The Baseball Report Volume IV Issue 20
February 8, 2001
From The Editor,
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From the Mound Up…MLB Pitchers Look for an Advantage by Eric D. Larson
Ten years ago, there was considerable doubt if any player would ever break
Roger Maris’ single-season home-run record. In 1998, it was not beaten – it
was demolished, twice.
Some analysts contended that the idea of sixty homers was more of a mental obstacle rather than a physical one. Therefore, when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were able to share the lime light and foster a bit of friendly competition, it was a more relaxing venue for crushing homers. It was nice for them, but bad for pitchers; the mound-dwellers are still living in an unfriendly era of Major League Baseball.
Today’s offensive spectacle is probably not the result of a new baseball
design or any other unfounded conspiracy theory. It can, however, be linked
to recent league expansion and watered-down pitching. Some recent
discussions in professional baseball circles have considered raising the
mound, allowing pitchers the higher ground and a stronger advantage. Such
was the case before 1969, when the mound was a full five inches higher than
the current altitude.
A pitcher’s basic motion is a function of simple leverage – the forward
shifting of the body combined with the downward motion of the arm,
propelling the player forward and thrusting his projectile toward the plate.
The taller the pitcher, or the longer the arm, the more
leverage and thus
more velocity on the ball. Also, greater height on the pitcher’s mound can
create a steeper gradient for the pitcher to travel while he throws,
accelerating his body and the force of his pitch. While these facts are
seemingly indisputable, whether or not this actually makes a tremendous
difference is up for speculation.
Robert Adair is a Yale University professor and the author of “The Physics
of Baseball.” In his book, he asserts that “If they raise the mound say two
inches, the pitcher is probably stepping down an extra inch. It changes the
But fans have to wonder if players and physicists are making mountains out
of molehills. Considering some of the gruesome ERA’s plotted last season,
not even Mt. Everest would have made a difference.
Perhaps the pitchers’ woes cannot be solved by field manipulation, but
rather by a change in the way the game is umpired. Officials have had
considerable freedom in their own singular interpretation of the strike
zone. Some in fact have constricted the zone, compared to previous years,
giving sluggers the opportunity to wait for their perfect pitch. Also, the
batters’ increasing tendency to crowd the plate became an issue last summer,
punctuated by Carl Everett and his run-in with the league.
Major League pitchers are waiting for the pendulum to swing their direction
once again. After all, pitcher’s duels can have their share of excitement.
ESPN’s SportsCenter honored the Pedro Martinez/Roger Clemens match-up as one
of the best games of 2000. But, it is difficult to resist the theory that
fans have turned out in large part because of recent offensive air-shows.
After all, while tons of spectators may line the stands for the Home Run
Derby each year, few would stick around for an exposition on the
split-fingered curve ball.
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The View From The Cheap Seats by Hollis T. Russell
Senator Ted Kennedy
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20530
Dear Uncle Teddy,
Please forgive the familiar greeting, but since you have more nieces and nephews than Carter has pills, I thought it might help ease your troubled mind. So, how is the little lady? And the family? And the money? OK, pleasantries aside, BREAK UP THE YANKEES!
As a constituent and a voter from the Common wealth of Massachusetts, the subject of Major League Baseball’s exemption from the antitrust laws enacted by the body of which you are a member goes against the grain of fairness and equality to all. The Sherman Antitrust Act has been the umbrella of protection expressing our national commitment to a free market economy in which competition free from private and governmental restraints has stood since 1890. Congress felt so strongly about this commitment that there was only a single dissenting vote. The Sherman Act outlaws all contracts, combinations and conspiracies that restrain interstate trade and makes it a crime to monopolize any part of interstate commerce. A monopoly exists when an industry provides a product that is not necessarily superior but suppresses competition with anticompetitive conduct. This type of conduct encourages price-fixing conspiracies when there are relatively few organizations that control the industry.
TheU.S. Supreme Court explained in their ruling against the Northern Pacific Railway Company in 1958 that:
The Sherman Act was designed to be a comprehensive charter of economic
liberty aimed at preserving free and unfettered competition as the rule of trade.
It rests on thepremise that the unrestrained interactionof competitive forces will
yield the best allocation of our economic resources, the lowest prices, the
highest quality and the greatestmaterial progress, while at the same time
providing an environment conducive to the preservation of our democratic
political and social institutions.
Still with me?
The Clayton Act, another major federal antitrust law passed in 1914, prohibits mergers or acquisitions that are likely to lesson competition. Under Clayton, the federal government challenges those mergers that are likely to increase prices to John Q.Public. A provision of this act permits private parties injured by an antitrust violation to sue in federal court for three times their actual damages plus court costs and attorneys’ fees.
