Last night we witnessed the triumph of existentialism, or should I say, Instantiation, in modern baseball, because the alleged two run home run hit by Alex Rodriguez NEVER ACTUALLY OCCURRED.

To understand this, first we must review the Home Run Rule in modern baseball, which was first defined in 1885, and was subsequently amended in 1892, 1914, 1920, 1926, 1931, 1950 and 1955.

The key concept of the home run rule is most plainly expressed in the 1892 rule which has not been changed very much since 1892:

A FAIR BATTED BALL THAT GOES OVER THE FENCE SHALL ENTITLE THE BATTER TO A HOME RUN…

The key concepts here are that

1) the ball has to be fair; and
2) the ball has to go “over the fence.”

The 1892 rule adds that “A distinctive line is to be marked on the fence showing the required point.” Meaning, if the ball goes over the fence above the line, it goes “over the fence.”

However, and this is the key point, the ball still has to go OVER the fence, not just ABOVE the line.

Last nite’s alleged home run by Alex Rodriquez, as a careful examination of the Rules of Baseball in this blog will demonstrate, was not a home run, but a Ground Rule Double.

It was a Ground Rule Double, because the ball never went OVER the Fence, as require plainly by the Rules of Baseball, but merely hit an object, which was in the field of play, above the line, but still in the field of play.

As to whether the ball would have, could have, or should have gone over the fence, but for the object, which was a TV camera, that is an interesting philosophical debate (which is the same as conceiving of unicorns, trolls, a planet without war and the tooth fairy), but the result is still the same: the home run remains an abstraction, something INSTANTIATED and given EXISTENCE only in the collective minds of the umpires.

You see the replay plainly on Fox TV. At no time did the ball go OVER the Fence. Moreover, the camera was jutting a good five to ten feet into the field. Even if the camera wasn’t there, the downward arc of the ball meant that the ball might have gone over the fence, or it might have continued its downward slope and hit the fence at a point BELOW the line of the fence.

Now, as a careful examination of the rules will show, similar disputes such as balls getting caught in the wiring of the ivy fences at Wrigley have always been rules as ground rule doubles. At no time have such balls ever been rules home runs, not in World Series and never on instant replay, because there has never been instant replay in the World Series or at any time in baseball.

I’m certainly pleased to see that baseball, not content with attempting to stop the Phillies from winning the World Series last year by calling a rain delay halt for the first time in World Series History when Cole Hamels was pitching a brilliant game in game five, this year, for the first time in World Series history called a fake home rum and foiled Cole Hamels again from winning.

Up to the point of the fake homer call, Hamels was pitching a no-hitter. It was obvious that Hamels was furious with the call. And rightly so. The call was utter and total BS, and proves that Bud Selig and Organized Baseball are determined to see that the Yankees win the World Series at all costs. The Umpiring crew rules so quickly that they must have been told by Selig how to rule. They didn’t have time to deliberate.

This is reminiscent of 1950, when the Yankees used their connections with the US Government to have Curt Simmons, a blazing lefthander with Sandy Koufax stuff, a twenty game winner, on the Phillies, get his draft notice in mid-September 1950, two weeks before the World Series was coming up with the Yanks. At the time, the Phils had Robin Roberts, now in the Hall of Fame, and Curt Simmons, a blazing lefthander, on their staff. The two pitchers had combined for more than fifty wins. The two pitchers could each have won two games in the series and blown out the Yanks, much like Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson won the 2001 Series for Arizona back a few years. But with Curt Simmons in the Army, the Phillies barely won the Pennant, and were eradicated by the Yanks in four games.

The Yankees always need to cheat to win.

Ok, so here are the Home Run Rules:

1885 – A fair batted ball that goes over the fence at a distance less than 210 feet from home base shall entitle the batsmen to two bases. A distinctive line shall be marked on the fence at this point.

My comment: At this point, a ball “over the fence” is not a homer at all, it’s a ground rule double. Weird.

1892 – A fair batted ball that goes over the fence shall entitle the batter to a home run; except that should it go over the fence at a distance less than 235 feeet from home base, the batter is entitled to only two bases. A distinctive line is to be marked on the fence showing the required point.

My comment: This is essentially the modern rule. The ball has to go “over” the “fence” to be a home run. And it has to go “over” the “distinctive line” of the “fence”. Not above, but over.

I think we all understand the difference between going near, above and around a line painted on a fence, and going over a fence. It’s the difference between a hurdler stumbling on the hurdle, and a hurdler clearing the hurdle entirely.

Rodriquez’ ball last nite, in Game 3 of the 2009 World Series, is not a home run under the Home Run Rule. It did not go “over the fence” or over the “distinctive line”, because in three dimensional space, it hit the camera before it crossed the plane of the line, and was knocked back into the field. Therefore, it never went over the line, never went over the wall, and never went over the fence.

Consequently, it was not a home run under the 1892 rule.

Are there any changes in the rules SINCE 1892 that could make it a home run? The answer is no, but let’s go through them all and see.

Note that this is not a “judgment call” by the umpires. The ball has to go “over the fence” and be a “fair ball” to be a home run. End of story. An umpire or group of umpires cannot make a ball that might have been or should have been a home run except that it hit something, into a home run by philosophical instantiation, or abstractive analysis.

In short, there are no unicorns, trolls or other imaginary beings just because we think there are; and there are no imaginary home runs. C.f. Occam’s razor—we don’t create a multiplicity of abstract universal beings just because we name them, think of them or create them in our minds. If we create now a class of abstract home runs, home runs that might have been, should have been and so forth, we now introduce into baseball a series of abstract balls, strikes, stolen bases, catches, hits and so forth and soon there will be entire parallel universes of baseball realities creeping into games, abstract realities which have nothing to do with what’s going on down at the field level, or, more pertinently, in the empirical world or in the rulebook. Everything will come down to what the umpires say and we’ll have a courtroom, not a ballgame.

1914 – Should an errant thrown ball remain in the meshes of a wire screen protecting the spectators, the runner or runners shall be entitled to two bases. The umpire in awarding such bases shall be governed by the position of the runner or runners at the time the throw is made.

My comment – this is the first indication that hitting a camera should be a ground rule double. Here the rule says if an errant thrown ball gets caught in wire screen mesh, the runner gets two bases and two bases only. It doesn’t matter if the ball is over the fence in fair ground, it’s still only two bases.

1920 – Home Run/Game-Ending – If a batsman, in the last half of the final inning of any game, hits a home run over the fence or into a stand, all runners on the bases at the time, as well as the batsman, shall be entitled to score, and in such event all bases must be touched in order, and the final score of the game shall be the total number of runs made.

My comment – this is the famous “walk off homer” rule change. Prior to 1920, if someone hit a walk off homer with one, two or three men on that won the game, the only runs that counted were the ones that won the game, e.g. if the score were 9-8 the road team, and you hit a grand slam, you got two runs, the score ended 10-9 home team, and you were credited with either a single or a double, usually a single. Not a grand slam. But under the walk-off rule, the score ended 12-9, the batter got credit for a homer, a grand slam and 4 RBI.

Note again that the rule says “over the fence” and “into the stand”. Rodriquez’ alleged homer last night meets neither of these key tests.

1926 – A fair batted ball that goes over the fence or into a stand shall entitle the batsman to a home run, unless it should pass out of the ground or into a stand at a distance less than 250 feet from the home base, in which case the batsman shall be entitled to two bases only. In either event the batsman must touch the bases in regular order. The point at which a fence or stand is less than 250 feet from the home base shall be plainly indicated by a white or black sign or mark for the umpire’s guidance.

My comment – again, the rule says “over the fence” or “into a stand” in order for a ball to be a home run. This changes the 1892 rule by making the minimum fence distance 250 feet for a home run instead of 235 feet in order not to have “cheap” home runs, although even 250 feet would be a pretty short distance. Of course, Yankee Stadium had a 297 foot right field porch for years for their left handed sluggers, another example of the Yankees “cheating”, and then they would have an all-lefthanded staff to keep the other team from stacking up lefties against them, c.f. Lefty Gomez, Whitey Ford, Andy Pettite, Ron Guidry and so forth. This unfair advantage has been wiped out with the new Yankee Stadium, although allegedly there remains a slightly easier job of hitting to right field.

1931 – Batter/Awarded Bases – A fair hit ball that bounds into a stand or over a fence shall be a two-base hit. Note: There is no reference to distance in this rule and any fair hit ball bounding over the fence or into the stand is a two-base hit.

My comment: This is the modern ground-rule double rule. It hasn’t changed at all. Most importantly, READ what it says. “A FAIR HIT BALL THAT BOUNDS INTO A STAND OR OVER A FENCE SHALL BE A TWO-BASE HIT.” That means that if the ball bounces off a camera and then over the fence, it’s a two base hit. If the ball bounces off a fan and over the fence, it’s a two base hit. If it bounces off the top of the Astrodome, and back into the field of play, as happened to Mike Schmidt in 1974, it’s a two base hit; but if it went off the top of the Astrodome and then over the fence, it would be a ground rule double according to the rule.

According to the plain language of the ground rule double rule of 1931, the ball A Rod hit last nite in game 3 of the World Series was a double. Not subject to review, not subject to judgment call. A ground rule double. It went off a camera and bounded over the fence and then back into the field. It was in play. It’s a ground rule double in that case.

In 1950 the rulebook was entirely recodified and rewritten, refined and clarified:

1950: Batter/Awarded Bases: Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability of being put out, advance to home base, scoring a run, if a fair ball goes over the field fence in flight and he touch [sic] all bases legally; of if a fair ball which, in the umpire’s judgment, would have cleared the field fence in flight, is deflected by the act of a defensive player in throwing his glove, cap or any article of his apparel, the runner shall be awarded a home run.

My comment – to be a home run, the ball must go over the fence “in flight”. The only case where an umpire may exercise judgment and rule on whether a ball “would have cleared the field fence in flight” is solely and exclusively the case of when the ball is “deflected by the act of a defensive player in throwing his glove, cap or any article of his apparel”. This is the one and only situation where an umpire may exercise abstract judgment and award a hypothetical or abstract home run under the rules of baseball; where a fielder attempts to block the ball by throwing his glove, cap or article of his clothing at the ball.

This was not the case with A Rod’s home run last night. Jayson Werth did not throw his cap, his glove or any article of his clothing at the ball last night. Consequently, the ball would have had to clear the fence “in flight” to be a home run. Since the ball never cleared the fence “in flight”, it was not a home run under the 1950 rule, as amended.

More 1950 changes:

The batter becomes a baserunner when a fair ball, after touching the ground, bounds into the stands or passes through or under a fence or through or under shrubbery or vines on the field, in which case the batter and the baserunners shall be entitled to advance two bases.

The batter becomes a baserunner when any fair ball which, either before or striking the ground, passes through or under a fence or through or under a scoreboard or through or any opening in the fence or scoreboard or through or under shrubbery or vines on the fence, in which case the batter and the baserunners shall be entitled to two bases.
The batter becomes a baserunner when any bounding fair ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands or over or under a fence on fair or foul ground, in which case the batter and all baserunners shall be entitled to advance two bases.

The batter becomes a baserunner when any fair fly ball is defelected by the fielder into the stands or over the fence into foul territory, in which case the batter shall be entitled to advance to second base; but if deflected into the stands or over the fence in fair territory, the batter shall be entitled to a home run.

My comment – the first three rules make clear that deflections by the fielder and interference with the ball by objects on the field, such as vines, fences and shrubbery, are always ground rule doubles. The only case where a ball is NOT a ground rule double is when there is a deflection by the fielder, and for this to be a home run, there are four requirements;
1) a fair fly ball in fair territory;
2) deflected by a fielder;
3) into the stands; or
4) over the fence.

Note that even if argued analogically to last nites hit by A Rod, the 1950 rule does him no good. First, the camera deflected the ball back into the field. Second, the deflection was by a camera, not by a fielder. Third, the deflection was not “into the stands.” Fourth, the deflection was not “over the fence.”

Consequently, it’s really, really, really crystal clear that what we have is a ground rule double, under the remaining provisions of the 1950 and 1932 ground rule double rules. A Rod and the Yankees were only entitled to a ground rule double last nite in game 3 of the World Series.

1955 Rule Change

The 1955 rule change is very, very minor, it just provides that if a hitter hits a homer and has an accident while running the bases and time is called, he can have a runner come in and pinch run for him and run out the homer run and score it. It has no effect whatsoever on the discussion at hand.

Ok, through 1995, that’s all the rule changes I have from the source J. Thorn, P. Palmer, M. Gershman, D. Pietruskza, Total Baseball V: The Official Encyclopaedia of Major League Baseball (Viking NY 1997), c.f. D. Bingham & T. Heitz, “Rules and Scoring,” at pp. 2376-2432.

Now let’s hit the Net.

