Thursday, August 30, 2012

Five Year Drought Ends

May as well find something college football related for the start of the season today.  Michigan has spent 489 weeks ranked in the top 10 according to the AP Poll put out weekly throughout college football season.  As college football season kicks off, Michigan will run out of the tunnel as the #8 team in the nation according to the AP.  However, it has been a number of years since Michigan kicked off with a top ten ranking.  For those who don't remember, the last time they held a top ten position, it was five years ago heading into the 2007 season.  Plenty more likely remember that they lost their spot by losing to Appalachian State in their opener.  Despite going from #5 to unranked, they clawed back to #18 to finish the season.  This season they won't begin with the reigning FCS National Champion, but rather the reigning BCS National Champion, #2 Alabama.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Guys Behind Armstrong

A couple days ago, the United States Anti-Doping Agency officially declared that Lance Armstrong would be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles upon Armstrong dropping his legal fight.  With all the attention that has been focused on Armstrong, I felt it was worth mentioning the names who finished second each year from 1999-2005 since they probably should have finished first.

1999:  Alex Zulle (Switzerland)
2000:  Jan Ullrich (Germany)
2001:  Jan Ullrich (Germany)
2002:  Joseba Beloki (Spain)
2003:  Jan Ullrich (Germany)
2004:  Andreas Kloden (Germany)
2005:  Ivan Basso (Italy)

Removing Armstrong from the equation would mean Jacques Anquetil (France), Bernard Hinault (France), and Miguel Indurain (Spain) lead the all time list for Tour de France title wins with five apiece.

Before giving out too much credit to the riders above, it is worth mentioning that in 2005, Jan Ullrich finished third behind Armstrong and Ivan Basso.  However, doping charges have since removed his result from the race.  While he did finish second behind Armstrong numerous times previously, the only result that has been eliminated is that of 2005.  I have no opinion on his three "wins" as I really no little about him and the sport.  The one thing I do know is that it seems to make Major League Baseball look clean.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

2001 MLB Dispersal Draft

This event might not be remembered by many, largely because it never happened.  In November 2001, following poor attendance from a number of Major League Baseball franchises, commissioner Bud Selig made the mistake that offseason meetings would discuss the idea of downsizing, or contraction of certain teams.  It was leaked shortly thereafter that while a number of teams were rumored, that the four teams closest to the chopping block were: the Montreal Expos, Anaheim Angels, Florida Marlins, and Minnesota Twins.  Ultimately, the final vote was to eliminate two teams, the Expos and Twins.

An injunction filed in court made sure the Twins had to play their 2002 season in the Metrodome, and MLB unable to eliminate only team dropped the idea.  No contraction took place.  Instead, the a trade deadline-like deal went down where the owner of the Expos, Jeffrey Loria, sold the team to Major League Baseball.  Next the Marlins owner, John Henry, sold his team to Loria, and Henry bought the Boston Red Sox.  MLB tried to sell the Expos before ultimately relocating them to Washington D.C., and renaming them the Nationals.

Let's pretend for a second that contraction did take place following the 2001 season.  Overnight, the four clubs of the Expos, Twins, Angels, and Marlins would cease to exist.  In my opinion, the most intriguing part of the decision would have been the players on those four clubs.  Most likely, a dispersal draft of some sort would have been setup after many long and tedious negotiations between MLB and the Players Association.

This post is to highlight the hypothetical first round of that draft where the 26 remaining MLB clubs would have their pick of the players left over from the four (not-)to-be-forgotten teams.  In an effort to keep this a little more simple, I'm limiting the players selected to those on the 2001 team rosters.  I don't recall the prospects much at all from those years, and not about to guess on them.  The draft order used is simply the winning percentage of the remaining 26 teams in reverse (slightly different than the 2002 MLB draft).

1.  Tampa Bay Devil Rays:  Vladimir Guerrero (RF) of the Montreal Expos
The first pick of the draft seems obvious enough, but leads to one very big assumption: that the Devils Rays are willing to look past his salary to get one of the best players in baseball at the time.  Guerrero was on the edge of a 40/40 season in 2001, and even the Devils Rays very cheap ownership of the time would have seen his $8 million price tag as profitable if marketed correctly.  2002 was the worst of many bad seasons for Tampa Bay.  However, would it have been with Guerrero hitting behind Randy Winn, Aubrey Huff, and a young Carl Crawford?

2.  Pittsburgh Pirates:  Javier Vazquez (SP) of the Montreal Expos
With the first pick, I made the unsafe assumption that the Devil Rays would spend a little money.  With the second pick, and I make the even less safe assumption that the Pirates won't do anything stupid.  I remember living in the Pittsburgh area at the time of this, and multiple people having an infatuation with Ryan Dempster at the time.  While Dempster will certainly be picked later in this mock draft, I really see no contest between the two.  The Pirates always seem to love to draft pitching, and had just come off a 100-loss season where they dealt a young, struggling Jason Schmidt at the deadline.   Todd Ritchie would be dealt later that offseason, and Ron Villone would be the 2002 Opening Day starter for the Buccos.  They still had some decent young hitters with Brian Giles, Aramis Ramirez, and Jason Kendall.  Drafting an ace for the team would have given the fans more reason to show up at new PNC Park, and Vazquez was the best guy out there.

