Monday, October 31, 2011

St. Louis Cardinals victory parade

Young Cardinal fans watch victory parade, 10/30/11, getty

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CC Sabathia announces he'll stay with Yankees, wishes fans Happy Halloween in :22 video

via Star Ledger, 10/31/11: "CC Sabathia announced tonight that he has signed a new contract to remain with the Yankees. According to a person with knowledge of the talks, who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly, Sabathia's new deal pays him a guaranteed $122 million over the next five years, and includes a $25 million option for 2017.

The vesting option, the language of which is complex, is essentially tied to the left-hander's health. If Sabathia is healthy, the option for 2017 would be automatically triggered.

Sabathia had until 11:59 p.m. tonight to opt out of his original deal but instead announced via his Twitter feed tonight that he has chosen to sign a new deal without invoking the clause in his contract.

For the Yankees, the move represents perhaps their biggest of the offseason, keeping Sabathia in the fold after his three seasons as the team's pitching ace.

Sabathia taped a 22 second video addressing fans. His comments:

Happy Halloween, everybody. I just wanted to be the first to let Yankee fans know that we agreed to a contract extension. I'll be coming back in 2012. I want to thank the Steinbrenner family for making that happen. My goal the whole time was to be able to finish my career as a Yankee. Hopefully, I can do that. We seem like we got that accomplished today, so I look forward to seeing everybody out at the ballpark next year.”" via Zoodig,

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'Silly Goose' Gossage, Greg Couch, 'myth of the 7-out Save,' and denigrating Mariano Rivera, Baseball Prospectus Guest, Kevin Baker

10/31/11, "Silly Goose: Mariano Rivera and the Myth of the Seven-Out Save," Kevin Baker, Guest at Baseball Prospectus, "Baseball ProGuestUs"
  • "If they want to contribute something, Goose Gossage and Greg Couch should take up the worthy cause of getting some of Goose’s other contemporaries into the Hall with him....In trying to denigrate what Mariano Rivera has accomplished, they only make themselves look foolish."...
"I used to love watching Goose Gossage pitch. With that wonderful rising fastball he was one of the best examples ever of the pure power game....

That’s why I was happy to see him elected to the Hall of Fame, an honor he heartily deserved. Gossage’s approach to the Hall was as straightforward as his pitching style. He campaigned actively by pointing out how much harder relief pitchers were worked back in his day than now, and how much more difficult it was to run up impressive save totals.

His points were well-taken, and now that he’s in the Hall…
  • I wish he would shut up.

Over the last few years, the Goose’s advocacy for the pitchers of his era has turned more and more into carping about the closers of today, and especially Mariano Rivera. This is usually followed by some boilerplate about what a great competitor Rivera is, apples and oranges, blah blah blah. But more and more, it’s become downright pissy. Worse yet, it’s begun to influence those highly

  • impressionable young minds we call sportswriters and broadcasters.

“…when I pitched the ninth inning to save a three-run lead, coming in with no one on base, I felt guilty. I would go home and be embarrassed,” Gossage told Fox Sports online columnist Greg Couch last month. “Rivera is a great pitcher,

  • but what he’s doing is easy. It really is.”

Easy, huh?

Let’s have a quick show of (liver-spotted) hands: What springs to mind when you hear Goose Gossage talking about how “easy” it is to get through an inning without giving up three runs?

George Brett hitting a three-run homer into the upper deck of Yankee Stadium to clinch the 1980 ALCS for the Royals? Yes, thank you, Yankees fans!

Can I get an “amen” from the Padres fans out there? Remember Kirk Gibson going deep to wrap up the 1984 World Series for the Tigers with a three-run blast…the inning after Lance Parrish

  • had already homered off Gossage? You stay classy, San Diego!

That’s right, Rich Gossage’s two most famous moments in postseason history consist of him

  • surrendering mammoth, three-run homers.

But wait, that’s not really fair. Sure, it wasn’t strictly the postseason, but it was Goose Gossage out there on the mound saving the “Bucky Dent game,” the 1978 playoff between the Yankees and the Red Sox.

In that game, the Goose was actually given a three-run lead at one point…and barely survived, surrendering hits or walks to six of the last eleven Red Sox he faced. Save for a terrific head fake by Lou Piniella in right field,

  • Boston would probably have tied the game in the ninth.

Not so easy, holding on to a three-run lead.

Unfortunately, thanks to Goose, Fox’s Greg Couch joined all too many commentators in

  • damning The Great One’s record-breaking 603 saves with faint praise.

Couch claims that he doesn’t want “to doubt the greatness of Rivera,” but that there is “no way of knowing” if he is the greatest closer ever, due to the faulty, “fabricated” statistic that is the “save.”

What would be a better one?

Well, Couch quotes approvingly a definition that’s been bandied about a lot recently. That is, a save of “seven outs or more”—or over two innings. Goose Gossage has 52 of these in the regular season, he informs us; Mariano Rivera…one, Trevor Hoffman, two. Optimally, what a real closer does, according to Couch and Goose, is to “come in during the

  • seventh inning, bases loaded, one-run lead.”

“I used to love that,” says Gossage. “They used to use and abuse us, but think of the pressure. You couldn’t even let them put the ball in play.”

I’m sorry, but just when did we start handing out style points for degree of difficulty? This is baseball, not gymnastics or figure skating. The idea is to win. If Mr. Couch covered music, would he be sneering, “Nice concerto, Mr. Heifetz. But let’s see you play it while crossing a high wire—riding a tricycle?”

I’ll concede that there are plenty of problems with the current save statistic. And some day, in baseball’s equivalent of punctuated equilibrium, a manager will climb out of the antediluvian ooze and try using his best relief pitcher in the most critical moment of the game, whether or not that’s in the ninth inning. (Although this is expecting a lot of prescience from the poor manager

  • and it still leaves that pesky ninth for someone to get through.)

