Friday, January 31, 2014

Jenny Dell and Will Middlebrooks

Much has been made about Jerry Remy's return to NESN but what about Jenny Dell? In case you did not know, it appears pretty official that Jenny Dell is now dating Will Middlebrooks. These tweets and pictures over New Year's Eve show that pretty clearly.

Then came this post from Fenway Pastoral and Jenny Dell's "scoop" that Will has been getting some work in at second base. While everyone was waiting to see if Jerry Remy would return to NESN the same question was being asked about Dell. Would the Red Sox and NESN really allow her to keep her current role while openly dating one of the players? The answer is no. Not long after the Remy return announcement, NESN stated that Jenny Dell has been taken off the Red Sox games and will be doing other things for NESN like working the NESN sports desk. There are also rumors that she could be leaving for Fox Sports 1.

Catherine Varitek had an interesting tweet about the situation.

Heidi Watney, the reporter that Dell replaced was rumored to have an affair with Jason Varitek while he was married to his first wife. Watney or Varitek never confirmed the rumor but many feel it is what led Watney to move on from the job.

As for Middlebrooks working out at second base, on one hand it is good news because it means that the Sox are close to signing Stephen Drew. This excites me since as I posted before, the Red Sox need Stephen Drew. On the other hand it makes no sense, Middlebrooks is not the answer as the Red Sox utility guy. If Drew is signed, the best place for WMB is not on the 25 man roster as a utility guy but down in Pawtucket getting at bats and working at third base and first base.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why Chipper Jones is Better Than Derek Jeter

Chipper Jones has been in the news a lot lately. He almost burned down his house and all of Atlanta last week and this week he played hero by rescuing Freddie Freeman from the Atlanta snow/ice storm. I found it kind of comical since Freddie was one of the spineless Braves who went along with the idea of boycotting Chipper's first pitch ceremony during the playoffs. The mascot of the Braves ended up catching Chipper's first pitch as the rest of the gutless wonders sulked. Chipper was asked for his prediction on the series and he was honest with his opinion while still showing support for his Braves. This wasn't good enough and the team decided that nobody would catch his first pitch. I bet Freddie was happy Chipper didn't wait for the Braves mascot to go out and get him. I lost respect for the 25 guys in that dugout and the guy who is supposedly leading them, Fredi Gonzalez. Of course Fredi was probably preoccupied with how he was going to use Craig Kimbrel in the most ineffective way possible in the playoffs. Moving on....

The Derek Jeter vs Chipper Jones topic has come up in a few places lately. This has me licking my chops. I always love to get into the topic of Derek Jeter and uncovering the myth with a thing called facts. The Sweet Spot Blog by David Schoenfield had a comparison piece in which he favored Chipper Jones. The comments after his post were pretty comical as angry Yankee fans showed their ignorance.

In their defense (no pun intended), it is tough when the facts come out about Jeter and his very below average defense. One of the greatest pieces you will ever read on Derek Jeter and the fallacy of him being a good defensive shortstop was written by Ben Lindbergh and was titled The Tragedy of Derek Jeter's Defense.

Schoenfield breaks down Jeter and Jones this way:

By one metric, the clear edge goes to Jones. By Baseball Reference's WAR analysis, Jones finished his career at 85.1 WAR. Jeter is at 71.6 WAR and not likely to get much higher. 

At the plate, Jones was better, and it's not that close; he produced about 557 runs above an average hitter while Jeter is at 366. When you factor in positions, Jeter actually has the advantage in offensive WAR -- 94.1 to 87.5 (including baserunning, where he has a 52-run advantage). 

Jeter, however, gives all that away on defense. Baseball Reference grades him as 234 runs below an average shortstop over his career. There are many who won't buy that. Hey, Jeter won five Gold Gloves after all; we know Gold Glove voting can be a joke, but it's not like they've been handing them out to Delmon Young and Adam Dunn

The one advantage Jeter has is durability; he has played 150 games in 13 seasons, plus two more with 148 and 149. Jones was durable early in his career, but after he reached 32, he topped out at 143 games and six times was below 130. 

But has that durability been that much of an advantage? From age 32 to 40 (his final season), Jones posted 36.7 WAR while Jeter has posted 23.2 WAR from 32 to 39. Jeter, of course, has nearly one entire vacant season on his ledger after playing just 17 games last year. Overall, Jeter has played 103 more games in his career, with one season in hand.

