Monthly archives: May 2005
Blog the Dawgs
The San Diego Surf Dawgs are one of eight teams in the Golden Baseball League, a brand new independent league centered on the west coast. The league began play on Thursday, so the game we attended on Saturday was the third game ever for the Surf Dawgs and their opponents, the Long Beach Armada. The Surf Dawgs and their main attraction, Rickey Henderson (more about him later), play at Tony Gwynn Stadium on the campus of San Diego State University.
The ballpark seats about 3,000 people, all on the infield. It was about half-full on Saturday evening, and from listening to the people in the crowd, it seemed like half of the people in the stands were related to somebody on the field. "The pitcher is my cousin." "My dad's the bullpen catcher." "C'mon son!"
I doubt catering to the relatives of ballplayers is a sustainable business model, but if the league fails, it won't be for a lack of marketing. In fact, I think they pulled out the table of contents in the Baseball Marketing 101 textbook and used it as a checklist.
Checklist item #1: give something away as people enter the stadium. We each got a T-shirt commemorating the inaugural weekend of Golden League play. The gift was a good way to get on our good side right away.
Checklist item #2: give some more things away after that. Just minutes after we settled down in our seats, a Surf Dawg employee came by and told us that our row had been selected for an upgrade to a luxury box. Free catered food!
In an interview with Christian Ruzich, Dave Kaval, a founder of the Golden League, explained their marketing strategy:
We're targeting families. We're very, very focused on the typical four-person family: wife, husband, the two kids. We're going to cater to families with the types of promotions we do from having the kids run the bases between innings to having a kid zone in all of our parks, with everything from speed pitch to one of those big Scooby-Doo blow up things for the kids to jump around in. Just making sure that the lowest common denominator is entertaining the children.
He wasn't kidding about the kids. They had a kid zone with all sorts of games. They had both a Surf Dawg mascot (named Southpaw) and a clown who made beaut animals. My kids got their faces painted. And between every half-inning, there was some entertainment happening on the field, from a frisbee-catching dog to a burrito-catching contest.
The marketing plan worked to perfection on my wife and kids. Everyone on the staff was friendly and approachable. They seemed to genuinely care to make sure we were having fun. My kids had a great time, and were never bored at all. My wife absolutely loved it. We have a trip planned to L.A. later this year, and as soon as we got home, she checked out the schedules online to see if we could make another Golden League game. In fact, I'd bet if there were a Golden League team in the Bay Area next year, she'd want to dump our A's season tickets and go there instead. (Memo to the marketing departments of MLB and the Oakland A's: we're people, not ATMs.)
I, on the other hand, am more of a hard-core baseball fan, and I'm not going to fall for any marketing magic unless the product on the field is worth watching. The defense was not crisp, and none of the pitchers I saw had great stuff, but at least they threw a lot of strikes and made the batters put the ball in play, which made for an entertaining home team victory, if not an impressive one.
And yet, even for me, the night was magical.
When the game was over, I felt like I had stepped out of a scene in Field of Dreams. Ray Kinsella had come into my office and asked me if I could have one wish, what it would be? And I responded, "Just once, I'd like to see Rickey Henderson young again, driving the opposing team absolutely insane, working the count, taking walks, hitting homers, and running wild on the bases. That's my wish, Ray Kinsella. That's my wish."
I went with my family to San Diego this weekend to visit my brother-in-law, his wife, and their holophrastic 20-month-old daughter.
There's a poetry to kids in that stage of language development, as they reduce the complex world they live they experience to just a single word.
Things going badly for your favorite team? We could do a complex statistical analysis of the phenomenon, or we could just say:
My niece had a vocabulary of about 30-50 words. My favorite was "beaut". "Beaut" comes from "beautiful" I guess, but to her, it means "balloon".
Such innocence doesn't last long. Back in April, I believed the A's would be like those beauts, floating with grace and ease, filling us with a sense of wonder and magic, capable of defying the concept of falling, helping us believe there is something pure and simple and good in the world.
Eventually, though, we come to learn that even the best of beauts go bad.
Give Me A Break
Every time I think the A's may have hit rock bottom, they prove otherwise.
