Elmhurst Pub Roundtable

Where the beer is cold and the conversation loud...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Goodbye 300 Game Winner

22 players have reached that magical win number of 300, most recently Clemens and Maddux. But that trend will all but vanish in the coming years. To me, that's a shame. This was a number similar to 400 home runs for hitters. It's a number that means Hall of Fame. But several things have caused this number to all but disappear in the coming years - 5 man rotations, pitch counts, reliance on bullpens, innings limits, you name it. How can a young pitcher rack up wins if people are so afraid of letting them pitch? These players are on such strict pitch counts that they hand the ball to the bullpen after 5 or 6 innings and then are reduced to spectators, hoping that they come out on top. The Red Sox organization is one of the great offenders of this. Papelbon last year was placed on such a strict limit that they sent him back down so he could work out of the bullpen and see reduced innings. He had been dominant in his few appearances, but he'd pitched too much according to management. The same is being done this year with Lester. Let's be certain that these are not really "young" pitchers. Papelbon is 25, a four year college veteran. Lester I believe is 23 or 24 and has been in pro ball for a couple years now.

More teams are doing this as well. The Twins have one of the best young pitchers in the game in Francisco Liriano, but started him out of the bullpen in order to conserve his arm. The Tigers will be doing it with Verlander later this year. A host of other young arms will suffer the same fate. But why does this have to be? Throwing programs are being developed left and right. They have more time between starts, more medical advances, and then the fact that your arm gets stronger the more you throw (within reason). But not anymore. Protect these young players, coddle them, don't let them go too long. Yet with all this, pitchers are spending more time on the DL than ever before. What gives? If pitchers were spending less time on it with fewer days off and more pitches being thrown, what has happened to this current crop? I look at all the young talent in the majors and minors (Papelbon, Lester, Verlander, Blanton, Harden, Hamels, etc.) and wonder why we aren't seeing such sure fire Hall of Fame arms that we were allowed to see when a 23 year old Clemens broke into the majors and was allowed to throw 254 innings in 1986 and win 24 games. Then a 34 year old Clemens threw 262 innings to win a Cy Young in Toronto. These innings didn't put a hurt on his career (regardless if you believe steroid rumors).

Bullpen talent is spread so thin across the majors that these young pitchers who come out early are losing games. Their teams aren't winning because they aren't being allowed to go long enough. And commentators, reporters, and all media harp on pitch counts all too much. I don't care if the guy threw 90 pitches or 150 pitches as long as he doesn't get hurt, is still effective and pitches consistently. No one else should either. Instead all these statistics have let us measure future performance after certain dates and pitch totals and make fictitious correlations that have no mathematical relevance and no physical relevance as NO ONE knows how a pitcher feels except the pitcher.

So who can do it right now? Glavine has 275 wins, Big Unit has 264. But then only Wells, Mussina, Moyer, and Brown have more than 200 wins (Pedro has 197, Schilling 199). We should see, however many years from now, those young players above mentioned. Maybe Colon and Pettite who have outside shots. But don't look at that active wins leaders, when #30 on it is 35 year old Jon Lieber. Let's say pitchers average 17 wins a year through their 38th birthday. Maybe that's not right, but give injuries, missed starts, or whatever else some consideration and it's close. Currently, there is not one "young" pitcher who would do it. Not Santana (projected 244 wins), not Zito (289), Sabathia (264), Halladay or Wood (263 each), or Buehrle (275). So, say hello to 250, it's the new 300.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Interleague Play

It's time for the fad to stop. I have some reasons for my opinion here, but overall I'm just tired of the whole idea. It's always best to begin at the beginning, so we'll start there.

This weekend, all the hype was on the natural rivalries - White Sox v. Cubs, Mets v. Yankees, San Fran v. Oakland, LA vs. LAA, etc. This is fine, but then they come up with the other natural rivalries - Philly v. Boston, Toronto v. Colorado, San Diego v. Seattle, and a host of others that make little to no sense. You can't create hostilities between two teams. Just impossible. You can't have teams like Toronto and Colorado, who are relatively new franchises in the grand scheme of things, fight it out and expect fans to get into it like they would for a division game. And we see 6 of these games, as each team hosts a three game set. And for the most part even the teams involved in the good rivalries are getting sick of it. These games aren't special like they were when the idea was first introduced. If the Mets and Yankees play every year, it's not as special as if it were to happen every 3 years or so. Granted, there was tremendous intensity between the White Sox and Cubs this weekend, but that wasn't the case in all these matchups. I mean, I didn't see that kind of fight in the Tampa v. Florida games or St. Louis v. Kansas City. These might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but hasn't exactly worked out in many cases.