But what the record shows is not that Mariano Rivera should be used more like Goose Gossage

  • It’s that Goose Gossage should’ve been used more like Mariano Rivera.

The basic idea here is that a relief pitcher is a weapon, and like all weapons, it makes sense to use it as wisely and efficiently as possible. Someone—I think it was Roger Angell—compared the closer to the cavalry of Napoleonic era warfare, designed not to make foolhardy frontal assaults, but to exploit breaches in the line and turn an opening into a rout. I think that’s a pretty fair analogy. And when it comes right down to it, the weapon that was Goose Gossage was all

  • too often sent charging into the guns, in acts of idiotic bravado.

Let’s examine first the mythology of the seven-out save—we’ll call it a “Supersave.”

Why seven outs and not, say, six, or nine? The whole idea seems at least as arbitrary and fabricated as the original save stat. For that matter, Gossage’s 52 Supersaves become a lot less impressive when you take into account the fact that he was a major-league pitcher for 22 seasons, and a reliever for 21 of them.

Thanks to the brilliant statistical work of Baseball Prospectus’ own Bradley Ankrom, we can report that the Goose was in fact only the master of the extended save

  • for a few seasons,
  • most of them near the beginning of that very long career.

He was at his best in 1975 when, as a 24-year-old hurler for a poor White Sox team, he converted 11 of 13 Supersave opportunities, throwing 141.2 innings. After flopping as a starter for the Sox the following year, he came back in 1977 to convert seven of nine Supersave chances, while throwing 133 innings.

Pretty spectacular. But this was clearly a young man’s game, and the Goose would not last at it. In 1978, at age 27, Gossage racked up six more Supersaves—but also blew six such chances. He had only two more good years at this sort of work—1980, when he converted nine of 11, and 1984, when he was six of seven.

After that, for the last nine years of his career, he racked up exactly four more saves of seven outs or more, while blowing two. Nor was the save rule always unkind to him; one of these “Supersaves” consisted of pitching four innings—

  • beginning with an eight-run lead.

At the same time, the Goose would, according to my count, blow 25 Supersaves—or about one-third of all his opportunities, a ratio that would be

  • unacceptable to most teams today.

Yet this was pretty much in keeping with Gossage’s entire career record. Looking it over—thanks again to Mr. Ankrom’s industry—the first thing that jumps out at you is

  • just how many games
  • Goose Gossage managed to lose,
  • compared to all leading closers today.

Even in 1977-78, two of his very best years, spent pitching for a hard-hitting Pirates club that won 96 games and a World Champion Yankees team, he lost a total of 20 games coming out of the pen,

  • and blew 22 saves—in other words, almost one-third

of the 129 total games those two teams lost. Nor was this an anomaly. Throughout his career—spent largely with winning clubs—Gossage ran up double figures in blown saves in six of the 13 seasons when he was either his team’s primary closer or at least shared the role.

Mariano Rivera, by contrast, has never lost more than six games in any one season, in his 15 straight years as the Yankees’ closer and another as their set-up man. He has blown more than six saves only once, in 1997, his first year as a closer, when he gave it up nine times.

It’s a big reason why Mo’s failures are so memorable. He reached almost ridiculous heights of efficiency in 2008 and 2009, blowing one and two saves, respectively, out of a total of 86 opportunities. It’s why his lifetime percentage of saves is a mind-blowing, all-time high of 90 percent,

  • while Gossage’s is only 73.5 percent.

Even in his heyday, the Goose routinely squandered between a quarter and a third of his save opportunities. In 1977, he managed to save only 72 percent of the leads he was sent in to preserve.

  • In 1978, just 69 percent,
  • in 1982, only about 77 percent;
  • 1983, 63 percent;
  • 1984, 69 percent;
  • 1986, 66 percent,
  • 1987, 65 percent;
  • 1988, 56.5 percent…
after which even unevolved managers decided they’d just as soon find more novel ways to lose games.

Goose’s best years in terms of the percentages of games he would win and save out of the pen? Well, unsurprisingly, these tended to be in the seasons when he was used the most judiciously, if only by accident.

Limited to 36 appearances and 58.1 innings in 1979, when Cliff Johnson broke his thumb in a showerroom brawl, the Goose saved a career-high 90 percent of his 21 save opportunities. In 1981, limited to just 32 appearances and 46.2 innings by an owners’ lockout, he was nearly untouchable, saving 87 percent of his opportunities (20 of 23), losing only two games, surrendering just 22 hits, two home runs, and 14 walks, and compiling an ERA of 0.77.

You’d think somebody would have noticed just how much better the Goose did with more rest, and someone did—namely Dick Howser, the most perspicacious of all Gossage’s managers during this period. Howser limited him to “just” 99 innings in 1980, a full season…in which the Goose went 6-2 and saved 33 of 37 games, including nine Supersaves.

Unfortunately for Gossage and the Yankees, Howser was fired after that one season (in no small part because of Goose’s insistence that he could throw a fastball past George Brett, a concept he never would rid himself of). Then in his thirties, the Goose was once again given over to the care and maintenance of managers who refused to make much allowance for his age or condition.

I thought I remembered him being used in a particularly egregious fashion in 1983, which marked one of Billy Martin’s later and uglier incarnations as Yankees manager. Thanks once more to Bradley Ankrom, I was able to check if this was really so. Sure enough, it was.

To be sure, Gossage’s overall innings totals remained more limited. But day to day, his use seemed more mindless than ever. Here, for instance, was the Goose’s first appearance: entering the second game of the season with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning and the Yankees trailing Seattle, 6-2.

Why, exactly? To beat the spread? Because Martin had dinner reservations at the Space Needle?

This set a pattern. Gossage would enter seven more games that year with his team trailing in the seventh inning or later, four of which they were losing by more than one run. Only once would they rally to win.