Luckily, I was busy and missed Wednesday's thwacking by the Devil Rays. I didn't suffer at all. Ignorance is bliss.
So let's think about something else. Here is the phrase "catfish stew" translated into five Continental European languages:
Dutch: katvis hutspot
Heerlijk! I'll be busy over the Memorial Day weekend, so I'll be taking a few days off from les blogs du grille-pain. Let's look at it as an experiment. If the A's immediately go on a winning streak in my absence, then we've found the jinx.
Si ce blog est la malédiction, je peux ne jamais retourner. Ik betwijfel dit, nochtans zal gebeuren.
It's a pretty sad state of affairs when you're watching your team play against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and you suddenly realize that the Rays might have the better team. That probably wouldn't be the case if the A's were healthy. But here we are.
Let's look at some rankings:
The A's pitch better, the Rays hit better. Not much news there.
The Defensive Efficiency Ratio says that the A's play slightly better defense than the Rays. If I hadn't looked it up I would never have believed it. The A's have made a ton of errors lately (22 in the last 19 games), including a 7th-inning error on Kirk Saarloos (he missed the bag on a 3-1 putout...which is about the third time in recent weeks this has happened...why do the A's keep having a problem stepping on the base/plate...the game is called baseball...it should be the first skill you learn...but I digress...back to the sentence...), which turned out to be the eventual winning run. Meanwhile, the Rays made numerous excellent defensive plays that killed a couple of A's rallies.
The Rays, though lacking talent, played sharply. The A's had more talent, but played uninspired and sloppy ball. Today Saarloos was the worst offender. In addition to his error, he also botched a rundown--choosing to throw to first on a comebacker when he had a runner on second hung out to dry. But he hasn't been the only one making mental blunders. There seem to be several such mistakes every day. It's a team-wide epidemic of concentration lapses.
I don't know how you fix a team that has seemingly ceased to take its concentration pills (that's a joke, not an accusation), other than to make somebody lose their job.
Scott Hatteberg homered tonight, his third of the year. Despite that, I still think Dan Johnson should be here and taking some of Hatteberg's and Erubiel Durazo's at-bats. Durazo looked horrible at the plate today. Go make him earn his plate appearances, and write his name into the lineup. Free Dan Johnson!
Meanwhile, Nick Swisher's rehab has been going gangbusters in Sacramento (.400/.455/.550 in 20ABs). Bobby Crosby's rehab in Stockton is a few days behind Swisher's, but he is 2-for-6 so far. A change is a-comin'.
They Might Be Gigantes
Ladies and gentlemen
I promise not to kill you
Tears For Fears
Most preseason discussions tend to be optimistic; after all, everybody wants to rule the world. But before the season started, we had an internal Toaster discussion about our worries. Unfortunately, most of my fears have turned into tears.
I didn't mention injuries in our discussion, because they're not really worth mentioning unless you have some players who are particularly injury prone. Obviously, these are things I could do without. But it's hard to turn your back on mother nature. The A's have six players on the DL right now (Crosby, Swisher, Harden, Calero, Dotel and Bradford), seven if you count Dan Meyer, who was expected to make the team but couldn't get his arm into shape, and one more, Justin Duchscherer, who hasn't pitched in a week and could be joining them retroactively.
Mike thought there was a good chance the new A's pitching staff might implode. The pitching hasn't been great, but it hasn't been a total nightmare either. But making up for the loss of Hudson and Mulder wasn't my biggest fear, anyway. That's just one headline, why believe it? Nothing ever lasts forever. Here's what I replied to Mike:
I'm more worried about the hitting imploding than the pitching. The Coliseum is a tough place to hit .300. Oakland has only had twenty .300 seasons in 37 years. Yet Kotsay, Durazo, and Kendall (elsewhere) all hit .300 last year. What happens to the offense if they all hit .280-.290? If Byrnes falls back to earth? If Crosby and Swisher are young strikeout machines? The A's offense should improve at C and 2B, but I can imagine a scenario where none of the other 7 positions do.Indeed, the A's are still walking a lot, but they've suffered a huge collapse in batting average, which has hurt the offense overall. I was considering .290 a disaster scenario for Kotsay, Durazo and Kendall; now it's wishful thinking. Kotsay is hitting .289, Durazo .250, and Kendall only .226. Chavez is only hitting .211, while Crosby and Swisher have been hurt. It's a very, very mad world.
