL Cy Young

1. Gerrit Cole, Yankees
2. Shane Bieber, Cleveland 
3. Lucas Giolito, White Sox
4. Tyler Glasnow, Rays
5. Hyun Jin Ryu, Blue Jays


1. Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres
2. Mookie Betts, Dodgers
3. Juan Soto, Nationals
4. Francisco Lindor, Mets
5. Ronald Acuria Jr., Atlanta 

NL Cy Young

1. Jacob deGrom, Mets
2. Max Scherzer, Nationals
3. Walker Buehler, Dodgers
4. Yu Darvish, Padres
5. Aaron Nola, Phillies

March 17, 2021

Mookie Betts: Everyone Deserves To Be Paid What They're Worth

GQ has published a long feature on Mookie Betts, written by Sam Schube, in which Betts talks, among other things, about leaving the Red Sox:

Early on Betts determined that he would turn down whatever contract extension he was offered in order to make it to free agency, where he'd be able to earn something closer to his true market value. He just as soon would have re-signed in Boston, he says—but only if they made the right offer.

Just like learning to lay off outer-half curveballs, turning down big dollars took practice. "The very first contract extension I ever saw was super hard to turn down," he says. "It was like $90 million or something. They slid over the sheet of paper, and I saw the number, and I was like, 'Oh, my gosh.' I had never seen that before, so that was hard to turn down. But once you can figure out how to say no, then it becomes easy as anything. Saying no the first time is the hardest thing."

It got easier—but also stranger. He couldn't wrap his head around asking for anything less than what he knew he deserved. "I don't care if you're working at Waffle House or for the Red Sox or for the Dodgers," he says. "You should just get paid what you're worth." Ultimately the Red Sox decided they'd rather trade Betts than lose him to free agency, shipping him to Los Angeles. . . .

Betts thought he'd be with the Sox for life, and says he loved his time there—he and Bri had begun looking at new houses before the trade. But he isn't sentimental about the bonds between player and team. The Red Sox "didn't owe me anything; I didn't owe them anything. The city didn't owe me anything; I didn't owe the city anything. We did what we were supposed to do. And at that point," he says, "it's a business." The Sox couldn't—or just wouldn't—pay him what he knew he was worth. So he wound up with a team that could.

* * *

It would be incorrect to describe Betts's interest in, or talent for, bowling as a mere hobby. He competes in celebrity tournaments . . . and the odd Professional Bowlers Association event when his schedule allows. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman remembers calling the superstar after the trade to welcome him to the team. "I'm really sorry," Betts answered, "but I'm in the middle of a bowling tournament. Can I call you back?" . . .

[F]or the past few winters Mookie Betts has entered a run of local bowling tournaments in Texas, where a bunch of pro bowlers tune up ahead of their season. This year Betts's three-man traveling party divided his nine balls among their checked bags and carry-ons and flew to Dallas. He hit a few tournaments there, and then the group rented a minivan to drive to Houston for a few more. The competition was serious, but these were not glamorous tournaments: Betts spent much of his holiday under harsh fluorescent lighting, stationed between the pizza counter and the arcade. This just happened to be where the action was. . . . The $365 million man took home some cash—$300, he thinks—at one tournament. With sincerity, he calls it the best few hundred dollars he ever made. . . . "It's hard as hell to cash in a tournament like that. With professionals. I was proud of myself, for sure."

I don't care if you're working at Waffle House
or for the Red Sox or for the Dodgers.
You should just get paid what you're worth.

Craig Calcaterra, Cup of Coffee, March 17, 2021:

[T]his is a concept every single Red Sox executive, Red Sox fan, and person covering the Red Sox in the media would readily apply to themselves . . . But when it comes to an athlete, it's suddenly far more complex than that! Suddenly the athlete owes it to a bunch of people to unilaterally hobble their negotiating power and to take less than they're worth lest they be cast as ungrateful or unwilling to stick around.

It's an idiotic notion carried over from a time when teams restricted player movement almost completely, which was itself carried over from a time when workers had no rights whatsoever, which was carried over from a couple centuries of thinking that a great many workers aren't workers at all but property. I'll never understand why we're supposed to accept that state of affairs in the 21st century. And I never will, in fact, accept it.

In related news:

The minimum wage in the United States in 2009 was $7.25 an hour. 

The minimum wage in the United States in 2021 is $7.25 an hour.

Those 12 years is the longest period in US history that the minimum wage has remained stagnant. 

A few years ago, the Economic Policy Institute estimated that the lowest-paid workers in the US have lost about $3,000 a year since 2009, when the always-rising cost of living is taken into account. A person working a full-time job at minimum wage now earns $15,080 – before taxes. With the higher cost of living, a $7.25 an hour wage in 2021 is equivalent of being paid $5.81 an hour in 2009.

There in nowhere in the United States in 2021 where a minimum wage full-time worker can afford to rent an average two-bedroom apartment. Even if the minimum wage was suddenly raised to $15 an hour, there would be only four states in which a full-time worker could afford an average two-bedroom apartment (Kentucky, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Arkansas).

March 15, 2021

There Was A 22-Pitch Plate Appearance In Sunday's Mets-Cardinals Game

Mets' second baseman Luis Guillorme led off the bottom of the fifth inning yesterday against Cardinals pitcher Jordan Hicks. A called strike and a foul ball put the count at 0-2. Guillorme's potentially quick plate appearance ended up lasting more than 12 minutes, with a well-earned walk at the end of an epic 22-pitch plate appearance, 10 of which were clocked at 99+ mph!

