Theo and Terry: Two Regular Guys 

Ah, no wonder the hits finally started to plop, er, drop, for the Sox. Before you read on, please note that Metamucil is generally not used to settle the stomach.

From John Shea in today's Chronicle:

Before [Game 4 of the ALCS], Theo Epstein was hanging with manager Terry Francona when Francona gulped down a glass of Metamucil, a pregame ritual to settle his stomach. Epstein, desperate to try anything that could make a difference, bravely asked for a glass himself.

The Red Sox won that day. So Epstein drank another glass before Game 5, another victory. He did it again before Games 6 and 7. And before every game in the World Series.

"We're undefeated, but I paid the price," Epstein said. "That's the best part about the season being over. Returning to normalcy, where it counts."

Yes, Theo: Metamucil, a return to normalcy. Some of us call it regularity.

Sharp-eyed followers of my career will note that I have shamelessly used this joke before.



Let The Worrying Begin! 

I knew there was a downside to the Red Sox victory.

(from today's Boston Globe)

A region so used to fretting, frustration, and second-guessing is going to need to rethink what it now means to be a Red Sox fan, said Harold S. Kushner, rabbi laureate of Temple Israel in Natick and author of "When Bad Things Happen to Good People."

"I would like to think that it will make us normal, but will it be as much fun when we're normal?" Kushner asked. "What will happen to talk radio if people don't call in and say: 'They killed my grandfather. They killed my father. And now they're coming after me.' I think ultimately it will be healthier, but you take all the neurotics out of the world and life won't be as interesting."



2005 Giants Pre-Preview: First Base 

I really shouldn't start hot-stove talk during the World Series, but Bud Selig's quiet period doesn't apply to me. Here's a quick look ahead at the Giants' first-base situation for next year.

(Second in a series. Other positions: Catcher)

The incumbents

J.T. Snow
Age: Turns 37 on Feb. 26
relevant stats
2004 innings played: 793 (107 games)
career OPS: .791
2004 OPS: .9-frickin'-58
2005 salary: $2 M team option

Pedro Feliz
Age: Turns 30 on Apr. 27
relevant stats
2004 innings played at 1B: 535 (70 games)
career OPS: .736
2004 OPS: .790
2005 salary: arbitration eligible, estimated $2 M

Free agent first basemen
Palmeiro, Segui, T. Clark, Delgado, Colbrunn, Sexson, Ventura

In the minors
Lance Niekro
Tony Torcato


El Lefty: According to MLB.com "correspondent" Rich Draper, J.T. Snow's option makes him "a steal" after his stellar 2004. And we all know that the Giants are determined to give Pedro Feliz as many at-bats as possible.

If the two of them do what they did in 2004, that's roughly $4M for some mighty fine offensive production, the only bald spot being Feliz's abysmal base-reaching ability. As long as he's not hitting third or, God help us, behind Bonds, I don't mind his bat in the lineup. Why $4M? Feliz made $850K this year; perhaps a raise to $2 M is only a rough estimate on my part. Could be higher, for all we know.

Notice, however, that I started that last paragraph with "if." If the 37-year-old Snow can continue his tears-from-the-Virgin-Mary-statue miracle renaissance that we tried to explain last month. If Feliz can continue to improve...wait, did he really improve from 2003 to 2004? He had twice as many at-bats, and his OBP went up 27 points, but his slugging also dropped 30 points. His strikeouts as a proportion of at-bats dropped, too, but he grounded into a lot of double plays, most of them coming it seemed with the bases loaded. If you believe that OBP should be weighted more than SLG, you could argue that Pedro improved slightly.

Given the Giants' fascination with Pedro and probable willingness to roll the dice again with J.T., don't expect Richie Sexson or Carlos Delgado to come aboard. I'll venture that the Giants will only acquire a first baseman if they're able to trade Alfonzo and move Feliz to third base full-time. In that case, getting a RH-hitting 1B/OF type with good power to platoon with Snow makes sense. Snow should not be playing against LHP. Greg Colbrunn mashes left-handed pitching but would do little good in the outfield. He would give the Giants two first basemen with no flexible fielding skills.

