Like Barry Bonds, Baseball Widow hasn't retired; she's just not playing.
Enjoy the archives. . .

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Only Baseball Matters | MLB and San Fran Giants Observations from John Perricone

Another great point from John J Perricone about how the steroids debate has been framed from the beginning by the use of the term "illegal".

"Why are steroids illegal?" You might well ask the older looking gentleman with money bulging out of his pockets. "Because we outlawed them," replies your Senator.

I believe this is a good example of Baseball Widow and Hubby's favorite logical fallacy, "begging the question". I hope so at least, because I don't want the Widow to throw a dictionary at me if I'm wrong.
The Washington Moneygrubbers

isn't really the name of the team, but it might as well be. MLB is making demands and pointing fingers like they've been wronged here and most media sources seem to be buying it hook, line and sinker.

Not Jim Caple. His latest piece on is the best I've seen about stadium financing. Here's a great quote: "it's the height of greed and arrogance to insist a Washington owner doesn't need to contribute significantly to the construction of a stadium."

Public funding of stadiums is greedy. Baseball is an industry rolling in cash, and yet it lobbies, threatens and intimidates local governments into forking over taxpayer money.

The worst part of public funding for stadiums is the way the decisions are taken out of the hands of the public. In New York, mayor Michael Bloomberg has gone to great lengths to have obscure boards and state commissions make all the decisions on a stadium for the Jets on the West Side of Manhattan. He's done this because he knows this issue would never meet with the popular support of the people. In Washington D.C., our national seat of democracy, local government has stood up to MLB. I'm sorry more news stories haven't appreciated it in that light.

Of course, I could always change my mind on this issue if, say, the governor of Georgia decided to institute a new tax to raise funds to pay for the Braves' outfield.


Postscript: Baseball Widow promised that I'd post about the Baseball course I taught at Duke TIP's Scholar Weekend in October. So here's a D.C. related note from class. We did a marketing unit where we looked at various revenue streams for teams. As a hands-on activity, the students named the team (this was before the team was designated the Nationals) and designed logos, uniforms, and marketing tie-ins. Here are top three vote-getters for the class:

The Washington Freedom
The Washington Generals
The D.C. Destroyers

I expected some creative ideas from 13 year olds -- maybe the Bloodsuckers, or the Insiders -- but was surprised that they opted for mainly safe choices. I wonder if it's a sign of mainstream media's indoctrination of the kids, or if people really do prefer bland names like "Nationals".

Monday, December 13, 2004

Life Looks Good From the Top of a Soapbox

Baseball is a great game to talk about, isn't it. I think that's why blogging about baseball is so much more abundant and successful than it is for any other sport.

On the other hand, I think the rise of blogs says a lot about the deficiencies in mainstream media. Political blogs give a voice to those shut out of the big picture debate, and in a way so do baseball blogs.

Either way, I have my own pet peeves about the way this great game is discussed. About 50% of that problem is caused by Tim McCarver and Joe Morgan, but the other half is just a part of the lingo of the game. And I hear even the best reporters, GMs, players, bloggers, etc. using this junk. So, I thought that I could take a cue from our political blogger brothers and try to change the world for the better, one word at a time. See, Baseball Widow and I are pretty passionate about word usage. It's probably the angry nerds that we really are deep down, but every time we hear someone misuse the phrase "begging the question", I'm afraid she's going to climb to the top of a belltower and start hurling unabridged Webster's Dictionaries at innocent passersby.

In that spirit, I'm climbing onto my soapbox to present the first in a series of baseball lingo rants.



The Yankees are the frontrunners for the "Randy Johnson Sweepstakes". The Braves are in on the "Tim Hudson Sweepstakes". In fact, the Mets may see Ed McMahon pulling up to Shea to tell them they may already be a winner in the "Pedro Martinez Sweepstakes".

Wait a second . . . this isn't a raffle. A sweepstakes is "a betting or gambling transaction in which each person contributes a stake, and the whole of the stakes are taken by one". If the Mets do sign Pedro, they'll be paying him royally for the next four years -- they'll be paying all of the stakes.

If it were really a "sweepstakes", and luck were involved, there'd be some possibility that Pedro would wind up in Kansas City next year. Or at least KC GM Allard Baird would keep getting annoying junkmail claiming that he had a shot at getting the coveted pitcher(and while he's at it why not subscribe to a few fine publications).

No, this is an auction, but you never hear that the Astros might just win the "Carlos Beltran Auction". The right word is there just waiting to be used, and we're all refusing to use it because . . . I don't even know why. "Sweepstakes" is stupid.

So stop saying it, already!

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Playing Favorites -- Part II

Well, as long as we're talking about favorites, I'll go ahead and tell you of my two favorite players of all-time: Dale Murphy and John Smoltz. One from each era of my baseball fan-dom, the years the Braves couldn't see first place with a telescope, and the years when it seemed as if they had a get-in-free card to the post season.

We hope to be posting a bit more on the Murph as Hall of Fame season gets going. For now, however, I'm celebrating the news that my favorite current player looks as if he's headed back to the starting rotation. As good as Smoltzie has been as the Braves' closer these last few years, his true place is as a starter. He should pitch more innings, which is a good thing for your best pitcher to be doing, and, as far as I'm concerned, saves are overrated. I hope this stratagem works for the team. Welcome is in order to Dan Kolb, the Braves' new closer (the guy, it seems, that is allowing Smoltz to start again). Goodbye and good luck to Jose Capellan, the prospect who netted Mr. Kolb.

One other happy side affect of this deal is that it seems that the Marcus Giles trade rumors are dead. This is good, as I didn't want Baseball Widow to have to boycott the 2005 season (which would severely limit my ability to not boycott it.)

Here's to the good ole days -- Smoltz on the hill, Julio at first, Giles around the keystone, Andruw in center . . . do you think Murphy could un-retire and fill our need in right?

Friday, December 10, 2004

Playing Favorites

Hot Stove Baseball! Sometimes I think the free agent signing period is my favorite time of year. New faces. New hopes. The prospect of the season to come.

But then, if you're a Braves fan, you have off-seasons like this one, where you focus on the losses. In the last couple of days the Braves have lost their best player from last year (J. D. Drew) and maybe their best starter (Jaret Wright), and all indications are that any free agent that's remotely attractive is out of the team's price range.

On the bright side, Russ Ortiz isn't coming back. The Diamondbacks have given Russ what looks to me like one of the worst contracts in recent memory. If that doesn't cheer you up, there's the news that the Braves have re-signed the ever youthful Julio Franco.

I know that doesn't sound like much. It certainly doesn't rate as an impact move for this off-season. Except here at Baseball Widow, that is. That's because Julio Franco is one of our favorites, and watching baseball is better when you're watching your favorites. I know that from the competitive side having Julio around at first base won't win as many games as if the Braves had managed to snag Carlos Delgado or Richie Sexson. But part of me doesn't care -- and not because those guys were never really a realistic option for the Braves this year. It has to do with liking to watch your favorites play.

And that's what scares me about the rest of this off-season. Because the team doesn't have much money to sling around, they're looking at trades. And the likely candidates are two of my other favorites: Andruw Jones and Marcus Giles. Jones is looking safer now, if rumors are to be trusted, but I'd still miss his affable smile, his single-robbing belly flops, and even his lack of plate discipline (ok, not that one so much). And if Giles goes, Baseball Widow is threatening to strike. He's her current favorite, and she can't bear the thought of a season without him.

So, Dodger fans go ahead and celebrate the arrival of Jeff Kent. D'backs, have fun with your new Troy. Me, I'll be happy to see Julio collect a few more hits. . .

And even happier if Marcus Giles and Andruw Jones are on base when he does.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Baseball Widow on PEDs (A Work in Progress)
Thought I would consolidate and re-post some of my previous ruminations on PEDs, since Baseball Widow was pondering the issue as far back as March. I still think pretty much the same things I've said before--which is to say that I just don't know where I fall on this, but I do think that most people are approaching the issue from the wrong direction.

Baseball Widow isn't arguing that there isn't a problem (pardon the awkward phrasing), but I am saying the exact nature of the problem needs to be defined clearly before solutions are implemented.

Is the problem illegal activity in baseball? Surely not. Rafael Furcal was allowed to play immediately after being arrested for his second DUI, and many other players have had legal woes that haven't interrupted their jobs.

Is the problem a concern for player health? Absolutely not. These athletes can destroy their bodies through extreme dieting, overuse of cortisone, alcohol, and tobacco. If we were really concerned about their health, we'd focus on these issues, as (statistically speaking, at least)they're much more likely to cause dramatic and permanent health effects.

Is the problem illegal drug usage? That doesn't make much sense, really, since no one is advocating that the system be purged of those players who might occasionally use ecstasy at a party. Besides, as Baseball Widow points out below, drug policy in the U.S. is one of the most egregiously ill-defined concepts. "Illegal" vs. "legal" is not the same as "good" or "bad" or even "life-threatening" vs. "non-life threatening." To say that only illegal drug use is a problem because it's illegal is really just a form of begging the question, and this argument is complicated enough without engaging in false dichotomies or circularr reasoning.

If we don't take time to define the problem, then we can't find a solution that will work. Certainly any solution to any problem that involves stripping anyone of any civil liberty is not a solution at all. Still, the honor system has clearly failed, so what next? Again, Baseball Widow doesn't have answers; she has questions--questions that deserve to be addressed before a knee-jerk Band-Aid solution is slapped down.