If there ever was a manager willing to indulge a pitcher’s desire to get out on the mound and stay there, it was Billy Martin. Throughout 1983, Gossage—now 32 years old—would

  • attempt six more Supersaves but convert only one of them.

It wasn’t that Goose was finished, or close to it. He still threw hard, still allowed just 82 hits and 25 walks in 87.1 innings; still struck out 90, won 13 games, and saved 22 more while compiling a 2.27 ERA. But he did blow 13 saves—in a year the Yankees finished seven games out of first—

  • and clearly seemed less able to get outs when he wanted them.

This leads us to the other part of Gossage and Couch’s blather about what a “real” save should look like. That is, how “thrilled” Goose always was to come in with runners on base, particularly “bases loaded in the seventh inning.”

Throughout that 1983 season, it struck me that Gossage—now an older pitcher who probably required more time to get ready—gave up more hits and walks than ever to the first batter or two he faced, then seemed to settle down. Yet Martin almost never seemed to use him to start an inning.

The record confirms this, too. Of his 57 appearances in 1983, just four of them started an inning. In all but four of these, there was already at least one man on base. As for the “thrill” of coming in with the bases loaded…it was limited to the other team’s dugout. Goose faced that situation exactly four times all year

  • and every time, he surrendered hits that scored one or two runs.

Over the entire course of his career, Gossage would enter regular-season games with the bases loaded 48 times—far more than any closer, or even set-up man, is likely to do today. In those games he performed well…but slightly worse than he did in the rest of his appearances, compiling 16 saves and a win

  • but also blowing eight saves.

The whole notion of using Gossage this way in the first place is baffling. Why limit your big power pitcher by constantly making him pitch out of the stretch? Never mind pitch counts; do you really have so little idea of when your starter (or another reliever) is running out of steam?

Goose coming in mid-inning in 1983 suffered all five of his losses and all 13 of his blown saves, compiling a 2.32 ERA. His four appearances starting an inning are too small to be statistically meaningful, but it is interesting to note that while he gave up five hits and two walks in those six innings, he surrendered just one run and saved a game.

The moral here is, take care of your tools—or your weapons—and they’ll take care of you. “Abused,” as he claimed, for most of his career, Goose was in serious decline as a relief pitcher by his early thirtieswhereas Mariano continues as one of the very best relievers

  • in the game at 42.

The abuse of the Goose was particularly unnecessary when you consider the fact that he played most of his career with very capable bullpen mates—Kent Tekulve and Terry Forster on the Pirates; Dick Tidrow, Sparky Lyle, Ron Davis, and Dave Righetti on the Yankees; Craig Lefferts on the Padres, etc. It wasn’t a case of desperate managers trying to eke out an extra win with no one else to turn to.

Goose and Couch assert that when Gossage appeared on the scene, “the bullpen was just a junk pile of washed-up starters who couldn’t throw nine innings anymore, or guys who weren’t quite good enough to start.”

  • But like so much else of which they speak, it ain’t necessarily so.

Managers had been dabbling intermittently with the idea of specialty relievers since the days of John McGraw, and by the time Goose Gossage came up in 1972, there had been quite a few good ones. That is, men who were outstanding pitchers, expected from an early age to throw mostly or solely in relief: Joe Page, Hoyt Wilhelm, Clem Labine, Ryne Duren, Elroy Face, Lindy McDaniel, Dick Radatz, Luis Arroyo, Ron Perranoski, Pedro Ramos, Phil Regan, Wayne Granger, Clay Carroll, Dave Guisti, Tug McGraw, Sparky Lyle, Rollie Fingers, to name just a few.

These closers threw different pitches and had different backgrounds, but they all had one thing in common: either they burned out after a few wildly successful seasons, or they

  • suffered mysterious “off years” throughout their careers.

The answer to the “mystery” was, of course, that they were overworked. Managers were so thrilled by this new weapon, one that would preserve their every lead—or so it seemed—that they couldn’t help themselves from overusing it.

“Never save a pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it might rain,” was Leo Durocher’s famous adage, and it became their watchword, even though it was never supposed to apply to relievers throwing on a daily basis.

Goose Gossage had enough arm strength, enough bulk, and enough mental toughness to endure much longer than this generation of abused pitchers, and he deserves all the accolades he’s won. But too often, his remarkable gifts were wasted—the baseball equivalent of blindly throwing cavalry at artillery batteries (a tactic that would be immortalized as, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”).

The very idea of a relief pitcher is that of someone who has one extraordinary pitch—and one only. If they have more, they are being wasted as a reliever and should be moved into the starting rotation. Overusing a reliever not only weakens his arm over the long run of the season or his career, it also provides hitters with the opportunity to adjust to his specialty pitch—and given enough opportunities, at least in the same game, major-league hitters will adjust to any pitch you can throw.

Here’s one more statistic to throw the trade-off between save and Supersave into full relief: over the course of his career, Goose Gossage threw some 600 more innings than Mariano Rivera (although 224 of these came in Goose’s one season used almost exclusively as a starter, while River threw only 67.1 in 1995, when the Yanks gave him 10 starts).

However, by the year he turned 35, Gossage was throwing fewer innings per season than Rivera was for every year he was the same age. And throughout their respective careers,

  • Mo almost always logged more appearances.

So the cost of Goose’s Supersaves was more blown saves, fewer appearances, and a foreshortened career. Tell me again: Why is it better to have an athlete try to do something he can’t do as well when he overextends himself, especially when that something makes him

  • less available to his team and less effective over the course of his career?

Still, even if you could convince Couch and Gossage that it’s infinitely more rational to use relievers the way they are used today, rather than in romantic times of yore, they would argue that this only confirms Goose’s opinion that he was “abused” by his managers. It doesn’t answer the main thing they claim to want to know,

  • which is: Who’s better? Who’s the best?

In this sense, Couch is right—it’s arguing apples and oranges, and ultimately unknowable.

