The Life and Times of Mike Leake

April 19, 2011

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Mike Leake arrived at the 2010 Cincinnati Reds Spring Training camp in the shadow of another young pitcher. The other pitcher was a Cuban refugee named Aroldis Champman, who could light up the radar gun at 103 miles per hour. Mike Leake was merely the 2009 first round draft pick of the Reds. All he had done in college was rack up 40 wins against 6 losses during his career at Arizona State. He was a third team all-american as a freshman, second team as a sophomore, and first teamer in his junior year before being drafted by the Reds (more about draft eligibility here.)

Chapman was sent to the minors before the season began, but Leake – who, like many top picks, did not play in the minors after the draft – jumped straight to the big leagues. This was an unusual move, since this starts the clock ticking on a player’s arbitration and free agency (more about that here), but Leake had won a job in the Reds rotation.

Leake started the year strong before shoulder fatigue caught up with him at the end of the year (not uncommon in young pitchers). Leake finished the year with an 8-4 record. His spot on the 2011 roster was not a certainty, but injuries to other pitchers opened the door, and once again Leake was in the rotation to start the season. On Saturday, he allowed two runs in six innings against the Pirates and running his season record to 2-0.

Mike Leake’s star was rising.

On Monday, Mike Leake was arrested. He is accused of shoplifting six shirts from Macy’s. Total cost of the six American Rag t-shirts? $59.88 (you can get shirts for less than $10 at Macy’s?). While Leake is in the pre-arbitration phase of his major league service , he’s still making a healthy $425,00 this year (are athletes overpaid?) – and I would hope he still had a few bucks left from the $2.3 million signing bonus he got in 2009.

I really struggle with these types of stories. When Leake become arbitration eligible after the 2012 season, the Reds could raise this as an issue during the hearing. It could very well cost Leake hundreds of thousands of dollars. Already, Leake’s reputation has suffered more than $60 in damage.

Yet, this is not the first incident of a celebrity shoplifting. Why do they do it? I doubt it’s the money. Perhaps some are simply kleptomaniacs, but this mental illness is not that common in the general population, so I doubt that this is often the case with celebrities. Is is for the rush – the extra kick of adrenaline from getting away with the crime? Seriously? Staring down Albert Pujols with the game on the line isn’t enough adrenaline?

Anyone else have any explanations?

This article mentions: American Rag

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.