This is when the Jeter fans get angry and start spouting off about his rings, how clutch he is in the postseason, and that great play he made against the Athletics in the playoffs. They will then start spouting off about him being The Captain and how he does everything to put his team first and is always and I mean always about winning. Of course I wrote about this fallacy in my post titled The Captain?. Remember, the greatest shortstop in baseball joined the Yankees in 2004. His name was Alex Rodgriguez. The Captain was an average shortstop at best. Guess who didn't move? I know AROD has become a punch line now and is unlikeable as they come but please don't give me this win at all cost leadership by Jeter. It is about as true as his gold glove defense.

Would it be too much to ask Jeter to change positions for the good of the team? It wasn't too much to ask Pete Rose. He moved to third base to get the bat of George Foster into the lineup. It also wasn't too much to ask Chipper Jones. He moved from third base to left field to get the bat of Vinny Castilla in the lineup. 

I will take Chipper Jones over Jeter in a second. You think Derek Jeter is riding out on an ATV to pick up Alex Rodriguez in a snow storm? 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Field of Dreams II: The Black Sox and the PED Users

Andrew Martin writes a terrific blog called The Baseball Historian. If you have not checked it out yet, do yourself a favor and take a visit. It was on this blog that I stumbled upon this piece on Chick Gandil. The post is titled Chick Gandil's Side of the Story and it breaks down an interview that Gandil gave to Sports Illustrated in 1956.

 The Black Sox and their story has been portrayed in two of my favorite movies, Eight Men Out and of course Field of Dreams. Eight Men Out makes you feel awful for Buck Weaver,and pretty bad for Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte and Lefty Williams. Field of Dreams makes you want to picket on the streets of Cooperstown in honor of Shoeless Joe. Do these movies give an accurate description of what really happened?

The interview with Gandil along with other research doesn't put Jackson and Weaver in the best light. I did find it fascinating that the Black Sox may have been actually trying to win the 1919 series and double cross the gamblers. Research also tells us that Christy Mathewson watched Joe Jackson closely that series and while Jackson never made an error, Mathewson noticed a few plays in the field that seemed suspicious given Jackson's reputation as a great fielder.

 That brings me to this scene in Field of Dreams when Ray is explaining to his daughter all about Jackson and just how bad he was screwed in the Black Sox scandal. Watching this as a 14 year old it made me an instant fan of Shoeless Joe Jackson.


I worry about this same thing happening 100 years from now when someone decides to make a movie about Alex Rodriguez. You can call it Field of Dreams II. The script follows some guy trying to bring back AROD who was the hero of his father.

The guy is on his tractor explaining to his young daughter how Commissioner Bud Selig was out to get Alex, how his suspension of 211 games was unfair and based on the testimony of some low life named Tony Bosch and if he was really using the drugs then how come he never failed a test? 14 year olds seeing the movie will instantly become Alex Rodgriguez fans. Throw in a great soundtrack and acting and AROD will have more fans in 100 years than he has now.

This bothers me just like I am sure it bothers the baseball fans of 1919 who are rolling over in their graves as I took up the cause of Weaver and Shoeless Joe. Is it ok if I just believe the Field of Dreams and Eight Men Out versions? Life is easier that way sometimes.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Jason Varitek's Wife Bashes Alex Rodriguez

Jonny Gomes is the latest to take a shot at Alex Rodriguez with this quote:

"He does steroids or whatever, it sucks. He does this or that, it sucks. He's always in the news, it sucks," the Red Sox left fielder told the Boston Herald. "But this is the players' union he's going against. It's all of us. Not a real good idea."

The lawsuit against the player’s union has not gone over well. It was reported that a group of players wanted AROD kicked out of the union.

A couple weeks earlier it was the lawyer for AROD who seemed to take a shot at David Ortiz on an ESPN radio interview. Joe Tacopino said he would not name other players accused of using performance enhancing drugs, “but some of them are God-like in Boston right now.”  The comments seemed to be clearly referencing Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.

Ortiz could not be reached for comment and Tacopina would later email the Boston Globe and deny he was alluding to Ortiz with his comments, but would not say who he was referencing.

Enter the wife of Boston Red Sox legend Jason Varitek. Catherine Varitek is pretty active twitter while her husband is not on twitter at all. 

As the story broke about Tacopino and his comments, I tweeted Mrs. Varitek suggesting maybe it was time for Papi to call on Varitek to take care of AROD like he did in 2004. Her response was classic.

In A-Rod’s defense, these were the words of his lawyer and not his, but at the end of the day, your lawyer does represent you. It is especially puzzling since Ortiz has been in the minority in showing support for A-Rod.

Big Papi invited A-Rod to his charity golf tournament in December, took him out to dinner in Boston last season, and criticized teammate Ryan Dempster for using A-Rod for target practice as the Fenway crowd cheered. Thanks for nothing, A-Rod.

A-Rod is slowly becoming a man without a country. While most major leaguers do not like him, he is well liked within his clubhouse, especially by the younger guys. A-Rod is famous for taking the rookies under his wing, letting them stay at his house and buying them suits for them to wear on road trips.

