Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Weight loss update

Fourteen months into my commitment to health, diet and fitness, I've lost 65 pounds (319 to 254) and cut my body-fat percentage by nearly half (43 per cent to 23 per cent!).

Thanks to everyone for their support. Undying thanks to the three great trainer at GoodLife Fitness, Danielle Barkhouse, Erika Blais and especially Janet Alexander. They've made working out fun and only a little painful.

Next challenge is the South Ottawa Raceday on Sept. 30, already signed up for my second 5K. Also plan on tackling my first 10K on Father's Day 2013 at the Alterna Ultimate Run.

Incidentally, I am posting personal posts over at my new Tumblr, Drive-By Arguments.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Well worth the weight loss (so far)

Weight, BMI, body-fat percentages, who needs those? These before and after photos better illustrate progress (and probably explain why the non-paying-gig blog posts have dried up). Personally, exercising and eating clean have become high priority since mid-April. There is a lot of work yet to be done, of course.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Knock 'em dead, Kinger

Once in a great while, those who Kingston sports near and dear are privileged to know a broadcast talent so extraordinary he becomes part of our shared heritage.

Nineteen seventy-eight: Chris Cuthbert broadcasts football games for CFRC 101.9 during the Golden Gaels' run to the Vanier Cup and goes on to a career at TSN.

Nineteen seventy-nine: Rod Smith enrolls at Queen's to play football for the Golden Gaels and goes on to a career at TSN.

Then for a long time, nothing happened. Until about 2007. On a Saturday afternoon of no particular distinction, yours truly happened to come across the dulcet tones of Tyler King calling a Queen's hockey game on CFRC. The result of that game has been forgotten by everyone save the players and coaches. What endures is that some typical insecure angry young man comment that I made on OOLF prompted Tyler, not that he needed the help, to e-mail asking for any tips to he could use to improve as broadcaster.

There was probably little I could impart since I work in a medium blessed with a backspace key, to be honest, but that hardly matters. What matters is that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, one that has enriched the person who's the older of the two by a decade more than the younger individual. You are probably acquainted with either Tyler or me personally and professionally. If you are devoted or bored enough to be checking this long-dormant site tonight you probably know this is about sending Tyler, AKA Kinger, AKA Cookie, AKA Miguel Sanchez, off well as he wings west. Monday, he'll begin what seems like a great opportunity, working for Rogers Radio as a newscaster and hockey play-by-play announcer calling the action for the Fort McMurray Oil Barons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

No one gets that an opportunity while still on the cool side of 25 without working so hard for it that people feel compelled to open doors, like the way then-Kingston Kimco Voyageurs owner Gregg Rosen and coach Evan Robinson, my fellow Napaneean, did in 2010 when they agreed to let Tyler set up an Internet broadcast of their playoff games, which was without precedent for the Junior A team.

It has been and will continue to be a trip to have a rinkside seat to watch Tyler work on his craft, refusing to take the easy way out on any task, even though many do while trying to gain or keep a foothold in the tough-to-crack broadcasting field.

No doubt this reads like a total tire-pumping. That is not needed. Tyler has very fully developed ego integrity. It just bears putting in words that without our association, borne from a random CFRC/Queen's/Kingston/sports connection, the past few years would not have been as fun. Knowing Kinger was a conduit for keeping somewhat in tune with the Kingston sportscape. It meant having someone to bounce lines off, someone who could always be meta when it came to having a germane sitcom reference to break out with wit and impeccable timing. It also meant having someone to down a few beers with after the seminal Saturday in November 2009 when the Big Yellow Guys took down Laval. Tyler should know that I feel fortunate to have witnessed his career changes, I am glad I knew him while my professional set-up changed for the better.

None of that is profound, I know. Hey, the only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share when we're uncool. That's from the Lester Bangs character in Almost Famous. Tyler has never seen that film, no matter how many times I have recommended it.

That's okay, though, since the kid is stubborn-to-a-fault true to himself, like most people who get anywhere in this life. What draws people to Tyler is that he has taken it to heart that being in the media isn't about the events or stories you get to cover on the corporate dime. It's about trying to keep yourself fresh. It's also about considering why the stories matter to the people involved, knowing all the while that understanding will not make you rich, it will win something much more valuable — respect.

By all accounts, Tyler has learned that, lived it and loved it on all of his stops. One mark that someone is capable of bigger and better things is those who effect lasting change before they move up the ladder. Very rarely does someone get to do that in campus media or at one of her/his first jobs. A proof of how good Tyler is the influence he managed to have in Kingston over a short period of time. The aforementioned Vees had never had live play-by-play prior to his arrival. Next season, that will carry on with Allan Etmanski calling the games.

Similarly, lots of young guys have had sports shows on CFRC 101.9 over the years. Most were just the same variation on Here's What's Happening In Sports And Here's What I Think About It — basically Bleacher Report in spoken-word form. Tyler's show, Offsides, grew into much more over its three-year run (interrupted by his stint at Syracuse). Tyler broke news with respect to the Voyageurs and Kingston Frontenacs and kept Queen's Athletics on its toes. Many informed sports fans came to see it as the city's most credible source for sports news.

One hope in writing this is that someone else comes along to fill that void in Kingston before too long. Sports coverage is a niche, nowhere as big in the grand scheme as hard news, but Kingston's dedicated sports fans are not always well-served by either of the city's two old-media outlets. That's not a slam on the hard-working people employed on the editorial side at the Quebecor-owned newspaper and Corus-owned TV station. Far from it. I am just trying to be honest about what everyone working in a newsroom knows but might not say aloud: the wild world of monetized media coverage means there is precious little a mass-audience newscast or newspaper can do for sports fans who want to know more about the teams in their backyard than who won and who lost. Most allow for as much unbridled creativity now as a box factory.

With time, that will change. All it will take a few more young people such as Tyler going out there and pushing the limits until they're the mainstream. Let's hope it happens soonly.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ultimate baseball league: Texas Rangers

The all-time Rangers should score some runs, with a starting nine that includes four MVPs and two table-setters who each on-based above .400 during the representative seasons.
The pitching, on the other hand, stinks like some of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' business dealings.
The Rangers have historically never been much on developing pitching in-house, so most of the best pitching seasons, by Ferguson Jenkins, Nolan Ryan, John Matlack, et al., belong to pitchers whose best work came with another franchise. Suffice to say, having Ken Hill as a staff ace is a bit dodgy.

That said, between a pitcher who threw no-hitter on LSD and a reliever who pitched with both hands, the Rangers are colourful. So they have that going for them, which is nice.
  1. SS Toby Harrah, 1975 (6.6). He would have been a fantasy baseball darling if it had been invented, since the majors' leading palindrome was a middle infielder who was an on-base machine (he on-based .403 during his representative season). Sportswriter Mike Shropshire once wrote that he played an entire game in Tiger Stadium with congealed vomit in his hair.

  2. 2B Julio Franco, 1991 (7.0). Played forever and had an awesome, never-duplicated batting stance where he pointed his bat directly at the pitcher.

  3. 1B Rafael Palmeiro,* 1993 (7.4). He will forever live in infamy, period. Hit like a machine for a time.

  4. LF Juan González, 1993 (6.7). The most forgotten two-time MVP in history. Was it Steroid Era guilt-by- association, being a bit of a one-dimensional run producer or just radiating little personality? He was a terror during his peak years.

  5. CF Josh Hamilton,* 2010 (6.0). Still wincing at Rick Reilly's, "It's a bad night to be an atheist." Guh.

  6. RF Rubén Sierra,# 1989 (5.7). The poor, lacking-in-taste's man Roberto Clemente, or at least he seemed like it for a few years in the late 1980s.