3.  Baltimore Orioles:  Troy Glaus (3B) of the Anaheim Angels
This one seems like a good safe bet.  Glaus is among the best hitters in this pool and plays third base.  The Orioles had just waved goodbye to Cal Ripken Jr. as he retired.  What better replacement as a star of the team than a 24 year old who just hit 88 home runs over the two previous seasons.  The Orioles desperately needed help on both sides of the field for 2002, and Glaus would have been a big help.  Meanwhile, it meant they could have traded Tony Batista, one of most overrated in the game, and kept Melvin Mora out of the infield where he did more harm than good.  It is hard not to choose a pitcher for the O's, but maybe this keeps them from doing something along the lines of signing Javy Lopez for 2004.

4.  Kansas City Royals:  Brad Penny (SP) of the Florida Marlins
The Royals are one of those teams that you can hardly go wrong with a hitter or pitcher.  However, given that they still had a young Mike Sweeney and Carlos Beltran in their lineup, not to mention an under 40-year old Raul Ibanez, I felt pitching was the biggest need.  With Vazquez off the board, I think the best remaining choice is Brad Penny.  The Angels and Twins really didn't have a ton of pitching depth at this time, and the Expos didn't have much more than Vazquez.  The Marlins on the other hand had a very promising rotation of Dempster, Penny, A.J. Burnett, and Matt Clement, not to mention some guy who only made a few appearances named Josh Beckett.  Beckett didn't have a track record to warrant such a high pick.  Penny was only 23 in 2001, a year younger than Dempster and Burnett, and had just come off a better season than the two of them.  A nice cheap, young, quality arm that had ace potential.

5.  Detroit Tigers:  Torii Hunter (CF) of the Minnesota Twins
The Tigers were beginning their spiral towards their terrible 2003 record at the time.  No one player remaining here is going to right that ship by themselves, but anything would help.  Given their lack of a lineup, I think an everyday guy is the way to go.  Roger Cedeno who batted leadoff and played centerfield left for the Mets.  All of their pop came from Dimitri Young and Bobby Higginson (whatever happened to him?).  Hunter was only just played his first full season in the bigs in 2001, but showed plenty of promise at the plate in addition to being able to play center as well as anyone that year.  He wouldn't have kept the Tigers from 100 losses in 2003, but it would have been a start.

6.  Cincinnati Reds:  A.J. Burnett (SP) of the Florida Marlins
Remember that Marlins rotation I mentioned?  Burnett in my opinion is the easy second choice at this point in time.  He is the same age as Ryan Dempster (who was traded by the Marlins to the Reds the following trade deadline), but already was showing more upside by 2001.  The Reds had Ken Griffey Jr., Sean Casey, and in 2002 a young power hitter named Adam Dunn would come on the scene.  That start power didn't translate to the pitching staff where Jimmy Haynes led Elmer Dessens and Chris Reitsma.  Adding another young pitcher to that staff wouldn't have made it dominate, but would have given them a better chance at finding an ace for a franchise that was longing for one.  Furthermore, he cost the Reds little in the way of salary.

7.  Milwaukee Brewers:  Ryan Dempster (SP) of the Florida Marlins
As much as I've put Dempster down as not being much to his counterparts, I still think he goes fairly early given that he was leading a rotation at age 24.  He still had plenty of upside.  The Brewers, much like the Reds, had a number of guys who could hit the ball, but a young staff that had trouble keeping the ball in the park.  Ben Sheets would eventually develop out of the group, but everyone else seemed to flounder.  Dempster gives them more upside for the Richie Sexson led lineup, and completes the dismantling of the top of the Marlins rotation.  Like Penny and Burnett, Dempster comes for a low salary.

8.  Colorado Rockes:  Cliff Floyd (LF) of the Florida Marlins
With pitchers flying off the board early, and the Rockies having invested in Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle who the clearly held out hope for, it only makes sense to grab one of the better hitters available.  The Rockies had an MVP-caliber Todd Helton, an aging Larry Walker who could still hit the ball, and a young Juan Pierre.  Those three guys followed by a very potent Cliff Floyd who would replace Ron Gant in left field would have made a great top half of the lineup.  Best of all, Floyd came pretty cheap.

9.  Texas Rangers:  Jarrod Washburn (SP) of the Anaheim Angels
The next two picks I deem as gambles, but it is a nice way to say these guys never lived up to their hype.  Granted, trying to do this without considering the future numbers of these players makes this difficult.  The Rangers desperately needed pitching heading into 2002.  They had a tremendous lineup with Alex Rodriguez, Ivan Rodriguez, Michael Young, Rafael Palmeiro, and would later sign Juan Gonzalez who had a tremendous year with the Cleveland Indians.  Meanwhile, the ace of their staff, Rick Helling had just posted a 5.17 ERA.  A young Jarrod Washburn seems like a gamble they would need to make here, and doesn't cost too much.