The rules as they exist through 1955 continue to exist and are codified in Official Rules of Baseball at Rule 6.09, exactly as they were enacted in 1950, see for yourself:

6.09 The batter becomes a runner when—
(a) He hits a fair ball;
(b) The third strike called by the umpire is not caught, providing (1) first base is unoccupied, or (2) first base is occupied with two out;
Rule 6.09(b) Comment: A batter who does not realize his situation on a third strike not caught, and who is not in the process of running to first base, shall be declared out once he leaves the dirt circle surrounding home plate.
(c) A fair ball, after having passed a fielder other than the pitcher, or after having been touched by a fielder, including the pitcher, shall touch an umpire or runner on fair territory;
(d) A fair ball passes over a fence or into the stands at a distance from home base of 250 feet or more. Such hit entitles the batter to a home run when he shall have touched all bases legally. A fair fly ball that passes out of the playing field at a point less than 250 feet from home base shall entitle the batter to advance to second base only;
(e) A fair ball, after touching the ground, bounds into the stands, or passes through, over or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, in which case the batter and the runners shall be entitled to advance two bases;
(f) Any fair ball which, either before or after touching the ground, passes through or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through any opening in the fence or scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, or which sticks in a fence or scoreboard, in which case the batter and the runners shall be entitled to two bases;
(g) Any bounding fair ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands, or over or under a fence on fair or foul territory, in which case the batter and all runners shall be entitled to advance two bases;
(h) Any fair fly ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands, or over the fence into foul territory, in which case the batter shall be entitled to advance to second base; but if deflected into the stands or over the fence in fair territory, the batter shall be entitled to a home run. However, should such a fair fly be deflected at a point less than 250 feet from home plate, the batter shall be entitled to two bases only.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/06_the_batter.pdf

the deflection by the fielder rule is also exactly the same as adopted in 1950 and has not been changed, and is codified in Rule 7.05(a);

7.05 Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance—
(a) To home base, scoring a run, if a fair ball goes out of the playing field in flight and he touched all bases legally; or if a fair ball which, in the umpire’s judgment, would have gone out of the playing field in flight, is deflected by the act of a fielder in throwing his glove, cap, or any article of his apparel;

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/07_the_runner.pdf

See? It’s exactly the same. The only way an upire can judge if the fair ball would have left the stadium and gone out of the playing field in flight, is if it was deflected by the act of a fielder under Rule 7.05(a).

The umpire can’t make a judgment call under any other of the rules of baseball.

All the rules of baseball, incidentally, are on line and available for you all to read for yourselves at;

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/official_rules/foreword.jsp

see also these websites:

http://www.baseball-almanac.com/rulemenu.shtml

http://www.rulesofbaseball.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baseball_rules

There IS however, a rule which pertains to interference by media, and that is rule 3.15, which I hereby quote now:

3.15 No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club. In case of unintentional interference with play by any person herein authorized to be on the playing field (except members of the offensive team participating in the game, or a coach in the coach’s box, or an umpire) the ball is alive and in play. If the interference is intentional, the ball shall be dead at the moment of the interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/03_game_preliminaries.pdf

NOTE WHAT RULE 3.15 SAYS ABOUT INTERFERENCE WITH A BALL BY NEWSPHOTOGRAPHERS WHO ARE AUTHORIZED TO BE ON THE FIELD OF PLAY: In case of unintentional interference with play by any person herein authorized to be on the playing field (except members of the offensive team participating in the game, or a coach in the coach’s box, or an umpire) the ball is alive and in play.

Since A-Rod’s ball was UNINTENTIONALLY INTERFERED WITH BY A PRESS CAMERA, RULE 3.15 COMES INTO PLAY EXPRESSLY AND THE BALL IS IN PLAY. It’s not a case of fan interference where the umpires are allowed to make a judgment call to nullify the fan interference and create a home run abstractly.

To the contrary, the rule is clear and express- “the ball is in play” says the rule. Since the ball did not go over the fence or into the stands or over the fence in flight, but back to the field, and since Werth relayed it back, the Yankees runners were stuck at 2d and 3d.

There was no interference, and if there were a ground rule here, it was at best a ground rule double. See discussion above, supra.

NOTE THAT THIS IS AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT SITUATION THAN IF A FAN HAD INTERFERED WITH THE BALL.

The Umps and all of major league baseball got the rules wrong last night.

The ball was alive and in play last night and/or was a ground rule double, under the ground rule double rules and also under official Rule 3.15.

The Umps had no interference discretion under rules 3.15 or 3.16 because NO FAN touched the ball—instead, an authorized member of the press touched the ball.

The camera was an authorized photographer.

Consequently, the ball was in play.

Note the difference if a spectator had touched the ball:

3.16 When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.
APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.

Rule 3.16 Comment: There is a difference between a ball which has been thrown or batted into the stands, touching a spectator thereby being out of play even though it rebounds onto the field and a spectator going onto the field or reaching over, under or through a barrier and touching a ball in play or touching or otherwise interfering with a player. In the latter case it is clearly intentional and shall be dealt with as intentional interference as in Rule 3.15. Batter and runners shall be placed where in the umpire’s judgment they would have been had the interference not occurred.
No interference shall be allowed when a fielder reaches over a fence, railing, rope or into a stand to catch a ball. He does so at his own risk. However, should a spectator reach out on the playing field side of such fence, railing or rope, and plainly prevent the fielder from catching the ball, then the batsman should be called out for the spectator’s interference.
Example: Runner on third base, one out and a batter hits a fly ball deep to the outfield (fair or foul). Spectator clearly interferes with the outfielder attempting to catch the fly ball. Umpire calls the batter out for spectator interference. Ball is dead at the time of the call. Umpire decides that because of the distance the ball was hit, the runner on third base would have scored after the catch if the fielder had caught the ball which was interfered with, therefore, the runner is permitted to score. This might not be the case if such fly ball was interfered with a short distance from home plate.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/03_game_preliminaries.pdf

The ground rules for ground rule doubles are exactly the same as the 1950 and 1932 rules discussed above, and are codified at the official rules of baseball 7.05;

7.05 Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance—
(a) To home base, scoring a run, if a fair ball goes out of the playing field in flight and he touched all bases legally; or if a fair ball which, in the umpire’s judgment, would have gone out of the playing field in flight, is deflected by the act of a fielder in throwing his glove, cap, or any article of his apparel;
(b) Three bases, if a fielder deliberately touches a fair ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play and the batter may advance to home base at his peril;
(c) Three bases, if a fielder deliberately throws his glove at and touches a fair ball. The ball is in play and the batter may advance to home base at his peril.
(d) Two bases, if a fielder deliberately touches a thrown ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play;
(e) Two bases, if a fielder deliberately throws his glove at and touches a thrown ball. The ball is in play;
Rule 7.05(b) through 7.05(e) Comment: In applying (b-c-d-e) the umpire must rule that the thrown glove or detached cap or mask has touched the ball. There is no penalty if the ball is not touched.
Under (c-e) this penalty shall not be invoked against a fielder whose glove is carried off his hand by the force of a batted or thrown ball, or when his glove flies off his hand as he makes an obvious effort to make a legitimate catch.

(f) Two bases, if a fair ball bounces or is deflected into the stands outside the first or third base foul lines; or if it goes through or under a field fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery or vines on the fence; or if it sticks in such fence, scoreboard, shrubbery or vines;
(g) Two bases when, with no spectators on the playing field, a thrown ball goes into the stands, or into a bench (whether or not the ball rebounds into the field), or over or under or through a field fence, or on a slanting part of the screen above the backstop, or remains in the meshes of a wire screen protecting spectators. The ball is dead. When such wild throw is the first play by an infielder, the umpire, in awarding such bases, shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the ball was pitched; in all other cases the umpire shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the wild throw was made;
APPROVED RULING: If all runners, including the batter-runner, have advanced at least one base when an infielder makes a wild throw on the first play after the pitch, the award shall be governed by the position of the runners when the wild throw was made.
Rule 7.05(g) Comment: In certain circumstances it is impossible to award a runner two bases. Example: Runner on first. Batter hits fly to short right. Runner holds up between first and second and batter comes around first and pulls up behind him. Ball falls safely. Outfielder, in throwing to first, throws ball into stand.
APPROVED RULING: Since no runner, when the ball is dead, may advance beyond the base to which he is entitled, the runner originally on first base goes to third base and the batter is held at second base.
The term “when the wild throw was made” means when the throw actually left the player’s hand and not when the thrown ball hit the ground, passes a receiving fielder or goes out of play into the stands.
The position of the batter-runner at the time the wild throw left the thrower’s hand is the key in deciding the award of bases. If the batter-runner has not reached first base, the award is two bases at the time the pitch was made for all runners. The decision as to whether the batter-runner has reached first base before the throw is a judgment call.
If an unusual play arises where a first throw by an infielder goes into stands or dugout but the batter did not become a runner (such as catcher throwing ball into stands in attempt to get runner from third trying to score on passed ball or wild pitch) award of two bases shall be from the position of the runners at the time of the throw. (For the purpose of Rule 7.05 (g) a catcher is considered an infielder.)
PLAY. Runner on first base, batter hits a ball to the shortstop, who throws to second base too late to get runner at second, and second baseman throws toward first base after batter has crossed first base. Ruling—Runner at second scores. (On this play, only if batter-runner is past first base when throw is made is he awarded third base.)
(h) One base, if a ball, pitched to the batter, or thrown by the pitcher from his position on the pitcher’s plate to a base to catch a runner, goes into a stand or a bench, or over or through a field fence or backstop. The ball is dead;

APPROVED RULING: When a wild pitch or passed ball goes through or by the catcher, or deflects off the catcher, and goes directly into the dugout, stands, above the break, or any area where the ball is dead, the awarding of bases shall be one base. One base shall also be awarded if the pitcher while in contact with the rubber, throws to a base, and the throw goes directly into the stands or into any area where the ball is dead.
If, however, the pitched or thrown ball goes through or by the catcher or through the fielder, and remains on the playing field, and is subsequently kicked or deflected into the dugout, stands or other area where the ball is dead, the awarding of bases shall be two bases from position of runners at the time of the pitch or throw.
(i) One base, if the batter becomes a runner on Ball Four or Strike Three, when the pitch passes the catcher and lodges in the umpire’s mask or paraphernalia.
If the batter becomes a runner on a wild pitch which entitles the runners to advance one base, the batter-runner shall be entitled to first base only.

Rule 7.05(i) Comment: The fact a runner is awarded a base or bases without liability to be put out does not relieve him of the responsibility to touch the base he is awarded and all intervening bases. For example: batter hits a ground ball which an infielder throws into the stands but the batter-runner missed first base. He may be called out on appeal for missing first base after the ball is put in play even though he was “awarded” second base.
If a runner is forced to return to a base after a catch, he must retouch his original base even though, because of some ground rule or other rule, he is awarded additional bases. He may retouch while the ball is dead and the award is then made from his original base.
(j) One base, if a fielder deliberately touches a pitched ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play, and the award is made from the position of the runner at the time the ball was touched

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/07_the_runner.pdf

as you can plainly see, nothing has changed in the ground rules at all.

Consequently, A-Rod’s hit was either a ground rule double under rule 7.05, or it was a ball in play since it hit a media camera which was authorized to be in the field of play under rule 3.15. What it was not was a home run under either rule 6.09(d) or rule 7.05(a) or any other rule of baseball.

I’ve looked exhaustively and so have my sabrmetric friends, and there isn’t a rule in the book supporting what happened last night.

What happened also violates the laws of logic and violates the laws of physics. It violates the laws of logic, because the home run was created by an act of particular instantiation—abstract thought created a thing from a concept—what we in philosophy call a “unicorn”—which would make my old professor of logic at Harvard turn over twice—and violates Occam’s razor—that you don’t create needless entities through nominalism.

Instead, empiricism and realism dictate that a home run is a home run when we SEE and WITNESS that the ball goes over the fence—not that we imagine or suppose that it MIGHT have gone over the fence.

The problem with the umpires’ supposition last night is that it is what we call in philosophy a “modal” proposition, an “if….then” statement, that is conditional.

“If the camera were not there, then the ball would have flown over the fence.”

This can readily be recognized as a categorical statement of conditional form—namely, if there were no camera “x”, the trajectory of flight of the ball would have been different in form “y”.

The problem, as anyone knows, is that without an actual observation of same, there are a plethora of possible universes of possible “y’s”.

All we know is that the ball may or might have gone over the wall—or it may or might have bounced below the line and back onto the field. All we have is a possibility that it might have gone over the wall.

All conditionals are like this.

Moreover, accepting conditionals as true introduces a host of problems.

The medieval philosophers didn’t like conditionals, and neither should we.

It’s true that rule 9.03c states that

Each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/09_the_umpire.pdf

however, in this case, the A-Rod double IS covered specifically by the baseball rules. There is no room for discretion or authority to rule.