I keep looking at the A's PECOTA projections in disbelief. Right now, only Bobby Kielty is well above his 50% projection for OPS, and only Eric Byrnes and Mark Ellis are near it. Eight hitters are at or below their 10% projections. I find it kind of funny. I find it kind of sad.
Joe Sheehan deconstructed the A's disappointing season yesterday in a Baseball Prospectus Premium article yesterday. There wasn't really much to disagree with, really. Here's the crux of it:
The A's don't hit for average and they don't hit for power. I mean, they really don't hit for power. Since offense ticked up in 1993, just one team--the '93 expansion Marlins--have posted an isolated power mark (SLG - BA) of less than .100. The A's are at .106 through a quarter of the season; the second-lowest figure since 1992 is .120, held by a handful of teams. We can talk about park effects and changes to the run environment all day, but if you slug .350, you can't compete.
Who could have imagined the A's offense would be laid so low? Man, you guys, I wish you were my enemy.
I don't think you have to look to the skies for some kind of divine intervention. This can be fixed. You'd probably have to sacrifice some defense, but to fix an historically bad offense, I'm sure it would be worth it. I love power. I believe in love power. We need a change, before it's all too late. I could be quite naive, and I can't actually operate on this failure, but all I want to be is completely in command, so I'm going to shout and let it all out, and I hope we live to tell the tale. This is my four-leaf clover:
Heavyweight Championship Update
Down on my sidebar, you can see the current standings of the MLB Heavyweight Championship. This is where we assume that if you beat the champion, you become the new champion, just like in boxing.
Since the Red Sox won the World Series last year, the Heavyweight Championship has resided in the American League all season. Of the AL teams, only the White Sox, Mariners, and Tigers have not had a title bout yet. The Blue Jays have held the title the most, winning eleven title bouts out of eighteen.
As we move into the first weekend of interleague play, the Minnesota Twins are the current champs. The Milwaukee Brewers will be the first NL team this year with a shot at the title. Also, if the Brewers win on Sunday, they can keep crown over in the National League for a few weeks until the next round of interleague play. I wouldn't bet on it, though; they'll be facing Johan Santana. Good luck.
My Notes Wait There
In San Francisco, across the greenish-brown and windy bay:
I just finished watching Eric Byrnes and Barry Zito on ESPN's version of The Newlywed Game, Teammates.
Teammates is just horribly painful to watch. The Newlywed Game wasn't so great, either, but at least it had the whole sexual innuendo thing going for it. You weren't allowed to come out and say what you mean, if you know what I mean, and that was half the fun.
Now that I think of it, maybe Teammates really is a great show, too, but I forgot to watch it with my my gaydar turned on. Perhaps I need to give it a second glance, if you know what I mean.
Otherwise, the most interesting part was when Zito guessed correctly that Byrnes would say his favorite to thing to watch on TV other than SportsCenter was Fox News. Did Byrnes know that he just excommunicated himself from not only Athletics Nation, but the entire Kososphere? Blasphemy!
Memo To All ESPN Networks
You are hereby banned from making any jokes, any sarcastic, cynical or snide remarks, or any other form of wise-guy commentary regarding the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim".
Reason: "Baseball Tonight By L'Oreal Men's Expert."
Perhaps we should start looking for a sponsor for Baseball Toaster. We'd need something that would be as big a mouthful as possible. Maybe something like "Baseball Toaster Presented by Fuji Tsuushinki Seizou Kabushikigaisha".
Dallas, Texas Leaguer
It was a pretty bleak evening in Oakland last night. The A's were playing severely short-handed: Yabu pitched a couple innings the night before, Bobby Kielty and Justin Duchscherer were unavailable with minor injuries, and Octavio Dotel was on his way to see Dr. Yocum about his elbow (yuck). All of which contributed to the A's eighth-inning collapse, where Juan Cruz ran out of gas, and Eric Byrnes made another costly outfield blunder. It's unlikely either would have been in there if the A's were playing with a full roster.