10.  San Diego Padres:  Eric Milton (SP) of the Minnesota Twins
The Padres are another gamble, and you could certainly argue against this one.  Like the Rangers, they had a nice lineup with Phil Nevin (41 HRs) and Ryan Klesko (30 HRs) in 2001.  Bubba Trammell and Ron Gant were nice complements to them.  The pitching staff was disastrous in 2001, but in 2002, they began to give their youngsters more chance with Brian Lawrence, Jake Peavy, and Oliver Perez.  Eric Milton wasn't exactly a great pitcher in 2001, but he was part of the surprise Twins staff (winning 15 games himself) and was eating over 200 innings at age 25.  He didn't allow a tremendous amount of base runners, but gave up too many long balls.  Another pickup for a young pitching staff hoping to have a few guys break out.

11.  Toronto Blue Jays:  Jose Vidro (2B) of the Montreal Expos
If you remember, this was at an age with middle infielders suddenly became pretty good hitters, and were quickly becoming like gold.  Vidro was doing this for the Blue Jays' Canadian counterpart as a young switch-hitter.  No pitchers are prominent enough to take right now, and the Jays have a young Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter, not to mention Esteban Loaiza who showed some flashes of brillance.  They had good power in their lineup with Carlos Delgado and Raul Mondesi, and a young Vernon Wells and Shannon Stewart.  Drafting Vidro keeps them from starting their future Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson, but I think it is a move the Blue Jays make if they want to compete with the high-powered offenses of the Yankees and Red Sox.

12.  New York Mets:  Preston Wilson (CF) of the Florida Marlins
This one I've wondered about being that my team is the Mets, and they underwent a massive facelift that offseason that ultimately put them in the hole for awhile (Alomar, Vaughn, Burnitz, Cedeno, etc.).  The Mets had a fairly young Jay Payton in centerfield already, and were about to make major changes to counteract a disappointing 2001 season.  Nevertheless, I think this move would be made, and maybe one less move of the spending spree they went on.  Wilson is the son of Mets hero, and then first base coach Mookie Wilson.  In fact, Wilson was a Mets prospect when he was traded to the Marlins for Mike Piazza.  If they make this move, they probably still trade for Roberto Alomar and Mo Vaughn, but maybe they save the money they ended up wasting on Roger Cedeno.

13.  Boston Red Sox:  Derrek Lee (1B) of the Florida Marlins
This one was a little tough, but I feel it is a good smart move by the Red Sox.  In 2001, they had a solid hitting Brian Baubach at first base, but brought Tony Clark in for 2002 to split time with him.  Derrek Lee had already shown he could hit quite well for a 25-year old, and was quickly improving in the field.  He was just heading towards arbitration, and the Red Sox could have locked him up for a nice price, and an even nicer future.

14.  Chicago White Sox:  Corey Koskie (3B) of the Minnesota Twins
Corey Koskie had just had a big breakout year in 2001 with the Twins, and appeared to be an All-Star for years to come.  In his previous partial seasons, he had shown an ability to hit, but lacked the playing time.  The White Sox at the time having already missed the star pitchers of the draft would likely go with further improving their heavy-hitting lineup.  After all, they had plenty of young pitchers they were expecting to break out already.  Insert a 2001 Corey Koskie in a lineup with Paul Konerko, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Lee, Frank Thomas, and Jose Valentin (shifting him to shortstop for Koskie), and you have an extremely powerful lineup that easily is in the playoffs in 2002.

15.  Los Angeles Dodgers:  Darin Erstad (CF) of the Anaheim Angels
I have the Dodgers spending their pick on the center fielder of their cross-town rival, Darin Erstad.  Erstad was young, and still fairly healthy back then.  While his 2001 season was a disappointment, he was only one season removed from his great 2000 campaign where he posted an OBP over .400, 240 hits, a .355 batting average, and played Gold Glove defense in center field.  The Dodgers would trade Gary Sheffield that offseason for Odalis Perez and a couple of others.  Aside from Shawn Green, they didn't have any formidable bats in the lineup.  While Erstad never lived up to his 2000 season again, the memories were still fresh in our minds in 2001 that it would have been plausible.

16.  Philadelphia Phillies:  Mike Lowell (3B) of the Florida Marlins
No team is getting picked apart faster than the Florida Marlins, and Mike Lowell is the latest victim of the draft.  Despite being fairly deep in the draft, the Phillies have a few ways they could go here.  They could go with a Brad Radke to bring a veteran pitcher to a relatively young rotation, but they have Robert Person in addition to four guys in the rotation under the age of 27.  Their lineup really isn't bad either, but if they were picking one pick earlier, I would suggest Darin Erstad would make a much better addition leading off in center field than Doug Glanville or Ricky Ledee will do.  The point of this pick is that is gives them more options throughout the winter.  Lowell seems like an odd pick because going into 2002, the Phillies still had Scott Rolen at third.  However, Rolen and then manager Larry Bowa were already going at it, and Rolen did not seem intent at remaining a Phillie after 2002.  Rather than trade him at the deadline to the Cardinals for a package of spare parts at best, they could spend the winter getting a much better return.  Just imagine Lowell in a lineup with Abreu, Burrell, Rollins, and Thome after 2002.

