Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Baseball Thesaurus

Thanks to Kevin Reichard and August Publications, I am now officially a published author.

Introducing:

"The Baseball Thesaurus"



Sluggers deposit a Ballantine Blast in the nosebleeds. The top of the lineup sets the table for the heart of the order. Corner infielders guard the line. A lumberjack with a bad wheel staggers down the line while a glovesman flashes leather.
Baseball is a sport with its own lingo — a colorful patois that’s developed over the years and millions of games. In The Baseball Thesaurus, a fascinating compendium of baseball terms, Jesse Goldberg-Strassler — broadcaster, storyteller, talker, voice — explains what baseball terms mean and how they came to be. Whether it’s Red Barber talking about the pea patch or Ernie Harwell discussing no-hitters, the language of America’s Pastime is brilliantly captured by Goldberg-Strassler.
The Baseball Thesaurus is the first book published under the Lineup Books imprint from August Publications, publisher of Websites (ballparkdigest.comspringtrainingonline.com) and books.
“Our goal is to establish a solid book brand for sports fans, with regularly scheduled releases throughout the calendar year,” said publisher Kevin Reichard. “We’re really excited that the first book in the Lineup Books lineup is such a strong, readable and fascinating title.”
The Baseball ThesaurusWho should read The Baseball Thesaurus? It’s for the media linguist whose job relies upon baseball jargon, the radio listener, the blog reader, the talk-show caller, the minor-league diehard, the Strat-O-Matic connoisseur, the seventh-inning stretcher, the stereotype breaker, the crank, the postgame fireworks enthusiast, the t-ball coach, the seamhead, the baseball Annie, the hot-stove moper, the bandwagoner, the purist, the casual rooter who enjoys a quick tidbit and has no need to attend both games of a doubleheader, and the fan who takes pride in scoring the game and teaching the tradition to others.
“For fans old and new, Jesse Goldberg-Strassler’s thesaurus is a romp. On first glance, it’s a primer on baseball’s peculiar taxonomy and traditions, but open any page and you’ll find lots more, including amusing anecdotes and witty wordplay from the game’s great characters. Goldberg-Strassler has built a dugout in which Al Capone, James Earl Jones, and George Carlin lounge happily alongside Dizzy Dean, Cool Papa Bell, and Zoilo Versalles. 
A lollygagger’s delight!” – John Lott, baseball writer, National Post, Toronto

“What an incredible resource – I can’t get over the amount of work – and the detail – that went into this book. A great window on baseball’s lexicon from days of yore to the game today. This book won’t be far from my side next season.” – Dan Dickerson, Voice of the Detroit Tigers

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It's a Mitzvah

No sports talk here.

With great respect and enthusiasm, I encourage you to take the time to cast your vote today.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Best of the Pre-Integration Ballot

The Baseball Hall of Fame announced its 10 finalists for the Pre-Integration Ballot yesterday, with the decision to be made by a distinguished panel comprising Bert Blyleven, Pat Gillick, Phil Niekro, Don Sutton, Bill DeWitt, Roland Hemond, Gary Hughes, Bob Watson, Jim Henneman, Steve Hirdt, Peter Morris, Phil Pepe, Tom Simon, Claire Smith, T.R. Sullivan, and Mark Whicker.

Not a bad panel.  (I should point out that I am friends with Peter Morris, whom I believe to be one of baseball's foremost researchers.)

Here are my thoughts.

(Further reading:  Rob Neyer wrote a great piece with a verdict on each nominee as well.)

*

Non-Players

Sam Breadon:  St. Louis Cardinals owner, 1920-1947.  The Cards won a ton while Breadon was in charge, thanks mainly to the brilliance of Branch Rickey.  I am utterly disinterested whether we should give credit to Breadon for hiring Rickey.  Should we care if he's a Hall of Famer?  No.  Unless you're a Cardinals fan, not particularly.  Breadon hired the right people and got out of the way.

Col. Jacob Ruppert:  New York Yankees owner, 1915-1939.  He lucked into Babe Ruth, sure, and he benefitted hugely from executive Ed Barrow and managers Miller Huggins and Joe McCarthy, all of them Hall of Famers.  Should we care if he gets inducted?  Just like Breadon, not one bit.  The real reasons the Yankees became a powerhouse are already enshrined.