So the loss was annoying, but understandable. I was mad at Byrnes and Hatteberg for their errors, but I figure those guys are lame ducks at this point, so my anger didn't really linger very long. I'm still feeling oddly optimistic.
The biggest source of A's optimism last night didn't come out of Oakland. Dallas Braden made his AA debut last night for Midland, and was quite successful:
IP H R ER BB K 6.2 7 0 0 2 5
Braden had brilliant numbers at Single A Stockton (2.68 ERA, 64K, 11BB in 43 2/3IP), but you have to view it with some skepticism because he's a soft-tosser. Sometimes the slow stuff will work at lower levels, but gets clobbered further up the ladder. So tossing a shutout in his first AA game is a very good sign.
How to Tell When Your Kids Have Heard One Too Many Baseball Commercials
Me (taking drink requests at dinner): What do you want?
4-year-old daughter: I want to taste my beer!
Sound drums and trumpets! farewell sour annoy!
Get denied something you want too many times, you will eventually come to feel that getting what you want is impossible.
After eight losses in a row, I had reached that point with the A's. I had lost my ability to even imagine the A's winning.
But hallelujah, the A's won this evening! Suddenly, my imagination, locked away in some dark corner of my mind by the recent downturn, burst forth with a barrage of optimistic ifs.
They're So Bad...
I had some fun browsing BP's stats today, looking at how badly the A's suck.
There's a discussion over on BTF about Rob Bell's panic attacks. Since I have some experience on this subject, I added my two cents, which I'll reprint here:
Panic attacks, panic disorder and anxiety disorders are all slightly different things. I'll talk about panic attacks and panic disorder, because I've dealt with them myself.
How Bad Are They?
The A's are so bad, their entire catching corps has fewer home runs than Sal Fasano.
Seriously. Sal Fasano.
Dirty Rotten Shame
I recall the good old daysThis is a transition year, and I was hoping that even as such, Fortune might favor the A's, and we would still witness a competitive season. Alas, Fortune has ignored the A's, and Murphy and his Law have stepped in to fill the vacuum.
The A's are seven games under .500 with five more games this week against the reigning monsters of the AL East. And now Rich Harden is probably out for several weeks with a pulled oblique muscle. I'd ask what else could possibly go wrong, but I'm afraid Murphy might decide to answer that question.
Billy Beane is walking around repeating his Hitchhiker's Guide mantra ("Don't Panic"), but that's a far cry from a mantra like "This Is Our Year". It's someone else's year, and the best the A's can hope for is to be a nice, minor decoration in the larger artwork, like a solid-colored gonfalon hanging from a jewel-studded cross.
Don't Panic aside, I fully expect some kind of move to be made soon. Beane and Macha have had two closed-door meetings in the last week. With the draft coming up in early June, Beane would probably prefer to make whatever move they're going to make now, so that he can focus on the draft for the next few weeks. (Wouldn't this time of year be really fascinating if draft picks were tradeable?)
I wouldn't expect a trade, since he'd probably be selling low with most of his chips slumping. He's better off letting them play and seeing if they can increase their trade value for July. But for a spark, I'd probably just call up Dan Johnson, rotate him into the mix with Hatteberg and Durazo, and see what happens.
Update: Oh yes, I forgot to add: and make Zachary happy, too. Matt Watson is getting called up. I haven't heard about anyone getting sent down, so I'm assuming Harden goes immediately to the DL, Watson takes his roster spot, and the A's go with 11 pitchers.
But with Watson here, that makes Jermaine Clark less necessary. I'd send Clark down and bring up Johnson.
I'm very much looking forward to the Mike Mussina-Rich Harden pitching matchup tonight, but I suppose the big story is that Jason Giambi is returning to Oakland for the first time since his BALCO testimony was leaked.
Giambi may not even play, as he is struggling at the plate. Perhaps, as some suggest, he is failing because he stopped taking steroids in 2003. Giambi says he has been battling some minor injuries: a forearm cramp and a recent beaning.