Here’s what actually occurred before game 3 of the World Series according to the umpiring crew:

Indeed, umpire crew chief Gerry Davis said that his crew explored every inch of Citizens Bank Park prior to Game 3, spending time reviewing areas unique to the park. The right-field camera was one of the aspects they discussed.
“We tour the field during the series whenever we go to a new ballpark, and discuss specific ground rules and potential trouble areas just like that,” Davis said. “Because we cannot control what the cameraman does with the camera, one of the specific ground rules is when the ball hits the camera, [it’s a] home run.”
http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20091031&content_id=7586236&vkey=news_mlb

So, the umpiring crew themselves MADE UP THEIR OWN GROUND RULE that the camera, if it was hit, would be a home run.

That would be fine, except that it’s in direct violation of Baseball Rule 3.15, as cited above, supra, that a media photographic camera, if a ball strikes it, the ball is in play and NOT a home run.

The Umpires don’t have discretion to make a ground rule about that.

The statement made by Umpire Davis is totally and completely WRONG. The rules cover the situation of when a ball strikes a camera held by a camera man.

Let’s see the rule again:

3.15 No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club. In case of unintentional interference with play by any person herein authorized to be on the playing field (except members of the offensive team participating in the game, or a coach in the coach’s box, or an umpire) the ball is alive and in play. If the interference is intentional, the ball shall be dead at the moment of the interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2008/official_rules/03_game_preliminaries.pdf

Ok, then, cameramen, news photographers who unintentionally interfere with the ball, and the interference is unintentionall, the “ball is alive and in play.”

It’s not up to Davis and his crew to make up a ground rule there. It’s up to Davis and his crew to follow Rule 3.15. Rule 3.15 trumps Article 9 and the umpire discretion rules.

Now let’s discuss the instant replay rule.

Here’s the story on the instant replay rule adopted in September of 2008:

5. Instant replay
Main article: Instant replay
In November 2007, the general managers of Major League Baseball voted in favor of implementing instant replay reviews on boundary home run calls. [19] The proposal limited the use of instant replay to determining whether a boundary home run call is:
• A fair (home run) or foul ball
• A live ball (ball hit fence and rebounded onto the field), ground rule double (ball hit fence before leaving the field), or home run (ball hit some object beyond the fence while in flight)
• Spectator interference or home run (spectator touched ball after it broke the plane of the fence).
On August 28, 2008, instant replay review became available in MLB for reviewing calls in accordance with the above proposal. It was first utilized on September 3, 2008 in a game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. [20] Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees hit what appeared to be a home run, but the ball hit a catwalk behind the foul pole. It was at first called a home run, until Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon argued the call, and the umpires decided to review the play. After 2 minutes and 15 seconds, the umpires came back and ruled it a home run.
About two weeks later, on September 19, also at Tropicana Field, a boundary call was overturned for the first time. In this case, Carlos Peña of the Rays was given a ground rule double in a game against the Minnesota Twins after an umpire believed a fan reached into the field of play to catch a fly ball in right field. The umpires reviewed the play, determined the fan did not reach over the fence, and reversed the call, awarding Peña a home run.
Aside from the two aforementioned reviews at Tampa Bay, replay was used four more times in the 2008 MLB regular season: twice at Houston, once at Seattle, and once at San Francisco. The San Francisco incident is perhaps the most unusual. Bengie Molina, the Giants’ Catcher, hit what was first called a double. Molina then was replaced in the game by a pinch-runner before the umpires re-evaluated the call and ruled it a home run. In this instance though, Molina was not allowed to return to the game to complete the run, as he had already been replaced. Molina was credited with the home run, and two RBIs, but not for the run scored which went to the pinch-runner instead.
On October 31, 2009, in the fourth inning of Game 3 of the World Series, Alex Rodriguez hit a long fly ball that appeared to hit a camera protruding over the wall and into the field of play in deep left field. The ball ricocheted off the camera and re-entered the field, initially ruled a double. However, after the umpires consulted with each other after watching the instant replay, the hit was ruled a home run, marking the first time an instant replay home run was hit in a playoff game. [21]
Source:

http://wapedia.mobi/en/Home_run?t=3.

Citing to

• ESPN – GMs vote 25-5 to use replay to aid home run decisions – MLB
http://mlb.mlb.com/news/gameday_recap.jsp?ymd=20080903&content_id=3412731&vkey=recap&fext=.jsp&c_id=nyy
http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20091031&content_id=7586236&vkey=news_mlb

Now, let’s parse all this.

What instant replay boils down to is this.

A lawyer sits in Bud Selig’s offices in NYC and HE reviews the play and decides how it should be called.

The head of the umpiring crew calls NYC and asks the lawyer how the play should be ruled.

Then they decide.

Uh, what’s wrong with this picture if the NEW YORK YANKEES are one of the teams in the playoffs?

Let’s see, a NEW YORK LAWYER making the call? Against a PHILLY team?

Oh right, that would be really fair, impartial and just.

Incidentally, let’s review the rule again:

The proposal limited the use of instant replay to determining whether a boundary home run call is:
• A fair (home run) or foul ball
• A live ball (ball hit fence and rebounded onto the field), ground rule double (ball hit fence before leaving the field), or home run (ball hit some object beyond the fence while in flight)
• Spectator interference or home run (spectator touched ball after it broke the plane of the fence).
Id, supra.

Note that the ball has to hit an object BEYOND the fence while in flight.

Not in front of the fence, but BEYOND the fence.

This is completely consistent with Rules 6.09 and 7.05(a) which define a home run as one hit “over the fence in flight”.

The camera, in this case, was jutting out over the fence by a good five to ten feet.

So it was not beyond the fence, but on the field of play.

Second, because it was on the field of play, it was therefore a photographic interference under Rule 3.15, and should have been considered an unintentional interference, and a live ball in play under Rule 3.15.

Third, if not a live ball in play, then the ground rule double rule of 7.05 (b) et seq. comes into play.

What’s wrong with this picture?

THERE WAS NEVER ANY JURISDICTION FOR HOME RUN REVIEW UNDER THE HOME RUN INSTANT REPLAY RULE BECAUSE THE BALL HIT BY A ROD NEVER WENT OVER THE FENCE IN FLIGHT OR BEYOND THE FENCE.

Let’s review the criteria for instant replay;

1) is it fair or foul? Well, it was a fair ball. No need for instant replay.
2) Is it a live ball that hit the fence and bounced back to the field? No. No need for instant replay.

Was it a live ball that hit some object beyond the fence while in flight?

No. It never went beyond the fence. So no instant replay was required.

Well, it hit the camera==part of which was behind the fence, but the part of the camera the ball hit was NOT beyond the fence.

This is not a semantic issue, but a real rules issue, because if you start saying that balls that don’t go over the fence in flight are home runs, just because the umpires make up ground rules before the game to make them eligible for instant review, doesn’t make it so.

I think the key here is to parse the fact that the umpiring crew made a mistake before the game establishing false ground rules, by making a camera that jutted INTO the field, a candidate for HOME RUN instant replay.

That wasn’t their call to make.

Under the instant replay rule, the camera has to be entirely beyond the fence for them to make that decision, end of story.

Remember, the rule is to decide the boundary issue of when a ball has hit an object BEYOND the fence–not an object within the ballfield.

The Umps exceeded their rulemaking authority. Also, see #3, below, because there’s actually a different rule that applies to cameras that are in the field of play and not beyond the field of play, in which case the ball is either a ground rule double or in play. In either case the result is the same; arod at 2d, texeira at 3d.

3) There was not spectator interference, but rather, photographer interference under rule 3.15, which made it a live ball under the rules, and on the field of play.

Consequently, there was no jurisdiction for an instant reply. Rather, the umpires AGGREGATED and SEIZED inappropriately the jurisdiction for home run instant replay because they forgot their own rule book and the rules of baseball.

They got the call all wrong.

It’s an insult to our collective intelligence and our common sense to say that a ball that fell short of the wall, and never went over the wall, is a “fair ball” that “went over the fence in flight” or that after instant replay, was shown to have struct an object “beyond the fence” in flight. None of these things occured on arod’s hit.

And messed up a 25 year old kids’ no hitter in the processs.

Did they purposefully do it?

Did the NY Offices of baseball reverse the call to obstruct the Phillies from repeating?

I don’t know—go ask the Atlanta Braves. No one in Bud Selig’s office was happy when they went up 2-0 on the Yankees in 1996 either.

The Commissioner’s office basically wants LA or NY to win the series because that’s good for TV ratings.

They like to ignore Philly and Atlanta even though we’re much more rabid about baseball than New Yorkers, most of whom are too poor to afford to go to a game, whereas in Philly or Atlanta, it’s mostly the middle class who attend.

And if we have to cheat and violate the rules to make the Yankees winners, what the hay?

Just remember Curt Simmons’ draft notice, and Bud Selig’s ridiculous rain delay call in last year’s Game Five in Philly.

Definitely be sure there’s bias against the Phillies in NYC.

And of course, let’s not forget they used a single New York Lawyer as the judging panel for instant replay of a World Series play involving….

The New York Yankees.

Like that’s really fair.

This is the Second World Series in a row where Bud Selig has personally messed around with our ace, Cole Hamels, in a World Series game.

First was Game Five in World Series 2008, in which Cole Hamels was shutting the door down on Tampa Bay. Selig allowed the game to proceed in the rain, then let Tampa Bay score a cheap run in rain soaked conditions against Hamels, a cheap run in conditions not fit to play in, and then Selig announced the game would be suspended—a first in Series history—which infuriated not only the Phillies, but Hamels, who had pitched well enough to win. Last year the story line was supposed to be tampa bay to win, cindarella, last place to world champions. New york didn’t want philly winning.

Conspiracy theorists, you are right if you think Selig hates Hamels.

And now this year, Selig sends Davis and an experienced umpiring crew out, and they set up illegal ground rules, and use the first chance they get, to award a two run instant replay home run—an existential, instantiated home run—an abstraction if you will, because nothing ever left the park or ever went over the fence in flight—for the sole purpose of screwing up Cole Hamels’ game in game 3, the pivotal game of the 2009 world series.

I need not point out how furious Hamels must have been with all this BS; for the second year in a row, he’s been messed with, not by the opposing lineup, but by lawyers and umpires and the commissioners’ office. They just won’t let him do his job.

I understand why he might have hung a few curves the next inning to Swisher and Damon.

What I don’t understand is why the Phillies don’t aggressively move

1) for Bud Selig’s immediate ouster as Commissioner of Baseball; and
2) an immediate amendment of the baseball instant replay rule requiring that the review of plays always be done in a neutral city by an impartial panel of three arbitrators, not lawyers, with one chosen by each team and the third chosen by the other two.
3) And the umpiring crew and ground rules be reviewed two weeks in advance of the World Series by the front office of each team, and by the teams attorneys, to be sure there are no conflicts with the Rules of Baseball.

Even my 80 year old mother in law, who just had eye surgery, who watched the game last night, and used to be a Brooklyn Dodger fan from Brooklyn, saw the play last night and she knew that the A-Rod hit wasn’t a home run.

“it didn’t go out of the park” she said. “how could it be a home run?”

Exactly. To be a home run, under rule 7.05(a), and in the common sense of every fan, a home run must go over the fence in flight.

And to be a home run for instant replay purposes, it has to go over the fence in flight and THEN hit some object.

Not hit some object which inteferes with the ball from going over the fence in flight. That’s a ground rule double or a ball live in play, as we have seen from our discussion, at length, of the rules.

The difference last night was two runs.

But the difference, from our perspective, is the lawlessness of the Bud Selig regime.

A regime which bars Pete Rose from the Hall of Fame, but tolerates steroid use by the likes of A-Rod and David Ortiz, and turns a blind eye to the income inequalities between teams like the Yankees and the Twins that keep baseball from truly being competitive.

A regime which makes arbitrary and capricious decisions each and every year about rain delays, rain suspensions, instant replay home runs in the World Series, and which plays games of law and fate which affect a man’s life and career in the case of Cole Hamels, who is a truly great pitcher along the lines of a Steve Carlton.

In fact, if you study Hamels stats, you will see that his 2009 is to his 2008, as Carlton’s 1973 was to Carlton’s Cy Young 1972.

I expect Cole Hamels to have a very bright future.

And he will not take much more of this abuse from Bud Selig and his cronies.

And neither should we philly fans.

And New York Yankee fans, you are cheating to win.

And to think I actually shed tears for you guys on 9/11.

And by the way, your NY Giants got rolled by the Eagles. At least the NFL runs a fair league. Thank you Pete Rozelle Paul Tagliabue and your successors.

Guess those memories of Joe Namath are starting to fade, eh?