  7. DH Jeff Burroughs, 1974 (5.7 oWAR). There was a time when Texas batters did not have a great home park factor; Burroughs won the MVP in '74 while losing about 150 points in OPS to the adverse winds at old Arlington Stadium.

  8. C Iván Rodríguez, 1998 (6.6). Realizing he's still playing is akin to finding out Sony still manufactured Walkmans as late as 2010. The upshot is the longer he plays, the more it helps his Cooperstown case, since there'll be some tacit resolution over what to do about suspect players.

  9. 3B Buddy Bell 1979 (6.9). Played his entire career in Cleveland in the 1970s, Texas in the 1980s and also managed some godawful teams. Great glove man, though.


  • RHS Ken Hill, 1996 (6.5). The de facto ace since someone has to be.

  • RHS Charlie Hough, 1985 (5.7). A knuckleballer who is threat to put up a double-double (10 walks, 10 strikeouts), just in the wrong sport. Kept his dignity intact even when hanging on while wearing a teal cap.
  • LHS Kenny Rogers, 1995 (5.2). Keep a safe distance, camera operators.

  • LHS C.J. Wilson, 2010 (4.6)

  • RHS Jim Bibby, 1973 (4.3). A human footnote; he pitched the Rangers first no-hitter, served in Vietnam and was the uncle of the NBA guard Mike Bibby. He was 6-foot-7 and his younger brother topped out 6-foot-1, so naturally the latter was the one who took up basketball.

  • RHS Dock Ellis, 1977 (3.6). His place in history was long assured by the time he ended up with the Rangers.



  • RHR Jim Kern, 1979 (5.0). Was fortunate enough to enjoy his peak years in the late 1970s, when relief pitchers became famous, to paraphrase Sam Malone. Was once concussed by his own catcher.

  • CL Francisco Cordero, 2004 (4.2). There are two other pretty good closers

  • RHR Jeff Zimmerman, 1999 (3.6). You knew there would have to be a place for the Canadian whose career was much too short after he persevered against long odds to make the majors. His 1999 season is one of the best by a Rangers reliever.

  • RHR Jeff Russell, 1992 (3.4). In '89, Dennis Eckersley issued three unintentional walks all season. Why is that being brought up right now? Because the Rolaids Relief Man Award that season went to Russell, who had the most saves in the AL.

  • RHR Greg A. Harris, 1985 (3.1). Since he played in the 1980s before relief pitching was specialized, he'd be the long man of the staff. If he gets tired, he can always switch to using his left arm.

(* left-handed hitter; # switch-hitter)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ultimate baseball league: Toronto Blue Jays

Roy Halladay as a No. 3 starter? The all-time Blue Jays, for a franchise that only began play in 1977, have a pretty deep pitching staff even without a certain federally indicted former right-hander.

Batting-wise, we end up with a left-right-left combo of power hitters who each drew 100-plus walks. Those pitch counts will get run up. Meantime, with Roberto Alomar at second base, the starting lineup includes four Gold Glove winners, for what it is worth.

The Duane Ward-Tom Henke combo makes an appearance in the bullpen.

  1. 2B Roberto Alomar,# 1993 (6.4). I'm over that he was denied his rightful status as a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2010. The vox populi of the BBWAA has trouble evaluating second basemen, who have a high burnout rate. Besides, it is better to burn out than to fade away.

    By the way, remember the Alomar bio Stephen Brunt published soon after the 1992 World Series? Small world: one of his researchers one interviewed yours truly for a job as a copy editor.

  2. 1B John Olerud,* 1993 (8.4). Outside of Wade Boggs, Oly in 1993 had the highest OBP (.473) in the majors in more than 30 years. Yet he batted fifth all season. Genius, Cito.

  3. 3B José Bautista 2010 (5.6, but 7.1 oWAR). Gotta at least ask the question ... What has Joey Bats (pictured) got for an encore after that 54-homer, 100-walk season in 2010?

  4. DH Carlos Delgado,* 2000 (6.5). The late 1990s-early 2000s answer to Fred McGriff, who he just beats out to for a roster spot.

  5. LF Vernon Wells, 2003 (4.9). Not a cheat, as Vernon moves to the left on the defensive spectrum to provide the all-time Jays with an all-Gold Glove outfield. He was never better than he was while putting up a .317/.359/.550 slash line in 2003.

  6. RF Jesse Barfield, 1986 (7.3). Nothing obscure here, this is the season when he became the first Jay to win a home run title. He also had the best outfield throwing arm of the 1980s, can play centre in a pinch and apparently found the Fountain of Youth.

  7. C Ernie Whitt,* 1987 (2.8) / C John Buck, 2010 (3.0). A catching platoon of Ernie and Buck. Jays fans in their mid-30s will approve. It's okay to admit you're picturing Whitt's corkscrew swing.

  8. SS Marco Scutaro, 2009 (5.5). A tough call, but WAR has Scutaro's 2009 season (100 runs scored, .379 on-base as the best year by a Blue Jays shortstop, especially considering he was only being paid $1.1 million.

  9. CF Devon White,# 1993 (6.0).Two decades later, Jays sites are still doing tributes to the catch in the 1992 World Series.

  • RHS Pat Hentgen, 1996 (8.4). You can impress people and win drinks at cocktail parties by stumping them on who had the best season by a Jays starter that wasn't suspicious. Hentgen probably is among the more anonymous Cy Young winners, but between him and Roy Halladay, this staff will keep the ball in the park.

  • RHS Dave Stieb, 1984 (7.7). The second-best Jay of all time, Stieb was hosed in the Cy Young voting at least once.

  • RHS Roy Halladay 2003 (7.5). The second Hall of Famer to have spent the majority of his career in Toronto? At 34, the current No. 34 of the Philadelphia Phillies has already met the standard for the Black Ink and HOF Monitor tests. Granted, a lot of the former includes leading the league in complete games, which is no longer really a relevant stat.

  • LHS Jimmy Key, 1987 (6.6). The stylish lefty who was much easier to love than Stieb. Pitched the most important win in team history.

  • RHS Juan Guzman, 1996 (6.5). High-risk, high-reward, much? Guzman was kind of a poor man's Pedro Martínez in the '90s, at least during the two seasons when he was fairly good. His ERAs over one six-season stretch: 2.64, 3.99, 5.68, 6.32, 2.93 and 4.95.

  • LHS Ricky Romero, 2010 (3.4). RickyRo gets the sixth-starter slot (meaning he's the 11th-best starter in Jays history) with the expectation he'll move up when this is revised in some future season.
  • OF Shannon Stewart, 2000 (4.6). A better fourth-outfielder candidate than Reed Johnson, again.

  • 2B Dámaso García, 1982 (4.4). The second Jay to bat .300 over a full season; later survived a malignant brain tumor.

  • 3B Eric Hinske,* 2002 (4.0). The point of the exercise is to construct something approximating a 25-man roster. Hinske gets in since he can plug a leak at all four corners.

  • 2B Orlando Hudson,# 2004 (3.2). Probably won't play much with a Hall of Famer ahead of him, but good to have around.
  • RHR Mark Eichhorn, 1986 (6.4). Innings-eating sidearmer. Almost won the ERA title in '86, when he fell five innings shy of qualifying.

  • CL Tom Henke, 1987 (3.4). Probably one of the game's best closers east of Dennis Eckersley from 1985-92. His 1995 season (36 saves for St. Louis) was probably one of the best 'final' seasons.

  • RHR Duane Ward, 1992 (3.2). Was good for 100 high-quality innings a summer in those days when a team let a late-inning reliever throw that much. He even led the Jays in strikeouts one season as a reliever, which is like, what, a quarterback leading a NFL team in rushing? Too bad biceps tendinitis ended his career at age 31.

