reality blog, Wooden

The Reality Blog: Anatomy of a Baseball Fight


He likes confrontation.

He likes confrontation.

The always quotable Earl Weaver once said: “I think there should be bad blood between all [baseball] clubs.”

If true, Weaver would certainly love to be in the heart of the latest saga in the on-again, off-again rivalry between the Los Angeles Dodgers and their kid brothers down south, the San Diego Padres. The blood between the two clubs is currently so bad that the medieval practice of using leaches to suck out the toxins is a viable option. It’s a rivalry with a growing dislike that at times has compared to some of the greatest rivalries we’ve seen: Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi; Mac vs. the PC;  Lakers vs. Celtics. David vs. Goliath.

Perhaps that last analogy is the one that suits this current edition of the Dodgers-Padres rivalry, for it certainly feels as though the free-spending Dodgers and their quarter billion dollar lineup qualify as Goliaths in their own right and the Padres, with their Dollar Tree pitching staff and their lineup full of “hopefuls” are the scrappy David. It’s telling that the scouting reports for both teams couldn’t be any more different. For the Dodgers most would use the ‘if everything goes wrong’ caveat in describing how their season could unfold, for it is almost a foregone conclusion that the season will go well. For the Padres, the only optimism lies in the ‘if everything goes right’ line, and there are a LOT of ifs for that to happen this season.

However, when these two teams show up on the same diamond to square off, wins and losses, payroll discrepancies, and star power are tossed aside. This is one of those rivalries where the intensity is always there, records aside (I still remember going to a Padres-Dodgers tilt a few years back when both teams were mediocre at best and the stadium had playoff-level intensity). It may not be quite what the Dodgers-Giants rivalry has been in recent years, but that’s more attributed to the fact that the Pads haven’t held up their end of the bargain by winning.

So, when Carlos Quentin went all Jerome-Bettis-at-the-goal-line on Donald Zachary Greinke (thank you baseball-reference.com for sourcing this awesome name discovery) last week, it seemed inevitable. A rule of thumb is if the fans of both teams are fighting in between beers in the parking lot before the game, the players on the field probably feel much the same. A broken collarbone and an eight-week DL stint for Greinke and an eight game suspension for Quentin has sparked controversy and dialogue. Is it fair for one team to lose a core player for two months while the other team only misses the guy who hurt that player for a couple weeks? Let’s examine.

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reality blog, Wooden

The Reality Blog: How One Country Cornered the MLB Market


The L.A. Guns were highly touted.

The L.A. Guns were highly touted.

Sunset Strip was hallowed ground in the 80’s. It was a cornucopia of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, along with healthy doses of Aquanet, leopard print, and androgyny. Hair metal was everything. Motley Crue, Poison, L.A. Guns (who would later birth Guns N Roses), Great White, Warrant, and nearly any other assembly of dudes with long hair, trashy attire, and a half ounce of talent were snatched up and given massive amounts of money, cocaine, and women by every big record label in America.

It was the scene. You were not going to succeed as a record label in reaching the youth demographic in America if you didn’t have a successful stable of hair bands on your imprint, and Sunset Strip was the place to find them all. You needn’t look very hard either. They were pouring out of all the iconic venues: the Whiskey, Roxy, Troubadour, and Rainbow Room. It was a classic win-win for bands and labels alike; the right place and the right time applied equally to both sides. If you were the average, run-of-the-mill hair band, you wanted to be on Sunset to be “discovered.” Likewise, if you were the average label “suit” wanting to move up the proverbial ladder, you also wanted to be on Sunset, because that’s where the scene was.

The G-N-R cheese ballad ‘ParadiseCity’ summed the Sunset scene up perfectly. In baseball circles, the song title could also serve as an appropriate nickname for the Dominican Republic, Major League’s equivalent to the Sunset Strip of the 80’s.

It's hard to find. Look hard.

It’s hard to find. Look closely.

The Dominican Republic championship at the recent World Baseball Classic was not the start of something new, rather it was the exclamation point on a phenomenon that has taken over the sport of baseball over the past decade. To borrow from another hair band classic: they rocked the world like a hurricane (a category five at that).

The D.R. has become the premier purveyor of Major League talent in the world. It’s surpassed all the traditional powerhouses [Japan, Cuba, and (yes) the U.S.], and it’s by no accident. This country literally creates ballplayers the way Mr. Miyagi creates karate masters; by raising and training young boys across the country as soon as they are able to throw and catch a ball.

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Debate, Questions, reality blog, Spring Training, Wooden

WBC: Fantasy Baseball’s Crystal Ball


The World Baseball Classic is a flawed tournament (ridiculous pitch counts, missing stars, too much risk to MLB franchises for the players who do participate, and a cockamamie run differential rule that led to the horrendous brawl in Saturday’s Canada-Mexico showdown). That being said, it is still enjoyable to see baseball on your TV screen that means (a little) more than the typical, yawn-inducing spring training games you’d otherwise be watching this time of year. It’s also fun to watch from a fantasy perspective, as it can serve as sort of crystal ball for what we should expect in the coming season from some of the biggest stars in the game.

Let’s have a look at five players who followed their turns in the WBC with monster seasons and five who probably should have done what Russell Martin did this season: stayed home.

Five Who Starred:

(stats in bold were for the MLB season immediately following that year’s WBC tournament)

 

ny_a_santanaj_3001. Johan Santana (2006)

19-6 (1st in league); 2.77 ERA (1st); 245 K (1st); 233.2 IP; .997 WHIP; Cy Young Award

Santana had already won a Cy Young award in 2004 and was widely regarded as baseball’s best pitcher at the time he laced ‘em up for his native Venezuela in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. Although the Venezuela squad didn’t advance past the second round and Santana tied for the tourney lead with two losses, it certainly was by no fault of his own. Santana averaged 8.2 innings in his two starts and maintained a tidy 2.16 ERA. He went on to win the pitching equivalent of the Triple Crown and collect his second Cy Young Award in three years.

