Can Butler Do It?

April 4, 2011

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Last year, Butler came tantalizingly close to winning the national title when Gordon Hayward’s three point shot at the buzzer missed.  The Bulldogs lost 61-59, star Gordon Hayward left early for the NBA draft, and everyone thought that the chance for a mid-major to win a title had evaporated.

Butler came into this year’s tournament as a #8 seed.  In spite of the absence of Hayward, they have made their way through the jungle and into the NCAA Finals once again.  Is this the year that we can finally say the Butler did it?  I certainly hope so.

Butler coach Brad Stevens is a year younger than me … and is sure to be wooed by some bigger programs with fat pocketbooks.  Will Stevens be tempted by the money?  It’s worth noting that Stevens got his start in coaching when he quit his good paying job in the “real world” for an unpaid gig at Butler.  Bulldog for life?  Maybe.

The UConn men are the forgotten team in the final – the dynastic program led by an iconic coach.  How ironic would it be for Jim Calhoun to win another title the day after the dominant UConn women’s program tasted defeat for the second time this year?


On Saturday, India won their second ever World Cricket Cup and the first since 1983.  India beat Sri Lanka by 6 wickets, scoring 277 runs to Sri Lanka’s 274. I have a lot of friends of Indian descent, and really need to learn more about the sport, which has a slight resemblance to baseball.


Speaking of baseball … my Rockies faced some bad news on three consecutive days.  On Friday, Ubaldo Jimenez got roughed up and the Rockies lost in extra innings.  The culprit was a split cuticle which force Ubaldo to alter his grip on the ball.  On Saturday, Jorge de la Rose shut down the Diamondbacks, but developed a blister on his finger.  Both pitcher received an extra day to recover when Sunday’s game was snowed out, pushing their next start back by a day.

One of my favorite players is former Rockies star Matt Holliday, now with the Cardinals.  Happy, as I refer to him, wasn’t so happy on Friday.  Holliday was experiencing discomfort and went to the hospital – and came out missing an appendix.  The Cardinals are hoping to avoid placing Holliday on the disabled list.  It hasn’t been good few months for projected NL division leaders, with the Cardinals losing Adam Wainwright for the season and now Holliday for an unknown number of games and the Phillies starting the season without second baseball Chase Utley.  To make things even worse, Holliday is on my fantasy team.

A Giants fan is in critical condition after being savagely beaten by two men outside Dodger stadium following Thursday’s opening day game between the two teams.  Seriously … it’s a game.  Any time you’re thinking about slugging someone, take a step back and think about what you enjoyed about the game as a kid.

All Stars and Hot Dogs

July 6, 2010

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Hot Dog

Joey Chestnut defended his title at the Nathan’s Famous hot dog contest over the weekend – but he was overshadowed by the actions of former champion Takeru Kobayashi.  Kobayashi slipped past security and on to the stage following the contest.  He was arrested for trespassing, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and obstruction of governmental administration (yeah, I have no clue what this last one is).  He was released after a night in jail and faces a hearing today.

What’s at the heart of this issue?  A contract.  Partipants at the contest must sign contracts witg Major League Eating.  This contract prevents the eaters from participating in contests not sanctioned by MLE.  MLE says that this is to protect sponsors.  Pepto Bismol is a sponsor of the Nathan’s contest.  If the contestants were to compete in a Tums-sponsored even on the 3rd (or 5th) this would dilute the value of the sponsorship.  Kobayashi insists that he just wants the freedom to participate wherever he wants.

The solution to this seems pretty straightforward – allow for a sponsor’s exemption.  If all the sponsors for an event agree to allow a non-member to compete, then MLE would waive the requirement.  This isn’t a completely foreign concept – the PGA and LPGA golf tours have sponsor’s exemptions for tournaments.

I’ve always been a bit fan of Kobayashi’s, but I was very disappointed to see him stoop to this level.  I hope that he and MLE can reach an agreement at some point.

All Stars

The Major League Baseball All Star Game will be played next Tuesday night.  Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez was named to the team.  Jimenez was rocked for 7 runs against the Giants on Saturday, but escaped with a no-decision and currently stands with a record of 14-1.  Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was named to his first All Star game, but will be unable to played due to a broken wrist.  Rockies outfielder Carlos “Car Bomb” Gonzalez is on the “Final Man” ballot.  Vote for him, please …

Matt Holliday (formerly of the Rockies and currently with the Cardinals) was named to the National League team, to the surprise of ESPN, who said “One surprising pick was St. Louis’ Matt Holliday. In the first year of a seven-year, $120 million deal, Holliday is batting .209 with runners in scoring position and has 39 RBIs — fourth-best on the team.