So, here's what I said in the past. Some of my ideas have evolved, so these aren't necessarily my current views, but they're still views worth re-examining.

Performance Enhancing Drugs. . . I could sure use 'em for this post.

It's difficult to write with conviction about the subject of performance enhancing drugs because Baseball Widow is ultimately ambivalent about them. It probably does do some good, however, to lay out the reasons for my ambivalence. . .

As I see it, there are basically three ways to examine the consequences of Performance Enhancing Drugs ("PEDs") in baseball.

1. If Barry Bonds is the only person using PEDs, then it cheapens his accomplishments because his domination of the field stems, quite simply, from cheating. If that's true, then I'm sure history will appropriately asterisk his records and move on. This would hold true for any small number of individuals using PEDs in the game.

2. If everyone is happily using some sort of PED, then it's hard to feel indignant about any one person using them. We may fret over their health or over the ethics of introducing such a variable into the game, but if everyone does it, then it can't be cheating. At least, it doesn't threaten the competitive balance among players.

3. If most people are using PEDs and the people who don't are negatively affected, then baseball has a problem. A player who won't use PEDs when everyone else is will probably lose his job. . . either because his actual performance will suffer or because a club won't keep a player who isn't willing to do absolutely anything for the roster spot.

The obvious response to number three is trifold: no one's entitled to be a Major League Baseball player, no one's being physically forced to take PEDs, and no one cares if a player would rather quit than take drugs. Truthfully, I think that's a fair argument. I also think, however, that in a culture full of pressure to take the drugs, it's hard to tell which actions are voluntary and which ones aren't. Also, scenario three paints a picture where most people are cheating and the others are getting penalized for playing by the rules. That just doesn't seem right. That just flies in the face of promoting competitive balance among players.

I can't overstate the importance of competitive balance in baseball. It is the (Nerd Alert) sine qua non of pro sports. Certainly, performance enhancing drugs have the potential to destroy competitive balance, but can't you say that about anything? In fact, you can think of the Yankees payroll as the ultimate steroid: it's an artificial advantage. Every team has the same number of roster spots, and every team gets 27 outs. But Steinbrenner's thick wallet creates a capability that simply doesn't exist for other teams in the normal course of business.

So, Baseball Widow's official position is that she has none. I think PEDs are probably bad for the game, but I'm not sure exactly how bad they are. I'm also unsure as to the best method to regulate their use. Basically, I'm ambivalent, but I think I already told you that. But, Baseball Widow is rarely content to lack a definitive opinion on anything, so I'm sure we'll come back to this.

PEDs Part II

Baseball Widow said we'd come back to this topic.

Two strands of thought seem to be floating around out there: one questioning the true effects of Performance Enhancing Drugs, the other identifying additional circumstances and factors that could be considered performance-enhancing.

Baseball Widow will speak only briefly to the former. Baseball Widow hopes that everyone understands the now oft-stated assertion that steroids, hgh, and the like aren't magic pills. The drugs alone won't do much but send your hormones into overdrive. (Take it from Baseball Widow, who had a nasty lung infection last winter and was as pumped full of various steroids as, well, as Barry Bonds would be if he weren't innocent until proven guilty.) Of course any effectiveness must be accompanied by an exercise and diet regimen. And, of course PEDs wouldn't work the same for everyone.

I don't think that speculating as to their effects is really useful for this discussion. I think PEDs probably are effective, or they wouldn't be used. Even if they're not, there's a whole school of thought out there that says because a placebo effect can be incredibly powerful, the thing that induces the effect can and should be considered a drug (which raises a tangential but nonetheless interesting question about the desirability--and feasibility--of regulating placebos).

As to the latter thought strand, Baseball Widow is intrigued by the idea that almost anything can be considered performance-enhancing. I made the point that the Yankees payroll is an artificial/innate/organic advantage. Others have said that because Babe Ruth played in the segregated era, his records were enhanced by the fact that he didn't compete with Negro league players. Although I'm not willing to equate PEDs in absolute terms with sociological conditions, I do think that Performance Enhancers (PEs)--drugs or not--are interesting fodder for thought. Therefore, Baseball Widow would like to shift the discussion toward the very idea of Performance Enhancement.

I submit to you that none of us would even watch Major League Baseball if PEs weren't involved. Don't believe me? What separates professional baseball from backyard baseball? The level of play--the enhanced performance.

Ladies and gentlemen, we want PEs. We demand them of the athletes. We've set up a system whereby men who can throw balls really fast and hit them really hard are elevated in society. We make them millionaires, we pay through the nose to see them do their special tricks, we ask them to write their name on paper so that we can prove they touched something we touched.

It's not just baseball. Think of your average celebrity. You think Britney Spears keeps her bod gorgeous by working out a lot? Sure she does. But she's also taking PEDs--in the form of a diet pill. Guess what Beyonce Knowles gave herself for her birthday? Waffles. Yes, waffles. . .because she can't sit down at brunch on Sunday and snarf them the way you and I do. Self-denial is her PE.

It's inadequate to blame the culture of fame that encourages extreme behaviors. It's not being famous that makes athletes and celebrities go to extremes--it's that they wouldn't be superstar athletes or celebrities without the extremes. They're not just idolized; they're idealized. We expect celebrity athletes to embody the super-human athleticism that we have dreamed up in our heads to envy.

I don't mean to offer an excuse for PEDs; I believe in personal responsibility for one's actions. I do think, however, that the very nature of the professional game offers an explanation for their use. I'm not saying it's good or bad; I'm just saying that if we're going to let the steroids debate simmer, we'd better be prepared when it boils up to expose other things that force us to be less naive about the game we love.

PEDs, part IV (I think)

In the past, Baseball Widow has been quick to point out that the Performance Enhancing Drug ("PED") moniker is inadequate, especially to the extent that "performance enhancing" relates to competitive balance. I don't want to re-tread water under the bridge, but I've pointed out that the Yankees' payroll is an artificial advantage that smaller-market teams can never rival. We've talked about performance enhancing. Now let's talk about drugs.

Two recent events have caused Baseball Widow to think about drugs. No, neither of them involved law school finals.

1. Baseball Hubby's paternal grandmother recently had a terrible respiratory infection with some dangerous complications. She spent over a month in the hospital. At one point she was injected with steroids to keep her lungs open. The woman has incredible pluck--when visitors walked in, she asked, "Wonder if they'll finally let me in the big game?" She was, of course, referring to baseball. (Baseball Hubby's grandmother is a huge baseball fan, but that's another post.)

2. Baseball Widow recently spent an evening on a police ride-along. No, she wasn't arrested. Baseball Widow rode in the patrol car with a police officer for a ten hour shift, going on every call. The most eye-opening part of the experience was touring the slums and seeing how drugs permeate the community. Baseball Widow isn't saying anything new when she says that crack has devastating effects.

This is perhaps the most simplistic idea I've ever posted, but sometimes simple ideas need spelling out: drugs are neither inherently good nor inherently bad--they're just drugs. Sometimes drugs are essential to save lives. Sometimes drugs are instrumental in ruining lives. And, although people don't really like to think about it, sometimes drugs are just for the kick. We see all three instances in baseball.

Just for the kick: Maybe they work, maybe they don't. Sometimes they're legal, sometimes they're not. Creatine, Ephedra, Hgh, Steroids, Slim-Fast, Viagra, whatever.

Ruining lives: Steve Howe, Darryl Strawberry, Otis Nixon, Dwight Gooden.

Saving lives: Detroit Tigers pitcher Jason Johnson, wearing an insulin pump during games to keep his life-threatening diabetes in check.

It is inadequate to draw the illegal/legal distinction. First, there is a fundamental difference between Jose Canseco trying to hit a few more homers and Greasy Eddie the neighborhood crack dealer ripping off car stereos to support his habit. Second, the illegal/legal distinction is simply an arbitrary standard set by government officials who are susceptible to lobbying influence. Pop quiz: which is more dangerous, marijuana or tobacco? Well, if you grow it and roll it, you're gonna live a longer, healthier life smoking dope than buying Lucky Strikes. What's the difference between crack and powder cocaine? Chemically, pretty much nothing, but if you get busted for crack, you're gonna do at least twice the time as if you peddled cocaine. Look, I'm not making the case that anyone should be doing any of these, but I am saying that an intelligent conversation about drug policy--both nationally and in baseball--requires making finer distinctions than illegal/legal.

So, what is the standard that baseball should use? "Artificial Advantage" is about as slippery as "Performance Enhancing." What if I told you that some baseball players were abusing a prescription-only steroid injection in order to deaden themselves to pain so that they can play longer and harder? Outraged? Why should you be? It's just cortisone. Sure, excessive use can kill white blood cells, cause cataracts, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and cause tendons to explode, but, hey, if everybody uses it, it can't be a big deal, right?

Is it possible that the uproar over illegal steroids is just because they haven't gained widespread use or acceptance yet? And if this is the case, haven't we really worked ourselves back around to the issue of competitive balance?

Baseball Widow doesn't have an answer or a conclusion. This is a topic in progress. . .

Monday, December 06, 2004

Baseball Widow Takes it Back

"If Baseball Widow has to, she will post on why this is a stupid, stupid question."

