Siberian Baseball

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I'm pretty sure this is illegal

Children working deep underground in damp, dangerous mines.

Sweatshops populated by an underage workforce which is forced to keep up with unreasonable job quotas and no bathroom breaks.

An afternoon for your kids, spent under the watchful eye of either Lou Piniella or Ozzie Guillen. Won't someone please think of the children?

I think the key here is that the two managers won't be playing each other with their team of tykes, so the possibility of a profane eruption of rage and chewing tobacco in the presence of children is diminished, but I'm still pretty sure there are better babysitters in Chicago.

Given Ozzie's penchant for profanity-laced tirades which would make Lee Elia blush and Sweet Lou having enough footage of frustrated blowups to warrant an intermission if you ran them all back to back, I'm looking forward to children throughout the Chicagoland area cursing out their parents like tiny Tony Montana impersonators after a day with Uncle Ozzie.

Not that an afternoon with Lou would be much better. I can easily see them with tiny, red faces - kicking dirt at their teachers on the playground when they're told recess is over.

"That's just a bullshit call to call it this early, Teach! A real bullshit call."

(Image from:

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Could the key to Yankee success be seats?

Forgive me if I'm coming late to the party on this one, but it kind of struck me yesterday when I was driving back from Chicago.

The White Sox radio broadcast team was talking about the large and increasingly rowdy Red Sox fan base that was taking over late in Sunday's blowout.

They made reference to the fact that many people will travel to see the Red Sox on the road because they're better served by opponents' ballparks than their own. (It's worth noting that they also advanced the theory that there were a lot of Boston transplants in town, too, so I assume they were just throwing everything they had at the wall to see what stuck.)

My train of thought went from thinking of seating capacity at Fenway (listed at 36,108) and Wrigley (listed at 41,160) as compared to Yankee Stadium (currently at 56,937, with 74,200 listed on the Yankee site as the attendance for the first home game).

The quick math says Yankee Stadium has 15,777 more seats than Wrigley and 20,829 more than Fenway. (Quick disclaimers - these are the best stats I can find, so if they're off, let me know. Also, I'm betting I'm not the first one to explore this possibility - only the laziest.)

Multiply that capacity out on sold-out games or nearly sold out games and that becomes a serious chunk of change. In a sport without salary caps, is it that much of a stretch to say that for three teams that have similarly-sized fan bases (huge) the Yankees might be doing better because they can produce a larger supply for their demand?

There are too many factors for me to track down tonight - this sounds like more of an off season project - but even with a full capacity, no fire marshall crowd at Fenway, the best they could do was 47,627 for a Yankees game in 1935, according to the Red Sox site.

Just think of all that lost revenue that comes from having a goofy wall and aging ballparks that the community is attached to.

(Image from


Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Cubs really love outfielders

Like a bad fantasy baseball team manager, the Cubs have dealt for yet another outfielder, landing Craig Monroe today from the Detroit Tigers.

According to the Cubs web site, Monroe will report to the team Friday in Arizona.

This now brings the total number of outfielders to more than they can use in a game and then some. It was bad enough when there was a logjam of outfielders to start the season, but following the injury to Alfonso Soriano, the team has just kept adding more.

There are now eight options, with two on the DL, according to the team's 40-man roster, which just seems silly.

Don't they remember the issues with trying to find playing time for the players they had? Now Soriano will return and they'll have to find time for Monroe as well?

Wow, talk about being snakebitten by the whole Corey Patterson problem. Have one underachieving outfielder and you end up with an organization that compulsively stockpiles replacements.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Brewers get ready for kangaroo court

For those of you not watching the top of the ninth inning of a 9-0 laugher between the Brewers and the Diamondbacks, you're missing Jeff Cirillo's first major league pitching performance.

So far, he's struck out Craig Counsell in the leadoff spot and walked Bill Hall.

After getting Kevin Mench to fly out for the second out, he walked Johnny Estrada. If Gabe Gross hadn't flied out to second, Cirillo would have been pitching to the pitcher - now that would be entertaining and a little weird, frankly.

