There’s a lot of people in the sports media who will make prediction and will only shout from the rooftops when they are right. I’m one of the few that will tell you about the ones I totally blew, and back in February, I wrote a piece about the Oakland A’s that I need to eat.
If you hadn’t noticed, I kept writing off the A’s as dead as recently as July. Well, they just won 94 games, good enough for the second-best record in the American League and the American League West crown.
But before all that, I called out Nico at Athletics Nation on an article he wrote in which he claims the A’s weren’t as bad as people thought they were. I did one of my patented Dubsism break-downs essentially ridiculing that possibility, and this morning I’ve come to know what it feels like to have 1,500 words jammed in my ass.
I’m not the only one who didn’t come to praise the A’s, but came to bury them. I’m not the only one; Baseball Prospectus picked the Oakland A’s to finish 73-89. But will you see a mea culpa from them? Probably not.
Honestly, It has been a wild ride for the A’s, and to really understand it, let’s look back at things I’ve said about them throughout this season. Let’s start with my basic initial assumption of the A’s:
Let’s take the Brad Pitt-fueled legend of Billy Beane. I know the A’s went to the playoffs in four straight years from 2003 to 2006, but their pinnacle of achievement was losing to the Tigers in the 2006 American League Championship Series. Since then, the A’s have not made the playoffs again, in fact they’ve never finished above .500 since then. That doesn’t look to change this season.
Ok, so I was wrong…way wrong. But I wasn’t wrong before July 1st, when this team was 38-42, 13 games back and seemed to be headed for their usual summer fade to oblivion.
All the signs were there. After all, here’s what I originally said about the A’s coming into the season.
Upside: America’s favorite breakfast cereal, Coco Crisp, will still man the Oakland outfield after signing a $14 million, two-year contract with a club option for 2014 after hitting .264 with eight home runs, 54 RBI and 49 stolen bases last season. Then there the Cuban grab-bag known as Yoenis Cespedes. This kid could be the real deal.
Downside: The A’s are without many of their pitchers who brought success to the team in recent years. Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Josh Outman are out of the starting rotation, while Craig Breslow and Andrew Bailey are no longer in the bullpen. The one proven offensive power bat in the lineup has also departed; Josh Willingham hit 29 home runs and 98 RBI in 2011, but is now part of the Minnesota Twins.
At the end of April, it was a minor miracle this team managed to win eleven games while being last in the league in average, slugging percentage, and hitting with runners in scoring position. We’ve already discussed where they were at the end of June.
But then July happened.
While baseball fans were all paying attention to the Chipper Jones farewell tour and debating the plan to shutdown Stephen Strasburg, the A’s quietly went 19-5; fueling a turnaround that led to the following incredible splits.
- Since July 1st, the A’s posted a record of 56-30, including taking 8 of their last 10 games, which also meant knocking off the division-leading Texas Rangers for four of those final wins.
- Overall, The A’s went 50-31 at home (only the Yankees were better in all of baseball).
- The A’s went 44-37 on the road (4th best in all of baseball; all the teams with better road records are also in the play-offs).
- The A’s had a better record than anybody against the AL East (28-18).
Somewhere along the way, Oakland triumphed with a roster of mid-level draft picks, a Cuban defector (who had a 136 OPS+ in case you were wondering), and ironically a shitload of failed Red Sox, like Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, and George Kottaras.
Somehow once again, the A’s cobbled together a miracle in the pitching staff with a cadre of nobodies – who ever heard of Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Travis Blackley, and Dan Straily before this year – who pitched well enough to carry a hit who largely can’t hit, except for Cespedes. The bullpen showed up when it mattered, getting big contributions out of left-overs like Grant Balfour, and potential “could-bes” like Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle, plus a whole cast of yet more anonymous A’s hurlers.
There’s a ton of reasons why most of you woke up this morning to see the A’s had completed this amazing run that you hadn’t been aware of until now. There’s the aforementioned distractions, there’s the fact that ESPN doesn’t realize baseball exists west of the original 13 Colonies, and there’s the fact the A’s, for better or worse, are the “little brother” of Bay Area baseball.
The A’s rank 12th out of 14 American League teams in term off attendance. But the people who do show up are what you would expect from Oakland fans. If you show up at the Oakland A’s ballpark in San Francisco Giants gear, you may be eaten by Cujo. Here’s a team who had a major motion picture released about them in 2011, and the best “guy throwing out the first pitch” they can get is Terry Kiser; otherwise known as the dead guy from Weekend at Bernie’s.
But there are other factors that get lost in this prototypical “underdog” story that led to this turnaround.
1) Bob Melvin
Here’s what I originally said about the A’s skipper.
Then there’s Bob Melvin. This guy defines “Jekyll or Hyde” as a manager. Here’s a guy who won 93 games with Seattle, and lost 95 with the same team the next season. Then he won 90 games with the Diamondbacks, and got fired less than two seasons later. He’s got a .481 winning percentage as a manager. The Mets hired Terry Collins as manager over Bob Melvin. Let that sink in for a moment…Terry Fucking Collins.
There’s nothing wrong with a “Jekyll and Hyde” sort of guy so long as you know how to ride the oscillations. All that means is after A’s fans are done enjoying this ride up the standings, what happens next?
2) The Pitching and the Defense
Go back and look at what I said at the beginning of the season. There’s not too many staff that let a 20-game winner and possible Cy Young winner like Gio Gonzalez walk and get better.
- The A’s are second in the AL in team ERA and total earned runs allowed
- The A’s are fourth in the AL in hits allowed
- The A’s are third in the AL total errors committed
3) There Has To Be Something To This “MoneyBall” Thing
So, I have to admit…when they use Brad Pitt to play you in the movie, you’ve done something right. This may the biggest chunk of crow I have to eat in all of this, because the payroll numbers in baseball tell an interesting story when balanced against team wins.
The average playoff team in 2012 won 93.4 games, had a total payroll of $106,234,601, and spent $1,141,609 in payroll per game they won.
In contrast, the average non-playoff team won 74.75 games, had a total payroll of $93,915,559, and spent $1.264, 946 in payroll per game they won.
According to that, logic would dictate the difference between a winner and a loser is $123,337 in payroll per game; which means to go from 74 wins to 93 requires spending an additional $2,300,236 per season.
But that logic is flawed, and the A’s are the best example of it. Be warned, there’s some heavy math coming here…
Start with the number of team wins. If all teams play every one of their 162 scheduled games, the average number of team wins will be 81, because every game will have one winner and one loser. Therefore, team wins divided by payroll won’t be the best indicator of who gets the most bang for their payroll dollar.
The second indicator is in terms of total average payroll. That of the average playoff team in 2012 was $106,234,601, whereas the average non-playoff team had a total payroll of $93,915,559. This suggests the difference between a winner and a loser is approximately $13 million dollars.