Baseball Widow shouldn't have said that. Debates are good, and closed-minded avoidance of the debate simply because I've made up my mind already makes me no better than if I hadn't considered the issue in the first place.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Food for Thought

Okay, Baseball Widow figured that this Rose/Bonds thing wouldn't go away. She's not quite to the boiling point, though, so rather than rant, she thought she'd point you to a developing discussion surrounding the issue. David Pinto at Baseball Musings wrote a thoughtful post, and the resulting comments are also quite interesting. (Not just because Baseball Widow weighed in.)

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Requisite Post about the Big News

Let's skip the flowers and candy and get straight to business, shall we?

Giambi admits steroid use. (I'm not putting a link here 'cause the news is everywhere.) Here's what Baseball Widow is thinking. . .

--Why'd he 'fess up? Don't get me wrong, doing the right thing under oath is admirable, but I'm certain he must have reasons deeper than that--deeper, perhaps than just criminal immunity. Maybe he knows something about his career that we don't.

--Speaking of career implications, what happens next? Well, assuming Giambi is planning on coming back to finish his contract, the legal issues are interesting. Although Baseball Widow doesn't normally recommend Jayson Stark articles, this one offers an attorney's perspective on the possibilities. Baseball Widow wonders to what extent clubs will want to cite steroid use as a reason for dumping bad contracts. It seems to Baseball Widow that the exact people who are likely to be underperforming on their long-term, big-money contracts are the most likely to be using Performance Enhancing Drugs. Hmmm. . .puts the call for stricter testing in a new light, doesn't it?

--Who, besides the media, really thinks this is a big deal? PTI is already framing the issue as, "Who did more harm to baseball, Giambi or Rose?" Give Baseball Widow a break. If Baseball Widow has to, she will post on why this is a stupid, stupid question. For now, she's going to wait and see if anyone says anything manifestly idiotic. Suffice it to say that PEDs might do lots of bad things, but they don't compromise the essential nature of a professional sports league in the same way. Furthermore, you can't pretend that Giambi's actions as an individual are tantamount to Rose's. Giambi is one of many who used, and the game has seen eras in which coach-provided "go pills" were tossed to players as easily as aspirin. PEDs just don't affect professional sports in the same way player/manager gambling can.

--Why do they use? Oh, come on. Baseball Widow has written about this a lot. Who wants to see a 400 foot homer if someone could hit a 500 footer? As a fan of baseball, don't underestimate the extent to which your contribution to the cult of celebrity affects what the players are willing to do to perform. Since we've seen what the juice can do, who wants to watch the juice-free league? Did you watch the college baseball world series?

--What qualifies as "Performance Enhancing"? In sports, there's no way to place every athlete's performance on an even playing field. If we asterisk Maris and Ichiro because they had more games, we really should asterisk Ty Cobb or Babe Ruth because they played segregated ball. If steroids enhance performance, then Giambi's accomplishments are "tainted," right? But, wait, Curt Schilling was a walking medical ward when he pitched in the Division Series! Don't think for a second that he wasn't on Performance Enhancing Drugs--he just didn't happen to take the ones that aren't allowed. In professional sports, where, for better or worse, the rules really do differ from those that apply to you and me, it's just too hard to draw a line between "okay" and "illegal" performance enhancers.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

End of an Era
Sigh. Ken Jennings's Jeopardy reign is over. A moment of silence, shall we?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Braves' Five Man Rotation Finalized

Okay, well, not that five man rotation. . .
Baseball Widow is happy to report that Braves announcer Don Sutton will be returning to the broadcast booth next season in a lineup that will include new addition Chip Caray, who's being phased in as his father Skip's replacement. Exact rotation among the five has not been finalized.

As regular readers no doubt have noticed, Baseball Widow has little patience for most baseball commentators. Nothing personal, it's just that they're almost all idiots. (Hey, Baseball Widow calls 'em like she sees 'em.) Baseball Widow is probably blinded by loyalty to the Bravos, but she really appreciates the game-friendly style adopted by Pete, Joe, Skip, and Don. They don't feel the need to spin--they'll let you watch the game, and they'll entertain and inform you along the way. If only Baseball Hubby could do the same. . .

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Something to Live For

Baseball Widow is saddened to report the death of Fred Hale, Sr., who was believed to have been the world's oldest man. Just shy of his 114 birthday, Mr. Hale was thrilled last month to see his favorite baseball team win their first World Series in 86 years.

He lived long enough to see the Red Sox win (again)--kinda puts a silver lining on the length of the losing streak, right? Who knew that the curse was prolonging life?

Ladies and Gentlemen, Poet Laureate Jayson Stark

He might not be the greatest sports writer out there, but the man has flow. . .
Baseball Widow learns through Jayson Stark's Rumblings and Grumblings that there is a solution to collusion, even though most of us wouldn't recognize a collusion from a contusion.

Oh boy, does Baseball Widow really have to write about this?

Here it is, in short form. In baseball, collusion is the coming together of owners to ensure that prices for players don't exceed predetermined ceilings. Collusion is bad because it seeks to circumvent the free market system. . .not that MLB is a paradigm of free market goodness.

To combat rumors of collusion, MLB has revamped the policy whereby it gives to interested owners a cheat sheet of sorts--a listing of the appraisal value of a free agent player. What's wrong with this? Don't ask Baseball Widow.

Collusion may or may not exist, but the existence of an appraisal sheet is not collusion, it's not evidence of collusion, and it's not even a red flag to indicate that owners might be thinking of colluding. Appraisals exist everywhere--from real estate comps to Beanie Baby trading values. Just because a potential owner researches the value of his purchase doesn't have anything to do with conspiring to cheat the market. Besides, free agency is much more like an auction. The "winner" loses by definition, because he chooses to pay more than the market value (the market being what everyone else was willing to pay). Think about that as you finish your Christmas shopping on Ebay.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Shouldn't they all be contenders?

Randy Johnson doesn't ask a lot. . .he just wants to be on a winning team. Or, as he puts it, "I'm not going to leave to go somewhere else to theoretically have a chance to win." Now, despite the abusive use of prepositions and (gasp!) a split infinitive, Mr. Pitches-with-Beelzebub makes the state of baseball pretty clear: there are winners, and there are losers. Incredibly, those winners and losers can be accurately determined five months before the start of a baseball season. Furthermore, the presence or absence of the game's most dominating pitcher isn't enough (nerd alert) ipso facto to make a loser a winner.

To restate the obvious in the simplest possible language, we know who the contenders are. To beat Baseball Widow's favorite drum again, isn't there something wrong with that? Look, Baseball Widow knows that the MLB isn't Little League, and certainly enough teams remain competitive to result in fabulous postseasons like we had this year. Still, you gotta question the viability and the appropriateness of a professional gaming system that can guarantee losers.

In other news, Baseball Hubby still owes you a wrap-up re: his experience teaching the weekend seminar on baseball. Not that Baseball Widow has any control over it, but she'll prod him to get that up and posted.

Also, Baseball Widow is working on the season wrap-up and reflections upon her blogging experience thus far. With luck, it will be up before spring training.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Cheating Death

Back from a pleasant weekend in Durham, NC where Baseball Widow was appalled at temperatures approaching 80 degrees on Halloween. It just ain't fittin'. . .

Hubby had a blast teaching the baseball class and promises to write about it soon.

Since the season is over, Baseball Widow hopes to find time to post a wrap-up, including some (probably self-indulgent) analysis of this blog's first season. Although Baseball Widow waxed and waned in her attention to the blog, she still feels that she should be considered a semi-regular read. (As Len Cleavlin says, Real Life (TM) gets in the way.)

Considering the occasional absences of Baseball Widow from her blog, she was saddened to run across this post, in which blog 6-4-2 considers Baysball a dead blog because Mark went 11 days without posting. Baseball Widow understands that the quick turnaround time between thought and published work as well as the fast-moving nature of Internet media makes bloggers sometimes seem like machines, but, come on! Even Glenn Reynolds takes vacations!

Baseball Widow appreciates those baseball bloggers who keep the rest of us abreast on breaking news. Where would we be without Pinto and friends? Another beauty of the blogging network, however, is that multiple niches exist. Baseball Widow likes to think of herself as a commentator/columnist; when she runs across an interesting tidbit, she posts. When she has some serious thoughts on a vexing issue, she posts. In the interest of conserving her readers' time and acknowledging the contributions of others, she tries to avoid posting just to see herself think (if you'll pardon the awkward phrasing).

If 11 days is enough time to die, Baseball Widow must have been resurrected three or four times this season.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Cool but weird
Has anyone done a google image search for "baseball widow"?
Weekend Plans

Baseball Widow and Hubby will be headed to Durham, NC, this weekend to teach a Scholar Weekend for Duke University's Talent Identification Program. While Baseball Widow tackles "The Butler Did It? An Exploration of the Mystery Genre" (Warning: Grammatical errors in the course description are not the fault of Baseball Widow), Hubby will be teaching a baseball course--the very one, in fact, that Widow proposed a few months ago: a look at baseball as a lens for examining American history and culture. I'll have Hubby re-post the description and syllabus along with a wrap-up of the course when we return. . .

Baseball Widow doesn't buy the whole "Curse is lifted--we forgive Bill Buckner" line of reasoning.

