Thursday, August 31, 2006

Baseball Reference continues to boggle the mind

The great Baseball Reference web site just got even more amazing with the addition of each teams' batting order for every game of a particular season. I haven't dug in to see how far back they go, but here's the batting order the Phillies sent out there during the 1979 season, and here's the link from the Baseball Reference blog explaining the new feature.

Baseball Reference, of course, is run and owned by local guy Sean Forman, an assistant professor in mathematics and computer science at Saint Joseph's University.

I don't know for sure, but I'm pretty positive that I have referred to Forman's site at least once a day and definitely every time I'm in a press box at a game. I'm also certain that others can make these claims, too.

So kudos to Dr. Forman. His great site never ceases to amaze.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Around these parts, Ryan Howard has slugged his way into the debate for NL MVP. And why not? With a homer in four straight games, Howard leads the Majors with 48 home runs as well as with 125 RBIs.

But nationally Howard isn’t getting as much respect as in Philly and that’s especially the case with that stat folks and logical types at Baseball Prospectus. According to a story on the BP site by Joe Sheehan, Ryan Howard isn’t even the MVP on the Phillies.

Here’s an excerpt from the story:

Apparently, the NL MVP race isn’t as small as I would have it. Many, many readers--even more than the number who chimed in defending Jermaine Dye’s honor when I left him out of the AL MVP discussion--wrote in to question the absence of Ryan Howard from Monday’s article. Howard leads the NL in homers, RBI and slugging average. His hot August (.330/.431/.699), coupled with the Phillies’ "surge" to the vicinity of .500 and the wild-card slot, has made him a viable candidate in some quarters.

The problem isn’t just that Howard’s season is not on par with Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Beltran. The problem is that Howard isn’t the most valuable Phillies infielder on the right side of second base.

Ryan Howard .294 .382 .628 .318 50.2 -4 5.4
Chase Utley .317 .385 .525 .300 53.5 15 6.4

Howard hits more home runs than Chase Utley. Utley and the three real MVP candidates do everything else better than Howard does. The big guy is seventh in the league in EqA, VORP and RARP, and off the charts in WARP. Once you account for position and the things baseball players do other than hit homers, he falls rapidly down the lists.

Can Howard be a serious MVP candidate when he’s three wins worse than the other first baseman in the discussion?

Ryan Howard .294 .382 .628 .318 50.2 -4 5.4
Albert Pujols .323 .424 .665 .345 65.4 19 8.8

From here to the end of the season it will be a wide-open race. If Howard gets to 60 homers, give him the trophy… and all of the bonus clauses.

Joe Sheehan: Howard the Phillie

Labels: , , ,

Getting wild

At 66-65 with 31 games to go and a half-game behind the San Diego Padres in the National League’s wild-card chase, I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Phillies will be playing baseball in October this year.


All the other teams in the race stink.

Here's the standings:

2006 National League Wild Card Standings
San Diego6765.508-33-3634-29588583Won 16-4
Philadelphia6665.504.533-3533-30695687Won 17-3
Cincinnati6766.504.535-3332-33655680Lost 54-6
Florida6566.4961.535-3030-36616615Won 99-1
San Francisco6567.492238-3127-36613609Lost 16-4
Arizona6468.485332-3432-34647666Lost 13-7
Houston6468.485335-3129-37607603Won 46-4
Atlanta6268.477429-3433-34687654Won 36-4
Milwaukee6270.470539-2623-44597680Lost 54-6
Colorado6170.4665.534-3127-39598594Lost 12-8

It's very reasonable to think that 84 victories can get a team into the playoffs this year, and based on the matchups and how the teams are playing, why couldn't the Phillies go 18-13 the rest of the way.

On another note, wouldn't it be kind of neat if the Florida Marlins snuck in there? They will probably fire the manager at the end of the season and tore the team apart during the off season, so it would be neat for those young players.

Then again, the owner probably doesn't deserve it.


Back to D.C.

