7.28.2005

Moving Day!

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7.27.2005

Where the Buffalo Wings Roam

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“I dunno, all that red hair – there’s too much anger in this kid,” a scout murmured over my shoulder late one balmy Tampa afternoon, as I sprawled out in a post-speedball rictus across a rack of crumbling bleachers to watch a young hitter from a sun-torched diploma mill called Plant High School stroke doubles into the gap during batting practice. “It’s like watching the guillotine in 1789,” the scout said, “Chop. Chop. Chop. Chop.”

I’d been following the Carter campaign around Florida when Dave Hickey rang me up to tell me about a ball of Scottish fury who was giving high school pitchers across that whole moist, miserable swamp of a state fits, saying I better go watch the kid’s smooth inside-out swing before he wised up to the grind of the minors and went to Gainesville to play football and get a degree in marine biology instead. Dave was in his finding-beauty-in-the-everyday period back then, and I was skeptical. Plus, dragging myself 300 miles up from my hotel on South Beach to watch some kid who wasn’t even shaving yet splatter his old man’s 58-mile-per-hour BP fastballs around wasn’t exactly high on my list of good times. The thing was, despite all that searching, Dave wasn’t wrong about much back then, and he wasn’t wrong about the kid. The kid named Wade Boggs.

Years later, when time had taken some of the fire out of Wade’s red locks (and indeed, had taken most of my hair altogether) I would return to Florida and watch the boy-become-an-elder-statesman stroke his 3,000th hit out over that crushed-velvet prom dress of a field he played on during his last two years as a Tampa Bay Devil Ray. The ball crept over the right-field fence like a spry old burglar making one last score before hopping on his Indian and heading down to the Yucatan, and but for the rows of plastic seats arrayed in its path, it might have kept right on sailing clear over the Gulf and out to those distant Mexican shores – kept on going right out into legend, instead of into the hands of some pissant who probably put it up for sale on eBay. Vultures. At any rate, that homer stands as the most momentous base knock in the Devil Rays’ abbreviated history, and it's unlikely we'll see any similarly magical moments at that soap dish of a stadium again.

Now, Wade is packing up his milestones and entering the Hall, and it's hard to think of any player making the trek Upstate over the past few years that is more deserving. (Also, let's us pause to note that we all have something to be thankful for as Wade travels to Cooperstown wearing Red Sox. I don’t give a good god damn if Tampa was the man’s hometown – and it wasn’t anyway, Wade was from Omaha. There should never be anything called a Devil Ray even remotely near the Hall. Ever. Period.)

Most of you know the in-between parts to his story: Wade hacks his way though the minors like the slow, steady hand of a lumberjack clearing a pine forest, chewing on the New York Penn and the Carolina and the International Leagues like they were just another meal -- a 662-game, 35-course meal. Then one fine day Carney Lansford, old Carney, went down with a bad wheel, and Wade busted up and through at last to Boston, where none other than Sparky Anderson anointed him as “one of the best-looking hitters I’ve ever seen.” (Sparky wasn’t much of one for the gay bars, so you know his meaning was clear.)

Like all Red Sox, Wade made a mark for himself early in the annals of The Rivalry (for good or ill), recording the last out in Dave Righetti’s Independence Day no-hitter in '83. That might well have been the last time that Wade went oh-fer. Batting championships would follow, as would the shared, solitary heartbreak of 1986 and 25 guys in 25 cabs. There was the parallel development of Don Mattingly, Donnie Baseball, who, despite the whining of those sandwiched between the Bronx and the Battery, could never really carry Wade’s jock. Then Wade himself would shamble down south and bring a title to the toilet. I suspect that despite the joy he chose to show those South Bronx minions, Wade probably never felt quite right about riding around on the back of that mounted police, waving to the Big City crowds. There was an ache there, you could see it -- an ache that started stinging when that accursed grounder slithered through Billy Buckner’s spindly, broken-down legs. The ache has eased only on very rare occasions ever since, and then never for long.

So, that was the baseball, sure -- but there was also chicken, and lots of it. Jim Rice, who grew up deep enough in the South to be horrified at the very notion of boneless skinless chicken breasts, would dub Wade “Chicken Man,” and the name stuck between Red Sox Nation’s teeth like the skin on a buffalo wing. There was chicken before every game, dished out in exacting specifications of portion and duration, in a parade of poultry not seen in the Bay State since Miles Standish sat down to break bread with the Injuns. Very likely there was at least a thigh or two after the game, as well, if you grasp my meaning. It was the 80s, people, and excess was everywhere. Even if you were on the food stamps.

Chicken wasn’t the only routine that Wade embraced, however. In the field, he would take exactly one hundred and fifty ground balls before a game. No more, no less. He took his batting practice at precisely 5:17 p.m. and ran his sprints at 7:17. (Mercifully, Wade was well along the road to retirement by the time the 7:05 start, a sissified time to start a game anyway, become the national standard. Trains leave the station at 7:05. Men play baseball at 7:30. ) He drew some kind of Buddhist symbol in the dirt every time he went to bat -- or maybe it was Margo Adams’ initials, shit if I know. These were heavy freebasing days for me, and it took an Olympic effort for me to even endorse the occasional check from Jann.

There are plenty of other stories out there about stewardesses and Penthouse and snorting lines off the nubile young posteriors of various Yawkey heiresses. Those, too, were good times, but times perhaps best left at the door of this august chamber, here in the beautiful rolling hills of New York State. Besides, I have probably already gone on too long. I thank you for your patience. We all thank Wade for his ever dependable if quiet greatness.

Hunter S. Thompson is the author of Fear and Loating on the Campaign Trail, among many other books. He died earlier this year at the age of 67.

Where Is the Love for Lima Time?



The editors of Yard Work should be ashamed of themselves. All this talk about the King of the Tacos – and no Jose Lima?

Maybe you haven't been paying attention to the Kansas City Royals, but as far as tacos go, it's Lima Time, baby! I'm up to 22, third in the league...and no respect from you. Where is the love, E$PN? You are all dogs' hindquarters and should be shot in the street for denying the glory that is Lima Time.

Oliver Perez, one of these so-called "finalists," does not care about becoming King of the Tacos. All he wants to do is trim his little girl beard into ever more elaborate shapes. But me, Jose Lima? I care about tacos.

When I was a young boy growing up in Santiago, I could only dream of a guaranteed job at Taco Bell. I am not like those privileged sissy Americans. Every day I would eat the Quisqueyano food, and think to myself, "What if there was a way to combine grilled chicken, shredded cheese, refried beans, ground beef, and sour cream within a deep-fried double-decker taco shell? What if I could then order cinnamon twists or a Choco-Taco?"

Maybe you should try living in Kansas City, E$PN. These burnt ends – they are not fit for starving livestock or Paul DePodesta. But every day, while I drive to the stadium, I stop at Taco Bell and I return to the dreamland of little Jose, fielding grounders in the modest little cockfighting ring of my father.

To finally retire from baseball and embark upon a career at Taco Bell would be the culmination of a lifelong ambition, E$PN. Have you tried the new CrunchWrap Supreme? It is poetry. Spicy ground beef, melted cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream, nestled within the warm embrace of both a soft tortilla and a crunchy tostada shell, all lovingly grilled to create a masterpiece of portable cuisine.

I know a thing or two about itches, E$PN. When you have an itch, you must scratch it. And no soothing unguent can cure me of the fever I feel deep inside - the fever of beisbol, yes, but also the desire to spread the good name of Yum! Brands International far and wide. What must I do? Perhaps I shall enlist my wife to help me write taco-specific new lyrics for a patriotic song to sing at a future Royals game or Taco Bell store opening. Perhaps then the world shall pay attention. Glory, glory, enchirito!

7.26.2005

Autry's War Follow-Up: An Interview With Don Delillo

Delillo

Editor's Note: The opening chapter to novelist Don Delillo's Underworld might be the greatest thing ever written about the game. And with books such as Libra, which tackled the plot to assassinate Kennedy, under his belt, he was the perfect person to discuss the story's larger implications. Delillo graciously agreed to sit down with Yard Work to talk about it.

Yard Work: How should Sy Hersh's piece change the way we look at baseball?

Don Delillo: In 1955, Ray Kroc opened the first "franchised" McDonald's. In 1955, Elvis Presley became a star. There are histories within histories, connections of the subconscious that follow to the grave or grill. In Europe, Africa, Asia and South America, these strands are connected like telephone wire; those are places unafraid of subtext or the supernatural. But in America, where the distance holds us together, there are never hidden meanings — it's God's way and the highway. That's it.

It has always been American's Americans who have perpetuated its greatest crimes. For love of country and money, they have exploited the cubbyholes of capitalism. And these men know those intricacies because their ancestors — the slave drivers and merchant ship captains and plantation owners — wrote them, and there is a gene passed along those lines whose sole purpose is to manipulate the lower classes. And make no mistake: we are all the lower classes.

YW: Were you surprised to learn that a conspiracy so deep could exist in baseball?

DD: Society is a conspiracy. Marriage is a conspiracy. You can never reveal everything — we are unaware of so much about ourselves. Some are attuned to the unsaid, others only the obvious. To know both is to be an artist, and to be an artist is to be a narcissist. What Freud meant to say but didn't is that there are conspiracies even within the self. The id, ego and superego are in collusion; toward what, we will never know. And death — death is the biggest conspiracy of all. There are infinite dead somewhere, and we like to think of them as omnipresent and omniscient, but what if there is death after death? There is a religion of death, and it worships at gravestones on full moons, when the heavens open their gates and breathe down upon us. It is the religion of life that has ruined us. Its god is greed, and the men who run baseball are its bishops, pastors and rabbis. There can never be surprises, only minor revelations of what was already known.

YW: What impact did Gene Autry's efforts have on the game?

DD: He was a fraud. It was an empire built on the decayed flesh of beasts that he lacked the courage to kill himself. And so he sang ditties about the frontier to reassure our children that they were right to be carnivores, that they should always consume. He wrote capitalism's scores of the 20th century, odes to lust and destruction, two impulses that inevitably draw toward casualty. If it wasn't Autry it would have been someone else: John Wayne, Jim Morrison, Tom Cruise. There will always be another parasite to take that place. It's the one thing capitalism produces with minimal effort, its greatest export.