  • RHR Paul Quantrill, 1997 (3.0). On late-night Canadian TV you can see former Jays pitcher Paul Spoljaric appearing in commercials for a furniture wholesaler that cuts out the middleman. This other Paul was a perfect middleman in his day; his 841 career appearances is the most ever by a Canadian pitcher.

  • LHR Scott Downs, 2008 (3.0). A pox on left-handed hitters.
(* left-handed hitter; # switch-hitter)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ultimate baseball league: Seattle Mariners

Hey, Félix Hernández might actually get some run support. The first four spots in the all-time Mariners lineup includes four likely Hall of Famers, which raises the question of how in hell they never won a pennant during the years from approximately 1995 through 2002.

(Short answers: pitching, playoff baseball is a crapshoot and who cares, it was 10 years ago.)

King Félix leads a starting rotation that is relatively strong for a 35-year-old franchise, even with Randy Johnson needed elsewhere.

  1. RF Ichiro Suzuki,* 2004 (8.1). This was about the point (the 262-hit season) when he went from foreign curiosity to living legend. The last great singles hitter is about two-plus seasons away from 4,000 hits combined for NPB and MLB, four seasons away from three thou in North America.

  2. 3B Edgar Martinez, 1992 (5.9). The most beloved Mariner will become the first DH in the Hall of Fame one of these days. Nineteen ninety-two was Gar's best hitting season (.343/.404/.544 slash line) while he was a position player, so let's use it to keep the DH spot open. It is either that or use either David Bell, Russ Davis or Jim Presley and no one wants that.

  3. CF Ken Griffey,* 1996 (9.7). As Poz put it, Junior "was so much to watch that he he probably inspired to people to think he was better than he was." Saying Griffey inspired people to think he was better than Barry Bonds would have been more to the point. He will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2016.

  4. SS Alex Rodríguez, 2000 (11.0). The only debate is which A-Rod season to use. How did he not win MVP for leading a thoroughly mediocre Mariners team to a playoff spot in '00?

  5. 1B Alvin Davis,* 1984 (5.6). Typically associated with Bill James' concept of young players with old player skills. Davis on-based .380 career, more than decent considering his era.

  6. LF Mike Cameron, 2001 (6.4). Three-time Gold Glover slides left on the defensive spectrum, since nobody puts peak-value Griffey in an outfield corner. This also takes care of the Mariners' eternal vacuum in left field. Cameron has never made enough contact to an elite player, but he's always been a treat to watch.

  7. DH Ken Phelps,* 1986 (3.7 oWAR) / Richie Sexson 2005 (3.9).

    "They kept saying, 'Ken Phelps, Ken Phelps.' " The irony of that is the Seinfeld-ized George Steinbrenner's baseball people were clearly in the right. Phelps was 31 in 1986 when he finally got a regular swing in the majors; he wore out right-handed pitching. He and the lefty-mashing Sexson would form a good platoon.

  8. 2B Harold Reynolds,# 1989 (4.2). Three Gold Gloves, good at getting on base, occasional boundary issues.

  9. C Kenji Johjima, 2007 (3.4) / Dan Wilson, 1997 (3.3). A pair of good catch-and-throw types can decide which starting pitchers to work with. Wilson caught 190 of Jamie Moyer's career starts.
  • RHS Félix Hernández, 2010 (6.0). Fingers are crossed that he did not waste the best 250 innings of his pitching life on a 101-loss team. Becomes the ace since Randy Johnson is needed elsewhere.

  • LHS Jamie Moyer, 1999 (5.7). Last threw a fastball in Babe Ruth league, but one of the all-time survivors.

  • LHS Mark Langston, 1988 (5.6). The best pitcher the Mariners had until the guy who came from the Expos in exchange for him (the kicker is the Randy Johnson deal was not a blunder, since 6-foot-10 pitchers aren't sure things). Langston probably should have never left Seattle, but the team had some cheapskate ownership.

  • RHS Mike Moore, 1985 (5.6). Power pitcher who started the trend of Mariners pitchers being a big part of World Series-winning staffs.

  • RHS Freddy García, 1999 (5.0). The six degrees of García include being traded for Randy Johnson and mentoring his compatriot, Hernández. Probably should be given the 2001 Cy Young (he had a 3.05 ERA that season) retroactively).

  • RHS Scott Bankhead, 1989 (4.2). Must have known how to pitch, since he was generously listed at 5-foot-10.
  • 2B José López, 2008 (3.9). Once had more home runs in a season than bases on balls. That is difficult to do!

  • OF Tom Paciorek, 1981 (3.9). It is arguable Paciorek had the best season by a Seattle left fielder during a strike-shortened season. That does not say much for the club, does it?

  • INF David Bell, 2001 (3.1). In the mid-aughties the Philies had Chase Utley and Placido Polanco and couldn't figure out that one of them should bump Bell off third base.

Ultimate baseball league: San Diego Padres

The all-time Padres look a little like the present-day team: deep pitching, with a group hitters headlined by two big stars.

Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn and Dave Winfield fill the all-important 2 and 3 holes in the lineup, with Adrian González as a cleanup hitter. The left side of the infield leaves much to be desired. That is what happens with a team that let Ozzie Smith and Ozzie Guillen get away in the 1980s.

  1. 2B Mark Loretta, 2004 (6.8). Who knew an egghead school in frozen Chicago produced a major league all-star? Loretta made the bigs out of Northwestern.

  2. RF Tony Gwynn (pictured),* 1987 (8.1). On-based .398 or higher seven times on his way to being a first-ballot Hall of Famer; this was his best season far away, with a slash line of .370/.447/.511 and 32 net steals to go along with a Gold Glove in right field.

  3. LF Dave Winfield, 1979 (8.4). The first 3,000-hit player to enter Cooperstown as a Padre; had a little something to do with the Blue Jays winning the 1992 World Series.

  4. 1B Adrian González,* 2009 (7.0). About to find out right-centrefield in Fenway Park is an awful long way from home plate. Should improve the lot of a below-average infield.

  5. DH Greg Vaughn, 1998 (6.6). Set the team record for homers in a season (50 in 1998). His son is now a Mets prospect who was coached at San Diego State for none other than Tony Gwynn.

  6. C Gene Tenace, 1979 (6.3). Obligatory Whammy! reference goes here; he was so much more than a knowing reference in Anchorman. Tenace was Gene, Gene The On-Base Machine (.388 career, .403 in 1979) throughout the '70s. He would get some starts at first base vs. left-handed pitchers, opening a lineup spot for Benito Santiago.

  7. CF George Hendrick, 1977 (5.5). This was before he started the trend of wearing pants that came almost down to one's ankles. Hit .311/.381/.492 in '77, which was a big deal in those days.

  8. 3B Chase Headley,# 2010 (3.7). Plenty of time to move up the pecking order, if he ever figures out how to produce in Petco.

    Staffing the hot corner for the Padres lends new meaning to the notion of "fraught." Knowing what we know and/or strongly suspect, one cannot include the late Ken Caminiti. Even adding Phil Nevin, whose only three good seasons came from 1999-2001, would be a stretch.

  9. SS Khalil Greene, 2007 (3.6). Truth hurts. The most productive shortstop in San Diego's history is someone who is widely considered a washout. Social anxiety disorder hurt Greene's career.
  • LHS Dave Roberts, 1971 (8.5). One of the all-time hard-luck seasons; Roberts posted a 2.10 earned-run average in '71 (second to someone named Tom Seaver) and was charged with a 14-17 record, since the Padres scored two runs or less in 20 of his starts.