–art kyriazis, philly
home of the world champion phillies, 2008 world champions
2008, 2009 National League pennant champs

According to recent news reports, the Federal Oncology Commission, headed by the Earle Warren Orchestra and Dr. Earle Warren on saxophone, will issue a report this morning that the immediate cause of Sen. Kennedy’s death was a lone cancer cell, acting alone, without the assistance of other cancer cells, and that any hint that the cancer cell acted in conspiracy or with the assistance of other cancer cells is silly and ridiculous.

Also, there were no cancer cells in the grassy knoll.

Sen. Kennedy’s three older brothers were great men–joe jr. gave his life for his country in wwII, JFK was a great president, a princeton man who transferred to Harvard and graduated from there, and was known to have romanced the actresses gene tierney, marilyn monroe as well as his gorgeous wife jackie o, all in one spectacular lifetime, not to mention saying “ich bin ein Berliner.”

There were a lot of bad things that happened to Sen. Ted Kennedy along the road in life.  But we forgave them all, and in the end, he was a Great Man.

All in all, the great outweighed the bad in Ted Kennedy, and he was in fact, a Great Man, and a Great Senator.

He was a lot like nolan ryan, about half wins, half losses, and his fastball was great, but his wild pitches and walks would cost you ballgames, but when he was great, he was really, truly great.

Abraham Martin & John by DION

Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.

Has anybody here seen my old friend John,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.

Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.

Didn’t you love the things they stood for?
Didn’t they try to find some good for you and me?
And we’ll be free,
Someday soon it’s gonna be one day.

Has anybody here seen my old friend Bobby,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
I thought I saw him walkin’ up over the hill
With Abraham, Martin and John

NEW LAST VERSE FOR TEDDY:

Has anybody here seen my old friend Teddy,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
I thought I saw him walkin’ up over the hill
With Abraham, Martin, Bobby & John….
He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good they die young
But I just looked around and he was gone.

http://www.uulyrics.com/music/dion/song-abraham-martin-john/

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

So I guess we know now why Manny Ramirez was so irritated all the time at his teammates, why he was having anger management problems, why he wanted to leave Boston despite winning two world titles, and why he was depressed, moody and suicidally despondent at times despite being the best ballplayer in the AL at times—it was all because of the steroids.

And why he grew the longest dreadlocks this side of Jamaica-mon.

LA made him no happier and now we know why. There’s nothing really to say, except that when a right handed slugger defies statistical norms, fails to decline in age-related fashion the way every other player has for decades, and fails to regress to the mean the way every other player does, it’s either because a) he has the talent of a hank aaron or babe ruth, b) the laws of statistics and probability have failed us or c) he’s taking steroids to beat the odds.

In the cases of Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriquez and now Manny Ramirez, we know the answer to the statistical riddle of how it is they could do what no other ballplayers could do. The answer is, they took performance enhancing drugs. They cheated, and they cheated badly. They wanted to beat the house odds and beat father time.

I still think the pitchers who threw spitballs and scuffballs and vaseline balls should be treated the same; it’s the same sort of deal. But as all of this gets worse and worse, we are left with fewer and fewer heroes. Even Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker gambled on baseball, but somehow they were set free.

And a voice in the distance, ever so faint, cries out more loudly;

FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!
FREE PETE ROSE!

And what the heck, Shoeless Joe and the Black Sox as well…

Art Kyriazis
Philly/South Jersey
Home of the Philadelphia Phillies

In the Phil’s home opener, the boobirds waited all of half an hour to get on Brett Myer’s case just because he gave up a couple (ok, three) home runs early to Atlanta. In this case, those runs held up as Derek Lowe, formerly of the Boston Red Sox and the LA Dodgers, and acquired by the Braves as an off-season free agent, did his thing and limited the Phils to just one run.

However, I am extremely curious as to why it is that Derek Lowe is suddenly such an effective pitcher at 36 years of age, an age when most pitchers are usually either washed up or on the way down. He’s known for throwing a hard sinker, and right away, looking at him pitch and throwing that sinker, it really looks like a doctored pitch, either a spitter, a scuffball, an emery ball, or something put on the ball to make it dive.

The question then is, since there are two sides to every question, is there any evidence that Derek Lowe suddenly got better in the middle of his career when it looked like he wasn’t going anywhere fast? One hint is given in Rob Neyer’s Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers (Simon & Schuster, NY, 2004), where it states about Derek Lowe that he is six foot six, weighs 214 pounds, and throws “1. Hard Sinker 2. Curve 3. Change 4. Cut Fastball Note: The Cut Fastball was added or refined in 2002, when Lowe went from relieving to starting.” Id. at p. 285. Well, so Lowe added a “cut fastball.” Really.

In 2001, out of the bullpen, Lowe allowed 103 hits in 91 and 2/3 innings, gave up 7 homers, 39 runs and 36 earned runs, and walked 29 batters, while striking out 82, with an ERA of 3.53 and a park adjusted ERC of 4.31, according to the Bill James Handbook for 2009, id. at p. 172. He won five games, and lost ten, and had 24 saves in 30 opportunities.

The next year, 2002, when he started and “learned the cut fastball,” his numbers were dramatically better. Lowe won 21 and lost just 8, with an ERA of 2.58, an adjusted ERC of 2.13, pitching 219 2/3 innings, giving up only 166 hits, only 65 runs and 63 earned runs, allowing 17 homers, walking only 72 and striking out 127 batters.

The question becomes, how did Lowe get so much better?

The answer should be pretty obvious from the fact that the year before, in 2001, striking out 82 batters in 103 innings, Lowe wasn’t effective, while in 2002, striking out 127 batters in 220 innings, Lowe was terrific. LOWE COMMITTED TO THE SINKER, OR ELSE LEARNED HOW TO THROW THE SPITTER. Since Lowe is 6’6” tall, coming with a good fastball, curve and change, a spitter/scuff ball/doctored pitch that drops off the table in necessary situations is a great out pitch for him, especially since he was pitching in Fenway Park.

Alternatively, Lowe may just have started juicing. After all, it worked for A-Rod.

After that dramatic success, Lowe had another good year in 2003, winning 17 and losing 7, but in 2004 although he won 14 and lost only 12, his ERA ballooned up to 5.42 with a park-adjusted ERC of 5.31. Lowe was now 31 years old. Lowe led the AL in runs allowed in 2004 with 138. It was reasonable for the Red Sox to think he was beginning to embark on an age-related decline. So off to the LA Dodgers went Derek Lowe.

From 2005 through 2007, Lowe had almost identical seasons statistically, with ERAs around 3.60 and park adjusted ERCs between 3.50 and 3.70; in 2006 he led the NL in wins with 16, going 16 and 8 on the year. Every year he pitched around 210 innings, allowed around 100 runs, 90 earned runs, 15 homers, and struck out around 125 to 140 batters while only giving up 55 walks. He was like a machine.

In 2008, Lowe broke out of this pattern, and actually had a BETTER year—211 innings pitched, 194 hits, 84 runs allowed, 76 earned runs, 14 homers, 45 walks, 147 strikeouts, 14 wins and 11 losses, an ERA of 3.24 and a park adjusted ERC of 2.72. 2008 was Lowe’s best season since 2002, and this at age 35.

And now Derek Lowe comes out of the gate in the first ballgame of 2009, and twirls a masterpiece against the Phillies, a team that scored the third highest number of runs in the National League in 2008, and a lineup that is packed with lefthanded power bats.

Which brings me round to the topic sentences—is Derek Lowe throwing the spitball? Or is he just juicing? Because a 36 year old pitcher just can’t be this good. He’s BETTER now than he was two years ago, and pitching BETTER now than he did at any time in his career, except for his breakout year in 2002, which was a year when almost everyone in baseball was juicing.

I’m sorry for accusing a ballplayer of cheating, but we live in awful times, and I just don’t believe Derek Lowe is that good. The next question is, does Derek Lowe’s pitching profile resemble that of other spitballers? The answer is clearly, yes.

Ed Walsh of the White Sox threw a spitball, a fastball, a change and a curve. Don Drysdale of the Dodgers, also a 6 foot five inch right hander, very similar to Derek Lowe in almost every way, and who relied on the Vaseline ball, threw a fastball, a curve, a change, a slider and a spitter. Senator Jim Bunning of the Phillies and Tigers, also a spitball/Vaseline ball artist, and also a tall righthander, threw a slider, a fastball, a curve, a change and a spitter, usually a doctored Vaseline ball. Bunning threw a no-hitter and a perfect game in his hall of fame career.

Hugh Casey is another famous tall righthander who supposedly threw the spitball, although it’s claimed his out pitch was the sinker, supplemented by a slider, fastball and a curve. According to Neyer, Hugh Casey was pitching on the mound and threw a spitter to Mickey Owen in the 1941 World Series; that was the famous passed ball that led to the Dodgers losing the Series. Id. at p. 57.

Then you have Gaylord Perry, who was also a tall righthander, six foot four, 205 pounds in his prime, heavier later, a great spitballer, who also threw the slider, the fastball, the curve, the forkball/splitter and the change. Perry also claimed his spitter was a sinker, although after he retired he admitted it really was a spitball after all.

So comparing Derek Lowe to many of the famous spitballers, and their pitching repetoires, it would seem that there is a pretty good match. Derek Lowe is the same build as Don Drysdale and Gaylord Perry, and uses approximately the same pitches as they did. In sum, the circumstantial evidence against him is pretty strong that Derek Lowe probably is using a spitball, and not really throwing a sinker at all. Finally, you have the fact that pitchers like Gaylord Perry lasted long past their points of decline–Perry was winning twenty games at ages like 35 and 40–further evidence Lowe is greasing the ball.

–art kyriazis, philly/south jersey
home of the world champion Philadelphia Phillies

Paris Hilton Saturday Night Live Show Transcript 2-5-05

Download .zip file

TINA FEY v. AMY POEHLER ON PHILLY v. BOSTON BEFORE THE SUPER BOWL EAGLES V. PATRIOTS FEBRUARY 2005 SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE

FEY: A man identified as an NYU professor was detained at LaGuardia Airport Thursday after human remains were found in his luggage. However, he was let go when he told authorities the body parts were ‘teaching tools.’ Said the professor, ‘….teach that bitch to cheat on me.’

POEHLER: The Canadian government formally introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. At which point the bill insisted on being called William.

FEY: As we mentioned earlier, this Sunday is Superbowl XXXIX, between the Philadelphia Eagles of my hometown and the New England Patriots…

POEHLER: …of my hometown…Burlington, New England.

FEY: So, we thought it would be fun to have a little hometown fans Point/Counterpoint. Amy has elected to go first.

POEHLER: Thank you, Tina. [In Boston accent] If you think your Eagles are any match for our top notch New England Patriots, you’re a moron.

FEY: [In Philadelphia accent] Okay, don’t even start, alright. Cause everyone knows New England people are a bunch of losers, you’se went down there losers, and you’re goin’ home losers.

POEHLER: Give me a break. We’re unstoppable. It’s our year – first they Red Sox, now the Superbowl. Okay, you can go cry in a pile of Philly Cheese stakes, and watch that gay movie they named after your city.

FEY: Okay, rebuttal. First of all, your whole city smells like baked bean farts. Second of all, how do you’se even have time go to the Superbowl? Aren’t ya too busy getting molested by priests and cryin’ about it?

POEHLER: Good point. Point well taken. But, uh, let me just say this. Your mother’s a whore and your father holds the money.

FEY: You dirt bag!

[end of transcript]

FROM AN ACTUAL SNL SHOW 2005 BEFORE THE EAGLES PLAYED IN THE SUPER BOWL AGAINST THE PATRIOTS.

TINA FEY IS AN EAGLES FAN!!!!

Art Kyriazis/Philly South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Phillies

The Phillies begin their World Championship Title Defense tonite, hosting the Atlanta Braves.

First, I have to get ride of one of my pet peeves, and this is the often quoted statistic that the Braves won 14 division titles in a row from 1991 through 2005.

A plain look at the statistics laid out on baseball-reference dot com shows that this isn’t so.

First of all, from 1991-1993, the Braves were IN A DIFFERENT DIVISION, the N.L. West, and the league was split into two divisions, not three. The Braves did win the N.L. West in 1991 and 1992, but they tied in 1993, and were forced to a one game playoff with the San Francisco Giants (incredibly, both the Giants and the Braves won 103 games in the regular season that year); it was only by winning the one game playoff that they earned the NL West Division title. That has to have an asterisk, right?

Next, in 1994, the strike year, Atlanta was switched to the NL East–where they finished SECOND to the Montreal Expos. The Expos won the NL East in 1994, no one else did.

That would mean, by all reckoning, that Atlanta would have to have started a new streak in 1995–and from 1995-2005, they did, in fact, win eleven straight NL East Division titles–a prodigious accomplishment by any stretch of the imagination–but not the fourteen straight titles that sports commentators often ascribe to them.