What that doesn’t account for is ineffective spending. The two best ways to illustrate that are to look at the payroll of each play-off team and their median salaries. First, look at the top ten teams in terms of total payroll (based on figures from the beginning of the season; playoff team noted in bold type):
- New York Yankees $197,962,289
- Philadelphia Phillies $174,538,938
- Boston Red Sox $173,186,617
- Los Angeles Angels $154,485,166
- Detroit Tigers $132,300,000
- Texas Rangers $120,510,974
- Miami Marlins $118,078,000
- San Francisco Giants $117,620,683
- St. Louis Cardinals $110,300,862
- Milwaukee Brewers $97,653,944
Note that only five of them are playoff teams, and that three of the top five missed the post-season altogether.
Now compare that against the total payrolls of the ten playoff teams.
- New York Yankees $197,962,289
- Detroit Tigers $132,300,000
- Texas Rangers $120,510,974
- San Francisco Giants $117,620,683
- St. Louis Cardinals $110,300,862
- Atlanta Braves $83,309,942
- Cincinnati Reds $82,203,616
- Baltimore Orioles $81,428,999
- Washington Nationals $81,336,143
- Oakland Athletics $55,372,500
Not only do the A’s have the lowest payroll of any playoff team, but note the almost $30 million gap between the Braves and the Cardinals. The payrolls of three of the worst teams in baseball fit in that gap.
- Minnesota Twins $94,085,000
- New York Mets $93,353,983
- Chicago Cubs $88,197,033
Now for the piéce d’resistance, let’s look at teh median payrolls of team. You must understand the difference between average and median. Average is the sum of all salaries divided by the total number of salaries being paid, where the median is the dividing point at which half the salaries being paid are under the median number and the other half are over the median number. By looking at the median payroll, one can eliminate the skew caused by a few inordinately large contracts.
The Twins are a perfect example of this. While they are “big payroll” team with a total in excess of $94 million, their average salary is over $3.4 million dollars. However, that number is skewed by the big contracts of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, as the Twins’ median payroll number is only $750,000. When you break that down to median payroll per win, every time the Twins won a game, half the players on the field made less than $11,538 for that game; half made more than that.
When you stop to consider the Twins’ were dreadful, and that their median payroll is amongst the lowest in the league, you would not expect to find playoff teams spending at near or less than Minnesota. But you would be wrong. Here’s the bottom ten; playoff teams again noted in bold, and don’t forget teh major league minimum salary is $480,000 per year.
- Colorado Rockies $482,000
- Oakland Athletics $487,500
- Houston Astros $491,250
- Seattle Mariners $495,150
- Chicago White Sox $530,000
- Atlanta Braves $577,500
- Minnesota Twins $750,000
- Washington Nationals $800,000
- St. Louis Cardinals $800,000
- Cleveland Indians $800,000
There’s some fun in the numbers when you break down all of baseball in terms of median payroll per win. Again, I will use the Twins as a baseline and note how many playoff teams spent less per win than they did. But also look at the total number of wins (playoff teams in bold):
- Oakland Athletics 94 wins $5,186
- Atlanta Braves 94 wins $6,144
- Chicago White Sox 85 wins $6,235
- Seattle Mariners 75 wins $6,602
- Colorado Rockies 64 wins $7,531
- Washington Nationals 98 wins $8,163
- Houston Astros 55 wins $8,932
- St. Louis Cardinals 88 wins $9,091
- Los Angeles Dodgers 86 wins $10,174
- Minnesota Twins 65 wins $11,538
- Pittsburgh Pirates 79 wins $11,603
- Cleveland Indians 68 wins $11,765
- New York Mets 74 wins $11,824
- Cincinnati Reds 97 wins $11,856
- Kansas City Royals 72 wins $12,083
- Detroit Tigers 88 wins $12,500
- San Francisco Giants 94 wins $13,564
- Baltimore Orioles 93 wins $13,978
- Tampa Bay Rays 90 wins $15,833
- San Diego Padres 76 wins $15,888
- Arizona Diamondbacks 81 wins $20,062
- New York Yankees 95 wins $20,395
- Chicago Cubs 61 wins $20,697
- Miami Marlins 69 wins $21,739
- Boston Red Sox 69 wins $22,554
- Philadelphia Phillies 81 wins $23,148
- Milwaukee Brewers 83 wins $23,870
- Toronto Blue Jays 73 wins $24,229
- Los Angeles Angels 89 wins $35,393
- Texas Rangers 93 wins $36,962
I can’t tell which fact I like more; that 4 playoff teams have a median payroll per win number under $10,000 (which includes the team with the best regular-season record), or the fact that the team with the largest number and the smallest number are not only in the same division, but the small-money team ran down the big money team and beat them head-to-head when it mattered.
A’s fans, I hope you can enjoy what your team has just accomplished. You’ve done everything to get that “team of destiny” tag, and here’s hoping your team can pull it off. The bottom line here is that those of us who had the A’s on the DOA list all have a big shit-burger to eat, and it’s time for all of us to admit we were wrong. Here’s my admission…how long will I be waiting for the others?
Honestly, this is hard to type…there are tears rolling down my cheeks from laughter. Somebody just used the phrase “culture of winning” in the same sentence with the Oakland A’s. I know, right?
Rico, otherwise known as the the guy at Athletics Nation…well, I’m sure he means well, and to be honest, I feel what he’s saying. For reasons I will divulge another time, I have split loyalties in baseball; I’ve been a fan of the Twins and Angels since my earliest days of sports fandom. That’s is relevant here for the fact that I know what loving a losing team is like. But I would hope my cheese never slipped this far off my cracker.
There are at least 3 people who I gather believe in the value of creating a “culture of winning,” and they are me, Billy Beane, and Bob Melvin. However, just because these three highly qualified and esteemed baseball people — ok fine, these two highly qualified and esteemed baseball people and some guy on the internet — believe in a principle does not make it a principle worth valuing.
There is an oft-argued question of whether a team like the A’s would be better off crashing and burning to 95-100 losses in order to grab a truly high draft pick, and perhaps the next Evan Longoria, or whether it’s better to remain as competitive as possible during the rebuilding process.
Wow…I barely know where to start with this. Let’s take the Brad Pitt-fueled legend of Billy Beane. I know the A’s went to the playoffs in four straight years from 2003 to 2006, but their pinnacle of achievement was losing to the Tigers in the 2006 American League Championship Series. Since then, the A’s have not made the playoffs again, in fact they’ve never finished above .500 since then. That doesn’t look to change this season.
Then there’s Bob Melvin. This guy defines “Jekyll or Hyde” as a manager. Here’s a guy who won 93 games with Seattle, and lost 95 with the same team the next season. Then he won 90 games with the Diamondbacks, and got fired less than two seasons later. He’s got a .481 winning percentage as a manager. The Mets hired Terry Collins as manager over Bob Melvin. Let that sink in for a moment…Terry Fucking Collins.
Culture of winning, huh? BWAHHHHHAHHAAAAH (deep, lung-reloading gasp) BWAHHHHHAHHAAAAH!!!! I’m sorry, but any place that has even a hope of building a culture of winning doesn’t have “oft-argued positions” about “crashing and burning” for draft picks. Herm Edwards covered this the best: “HELLO??? YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!!!”