To wonder if Mariano could have carried Goose’s old pitching load without breaking down is about as useful as wondering if Roy Halladay could have pitched four hundred innings a year, the way Joe McGinnity and Happy Jack Chesbro did over a hundred years ago. (The answer is…yes, probably, if you started all the games in the late afternoon and handed Mr. Halladay a ball he could spit on, rub any sort of gunk on, and not replace until it had become a wobbly, soggy, gray mess.)

Certainly, Rivera doesn’t have Gossage’s bulk…although as a young set-up man back in 1996, he did throw 107 innings, firing almost entirely fastballs that moved as much as the Goose’s ever did. Could Mo have kept up that pace year in and year out, even with his famous cutter? Who knows? Gossage certainly didn’t; his effectiveness falling off as dramatically

  • as his yearly innings by his early-to-mid thirties.

Of course, what Couch and Gossage are driving at is how good Goose would have been in the modern era of relief pitching, free to just come in at the start of the ninth, with no one on base. I suspect he would have been spectacularly successful…

  • although again, who knows?

Rivera has pitched, after all, almost entirely in an era of bandbox ballparks and souped-up sluggers. While it would not surprise me to learn that any ballplayer today has used performance-enhancing drugs, it seems unlikely that Mo has ever done so, considering the course of his career, his body type, his declining velocity over the years, and his religious convictions.

This would mean that he has played his entire career with a handicap unlike anything that Goose was ever subjected to. Would a fastball pitcher with a wild streak, stubbornly maintaining that he could throw his ball past anyone, anytime, really have fared so well in an age of steroidal hitters who specialize in working pitch counts? Just how many of all those impressive Gossage innings included popping up bandy-legged shortstops on the first pitch, or getting batters to fly out to the far reaches of stadiums built mainly for football?

Maybe Gossage would’ve made adjustments. The great ones usually do…although it’s hard not to forget the famous footage of the Goose talking Dick Williams out of making him walk Kirk Gibson intentionally in the eighth inning of that 1984 World Series finale, while over in the other dugout,

  • Team be damned—it was all about how hard the Goose could throw.

There is one further indication of how Mariano Rivera might have fared in the Gossage era, and that’s his prodigious postseason record. During the regular season, along with those 603 saves, Mo has a 75-57 record and a lifetime ERA of 2.21—the best ever compiled in the live-ball era, depending on how you want to measure it—along with just 934 hits and 275 walks in 1,211.1 innings, and 1,111 strikeouts, figures so gaudy they’re almost absurd.

But in his postseason appearances, which by now have amounted to an extra season, or maybe two seasons, of pitching, Rivera is even better…much better. Against the best teams in baseball, with everything at stake, he’s run up an 8-1 record, with 42 saves in 47 attempts, allowing 21 walks and 81 hits against 110 strikeouts

  • in 141 innings and compiling an ERA of 0.70.

Yet the most salient fact about all those playoff games is how dramatically Rivera changed his usual pitching habits in them.

You want seven outs? Mariano has provided four such appearances in the postseason; in none of them did he allow a run or an inherited runner to score. They included a couple of the most memorable playoff games in history; his coming out, a 3.1-inning victory over Seattle in the 1995 American League Division Series, and the three unforgettable innings he pitched to win the “Aaron Boone game” against Boston in

  • the ALCS finale in 2003.

You want two-inning appearances? Rivera has run up 29 of those in the postseason, garnering four wins, 14 saves, and three holds.

You want more than one inning? Mo has another 24 one-inning-plus playoff appearances to his credit, earning another 16 saves and a hold.

In other words, 57 of Rivera’s 96 playoff appearances have been for more than one inning. In them, he has run up half of his

  • eight postseason wins and

almost three-quarters of his 42 postseason saves.

You want inherited runners? In nearly a third of his playoff appearances—30 out of 96—Rivera has entered the game with runners on base; a total of 48 of them,

  • 14 of them on second, 11 on third.

He has prevented all but eight of them—or one-sixth—from scoring.

And yes, he’s come into postseason games with the bases loaded. He did it in his first year in the playoffs against Seattle, age 25, and he did it just this fall, in the ALDS against Detroit, age nearly 42.

  • In each case, he struck out the next batter to end the inning.

Gossage’s record in the playoffs, while much more abbreviated, is also outstanding. In 19 appearances, he had two wins and eight saves, with an ERA of 2.87, and 21 hits, 10 walks, and 29 strikeouts in 31.1 innings. He inherited runners on six different occasions, ten in all, and allowed only one to score. In 1981, easily his best postseason, the well-rested Goose did indeed come into the seventh inning of a game the Yankees were winning 1-0, in the second game of the special ALDS that year, and retired Robin Yount and Cecil Cooper in a bravura performance.

That was the only time he ever did it. But he also managed to blow three of eleven save opportunities in his postseason career, as well as effectively taking San Diego out of that last game of the 1984 World Series. In 1980, he wouldn’t have even had to face George Brett had he not given up a two-out single to Royals’ shortstop U.L. Washington (who’s “embarrassed” now?).

Yet somehow these blips have dropped from most sportswriters’ memories, while one after another
  • felt obliged to bring up the fact that Rivera “had his failures in the postseason,
  • almost as if he were the Greg Norman of relief pitching.

It’s instructive to take a look at those “failures.” Mariano has blown all of five saves in the postseason. One of these was Sandy Alomar’s famous, opposite-field home run in the 1997 ALDS that barely cleared the right-field fence—

  • and only tied Game Five of that series.

One was the even more famous Yankees meltdown in the seventh game of the 2001 World Series, where Mo—after pitching a scoreless eighth inning—was victimized more by the fielding of himself and his teammates than his pitching (and when Joe Torre foolishly decided to move his infield in, behind a pitcher who specialized in weak pop-ups to the near outfield).