Tacopino ended his interview by saying that A-Rod is an “outstanding human being.” I am sure Tacopino is not the only person who feels that way, but A-Rod is in full bridge burning mode right now. His only supporters left standing could be the ones on his payroll.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

David Ortiz is Not Frank Thomas

Frank Thomas was elected to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday and for some it meant an omen that David Ortiz will one day be elected.

This article states that the election of longtime DH Frank Thomas paves the way for Ortiz.

This left me scratching my head. I never really consider Frank Thomas as a longtime DH. I know he played DH but to me I think of Frank Thomas in his prime, winning MVPs, playing first base and for a time being the right handed Ted Williams.

I decided to head over to Baseball Reference to do a little research and here is what I came up with:

Frank Thomas was in fact a DH longer than I thought he was. 58% of his career was made up of him being the DH. This did surprise me. Over the course of his career, Frank Thomas had six seasons where he played first base more than 81 games. Two of those seasons he logged over 150 games at first base. He would end up playing 971 games at first base in his career.

Thomas was a DH more than I originally thought but he still played first base for a large chunk of his career, especially during his prime. I have a hard time considering him a DH or going into the Hall of Fame as a DH.

David Ortiz has yet to play one season of 81 games or more at a position other than DH. Ortiz has 13 seasons where he has played more than 81 games at DH. Ortiz is probably the best DH of all time. Ortiz was a full time DH in his prime and as I write this. Frank Thomas became a DH as his prime was ending, which is the normal transition and really why the DH exists. They are very much apples and oranges when it comes to the Hall of Fame and that is just with the the position they played.

I wrote about my 2014 Hall of Fame Ballot the other day and explained why I was not voting for Edgar Martinez. I feel a DH can be a Hall of Famer but their numbers really need to be extraordinary. Martinez has very good numbers and if he had played his career as a position player he is a Hall of Famer in my opinion.

There is also the argument that Frank Thomas was awful defensively so why give him credit for playing first base and being a liability? This is valid. There is no doubt that Frank Thomas is a Hall of Famer because of his offense. However, playing in the field does make a difference. David Ortiz has played a pretty good first base when he has been called on to do so in World Series and interleague games. In fact, he has shown to be a better defensive first baseman than Frank Thomas. Keep in mind, Ortiz has a very small sample  size and being a better defensive first baseman than Frank Thomas isn't exactly something to brag about.

So what difference does it make? I think Ortiz said it best when talking about playing first base for the handful of times during the season. He explained that it takes a toll on his body. Ortiz complained of his back flaring up after some interleague games the past couple of years. First base is not the most demanding position and for years it has been used as a place for the aging ballplayer in the NL and before there was a DH in the AL. However, it is much more demanding than sitting in the dugout.

Playing in the field does take a toll on the body which can lead to more games missed, less productivity at the plate and shortening a career. This is why I feel a DH needs to have extraordinary numbers in order to be considered for the Hall of Fame.

Big Papi is no Big Hurt when it comes to the DH/1B argument but also when it comes to production and value. Thomas has a career WAR of 73.6 with a 7-year peak WAR of 45.3. Ortiz has a career WAR 44.2 with a 7-year peak WAR of 33.4.  It is not close.

I love David Ortiz. I think the Red Sox need to retire his number the day he retires and start working on a statue in his honor. He has been the driving force for three World Championship teams. Think about that. He has been the most clutch player in the history of the Red Sox. He deserves standing ovations from the Fenway faithful from now until the end of time. He is not Frank Thomas though and he is not a Hall of Famer.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2014 Hall of Fame Ballot

The goal when determining my Hall of Fame Ballot was to be objective with some subjectivity thrown in.

I am a Bill James guy, love the numbers and a self proclaimed baseball nerd. I realize that these numbers are not perfect but they are much better than the natural biases that we all have. The sabermetrics should confirm what you see and if they don’t then you need to take a closer look as to why. Often times they don’t match up because of that bias. The best example is Derek Jeter and his fielding. You see him make the jump throw on ESPN or diving into the stands against the Red Sox and you are led to believe he is a great defensive SS. The numbers, without bias, tell us he has been pretty average defensively for most of his career and a liability the last few years.

With that in mind, I focused on a couple of numbers when trying to determine who should make the Hall of Fame from this 2014 ballot.

The first number I looked at was the Bill James Hall of Career Standards (JHCS). As I mentioned, I am a Bill James guy. The JHCS is a number from 0-100 with 50 being an average Hall of Famer. There are 14 guys on the 2014 ballot who have a number of 50 or higher.