YW: Should the people involved in this plot who are still in baseball be punished?

DD: By whom? We are all complicit. There are no innocents. We crack peanut shells and stomp our feet. We study the numbers in search of epiphany. We follow the standings as if they judged our own self-worth. New York's greatest economic boom coincided with a remarkable Yankee run — which is responsible for which? There is no purity in baseball. There never was and never will be. "Purity" only exists in America as a consumable quality: drugs, milk, children. Those things are pure, and those are commodities. This is no coincidence.

And who would punish them? The only possible solution would be to somehow extricate money from the entire enterprise — an impossible task for sure. What is left is Little League, skinned knees sliding into home plate and sunflower seeds dotting dugout floors. This is what we want to see when we watch the Major Leagues, but it's a simulacrum of the worst sort, because those Little Leaguers dream of becoming their imitators — not vice versa. We are already being punished. Go Red Sox.

Autry's War (Part Five)

Seymour_Hersh
By Seymour Hersh
Click to read part one
Click to read part two
Click to read part three
Click to read part four
Click to read follow-up interview with Don Delillo

Gene Autry's Cowboy Code:

1. The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
2. He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.
3. He must always tell the truth.
4. He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.
5. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
6. He must help people in distress.
7. He must be a good worker.
8. He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.
9. He must respect women, parents, and his nation's laws.
10. The Cowboy is a patriot.

As devious as it might have been, Autry's secret agreement with the owners of the Cleveland Indians, San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos did not infringe on any of the rules of his beloved Cowboy Code. In fact, Autry often justified the pact with Cowboy Code No. 6, say associates of his from the early '80s.

"At heart, Gene believed his actions to be altruistic," says one former California Angels executive. "When [Major League Baseball] came down hard on him during [the 1981 labor stoppage], Gene was honestly confused. He couldn't understand why anyone would be upset."

But Gene's view was a minority opinion. As St. Louis Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog told reporters around that time, "Before long, you can look for some teams to go bankrupt, like the Minnesota Twins. The Twins and some other clubs just can't afford to compete for salaries the way things are set up. I think the bankruptcies will start in two or three years."

Like many uninformed forecasts, Herzog's was found faulty by the slow march of history, but it's important to recognize the sentiment that prevailed in baseball at the time, just as it did recently with the "contraction" fiasco brought about by current Commissioner Bud Selig. The sky was falling — on everyone but the Angels, Expos, Indians and Padres, that is.

Yet in terms of the Autry pact, the most that ever came out of the 1981 stoppage was a stern talking-to by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. In July of 1981, Kuhn called Autry, Nick Mileti, Charles Bronfman and Ray Kroc to his office and asked them if they were sharing revenue, which was against baseball rules at the time. All but Autry denied the charge; the Angels owner simply demurred, and somehow he escaped the meeting without answering the question, say sources familiar with the meeting. Short of a long and public investigation that could upset the uneasy peace that was beginning to prevail between players and owners, Kuhn had little recourse, and took the men at their word.

Autry was so shaken by the meeting that he implored the other three owners to nix the agreement. "This has gotten to be too much," he wrote to Mileti several days after the meet. "We have to stop this before it gets out of hand. If that hasn't happened already." While Mileti sympathized with Autry's doubts, he couldn't turn his back on the profits they were making. "I understand, Gene," he wrote in reply, "but there is just so much at steak [sp] here. Without our pact, you'd have to sell the Angels, and I can't allow that to happen." Mileti's letter convinced Autry to remain in the group, but his interest and influence would never be the same.

Ray Kroc, who made untold millions through his McDonald's franchise, responded to the meeting very differently. "[Kohn] has no power over us," he told Mileti according to sources in the Padres front office. "Screw that guy. We do what we want." While Bronfman and Mileti didn't share Kroc's hard-line stance, the restaurateur (to be generous) had made himself the leader of the pact in the wake of the Kuhn meeting. For better or worse, Bronfman and Mileti were hitching their wagons to Kroc.


Over the following two years, Kroc became more and more aggressive about courting new teams to join the pact. He had taken to fondly calling the group "McBaseball" to friends and associates within the Padres organization. As time went on, actual baseball became secondary to "McBaseball," as Kroc approached the game the same way he had the food industry: with strong-arm tactics and a showman's flair.

One owner reluctant to play "McBaseball" remembers how aggressive Kroc could be. "Ray and his people had been calling me over and over," he remembers, "and sending me color TVs, bicycles, even a bunch of French fries. But I just wouldn't budge... Ray got more insistent as time went on, until late one night I get a knock on my door at home. I answer it to find [the owner's team's mascot] hanging from a noose in my front lawn, and the damned San Diego Chicken was setting it on fire. I wanted to call the cops, but I didn't know how far Ray would go."

The rumor mills abound with other stories of Kroc's hostile behavior, but he still managed to rope the Philadelphia Phillies into the cabal in 1983, and was close to bringing in the Baltimore Orioles later that year. But Kroc died in January, 1984, and the deal was left unfinished.

When Kroc's "reign of terror," as a baseball executive called it in a conversation with me, ended, the intimidation tactics stopped overnight. It was once more a gentleman's game, and the Orioles deal was completed in 1984, the Milwaukee Brewers in 1986, the Cincinnati Reds in 1988, the Kansas City Royals in 1989, the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1990, the Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates in 1991 and the Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins and San Francisco Giants in 1993. It was no longer about statistics (though all who entered the pact agreed that they would not allow a pitcher to win twenty games out of respect to Autry, a decision that was calamitous for Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina). It was about money.



In 1994, Major League Baseball went on strike. At baseball's helm was acting Commissioner Bud Selig, the longtime owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, who had joined the Autry pact in 1986. Selig had been a proponent of a salary cap in the '80s, and made it his mission as commissioner to bring it into being. Yet members of the cabal were staunchly opposed because Selig's proposal would bring about league-wide revenue sharing, thereby ending the biggest advantage the group enjoyed. The two sides reached an impasse, putting the players and fans squarely in the middle. But when Selig threatened to go public with the group's entire history, they finally backed down. With that, the strike was over and Autry's war was lost.

Four years later, Gene Autry would die, on October 2, 1998. He was buried a hero, an All-American Cowboy. Four years after his death, his beloved Angels would win their first World Series title — and without a twenty-game winner either.

After the strike ended, the members of Autry's pact scattered to the winds like the former Soviet Union territories. The bond that they once held was gone. But at Autry's funeral, they gathered again to reflect on his life and their group, which had consumed his last thirty years. Never again, they each vowed, would one of their hurlers win twenty games. Autry would win after all.

Seymour Hersh, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of several best-selling books.

Rank Index -- NL West



Good afternoon sports fans, and welcome to another edition of the Rank Index right here at Yard Work. We're heading into the home stretch of the 2005 season: a time when pennant races heat up and the games really start to count. With the trade deadline just around the corner, it's time to think about the Yankees, Red Sox, and all the other teams who are gunning for the playoffs. So let's take a closer look at one of baseball's most intruiging and competitive divisions -- the NL West.

NL WEST

San Diego Padres -- As long as Jake Peavy continues working his magic on the mound, with Brian Giles and Ryan Klesko slamming balls out of NL ballparks, the Padres remain the team to beat in the West. They've proven that they're the class of the division by holding off the Diamondbacks and Dodgers for most of the season, and until they're dethroned, they earn top grade. A+

Arizona Diamondbacks -- They've shown remarkable character in 2005 by rebounding from 110 losses to pennant contender in only one year. Only fourteen seasons ago, the Braves accomplished the exact same feat -- and they haven't finished out of first place ever since! Could this be an omen of things to come for the 2001 World Champs? A

Los Angeles Dodgers -- After winning the division in 2004, they added former MVP Jeff Kent and 2004 playoff hero Derek Lowe. They haven't let injuries to Eric Gagne and J.D. Drew get them down, and with Brad Penny and taco king Jeff Weaver filling out the rotation, the Dodgers can be counted on for big things down the stretch. Plus, you can never, ever, underestimate a defending champ. A

San Francisco Giants -- Despite a season of turmoil, with superstars Barry Bonds and Jason Schmidt missing significant playing time due to injuries, the Giants are a mere 1.5 games behind defending champs Los Angeles. The Giants find a way to be in the thick of things every year, and with one of the smartest managers in the game in Felipe Alou, expect to see the Giants causing trouble in the NL West this September. A

Colorado Rockies -- Clint Barmes was looking like a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year before his tragic staircase injury. Nonetheless, things are looking up for the Rockies thanks to the resurgence of Todd Helton and the inspired pitching of young Jeff Francis. Imagine the hang time that newcomer Eric Byrnes will get on his diving catches in the thin air of Denver! A-.

AJ Burnett -- He's the name on everybody's lips, and has been for weeks. Even the Dodgers don't have the glitz to compete with the Hollywood-esque exposure that Burnett has received from fans, players, and managers throughout the game of baseball. The Giants might be able to upstage him if Bonds were to return this season, but barring that, it's top grades all the way for Burnett's meteoric rise. A+

Kabir's Korner: The Paradox of Livan.



Jivatma is the personal soul,
the other is God, Paramatma.
What is the difference between them?
Look inside, Livan, look inside.

You are a workhorse, it's true,
but what merit accrues to such hard work?
Innings Pitched will not redeem you,
will not help you find the bliss of Sahaj.

Livan, do not ignore Earth's simple gifts,
stretched like pearls on strings before you:
the J.J. Hardys of this world, who shrink
your Earned Runs Average -- they are all maya.

Similarly: to chase success
in your team's first year in Columbia's District
is also maya, illusion;
a waltz for shadow puppets!

Do not hold press conferences, Livan,
do not threaten worlds with Operation Shutdown.
Instead, Livan, look inside,
treasure the jewels you already possess.