A lot has changed with the Nationals since the last time we were in D.C. For starters, the ball club has an owner – that was evident as soon as one walked through the doors. For starters, the old stadium has been cleaned up a bit and the concessions have taken a major and noticeable upgrade. More importantly, those changes have taken affect in the press dining area as well.

Gone is the slipshod and minimalist manner in which MLB ran the Nats. Now we have a pasta station to go along with the regular fare – including staples like veggie burgers for non-meat eaters like me. On Tuesday night I had a delightful penne with grilled broccoli, green peppers and onions with a marinara with a side of green beans and carrots. Good stuff and definitely worth the $10.

Obviously, it was much better than what the Phillies offer at their ballpark.

Maybe because I spend so much time in the antiseptic and characterless Citizens Bank Park, I have developed a soft spot for the old-timey ballparks in Washington, New York, and Boston. Actually, even Baltimore can be considered older at this point especially since it set the standard and has been copied to death since it opened in 1992.

Now there’s nothing wrong with the ballpark in Philadelphia, and it’s definitely nicer than the Vet. Anything would have been better than the Vet. But the park hasn’t developed a personality yet… actually, watching a game at Citizens Bank Park feels like sitting in an airport terminal.

I’m sure I’d have a different opinion of the ballpark if I were a fan sitting in the stands, but I have never had the pleasure of sitting back and watching a game there yet. Some day, perhaps, but most people don’t want to spend a day off going to the office to be a spectator.

Anyway, regular readers of this little site know what I think about the city of Washington, D.C. and of all the time I spent in the city – including time growing up there in the 1970s – nothing compares to the atmosphere I felt in the city when we were there exactly one year ago.

I don’t think I have to explain why.

Walking around on the streets of the Downtown and Foggy Bottom neighborhoods one could feel an entire city unified in its anger. Everyone was on the same page and felt the same way about what was going on along the Gulf of Mexico. Better yet, the outside world even penetrated the insular world of baseball and I even got a knowing and approving nod from one player when I told him I took my iPod on my run that morning and played Kanye West as I dashed down the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue.

On another note, here's a touristy tip for those going to D.C.: the monuments are open 24-hours a day and there is nothing more chilling than walking along the Vietnam Memorial and up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at night. Looking out over the city with Abe Lincoln and imaging Martin Luther King Jr. standing in that spot during the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963 is mind scrambling.

And I'm not really a sentimental person.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Schmidt ready to step aside for Howard

WASHINGTON – If one were looking for someone to talk baseball with, it’s definitely hard to top Mike Schmidt. Introspective and opinionated, there isn’t too much regarding the game that Schmidt won’t wax philosophical about. He’ll offer his thoughts on the game during his era, these modern times, the new ballparks, and, of course, the never-ending steroid issue.

There’s a joke amongst the media types that if anyone really wants to know how good the Hall-of-Fame third baseman was all you have to do is ask him.

“I wrote a book about it,” Schmidt joked during a phone call on Tuesday afternoon.

But if one really wants to engage Schmidt and listen to him talk, just ask him about hitting. Schmidt wrote a book about that, too, but that came when baseball’s statistics had a totally different meaning, and when Ryan Howard was two-years old.

The “old statistics,” as Schmidt calls them, are the power numbers. Back when he was playing, Schmidt led the National League in home runs six different times without reaching the 40-homer plateau. In fact, Schmidt hit 40 or more homers in a season just three times during his 18-season career. Compare that to someone like Albert Pujols, who is working in his fourth consecutive 40-homer season in just his sixth season in the league and it’s plain to see what Schmidt means by the old numbers.

“I was seventh (on the all-time home run list) when I retired and now I’m 14th,” he said.

Despite the dwindling status in the record books, Schmidt will always be remembered as one of the classic all-time home run hitters. His distinctive batting stance along with the eight home-run crowns, 548 long balls, and, of course, the three MVP Awards, has more than solidified his legacy.

