Edition No. 35
December 16, 2004
Welcome to the final 2004 edition of From the Bullpen. This means that this will be the last newsletter graced by the visage of a young Walter Johnson, as we will keep with our custom of changing our home page to reflect the new season. Most of you will be disappointed to know that this means the end of the “In our sundown perambulations . . .” sound bite which greats you with each visit to the HSL website. I’m not yet sure what the sights and sounds of 2004 will be replaced with, but you can look forward with great anticipation to the first issue of From the Bullpen in January.
Let’s start with this. Please block off your calendar for Saturday, March 26, for our 2005 Draft. This looks like the day of choice for next year, based on responses to my e-mail. If anyone disagrees with this date, and wishes to hold the Draft a week later, or if anyone has a known conflict with this date, please advise as soon as possible.
Those of us who are available will meet for our annual holiday lunch on Tuesday, December 21, 2004, at 11:45 a.m., at the Jam’s Party Room at 7814 Dodge Street. Please try to make it if this works with your schedule. Tentative plans include food, drink, Hot Stove talk, and a mock draft. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Our 2003 winner, Tricko, is reportedly organizing our annual winter fete to honor yours truly for the 2004 championship. The Cup has reportedly been engraved, the planning is well under way, and all Tricko needs to know from each of you is whether you have any conflicts during the proposed dates in January. Keep checking your e-mail for a final announcement of date, time and location.
I finally finished reading October Men, a terrific baseball book. After weeks, probably months, of reading only one or two paragraphs a night in bed before dozing off –– only to have the book fall out of my hands and off my bed to brain Bear, our black Lab (now I know why they call it “dog-earred”) –– I finally found time on an airplane ride to finish up this terrific book by Roger Kahn, better known for his seminal work The Boys of Summer. Although it’s a bit of a rambling work, the subject matter (Billy Martin and the 1978 Yankees) is fascinating, and Kahn’s prose is as enjoyable to read as any baseball author I have encountered. Let me just share with you a few of my favorites from the book:
u “I don’t care for the way the Red Sox played baseball,” Robert Frost told me, one clear September afternoon in 1960. “They play too much in the manner of Boston gentlemen.” We were standing outside Frost’s cabin on the shoulder of a steep Vermont hill.
“How do you like your baseball played?” I said.
Frost was eighty-five. He said, “Spike ’em as you go around the bases.” His green eyes twinkled.
u Of Yankee manager Casey Stengle, during his playing days, Damon Runyon wrote:
This is the way old “Casey” Stengle ran yesterday afternoon running his home run.
This is the way old “Casey” Stengle ran running his home run in a giant victory by a score of 5-4 in the first game of the World’s Series of 1923.
This is the way old “Casey” ran, running his home run home, when two were out in the ninth inning and the score was tied and the ball was still bounding inside the Yankee yard.
This is the way ––
His mouth wide open.
His warped old legs bending beneath him at every stride.
His arms flying back and forth like those of a man swimming with a crawl stroke.
His flanks heaving, his head far back . . . .
u By every reasonable standard, the 1978 Yankees should have been terminally exhausted. Their opening day manager, Alfred Manuel “Billy” Martin, had been drinking so heavily that his personality, none too tranquil when he was sober, had erupted with repeated explosions of anger, hatred, and paranoia, until he had finally gotten himself “resigned” back in July. While his great predecessor, Casey Stengle, mellowed with drink, booze turned Martin into a human Gatling gun. “You always wanted to be around Billy for the first drink,” suggests Gene Michael, then the Yankees first base coach. “You never wanted to be around him for the last one.”
u Steinbrenner on owning the Yankees: “I’ve had lots of offers to sell. No way. Owning the Yankees is like owning the Mona Lisa.”
u Sutton saw, or thought he saw, a swagger in (Reggie) Jackson’s manner. This annoyed the Dodger ace, such that before his catcher could put down a sign, Sutton looked at Jackson and made a small, thrusting motion with his right hand and wrist, the universal signal for fastball. Pitchers use that sign when warming up, to tell the catcher what kind of pitch is coming. But here in a brash and naked dare, Sutton was telling Jackson that he was going to throw his fastball. I’ll tip what I’m going to throw, you swaggering SOB, and you still won’t be able to hit it. That is not precisely what happened. Sutton threw his fastball, and Jackson hit a huge high drive that cracked into the top of the right-field foul pole. “Through all the twenty-five years I caught,” Johnny Oates, then with the Dodgers, told me, “that was the single hardest-hit ball I ever saw.”
u The next day the Orioles knocked out Catfish Hunter and Gossage knocked down the Baltimore catcher, Rick Dempsey. Short, feisty Earl Weaver, the Lord of Baltimore, complained to Joe Brinkman, the home-plate umpire, who heard him out. After Weaver returned to the dugout, Brinkman summoned Martin to home plate and told him that he wanted the high, tight pitching stopped right now. Martin nodded, but he never liked being lecture to, particularly in public. he clenched his fists, and instead of walking toward Gossage or his own dugout, he strode toward Weaver. “You’re making trouble, you little son of a bitch,” he shouted.
Weaver himself was hardly tongue-tied. “I’m paid to make trouble for you,” he said.
“Brinkman and another umpire grabbed Martin and turned him 180 degrees. No formal statistic exists on major-league managers punching other managers during a ball game, but without Joe Brinkman, Billy Martin could have been the first. The Daily News continued its merry honking:
O’s Blast Cat 6-1;
Billy, Earl Feud
There were many other great quotes from this book, some of which I may dig out and share with you later. I highly suggest that each of you put October Men on your Christmas list.
