Who, What, When, Where and Why

Ad1_81I wanted to jot down a few random thoughts on various issues today, and so I thought I’d use the old journalism list of questions as a theme.

It’s been a couple of decades since I took journalism, but I would assume that the standard list of questions that a reporter needs to answer in an article remain the same: who, what, when, where and why.

For the sake of this column, these will all be different issues.

Who: does Bengie Molina think he is? He publicly rants about the Angels treating him like a piece of trash, after signing with the Blue Jays. Sure, they paid him a ton of money, allowed him to play major league baseball, suffered through some terrible hitting seasons until he finally had a good one, and then let him ask for way too much money in free agency—not to mention employing his brother as a backup catcher. How dare they?

What: will the Angels call themselves? It’s finally been decided. It’s the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The city of Anaheim spent $2 million for a seriously misguided legal suit, all over the renaming of the Angels, and the city’s supposed loss of income that resulted from it. As I noted in an earlier piece, I personally think they are lucky that the team isn’t being renamed the Northern Virginia Angels, or Las Vegas Angels, or any other of a long list of regions that would love to have a pro baseball team in town. Just ask the Florida Marlins fans, who will be soon losing their ball team, unless the local politicians get their act together.

When: will Roger Clemens decide if he is playing this year? March? April? Pick any month you want. It sounds like it would make a good office pool. Sure, he is one of the greatest pitchers ever, but he is also one of the greatest egos ever. His supposed care for his time with his children seems to evaporate every time he hears the sound of a baseball hitting a leather glove. He’s going to play in the World Baseball Classic. He might play for the Astros. Or the Rangers. Or the Red Sox. Or the Yankees (if he doesn’t have to give back the car they gave him for retiring two years ago).

I don’t care about any player’s working rights—free agency stinks. Roger Clemens is a perfect example of why. You might as well put every player’s name on a ping pong ball, and have it bounce around in a used lottery machine, a month before spring training. There’s nothing like someone making between ten and twenty million dollars a year off a fan base that they only mention when they need a bargaining tool at contract time.

Where: will the Nationals be playing ball? Again, politicians messing up a perfectly good deal with baseball. The on-again, off-again stadium situation is ridiculous. Even for Washington D.C. politicians.

Which is saying an awful lot.

Why: should anyone in America be excited about the World Baseball Classic? It’s becoming increasingly evident that this is just a vehicle to increase MLB exposure in other countries. Recently, we were denied media passes to the finals in San Diego, under the reasoning that too many people had applied—over ten times the amount that applied for World Series media passes.

It’s all about the dollar, and I guess converted dollars from other countries spend just as well as homegrown ones. But will this help baseball reclaim American audience shares from football and basketball? I doubt it. I think the only impact this will have is that a few more international soccer fans will buy the occasional bobblehead doll. The injury risk is ridiculous for American stars, and anyone who thinks this somehow represents a patriotic act should have their head examined.

Try giving free tickets for real ballgames to American soldiers. That’s patriotic.

Sorry about the general negative tone here, but I hate February. It’s the peak of bad baseball news, at a time when memories of the previous year have faded to almost nothing. Politicians and bellyaching millionaires make for poor headlines.

I’d rather hear about steroids, to be honest.

Maybe it doesn’t bear repeating, but this is a game. If you don’t want to play, just take your glove and go home.

Or in the case of Anaheim, Washington D.C. and Florida- we’ll take the gloves and go somewhere else.

Jim Evans


The Wahoo Whammy

Ad1_80I was reading an article that was claiming how good the White Sox were going to be with the addition of former Tribe slugger Jim Thome.

“Hmmmm,” I thought, “Why do I have this sense of déjà vu?”—and then it hit me. This was reminding me of another great Tribe slugger that left to the Southside Chicago enemy.

Albert Belle.

Of course, Belle’s career didn’t last much, after he left Jacobs Field. But then, he lasted a little longer than Robbie Alomar.

Come to think of it, there was a trend here. Belle. Alomar. Thome.