Way, way back, deep in the mists of time, I decided to keep a log of the longest at-bats of the 2002 season (even though some of them were not actual at-bats, but plate appearances). If I recall, I ignored anything with fewer than 12 pitches. I scoff at announcers referring to a long at-bat after six or seven pitches. In case you are curious, 10 pitches is the minimum for a long at-bat. Same thing with hitting streaks.

During that season, I shared some information with ESPN's Jayson Stark, who identified me in late April as a "loyal reader . . . who chronicles long at-bats for the sheer joy of doing it". By mid-July, I was dubbed the "marathon man" of Stark's "Useless Information Department".

Baseball history has tales of players who could apocryphally foul off countless pitches at will. Luke Appling was the King, allegedly fouling off 24 pitches in one time at bat. In the ninth inning of Bob Feller's 1940 Opening Day no-hitter, Appling supposedly fouled off 15 pitches before drawing a walk, according to an account written only a few days later by a United Press reporter named Steve Snider. When Joe Posnanski investigated the story, however, he discovered that Appling actually fouled off only four pitches in what was, in fact, a 10-pitch plate appearance. The "15" was Appling's total foul balls in the game, in four plate appearances. Meh.

Another Appling legend: Pitcher Dizzy Trout said he had a full count on Appling. "He starts fouling off them pitches. You know that no one ever had Appling's knack for hitting fouls. He fouled off 18 in a row off me . . ." And then, in Appling's next time up, he fouled off 12 consecutive pitches. Trout: "I get mad and on the next pitch I throw my glove instead of the ball."

Pitch-by-pitch data became official in 1998. The longest recorded at-bat since then is 21 pitches (Brandon Belt batting against Jaime Barria, April 22, 2018). . . . By the way, how infuriating is it that the National League waited 113 years before deciding to officially record all pitches?

Okay. 22 pitches!

c s f f b f f f f f b b f f f f f f f f f b

Guillorme: "I'm just happy I ended up with the walk because if I would have gotten out, that would have been not fun for me -- all that work for nothing."

16 foul balls!

Kevin Bass fouled off 15 pitches (in a 19-pitch AB) against Steve Bedrosian before flying out to left on July 23, 1988: f b f b f f b f f f f f f f f f f f 7. That article is from 2009, so I don't know if this is still the regular-season record.

After the 22-pitch walk, Hicks was relieved by Garrett Williams, who hit the next batter with the very first pitch. Of course.

March 11, 2021

Everybody Loves A Contest #26: 2021 Red Sox W-L Record

The Boston Red Sox will kick off their 2021 season on April 1  at Fenway Park against the Orioles – three weeks from today.

Therefore, it's time for the annual Red Sox W-L Contest!

The person who correctly guesses the Red Sox's 2021 regular season W-L record will win a hard cover copy of Mitchell Nathanson's Bouton: The Life of a Baseball Original.*

Contest entries must be emailed to me and include the following two predictions:
1. 2021 W-L Record
2. Tiebreaker: Team ERA
As always, the winning W-L prediction must be exact. The tiebreaker, if needed, will be the closest guess, either over or under.

Deadline: Wednesday, March 31, 11:59 PM (ET).

Good luck . . . and don't forget: Yankees suck!
* I was leaning towards this book as the prize in 2020, but there was no winner. I didn't buy it for myself, either. I finally ordered two copies last night. I'll repeat what I said last year: you should read Nathanson's 2012 book A People's History of Baseball.

March 10, 2021

MFY-LOL: Aaron Judge Says Gary Sanchez Could Be AL MVP

Did the perpetually-injured Aaron Judge recently suffer a concussion?

Perhaps he was merely "smoking the objective pipe".

Last Sunday, Judge claimed that teammate Gary Sanchez, who is comically ham-fisted behind the plate, unrepentantly lazy on the base paths, and the owner of batting averages of .186 and .147 in two of the last three seasons, is actually a Most Valuable Player candidate.

Gary's a guy that can go out there and win AL MVP. He's that dynamic and that important of a player to this team.

Mr. Maniloaf is wearing one hell of a good disguise.

Sanchez worked with Yankees catching instructor Tanner Swanson before the 2020 season — and watched his Defensive Runs Saved get worse from 2019, from -2 runs to -4 runs. He was also benched during the 2020 postseason, as the MFY preferred backup Kyle Higashioka.

I have no doubt that MFY manager Aaron Boone has said these exact words before (and been proven wrong):

There's just a real business-like way he's going about things. . . . I just feel like he looks like he's in a really good place.

Well, at least they still have Adam Ottavino . . . oh, wait . . .

Johnny Damon was charged with DUI in Florida last month (February 18) after two breathalyzer tests indicated his blood alcohol level was .300 and 294 — nearly four times the state limit (.080). Michelle Mangan-Damon, Damon's wife (who urged him to refuse the breathalyzer tests), was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting an officer with violence.

Damon was spotted by police swerving on the road before striking a curb and a guardrail. Damon claimed he'd had only "a little bit" to drink, making a small pinching gesture with his fingers. The arrest report said he was "extremely unsteady on his feet" and his speech was "extremely slurred".

Damon griped that he's a target because he voted for Donald Trump. He whined like a true conservative, implying he should not have been stopped because he's "all for cops":

Believe me, I am Blue Lives Matter. What are you doing right now? We are all for cops. Guys, we are all for cops. . . . I'm a good fucking guy . . . I know people are trying to target me because I'm a Trump supporter.