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Player Profile, Shortstop, Wooden

Player Profile: Ian Desmond


Washington Nationals at Baltimore Orioles May 20,  2011

Ian Desmond is waiting to be noticed.

When Christopher Nolan dropped Inception on us few years back, my mind was blown. It wasn’t blown in a stoner-esque “Wow that was deep…” kind of way (how most people reacted to the film). It wasn’t in a film-nerd “Christopher Nolan is the best director ever…” kind of way. It wasn’t even in an “Ellen Page is pretty hot…” kind of way.

It was in an “I can’t believe the kid from Angels in the Outfield somehow became an A-list actor” kind of way.

Yes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt had already been making an adult name for himself, putting his child-actor-best-known-for-his-role-on-3rd-Rock-From-The-Sun days in the very distant rearview with roles in several critically acclaimed and big-budget movies, but it’s almost like we collectively weren’t paying attention- until BAM! There he was in one of the biggest movies of the year, alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, and he was still doing his thing and making you notice! He was announcing himself to the world while also telling us that he’d been here forever.

Enter Ian Desmond, starting shortstop for the now trendy Washington Nationals. The Nats (#natitude) are more loaded than Lindsay Lohan. We all know the names: Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, and, of course, Bryce Harper. These are all guys who played a big part in bringing playoff baseball to the capital city for the first time since FDR was in office.

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Player Profile, Projections, Starting Pitchers, Wooden

Player Profile: Tim Lincecum


Tim hasn't been killing them all lately.

Tim hasn’t been killing them all lately.

Remember when Metallica decided to collectively get sober and cut their hair? It signified a new era for the band. They began going to group therapy and getting all lovey-dovey while learning how to deal with their pent-up frustrations. They were committing themselves to something new, hoping they could recharge their careers, grasping at their legacy and all of its glorious hair-metal past to ensure it would be more than a footnote in the annals of rock music. Remember?

Metallica, meet Tim Lincecum. He too enjoyed nearly unprecedented success in the not-too-distant past. I mean this is the guy who won Cy Young Awards in each of his first two (full) seasons. This is the guy who struck out batters with authority with his long-hair-don’t-care approach on the mound. This is the guy who developed the nickname The Freak for his off-field persona as much as his unorthodox pitching mechanics on the mound. This is the guy who smoked pot and ate In-N-Out burgers and still went out and breezed through opposing lineups the way Liz Taylor breezed through spouses in her prime. This is the guy who probably knew how to ride the lightning.

Let’s also not forget that this is the same guy who had an ERA that was unsightly enough to relegate him to the bullpen for the 2012 playoffs in favor of Barry effing Zito! This is the same guy who gave up career highs in home runs and who saw his walk total rise for the 3rd straight season, even as he pitched fewer innings than the previous seasons. This is the guy who looked more like Tim Tebow on the mound than Tim Lincecum.

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reality blog, Wooden

The Reality Blog: Bait and Switch


“I am not a quitter…and I believe in this city.”

– Jeffery H. Loria, March 2012.

Loria in hipster lighting.

Loria in hipster lighting.

Naturally, Loria threw up the white flag less than a year later after his Florida Marlins (sorry, I can’t call them the Miami Marlins because it turns out that was all a joke anyway) failed miserably in their first season in their new ballpark. The one that was going to house a championship contender. The one that was supposed to sell out due to the increasing excitement produced on the field. The one that was the home field to a team managed by an ex-World Series winning skipper, a guy who was going to cater to the large Cuban population in the stadium’s vicinity. The one that fielded a virtual all-star team in 2012 with the seventh highest payroll in all of Major League Baseball, coming at just a hair under $120 million.

Doesn’t sound familiar? Well, maybe you’ll recognize it more if I refer to it as the ballpark that Loria fleeced the old people in Miami into paying for. There, that’s more like it.

All jokes aside, Loria did what most businesses that fail do and began to sell off his remaining assets, and he kept selling until his team looked like a beer league softball team. However, that’s not the funny part. The funny part is that people were shocked when this all happened. I hate to break it to all the drop-jawed pundits out there, but the joke most certainly is on you. You got taken for a ride by a man that has perhaps more history than anyone else in taking entire cities and fanbases for wild rides.

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Debate, reality blog, Wooden

The Reality Blog: Numbers Don’t Lie


This is what an outlier looks like.

This is what an outlier looks like.

How the hell did Joe Girardi know Raul (insert curse word here) Ibanez was going to go all Kirk Gibson on us?

That’s the first thing I wanted to know. How does a manager decide to simply bench one of baseball’s greatest statistical stars of all time in favor of a dude who was only eight years younger than the manager himself whose career highlight was a single All-Star berth during the Yankee’s walk-off win (courtesy of Ibanez’ second home run of the night) in this past year’s Divisional matchup against the Orioles? Statistically speaking (disclaimer: I love statistics…I work with them for a living), it was a foolish decision, akin to Michael Jordan deciding he’d give hitting MLB fastballs a try or Grady Little sticking with Pedro Martinez when he was clearly done for the game.

Ever since Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s took statistical analysis to the moon and back and were made rock-stars along the way via Michael Lewis’ glorifying Moneyball, sabermetrics have announced that they are here to stay. New statistics with more acronyms than FDR’s New Deal programs have sprung up everywhere to determine everything from a player’s true run contributions to when a team should bunt and everything in between. Indeed, stats like UZR, OBP, BABIP, WAR, and VORP have been given greater importance among some than the traditional baseball stats we grew up memorizing on the backs of baseball cards, stats like ERA, BA, and RBI.

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