Alex Rodriguez was the talk of the baseball world Wednesday, storming out of his own arbitration hearing, appearing on Mike Francesa's show to proclaim his innocence against PED charges, and simultaneously pointing out real injustices in MLB's attempt to suspend him while also coming off as incredibly disingenuous.
If the athletic director at a major university fires his head football coach, that AD instantly knows what he needs to find: a man in his 30s, 40s, or 50s with experience in the game, an affinity for khakis, and enough psychological damage to be the kind of megalomaniacal, domineering, workaholic lunatic who populates the football coaching ranks. But how does the AD pick?
Well, he could go for the rising-star assistant being shaped by the rising-star head coach, as Texas Tech did last December when it hired former Red Raiders QB Kliff Kingsbury from Texas A&M, where he'd administered Kevin Sumlin's high-powered attack and coached Johnny Manziel to the Heisman as the Aggies' offensive coordinator. The AD could go for the proven veteran, as Tech had done in 2010 when it picked up Tommy Tuberville, who’d coached Auburn to a 13-0 season before falling on hard times. He could poach the head man from a smaller school, as Baylor did with Houston's Art Briles and Tennessee did with Cincinnati's Butch Jones. Or he could simply hire Norm Chow.
One of the constants in baseball in the 2000s has been the Cardinals' and Red Sox's status as contenders. Not every year, sure, but most years. So while only a fool would attempt to predict the 2016 World Series matchup with certainty on October 1 of that year, let alone today, it's a safe bet these two franchises will soon find their way back to the big stage. Maybe they'll do it in the same season. Maybe that season will be 2016. Maybe we don't want to talk about PED allegations, and engaging in this little thought experiment seems like a better way to spend the first stretch of baseball's offseason.
So let's go head and assume. Let's assume the Cardinals and Red Sox, two organizations rife with considerable young talent, will meet again in the World Series three years from now. And let's predict what headlines we might encounter at that time.
As the 0-2 curveball left the fingertips of Jose Veras's right hand, the Tigers were leading Game 6 of the American League Championship Series 2-1. It was late in the game, and if Shane Victorino struck out, the mood at Fenway Park would have migrated from cautiously optimistic to squanderphobia. Veras and his curveball had mystified Victorino, already besting him twice earlier in the series. Veras loves to throw his curveball; in fact, the Red Sox were well aware that he throws that pitch about 80 percent of the time on 0-2 counts. So with Victorino now in that exact predicament, there was little doubt what pitch was coming.
Ben Lindbergh, editor-in-chief of Baseball Prospectus, is learning how to be a baseball scout. He is enrolled in MLB's Scout Development Program, where he is getting an education in how to trust his eyes as much as he trusts the numbers.
According to a fellow Scout School student who works for the Arizona Fall League, roughly 40 percent of AFL players never make the majors. Considering the quality of the AFL player pool — 36 of this year’s MLB All-Stars were at one time in the AFL — that’s a surprisingly big bust rate. If, as I reported in Part 3, a player’s goal is to trick scouts into liking him for as long as he can, then AFL players are among the most convincing con artists. The majority have made it to their early twenties, and to Double-A or Triple-A, without playing themselves out of prospecthood. But even among the cream of the minor league crop, the attrition rate is high.
That was an important point to remember for fledgling scouts exposed to top prospects for the first time, especially when the report-writing process took a twist. Up until our final trip to the ballpark, we wrote up players as if they were amateurs, even if they had already played pro ball. But after spending close to two weeks improving our evaluation skills, we spent our last full day at Scout School treating the players like professionals.
There are a lot of good reasons to hate the Boston Red Sox, but I'm pretty sure David Ortiz is someone upon whom everyone can agree. Remember his speech after the Boston Marathon bombing this year? Characters like Big Papi are one of the reasons sports will always be the greatest.
I am desperately trying to obey all jinxing rules and stick to my self-imposed "Don't jinx the 2013 Red Sox season by writing about them" rule. Last night made it really, really hard. Really hard. Really, really hard. So please, don't consider this an actual column about the 2013 Boston Red Sox. All jinxing strategies remain intact. Instead, enjoy the complete list of classic Fenway moments during the Fan-Filmed YouTube era (2004 to now) that (a) caused utter pandemonium on One Yawkey Way, and (b) will give every Boston fan goose bumps on their goose bumps as they watch these clips over and over again. You're not gonna believe this, but David Ortiz is involved in a few of them.
Ben Lindbergh, editor-in-chief of Baseball Prospectus, is learning how to be a baseball scout. He is enrolled in MLB's Scout Development Program, where he is getting an education in how to trust his eyes as much as he trusts the numbers. You can read his first dispatch here and his second here.
After 10 days at Instructs, Hohokam Stadium looks like Yankee Stadium.