Hank O'Day:  umpire, 1895-1927.  Made the key call in the famous Merkle's Boner.  Umped 10 World Series, including five of first seven.  He was clearly respected.  Here's the weird thing, though:  There've been a ton of umps already inducted, including his contemporaries, so how come they didn't include Hank?  Should we care?  On paper, Hank O'Day looks like an iconic Hall of Fame umpire.  I just wish we knew why he's not already in.  That's a huge mark against him.

Alfred Reach:  From the Hall of Fame's own description - "Established the A.J. Reach company to produce baseball and other sporting equipment, producing the official baseball of the American League.  From 1883-1989, published "Reach's Official Base Ball Guide,"providing readers with statistics and stories, which served as the official publication of both the American Association and American League."  Well, should we care?  They mean 1889, right?  Anyway, cool story.  Would you really complain if they inducted the guy who provided the official baseball of the American League?  Not me.

***

Players  (This will go quicker)

Bill Dahlen and Deacon White:  Dahlen was a superstar shortstop at the turn of the 19th century.  White was a superstar catcher near the game's beginning who played till he was 42.  If you check this out (near the bottom), Dahlen's Top 10 similarity scores match him with seven Hall of Famers plus Omar Vizquel and Dave Concepcion.  He was sensational.  Meanwhile, the aforementioned Peter Morris dedicated the Afterword in his most recent book, "Catcher," to detailing the Hall of Fame case for the remarkable White.  Do they belong?  Heck yes, a million times yes.

Tony Mullane:   "The Apollo of the Box"!  Great stories about Tony abound, from his racism to his handsomeness to his ambidextrousness.  Should he go to Cooperstown?  Nope.

Marty Marion:  The best defensive shortstop of his era!  (The 1940s)  Hall of Famer?  Not a chance.  Couldn't hit, didn't play long.

Wes Ferrell:  The pitcher who could slug!  Batted .280 with 38 homers.  What do you say?  No, sir.  I know, his brother Rick is in Cooperstown with worse hitting numbers -- and Rick was a catcher! -- but Wes wasn't good enough.  If you check his similarity scores, there's no one close to him who's in the Hall.

Bucky Walters:  He... No.  Really?  Bucky Walters?  Had about four really great seasons out of 19 years in the Majors.  Fine ace for the Reds for a little while, but there's nothing Cooperstownian about him.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Memories of Mike Redmond, Lugnuts manager

A brief timeline of events:

-  Catcher Mike Redmond played in 2010 for the Cleveland Indians, his last season in the Major Leagues.  (Visual evidence:  Mike gets thrown out at first base from the outfield.)

-  In 2011, Mike Redmond was hired by the Toronto Blue Jays to manage their Class-A affiliate in Lansing, Michigan.  The Lansing Lugnuts finished the season 77-60 and persevered their way into the Midwest League Championship Series.  Redmond was named the MWL Manager of the Year.

-  In 2012, Mike moved up to manage Class A-Advanced Dunedin.  The Dunedin Blue Jays went 78-55, first place in the Florida State League North Division, before losing in the FSL semifinals.

-  Today, the Miami Marlins hired Mike Redmond as their new manager.

***

I handle the radio broadcasts and the media relations for the aforementioned Lansing Lugnuts, and so I can tell you a little about my experience with Mike Redmond.

1.  Mike is best friends with former Major Leaguer Mike Lowell.  Wherever he goes, chances are that Lowell will stop by.  Mike Lowell is a fantastic guy.

2.  Redmond has a real quick smile, a sly glint in his eye, a great sarcastic wit, a sharp laugh, and he's terrific with the media.  ESPN's Jayson Stark emailed the Lugnuts at one point about something, and it came out that he's a big Redmond fan.  I would say that Stark has a lot of company in that camp.

3.  On the surface, Red's very much a players' manager.  He's quiet, he enjoys a good time and a good joke, and he sticks up for his guys.  This, however, will change in a hurry (behind closed doors) if his players do not play up to his standards.  Absolutely no one's getting buried in front of the media, but guys certainly will get ripped in the clubhouse.  Mike is subtly intense and his temper will boil.