  • LHS Randy Jones, 1975 (7.7). Advanced scouting has probably made junkballers of Jones' ilk obsolete. His fastball could not break glass, but the left-hander had Pete Rose's number so badly that the hit king used to bat lefty against him.

  • LHS Bruce Hurst, 1989 (6.6). His name is an anagram for B Ruth Curse, which is fitting for someone who was initially voted the 1986 World Series MVP before Boston blew it against the New York Mets. His first season with San Diego (2.69 ERA) was the best of his career, but a 15-11 record led to him not even getting a single Cy Young vote.

  • RHS Ed Whitson, 1990 (6.5). Pitched way better on the West Coast than he ever did on the East Coast. Should be remembered for helping the Padres come back from two games down to win their first pennant, not for brawling with Billy Martin in a hotel.

  • RHS Jake Peavy, 2007 (6.2). It would be nothing shy of astonishing if he ends up in the Chicago White Sox rotation soonly rather than never.

  • RHS Mat Latos, 2010 (3.3). He's just an excitable boy. Latos, only 23 coming into this season, has a chance to move up the ladder in future seasons. Made sense to include him here.
  • UT Randy Ready, 1987 (5.7). Better to take a little bit of liberty (Ready batted only 423 times in '87, just making the cutoff) than include someone whose accomplishments are suspect. Ready can fill in at two infield spots.

  • OF-1B Carmelo Martínez, 1984 (4.6). Probably one of the few players here represented by his rookie season; he never developed as San Diego descended into mediocrity in the second half of the Reagan Decade.

  • UT Alan Wiggins,# 1983 (4.1). He was a tragic figure, whose fall reminds of how callous and careless society was a generation ago. Hit leadoff in 1984 when Gwynn, batting second, won his first batting title.

  • C Benito Santiago, 1987 (2.9). His reputation probably exceeded his actual ability, thanks to all those clips of him throwing from his knees to pick runners off at second base. The dearth of good catchers during his early career probably helped, too.

  • OF Dave Roberts,* 2006 (2.8). Present-day Padres coach was a sparkplug in '06, on-basing .360 with 37 net stolen bases.
  • CL Trevor Hoffman, 1996 (4.0). As Dirk Hayhurst put it, he brought glory to "the everyman's off-speed pitch," the changeup. Also made a great entrance.

  • RHR Greg W. Harris, 1989 (3.7). Was a fine middle reliever around the turn of the 1990s (2.30 ERA in 117 innings in '89), but got converted to starting and then ended up in the pitchers' graveyard in Denver.

  • RHR Heath Bell, 2007 (3.5). From the days when he was Hoffman's heir apparent. Can come out for the eighth inning throwing some serious gas.

  • RHR Akinori Otsuka, 2004 (3.0). Japanese right-hander with a deceptive delivery. North American career basically ended after the Texas Rangers replaced him as their closer with Eric Gagne, which could really make a dude bitter.

  • RHR Scott Linebrink, 2005 (2.4). Mr. Consistency across the Aughts for the San Diegans.
(* left-handed hitter; # switch-hitter)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ultimate baseball league: Montréal Expos

The Expos could be the favourite in the NL Newbie division, which consists of expansion cousin San Diego, the Milwaukee Braves-Brewers and the trio that began play in the 1990s, the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins.

For starters, since a guideline was, when in doubt, put a player with the team which needs him more, Pedro Martínez (pictured), is on the Expos instead of the Boston Red Sox. The starting staff should be strong, although it leans right more than Steven Harper.

Offensively, how does Tim Raines-Andre Dawson-Vladimir Guerrero outfield (with Rusty Staub at DH and Gary Carter batting cleanup) grab you? Granted, manager Jonah Keri might have to get creative to optimize this lineup.

The infield is a weak spot. It still sucks that Hubie Brooks went down with a season-ending knee injury in 1986 when he was batting .340 and OPS-ing .956; otherwise he would have had the best season by a Montreal infielder. (The arbitary cutoff being observed here is 500 plate appearances for an everyday player, 400 for a utiltyman, 350 for a catcher. Brooks batted 338 times that season.)

  1. LF Tim Raines,# 1985 (7.5). For the Rock, we'll pick a quintenessential Rainesian season where he on-based .405 with some power, had 52 net stolen bases (70-for-79), scored 115 runs and played a lights-out left field. All that and he didn't crack the top 10 in MVP balloting. C'est la vie.

    In the present, of course, as a Raines supporter, it was gratifying that he is halfway to the Hall of Fame after garnering 37.5 per cent support in the 2011 Cooperstown voting. We all knew it would be a long process.

  2. RF Vladimir Guerrero, 1998 (7.1). The age-23 version of Vlady would provide plate coverage nonpareil out of the 2-hole, along with power and speed. He might have to come out for late-inning defence.

  3. DH Rusty Staub,* 1969 (5.9, 6.7 oWAR). Le Grand Orange was traded a lot during his career, but had his best three seasons with the early Expos.

  4. C Gary Carter, 1982 (7.8). Remember when he trying to get a a major league managing job? This space did have some fun with that. Here is hoping it will not have to be reenacted during the 2012 U.S. election.

  5. CF Andre Dawson, 1983 (6.6). One of his two seasons as runner-up for MVP; he was better in both than he was when he actually won with the last-place Cubbies in '87.

  6. 1B Andrés Galarraga, 1988 (5.1). It was a tough call to go with The Big Cat over Scoop, Al Oliver, but the .302/.340/.502 line Galarraga put up in '88 tops Oliver, who couldn't take a base on balls or field by the time he came to Canada.

  7. 2B Jose Vidro,# 2002 (4.6) / 2B Ron Hunt 1971 (4.9). Contrary to how some older writers remember it, the Expos did employ some decent second basemen after Rodney Scott was released in 1982. Vidro , who hit almost the same for his career from each side of the plate, was the best of the lot.

    Hunt was once described by Bill James as "being as bad a player as you can be with a .400 on-base percentage." He holds still holds the record with 50 hit-by-pitches in a single season.

  8. 3B Tim Wallach, 1985 (5.5). Was the National League's Gold Glove and Silver Slugger third baseman in 1985. Now you know when Michael Jack Schmidt moved across the diamond.

  9. SS Orlando Cabrera, 2001 (3.3). Every organization has that one black hole; the pool at shortstop was a little thin. Cabrera was good, as evidenced by the fact he's always with a team that makes the playoffs.
  • RHS Pedro Martínez, 1997 (8.2). One would imagine it was a tough call whether to place Pedro with the Expos or with the Boston Red Sox, where he had his two best seasons according to WAR (10.1 in 2000, 8.4 in 1999). Then again, if you've ever met a Red Sox fan, you would know it was not a hard decision at all.

  • RHS Steve Rogers, 1982 (8.4). One of the better pitchers to never receive a single Hall of Fame vote. This is also a good time to remind people of Blue Monday. Yours truly once had the misfortune to work with an ex-Montrealer (know how you know someone is from Monreal? They tell you) who whenever the Expos came up in conversation, would say they had the tying run on third base with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning in that game. Nope; not true. The Expos never even got a runner past second base after the first inning that day.

  • RHS Dennis Martínez, 1991 (5.5). El Presidente, El Perfecto. That is all.

  • RHS Bill Stoneman, 1971 (5.4). No need to remind people Stoneman pitched the Expos first two no-hitters or that he was general manager of the Angels when they won the World Series in 2002. He almost he three no-nos; in his career-best season, 1971, he had a one-hit, one-walk, 14-strikeout game. Considering he led the NL with 146 bases on balls that season, a one-walk game was pretty extraordinary.