17.  Chicago Cubs:  Luis Castillo (2B) of the Florida Marlins
I'm tempted to go the easy way out and draft Matt Clement or Antonio Alfonseca for the Cubs.  After all, the Cubs traded for these two guys that winter, and ultimately gave up Dontrelle Willis who had more success with the Marlins than Clement did with the Cubs.  However, since the Cubs had a 20-game winner in Jon Lieber, and a young Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, I think the lineup could use more help.  The thing is, the Cubs upgraded their lineup so much that winter that it is hard to pinpoint where to use one draft pick.  Mine goes with Luis Castillo because of all the positions that were upgraded that winter, I don't think anyone expected half of what Mark Bellhorn contributed to the 2002 Cubs.  Bellhorn hit 27 HRs while posting an on base percentage of .374.  Castillo would have been only 25 at the time of this draft, had great on base skills, and of course plenty of speed.  I think the Cubs would have been much happier to have him leading off than Corey Patterson.

Otherwise, I could suggest they draft the Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins rather than the Alex Gonzalez they signed for 2002.  Maybe 2003 turns out differently?

18.  Atlanta Braves:  Troy Percival (RP) of the Anaheim Angels
To be honest, the Braves probably could use a hitter of just about any sort here.  For years, the Braves trotted out random infielders like Quilvio Veras or Keith Lockhart, and still found ways to keep the lineup productive.  Furthermore, they moved Chipper Jones from third to left field that offseason to make way for Vinny Castilla (who was on the way out).  They also acquired Gary Sheffield from the Dodgers.  However, I went a slightly different route.  Despite Jones being moved to left field, a highly sought debate what whether John Smoltz should be a starter or closer for the team following the departure of John Rocker.  Despite the Braves great rotation of Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Kevin Millwood, and Damian Moss, I'm going to say Smoltz should be in that rotation, making it effectively unstoppable.  This leaves a hole for the closer's role which goes to the newly drafted Troy Percival.  Percival is likely the best closer in this draft, and the only one worth drafting in the first round.  The Braves winning streak of division titles would continue, and I think a high caliber closer is something they would want for their many playoff runs that resulted in zilch.

19.  San Francisco Giants:  Tim Salmon (RF) of the Anaheim Angels
This one is rather ironic since the Angels were not contracted and went on to win the World Series the following season against the Giants with big help from Salmon.  Salmon was on the downhill part of his career, but like Erstad before him, he was only a year removed from a great season in 2000.  For as much as people think of the 2001 Giants as being an offensively dominant team, they really only got good production out of a handful of players (Bonds, Kent, Aurilia).  Armando Rios was decent, but was traded the previous trade deadline for Jason Schmidt.  Ultimately, the Giants would replace Rios that winter with Reggie Sanders, but Tim Salmon likely would do the trick.

20.  Cleveland Indians:  Garrett Anderson (LF) of the Anaheim Angels
The run on Angels continues here.  Garrett Anderson is not a player I particularly like.  He is a guy who never did much of anything great, but drove in lots of runs largely because of the many opportunities he had.  In 2002-03, he did a bit better while leading the league in doubles, but that was short-lived, and is of no consequence here.  In any event, a guy who could hit 30 home runs a year was a slugger (35 in 2000; 28 in 2001).  The Indians had just lost outfielders Juan Gonzalez and Marty Cordova to free agency.  They replaced one of them with Matt Lawton, but would only have Russell Branyan and Karim Garcia on the other side.  While I don't like Anderson, he was considered a good hitter back in the day, and would surely be an upgrade over those two.

21.  Arizona Diamondbacks:  Josh Beckett (SP) of the Florida Marlins
It probably is a stretch that Josh Beckett hadn't been taken yet, but by the end of 2001, Beckett was only 21 with four starts under his belt.  However, they were four very good starts.  Even without the Major League experience, the game had high expectations  for him.  He was the second overall pick in 1999.  The Diamondbacks, just coming off a World Series victory, kept most of their lineup intact except for Matt Williams and Reggie Sanders, and replaced them rather adequately.  Of course their rotation led by Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling was great, but not deep.  Enter the young 21-year old as their pick to the team.  When Schilling and Johnson left in the near future, it would have been Brandon Webb and Josh Beckett to follow in their steps.

22.  St. Louis Cardinals:  A.J. Pierzynski (C) of the Minnesota Twins
So Cardinal fans may scoff at this choice, but consider the situation.  Pierzynski was a young, up and coming catcher in 2001.  Fans didn't really know he would turn into an ass just yet, and his name wouldn't be synonymous with robbing Brian Sabaen for a few more years.  The Cardinals on the other hand have a terrific hitter for every spot on the diamond except for catcher.  Meanwhile, the pitching staff wasn't particularly young, it was still effective.  Adding a young, everyday player that was already showing upside seems like a Cardinals move to me.

 23.  Houston Astros:  Christian Guzman (SS) of the Minnesota Twins
This one seems like a move the Astros would still make today sadly.  However, at the time, the Astros were on the way up.  For 2002, the top three pitchers in their rotation were under the age of 26 including Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller.  They lost a couple pieces of the offense like Moises Alou and Vinny Castilla, but still had much of their lineup intact.  Houston had a young Julio Lugo at the time, but Guzman was still a couple years younger, sporting a good glove, and his hitting seemed to be improving nicely for that age.  In 2001, he led the American League in triples despite playing in only 118 games, and hit over .300.  While he never panned out to much of anything, at the time he showed some promise.