If strikeouts come to you, let them come,
accept the bounty of the goddess Sita.
But groundball outs are also good,
keep that ratio down, that will also please Shiva.

And if, o warrior!, you give up long gappers
(even though you hurl in a pitcher's paradise),
do not lash out in anger when yanked.
That, too, is maya, and must be avoided.

Above all else, honour your mechanics,
that is the breath of breath that forms the world!
No more lame histrionics, Livan!
Go forth, shatter the idols! Live free of fear!

Kabir was a 15th century Indian mystic and seer, and a huge fan of the National League. His baseball poetry is available in a new translation by Vijay Chaganta.

7.25.2005

Autry's War (Part Four)

Seymour_Hersh
By Seymour Hersh
Click to read part one
Click to read part two
Click to read part three

From 1975-1978, the California Angels and Cleveland Indians maintained their protest against Major League Baseball: no pitcher reached twenty wins, and the antagonistic relationship with Commissioner Bowie Kuhn continued to sour. But Angels owner Gene Autry and Indians owner Nick Mileti began to realize that their protest was no more than a gesture, and that their battle was one of little consequence, even within their own organizations. It seemed that the whole project was about to be dismissed as the rich man's folly that it really was.

But then Gene Autry went bust.

Autry made most of his money from cowboy records, the Westerns he starred in and the beef industry, which funded many of his projects and also kept him on retainer as an unofficial spokesman for big-business ranching. But the late '70s, which saw a resurgence of "urban" culture like disco, were not kind to Autry's portfolio, and suddenly he was in dire financial straits — so much so, that it seemed he might even have to sell his beloved Angels.

Sources within Autry's inner circle say that for weeks he agonized over what could be done. It wasn't just the money; pride was at stake, too. Feeling up against the wall, Autry finally made a phone call to his friend Mileti, and asked for a loan. Mileti, who had no closer friend in the game, immediately said yes, he would do whatever Autry asked.


Rather than a simple loan, Mileti and Autry agreed to a longer term deal that could help both financially. The agreement they reached is now commonly referred to as "revenue sharing," but at the time it was a somewhat novel idea, especially within the sports world. The deal worked like this: revenue that each team made over a certain amount would be added to a joint fund, and then that amount would be divided between the two teams. Not only would it keep Autry afloat, but it would similarly help Mileti should he fall upon tough times as well. The one drawback to this deal, however, was obvious: should both teams have simultaneous down years, there would be no relief.

Autry and Mileti began to court other owners to join their pact to combat this one flaw. New owners who joined would receive 20% of the fund, with Autry and Mileti each receiving 40%. For each new team that an owner brought in, that owner would receive an additional 5%. And no matter how many teams joined, Autry and Mileti would never receive less than 30% of the money, and no other owner could exceed that amount. (Several sources suggested that the idea originated with Jackie Autry, Gene's wife, who was an active member of cosmetics agency Mary Kay, which used a similar scheme. Others theorized that some of Mileti's alleged mafia ties could have inspired the idea.)

With those parameters in place, the two men began to recruit new members. They made house calls on various owners, making their pitches with charts, diagrams and Cuban cigars, one owner who rebuffed their overtures remembers.

"Gene came in to my office smiling like a used car salesman, a big pinkie ring gleaming on his hand," he remembers. "He had some assistant with him, who unloaded an easel and some pie charts showing the money I could make if I signed up with them. I told him that I thought the idea was foolish, and asked him if Bowie [Kuhn] knew what he was up to. Gene just laughed and continued with his pitch. He called me many times after that to follow-up. It just didn't feel right to me."

Others, however, were more intrigued by the idea; most notably new San Diego Padres owner Ray Kroc, who made his fortune by founding the McDonald's franchise, and Montreal Expos owner Charles Bronfman, who owned Seagrams whiskey. Both men quickly signed up with Autry and Mileti, and saw their profits soar in the ensuing years as a result. And, in a curious throwback to the agreement's childish beginnings, Kroc and Bronfman both agreed to prevent any of their pitchers from winning twenty games as a subtle insult to Commissioner Kuhn.


Through 1981, Autry, Mileti, Kroc and Bronfman were making enormous sums of money. They were sharing information on how to squeeze every last dollar out of their franchises and prospering in the resulting revenues. They had a tight network among and within their organizations, and the quartet was happy counting its blessings — and profits.

In 1981, however, word got out about their agreement within baseball. None were sure how, and none could be certain of how much was known. But the 1981 labor stoppage, which halted the season for 50 days, was a direct result of their private pact. Word of Autry and Mileti's earlier visits to a number of front offices had long circulated the grapevine, but no one had paid much attention to the seemingly outlandish rumors. As revenues for other teams began to wane in 1980 and salaries increased due to free agency, however, the coupling of those rumors with Autry's newfound wealth made some owners more than suspicious — they were downright irate.

(Continued in part five)

Seymour Hersh, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of several best-selling books.

Bleep Bleep - July 25th



IT'S SHOWTIME F*CKERS!

Oh yeah, I loved hearing Ron Gardenhire give it right back to those umps Lee Elia style. That was some great old-school no-sh*t-taking stuff. You *ss jockeys probably think Major League managers have it easy - they just slap on some stirrups, make a lineup, tell their coaches to coach, and run out to the mound once in a while to pull some sh*twit that couldn't find the plate if he was the f*cking plate. Well, here's a NEWSFLASH for you, Rudy - managing is probably the hardest f*cking thing a guy could do. You gotta wrestle with 27 (or 26 - whatever) multi-million dollar egos every single day, on the field, off the field, every g*ddamn place. You gotta shower w/ these f*cks, you gotta eat w/ these f*cks, you gotta listen to these f*cks while they whine about getting sued by some 14-year-old's parents for statutory, you gotta listen to these f*cks yak up their lunch because the blow they bought was actually cut-up drywall, blah blah blah. Buncha p*ssies. Just take your 0-fer and get the f*ck outta my g*ddamn office, me and Jim Beam are trying to actually get some f*cking work done.

Then you gotta play footsie with the f*cking press, a bunch of cupcake-kissing fat campers asking their stupid sh*t questions like, "What'd you think about losing 10-0 to a Sally League team?" or "How'd you feel when Cormier walked the bases loaded three times in a row?" or "Why the hell are you giving that f*ckwit David Bell any playing time?" And the radio and TV guys, holy sh*t they're dumb. I could have a better conversation with a ham sandwich than with those see-Spot-run tards. And don't think the brains get bigger when you go national. You heard Morgan & Miller, right? Watching them wipe each other's *sses is like watching Jessica Biel do something that doesn't involve wearing a bikini. (Her trying to take down a super-smart plane - yeah, that’s real. Lemme know when you get a role in the next Bond flick as Einstein's daughter, babe. And the talking, not so much - please figure out what T&A stands for sometime this f*cking year.)

But, man, umpires are the d*ck in my popcorn that just makes me so happy I'm done with that nonsense. I spent way too much time watching these fat, cross-eyed, lazy no-good dinks treat the strike zone like a game of Twister. Half the time, the f*cking thing's shaped like a fractal or some Pollock bullsh*t, and the pitcher's just left guessing where the ump wants it. Play Peek-A-Boo on your own f*cking time, sped. And those f*cking stupid strike calls - what, you got a chicken bone stuck in your throat, Gregg? You want me to get the Jaws of Life so we can do the Heimlich on your tubby ass? SAY THE MOTHERF*CKING WORD ALREADY. None of this "hoo-wah" Scent of a Woman shit. You ain't going for the g*ddamn Oscar, so just say the f*cking word you Crisco-licking mancow. The only thing worse than those halfwits behind the f*cking plate are the specially abled clowns out in the field. If I got a nickel for every time some blue f*cked up a call at a base, I'd be rich enough to own the f*cking Yankees ten times over.

And they're so f*cking tough, what with their posing like they're gonna be in the next f*cking Tom Emanski video, and their big pads hiding their f*cking saggy tits, and their f*cking showboating. I love it when some blue decides to start acting like he's the show. Gardenhire had that f*ckwit dead to rights - it's the umps that want the spotlight. Hell, when I managed, I just wanted to get the f*cking game over with so I could kick back w/ some hooch and get the f*ck away from all the bullsh*t. But these guys, they're just f*cking washed-up high-school prettyboys that want to get some airtime, so they strut around like f*cking flamingos tossing guys out and showing up guys that can actually walk up a flight of stairs w/out needing an iron lung and getting in my face because I called that dimwit Durwood on that bullsh*t strike call because f*ck if you're going to call sh*t at the shoetops a strike, then let's call the game and go play catch with the 1st graders because you clearly don't want to see anyone actually hit the f*cking ball. Yeah, that's right, I told you to go f*cking play on the balance beam, you squat little sh*t. Yeah, f*ck you, too - at least I can see my feet when I stand up. Say hi to Princess Leia when you f*ck back to your home planet, Jabba.

And oh no blue took a foul ball off his arm that's too bad boo f*cking hoo. Try taking a one-hopper IN THE THROAT, Fatty. Hell, try actually doing anything that involves you getting any exercise that doesn't involve wrapping your fat yap around a meatball grinder. Those jerks probably go on the DL after taking a sh*t. That QuesTec stuff is a step in the right direction, and I don't care what those pansy-*ss pretty boys say about it. Yeah, that's right, Schilling, you f*cking hobbit motherf*cker. Go beat up another f*cking drive-thru speaker because you can't throw a f*cking strike. How you like being some f*ckwit CLOSER, you fat little b*tch? Can't wait to see what you color your socks this year - "oooh, he's a gamer because he's BLEEDING." Riiiiight. And I'm Mel F*cking Gibson. He wasn't pitching like sh*t because he was hurt - he was pitching like sh*t because he was staying up late w/ his fat little D&D buddies trying to kill some dumbsh*t dragon, and the Red Sox made up all that garbage about the sutures and the sock and that bullsh*t.