  • RHS Javier Vazquez, 2003 (5.4). How often does a NL pitcher throw a nine-inning complete game and lose? Vazquez did so in yours truly's last visit to the Big Owe. Mark McGwire couldn't even get a ball in play (three strikeouts and a pop foul) against him that night. And the Expos still lost.

  • RHS Liván Hernández, 2003 (5.3). Of indeterminate age and weight, but keeps on keeping on. Gave the Expos their last hurrah with a push for the wild card in '03.

  • CF Marquis Grissom, 1992 (5.6). Former stolen base champ is the answer to a great trivia question: who was in centrefield when the 1995 and 1997 World Series ended? Grissom was on the winning Atlanta Braves in '95 and on the losing Clevelanders in '97, who lost on Edgar Renteria's 11th-inning walk-off single in Game 7.

    Grissom would provide some late-inning fielding insurance in place of Guerrero.

  • 4C Larry Parrish, 1979 (4.7). There will be some PAs at either infield corner or as the designated lefty-masher.

  • 2B Delino DeShields, 1992 (4.0). Apparently Delino was a demigod to first-gen gamers. He had an awesome name, so of course he passed it to his son, now a Houston Astros outfield prospect.

  • C Barry Foote, 1974 (2.2). Gary Carter would catch 95 per cent of the games, so it's not a worry there's no good alternative.
  • CL John Wetteland, 1993 (4.6). He was out there. He is still out-out there.

  • RHR Tim Burke, 1987 (4.2). Made the Expos in '85 as a non-rostered player and wound up becoming their relief ace within two years; during that Year of the Homer in 1987, he gave up only three in 91 innings. Actual quote: "If Jesus were on the field, He'd be pitching inside and breaking up double plays."

  • RHR Jeff Reardon, 1982 (3.5). Gary Carter beat him to the trend of former Expos earning World Series rings by a season; Reardon got his with the 1987 Twins. Having him here is just an excuse to bask in some Steve Rushin brilliance the SI Vault, writing on the development of the closer:
    Baseball's closers have, historically, come from a can of mixed mustachioed nuts. And Reardon has closed more often than the most prolific of Century 21 agents: Through Sunday, Reardon's 339 career saves left him three short of breaking the alltime mark held by Hall of Famer-elect Rollie Fingers. Fingers, you'll recall, carried his teammates on the waxed handlebars of his curlicue mustache. Remember, too, the road-kill beards of Bruce Sutter (300 saves) and Gene Garber (218), the hood-ornament-steer-horns 'stache of Sparky Lyle (222) and the fearsome Fus of Goose Gossage (308) and Mike Marshall (178).

    Long before the invention of the Gillette Atra twin-blade razor, these flamboyant relievers were causing heads to pivot. But few got the attention, adulation or remuneration afforded today's premier closers. In fact, the term closer doesn't do justice to the glamorous head-liners of the 1990s. Does Sinatra close for Steve and Eydie? No. They open for him, much as starter Tom Browning opens for stopper Rob Dibble in Cincinnati. (Sports Illustrated, June 8, 1992)

  • RHR Mel Rojas, 1992 (3.5). Felipe Alou's nephew, Moises Alou's first cousin. You know that. Did you know the family business has reached a third generation? Mel Rojas Jr. is an outfielder in the Pittsburgh Pirates system. Mel Sr. was an efficient right-handed reliever on some contending Expos teams in the first half of the 1990s.

  • LHR Woodie Fryman, 1980 (2.5). The well-remembered 'Spos southpaw left this mortal coil recently; he was good for them in iterations as a starter on some bad teams and as a reliever on some good ones.
(* left-handed hitter; # switch-hitter)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ultimate baseball league: Tacoma Rainiers

In our mind's eye, Franklin Gutiérrez will have an ample canvas. The Rainiers, AKA the Seattle Mariners B team, would play in Cheney Stadium, which has a 425-foot centrefield marking. Plenty of room to roam for the best-fielding centrefielder in the game today.

Far be it to suggest a pitching staff bereft of a starter with a 5.0 WAR could use the help of a big ballpark. The Rainiers boast a lefty-heavy staff.

Offensively, the mid-'90s M's are well-represented with Tino Martinez and Jay Buhner in the heart of the batting order. Of course, they were the supporting cast in those days, not the stars. The lack of depth means Canadian Michael Saunders could crack the lineup with a big 2011 season.

  1. LF Phil Bradley, 1985 (4.3). Gave Seattle some credibility in the mid-'80s. Jays fans might remember him more from the 1989 Baltimore Orioles who finished two games behind Toronto; a quick check confirms he did hit .349 with an 1126 OPS against T-dot pitching that season.

  2. 2B Bret Boone, 2002 (3.9). It's not like his entire career should be stricken based on some strong suspicions, but the 2002 Boone was closer to his true level than the 2001 (9.3 WAR) or 2003 (7.1) iterations. Was a second baseman of modest talent for much of his career.

  3. 1B Tino Martinez,* 1995 (4.6). A fine first basemen who's here since his best season (1997) came with the New York Yankees, who might have employed a decent first basemen or four.

  4. DH Leon Roberts, 1978 (4.1). The first Mariner to ever get a MVP vote after hitting .301/.364/.515 with 22 home runs in the team's second season of existence.

  5. RF Jay Buhner, 1996 (3.0). I'll take Seattle outfielders not named Junior or Ichiro who have been on SI's cover for $1,000, Alex. Buhner put Seattle on his back during their Drive of '95, hitting 14 homers in the final 29 games.

  6. 3B Adrián Beltré, 2006 (4.6). This is probably more representative of who he truly is than whenever he's in a contract season (see 2004, Los Angeles).

  7. CF Franklin Gutiérrez (pictured), 2009 (5.4). A worthy heir to the Mariners' tradition of fine defensive centrefielders; a one-man argument for why MLB should not just have the Gold Glove Awards, but a defensive player of the year award.

  8. C Bob Stinson,# 1978 (3.0) / Dave Valle 1993 (2.7). If it wasn't for this song, Bob Stinson would have been completely forgotten. A .258/.346/.404 line is good by the standards of Seattle catchers.

    Dave Valle's claim to fame is that when he was in a massive slump in 1991, Seattle bars began using his batting average as a beer price. No word of a lie, his absolute lowest average of the season came on the biggest drinking night of the summer, Independence Day, when he dipped down to .128, or $1.28 if you prefer.

  9. SS Craig Reynolds,* 1979 (2.4). Has it been mentioned there is a real big drop-off among Mariners shortstops after Alex Rodríguez? Omar Vizquel and Carlos Guillén also did their best work with other franchises, so that leaves the job open to Reynolds, who was the Opening Day starter in the Mariners' maiden season and also an all-star in '78. He co-holds the MLB record of three triples in one game.
  • RHS Erik Hanson, 1990 (4.6). Used his power curve to record 211 strikeouts in 1990, but was never again that dominant.

  • LHS Matt Young, 1983 (4.8). Was better than his lifetime 55-95 record, especially since one of those losses included being the first pitcher to throw an eight-inning complete-game no-hitter and not have it count as an official no-hitter. That was kind of a microcosm for Young's hard-luck career.

  • LHS Dave Fleming, 1992 (4.7). Was a one-hit wonder (17-10, 3.39 ERA in 1992 despite a low strikeout rate) before settling into a quiet normal life as a school teacher.

  • LHS Jeff Fassero, 1997 (4.4). One could set a watch to reading every summer to having Fassero linked to teams that needed another quality starter or a veteran left-hander. His best season was actually in 1996 with the Expos.