Additionally, each team within a division might not necessarily play the same teams. This is especially important in divisions with tight races. The Yankees have to play a really good Mets team 6 times this year. The Red Sox get a bad Phillies squad. The Blue Jays, looking to compete this year, get a worse Colorado team. Another problem is that this was put into place so fans could get to see more teams and different teams. At this rate, it will take some ballparks 30 years to see every team. Took that straight from Joe Buck. As much as I hate the guy, it was an interesting fact to throw out there. And in all these games, the National League has a slight advantage. If the game is played in the NL, then their pitchers usually hit. If it's played in the AL park, then they get to add another bat to the lineup. It hurts teams like Boston and Cleveland even more, as players like Ortiz and Hafner, who don't normally play the field are relegated to a position they don't play well or to the bench, with their team losing out on some potent offense.

So it's a lot of things for me and I'm ready to see this either revisited so that teams play every team and not these stupid natural rivals or to see them get rid of the thing entirely. It was fun for a while, but all fads need to come to an end sometime.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Friar Hoops Issues

About a week ago now, Tim Welsh had to make a phonecall that has become all too common in his tenure with the Friars. Welsh needed to contact a recruit who has been charged and implicated in the assault and attempted murder of one of his high school classmates. Brian Rudolph was charged with attempted murder after a party in his hometown of New Bedford, MA. The kid who only emerged on the radar screen of division one coaches following a performance in the Massachusetts division 1 state finals against two future NCAA D-1 ballplayers (including Friars recruit Corey Lowe) had just jeopardized his entire future, forget basketball at all. Coaches say that Rudolph is a good kid, that he used basketball to stay away from the gang violence that has started to plague that area and had never even had a detention. He was looking forward to the Dunk and all that Big East basketball would have to offer. Given the current state of affairs in the guard rotation, he expected to play early and often. Now all that has changed. Providence had not yet accepted his application for admission when this news broke and it now does not seem anywhere near as likely that they will. If this had been the first incident of such behavior among a Welsh recruit, the administration may look the other way. But AD Driscoll and the new president will not likely be as forgiving.

I've given the rundown before of how many players have left the program. We were all witnesses to the issues during our freshman year at the college that left a bouncer in the hospital and players in handcuffs. Add to that, outgoing player Donnie McGrath had his share of problems with both campus and Providence police after an alleged assault on his girlfriend. Welsh had even made the mistake of releasing Corey Lowe from his scholarship, leaving this class shorthanded in the backcourt. This is yet another mistake that this coach has made in evaluating players. Maybe he didn't see this one coming and got blindsided, but the fact that this isn't the first time, that there is a pattern of behavior amongst the players he recruits, does not bode well for a coach who is already on rocky ground according to every high-level official there. Kirchh even let me in on how at a fundraising event in CT, Driscoll praised the work of Phil Seymour (new women's coach), Bob Deraney and the women's hockey team, and the immediate impact Tim Army was having on the Friar hockey program. Nowhere was there mention of the men's basketball team. And there shouldn't have been.

I still maintain that this program will not turn around until a new coach is brought in. There are plenty of candidates available right now and after this season (when a likely buyout has a realistic monetary shot of happening). Look at this quick list - Steve Lavin, Fran Fraschila, Rick Majerus, PJ Carlesimo, Louis Orr, Jim O'Brien, Quinn Snyder (admittedly with baggage), current Nova assistant Ed Pinckney. Plenty of talent out there, someone just has to be willing to go out and get it. And most of these people saw success at one level or another. Not the same can be said for our current fearless leader. But I've made my decision. I won't continue to support Welsh. They can keep my season tickets.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Back again...

So it's been nearly a week, and there are a couple things on my mind. Recently, I was having quite the conversation with a friend of mine out in Chicago about education. It was initially focused on how scholarships are handed out predominantly to minorities and women, leaving most white men out in the cold. I brought up the point that if you have a minority, a woman, and a white male with identical applications, the white man will be the third choice for the job. Part of this is now we are seeing a dramatic increase in the amount of applications submitted to universities by women, and now more than half of med school students are women. None of this is bad, but it's now at a point where white males are becoming a much lower percentage. That conversation led into the education system in general.