Elbo adds:

Pedro Feliz did significantly improve his K/BB ratio, from a 5.04 career mark through 2003 to a 3.70 ratio in 2004. Unfortunately, he was still second-to-last in the league among qualified hitters, tied with Corey Patterson and ahead of Florida’s Alex Gonzalez. Feliz, who turns 30 in April, is two years older than Gonzalez and four years older than Patterson, which makes me think the clock is running out on P-Hap ever learning the kind of plate discipline that befits a starting major-league first baseman. Sure, I enjoyed his game-winning bashes this year, but I’ll be surprised if he ever turns out to be a better player than Jose Hernandez, who hit .266/.339/.425 the year he turned 30. Do we have any reason to think he will?

But as a current solution, he’s worth the reasonable cost, as is Snow. (Don’t think of them as a $4 million first baseman; think pinch hitter and utility man too.) Colbrunn, at age 35 and coming off two seasons in which he got a total of 19 hits, isn’t a solution in my eyes. Of course Snow’s continued resurgence remains a big ‘if,’ but I think the gamble is worth it. Each one backs up the other, too, if either starts to falter.

Lefty concludes: I'm not so hot on Colbrunn, either. He's coming off a season-long injury, he's 35, and he has no defensive flexibility. Unless the Giants can get someone closer to Kevin Millar's skills -- passable at another position, passable at first base, dangerous at the plate -- they should stick with the Feliz/Snow platoon. The only one even close to those criteria is Shea Hillenbrand, whose defense we can only charitably describe as "passable."

As for Lance Niekro, he had a good half-year in Fresno, hitting .299/.339/.568 in 241 at-bats, but he's getting old for a prospect and he can't seem to stay healthy. With luck he'll develop into another Pedro Feliz, but the Giants would be taking a huge risk in clearing a roster space for him. Let him start the year in Fresno and be ready for an emergency call-up. Torcato could win a job as lefty PH/5th OF/3rd 1B. He doesn't seem to have any power or patience at the plate, but he couldn't do any worse than Ricky Ledee, eh?




In French, a petard is a firecracker or explosive (it's related to the word for "fart"). I'm not sure how one can be hoisted upon one's own firecracker, but Peter Magowan in his online chat yesterday did exactly that. The question was why don't the Giants get a better hitter to protect Bonds. Here's what Pee-Mag said (or typed):

Magowan: We have many things to work on to try to improve the team, and obviously, we would like to give Barry better protection. But let's face facts -- we could have Babe Ruth hitting behind him and Barry would still get walked. When Jeff Kent hit behind him in 2002, Barry walked 200 times -- and Kent was an MVP-type player.

But My Dearest Peter (and believe me, I'll write this in a letter and send it to him), if Babe Ruth hit behind Bonds, the Giants would score even more runs. They would lead the league in runs. They would score more runs than humanly possible. Yes, when Jeff Kent hit behind Bonds, Barry was still walked...AND JEFF KENT WON THE FRICKIN MVP. AND THE GIANTS WENT TO THE WORLD SERIES. When TuckAlfonZynski hit behind Bonds, the Giants didn't score enough runs to overcome their crap pitching and defense.

Magowan goes on:

Despite the lack of a slugger hitting behind him, offense was not the problem for the Giants. Last year, we scored 850 runs -- second only (by five runs) to the famous St. Louis Cardinals offense. On the other hand, our pitching ranked 11th and our defense eighth. When we were in the playoffs, our pitching was a prime reason why we got there.

If you truly believe that it's better to spend more money on pitching and defense, fine. That's your prerogative. Better pitching and defense might well have won the Giants a division title this year. But scoring more runs would have won more games, too. Look at the top four teams this year: spotty starting pitching after the No. 1 and 2 guys, and lineups that sacrifice defense for offense (except for the Cardinals). OK, and dominant closers. If the Giants were able to nail down a third of the games they blew late...oh, hell. Here's the rest of Magowan's chat. It's definitely worth reading.


