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

Sunday, February 29, 2004

But she throws like a girl

Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Bob Gibson, Walter Johnson. . .when they threw the high heat, you couldn't touch their stuff. Sports fans, meet Jennie Finch.

Here's another list for you: Mike Piazza, Albert Pujols, Brian Giles, Marcus Giles. . . she shut them all down in January, throwing a softball at a celebrity game in Palm Springs. Baseball Widow says bravo.
Seriously, Baseball Widow Really Doesn't Hate the Yankees

How many times this week have you heard about how the Yankees "signed" A-Rod? I'm sure it's been a lot. How many times have you grimmaced at the utter inability of the media to grasp even the most basic of facts about this story? I hope it's been a lot.

I know this is a small matter, but A-Rod was traded, not signed. What difference does this make? Probably very little to the average person with a passing interest in sports watching the Today show before work. Baseball Widow isn't the average person, however, and neither are you.

There are two problems with media reports that reference the signing of A-Rod. First, it displays the media's obsession with story spin. They want the story to be "Yankees Purchase God, Lease World Series Title until the Return of Christ." Big money squashing the little guy is a story; baseball teams trading players is a transaction--might as well list it in the Lifestyles section with the engagements. To use the phrase "traded" connotes the fairness of the process, and heaven forbid that the Yankees be accused of playing fair.

The second problem lies outside the world of baseball. Sure, it's a little fact that's being misreported. Now I know that I can't rely on the media for accurate reporting about Baseball. What else is being reported inaccurately? What else in the media can't we rely on?

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Baseball Widow doesn't hate the Yankees

Steve from The Midnight Hour wrote with the following in response to my post on PEDs:

the Yankees financial resources are born of their location, business
acumen, and willingness to spend resources. I can't stress this enough,
the Yankees don't have more money than everyone else they just are
willing to SPEND more money than everyone else. As such this is not an
artificial advantage, it's an organic advantage.

First of all, I want to apologize if I appeared to be bashing the Yankees. I simply meant to place the debate on PEDs in the same category of conversation as other issues affecting competitive balance in baseball.

Second, I do agree that I could have used a better choice of words. Perhaps "organic" (or innate) advantage is the best way to phrase my meaning. While there might be something to the "ya gotta spend money to make money" argument, a team that isn't located in New York (e.g., the Twins) can never be on the same situational/economic footing as a team that is in New York. So, maybe the Mets could spend more money, be more aggressive, and become a club as powerful as the Yankees. But, as long as the Twins never can, there is still an imbalance.

I want to emphasize that I am a strong supporter of individual business and the sacred nature of its decisions. I just think that the sport as a whole--the business organization that is Major League Baseball--needs to protect its viability by instituting some sort of mechanism to ensure competitive balance. Fully fleshing out the ramifications of that idea requires a long hard look at the way the game is played today.
The Continuing Search for Players with all the Right Tools. . .

Monica C. and Jennifer C. have written in with their suggestions for Baseball Widow's fantasy team. Redbird Nation has even gotten in on the action. Check in next week when Baseball Widow unveils the team.
That's Hamtastic!

Baseball Widow is intrigued by Japanese baseball, where the teams are named for their corporate sponsors. For example, the Nippon Ham Company owns a team called the Nippon Ham Fighters. It's kinda funny, though, linguistically at least--the idea of Ham Fighters. Why are they fighting the ham? And, does this assume that the ham is capable of fighting back? 'Cause otherwise it seems a little unfair.

(Incidentally, Baseball Widow and Hubby have both worked at The Honeybaked Ham Company at some point in their careers, so we have a very clear picture of how ham fighting might unfold.)

Imagine if this kind of corporate sponsorship happened in the United States. What if in Atlanta, home of the Coca-Cola Company, the Coke Fiends took the field?

Nerd Alert: By the way kids, if you enjoy the humor of the English language, I encourage you to check out the works of Richard Lederer.

Monday, February 23, 2004

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.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

A Fantasy League of Her Own

Last year, Baseball Hubby won his public fantasy baseball league by a healthy margin. He took the lead on April 21 (conveniently, his birthday), and never looked back. Baseball Hubby thinks he's very smart.

Baseball Widow has always been amused by fantasy baseball. . . real baseball isn't enough? Still, it's impressive to watch the dedication with which fantasy managers pursue their dreams. Therefore, this year, Baseball Widow will field a fantasy team of her own.

Baseball Widow was beginning the process of researching her draft picks when she realized that there's something wrong about judging a person just by what's written on a piece of paper. Don't we dehumanize the game when we reduce a player to some statistics on a page, when we assign a human being a numerical representation of his worth? You can't spell manager without looking at the man. Therefore, Baseball Widow has decided to chuck the numbers and field a team comprised of baseball's cutest players. Let's make it a real fantasy team. Of course, Baseball Widow's number one pick will be Javy Lopez.

Baseball Widow invites others to write and suggest draft picks. Paul DePodesta might be axing the Dodgers' scouts, but scouting is alive and well for Baseball Widow. Yes, it will be a tough thing: to look (im)passionately at thousands of athletes, to scrutinize and sort the qualified, to cut those who ultimately aren't fantasy material. We're talking about hours and hours of reviewing pictures and file footage. . .

