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

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.