It’s a shame that the dominant provider of sports entertainment would make such a gaffe.  First of all, RBI has long been consider a poor way to judge the value of a player.  The statistic is heavily influenced by the players hitting in front of the batter.  If they don’t get on base, he can’t drive them, in.  The batting average for runners in scoring position hasn’t been ridiculed as much as RBI, but many observer feel that that “clutch hitting” is much more rooted in luck than skill. 

What, then, would I suggest using?  Maybe something like Wins Above Replacement (WAR).  WAR measures a player’s offensive and defensive value, adjusting for their positon and for the value a replacement-level player could provide  (get more info on WAR here).  Where does Holliday rank amongst National League outfielders in WAR?  Yep – first.

Update From the First Week of Baseball

April 13, 2010

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Kosmo is filling in for Johnny Goodman on the sports beat this week.

The Masters

To call me a golf fan would be an absurd exaggeration. In general, I check to see home local boy Zach Johnson is doing and see who wins. This week – even with the return of Tiger Woods – it was the same drill here. Tiger fell a bit short and Phil Mickelson picked up another green jacket. I can’t help but cheer for Mickelson, who faced the dual adversity of his wife and his mother being diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

Country Joe Sings the Wrong Tune

Baseball umpire Joe West – also a country music singer – ruffled some feathers on both sides of the Yankees – Red Sox rivalry by saying the two teams were pathetic because of the length of the games they played.

This annoyed me for a couple of reasons. First of all, the umpire is supposed to be an impartial observer. When he made these comments, West crossed a line. If these sorts of statements are to be made, they should come from the commissioner’s office (which later did make a comment about the length of games).

Even more annoying, though, is the continued emphasis on the length of games. One of the beauties of baseball is the fact that it is untimed. You can typically estimate the length of football of basketball games. Baseball is an entirely different beast. You can get a two hour game if the pitchers are working quickly and the batters are swinging at everything. On the flip side, you can have a four hour game if the pitchers are working slowly and the batters are patient.

In baseball, a team is never eliminated until the last out is made. This isn’t the case in other sports. You can’t make up a twenty eight point deficit in fifteen seconds in football. It’s a technical impossibility – you wouldn’t have enough time to execute the necessary players. In baseball, though, you can rally from a 10-0 deficit with two outs in the ninth. As long as you keep getting hits, the game will continues.

Have you ever been to a great rock concert and later, complained about the length? Of course not. If the experience is of poor quality, this is a problem. If it’s merely excess quantity, this really isn’t a problem.

The Resin Bag

Nationals prospect Stephen Strasburg and Reds farmhand Aroldis Chapman both began their minor league careers with strong performances. Don’t expect either of these guys to stay down very long. Once the teams are assured of having their free agency (and possibly arbitration) delayed, these guys will pop up to the majors.

Meanwhile, Mike Leake jumped into the Reds rotation without any minor league experience. If Chappy is indeed being kept down for financial reasons, then why did the Reds keep Leake with the big club to start the season? They could have delayed Leake’s free agency in a similar fashion. Any chance that the Reds will demote Leake when Chappy is promoted – for just enough time to delay his free agency?

CC Sabathia put up a strong performance on Saturday night, taking a no-hit big into the eighth inning. I love the anticipation of a no-hitter in progress and always pull for the pitcher.

On the Rockies beat, Jorge de la Rosa started off his 2010 campaign strong, tossing seven innings of one hit ball. Keep an eye on George of the Rose. He started last year 0-6 with a 5.43 ERA before rallying to finish 16-9 with a 4.38 ERA. For those of you keeping score at home, that means he went 16-3 with a 3.94 ERA from June 5th through the end of the season. The ERA might not seem dominant … but bear in mind that his home park is Coors Field.

Matt Holliday of the Cardinals is off to a hot start, with three homers in seven games (he is, of course, playing second fiddle to Albert Pujols, who has five).  I have always contended that Holliday’s bat would play anywhere.  Clearly Coors Field boosted his numbers … but not by as much as the raw home/road splits would make you think.  If you compare Holliday’s differential to those of other Rockies, you’d quickly noticed that his differential dwarfed those of the teammates.  Either the park was exceptionally well suited for him … or he’s simply the sort of player who thrives in front of a home crowd.  Hey, guess what – his home OPS was 150 points high than his road OPS last year … despite being in Oakland (bad hitter’s park) at the beginning of the year.  As a point of comparison, across baseball, the typical player has an OPS 30 points higher at home.  I’m expecting a strong season from Happy this year as well.

