Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The ballot for the 2006 Hall of Fame candidates was announced earlier this week. Among the first timers on the ballot are two no-brainers, Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn. Also on the ballot, and garnering the most attention at this point, is Mark McGwire.

We all know the story. McGwire, along with Sammy Sosa, captured the country's imagination with their pursuit of Roger Maris' single season home run record during the summer of 1998 and pulled baseball back from the hole it had dug itself with the 1994 strike. Later, as the steroid allegations ran rampant, McGwire, Sosa, Rafael Palmiero, Jose Canseco and Curt Schilling testified before Congress. McGwire refused to talk about the past, Sosa suddenly didn't understand English, Schilling refused to throw fellow players under the bus and Palmiero wagged his finger, proclaiming he was clean. He later failed a steroid test.

Unbelievably, the most forthcoming and honest guy in the group was probably Canseco, an admitted steroid user and advocate.

So now, the 600 or so baseball writers with a ballot have a choice to make. Based on numbers alone, McGwire should be standing on that podium with Ripken and Gwynn this summer. However, the numbers don't take into account the fact that he cheated to compile them.

Here are the three arguments the people who are considering voting for McGwire, Palmiero, Sosa and Bonds always throw out there. Permit me to debunk each one:

His numbers were so good, he would have been a Hall of Famer even without steroids: Lots of people try to "discount" the statistics of known steroids users. The argument goes something like this: "Barry Bonds hit 700 homers with steroids, so he probably would have hit 500 without them. Those are still Hall of Fame statistics." Sorry, it doesn't wash with me. Cheaters should not be in the Hall of Fame. I don't care if he hit 1,000 home runs. If he used performance enhancing drugs, he should be out.

We don't know everyone who was taking steroids during that period, and we might let some of them in. These guys should go in, too, or everyone should be out.: That's kind of like saying that the cops can't catch everyone who is speeding on the highway, so no one should get a ticket. If there are players we know (as in the case of Palmiero) or have strong evidence that they were taking steroids, they should be out. If some guys get in and it's later discovered that they were taking performance enhancers, it needs to be dealt with, but it's no reason to let these players in the Hall.

Steroids weren't against baseball's rules at the time: Taking steroids is illegal without a doctor's prescription. If you are doing something against the law to enhance your performance, that shouldn't be OK either.

So, obviously, McGwire wouldn't get my vote if I had one. I think Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe said it best about McGwire in his column yesterday, referring to his testimony before Congress. Well, Mark, if you can't bring yourself to talk about your past, I don't see any reason why we should waste time evaluating it. I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

When I was a little kid, my family regularly visited an amusement park called Jolly Cholly's in Attleboro, MA. Just for kicks, I Googled it tonight and I was directed to the YouTube video below.

I remember all those rides except the crank thing at the end. I also remember playing a lot of miniature golf there with my Dad.

Jolly Cholly's closed in 1979 and the site still sits vacant. Last I heard, a legal dispute among family members who own the land was preventing redevelopment.

Here's one other picture I found online. Now tell me, if you were 5 or 6, wouldn't this guy freak you out slightly?

Friday, November 24, 2006

J. and I went to the Celtics game tonight. R. came down with a cold, so A. stayed home with her. I had gotten a pretty good deal on one of the Celtics "family plans" which include Loge seats, plus a free hot dog and soda for $45.

Unfortunately, it was not money well spent. The Celtics got clobbered by the Knicks, 101-77. The game was pretty close in the first half, but New York pulled away in the 2nd half. Paul Pierce only had 12 points (as compared to his 27.9 average). The Celtics just aren't good enough to overcome a poor performance by Pierce yet.

I was talking with a guy sitting near us who was also at the game with his young son. His son was saying that the Celtics had a bad night. I pointed out that neither of our kids remember when the C's had more good nights than bad nights.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Just a quick post to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving. I am fortunate enough to have many things to be thankful for this year, and I'm looking forward to spending the next four days with my family.

