The Royals Celebration Tour

There’s a negotiation tactic, I don’t know what it’s called, where you give in on something big and then basically expect to be repaid for the rest of your life. For instance, let’s say two people — call them Bill and Ted — want the big office at work.They argue about it for months until finally one day Bill, out of the blue, says: “Fine, you can have the big office, but you owe me.” Ted readily agrees only to find out “you owe me” means that every single day Bill with remind Ted of his magnanimous gesture, Bill will borrow his car repeatedly, Bill will take his parking spot, Bill will expect Ted to pick up the check every time, on and on and on, endlessly.

I’m saying: The Royals are beginning to feel an awful lot like Bill, and I’m feeling an awful lot like Ted.

The Royals have, best I can tell, had an offseason right out of nightmares from Christmas past. It has seemed so absurdly bad to me — so reminiscent of the famous Royals Juan Gonzalez and Jose Guillen free-agent agonies — that I keep thinking it’s all an elaborate gag. You might remember the bit Dennis Miller used to do back before he got political; he would pretend to be setting an impression of Cary Grant acting as Ulysses S. Grant — and then he would suddenly stop and go, “No, I’m just f——— with you, I would never do that.” I keep thinking Dayton Moore will stand up and laugh and say, “No, I’m just kidding, we didn’t REALLY sign Alex Rios for $11 million. Come on, seriously, who would do that?”
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The Debut of Johnny Football

You probably remember this — the 2007 BCS Championship game featured a ridiculously good Florida defense against an undefeated Ohio State team led by Heisman Trophy quarterback Troy Smith. The game started off kind of weird — with Ohio State returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown — but the next time Ohio State got the ball, Smith dropped back to throw. He noticed a Florida lineman break through to his left, so he calmly rolled out to the right and looked downfield. It was something he had done a thousand times before.

Only this time, the defensive lineman grabbed him and pulled him to the ground.

This could have been my imagination, but I think a lot about how Troy Smith got up after that sack. There was something about his body language that expressed shock and awe. He had not seen that sack coming. He had run away fully expecting to get away. But — and this was crushing — that giant defensive lineman was FASTER than him. All these giant defensive linemen were faster than him. This wasn’t good. All of the timing mechanisms in his brain had to be re-calibrated. All of the football things he was so sure about, well, he wasn’t so sure about them anymore. The rest of the game progressed predictably — Smith looked helpless and was sacked repeatedly and he completed four passes in the entire game.
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The Veteran’s Committee and Bad Math

SAN DIEGO — There are four people in my immediate family, and every week or two we decide to go out for dinner. This always begins with high hopes and expectations. And every week or two we end up instead going to Jersey Mike’s to get sandwiches and then come home and watch a movie.

This happens because of math.
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The Golden Era Ballot

Have to say — I love this year’s Golden Era Ballot for the Hall of Fame. Last year’s Expansion Era ballot, in retrospect, was a bit of a disappointment. What I mean is that several of the candidates — Garvey, John, Parker, Concepcion, Marvin Miller — were a bit like reruns. Their cases already had been argued again and again. A powerful and fairly overwhelming consensus had been reached: Their careers fell short of the Hall.

In some cases (particularly Marvin Miller) I strongly disagree with the consensus But there are many consensuses that I disagree with; that doesn’t mean it changes.Looking back, last year’s ballot was set up for three managers (Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre) to sail in without any hard questions holding up their enshrinement. And that’s what happened. In the end, i think the Hall of Fame is better for it. But it wasn’t an especially good process.

In case you haven’t seen it, Bill James offers a dramatically different way to vote in Hall of Famers, and I’ll have a lot to say about it next week sometime. Bill’s is a completely different way to do things. And whether you like his ideas or not, his process opens up a lot of fascinating questions about the Hall of Fame process, especially with these Veteran’s Committees.
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A Little Bit Above Normal

Here’s a quote about outfield defense from Torii Hunter at his reintroduction to Minnesota press conference:

“Eyes (are) your judge. I think whoever believes in that sabermetrics stuff never played the game and won’t understand it. There’s no way you can measure playing outfield. Only eyes can do that. … I’ve dropped off — I’m older — but not much. When you set the bar so high, and you’ve played the outfield as I did when I was younger, and you do a lot of different things (you hit for power) if it drops off just a little bit, they say, ‘Hey this guy’s done.’ No, I’m not. I might be just a little bit above normal.”

According to St. Paul’s Mike Berardino, he then shook his head and laughed.

“Man,” he said. “That was cocky.”
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Shakedown 1968

So, I was messing around with something else entirely … and I came across this weird baseball anomaly. You probably know that Bill James has broken down the Baseball Hall of Fame by birth year. It’s a smart way of doing it, I think; it gives you a real perspective of just how good a player has to be to even be considered for the Hall of Fame. I’m focused today only on hitters, and over the last 75 years, only 29 hitters have been elected to the Hall of Fame, one more if you count Joe Torre who was elected as a manager.

Beyond those 29, I have come up with 60 more hitters who have been “talked about” as Hall of Fame candidates. I tried to make this “talked about” category” pretty liberal — I don’t think that there really has been any extensive Hall of Fame talk about Willie Davis or Jimmy Wynn or Roy White or Bobby Bonds or Willie Randolph or most of these others. But they were superb players who could have a case made.
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The 5% rule

As usual, I have a million thoughts about this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame ballots — both the Golden Era ballot which the veteran’s committee will vote on in two weeks, and the Baseball Writers ballot — and will be spilling way too many words on them over the next the month and a half. But today I have a very specific thought, inspired by Tom Tango, on a part of the Hall of Fame process I had never spent much time thinking about.

Let’s begin by talking about first timers on the ballot.

Going back to 1966 — that is the year the modern BBWAA voting procedures began — there have been 677 players who have appeared on the ballot. That’s a LOT. That means, on average, 14 new players have been added to the ballot every year. This year, 15 first-timers have been added — only four or five whom will get the requisite five percent to stay on the ballot next year.

I think the reasoning behind having all these first-timers is that it is supposed to be some kind of honor just to be included ON the Hall of Fame ballot. I don’t think it actually IS an honor since, for the most part, these players are mocked for being there and anyone who votes for them is mocked too. Rich Aurilia was a fine player, and maybe he will get something out of getting zero votes this year. I have to believe there’s a better way.

Anyway, most of the first year players get an embarrassingly low number of votes. Let’s break iit down.
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Chess With Priest (Again)

My latest for SportsWorld reunites me with Priest Holmes, star running back, eccentric and fantasy football legend. Back when Holmes was scoring touchdowns at will for the Kansas City Chiefs, I was columnist there. And many Fridays, before games, we would play chess.

You can learn a lot about someone by playing chess against them. You can learn a lot about yourself too. What I learned about myself was that I’m a pretty good attacking player who, inevitably and inescapably, will make one horrendous and comical mistake that dooms me. I think this was why Priest so enjoyed playing me. Our games tended to be interesting because I almost always took control early. He would have to make several escapes. But he knew — HE KNEW — that sooner or later I would make the mistake.
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Heyward and Stanton

So, let’s look at some of the similarities between Jason Heyward and Giancarlo Stanton.

1. They were born three months apart — Heyward was born in August of 1989, Stanton in November that same year.

2. They are football-sized young men — Heyward is 6-foot-5, 245 and Stanton is 6-foot-6, 240. Stanton played football in high school (he was considered a major college prospect) but Heyward was all baseball, all-the time from the time he was 11.
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