This is all kinds of awesome.

I'm not clear, but I'm pretty sure it's not a save situation.

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What'll Santana do next?

One of the interesting stories on Ballhype today poses the question: "Who's better - Pedro Martinez or Johan Santana in their respective primes?"

I'll warn you that as a link from The Hardball Times it's a little thick and stat heavy, but it's an interesting comparison. If nothing else, it helps to illustrate just how dominant Martinez was in his 20s (and what a mistake Tommy Lasorda made in shipping him off to Montreal) with some of his unreal numbers.

What it has me thinking of is how similar the two pitchers are, not on paper, but in terms of putting butts in the seats. Need any further evidence? Just look at Santana's line from Sunday.

One of the hallmarks of any great pitcher - and especially the power pitchers - is the spike in attendance when they take the hill. Martinez certainly had that in Boston and Santana is the undisputed champ of the "Are there tickets?" test in Minneapolis.

I've seen this before when Kerry Wood and Mark prior were healthy in Chicago and any fan can rattle the names of the big pitchers who they'd pay to see when they come to town. It's not just the pitchers you're happy to see pop up on the probables list when you have tickets in hand, it's the guys who you'll actively seek out when there name pops up.

Off the top of my head, I'd also put Felix Hernandez and Daisuke Matsuzaka on that list (with Matsuzaka subject to a mandatory one-year review during next year's Spring Training) of guys you just can't miss because something big might happen.

That's not to say I wouldn't enjoy seeing other pitchers or wouldn't pick up a ticket if I happened to be in town - for instance, if I had a chance to see Dontrelle Willis in Florida or Jake Peavy in San Diego I'd jump at the chance - but those three top my list of pitchers that I'd actively feel I was missing something each time I missed a start.

Sure, Martinez has the edge in pure numbers, but Santana is just as capable of delivering a performance for the ages each time he takes the hill.

What else can you really ask for?

(Photos taken for Siberian Baseball)

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

The importance of talent evaluation

I couldn't help but think of Carlos Zambrano's new contract this morning while watching SportsCenter and hearing that tonight's game against the Cardinals will be the first spin around the block on his new deal.

Knowing the wonders of Cubdom, this all makes me very nervous. Just getting him to the park in one piece will be a moral victory in my opinion.

Still, the five-year, $91.5 million dollar contract should be a positive sign to the Wrigley faithful, especially given the Cubs' long history of driving away top-tier players, or having to be strong-armed into signings like the Andre Dawson standoff.

This is a good step for the organization, which finally appears to be giving up the dream of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior as the cornerstones of the Chicago rotation. By sinking ace of the staff money into Zambrano, I hope the Cubs have turned the corner on the series of problems that have plagued the team for the past several years.

The funny thing was that immediately following the talk of Zambrano's big payday were highlights of Hanley Ramirez in Florida and Orlando Cabrera in California, the heir apparent and sitting king of shortstop for the Red Sox, neither one of whom are still in Boston.

It just goes to show that while teams are sometimes rewarded for making quick moves to win immediately, sometimes the jewels of the farm system are prized for a reason.

Julio Lugo has become a punchline for baseball fans - and Bston fans aren't above taking a cheap shot or two - batting .241 with six homers, 59 RBI and 27 stolen bases, compared to Ramirez, who is hitting .340, with 23 home runs, 63 RBI (for the Marlins) and has 38 stolen bases so far.

Add to that the hypothetical double play combo of Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia for years to come and you can see how simple second-guessing has grown to full blown lament for Red Sox fans.

So, as the playoff chase starts to take shape, with the Brewers falling apart, the Cubs trying to pick up the slack with Alfonso Soriano still out and the Red Sox trying to keep ahead of the suddenly viable Yankees, I see two teams that are going to live or die by their decisions on talent in the organization.

