Monday, January 31, 2011

Ted Williams Chapter SABR Day Recap

My wife and I attended yesterday's Ted Williams Chapter SABR meeting.  It was, as always, a great forum and there was a lively discussion.  The meeting started at 0900 and ran until at least 1300; she and I had to leave to relieve our baby sitter, otherwise we would have stayed for the entire program.

John Ingham gave a talk on an article he recently wrote about the 1967 Pirates.  The 1966 Pittsburgh team finished 22 games over .500 and 3 games behind the Dodgers for the NL title.  Many pundits thought all the Pirates needed was improvement at third and in the rotation, which they thought they achieved through trade in the off-season, most notably by acquiring Maury Wills from Los Angeles.

That 1967 edition didn't fare nearly as well as expected, finishing at .500, 20 1/2 games behind the Cardinals.  Mr. Ingham went on to say the team was reported by contemporary press as 'wracked with dissention' in the clubhouse, which likely contributed to their poor performance on the field, and what he thought contributed to that dissention.  I will not give away his thoughts - the article is under consideration for publication at NINE, a journal of baseball history and culture published by the University of Nebraska Press - but I will tell you his thesis centers around three large personalities.  Roberto Clemente, Wills, and manager Harry 'The Hat' Walker.  It was quite interesting.

On an unrelated subject, I finally got some insight why Joe Morgan was traded from Houston to Cincinnati (Walker landed as manager there after being fired by Pittsburgh during the 1967 season), and I look at the famous Juan Marichal/Johnny Roseboro brawl in a new way.

Next we heard from David Nuffer, a Ernest Hemingway buff.  One might wonder what place a Hemingway discussion has in a baseball forum.  Aside from this being a learned group (yes, shameless intellectual promotion there), Hemingway was a bit of a baseball fan.  According to Nuffer, he played baseball in high school, and while living in Cuba built a makeshift baseball field on his estate for the local boys to use.  In fact, one of those boys became his majordomo, and eventually published a memoir of those days titled Hemingway's Cuban Son.

Nuffer is a man of some local fame; apparently he held up signs behind the first base dugout back in the Jack Murphy days.  He is a character, pulling out a card which had a herald piece on it, and saying after it finished "I need a proper introduction."  I would have liked to have known him when he was younger and not wheelchair bound.

Anyway he talked about The Old Man and The Sea, one of Hemingway's great works.  In the pages of that novel there are 7 references to baseball, and embedded in those passages are 9 references to Joe DiMaggio - 'the Great Dimaggio', as the old man calls him.  Finally he concluded by reading from the only poem Hemingway is known to have written, called 'The Opening Game' (1912).  A great presentation; it was worth making the drive to Petco just to hear him speak.

After the break,

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Bartlett Deal and Trevor Hoffman

Padres Trail:  The Cutting Edge of commentary on stories at least 24 hours old.

The Padres signed Jason Bartlett to a 2-year deal worth $11 million guaranteed.  There is a club option for a third year at $5.5M, with a $1.5M buyout.  Cot's Baseball Contracts reports the contract is incentivized, meaning Bartlett may guarantee the third year if he meets certain performance thresholds.  They don't tell you what those are sadly.  So much for the 'Is Jason Bartlett returning in 2013' meter I was planning to put in the margin.

Assuming both Orlando Hudson and Bartlett play in San Diego for the duration of their contracts, 2011/2012 will be the first 2-year stretch with the same two men playing second and short, respectively, since 2004/2005 (Mark Loretta and Khalil Greene, if you are interested).  That's a lot of turnover in the middle infield over the past 5 seasons.  No wonder GM Jed Hoyer made it a priority to stabilize the situation at those two positions.

How good of a deal is this?  Fangraphs' Eno Sarris discussed it yesterday and thinks the Padres spent wisely.  I don't see a reason to disagree with his logic, although how good a signing this is will depend largely on whether Bartlett can remain healthy all season.  If, as Sarris supposes, the dramatic decline in his range last season is due to lower body injuries, then hopefully he (and the Padres training staff) can develop a strategy to prevent that.

Trevor Hoffman has officially retired, and has been invited to become a part of the Padre front office for 2011.  I didn't realize he is 43 years old.  Trevor leaves the game as it's all-time saves leader, and the only man to save 600 games in a career.  I would imagine the Padres will retire his number at some point this season.

There are a couple of things I like about how he's handled his departure from the game.
  1. No one-day contract.  This always struck me as silly.  Great players have already cemented their place in their fan's hearts.  Besides, great players have a lot of great highlights, and those highlights showcase the player in the uniform of the team he played on when he was making them.  You ever see highlights of Gretzky wearing a St Louis Blues uniform?  Of course not - he was only there a couple of months, but also he wasn't the sublime player he was with Edmonton and Los Angeles (heck, even with the New York Rangers he was pretty OK).  Hoffman will be shown getting #600 as a Brewer until Mariano Rivera breaks his record.  Then his highlight clips will revert to ones from the mid- and late-1990s when he dominated the NL.
  2. Has a plan.  How many players leave the league and just play golf until they get restless?  Hoffman is interested in the business side of the game, and is looking to find his next niche. Give the Padres credit for allowing him the time to determine where he fits in best.
That's all for now.  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

You may already know this, but anyway

I'm doing some research for an article on Randy Jones (which will appear on Wednesday), and discovered something interesting.

- In 1973 Randy Jones was promoted from AA to the majors.  He eventually won a Cy Young award (1976).

- In 2002 Jake Peavy was promoted from AA to the majors.  He eventually won a Cy Young award (2007).

In 2009 Mat Latos was promoted from AA to the majors.  I wonder...

I will be posting more frequently now.  Sorry for the long absence.