That dog won’t hunt.

Incidentally, last year, Atlanta lost 90 games and finished twenty games behind the NL East champion Phillies. Hopefully they will prove once again this year to be cannon fodder for the Phils powerful bats and potent pitching arms.

Some random notes on the Phillies as they start their season:

1) Chan Ho Park was named the fifth starter ahead of J.A. Happ. I’ve already reviewed this in a prior blog and stated that Happ should be starting. Happ is a 26 year old 6 foot six lefty who strikes out a lot of ballplayers, while Park is a righty with age-related decline issues whose ERA outside of Dodger Stadium is more than 5.00 career. Happ’s minor league stats are impressive, and his starts last year for the Phils were good, as were his spring numbers. This is just a mistake by the Phils, much like when they blocked Ryan Howard with Jim Thome.

2) I predict that Happ will eventually replace Park in the starting rotation, and that Happ will develop into a superior starting pitcher in this league.

3) Having said that, either Park or Happ is CLEARLY an upgrade from Adam Eaton or Kyle Kendrick.

4) Cole Hamels might be on the shelf for a while. I’d rest Hamels and start Park AND Happ during April. It’s April, why risk injuring your meal ticket in Hamels? Let the man have a month off. He pitched an extra month last year, and might have to do it again this year. It’s not like you need him in April, is it?

5) The Phils released Geoff Jenkins, in a puzzling move, since they still owe him $8 million salary. But they also kept Matt Stairs, who is 41 and can only play first base, and Miguel Cairo, who is about a thousand years old, and can only play second base, and can’t hit anymore. Why keep those two old fuddy-duddies, and release Jenkins, who is a legit ballplayer? This is a truly imponderable move.

6) The Phils should have kept Jenkins, and released Stairs. Jenkins can play left or right fields, he can pinch run, and he can pinch hit, plus he’s already on the payroll, and he’s a power hitter. Stairs can’t field, and Cairo can’t hit, so Jenkins is a more useful bench player than either of them. Jenkins had key hits in the postseason off the bench. He’s shown he can be useful off the bench.

7) Jayson Werth is injury prone, and the Phils will need a corner outfielder to spell him. That guy had to have been Jenkins.

8) Eric Bruntlett can spell anyone in the infield, and Dobbs can spell anyone in the outfield or third base or second base. Why keep Cairo? Cairo hasn’t had a hot hitting streak since the pyramids were built, and his fielding range is about as narrow as the Nile at that point where you can step across it. I don’t think Cairo has hit a home run since Moses led the chosen people out of Egypt right after the Passover miracle and the slaughter of the first born of Egypt. The last time Cairo took an extra base, they were filming the Ten Commandments. I’m not saying Miguel Cairo is old, but I’m pretty sure he and Edward G. Robinson used to make gangster films together in the 1930s. Miguel Cairo is so old, he has a card in my oldest Strat-O-Matic baseball game that was just cards and dice from back in the 1970s. Miguel Cairo is so old, that even his wife has forgotten how many years he shaves off his real age whenever he crosses the border and lies about his birthday to immigration officials. I’m not saying the man is old, but Miguel Cairo is the guy who recruited Roberto Clemente to play baseball. It’s not that Miguel Cairo is old, but Cairo once played minor league ball with Fidel Castro in 1950s pre-Communist Cuba. I’m not calling the man old, but Julio Franco, who retired last year at age 50, calls Miguel Cairo “Uncle Mike” out of respect for his elders.

9) Jenkins, Bruntlett and Cairo were the obvious ones to keep. Cairo’s career stats are mind-numbingly awful. Jenkins by contrast is a career power hitter. Bruntlett can field and has good sped while Dobbs is a good hitter. Stairs can’t field, he’s a dh basically and should go to the AL where he belongs.

10) The Phils made no effort to sign Garry Sheffield, but on the bright side, he signed with the Mets. I’m about 90% sure at this stage of his career, stuck on 499 homers, Sheffield only wants to get into the Hall of Fame, and is only about Sheffield, not the team, so I think the Mets have bought into a problem there. Sheffield will demand playing time to pad his stats, and even if he’s hitting .220, which is what he hit last year with Detroit, he will demand more playing time. Plus he’s another over the hill superstar, which the Mets seem to collect boatloads of.

11) Having said all this, I still think the Phils will make a good run and repeat as NL East champs and go on to win the world series yet again, for all the reasons I set forth in my earlier blog on this.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

CURT SCHLLING RETIRES

March 25, 2009

On Monday of this week, Curt Schilling, he of the bloody sock, the hero of the 2004 World Series that finally cured the curse of the Red Sox forever, and the last active playing member of the great 1993 Phillies team that nearly beat a powerhouse Toronto Blue Jays team in an awesome world series matchup, finally retired, joining Lenny “Nails” Dykstra, Darren Arthur Daulton, John “Krukster” Kruk and other legends of the 1993 Phillies in retirement.

Of course, Schilling was an integral member of numerous world series teams, as was Daulton (1997 Marlins) and Dykstra (1986 Mets). Collectively, all of these guys were winners, with a capital W. They lived to win, and winning was all they knew how to do.

Here I have to point out that as I am a Phillies fan, I have always had a very soft spot in my heart for Curt Schilling. From 1992, when he first emerged as a terrific power pitcher, to 2000, when he was erroneously and mistakenly traded from the Phils to Arizona (instead of their locking him up for another multi year deal), he was 1) the ace of the staff 2) the voice of the Phillies, frequently appearing on local sports radio, sometimes daily and 3) the best starting pitcher I’ve ever seen here since Steve Carlton.

But the main thing I loved about Schilling is, he hated to lose, and he loved to win. He pitched complete ballgames, nine innings, and he pitched to strike out the side. He was old school, he had old fashioned ideas, he was in every way a throwback to pitchers and players from like fifty years ago. In that sense, he was completely and totally refreshing.

From 1997-2000 the Phillies organization had a core of Curt Schilling, Bobby Abreu and Steve Rolen. Had they simply and properly built around that core, the Phillies could have built a division winner, or at least a wild card team. Schilling was an ace of the staff, Abreu was in the prime of his career, a .400 OBA man with a .500 slugging percentage, and Rolen was earning 30 win shares a year routinely with his glove and his bat. In those years, Rolen was slugging .500 or more easily, hitting tons of doubles and homers.

Where the team was weak in those days was up the middle—they didn’t stock themselves at short, second, catcher and centerfield properly (except maybe for Mike Lieberthal, but he was no Darren Daulton). And everyone knows a championship club needs to be strong up the middle. Kevin Stocker, who had played well in 1993, began to fade. Mickey Morandini, who was terrific in 1993, also began to fade as the decade wore on. Milt Thompson wasn’t around anymore and Lenny Dykstra was gone by 1997. Darren Daulton was also gone by 1997. If they had Dykstra and Daulton, and a healthry Morandini and Stocker, the 1997 Phillies would have been contenders—but the story was different.

By 97-99, they were playing guys like Marlon Anderson and Alex Arias up the middle. It wasn’t the same. Doug Glanville could field and run, but he never drew a walk.

The Phillies didn’t make immediate efforts to replace Daulton or Dykstra with great talent, nor did they replace Stocker or Morandini with great talent. They did waste a lot of money on bad free agents (see below) but we’ll get to that.

Behind Schilling were non-entities pitching—they did not put together a staff anywhere close to what they had in 1993, with Tommy Greene, Schilling, Danny Jackson, Terry Mulholland et al. and Mitch Williams as the closer. In 1994 Williams’ arm was blown and he was traded, but he never pitched again. Mulholland was traded, a bad trade since he pitched ten more years or more in the bigs. Jackson was never the same again and Tommy Greene’s arm was blown, he never had another year like 1993.

Because the Phillies did not make the effort to replace the great 1993 players with new and great players, eventually both Schilling and Rolen wanted out of Philadelphia. This was not good news for the Phillies GM and Phillies management, because Schilling and Rolen were the kind of players you built a team around.

A starting ace, and a gold glove third baseman who hits 30 homers and 35 doubles a year with 30 win shares a year, those are the two players you want to start a team with. You don’t want to lose those two guys.

The fundamental mistake of the Phils as they turned the corner on the new century was to let Curt Schilling go, even more of a mistake than letting Scott Rolen go, though both were mistakes. Curt Schilling won three world series with Arizona and Boston after he left (2001, 2004, and 2006) while Scott Rolen won one with St. Louis and got to another. Instead of realizing what they had, they wasted money on bad players instead.

You can’t help but wonder, what if the Phils had held on to these guys, and they had been around while the Phils developed Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell, Chase Utley, signed Jim Thome, etc. You have to think some of those 86 win seasons would have been 92 or 95 win seasons.

After Schilling was gone, the Phillies went on an endless search for the next big ace. They traded Johnny Estrada, a great catching prospect, for Kevin Millwood. In fairness, Millwood had a great 2003 season, throwing a no-hitter, throwing a lot of innings and having a great adjusted ERA. But the next season he sort of blew up, and wasn’t the same again, and the Phils let him go in free agency.

The next big ace was Eric Milton. The phils traded Carlos Silva for him. Eric Milton arrived to much fanfare, and proceeded to lead the NL in homers allowed the next two seasons. To say he was awful understates the situation. He just never adjusted to the new park.

The next big ace was Freddy Garcia. We all know about him. He never even pitched. He was hurt and didn’t pitch at all.

There were so many other horrible pitchers the Phils brought in. I can’t name them all. Jon Lieber, Adam Eaton, etc.

Meanwhile, the Phillies actually got some players for Rolen and Schilling, which were basically, Placido Polanco and Vincente Padilla. Polanco played second until Utley came up, and then Polanco was out of a job. The Phils shipped him to Detroit for Ugueth Urbina, but should have kept him to play third but at the time they had David Bell playing third.

Padilla for a while had a couple of good seasons with the Phils, but eventually they shipped him to Texas. Padilla has been pretty awful for Texas, his innings pitched are still high, but so is his ERA. He’s not really been a great pitcher, just an innings eater.

Polanco has been a starter in Detroit and it seems to me the Phils should have held onto Polanco. He was a good righthanded hitter, could play the corner outfield positions, as well as 3d and 2d, and was a good RH pinch-hitters bat off the bench. I’d have kept him. While he doesn’t walk much, he has a high batting average, had above average speed, and hits a lot of doubles and triples, and occasional homers. And he’s great in the clubhouse.

The lack of an ace in the Phillies starting staff from 2001-2007 is what kept them from winning a world series. During six of those years, Curt Schilling could have been that ace and put them over the top in any given year.

Having an ace in Cole Hamels in 2008 is one of the keys to the Phillies having won a world series and a world championship in 2008. Cole Hamels was finally the guy the Phils had been searching for since 2000, when they let Curt Schilling go for a guy named Vincent Padilla.

Bill James, in the Bill James Gold Mine 2008, at p. 2007, has an illuminating article on this subject, called “If I Had a Hamel.” He basically examines each of the Phils seasons from 1986-2007, and notes who was the Phils most dominating pitcher in each of those years. In 1992, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000, Curt Schilling was the best pitcher on the Phils’ staff, and then he was gone. Then in 2007, Cole Hamels was the best. Writes James in his article: “I have a friend who is a Phillies fan. He is optimistic about the 2008 season because, he says, we finally have an ace. We haven’t had an ace of the staff since we traded Schilling. He is referring of course to Cole Hamels….Cole Hamels Season Score [in 2007] was 233, which was the highest by a Phillies pitcher since 1998. Schilling was at 327 in 1997, 271 in 1998.” Id. at p. 207.

James also points out how silly it was for the Phils to move Brett Myers from starter to closer in 2007, and that bringing him back to starter would be a good move for 2008. Id. at p. 2007.

So there you have it—the two key moves that put the phils over the top—Cole Hamels as a staff ace, and Brett Myers back as a starter. Add to that Brad Lidge as a top shelf closer, and you have two legs of the Phils formula for world champion success in 2008.

I think it would have been nice for Curt Schilling to retire as a Phillie, myself.

Curt Schilling by the numbers: Curt Schilling was an awesome pitcher. He led the National League in strikeouts in 1997 and 1998, striking out more than 300 batters each of those years, 319 Ks in 1997 (in 254.1 innings pitched) and 300 Ks in 1998 (in 268.2 innings pitched). Schilling was a horse—he finished more games and completed more games than any modern pitcher, by far. Of 436 games he started in his career, he completed 83—19% of his games started, he COMPLETED.

Think about that—Curt Schilling, CAREER STAT, completed about 20% of every game he started. No relievers, no help, just nine innings and finish the game.

That’s as old school as you can get. Schilling was a reversion to a pitcher of the first half of the 20th century. He was more like Robin Roberts or Bob Feller, guys who finished what they started. The bloody sock tells it all.