First of all, if it really was a curse, there was never any need to forgive Buckner 'cause he couldn't have helped it anyway. Second, winning the series doesn't bust the curse--it just proves that it never existed in the first place.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Tim's tidbits of wisdom

"One thing about ground balls, they don't go out of the ballpark."
True, Tim. True.
Not suitable for anyone's eyes. . .

I can't even find the words to make a joke about Tim McCarver's suit.
It's as if for each stupid comment he's made during the series, he received a polka dot on his tie and a stripe on his jacket.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Baseball Orphan?

Baseball Widow and Hubby are pleased to announce that they are expecting their first child on March 15, just in time to catch spring training.

Prenatal tests show conclusively that little Jamie's arm has the genetic potential to exceed that of Roger Clemens's, and the doctors are pretty sure he'll demonstrate Barry Bonds's power and plate discipline. The ultrasound also revealed a cutie to rival Javy Lopez. Agents may field requests to the Baseball Widow email address.

Please no jokes about the pregnant widow.

Have you heard the one about the lawyer who managed a baseball team?

Baseball Hubby and Widow, being bizarrely OCD, have certain sayings that we repeat to each other. For example, every time Tony La Russa is on TV, Hubby says, "You know, he's a lawyer." The implication is that since Baseball Widow is a law student, she is, therefore, a viable candidate to replace Bobby Cox when he retires.

Baseball Widow has a different take on Tony. Every time I look at him during a game, I say, "He wears his sunglasses at night." It's just one of those things that keeps getting funnier to me. . .

Hey, no one promised this post was going to be educational or entertaining.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Error in judgment

Are Tim McCarver and Joe Buck stupid, blind, or racist?

Seriously, this is a question not a statement. Game one of the World Series is on right now and these two are just about ruining it for me with their idiocy.

The thing that makes me the maddest is their treatment of Manny Ramirez. Now, I love Manny. Not only is he one of the most talented hitters in the game, but he's a happy man, and he loves baseball.

Last half inning Manny was charged with two errors, the first on a throw that looked like it nailed Marquis at the plate, and the second on a sliding attempt where his spikes stuck in the turf. That's tough luck, and maybe an error needs to be charged. But I think if this happens to any other player the announcers show sympathy. Not for Manny. For him it is "a major league error" to quote the melodramatic McCarver.

I don't want to accuse anyone of racism -- that's a serious accusation that shouldn't be used lightly. But it seems to me that mainstream journalists are consistently harsher on certain black athletes. When Manny celebrates a hit he's lazy, not enthusiastic. When Barry Bonds is gruff with the media he's surly, not colorful. I recall that Ted Williams was a major league ass to the media, and he's venerated.

Maybe this is just my perception. But the Sox just won the game, and I wonder . . . will the story be that the Sox won with 2 RBI from Manny or in spite of his 2 errors?

Monday, October 11, 2004

Widow's Peak?

1995--Braves last win the World Series.
1996--Baseball Widow and Hubby start dating.

October is the cruelest month for Braves fans, and let me tell you, folks: Baseball Widow has suffered through many Octobers. Baseball Widow particularly relishes the point in the season where Hubby accuses himself (via his relationship with Baseball Widow, of course) of jinxing the Braves.

There's nothing as pitiful or as inconsolable as Baseball Hubby when the Braves get eliminated. So, Baseball Widow has shipped Hubby off to Atlanta for the day. If the Braves must lose tonight, Baseball Widow would rather that Hubby be 250 miles away.

Baseball Widow has never been one for real-time blogging. Personally, I think that if you have nothing better to do during a game than to read my blog, well, you probably should find something better to do during the game. Still, since I'll be periodically in touch with Hubby during the game, I'll try to post any news I learn that Fox won't show you.

Wish the Braves (and Baseball Widow) luck!

Saturday, October 09, 2004


Added a new link, to the Online Sports Report. Baseball Widow just can't say no to guys named Jay. . . sorry it took me so long to link to you.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Homerun=Homefree (For now. . .)

First, check this out. Seems like Mac at Braves Beat was getting on to Furkie (or, possibly, Furky? Baseball Widow simply can't join Rafael's teammates in calling him "Foogie".) a little prematurely, considering his 11th inning rescue with a walk-off homer. Baseball Widow, for one, understands the mentality. Furcal's playing for his freedom; homeboy's headed to jail when the season's over. Be sure to read the article for Furkie's quote: "I've never been in jail that long."

Baseball Widow is stoked about the Braves win, although she was really rooting for Smoltz to have been the winning run. Smoltz wanted to bat today--did you see him in the eighth in the dugout with his helmet on? Baseball Widow is all for the John Smoltz show. . . I say start him on Saturday in Houston and have him bat clean-up.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Anger Management

I don't understand the dialogue surrounding yesterday's ejection and today's suspension of Milton Bradley for his tantrum on the field. Especially in relation to the suspension of Jose Guillen. Both men are sitting out the rest of the season for their respective (if not respectable) outbursts.

But the judgment of how these two incidents relate is baffling to me. Joe Morgan, who I regard highly for his athletic ability and not for his intellect, has just said (on the ESPN coverage of SF v. SD) that what Bradley did is terribly worse than Guillen's gaffe. In fact, he doesn't believe it is fair to punish the other Angel's players by suspending Guillen.

To me it is just the other way around. Guillen publicly called out his manager for an in-game decision, jeopadizing Scioscia's credibility with the team. Bradley on the other hand reacted (albeit poorly) to being assaulted by a fan with a bottle. The difference, it seems to me, is the players' relationship to the antagonist and the setting. Let's compare these situations to a typical workplace (think Office Space). In Guillen's case, you have a guy attacking his boss for telling him to do something he doesn't want to do. Bradley's outburst is the equivalent of someone (not a co-worker or your boss) coming to your place of work and throwing something at you. If it were you at your job, which do you think would be treated more severely?

Am I wrong? Am I the only one that thinks there's a difference between blowing up at being attacked and throwing a chair at a fan?

Bradley's actions aren't commendable, but shouldn't most of the blame be shouldered by the jerk that threw the bottle? We don't patronize baseball teams so that we can say anything to or throw anything at the players on the field. Even though they have what seems to us to be the best job in the world, this is no excuse to be able to treat them like animals at the zoo. In fact, we often treat them worse than that -- would you throw a bottle at a lion and say something nasty about it's mother? No, and I'd think twice about doing it to Milton Bradley if I were you.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Weighing in on MVP

Just watched a mini-debate about the MVP voting on a Braves Fox South broadcast. They had singled out Bonds, Pujols and Beltre as the top contenders. The consensus was this: it's hard not to vote for Bonds (he's great ya know), but look at Beltre's numbers!

To this end they put up the primary numbers for each player. The three primary stats they picked were HR, RBI and Avg. And, yes, looking at just these I might vote for Beltre too. Here they are: Beltre HR - 47 RBI - 115 Avg - .341 Bonds HR - 43 RBI - 98 Ave - .369

But of course this doesn't even tell us half of the story. Bonds has way more Runs Created than Beltre (172 to 129) and his OPS is head and shoulders above everyone in the league (1.428 to the next closest 1.109). But, his critics insist, Bonds isn't much of a fielder anymore, and Beltre plays a mean third base. And that's as far as the discussion gets because there's little knowledge of the good defensive stats in the mainstream media, not even Win Shares which is designed to be a simple reference number (if not simple to calculate). Lots of people are doing good work with this great statistical approach to a player's total value.

And what does Win Shares think of the MVP debate? Bonds should win in a landslide, with 49. Rolen is closest with 12 less and Beltre is 8th in the league with 18 fewer Win Shares than Bonds despite his great defense.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Baseball Widow is disgusted about this. . . Braves' Furcal arrested on DUI charge

Suffice it to say that if he weren't innocent until proven guilty, Furky would be getting raked over the fiery hot coals reserved for the specific subset of creeps who drive drunk.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Root, Root, Root Against the Home Team

I ran across a post on Will Carroll's blog at all-baseball that's had me in a philosophical quandary the last few days. The post (by scottlong, not Carroll) is from the 6th, and it starts like this, "Winning the 2004 election might not be the best thing [for the Democrats] in the long run." The gist is this: if Bush wins a second term, he'll screw the country up so much that everyone will realize that Democrats are right and right wingers will be revealed for the villains they actually are.

Now, whether or not this is true, it's had me wondering: is it ever right to hope your team loses? I'm considering this from a strictly moral standpoint because I regard baseball fan-dom in the same moral realm as other important things, like politics. In both, there are things (teams or principles) to which a person must remain true. In short, I believe in the Braves the same way I believe in freedom of speech. Sound extreme? You just aren't a good enough baseball fan, but that's another post.

So, is it morally right to hope my team loses? Off the top of my head I can think of a couple of reasons one might hope for a losing game or even season. First, at this time of year with the postseason matchups hinging on won-loss records I could understand hoping for a loss to get a more favorable first round matchup. For example, I think the braves would rather face the Dodgers than the Cubs in the first round, so when the Braves faced the Giants (the Cubs' competition in the wildcard) a loss would better their postseason options. That's pragmatic, and I can understand the logic, but I'm still not sure I could bring myself to hope for failure for my club, even for a game.

So, what about a season? This is actually something I've considered before, and I'll use my Braves again as an example. People are always talking about how indifferent the fans of the Braves are (I guess they're talking about the other fans). Well, I've often thought that a losing season or two might snap Atlanta fans out of this. Victory is so much sweeter after defeat, as Braves fans who remember the 80s know, and as Cubs and Red Sox fans fantasize about.