But, hey, it worked, right? Way to go, Slap-Rod - getting paid more than G*d, and you can't hit some bullsh*t 70 MPH fastball from some carpal-tunneled walleyed computer geek. Go lift some more weights and get s'more therapy, you frilly little skidmark. "Oh boo hoo I can't handle the pressure! I have too much money, and all these guys lust after my hot body! I can't take it any more! Oh boo hoo hoo!" Chr*st. I've seen 3-year-olds w/ more composure than that sissy. No wonder baseball's in the sh*tter - the so-called best hitter ever is a roid freak, the so-called best pitcher plays f*cking Q-Bert all day, and the so-called best all-around player is a no-hit limp-wristed b*tch that'd rather talk about his feelings than win a ballgame or GET A F*CKING HIT WITH RUNNERS ON BASE. Yay another solo homer for King of the Sh*theads - here's another million dollars, thanks for sucking! F*ck this sh*t. Gimme a real sport like curling or ping pong instead of this *ss-grabbing jockitch crap.

Oh, sh*t - all that's left in the fridge is Levy's f*cking Zima. And the packy's in this f*cking state close at like 3 PM. G*ddamn it. Excuse the f*ck out of me while I go suck down some f*cking witch hazel.

7.23.2005

Trading Barbs



By Chuck LaMar
Special to E$PN.com


It's never been easy being a General Manager in the major leagues. Fans and sports journalists eye every move you make with a jeweler's scrutiny, looking for the tiniest imperfection or flaw. And once they find that flaw, they start booing at the ballpark, or printing ad-hominem assaults in the local paper, and the town turns into a monster movie mob scene. Nowadays, with 24-hour sports coverage, internet fantasy leagues, and amateur fan sites and weblogs, everyone's a critic, and it's sometimes hard to hear yourself think or talk over all the racket. That said, it's sweet vindication when a player you acquire helps your team win a ball game, and it makes all the ruckus and hardship worthwhile.

I think it's fair to say that, out of any baseball general manager currently working , I've been villified the most. What folks don't understand is that I've probably had a tougher job that most. Let me just state a fact - Tampa Bay isn't a lucrative market like Boston or New York, or even Minnesota. It's tough to get fans to come out to the games, regardless of whether the team's winning or losing. Most folks in Tampa Bay are real old, and don't get out that often. The rest of the folks are young, sure, but they're transient, visiting on vacation or business, and they don't have time to stop by Tropicana Field to see the D-Rays play their gutsy brand of baseball. Those are two strikes that make it hard to swing away when it comes time to acquire players and wheel and deal, never mind acquiring the state of the art equipment or personnel that other teams can easily afford.

Not to cry poverty, but I'm actually typing this on an old IBM PS/2 my secretary / head scout / Director of Player Personnel found in the kitchen dumpster while taking out the trash. And this is the GOOD computer - I think Mr. Naimoli is still waiting for his C-64 to finish booting. After I type this up and save it to disk, I'm going to have to walk to the nearest Kinko's to get this printed out, and that's a long walk. Meanwhile, a team like the Oakland A's can afford to have Billy Beane take his fancy WiFi laptop into the stadium bathroom and pound out a couple thousand words about Joe Morgan, while 15 MIT interns drink cans of Coca Cola Zero and crunch numbers and look for the next overweight superstar. The only running water we have is in the player's locker room. Like I said, I don't want to sound like I'm whining or ungrateful, but running a major league franchise is hard work.

This is why Tampa Bay needs to be extra careful when making personnel moves. Whoever compared negotiating with me to tending to 'a root canal without the nerve gas' was very astute. General managing is a lot like dental surgery - if you're not careful and exact, you could do more harm than good. Tampa Bay can't just spend money haphazardly and bank on just one player. We can't just send players up and down like yo-yos. We have to think about the future as well as the present in every transaction we make. People are anonymously quoted as saying that I'm asking for the moon for Danys Baez. What I would say back to these people (if I knew who they were) is that asking for anything less than the moon for a player of Danys' quality would be an insult to him, to me, and to this organization.

Resources are limited here in Tampa Bay, and they have to be exploited to the fullest. When the Mets came calling about Victor Zambrano, this is what I had in mind during negotiations. They were looking to acquire a rotational workhorse for a (sadly unsuccessful) playoff run, a guy that can throw a lot of pitches and give you a chance to win more often than not. And I made sure they paid accordingly for such a high-quality player. The fact that other teams this year don't see eye-to-eye with me regarding Baez doesn't mean I'm going to back down and capitulate to some sub-par offer just because it's the only one out there. It's this tenacity and stubbornness in the face of seemingly impossible odds that's my greatest strength, my ability to stay the course and follow through on a plan of action. Of course, some folks feel differently.

Nitpicky critics often like to point out that I grabbed Bobby Abreu from the Astros during the 1998 expansion draft, and then thoughtlessly flipped him to the Phillies for infielder Kevin Stocker. Now, of course, anyone would love to have a player like Bobby Abreu on their team, and he would have looked great in sea foam green, stealing bases and hitting home runs. But do you realize how much it would have cost Tampa Bay to keep Bobby Abreu around? Like I said, the future matters as much as the present when the team's success going forward is at stake.

In 2000, Abreu's salary increased by almost 800% to nearly 3 million dollars. This year, he's making over 13 million dollars. That's almost 1/3rd the payroll for this year's team! If we kept him around for even his first year of arbitration, he would've cost the team a lot of money. Never mind the pressure from the fans and the newspapers begging us to keep him around. If we sign him and he busts, we have lots of egg on our face and hell to pay with any number of people; if we sign him and he does well, then there's pressure to pay him even more money next year, which just starts the whole process over again. By trading him away, I saved the Tampa Bay organization the time and effort (and capital) that would have been spent agonizing over this issue over the course of Abreu's long and productive career. It's the same situation I faced when dealing with players like Dmitri Young, Jeff Johnson, and even Jose Guillen - do I want these players to develop and thrive and cost this team millions of dollars, or do I want to trade them (while the organization's investment in them is minimal) and acquire more cost-effective players?

It's these moves that allowed the Devil Rays to take their one shot at glory at the turn of the 20th century. Yes, I took a gamble by acquiring high-priced players like Vinny Castilla and Greg Vaughn and Jose Canseco and Juan Guzman and Wilson Alvarez, but I thought it was a risk worth taking. I invested the future moneys saved through the Abreu and Young transactions in the present, at a time where other teams like the Yankees and Red Sox looked weak. (There's no way anyone could have predicted that the Yankees would follow a 114-win season with another divisional championship and World Series.) As nice as it would be to say that general management in baseball is an exact science, the fact is that there are many things that can't be controlled. How am I to know that those players listed previously would all turn out to be unmitigated disasters? How am I to know that highly-touted prospects like Josh Hamilton and Dewon Brazelton would turn out to be headcases? How am I to know that Ben Grieve was done as a slugger at such a young age? This off-season, we took a chance on Josh Phelps, and it didn't work out. Meanwhile, there are moves involving productive D-Ray players like Julio Lugo or Alex Gonzalez that barely get the ink they truly deserve.

There's only so much information out there, and once that information's been viewed and reviewed and rereviewed to the point that the ditto ink smears, and once the film reel begins to snap against the projector, it really comes down to a flip of the coin. Sometimes that coin lands on tails 15 times in a row, and sometimes it lands on heads 15 times in a row. That doesn't mean you stop flipping the coin. For every Bobby Abreu you let slip through your fingers, there are ten Travis Lees or Jason Tyners waiting to pick up that slack. It's a chance you have to take when you're a general manager.

I said this a couple of years ago, and I continue to stand behind this: "The only thing that keeps this organization from being recognized as one of the finest in baseball is wins and losses at the major-league level." We have a young nucleus of great players beginning to mature and thrive. With young hitters like Carl Crawford, Johnny Gomes, and Jorge Cantu being brought along by veteran sluggers Aubrey Huff and Travis Lee, Tampa Bay has one of the most feared line-ups in all of baseball. And a pitching staff anchored by Scott Kazmir (acquired via trade, in case you forgot) could go a long way. But there are more decisions to be made, as arbitration years pile up, salaries escalate, and the need to win a championship grows stronger. Whenever critics wonder when Tampa Bay is going to wake up and actually field a winning team, I take a step back from the ticker tape machine and tell myself that this quest for success isn't a sprint. It's a marathon. Only the runners that know how and when to exert themselves will cross the finish line as champions. It took the Boston Red Sox 86 years to figure out how to become World Series champions. The Cubs haven't won anything in an even longer stretch. I'm only on year 8. I'd like to think I'm ahead of the curve.

Chuck LaMar is the senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Autry's War (Part Three)

Seymour_Hersh
By Seymour Hersh
Click to read part one
Click to read part two

Former Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck was one of the most creative executives to ever work in baseball. It was he who signed Satchell Paige, turned baseball games into bazaars of promotional goods and sent midget Eddie Gaedel to bat in 1952. Veeck was a man who knew how to make money, and — as his wounds from the South Pacific showed — win a fight. Although Veeck had sold his interest in the Cleveland Indians years before, his spirit lived on in the team, which, in 1972, had almost been moved to New Orleans and bought by George Steinbrenner. It wasn't a good year in Cleveland.

Fearing that his adopted hometown would lose its baseball team, a 41-year-old well-connected Italian businessman named Nick Mileti stepped in and, along with a group of investors, purchased the team. Although Mileti seemed like small potatoes to the other baseball owners when he first met them back in early 1972, he was actually well-connected. He had persuaded Frank Sinatra to open his Richfield Coliseum, and even had contact with John Volpi, the first American ambassador to Italy.

Through Sinatra, who had known California Angels owner Gene Autry for decades, Mileti was introduced to Autry in late 1971, when he was first considering bidding for the Indians. The two men got along immediately. "Gene was a legend," Mileti says now from his home outside of Cleveland. "It was like meeting John Wayne, only better." (Mileti refused to answer any further questions about his dealings with Autry.)