Now pay attention here Ted, this is where it gets a little dicey. In this country, competition policy can be undermined to achieve other goals. Certain businesses are exempt from our antitrust laws including the business of baseball. In 1922, Mr. Justice Holmes, in a fit of sentimentality,delivered the opinion of the Supreme Court in the case of “Federal BaseballClub of Baltimore, Inc. v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, Et Al.”, that our national pastime is not commerce within the reach of the antitrust laws. Further, it held that an action for triple damages under the Antitrust Acts could not be maintained by a baseball club against baseball leagues and their constituent clubs, joined with individuals, for an alleged conspiracy to monopolize the baseball business resulting injuriously to the plaintiff. One might notice at this juncture, that this ruling pluralized the words act, league and club. Talk about covering your bases, legalese to baseball’s rescue!
Senator, this background information is just to refresh your memory. As a man with thirty odd years in Washington, this should be water off a duck’s back. Meanwhile, back at the ranch. It is one thing to be critical of the Yankee’s bankroll and their ability to attract the best players with it, but quite another to realize they have invested wisely in their acquisitions and made good decisions. But, as Bud Selig said in an interview with the "Sporting News” on August 24th, 1998, “We must reduce the disparity that currently exists among club payrolls.” In order to accomplish this, MLB and the players’ union must agree on a salary cap that is similar to the one in place in the “National Football League.” Yet Selig can only mumble the term “salary restraint” before reaching for the nitro least he suffer an angina attack.
Along with the need for a salary cap is another item that must be addressed, revenue-sharing. Currently, MLB does have a system in place to share television revenue. It amounts to about $14 million a year per team. In the NFL, they split a $17 billion dollar television package, roughly $53 million per team. The NFL has achieved parity. Last Sunday, Baltimore beat Oakland for the AFC title and the right to represent that conference in the Super Bowl. If memory serves, the last time either the A’s or the Orioles were in the World Series was in 1990 when Oakland lost to Cincinnati, another small market team. Since the strike that ended the 1994 season and cancelled the World Series and extended into the 1995 season, the Houston Astros are the only club with a payroll in the lower tier of salaries that has made it into the playoffs. They have since opened up the wallet and joined in the hysteria of increased spending to stay competitive but have lost around $100 million in doing so. The owner of the Texas Rangers, Tom Hicks, who made “Dubya’s” investment group millionaires many times over, was quoted as calling the owners’ spending the actions of a “drunken sailor.” Not to be left out in the cold, Hicks recently leaped into the fray by signinglefties Oliver and Rogers to contracts worth $42 million. Then, he goes out and signs A-Rod to a contract worth more than the gross national product of most third-world nations. $252 million dollars? For a shortstop? Ted, this guy is in your league now. It might be a good idea to send him some of that special issue you boys keep for yourselves. Spread the wealth, when you run with the big dogs, you have to get off the porch.
At the present time, MLB is alone of all billion-dollar industries not subject to antitrust legislation. This results in baseball franchises continuing to remain in the same city. Since it takes the approval of 75% of the owners to move to a more lucrative location, it seldom happens. Football franchises move, seemingly at will under the cloak of night bringing about revenue-sharing and better broadcasting deals for the good of each team in the league.
The owners of the franchises in MLB only discuss revenue-sharing in conjunction with a salary cap. Their real intentionis to bust the Players Association. If revenue-sharing and a salary cap are not adopted, entire teams could fold and expansion will turn into contraction as MLB may be forced to buy some small market teams and combine them.
If the rumors become fact and there is a strike after the 2001 season, it is going to be Katy bar the door for MLB. It took over two years for the fans to return to the ballparks after the last strike, maybe this time they will not return at all. Ted, call out the Coast Guard and the Mounted Police. Tell them to arrest every member of congress and deliver them to a joint session in Washington, we just gotta’ save the game.
Love and kisses from the cheap seats.
John Q. Public and the Legionnaires
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A Fan's Take by Jeff Gambino
When I saw the Johnny Damon for Roberto Hernandez trade, it occurred to me that sometimes I may be too hard on Ed Wade and that their are some other real turkeys currently populating the GM ranks. The ratings below are based mostly on results with the major caveat that where results are similar, the tie-breaker is money at the GM's disposal.
1. Brian Cashman: Look, 3 World Titles is just too difficult to argue with. Yes, he has a boatload of money available, but you know what, so do a fair amount of other GMs and the Yanks still win.