Free to Be (4 Games to 3) 

No disrespect to my blogging partner Elbo and his pinstriped heart, but last night's Red Sox victory was the best thing to happen to baseball in years.

The Sox victory was a breakthrough, a reminder that the Yankees can not only be beaten (we knew that already from 2001, 2002 and 2003), but humiliated. It's not just the money people resent, it's the arrogance. The birthright. The roboticism. The Bucky-Dent-on-the-mound-to-throw-out-the-first-pitch. And that elicits a strong reaction. (Disclaimer: I'm not a Yankee hater. Depending on their opponents, I root for them -- vs. Braves, D-Backs, Angels -- or against them -- vs. Red Sox, Giants, Twins. But I understand why others hate them.)

There are ghosts in the Bronx, all right, but this time they seemed to haunt the Yankees, to make their bats fall silent and their pitchers miss just enough to find the middle of the strike zone.

Not to say that the Yankees were Goliath and the Red Sox David. Fox had it wrong with one of their graphics last night. This was not one of the greatest sports upsets of all time. It was, however, the greatest comeback in American sports history. And to have that sentence apply to baseball -- not to Joe Montana, or the Philadelphia Flyers -- and more specifically to baseball's greatest rivalry, is a jewel in baseball's faded crown. A little less pastime (ie, passed time), a little more cultural currency in the here and now.

It was also good to clear some of the dust out of baseball's psychic attic. As I mentioned, the Sox weren't underdogs...not completely. They certainly weren't financial underdogs. They could have had Alex Rodriguez if not for a few extra million that they stupidly tried to squeeze from the deal.

They were not physical underdogs. The teams were more or less evenly matched: one great ace each (Mussina, Schilling); several starters who had had their seasons, even years of brilliance, but were no longer sure things (Kevin Brown, Pedro, Vazquez, D. Lowe); ice-veined closers, albeit with wildly contrasting styles; monster-mash lineups.

But the Sox were psychic underdogs, their fans expecting at every turn to submit once again to the Bronx boot-heel on their collective necks. It was no surprise that the very year that this latent sub/dom eroticism finally dared speak its name, with 50,000 people screaming "Who's Your Daddy" at Pedro as if he were leather-clad and tied to a "dungeon" wall somewhere near Folsom St., the demon was exorcised.

Perhaps Pedro knew what he was doing; after all those years of tasting the whip, the Red Sox and their fans needed to come to terms with their perverse enjoyment of being the submissive. (Soon it will be the Cubs turn: on your knees, Dusty Baker.)

It was also the year that long hair and beards were once again OK in the conservative milieu of big-business sports. The Sox were the flower children, the Pythonesque lumberjacks, the Zoroastrians, the idiots; the Yankees were the stern parents, the Bosses, the efficiency experts, the drill sargeants who inspect your shoeshine and your razor work. The improbable victory was a way of saying, hey, be who you are and you can still succeed. You can be a dainty leadoff hippie AND hit grand slams. You can grow silly beards AND break up double plays.

Now that the Boston Oedipals have slain Daddy, Mommy still has to tell them (and their fans) to clean up their mess and get to bed.

That's one Massachussetts comeback; now for another on Nov. 2...



Best Playoff Round Ever? 

With three of the first five games absolute classics, the Red Sox-Yankees series is shaping up to be one of baseball's best ever in the post-season. Lieber's performance in game 2 was pretty damn good, too, but the game didn't quite have the roaring, epic, chew-on-this magnitude of games 1, 4 and 5. The G and I were eating pho on Irving St. tonight when the waitress switched the channel from the 13th inning to Monday Night Football. I shouted in protest, much to the consternation of pretty much everyone else in the room. "Football, regular season! Baseball, playoffs!" I pleaded.

She switched it back.