But as excited as Mileti was about owning the Cleveland Indians, civic pride could only take him so far — the Tribe had not finished with a winning record since 1968, and attendance was starting to wane. Mileti needed to improve, and fast. On the top of his wish list were a new manager (Ken Aspromonte had been a spectacular failure) and a hitter, as was commonly known around baseball in 1974. Sensing that Mileti's status as an outsider in baseball would make him particularly open to his point of view, Autry went to the Indians owner with a simple offer: "I will give you future Hall of Famer Frank Robison to be your manager and player, and in return you will pledge your support in a disagreement I have with the commissioner's office," he told Mileti according to confidential sources within the Cleveland organization.

Trusting Autry as a peer and as a personal hero, Mileti agreed before even asking what the disagreement concerned. It was several months before they finally got around to discussing the specifics of their deal.


The first of many pacts to dramatically change the game of baseball was struck sometime in January of 1975, at Autry's Melody Ranch in Newhall, California. Present were Autry, Mileti and several underlings from each of their organizations, who were brought in to brainstorm as to how best address the Angels' issue with Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Proposals included sending erroneous statistics to the commissioner's office to skew Major League Baseball's official tallies and bringing in their best pitchers in "win" situations to tamper with the stat.

Both of these ideas were eventually nixed, because they would be too obvious to the team's fans. They finally decided on a much simpler and more conniving idea: so long as they owned their teams, they would never allow one of their pitchers to win twenty games.

It was an odd form of protest, for sure. Ultimately self-destructive and likely to draw the fans' ire if discovered, it was not particularly well-conceived. But at a certain point, say others who were present at the meetings, it didn't matter whether the final decision was practical, it just had to be devious enough to keep these two very rich men interested.


The conspiracy began in earnest in the 1975 season. In 1974, Gaylord Perry had won 21 games; a few months into the '75 season, he was unceremoniously jettisoned to the Texas Rangers, where he would, interestingly, play next to outfielder Mike Hargrove, who would have his own part in the plot as the manager for the Cleveland Indians years later. (One source suggested that the Indians job was a bribe because he had learned of the collusion, but this remains, as of press time, unconfirmed.) As for the Angels, Autry convinced Nolan Ryan to fake injuries so that he would miss starts, and Valentine — who concocted this web in the first place — was occasionally brought in to boot a grounder or two, keeping Ed Figueroa and Frank Tanana from hitting that now-dreaded twenty-win mark.

Autry and Mileti made sure that Commissioner Kuhn was well aware of what they were doing. "Looks like Tanana just missed another 'win,'" Autry wrote Kuhn in June 1975. "When will these boys ever learn to turn a double play?" Shortly after Mileti dealt Perry to the Rangers, he sent Kuhn a note saying, "Seemed like a 'winning' trade to me!" Kuhn was strangely silent in the face of this blatant disrespect. To this day men who worked closely with him cannot figure out why he didn't go public immediately with the information. Some suspected blackmail, others that Kuhn was ultimately sympathetic to their odd cause. We shall never know why Kuhn stayed silent, but it would prove to be the first of his many mistakes.

(Continued in part four)

Seymour Hersh, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of several best-selling books.

7.22.2005

More Cowbell Than You Will Ever Need V -- The Numbers Edition!



What do you mean, only five baseball landmarks still matter? You can't compare this to the NBA because nobody cares about numbers in basketball. How many 3-pointers did Jordan have in his career? Nobody remembers those sorts of details. But ask a baseball fan how many homers Teddy Ballgame hit, and they'll tell you right away -- 521.
-- Joe G., Kansas City, MO

You're nuts if you think there are only five untouchable numbers left in baseball. What are you going to do next, claim there were only five episodes of The Contender that were worth watching, and the rest were useless?
-- Frank A., Tallahasee, FL

I could list 50 baseball landmarks that still matter. Maybe you're the one who no longer matters. Chump.
-- Victor E., Albany, NY

Is it "Kill Yr Idols" week at E$PN? Getting 3000 hits is just as difficult as it ever was. Big Mac never got there. Neither will Bagwell. Or Griffey. Or Sosa. Or Bonds, in all likelihood. Those guys might have the MVP awards and the accolades, but Raffy outhit them all. He'll end his career with more hits than all of the so-called "storied" players you named, including Will Clark and Don Mattingly, who have received zero Hall of Fame respect from the voters, and rightfully so.
-- Theo F., San Diego, CA


I received a few hundred emails yesterday, and most of them were just like these four. It also goes without saying that if my readers write in so enthusiastically about something, then they've usually got a good point.

Admittedly, it was a bit presumptuous to boldly state that only five baseball landmarks have remained untouchable and undamaged by the offensive inflation of the current era. It was also presumptuous for me to write off "Rock Star:INXS" after only one episode. I mean, did you see Kirk Pengilly's facial hair? Who thought it would be a good idea to force that onto unsuspecting viewers without at least a parental advisory warning after each commercial break? Who tranquilized Mark Burnett before taping began, convincing him to put his TV reputation in the hands of a saxophone player with a ugly beard? I'm still not convinced that the show isn't an act of self-sabotage on Burnett's part, much like Mel Brooks' character on the fourth season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm". However, after a couple of weeks of this show, you've got JD's pot-stirring, Jordis' babe-osity (she's two or three episodes away from "Reality Babe Pantheon" status), plus three straight nights that I woke up at 4AM for a glass of water and started wondering which of them would do the best version of "Need You Tonight".

So, upon further reflection, I underestimated this show. I also shortchanged some other baseball landmarks, and here are just a few of those:

Jesse Orosco's Games Pitched Record (1252).

Mike Stanton just reached his 1000th game, but he's only third on the active list behind geriatric heavyweights Mike Jackson and John Franco. Still, none of them are within 150 of Orosco, and things will stay that way, unless any of them pitch to one batter a night until they're 65, like Orosco did. Really, what's a career of excellence like Hank Aaron's home run record next to Orosco's accomplishments? It's not a difficult managerial decision to put Hammerin' Hank in the lineup, particularly when he's out there hitting 40 homers at age 40, back when hitting 40 homers meant something. Orosco is a different story. How do you convince a succession of major league teams to let you pitch for five minutes a night for twenty-five years? That's mediocrity stretched as far as it can go, par excellence. That's up there with stretching the "Friday the 13th" series into an eleven-film mini-empire. Orosco should be teaching "Making the Most Out of What Little You've Got" self-improvement classes at his local community center.

ARod's Salary Record (avg 25.2M over 10 years)

Quick -- how many career home runs does ARod have? What was his batting average in 1996? You don't know, do you?

Here's another one -- what is ARod's salary? Yes, that's an easy one. Tell me that the number 252 isn't more famous than 714 or 4256. The salary record works much like 20-loss seasons for pitchers and the single season strikeout record for hitters (Mike Maroth and Adam Dunn's recent, er, "triumphs" notwithstanding). Those marks tend to stay safe because nobody wants to reach those goals. Managers will remove a guy from the rotation before they'll let him lose 20, and bench an otherwise productive player rather than watch him strike out 190 times. Eventually, we'll see contracts creep up back over $20 million per year, but guys will settle for $25.1 million per season before they suffer the ignomity of overtaking the Rodriguez/Boras plateau of greed. It's a line that nobody will want to cross. Mark my words -- 252 is the new Mendoza line in baseball.

Nomar Garciaparra's Delay of Game Record (3839 minutes)

By my estimation, he's presently 57 minutes behind Mike Hargrove, but he'll surely surpass Hargrove's mark during his first month back for the Cubs so we might as well hand him the record right now. How long does it take one of Barry Bonds' homers to leave the park? What, five seconds? However, before every at-bat, Garciaparra spends about 45 seconds pulling his crotch and his uniform. There's more touching and grabbing in a Nomar at-bat than in a 50 Cent video. Do the math for yourself -- 4200 at-bats, 45 seconds each, vs 703 home runs, 5 seconds each. That means Garciaparra has been on our TV screens 50 times longer than Barry Bonds. How impressive is that? This makes Nomar the Regis Philbin of baseball, doesn't it?

Lou Gehrig's Career Grand Slams Record (23)

Manny Ramirez currently has 20 slams, and he's still in his prime, which puts Gehrig's mark in serious jeopardy. The longevity of the number 23 is remarkable. Why do we care so much about 56 and 406 but easily forget something like 73? Easy -- Bonds broke a record that was only three years old, and before him, McGwire broke a mere 37-year old mark. Joe D and the Splinter set their standards more than sixty years ago, and nobody has seriously approached them since. Rickey's 130 is only twenty-odd years old, but it's looking safe for at least the next several decades. It should be obvious that the exact numbers don't matter, it's the longevity that's important. Long-standing records earn their keep, which is why the numbers associated with them deserve their legendary status. If your life depended on it, which would you rather bet against: somebody passing Hank Aaron's 755 in the next ten years, or somebody having a 57-game hit streak in the next fifty years?

Gehrig's record is even older than 406 and 56. Think about that for a moment. If Manny breaks the record (and my buddy Hench put $500 on 3-1 odds in Vegas that he breaks it by 2008) then he can write his Hall of Fame ticket. On top of the 500+ home runs and 1900+ RBI's that Manny will ring up by the time he's done, the grand slams record will solidify his place as one of the top clutch hitters ever, the guy who you could count on the most to come through with a big home run with runners on base. Plus, it'll be oddly fitting to have a class clown like Manny break the record of a straight-laced, non-beaver shooting player like Lou Gehrig.

Autry's War (Part Two)

Seymour_Hersh
By Seymour Hersh
Click to read part one

Some conspiracies, like the assassinations of Kennedy and Caesar and the entire thrust of the Bush regime, are plotted in advance. Others, like My Lai, are hastily spun webs of deceit used to conceal an impulsive decision gone awry. Gene Autry's war on baseball began as a mix of both, but as decades went on, its scope would make even the KGB flinch.

That Autry's efforts have gone completely unreported until now proves the scope of the conspiracy. Back when it first began — before the conspirators had tightened their muzzles on all who threatened them — there were rumors of the plot. Working at the New York Times in 1974 as a reporter, I remember R.W. Apple stumbling across some information about it at a post-season dinner event celebrating Henry Aaron breaking the all-time home run record.