Perhaps there is a curse for leaving the Indians. God knows, the team has seemed cursed for years—it would only be right that they had one going for them, just to balance out the karma scales just a bit.

So I decided to do a little research, and look at several recent Tribe sluggers. To the above list, I’ve included Juan Gonzalez and Manny Ramirez.

To be fair, Manny has hit well as a Red Sox—not as well, but no nosedive, like the others. And Manny looks like he will still be playing awhile, while the others I am going to list have faded into speedy retirements.

Officially, Jim Thome is still active, although last year’s injury limited him to 193 at bats. However, when you look at the case I am going to make, you might see it as a prediction of his impending demise. And Juan Gonzalez, for the sake of this study, is being considered as retired last year, after his monumental one at-bat return to Cleveland.

So, for the first time in print, let me officially present what I have dubbed “The Wahoo Whammy”.

Here are the last years of these noteworthy sluggers, and the immediate following year, followed by the time it took them to retire after they left Cleveland.

Robbie Alomar    Avg:        Slug%:     OB%:   RBIs    R
Cleveland 2001  .336         .541      .415     100    113
NY Mets 2002     .266        .376      .331       53     42
drop                   .070        .165      .084       47     71
years to retirement:    3                  
Albert Belle        Avg:    Slug%:     OB%:     RBIs    R
Cleveland 1996   .311    .623      .412    148    124
Chicago W.Sox    .274    .491      .332    116      90
drop                    .037    .132      .080    32    34
years to retirement:    4                  
Juan Gonzalez        Avg:    Slug%:    OB%:     RBIs    R
Cleveland 2001        .325    .590    .370    140    97
Texas 2002              .282    .451    .324    35    38
drop                         .043    .139    .046    105    59
years to retirement:    3?                  
Jim Thome                Avg:    Slug%:   OB%:   RBIs   R
Cleveland 2002        .304    .677      .445    118    101
Phila 2003                .266    .573     .385    131    111
drop                        .038    .104      .060    -13    -10
years to retirement:    3?                  
Manny Ramirez        Avg:    Slug%:     OB%:     RBIs    R
Cleveland 2000        .351    .697      .457    122    92
Boston 2001            .306    .609       .405    125    93
drop                        .045    .088       .052    -3    -1
years to retirement:    ?                  

This shows that the Wahoo Whammy curse makes sluggers drop an average of 47 points in batting average, 126 points in slugging, 64 points in on-base, with 34 RBIs and 31 runs. And the longest anyone has lasted after leaving Cleveland is four years (excepting Ramirez).

This will be the fourth year since Thome left Cleveland for Philly, under the pretense that he wanted to be with a contender. The Phillies finished in the playoffs exactly as many times as the rebuilding Indians without Thome. Which would be none.

What a well spent 36 and a half million dollars that was, Philadelphia. And that’s not counting what you sent to the White Sox, to take Thome off your hands.

Good luck to you, White Sox. May the Wahoo Whammy be with you.

Jim Evans

Waiting for Christmas

Ad1_79It happens to me, every year, about this time.

I can’t write a blog. The baseball headlines seem dull and lifeless. And all I can do is wait expectantly for the daily mail.

It’s like Christmas Eve when I was a child, except that there is no set date for my anticipation to be satisfied. I am at the mercy of a cruel and mocking Santa Claus, who seems to enjoy my protracted agony like a mean child who pulls the wings off flies.

I am, of course, waiting for this year’s shipment from Strat-O-Matic, with the updated version of their baseball game.

In the past, before the computer version, the day the game arrived truly was like Christmas. I would open the box, usually with a friend, and hastily unwrap the giant sheets of paper that held the cards for the previous year’s season. There were always cards of special interest—players I owned in a league, or favorite stars I followed. And of course, there was that season’s stat leaders.

How would the cards be arranged? What style of layout would they have?  Would Hal Richman and the boys be generous to my favorite players, or cruel?

This was all before I knew of advance releases of fielding ratings, and statistical spreadsheet files with different formulas, calculating card values.

