The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of Baseball

The Politics of Baseball

Barry Bonds’ lawyers are trying to get his conviction overturned.  This is a sad saga, and I hope it ends soon. [Wall Street Journal]

A few days ago, the Phillies and the Giants got into a big fight, and Shane Victorino was suspended for a few games.  He, as well as all of Philadelphia, were none to pleased with that.  Read Philly’s take.  [ Sports]

Alex Rodriguez was caught about a week ago as a participant in a high stakes poker game which may or may not be illegal.  At this ESPN link, Colin Cowherd tells us its no big deal, and we get some information about the future of this incident. [ESPN]

In Cincinnati, two writers were robbed at gunpoint.  Watch out at Great American Ballpark, especially if you are a media member (I’m looking at you, Thom Brennaman).  [The Big Lead]

If you read that above link about the Phillies, and though they were disgruntled, you should see what the loser Cubs think about their new-ish owner (hint: its nothing good).  [Chi City Sportsfan]

A few days ago, David Ortiz got a hit, and two runs scored.  The scorekeeper gave an error on the throw, which resulted in David Ortiz being given only one RBI instead of two.  He was none to happy–which you can see in this video (which is NSFW).  He has since been given the second RBI. [Deadspin]

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of Baseball

The Politics of Baseball

The MLB trading deadline has come and gone.  Who were the winners and losers?  Let MLB Trade Rumors sort it all out for you. [MLB Trade Rumors]

The Colorado Rockies have a 15-game Sunday losing streak going.  Does God hate them?  [Bugs & Cranks]

Here is a great piece about the character Kelly Leak from the Bad News Bears film series. [Deadspin]

Lou Gehrig had a complicated relationship with all the women in his life, especially his mother. This is a strange tale about Gehrig, a suitor, and some memorabilia. [New York Times]

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The National League Central

The NL Central

No division in baseball is nearer and dearer to me than the National League Central, home to my St. Louis Cardinals, as well as the team geographically closest to me (the Cincinnati Reds). I grew up in Louisville, KY, which has been home to a AAA baseball team since before I was born that has been affiliated with three NL Central teams–the Cardinals, Reds, and the Milwaukee Brewers. I’ve followed this division as long as I can remember, and this year it is really shaping up to be a doozy of a race.

No division in baseball has seen as much upheaval as the NL Central–the 1994 realignment that created it pulled three teams from the old NL East and two teams from the NL West and put them together in a division. Old rivalries took a backseat (Cardinals-Mets, Reds-Dodgers), while new ones heated up (Cardinals-Astros in the 2000s, recently Reds-Cardinals). In 1998, the Brewers were added to the NL Central, and now the division exists as the largest in the league (6 teams, while most divisions have 5, and the AL West only has 4). The St. Louis Cardinals have essentially dominated the division, winning eight of the seventeen championships–and they account for the only World Series to be won out of the division. The Astros have won 4 division titles, the Cubs have won 3, the Reds 2, the Brewers have won one wildcard, and since the inception of the division, the Pirates have never been to the playoffs.

That all might change this year. While the Reds and Cardinals were expected to compete for the division title during the offseason, the acquisition of Cy Young award winner-Zack Greinke and the injury to Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright had people thinking this division might be a bit more competitive than previously expected–and when former Astro Lance Berkman started coming on strong for the St. Louis Cardinals, those predictions came true. The early season race was between those three teams, but a surprising thing started happening right before the All-Star Break–the Pittsburgh Pirates started coming on strong.

Joel Hanrahan--one of the best closers in baseball

As I stated earlier, the Pirates have never won the NL Central. But the story is actually much sadder than that–the Pirates haven’t had a winning season in 18 years, and have been the victims of terrible mismanagement in recent times. However, the Pirates managed to develop some great pitching, including a shut-the-door closer in Joel Hanrahan and some great team speed including Andrew McCutchen. No one expected them to win the division title this year–and honestly, no one even thought they would compete. But today, the Pirates are in 1st place–a full game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers.

The race will be exciting. I don’t believe the Pirates have what it takes right now to win a division title–but I think they are in a great spot to end their 18 year drought of winning seasons. With the talent currently on the roster, this team will be very competitive in a few years. From what I have read and heard about their farm system, talent will continue to pour into this team, ensuring that Pittsburgh is the next Boston–the town all the champions call home. The biggest mistake the Pirates can make this year is trading some of their younger prospects–some of whom are all the way down in single-A ball and would need to put into a bigger package–for a big contract that the franchise couldn’t hold on to. It seems extremely mean to tell a team who has waited 18 years for a winning team to wait longer–but that is the smart move.

