Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Spring, and Baseball, Is In the Air

Washington in the Spring was never as delightful as yesterday, which I spent at Nationals Park up-close-and-personal to a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Watching the Sunday night ESPN game was less pleasurable, mostly due to the expected, but always awful presence of analyst Joe Morgan, a Hall-of-Fame second baseman (mostly for the Reds circa mid-70s), but a first-class idiot (how many times can someone say a batter is "sitting dead red"?). It got better today when a friend mentioned a great website: FireJoeMorgan.com.

The site's not just Morgan-hating--it covers idiocy in sports journalism generally. Though liberally profane, it provides important correctives; an example, "Fisking" uber-sports writer Frank Deford (of SI), with Deford bolded and "Ken Tremendous's" take in normal type:
Anti-modernization tracts are pretty much our bread and butter here at FJM. Rarely are they this multi-grained and buttery. Hit it, Frank Deford.

Possibly because I'm scared of technology, I'm not always pleased by what are called "advances" in our society. Sometimes I think we were better off in more innocent times -- which is, to say, back when I could understand stuff better.

At least he admits it. One point for admitting it. Deford 1, Sanity 0.

Actually, I consider myself secular Amish.

Admitting it again doesn't get you a second point.

Synthetic rackets pretty much ruined the beauty of tennis. Children have no business swinging lethal aluminum baseball bats. Now there's even talk that a new bathing suit made by Speedo, in which all sorts of swimmers are setting world records, constitutes "technological doping."

The tennis racket argument is one to which I weirdly subscribe. I used to follow tennis fanatically. The first time I ever voluntarily woke up early was to watch Breakfast at Wimbledon when I was like 7. But the other things...aluminum bats is a cost issue, I think, for little leagues and colleges and stuff. The bathing suit thing...? Never heard of it. How much of an advantage can a speedo be? Does it have an outboard motor attached to it? (Hope it's not an inboard motor! Hey-oooo!) (Ouch! Now that's what I call a "close shave!" Heeeyyyyy-oooooo! )

What were we talking about? Oh yes. The Unabomber was giving us an anti-tech panegyric.

You know what's even worse? Technology has made it so there are so few surprises left in the world. Is that really an advance? Parents know whether their baby is a boy or girl long before it's born.

Yes, we should all be like the peasants, and birth our babies in the fields, and decorate our nurseries in gender-neutral yellow. (You do know you can opt not to learn the sex, right? It's a choice. Choices are usually considered good things.)

You can tell who's calling you on the phone before you answer.

I'm calling bullshit louder than I've ever called bullshit in my personal history. Is there a single person on this crazy blue marble we call "Earth" who does not like caller ID? Caller ID is the greatest thing in the universe. How many unwanted calls have been avoided thanks to caller ID? A hundred billion? Does Frank Deford not know the specific pleasure one has when one looks at one's phone and sees "Work" and rotates one's Blackberry toggle wheel thingy to "ignore?" Does Frank Deford prefer -- when awaiting an important call -- to answer his ringing phone and hear the voice of a representative from Wachovia Bank who wants to know if all of his investment needs are being met? I ask you, people -- does Frank Deford not have one crazy ex-girlfriend?
There's much more. And, as the URL suggests, the site's particularly good at torching Morgan, especially regarding Morgan's weekly ESPN Internet chats; here's the first part of the same Ken T's April 21st story:
I have invented a name for the ESPN intern whose job it is to type in/clean up/invent Joe's answers to these chats. It's Bill Fremp. He's 22, he went to Conn College, but he's originally from Edgewood KY and is a diehard Reds fan, which is why he's covering for Joe by judiciously editing Joe's comments and stream-of-(lack of)-consciousness ramblings, and entering semi-coherent versions of same into the record. Let's see how Bill does today.

Joe Morgan: I may be the only one that feels this way, but I still believe the weather has had an adverse affect on some of th ebest hitters in the game.

Nicely-placed typo, Bill. You can't fool me. Joe's not typing this.

In places like Detroit and Boston, hitters are struggling. But you have to give credit to the guys who have persevered and fought through the cold weather. But as it warms up, there will be more offense coming from some of the best hitters in the game.

You've studied old chats, haven't you, Billy m'boy? You remember that sometimes Joe says "but" at the beginning of every sentence. You're good, I'll give you that. You're very good.