He led the NL in complete games FOUR times—in 1996, with 8 complete games, in 1998, with 15 complete games (of 35 started), in 2000 with 8 complete games, and in 2001 with 6 complete games. He led the NL twice in innings pitched, in 1998 with 268 and 2/3, and in 2001 with 256 2/3, and led the NL those same years in pitches thrown to batters with 1089 in 1998 and 1021 in 2001.

Schilling led the NL in wins with 22 in 2001, and led the AL in wins with 21 in 2004. His adjusted ERC of 1.86 (ERA 2.35) was the lowest in the NL in 1992.

Schilling’s post-season record is insane. In 133.1 innings pitched, he struck out 139, walked only 30, gave up no intentional walks, yielded only 12 homers, 3 hit batsmen, 115 hits, 41 runs and 36 earned runs for an ERA of 2.43 (ERC adjusted of 2.79). In 19 games he started in the post season, he had 4 complete games, a 21% completion ratio. His won loss record of 11-2 in those 19 games he started is legendary.

I attended Schilling’s 2-0 complete game shutout of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993, World Series game Five, at Veterans Stadium Philadelphia. The Phillies had lost a slugfest the night before, blowing a four or five game lead in extra innings when Mitch Williams couldn’t hold the lead, and were down 3-1 in games. The game was do or die. They had to win.

Schilling did nothing less than twirl a masterpiece. He may have given up a hit, or maybe two or four hits, but the whole thing took well under two hours, and it was a masterpiece of pitching efficiency, mastery, control and power. The Blue Jays, who had scored something like 15 runs the night before, could hardly get their bats on the ball against Schilling, the master of the baseball.

I have rarely, if ever, seen a pitching performance like that one, in my life, let alone in post-season play. I had a great seat, my wife’s company at the time had some corporate seats along the 3rd base line, and I had a terrific view of the action. The game was like watching Koufax, Gibson, Carlton, the greats.

At this point I suppose I can point out that Curt Schilling is an obvious Hall of Fame selection. I know that Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are both 300 game winners, but their post-season stats are awful. Only John Smoltz has post-season stats like Schillings, and he gave up four seasons to be a closer, or he would be closer to 250 wins than the 215 he had now.

Let’s talk now about wins and losses. Except for the 1993 Phillies, the rest of the Phillies teams that Schilling played for—1992, and 1994-2000—had losing records. Nonetheless, Schilling racked up winning or .500 records for all of those teams;

1992 14-11 Team 70-92
1994 hurt 2-8 Team 54-61
1995 hurt 7-5 Team 69-75
1996 hurt 9-10 Team 67-95
1997 17-11 Team 68-94
1998 15-14 Team 75-87
1999 15-6 Team 77-85
2000 6-6 Team 65-97

Total Schilling 85-71 percentage 85/156 = .549
Total Team 545-676 percentage 545/1221 = .446

Schilling was more than 100 percentage points higher than his teams in all of the losing seasons from 1992-2000 on the Phils—he had a .549 winning percentage, while the Phils had a .446 winning percentage.

Schilling was 14 games OVER .500, whie the Phillies were 131 games BELOW .500—Schilling was 145 games better than his team. That’s a whopping lot better than his team.

So Schilling, even with three seasons where he was hurt, and for a ballteam that was hundreds of games below .500, managed a total record of 85-71, fourteen games ABOVE .500, during the eight years he was with Philly. 145 games better than his team, 100 percentage points better than his team.

As if he was dragging a dead body and a lot of 45 pound plates around, and still managing to win ballgames.

Now let’s add in 1993, when he was 16-7 for a team that went 97-65 total, a .599 percentage. For that team, Schilling went 16-7, which is a .693 percentage. FOR THE 1993 TEAM, A WINNER, A PENNANT WINNER THAT ALMOST WON THE WORLD SERIES, SCHILLING STILL DID A HUNDRED PERCENTAGE POINTS BETTER THAN THE PHILLIES WINNING PERCENTAGE. The team was 32 games over .500, Schilling was nine games over .500.

Now, the final totals:

Schilling: Career with Phils: 101-78. Percentage: 101/179 = .564 winning percentage

Phils: Career with Schilling: 642-741. Percentage: 646/1383 = .464 winning percentage

Schilling is 100 points above philly’s winning percentage, .564 to .464, for a nine year run. Philly was 100 games below .500; Schilling was 23 games above .500.

That’s Schilling’s total for Philly. He won a hundred games in 8 years, for mainly lousy clubs. And led the league in strikeouts twice, in complete games three times, in games started twice, in innings pitched once, etc.

Schilling did all this dragging around a lousy team that was, except for the magnificent 1993 team, mainly a bad team that finished in the second division. Several of these teams lost as many as 94, 95 and 97 games (1996, 1997, 2000). They were dreadful, horrible, awful teams, and yet Schilling went out and led the league in strikeouts in 1997.

Also, that Gregg Jeffries, a free agent bust, was paid $5.5 million in 1997, while Schilling, clearly the most valuable Phillie on any day of the week, earned only $3.5 million in 1997. Schilling was correct to gripe about his salary.

In 1998, Curt Schilling got a raise to $4.7 million, but Gregg Jefferies got $6 million after a horrible year in 1997, and some turkey named Mark Portugal got $2.4 million to pitch, putting up some dreadful numbers for the Phils.

Scott Rolen was paid $150,000 in 1997 and $750,000 in 1998 after posting two outstanding years. Ridiculous.

In 1999, they raised Schilling to $5 ¼ million per year, but handed Ron Gant, who was past his prime, $6 million, and Gant had an average year in left field, while Bobby Abreu had a terrific year as a newbie in right field. Rolen meantime finally got raised to a million dollars, while having another monster year; Rico Brogna, who was awful was getting more than three million dollars a year.

There is no sense to what the phillies were doing with their payroll at this time. They should have committed to their best players, period. They kept wasting money on washed up veterans and on players who were having bad seasons instead of committing their payroll to Schilling, Abreu and Rolen.

Lieberthal, it could be argued, was a decent player, at catcher, but he shouldn’t have been getting $2 ¼ million, more than twice as much as Rolen, because Rolen was more valuable than Lieberthal. It didn’t make sense.

Some guy named Jeff Brantley got paid $2.8 million in 1999. He appeared in 10 games in 1999 and some more games in 2000, but he was entirely ineffective and washed up. A total waste of money. Brantley was out of baseball after 2001.

The Phils paid Chad Ogea about $1.7 million to be a starter in 1999. Ogea posted less than league average numbers in 1999. He was 6-12 with a 5.63 ERA. It’s almost certain that the Phillies could have brought someone up from the farm to be that bad for a rookie salary.

I could keep going on like this, but I think you get the point. The Phillies of the late 1990s were blowing money out the wazoo on bad, awful, over the hill, gassed, done, horrible players.

And then when Schilling & Rolen wanted free-agent money commensurate with their skills in 2000, the Phillies front office became hard asses? After giving Greg Jefferies and Ron Gant $6 million each? $12 millin to Ron Gant and Greg Jefferies and you won’t give $10 million a year to Scott Rolen and Curt Schilling for life?????

Are you kidding me????

No wonder the Phillies have only two world titles in 120 plus years. On the bright side, the Phillies learned from these mistakes and have been doing somewhat better in recent years in terms of front office management, although I don’t agree with all of their moves.

Let’s get back to the legend that is Curt Schilling.

Who can forget Schilling putting a towel over his head when Mitch Williams was pitching during the NLCS and the World Series?

If the Phillies had been able to close Toronto out in games four and six of that world series when they had had leads, Philly would have won the world series in 1993. Schilling did everything he could to win that series.

Curt Schilling went to Arizona, and dragged an expansion team of nobodies to world series glory. He made Randy Johnson, who everyone thought was too wild to be a great pitcher, into a world champion.

Then Schilling went to Boston, and promptly reversed the Curse of the Bambino, and brought a world championship to the Red Sox, something no one, and I mean no one, thought possible.

It was a magical accomplishment.

And just to put a flourish on it, Boston repeated in 2006, Mr. Schilling again assisting.

Finally, we have to point out, Curt Schilling never juiced.

Curt Schilling was a colorful, articulate and intelligent baseball player, and one of the most masterful men of the mound I have ever had the privilege to watch.

I’ve always missed him since he left the Phils. It was always my fervent hope that someday he might return for a final farewell tour year or two with the Phils, but apparently it is not to be. I think Schilling, no matter how he was throwing, would have been a terrific starter for the Phils this season and would have drawn fans.

And again, I say, the Phils should honor him, retire his number, and do him homage. He was one of the greatest of great Phils pitchers.

We will not soon see his like again.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

1) The Bill James Handbook for 2009 is out and now I can make some predictions based on statistical facts.

The Bill James Handbook 2009. ACTA Sports, Publisher, Baseball Info Solutions & Bill James (Skokie, IL, November 2008). This is an essential reference guide for anyone seriously interested in the sport of baseball. As the back cover states, quoting the Wall Street Journal, “Mr. [Bill] James, the statistical oracle.” My good friend (and Mather House Harvard buddy) David Pinto is thanked and accredited by the writers of the book, and I highly recommend Dave Pinto’s excellent blog/website http://www.baseballmusings.com, which is a GREAT baseball website with link outs to virtually all things baseball. Dave used to do all the stat work for ESPN for like 15 years and he is about the smartest guy I know when it comes to baseball statistics, and he used to write the Bill James Handbook for many years. The Bill James Handbook is @$24.00 and is all the money you’ll need to spend on a baseball statbook. If you’re in a fantasy league, first, I suggest you go to rehab and quit this huge waste of time and get back into your marriage and kids, but second, if you’re devoted to the hobby, you will not do better than this book as far as predicting who will do what in 2009 statistically. Finally, this is a fan’s dream of a book. It really settles almost all arguments the right way—with the facts, ma’m, just the facts, to quote Sergeant Joe Friday from Dragnet.

2) The Phillies will repeat in 2009.

The Phillies are a dynasty, with an offensive core of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, with Shane Victorino providing speed, power and glovework in centerfield; Cole Hamels is the best lefthanded starter in the National League, and Brad Lidge is the best closer in the National League. It’s all in the numbers.

3) The Phillies have great pitching and great offense.

The Phillies were second in runs scored last year in the NL with 799 (the Cubs scored 855) and third in the NL in runs and earned runs allowed with 680 runs allowed and 625 earned runs allowed (only the Dodgers and Cubs were better).

4) The Phillies have great defense.

Jimmy Rollins is the best shortstop in the National League, and under the Plus/Minus system, Rollins is the second best defensive shortstop in all of baseball from 2006-2008. Chase Utley is among the top three second basement in the National League. Under the Plus/Minus system, Utley is the top defensive second basement in all of baseball 2006-2008. Pedro Feliz is in the top ten defensively in all of baseball at third base, Shane Victorino is in the top ten in all of baseball at centerfield. Under the Plus/Minus system, Victorino was the 7th best centerfielder in all of baseball in 2008. Under the Plus/Minus system, Feliz is the second best defensive third basemen in all of baseball from 2006-2008. Jayson Werth is a good defensive right fielder, and Raul Ibanez, the new leftfielder, is an upgrade from Pat Burrell; Burrell, according to the Plus/Minus system, was the worst left fielder defensively in baseball from 2006-2008. Carlos Ruiz at catcher has a great throwing arm. By the way, Bobby Abreu scores poorly defensively under the Plus/Minus system, 2d worst defensive right fielder in all of baseball for 2008. That was addition by subtraction, that trade.

5) The Mets Are Not Serious Challengers in the NL East.

The Mets will choke again. Specifically, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado are a year older, and may start to show signs of age related decline. Johan Santana already shows signs that he is injured, while Pedro Martinez was never quite right. Billy Wagner was hurt for substantial portions of last year. They’ve brought in a couple of new guys for the bullpen, but Rodriguez et al. aren’t just filling holes, they’re the life raft for a sinking ship—the Mets’ bullpen last year was awful and coughed up many leads. It’s true that Pelfrey, Maine et al. are some good starters, but without Santana being as good as Hamels, the truth is the Phillies have the better starting staff, starting with Meyers, then Moyer, then Blanton, and whoever they throw as the fifth starter, probably J.A. Happ. What you need to recognize is that Meyers and Blanton are strikeout pitchers, and even Happ and Park can strike out betters. Moyer is just fiendish on the mound when he’s got it going on, as we saw in the postseason. Even though Jose Reyes and David Wright are brilliant young stars, and Beltran and Delgado are aging superstars, the rest of the lineup has holes while the Phillies’ lineup is solid top to bottom. Also, the Phillies have a much better bench than the Mets.