Given their individual histories, I think both fan bases have reason to be skeptical.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Oh, you're so clever - Knock It Off, Bert Edition

Who's to say where the phenomenon of color commentary guys screwing around with the telestrator came from? Personally, my money is on John Madden, whose real-time annotation of groin sweat coming off of 300-pound linemen marked the beginning of the end for the technology, but that's neither here nor there.

Now every bored monkey with access is crudely marking up screens across America as they try to explain a concept that really didn't need annotation in the first place.

Football, basketball, hockey - these are all sports that lend themselves to the technology. You have set plays taking place on an open-ended field, but baseball? Really?

A runner has four places they can possibly be. First, second, third or home. OK, five places if you count the dugout - that's it. Batters are going to move the barrel of the bat from off their shoulder to in front of their bodies. Considering that the football guys have a hard enough time drawing squiggly arrows to the correct guard/tackle gap, I doubt the baseball guys have a level of control with the images to show the correct arm slot for the evening's starting pitcher.

Hell, when I use the same type of technology to sign a credit card receipt at Home Depot, it looks like I signed my name with with my foot. None of this bodes well for baseball color guys trying to make a point.

So what does that leave?

Repeated annoyances from the likes of the Twins' Bert Blyleven, that's where.

While it's nice that fans who bring the "Circle me, Bert" signs to games are given 100 bucks worth of Lotto tickets, the whole thing is a little annoying when signs litter the Dome before games and block views when you're coming back from inning breaks.

The strange thing is that it's much more annoying to watch the whole thing play out on TV, where Blyleven takes the responsibility of circling random fans a touch too seriously, like a younger sibling in charge of counting change for toll roads on a family trip. Give the guy just a thimbleful of power, I swear...

Incidentally, it's been a blast for me to watch games on this road trip, where they failed to bring the equipment along - see above for reasons why it's completely unecessary - and he's pouted a bit and felt the need to alert the audience to the fact that he's not actually circling and it's being added digitally by production staff in the satellite truck.

I have no idea what this is about, but he's either very modest and doesn't want to take credit for such perfectly drawn circles or wants to absolve himself of any issues that might arise from such utter amateurs circling fans without his years of experience.

(Image from WGN Broadcasting)

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RIP, Phil Rizzuto

While Phil Rizzuto is on record saying that his induction to the Hall of Fame was the proudest moment of his life, I like to think this ran a close second.

He seemed like a guy with a sense of humor to appreciate this.

RIP, Scooter.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Feel good comebacks 2-for-2 this year

With the sudden - and some will say completely unexpected resurgence of Rick Ankiel - this week, baseball has seen two of its hard-luck cases find their feet when you add Josh Hamilton to the mix.

Ankiel, the newest outfielder for the Cardinals and Deadspin man-crush, and Hamilton, a recovering addict who has spoken openly and honestly about his past and the safeguards in place to try and keep a relapse at bay, have both announced their return to the major leagues with flashy stats once they hit the field again.

Hamilton has put up impressive power numbers, despite injuries this year - 14 HR, 30 RBI in 65 games - and seems to be on the straight and narrow with the eyes of baseball fans everywhere on him.

Ankiel is the feel good story following the All-Star Break, seemingly backing up his potential and talent with a stellar week. He has three homers in only four games and is poised to be the darling of the national media until the playoff hunt heats up in earnest.

While all of this could be moot tomorrow, it's nice to see two players come back in the same season and at least clear the first hurdle on long trips back to becoming everyday players in majors.

Elijah Dukes, take notes. And maybe a few free counseling sessions from Dr. Marvin Monroe or something.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Well, this is a troubling new pattern

So much for a lights out 1-2-3 punch in the Red Sox bullpen.

After dropping two of three to the Orioles, Boston's newest addition, Eric Gagne has been less than his spectacular old self, allowing five runs in the past two games, killing sure wins in the process.

With ERAs in those games a staggering 16.20 and 15.75, respectively, the Red Sox slide is corresponding with a suddenly viable Yankees team, cutting Boston's lead in the AL East to a slim four-game lead.