The Brewers and Cardinals are the most likely teams to take the division–but if the Reds can address the problems that their long-time closer Francisco Cordero is beginning to show, and start winning close games, they will be right back in the race. The Brewers biggest hurdle to the division title is their proclivity towards close games. Right now, everything is bouncing for the Brew-Crew–they have a aggregate run differential of -15 (in English: other teams have scored 15 more runs than the Brewers) even though the team is five games above .500. This means that the Brewers win close games–if they can continue to do that, it bodes well for them to win the division.

Lance Berkman

This Cardinal has shown up in a big way.

The Cardinals main issue changes daily. At the beginning of the year, starting pitching and the slow start of Albert Pujols was thought to be a big problem for the Cards. However, with the emergence of Berkman and the return of Albert, offense hasn’t been much of an issue. Furthermore, the starting pitching really stepped it up for the Cardinals. The bullpen was the next thing to break down, but with the addition of Fernando Salas as the every day closer and the emergence of Mitchell Boggs as a good long reliever, the bullpen hasn’t been so bad. The Cardinals have a chance to be great–but only if everything works at the same time. Which it hasn’t done yet this year. The Cardinals are an impossible team to predict, and as a fan that is both extremely engaging and very frustrating.

The Reds problem is with their bad luck–which I think they wasted during the previous season. Last year, when the Reds won the division title, they won nearly every close game. This year has been a different story. To mirror the Brewers, the Reds have a +26 run differential while being 3 games below .500. This speaks of a team that can blow some teams away, but fails to win the close games. The Reds have the talent to win–they proved that last year. Brandon Phillips is having a phenomenal year defensively, and isn’t doing too poorly offensively either. Joey Votto is MVP caliber, and they have a good-enough rotation. The chips just need to start falling for Cincinnati if they are to win the title.

Joey Votto--2010 NL MVP

So, the end of the regular season should be fun, but if recent history is to be any guide, whoever wins is doomed in the post-season. The NL Central is 1-15 in the playoffs since the Cardinals won the title in 2006, including sweeps over the Reds, Cubs, and Cardinals, and a 1-3 series where the Dodgers beat the Brewers. I usually don’t do this, but I think this year, I’ll cheer for the NL Central no matter who wins the division–just to restore some pride in my favorite division of all.

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of the Diamond

The Politics of Baseball

The biggest news on the diamond this week has been the tragic injury of the best player in baseball, Albert Pujols.  My beloved Cardinals are now without their star for 4-6 weeks.  I was not a happy camper when I saw the news.  Here is a good run down of what missing Albert means. [Viva El Birdos]

The other big news in baseball comes from the west coast, where commissioner Bud Selig has vetoed Dodger’s owner Frank McCourt’s television deal with Fox, which would have allowed him to keep the team.  In essence, this move essentially nullifies McCourt’s divorce to his wife.  While Bud Selig has several good points about the deal, how emasculating is it for a guy to veto another man’s divorce?  Here is a take on this from LA.  [True Blue LA]

Jack McKeon, who is 80 years old, entered the Marlins dugout as the manager on Monday and in so doing, became the oldest manager in the league by fourteen years.  He began managing baseball in the 1949, and 671 managers have began and ended their careers since then.  Deadspin has all of their names. [deadspin]

Derek Jeter went on the disabled list about a week ago, sitting on 2,994 hits.  3,000 hits is one of the most important milestones in all of baseball, and Jeter may have the longest wait in history to make it there.  Here is a great article remembering some other long waits.  [The Hardball Times]

Roger Clemons is in a big mess, having likely lied to Congress about his steroid usage.  Now, he is trying to limit his former teammates testimony.  I feel kind of bad for the once-great pitcher.  Just kind of bad, though.  [ESPN]

I declared my love for the Bill Simmons project Grantland last week, but others have been reticent to do so–and for good reason.  Read The Big Lead‘s take on the website, which also includes quotes from the ESPN ombud. [The Big Lead]

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of the Diamond

The Politics of Baseball

In a lot of ways, baseball teams are defined by First Basemen. Look around the league today: Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, and Ryan Howard are all first basemen.  Here are some teams in need of help at that spot.  [MLB Trade Rumors]