  • RHS Joel Piñeiro, 2002 (4.4). Quality over quantity; as a fifth starter, it is not such a big deal that Piñeiro is hard-pressed to hit 200 innings every season.

  • LHS Floyd Bannister, 1982 (4.3). Quick, who was the first Mariners pitcher to win a strikeout title? No, not Mark Langston. Bannister did it in 1982; he had only two double-digit strikeout games all season.
  • CF Ruppert Jones,* 1979 (3.3). Some at-bats could be found for the the original Mariner, who was their first expansion draft selection in November 1976.

  • OF Wayne Comer, 1969 (3.0). A cheat? Since the criteria for this owes more to Calvinball or TEGWAR, it is kosher to include one Seattle Pilot. Comer was the P's starting centrefielder before the franchise was bogarted by Bud Selig in Milwaukee.

  • 2B Joey Cora,# 1997 (2.3). It was not Edgar Martinez or Ken Griffey or Randy Johnson who carried the Mariners into their first league championship series appearance in 1995. It was Cora. Admit it.

  • 3B Jim Presley, 1986 (2.0). Adequate player who was one-man explanation for (a) why Edgar Martinez will have a long road to Hall of Fame induction and (b) why the Mariners did not have a winning season until 1991. The two go hand-in-hand. Anyone who had a complete set of 1987 Topps baseball cards (with the awful wood grain design) has a good chance of recall Presley's rather rank ratio of bases on balls (32) to strikeouts (172).
  • RHR Shigetosi Hasegawa, 2003 (3.0). Had a good career in two cultures (3.33 career ERA in Japan, 3.71 in the American League). Was the closer for the Mariners' most recent good team in 2003.

  • LHR Ed Vande Berg, 1982 (2.6). Considered the original LOOGY, since in 1982-83 he had more appearances than innings pitched. That means Tony La Russa cannot take full credit for developing the modern bullpen? Let us hope so.

  • RHR Jeff Nelson, 1995 (2.5). Threw a wicked slider; among a select few who played for both teams in those three Mariners-Yankees post-season series.

  • RHR Mike Timlin, 1998 (2.5). Won two World Series rings with two different AL East franchises who are not named the New York Yankees, so that narrows it down considerably. He's needed more in the Seattle stream.

  • CL David Aardsma, 2009 (2.0). Hard-throwing closer for the current Mariners; control can be an issue.
(* left-handed hitter; # switch-hitter)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ultimate baseball league: Round Rock Express

The Express are the first of our amalgam teams, drawn from the second failed Washington franchise and the best of the rest from the Texas Rangers.

What is there to see? Frank Howard, the 1960s home run champions who was known as the Capitol Punisher and Hondo in his day, does not have to worry about carrying around his 6-foot-7, 275-lb. body around in the outfield. Real baseball rules were late in coming for Howard, whose last season was the first season the DH was used.

Four of Round Rock's six starting pitchers are named either Rick or Dick, and one of the Ricks was kind a of dick in his youth.

  1. LF Rusty Greer,* 1996 (4.8). A one-team player is rare, but Greer was a one-organization player. On-based .387 for his career; best known for making a diving catch to secure Kenny Rogers' 1994 perfect game.

  2. 2B Ian Kinsler (pictured), 2008 (5.3). Consider the middle-infield defence spoken for.

  3. DH Frank Howard, 1969 (6.3). The first representative from the franchise's Washington days, Hondo probably was a Hall of Famer dropped into the wrong era, just going by his 10-year peak. Despite that, he hit 382 home runs before his big body betrayed him just after the DH was created. In '69, under Ted Williams' tutelage, his offensive WAR was 8.1.

  4. 1B Mark Teixeira,# 2005 (6.0). Might have a little trouble cracking the all-time Yankees lineup.

  5. 3B Ken McMullen, 1969 (6.2). Prototype third baseman from the late 1960s; homered in his final plate appearance.
  6. SS Michael Young, 2006 (4.6). Has moved all over the fielding spectrum; has anyone else ever been a Gold Glove shortstop one season and then shifted to third base the next season?

  7. CF Gary Ward, 1984 (4.4). A nondescript contact hitter who isn't even the most notable Gary Ward in baseball (that would be a legendary college coach at Oklahoma State). Ward at his best hit a somewhat empty .300.

  8. RF Gary Matthews Jr.,# 2006 (3.4). The season that led to him being rewarded with one of the worst contracts of all time.

  9. C Jim Sundberg, 1978 (4.9). Generational defensive catcher in his prime; in this realm he'll have his work cut out for him with a mediocre pitching staff.
  • LHS Pete Richert, 1965 (4.9). Apparently he was a cult hero to Strat-o-matic players, since it was damn hard to reach base against him when he was on.
  • RHS Dick Bosman, 1970 (4.4). Supposedly Ted Williams had no time for pitchers, but he and Bosman got along famously. The latter is a minor league pitching coordinator for the Tampa Bay Rays, the adopted favourite team of us nerdlingers.
  • RHS José Guzmán, 1991 (4.2). Was briefly known as The Wrong Juan when his namesake was an all-star pitcher for the Jays.
  • RHS Dick Donovan, 1961 (4.0). Won the American League ERA title in '61 while pitching for an 100-loss expansion team. How did he do that? A A ridiculous BABIP and park factor helped.

  • RHS Rick Helling, 2000 (4.0). Was a 20-game winner when people still thought that had currency; Chuck Klosterman also put a hex on him.
  • LHS Rick Honeycutt, 1983 (3.8). Came to prominence as a lefty setup man for the Oakland A's turn-of-the-'90s mini-dynasty, but the finesse left-hander was an absentee ERA champion.
  • 2B Bump Wills,# 1977 (4.9). Had one of the most infamous error cards, since one of Topps executives was apparently tight with the 1979 baseball equivalent of Eklund.

  • UT Aurelio Rodríguez, 1970 (4.6). Gold Glove third baseman who would offer some late-inning defence; also ensures one of the Rangers team of having an A-Rod who's not such a douche.

  • SS Ed Brinkman, 1969 (4.3). The term good-field, no-hit shortstop was gone by the wayside. It had a lot of currency in the days of Brinkman, whose park-adjusted OPS+ was 65.

  • CF Don Lock, 1964 (3.7). OK, you try coming up with something witty about a player whose career ended 42 years ago. According to B-R, he was top-three in the AL twice in range factor

  • C Paul Casanova, 1966 (1.9). Father of former journeyman catcher Raul Casanova; catcher is apparently a weak spot for the Rangers once you get past Pudge and Sundberg.

  • LHR Darold Knowles, 1970 (2.9). One of two left-handers on this team whose greatest fame came as a supporting reliever on an Oakland team which won three consecutive pennants. Knowles
  • LHR Mike Paul, 1972 (2.9). There are no great swingman seasons anymore; in '72, Paul made 20 starts and relieved in 29 other games; his ERA (2.17) is still the team record.
  • RHR Steve Foucault, 1974 (2.7). Another member the Billy Martin Cut Short My Career Club. Foucault was a one-man bullpen for the '74 Rangers who made a run at the Reggie Jackson-Rollie Fingers Oakland A's, but was out of the game a few years later after hurling 144 innings in relief.
  • RHR Dale Mohorcic, 1987 (2.7). His Wiki says he played a California Angels pitcher in Naked Gun. Gotta call BS on that, since Mohorcic is right-handed and the Angels hurler was a lefty.

  • CL Neftali Feliz, 2010 (2.4). Room must be made for Feliz, the miscast closer of the Rangers' first pennant winner.
(* left-handed hitter; # switch-hitter)

Ultimate baseball league: Tucson Padres

San Diego's second unit is a bit of a patchwork crew, with a No. 1 starter who was charged with more losses than wins over his career. Still, it's a good sample of the Padres through all their mostly mediocre uniforms and frequent costume changes.