And I'm sure there are other reasons, but that's not the point. The question hasn't been answered, is it right to root against your team (in politics, baseball or whatever)? And here's my answer: no. The point of baseball is winning, that's why fans cheer and players hustle. Hoping for failure even in one game or one at bat just isn't right. And I think it's wrong in the world of politics too. People have strong opinions about politics and policy because they think they're right. Have a strong opinion about the war in Iraq? I bet it's because you care about things improving, about doing the right thing whatever you think that is. Hoping (as scottlong does) that your side loses is tantamount to hoping that the wrong thing happens. Here's another quote: "I expect the economy to continue to falter and the war in Iraq will become more of a quagmire. The American people will wake up to what right-wingers have done to it." So are we hoping for people to lose their jobs? Are we hoping for quagmire? This is like saying that Vietnam was great because it motivated political activism, or that another terrorist attack would vindicate the president's war in Iraq.

Hoping for failure just rubs me the wrong way, even though I must admit to it myself. In the last presidential election, faced with Bush, Gore and Nader, I chose to write in for a different candidate. Why? I knew that my write-in wouldn't win, so essentially I was hoping for failure. And thinking back, I know why: I didn't want any responsibility for the winner. I wanted to be able to complain about whoever was elected.

I wanted to lose because I was afraid of winning.

Friday, August 27, 2004

One more before I go
Stupidest play ever.
Giants vs. Braves in Atlanta.
Bottom 6th. Tied 3-3. 1 out.
Giants pitcher Matt Herges loads the bases.
Atlanta pitcher Jaret Wright at bat.
Wright bunts. (Runner on third is stationary; this is not a squeeze bunt.)
Herges grabs ball and throws to. . .first!
Runner scores when he should have been out by 20 feet. What should have been a inning-ending double play gives the lead to Atlanta.
Tie game, Giants in a wild card race. Go-ahead run scores on a brain fart?
Stupidest play ever.
Anyone following this Paul Hamm thing?
Here's Baseball Widow's take: there's no instant replay in gymnastics. A sport that relies upon subjective judging in any area (be it somersaults or strike zones) requires a willingness on the athlete's part to go with flow and realize that sometimes you get the calls and sometimes you don't. If you want computers and robots to judge your sport, then you might as well have computers and robots compete. This idea might have some merit, actually. Baseball Widow would like to see Curt Shilling face Questec in the bottom of the 9th with the bases loaded.

And that's all Baseball Widow has to say about that.

In other news, Baseball Widow is heading to London for a week. Go make other blog friends, and be sure to tell me about them. (Yeah, yeah, Baseball Widow vacations as often as Pedro Martinez pats himself on the back. Baseball Widow will send you mental postcards.)

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Baseball Widow couldn't have said it better herself

. . . well, she might be capable of it, but she's not going to bother. Check out this article at Braves Journal. Mac makes several great points, the chief of which is that no one is giving the Braves credit for their success during the second half of the season this year. Writers (and fans) tend to skew the story as "how the Phillies lost it."

It's no secret that Baseball Widow is a Braves fan. Still, Baseball Widow readers know that Baseball Widow is also an advocate of truth in media. Unfortunately, that's hard to come by, especially in the realm of sports reporting. It's easier to sell a line than to craft a piece of analysis. From payroll to performance-enhancing drugs, from interleague to international play, and from winners to whiners, issues in baseball are more complicated than your average Terrence Moore can comprehend. Many of those sports writers who probably could grasp the complexities of the various subjects are too entrenched in the business of selling columns to concern themselves with good thoughts (and good writing, but Baseball Widow can't hope for miracles).

Okay, so it's not just baseball; we're a sound-byte nation. We manage to take original ideas and corrupt them into cliches as fast as (insert tired simile here). How many times this week have you heard someone reference "thinking outside the box"? And how many times was that person truly engaging creative thinking processes? Baseball Widow says forget the box--just start thinking, people.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Olympic Edition
Baseball Widow loves the Olympics. They are the perfect collection of spectator sports: the events move quickly (especially thanks to TV editing), the average viewer can understand the action, and you always know who to root for. (Although Baseball Widow hasn't been rooting for Team USA in Basketball; she thinks they have attitude problems.)

That said, Baseball Widow thinks that some events just don't fit at the Summer Olympics. . .

Individual athletic events make sense, so do those team events that compile individual results to create a team medal. Likewise, relays, which are simply consecutive individual performances, should have homes at the Summer Olympics. It is the events that Baseball Widow characterizes as team sports that just don't seem to belong. Perhaps more specific than team sports, Baseball Widow should say team games. Soccer, Basketball, Softball, and Baseball seem particularly ill-suited for the venue.

The Olympics seek to glorify the grace and beauty of the showcased athletic events. Baseball is a sport whose style and power are best examined over the course of a season, incorporating the ability to rotate roster spots, the strategy of team trades, and the excitement of pennant races. You just can't condense the sport into a two-week tournament. The attempt to do so results in a mockery of the Olympic spirit of competition; what kind of international Olympic event limits itself to representation from only eight countries?

Quite simply, you can't judge a baseball team until you've seen long-term performance. If you haven't seen every starting pitcher play, then you really haven't seen what the team is.

The problem in trying to condense baseball into tourney-friendly bite-sized pieces isn't limited to the Olympics. The postseason suffers from time-crunch as well. Five game series are fundamentally different from seven game series, and they result in advancement for some teams who otherwise wouldn't have a prayer in a long series. Okay, Baseball Widow realizes that spectators demand a postseason. . . you just gotta have an identifiable champ, right? I'm not trying to say that we should score teams like we score fantasy baseball and declare a winner after the regular season, but I do feel that every postseason series should benefit from the same ground rules--and shorter series result in playing by different rules.

So that's what Baseball Widow thinks, and she's promises it's not (entirely) motivated by her fear of Randy Johnson.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Music to Everyone's Ears

ESPN has a great series of links and short blurbs about at-bat music in the major leagues.

Yes, this is a few days old--still thought it was worth passing on, especially as Baseball Widow has previously written about her interest in at-bat music.


Okay, folks, Baseball Widow is making an attempt to return to the semi-daily grind. I tried to post a few days ago but couldn't get Blogger to cooperate.

Thanks, as always, for your patience with me, and I'll try to write more later this afternoon.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Friday already?

Baseball Widow regrets to say that she has no time for posting--her summer teaching gig is wrapping up, and that means paperwork and parent conferences! As soon as Baseball Widow gets settled back in Knoxville, she'll attempt to update more regularly.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Pitching unlikelies--UPDATED!

Baseball Widow and Hubby were able to catch the Braves game last night. (Their summer jobs don't allow much of an opportunity for TV.) In the excitement over the Braves' first-place position, we began speculating about the post-season.

Baseball Widow thinks it's pretty obvious that the Braves don't have the pitching staff to make it in the postseason, and, even if they do have the stuff, they certainly aren't using it as well as they could. This holds true for most of baseball as well. . .

Why has everyone given up on the fifth starter? If almost every team has a terrible fifth starter, then why not slash the season by a fifth to raise the quality of the play? Or, why not go to a four man rotation and use the extra spot on the roster for someone who can do some good?

Why is it that a certain subset of pitchers can pitch six or seven innings but that another subset of pitchers never pitches more than four outs? They're major league players--they should be able to handle two innings, even if it's almost every day. Constant pitching changes slow down the game significantly, and you can't convince Baseball Widow that there's any worth in bringing in a set-up set-up man to get the bottom of the rotation out.

Why is it that the best closer is brought in during the ninth for all save opportunities? Almost any pitcher in the bullpen should be able to hold off a 3 run lead. Why not bring in your dynamite closer when it's tied or close in the eighth? Isn't that where he can do the most good?

And with specializations creeping in, why have a starting rotation at all? Why not go to a complete rotation--one pitcher per inning. You can use it strategically:
--always be able to use a weaker pitcher for the bottom of the rotation, and similarly, always have one of your best for the heart of the order
--never put in your ace against Randy Johnson
--bring out your weak players when it looks over, but if it turns around, trot out your best for the last few innings
--make scouting impossible, because the opposite team can never predict who it's facing
--what better way for a low-budget team to put together a winning pitching staff?

Yeah, yeah, the Red Sox tried closer by committee, but did they ever give it a real chance to work? It's only by stepping outside of conventional wisdom that you discover breakthroughs.

