His Personal Commodus
Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo attracted a small measure of controversy last week when pictures of him cavorting with nubile young lasses at a Boston-area college surfaced on the Internet. The very married Arroyo, plastic cup of keg beer in bejeweled hand, was seen smiling pleasantly with a young babe perched eagerly on his lap; fellow Red Sox hurler Lenny DiNardo lurked somewhere in the background, beatifically musing, no doubt, on how good his life has become in the last year: from languishing in the Mets' farm system to becoming a Rule 5 pickup for the Red Sox, to winning a World Series ring, to making time with Huskie honeys on Huntington.
Arroyo and DiNardo should be commended for their ambition, but Arroyo's lapse in judgment calls his morals into serious question. TMQ thinks that the wives of this world have no problem with him objectifying and denigrating women by comparing them to unrealistic archetypes of physical beauty, just so long as TMQ's hands do not go a-wanderin'. Arroyo should be ashamed of himself. Like Potter Stewart, TMQ knows misogyny when he sees it, and TMQ knows that it is one thing to ogle, coo, and obsess over babes, and quite another to actually interact with them.
Stat of the Week #1
On Friday, the Cincinnati Reds' Paul Wilson gave up eight runs in the first inning - before a single out had been recorded. Wilson's nightly pitching line is gruesome:
0.0 IP, 8 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 2 HR.
Ye gads! TMQ's unpaid intern searched long and hard for the last pitcher to start a game so inauspiciously, and found...Paul Wilson! July 10, 2002, Wilson gave up eight runs on 41 outless pitches against the Astros; three years later he managed to be shellacked in a comparably thrifty 25 pitches, meaning that his arm is still relatively fresh for the next beating. Of the Mets' vaunted Generation K, only Jason Isringhausen has had anything approaching a solvent pro career; both Wilson and Bill Pulsipher have bounced around from club to club like the bulging mammaries of starlet Devon Aoki (here pictured modestly splayed across the hood of a car). TMQ is a fan of the chesty Aoki, and found himself watching "2 Fast 2 Furious" on Cinemax late Friday night. In a tribute to co-star Paul Walker's driving skills, TMQ was moved to compose a haiku:
Unlike swarthy namesake
Reds' Paul Wilson is neither
Fast nor furious.
(Entranced by Aoki's massive boobage and unnecessarily low-cut costumes, TMQ failed to notice that "Paul Wilson" is not actually the same as "Paul Walker." C'est la vie, as our cowardly French allies might sneer.)
Stat of the Week #2
In six starts for the Oakland Athletics, rookie starter Joe Blanton's team has provided him with exactly 14 runs of offensive support. Blanton has had a fine season so far, ranking near the top of the AL in ERA all year, but has an 0-2 record to show for it. Blanton's young, but TMQ worries that he might be resigned to a career like that of Mark "Galangalangalanga" Langston (as Chris "DC" Berman might put it): outstanding stats, but mediocre win-loss records pitching for lousy, offensively inferior teams.
Stat of the Week #3
Having discovered the joys of walking on May 3, New York/B shortstop Jose Reyes, apparently newly informed that it is possible to get to first base without swinging his bat, has managed to do so four times in one week. This has happened exactly once before in Reyes' pro career. Apparently, Reyes' reputation as a base-stealing phenom is enough for New York/B manager Willie Randolph to bat him at the top of the order. TMQ is moved to note that Reyes' season on-base percentage is exactly .287. The baseball gods do not smile upon thee, New York/B.
Stat of the Week #4
Reyes' counterpart in on-base futility, Tampa Bay's Jorge Cantu, has meanwhile managed to draw exactly one walk in 107 at-bats this season, putting him on pace for exactly five walks in a full season. Stop him before he swings again! Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella, a sage baseball lifer, knows exactly where to bat Cantu - dead last. That Cantu has decent speed isn't the issue - stealing bases requires batters to get on base in the first place! Tampa Bay is years away from contention and in the wrong division to boot, but the baseball gods smile upon sensible team management. Piniella's squad is in much better karmic shape than New York/B.
Sweet Play of the Week
May 3, Cuyahoga Watershed Region Fighting Penobscot vs. Minnesota Hunahpu (see note below). Endomorphic Penobscot closer Bob Wickman is pitching with a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and Hunahpu third baseman Michael Cuddyer on second. Fearful that Cuddyer might be relaying pitch locations back to Hunahpu batter Shannon Stewart, Wickman casually sidles off the mound. It's a balk! Cuddyer moves to third.
Over at Baseball Think Factory, a poster writes, "Down by 2, man on 2b, 2 out, chance of winning is .052. Move him to 3B, and it's .053. That's a +.001 win change, or the equivalent of +.01 run change in a random situation. i.e., virtually useless."
Wickman wasn't thinking about sabermetric analysis on the mound. He was thinking about the balk in terms of cost-benefit analysis, and his actuarial sense prevailed over conventional baseball wisdom. Naturally, he then promptly walked Stewart, who immediately stole second, but Hunahpu DH Matthew LeCroy struck out to end the game - and Wickman, who worried about perennial MVP candidate Stewart's power to all fields, was vindicated.