Not that I beat dead horses or anything, but with the 2005 Draft coming up in just three short months or so, I thought that a critical analysis of the 2004 Draft would be of interest to everyone. And not to mention, in certain praise of me.
By way of disclaimer, my calculations are entirely unaudited and not necessarily entirely trustworthy, as many of the numbers were crunched late at night, during a spare minute here and there, and often without the aid of a calculator. Disclaimer 2: These calculations and analyses are strictly based on gross numbers from the 2004 Draft, and don’t take into account that some managers may have sacrificed early to attain pitching, to fill necessary spots, and the like, and do not take into account all of the many management moves that are made following Draft Day. That said, here’s what we have:
Commentary: Drafting out of the eight-hole, Tirebiter was able to draft the most gross points in the first five founds, led by Barry Bonds’ 857. Bonds’ high total skews the picture here, as the Redbirds’ second highest scorer in the first five rounds was Roy Oswalt with 505, followed by Brett Boone with 485.
With two 700-point men in the top three rounds, Helton and Tejada, and with Jeff Kent adding 609, you would think that Itchie’s Jax would have had the top total for the first five rounds. However, Kerry Wood and Bartolo Colon both dragged down the total.
The Wahoos were a solid third with Schilling, Thome, Berkman and Posada all scoring well, and only Jose Contreras in the fifth round (229) costing Possum a better start.
Drafting out of the dreaded twelve-hole, Big Guy was still able to draft the fourth most gross points in the first five rounds, with his Tigers getting solid numbers from Randy Johnson, Eric Gagne, Javy Lopez and Andruw Jones, and the only clinker being an injured Kevin Brown. Take heart, U-Bob. Drafting spots are hugely overrated.
It is also noteworthy that even after the disaster of picking up an injured Prior in the first round (238 points for the year), Dead Man Walking bounced back and drafted a Top Five which grossed 2591 points, good for fifth best and fewer than 100 points off Tirebiter’s league-leading pace, thanks to brilliant selections of Carlos Beltran (689), Scott Rolen (645) and Bobby Abreu (720) in Rounds 2, 3 and 5.
In the “Don’t Lose Hope” Department, it bears mentioning that this year’s champion Senators started off on an extremely sour note in the first five rounds of last year’s Draft, because of injuries suffered by Halladay (211), Wagner (335), and Wilson (127), my Round 2, 4 and 5 picks. My first five round total of 2061 points was only 10th-best in the league, and a whopping 623 points behind the league-leading Redbirds. Darned good thing that our Draft lasts 28 rounds, not five, and that they don’t hand out the Cup until the season has been played.
And finally, poor SloPay had one of the worst opening five rounds of any Draft anywhere, with Vazquez, Mulder, Webb, Blalock and the injured Richie Sexson grossing only a total of 1651 points, well behind the penultimate Cubs*’ five-round total of 2011. Denny didn’t help himself by drafting Damaso Marte (who?) in the sixth round (319 points) or Joe Mauer (135 points) in the seventh round, digging a hole even deeper than Frank Solich put our Cornhuskers in. For managing this team to a 10th-place finish after this dismal start, SloPay picks up my vote for HSL manager of the year.
ROUNDS 6 THROUGH 10
Comments: Stretch kicked ass in these five rounds with Foulke (491), Lowell (556), Derek Lee (547), Berroa (350) and Carlos Lee (607). McBlunder’s 2551 points for these five rounds, averaging 510 points a man, almost matched his total for the first five rounds of 2591. No wonder Stretch had so much spring in his step during the early going in the Draft.
Jimmy’s drafting of Santana, Cabrera and Zambrano during the second five rounds of the Draft helped him achieve a solid 2nd-place total with 2505 points. Whether he knew it or not at the time, Tirebiter had plenty of reasons to chirp by this phase of the Draft.
The Reds stumbled badly during the second quintile, totaling only 1455 points, 11th-best for the second five rounds. While Magpie might blame it on the Swinging Gate Syndrome, he should be blaming it on taking Derek Lowe (171) in the 9th and Vince Padilla (177) in the 10th.
Rounds 6 through 10 are where the bottom fell out for Bob and his Tribe. Of his five players selected during that time, only one, Corey Patterson (502), scored more than 200 points. The other four players, Andy Pettitte, Wade Miller, J. Reyes and Austin Kearns, were all beset by injuries. Not that the rest of the Draft went well for him, but Rounds 6 through 10 are what put the knife through the heart of U-Bob this season. It was enough bad luck for two seasons, which is why Underbelly has much to be optimistic about in 2005.
ROUNDS 1 THROUGH 10
Comments: If only the Redbirds and the Blues could have turned out the lights after ten rounds, Tirebiter and Stretch would be two happy buckaroos today. Fortunately for the Senators and the Reds, the Draft didn’t end after ten rounds, and despite the moribund state of their franchises at that point in time, Skipper and Tricko were able to use late-round Draft acumen and managerial moxie to elevate their teams from 6th and 10th place after ten rounds, to 1st and 6th place, respectively.
(1) Don’t get too cocky after ten rounds, even if you have been taking the wood to the competition during the early going; and (2) as our friend Winston once said, “Never, never, never, never, never give up.” Or, put another way, slow and steady wins the race. Not to mention luck.
2004 was a great year for Hot Stove League competition, the closest race on record, with five teams genuinely in the hunt after 25 and 4/7 weeks of the season. I don’t know how 2005 could possibly compare, but let’s gather together once again and give it a shot, eh?
I look forward to seeing some of you at next Tuesday’s holiday lunch, but for those of you who won’t be able to make it, have a very merry Christmas and a blessed new year.
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