I made a rookie goof in fantasy baseball and neglected to pay attention to my starting lineup.  As a result, I had a sub-standard lineup in place for week 1.  My Yura Peeins fell to Johnny Goodman’s team 6-4.  I lost two pitching categories and four of the five hitting categories – nabbing the only win in steals.  Honestly, though, even with my A lineup, I would probably have lost by the same score.

What to Watch for in Baseball, 2010

February 23, 2010

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With the baseball season just around the corner (really – it is!), here are some things to watch in 2010.  We’ll likely have a few articles on this topic.  The order for these articles will be the ever-popular “whatever happens to pop in my head today”.

The Nationals

All the hoopla was about the signing of Stephen Strasburg, but the Nationals also put a bit of money into the team during free agency.  They didn’t go crazy with the money (15M over 2 years for Jason Marquis being the costliest deal).  Nor did they cost themselves draft picks by signing any Type A free agents.  What they did do is make several low risk moves.  The deal I like best is Chien-Ming Wang signing a 2M deal for 2010.  Wang won’t be healthy enough to pitch until May, following recent surgery.  However, if he can return to the form that saw him go a combined 28-13 over 400+ innings during the 2006 and 2007 seasons, then it’s money well spent.

The gNats also picked up several other guys who could help them.  Ivan Rodriguez behind the dish, Matt Capps in the pen, and Adam Kennedy at 2B are among the guys who could help.  They also have some decent players already in the lineup.  Perhaps this is the year that people realize that Adam Dunn is a fine offensive player who just happen to be weak in the areas that critics like to jump on – strikeouts and batting average.  Seriously, folks, strikeouts just aren’t that big of a deal – and Dunn makes up for his batting average by walking a ton.  Oh, yeah, and he hits lots of homers.  (Let’s not talk about his defense.

Am I suggesting that the Nationals will make the playoffs?  Holy crap – of course not.  But they’ll no longer be the laughingstock of the league.  That honor will fall upon the Pirates some unknown team.

The Rockies

Hey, I’m a Rockies fan,  so of course I think the Rockies are a story to watch.  But, really, they ARE a story to watch this year.  Prior to 2007, the Rockies had made the playoffs exactly once – in 1995.  In the last three seasons, they have made the playoffs twice.  Many fans tend to write them off as a fluke because both seasons were characterized by very slow starts and red-hot second halves.  If the Rockies can put together a strong wire-to-wire season in 2010, more people may look at them as legitimate perennial playoffs contenders.

There are lots of young players to watch with the Rockies.  If Troy Tulowitzki can avoid the disastrously slow that plagued him last year, he may make a run at an MVP award.  Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez, and Ian Stewart should all take another step forward.  Youngster Jhoulys Chacin may also crack the rotation this year.  Starting pitcher Jeff Francis will be returning from injury.

The rise of the Rockies could be aided by the divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt.  The McCourts own the Dodgers – and we all saw what happened to the Padres in the aftermath of the divorce of their owners, John and Becky Moores.

The Cardinals

Not only did re-signing Matt Holliday make the Cardinals a force to be reckoned with in the near future, but it also sent a strong message to Albert Pujols that management is truly interested in having a strong team around him (and thus making it more likely that they will be able to re-sign him).  I’ve been impressed with Pujols since seeing him during his brief stint with the Peoria Chiefs (low A).  Making Albert Pujols happy is a good idea.

On the field, Pujols and Holliday are a fearsome combination in the 3-4 spots in the lineup and Carpenter and Wainright similarly strike fear in opposing hitters at the top of the rotation.  I’m struggling to find a scenario that doesn’t have the Cardinals winning the NL Central, barring a major injury.  Sure, the Cubs might be capable of a run, but you know they’ll find some way to mess it up.

High Flying Cardinals

January 19, 2010

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Matt Holliday

Matt Holliday recently finalized his contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.  This definitely solidifies Holliday in the #2 spot on my baseball preference rankings.  I was extremely pleased to see Holliday stay with the Cardinals rather than ending up in Boston or New York (especially New York).