4.  The naked batting practice story is true.  If you don't know it, google it.

5.  My favorite Redmond story, though, was one he told me while we were sitting in the dugout before a game.  Brad Radke's on the mound, Red behind the plate, with the Twins one strike away from a win -- but Radke is finding it increasingly difficult to put away the last hitter.  Mike Redmond heads out to the mound.  "He can't hit a slider," Red says to Radke.  "I don't throw a slider," says Radke.  "I don't care," says Red.  "He can't hit a slider, so I'm calling for a slider."  Back goes Redmond behind the plate.  He puts down the signal for the slider.  Radke sighs, nods, and throws his best attempt at a slider.  Ballgame.

MLB Free Agents, and Fool's Gold

You'd be hard-pressed to find many high-priced free agents who've earned their exorbitant new salaries over the years.  Last season, if I recall rightly, Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes were the plumb free agents on the market, followed by Prince Fielder, C.J. Wilson, and Yu Darvish.  How'd that work out?  Pretty good to fair to middling, right?

Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors breaks down his Top 50 list of available free agents this year.  Going over some of the standouts:

(Note:  I love using Baseball-Reference.com's ERA+ to judge pitchers and OPS+ to judge hitters.  Basically, 100 is league average.  The closer you are to 100, the more average you are.  A 140 is great, for instance; a 105 is not.  An 85 is awful.)

* #1, 2, and 3 are Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton and Michael Bourn.  Each is intriguing.  Each could very well be a significant difference maker in 2013.

Now then...

*  Anibal Sanchez is #4, the second-ranked pitcher, behind Zack Greinke (#1).  Sanchez has a career ERA+ of 110, right in line with his 101 with the Marlins and 113 with the Tigers last year.  Postseason standout, maybe, but regular season fool's gold.

*  B.J. Upton is #5.  Career OPS+:  105.  Last year:  109.  Buyer beware.  Outstanding talent, but each year feels like an increasing disappointment to how good he could be.

*  Nick Swisher is #6.  Let's not forget how he bombed with the White Sox in 2008.  Lack of pressure in the New York Yankees' lineup has made him productive (excluding his miserable postseason play:  .169 career batting average in the playoffs).  I'd highly doubt he goes elsewhere and plays better.

*  Edwin Jackson is #7, apparently destined to continue to pick up one-year pay checks, tantalize, and then move on.  Seriously, I understand why a team would be intrigued -- but is he really anything more than a back-of-the-rotation starter longterm?  The Nationals had it right, give him one year and go from there.

There are some more interesting names, such as Hiroki Kuroda, Kyle Lohse, Shane Victorino, and Adam LaRoche from #9 - #15.

*  Rafael Soriano is #17, ready to serve as the 2013 version of Heath Bell, picking up a hefty paycheck, blowing saves, and souring the clubhouse.  Any team that overpays for Soriano deserves what it gets.

*  Melky Cabrera is #18.  Sell that signing to your fans, especially if he starts the season in a slump.

*  Marco "Blockbuster" Scutaro is #23, one spot behind Cody Ross.  Hey, two postseason heroes from the Giants, each one great in the clubhouse, each one able to give you something, neither one deserving of anything more than a complementary salary at this point in his career.

*  #25 is Joe Saunders.  We are halfway through the list of the top free agents and we've reached a pitcher who gritted through two postseason starts... but he's basically a 4.00 ERA sort of pitcher (and over) with a career ERA+ of 103.  Average pitcher.

Average?  At #25?

Yes, the list takes a severe nose dive from here, including Francisco Liriano, Carlos Villanueva. Joe Blanton, a ton of pitchers coming off surgery, the aging Ichiro, professional hitter Jeff Keppinger, the suddenly hittable Jose Valverde, and, at #50, Jeremy Affeldt.

In conclusion...

Seriously, unless your team conducts a series of major trades (there's talk that the Rays' David Price might hit the market), there's not too much going on in the hot stove department.

Best of luck to whomever decides to throw a ton of money at Josh Hamilton.