I also want to thank those of you who stop by to read my little musings. Keeping up this blog has been fun for me and I hope you have been enjoying it as well.

If you're traveling, have a safe trip. And remember, if you don't eat too much, you're not doing it right!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Grabbed from The Hey: User Test: The Trekkie Test.

This is what they say it means: You know Trek, and you love it. You may not dress up in uniform every day, but you're dedicated to your series, or two, and happy with being entertained by it.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

- The door appears to have been blown off free agent spending again, led by the Red Sox with their $51 million bid to talk to Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Cubs, who have committed over $200 million to Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano. Soriano's pact with the Cubbies is for $136 million over 8 years, making it the 5th richest pact in baseball history, behind A-Rod, Jeter, Manny and Todd Helton.

- The Cubbies certainly seem intent on breaking their World Series-less streak before it hits the century mark. They might have a chance, too, if they can get some healthy pitching to go with the big boppers (including Derrek Lee) they have in the middle of the lineup.

- Even lesser free agent lights have hit big money this off-season. Justin Speier got 4 years, $18 million from the Angels; Frank Thomas, who can barely run, got $18 million for two years with Toronto. Even our own Alez Gonzalez, a man who hit .174 with RISP last year, got 3 years and $14 million from the Cincinnati Reds.

- Lambeau Field, where the Patriots spanked the Packers 35-0 yesterday, is the third oldest continuously used pro sports facility behind Fenway and Wrigley. Apparently Yankee Stadium doesn't count, since it was closed for two years when it was refurbished in the '70s.

- Speaking of the Pats, they may want to skip the home field advantage in the playoffs this year. Amazingly, they are 5-0 on the road so far this year, and only 2-3 at The Razor.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

There are few things I love more than a cool new toy. By "toy", of course, I mean some tecno-gadget. They fascinate me endlessly.

One gadget I had been considering getting for a while is a GPS device for the car. I have been interested in GPS since my ex-roommate Taz wrote a college paper on GPS years ago. The prices for the portable car navigation systems have come down into the mid-hundreds of dollars, so I was considering picking one up at bonus time next year.

That was until today. A. and I decided to get new phones. Both our contracts had expired, and her phone was having trouble holding a charge. With the rebates they offer, it was actually cheaper to get a new phone than to get a new battery. So we went off to visit the good folks at Verizon Wireless today.

I had originally thought about getting a Motorola RAZR, since they seem to be all the rage these days. However, the reviews I found on the Web were mediocre at best. So I decided on an LG VX8600 instead. The picture on the Verizon Web site doesn't do it justice. It's very sleek and just as good looking as the RAZR. Reception seems good on the few calls I have made so far and the screen is very clear. The controls are as intuitive as cell phones get (that is to say, not very. When is Apple going to come out with that long rumored iPhone, anyways?)

So I'm happy with the phone, but I decided to try out the free 14 day trial on the Navigation feature. I had to drive my brother-in-law back to his house in Allston, so I plugged his address into the phone and off we went.

It really worked well. The phone calculated the most efficient route to get to his house from mine and gave me step-by-step voice instructions, warning me when a turn was coming up and even making sure I went the right way at major road junctions (like the junction of the Mass Pike and Route 128). I even threw it a bit of a curve. It correctly wanted to take me to the Allston/Brighton exit, which would be the shortest way. However, I wanted to take the Newton Corner exit to avoid the 75-cent toll at the next exit. So the navigation software recalculated the directions from the new exit without a hiccup.

Verizon charges $10/month for the navigation service. This is roughly 4 to 5 years of the cost of a dedicated GPS system that I would put in my car. I'm not sure if I will subscribe, though. They also offer a one-day service for about $3, and I could see using that for my occasional road trips into unfamiliar territory (like the trip to Hartford a couple of weeks ago). I could activate a monthly subscription if we were going on vacation for several days and would be using the navigation feature regularly. I can certainly see myself using it from time to time, in any event.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Papelbon/Beckett/Matsuzaka = Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz?