President Gerald Ford and Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn were on hand to praise Aaron, and Apple was sent to gather a quote or two from the newly named Commander in Chief. Apple was up to his usual tricks and was drunk, ending up sick over the toilet. At the same time, Ford and Kuhn happened to enter the washroom and were engaged in a heated discussion about "crazy Gene" "going ballistic" over something. Apple, being the ace reporter that he was, assumed they were talking about Gene McCarthy making another presidential run, and quickly wrote a piece saying so. Never trust a columnist to do a man's job, I remember thinking at the time.

That brief flirt with the harsh light of an American journalist (or even R.W. Apple) was the closest the press has ever come to the truth of the matter. That is, until a whistleblower decided to step forward and detail the entire affair.


The individual who has decided to set this story to paper is by no means innocent in this mess. In fact, he was intimately involved from the get-go, and has aided and abetted the plot countless times. After Gene Autry heard of Bobby Valentine's idea to "juice" the numbers, to use a contemporary term that seems especially applicable, he began to consider who would help him destroy the win statistic, and how he could best frame his argument.

Autry and some other high-level executives eventually decided that their pitch would be that "the win statistic... spoil[s] the epic battle between the individual batter and the sole pitcher [and] cheapens the very heart of our game," according to a draft of the report that they sent to the commissioner's office soon thereafter. Liking the nice round number and the mystique that it holds, the Angels took specific issue with the concept of "the twenty-game winner," pointing out that "by no means is it a pure or even useful measure of success, especially when there are so many other factors that determine a win: the pitcher's own offense, both team's defense, even the whether [sic] that particular afternoon."

Even today, it's a compelling argument, one likely to become popular in this age of statistical baseball favored on the Internet. But the commissioner's reply was swift and merciless: "A win is a win. -Bowie." Autry knew that he alone could not win this battle. For a sane man, that lone fact would have quelled the resistance. But Autry perhaps thought of the cowboy songs he used to sing, about the posses who would take on entire Native American tribes and slaughter them despite the odds. And so when he set about constructing his own posse, he knew the first place to look: the Cleveland Indians.

(Continued in part three)

Seymour Hersh, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of several best-selling books.

Getting On Base: The Art of Baseball Productivity



In a recent game against the Chicago White Sox, a Kansas City Royals rookie saw a prime batting opportunity for what it truly was: a chance to network with perennial All-Star Paul Konerko.

"Second and third with no outs? Most guys would swing for the fences," says the player. "Me, I bunted." In doing so, he turned a simple at-bat into opportunity.

"Konerko respected that," the player said. "I know it. Sure, he said, 'Fuck you, rookie,' just like any other player would have, but after 10 or 12 more of those bunts, I know he'll respect me and view me as a valuable business associate. I'm sure they had a good laugh about it in the other dugout, but when our playing days are done, Paul Konerko and I are going to have a lot to talk about. That was a productive out, and he knew that."

Maintaining a tickler file of useful facts and at-a-glance information is another way of generating productivity out of each and every at-bat. When facing Dodgers pitcher Scott Erickson, a batter should have a very good idea of what he'll see thrown at him - namely, a 77-mph fastball.

"Preparing for anything else is just silly," says Erickson. "Honestly, I don't know why players practice swinging at curveballs and sliders when there are pitchers like me in the big leagues." As a businessman, though, Erickson isn't predictable - he's reliable. His clients know exactly what to expect from him every time they work with him. Even sixty feet away, they can read what's on his mind every time they interface.

A system of "next actions" can also enhance and increase the efficacy of baseball project management. The aforementioned Kansas City rookie's next actions, kept within his tickler file, might have looked something like this:

Project: Bunt with 2nd/3rd/no outs
N.A.: eat a bag of sunflower seeds
N.A.: watch "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" with Zack Greinke.
Context: @dugout

Not a moment of one's game is wasted when one is constantly aware of what one is to do next. While the rookie is trudging back to the dugout basking in the adulation of his fans and teammates, he will already be thinking of the delicious crunch of David-brand sunflower seeds, and the hilarious antics of Cary Elwes and a young Dave Chappelle.

Next actions assist the rank-and-file position players in developing their skills, but they also help to create highly effective baseball life coaches through the shrewd application of basic management techniques. Consider Tampa Bay Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella's recent tickler file:

Project: Drink bottle of Old Grand-Dad
Sub-Project: watch "Celebrity Poker Showdown"
N.A.: make lewd comment about Mimi Rogers
N.A.: hurl empty whiskey bottle at Travis Harper's head
Sub-Sub-Project: sob quietly in clubhouse shower until conclusion of game.
Context: @dugout

Piniella is constantly aware of his objectives and surroundings. During the accomplishment of his initial project, for instance, he is watching Travis Harper to make sure that the player doesn't put on a batting helmet, thus dulling the disciplinary impact of the bottle of Old Grand-Dad. He has one eye on the entrance to the shower in order to ensure that Aubrey Huff isn't plucking his eyebrows when Piniella's meltdown reaches its inevitable denouement. This attention to Next Actions makes Piniella the legend he is; by remaining adroit, flexible, and organized, he is able to keep his mind flowing like water - and his teams routinely winning as many as sixty games year after year.

A basic truism of success in baseball, as well as business, is this: planning your day out, down to the letter, means that you don't waste valuable time standing around on third base or fouling off extra pitches into the stands. The organized baseball player can minimize the amount of time he spends actually playing baseball in order to concentrate on other, more lucrative pursuits, such as day trading, speculating on foreclosed residential property, or, in baseball's dense jargon, "beaver shooting." One assumes that hunting wildlife for one's family consumption is a little extreme when one makes millions, but fellow businessmen would be unwise as to downplay the significance of one's rural upbringing.

There are many methods of arranging and storing this data in efficient ways. A player ought to look at his personal effects as a sort of suit of productivity armor. He can store short summaries of opposing batters and pitchers in his wristbands. He can remind himself of keys to success by writing them on the butt of his baseball bat, like former Orioles infielder Billy Ripken. He can even create a small, portable tickler file out of simple 3x5 index cards and carry them with him - in his pocket, under his cap, in his jockstrap. At any point during the game, he ought to feel comfortable calling time, sitting down and getting into his "me zone," and writing down the thing that troubles him most. With this at the top of his to-do list, he can return to his job clear-headed, much to the delight and amazement of the thousands of cheering fans who will undoubtedly recognize and applaud his innovative strategies.

Personal productivity guru David Allen is the acclaimed author of "Getting Things Done" and "Ready For Anything."

Ryne Sandberg Unleashed! (Part Deux)



EDITOR'S NOTE: This year, Ryne Sandberg has been writing about baseball for Yah00! Sports three to four times a week, offering readers his unprecedented insight and perspective into the game he once played. While Ryne's posted writings are quick and to the point, Ryne actually writes much more than Yah00!.com actually publishes. Given the overall quality of Ryne's writing, E$PN has secured rights to post these unabridged and unedited thoughts on the BBTN weblog, and will publish them sporadically throughout the remainder of the 2005 season. Here is Part 2 of a trade deadline article, covering the NL - click here to read Part 1, about the AL.

* * *


CARDINAL INVITATIONAL - EASTERN DIVISION

WASHINGTON NATIONALS – They made a big move last week by acquiring Preston Wilson, who'll give them a strong veteran hole-filled bat and gimpy unreliable legs and other age-related weaknesses that Colorado's thin air masked, and their bullpen is as strong as Frank Robinson is ornery. They can't spend a ton of money, considering they don't have an owner yet and Major League Baseball likes playing with the Nats like a dog likes sniffing its naughty bits. I heard that Livan Hernandez is actually made of a space-age polymer. Recent reports also suggest that Livan Hernandez is a sissy-face crybaby that needs someone to wipe his butt with quad-ply tissue after he makes boom-boom in his shorts.

ATLANTA BRAVES – I really think they have enough to win the division, even though I am sick of seeing them make the playoffs only to roll over and die every year. I don't remember if Brian Jordan is back or not, but it doesn't matter because the 80-year-old ball guy at PacBell Park could do a better job at the plate if he used a frying pan instead of a bat. They just got Mike Hampton and Tim Hudson back, which would be great if it was 2000. Hampton got hit hard in his first start in more than six weeks, but both of them will be fine because I am Hall of Famer to be Ryne Sandberg and you are my wanton brothel to be used and discarded as I see fit. Now shut up and peel my grapes, mule.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES – They're another team that has a big decision to make - do they want to win, or do they want to keep sacrificing pitchers to their ill-dimensioned new ballpark? They're 4½ games out in the wild-card standings, but they could clear salary by moving Jim Thome and David Bell and just cut bait on yet another piss-poor season. Or they could go to the root of the problem and kick GM Ed Wade and his bullpen-guy fetish to the curb. Also, a lot of teams would love to have closer Billy Wagner, because who wouldn't want a hard-throwing high-paid bullpen guy with a history of elbow troubles? Talk is the A's are looking to trade for Wagner, offering Octavio Dotel, Erubiel Durazo, and a DVD copy of Roger Corman's Fantastic Four movie. That movie had a real Invisible Girl, not some hoochie mama skank.

CARDINAL INVITATIONAL - CENTRAL DIVISION

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS – They're a lock for the playoffs and I don't see them needing all that much, what with the rest of the NL doing for baseball what Geraldo Rivera does for broadcast journalism. With the recent injury to Reggie Sanders (a shock to all), they could go after a corner outfielder, or just give So Taguchi the playing time he's earned as the best 5th outfielder in Missouri. It doesn't matter, though, because someone like Scott Rolen or Jim Edmonds or Chris Carpenter will get hurt, and they'll make it to the World Series, and Tony LaRussa will manage to lose them games through his poor bench usage and Jupiter-sized ego.

CHICAGO CUBS – They'll have Jody Gerut in left field now after acquiring him from Cleveland on Tuesday, which will be great if it turns Dusty Baker into a good manager. The difference between Gerut and Jason Dubois is neglegible, but Dusty only plays veterans, so the trade was necessary. But I would love to see the Cubs go after a center fielder/leadoff man and crush his spirits like they've done with Corey Patterson. There has been talk of Juan Pierre, but I'm not sure the Marlins will be selling, because the Marlins like watching Juan Pierre age before their very eyes. They could definitely use a strong bullpen arm to secure the eighth inning, too, so Ryan Dempster has more chances to blow saves.