The baseball gods look fondly upon this sort of creative playmaking. Expect the Penobscot to recover from their slow start.
Sour Play of the Week
The nadir of the Yankees' season (or their sacking by the Gauls, depending on your view of late-90's-Yankees-as-Pax-Romana) may have been their series sweep by the Devil Rays. Formerly fearsome slugger Jason Giambi may well be the Marcus Aurelius of the Yankee empire, although reports that he has been pressing Brian Cashman to hire his younger brother Jeremy to serve as his personal Commodus are unconfirmed.
There may be no individual play to sum up the Yankees' shocking decline, although the sight of a depleted, shrunken Giambi uselessly waving at pitches is the most pathetic on display in the majors. Reader S. Cook offers this typically plaintive haiku:
a swing and a miss.
then a slow dribbler to third.
Jason's off the juice.
Stop Me Before I Bunt Again!
Chicago/B versus the Lame Duck Monarchy of Kansas City. Young Zack Greinke (looks 15, pitches 45) enters the bottom of the 8th with a slim 1-0 lead, having thrown under 80 pitches in holding the shockingly successful Chicago/B squad to two hits and no walks. The two hits: an AJ Pierzynksi single in the 3rd (erased on a line-out double play to end the frame), and a Scott Podsednik single in the 4th (erased on a caught stealing, followed by Ks of the next two hitters).
Young Greinke walks Paul Konerko (.194), the Chicago/B clean-up hitter, to start the 8th inning. A pinch runner comes in for Konerko. Aaron Rowand is now at the plate. Rowand, struggling so far this year, was a bright light beaming through the malaise that weighted down Chicago/B last year, hitting 38 doubles and 24 home runs. With a runner on 1st and no out, an average of .783 runs are scored. With a runner on 2nd and one out, that average drops slightly, to .699. Unless the hitter at the plate is underqualified to swing at a major league pitch, statistics show that you should save the out, especially with on 6 left to use. Also, with your 5th place hitter, it would make sense to - IT'S A BUNT!
Rowand does his job, sacrificing to the pitcher to advance the pinch runner to 2nd base. The next batter, perrenial underachiever Jermaine Dye (once known as "underrated superstar Jermaine Dye") is hit, thus ending Greinke's day. 85 pitches, 53 strikes. Whatever manager Tony Pena saw in Greinke's performance to make him panic, TMQ cannot say. Nevertheless, Greinke turned the game over to who-dat reliever Andy Sisco, a Rule 5 pick-up who has proven to be one of the better Royal relievers this year. Sisco gets a runner-advancing ground-out, then walks the ultra-patient Joe Crede (his 5th, in 88 ABs) and Juan Uribe (his 5th, in 69 ABs) to allow the tying run to score. Out comes Manager Pena to replace Sisco with young-closer-in-training Ambiorix Burgos.
Burgos, a recent call-up from AA, is faced with a bases loaded, 2 out situation. In such situations, .798 runs are scored on average. The White Sox manage to better that number by 1.202 runs, as Burgos, known more for his good heart and eager smile than pinpoint control, walks Scott Podsednik to drive in what would prove to be the winning run.
Burgos manages to strike out the next hitter, but the damage is done. The White Sox score two runs on zero hits, four walks, and a hit batsmen. Zack Greinke, while sitting in the dugout after throwing his 85 pitches, is tagged with the loss. His ERA rises to 3.38. The ERAs of both Sisco and Burgos decrease. And the productive out comes out from under the bed to scare children that dare believe it doesn't exist.
Obscure Minor League Player of the Week
Angels' prospect Ervin Santana, currently pitching for their Arkansas Travelers AA affiliate (whose Web site conveniently notes that they are the "only team in minor league baseball named after an entire state"), is a dazzling 5-1 with a 2.45 ERA in six starts so far. The sky is the limit for Santana, who, until a year or two ago, was found not only to be older than advertised, but not, as claimed, named "Johan Santana."
Whaaa? Yes, readers, it seems that it is easy for international prospects not only to falsify their dates of birth but their identities as well when being scouted abroad. Increased scrutiny and stringent visa restictions post-9/11 turned up dozens of discrepancies in players' ages and names.
There is nothing to stop al-Qaeda and our other enemies from enlisting top-notch baseball players in their global campaign against America. Thus, TMQ urges Congress to pass the "Real ID" legislation, conveniently attached to a defense spending bill currently working its way through the Senate. No laws are on the books to stop would-be MLBers from co-opting the identities of their better-known professional counterparts. If convicted hijacking conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui had possessed a dynamite knuckle-curve and a passport that read "Zacarias Mussina," there's no telling what havoc he could be wreaking on the Brooklyn Cyclones right now, in more ways than one.