Giambi may be right. Even when he was in Oakland, he was never the type of player who could hit with minor injuries. In Oakland, when he was nursing an injury, he would DH. Look at his career numbers as a 1B (mostly healthy) vs. as a DH (less healthy):
Just like in his recent struggles, his ability to walk didn't suffer as a DH, but his batting average dropped a ton. The difference now is that his slugging percentage is down, too. That may just be a matter of sample size, though.
I doubt Giambi will ever be a great player again, because it's unlikely he'll ever be consistently healthy again. Mike's recent study shows that players with similar stats to Giambi's often ended up retiring soon thereafter. But I still think it's possible he could put together another stretch of good fortune with his health, and have a John Jaha-like last hurrah before his body fails him at last.
We'll Take The House
Lightning never strikes twi
The Evil Midnight Blogger What Blogs At Midnight
And so he says to me, you want to blog? and I says, Yeah baby! I want to be a blogger! I says play ball, bunt monkeys! I'm making hot dogs without mustard! Ah ha ha ha haaaa!
He says to me, he says to me, 'Baby I'm tired of watchin' this lousy team!' I says, I says, why don't you blow it to bits?
And he says to me, he says to me, you got style, baby! But if you're gonna to be a real blogger you gotta get a gimmick…and so I go I says Yeah Baby! A gimmick, that's it! Team Explosives! Aaaah-hahahahaaaa!
So he says to me, you gotta do something smart, baby, something big! He says you want to be a superblogger, right, and I go yeah baby, yeah yeah! What do I gotta do? He says, you got bombs, blow up the team; it's packed with powder. You'll go down in superblogger history, and I go yeah baby, cuz I'm the Evil Midnight Blogger What Blogs at Midnight! Ah ha ha ha ha ha!
Eat my smoke, Zito baby! I'm trading you! Kaboom!
Dotel, baby, this could happen to you, too. This could happen to anybody! He says he hung that slider, and I go, I says, it's the only hung you got. Ha!
And then next thing you know: milkshake! Whoosh!
And so I says to Byrnes, uh, Byrnes baby Byrnes, I says, you got legs baby, you're everywhere, you're all over the place, but you're not here anymore, baby! You're outta here!!!
Durazo, I says, I don't like the price of your jib, and I go, you're going, baby, your jib's going straight Outta Town!
Excuse me…excuse me…and then I says tell me I'm wrong, and he says I can't baby 'cause you're not!
And Hatteberg, Hatteberg, sixty seconds to nowhere, baby! You're becoming the next victim of the Evil Midnight Blogger What Blogs...hey pay attention!
Yeah Baby! Now you've only got twenty seconds until you all Eat My Stew!!!
You'll never prove a thing; I'm just a part-time programmer. Down with patience! Blogging is good, baby!
Lots of Q's, No A's
FRIAR FRANCIS: Did I not tell you she was innocent?
Went to the doctor yesterday for my heartburn, and he said I had a "classic case of acid reflux." That's not the greatest news in the world, in that I'll probably have to deal with this on and off for the rest of my life now, but I am happy to hear that it's classic. There's a clear program for dealing with it. I've had some other things where the doctors aren't quite sure what's going on, or how to treat it. That's worse.
But given that I'm trying to calm down my stomach, I've decided to avoid any unnecessary stress. So when Scott Hatteberg committed two errors on one play with the bases loaded yesterday, I turned off the TV. I knew right then and there the A's were going to get their butts kicked, and I didn't need the aggravation.
I probably shouldn't even watch any games at all this week, but that's probably not going to happen. I'm rather addicted to this sport, and it's hard to quit cold turkey.
Speaking of addictions, I hope that this article about amphetamines by Jeff Passan in the Kansas City Star is much ado about nothing, but I have questions.
Would any of the other players in that congressional hearing have gone into a Mark McGwire-like silent trance if they had been asked about greenies instead of just steroids?
How widespread is widespread? What percentage of Major League baseball players are addicted to amphetamines? What would happen to them if they were suddenly forced to stop taking them? Would they have withdrawal symptoms? Would their performances drop?