24.  New York Yankees:  Tony Armas (SP) of the Montreal Expos
Not exactly a great pick because Armas never panned out, but at the time the Yankees had next to nothing in their farm system. Armas may not have been headed to Columbus, but having a young starting pitcher, even for their bullpen would have been something the Yankees would have done.  If I had to put money on it, I'm thinking the Yankees take someone like Armas, only to use him as trade bait for a team not wanting to pay for a Vladimir Guerrero.  The Yankees only really needed a corner outfielder headed into 2002 anyway.

25.  Oakland Athletics:  Doug Mientkiewicz (1B) of the Minnesota Twins
The A's had just completed a fantastic 102-win season, trailing only the Seattle Mariners in the Majors that year.  However, they lost Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon, and ultimately began their Moneyball campaign.  Billy Beane is noted for signing Scott Hatteberg with the expectation he would contribute greatly.  If this draft had occurred after Beane was convinced Moneyball was the way to go, he would have most likely taken Doug Mientkiewicz.  Mientkiewicz had just completed his first full season, and did so by posting a .387 OBP, hitting over .300 and showing a spectacular glove at first base.  He would have been the perfect get to replace MVP-Jason Giambi at the time, at least according to Billy Beane.

26.  Seattle Mariners:  Brad Radke (SP) of the Minnesota Twins
What do you draft for a team that won 116 games, and lost very few important pieces?  In this case, it would be a pitcher.  The Mariners only lost two guys from their lineup, both minor pieces, and replaced them with equal to better bats.  If anything, it was their rotation that took a hit by losing Aaron Sele.  Radke is more than a suitable replacement for Sele as a middle of the rotation guy.  Freddy Garcia and Jamie Moyer still led things off, and Joel Piniero was just coming onto the scene.  Radke was a few years younger than Sele, and was one of the most consistent workhorses in the game.

That's my summary of the first round of the 2001 MLB Dispersal Draft that never took place.  I'm sure some have opinions on who their team should have taken instead, and I'm definitely interested to here.  Thankfully, Major League Baseball never did contract.  Less than a year from when this idea was being tossed around, the Anaheim Angels would go on to win the 2002 World Series.  One year later, the Florida Marlins would win the World Series.  The Minnesota Twins went on a rather good run winning the AL Central a number of times, but never making it to the World Series.  It is only the Expos, now Washington Nationals, who have yet to make the playoffs, but they appear to be only a month away from a National League East title.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Run Billy Run

Another lesser known record was broken tonight.  Billy Hamilton, shortstop of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Double-A club of the Cincinnati Reds), set the all-time professional league mark of stolen bases in a season, swiping four tonight to give him a total of 147 this season.  This broke the previous record of 145 set by speedster Vince Coleman in 1982 for the Macon Redbirds.  Not being a major league record (Rickey Henderson with 130 in 1982), this record will probably be forgotten by most.  However, I find it noteworthy given that a few months I mentioned here that stolen bases were on the decline.

Coleman stole 145 bases for the Macon Redbirds (Single-A) in only 113 games.  Hamilton on the other hand needed 120 games to reach and surpass the mark, but there are a couple things worth noting.  Hamilton's pace is not slowing (12 SB in his last 9 games).  I don't have split stats on Coleman, but I would be curious if Coleman was trailing off in his pace as the season wore.  More noteworthy is that Hamilton reached the total while splitting the season between Single and Double-A (about a 70/30 split so far), so the level of competition should have been a touch higher.  Remarkably, both of their success rates at stealing are very similar.  Coleman stole bases in 1982 at an 82.4% clip.  This year, Hamilton is stealing at an 81.7% clip.  A negligible difference when you again consider the different levels Hamilton has played at.

It isn't to say Hamilton is the better of the two, or that his record is more impressive.  It simply means it will be interesting to see how the 22-year old Hamilton fares compared to Coleman in the long run.  It is worth mentioning that in that 1982 season, Coleman hit .350, that's 86 points better than his Major League average, and 67 points higher than his Minor League average.  Billy Hamilton is hitting .318 this season compared to a .317 Minor League average, and an OBP of .417 compared to his .427 career percentage.  This would lead to the hypothesis that Hamilton could end up providing plenty of stolen bases to the Cincinnati Reds organization in the near future.

Jim Joyce Saves Woman's Life

Over the past two seasons, umpire Jim Joyce has been known for little more than blowing a call in Armando Galarraga's perfect game attempt during the 2010 season.  Too often, umpires and referees are considered only enemies and not friends.  Rarely getting the credit they deserve.  On Monday night, Joyce deserved the credit for going far beyond his umpire duties when he used CPR to revive a woman prior the Diamondbacks-Marlins game who had a seizure and stopped breathing.  For someone that will still likely be known in ten years as the guy that blew "the call", let's remember who good those people can be, and give the credit they deserve.


The Miami Dolphins used a total of 16 different starting quarterbacks from their inaugural year in 1966 in the AFL through the 1999 NFL season when Dan Marino announced his retirement.  Of those sixteen, four of them occurred in the first seasons alone, and two others: Marino and Bob Griese combined to start 391 games over those three plus decades.