Major League Baseball is considering realigning the American and National Leagues in interesting ways.  I am ALL FOR THIS.  I think divisions in baseball are a crime.  Great teams in the AL East and NL East/Central with better records consistently miss the playoffs so that some sub .500 team in the West can go to the playoffs.  [ESPN]

While MLB has a pretty good idea of how the realignment would take place, Deadspin has a new plan.  The saddest sports city in America would just get sadder. [Deadspin]

Speaking of the Mariners, this is an excellent essay about Ichiro Suzuki and what he has meant to baseball.  It comes from Bill Simmon’s Grantland, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite places on the Internet. [Grantland]

The College World Series has begun, and here is an interesting piece about how it is the “last pure college championship.”  I don’t know if I agree with everything this guy says, but its definitely an interesting read and worth your time. [SB Nation]

The RP: What’s Up Doc? — My Five Favorite “Doc”s Who Weren’t Really Doctors

Continuing my newly-established tradition of plagiarizing from Nick Hornby and sharing my pop culture Top Five lists (See my Favorite Breakup Songs , my Favorite Hoops Books, and the Most Jew-ish Gentiles), and in honor of my oldest RPette’s recent acquisition of an adorable bunny (named “Louie” not “Bugs”), I ask the question that has confused, even haunted my generation: 

What’s up with all of the guys named “Doc” who’ve never practiced medicine or even earned a graduate degree? 

Without further agonized perplexion, I hereby list My Five Favorite “Doc”s Who Weren’t Really Doctors:

5. (tie) Doctor J and Doctor K

Julius Erving (who supposedly got his nickname from a high school buddy) and Dwight Gooden (an homage to Erving — K stands for strikeout — that was later shortened to “Doc”) were two of the greatest athletes of the last three decades of the 20th Century.  J was the fifth highest scorer in pro basketball history, the first great populizer of the slam dunk, and one of the most graceful and elegant atheletes to ever play the game (And how ’bout that ‘fro!).  K was one of the most feared and dominant baseball pitchers, whose brilliant career could only be stopped by drug use and injury.  And yet, despite their greatness, there is no sensible reason to award them with the title of doctor.  (At least J gathered a few honorary degrees after his career ended.)

4.  Doc, the Dwarf

Doc wasn’t necessarily the brightest of the dwarfs — he seemed to stammer and lose his train of thought quite often — but he held sway over the rest of the crew, with the possible exception of Grumpy, of course.  (Here is a great summary of his life and career.)  Doc’s authority emenated from being the gray eminence of the group, the centered, moral authority.  Yet there was no evidence whatsoever of a medical license or doctoral dissertation at an accredited university.  Indeed, it took the efforts of a fully-heighted fellow (The Prince) to relieve Snow White of her food poisoning ailment.

Read the rest of…
The RP: What’s Up Doc? — My Five Favorite “Doc”s Who Weren’t Really Doctors

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of the Diamond

The Politics of Baseball

The reigning NL MVP, Joey Votto, has a  new Sportscenter advertisement.   Apparently, it took forever to film.  Also, the Reds are a terrible skid.  I am laughing at them.  [The Big Lead]

Here is a great story about Jeremy Affeldt, a relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, and his passion for ending human trafficking.  [xlog]

There is a lot of negativity in baseball at this moment.  The Red’s ace, Edinson Volquez, was sent to the minors, and didn’t take it so well.  The Mets owner had some nasty stuff  to say about his own  team, and the A’s closer is complaining about management.  Deadspin has the rundown. [deadspin]

This is an interesting article about the relationship between alcohol and baseball.  In a sport which plays games in Busch Stadium, Coors Field, and Miller Park, do you think things are going to change anytime soon?  [Pocono Record]

You might have heard the awful tale of Bryan Snow by now.  Mr.  Snow, a Giants fan, was beaten almost to death in Los Angeles on opening day during a game between the Giants and Dodgers.  Now, Mr. Snow’s family is suing  the Los Angeles Dodgers over the lack of security which they allege  led to Mr. Snow’s condition.  [Seattle Times]

Speaking of Mr. Snow, one of the saddest things about this story is that Mr. Snow has two small children.  Barry Bonds, the former Giants superstar and current convict, has put up the money to send the two children to college. [MSNBC]

The Politics of the Diamond: How Baseball Endures

Politics of the Diamond

Sports are  having all kinds of trouble in 2011. You may have heard The NFL is enduring a lockout, that the NBA has one looming.  Baseball, however, seems to be the only sport continuing without some sort of labor debacle–despite the fact that the current collective bargaining agreement (the rules which players and owners agree to) expires in December.  Yes, it seems that baseball will continue, even though the Major Leagues face their own crises.