If Holliday puts up strong numbers with the Cardinals, it should tear down a bit of the stigma Coors Field.  While Holliday always put up strong very strong home numbers compared to his road numbers, his home/road splits were not in line with other Rockies hitters – they were much more dramatic.  This would indicate that some other factor was coming into play.  My personal thought is that he simply was more comfortable at home than on the road.  While hitters typically produce an OPS 31 points higher at home that on the road, this varies greatly.  Some hitters thrive at home while others wilt under the pressure of playing in front of the home crowd.  Holliday is a home thriver – as evidenced by his 2009 home/road split of .982/.830.  That’s a monstrous split – and clearly had nothing to do with Coors Field.

Holliday’s contract has an eighth year (at $17 million) that would vest if he finishes in the top 10 in National League MVP voting in 2016 (if it doesn’t vest, it becomes a team option).  While vesting options aren’t unprecedented, they usually vest based on some statistic such as plate appearances (hitters) or innings pitched (pitchers).  In this case, Holliday’s option is in the hands of the Baseball Writers of America, who vote on the awards.  He could have a great year in 2016 and still not crack the top 10.  On the flip side, this is a great deal far the Cardinals.  It’s hard to imagine a situation where Holliday would finish in the top 10 and not be worthy of the $17 million option.

Kurt Warner

The Arizona Cardinals were bounced out of the playoff by the top NFC seed, the New Orleans Saints, on Saturday.  Warner suffered a hard hit while trying to track down a defender who intercepted one of his passes and finished with lackluster numbers (17-26, 205, 0 TD, 1 INT).

After the game, the discussion about a potential retirement began again.  If the Saints game ends up the career finale for Warner, it would be a shame.  The prior week’s game against the Green Bay Packers would have been a more fitting end to a Hall of Fame career.  In that game, Warner completed 29 of 33 passes for 379 yards and 5 TDs without being intercepted.  That performance corresponded to a rating of 154.1.  The NFL’s convoluted rating formula (which takes into account completion percentages, yards per attempt, touchdown percentage and interception percentage) tops out at 158.33, making that performance nearly perfect.

I’m a big fan of Warner’s.  Most fans know his story.  He started for only one season at division 1-AA Northern Iowa, wasn’t drafted by and NFL team, and ended up stocking shelves in a grocery store at one point (for a grand wage of $5.50 per hour).  After lighting up the Arena League and NFL Europe, before getting a chance to be a backup quarterback for the St. Louis Rams.  When started Trent Green went down to an injury during the 1999 pre-season, Warner stepped up and led the Rams to a spectacular season, capped off with a Super Bowl victory.  Two years later, the Rams lost a heartbreaker in another Super Bowl.  Injuries eventually forced Warner out of St. Louis.  He landed with the New York Giants as the tutor for Eli Manning.  He then signed with the hapless Arizona Cardinals – before leading them also to a Super Bowl (alas, another heartbreaking defeat).  Now, at age 38, he seems to be a lock for the Hall of Fame.

Off the field, Warner is a devout Christian and is heavily involved in many charities.

I have a few more reasons to like Kurt Warner.  First of all, I have met the man, and he definitely appears to be the genuine article.  My wife is a Rams fan, and we attended a few training camps.  Warner would sit at a table for hours signing autographs and posing for pictures.  Very cool.

Second, Warner is a native Iowan, and we stick together.  He’s on my Mt. Rushmore.

Finally, Warner led me to a title in the first fantasy football league title in 1999.  In the first game of that season, one of my quarterbacks got hurt.  On a lark, I picked up Warner.  I grew up about 50 miles from the campus of Northern Iowa, so I was familiar with him.  When Warner exploded into a flurry of mind-blowing statistics, I went along for the ride.

Kosmo’s Sports Wrap

January 5, 2010

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This is my first live article in about a week. The newest member of the Observer family was welcomed into the world last Tuesday. It was a bit earlier than planned, but we’re happy he decided to join us. We’ll be even happier once he figures out the difference between day and night.

With a new baby in the house, I have understandably been a bit behind on sports news. That’s a bit of a shame, since it has been a pretty newsworthy week.

There are reports that Matt Holliday is closed to signing a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals. I’d love to see this happen. If the Rockies can’t have Holliday (and it appears that they can’t) then the Cardinals would probably be my second favorite landing spot, since they are currently my second favorite baseball team.  One of the rumors sets the terms of the contract at $112 million over 7 years – an average of $16 million per year.  This would be comparable to the deal that Jason Bay signed with the Mets (worth up to $80 million over 5 years if his option vests).  A key point is the length of the contract – a 7 year deal would be a nice coup for agent Scott Boras.  Holliday and Bay are often regarded as being comparably productive offensively, with Holliday deemed the better defender.

Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, who led the Red Raiders to the brink of an undefeated seasons in 2008, was summarily dismissed by the team.  The school says that Leach mistreated a player by forcing him to stay in a dark shed near the practice field when the player had suffered a concussion in a previous practice.  The school then fired Leach for refusing to apologize to the player.  I’ll admit that I haven’t been getting all of the sports news lately, but this seems to be just a fraction of the story.  I find it difficult to believe that a school would fire a winning coach over an incident with one player.  On the other hand, there is a renewed focus on concussions recently, as well as a few firings of coaches who were deemed to be abusive.

Iowa State hung on in the Insight Bowl to pick up a 14-13 victory over their northern neighbors, the Minnesota Golden Gophers.  The Cyclones finished the season with 7 wins, up from just two wins in 2008.  At the end of 2008, I was cautiously optimistic for this year, as I felt that the team had been more competitive than in 2007.  However, I did not expected new head coach Paul Rhoads to take the team to a bowl game quite yet.  The team was just a couple of bad breaks away from having 8 or 9 wins.  The best win of the year?  The 9-7 victory over Nebraska – courtesy of 8 turnovers by the eventual Big XII North champion Cornhuskers.

And in the “what were they thinking” segment, Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton of the NBA’s Washington Wizards reportedly pulled guns on each other in a dispute over debts arising from card games.  It seems that we have a couple of issues here.  First, if you need to use a gun to settle a gambling debt, your elevator probably doesn’t go all the way to the top.  Second, if you’re incurring large enough gambling debts that would cause a teammate to pull a gun on you, you just might have a gambling problem.  Seriously, guys, you’re living the dream of millions of kids – making some serious coin for playing basketball.  Don’t mess it up with something stupid.

Cameron Delivers Titanic Blow to Bay, Holliday

December 15, 2009

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Red Sox sign Mike Cameron, John Lackey

The Red Sox snuck one past me yesterday by signing Mike Cameron to patrol their outfield.  I had been under the assumption that the Red Sox would sign either Jason Bay or Matt Holliday to patrol left field, and was a bit stunned to hear of the signing.  Cameron is a fine defensive player (a three time gold glove winner), but is a big step down from Bay or Holliday offensively. 

Cameron, who will turn 37 in January, is also considerably older than Holliday (who will be 30 in January) or Bay (32 in September).  Players tend to lose a step as they age, and their offensive skills tend to erode.  So it is pretty likely (almost a certainty) that the Red Sox will get less offense from Cameron than they would from Bay or Holliday.  Cameron is a better defender, although defensive range is less important in Fenway Park than in other ballparks because the left field wall is very shallow.  The ability to gauge where balls will ricochet off the 37 foot high Green Monster is more important than foot speed.

On the flip side, the two year deal, worth a total of $15.5 million, is a lot less money than Bay or Holliday will command (easily twice that much, and for five or more years.)  The Red Sox may have simply decided that it would be more cost effective to upgrade a corner infield sport (with either 3B Adrian Beltre or 1b Adrian Gonzalez).  Gonzalez has come into the spotlight a bit in recent years, but Mr. Eyebrows still doesn’t get the respect he deserves.  His raw numbers (3 straight 30+ homer season, 40 homers and a .958 OPS in 2009) are impressive.  When you stop to think that he plays in a park (Petco) that greatly depresses offense, the numbers are even more amazing.  Put him in Fenway, and he’ll win a couple of MVP awards.

The signing is bad news for Bay and Holliday, as it takes a rich suitor off the table. Bay and Holliday will certainly get some serious coin in their deals, but the Cameron deal may end up costing them a couple of million dollars per year. 

The Red Sox also shored up their rotation by signing right handed starting pitcher John Lackey.  This move makes sense on a number of levels.  Other than the cash given to Lackey ($85 million over five years), the marginal acquisition cost was merely a second round pick.  The Red Sox had signed Marco Scutaro (another type A free agent) earlier in the offseason, and were thus bound to lose their 2010 1st round pick.  Signing Lackey merely means that their 2010 first rounder will go to Anaheim as compensation for losing Lackey, while reducing Oakland’s compensation for Scutaro to a 2nd rounder.  Additionally, taking Lackey away from the Angels makes it a bit easier for Boston to get past the Angels, if they were to face them in the playoffs.  While Lackey isn’t as flashy as some of the other top pitchers, he’s definitely an ace-caliber guy.

