Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine
It is a remarkable thing, really, this run of the Braves. Not for their dominance, heavens no, though that is obviously impressive. What is remarkable is how they can be so dominant for six months out the year, for 12 years running (including the strike-shortened 1994 season), but then come up short, year-after-year, save for one, in 1995. At some point you must dismiss the failures as simply more than being bad luck. Conventional wisdom holds that anything can happen in a short series, and with the advent of the Wild Card, itís that much more likely ďinferiorĒ teams like the Phillies and Padres and Giants and Marlins will knock off a ďsuperiorĒ Braves club. On the other hand, if itís possible for any team to emerge a World Series champ, how do you explain the Yankees run? If we follow that logic, why didnít the Orioles or Indians or Mariners or Aís knock them off? Forgetting about payroll issues for a moment, if itís simply bad luck the Braves have only one title in their run, is it simply good luck the Yankees have four in the same time frame? Where do you put the blame for the Bravesí failures? On Bobby Cox? John Schuerholz? The players? A hybrid of the three? This has been asked a million times, but because itís never been answered satisfactorily, letís ask it again: How can a team that has had, over the years, Chipper Jones, Terry Pendleton, Fred McGriff, Ryan Klesko, Brian Jordan, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, et al, managed to win as many World Series titles in the last 12 years as the Marlins, Twins, and Angels?
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Meanwhile, in another NL East dugout...

Bobby Cox is even more hopeful than I am about the Jays.

"Under the circumstances, I think our front office has had one of the best years ever. I think we can win even more games than we did last year."

Estrada better be good; that shrewd front office gave up a lot for him, to that other team in their division; the one that's trying to win this year. I traded for Russ Ortiz, and Byrd might surprise, but on the field, the torch passed with Millwood.
Pat Burrell: premature commitment or cost containment? Either way, I agree with Jon Heyman of Newsday -- Collusion? C'mon.

Still, agents whisper. One of about five I trust told me yesterday, "Something's a little fishy." Which is something short of a smoking gun. And then this: "If it's being done, it's being done in a smart way." Which means they ain't got squat.

The union's claim is so weak, I'm considering dueling conspiracy theories as to why it would consider filing a grievance. Could it be it likes the challenge of an unwinnable case? Or might union officials merely be bored?

Well said. I'll stop whining; the Yankees could be dismissed as mavericks, but the Phillies have locked up another of their leaders and put the case to rest this winter, trying to buy a division title. Good for them. Every team's reacting to the new CBA, but not all the same way. It's over -- Bud wins, agents lose, nothing's fishy. The players will be fine. I'm sure Brad Fullmer would rather be an Angel for a million than an Oriole for four; I know I would. The Jays got cheaper and better -- how cool is that? Play ball.

Researcher extraordinaire Dick Thompson posted two very interesting articles on the SABR-L mailing list yesterday, and I thought I'd mention them as they are of considerable interest.
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Felipe Lopez has played the equivalent of about 1 full season of major league baseball. The youngster was dealt in the off-season to the Cincinnati Reds for two above average prospects - which makes 3 shortstops that J.P. has sent packing. This season will tell us a lot about the kind of career we might expect Felipe to have. The main concern this year has to be playing time: Barry Larkin is still in place and will likely get his 300-400 PA, which means that Felipe will compete with Brandon Larson for PT (unless the latter is traded).

Lopez has been compared to Miguel Tejada by some, and to Alex Gonzalez by others (including the author of this article). The end result will likely see him somewhere in between with the bat in his hands. Felipe's future value will depend a lot on whether he can handle shortstop over the long-term. His fate on defence might be similar to one-time organisational mate Tony Batista - shuffled around the infield, eventually to land at third base.

Instead of looking at on-base, slugging percentage and their raw stats, I will focus on assessing the development of their batting skills.
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It's Groundhog Day, and you know what that means ... it's time for 2003 pre-season nominations for the Annual Batter's Box Joaquin Andujar Award.

Okay, so it's not realistically possible to call anything "first annual," and since we've never done this before, it's pretty likely that you don't "know what that means." Besides, if we learned anything from Andujar, it was his credo that the best one-word description for baseball was "you never know."

So sit back, relax, enjoy -- and participate in -- this inaugural edition of an award nomination process that will someday be known more familiarly as the "YouNeverKnows."
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It begins with irrelevant song lyrics and a meandering prologue, but eventually, Peter Gammons gets around to a good look at the junior circuit in his latest column on ESPN. His most interesting observations include this summary of the A's philosophy:

Beane believes that the season comes in three parts: the first two months, when you figure out what you have; the next two months, when you take care of what you need; and the final two months, when you get into the passing lane and floor it.
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The 2003 Blue Jays' batting order has been a lively topic here before, and Bob Elliott of the Sun goes straight to the source in his latest column, quoting Carlos Tosca at length.

