Remembering Tom Seaver

As the month of August gave way to September, one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history fell victim to a combination of Lewy body dementia and Covid-19.

Tom Seaver was likely the best pitcher it was ever my privilege to watch. His fastball, powered by the bets use of powerful legs of any pitcher ever, was dominant, and he threw it with such consistency and accuracy that a hitter who wasn’t aggressive at the plate against him would find himself in an 0–2 hole very quickly.

But try and gear up for that fastball, and he’d throw a slider that looked for all the world like a mistake pitch right down the middle until it seemed to dive into the dirt. Seaver also had an outstanding 12-to-6 curveball that forced hitters to bend the knee, and something sort of like a knuckle curve, a slow and deceptive pitch that seemed to tease its way past a hitter.

There’s a reason Tom Seaver struck out 3,640 hitters and led the league in strikeouts five times.Continue reading “Remembering Tom Seaver”

Where’s the case against Clemens?

Roger Clemens, in terms of greatness and longevity is not only the best pitcher I’ve ever seen, he has a strong case for having been the best ever. Barry Bonds is the all-time home run king, as a hitter can only be discussed with Babe Ruth and Ted Williams and as an all-around player, only with Ruth.

Bonds has clearly fallen from grace and his accomplishments have been tainted in everyone’s minds. Now, Clemens faces a similar fate.

But for the life of me, I don’t understand why.

Roger Clemens swearing in

I’m not going to contend that Clemens is telling the truth and never took HGH or steroids. I have no idea whether he did or didn’t. But that’s really the point—I have no idea. And I can’t see how anyone outside of Clemens, Brian McNamee and anyone who might have actually seen McNamee inject Clemens with something they knew beyond a doubt was a Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) can claim to either.

I’m not surprised that most fans have already convicted Clemens. He’s an unappealing figure, the whole steroids era has seriously bruised baseball fans, and the media have spent over a decade now whipping up a self-righteous frenzy over the issue to such an extent that any accusation of use is immediately treated as conclusive proof that the player used.

What I do find so puzzling, though, is that not only does the government seem to think they have a strong case for perjury against Clemens, the legal experts who are weighing in on the issue are giving Clemens only a tiny chance of beating the rap.

I’m not a lawyer, so I can only assume I’m missing something here, but whatever it is must be gargantuan and I wish one of these lawyers would explain what it is.Continue reading “Where’s the case against Clemens?”

Interesting Teams: 2008 AL

A few years ago, that master of anti-marketing his own product, Bud Selig, made the absurd statement that in any given year, fans of more than half of the teams in MLB don’t have any “hope and faith” due to the imbalanced market.

The statement was false on its face. In all of baseball history, no era has come close to matching the competitive balance that has existed in baseball since the free agent era began. Facile evidence supporting Selig’s claim at the time was available in the Yankees’ string of world championships from 1996-2000 (like that hadn’t happened before), missing a beat only in 1997. But since the Yankee run ended, only one team has more than one world championship and they hadn’t won since 1918. Plenty of teams on tight budgets have won and made the playoffs in the past 20 years.

That said, there is some serious bifurcation in MLB on 2008. The disparity between the vastly superior American League and the weaker Senior Circuit remains very pronounced. And while the NL, in part due to its overall mediocrity, is a pretty wide open affair, the AL has five teams who seem likely to contend for the four playoff spots, and really only two or three others who could possibly edge into the race with big years and some help from injuries or surprising collapses from the Big Five. Those five would be the Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, Tigers and Angels. Continue reading “Interesting Teams: 2008 AL”

A Surprising Winner This Off-Season: The Oakland A’s

As the Hot Stove League season winds down and gives way to the annual rebirth that is spring training, writers start to assess who the winners and losers were in the off-season. I’m not going to do that, but if I were to, I think I’d be putting a team in the winner’s column with a bullet that most others would rank as losers. That team is the Oakland Athletics.

But wait, you say, the A’s traded their best pitcher and their best position player for a bunch of guys we’ve never heard of. How can that be a win for the A’s? It can be and it was, but to understand it, you have to step back and do a sober analysis of A's GM Billy Beanewhere the A’s were at the end of 2007.

Coming off their first ever playoff victory in 2006, the ’07 A’s rolled the dice with a lot of iffy and unhealthy players and it came up snake eyes, a 76-86 record, a third place finish and the first losing season for the franchise since 1998. In and of itself, that’s no reason to panic. Teams have down years where the injury bug and a few problems dog them down.

But this team had no future. Several players who were supposed to form the core of the A’s franchise for years had faltered. Eric Chavez’s back problems have led to spiraling production three years in a row and it doesn’t look like he is physically capable of being the player he once promised to be, or even once was. Rich Harden had the best stuff of any pitcher the A’s have developed in recent years, but after three years of constant injury, it is clear he cannot be relied on. Bobby Crosby has proven not only to be unhealthy, but also not to be anywhere near the player, offensively or defensively, that the A”s thought he would be when they let Miguel Tejada walk.

Couple those things with several poor drafts which left the A’s once-envied minor league system with only a few prospects who had any sort of major-league future, and you start to see what Billy Beane saw. Sure, with guys like Nick Swisher, Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, Huston Street, Travis Buck and Daric Barton they had the core of a decent team, and a few shrewd moves and lucky breaks could put them on the outside track for wild card contention for a few years.

But the simple fact was they had no chance to put together a team that was a legitimate contender within the next few years. Most GMs would flail about, finding a few players to plug in who could help boost the team above .500. And, if the A’s played in the National League, where the best teams are not nearly as good as the best of the AL, Beane might have done that. But if he had, that would have been because he would have had sufficient resources to field a team that could have challenged the best in the league. Continue reading “A Surprising Winner This Off-Season: The Oakland A’s”