The Windup (cont.)
From the Mailbag
Obviously, you wrote this article prior to the SWEEP by the Yankees. How would you write this article differently following that sweep?
You're right, Ed, I wrote that as the Twins were getting slapped around by the Yankees. But you know what? Though the Twins hit a little bit of a rough patch there, the idea behind that piece -- that they're a better team than just about anyone gives them credit for -- still holds. They can score some runs, and if their young pitching doesn't falter too much (or, maybe, Liriano shows up soon), they'll be a player in the weeks ahead. I think the whole AL Central is going to get a lot tighter before we see anyone pulling away.
Why is everyone so fixated on players getting plenty of "rest" before the All-Star Game? Notably, Brandon Webb and Scott Kazmir "should not have been in that game" is what I'm talking about. That is what they get paid for, correct? I'm in the military, currently in Iraq, and I'm a HUGE baseball fan (Go O's!!). However, it irks me when I hear people say, "They need their proper rest." With all the training and physical conditioning that they go through, they should be just fine. Besides, with their salaries, I do think it's something they owe to the fans, to participate in the All-Star Game, if in fact they are voted in due to popularity or they are that good.
You know, Adam, it's hard to argue with you on this. Certainly, somebody like Rangers president Nolan Ryan, who is trying to get his franchise to toughen up its pitchers, is with you. In fact, there are a lot of Hall of Fame pitchers walking around today who decry the way modern pitchers are handled. But the truth is, throwing 20 or 30 or 40 pitches in an All-Star Game, on short rest, is considered physically risky by a lot of people these days. And teams just don't want to take that risk. Sad, maybe, but true.
I heard people talking about the possibility of J.D. Drew pitching in the All-Star Game as though it would be the apocalypse. Am I the only one who thinks position players (athletes, not porcelain dolls, mind you) pitching to decide who gets home field in the World Series would just be one more quirky thing that makes baseball so great?
I'd have loved to have seen it. But what if Drew would have blown his arm out doing it? What if one would have slipped away and beaned some poor-sack NL All-Star? We'd be playing with 60-man rosters in '09.
I was so glad you brought up the Billy Beane situation in Oakland. I've been surprised that he's seemed to get a pass -- at least in terms of national attention -- on his quasi-fire sale of a decent team. I mean, when Jerry Reinsdorf dismantled the White Sox when they were a few games behind the Indians in 1997, he was slaughtered for waving the "white flag." So why does Billy get a break in terms of public opinion? Do you think that's more a product of A) the fact that he's running a small-market team and there's less pressure to win year to year; or B) that his track record for evaluating young talent (and shedding vets before they slide) lends him more credibility to make these kinds of deals? (Case in point: When the Cubs picked up Rich Harden, my first thought wasn't "what a steal from Oakland," but rather "I wonder what's wrong with him?")
Great questions, Brad. Sure, the decision to dismantle a winning team would have been examined a lot more closely in New York or Chicago or even L.A. But fans (and the media) have accepted the fact that, traditionally, it has been harder to build a winner in the smaller markets, so they give the guys in charge a break. Certainly Beane, by virtue of his successes, has built up a lot of credit. If he says his team can't compete in the long run -- even if it is competing in the short term -- we're all apt to believe him. Here's the crux of it: Beane has said before -- and I think this is smart and admirable -- that he's not interested in getting close, or being merely OK. He's in this to win. And if he can't win, he'll restock and rebuild the team into a winner. If I'm an A's fan -- In Billy They Trust -- I'd put up with a couple of years of restocking in exchange for a few years in the running.
Angel broadcaster Steve Physioc has a term for the typical Francisco Rodriguez outing. He calls it a "Nervous Save." Those are the all-too-frequent times when K-Rod gives up a home run to cut the lead to one run, or walks the bases full before getting the final out. If you look back at his record-setting first half you'll find that they are more common than not, and that a large percentage of his saves really belong to the Angels' defense that has saved him over and over. Now his contract is up. He says he likes Anaheim but he's not a fan, he's an employee. He wants a long-term, big-money contract in the neighborhood of five years and $75 million. He'll probably need it to pay off all the lawsuits of fans whom he creates heart attacks for. But hopefully the Angels are too smart to invest that much in that ego and that herky-jerky motion that'll have him on the disabled list awaiting surgery within two years. There are too many quality options that are a lot easier on the nerves.
Good line, Roger, about the lawsuits. All I can say is that Angels' fans are not alone. Think the fans in Detroit don't sweat out Todd Jones' appearances? Milwaukee fans got real nervous when Eric Gagne was out there (and they're still shaky with Salomon Torres). You should see the mail I get from Mets fans about Billy Wagner. I heard a call-in show about Francisco Cordero in Cincinnati. He drives Cincy fans nuts. So misery, you have company. K-Rod is scary sometimes. I count just three "clean" outings in his last 14 appearances of more than a third of an inning, and by clean I mean no hits or walks. But he has 13 saves in that time, too. You just have to hold on tighter, Roger. And take that heart medicine.