These days Schmidt is something of a baseball watchdog, chiming in on the big issues of the game. He was an advocate for Pete Rose's reinstatement into the game for a while until it became a little too politically incorrect to be so vociferous regarding the self-proclaimed “Hit King,” and has weighed in on everything from the Hall of Fame’s standards, to the modern game, which includes performance-enhancing drugs.

Now it appears as Schmidt’s 26-season reign atop the Phillies’ single-season home run list is about to become an old number, too. With 32 games remaining in the season, second-year slugging first baseman Ryan Howard needs to hit just one more homer to pass Schmidt’s record of 48 bashed in 1980. Even by throwing in the two homers that Schmidt hit during the World Series that season shouldn’t daunt Howard rewriting of the club’s record books.

Actually, at the rate Howard is going he should have 50 by the weekend and the once-magic number of 60 isn’t out of the realm of possibility either.

Regardless, becoming just another name in the record books doesn’t upset Schmidt despite his opinions in the publishing world and on several television programs, including Bob Costas’ HBO show where Schmidt said if he had played in an era where steroids or performance-enhancing drugs were more prevalent that he just may have dabbled a bit.

“I’m happy for Ryan and content with what I did,” Schmidt said.

“I'm happy for Ryan. I think everyone would agree with me that eventually that record of 48 would be surpassed. It should have been passed a few years ago by Jim Thome (who hit 47 homers in 2003). (Howard) may take it, eventually, so far that nobody will catch it.”

That’s not out of the realm of possibility, either. Currently, Howard is on pace to smash 58 homers, which is more than impressive. But considering that Howard hit 11 homers after Sept. 1 last season – his rookie year, no less – it’s very reasonable to believe that the slugger can duplicate that feat to get to the 60-homer plateau.

In baseball history, only five different men have hit 60 or more home runs in a season, and of that group, only two players – Babe Ruth and Roger Maris – have not been tied to baseball’s ugly steroid scandal.

Steroids and performance-enhancing drugs don’t even enter into the same equation when it comes to Howard. Actually, based on conversations around the cage during his work as a hitting instructor at spring training as well as watching Phillies games on DirecTV at home in Jupiter, Fla., Schmidt says Howard’s success comes from nothing more than ability. In fact, says Schmidt, there isn’t really much of a comparison between the two hitters at the similar points of their careers – Howard is just that much better.

“Howard’s in a see-the-ball-hit-the-ball mode,” Schmidt said. “It will be a lot easier for him when he has a track record against these pitchers. He’s not a pull hitter and he has a lot of great qualities.

“If he has any hole in his swing it’s high and inside or breaking balls away out of the zone and let him get himself out. He’s a different type hitter in that he uses the whole field and that will keep him out of prolonged slumps.”

Howard is just the type of hitter that will not only be talked about for his prodigiously long blasts, but also his unique style that conjures remembrances of a certain Hall-of-Famer.

“He might be the modern-day Willie Stargell,” Schmidt said. “He’s a left-handed hitter with a distinct approach to hitting that I'm sure guys will be imitating for years. Making that extension with the bat just like [Stargell] used to windmill that bat as the pitcher was winding up. Both can hit the ball in the upper deck. Willie used to hit some of the longest balls in the history of the league and they talked about them, just like they're talking about some of Ryan's home runs.”

Schmidt says he was easily fooled by sliders off the plate, but one pitch that did not fool him was the one Stan Bahnsen chucked up there on the next-to-last day of the 1980 season in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. It was that 10th inning blast that sealed that NL East for the Phillies and propelled them into the NLCS and the only World Series title in the franchise’s 123-season history.

“It was a crucial home run,” Schmidt remembered. “It was the last home run of the year and it had a tremendous impact on the history of the Phillies.”

What's left to be seen is whether Howard's final homer of 2006 has an equally as important impact on the history of the Phillies.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, August 27, 2006

11 weeks to go

Another good mileage week. Luckily, my recovery has been really good -- that's the best part so far.