Since the retirement of Dan Marino, the QB position as been bleak for the Dolphins.  In fact, in the twelve years since Marino retired (2000-2011), the Dolphins have trotted out another sixteen quarterbacks to start games.  Jay Fiedler looked like he would be successful, and it is probably unfair to say he wasn't given his lack of a supporting cast.  He started the majority of games from 2000-2003 despite a handful of starts from Brian Griese, Damon Huard, and Ray Lucas.  By 2004, things, really took a turn for the worse.  In fact, a total of 13 different starting QBs have been used in Miami since 2004.  That's merely eight years!

There were a few disasters and little success.  In the spring of 2006, the Dolphins passed on a chance to acquire Drew Brees because they feared he would not remain healthy.  Instead they traded for then Minnesota Viking Daunte Culpepper.  They would get only four starts out of him, and spent much of the 2006 season relying on Joey Harrington.  So the next offseason they orchestrated a trade for Kansas City Chief, Trent Green.  Green would make five starts for the 2007 Dolphins who likely should have been the first 0-16 NFL team had it not been for a giveaway win in Baltimore that year.

Prior to 2008, the Dolphins would acquire the injury-prone Chad Pennington who had been released by the New York Jets.  Remarkably, Pennington would start all 16 games in 2008 (only the second Dolphin since Marino to do so), and led the Dolphins from a pathetic 1-15 record in 2007 to an AFC East division title in 2008, beating the heavily favored New England Patriots and Brett Favre-led Jets.  The division was decided on the final game of the season for the Dolphins where Pennington led a win over the Jets (former team) in the New Jersey Meadowlands.  Success would not last, and Pennington would only start four more games with the Fins.

While acquiring veterans didn't work out, the Dolphins drafting of QBs may have been even worse.  In the 2007 NFL draft, they chose John Beck of BYU in the second round.  He was released by the Dolphins after two seasons, and one start in the ill-fated 2007 season.  Chad Henne was drafted the following year in the second round from Michigan.  After playing back up in 2008, appearing in only three games, he would make 31 starts over the following three seasons before Miami chose not to resign him this past winter.  Another year later, and Miami used their second round pick for Pat White of West Virginia.  While a very effective spread QB in college, White was expected to be used for the Wildcat option primarily.  He had limited playing time in his first season, and on the final game of the year took a helmet-to-helmet collision on a run.  He was knocked unconscious.  Despite remaining with the team  throughout the winter, he was waived by the Dolphins just before the start of the season and never returned to the NFL.

It was only this past draft that the Dolphins drafted another quarterback for the first time since Pat White, using the 8th overall pick to select Texas A&M Aggie Ryan Tannehill.  On Monday, Miami announced Tannehill would be the starter going into the season David Garrard and Matt Moore.  Assuming Miami sticks to this plan, Tannehill will be the 17th different starting QB since 2000, and the 14th since 2004.  Will success be found?  Some fans such as myself feel that position as nowhere to go by up.

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's Been ___ Many Games Since Our Last Accident

On Saturday, the Houston Astros fired their manager Brad Mills along with a couple of Houston coaches.  It wasn't a big shock.  In two and a half seasons, the Astros have posted a winning percentage of .384 (171-274) under Mills.  Certainly the blame doesn't fall to Mills, at least not solely.  Ownership in Houston hasn't exactly spent big bucks since the Astros brief run of success in the middle of the last decade.  This year, they sport a team whose stars are Jose Altuve, Jed Lowrie, and a very washed up Carlos Lee.  The couple of names they had on their pitching staff, Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers were both traded away.  Oddly, despite being the worst team in baseball by record, they are not ranking last in as many important hitting and pitching categories as you might expected.  Nevertheless, Mills was fired after his team secured yet another losing record by recording their 82nd loss...on August 18th.

New interim manager Tony DeFrancesco was "called up" from his managerial job in Triple-A, and ownership and fans will likely be hoping he can make something better, if only slightly, than what Mills had done.  However, I think a successful campaign is far-fetched as best, and Mills is simply the latest of scapegoats created by an organization without much of a payroll or farm system.

In an attempt to show the short life span of current Major League Baseball managers, here is a look at the number of games each of the current 30 active managers have with their current team.  DeFranceso is the far left with one game (lost 8-1 to Arizona by the way), and Mike Scoiscia leads the way on the far right with 2065 games for the Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem.  It is worth nothing that only five current managers have more than 1,000 games with their current franchise, that's equivalent to just over six seasons.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

One of Two

Less random fact:  Felix Hernandez threw the 23rd Perfect Game in Major League history yesterday, becoming the 23rd player to do so.  More random fact:  Hernandez becomes the second player in history to be credited with both a perfect game and a grand slam.  The other was Don Larsen.  Larsen more famous for his perfect game in the 1956 World Series while pitching for the New York Yankees, hit a grand slam against the Boston Red Sox in April that same season.