Baseball Widow would like to clarify the above post to credit the ideas of The Red Flash, who was present for the above conversation, and who contributed ideas of much importance. The Red Flash doesn't have a blog yet, but when he does, I'll be sure to let you know about it.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Happy National Ice Cream Day!
(If Dave Pinto can wax poetic about ice cream, so can Baseball Widow)

Baseball Widow doesn't pretend to be a wise person. She knows precious little about this life and nothing at all about any life that might follow. She doesn't know if hell is a fiery lake or seven circles of torment.  She does know, however, that there is a promised land, and it is a land flowing with ice cream and coffee. 
When Baseball Widow was two years old, an ice cream cone saved her life, and Baseball Widow, in grateful recompense, has honored the most excellent dairy product ever since.  It is no accident that she attended college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a city widely hailed as birthplace to the world's greatest ice creams.  Similarly, it should be no surprise that, as far as mass-produced commercial brands of ice cream are concerned, Baseball Widow's loyalties lie with her good friends Ben and Jerry. 
Baseball Hubby, a kind and patient man, feels little jealousy toward the two others who will always come first in Baseball Widow's life.  Hubby even joins us in a yummy foursome, keeping our marriage happy and full of diversity--from Brownie Batter to Vanilla Swiss Almond. 
Don't ask how, but Baseball Widow and Hubby managed to make the VIP list at the grand opening of a Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shop and affiliated coffee house.  (Baseball Widow's second great love is a good iced coffee, but that's another post.)  Do you have any idea what happens when you put 50 people in front of an open ice cream bar at Ben & Jerry's?  Let me tell you, if everyone could have his fill of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, all manner of warfare would cease.  (Probably because we'd all be too fat to fight them, but, hey, whatever works, right?)  At one point in the evening (probably around his fourth scoop), Baseball Hubby was actually skipping with joy.  Baseball Widow was sobbing quietly in the corner, overcome with the beauty of it all.
Baseball Widow and Hubby returned home to watch Ken Jennings kick butt on Jeopardy, and then, to top it all off (pardon the pun), Baseball Widow and Hubby noticed that the Braves were tied for first place. 
God bless Marcus Giles, God bless Ken Jennings, and God bless Ben and Jerry.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Eye-Candies Update

Baseball is full of good debates: Does pitch count really matter? Does batting lineup really matter? Does coaching really matter? Well, Baseball Widow would like to add one more provocative question to the mix: Does the team really matter?

To recap: The Eye-Candies are Baseball Widow's fantasy team, chosen for their good looks. The Eye-Candies compete in a Yahoo public league. Bitter rivals to the Eye-Candies are the Knoxville Photons, Baseball Hubby's painstakingly researched and drafted team that competes in a private ESPN league. Baseball Widow does not actively manage her team. (She has dropped two injured players, picking up Danys Baez and Nick Green.) Hubby actively manages his team.

Baseball Widow's Eye-Candies are in fifth place of twelve. Hubby's team is sixth of ten.
To refresh your memory, here are the lineups as originally drafted. . .

Javy Lopez 30Jason Varitek 17
Tino Martinez 11Mark Teixeira 13
Michael Young 21Jose Vidro 19
Eric Hinske 2Aubrey Huff 21
Jose Reyes 12Derek Jeter 18
Craig Biggio 20Carlos Beltran 28
Pat Burrell 9Manny Ramirez 28
Jose Cruz 17Marlon Byrd 16
Joe Randa 14Milton Bradley 18
Brad Ausmus 2Torii Hunter 16
Joe Mauer 0Roberto Alomar 7
Eli Marrero 3Corey Koskie 21
Ryan Klesko 13Bobby Crosby 0
Jeff Cirillo 3Vinny Castilla 14
Larry Walker 18
Tim Hudson 23Javier Vazquez 21
Mark Mulder 17Keith Foulke 21
Brad Lidge 8Hideo Nomo 17
Jaret Wright 1Brandon Webb 17
Eric Milton 2Wade Miller 9
Tim Wakefield 12Carlos Zambrano 18
Joe Mays 2Jake Peavy 7
Francisco Rodriguez 9
Chad Cordero 2
Jerome Williams 9

If you'll recall, Hubby predicted that Baseball Widow's team would suffer from lack of pitching. (As most pitchers have facial hair, it was difficult for Baseball Widow to field a rotation of suitably good-looking players.) Baseball Widow is pleased to announce, however, that she is first in wins and second in ERA. Baseball Widow is going to let Hubby take over now to finish the analysis. . .

If the thing that makes Baseball Widow happiest is taking a bite of Ben and Jerry's latest creation, then second on her list of favorites is enjoying the demise of my fantasy baseball team. Now, couples are supposed to be there for each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, during the playoffs and in the offseason . . . but I'm not worried, I'm confident in The Photons' second half chances.

Here's reason number 1: the gap between the Eye-Candies and the first place team in their league is 19.5 points. For my sixth place Photons, the gap is only 4.5. That's right, only 4.5 points separate the Photons from first place glory. Of course there are 5 teams in between.

Reason number 2? Well, the Photons have had a surge in the past few weeks, as a few of the key players are getting on track for the year. Take a look at the lineup and notice how many poor performances were turned in by guys like Jeter, Huff, Teixeira and Vidro. These guys are quality, and they're coming around, but their early season slumps still have the team's batting average at league bottom.

As for the bright spots of the Eye-Candies? They've gotten good production from Burrell, Young, and Lopez that should last into the second half. Younger guys like Nick Green and Joe Mauer have been pleasant surprises, but Green's playing time will be threatened when Marcus Giles comes back for the Braves. Another positive is the promotion of Brad Lidge to closer, when The Widow picked him up he was just middle relief.

So for now I'll just have to grin and bear my team's first-half misfortune, but when the Eye-Candies turn ugly and the Photons shoot to the top of the standings I won't brag too much, if I know what's good for me.

Have a good All-Star break.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

What a Knight

Baseball Widow, Hubby, and a couple of colleagues pilgrimaged to South Carolina (yes, South Carolina) last night to see the AAA Chi-Sox affiliate Charlotte Knights take on the Indians' Buffalo Bisons.

Where to start?
The Bisons, uh, stampeded to a quick lead during a three run first inning. Stand-out player of the night was Bison OF Raul Gonzalez, who was hot--5 for 5.

Baseball Widow was also happy to see Russell Branyan. You might remember him from his stint at the Braves' spring training. He was looking good, especially after his huge HR in the 1st--the ball probably went 430 feet--just barely missing the jumbotron. Unfortunately, the Bison 1B displayed an animalistic rude nature. Branyan was always in possession of the ball as he left the field at the end of a half-inning. He toyed with the fans on the 3B side, pretending to throw the ball, but often keeping it for himself. When he did throw, it was always to the same group of tank-top clad girls who also got the free Knights memorabilia (something that Baseball Widow noticed not only because she was sitting two rows behind them, but also because Baseball Widow reader Douglas Nazarian pointed out to her that similar bonuses are bestowed upon similarly clad females during Orioles games). Remind Baseball Widow to show a little more cleavage next time. . .

And this brings Baseball Widow back around to an unfinished issue: that of the Female Fan of the Game, as identified by the Tennessee Smokies at homegames. Baseball Widow still hasn't decided where she falls, but here's what Baseball Widow is thinking:

1. They do not identify a Male Fan of the Game, nor do they choose to identify a Fan of the Game in a way that is unrelated to gender. As anyone who has looked at Supreme Court rulings lately can tell you, that's a warning sign. Whether or not you think it's harmful, you can't get around the fact that it is (nerd alert) prima facie evidence of discrimination.

2. The prize seems specifically targeted to play to a stereotypical image of a woman as someone who loves to shop. All of the other giveaways (such as the signed programs, or prizes that depend upon seat number) seem to be more "neutral"--free groceries, free meals, free t-shirts, etc.

3. It plays into the idea that women need to be rewarded somehow for letting themselves be dragged to a baseball game--that they wouldn't be there without some enticement such as pleasing a boyfriend or the possibility of winning a prize. This reminds Baseball Widow of the "Ladies Night" promotion ongoing at Pittsburgh last summer. (At least, Baseball Widow thinks it was Pittsburgh. Those of you who read the post "What Baseball Widow did on Hubby's Vacation" will sympathize with her inability to remember with accuracy such a quick succession of games and stadiums.) Ladies were invited to stop by a booth to receive a massage, some make-up samples, and some special coupons. Then, as now, Baseball Widow was slightly offended but utterly unable to detail why.

3a. Did anyone notice that in the above paragraph Baseball Widow decried the assumption that women would attend a baseball game only to please their partners while simultaneously implying that any vacation that involves trips to baseball stadiums is best classified as a "Hubby" vacation and not one belonging to the wife. Which brings me to my next point. . .

4. Baseball Widow, like too many women, seems to want a double standard when it works in her favor. Baseball Widow might stand on her virtual soapbox and bemoan her state as a second-class citizen of baseball fandom, but, as she as mentioned before, it is precisely the fact that she is a woman writing about baseball that has given her blog so much early exposure.

Baseball Widow thinks that she will undertake a little investigative journalism and actually call the Smokies to question them on this policy, but first she has to go shopping for a new tank top.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Summer Reading

Baseball Hubby filling in for The Widow this fine Friday evening . . . .

Baseball Widow and Hubby have great summer jobs -- we work for Duke University teaching gifted students who really love to learn. The students at this program, having devoted a major chunk of their summer to schooling, often refer to it as "nerd camp." Baseball Hubby has always looked at his own nerd-dom in a positive way, so he's happy to share his latest nerdy summer reading, The Neyer/James guide to Pitchers.

This great book arrived (pre-ordered) a few days ago, and I've been trying to find excuses to paw through it since I got it out of the box. This looks to be another fantastic book from two of Baseball's best (and nerdiest) writers. In its pages are the arcane history of pitches like the shine ball, the Foshball, and the inshoot.

The Widow always becomes particularly annoyed when I acquire a new baseball text. Suddenly I'm 12 years old and being compelled to turn the lamp off, quit reading, and go to sleep. I'd better hurry up and post this so I can get some reading time in before bed-check.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Friday postings? Well, that's not so much a rule as it is a guideline. . .