The other three came within a space of 13 days in the 2004 playoffs, after a season in which Rivera had set career marks in appearances and saves, with 69 and 53, respectively. In the midst of this period,

  • he had to make a hurried flight to Panama and back to deal with the tragic death of his cousins in a pool accident.

Nonetheless, Joe “Breaker of Pitchers” Torre decided to call on Rivera seven times in this span, including three two-inning stints and three more of five or six outs. One of the blown saves was when Rivera gave up the tying runs to the Twins in the ALDS, in a game the Yanks later won in extra innings.

The other two, of course, came against Boston. One was Game Five of the ALCS, in which Mo gave up a sacrifice fly to tie the game after coming in men on first and third—something that tells you most of what you need to know about the problems with the save statistic. The other was the famous “Dave Roberts game”

  • although here again, Rivera,
  • in his second inning of work, gave up the tying but not the winning run.

In other words, in 96 tries, Mariano River has never given up an earned run that lost a ballgame in the postseason. Used as he was “supposed” to be used—that is, the way he was used through most of the season, brought in at the start of the ninth inning—he has never surrendered a lead in he postseason, period. The only postseason contest where Rivera was really even hit hard was Game Two of the 2000 World Series against the Mets when, rushed in to save a floundering Jeff Nelson, he gave up a two-run homer to Jay Payton, and nearly another one to Todd Zeile. The Mets almost broke through—almost.

Throughout his career, Mariano Rivera has been the most brilliant of weapons, a stiletto expertly applied to win a great many ballgames with his one, unhittable pitch. What he has done is unique in the history not just of baseball, but all athletics: appearing for a decade-and-a-half, only when the game is on the line, and succeeding nine times out of ten in preserving victory.

  • No other athlete in a team sport has ever performed so consistently under pressure.

Yet when jerked out of the security of his usual role and used in a very different role—when his managers have tried to use the stiletto as a meat axe—he has actually picked up his game. Taxed beyond his usual endurance, at the end of a long and wearing season, and against the best teams and hitters in the game

  • he has performed better than ever.

If they want to contribute something, Goose Gossage and Greg Couch should take up the worthy cause of getting some of Goose’s other contemporaries into the Hall with him (Sparky Lyle, anyone?). In trying to denigrate what Mariano Rivera has accomplished,

  • they only make themselves look foolish."


  • Among comments to BP on the above article:

10/31/11, "randolph3030 (17064)"

"Couldn't agree more. I would love to be able to love Goose, but he's such a jerk about Rivera it makes it hard. One big difference between the workloads of the two pitchers is the quality of the batter faced. In the 70s and 80s relatively few hitters were able to punish a pitcher in comparison those of the 90s and 00s. Rivera has been amazing during in an era when middle-infielders hit 30/40/50 homeruns in a season. Most of the SS that Goose faced didn't hit 50 in a career. I never could figure out a proper way to frame a study of results vs. top quality opposition to see who fared better against the best opponents. Results vs. players with OPS+ >100? Per season? Per career?"
  • ------------------------

To me this article is a perfect example of the difference between daily journalism and reflective, non-deadline sites like BP. Not defending Couch's point of view, the angle he took or the correctness of his pronouncements, which I think are seriously flawed, but the guy probably has to file three or maybe even four columns a week -- a pace I'd never want to operate at. When you've got to fill the maw of a beast that's never full, you're going to go oftentimes for the column that generates the most reaction while also being the easiest to file -- call the loquacious Gossage, do a little research, spend a couple of hours over the keyboard letting beads of blood form on your forehead (was that Red Smith's quote?), and that's one column down. Of the three that your job requires that week. That being said, those columns should be taken apart (as was done most excellently here), if only to correct the record and add a dissenting view in the marketplace of ideas. I don't like that newspapers and websites demand so much of their columnists. But I think it does mitigate the situation somewhat to understand what those guys are up against, and

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Bochy, Hawkins, Granderson, Cano at press conference in Taiwan ahead of series beginning Nov. 1

"Major leaguers, from right, Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees, Bruce Bochy, manager of the San Francisco Giants, Curtis Granderson of the New York Yankees and LaTroy Hawkins of the Milwaukee Brewers" at press conference in Taiwan
  • for 11/1-11/6/11 series, ap
Cano, Granderson, and Hawkins at press conference in Taiwan ahead of 11/1-11/6 games v Taiwan team, ap

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Chicago White Sox season ticket holder buys 'Field of Dreams' property in Iowa

"Roger Bossard, the head groundskeeper for the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, who is also known as the Sod Father, would help design the fields." Dyersville, Iowa: "The movie (Field ofDreams) so touched a chord that since its 1989 release, hundreds of thousands of fans have come to this corner of Iowa to run the bases, walk in the cornfields and soak up the feel of the place, which looks much as it did in the film. Retired major leaguers like George Brett, Lou Brock, Catfish Hunter and Kirby Puckett have been here. Politicians on the campaign trail have stopped by. Kevin Costner, a star of the film, returned with his band in 2006....

But on Sunday, Don and Becky Lansing, the owners of the 193-acre farm that includes the field, are to announce that they are selling their property to an investment group led by a couple from the Chicago area. The group plans to keep the field as it is but also to build a dozen other fields and an indoor center for youth baseball and softball tournaments.

For the Lansings, who have no children, it is a bittersweet transaction. The property has been in the family for more than a century, and Don grew up in the two-bedroom house featured in the movie. The couple tended the grounds, gave tours and sold souvenirs. They spurned offers to commercialize the site and tried to maintain their privacy even as each year 65,000 visitors from around the world pulled into their driveway.

But Don, 68, who retired from his job at John Deere, and Becky, 58, decided that they had done as much as they could. They listed the property in May 2010 for $5.4 million. Some local residents said they were asking too much, given the value of farmland and the weak economy. The Lansings wanted to sell only to someone who would preserve the authenticity of the field, which has been free to visitors....