HOUSTON ASTROS - I don't know why people aren't talking about this scrappy bunch more. All they need is some offense, and they can play with the best of them. Jeff Bagwell, recovering from shoulder surgery, is taking a buttload of illegal performance enhancement drugs in order to return to the lineup in time for the stretch drive run. I predict he'll hit 30 HRs in September, and look like a muscular Butterball. With a really long beard. Also, Craig Biggio is a habitual bruiser - he trips and falls into his coffee table for kicks during the offseason.

CARDINAL INVITATIONAL - WESTERN DIVISION

SAN DIEGO PADRES OF BAJA – I think they'll win the NL West, but I don't think they'll go much farther than that because they're the Padres and the Padres are meant to lose. One option could be a starting pitcher, because a rotation where Woody Williams is the 4th starter cleary has some gaps to fill. The return of Phil Nevin and Mark Loretta to the lineup will have the same impact as a big trade that hurts the team and sends playoff hopes into a tailspin like a shot-down fighter jet. Having those two healthy again should give the Padres a lift, and by lift I mean push down. Because this is the Padres, and if they actually do well, the world ends. I cannot stress this enough.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS – They're the most serious threat to the Padres down the stretch, or at least that's what I think once I finish drinking this case of Robitussin. Their starting pitching and offense are solid like balsa wood, but one area that needs an upgrade is the bullpen. That's why they're interested in acquiring former White Sox closer Shingo Takatsu, because they're k-stupid - why else would they have Quinton McCracken on their roster? There has been talk of sacrificing unimaginative GM / mouthbreather Joe Garagiola, Jr. to the Great God Pan, but that would probably lead to them hiring (and firing) Wally Backman again, which would be embarrassing. Instead, the D-Back braintrust will just hire former Pirate GM Cam Bonifay (architect of Operation: Shutdown and the retirement plans of Mike Benjamin and Kevin Young), spend the team's budget on blow, hookers, and 500 RoboSapiens, and then go into hiding for the next 10 years.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS - I only mention the Dodgers out of some sense of misplaced responsibility. They are dead in the water, and it's all Paul DePodesta's fault. All the trades and signings he's made over the past 2 years have hurt the team - Hee Seop Choi has been a failure, JD Drew is a bust, Milton Bradley is nothing but trouble, the pitching staff is awful (lead by the one-two barf of Jeff Weaver and Odalis Perez), and if it weren't for Jim Tracy, I'd say the Dodgers would be ripe for contraction. As it stands, they can at least make the Reds, Pirates, and Rockies look good. Which is hard to do.

7.21.2005

Autry's War (Part One)

Seymour_Hersh
By Seymour Hersh

"Just about the time you think, 'What else can he accomplish?,' he comes up with another milestone. Some of my fondest baseball memories involve Nolan from his days with the Angels. He is one of those rare individuals who will be admired for generations to come." Gene Autry, the famous singing cowboy and owner of the California Angels, once said this about Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan. Autry, a fierce individualist to a fault, admired the pitcher so much that, in the fall of 1974, he began a quest to ruin baseball to preserve Ryan's legacy. It's the backroom history of the game, the story you won't hear in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," a tale that has never been told — until now.

Those in baseball's front offices and in the commissioner's chair know this story too well. Autry's quest led to the 1994 strike and has spoiled numerous careers. It involves a seemingly infinite amount of baseball executives, many of whom continue to work in the game today. Full of cheating, lying and disrepute, Autry's war — whose beginnings coincide with Watergate — confirms baseball as America's national pastime, even more than the infamous Black Sox scandal in 1919.



In 1974, Nolan Ryan had one of the greatest seasons a major-league pitcher has ever had: a miniscule 2.89 ERA, 367 strikeouts and 22 wins. Yet Ryan was not included on the All Star team, and finished a disappointing third in the Cy Young voting, an award given annually to the best pitcher in each league. California Angels owner Gene Autry was livid at the snub. "This has shaken my fundamental belief in baseball to its very core," he wrote in a confidential memo sent to Commissioner Bowie Kuhn at the time. "We need to drastically reconsider how awards are given in the future. This is worse than the whole Steinbrenner mess." (George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, was suspended from the game for two years because he gave illegal campaign contributions to President Richard Nixon.)

Kuhn ignored Autry's memo, which further fueled the former entertainer's anger. "Somebody needs to stick a Bowie knife in that son of a bitch," he once remarked to Dick Williams, according to sources close to the former Angels manager.

But there are limits, even for a cowboy. Autry recognized that it would be impossible to strip Oakland A's pitcher Catfish Hunter of the Cy Young Award, and knew that Kuhn was imbued with tremendous power within the game. And so he sought an alternative solution to his new obsession. He found his answer in the most unlikely place.


The 1974 Angels were not a good team. With 94 losses, they were never in contention for the pennant, and the club was short on talent. There was Ryan, future star Ed Figueroa, Frank Tanana and slugger Frank Robinson, who was on the downside of his career. There was also a 24-year-old mediocre utility player with a funny name and a devilish personality who would go on to manage the New York Mets some twenty years later. His name was Bobby Valentine.

Though Valentine refused to speak on the record for this story, sources close to him were more forthcoming about his tenure with the Angels.

"Bobby was a nobody then," one former teammate says under the condition of anonymity because he fears the repercussions of speaking out, "but he seemed to hear everything. He was good at two things: beaver shooting [voyeuristically leering at women] and gossip." The former player goes on to explain that one day while snooping around Angels headquarters, he overheard an Autry tirade about Kuhn and Ryan's snub. "Knowing a golden ticket when he saw one," my source goes onto explain, "Bobby got to plotting."

Valentine hit upon a clever thought. Since a pitcher's win-loss statistic is based upon not only the amount of runs a pitcher has allowed, but the amount the other team has scored, one could persuasively argue that it was not an individual statistic, but a team statistic. If Catfish Hunter's 25 wins could be discarded, Valentine further surmised according to a source in the clubhouse, then Ryan would have been a lock for the 1974 Cy Young Award.

Armed with his theory, Valentine went to see Autry, and related his idea. Autry was impressed with the suggestion, and immediately began to conspire as to how he could accomplish the difficult task of convincing Major League Baseball to eschew one of its most important statistics. If he were to do this, he quickly realized according to a source in Autry's country club, he was going to need help.

(Continued in part two)

Seymour Hersh, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of several best-selling books.

Ryne Sandberg Unleashed!



EDITOR'S NOTE: This year, Ryne Sandberg has been writing about baseball for Yah00! Sports three to four times a week, offering readers his unprecedented insight and perspective into the game he once played. While Ryne's posted writings are quick and to the point, Ryne actually writes much more than Yah00!.com actually publishes. Given the overall quality of Ryne's writing, E$PN has secured rights to post these unabridged and unedited thoughts on the BBTN weblog, and will publish them sporadically throughout the remainder of the 2005 season. Here is Part 1 of a trade deadline article, covering the AL - Part 2, about the NL, will be posted tomorrow.

* * *


This year's trading deadline should be very interesting, unlike trading deadlines of the past several years, which have been very uninteresting and stupid. Several teams remain in the playoff race, and that is a true testament to the wild card and the existance of Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and Colorado.

I believe 15 teams have a chance to make the postseason, but I'm going to write about 18 because I'm Ryne Sandberg and you're a fantasy baseball nerd. I also believe that the earth is flat, that women are inferior to men in every way possible, and that the best music ever was made by Barry Maguire and B2K. Just about every club needs to add something by the July 31 deadline, whether it's a big bat, a starting pitcher, or a Landmark Seminar expert. Here's what they should be shopping for.

AL EAST

NEW YORK YANKEES – They're just looking to get healthy. Maybe younger, too, but that's hard to do unless you have a time machine and/or some Botox. Kevin Brown made his first start in over a month on Monday and even though he was hit hard, he'll help the Yankees down the line by forcing their offense to score more runs than any other team in order to win. If Jaret Wright ever comes back from his injury, he'll help the Yankees out in that regard as well. The recent additions of Al Leiter and Wayne Franklin will also help, especially if Joe Torre goes to Franklin in situations where the team is either tied or ahead.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES – The Orioles know exactly what they need – pitching – but there are just not that many arms out there. One starting pitcher that would help a lot is Florida's A.J. Burnett, who would like pitching for Baltimore with that powerful offense, and would like pitching for any team that's not run by Jeffrey Loria and gives lots of playing time to Jeff Conine, Paul LoDuca and the steroid-free Mike Lowell. Because of Rafael Palmeiro's resurgance following his 3000th hit, half the Orioles have started taking Viagra and have had erections for more than 72 hours.

BOSTON RED SOX – I wouldn't think they'll go after any of the big-name players. Depending on how Curt Schilling adjusts to his bullpen role, they may have to get a strong bullpen arm. They might also need to pistolwhip Kevin Millar to keep him in his place. If they get Keith Foulke back, they should stick him in the starting rotation, as Schilling will be too used to coming out of the pen to go back to starting games. They should also trade Manny Ramirez as soon as possible - he does nothing but cost the team wins with his poor defense, poor baserunning skills, free-swinging ways, and unruly hairdo.

AL CENTRAL

CHICAGO WHITE SOX – There's been a lot of talk that general manager Kenny Williams is for another starting pitcher. They won't be able to pull Jason Schmidt from the Giants, but they could benefit from promoting a strong minor-league arm. It's too bad that Kenny Williams made so many idiot trades, as having a guy like Kip Wells would really help out this club. Also, I heard that Joe Crede has pictures of Kenny Williams trying to pick up a shemale at the Hideout, which is why he still has a job. I hope me talking about this in public doesn't cost Crede PT, because he's a kid that can do the little things like ground out, pop up, and strike out.