Oh, and there's that little thing going on between Houston and St. Louis. Thanks to Fox not showing tonight's game on an alternate channel (which I wouldn't have watched anyway), I could only assume from all those zeroes and dueling one-hitters by Backe and Williams that it was check-your-underpants time for three hours straight. Until tonight the games haven't been quite as scintillating as in the ALCS, but pretty damn close: Rolen and Pujols back to back in the rain in Game 2. Beltran hitting one off his shoetops in Game 4, for which Julian Tavarez blamed the bullpen phone. Carlos, please don't sign with the Dodgers this winter. Tavarez, you are a stupid freak. Brad Lidge, don't try to fool us, you're really Robb Nen's healthy twin in an evil red jersey.

At this point, any World Series matchup is going to be great. The powerhouse Cardinals or Houston Clemenses vs the slugging, exhausted Yankees or Red Sox? Does Rocket throw Jeter a little early chin music to set the tone and wipe that gum-snappy grin off Derek's face? Who wouldn't stop on a sidewalk to peek into a bar and watch Pedro square off against Pujols?

It's almost enough to make you forget the bad news, of which I will only say this: Yes, it's all circumstantial. No, it doesn't look good. No, I won't be surprised if Bonds is ultimately revealed to be a user and a liar. I'm not a 10-year-old any more, wishing upon stars and hoping for heroes.



Hot Stove Calling 

It's a little early, what with playoffs still on. But the Yankees are making things dull, dull, dull once again. I don't hate them the way Morse-San and others do. I certainly don't love them like Elbo does. I love El Duque because he is crazy and he's got funky kicks going down in the City. I like Rivera because he throws one hellacious pitch and he also looks like the Mask of the Red Death. Creepy.

Maybe a Yanks-Cards series will be thrilling. I just can't get any emotional investment, any soul purchase, in those two teams. No love, no hate, just a flat line.

That's why it's time to jump into the hot stove evaluation of the Giants, the G-Men, Los Gigantes, Da Gints. Once a week or so Elbo and I will bring you our evaluations of the team, position by position, and our recommendations for what Brian Sabean should do. Because he listens. He's a listener. (You know, sometimes the most important thing you can say to someone is "I hear you." Especially if it's a woman, she's angry, and you'd really like to sleep with her.)

So, catchers. Without any further ado...

A.J. Pierzynski
Age: turns 28 on Dec 30

career OPS: .773
2004 OPS: .729
Catchers ERA 2001-2004: 4.50, 4.10, 4.15, 4.23

due for arbitration, projected $5M-plus

Yorvit Torrealba
Age: turns 27 next July

career OPS: .724
2004 OPS: .709
Catcher ERA 2002-2004: 3.74, 4.14, 4.47

under Giants control, projected $500K

Free agent catchers
Jason Varitek (Bos), Damian Miller (Oak), Gregg Zaun (Tor), Dan Wilson (Sea), Greg Myers (Tor), Sandy Alomar, Jr (Cle), Paul Bako (ChiC), Javier Valentin (Cin), Mike Redmond (Fla), Brent Mayne (LA), Gary Bennett (Mil), et al.


EL LEFTY: The big question: Is Torrealba ready to play every day? To the naked eye, he's a prime-time defensive catcher but statistically this is hard to quantify. In limited time he has thrown out 39 of 110 basestealers, or 35%, but this ratio has as much to do with the pitchers' ability to hold runners and move quickly to the plate. Compared to catchers on his teams, however, Torrealba has consistently done better. His percentages of 28% in 2002 and 46% in 2003 are aggregately better than Benito Santiago's 30% and 18% in the same years. And his 35% in 2004 trumps A.J.'s 23%. He's much faster than A.J., which we've seen when he pounces on dribblers and bunts in front of the plate.

But can Yorvit hit? Despite a woeful batting average this year, he made his hits count. His .402 slugging percentage wasn't shabby and three triples show that once on base, he has the speed to score from second on a single, unlike many catchers. He can bunt for hits and will take a walk. If the Giants upgrade their offense elsewhere, they can certainly afford to play Yorvit every day, especially if he bumps his career average of .724 OPS up a few notches. (.724 would have placed him last among qualified MLB starting catchers in 2004, by the way.)

ELBO: Holy moly, was A.J.'s final OPS just 20 points higher than Yorvit's? That is rather amazing. They were 135 points apart on July 8; the gap was still 100 points as late as August 10.