Randy(Knoxville,TN): Good morning Joe!! My question for you is about Alfonso Soriano...what are your thoughts on him as the lead-off man for the Cub offense? While he can provide instant offense with the long ball, he also strikes out a bunch and doesnt draw many walks. Last year he struck out 99 more times than he drew a walk(130 K's vs 31 BB). I love him as a hitter, but not at the top. What do you think?Thanks, Joe.

Joe Morgan: I have never felt like he should be a leadoff hitter, but both Torre and Piniella used him there because he felt more comfortable. But if I'm paying a guy millions of dollars, I'm going to hit him where he can serve the team the best. His on-base percentage is not where a good leadoff hitter's should be at.

Oh, Billy. Billy Billy Billy. You've already screwed up. The real Joe would have talked about how Soriano can steal bases and make things happen. The real Joe would never admit that there is such a thing as "on-base percentage," because the real Joe thinks "on-base percentage" is a made-up stat relating to Quidditch matches. The real Joe could not recall off-hand two teams Soriano has played for, much less their managers. This is far too good an answer. Ease off. . .

Jeff (Columbus, OH): Joe, what effect do losses like the ones the Indians have suffered against the Angels and Red Sox have on the team? As a manager, can you keep sending a closer out there that no one (other than yourself apparently) has faith in without damaging the team? Thanks

Joe Morgan: Their pitching has not been up to par. Teams like the A's were expected to be last in the west, but they're overachieving right now. The Indians and Tigers are underachieving, so you have to keep things in perspective.

There we go. Doesn't answer the question, makes a weird comment about the A's overachieving (and "teams like the A's [being] expected to be last in the west," which = ???), then drags the Tigers into it, and never mentions the issue of Borowski at all. There's your template, Bill.
There's much more juicy "inside-baseball" at FireJoeMorgan.com. I'm thrilled to learn it's not just me.


Via reader OBH, from USA Today:
The broomsticks they hold between their legs can't help them fly. The Snitch is not a winged golden ball but a young man who sprints across the field at lightning speed. And at times, the game looks like the mongrel offspring of rugby, dodge ball and soccer. But somehow it all works.

The first intercollegiate Quidditch match was held here this month, and though this version of the game is earthbound, it's taking off. Originally played by wizards darting about on broomsticks in the Harry Potter novels, the game is now taking root on college campuses. . .

Quidditch surfaced at Middlebury two falls ago when a handful of students gathered to play a rudimentary form of the game on Sunday afternoons, making up rules extrapolated from the books.

By this month's Intercollegiate Quidditch World Cup Fall Festival, there were banners, team processions worthy of Olympic opening ceremonies, halftime entertainment and 12 seven-person coed Middlebury teams vying for the chance to play the visiting team from Vassar College.


Mike May said...

The negative comment about concerns over children using metal bats is unnecessary for a number of reasons:

-- Since 2003, metal bats used in high schools and colleges have been scientically regulated so that the speed of the batted balls off metal bats is comparable to that of the best major league wood bat. This standard has been adopted by the NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

-- A 2007 study on the "Non-Wood vs. Wood Bats" by Illinois State University concluded that "there was no statistically significant evidence that non-wood bats result in an increased incidence of severity of injury."

-- In 2002 (before the current standards were implemented), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) stated "Available incident data are not sufficient to indicate that non-wood bats may pose an unreasonable risk of injury." (April 5, 2002) Obviously, since then, new regulations have been put in place to reduce the performance ability of bats even more.

One other point to consider: In the 2006 College World Series (where a metal bat by today's standards was used), the batting average in all games was .277, the average number of home runs per game was 0.82, and the average number of runs per game per team was 5.2. In the 2006 American League season (where a wood bat is used), the batting average in all games was .275, the average number of home runs per game was 1.12, and the average number of runs per game per team was 5.2. As you can see, it's virtually identical -- with different types of bats.

There really aren't any safety concerns with the speed of the batted ball. If there were, the powers-to-be in baseball (National Federation, NCAA, Little League, PONY, American Legion, Babe Ruth, etc,) would make changes IMMEDIATELY....and the manufacturers would abide by the new standards.

Carl said...


Thanks for the #s. I believe you, but played infield in a men-only wood-bat softball league, and also in a co-ed metal bat league, for nearly 20 years. The batting averages in the latter were much higher in general, despite the different talent pool, and I never hit a HR in the former, though did in the latter.