One thing you have to like, right off the top, about a signing like Yoenis Cespedes is that the A’s have improved now without sacrificing the future in order to do so. This is in sharp contrast to the Matt Holliday trade, where the A’s either miscalculated how wide open the AL West would be in 2009, miscalculated how solid a player Carlos Gonzalez would develop to be, or quite possibly both.
That “get better now” deal set back the rebuild because it sacrificed a young player with potential; the only “downside” to the Cespedes signing is money, but in a way what the A’s did is to grab a #1 draft pick without having to lose 90+ games in order to do so. So now if they were to win 75-80 games and get a lower draft pick, they would essentially be getting that lower pick plus a really high pick on top of that: Cespedes.
Not bad, but what’s the point of winning 75-80 games when that won’t compete for anything while you’re waiting for your most talented young guys (Michael Choice, AJ Cole, Derek Norris, Sonny Gray) to move up through your minor league system, and for your most talented “major league ready” guys (Jarrod Parker, Brad Peacock, Tom Milone, Josh Reddick) to get their feet wet in the big leagues?
As far as Cespedes is concerned, the guy may very well be the real deal. But if you are a team crying about money (I think we all saw “Moneyball,” right?), it seems to me $36 million is an awfully big bet on a guy whose never seen a major-league pitch. If it works, Beane regains some of his “genius” status> Bu if not, this goes down as yet another Beane miscalculation.
“Miscalculation” is a key word here, as Rico uses it in his description of the Matt Holliday trade. Either of the “miscalculations” he mentions are perfectly valid. But so is the one he doesn’t mention; that Beane miscalculated when he acquired Holliday from the Colorado Rockies; switching leagues to a group of pitchers he’d never really seen and trading a very hitter-friendly Coors Field for that mausoleum for offense in Oakland.
Then there’s that pesky question of “what’s the point of winning 75-80- games?” Cue Coach Edwards again…”HELLO??? YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!!!”
Hold on, Rico will take us deeper into his thinking.
One point, arguably, is that if you’re an 80-win team you are only 10 wins away from being a 90-win team, so much of the foundation is there and you can more easily identify targets for bridging the gap to add those “just 10 more wins”. Few 65-win teams can make the jump to add 25 wins and call themselves contenders — Tampa Bay recently being one very notable, but rare, exception — and so you may be drafting very high but you’re also needing an awful lot of chips to fall into place in order to climb the mountain from 65 wins all the way to 90. And we all know, all too well, how frequently something goes awry in the world of “talented but unproven young prospects”.
Another point is that winning may require sufficiently talented players, but it is also a mindset within a team and within an organization. Students, employees, athletes — basically, people — have a natural tendency to rise or fall to the level of expectation, and one thing I really respect about Beane and Melvin is that I see them as being highly competitive, with the expectation that “if we’re not winning a lot, then we’re winning as much as we can and we’re building towards winning more.”
I believe that for whatever reason, Bob Geren brought a “mediocre is good enough” ethos to the team that was reflected in the team’s practice habits, and subsequently its on field play. The A’s didn’t have the talent to win a whole lot after Melvin took over the 2010 team and perhaps more importantly the bad habits, and “culture of mediocrity,” had been too entrenched in spring training, and then the first half of the season, for Melvin to reverse it significantly in June-September.
To be honest, this is the part where I said to myself “Holy shit! Maybe I miscalculated what this guy is really talking about!” I understand completely what he means about Bob Geren; if that guy managed my team, I’d probably wake up every morning wanting to drink a gallon of gasoline, then fire a flare gun up my own ass. This honestly was the part where I really felt Rico’s pain; watching the Twins in the mid-90’s was as exasperating an experience as one can get watching baseball. Going from the era of two World Series championships in four years to 95 losses; going from Puckett, Hrbek, and Gaetti to Scott Stahoviak, Rich Becker, and Pedro Munoz was as painful as I care baseball to be. Perhaps Rico has a point; maybe Beane and Melvin are the guys to right the A’s ship.
Then I read his closing.
However, even though the A’s most competitive years still loom in the distance, I see the Cespedes signing, even the interest in Manny Ramirez (whether you like that particular gamble or not), as efforts to keep sending an important message to the young players as they begin their A’s major or minor league careers: We aren’t going to sacrifice the future, like we did with the Holliday trade, but while preserving the future to be as great as possible we are going to be as good — heck if need be, as “not bad” — as we possibly can be, every day, every game, every season, until we’re ready to go “all in” and reclaim the AL West.
I like the message this sends to the players who will have to win down the line, and I think it’s the right mentality for an organization to have.
I’ve already said I see the Cespedes signing as a gamble, but it was the Manny Ramirez comment that tipped me as to what Rico is really up to. This isn’t about the pain of loving a lousy team, this is barely about baseball. This is an early “April Fool’s” joke; a gigantic dick-pull in green and yellow and I fell for it. Face it, anybody who can say with a straight face that signing Manny Ramirez “sends a positive message” is a master of satire. Forget the steroids and the 50-game suspension hanging over his head. Forget the drama and the clubhouse cancer he brings. Look at the fact that at this point in his career he is largely a non-factor and the Rays got better last year once they quit wasting at-bats on him.
Rico, I tip my cap to you. You are a master of satire. I’ve never been so taken in by a gag in my entire life. My sides will hurt for weeks from the convulsive laughter I went through.
I mean, you are kidding me, right?
-Dubsism is a proud member of Sports Blog Movement
“Not that there’s anything wrong with that…” – Jerry Seinfeld
If you’ve never been a fantasy baseball participant, this won’t make sense to you at all. In fact, most of this blog makes very little sense to most people, so you are far from alone. However, if you’ve known the joys of fantasy baseball draft day, and the near-suicidal despair of watching your first-round draft pick Ken Griffey, Jr. snap a hamstring in a spring game literally three hours after you drafted him, then you understand the concept of the Man-Crush.
Simply defined, the Man-Crush is all about being “in love” with a particular player. Just like love, sometimes you don’t know why you love them; you just do. You’ll do anything to get them on your team, and it will crush you when your love goes unrequited; your dreams unrealized.
My first fantasy baseball “man-crush” was Matt Stairs. I choke up a little bit just typing his name; given the fact the reason I’m writing this today – this is the day Stairs was designated for assignment by the Washington Nationals. Stairs is a unique guy who has had a unique career up to this point.
I can’t even bring myself to think this might be the end for Stairs; after all, he is 43 years old. I hold out hope that some other team, one whose uniform he has not yet worn, will see fit to give the professional pinch-hitter another shot. See, Stairs has played for damn near everybody.