This was supposed to be a can't miss acquisition that now has me wondering exactly how healed Gagne really is from an injury that kept him out of all but two games last season and 14 games the year before that.

I wouldn't be less surprised if there's an announcement shortly regarding Gagne's health if he showed up at my house and his rotator cuff caught fire.

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The Glove Whisperer

Watch enough baseball - and particularly in the late innings of a blowout - and chances are you're going to hear an announcer cracking wise about pitchers and catchers having a discussion while keeping their gloves over their mouths.

"Har, har," the announcer will say, "I didn't know that we had so many lip readers in the big leagues."

If they're feeling particularly spry, they'll also throw in, "Apparently the Rays/Yankees/ Cardinals have hired someone on the staff to monitor what's being said on the mound."

This never ceases to annoy me. It tells me two things: 1.) That these announcers are morons or incredibly naive to think that a league that sees stolen signs, complete tear downs of signal systems after a player is traded and a new breed of cloak and dagger pitch selection (see Varitek, Jason) wouldn't stoop to trying to lip read in key situations; and 2.) they never read Ryne Sandberg's autobiography, Second to Home.

In it, Sandberg writes about the 1989 Playoffs against the Giants and what transpired in Game 1. The Cubs were down 3-0 early, rallied back and were down 4-3 in the fourth with the bases loaded and Will Clark coming to the plate.

Greg Maddux was struggling, and (Don Zimmer) had the lefty, Paul Assenmacher, ready in the bullpen when he went out to see Maddux with the bases loaded, two outs and Will Clark due up.


As they were speaking, Will Clark walked back to the visitor's on-deck circle and stood next to Kevin Mitchell. And while Zim and Greg spoke, Clark read Greg's lips. Clark already had a double and a homer off Greg, but he saw Greg repeat what Zim said: Fastball in.

Clark knew what the pitch was going to be and sure enough it was a fastball in - but not far enough in for a guy who knew what pitch was coming. Clark was looking for it, got it, fully extended and hit that fastball in, out onto Sheffield Avenue for a grand slam.

It was 8-3 and Game 1 was basically over.


After we heard about what Clark had done, we were amazed. We've all tried it before, but I don't know anyone who has known for sure what the pitch was going to be by reading someone's lips...

I know one thing: Since that day, Greg Maddux has never had a conversation on the mound without putting his glove over his mouth.

So, there it is, hidden on page 143 of a pretty bad autobiography, where one of the game's premiere pitchers was burned by a lip-reading stroke of luck. I can't imagine that once Maddux started adopting the practice it took long for others to start mimicking him, regardless of the reason.

So, the next time some color commentary-spouting knucklehead asks that great hypothetical question, "When has that ever worked?" you'll know.

Game 1 of the 1989 playoffs at Wrigley Field when Will Clark put the game away with a back-breaking grand slam.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Millar accuses Red Sox of cheating

Before there was Justin Morneau, there was Kevin Millar.

Helping to pull The Girl into my sick little world of baseball, Millar was a surefire lock to get her to watch a game or 162. For this reason, we're now the proud owners of a Millar autographed ball in the den and he'll remain one of my favorite players from the 2004 team for that reason alone.

That said, it's sad when they turn on you like this, accusing the Red Sox of cheating for signing Eric Gagne. Still, for anyone who hasn't enjoyed the wonder that is Millar speaking without a script, enjoy this video clip, where he pokes at Manny Ramirez for his hair extensions among other topics.

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So much for that idea...

One of the strange things about attending out of town Red Sox games is that the Sox fans outnumber the home fans more often than not.

While I'm almost positive this is a result of attending more games in Baltimore and Minneapolis than say, Yankee Stadium, it's still a little satisfying when a nice, rumbling Red Sox chant rolls down from the cheap seats and takes over the Metrodome.

It's making me smile just thinking about it.

Anyways, a few days back, I e-mailed Dan over at Red Sox Monster to ask if he'd heard anything about Oriole fans and their crusade to buy out the tickets at Camden Yard to freeze out the great Red Menace to the North.