2. Billy Beane: I tried all sorts of ways to make this guy my first choice. He's simply brilliant and, more or less, my idol. He knows that the keys to offensive happiness are walks and homers, not batting avg. and steals. The A's won a division with a payroll 16 million dollars less than the Phils.
3. Walt Jocketty: A reach? Maybe, but outside of the recent Tatis trade, I like how this guy operates. He sees a need, he fills the need. Need a power hitter? Get McGwire for a song (from Beane oddly enough). Need a 2b? Trade for Vina. Need veteran starting pitching? Go sign a Benes, Hentgen, and Kile. Also has boldly drafted some Boras guys in Ankiel and Drew that will help the team for years. Has shown recently an unhealthy fascination with average lefty relievers, but no one's perfect.
4. Pat Gillick: Yes, I know, the Mariners let go of three of the top 10 players in the game, but I think he was in a difficult spot in all of those situations and came out ok. With Johnson, he got two pretty darn good pitchers from the Astros. With Griffey, he did the best he could with a guy who demanded to be traded to one team and one team only. With Rodriguez, well, I'm sorry, but I can't in good conscience blame someone for refusing to spend 25 million dollars a year on one guy. And, to Gillick's credit, they don't let the money they save on these players sit around(Sasaki, Suzuki, Olerud, Sele, etc.)
5. Brian Sabean: The Giants have a payroll right in the middle and consistently finish at or near the top of the NL West despite other teams in their division spending considerably more than them.
6. Steve Phillips: Got to the NLCS and World Series in the last couple of years. I don't know that he does anything truly inspired, though I love his bullpen, but the results have been pretty good recently. He's not higher because the Mets have tons of money to spend and because he was stupid enough to sign Rey Ordonez for four years.
7. John Schuerholz: This is the one I expect to get the most grief over. So many division titles and playoff appearances and such. But I mean, for the last 6 or 7 years, Schuerholz had the luxury of never having to go after a frontline starter (something no other team could also claim), and yet he could never quite find the right offensive combination to get them over the hump besides in 95. He's certainly no idiot, consistent success is hard to maintain, but I think there should have been more. Oh, and I think his moves this offseason positively stink.
8. John Hart: Similar scenario to Schuerholz. Rarely had to worry about offense or bullpen, just needed the Ace, and never got it. He was the guy who started the trend of locking up your younger players to avoid salary arb. Smart.
The next best:
9. Dave Dombrowski: This is another rather controversial ranking. I know, I know, the Marlins have one of the worst 3 yr. records in baseball, but let's face it, they had NO money. When they did have money, in 97, Dombrowski promptly went out and bought a World Series. How many of the GMs on this list from the mid and small market teams would know how to do that if put in a similar position. Also, when he did have to do the firesale, he managed to get some pretty decent prospects.
10. Jim Bowden: Opportunistic, works with resources as limited as the Phils. Has identified two untradeable players on his team and locked them up (Larkin, Griffey). Everyone else is fair game. I must say tho that I think SOMEtimes he makes trades just for the sake of making them. And I disagree with his philosophy of not wanting to lock up his young players to avoid salary arb because it would limit his flexibility.
11. Doug Melvin: A couple division titles, trading Juan Gone at just the right time. My thing is that while I'm all for hitting first, pitching second, the Rangers philosophy last year and this year coming seems to be hitting first, pitching 10th.
12. Gerry Hunsicker: Central titles for a while before this year. In fact, if not for the last 9 months or so, Hunsicker would be much higher on my list, but some things have rankled me about him recently, not the least of which, i think he got taken to the cleaners by Randy Smith (Randy BLEEPIN Smith) in the Meluskey trade.
13. Gord Ash: The Blue Jays of late sum up Ash's ranking. Good, always hanging around the top, but never quite with the best. He only has the 22nd largest payroll so he's making due. His pilfering of Tony Batista from the DBacks could soon rank as one of the top 3 trades of the 90s.
14. Dan O'Dowd: Only been in charge for a year with the Rox, but I like the way he's trying to think a bit more creatively about his team and not getting lured into directly comparing Rox hitters to other teams hitters (witness the letting go of Hammonds this year). I'm not sure I agree with 8 years for Hampton (tho I love hampton) and signing a fly ball pitcher like Neagle. But sometimes you have to overpay to get pitching when you have a hitter's haven like Coors Field.
15. Kevin Towers: Got the Pads to a Series in 98 when told to go spend money.
Results haven't been great recently since they had to pare down payroll but slowly bringing them back to respectability. Ashby for Eaton was a good trade on his part.