First item of business: Caught part of the Braves/Orioles game last night. Didn't see much, but I did manage an eyeful of Javy's triple. Let's pause for a moment of silent reflection. . .

Speaking of games that the Braves lost:
Baseball Widow has discovered that one of her students was present at Randy Johnson's perfect game against Atlanta. I haven't asked him if he's ever heard of the Baseball Widow.

Next up:
Baseball Widow has managed to land the fortunate job of reading the Sherlock Holmes adventures--all 56 short stories and 4 novels. They were my favorites in junior high, and now I get to re-read them, being paid for every second of it. That, my friends, is what Baseball Widow calls a dream job.

As many of you may know, Sherlock Holmes was an immensely popular character. When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle "killed" Holmes in a story, the public's outcry was such that Doyle resurrected Holmes. Even today, fans pilgrimage to 221-B Baker Street in London, the address at which the fictional character resided. Others are so intent upon translating the adventures into reality that they actively debate the resolution of continuity errors throughout the canon. At some point, Sherlock Holmes leapt from the pages of his books and planted himself firmly in realm of the ideal and absolute. Quite simply, it doesn't matter that Sherlock Holmes never actually existed; if you'll pardon some confusing logic, he exists now because he has to exist. It doesn't matter that he never said "Elementary, my dear Watson." He's said it now because it's been attributed to him.

Like literature, baseball is full of enduring characters--characters with traits that exist in legend if not in fact. To return to last week's reflections, Barry Bonds the man may or may not be a jerk to the press, but the historical "facts" demand that Barry Bonds the baseball player assume that role. Ty Cobb may have been a racist without comparison, or he may have been a commonplace product of his time. Ty Cobb the man isn't Ty Cobb the baseball player, though, and neither of them is the fictionalized Ty Cobb we've seen in screen depictions. In Baseball Widow's personal history, she's come to the realization that the stats don't support her rabid assertion that Marvin Freeman was the worst relief pitcher in Braves history. But it makes the memories of those games more interesting to continue the belief ungrounded in reality.

So, here's to the mind's eye, which sure can paint a messed-up picture.

And, finally, a lingering piece of business:
Baseball Widow has spent the last several months processing her reaction to being a female baseball blogger. She mentioned before that she would like to speak on the "feminist" angle, but she's just had a hard time coming to grips with her own opinion. On one hand, Baseball Widow likes to think that she's read because she writes well. On another, she knows that much of the initial attention her blog received was because of her gender and her unique hook.

Well, forget all that for the moment, and tell me what you think about this: At each home game, the Tennessee Smokies give away a prize to the "Female Fan of the Game". What's the prize? A shopping trip, of course. Baseball Widow thinks she's offended, but she's not sure why. She's been chewing on it for a couple of months now and still can't identify a solid line of reasoning. Baseball Widow isn't even sure if it's the title or the prize that riles her up most. (Of course, it's also a possibility that she's just upset that she's never won.) Anyway, let me know if you've got any ideas.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Since Baseball Widow has moved to the weekly format, she has plenty of time to think about her posts. Unfortunately, this means that a lot of post ideas float in and out of her brain before she has time to blog them. Yes, yes, Baseball Widow could jot them down the old fashioned way, but who wants to kill a tree when you can burn fossil fuels by using extra electricity? So, bear with me as I do my best to address some recent areas of thought.

--We Ain't Talking about Sandwiches, Either
Baseball Widow has gotten lots of great suggestions for the heroes/villains matchup. One of my favorites is the idea that Doc Ock, who possesses the potential to be a great pitcher, might not be the best choice simply because his balk rate would be astronomical. (Not that lack of playing potential has ever stopped Baseball Widow from signing someone. . .) Baseball Widow actually thinks the nickname would be the hardest thing to overcome. Can you say "Doc 'the Balk' Ock" without swallowing your tongue?

--Sight for Sore Eyes
The Eye-Candies have dropped Jose Reyes for Braves cutie Nick Green. Baseball Widow is sure that there are other hot prospects out there, but since she only watches Braves games, her pool is limited. Baseball Widow is seriously considering dropping Jaret Wright, though. He looked rough last time up, and I'm not talking about his pitching.

--Can you believe Terrence Moore wasn't included?
Picked up The Best American Sports Writing, 2003. In a word, it's not. Many stories concern baseball, but most of the selections are so overwrought that the reading can hardly be called pleasurable. Take, for instance, Gary Smith's "The Ball," as originally published in SI. The "American Story" behind the lawsuit over Barry Bonds' 73rd home run ball contains lines like, "Their eyes met, a few minutes before their fates did." At this point, Baseball Widow checked the cover of the book for a picture of Fabio.

Of course, almost all baseball writing suffers from emotional excess, so leave it to David Grann to tell just the facts in "Baseball Without Metaphor," a story that purports to reveal the "real" Barry Bonds, one who understands baseball is a business. So Barry Bonds thinks baseball is a business. Imagine if A-Rod thought that way: he could stand to make some serious money. . .

Look, Barry Bonds isn't a new breed of player; Honus Wagner was in it for the money, and he didn't care to be an idol. Even assuming that Bonds's screw-the-media mentality is radically different from that of other players, the only thing new about Bonds's behavior is his acknowledgement that he crafts a character who takes on a life of his own, independent from the "real" Barry. It's soap opera Barry--the one the audience loves to hate.

Unfortunately, for all his lack of metaphor, Grann still gets it wrong. The issue isn't really an overabundance of metaphors in baseball, it's an underrefined description of baseball as a microcosm. Baseball Widow will let you ponder that for a week.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Baseball Widow wanted to play catch-up on a couple of lingering items.

1. Smokies Game
Widow and Hubby managed to squeeze in another Tennessee Smokies game before leaving Knoxville. It was an eventful night. First, free hat night. Sweet. Second, since the Smokies were playing the Greenville Braves, Hubby went down to the dugout to get 3B prospect Andy Marte's autograph. He returned bemoaning the fact that Marte and all the players in the park were younger than he. (FYI, Hubby can't yet run for Congress, although Baseball Widow can.) Third, we got to see Widow fave Papo "Pop-Up" Bolivar receive the Southern League Player of the Week Award. Fourth, exciting news for Len Cleavelin: Cards' pitching prospect Brad Thompson was hot on the trail of the minor league scoreless inning record, which he recently broke.

2. Fantasy Team
No, not the Eye-Candies, poor souls. My latest intellectual quest is to determine the roster of the Superheroes (and Villians) fantasy team. Clearly, Spiderman is made for shortstop, and, on the other side, the Hobgoblin can seriously throw the heat. Haven't decided on the other positions, though. I'll keep you updated.

Baseball Widow and Hubby have settled in lovely Davidson, North Carolina, for their summer teaching positions. Baseball Widow will move to a weekly posting during June and July, and she plans to focus more specifically on criticism and commentary (not that you weren't enthralled by the posts about the yard sale). Please check in on Friday afternoons, and, of course, tell your friends to do the same.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Would You Rather?

When Baseball Widow gets bored during games, she plays her own game, "Would You Rather?" This is a variation on a game Baseball Widow first learned in college. In its collegiate form, it's a hypothetical Fear Factor. . . would you rather spend 24 hours in a pit with garter snakes all over you or five minutes in a tank with 1000 mosquitoes, one of which has West Nile Virus? Yes, we were certainly putting our tuition dollars to work.

Baseball Widow's latest question to Hubby is, would you rather have a batter who hits .320 or a batter who hits .300 but takes seven pitches every at-bat?

Hubby has flipped-flopped on his answer (these games usually last several days), and Baseball Widow doesn't really give a flip. I play the game just for the conversation.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Quick, what's a six letter synonym for Tony Batista's batting stance?

Baseball Widow knew it would happen. Things were going too well. She was enjoying blogging about baseball--stretching the intellectual muscles. She had made new friends. Even though the Braves were struggling, she was having fun. Even though Baseball Hubby was so engrossed with baseball that he forgot our anniversary. . . still, things were going well.


Here are the two stupid final straws:

1. Nomar Garciaparra in STUPID first place in the STUPID All-Star voting when he hasn't played a single STUPID inning all year. The guy's been playing in the minors, for goodness's sake. (Don't give me lip about the apostrophe _s_. It's grammatically correct, even if it looks stupid.)

2. Mike Hampton, facing the Expos, walked in a run during the top of the 4th. First problem: "walked in a run" wreaks havoc on my grammatical processing. Second problem: the batter got an RBI. Why is this a problem? WALKS DON'T COUNT AS AT-BATS. HOW CAN A BATTER POSSIBLY BAT IN A RUNNER IF THE BATTER DIDN'T HAVE AN AT-BAT?!?!?!
Okay, so this isn't the first time Baseball Widow has recognized this terrible inconsistency in the game, but tonight it's enough to drive me crazy.

Welcome to June, folks. The new season has lost its shine and Baseball Widow is beginning to remember exactly why she started this blog.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Baseball Widow and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Baseball Widow has had a rough day.

We got back from Florida last night, and Baseball Widow tumbled into bed. When she awoke to the sound of the dog chasing the cat on the bed, she should have recognized the melee as a harbinger of the evil to come.