The next number I look at is the Jaffe War Score System (JAWS). This system combines a player’s career WAR with their 7-year peak WAR totals and it allows you to compare a player with the average Hall of Famer at their position. There are 14 guys with a higher JAWS than the average Hall of Famer at their position.

Curt Schilling did not have a JHCS above 50 but did have a JAWS rating that was above the average rating for Hall of Fame pitchers.

Conversely, Sammy Sosa had a 58.4 JHCS but his JAWS number was slightly below the average Hall of Fame outfielder.

When all said and done there are 13 players on the ballot that have their JHCS number above 50 and have a JAWS rating above the average Hall of Famer for their position.

Mark McGwire failed in both these categories. He had a JHCS of 42 and his JAWS rating was two points below the average Hall of Fame first baseman. This confirms my belief that McGwire should never be in the Hall of Fame and it has nothing to do with the steroids dilemna. People assume if you don’t vote for McGwire it is because of the steroid issue. That is not necessarily the case. The same can be said for Sammy Sosa. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are another case entirely.

Here are the 11 players who pass my objective test:

I can only vote for 10 and this is where my subjectivity comes into play.

Barry Bonds is a Hall of Famer regardless of what he did steroid wise. He does not belong where he does on many of the all time statistical lists but he is a Hall of Famer. I just can’t vote for him right now.

The same goes for Roger Clemens. I have come full circle and then did a 180 and then a 270 when it comes to the steroid issue and the Hall of Fame.

Here is where I stand currently: (Subject to change)

If a player has been caught using steroids or linked to steroids(not just speculation), a few things need to happen before I will vote for them.

1) Their stats need to be impressive, they can’t be borderline. Clemens and Bonds are examples of impressive stats.

2) They need to admit to their steroid use and be honest about it. This has yet to happen with anyone. Andy Pettitte used the injury excuse and it was just one time. McGwire fought back tears as he said he really didn't think it helped him. Alex Rodriguez said his cousin injected him and wasn't sure if he even did it right. Barry Bonds said he never knowingly took them and of course Roger Clemens says he was just getting injections of B12 in his ass.   

Barry Bonds should say something like this: “I was sick and tired of hearing about Sosa and McGwire. I have more talent in my pinky finger than they have in their whole bloated bodies. I knew they were juicing so I decided to juice too. I wanted to show all you clowns who think you know baseball what someone like me could do on that stuff. My stats speak for themselves”

If Barry Bonds said that I might go out and buy his jersey.

Roger Clemens should say something like this: “Duquette is an idiot. He said I was in the twilight of my career and used my win/loss record over my last four years in Boston as proof? Are you kidding me? I was still one of the top pitchers in the game. I got awful run support, an awful bullpen and had Stonehenge for defense and he wants to call out my record? Look at my ERA over those last four years, my WHIP. I did it while others were juicing. So I went to Toronto and decided to shove it in Duquette’s face. I started juicing to be on a level playing field with everyone else. Plain and simple”

He might be my hero again if he says that.

3) Pete Rose needs to be on the ballot for 15 years or until he is elected, whichever comes first. I have no issue with a writer deciding not to vote for Pete Rose but it is absolutely asinine to make a rule that says he can’t be on the ballot.

Joe Jackson was on the first Hall of Fame ballot some 15 year after he was banned from baseball. In Rose’s case though they came up with a new rule AFTER he was banned saying no banned players can be on the Hall of Fame ballot. What kind of crap is that?

I understand the argument that everyday he was in the clubhouse he saw a sign that read if you gamble on baseball you will be banned for life. The sign never read that you will also be banned from the Hall of Fame. Rose did nothing to inflate his numbers. He committed a crime.

He should be banned from baseball but should have been on the ballot years ago. There is no excuse for that. I have a hard time voting for the steroid guys who are on the ballot when Rose never got his chance to be on the ballot.

With all of that in mind, here is my 2014 Hall of Fame Ballot:

Jeff Bagwell

Bonds, Clemens, Palmerio left off because of my steroid rule. I understand that there is speculation about Bagwell and Piazza but I have a hard time punishing those without substantial proof. I understand that is tough line to straddle.

Edgar Martinez is left off because he primarily was a DH. I have no issue voting for a DH but his numbers need to really be outstanding. His JAWS number is above average because they are comparing him with Hall of Fame third and first baseman. There is not a Hall of Fame DH to compare him with. His JHCS is right at 50. It needs to be much higher for someone who just played DH. I feel the same way about David Ortiz . I know that was the next question.

That is my ballot. I don’t think nine guys will actually get in though. Maddux, Glavine and Thomas should be locks and I have a feeling those will be the only three that will get in.

Disagree? Tweet at me @thepeskypole6