Phillies Acquire Ace, Trade Away Ace

The Phillies made waves by finally ending Roy Halladay’s long twist in the wind by acquiring Doc from the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Phillies then turned around and traded their existing ace, Cliff Lee, to the Seattle Mariners.  Prospects were the counterweight in both trades.  Halladay is a year older than Lee, but has been a more consistent performer over the course of their careers.  Additionally, Halladay is righthanded (Lee was a lefty), allowing the Phillies to pair him with Cole Hamels for a righty/lefty combination at the top of their rotation.  While the Phillies were able to neutralize teams that were heavily left handed (the Rockies in the NLDS for example) because of the lefty-dominant rotation, having a balance of righty/lefty makes them a bit less susceptible to teams that lean heavily one way or the other.

Kosmo’s Ramblings

November 22, 2009

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So, what’s up in Kosmo’s world?

I avoided the ladder

I encountered one of my more interesting driving experiences this week.  As I was driving into work, an extension ladder suddenly appeared on the road in front of me.  The ladder was in the two right lanes (of three total lanes) and I was in the right land, so I veered sharply right to avoid the ladder, then back sharply left to avoid leaving the roadway.  I felt a little bad about the lack of control the car exhibited during this maneuver – until I looked in my rear view mirror and saw another driver perform a carbon copy of my move.  I really didn’t need my morning caffeine after that – I was wide awake.

Baywatch (and Hollidaywatch)

Red Sox outfielder Jason Bay rejected a 4 year contract offer worth $60 million from Boston this week.  This sets an apparent floor on the value of Bay and fellow free agent outfielder Matt Holliday.  The emerging consensus, based an advanced statistical measures, is that the two players are comparable offensively (albeit with different strengths and weaknesses), and that Holliday is a better defender.

An interesting quirk is that Boston would actually come out ahead in terms of draft picks by allowing Bay to leave and nabbing Holliday as a free agent.  They would forfeit their first round pick to sign Holliday, but would receive a draft pick from the teams that signs Bay (assuming that a contender signs Bay, this would be a first rounder) as well as a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds.  The sandwiches are truly a free lunch – they picks are artificially added into the draft.  That’s why there are about 40 “first round” picks every year – in spite of the fact that there are only thirty teams.

There’s one important free agent who might be slipping under the radar of a lot of casual fans.  The name is Rudy Jaramillo.  Never heard of him?  What position does he play, you ask?  Hitting coach.  Jaramillo, widely renowned as the best hitting coach in baseball, is moving from the Texas Rangers to Chicago Cubs.  Don’t be surprised if you see several Cubs players have strong seasons at the plate.  Interestingly, the Rangers lose Jaramillo just one season after poaching standout pitching coach Mike Maddux (brother of Greg) from the Brewers.  What goes around, comes around, I guess.


I recently broke ground on my novel, Casting Stones.  I’ve been kicking around plot ideas for several months, but finally began the actual writing on Halloween.  I pushed past 6000 words on Friday and am making good progress.  The infrastructure for the plot is developing pretty well, with concrete ideas for seventeen chapters.  I see 15,000 words as a turning point – if I can make it to that point, I think there is a strong chance that I an maintain momentum and finish up with a full sized novel.

I’m not the only one working on a book.  Martin Kelly is working on his, of course.  We’ll see another installment of his NaNoWriMo diary tomorrow) and few other folks I know are either in the midst of writing a book, or are seriously considering one.  Go for it!  If you finish the book, great.  In any case, writing a book is an absurdly cheap hobby.

September Callups

September 1, 2009

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With Johnny Goodman out on assignment, I’m jumping in to bounce around the world of sports.

September Callup Time

Today marks the day when Major League Baseball teams can expand their rosters from 25 players to 40. Not all teams will call up an extra 15 players, though. Calling a player up to the major league starts his service time “clock”, which affects when they will become a free agent. Thus, the short term benefit of having the players in the major leagues for one month can be outweighed by the long term financial benefit of keeping him away from free agency for a full extra year.

However, September typically features the debut of a lot of players who are expected to contribute the following year. The teams get to see how the players adjust to playing major league competition, and the players get to play though a bit of the rookie “yips” in games that often don’t count for a whole lot.