- 1992-1993: Montreal Expos
- 1995: Boston Red Sox
- 1996-2000: Oakland A’s
- 2001: Chicago Cubs
- 2002: Milwaukee Brewers
- 2003: Pittsburgh Pirates
- 2004 – 2005: Kansas City Royals
- 2006: Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers
- 2007: Toronto Blue Jays
- 2008 – 2009: Philadelphia Phillies
- 2010: San Diego Padres
- 2011 (up to now): Washington Nationals
Stairs has worn 13 major-league uniforms, more than anybody in baseball history. Let’s be honest, guys that change addresses that often are either complete headcases or “Have Fastball, Will Travel”-type bullpen guys. The reason Stairs has been on so many rosters is he became a slugging pinch-hitter extraordinaire. Nobody has more career home runs coming off the bench than Stairs. Any team out there needing some thunder from the bench? Just call Matt Stairs.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone Stairs climbed his way into my heart with power. It all started back in 1996, and the first time I saw him as a young outfielder with the Oakland A’s. Specifically, it was the day in Minnesota I saw him hit two moon-shots off whatever slagheaps the Twins were offering as pitchers in those dark days of Dome-ball. Both of those shots arced majestically into the upper deck in right field and right into my heart. I was hooked.
He had a short, quick swing, forearms like Popeye the Sailor, and he was left-handed. Anybody who knows me knows I’ve always has a weakness for leftie Canadian sluggers. Corey Koskie, Justin Morneau…I even sneaked peeks at Larry Walker even though he belonged to another.
I saw all I needed to see that afternoon in the Metrodome. Stairs had He had all the hallmarks of a 30-homer, 100-RBI guy. But he didn’t look like your classic leftie slugger. He was only 5’9” and stocky, and he didn’t have that beautiful, smooth stroke most good left-handed hitters have. I didn’t care. His upper-cut swing was a thing of beauty to me.
But I wasn’t the only fantasy suitor whose eye he caught. Sadly, Matt would not be mine. Instead, I had to watch him blossom into that productive player while he belonged to another. Finally, in 2000, I landed Matt. He was coming off his career year, slugging 38 dingers and driving in 102.
That April was the sweetest month. Matt was off to a hot start, and things started to seem as though he was going to be the piece that was missing, finally elevating me out of the fantasy baseball doldrums.
But the honeymoon didn’t last.
Matt’s production tailed off; he never again would hit 30 homers, nor drive in 100 runs. But I clung to the hope that the salad days would return. My friends tried to tell me that the relationship was bad for me and I should end it, but just couldn’t do it. I didn’t see the pudgy, slowing outfielder they saw; all I saw was Matt.
It took three more years before I finally had to face the ugly truth; Matt was never going to be the light of my fantasy baseball life. Ending the relationship was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but ultimately, I was better off for doing it.
A lot of years have gone by since it’s been over, but I still have feelings for Matt. Who ever really forgets their first? Up until today, I would see him around every once in a while; it always did my heart good to see him doing well wherever he was. To this day, that bomb he hit against the Dodgers in the 2008 NLCS will always be a special moment; that rarest of highs when the addict finally catches the dragon he’s been chasing. But as the saying goes, eventually, all good things come to an end, and this is no different. Even though we’ll never be together again, it will be a strange day for me when Matt is eventually out of the league.
That’s the danger in fantasy baseball. It’s always fun until somebody gets hurt.
Now that we are solidly into the regular season, it is time to take a peek at how wrong my pre-season rankings were. As boring as it may be, most of the teams floated right around their original spots, but there certainly are a few surprises.
The Minnesota Twins: Granted this isn’t that big of a shock; that lineup is going to crush right-handed pitching. But this team’s stock is up because Francisco Liriano is throwing blurs at the plate and Jon Rauch has people not so worried about losing Joe Nathan.
California in General: The Padres are leading the NL West based on a league-leading Team ERA of 2.82, the Giants are tight behind their statemates to the south in both the stat and the standings, and Oakland’s 3.16 means three of the top four staffs in terms of earned runs allowed get their mail in the Golden State. Toss in Dodger Matt Kemp’s pacing the NL with 7 homers and 20 RBI and the Angels not looking nearly as mediocre as one believed, and things are on the up. The question is how many of these things will still be true in August.
The Boston Red Sox: We can argue they may or may not really suck as bad as they look. But there is no debating how old and slow they are. It really stood out in that series against the Rays. The Rays are young, athletic, and on the way up, which provided an exact contrast to the Sawwwwx.
The Washington Nationals: They don’t hit particularly well and they can’t pitch at all. But they are over .500. Can they maintain this hot start, or are they going to end up like Teddy Roosevelt?
The full rankings are listed below. The numbers behind each team indicate change in ranking from the previous ranking. Teams with the biggest changes are in bold.
- New York Yankees ↑ 1
- Philadelphia Phillies ↓ 1
- Minnesota Twins ↑ 7
- Tampa Bay Rays ↑ 1
- St. Louis Cardinals ↑ 1
- San Francisco Giants ↑ 11
- Florida Marlins ↑ 5
- Oakland A’s ↑ 13
- Colorado Rockies ↓ 4
- Atlanta Braves ↓ 2
- Detroit Tigers ↑ 3
- Seattle Mariners ↓ 5
- Los Angeles Angels ↑ 2
- Los Angeles Dodgers ↓ 1
- Chicago White Sox ↓ 6
- San Diego Padres ↑ 10
- Washington Nationals ↑ 7
- Boston Red Sox ↓ 15
- Toronto Blue Jays ↑ 7
- Milwaukee Brewers ↔
- Texas Rangers ↓ 10
- Arizona Diamondbacks ↓ 5
- Cincinnati Reds ↓ 5
- Chicago Cubs ↓ 2
- Pittsburgh Pirates ↑ 2
- Kansas City Royals ↑ 3
- Cleveland Indians ↑ 3
- New York Mets ↓ 5
- Houston Astros ↓ 3
- Baltimore Orioles ↓ 11
It’s early, you can fully expect these numbers to change as the next five and a half months play out. Unless you are the Mets; you’re right where you should be.
Rankings By Division:
1) New York Yankees
Upside: The Bombers easily could have turned on the money-hose and flooded out free-agents like Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, or they could have wasted some serious dough by resigning an over-valued Johnny Damon. But, instead of having their usual explosive cash-gasm, they realized their in-house options are just fine. They finally seem to understand that you don’t necessarily need a 30-homer guy in the ninth spot in the batting order. Rather, the Pinstripes traded away a bunch of Grade B prospects for the more budget-friendly likes of Curtis Granderson and Javier Vazquez. After all, what do you really need to do when you are the defending World Series champs yet another goddamn time…
Downside: Yankee Stadium is getting suspiciously close to looking like an assisted-living facility. The Yankees roster contains so many “seasoned veterans” that it’s a good bet there will be more than one pair of support hose under those pinstripes. Oh and somebody really needs to find a way to keep A.J. Burnett from having the “Hindenburg” inning that tends to flame out his starts.