Fantasy Baseball. . . Baseball Widow is starting to see what the fuss is all about.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Hope Springs Eternal, and Spring is Eternally Hopeful

We've heard it before. . .The wonderful thing about Spring Training is that there's a 30-way tie for first place. Last year is over. In the here and now, everyone has the potential to go home a winner. Don't get me wrong: I think optimism is an undervalued virtue, but some teams need a wake-up call.

Is the water extra salty in Florida this year? 'Cause Jayson Stark is acting especially loopy. Billy Wagner may be the best thing to happen to the Phillies since the return of Phanatic's head. He's probably going to have a great season, and he'll probably help pave the way to a Phillies turnaround. Still, he's only human, and he can only save leads that are handed to him. Ask John Smoltz how it feels to follow a Roberto Hernandez 8th inning special. Or, wait a couple of months and ask Billy Wagner.

The season may not have started yet, but the presses are hot. Hype follows type, and Baseball Widow feels compelled to remind her readers that the stories that are getting ink aren't really the stories. The real stories are in the day to day activity of early spring; setting a fifth starter, gelling the rotation. . .these are the events that will shape the season over the long haul. The hopes of the season live and die on the shoulders of guys who will probably never get a column inch. Baseball is about depth and longevity. Stars grab headlines, but teams win championships. Good baseball is, in fact, pretty much the opposite of what we've come to expect from the media.

Here's to a hopeful spring. . .

Thursday, February 19, 2004


Baseball Hubby will wake up any minute now. And I'll betcha dollars to donuts that his first words will be "Pitchers and Catchers! Pitchers and Catchers!" Today it's official: whatever tenuous grasp I've had on him for the last four months is gone. I've lost him 'till October. . .

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

But does he do windows?

Braves fans will no doubt mourn the loss of Greg Maddux to the Cubs. Unquestionably, it's the right thing for the Braves. Maddux is a six-inning pitcher who just barely won fifteen games last year with super-huge run support from the best Braves offense since--well, ever. His questionable success in the upcoming year is just not worth the money for what is quickly becoming a mid-market team.

Most older players are over-valued in the market. Baseball Widow's general rule of thumb is that if you've heard of him, he's probably too expensive. And if he's already being called a hall-of-famer, he's really too expensive. So, where does that leave the Cubs and Maddux?

In a rare exception to Baseball Widow's rule, the Cubs might actually manage to get their money's worth. When you pay for Greg Maddux, you're not just paying for a pitcher. You're paying for his presence. The man has had eleven incredible years at Atlanta, under the tutelage of the amazing Leo Mazzone. He's been the consistent ace in the company of Tommy Glavine, Kevin Millwood, John Smoltz, Steve Avery, and Denny Neagle. He's got experience, he's got a work ethic. Let's face it, he's got luck, too. When the Cubs pay for Greg Maddux, they're paying for him to show a young rotation the way to greatness. He's a helluva an expensive pitching coach, but when's the last time Leo Mazzone threw six innings?

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

In the Interest of Baseball. . .
or, Why Supporting a Salary Cap Doesn't Make You a Communist

So, yeah, Lucchino looks like an idiot for whining because his rich team lost out to baseball's richest team in the bid for A-Rod's heart. But, there is something to the "in the interest of baseball" argument.

In order to remain interesting, baseball has to be a competitive sport. If one team constantly dominates, then the sport becomes less interesting, less people will watch, and baseball will suffer. How do we ensure competitive teams? The NFL has gone the route of the salary cap, and (you gotta admit) the NFL is consistently interesting and profitable. . . with or without nipple rings.

The powers that be in baseball would tell you that they, too, have made efforts to keep the sport interesting and to maintain competitive teams. Club owners who wish to go over a pre-set payroll limit must pay for the privilege by giving money to smaller teams. The trouble is that rich teams can afford to pay any amount of luxury tax, so they're not discouraged from going over the limit. Also, the smaller teams that are supposed to benefit from the tax don't see any of the money. The owners just pocket their team's share of the tax. Kinda makes sense--if someone offered me money and said "you can keep it, or you can give it away," I'd probably keep it too.

The owners of the poorer teams won't see any benefit if they use the money to increase the payroll, because no matter how much they increase their payroll, they can never compete with the Yankees or the Red Sox. Where does this leave baseball? Well, eventually, nowhere. Professional sports live and die by spectator interest, and predictability isn't interesting. Just ask Atlanta: they've had one of the best teams in baseball every year for the last 11 years, and they can't fill the stands.

If we were dealing with a real market economy, then I would be against a salary cap. But this isn't a real economy. Baseball is an unregulated monopoly; it has special clearance from the government to be so. Artificial economies won't survive absent lots of manipulation. The good of the entire industry is tied to the success of the least well off. (Nerd Alert: it's called the maximin principle.)

Of course it's sad when we reduce baseball to dollars and cents, but let's face it: "love of the game" doesn't pay the rent. If baseball doesn't adopt some mechanism of ensuring viability, then it will become stagnant--both as a sport and as an industry. Whether or not the best answer is a rigidly enforced salary cap, it would behoove baseball owners to recognize their mutual fates.

You know what's great about Valentine's Day? It means only five days until pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

Monday, February 16, 2004

I love my husband. My husband loves baseball. Welcome to our coping mechanism.