If clubhouses in the 90s had amphetamine-spiked coffee out in the open, the team doctors and management had to know about it, and tolerate it. Do they still tolerate amphetamines today? If not, when did they stop, and what prompted the change?
What if they only stopped this year, because of the steroid scandal? Would scoring go down? Or have pitchers popped greenies as much as hitters?
What if some teams stopped their tacit tolerance of amphetamines, and others didn't? Would the performance of those teams suffer unfairly in comparison to others?
When Brian Anderson says about public perception, "we're going to get slaughtered if the public buys into it," should we buy into it?
When Bud Selig says, "It is time to put the whispers about amphetamine use to bed once and for all," is he right? Is it time to cease our gossipy whispers, grab our torches and pitchforks, and come after these players with the shouts of an angry mob, hungry for the slaughter?
Or do we just let it slide, because thinking about it makes us sick to our stomachs?
I'm in a bad mood. Maybe it's this heartburn that's been bothering me for the last few days, or maybe it's because yesterday was Mother's Day, and my wife hates it when I yell at the TV, so to give her as nice a day as possible, I bottled all my negative emotions during yesterday's game, but now they're ready to burst. In any case, I need to vent, and that's partly the reason why I started this blog. The following is probably not particularly rational:
Nice Trick, Cliff
Cliff pulled the old reverse jinx trick by predicting an A's sweep, thereby guaranteeing that it wouldn't happen.
It totally negated my recipe trick, and the A's went back to their pre-recipe-blog non-scoring ways, and lost 5-0.
Moreover, I think he's up to some other evil trick at this very moment, so to counteract him, I'm throwing out a triple dose of recipes:
First, here's where to get some jinx-removing root oil.
Then, we'll use the classic Egg Jinx Removing Spell.
And to invoke the power of Motherhood, and to prevent my powers from crumbling away, I'll throw in Mom's No-Crumble Nutbread.
That, plus a solid dose of Rich Harden ought to do the trick.
The A's beat the Yankees 6-3 in ten innings, but I'm not feeling pumped up about it like I usually do after beating them. This felt like a mid-August game between two teams in fourth place, not a tense battle between playoff-caliber clubs.
Barry Zito pitched well (although Macha left him in too long again), and the A's got a couple of home runs (home runs? what's that?) from Eric Byrnes and Bobby Kielty. But that's about it for the highlights. The rest of the game was ugly.
Used to be that you had to play your best mistake-free game to beat the Yankees. But tonight, the A's played sloppily, left a gazillion runners in scoring position again, and yet still won because the Yankees played even more sloppily than the A's.
The key play was in the bottom of the eighth inning where Octavio Dotel threw a terrible pitch behind Alex Rodriguez, which glanced off the glove of Jason Kendall, who then threw out Jorge Posada trying to advance to third base with two outs in a tie game. Just a horrible pitch, but an even more horrible baserunning mistake.
Then the Yankees played defense like a bunch of Little Leaguers in the top of the 10th, and handed the A's three runs. The A's tried their best to slop the game back to the Yankees in the bottom of the 10th, walking the leadoff man and dropping a pop fly, but the Yankees failed to capitalize, and the A's held on to win.
The Yankees failed to capitalize? I can't remember ever saying that before. Something weird is going on here. First the Red Sox break their curse, and now the Yankees can't get the lucky break they almost always seem to get. The Earth's magnetic North Pole and South Pole must be flipping upside down or something.
Therefore, I hereby declare that the recipe of the day is Broccoli and Cornmeal Upside-down Cake. What could be more appropriate than that?
Got Beer? Got Tacos?
Yesterday, as I started my car, my radio was tuned to 610 AM, the A's flagship station. 610AM has just switched from being an oldies station to religious (Christian) programming.
I have nothing against religious programming per se; some of my favorite films and music albums explore the relationship between God and man. My problem is that most of it just descends into trite, annoying clichés.
I was expecting the worst, either some bland Christian pop music like "You Light Up My Life", or some 700-Clubish "Democrats will burn in Hell" chatter. But I decided to keep an open mind and give the station a chance. To my surprise, I didn't turn the dial; the announcer was reading a story about the death of Aaron Burr.