2) Boston Red Sox
Upside: The Red Sox will field a very complete and deep squad, one that will be better than everybody except the one team they desperately want to beat. The Sawwwx offer three starters who would be aces on more rotations than not, their defense doesn’t have it’s usual Bahhh-ston Hahhh-bahhh sized hole in it, and despite what Sawwwx fans want to believe, the offense should be just fine. Of course, math doesn’t rank high in the skill sets of most Sawwwx fans, which explains why last year’s allegedly non-steroid-enhanced lineup accounted for a mere 10 homers less than allegedly juiced 2004 edition.
Downside: The astonishing lack of obvious holes on which their inevitable August slide can be attributed. Sure, the line-up still contains the light-bending sucking black hole known as the un-Ramirez-protected David Ortiz and nearly every pitching staff gets as shaky as Haitian construction techniques at the fifth spot in the rotation, which means we just have to wait to see what will bring this year’s “Bucky Dent” moment.
3) Tampa Bay Rays
Upside: They are the anti-Yankees, meaning they have a shitload of young talent and they have a payroll more suggestive migrant farm workers than the caviar-encrusted platinum jock straps of the Bronx Bombers. Whether or not the Rays sucker-punch their way past the Yanks or the Sawwwx for the promised land of October baseball, this team will give fits of apoplexy to veteran-fueled opponents with their raw athleticism. The odds of this increase significantly if the Rays next wave of prospects (particularly Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson) pan out as some “experts” expect.
Downside: If this team hits the trade deadline looking like it is out of reach to throw that October sucker-punch, the Rays could be parted out like a Chinese prisoner “volunteered” for organ donation. Case in point: the pending free agency of Carl Crawford who is already rumored to be on Yankee manager Joe Girardi’s line-up card for Opening Day 2011.
4) Baltimore Orioles
Upside: The O’s are another AL East squad resplendent with young talent, especially catcher Matt Wieters, who could prove to be a discount-store version of Joe Mauer at the plate (maybe not average wise, but Wieters does have 25 -homer potential). Plus, the trio of Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis may very well be the best young outfield in the league.
Downside: The youth of the pitching staff, which is stocked with a talented stable of potential, most notably Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, and Brad Bergesen. But with that youth comes inexperience and the ever-present threat they don’t develop.
5) Toronto Blue Jays
Upside: A well-spring of young arms; hill-wise all the Blue Jays need is for two of the cruise-ship full of pitchers they brought to camp to show the potential to toss 200 innings. Behind those young hurlers, the Blue Jays will field a defensively solid squad, with the glaring exception of third baseman Edwin “Hands of Stone” Encarnacion. This should allow those young moundsmen to put the pill over the plate with a reasonable expectation their ERA’s won’t rocket toward the stratosphere.
Downside: This team is at least a few years away from contention, and even then they likely will need the Red Sox to get back to their historic “shooting themselves in both feet” tendencies and for the Yankees to set the Wayback Machine to 1984.
1-Tie) Chicago White Sox
Upside: The quartet of Mark Buerhle, Jake “No, Really, I’m Pretty Sure I’m OK…this time” Peavy, John Danks, and Gavin Floyd forms the backbone of the best starting rotation in the division. The South Siders should be able to stay in front of the Twins if there is they can squeeze the last bit of toothpaste out of the tubes that are the careers of Paul Konerko, Andruw Jones, and A.J. Pierzynski. Forgive me now for saying I will believe that when I see it.
Downside: The amazing number of shitty hitters the Whiteys will field. Granted, Juan Pierre and Alex Rios should allow the White Sox to play in their usual Ozzie Guillen-influenced style; in other words, swinging wildly and generally running amok, then wringing just enough out of an aging bat or two. As a recipe, it is clearly riskier than a good, old-fashioned game of Russian Roulette, but don’t forget the White Sox managed somehow not to blow their brains out in 2005.
1-Tie) Minnesota Twins
Upside: Carl “Scrooge McDuck” Pohlad is dead, and along with the anticipated revenue from the new ball park, the Twins have managed to jam a crowbar into their change purse. With the expected signing of Joe Mauer to a hefty-yet-deserved contract extension and the signing bonus that likely will accompany it, the Twins just might finally hurdle the $100 million salary threshold. The Pohlad family still owns the team, but at least the new billionaire-in-charge seems willing to spend when needed.
Downside: The pitching staff, which was suspect before the loss of Joe Nathan, is now officially mediocre. Scott Baker may need to hire a stand-in if he is to convince anybody he is an ace and Carl Pavano is, well, Carl Pavano. Not to mention the Twins are drawing to an inside straight on whether Francisco Liriano can be effective after the “Tommy John” surgery and the loss of confidence he put on display last season.
3) Detroit Tigers
Upside: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello might be the most interesting trio from Michigan since Grand Funk Railroad.
Downside: The front office, which embarked on a cost-cutting exercise until they were reminded that they have a slough of veterans being hampered in their duties by their walkers. Their solution to this? Signing the 68-year old Johnny Damon. This means if you want to see elderly DH’s with more chins than a Shanghai phone book (Is Greg Luzinski still in the league?) chug home from second on one-hop singles, just wait for Damon in left field.
4) Kansas City Royals
Upside: Fuck everything else, to find something in print that says the Royals don’t finish last in this division may require an archealogical expedition. If for no other reason, the elevation from the cellar is due largely to the fact that no matter what else happens, Zach Grienke and Joakin Soria will pitch the Royals past the unbelievably fetid Indians.
Downside: The shockingly large number of at-bats that will be twirled unproductively into the Twilight Zone at the hands of Scott Podsednik, Jason Kendall, Jose Guillen, Brayan Pena and Yuniesky Betancourt.
5) Cleveland Indians
Upside: As soon as we here at Dubsism find one, we’ll let you know. Wait, we’ve got one: Shin-Soo Choo hasn’t been inducted into the South Korean army…yet.
Downside: This is likely the first of many seasons to come with the Indians making reservations for the bottom of the standings.
1) Seattle Mariners
Upside: How can you not love a one-two punch of Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee in front of a team that shits horseshoes? Seriously, this team personifies luck, as was demonstrated by the 2009 campaign that saw the M’s win 85 games even though they were outscored by 52 runs. Luck isn’t a strategy, but luckily it probably won’t take much to win this division.
Downside: The festival of mediocrity the starting rotation becomes after the aforementioned one-two punch. Plus, the wheel of karma spun by the baseball gods will not look favorably on lead-pipe cinch Hall-of-Famer, greatest player ever in the history of the franchise, and deliciously banned-substance-free Ken Griffey, Jr. being exiled from the lineup for the final time by ‘roid-rage expert and colossal asshole Milton Bradley.
2) Texas Rangers
Upside: Don’t look now, but for the first time in EVER, the Rangers have pitching depth…I’ll wait for a minute so you can let that sink in. Seriously, they’ve got eight legitimate contenders for the five rotation spots, which means they have eight more than than they’ve ever had before. It goes without saying this assumes Rich Harden doesn’t rack up seven bazillion more frequent-flyer miles on MRI Airlines.