"It will hit me all at once one day during a spring game once I see what everyone can do," says the Little General, who also wants one-on-one chats about the lineup with all his regulars.

The skipper's declared preference to alternate L-R bats makes it sound like Stew-Hinske-Wells-Delgado-Phelps-Cat-Woodward to me, and although it's not my first choice, it's not bad. Puts the pressure on Wells more than I would, but it's subject to change -- last year at this time, we were told Vernon was the fourth OF and primary DH, which never happened. Carlos has talked to the coaches, but if J.P. gets a vote...
I know, it was only last Tuesday that I posted a "prospecting" article featuring Aaron Gleeman's list, but it is that time of year, and the gang at Baseball Prospectus have not only weighed in with their Top 40+, but their approach is fascinating.

Steve Z linked to Part One of the BP roundtable in one of his comments on our previous thread, but here it is again. Rany Jazayerli listed his picks, then the other staff writers commented publicly. It's an excellent discussion, not only of the prospects, but of the different weights people give to the variables in compiling such a list. Yesterday, the Prospectus panel continued their friendly argument in Part Two, and Rany adjusted his ratings according to the opinions of his peers. Here's how it looks now:
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This would have been a better fit in our football threads last weekend, but Jim Caple has come up with XXXVII reasons why the World Series is better than the Super Bowl. I'm sure we can think of XII's of others.

Craig mentioned this already, but Jayson Stark had some fun conjuring up an all-Pet team (nothing to do with Penthouse; it's in the sidebar near the bottom of the column) to play in the latest incarnation of what should have remained "the Murph" in San Diego -- Petco Park, a.k.a. "the litter box." He got lots of great reader feedback, too.

At the risk of starting another debate with Robert, here are Leonard Koppett's thoughts on connecting the result of the All-Star game to home-field advantage in the World Series. Like me, Koppett believes it's a "hare-brained, not-thought-through, irrelevant, self-defeating and just plain rotten idea" and concludes baseball should leave well enough alone.
Here's two more ads I've spotted in subway stations for the 2003 Jays, reincorporating the Baseball North theme:

- A baseball glove whose inside has been padded with wool

- Vernon Wells's uniform, with his batting gloves attached to his sweater as if they were children's mittens

I thought they were kind of cool, so I figured they were worth wasting a weblog entry on. :-)
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Bruce Froemming, longtime NL and MLB umpire, dealt the already shaky reputation of umps another blow by acidly couching his distaste for umpire administrator Cathy Davis in anti-Semitic terms. If you haven't already read the exact pithy phrase he used, check it out if you have the stomach for it.

Froemming has always been regarded as one of the best balls-strikes guys in the game, with a "one of the boys" reputation that he himself took too far when he went autograph hunting in the Dodgers' locker room in 1996.

I see two important issues here being raised. First, this is right up there in the Campanis/Lott/Rocker pantheon; when public figures make comments so repugnant in front of a microphone, it begs questions such as "If that's what they're saying in public, what are they actually thinking? And how often must they think it?"
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How can he keep us on tenterhooks like this? Two columns now since Jose Cruz became Barry Bonds's caddy in San Fran, and still Richard Griffin hasn't slammed JP for not getting something from the Giants in trade. Possibly this is a sign that Rich is starting to understand the new baseball economy, about a year later than the Blue Jays front office. Or maybe this revealing line from this column tells the story:

The reader e-mail when we lamented the fact Jose Cruz Jr. was not offered a contract ran heavily in favour of the club and against Cruz.

You just know that had to be tough to swallow.
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Our friends across town have a new server, a new look and a "new" Matthew Elmslie column. It's just the thing for a January cold snap -- a walk down memory lane from a sunny, warm September ballgame, sprinkled with Matthew's usual astute and amusing observations, and fun to read.

Coincidentally, I kept my own diary throughout the very next game. With three fantasy leagues hanging in the balance for me, Halladay was awesome, and it was the great Ernie Harwell's last game in the broadcast booth. I swear, my stuff would have brought a tear to your eye. Of course, I didn't have anywhere to publish it then (imagine, writing all day just to amuse yourself) and now I have no idea where my notes are. My faulty memory is no longer a problem -- if I have a thought of any kind, I just post it here.
Our newest stalwart, Robert Dudek, has loaned me a copy of Bill James's 1984 Baseball Abstract, for which I can't thank him enough. Already, I found something interesting.
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