That certainly got my curiosity up. Awooon Buuuhh! Awooon Buuuhh! (Can anyone hear the name Aaron Burr anymore without thinking of that commercial?) I wondered, why would a religious station discuss Aaron Burr?
The story being read was not about Burr or Buuuhh; it was a biography of Burr's father-in-law (Buuuhh's grandfather), Jonathan Edwards. Edwards succeeded Burr, Sr. as President of Princeton University in 1758. (His term was brief; Edwards died just months later in a failed smallpox immunization attempt.)
Jonathan Edwards was a Calvinist Puritan preacher in a time when Puritanism was fading in popularity. Like any good Puritan preacher, he could deliver an effective fire-and-brimstone story, such as Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God:
...you are thus in the Hands of an Angry God; 'tis nothing but his mere Pleasure that keeps you from being this Moment swallowed up in everlasting Destruction.
In Edwards' era, Isaac Newton's physics and John Locke's philosophy were profoundly changing how people looked at the world God had created. Edwards, in his writings and sermons, attempted to merge these new ideas with his old Calvinist Puritan beliefs.
This, I suspect, is why the religious station was discussing the life of Jonathan Edwards. Edwards had many followers in his day, but over time, his philosophical theology faded along with Puritanism itself. But America is experiencing a bit of a neo-Puritan (i.e. Fundamentalist) revival these days, and his arguments now have a new audience who find them useful.
I knew nothing about any of this until I went home and looked up Edwards on the web. What fascinates me about this is that people in the 18th century were deep into the sort of beer-or-tacos, faith-or-rationalism debate that characterizes baseball today.
On the one hand, you have the old school: the 18th-century Puritans (21st-century scouts), who were deeply entrenched in a pre-scientific culture, had complete faith in their way of doing things, and utterly rejected the new knowledge. At the other end of the spectrum, you had those (some atheists and statheads) who rejected the old ideas as pure illogical nonsense, and would only tolerate rational arguments.
In between, you have a full spectrum of beliefs. There are some (Jonathan Edwards, Joe Morgan) who will acknowledge the new ideas as having some merit, yet still cling with a fierce determination to the old way of life. Others (Deists, Billy Beane) will acknowledge the mysteries to a small degree, but insist on behaving as if the universe is mostly rational. Most people fell somewhere in-between.
Interesting, too, that the most venomous debates were not between the purists on either end, but between the near-purists. We all know how much poison there is between the Joe Morgan camp and the Billy Beane camp. Similarly, Edwards had strong contempt for deists, who believe in God but not in miracles:
Edwards reveals the status of deists in his own mind when, in an unpublished sermon preached in 1731, he refers to "robbers, pirates and deists" with apologies to the robbers and pirates.
So don't expect the scouts vs. stats debate to end any time soon. If the history of faith vs. reason has shown us anything, the argument could last for centuries.
When me say me want A's to shake up things, me not mean replace old A's with Bizarro A's.
Old A's park dry in May. Bizarro A's park rainy. Old A's score no runs, give up just a few. Bizarro A's score lots of runs, give up even more.
Me not like. Me wanted Bizarro Beane to turn worthless diamond into valuable coal. Not turn worthless solid diamond into worthless diamond dust. It still worthless.
Me must learn to be careful what me ask for.
This recipe for kitty litter cake is the most disgusting thing I've seen in a long time. Aside from the A's offense, of course.
The A's got shut out through 5 2/3 innings by Chris Young tonight. That's inexcusable. Not that Young can't have a good day every now and then, but tonight wasn't it. He wasn't painting the corners. He was constantly falling behind in the count. He was throwing 3-1, 87mph hit-me pitches down the middle of the plate, and the A's were fouling them off or popping them up. There are plenty of AA and AAA teams that wouldn't have been shut out by Chris Young tonight.
Shutting down the A's offense right now is incredibly simple: just throw the ball over the plate. Don't walk anybody, and chances are, the A's won't hurt you.
The A's were hitting like this in 2002, and in the middle of May, Billy Beane shook things up: he traded Jeremy Giambi, he demoted Carlos Pena and then traded him, too. They went on to win the division.