Throughout the first phase of Scout School, scouting was an intimate experience on baseball’s back fields, something special shared between the program’s students and instructors, the players, and the player development staff. Granted, when the Scout School group crashed those private parties, the players mostly ignored us, save for an occasional glance full of curiosity, resentment, and what was probably pity. (Those who can’t play, scout.) But at those nearly deserted facilities, separated from the field by little more than a chain-link fence, we could almost believe that the games were being played for our benefit — or at the very least, we were privileged participants in the process.
That was before the beginning of the Arizona Fall League, an annual competition between many of the minor leagues’ most promising players that runs from the second week of October through mid-November. The AFL is open to the public and attracts considerable interest in an age when many fans can rattle off the names of their team’s top 20 prospects, some of whom they might already own in their dynasty leagues. And with that increased attention comes the kind of luxuries one becomes unaccustomed to at Scout School.
While the majority of the Bay Area stock chatter is about Twitter, there was an initial offering last week that was equally intriguing: Oakland Athletics tickets. Yes, tickets. Tickets to any event, especially postseason events, are essentially an IPO, with the price set by the team and the market bidding prices up or down based on demand. The buyers are fans rather than shareholders, and instead of a financial return, their primary investment objective is emotional return. The A’s one-run, walk-off win on Sunday night delivered in a big way for the 48,292 in attendance. It also created a very real financial return for the team. While franchises always reap meaningful revenue from postseason appearances, the A’s are maximizing their upside this year through the use of dynamic pricing.
Ben Lindbergh, editor-in-chief of Baseball Prospectus, is learning how to be a baseball scout. He is enrolled in MLB's Scout Development Program, where he is getting an education in how to trust his eyes as much as he trusts the numbers. You can read his first dispatch, here.
One thing became clear after the first few days at Scout School: I’m seriously spoiled. As someone who pays close attention to the majors, I feel entitled to top-tier tools. Miguel Cabrera is my benchmark for offensive excellence. Andrelton Simmons is the archetype of a good glove guy. Great young pitching? Sure, I’ve seen some: Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez.
Pirates fans remember Sid Bream’s spikes-first slide into home plate as if his spikes had sliced through their collective femoral arteries. That was back in ’92, in the seventh game of the NLCS. The Pirates wouldn’t have a winning season for another 21 years. This week’s Cardinals-Pirates playoff series was about restoring life to a fan base that ranked no. 3 in Pittsburgh, behind the Steelers' and Penguins'.
“It just died,” said Craig Boruchov, an orthodontist. “I’ve never seen anything like that in sports.”
“Bream lumbering toward home plate ” said his dad, Michael, who is also an orthodontist.
“I crashed down in my dorm room when that happened,” Craig said.
Earlier this summer, while stuck — or, if my girlfriend asks, thrilled to be — in Syracuse for a wedding, I went to see the Toledo Mud Hens play the Syracuse Chiefs. The Chiefs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, featured few promising prospects. Their starter that day was Shawn Hill, an injury-prone pitcher who helped save my fantasy season in 2007 and had hardly been seen since. Toledo, the Tigers affiliate, had players with similar stories: low-ceiling hitters and pitchers who’d followed the Peter Principle up the minor league ladder and found they could climb no further, and bitter veterans who still believed they should be in the big leagues. But the Mud Hens also had the most interesting man on the field: 21-year-old outfielder Nick Castellanos, the Tigers’ top prospect and, according to Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America, one of the 20 best prospects in baseball.
I watched Castellanos closely that day, willing myself to see something that would set him apart from the pack and mark him as the major leaguer he was destined to be. Instead, I saw him go 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and left wondering whether the real Castellanos had swapped uniforms with another nonprospect. If I hadn’t been briefed before the game or peeked at his full-season stat line, there’s no way I would’ve known there was something special about him. And it wouldn’t have helped if I’d gone back the next day, when he went 0-for-5 with another 4 K’s. Yet six weeks later, Castellanos got the call to Detroit. At 0-for-9 or not, he was major league material.
The playoffs are a time for triumph and joy, and in a month our lasting image for the season will be some team celebrating a World Series win with champagne and goggles. But it would be wrong to ignore the flip side of that coin. Wayyyy more teams will lose, and their fans will suffer heartbreak and pain. Plus hatred. Deep, ugly, satisfying hatred. The harsh fact is that if you're a fan of the nine remaining teams, there's an 88.888888 percent chance that you'll end up watching someone else's champagne bash with envy and bitterness. You don't want to admit it yet, but you probably are the 89 percent. To help you prepare, here's a quick primer on the most hateable player from each of the remaining teams.
On Monday, we highlighted how the Rays' starting pitching edge, plus just enough offense, would propel them to victory over the Rangers in Game 163. The starting pitching matchup is much tougher to call for Wednesday's Rays vs. Indians wild-card elimination game, which — along with the 10 million kooky things that can happen in a single game — makes calling the result for either team a hell of a challenge.