Downside: And now for your Bizzaro world moment of the day: the Rangers can pitch and play defense, but they can’t hit! Again, I’ll wait for a minute so you can let that sink in. With suspects like Chris Davis, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden, and/or Elvis Andrus likely populating the bottom of the order, you can expect the Rangers’ team on-base percentage to hurtle over the cliff faster than Thelma and Louise. The wild-card in all of this: Josh Hamilton and his ever-present overcoming of his “obstacle du jour.” This time it is rumored to be hangnails and a persistent fear of sock puppets.
3) Los Angeles Angels
Upside: Even though he Dodger Blue during his playing days, and even though he looks more and more like Rush Limbaugh every day, you have to love Mike Scioscia. He is one of a rare breed of managers who understand tactics, strategy and how to develop and handle people.
Downside: Will the last one left in Anaheim please turn out the lights? The Halos wont miss Vladimir Guerrero, but the departures of John Lackey and Chone Figgins significantly downgrades the rotation and the lineup. This is really a concern for the pitching staff, which needs to prove itself more durable, especially Scott “Opening Soon at a Disabled List Near You” Kazmir.
Upside: The performance of A’s bullpen has historically fluctuated more than Oprah’s weight, but now they boast a rare mix of quantity and quality. Andrew Bailey, Brad Ziegler, Michael Wuertz, Joey Devine, Jerry Blevins, Craig Breslow and Brad Kilby together compose a solid group of young relievers who collectively will earn about $482 in 2010.
Downside: The $10 million pipe-dream known as Ben Sheets, and the crumbled Greek column once known as Eric Chavez’ spine. If Sheets actually manages to stay out of intensive care come the trade deadline, the A’s will likely deal him for yet another cavalcade of prospects. More likely is that Sheets’ arm falls completely off and Oakland gets to watch $10 million swirl down the shitter. Plus, the A’s may be holding open tryouts in May to find anybody who can actually hit the damn ball.
1) Philadelphia Phillies
Upside: Flash to the scene in “Bull Durham” is teaching Nuke Laloosh about the importance of clichés. The Phillies have no need of this lesson; they are a veritable textbook. They’re “gamers.” They “play ‘em one game at a time.” They’ve “been there before.” They “know how to finish.” Of course, the only way to get such a string of positive verbal fossils is to be the best team in baseball. Yes, you read that right, especially you Yankee fans whose blood-pressure just took a geyser-like upshot. In fact I will say it again: As of right now, the Philadelphia Phillies are the best team in baseball; fuck you, New York. Man, that felt good.
Downside: I’ll never understand what the rationale was behind the Cliff Lee/Roy Halladay swap meet. The Phillies revenue has sky-rocketed in the past five years, given their success and the resultant boost in attendance, TV ratings, jersey sales and everything else associated with the Phillies. Hell, even the Jamie Moyer Geritol is flying off the shelves. The point is the Phils easily have the dough to have kept both aces, then restocked the farm with the compensatory picks when Lee signed elsewhere this year. Speaking of pitchers, which version of Brad “Sybil” Lidge shows up this year? Is it the lights-out, shutdown closer or do we get another episode of “Meltdown Man?”
2) Atlanta Braves
Upside: While the Bravos may be lacking after dealing away its pitching depth for a prospect and a case of urinal cakes, they also don’t really show an Achilles heel. Not to mention, this is finally the last year of the Bobby Cox regime, and Jason Heyward might be the first guy to hit a home run that crosses and entire time zone.
Downside: All the bullshit we will have to live through on what will prove to be the Bobby Cox’s farewell tour. For one, I can’t wait for next year when Cox is getting kicked out of bingo games at the senior center. Here’s a little known fact: Did you know that “Jair Jurrjens” is actually an old Dutch term meaning “he who is destined to spend as much time in an MRI machine as Rich Harden?” That can’t be good.
3) Florida Marlins
Upside: The Players’ Union and how they forced world-class skinflint Jeffrey Loria to actually pony up some cash for a long-term deal for ace Josh Johnson and getting second baseman Dan Uggla to return. Stop and think about what kind of an asshole you would have to be to make the gravy-sucking pigs from the Players’ Union look like a bastion of righteousness and moral certainty; Loria is every bit that cretin.
Downside: The aforementioned pinch-those-pennies-so-hard-Abe-Lincoln-bleeds-internally mentality of Loria. Follow that up with all the bullshit going on over the new-stadium, the 40 inches of rain that comes from the heavens in ten minutes like God’s doped-up racehorse pissing on your head every afternoon at 4 p.m. sharp, and the scatter-shot approach to the bullpen, and it isn’t hard to see this franchise is literally 50 bucks away from being the Pirates.
4) New York Mets
Upside: Manager Jerry Manuel’s sense of humor will come in handy sometime right around Memorial Day when he will be joking about “having time to play some golf” the day before the press conference announcing his firing.
Downside: The Mets’ are like the rich family on a daytime soap opera. Their front office is furnished with, amongst other amenities, hot and cold running cash. But, if you are the Mets, with wealth comes a Dr. Phil level of dysfunction. In this past off-season, the Mets couldn’t seem to figure out if they actually had an operating budget; nobody in the organization seemed to know if anybody actually knew about the star center fielder’s knees (which are dissolving like an Alka-Seltzer as we speak) and nobody can say if the team futzed with Citi Field’s dimensions in response to the whining that the park suppresses offense. Want to know a secret, Mets fans? It ain’t the ball park…
5) Washington Nationals
Upside: How can you not have a man-crush on a heart of the order featuring Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, and Elijah Dukes? So what if the Nats’ occasionally misspell their own uniforms (the photo below is not the only example of the Gnats Nats need of “spell check. “? Don’t look know, but the Mets can easily see this team in their rear-view mirror, and if they aren’t careful, they may just start seeing the Nats’ tail-lights.
Downside: Is there something in the water in the greater Baltimore-Washington metroplex that makes sports franchise owners unconscionable assholes? An area that features Redskins’ owner and probable live-puppy eater Daniel Snyder and the Orioles’ Peter Angelos, who as a child must have wanted to be Snidely Whiplash form a vortex of ownership evil that threatens to suck in the Nats’ Theodore Lerner.
1) St. Louis Cardinals
Upside: Every other team in this division sucks. If the Redbirds can stay healthy, they should be on cruise control by mid-August. The cash-flooded Cubs and Astros have spent stupidly, and the Reds and Pirates can’t find anybody that still takes S&H Green Stamps, and the Brewers only have three players.
Downside: The supporting cast beneath their dwindling number of star players is dangerously thin. However, a lot of this can be cured if Colby Rasmus finally emerges.
2) Cincinnati Reds
Upside: Pure balls. What are the odds that a prospect who happens to be a left-handed pitcher toting a 100-mph fastball ends up in Cincinnati? Of course, this assumes Dusty Baker method of handling pitchers doesn’t have Aroldis Chapman’s elbow in pieces by August.
Downside: In five years, most of their roster won’t be in baseball. The cast of Scott Rolen, Orlando Cabrera, Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang, Francisco Cordero are all in the sunset years of thier careers. Oh, and Dusty Baker is an idiot.