Although the NBA had a shortened season in 1998-99, the most devastating work stoppage in America’s big 3 sports was the 1994 MLB strike.  (The worst strike of all would be the 2004-05 NHL strike, but that’s a story for another time).  The 1994 baseball season ended abruptly in August that year, and no post-season was held.  People were pissed.  After the strike ended, attendance and TV ratings plummeted.  Baseball was in shambles.  Not until Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr, and Mark McGuire’s home run races of the late 90s did baseball really recover.  Of course, that solution only created more problems.

All of this is to say that baseball, more than any other sport, realizes the perils of cancelling games, and it makes sense that they are doing what it takes to keep baseball being played.  While football owners seem content to cancel one or even two seasons of football, baseball owners know what happens if that occurs–and its not good.  Hopefully football and basketball won’t have to learn these lessons the hard way.

Not to say that baseball doesn’t have its own problems.  It does–and they are significant.  First of all, people aren’t coming to see baseball at the same rate as they have been.  Whether it is the weather, or the quality of ball being played, or just the behavior of the fans in the stands, people aren’t showing up–and baseball’s leaders don’t seem to care.  This, in my opinion, is a mistake.  This is a problem that is going to have to be addressed–Barry Bonds isn’t walking through that door (because he’s headed to prison).  Furthermore, baseball has two ownership crises with some of its marquee franchises–the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Although these problems are sure to be solved, they point to some unhealthiness in the league, for sure.

No matter what the problems with baseball, the sport is resilient and defies expectations.  For instance, although it is the only major American sport without a salary cap, it has crowned nine different champions in ten different years–giving it sport’s greatest parity.  And although attendance appears to be waning, baseball still draws more fans than the NFL, NHL, and NBA do combined.  And even though MLB has some seriously draconian video policies, it’s online subscription model is fantastic (seriously, it’s great.  I have, and I love it).   So, while other sports are headed for some real labor struggles this year, baseball steers clear.  Which gives it plenty of time and effort to spend dealing with its other, equally significant, problems.

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of the Diamond

Politics of the Diamond


Francisco Liriano tossed the first no-hitter of 2011 for the Minnesota Twins.  Even though he walked 6 guys, a no hitter is impressive regardless. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]

discussed declining attendance at MLB parks in this space before.  While baseball fans may be worried that people aren’t coming out to see the nation’s past time, Bud Selig isn’t. [SI]

The Indians–yes, the ones from Cleveland–are perched atop the AL Central, a full 4.5 games clear of Kansas City–who is in second place.  The AL Central is certainly topsy-turvy this year.  The real question?  Are these Indians as good as the ones from Major League? [The Big Lead]

The Yankee’s accidentally leaked a spreadsheet containing the personal information of 20,000 of their season ticket holders.  Deadspin correctly calls this controversy “Spam Yankees.” [Deadspin]

The Dodgers’ front office gets uglier and uglier by the day.  It now appears that Frank McCourt, the Dodgers owner, doesn’t have the cash to cover payroll past May.  [Yahoo!]

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of The Diamond

Politics of the Diamond

There has been a bit of hoopla in the media about an attendance crisis in MLB.  The Big Lead has done some investigating.  Turns out that if your front office makes an effort to put a good team on the field consistently, fans show up to games.  How erratic! [The Big Lead]

The Arcade Fire won the Grammy for Album of the Year this year.  Here is a video of them singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” at Wrigley Field. [Deadspin]

Another link cross-pollinating WWG topics is this: a very interesting read about Jeremy Guthrie of the Baltimore Orioles and many other members of the Latter Day Saints faith in Major League Baseball. [Desert News]

Major League Baseball has released their All-Star ballot.  Be sure to fill it out! []

As a Cardinals fan, I hate it when the Cubs do well.  And that means I’ve spent a lot of time over the past two years being mad at Starlin Castro, the Cub’s young and promising shortstop.  Although this article’s title may be a bit racist, the content is very interesting–its about Starlin and his climb to the majors from his Dominican roots. [Yahoo!]

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