Don't dismiss me as crazy. Well, at least not for saying this.

Much like the Atlanta Braves in the early '90's, the Red Sox have three young pitchers who are potential aces. Papelbon, Beckett and Matsuzaka haven't proven as much at the same age as the three Braves did. Maddux and Glavine had already won 20 games by the age of 26, and Smoltz won 15 that year. Beckett is the only one with a substantial major league record as a starter, and he had a inconsistent season in his first year in Boston. Papelbon has only had a few starts, spending most of last year as the Sox closer, and of course Matsuzaka has never pitched in the majors.

Glavine and Maddux are certain first ballot hall of famers, and Smoltz has a good chance of getting there as well. Do I think the young Sox trio is going to be this good? Well, I wouldn't suggest that, but they certainly have the potential to form the core of the Sox starting rotation for the next decade.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Not even me, apparently. Weird.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Matsuzaka fever continues here in Boston, as it was announced tonight that the Red Sox were the high bidders for the Seibu Lions ace with an astounding bid of $51.1 million!

Why are they laying out this much money? Obviously, getting a 26-year-old pitcher who, by all accounts, has the potential to be a number 1 or 2 starter and keeping him out of the Yankees hands has to be an incentive. In the opinion of many writers, and the scenario that makes the most sense to me, is that the Sox are attempting to expand their brand into Japan. The two most popular teams in Japan are the Yankees (with Hideki Matsui) and the Mariners (with Ichiro). I think that John Henry, Larry Lucchino and company are hoping that the landing Matsuzaka will vault the Sox up there with those other teams, with all the merchandising and promotional opportunities that go with that (Red Sox Nation membership cards in Japanese, anyone?)

Is he worth it? Maybe, if he can be the pitcher Theo apparently thinks he is. We'll see.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Y'know, I hadn't posted since Sunday and felt the need to write something. I was having difficulty coming up with topics, which led to last night's lame post. Then today Hot Stove League action busts loose, with these three stories:

Yanks trade Gary Sheffield to Detroit: Sheff goes to the A.L. champs for three minor league pitchers. The deal doesn't make a ton of sense for the Tigers unless you assume that Dave Dombrowski thinks he is so close based on the 2006 results that Sheffield's bat can put them over the top. According to what I have read, Detroit traded one very good prospect and two mid-level guys for a 39-year-old. You just don't do that unless you think you can win right now.

The scary thing for me about this is that it shows the Yankees building for the future and bulking up their farm system. Sheff essentially became a spare part after the Abreu trade. They Yankee outfield should be all set for a couple of years with Matsui, Damon and Abreu. They essentially took a spare part and traded it for young pitching with potential. If the Yankees aren't making moves like Carl Pavano and Kevin Brown any more, the Sox (and the rest of the league) could be in trouble.

Foulke turns down $3.75 million player option: I actually called this one on the Sons of Sam Horn board the other night. Keith Foulke leaves with a $1.5 million consolation prize and can become a free agent, leaving $3.75 million of guaranteed cash on the table.

I think Foulke decided that he couldn't stand the scrutiny from the fans and the media that he has to put up with in Boston. It's obvious he's never been comfortable with it. Given the thin market for free agent pitching this year, I think he was betting that he could recoup at least $2.5 million of that money in a guaranteed contract with plenty of incentives and go somewhere that would be better for his stress levels.

That said, he'll always have a special place in my pantheon of Red Sox heroes for his amazing work during the 2004 post-season. Foulkie, we may not miss your attitude, but we'll always be greatful.

Buster Olney reports that Sox were high bidders for Matsuzaka: ESPN baseball writer Buster Olney published a report saying the Sox won the bidding for Japanese ace pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. If this is true and the Sox sign him to a contract, they are going to have three pitchers going into the prime of their careers (Burkett, Papelbon, Matsuzaka) in the starting rotation. Add Schilling in his last year wanting to go out on a high note and a healthy Wakefield, and you have the makings of a very strong rotation. No word has come from Matsuzaka's Japanese team, the Seibu Lions, but this could be very exciting if it's true.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A couple of thoughts...