3) Milwaukee Brewers
Upside: They have Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Yovani Gallardo.
Downside: Ryan and Fielder can’t take all the at-bats, and Gallardo can’t pitch every inning.
4) Chicago Cubs
Upside: The inevitable Lou Pinella meltdown. It generally happens when Lou has heard enough questions about (insert reason du jour why the Cubs suck here). This usually happens around August 1st, and treats us all to a profanity-filled tirade as only Lou can do.
Downside: All the money the Cubs have tied up in flame-outs like Alfonso Soriano and pitcher-turned-planet Carlos Zambrano.
5) Houston Astros
Upside: They have a deeper roster than the Brewers.
Downside: That isn’t saying much. The Astros field three great players and the three other solid ones. The other 19 could barely impact a Triple-A Roster. Owner Drayton McLane gives all the signs of a billionaire preparing to back away from this investment by selling the team.
6) Pittsburgh Pirates
Upside: Steve Pearce certainly shows all the signs of being the real deal.
Downside: Even when they trade Pearce, they’ll get another bag of magic beans (I’m looking at you, Lastings Milledge). What does it says about you when you get screwed in a trade with the Natinals Nationals? It says you are the kind of organization that can have neartly twenty years of top ten draft picks and nothing to show for it.
1) Colorado Rockies
Upside: The Rockies are the only team in the West with decent depth. With the everyday players including Seth Smith, Ryan Spilborghs, and Melvin Mora and a bullpen including Matt Daley, and Esmil Rogers.
Downside: The alarmingly high number of at-bats that will be sacrificed in the belief that Clint Barmes is anything more than a utility player.
2) Los Angeles Dodgers
Upside: Despite the facts that every left-handed pitcher in the world is issued a Certificate of Ownerhship at birth for Andre Ethier, and Manny Ramirez plays left field like he is in a bar-league softball tournament, the trio of Ethier, Ramirez and Matt Kemp are the best outfield in baseball.
Downside: The shaky, flaky nature of the pitching staff. Letting Randy Wolf leave means the Dodgers are dependent on the inconsistent Clayton Kershaw and a Chad Billingsley who spent the end of last season crying in the fetal position.
3) Arizona Diamondbacks
Upside: Justin Upton, who just makes you want to believe.
Downside: Trading Max Scherzer for another shot at Edwin Jackson, who is due for another good month any day now…after all, in his seven years in the league, he’s already had two of them. Their next best pitcher is the post-aneurysm surgery slop artist Ian Kennedy has become.
4) San Francisco Giants
Upside: The starting rotation: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, the catastrophe formerly known as Barry Zito, and Jonathan Sanchez. Is there a better foursome out there?
Downside: The Giants hit like a T-ball team. This team was batting Bengie Molina (20 HR, 80 RBI .265 avg.) in the four-spot last year in an attempt to protect Pablo Sandoval, the only respectable bat they have. To improve on that, the Giants are turning to the suspiciously-close-to-finished Aubrey Huff (15 HR, 85 RBI, and .241 avg).
5) San Diego Padres
Upside: GM Kevin Towers always seems to find players whose skills play well in that airport spacious park they have.
Downside: Towers is lucky he has this ability, otherwise the trade deadline would be no fun for him. Look for Adrian Gonzalez, Heath Bell, and Jon Garland to all be on a plane by July 31st.
Overall Team-by-Team Ranking
- Philadelphia Phillies
- New York Yankees
- Boston Red Sox
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Colorado Rockies
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Seattle Mariners
- Atlanta Braves
- Chicago White Sox
- Minnesota Twins
- Texas Rangers
- Florida Marlins
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Detroit Tigers
- Los Angeles Angels
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- San Francisco Giants
- Cincinnati Reds
- Baltimore Orioles
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Oakland A’s
- Chicago Cubs
- New York Mets
- Washington Nationals
- San Diego Padres
- Houston Astros
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Kansas City Royals
- Cleveland Indians
What makes a great rivalry? If you were to leave that question to the dopes at ESPN, all you will hear is a bunch of slop about the Red Sox and the Yankees, Michigan and Ohio State, or from the real “traditionalists,” you might get some waxing nostalgic about Army and Navy. In other words, this is just another arena where the supposed sports experts think the world is flat, and it is inevitable one will keyboard off the edge somewhere west of the Big 12.
But rivalry transcends sports. Cities have been engaging in a game of one-upsmanship since the Neolithic Revolution, and Los Angeles and San Francisco have been trading rabbit-punches and groin kicks since Leland Stanford and Collis Huntington were building the railroads that connected these then far-off burghs to each other and to the flat earth. Granted, sports now play a major role in a city’s identity, but they do not form the exclusive standard against which a municipality may be measured.
One has to have this category as both Los Angeles and San Francisco have both had their share of cataclysms. The City By The Bay was leveled in 1906, and did its “level best” to impress for the 1989 World Series by providing the Loma Prieta quake, thus postponing the inevitable drubbing of the San Francisco Giants by the Oakland A’s in the only series to feature both Bay Area sides.
But the Southland is also land that is prone to the occasional violent thrashing. Nobody remembers the 1933 quake that rubble-ized a swath from Long Beach through Los Angeles and killed 115 people. Memories are somewhat fresher for the Northridge quake of 1994, but they are fading for the 1971 Sylmar quake.
See, the problem is that San Francisco does disasters with memory-etching style. 1906 saw the city not only literally shaken to bits, but then the bits burned to the still-moving ground. 1989’s temblor was caught on live television, and to top that, San Franciscans found a way to sing about it afterward in a way that matched the city’s general quirkiness. Not only do Los Angeles’ quakes lack that kind of panache, but they tried to atone for it by letting Hollywood turn it all into one of those 1970’s big-budget, cast-of-several, mondo-disaster cheese-fests.
Advantage: Los Angeles, but only on account of Charlton Heston, and only because he was the only guy with enough balls to find out the secret of Soylent Green. Plus, he knows how to land a crippled 747 while being fawned over by America’s sexiest 1970’s cross-eyed stewardess. When’s the last time you got off your fat, pock-marked ass to do something like that?
Both the Bay Area and the Southland have two major league sides. Only the Angels are original sons, otherwise, three of these franchises were stolen from other cities.
Since the Angels are original, they are mismatched with the Oakland A’s as the American League little brothers; they don’t really have a sense of rivalry. Even their owners were completely different types of guys. Angels’ owner Gene Autry made his dough as a singing cowboy in westerns of the 1930’s. In fact, Autry is the only person that has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in all five categories; motion pictures, radio, recording, television, and live theater. If that weren’t enough, he also served in the Army Air Corps in China during World War II.
In contrast, A’s owner Charlie Finley was more a cheap asshole than anything else. A guy who made his money selling insurance, Finley brought the miserly ways of the insurance business to baseball. For example, players were issued a certain number of bats. If a player broke a bat, they wouldn’t get any replacements. Finley also rarely ordered new uniforms at the start of a season, instead recycling old ones. Trainers were told to use every bit of a roll of medical tape, with usually heavy reprimand if they didn’t. He also never offered season tickets.