Last year at this time, there was a substantial lobby for Yorvit to get the everyday job, which would've meant 34-year-old Alberto Castillo would've been the backup. Unbelievably, Castillo outperformed both guys we kept (.736 OPS in 29 games for Kansas City, along with a 36.4% caught-stealing rate). It sure seems like we could've gotten equal productivity out of a pairing of Yorvit and Castillo, compared to what we got.

Still, is there anything in Yorvit's record that implies that he could hit .270/.340/.450, as El Lefty suggests below? I'd say there's more evidence in A.J.'s record that he's going to have a better year in 2005.

El Lefty recommends

1) Trade A.J. back to Minnesota for Joe Nathan. If for some reason the Twins refuse, there should still be a decent market for a young, lefty hitting catcher with a bad attitude, turkey-gobble chin and lack of patience at the plate. His impending arbitrated salary may scare teams off, but Sabean should be able to get good talent for him.

2) Make Yorvit the 2005 starter. Tell him that if he hits .270/.340/.450, he'll earn a multi-year contract. Let him play every day except against the toughest right-handed pitchers.

3) Sign a grizzled veteran to back him up, ideally someone who hits left-handed and isn't totally worthless. Take the money saved from overpaying Pierzynski and spend it on a powerful third baseman, a top-line shortstop (Renteria, Cabrera) or professional bullpen help.

Elbo recommends

1) Sign Damian Miller as the starter and keep Yorvit as backup. The Giants aren't getting Varitek, and of the other free agents on the list, I can't believe most of them are still in the league. Some of those names make me appreciate A.J.'s ability to stay out of the double play. So if they can't sign Miller....

2) Re-sign A.J. and keep Torrealba as the backup.



A Limb Upon Which I Am Out 

Sox in six. You heard it here first.




I was going to take a few minutes to gloat about the Dodgers' early ejection from the playoffs because of their shoddy starting pitching -- which makes me think that the Giants with Schmidt and Tomko and Lowry at the top of their games might have given the Cards a better fight -- but I've been stopped mid-gloat by news over the wire that Ken Caminiti has died of a heart attack. He was 41.

For Caminiti, the monkey had a lot of names -- steroids, booze, coke and whatever else he was drinking, snorting, and shooting the past several years, often in motel-room binges -- and it sounds as if he couldn't get it off his back 'til the day he died.

At the very least, let's hope Caminiti's death has a small positive effect and scares even a small handful of athletes off the juice, the cream, the clear, the needle, whatever it is.



I Love My Drug Buddy 

By now you've all heard that Gary Sheffield has ripped Barry Bonds for his un-, er, over-hospitality. If you haven't heard, read this.

What a fun-loving pair of guys, huh? I'm not sure what these two overgrown children deserve more: each other, or a lifetime of double dates with the Hilton sisters. There's not much else to say beyond what Scott Ostler says in his Chron column today.



Stumpy Joe 

That's my new nickname for Joe Morgan. Not because he's short, which he is, but because half the things he writes for ESPN are complete stumpers. He makes me feel like the AFLAC duck after it's spent five minutes with Yogi Berra in a barbershop.

To add to my Stumpy collection:

"Pedro (16-9, 3.90 ERA) usually pitches better in warm weather. If it's cool, I think Colon has a big edge. Wednesday night's weather forecast in Anaheim is for temperatures of about 60 degrees, so that bodes well for Pedro."

In Alaska, Joe, 60 degrees in early October is warm weather. In Anaheim and many other places, 60 degrees would qualify as "cool," even at night. Last night in the Bronx, it was 52 degrees, only eight degrees lower, and the pitchers were allowed to blow on their hands.

"If Game 2 becomes a pitcher's duel, the offenses will need to step up, and the Red Sox have the advantage in that department."

The corollary to this would be, "If it becomes a slugfest, the team with the better pitching should come out on top."

Speaking of bad ESPN columnists, Idiots Who Write About Sports has tallied Jim Caple's comedic tropes, and it ain't pretty.