For teams that are in playoff contention, the situation is much different. The expansion of rosters allows teams to add extra hitters to their bench and extra arms to the bullpen – making it possible for the bullpen to pitch more innings than normal in the throes of a pennant race.

On a related note, players acquired before midnight last night are eligible for postseason rosters.  (Confused about the fact that the trade deadline was a month ago?  Players acquired after July 31 must clear waivers first; players acquired earlier do not need to clear waivers.)  The NL West leading Dodgers acquired slugger Jim Thome from the White Sox and starting pitcher John Garland from the Snakes.  The Rockies countered by picking up pitcher Jose Contreras from the White Sox in exchange for prospect Brandon Hynick (a casual Facebook friend of mine).  Advantage to the Dodgers.

Rockies Update

My beloved Rockies just finished what I considered to be a critically important stretch that included seven games against the Giants and three against the division leading Giants. After taking three of four against the Giants, the Rockies took the first game from the Dodgers – pulling to within two games of the division lead in the process. Unfortunately, they lost the final two games of that series before being swept against the Giants in a series in the bay. The Rockies have fallen into a wild card tie with the Giants, setting up the potential for a great September race.

As for my favorite player, Troy Tulowitzki pushed his OPS (on-base-plus-slugging) over 1.000 for August on the strength of a homer and double in his August finale. After a dreadful start to the year, Tulo has record three straight months with a 1.000+ OPS.

Former Rockie Matt Holliday (now with the Cardinals) finished August with “only” a .963 OPS for the month, on the heels of a 1.150 OPS in July. Hidden by the arbitrary nature of the months of the calendar is a 24 game stretch beginning July 20 and ending August 15 in which Holliday posted a 1.355 OPS. While Holliday did manage to hit 7 homers during that stretch, it was the .474 batting average that was a major factor. The tricky thing for the Cardinals is whether or not they will be able to hammer out a new deal with Holliday’s agent, Scott Boras – or whether Holliday will test the free agent waters with a strong non-Coors season under his belt.


Fantasy Draft season is in full swing. This is a good sign that the NFL season in just around the corner.

On the positive side, we face a year without the “insight” of John Madden.

On the down side, my Minnesota Vikings gave $25 million to sign Brett Favre for two years. I’ve never been a fan of Favre, and his recent off-field antics have served to sour me on him even more. My plan is simply to ignore the NFL until it has been purged of Favre. I have really been focusing on baseball 365 days a year in recently years, anyway, so this should not be a major sacrifice.

College Football

College football also kicks off this weekend, highlighted by Iowa State’s Thursday night game against North Dakota State. I’m hopefully that Thursday’s game will be but the first step in a season that will end with a BCS Championship for my Cyclones.

Or maybe just a bowl.

The University of Michigan is making news for possible NCAA violations. Anonymous current and former players allege that the amount of time Wolverine players spent on football activities exceeded the limits set down by the NCAA. Michigan suffered their first losing season in more than 40 years in 2008, and this news can only be a distraction as they get ready to face Western Michigan in their maiden 2009 contest.

Saturday Stew

July 25, 2009

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In 2006, three young men in Wisconsin attempted to dig up a recently diseased young woman so that one of them could have sex with her body.  One of the men had become infatuated with her after seeing her photo in the obituary column.  (Maybe it’s just me, but that’s not the first place I expect people to look for dates).  After a stop at a local Wal-Mart to buy condoms, the men arrived at the cemetery and proceeded to dug all the way down to the concrete vault before police, who had been notified of suspicious activity, arrived at the scene.  One of the men quickly cracked and blurted out the entire scheme.

Authorities in Wisconsin soon realized that the state did not have any necrophilia laws on the books.

The prosecutors wished to try them on sexual assault charges, but it was unclear if the state’s sexual assault laws applied to dead people.  The state supreme court decided that the laws did indeed apply, as a corpse is unable to give consent.  This logic threw me for a bit of a loop, as I had never stopped to wonder if someone had human rights after they were dead.

This week, the mastermind of the crime was found guilty of attempted sexual assault and was sentence to two years in jail.


Pittsburgh  Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was named as a defendant in civil lawsuit this week.  The lawsuit alleges that Roethlisberger raped her last July at the Tahoe resort where she worked.  The lawsuit seeks $480,000 in compensation.