It was Christmas, and I awaited the unwrapping, and viewing of each and every card, with giddiness running over.

Barry Bonds hitting 73 homers, and having a one-seven straight homer—never before seen against righties. Relievers with total blank cards against one side. Johnny Bench with the first minus-five arm at catcher. Cesar Geronimo with a one fielding, minus-five arm in center.

Now, it’s all changing, except the anticipation. I bought this year’s computer version without the cards, and even without card images in the game. I was angry because I had lost some authorization number for my previous versions, and I was going to have to buy a brand new game, instead of the upgrade. That was going to cost me just a measly $15 or $20 more, but still, it was a matter of principle. I shouldn’t have to be a bookkeeper to play my favorite game, I argued with the customer service rep on the phone- I had moved several times, and just lost it, and they knew I had bought it last year, and many years consecutively, and so they should just let me have the upgrade.

But in today’s modern world, customer service isn’t really customer service—it’s index cards with pre-written excuses, recited by some minimum wage employee, who couldn’t make a judgment call if they had to, sent out like a soldier on the front line, to take the verbal bullets of angry customers.

So I just cussed loudly after hanging up, and in my spite, ordered the slightly cheaper new version without the card images. Sure, it was only hurting me, but somehow in my momentary insanity, I reasoned that denying them the extra money was at least some form of punishment. It was all I had to salvage my dignity, I thought.

This year, I am putting that authorization number in a safe deposit box, with my birth certificate and passport.

And so, I wait. I wonder why it takes so long to mail everything out. I wonder why it takes so long to finish the game, in the first place. I wonder why I haven’t received my Glenn Guzzo book, which might have all these answers in it.

And I ask my girlfriend if the mail has come yet. Every freaking day. I know she can’t understand this childish obsession I have. I don’t understand it myself. Half the time, I feel like I need some sort of therapy, for a disorder that has yet to be named.

I’m just glad some politician hasn’t made it illegal. I’d hate to have to move to Amsterdam to play Strat-O-Matic, but you can be sure I would, should the circumstances warrant it.

Oh, Hal Richman, loving and cruel god of baseball games, I beseech thee—hear thy humble servant’s cries, and take pity on me. Mail out my game today!

Jim Evans

Same as it ever was

Ad1_78Ok, I tried.

I tried to be nice to the Red Sox in my last blog. But it’s hard to be nice to a team that has called itself “idiots”, and then goes about its daily business trying to prove the nickname is real.

Yes, yes—Theo Epstein is back as GM. The stars in the Red Sox Nation are aligned again, and the chowderheads are once again spouting off like they actually won a divisional title or something.

Sure, they won a World Series. But like my pappy always told me, “Even a blind pig finds a root every now and then”.

The Red Sox are currently blowing their deal for Coco Crisp by refusing to send a native chowderhead, Manny Delcarmen, to Cleveland to replace Guillermo Mota’s injured body. Mota was burnt out in two seasons of Dodger setup, and hasn’t been the same since he was traded to the Marlins.

Funny, his follow-up act, Eric Gagne, has been hurt, too. Maybe someone should come up with a new stat for managers—percentage of pitching staff that is injured under them.

The Dodgers would be high on that list, but Dusty Baker and the Cubs would be challengers, too.

Anyway, back to Boston. They don’t have a center fielder, or a shortstop yet. Mike Lowell is set to man third base—after a horrible hitting year last year. Mark Loretta is set to start at second, after an injury year. JT Snow is slated for first, where he will begin to collect his Social Security checks soon. Varitek and Ortiz had career years last year. Trot Nixon is a candidate to be injured, just walking through the parking lot.

And then there’s Manny Ramirez, the Idiot King. Sure, he is a lovable goof who has already probably hit himself into Cooperstown. He also opens his mouth once a week, and creates controversial headlines.

To be fair, it’s the media that makes the headlines, but Manny is a “sitting duck”, as they say in the sharpshooter business. And the Boston media surely are sharpshooters.