Can you believe those all-gold uniforms that Nate Colbert (pictured) wore in the '70s?

Our imagine Tucson Padres (who, by the way, are just in Arizona for a two-year stopover) are in a division that includes the Los Angeles Angels' and Seattle Mariners' second squads. In other words, it would be more watered-down than the current NL Central.

  1. 3B Bip Roberts,# 1990 (5.3). Not everyone was a fan of the 5-foot-7 leadoff man without a position, but he certainly speaks his mind. Working on the poachers/game warden paradox, has suggested Victor Conte be put in charge of MLB's anti-steroid enforcement.

  2. DH Brian Giles,* 2005 (5.3 oWAR). His best season with the Padres. Better ballplayer than a person, evidently. Drew a ton of walks toward the end (NL-high 119 in 2005) after losing his power to Petco Park.

  3. RF Sixto Lezcano, 1982 (7.2). Owns the fourth-best season ever by a Padre, which would surprise some people. One of many 1970s rightfielders with a cannon throwing arm.

  4. 1B Ryan Klesko,* 2001, (5.2) / Nate Colbert (pictured), 1972 (5.2). Colbert holds one record likely to never be broken, hitting five home runs in an Aug. 1, 1972 doubleheader earn a share of a mark held by Stan Musial. What might be less known is Colbert was in the stands 18 years earlier when Musial hit five big flies in a single day.

    A platoon makes sense, especially since wrong-armers were Klesko's kryptonite. Some extra plate appearances might be found for both as the DH, since the UBL is playing under modern baseball rules.

  5. C Terry Kennedy,* 1982 (5.4). The real-life Terry Kennedy is the manager of the actual Tucson Padres Triple-A team. You can't plan that stuff.

  6. LF Gene Richards,* 1978 (3.5) / Reggie Sanders, 1999 (4.3). There is some support for Richards as a generational Padre. Had more than twice as many triples (63) as home runs (26), so that tells you how he rolled. Had the highest career batting average by a Padre prior to the arrival of Tony Gwynn, which tells you how bad the team was prior to the arrival of Tony Gwynn.

    Sanders is easily the most anonymous member of the 300-home run, 300-stolen base club, largely since he changed teams every two years.

  7. CF Kevin McReynolds, 1984 (5.5). The lingering image of McReynolds dates from his Mets days, when he made it easy to portray him as an Arkansas yokel dropped into the Big Apple. However, he had his best season for the Padres' first pennant winner in '84, compiling a 2.0 defensive WAR.

  8. 2B Quilvio Veras,# 1998 (3.6). Our first appearance from the '98 Padres team that got a severe ass-forking from the Yankees in the World Series. It would have all been different if Mark Langston hadn't been squeezed in Game 1, Itellsya.

  9. SS Garry Templeton,# 1986 (3.0). Was traded straight up once for Ozzie Smith, who is in the Hall of Fame, while Templeton today is managing in the Golden Baseball League. It was kind of a big deal in 1979 when he became the first player to collect 100 hits in a season from each side of the plate; now lists him as collecting only 95 as a righty.
  • CF Jerry Mumphrey,# 1980 (3.0). In 1980, the Padres were the first team to have three players each steal at least 50 bases and they finished last in the National League West. Let that be a lesson. Mumphrey stole 52-of-57 that season.

  • C Fred Kendall, 1973 (2.3). Better known as Jason Kendall's father, but was an original Padre.

  • UT Tim Flannery,* 1985 (2.1). Could play second base, third and blues guitar.
(* left-handed hitter; # switch-hitter)

Monday, March 07, 2011

Ultimate baseball league: Las Vegas 51s

Since entertainers well past their prime always end up in Las Vegas, it is oddly fitting a roster of the best of the rest from Blue Jays history is largely drawn from the '80s.

Ah, to be young again and believe that a team in powder-blue polyester uniforms playing on carpet in the corner of a CFL stadium represented the diamond game in its ideal form. No less than five of the nine starters, along with one of the starting pitchers, is drawn from that decade, when the Jays were usually awesomely good until October. Borderline Hall of Famer Fred McGriff, who had his best season in Toronto, anchors the starting lineup, while the good version of Juan Guzman is the staff ace.

Of course, by process of elimination, you might be able to figure out who is on the Jays' all-time team that will published at a later date.

The 51s' division includes Fresno (a Giants B team), Sacramento (an Athletics B team) and Reno. They might be up against it in a division with two original franchises, especially since the lineup isn't very deep.

  1. CF Lloyd Moseby,* 1984 (6.2). In another time, the Shaker might have been a 40-homer corner outfielder, but he fit well into '80s baseball, with all of its stolen bases and triples (he even tied for the league lead in three-baggers once). First Jay to score 100 runs in a season.

  2. SS Tony Fernandez,# 1987 (5.0). Was probably overrated in his prime since artificial turf makes middle infielders look better. It meant more to have one of the 1980s Jays around for the second World Series triumph. It's probably a surprise he is not on the A squad.

  3. DH Fred McGriff,* 1989 (6.6). Will the Crime Dog and his .377/.509 career ever earn entry to Cooperstown? Led the AL in home runs, bases on balls and OPS in 1989, which only him to sixth place in the MVP vote.

  4. LF George Bell, 1987 (5.0). Ol' Senor Ding-Dong himself, as the only Jay to be a league MVP shall be known retroactively. No wonder Manny Ramirez idolized him; Jorge being Jorge included karate-kicking pitchers, eating McDonalds in the clubhouse, driving in runs by the assload and not being able to field worth a damn. Also hit the other Blue Jays walk-off home run off Mitch Williams, which few remember since no one in Toronto watched baseball outside of the years 1989-93.

  5. RF Shawn Green,* 1999 (5.9). Well, there has to be one representative from the era of ArenaBaseball and the Jays being under an absentee owner that was not Rogers.

  6. 2B Aaron Hill, 2009 (5.4). Don't be silly and think he's as good as Roberto Alomar was in Toronto. Who does that?

  7. 3B Kelly Gruber, 1988 (4.8). Only Jay ever referenced on Kids In The Hall (Kevin McDonald: "But if Kelly Gruber makes one more mistake, he'll have to change his name to Kelly Boober.") . Enjoyed water skiing, according to Marty York.

  8. 1B Willie Upshaw,* 1983 (4.3). Be honest, you can still hear Murray Eldon calling his name at Exhibition Stadium.

  9. C Darrin Fletcher,* 2000 (2.3). Recorded a promo for CFRC 101.9 FM's The Sports Revolution in 2001, which in Neil Acharya's mind, makes him the seventh-greatest catcher of all time.
  • RHS Doyle Alexander 1984 (5.6). In hindsight, he must have been a smart pitcher since he thrived in Exhibition Stadium despite having nothing resembling a major-league fastball.

  • LHS Ted Lilly 2004 (5.0). Nothing against him, but it completely spoiled the summer that time when he was the Jays lone representative at the all-star game.

  • RHS Jim Clancy, 1982 (4.8). The original innings-eater.

  • LHS David Wells, 2000 (4.5). The Boomer in Vegas; honestly, that is just how it worked out.
  • RHS Shaun Marcum, 2010 (3.8). Good luck in Milwaukee, Marcum.

  • RHS Todd Stottlemyre 1991 (3.8). Eighteen years later, former Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell is still a dillhole. The perception was that Stottlemyre never quit put it together in his Toronto years, but evidently he was decent.

  • OF Alex Rios, 2007 (4.5). It ended poorly for him in Toronto, but he did many things well, if never at the same time.