After considering many offers and even inviting Costner to bid on the property, the Lansings settled on Mike and Denise Stillman, who assembled a group called Go the Distance Baseball L.L.C., borrowing a line from the movie. The parties did not disclose the sale price.

The Stillmans plan to leave the field much as it was when Ray Liotta portrayed Shoeless Joe Jackson there. The bleachers erected by Ray Kinsella, Costner’s character, will continue to stand near first base. The white house with the wraparound porch and the white picket fence will still overlook the field.

But on the property away from the movie site, the Stillmans plan to build a complex called All-Star Ballpark Heaven. Having watched their son and daughter play baseball and softball, they believe demand is strong for sports centers like those run by Cal Ripken Jr.

Specific plans are still being completed, but Denise Stillman said Roger Bossard, the head groundskeeper for the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, who is also known as the Sod Father, would help design the fields, including several, they hope, that replicate major league ballparks. She expects the complex to open in 2014 but said it was too early to say how much the project would cost or how many people would be employed there.

  • Those who work at the movie site will keep their jobs.
The Stillmans, who will not live on the property, have been talking to the Lansings since July 2010. Mike, who grew up on Chicago’s South Side, is a lawyer and a White Sox season-ticket holder. Denise is a business consultant who specializes in marketing. They met while attending Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., and one of the first movies they saw together was “Field of Dreams.”...

The field, which is about three miles outside this town of 4,000, is also a bundle of contradictions. It is as real as any diamond in the world, except for the cornstalks that double as an outfield fence. But it was built by a movie studio in a few days for a film based on a fictional story about players from 70 years earlier.

The Field of Dreams has become a tourist attraction in the most unassuming way. Other than its Web site and a few brochures, it is barely promoted. No billboards alert drivers to turn off the highway; only a few signs point the way to the farm. The Lansings placed a donation box near the guest book at the backstop. Shirts and other souvenirs are for sale, but there are no neon signs or corporate come-ons. The site is closed in the evenings and in the winter. ...

After the movie, which was filmed in the summer of 1988, few local residents had any idea what was to come. The overhead power line running from third base to right field and beyond, which had been rerouted during filming, was put back. Al and Rita Ameskamp, who owned the land in left and center field, replanted corn there. Don Lansing left his portion of the diamond intact so friends and family could use it for a few years.

Within weeks of the movie’s release the next spring, people started arriving. One stranger traveling cross-country gave Don Lansing an old New York Giants cap, which he has kept. When he left for work in the morning, he would leave some buttons that the filmmakers had made for the extras, and they were gone when he returned. He offered T-shirts, with a coffee can and a sign asking for $5. The shirts sold out.

He moved a trailer near the house and converted it into a shop. His sister, Betty, started designing T-shirts. Don learned how to maintain the field.

“Before the movie, the only people who used to come out here were insurance or feed salesmen,” he said with a chuckle.

About 7,000 people showed up the first year, so Al Ameskamp restored his section of the outfield. The next year, twice as many people came to take in the site. Some brought their fathers’ old gloves and left them in the cornfield. Others exchanged wedding vows or scattered ashes of deceased relatives....

Although the Ameskamps did not seem to mind the crowds on their property — a concert by Costner’s band drew thousands — the Lansings wanted the field left alone.

“My husband’s sense was to keep it small, simple and serene,” Becky Lansing said. “We have worked harder than anyone will ever know to keep it that way.”

Al Ameskamp died, and in 2007, the Lansings bought his 100 acres, consolidating the field and a farm that was originally owned by Don’s grandfather.

Based on the starry-eyed reactions of visitors, the Field of Dreams continues to cast a spell on baseball fans and movie buffs. More than two decades later, the film’s catchphrases have a place in American popular culture. One recent visitor wore a shirt depicting a beer keg with the words, “If you tap it, they will come.”

It was the Stillmans’ wholesome plan for the property, though, that attracted the Lansings, particularly Don, who was born there. He feels pride that his little slice of Iowa was chosen as a movie set, and he wants that to endure."...


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Saturday, October 29, 2011

World Series game 7 scored 14.7 rating, most tv viewers since 2004 game 4 when Red Sox swept the Cardinals

10/29/11, "Cards' Game 7 win most-watched since Red Sox in '04," USA Today, M. McCarthy


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Cardinal fans in Jupiter ready for spring training

, 10/29/11, "The place sits an Albert Pujols foul tip from where it all began. It's 1,139 miles from where it all ended.

Friday night, it was the second-best place Ellen McGaughey could be.

Since McGaughey couldn't be in Busch Stadium for Game 7 of the World Series, she slipped on her lucky shirt and headed over to J.J. Muggs Stadium Grill, across the street from

  • Roger Dean Stadium, where her beloved St. Louis Cardinals spend spring training.

Cardinals fans went home happy after St. Louis - which qualified for the playoffs on the final day of the regular season - defeated Texas 6-2 to cap one of the most improbably championship runs ever.

They don't allow squirrels inside the place, but they welcome Cardinals rally squirrel T-shirts, which McGaughey managed to acquire thanks to her sister Barbara Tipton, who still lives in St. Louis, where they grew up.

A few weeks ago, McGaughey's sister waited in a "mile long" line to buy the shirt -- her sister sent a picture to prove it. Ellen took one look at the crowd and told her to forget it. The next day, it was in her hands....

While most in the bar were rooting for the Cardinals, everybody was rooting for Game 7 to be comparable to the classic Game 6.

That includes Stadium Grill General Manager Ryan Witkowski, who was prepared to keep the doors open, minus alcohol sales, if Game 6 didn't end before 2 a.m. closing time.

Witkowski, wearing a Pujols jersey Friday, called Game 6 the best baseball game he'd ever seen, not only for personal reasons but professional.