The Beantown wonder Peter Gammons often seems nice, but as I have noted in an earlier column, he looks like a cross between The Cryptkeeper and Mr. Rogers. I’d put in a trade request, too, if that dude was hanging out in the locker room when I got out of the shower.

And Gammons is the nice one. No wonder Manny wants out, every other day.

In case you missed my previous column, I have conclusive proof that Boston only won their World Series because Theo Epstein made a deal with the Devil. The link to that column is HERE.

So I ask you, how will the Sox do it again? Theo’s a young man, but you can’t grow a soul back, once you’ve signed it over to The Prince of Darkness.

And no, I don’t mean George Steinbrenner. I think he’s actually a little lower on the list, like the Arch-Duke of Darkness. Because he’s family, he can make deals with The Devil and get away with them, all the time.

But not Theo Epstein. A price must be paid. And when you won’t even throw in Manny Delcarmen, you really don’t deserve a chance at another World Series trophy.

Theo’s back, and everything is the same as it ever was. Even The Talking Heads video is selling again. But Johnny Damon’s wearing pinstripes, and the Red Sox are looking a third place finish right in clean-shaven face.

Jim Evans

Mending the Sox

Ad1_77They were tattered and worn. There was a big hole in the big toe. The heel had been mended over with two mismatched pieces of smaller fabric.

Such was the state of the Boston Red Sox, just a week ago. Now that big hole in the big toe—otherwise known as the hole in the top of the lineup, since Johnny Damon turned traitor to the Red Sox Nation and signed with the Yankees—seems fixed.

In a trade that seems close to being finalized, the Sox are trading Andy Marte for Coco Crisp. There are other players involved, but they only amount to one GM trying to haggle another for a role player. Crisp would bat leadoff, play center, and probably be every bit as good as Damon, at a much lower price.

Marte would fill the Indians gaping organizational hole at third base, which has caused them to re-sign Aaron Boone, and play Casey Blake, over the last few years.

And those darned Sox aren’t done yet. Sometime this week, they will have a press conference that will announce how they have re-hired Theo Epstein. No more mending the heel with two smaller pieces of fabric, like the Red Sox did at the winter meetings with GM-by-committee. They are back to basics with the whiz kid that broke the Bambino’s curse.

Alex Gonzalez, the 28 year old shortstop, formerly of the Marlins, is also rumored to be close to signing with the Sox, pushing Alex Cora to a more comfortable utility player role. Gonzalez and Cora are equally weak offensively, with Gonzalez having a career .245avg/.391slg/.291ob, to Cora’s .244avg/.349slg/.310ob .

Gonzalez slugged a career high 23 homers in 2004, and Cora hit .291 with a .371 OB% in 2002. Gonzo is probably the better shortstop right now, and Cora can play multiple positions, so this, at the very least, adds bench depth.

In a further unbelievable development, all this has knocked Manny Ramirez out of the headlines for almost a whole week. The Dreadlock Dread-Press wonder has not made any further public statements of discontent this week, much to everyone’s delight.

So the Sox seem to be on the mend. All that remains to be seen is if they can find a matched pair– of World Series trophies, in the same century.

Jim Evans

Have a Cigar, pt. 2

Ad1_76It’s official! The U.S. Treasury department has reversed their stance, and Cuba is now allowed into the World Baseball Classic.

Of course, if you read my column, “Have a Cigar”, you’ll know that I was one of the very first to advocate this turn of events. And as I noted in that column, it has nothing to do with the Pink Floyd song.

I just like a good Cuban cigar. I have experienced these legally, in trips to Toronto, and believe me, the plant is something very different from what we have in America. Exquisite and smooth, it makes you think it’s possible that it even cures lung cancer.

So for everyone who was wondering—no, I don’t have Fidel Castro posters hanging in my house. I don’t even own Juan Castro in my Strat-O-Matic league.

I don’t believe in socialism, or communism, or whatever bleeping-ism they have on that little island. I’ve never been there.