The only opportunity I have had to watch Felix Hernandez pitch was June 23, 2008 in during an interleague game against the New York Mets.  What was expected to be a pitching duel between Hernandez and Johan Santana turned into an early victory for the Mariners when Hernandez connected with the first pitch he saw over the right-centerfield wall for a grand slam.  Only a few innings later in the fifth, Hernandez was pulled from the game (I believe an injury), and the Mariners went on to win 5-2.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why the SEC is the Best Conference in College Football

I recently read an article discussing why the SEC is not as great a conference as people crack it up to be (here).  While being enjoyable to read, I can't help but disagree with nearly all of it.  Most of it is cherry-picking facts to support the argument while ignoring many other obvious ones.  I won't attempt to tear the whole thing apart as that really does nothing more than refute one opinion that is based on a shaky foundation as best.

The major concept that this article chose in its attempt at bashing the SEC is the their records against other BCS conferences is mediocre since the inception of the BCS.  For the sake of argument, I will agree with that, and trust that the numbers he found were accurate in portraying such.   However, let's note that the argument  of the SEC being the best conference has not existed since 1998 when the BCS was constructed.  The argument surrounding the BCS is one far more recent than that, pretty much since they went on a streak of six National Championships in a row.

Here are the SEC records against teams from other BCS conferences dating back to the 2006 season when Florida won the first of these National Titles:
  • ACC (33-21) - .611
  • Big East (11-10) - .524
  • Big Ten (12-9) - .571
  • Big 12 (15-7) - .682
  • Pac-12 (8-5) - .615
  • BCS Conferences (79-52) - .603
Conference realignment within the BCS conferences has been minimal through 2006-11 with only one game against Nebraska this past season being played with a team in its new conference.  These numbers show a more dominant SEC compared to the aforementioned article.  The Big East no longer has Miami or Virginia Tech giving them a winning record, and the Pac-12 has been far less dominant in recent years compared to the first half of the last decade where USC and Oregon were making frequent BCS stops.  Ironically, it is the Big East that are closest to breaking even with the SEC although that relied a lot on a West Virginia team that has since moved on to the Big 12.

Nonetheless, it proves that over the last six seasons, no BCS conference has had a winning record over all the other conferences except the SEC.  Even more ironic in my opinion, is that the Big 12 is probably the only conference that could possibly challenge the SEC for supremacy over the last past couple of seasons, but they have by far the worst record against the SEC.  You can argue that the SEC isn't "as good" as some make them out to be, but you can't use out of conference records and suggest the SEC isn't the best because they are the only ones to prove it back holding winning records against the five others.  On conference records along, no one has held their own at all except maybe the Big Ten and Big East at times, but surely no one would argue in their favor that they are better.

Now preseason polls are something I have long disagreed with having.  In fact, I would suggest that polls should not be voted on until October once some games have been played.  However, it makes the point that conferences that see a biased in their favor in the preseason automatically have a better chance at playing for a National Championship, or a BCS bid, so it is worth looking at here.  Let's take a look at the number of preseason top 10 and 25 teams dating back to 2006 to see how they compare to the rest of college football (using the USAToday Coaches Poll):

  • ACC:  Top 10 - 6
  • Big East:  Top 10 - 3
  • Big Ten:  Top 10 - 11
  • Big 12:  Top 10 - 15
  • Pac-12:  Top 10 - 6
  • SEC:  Top 10 - 16
Those totals don't really mean anything until you look at the total number of available teams those conferences put forward.  For instance, the Big 12 should have more preseason berths than the Pac-12 because the Pac-12 played with less teams over the course of the 2006-2011 seasons.  Let's call them Conference Chances (CC):
  • ACC:  6 seasons x 12 teams = 72 CC
  • Big East:  6 seasons x 8 teams = 48 CC
  • Big Ten:  5 seasons x 11 teams + 1 season x 12 teams = 67 CC
  • Big 12:   5 seasons x 12 teams + 1 seasons x 10 teams = 70 CC
  • Pac-12:  5 seasons x 10 teams + 1 season x 12 teams - 2 (USC banned) = 60 CC
  • SEC:  6 seasons x 12 teams = 72 CC
Simply dividing the number of top 10 appearances from each conference by the total number of CC gives you a percentage of how many conference teams show up in the preseason top 10 year to year.  For example, the ACC:

[(6 Top Ten Appearances) / (72 CC)] = 0.083 or 8.3% of the ACC teams

 This results in the following:
  1. SEC - 22.2%
  2. Big 12 - 21.4%
  3. Big Ten - 16.4%
  4. Pac-12 - 10.0%
  5. ACC - 8.3%
  6. Big East - 6.3%
This does suggest that the SEC gets a preseason biased in the polls, but not a significantly larger one than say the Big 12.  Ignoring just how ridiculously stupid preseason polls are, these percentages really make perfect sense since they go primarily by the results of previous season.  If the SEC keeps winning championships, they are likely to see that percentage increase.  Meanwhile, based on the out of conference records mentioned above, it should really be no surprise that SEC teams are moving more and more towards the top.  I am not surprised the Big 12 came in second in this, but was shocked how close they were to the SEC.  Meanwhile, the top three percentages here account for 11 of the last 12 teams to play for a National Title, including all the National Champions.  I'll acknowledge that doing this method with the top 25 favors the SEC more than the other conferences.  Granted, I think ranking 25 teams by a human is pointless.  Can you really remotely measure the 17th best team versus the 23rd?  The SEC dominates this part of the preseason polls because of parity.  As far as a top 10 preseason spot goes, I really see no significant biased towards the SEC compared to the Big 12 or even the Big Ten.