Well, the results are in and things aren't so great for the O's.

Not that much of this is surprising, I still think of the handful of Baltimore fans I knew during my time out East and regard them in much the same manner as my boss here, who is a Twins fan. In my estimation, meeting a real live O's or Twins fan is much like meeting a unicorn or a leprechaun.

So, enjoy taking over Baltimore, everyone - it's the site of one of my favorite baseball memories, where early in the 2004 season, my dad saw Johnny Damon and asked who the caveman was.

(Image from:

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Just this once, I'll talk about Bonds

I've already spent too much time and energy on the whole Barry Bonds record-breaking home run in the months leading into it, so if you really need my opinion for guidance, feel free to browse the archives.

I'll say one thing in closing, however after someone brought up a good point on sports radio this week.

Assuming that Bonds took steroids (yeah, yeah... allegedly) and did so for their ability to help athletes recover more quickly from injury - especially with an aging body - what's the difference between Bonds and Brett Favre who is on record regarding his addiction to painkillers?

When classified as a "performance enhancer" painkillers and steroids taken to allow athletes to stay on the field and off the DL or trainer's table are pretty much one in the same.

So why is Favre seen as a hero and Bonds as a cancer in his sport?

I'm still working on that one.


Monday, August 06, 2007

That Vinnie Delpino, what a foulmouthed scamp

I'd know that voice anywhere.

"Ball on ham," it said, further damning Mickey Rivers for placing his junk on the post game deli spread in The Bronx is Burning.

While Thurmon Munson brought Rivers up on charges in kangaroo court for allegations that his private parts touched the ham, Max Casella as Dick Howser offered what might be a great name for a fantasy baseball team next year.

Ball. On. Ham.

And since I can't give you video of this - well, right now until TiVo gets hip to Vista - I'll share this instead. I agree wholeheartedly.

I think there should be some new twists. Like the part where Joe DiMaggio comes back. Or, where it turns out that Munson was a ghost... all... along...

What a twist!

( I've updated with a new screen capture of Vinnie, all grown up.)


Sunday, August 05, 2007

How did I miss this?

One of the strange things about going to Twins games was always the man lurking on the Astroturf who was responsible for one of the most devastating incidents in Chicago Cubs history.

There, prowling the infield, was the man whose bat sparked what is arguably the most crippling fly out in baseball history.

Luis Castillo, a happy, reliable little second baseman always made me a little angry, even at the Metrodome. With a simple pop foul down the left field line, Castillo changed the course of baseball history.

Reaching base on a wild pitch, Castillo kept the rally alive and the rest is both history and a constant highlight whenever the Cubs play in a do-or-die game.

The piece I hadn't put together until tonight is that Castillo now shares a locker room with the left fielder who couldn't get to the ball - old Pee Hands himself, Moises Alou.

It'd be like Mookie Wilson sharing a bench with Bill Buckner or Bobby Thomson holding an elevator door at the team hotel for Ralph Branca. This should be a major strike against free agency - it's too hard to keep the hatred alive for more than a few seasons.

Then again, Derek Lee was also key in the same inning, so I guess I should keep my stupid mouth shut, huh?

Still, I honestly wonder if they ever talk about it. I'd like to think Alou made it very uncomfortable for Castillo when he arrived in New York.

It make me feel better.

(Image from

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I'm surfing through the MLB Shop this morning, figuring with the Late to Mid-Summer (but before August 25) Sale -seriously, how many sales does have per year? - I should see what was available.

In addition to several jokes to The Girl about Twins garbage available with her birthday around the corner - Twins shot glasses? No. Twins can cooler? No. Twins diaper pail? No. - I stumbled across the Chicago Cubs Legends DVD set to bookend the 2004 Red Sox Championship set.

I'm squinting to see what is on the DVDs, because there's still no write-up with the DVDs to explain what's on them and I see the following - Greg Maddux, Sammy Sosa, Ryan Sandberg? The image here has been cut down, but the full one should be on the site still.