Is it possible that the allegations are true?  Of course.  Is it likely?  No.  The woman has not contacted police to file any criminal charges … just the civil lawsuit.  This really seems like a ploy to squeeze money out of Big Ben.  After all, if she was traumatized to the extent of $480,000, wouldn’t she consider this to be criminal activity that should be reported to the authorities?  Show me a criminal complaint, and I’ll take notice.

Erin Andrews

ESPN reporter Erin Andrews was videotaped nude by a voyeur, apparently through a peephole in her hotel room.  The video quickly made its way onto the internet.  Interestingly, many of the links the purport to be the Andrews video are actually attempts to trick people into downloading a virus – so those of you who are trying to find this video should be aware of the distinct possibility that you may instead give your computer a nasty virus.  And if the thought crosses your mind to look for this video, stop for a minute and realize that this video was made without any knowledge by Andrews – give her some respect and stay away from the video.

The story got even worse, as some news networks used pieces of the video or photos (captured from the video) as part of their coverage of the story (with parts of Erin’s body obscured).  This crosses a line of journalistic ethics.  ESPN lashed back at one of the papers – The New York Post – by banning any of its reporters from appearing on ESPN shows.  Good call, ESPN.

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin racked up a sizeable legal bill fending off multiple ethics complaints against her.  Most were dismissed, although she did have to pay back taxes on roughly $17,000 that the state reimbursed her for per diem expenses (on nights she spent away from the the governor’s mansion in Juneau – staying instead at her home in Wasilla) and had to reimburse the state for travel expenses for her family.

Palin created a fund so that her supporters could contribute toward her legal expenses.  Ironically, these donations may be a violation of state ethics laws.

Do yourself a favor, Republicans – find a better candidate in 2012.  If you want to have a woman on the ticket, take a look around.  Is Sarah Palin the best woman for the job?

Matt Holliday

On Friday, Matt Holliday was traded from the A’s to the Cardinals for three prospects, including 3B Brett Wallace.  The presence of Holliday will add another strong bat to join Albert Pujols in the Cardinals lineup.  There will be a cage match fight to determine who gets to keep the number 5 on their jersey.

Holliday’s numbers have slid from his numbers with the Rockies.  While many of his critics say that this shows he is a product of Coors Field, other factors are at play.  Not only did he move to a less hitter-friendly park (indeed, to a very hitter unfriendly park in Oakland), but he also changed leagues, rendering years of studying National League pitchers mostly useless, and forcing him to learn the tendencies of a hundred new pitchers.  This takes some time.  While Holliday had a dreadful April, he has a .905 OPS since May 5 (before Friday’s game).  And while Oakland is a terrible hitter’s park, Holliday’s home OPS is actually 89 points higher than his road OPS – compared to a standard MLB home/road split of +30.  Sure, it’s a small sample, but perhaps he’s the type of player who is simply more comfortable in his home surroundings, regardless of what those surroundings are.  When he was with the Rockies, his split differential far exceeded that of any other Rockies player – casting some doubt on the assertion that he was merely a production of Coors (since a rising tide should lift all boats).

How did Holliday do in his first game with the Cardinals, on Friday night?  4-5, with a double, a stolen base, a run, and an RBI.

Holliday has typically fared very well in the summer months, and the playoff race may energize him and boost his performance.  Enjoy the view, St. Louis.

Rockies update

Todd Helton of the Rockies recorded his 500th career double on Wednesday, becoming the 50th player in the history of Major League Baseball to reach that mark.  Helton’s once prodigious power numbers have been sapped by back ailments and a humidor in Coors Field, and his contract is considered by many to be a financial albatross, but Helton is universally revered by Rockies fans as the first truly great player that was drafted and developed by the Rockies.

On Monday, the Rockies took over the lead in the National League wild card race.  The Rockies had gotten off to a horrible start under former manager Clint Hurdle before rebounding with a 31-10 record from June 4 through Monday – good enough to push them past division rival San Francisco for the catbird seat in the wild card race.

On Wednesday night, Rockies top prospect Jhoulys Chacin was pulled from his start with AA Tulsa after 9 pitches.  The reason given was that the move was made in anticipation of possible future organizational move.  Speculation quickly came to a head, with fans wondering in Chacin would be traded (perhaps in a deal for Jays pitcher Roy Halladay), or would he skip AAA Colorado Springs for a promotion to the big club?  Well, it turns out that JC will be tossed into the shaky Rockies bullpen.  On Thursday, the Rockies acquired Rafael Betancourt from Cleveland to further bolster the pen.  Don’t be surprised if Garrett Atkins is traded before the deadline.