I'm sure Billy Beane is working the phones right now, seeing what his options are, so that perhaps in a week or three, he can do some shaking. Or perhaps, the A's will wake up and start hitting by then, so a shakeup won't be needed.
But a wakeup or a shakeup better come soon. I don't want to spend the next five months watching hitting like this. Frankly, I'd rather eat kitty litter.
And finally, my four-year-old daughter offers her own satellite image of a future A's ballpark, apparently named 'Bank of America Field':
Some comments from the architect:
The Boss of My Brain
Philip Michaels offers this blog some recipe recommendations. I'm grateful, Philip. Although I'm not sure I can recommend the fish tacos. Isn't that a Padres thing?
I didn't see the A's game today. Went with the family to a Tom Chapin concert. If you're looking for good children's music that won't drive you insane with cliches, Tom Chapin's the guy. You may disagree, but it's a free country, and I am me, and you're not the boss of my brain.
It was a fun, entertaining day. After the show, we got to meet Chapin and his fellow performer Michael Mark (whose claim to fame is writing the theme song for Entertainment Tonight), and they couldn't have been nicer to the kids. And best of all, unlike the show at the Coliseum, we didn't have to witness somebody tear up their collarbone.
I guess we'll find out tomorrow how bad Nick Swisher is hurt. Swisher certainly hasn't been hitting much better than any of the other outfielders. So it's hard to say the A's will be missing his bat all that much.
Saturday, I was at the game and watched Swisher play first base, giving Scott Hatteberg a day off. This role may be where Swisher is missed the most.
Swisher looked pretty comfortable around first base. Hatteberg wore down at the end of last year because the A's had no adequate replacement at 1B. Durazo is a truly awful defensive first baseman. Kielty has played a little bit there, but I'm not sure he's much better. Maybe Keith Ginter ought to start taking some grounders at first. Otherwise, if Hatteberg gets nicked up and needs a couple of days off, we might end up seeing Dan Johnson.
But I'm guessing the A's will call up an outfielder, since none of them save Kotsay were hitting anyway. If the A's MLB site is to be believed, Matt Watson is the only other outfielder currently on the 40-man roster, so I'd call him the favorite. On the other hand, it also says the 40-man roster only has 37 players on it, so it could be someone else, like Jermaine Clark, who is a bit more versatile defensively.
On the positive side from Sunday's game: (a) the A's won, and (b) Barry Zito pitched well.
I'm still have some optimism about Zito; he had one bad game against Tampa, but otherwise has been pitching with a lot of bad luck. He's added a slurve, which he said on the post-game show today is really just his curveball thrown from a 10-to-4 instead of an 11-to-5 angle, which gives it a velocity in the upper 70s, instead of the high-60s-lower 70s with his curveball.
I've noticed this year that he's had a much greater variety of speeds on his pitches than in previous years. Before, he was just a three-pitch, three-speed pitcher. Now he has a larger palette of speeds and pitches to paint with. His fastballs used to be 86-89mph; now it varies between 82-89. His off-speed stuff was always 68-73; now that range is 68-79.
I've always felt that Zito's biggest problem is that didn't have enough ways to get somebody out if one of his pitches wasn't working. The more ingredients you have in your kitchen, the more creative you can be with your recipes.
It doesn't look like he has quite mastered his new tools yet, but give him time. The old dog of the A's pitching staff is still young enough at 26 to learn a few new tricks.
Today is May Day, when Socialists across the globe get out and demonstrate for a more equitable distribution of wealth.
I'm not a socialist, but perhaps I should demonstrate for a more equitable distribution of PECOTA percentiles. Only three A's players are hitting above their 10% percentile projections for OPS:
Not fair! We demand equality! 50% percentiles for all!
I am grateful the A's finished April with a 12-12 record and only one game out of first despite the injustice of Those Who Play Dice With The Universe. Otherwise, we might not just be protesting for justice. We might be calling for a revolution.
STOP CASTING POROSITY! An Oakland Athletics blog.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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Ken: catfish AT zombia d.o.t. com
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