Baseball Widow needed to return the rental van, so she woke Hubby up to have him drive behind her. Here's what happened next:

Hubby's car had a flat.
The air compressor was dead.
We couldn't find the lug wrench.
The spare tire was flat.
Baseball Widow's sister car wouldn't start.
Baseball Widow's cousin's car was in the shop.

Cut to later. . .
The muffler fell off Hubby's car on the way to the repair shop.
Had to buy four new tires for a car with 190K miles on it.
Bought groceries. Got home with five broken eggs.

So, like Alexander, Baseball Widow and Hubby decided to start the day over again. They crawled into bed to watch the Braves game and take a nap. What happened? The Braves managed to blow a 3-0 lead, and Baseball Widow learned that the Braves had lost Adam LaRoche to a collar bone-type injury.

What's the point? Baseball Widow's day was a cakewalk compared to the Braves' woes this season. Injury after injury--only four games with the "regular" lineup. Somehow, the Bravos keep plugging away. They've won 7 of their last 10, and there's even talk of a short-term low-budget signing of semi-retired Andres Galarraga or Fred McGriff. Could be cool to see one of these vets return, but one of the bright spots of the season has been being able to get to know new young players. Nick Green is doing a bang-up job filling in for the injured Marcus Giles, and he's quickly establishing himself as one of the hot young prospects for the next generation of the Eye-Candies. Speaking of new (but not necessarily so young) Braves, Seth Stohs has an interview with left-handed reliever C.J. Nitkowski who happens to be a baseball writer as well.

Baseball Widow is going to stop typing now before the computer explodes or she manages to break the Internet.
Soon I hope to post some about balanced schedules and my latest "fantasy" lineup.

Monday, May 24, 2004

This used to be my playground

Another one of the gems Baseball Widow found when cleaning out the attic was a project from her 8th grade American History class. As I recall, we had several options for the assignment, but the project I chose was mapping all of the Major League Baseball parks in the United States.

Baseball Widow, who was quite handy with a jigsaw at the tender age of 13, had no way of knowing that her project would end up being a memorial. It's surprising to see how many of the parks are now gone.

There were 26 teams back then (24 in the U.S.). Out of those, these parks are no more:

Candlestick Park
Jack Murphy Stadium
The Astrodome
Fulton County Stadium
Comisky Park
Tiger Stadium
County Stadium (Milwaukee)
Municipal Stadium (Cleveland)
River Front Stadium
Three River Stadium
Veterans Stadium
Arlington Stadium

That's 13--over half in about 11 years. The newest park listed on my project was Camden Yards, which kicked off the current trend toward smaller, baseball-only stadiums that heralded the end of the municipal stadium.

Although it's always sad to see an old friend go, certainly the newer stadiums can be great ballgame experiences (see post "Not Exactly Disneyland, or What I did on My Husband's Summer Vacation").

Baseball Widow is looking for a lesson in all of this, but I think the real story here is that Baseball Widow has mad wood-working skills.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Going Yard--Sale, that is

Baseball Widow just finished a crazy week of cleaning out the attic, sorting through junk, and selling it at a yard sale.

Somewhere buried in the rubble, Baseball Hubby stumbled across his old collection of baseball cards. He collected from about 1988-1992, and we were surprised at some of the cards we found:
--Rookie Randy Johnson, about 15 years away from a perfect game
--Baseball Widow favorites Harold Reynolds and John Kruk
--A middle-aged Julio Franco
--Mike Maddux and Greg Maddux, looking like twins--identically poised in the windup with that patented Maddux tongue sticking out of the corner of the mouth. (Incidentally, Baseball Widow adopts much the same appearance when playing piano.)

Perhaps the most surprising thing about examining the collection was the sheer amount of players that we simply don't remember. Hubby had carefully placed his "favorites" in a couple of three ring binders, and he didn't even remember half of those--not to mention the hundreds of loose cards thrown in a cardboard box.

Often it seems like Major League Baseball is a game of superstars, of millionaire celebrities destined for greatness. But the lineups are comprised mostly by the work-horses or those with flash-in-the-pan moments--guys you don't remember ten years later, but who were there just the same. They're the home runs or the strikeouts or the hits allowed by the great pitchers that you do remember. In fact, without them, the greats couldn't be greats, for greatness consists of dominating the average.

So here's to you, Ken Oberkfell. . . you played for the Braves for four seasons in the late eighties and hit 16 of your career 29 home runs for my favorite team. I'm sure I watched you play, but I have no idea who you were. A 3.5 inch piece of cardboard,, and some clippings in your mom's attic are all that remain to tell your story. Well, at least you got more of Baseball Widow's column space than Randy Johnson's perfect game.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Doing My Duty

The Widow has asked me to take time out from the Braves game and start pulling my weight around here. So I had a tough choice to make: do the dishes or write a post.

Guess which one I chose.

The Braves are currently being shut down (no hits though 6 innings) by Randy Johnson, one of the Widow's least favorite ball players. In light of my beloved Braves' woes I thought I'd do a little early season review of my favorite club.

Let's start with a quick comparison of two of last year's stars with their replacements.

playerBatting AverageOn Base %Slugging %OPS
Gary Sheffield.273.396.409.805
JD Drew.305.430.6001.030
Javy Lopez.354.410.523.933
Johnny Estrada.342.397.532.928

If I had known in February that these would be the numbers as of March 18, well I'd be pretty happy. I'd probably tell you that the Braves' real weakness is pitching, but that they could compete with such serviceable (and cheap) replacements for Shefield and Lopez. And you know what, I would have been right. But what I didn't know is how many injuries the team would have. Chipper Jones, JD Drew, Rafael Furcal, Eli Marrero, and now Marcus Giles (we miss you already, Marcus) have missed time leaving the lineup pretty bare. The replacements have also done a poor job catching the ball, which doesn't help when you don't hit much.

So far this year I've been frustrated by these injuries, but still hopeful. The team is only 3.5 games out, so you figure that when they get healthy they should be able to make a run. Only I'm not sure that's going to happen now. Furcal is still hurting, and Giles will be out for about 2 months. Not even a great team can survive long without its starting middle infield, and the Braves aren't a great team to begin with.

I'm still enjoying watching the Braves this year. It's actually fun to cheer for a team that's not in first place for a change. But if the Braves don't turn things around at some point, and if they do (gasp) finish out of first place, it'll be a shame that injuries played such a big role.

Here's to modern medicine and a speedy recovery to Marcus Giles!


Randy Johnson just completed his first career perfect game by striking out Eddie Perez. Quite a feat, even if it is against a depleted Braves lineup. If, as Baseball Widow suspects, Randy Johnson has sold his soul to the devil (or possibly is the devil) at least he got his money's worth.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

And They Say You Can't Teach Great Baseball

Baseball Widow was in Borders today with Hubby browsing (what else?) the baseball section. There are some great baseball books out there, and there are some terrible baseball books as well. Baseball Widow isn't sure what makes a baseball book good, but she knows what makes one bad: a shallow understanding of baseball's interaction with society.

Baseball is one of the greatest lenses through which to study America. At Baseball Widow's college there was a very popular course on Baseball and American History. Baseball Widow never took the course, but she was inspired by it nonetheless. As a matter of fact, I've written my own course description for a class on baseball. Now if only I can find a school that will let me teach it. . .

Bats, Balls and Business: The History of Baseball and America
Politics, economics, international relations, race relations, labor relations, gender wars, World Wars, drug wars, business, literature, architecture, film, fashion, food. . . if it involves American history and culture, it involves baseball. This course will use baseball as a lens for examining and understanding America. We will explore all aspects of the game, studying its cultural significance rather than the history of teams or players. Through readings (fictional and non-fictional, contemporary and historical), films, fieldtrips, and class discussion, we’ll learn of baseball’s origins, its rise to national prominence and we’ll discuss its continuing significance to America. No prior baseball knowledge necessary.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Not Exactly Disneyland

Baseball Widow doesn't like to brag. She prefers to boast--it sounds much more dignified. And, as long as we're talking about how wonderful Baseball Widow is, Baseball Widow would like to share one of the many adventures she has had since becoming a widow almost three years ago.

I like to call this little story "What I Did on My Husband's Summer Vacation."

Last summer, Hubby and I set off on a road trip. The itinerary looked like this:

Day 1St. LouisReds v. Cardinals
Day 3ChicagoTour Wrigley Field
Day 5ClevelandA's v. Indians
Day 6PittsburghCubs v. Pirates
Day 8CincinnatiBraves v. Reds

We also managed to visit the St. Louis Zoo, the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Cedar Point and King's Island amusement parks, and see some events with the Chicago Comedy Festival.
Did I mention that we were camping and that it was 40 degrees?
Busy trip, here are the highlights. . .

Best ParkPNC - On the river, and everyone walks across the bridge en masse
Best Moment (Hubby)Catching a batting practice ball at PNC
Best Moment (Widow)You mean besides seeing Javy Lopez? Okay, seeing Javy Lopez hit two homers, and seeing the Braves win (a first for the Baseball Widow).
Best GameA’s v Indians - Our best seats and a nail biter to boot
Best FoodGino's East Pizza in Chicago or The Thurman Cafe in Columbus, OH

This year, Baseball Widow planned the vacation; we leave for Walt Disney World in ten days. Somehow, I'm sure I'll come back and tell you all about Disney's Wide World of Sports complex. . . you know, where the Braves train.