At various times, I've complained in this space about Ray Ratto (smug, too-clever-by-half, unreadable), John Donovan (world-class doof), Murray Chass (crotchety dinosaur), Eric Neel (unbearable fake hip-hop verbiage), Jayson Stark (mind-achingly boring--at least the Useless Info stuff), Peter Gammons (really needs a copyeditor; ridiculous musical shout-outs)...at which point someone needs to ask, "OK, Lefty Malo, are there any baseball columnists you actually like?"

You mean other than Rob Neyer, who's now $5-a-month beyond my means?


Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated. Steven Goldman of The Pinstriped Bible and Baseball Prospectus. Most writers at Baseball Prospectus, for that matter. Brian Hoffman of the Chronicle's Fishing Report. OK, that's not baseball. Waiting for Boof.

I've enjoyed pieces by Dan LeBatard of the Miami Herald and the late Ralph Wiley.

Any other suggestions? (And explain yourself, please.)



Final Ducks 

All season, I kept my own measurement of how well the Giants protected Bonds in the lineup. A slight variation of other media tallies, I called it "Ducks Named Bonds" -- anytime the number five hitter came up with Bonds on base via a walk, single, double, triple, hit-by-pitch, or error. (Huh? Errors don't count toward on-base percentage. I know. This is a pet peeve of mine. I feel a batter should be rewarded for putting a ball in play even if the fielder makes an error. After all, what is a walk? It's the batter getting on base via the pitcher's "error" of not throwing strikes.)

I used this accounting system because I felt it represented the best measurement of how well the Giants cashed in on Bonds's talent for getting on base, not just how well they did when he was walked, walked intentionally, or how the overall #5 slot did.

It's not perfect. For example, it doesn't take into account all the times Bonds scored on efforts by other hitters farther down in the lineup. But the idea is to show how well the Giants #5 hitters -- the ones most likely to be replaced by one big slugger (which Alou is hoping for, and Pee-Mag is warning us not to hold our breaths for) -- are protecting Bonds.

Final tally? Pretty measly. Only 19 XBHs in 328 plate appearances. A lot of RBIs, but when the guy in front of you is getting on base 60% of the time, and the guys in front of him are getting on base at least 30% of the time, you can drive in 80 runs with your eyes stapled shut. Those RBI totals would be much higher if the aggregate #5 hitters had more power.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the "No matter what, Bonds will get walked" excuse is moronic when used to justify not getting a bruiser to hit behind him. Maybe he'll still get walked, but at least he'll get to jog home 30 or 35 times as the ball sails over the fence. Instead of six. Six lousy home runs!

Anything else stand out in the final DNB analysis? A.J. Pierzynski set a Giants record with 27 double plays, right? Ah, but look how many the #5 hitter hit into when Bonds got on base. Not all of those are GIDPs, but you could bet most of them are.

Let's put it this way: When Bonds was on base in 2004, the #5 was the equivalent of Julio Lugo or Royce Clayton but with no wheels whatsoever. The .737 OPS would have qualified for 128th out of 154 major leaguers with enough PA's to qualify for the batting title.

Unfortunately I don't have a record of where the DNB numbers stood on a daily basis, but I can say that if Snow hadn't gotten so hot in the second half, they would have been historically, excruciatingly, pathogenically pathetic...instead of simply pathetic.


Spare Me Over For Another Year 

Back in March and April, pundits were saying 88 wins might be good enough to win the division. It took 93. San Diego, in third place, won 87. In the end the division was a little better than the world expected...unless it was September and the team had purple and gray pinstriped uniforms that deserve to be burned in effigy.

Yes, Colorado pulled a big-time roll-over, and I heard Ned Colletti on the radio after Friday night's huge win hinting that the Giants would not forget the way Clint Hurdle played lineups full of rookies against the Dodgers. Colletti also specifically noted how odd it was that Hurdle left Shawn Fucking Chacon in too long that fateful night against LA. I had had a couple extra-large martinis chez Elbo, but I could swear I heard Colletti say, "He'll get his."