F. Smith of Brooklyn, NY writes, "It is ironic that TMQ has decided to rename the Cleveland Indians after a tribe (and river) in Maine. Gregg, I hate to burst your bubble, as you seem to have consulted with a real expert on the history of the Tribe. The Penobscot are not native to the Cuyahoga region. They are from what is now Maine, members of the Wabanaki confederacy, the hated enemies of the Iroquois. (The Penobscot and the Mohawk were particularly antagonistic.) The Penobscot tribe is still located in Maine, where both a river and a bay are named after them. Indeed, Sockalexis is buried in Old Town, Maine on the reservation on Indian Island -- an island in the Penobscot River." Indeed, Sockalexis' lineage is not in question; Baseball Reliquary notes:
"Born on October 24, 1871 on the Penobscot Indian reservation outside of Old Town, Maine, Sockalexis displayed incredible athletic talent in his youth. Tales abounded of his great throwing arm, with descriptions of him hurling a baseball over 600 feet across the Penobscot River. He went on to become a star pitcher and outfielder at both Holy Cross and Notre Dame, where life and legend continued to intertwine. One of his colossal home runs was estimated at 600 feet, while another reportedly broke a fourth-story window in the Brown University chapel. He stole six bases in one game; pitched three no-hitters; and one of his outfield throws, measured by two Harvard professors, traveled 414 feet on the fly.
Sockalexis was signed to a professional contract in 1897 by the Cleveland Spiders baseball club of the National League and was an immediate success, hitting an impressive .338 with eight triples and 16 stolen bases in his first 60 games. He appeared to be on target to fulfill the enormous promise predicted for him by New York Giants manager John McGraw, who described Sockalexis as the greatest natural talent he had ever encountered in the game. But his rookie season and his professional baseball career were soon ground to a halt. A drinking problem that had begun in his college days resurfaced, and on July 4, 1897, during a party, an inebriated Sockalexis jumped from the second-story window of a brothel, severely injuring his ankle. He played only sporadically during the next two years, and his last game in the major leagues came in 1899 at the age of 27."
Last Week's Challenge
Last week, TMQ challenged readers to come up with new, appropriate names for MLB teams.
S. Cook of the Cuyahoga Watershed Region, perplexed by the relationship of Selig pere and fille, suggests the "Milwaukee Anti-Trust Exemption Test Cases." An anonymous reader writes, "The Oakland Athletics, last in the league in runs, are anything but. Perhaps 'Oakland Anaerobics' would do if the A's continue to show such a dazzling aversion to physical activity."
On the same note, TMQ suggests the "Kansas City Hibernating Bats," since the Royals' appear to still be caught up in their winter reverie, perched slothfully on the shoulders of all but dutiful slugger Mike Sweeney.
The winner, however, must be the aforementioned Minnesota Hunahpu.
"In the lore of the Quiché Maya, One and Seven Hunahpu were the first generation of hero twins. These boys were passionate ballplayers. They were so good at it, and so noisy about it, that they came to the attention of the Lords of Death. The rulers of the Underworld sent messengers to summon them to a ballgame. They were told to bring their rubber ball and their protective gear. Instead, they hid them up under the rafters of their mother's house.
Then they set out for Xibalba, the kingdom of the Lords of Death. At the bottom of a cliff, they made it safely across a river of spikes, then a river of blood and a river of pus. When they came to the throneroom of the Lords of Death, they greeted them by name. Only these weren't the Lords of Death at all, but carved wooden replicas. This was a test, and they had failed it. 'No hard feelings,' said the Lords of Death. 'Have a seat.' The twins sat right down on a burning bench and shot right back up again. For failing tests like these they were sacrificed. Their bodies were buried under the ballcourt in Xibalba."
The Twins, despite building one of baseball's best farm systems under the austere rule of miserly owner Carl Pohlad, were nearly sacrificed to contraction three years ago, and their continued success in the face of baseball's Lords of Death (namely Pohlad, who would apparently like to redirect all shared revenues right back into his wallet) speaks volumes as to the fruits of small-market teams' labor. The Twins may look like tattered beggars, playing in the grim Metrodome, but they are odds-on favorites to make the playoffs yet again, and top-notch pitchers like Brad Radke and Johan Santana routinely turn down megabucks to stay in Minnesota.
The editors of Profane Existence would surely be proud of the ultra-gory tale of the mighty Hero Twins. Hunahpu it is.
This Week's Challenge
After reading Jose Canseco's lamentable autobiography "Juiced," which appears to have been composed without the aid of an editor, fact-checker, proofreader, or ghostwriter, TMQ thinks that steroid abusers ought not to face 50-game bans for their first offense, but should instead write autobiographies not to exceed Canseco's in quality.
There is debate within baseball as to which of the immortal records is the hardest to break - hitting in 56 straight games? Seven no-hitters? 4,256 hits? TMQ argues that the hardest feat may be writing prose worse than Canseco's. Consider:
"[What] happens to your testes has nothing to do with any shrinking of the penis. That’s a misconception. As a matter of fact, the reverse can be true. Using growth hormone can make your penis bigger, and make you more easily aroused. So to the guys out there who are worried about their manhood, all I can say is: Growth hormone worked for me."
Readers are invited to submit their alternative steroid punishments for consideration in this space. Send all inquiries this way.