It is my belief that the whole thing is messed up. Our public schools continue to cut funding and teachers. Extracurricular activites are limited and the arts are vanishing, towns refuse to raise taxes to allow schools to fill their budgets. Everyone believes their selectmen or the town/city leaders are hiding money. Guess what? They aren't. Mandatory services in towns are being reduced all too regularly. Police officers and firefighters in Massachusetts towns are being lost to budget cuts. Union raises are being questioned. Departments are regularly told that they have to keep expenses flat and are only allowed those salary increases. It makes it impossible to manage budgets.

Americans say they value education. This seems to be an out and out lie. You can't cut these budgets, raise tuition and fees at colleges and universities, have class sizes in elementary schools of 35 and expect a quality education to be given or afforded the majority of the population. In Europe, schools and colleges are funded at the national level, where students are allowed to continue free so long as they meet high standards to attend and maintain student status. Yet America lets the states fund education, making it at the discretion of governments who gets funding and how much they get. How can we claim we value education when we don't fund it at a national level?

In my opinion, this is what has to change and this is what needs to be done. It's time to force the federal government to take responsibility for the national education in the same manner European countries do. While we can't control the wealth of some school districts, we can control the arts and sciences and if they are offered. We can control losing teachers to poor salaries. Half of new teachers are leaving the job within the first five years because their salaries can't cover their expenses. How is this right? Additionally, all state colleges and universities should be free to American citizens. If I wanted to go out to Univ. of Washington, or Univ. of Texas, UMass, URI, UConn, it should be free. These should all be fully government funded so long as you maintain a certain GPA and met certain admission requirements. Fees should be charged for the private institutions - Harvard, PC, BC, etc. In that way, those that can afford to pay for that type of education are still afforded the name institution, but those good students that can't are still given quality education at state universities that in some cases are comparable (UVA, UNC). We complain about how indebted our society is, but it's these college loans that most won't be able to pay off until their early to mid thirties that cause a majority of this debt.

With this level of better and more available (i.e., free) education, it is also time to raise standards. Not everyone with a checkbook should be given a college diploma. It's time to make these diplomas mean something again. At this point, you can almost equate current bachelor's degrees to high school diplomas. Without masters level education, some fields will either find themselves out of work or in a tough position to advance. College is a privilege for those who are academically qualified, not a right for those with money to spend. Elementary, high, and middle schools are a necessity that need to be stocked with good teachers and students with the ability to make something more of the opportunity our government should afford them.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Red Sox Fans

You know, I knew that Damon wasn't going to be cheered for the entire game, but I thought there would be a shred of dignity and respect shown by the Red Sox fans last night when he came to bat in the top of the first inning. Damon probably knew that he was going to be booed last night. But there was probably a decent size part of him that thought he would be cheered for what he did with Boston for four years. Let's face facts, without him Boston is going on 90 years without a World Series title. His heroics against New York in Game 7 are the reason Boston advanced to play St. Louis. His work in the leadoff spot is what got them to that point to begin with. The Red Sox wanted him, but at their price. The front office was in a crazy sort of flux without Epstein and with two general managers. Damon was offered more money by Baltimore than New York. He still wanted to win and wasn't sure that could be done here at that point with Mueller and Millar and Epstein leaving.

But he turned his back on Boston. He left the laundry behind for a pinstriped suit. Told us he'd never play for the Yankees and now instead has a license plate that reads "EMPIRE18". Truth is, I hate him for it, because Boston wanted him. They didn't want Clemens, Boggs, or a host of others who have gone to New York from Boston. BUT, that said, the fans last night were just plain brutal. Some of that stuff is really funny, the signs and shirts, but there was no reason why for two minutes Boston couldn't have put that hatred for the Yankees aside and cheered the man who hit in the leadoff spot for 4 years. One at bat. That's all that was needed. After that, boo the hell out of him. He's a Yankee. It's a shame it happened like that. As a Sox fan, I'm ashamed that he was treated that way. I may not like who he's playing for, but I appreciate what he did for the Hometown team while he was there.

When it comes down to it, he was offered 25% more money to change jobs. Who among us wouldn't take that raise? And don't tell me that it's millions of dollars and not the same thing. None of us can think in that sort of sense. Look at it terms of percentages and it becomes more apparent. So Johnny, take the applause and a tip of the cap from a fan who wasn't there. And now, I hope you separate your shoulder running into the wall.