Speaking of parity, the SEC is really the only top conference that shows parity year to year instead of team to team.  This isn't to say Vanderbilt or Kentucky have any shot, but the conference has produced not only numerous conference champions over that time, but four different National Champions.  This is different than the Big Ten where Ohio State was the lone dominant team over that period, similar to Texas/Oklahoma in the Big 12, and USC/Oregon in the Pac-12.  Trying to pick a conference champion in the SEC ahead of the season is far more difficult than selecting a Virginia Tech or Oregon for their respective conferences.

One last thing, the opposing article I've referenced mentioned favorable bowl matchups for them.  Obviously, the majority of bowls are played in the south because going to Washington, Idaho, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio is not really appealing in January.  The SEC likely gains a bit of a homefield advantage with that, but I find that slightly blown out of proportion.  On the other hand, it is worth looking at the SEC bowl matchups.  Let's assume the SEC and Big Ten both send two teams to BCS bowls which is business as usual, this leaves:
  1. SEC Champion to National Championship Game
  2. SEC #2 to BCS Bowl
  3. SEC #3 to Capital One Bowl vs. Big Ten #3
  4. SEC #4 to Outback Bowl vs. Big Ten #4
  5. SEC #5 to Cotton Bowl vs. Big 12 #2
  6. SEC #6 to Chick-fil-a Bowl vs. ACC #2
  7. SEC #7 to Gator Bowl vs. Big Ten #5/6
  8. SEC #8 to Liberty Bowl vs. C-USA #1
  9. SEC #9 to Music City Bowl vs.  ACC #6
  10. SEC #10 to BBVA Compass Bowl vs. Big East #5
  11. SEC #11 to Independence Bowl vs. ACC #7
After the couple of BCS bids, the first two matchups make sense.  Both are again Big Ten teams, but both matchups place the 3rd and 4th place teams against each other which seems fair.  After that is where is gets a little hairy.  The Cotton Bowl pits the 5th best SEC team against the 2nd best Big 12 team.  This year that was Arkansas to beat Kansas State pretty handily.

Next you have the runner up in the ACC facing an SEC team that finished in the middle of it's conference.  This year, the ACC sent two teams to BCS bowls which left the #3 ACC team, Virginia, who got ran over by the #6 SEC, Auburn.  The #7 SEC Florida, pulled one out of Ohio State.  The point is that for all the favorable homefield advantage locations, the SEC is generally pitted against teams that finished higher in another conference.  More often than not, they beat them.

Anyone can argue how dominant one conference is versus the others.  Opinions will vary on style of play, weather conditions, scheduling, etc.  However, I see no way of debating that the SEC is not the top conference in college football.  I didn't agree with them sending two teams to the National Championship Game, but that is hardly their fault so much as a very faulty system.  On the flip side, it was the SEC that was left on the outside looking in for 2004 when an undefeated Auburn team was passed over.  I honestly don't see how you could argue any team was better than the team crowned BCS National Champion since the SEC began it's run in 2006.  You can argue a Boise State or TCU deserved a shot at them, but I challenge anyone who would be willing to put their next paycheck on one of those teams instead of the one that was eventually crowned.

Some last little facts to toss out there.  USC and West Virginia are the only two non-SEC teams to play in more than two BCS games since the 2006 season and post a winning record.  Since the BCS inception in 1998, only five teams have winning records in National Championship games, all of them are SEC teams.  The question I would pose, if not the SEC, then who?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Nice Night for a Walk

While not a record, it is still an impressive feat and he's a New York Met, so what do you expect from me?  Outfielder Mike Baxter has quietly put together some nice numbers for a bench player this season.  He has started in just over a dozen games this season, being used mainly as a pinch-hitter, and late-inning defensive replacement.  In his few at-bats this year (71 in total), he has hit .310 while posting an OBP over .400 and a SLG just under .500.  While he lacks power, one career home run (last season), he has made a habit of hitting doubles.  In fact, as of tonight, he has only 9 singles compared to his 11 doubles and 1 triple.  Fairly anomalous if you ask me, but that isn't what this post is about.

Of course a Golden Sombrero is when a play strikes out four times in a game.  I'm not quite sure what the opposite of that is, a Silver Zapato(?), but Baxter likely acquired it.  Tonight, Baxter got a rare start for the Mets, and after five plate appearances, he did not record a single at-bat.  This is because he drew not four, but five walks on the evening.

I don't know how often players have drawn five walks in a game, but I believe it is fair to say that it isn't often.  Only two players have drawn more than five walks in a nine-inning game: Jimmie Foxx of the Boston Red Sox in 1938 and Walt Wilmot in 1891 with the Chicago Colts (now Cubs).  Two others accomplished the feat in 16-inning games.

Anyway, for a player who will not receive a lot of recognition until he finds his way into the lineup regularly, here is to you Senor Baxter.