We've had the World Series champion two of the past 10 years we've been open here," Witkowski said, referring to the '03 Marlins and '06 Cardinals, organizations that share Roger Dean.

  • "We had our best spring training ever in '07, so we're definitely rooting for another championship."...
10/29/11, "Fans gather to watch World Series Game 7 and cheer for St. Louis Cardinals, who train in Jupiter," Palm Beach Post, H. Habib

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World Series winner Cardinals on all 3 NYC back pages

  • Above, "Wild Cards," Newsday back page, Sat. 10/29/11
  • Above, 'World Beaters,' NY Post back page, 10/29/11
Above, 'Arch Madness,' NY Daily News back page, 10/29/11


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Joe Nathan to throw first pitch Saturday 10/29/11 at Stony Brook University's new baseball field, 'Joe Nathan Field'

Joe Nathan, a Stony Brook graduate, donated $500,000 to the new field. He is to appear at 12:15 pm ribbon cutting ceremonies Saturday. "Major League Baseball pitcher Joe Nathan will throw out the ceremonial first pitch Saturday at Stony Brook University’s new baseball field — a facility the Stony Brook alum helped fund.
  • Nathan, the Minnesota Twins’ all-time leader in saves, is a 1997 graduate of Stony Brook.

He donated $500,000 to his alma mater for the new field.

  • The field is named in his honor — Joe Nathan Field.

The field cost $1.3 million overall. The balance was funded by anonymous donors and a $100,000 gift from Bethpage Federal Credit Union, said Jim Fiore, Stony Brook’s athletic director.

The field, which will be the home ground of the Stony Brook baseball team in 2012, was used for the first time earlier this year.

Nathan will make an appearance at a ribbon-cutting for the field at 12:15 p.m., Fiore said. The event is free and open to the public.

“He was a great player, a great student, and really embodies everything that we’re trying to produce,” Fiore said. “Someone that’s a scholar-athlete.”

The new field is on the campus at the same location as Stony Brook’s old University Field, but is an entirely new facility, said university spokesman Thomas Chen.

The field has a 1,000-seat capacity, artificial turf, and 16-foot fences in centerfield, Chen said. The rest of the fence is 8 feet tall, and the park is 390 feet to centerfield, 330 feet down the lines and 360 feet in the gaps, he said.

The Stony Brook baseball team began using the field at the end of last season after a year of mostly playing on the road, Chen said.

Nothing of the old field is there anymore,” he said."


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John Sterling on Cardinals radio post game show in recorded spot for Cards World Series bats from Steiner Sports

The Cardinals radio post game show on XM went to a break at 12:20AM ET, whereupon I heard a familiar voice say, "They've done it!," congratulating the World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals and offering commemorative bats from Steiner Sports collectibles via calling an 800#. Yes, it was John Sterling (I don't believe he identified himself, just put the pipes to work for the champs), and he concluded saying, "Congratulations, Cardinals fans!"


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Friday, October 28, 2011

TV ratings for 2011 World Series game 6 via Neil Best and Darren Rovell

10/29/11, "Not surprisingly, Fox finally got a ratings lift for the 2011 World Series from the wild and wacky Game 6.

Even though it lasted more than 4.5 hours, the game averaged a healthy 12.7 percent of homes and 21.1 million viewers, making it the most watched Series game

  • that did not include the Yankees or Red Sox
  • since Game 7 in 2002.

The Game 6 rating lifted the average for the Series to 9.3, ensuring it safely will exceed the current record low of 8.4 when all is said and done.

Despite the complaints of East Coast fans and writers, history has proven very late finishes have no ill effect on ratings,
  • especially for a thriller such as Thursday night's.

The rating peaked at 15.0, with 25.2 million viewers, from midnight to 12:30 a.m. ET.

  • In St. Louis, the peak rating was 57.0; in Dallas, it was 55.7.

At one point, 82 percent of St. Louis homes with a TV in use were watching; in Dallas, 81 percent were."

Following from Neil Best, SportsWatch twitter:

  • "In final quarter hour, 82% of homes in St. Louis area with a TV in use were watching Game 6. In Dallas area, 81%"
  • "Game 6 averaged 21.1 million viewers."

darren rovell via sportswatch, "World Series games 6 & 7 are worth an additional $60 million in revenue to Fox

  • (does not include ads during pitching changes)"

"Joe Buck has called 14 World Series on TV at age 42. Jack Buck called his first World Series on TV at age 66."

  • "Bob Stanton called the first World Series game on TV in 1947. Thanks for playing our game."

Darren Rovell, via sportswatch, ""FOX gets 13.8 overnight rating for Game 6. Outrated all of the games in 2010, but this is the lowest game 6 of all 14 on record."

  • 10/27/11, "25 years ago tonight, World Series Game 7 averaged 38.9% of U.S. households, an astounding figure that never will be approached again."


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'Cardiac Cards,' Newsday back page, 'Cardiac Kids,' NY Post back page

  • Above, 'Cardiac Cards,' Newsday back page, Friday, Oct. 28, 2011
Above, 'Cardiac Kids,' NY Post back page, Fri., Oct, 28, 2011

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'Pujols won't find unconditional love anywhere else,' Vecsey

10/27/11, George Vecsey, "It will never be easier for Pujols to be the person he is — which includes private, taciturn, perhaps even distant — than in this city, which adores its heroes. St. Louis never demanded that Stan Musial be anything more than the gracious hey-hey-whattaya-say superstar next door.

The legion of elders who saw Musial play from 1941 to 1963 maintain that he would have higher recognition today as a career .331 hitter if he had played in a coastal city like New York, Boston or Los Angeles. What is overlooked is that the East Coast news media hectored Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams in ways large and small — in a kinder and gentler time before the

  • 24-hour gnawing of the carpenter ants of blog land and Twitter land.