6) No Else is a Serious Rival Except for the Dodgers

The only team I see possibly challenging for the NL Pennant are the LA Dodgers under Joe Torre. They have Manny for an entire year, they have terrific pitching, excellent young talent like Loney, combined with experienced players on the bench and in the field, and Torre manages the clubhouse the way he managed the Yankees, with a winning attitude. I see the Cubs slipping back this year and may the Cards or Rockies or Astros (hi to L. Gray here) coming back up. In the AL, the Yankees will make some noise as will the Red Sox; the Rays are in the toughest division in baseball, while the Angels, As, Twins, Indians (hello to Chris M), etc. all will have tough sledding, along with teams just below like the Tigers. Even if the Phils repeat as NL East Division winners, they will have to beat the Dodgers again, and even if they win the NL Pennant, to become champs, they will have a tough world series against the AL. So nothing is going to be easy.

7) Adam Eaton and Kyle Kendrick were Dreadful Fifth Starters Last Year Yet the Phillies Won Anyway

The Phillies will improve this year substantially in the pitching department. In 2008, Adam Eaton threw 107 innings with an adjusted ERA of 6.07. Kyle Kendrick threw 156 innings with an adjusted ERA of 6.05. That’s together, 263 innings pitched with an adjusted ERA of @6.06. The Phillies team adjusted ERA was 3.88, so you can see that Eaton and Kendrick were almost double the team ERA. There’s a vast canyon for improving team ERA by bringing in a better fifth starter there. The Phillies as a whole only three 1450 innings last year; that means 18%, or nearly one-fifth of the Phillies innings last year were thrown by Eaton and Kendrick, the horrible fifth starters. Simple math suggests that replacing these guys will lower the team ERA substantially—in fact, the Phillies will probably lead the NL in ERA this year.

8) Chan Ho Park or JA Happ Will be Substantial Upgrades at Fifth Starting Pitcher over Adam Eaton & Kyle Kendrick

The fifth starter this year will either be Chan Ho Park or J.A. Happ. Park in 2008 threw 95 innings, allowing 97 hits, 12 homers, 36 walks and striking out 79, with an adjusted ERA of 4.34; if he throws 190 innings, that would adjust to 194 hits allowed, 24 homers, 72 walks and 158 batters struckout. Happ threw much less, only 33 innings pitched, but striking out 26, only 28 hits given up, 14 walks, 3 homers and an adjusted ERA of 3.55. Moreover, Happ’s minor league stats (he’s a six-foot six lefty) suggest that’s he’s a power pitcher who can strike out hitters; in Las Vegas AAA in 2008 he struck out 151 batters in 135 innings innings pitched. In Ottawa AAA in 2007 he whiffed 117 batters in 118 innings pitched. Happ started 24 games in Ottawa and 23 games in Las Vegas, and he’s not going to turn 27 until October 2009, so he can definitely throw starter innings. Bottom line: between Happ and Park, the fifth starter ERA for at least the back end of 250 innings of Phillies pitching should be much, much better than last year.

9) Kyle Kendrick is a Nice Guy, but He’s Strictly AAA Material

The only way this can get derailed is if the Phillies give Kyle Kendrick another shot as fifth starter. This would be a mistake. Even though Kendrick won a lot of games, he was one of the least effective starters in the National League according to the Bill James Handbook 2009 number crunchers. The basic problems with Kendrick are that 1) he’s just not a strikeout pitcher and 2) he gives up too many hits and homers. Here’s his line for 2008; 156 innings pitched, 194 hits given up (I’m not making that number up), 23 homers, 14 hit batters (very wild), 57 walks (again, wild), only 68 batters struck out, an official 5.49 ERA and an adjusted ERA of 6.05. When you look at Kendrick’s line, it’s obvious that he’s very wild—57 walks in 156 innings pitched, plus 194 hits given up, plus 14 hit batsmen. Now, you can walk a lot of batters and be successful—Nolan Ryan and Bob Feller both did it—but you’d better not be giving up many hits and you’d better be striking out the side, as Ryan and Feller used to do. But if you’re giving up walks, AND giving up lots of hits AND hitting batters and you can’t get strikeouts, well, you probably just can’t pitch in the major leagues. Kendrick is a nice guy, and maybe he can retool and become a middle innings relief guy, if he develops a change-up or a sinker as an out pitch. But from here, based on those numbers, Kendrick needs a season in triple A to refine his approach and then come back to the big team later on. Meanwhile, J.A. Happ is the guy I’d be looking at if I were the Phillies.

10) Who in the World is Carlos Carrasco?

The Phillies should not be auditioning Carlos Carrasco seriously as a fifth starter for 2009. They’re a world champion about to repeat. They don’t need a rookie starting. Carrasco should start out in Triple A and later come onboard and help in the bullpen, maybe, or spot start later in the year if someone gets hurt.

11) Phils – Best in Baseball at Stealing and Taking the Extra Base The Phillies are the best in baseball at baserunning. The Bill James Handbook for 2009 built up a chart of which teams did the best job in moving first to third, second to home, first to home, and guess which team was the best in baseball in seizing those opportunities? If you said the Philadelphia Phillies, you would be correct. The Phils move first to third 55 of 195 chances, second to home 98 of 163 chances, and first to home 29 of 55 chances, taking 142 total bases, while being doubled off only 18 times, and making only 36 base-running outs, one of the lowest out totals in baseball, and grounding into only 108 doubleplays, again, one of the lowest GIDP totals in baseball. The net gains for the Phils from baserunning and from stolen bases (Rollins, Victorino, Werth and Utley all stole 20 or more bases, Rollins and Victorino 30 or more), was a net gain of 114 bases, the largest such advantage in baseball. Those were extra bases the Phillies took on the basepaths without the benefit of a hit just by good baserunning. The fact is that the Phillies have one of the fastest and best running lineups in baseball, with Rollins, Victorino, Werth and Utley in the lineup. All four of these guys can steal, take the extra base, and go first to home on any extra base hit. These guys more than make up for Howard, Feliz or Ruiz being slower. In addition, guys like Rollins, Victorino, Werth and Utley make the opposing pitchers nervous and cause them to make extra throws to first base. Finally, because the Phillies were so successful stealing, taking the extra base, etc., they had very few situations where they could ground into the double play. About the only time they wouldn’t run was when Ryan Howard was up with a man or men on first, and even then sometimes Charlie Manuel would run, just to confuse opposing managers. This chart is at page 320 of the BJH for 2009.

12) Phils – the Best Bullpen in Baseball

The Phillies have by far the best bullpen in baseball. The only guys who weren’t any good last year were Tom Gordon, who is gone, Adam Eaton and Kyle Kendrick and it’s doubtful we’ll see Eaton or Kendrick in the bullpen. Lidge and Madsen were money, and it remains to be seen if the Met’s new additions will be as good as Lidge or Madsen. Losing Clay Condrey is not good, but J.C. Romero will be back after his suspension, and he pitched very well last year. Chad Durbin was outstanding for the Phils last year.

13) Charlie Manuel – the Best Manager in Baseball

Charlie Manuel has now established that he is one of the best managers in baseball. He’s now logged seven seasons as a manager with the Indians and Phillies, and the results don’t lie. He won 90 and 91 games in two of his three seasons with the Indians, made the playoffs, and had only one bad season with them, in 2002. With the Phillies, he has won 88, 85, 89 and 92 games, and made the playoffs last year and won the World Series this year. Compare this to so-called brilliant Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who from 1997-2000 inclusive, with Curt Schilling, Bobby Abreu and Scott Rolen in the lineup, managed to win 68, 75, 77 and 65 games for the Phillies. Manuel as Phillies Manager last year beat Joe Torre and the Dodgers in the NLCS to win the pennant, and Torre is arguably, along with Bobby Cox, the greatest manager of our day. Then Manuel encountered not the Boston Red Sox but the Tampa Bay Rays and Joe Maddon in the World Series, which in many ways was a challenge. Then the Commissioner of Baseball and the Networks conspired to create the famous rain-shortened delayed Game Five, which effectively neutralized the Cole Hamels pitching advantage the Phillies had in that Game. Two days later, Manuel came up with managing brilliancy after managing brilliancy, handling his pinch-hitters and bullpen brilliantly and completely out-managing his opponents Tampa Bay and Maddon to win the world championship in a suspended game five that will live forever in Philadelphia sports history. Charlie Manuel’s average record after seven years of managing is 88-74, not including playoff wins, a .543 winning percentage, and that’s better than lifetime managing winning percentage of such so-called brilliant managers as: Lou Piniella, Jimmy Leyland, Manager Jack McKeon, Tony LaRussa, Felipe Alou, Buddy Bell, Dusty Baker, Terry Francona, Bruce Bochy, Joe Maddon, Jerry Manuel, Phil Garner, Joe Girardi, Ozzie Guillen, Mike Hargrove, Clint Hurdle, Bob Melvin, Willie Randolph, Buck Schowalter and Jim Tracy. In fact the only managers with a HIGHER lifetime winning percentage than Charlie Manuel currently are Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, Ken Macha, Grady Little and Mike Scioscia. As we know, Torre, Manuel, Cox and Scioscia have all won World Series championships, but only Torre has one more than one World Championship in that grouping. If Charlie Manuel repeats this year with the Phillies, he not only stands a chance to gain in career winning percentage on these all-time great managers, but also he will join Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and Terry Francona as the only multi-World Series winning managers. Of this grouping, only Manuel will have been a consistent winner in his entire managerial career, since we know that Torre had some bad years earlier in his career managing in the National League. Consequently, if Manuel were to repeat this year, he would have a legitimate claim at the Hall of Fame as a Manager inductee; in fact, his credentials for the Hall of Fame even if he just wins the division or makes it as a wild card a couple of more times seem guaranteed. There is little question that Charlie Manuel has been the greatest manager in the entire history of the Phillies’ organization, and I mean going back to 1883 when the club was a minor league outfit which had just arrived in Philadelphia struggling to survive a move from Worcester, Massachusetts.

14) A Brief History of the Phillies

This is the finest era of Phillies baseball in the history of the franchise. There have only been a few great eras of Phillies baseball. One was the 1890s, when the outfield was led by Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty, and the club consistently finished 2d, 3d or in the upper half of the league. While they didn’t win pennants, they were winners for about ten years, and since they were the only baseball club in Philadelphia, attendance was very good. The next good period for the Phillies was the 1910s, when the club was led by Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander (the only pitcher named for one president, Grover Cleveland, and played by another in a movie, Ronald Reagan) (by the way, a great flick), the best pitcher in all of baseball, Dave “Beauty” Bancroft at short and other great players. That 1910s team won only one NL pennant in 1915, but was upper division for several years, and had there been a Cy Young Award, Alexander would have won about five in a row. But the A’s were the Philadelphia team that the city loved from 1901-1953, pretty much, as they won multiple pennants and world series, especially from 1905-1914, and again from 1929-1931, and did very well other years. The Phillies did not have a good squad again until the “whiz kids” of 1950 led by Hall of Famers Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn et al. While they won only one pennant, and the team has been disparaged for not breaking the color line, they were a good team that played fine seasons, and they finally broke the dominance of the As and attracted the hearts of Philly fans. The next good team was the 1964 Phils team led by Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, and could have been Hall of Famer Dick Allen, who had one of the greatest rookie years in baseball history in 1964. The September collapse of the 1964 Phils we will skip over, except to say, they were a great team, and deserved to win one or more pennants. Dick Allen returned in 1976 to play first base for the beginning of a Phils dynasty led by Hall of Famers Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt, and outstanding players like Bob Boone at catcher, Larry Bowa at shortstop, later joined by Pete Rose and Joe Morgan along the way, a dynasty that won multiple division titles, pennants, playoff games, a World Series, and threatened to repeat only to lose the 1983 world series, a dynasty that would last from 1976-1983. The dynasty might have gone further had the Phillies not made a couple of bad trades in the winter of 1983. They had three second basemen in their farm system—Juan Samuel, Ryne Sandberg and Julio Franco. The Phillies made an error and decided to trade two of these players, instead of keeping all three and converting them to other positions, like shortstop or first base. All of them could have hit enough for any infield position. Sandberg was traded with Larry Bowa for a shortstop whose name I can’t even remember, and the Cubs won the NL East Division in 1984 as a result. Franco and four other Phillies were traded for Von Hayes, a five tool lefthanded outfielder who put up some good numbers for about five years, but then went into a premature age-related decline. Franco, as we all know, retired just last year, I think, at age 50. I’m pretty sure he’s still playing somewhere in Mexico, and still hitting .300 and slugging homers. I really liked Julio Franco because for a long time, as long as he was a pro, there was someone older than me playing in the big leagues. Ryne Sandberg has retired and is already in the Hall of Fame. It’s a shame to think how good the phillies might have been with Sandberg and Schmidt for a few years there—Schmidt won the MVP in 1986 or 1987—batting third and fourth—but that goes in the category of what-if. The next great phils team was the Dykstra-Kruk-Schilling bad boys team of 1993, which was really a great team, but a one-year wonder, last to first, and back to last again the next year. A lot of pitchers on that team had their greatest seasons ever that one year, guys like Tommy Greene and Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams, and then never were able to throw effectively again. You’d have to say they gave it all. After than, the core dissipated, and started winning in other cities—Hollins went to Minnesota and won, Dalton went to Florida and won, Schilling went to the Red Sox and won, Rolen went to St. Louis and won—it seemed there was a lot of magic to the 93’ phillies that was infectious, the team knew how to win, but couldn’t put it back together again in Philadelphia. Now we have another juggernaut here in Philly, and these Phillies are a lot like the 1976-83 Phillies team, a dynasty, except only better. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard together are equal to Mike Schmidt—and Cole Hamels is just as good right now as Steve Carlton was back in the day, though it remains to be seen if Hamels can pitch twenty five years like Carlton did. Lidge is better than Tug McGraw was in his best seasons, and you’d have to say the rest of the club and starters and bullpen are actually better than the Phillies of 1976-83.