  • 3B-SS Tony Batista, 1999 (4.3). A guaranteed stumper among Blue Jays fans is to ask them to name all seven Jays who have had a 40-homer season. Bell, Jesse Barfield, Jose Bautista, and Carlos Delgado come to mind no problem. It might take a minute to recall Green and Jose Canseco, but Bautista, who had the world's most open batting stance, is a tough pull.

  • OF-1B Adam Lind,* 2009 (3.3). Lefty bat off the bench, if needed.

  • 3B Rance Mulliniks,* 1985 (3.0). Platoon partner for Gruber, plus there is undying respect for someone who got a World Series ring for basically hanging out in the bullpen all season.

  • C Gregg Zaun,# 2005 (2.1). Does anyone feel we are poorer for it that Rogers Sportsnet does not let Zaunie have a can of Skoal in his breast pocket when he's on air with Jamie Campbell during post-season telecasts?
  • CL B.J. Ryan, 2006 (4.0). A rare lefty closer, The Beej was sneaky fast before arm problems derailed his career.

  • RHR Pete Vuckovich 1977 (2.9). Old Clu Haywood himself (he played the Yankees slugger in Major League) was a swingman with the original 1977 Jays, pitching the first shutout in franchise history.

    This is how bad Cy Young Award voting was 30 years ago. Vuckovich won in 1982 with the Milwaukee Brewers even though the only categories in which he ranked in the top five of the league were winning percentages and bases on balls. Really. He

  • RHR Billy Koch 2000 (2.7). After The Wrestler came out, many ex-WWE stars claimed to be the basis for Mickey Rourke's character, The Ram. No ex-ballplayer ever claimed to be the basis for Kenny Powers — they're not typically so desperate for money — but Koch might have had a case. He burned brightly for a few years and slots in here as an eighth-inning reliever.

  • LHR Jerry Garvin, 1980 (2.6). Some acknowledgement has to made for the Jays early years. Garvin was a lefty who managed to have a high leg kick and a good pickoff move.

  • LHR Tony Castillo, 1995 (2.5). The last two spots in the 'pen are a bit of a weak point, but Castillo was either better than most people remember or he just got to work in all the low-leverage situations. Was credited with the win in Game 4 of the 1993 World Series, the 15-14 game, since obviously it is all on the pitching when a team scores 15 runs.
(* left-handed hitter; # switch-hitter)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Sixty (starting) nines, dude: the all-time baseball league

Baseball is the intellectual's game since all the action takes place in the observer's head — which could also be why it takes nearly three hours to complete seven minutes of action.

That's the best way of introducing a fun little side project borne from a secret shame: creating a 25-player roster for all 30 current MLB franchises, plus another 30 historical rosters. Sixty nines, as it were.

This sort of ties with the concept of metafandom, along with having personal and professional obligations that proscribe any blogging on baseball. Talking about a game will never replace watching the best players in the world do their thing. However, there is a lot to be said for the idea a lot of Seamheads, as Craig Calcaterra put it recently, have come "to love or obsess about the game — through something other than actually sitting down and watching it."

For yours truly, the gateway drug into being a stat geek was a computer simulation from called Earl Weaver Baseball that was released in the late 1980s. There is general awareness that John Madden Football was catalytic for sports video games, but Weaver was innovative in its own right (you could play an entire season and it recreated different stadiums). Its era-specific rosters using Hall of Fame players, this being before people realized using one's name and likeness without compensation was probably actionable, was a better introduction to baseball history than Ken Burns' Baseball (not being hyperbolic, it really was).

From about 1989 through 1996, a shameful number of hours were wiled away playing games between, for instance the AL 00-30 team with its Ty Cobb-Tris Speaker-Babe Ruth outfield (and two .400 hitters, Harry Heilmann and George Sisler, sitting on the bench) and the likes of the AL 61-75 team, on which the 1961 version of Roger Maris was the fourth outfielder behind Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski. Even more time was pissed away typing in contemporary players' stats from the backs of baseball cards to make rosters of current players to make imaginary teams.

As a 15-year-old loner growing up in a rural area, it was either that or learn how to hunt or fish. Remember, this was before kids out in the boonies had the Internet or meth labs. Besides, who wouldn't have been curious to see what kind of power numbers Frank Thomas would have put up if he was 'created' and placed on a team that played in Fenway Park?

Suffice to say, that's always been there. So, if all this goes according to plan, by Opening Day each roster should be posted.

Here is a rough format:
  • Franchises will be grouped by vintage. The Blue Jays and their 34-season history aren't competing with Red Sox and Yankees, whose lineups can be drawn from nearly a century. Feel free to read that as a protest against MLB wrecking a good thing, being a sport, no salary cap, with a bad thing, unbalanced schedules and too many divisions.

    That expanded playoff format cannot happen soon enough.

  • No player may be used twice. Rob Neyer of, a few years ago, published his Big Book of Baseball Lineups. When it came out, I was all, "How dare he have the drive and work ethic to see to fruition an idea I never acted on!" However, Neyer's objective was just picking the best lineup. This exercise is under the guise that there's some realm where these teams would actually play, so Barry Bonds can't be on the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants.

    A couple years ago, yours truly also managed the Blue Jays in a sim league. Again, players could be used more than once. This is more pure.

  • Each player will be chosen by his most representative season. The criteria is to use WAR (Wins Above Replacement) to pick a 25-player roster with a batting order using a designated hitter, bench, starting rotation and bullpen.
  • Context counts. That's a way of dealing with suspect Steroid Era seasons or one-year wonders. For instance, Brady Anderson's 50-home run 1996 season (6.6 WAR) should get tossed out, but his '92 campaign (5.4) that better reflected his overall body of work is permissible. Some emphasis will be given to more contemporary players, since baseball has become more competitive over time. In other words, anyone from the pre-Jackie Robinson era or Dead Ball Era (before 1920) will have to be more exceptional than a latter-day player.

Here are the divisions:

  • Classic: The charter franchises — Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers.

  • Modern: Teams that took their current form in the 1950s and '60s — Baltimore Orioles, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics.

  • Newbies: The under-40 (as in seasons) teams — Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays. Some allowance is being made for the Royals' small-market woes.


  • Classic: Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals.

  • Modern: Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros, New York Mets, Atlanta Braves (dating from 1966).

  • Newbie: San Diego Padres, Montreal Expos, Milwaukee Brewers, Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks. The Milwaukee team would draw on seasons when that city had a NL team.

  • North Division: Buffalo Bisons (Mets B), Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies B), Pawtucket Red Sox (Boston B), Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (Yankees B), Rochester Red Wings (all-time Washington Nats/Twins B), Syracuse Chiefs (players born in '40s).

  • South Division: Brooklyn Dodgers, Charlotte Knights (Chisox B), New York Giants, Norfolk Tides (all-time Browns/Orioles B)

  • West Division: Columbus Clippers (Cleveland B), Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh B), Louisville Bats (Cincinnati B), Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit B).

  • American North: Iowa Cubs (Chicago Cubs B), Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis B), Nashville Sounds (Brewers AL-only, 1969-97), Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City B).

  • American South: Albuquerque Isotopes (Dodgers B), New Orleans Zephyrs (players born in '50s), Oklahoma City RedHawks (Houston B), Round Rock Express (Senators/Rangers B).

  • Pacific North: Colorado Springs Sky Sox (players born in '60s), Tucson (Padres B), Salt Lake Bees (Angels B), Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners B).

  • Pacific South: Fresno Grizzlies (Giants B), Las Vegas 51s (Blue Jays B), Sacramento River Cats (Athletics B), Reno Aces (players born in '70s and '80s).
Hope this can be pulled off!