But no matter. The Giants blew their own fair share, including of course Saturday's icepick through the heart. I listened as I lay in Speedway Meadows, fog and bluegrass rolling over me unnoticed. How apt that my day was capped by Dr. Ralph Stanley doing "O! Death" in his timeless Virginia warble. (I always liked the Camper Van Beethoven version better.)

He hobbles my feet so I can't walk/
Locks my jaw so I can't talk.

Wayne Franklin with the season on the line? Spare me over for another year.

Other than the Franklins of Wayne being put in a position he never should have been in, I have little remorse. The loss was what it was -- shaky bullpen and bad defense (remember Grip dropped an easy fly ball in the 4th that could have led to disaster if Jim Tracy hadn't pulled a Dusty2000 and let Wilson Alvarez hit). Tomko earned his option year, in my opinion. Let's hope his sports shrink gives Brett the secret to pitching well before August 1. Hermanson gave it the college try.

In a way, this season comes down to the Astros getting Beltran and the Dodgers getting Finley, the two huge catalysts of those teams down the stretch. The Giants got...well, they didn't need another bat, it turns out. Somehow, like a cook who follows no recipe and comes out with the ugliest-looking but tastiest cake in the neighborhood, Brian Sabean cobbled together a high-octane offense. This team was an arm or two short in the bullpen, basically. Urbina for Matt Cain sure looks good right about now.

Question: did the 91 wins and photo-finish justify Sabean's strategy of piecing together a team more or less on the cheap, or did the close finish expose his strategy as a cynical attempt to be just good enough to keep fans interested?


A's Attendance Contest: The final count for the weekend was 122,000. The winner is Richard, who seems to be an Angels fan. (BrianF actually got a few thousand closer, but he hedged his bets with two different guesses. Sorry, BF.)



Office Pool: A's Attendance 

Two hours before first pitch at the Coliseum. Any guesses on the total weekend attendance for the Angels series? Closest guess gets to post up to 2,000 words as a guest writer next week on any (baseball-related) topic of choice.



Who woulda thunk? The same Jerome Williams who wilted in the pressure of his only playoff appearance last year came back from two months on the DL and threw cool cucumbers at the Pod-Rays. More than anything, staying calm under fire impresses me. Baseball is a slow-twitch game -- muscles have to be loose, minds have to be clear. Nervousness will wreak havoc with a pitcher's small-motor skills, the fine muscle control and subtle finger pressure that allows him to throw a rough-surfaced orb at 90 MPH consistently to a zone the height and width of a Rubik's Cube. Try that when your ass cheeks are clenched as tight as clam shells.

From now on, you'll watch Greg Maddux and only be able to think, "Hey, loose ass cheeks!"

* Bondsian stat of the day (from ESPN's Jayson Stark): "Lee Sinins estimates that a team comprised of all Barry Bondses would have averaged more than 23 runs a game this year."

Which begs the question: how many intentional walks would a team of all Barry Bondses draw?

* Bondsian insight of the day: Skip Bayless, who apparently has skipped out of San Jose and into the arms of ESPN, writes that Barry is motivated to greatness by everyone hating him. Interesting how much of Bayless's argument focuses on how much more money Barry could make from endorsements if he just kissed a little more ass. This is the corollary to the recent Joe Buck column in which Buck said Bonds needs to suck up to the media to get more respect.

* Embarrassing stat of the day: attendance for the Oakland-Seattle series at the Coliseum, with Ichiro chasing the hits record and the A's battling for the division title, was 17,199, 18,583, 28,556, 19,201.

It's not embarrassing for me; I don't give a flying foam finger about the A's, unless they're playing the Dodgers. OK, if it were the A's vs most NL teams in the World Series, I'd root for the A's. But I don't go for this Bay Area pride, split-hat crap.

The A's are a young, fun team; what's wrong with those people across the Bay?

Don't tell me it's the stadium. Even at Candlestick, which was far worse than the Mt. Davisized Net-Ass Coliseum, the Giants would draw big crowds for pennant races. It's not the transport: BART is easy to use. There's plenty of parking.

Any ideas?


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