Way to be accurate MLB, I hope that's been corrected on the actual DVDs. It just shows how much you value and respect your fans. I don't see how people would get the impression that you're only an anything for a buck league.

(Image enlarged from


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Oh, the hilarity

While checking in on the Drunk Jays Fans and their complaint that there were blogs listed as Blue Jays blogs without any actual Blue Jays content, I stumbled across this interesting bit of trivia.

Frankie has a top 10 Cubs blog.

He also is ranked top five for his Sox, but still pretty funny to anyone who has read more than four paragraphs when he talks about baseball.

Just outstanding all around.


Friday, August 03, 2007

Teams happy to hear Santana is not

"Why waste time when you're talking about something that's always going to be like that? It's never going to be beyond this point. It doesn't make any sense for me to be here, you know?"

Sounds more like a frustrated middle manager tired with ownership's meddling with "Hawaiian shirt Friday" than a Cy Young pitcher in the prime of his baseball life, huh?

If only it was that simple for the Twins.

Following the trade deadline, the Twins offloading Luis Castillo to the Mets and a muggy couple of weeks in the Twin Cities, Johan Santana went off on management to the media.

"I've been here for eight years, and I've seen a lot of those kind of things," he said. "I've seen a lot of those guys [like Castillo] come in and leave. [The decision makers] don't care. They always talk about caring about it; I don't think they care.

"Because if you're always talking about having young players — that's the philosophy the team has, and I respect all that — but it's been proven that it's not enough to go all the way to the World Series."

He's got a valid point.

Add to that free agency for Torii Hunter after this year and for Santana and Joe Nathan next year and if the Twins' front office isn't treating this with a sense of urgency, they should go back to school and pursue another line of work.

In what has become a familiar refrain here, you have a team with the AL MVP, Batting champ and Cy Young and still can't lead a suspect AL Central this year. This is a team that will be looked back on in 15 years and fans will question why they didn't win bigger games or more often if something doesn't change soon.

Now, it looks like Santana is seeing that as well and for the Twins, that's bad news.

There's a degree of hope in play with those three free agents in waiting - the loyal section of the fan base is crossing their fingers that Hunter takes a major hometown discount, but this suggests that Santana will either wait for his money or wave goodbye to a team he doesn't trust to follow him to the promised land.

Making matters worse, the new ballpark on the horizon, letting Santana slip away would be a major mistake. As a major draw for the casual fan, Santana is worth his weight in gold for the franchise.

Terry Ryan isn't a stupid man - Twins fans better hope he's not a cheap man, either.

If he is, I can't imagine Santana will have to look to hard to find his payday or a legitimate contender.

(Update: Oh, and this certainly won't help matters.)

(Image from


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Twins Postpone Groundbreaking, Day Game

The Twins are playing a glancing role in the bridge collapse tonight, by playing the scheduled game against the Royals and keeping the fans inside the Metrodome to avoid flooding the area with cars.

It was a surprisingly good call for a snap judgment.

While the traffic could have been routed west, away from 35W, it certainly wouldn't have helped with the congestion around the area.

Tomorrow's game and groundbreaking ceremony have now been postponed. Given the proximity of the Metrodome, my heart is with all the victims, but especially to any Twins fans who might have been stuck on the bridge at the time.

(Image from


Live, from my mom's basement!

A week ago, Ballhype posted a survey asking a series of questions regarding what sports bloggers did in their day jobs, how much time they spent on a daily basis and yes, whether or not they lived in their parents' basements.

The results are here and are pretty interesting - I'd like to note that they're indicative of the Ballhype community, which is still gaining steam and probably doesn't hit as wide a target audience as Deadspin or other sports sites are probably seeing at this point.

Still, it's worth a read, if for no other reason than to see yours truly quoted in the "How has blogging changed your life" section.

I think it really ties the whole study together.

No word on what percentage sit in coffee shops with their laptops, hoping someone will see them writing and ask what they're doing, though. That'll have to wait for next time.

(Image from