MINNESOTA TWINS – They'll try to make a move to win the AL wild card, because making a move to not make the playoffs is pretty stupid. Problem is, the Twins don't have a ton of money to spend (according to their books, which aren't cooked at all) and, just as they've done in the past, they won't do anything that is going to hurt their chances in the future by actually making a trade to put them over the top. After trading for MVP candidate Shannon Stewart, what else do you need to do? It isn't like they need a second baseman, or a good outfielder. Reportedly, Minnesota is interested in acquiring some hitting, possibly Boston's Bill Mueller. Mueller would fill two holes as a very good defensive third baseman and a consistent bat. He also makes a great gazpacho, and does a fantastic impersonation of Adam Sandler's Canteen Boy.

CLEVELAND INDIANS - Unlike the Twins, they'll try to make a move for the worst record in baseball so they can secure the first pick in the draft, like the Cavaliers did to get LeBron James. Rumors say GM Mark Shapiro is looking to trade away Jhonny Peralta, Victor Martinez, and Grady Sizemore for more veteran leadership - the Phillies are offering Mike Lieberthal and Kenny Lofton, while the Mariners have Randy Winn and Pat Borders on the table. Scouts are saying CC Sabathia is too fat to live, and wears his hat like a hip-hop hoodlum.

AL WEST

ARTE MORENO'S LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, SORT OF NEAR ANAHEIM – They don't need all that much. Their bullpen might be the best in the majors and they're scoring runs with ease in spite of having possibly the worst 1-2 combo in the major leagues. It's a testament to Mike Scoscia's stubborness that, despite the team's tendency to run themselves out of innings and award at-bats to bad hitters, they are in first place. The performance of their pitching staff has nothing to do at all with their success. Same with the White Sox. Both teams are playing baseball the right way, and anyone that says otherwise is a terror-loving Communist sissy.

TEXAS RANGERS – Just as in the past, they could really use pitching and some Dale Carnegie classes for Buck Showalter. However, GM John Hart will have to decide whether he wants to make a huge push for the postseason. Taking Richard Hidalgo and Chan Ho Park out to the shed for a stern talking to with a shotgun might go a long way towards making that happen. They're 2½ games out in the wild-card race which, with their problems, might as well be last place. Alfonso Soriano has taken to wearing Derek Jeter Underoos on off days, and pees in Showalter's pre-game coffee.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS – Surprisingly, the A's find themselves only three games out of the AL wild card. Joe Morgan told me they were dead in the water, so I'm really surprised that they can win games. Billy Beane has already added veteran help in outfielder Jay Payton and pitchers Joe Kennedy and Jay Witasick because being old means you're really good. They're a team that – with the right help – could sneak into the postseason. I think they should go for more veteran help in the OF, maybe grabbing Bernie Williams from the Yankees, or getting Albert Belle or Candy Maldonado to unretire.

7.19.2005

What Part of (RS^2) / ((RS^2)+(RA^2)) Don't You Idiots Understand?


I was kind of surprised that E$PN asked me to contribute to this blog. After all, my one appearance on "Ba$eball T0night" didn't go very well, when I told those troglodytes what they could do with their whole "wins and losses" shtick. But I guess genius will out, and my regular readers at www.baseballisagameofnumbersyoumorons.com know that I'm not shy about mentioning my Mensa membership. Hey, if you got it, flaunt it...and if you don't have it, maybe you can be a monotesticled mouthbreather who once played relatively effectively for the Philadelphia Phailures!

So, anywayz, big ups to the big E for recognizing my approach, and -- like the title of my current 42nd favorite song: "Let's Get It Started"!

In case you jive turkeys don't know what I'm talking about in the title of this piece, it's the Pythagorean Equation of Baseball. This little number sentence, invented by the Great God Almighty Mr. William "Bill" James, is the most important equation ever invented for the national pastime. It helps to predict how a team should do in a year, based on Runs Scored (RS, duh) and Runs Allowed (RA, doy). Any other equation (including the retarded PRoPS and the interesting-but-bogus Win Shares) is useless.

[And yes, longtime readers will note that I come down on the side of using 1.8 as the multiplier instead of 2, because it's more accurate. But it's easier to explain if we use 2, so let's just tilt at that windmill a little later. Plus, we're not quibbling over numbers here, but celebrating them.]

In fact, I'm going to go even further with this: the Pythagorean is so important, so perfect, and so elegant that it should replace the outmoded "winning percentage" as the main evaluatory technique of Major League Baseball.

Yeah, that's right, you heard me, I said it and I'm not ashamed. That oldfangled nonsense called "Wins" is crap on a stick, pardon my French. For one thing, this stat is artificially pumped up by one-run games, which we in the sabermetric community have proven to be completely unrelated to a team's talent level, managerial expertise, and ultimate worth. These "results" are unaccounted for in statistical terms, which is tantamount to saying that they are due to luck. And luck has nothing to do with skill, and very little to do with baseball.

So toss that out, and toss out "losses" while you're at it. Just because a team finishes on the lower end of a score doesn't mean that it didn't accumulate some tasty numerals. I'm not saying that Tampa Bay is a good team by any stretch, but they are clearly better than their record, and that is true even if their record continues to not improve. A team that is good when proven by mathematics is still a good team, even in the "standings."

Box scores, in fact, just really shake the dew off my lily. To think of the mindless hordes checking those sad non-adjusted numbers every morning in their corporate-owned tabloids, missing the big picture by so far, fills me with rage and sadness. I long for the day when Mr. James' revolution of the mind happens, and water-cooler talk turns to VORP and PAP and BABIP instead of "batting average" and the asinine "games back." You'd think we were still in the Dead Ball Era or something. It's called evolution. Look into it.

As far as I can tell, the only reason anyone really cares about wins and losses anymore is that boring display in October called "the playoffs," followed by the grand sham called the "World Series." As if. Come on, those are stupid events that do nothing to further our understanding of the game; you can't even compare the players' statistics to the rest of the league, because they skew the sample size! To quote my 17th favorite movie character of all time, "Inconceivable!" I long for the day when we throw out the whole playoff charade and get back to real baseball, old-school baseball: 162 games (give or take), and cold hard science ruling the day.

Do I expect this change to actually happen? Hellz no, not in my lifetime. Do I pray that someday that maybe, just maybe, the lightbulbs will go on over a few heads thanks to our perseverance and pure-heartedness? Well, yes I do. Every night.

Okay, I'm Audi 7000. Love, peace, and hair grease.

"Spartacus" is a prominent sabermetrician who has appeared on "Ba$eball Tonight." His website, www.baseballisagameofnumbersyoumorons.com, receives dozens of hits per month.

Ginsburg Variations

Kitaro+color
Kitaro, cuz dude's just cool

"There's no way to accurately determine the greatest lefthanded hitter in baseball history, but an argument can be made for Palmeiro, who now has 346 more hits than Ted Williams, nearly 450 more home runs than Ty Cobb and 127 more hits than Babe Ruth." — David Ginsburg, Associated Press

There's no way to accurately determine the worst pitcher in baseball history, but an argument can be made for Cy Young, who has 150 more losses than Will White, gave up 5,751 more hits than Eric Milton and threw 106 more wild pitches than Steve Trout.

There's no way to accurately determine the greatest manager in baseball history, but an argument can be made for Don Zimmer, who has 88 more wins than Johnny Oates, lost 3,090 less games than Connie Mack and one more KO by Pedro Martinez than Sparky Anderson.

There's no way to accurately determine the greatest politician in American history, but an argument can be made for Strom Thurmond, who served as an elected official 50 years longer than John F. Kennedy, spoke eight hours and 48 seconds longer than Louisiana Senator Huey Long to oppose desegregation and fathered one more illegitimate black daughter than George Washington.

There's no way to accurately determine the greatest musician in history, but an argument can be made for Kitaro, who has released 37 more albums than the Beatles, recorded one more album with Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart than King Sunny Adé and has received nine more Grammy nominations than Daddy Yankee.

There's no way to accurately determine the worst newspaper columnist in American history, but it's Richard Roeper. That shit ain't even close.

Hail the Evil Empire!

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Under a funeral moon last night in Texas, the dark masters of the Evil Empire cast a frost-laden cloud of witchery and spells over the Texas Rangers. Rendering those pale riders of the morbid plains frail and aged, and drawing power from the depths on the haunted night, the Unholy Nine again claimed their rightful place commanding the ancient throne atop the writhing mass of rotting decay that is the American League East.

Their viscera-shredding powers growing stronger by the hour, the Empire's Ancient Ones have again asserted their dominance over the American League's wasted fields of pity and sorrow, despite the pervasive doubts of the weak-minded chroniclers of the Empire's progress. Though now fallen from battle, one of his malefic tendrils twisted beyond mortal recognition as he assured the Empire's ultimate victory with a sky-cracking smiting of Brocail the White during the eighth circle of last night's blasphemous affair, the dark master Ktulu Sierra is being horribly celebrated by the screaming minions twirling about in necrotic delight amid the ashen, reeking pits of Gotham.

But the fiery wizard Ktulu Sierra was not the only hero of this blood-soaked victory on the fields of eternal punishment. No, legions! Raise thy chalice also to the thunderous exploits of the Blue-Lipped Demon, who sharpened his marrow-stained fangs once more on the lambs of inferior pitching. And drink of malodorous wines in the name of the Sheff of Morbid Potions, who concocted yet another bowel-churning meal of revenge and waste for his foes. Welcome with a cacophonous symphony of curdling cries Godzilla, who has recovered the forces which once lay dormant in his world-shattering hammers.

Legions, it was apparent from the very start of time that our slumbering lords and masters would arise once more and prevail on this night. Having banished the Boston swarms to eternal wandering in gloomy dead forests, the Empire drawing strength from their malevolent foe's Northern lifeblood, the outcome on this night was but a foregone conclusion.

So hail, hail, ye tormented! The Empire, rising like a timeless plague from its slow, boiling incubation, reigns once more. Eternal woe, pestilence, and funereal mists be upon you, thou frail birds and pungent red hosiery of the East.

Fenriz is the mastermind of black-metal legends Darkthrone and a life-long Yankees fan. He covers Major League Baseball for Terrorizer magazine.