At one point during their championship years, the A’s radio flagship broadcaster was KALX, a 10-watt radio station owned by the University of California-Berkeley. Being such a low-power station meant KALX couldn’t be heard more than 10 miles from the Oakland Coliseum. At other times during Finley’s tenure, the A’s had no radio or television contracts, which made them practically unknown outside of Oakland. This helps to explain why the A’s couldn’t draw fans, even when they were winning three straight World Series titles in the 1970’s.
But in the Senior Circuit, the Giants and the Dodgers are inextricably linked in National League history. They are both handcuffed to the history of NewYork, the city they both fled in 1957. The rivalry was born in the days when the Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field lent territoriality to two neighborhoods, not two cities separated by 400 miles of coastal California. But the intensity never went away. Just ask John Roseboro.
That’s Johnny there, getting a dent put in his melon by Giants hall-of-famer Juan Marichal. From BaseballLibrary.com:
“On August 22, 1965, Marichal faced Sandy Koufax at Candlestick Park in the heat of a tight pennant race. The Giants and Dodgers had come close to a brawl two days earlier over catcher’s interference calls. Los Angeles’s Maury Wills had allegedly tipped Tom Haller’s mitt with his bat on purpose, and Marichal’s best friend, Matty Alou, retaliated by tipping John Roseboro’s face mask. Roseboro nearly beaned Alou with his return throw to the mound. In the August 22 game, Marichal had flattened Wills and Ron Fairly with pitches when Roseboro purportedly asked Koufax to hit Marichal. When Koufax refused, Roseboro’s return throw came close to Marichal’s head. Name-calling ensued, until Roseboro suddenly ripped off his mask and stood up. Marichal rapped the catcher on the head with his bat. What followed was one of the most violent brawls in major league history. Willie Mays led away Roseboro, who had suffered a concussion, while Dodger Bob Miller tackled Marichal, Alou slugged Miller, and Tito Fuentes menaced the Dodgers with his bat. Roseboro sued Marichal, but eventually dropped the suit. Marichal was fined $1750, was suspended for a week, and missed two starts as the Giants finished two games behind the Dodgers. Years later, Marichal said, “I feel sorry that I used the bat.”
Advantage: San Francisco; anybody that beats the crap out of a Dodger wins.
Why this category? Because one of the best ways to judge a city is in its public works, because it shows the ability to build, manage, organize, and maintain anything. Since most cities’ largest public work is transit, it is only logical that this be an adequate measure.
Leave it to San Francisco to find a way to do logic with style. Not only does the F Market line operate vehicles people actually want to ride, but does so to places that large numbers of those people would consider to be an advantageous destination. Los Angeles completely abandoned rail in 1963, and would have been happy to remain that way until 9 of its world-famous freeways crumbled in 1994.
Once it took longer to drive from Canoga Park to Elysian Park than it took the Pilgrims to sail the Atlantic, establish a civilization that would ultimately land on the moon, then have wet dreams about Sarah Palin, Los Angeles had no choice but to build rail. The problem is that the Southland does have a style of its own, and this style applies to everything Los Angelinos do. The primary manifestation is characterized by having a very competitive nature, albeit completely misguided. Examples:
“Yeah, your girlfriend’s breast implants are bigger than my girlfriend’s, but I’ll bet you my girlfriend’s explode before yours.”
“My wife thinks I don’t know about her and the pool boy. Wait ‘til she finds out I gave them both chlamydia!”
“Sure your trains are pretty, but mine are LETHAL. FUCK YEAH!”
Advantage: San Francisco
Back in the day, the Rams and the 49ers shared a spirited rivalry. Since the NFL was the first professional league to put franchises on the west coast, these teams enjoyed huge popularity. College football is also massively popular; both the Stanford-Cal and USC-UCLA games are huge events in their respective cities. Even high school football has a massive following. So why is California football so dysfunctional?
Face it. The only way Los Angeles will ever get another NFL team is if Southern Cal is admitted as an expansion team. The Bay Area is arguably home to two of the worst football stadia in existence, and even if USC were to join the NFL, Cal, Stanford, and UCLA would all still find ways to be mediocre.
It’s gotta be Al Davis.
Face it #2. Al Davis is one of the big reasons Los Angeles lost two NFL franchises, he’s responsible for goading Oakland into building that god-awful coliseum, and he’s effectively destroyed the once-proud franchise he built.
Advantage: San Diego, because Davis hasn’t moved there…yet.
1980 was a watershed year in baseball history. The Philadelphia Phillies won their first championship, George Brett taught us all about hemorrhoid flare-up, and there was a convergence of some the ugliest uniforms ever to see a summer day.
Lately, baseball teams have been trotting out retro togs in the guise of honoring some damn thing, but generally to sell more crap at their Pro Shop. But of all the horrors that have been trotted out in the name of nostalgia, none match the dreadfulness of the days when these were the everyday threads.
Some of them were so bad that they defied explanation. Deciding which ones were the worst was a bit like deciding which nut you would rather have kicked. And now, thanks to this blog, you get to make that decision.
If you are my age, you may remember Garanimals? Essentially, Garanimals existed to teach stupid kids how to dress themselves without looking ridiculous, except there was no way you could not look ridiculous in clothes with matching animals on them. The Pirates uniforms were the major league counterpart to this fashion mistake, with its bumblebee mix-and-match look. But it didn’t stop there; this ensemble was topped off with those IHOP stack/stovepipe caps. And guess what? I had one.
I always waited for Elmer Fudd to storm Oakland Coliseum and just start blasting, because these uniforms were obviously modeled after a duck decoy. Short of Paris Hilton’s panties, where the hell else can you find such infectious versions of green and yellow?
San Diego Padres
The first time I saw Ozzie Smith do a back flip in these brown-and-yellow duds, I was reminded of the swirl of a flushing toilet. Unfortunately, for most of the time the Padres wore these, their play offered the same vision. Thankfully, the Padres finally flushed.
Everything about baseball in Montreal was ridiculous, except for the players. The Expos always had great players, but you couldn’t take them seriously in those “Max Patkin” clown outfits. What else would you expect from a bunch of pseudo-Frogs who demanded a baseball team they wouldn’t even watch, and forced them to play in a roller rink with a rubber roof?
What do Japanese cartoons have in common with these uniforms? They both nearly made me have a fucking seizure. Like some sort of bad “tequila sunrise” hangover, these uniforms wouldn’t go away; the Astros wore them for well over 20 years.
The Indians were the first team in the American League to have a black player. They were also the first team to have a black manager. Cleveland was also the first major city to have a black mayor. Perhaps that’s why they had this Red/Blue – Bloods/Crips thing happening.
Chicago White Sox
From the stupid floppy collar to the 1900-style script on the jersey with the modern font “Sox” on the cap, nothing said “dopey asshole” more than these uniforms, and there wasn’t a better team for it. The sad part: these were the best they option they had.