- The Dodgers J.D. Drew opted out of his $33 million guaranteed contract today. You have to wonder why - does he think he can get more dollars or more years? He had pretty good numbers with the Dodgers last year, but it doesn't seem that he's going to get much more than $11 million a year. He would look pretty good in a platoon with Wily Mo in right field.

- The Patriots in recent years, and especially Tom Brady, always seem to play well in their next game after a bad outing. I'm not giving the Jets much of a chance at The Razor this weekend.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I had quite a night on Thursday. I was invited to the premiere of a new film on vintage base ball. The premiere was being held at The Hartford Insurance Company in, well, Hartford, CT. So I left work early, loaded up the new Meat Loaf album Bat Out of Hell III (which is a worth successor to the other two Bat Out of Hell albums, by the way) and drove down to Connecticut.

The ride went reasonably well, although I got a bit lost as I got off the exit. I'd love to meet the joker who decided it would be a good idea for Asylum Street to go off to the left and Asylum Avenue to go off to the right. I naturally picked the wrong one, but was able to rectify my mistake pretty quickly. I really have to buy one of those GPS gadgets.

Once I got to The Hartford's building and parked the car, I walked over to the reception that was being held prior to the film. I ran into a bunch of my partners from the Vintage Base Ball Federation including Jim Bouton and Chip Elitzer, along with Jim's wife Paula. I also got to meet a number of the other partners, including baseball historian John Thorn and several of the other guys who are involved. I also had the opportunity to chat with a number of local vintage base ball players, including representatives of the Harford Senators, the Westfield Wheelmen, and the Newtown Sandy Hook, among others.

After partaking of the ballpark food and beer thoughtfully provided by The Hartford, we entered the theater to watch the film. The film mostly focused on the Senators and the Pittsfield Elms. They showed quite a bit of footage from the Hillies game at Wahconah Park two years ago. They then followed the various teams taking part in a tournament in Pittsfield last summer.

The film was well done and presented a really good overview of vintage base ball and the people who play it. There were lots of interviews with ballplayers (or "ballists") along with Jim Bouton and others. The film was produced by MLB Advanced Media and is currently being shopped to various TV outlets and will eventually be released on DVD. I'll let you know when I hear something about it's release.

Following the film, there was a panel hosted by local vintage base ball character "Pops" O'Maxfield. Included on the panel were Jim, John Thorn, ESPN Program Director Mark Durand and Jeffrey Saunders, the director of the Vintage Base Ball film. It was fun to listen to and actually ran on quite a bit longer than it was scheduled for.

After the goodbyes to everyone I headed back to the car for the ride home. A few of my partners drove up and asked me if I wanted to go out for a drink. I was very tempted, but the combination of a 90 minute drive home and having to get up early the next morning had me regrettably turning them down. I'm sure there will be plenty of other opportunities in the future.

So, it was a great night and well worth the ride down to Hartford. More vintage base ball news as it happens!

Friday, November 03, 2006

As you may have heard, Derek Jeter won the Gold Glove over the Sox Alex Gonzalez. Taking nothing away from Jeter, who is a great player and a decent defensive shortstop, it's inconceivable to me that A-Gon did not win the award this year.

Gonzalez beat Jeter in practically every defensive category. Anyone who watched Gonzalez play this year could see that he was the best defensive shortstop in the league this year. His only disadvantage was that he only played only 111 games to Jeter's 154. This has to be what the voters (in this case, the managers and coaches) were thinking about. There's no other possible explanation.

Well, there is one. The guys voting simply don't care. After all, Rafael Palmeiro won the Gold Glove in 1999 after playing only 28 games at first base. It's been kind of hard to take the voting as much more than a popularity contest after that.

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