I just want everyone to get to play baseball.

Of course, Havana went to great lengths to get into the WBC. They offered to donate their winnings to Hurricane Katrina relief funds. They said they didn’t care if players defected.

One can only hope that they are also going to be passing out cigars to the writers covering the WBC. I am still waiting on word of my press pass, but I hope to be at the finals in San Diego.

So let freedom ring! Castro’s boys get to play baseball in the U.S.! What’s next? Disneyland builds a franchise outside Havana? We could take that one away from the French—they don’t seem to like it very much.

Cuban athletes get to experience all that is America—after they get through customs, and the Patriot Act, and probably a few friendly drug sniffing dogs.

Maybe Jose Canseco will greet them at the airport, with Raphael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, and tell them about the shining purity of the American way of life, and baseball.

Better watch the dogs, Raffy—you won’t have Miggy Tejada to blame if you get busted this time.

(For those of you incapable of sensing sarcasm, this blog was written with tongue firmly in cheek.)

Jim Evans

Various Notes

Ad1_75USAToday.com has an interesting combination today. The big news is ARod now says he will play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Of course, on the same page is a Jon Saraceno article touting ARod’s indecision about what team to play for, and his switch from baseball player to businessman.

Don’t they have editors over there? Save a good writer like Saraceno some embarrassment, and edit that piece slightly, so it doesn’t look like he was asleep at the wheel. He obviously was just writing an assigned piece before the news broke.

Now, as for ARod becoming a businessman—what do we expect? We have, for decades, bemoaned athletes—especially certain boxers—who made millions, and lost them because they didn’t know how to handle the money, or were ripped off by thieving handlers. Now we run them down for getting smart, and watching their cash?

Denny Neagle’s in the news again. His statement to police, which amounted to a confession of soliciting a prostitute, has been disallowed. He had about $19 million remaining on a contract with Colorado when he was arrested in December 2004. He was cut for his bad conduct, and the players association filed a grievance, which resulted in an unreported settlement.

Finally, a baseball team has found a way to get out of a bad contract. Neagle’s original contract was for $51 million. You’d think that a guy with that kind of loot wouldn’t troll the streets looking for a sidewalk hooker—ah, but then, that would be having the good sense of being a businessman, and we wouldn’t want that, would we?

It’s Arbitration Time! That wonderful time of year when clubs and ballplayers call each other names, and haggle publicly for every last dollar. It’s an embarrassment to the sport, and everyone involved. This year’s sordid lot includes Alfonso (I’m not playing outfield) Soriano—and yes, that was a stupid move to announce that, before negotiations. Guess he’s not a businessman yet.

Also still in the process are Adam Dunn, Carlos Zambrano, Mark Prior, Josh Beckett, Shawn Chacon, Juan Pierre, Coco Crisp, Morgan Ensberg and Felipe Lopez.

I think Team Arbitration looks pretty good right now. Can they replace Cuba in the World Baseball Classic?

The former mayor of Detroit, Dennis Archer, has been picked to mediate the growing dispute between MLB and Washington D.C., which now does not want to honor it’s stadium-building agreement with baseball. What happened? A politician in Washington D.C. lied? Switched positions? Falsely represented something to get their way, and then tried to rework the situation to their advantage? Oh my! How unprecedented!

Maybe Bud Selig should have had ARod and Scott Boras work that deal for them.

Then again, maybe ARod should just build the stadium. He can probably afford it better than the nation’s capital. Between that, and deciding to play for TEAM USA, he’s got the beginnings of a presidential campaign going.

The Yankees and Red Sox lead the poll on Foxsports.com—of teams you are most sick of hearing about. What is this? Fox is actually trying to gauge what their audience wants? What’s next? Bill O’Reilly calms down? Oh wait, his audience loves him more than Catholics love the Pope.

The Yankees and Red Sox bullied a huge 84% of the vote—with the Yankees winning 54% to 30%.

Man, those Red Sox can’t come in first in anything, can they?

Jim Evans