Pujols may not be prepared to be the $300 million savior of a rich franchise. Who is? After a bad second game here, he vanished into the night without dropping a few words to sate the news media. Later he said that he did not know anybody would want to talk to him, which just does not calibrate. Derek Jeter gives nothing away nothingbut he shows up, says his controlled piece, and moves on."...

10/27/11, "Pujols Won’t Find Unconditional Love Anywhere Else," George Vecsey, NY Times


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Americans frozen by recession, in particular have stopped moving to Florida, Maricopa County, Ariz. and Clark County Nev.-NY Times

In 2010, Americans frozen in place, can't move, lowest level of migration within the country since records kept in 1940's. Among few exceptions, biggest winner is....Washington, DC., rocketing from 44th place to 6th. In the last three years, Florida saw its first net migration loss since the 1940s, according to the analysis. According to I.R.S. data, the state had a net migration gain of 209,000 in 2005 but

Nevada’s strong migration gains flipped to a net loss of 4,000. Arizona scraped by, ending the decade with a 5,000 net gain, down from 90,000 five years earlier. Maricopa County in Arizona, home to Phoenix, and Clark County in Nevada, home to Las Vegas, two areas that had exploded with growth at the start of the decade,

  • began to see more people move out than move in."...
via Hot Air

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Cardinals win World Series game 6 in bottom of the 11th

Cardinals await David Freese at home plate, bottom of the 11th, World Series game 6, Oct. 27-28, 2011, Texas catcher Napoli walks to dugout, ap.
10/28/11, "Rangers bullpen disaster fries all brains; is recovery possible?" Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, R. Galloway

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Car crashes into sports talker WJFK call screener window Thurs. morning

10/27/11, " “OMG a car just crashed into our building,” Eric Bickel, the co-host of the popular radio show “The Sports Junkies,” tweeted Thursday morning.

According to Bickel’s Twitter feed, (@EBJUNKIES), a car drove into the call screener’s office of the sports radio station 106.7 “The Fan” (WJFK) about 7:45 a.m.

While no one was hurt, the car crashed through a window and hit a wall at the station, located in the 10-800 block of Main Street Fairfax.

Bickel said that the driver, who “is walking around” and “super lucky,” claims to have swerved to avoid a pedestrian. 10/27/11, "Car crashes into D.C. sports radio station WJFK," Washington Post, by Maggie Fazeli Fard, via RadioDailyNews

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Sporting News 2011 AL and NL All Star teams per major league baseball front office voters

10/27/11, "Voting was done by 55 members of major league front offices. Twenty-six AL executives voted for the AL team; 29 NL executives chose the NL team....

  • C Alex Avila, Tigers
  • 1B Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
  • 2B Robinson Cano, Yankees
  • 3B Adrian Beltre, Rangers
  • SS Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
  • OF Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
  • OF Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
  • OF Curtis Granderson, Yankees
  • DH: David Ortiz, Red Sox
  • SP Justin Verlander, Tigers
  • RP Mariano Rivera, Yankees
  • C Brian McCann, Braves
  • 1B Prince Fielder, Brewers
  • 2B Brandon Phillips, Reds
  • 3B Aramis Ramirez, Cubs
  • SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
  • OF Matt Kemp, Dodgers
  • OF Ryan Braun, Brewers
  • OF Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
  • SP Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
  • RP Craig Kimbrel, Braves"
10/27/11, "Sporting News 2011 MLB awards: AL, NL All-Star teams," Chris Bahr, SportingNews.com


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Fans at ticket window after World Series game 6 postponed, Peter Gammons in dugout

  • Above, fans at ticket window in St. Louis after World Series game 6 was postponed due to rain, 10/26/11, ap
Above, Peter Gammons chats with Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter at Busch Stadium, 10/26/11, getty

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

2011 World Series looking for ratings to match high drama-Nightengale

10/26/11, "Amid high drama, low ratings serve as Series caveat," USA Today, Bob Nightengale

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Kyle Lohse and son practice in St. Louis ahead of World Series game 6

Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse and son Kameron in the outfield at Busch Stadium, 10/25/11, getty

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Seattle Mariners new Kentucky bluegrass installation, first major turf replacement since ballpark opened in 1999

10/25/11, "Jeff Van Lierop, of Country Green Turf Farms, unrolls turf into place during the installation of new grass on the infield at the Seattle Mariners' ballpark Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011....The three-day project began Sunday with the removal of the existing infield turf and then a re-grading of the surface before installation of the new Kentucky bluegrass sod. It is the first major replacement of the playing surface since the ballpark opened in 1999." ap photo

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World Series minimally available on NY metro radio due to ESPN1050 signal

10/24/11, "Baseball in the Age of Bud, Continued: It’s as much a reflection on Major League Baseball’s poor, money-first game-keeping as it is on ESPN 1050’s badly diminished after-sundown signal. But again what once would have seemed out of the question is reality:

In the New York City area, the World Series cannot clearly be heard on AM or FM radio. For crying out loud, just a bit west or south of the Media Capital of the World, the World Series on the most popular form of commercial radio has been reduced to a static-laced, in-and-out whisper.

That’s a crime against American nature, no? Or is the watered-down, artificial-additives World Series no longer worth saving, let alone savoring?

Those remanded to a car Saturday night a mere 20 miles south of Manhattan were stuck trying to find a reasonably listenable signal of ESPN Radio’s exclusive live broadcast. There was nothing broad about it. The best many could do was pick up 1000 AM, out of, I think, Chicago.

It’s an added shame that in Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine, ESPN Radio has a pretty good team.

At the same time Saturday the USC-Notre Dame game could be heard loudly and clearly on several AM stations.

  • But what the heck, it’s only the World Series."...

10/24/11, "ESPN (WEPN, NY) radio signal a Series of disasters," Phil Mushnick, NY Post

ESPN1050AM (WEPN) NY nighttime coverage map from radio locator, which notes coverage may vary at night. Daytime map


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