Mediocre at Best:
16. Dan Duquette: Does some positively inspired things (letting Mo Vaughn go, trading and locking up Pedro) and some absolutely baffling things (letting Clemens leave, trading for Lansing and Bichette). He's got the payroll so an ALCS two seasons ago won't cut it. Also, he has shown absolutely NO people skills whatsoever as he ticks off his manager, his fans, his players, and other general managers at will. It's fine to be a bit ruthless but that has to have some limits.
17. Joe Garagiola: The DBacks won a couple of division titles early in their existence but I think they may have sold their souls to do it. Jay Bell, Stottlemyre, Williams, and Grace's contracts will hang around their necks as they slide down the ranks. Plus they continue to spend with abandon despite whining about how cash poor they are. Schilling and Johnson will prevent the slide from being too rapid. They could sure use Batista now.
18. Andy MacPhail: Got a playoff appearance out of the Cubs three seasons ago but that club clearly wasn't built for the long haul and that was odd considering that the Cubs didn't necessarily have to pare down payroll, they just were old, kinda like the Wheeze kids just not as successful. He is like a benign tumor, he's not that harmful, just not that beneficial to the team.
19 tie - Jim Beattie and Ed Wade: These two don't have a lot of cards with which to deal, and they do lock up the young guys until free agency. They even make a great trade once in a while (Tatis for Expos, Abreu for the Phils) but it's what they do with the money they do get to spend that keeps them down on the list. If I finally had money to spend after years of being held back, I'm fairly certain it wouldn't have been spent on Hideki Irabu and Graeme Lloyd. And it DEFINITELY wouldn't have been spent on Jose Mesa and Brian Hunter. Don't tell me it can't be done because people like Beane, Bowden and the White Sox have shown it can.
The Magnificently Bad 7
21. Cam Bonifay: He's similar to Beattie and Wade but he seems to make MORE stupid signings with the money he has. Derek Bell? Kevin Young? Pat Meares?!! You add the salaries of those 3 nearly league worst at their position players up and you get a Mike Mussina. Keeping Kendall was good, trading for and signing Giles was great, but he's an absolute dummie when it comes to spending money on free agents.
22. Dean Taylor: This guy could be just as bad as people below him but since he has so little money, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt over them. That said, the Cirillo trade was dumb and the Jeffrey Hammonds signing was moronic. Hey Bud, maybe Brewers' fans have so little hope because of their GM, not their small market.
23. Bill Stoneham: The Angels have some money, they just never spend it well and lack all sorts of imagination. They overpaid for Mo Vaughn, they got snookered for Jim Edmonds, they haven't had pitching in years and have shown no inclination to correct this issue. I originally had Stoneham as the worst of all the GMs until I realized that the Angels only had the 18th highest salary last year. Still, he can do better.
24. Randy Smith: This guy's has made alot of dumb moves over the years but recently has shown signs of coming out of this. He started the trend of dumping Brian Hunter which is always admirable, he gave up too much for Juan Gonzales but he was trying to build excitement around the opening of the park. Love the Meluskey trade, the Tigers could definitely win the weakened AL central.
25. Chuck Lamar: Ok, this guy's a dope. Traded Abreu for Stocker (could be one of the worst 5 trades of the 90s), was allowed to have one of the top 10 payrolls in the league last year and showed that he had no idea how to use it signing old and bad sluggers. The one odd thing is how he has recently done well in trading with one of the best GMs in the league (getting Grieve for Hernandez and also getting Jesus Colome for a middle reliever).
26. Syd Thrift: Sooooo much money, sooooo much incompetence. I thought this
year that, while they were trading all their expensive veterans away for very little, it was still a great move because these vets weren't doing much and it would open up alot of payroll room to manuever this offseason, or, alternatively it would allow young players to not be stuck behind high-priced, medium-talent players. Well, that went out the window when they let Mussina go and then struck out on some of the better players available. Instead of realizing that they should probably just bite the bullet and ride out a lousy year while looking at young players, they went and locked up Bordick, Segui and Hentgen (the Phillies even passed on this guy). Bordick's not bad, and Segui and Hentgen do their average jobs at well above average salaries. Dumb Dumb Dumb.
27. Kevin Malone: How has this yutz not been fired yet? He had the 2nd highest payroll last year and couldn't make the friggin playoffs? Come on... last year was NOT all Davey Johnson's fault. And no, signing a guy who isn't even .500 for his career to 8 digit salaries (Dreifort) is NOT the way to get you better.
I did not rate three GM's Allard Baird (Royals), Jerry Williams (White Sox) and Terry Ryan (Twins). The first two because they were just too new (tho Baird has already gotten off to a bad start) and Terry Ryan because he just has so little money at his disposal, I wouldn't know where to put him (tho non-tendering Coomer is a nice move).
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