15) Bring Back Pete Rose and Ban the Steroid Guys Instead.

One thing we don’t have is a player like Pete Rose, he was a true Hall of Famer, even if baseball wants to bar the doors, there isn’t a player in the Hall of Fame as good as Pete Rose, and I include Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, because no one wanted to win as badly or was willing to do so many things to win a ballgame, as Pete “Charlie Hustle” Rose was willing to do each and every day on the ballfield. He lived to win, and he won because that’s what he lived for. I’ll always think of him fondly because he brought us the 1980 World Series Championship, and because he lit a fire under Mike Schmidt, and because he looked right with a Phillies cap on, and because he was the third Hall of Famer on that 1980 team (I’d probably add Bob Boone, by the way), and I don’t really care if he bet on baseball. I’d sentence him to time served and welcome him back if I was the Commissioner. Heck, with all the disgraced steroid users in the game, Pete Rose would be a shot in the arm for baseball right now. HE PLAYED THE GAME THE RIGHT WAY, HE DIDN’T CHEAT. So what if he bet on the ponies? I’m sure half of all the accountants, lawyers, investment bankers and other important people on Wall Street have bookies and keep them plenty busy, even in this horrible economy. No one is banning them from their livelihoods. There’s no commissioner to supervise CEOs from going to the Kentucky Derby, in fact, if you go to the Kentucky Derby or Saratoga Racetrack in August, you’ll see nothing but CEOs with young girls, gambling their money away or worse, wasting it on their own horses. How is this any different from what Pete Rose did? And no one is banning Alex Rodriguez from baseball, even though what he did using steroids is more disrespectful to the integrity of the game than betting on baseball. Pete Rose is about 1/1000ths as guilty of corrupting baseball as Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Conseco and the whole lot of those steroid users. Bring back Pete Rose! We need guys like Pete Rose, guys who would go to Geno’s, eat a cheesesteak, sign about a thousand autographs, maybe pick up the local waitress, and then go out the ballpark and PLAY BASEBALL THE WAY IT WAS MEANT TO BE PLAYED. Pete Rose used to RUN to first on walks. He’d slide on every play. If the play was close at home, he’d try and destroy the catcher. He always went all out on ever fly ball, every grounder, every single foul ball. He backed up other fielders just in case, which is how he caught that foul ball that fell out of bob Boone’s glove in the World Series for out two in the ninth. He ALWAYS was running hard to get the extra base. If he hit a single that wasn’t right at the left or right fielder, Rose was gone to second, stretching it to a double. No matter where the ball was hit, if he was on second, he was taking a big lead and was going to try and score, and test your arm doing it. He always knew the situation; how many outs, what the score was, who was playing where. If you needed a ball to the right side of the infield, he gave you one. If you needed a bunt, he gave you one. If you needed a home run, he’d jack one out of the park, because he could do that when he needed to also. He did whatever was required to win. At age 40, Pete Rose was ten times the player that most guys would ever be at age 25. He was the best I ever saw, bar none, and I include many great players in that list, guys like Hank Aaron, Mike Schmidt, Ken Griffey Jr., and so forth. Pete did more with less natural ability than anyone who ever played the game. He could switch hit, he could run, he could field almost every position (he played second base, third base, first base, left field in his career) and he played major league baseball long enough to collect more than 4,000 hits. I say if Pete Rose played in Joe Jackson’s era, he’d of been better than Joe Jackson, and if Joe Jackson had played in Pete Rose’s era, Joe Jackson couldn’t have touched Pete Rose. If Pete Rose had played against Babe Ruth in the 1920s, and Pete Rose had decided to hit homers for a year, Pete Rose could have hit 70 of them I believe. I think Pete Rose could have been better than any ballplayer in any era at any time. That’s how good I think he was, how good I think he is, and Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball, is wrong to bar Pete Rose from the game, while allowing known perjurers liars and convicts to populate the clubhouses in the form of these steroid users. It’s a double and triple standard of justice that I can’t get on board with, and neither should you. I support the players union but I don’t support what’s going on. Let’s ban all the cheaters and let’s rehabilitate a man who stood for decency and fair play on the field, and let him apologize, and let’s forgive him his trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Let’s forgive Pete Rose.

–Art Kyriazis Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies
March 10, 2009

Two great American writers have passed from the scene recently in Kurt Vonnegut and John Updike. Vonnegut exerted a dramatic pull on me while younger, since we read a good deal of his work during prep school english, and here I refer to Vonnegut’s classic works such as Slaughter-House Five and Player Piano. This work was imaginative, clever, funny and crossed the boundaries of science fiction, fantasy and plain old story telling. It’s hard to think of another writer who wove plots the way Vonnegut did across time and space. Naturally with all the science fiction we see on TV and the movies today, we accept this as a commonplace, but back in the day, this was not a conventional way of writing.

Vonnegut’s other work was so well-known that it made its way into the popular culture, into rock and pop lyrics, into band names, into other people’s novels and short stories, and was the inspiration for many television and movie scripts. Vonnegut has probably been “sampled” more than any other twentieth century writer. He had a distinctive voice, a distinctive style, and once you read him, you didn’t really look at things the same way again.

Of course, Vonnegut is best known for his depiction of the American fire-bombing of Dresden in one of his books, and the not-so-subtle comparison of it to the napalm bombings of Vietnam. It’s very likely that his literary use of WWII to make an antiwar comment about Vietnam gave rise in part to the Robert Altman directed movie MASH, which used the Korean War to make an antiwar comment about Vietnam, which in turn gave rise to the nearly ten year long TV show MASH. As I noted, Vonnegut’s ideas and notions were widely influential. The idea of protesting one war by fictionalizing another was uniquely Vonnegut’s, but it had slid into the mainstream by the mid-1970s and was hit comedy television.

Vonnegut was funny, disrespectful, and interesting to the end of his days. For this, we should commend him. We will probably never see his like again.

Updike was a prolific fiction writer. I never really got behind his Rabbit Run series about Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom. I never bought into the seventies malaise of suburban growups trading wives, having affairs, or searching for answers after 40 and 50 in the arms of younger women. None of that made sense to me and consequently, none of his fiction resonated particularly with me.

What I did love were his essays about sports. He wrote about golf in a way that really made sense to me, and of course, he wrote one of the most famous baseball essays of all times, the essay about Ted Williams last at bat, which is so famous that if Updike had written nothing else in his career, he’d probably have gotten a pretty long obit just for that. But he seemingly tossed those off with ease. Of all Updike’s many obits, only Sports Illustrated noted his sports essays; what an omission by the general press.

John Updike on October 22, 1960 in the New Yorker Magazine published what is arguably the greatest baseball essay ever written, the essay that really gave rise to the entire mythos and legend that we now know as “Red Sox Nation”. Before this essay was written, the Red Sox were just another team. After it, they became the darlings of the Harvard and Northeast intellegentsia forever.

Here, I refer of course to the famous essay “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu”, which documents the final at bat of Ted Williams’ career, in which he hits a home run. The essay is so brilliant, I wouldn’t want to omit you reading it for yourselves, so here’s the link page to the New Yorker so you can read it for yourselves;

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1960/10/22/1960_10_22_109_TNY_CARDS_000266305

The essay is filled with Updike-isms. Ty Cobb is the “Einstein of Average”. Fenway Park is “a compromise between Man’s Euclidean determinations and Nature’s beguiling irregularities.” Ted Williams was known as “TED, KID, SPLINTER, THUMPER, TW, and, most cloyingly, MISTER WONDERFUL.”

Updike’s description of Williams’ last home run is immortal:

“Fisher, after his unsettling wait, was wide with the first pitch. He put the second one over, and Williams swung mightily and missed. The crowd grunted, seeing that classic swing, so long and smooth and quick, exposed, naked in its failure. Fisher threw the third time, Williams swung again, and there it was. The ball climbed on a diagonal line into the vast volume of air over center field. From my angle, behind third base, the ball seemed less an object in flight than the tip of a towering, motionless construct, like the Eiffel Tower or the Tappan Zee Bridge. It was in the books while it was still in the sky. Brandt ran back to the deepest corner of the outfield grass; the ball descended beyond his reach and struck in the crotch where the bullpen met the wall, bounced chunkily, and, as far as I could see, vanished.

Like a feather caught in a vortex, Williams ran around the square of bases at the center of our beseeching screaming. He ran as he always ran out home runs—hurriedly, unsmiling, head down, as if our praise were a storm of rain to get out of. He didn’t tip his cap. Though we thumped, wept, and chanted “We want Ted” for minutes after he hid in the dugout, he did not come back. Our noise for some seconds passed beyond excitement into a kind of immense open anguish, a wailing, a cry to be saved. But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods do not answer letters.”

New Yorker, id at p.6.

“Gods do not answer letters.” A true Updike-ism. That I consider this to be Updike’s finest essay, or that anyone might consider this to be Updike’s finest essay, should come as no surprise.

We live in an era of flawed heroes. Athletes who are constantly arrested, constantly in court, constantly discovered to have cheated, to have used steroids, brandishing tatooes, illegitimate children and other paraphernalia of personal baggage.

Ted Williams was a true hero. He served his country with distinction in the second world war and the korean conflict as a fighter pilot, and thought nothing of giving up five of his prime years of baseball to do so. even giving up those five years, and without juicing, junking or cheating, he managed to hit .400 in a season, win batting titles and smash home run records, drive in hundreds of runs, and hit more than 500 career homers while hitting well over .300 for his career, while drawing a huge number of career walks and scoring a ridiculous number of runs.

I’d like for someone to show me one professional athlete (other that the late Pat Tillman) who has given up pro sports to serve his country lately. It would be refreshing if the United States rekindled the draft and didn’t exempt professional athletes. a couple of years in the army might do them some attitude readjustment good. They might actually learn the meaning of the word “team”.

Updike of course understood all this. That’s why he loved Ted Williams and immortalized him for all time in his essay. Updike knew the difference between a hero and a mere mortal. Gods don’t answer letters. They just do heroic acts like serving their country and performing on the field.

A great book by Updike that also resonated with me was a wonderful collection of essays “Hugging the Shore,” which usurped his many fine essays from the New Yorker and elsewhere.

I used to love Updike’s essays in the New Yorker. I remembered one he wrote, which must have been five thousand words or more, on the joys of hanging out at the beach in the summer at Cape Cod. But Updike he also wrote many fine critical essays, as well as such personal essays, and all of them were finely crafted and well written. They were the essence of what you wanted to read in the New Yorker while commuting home from work, or just laying at the beach yourself.

Updike was a literate and intelligent man, and a writer’s writer. He was the editor of the Harvard Lampoon of 1954, but he was no buffoon, and no poonie turned Hollywood script writer. Instead, he became directly a man of American letters, an acknowledge novelist, critic and spokesman for his generation. He had a way with words.

Born outside of Reading, PA, in Shillington, he referred to his hometown always as “pollenny Pennsylvania,” a clever and abstract alliteration. Needless to say, he was a north shore man, not really a Cape Cod man at all, cleaving to Ipswich, Mass and their fine food and exquisite antiques.

Here I have to note that I have never liked Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, or any of a dozen other novelists who competed for attention on the shelves of bookstores with Vonnegut and Updike during their heydays. Much seventies writing seemed overly obsessed with self, sex, religion, or other personal subject matters that were hideously Dostoevskian and self-absorbed. It was as if writing one’s own life down on paper had become an acceptable substitute for the actual drafting of fiction.

Vonnegut and Updike didn’t buy into this. They actually were craftsmen. They seemed to transcend all, or at least a great deal of this, Vonnegut by consciously making fun of it all, and Updike by writing so well about so many things, he transcended the subject matter. In short, they didn’t fall into the malaise that many of the writers of their generation did, and consequently, they stand head and shoulders above them.

–art kyriazis south jersey/philly
home of the world champion philadelphia phillies