Here it is:

Monday: 21.4 miles in 2:28. Had some stomach trouble early in the run but recovered and ran well over the final 16 miles.

Tuesday: 15.1 miles. Strong early, but tired toward the end.

Wednesday: 16.2 miles with tons of hills. Half of the run was uphill.

Thursday: 15.2 miles. Tired after the hill workout.

Friday: 15.2 miles. Legs felt great, but the humidity kicked my rear.

Saturday: 16.2 miles. Same workout as Wednesday.

Sunday: 5 miles easy in 31:21. Not too easy, though... ran the last mile in 5:10. Also played golf in the morning at Pilgrim's Oak in Peach Bottom, Pa. -- strong with the driver and short game. Putting needs work, though.

104.3 miles for the week. Fifth straight week at 100+ miles... 11 weeks to go.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Excuses not making the grade

My days as a science cheat were very short lived. Actually, unlike Floyd Landis, Justin Gatlin and now Marian Jones, and the host of athletes nabbed in failed drug tests and a blanket of bad excuses, my dabbling in cheating ended quickly after it began.

Lucky me.

No, this tale has nothing to do with altering my body chemistry to become bigger, stronger and faster, but in the end, cheating is cheating. Right?

Well …

Nonetheless, this story was just as sordid and dirty for everyone (well, just me, actually) caught up in the tangled web of the controversy. Or something like that. Better yet, like one can deduce from following the cases of Landis, Gatlin, Jones and every other notorious drug case permeating sports during the past two decades, my case involves greed, pressure, arrogance and the desire to make oneself look better.

Sounds dramatic, right? It was. You see on the way home on the last day of school in eighth grade, I steamed open the envelope holding my report card, pulled out the red pen from my backpack I had secured just for the occasion, and changed my grade. Yeah, it still makes me queasy thinking about now. What was I thinking? A red pen? In the bushes near my house on the way home from Wheatland Junior High? Science? Cheating?


The motive, honestly, was simple. I needed a C in eighth grade science to finish the year on the Honor Roll. Science was never (and still isn’t) my thing, so getting a C was a tall order. With the extra pressure of actually making it onto the Honor Roll thrown in, it was just too much to handle. When I opened my report card and not surprisingly saw that big, round D taunting me from the thin, official-looking piece of paper, I felt as if I had no other choice than to turn that D into a C.

Now I know exactly what you are thinking. Everyone thinks the same thing when hearing about Landis and is 11-to-1 testosterone ratio, or Marian Jones’ positive test for EPO, and every other cheater caught in the web of credibility. The question is why. Why do it and how did I think I could get away with it?

Honestly, with the aid of two decades of retrospect, I never thought it through that much. I saw the glory of the Honor Roll, which for a mediocre student like me, was major. You see, my academic record sounded a shrill, annoying alarm of a classic underachiever when examined. My sister, on the other hand, lacked the diversity of the alphabet sampler on my report cards. She was consistent and never had to worry about getting a B, let alone not making the Honor Roll. And because we are so close in age, the competition was fierce.

But, again with the aid of 22 years to ponder my cheating escapade, it never really made sense. Why did I desire to be on the Honor Roll so much? Isn’t it odd that people were rewarded for doing what they are supposed to do, which is get good grades? Worse, the pursuit of such accolades for doing work you were supposed to do just seemed so… tacky.

Needless to say, my ruse was quickly discovered. The C covering the D in red pen just looked too suspect and unprofessional even in those days before the proliferation of computer databases, e-mailed grades, and easy access to information via the Internet. We were still using pen and paper in those days, folks.

But unlike any other science cheat, I didn’t waste anyone’s time with a series of lame excuses. Unlike Landis, I didn’t use a late-night whiskey binge as an excuse for my poor grade. Nor did a masseuse rub in an illicit steroid like with Gatlin, or was I “framed” like Jones’ camp offered when she failed her drug test.

Framed? Yeah, because Jones’ running is just so vital to our national interests.

But there are many more excuses a science cheater like me could have used. Remember when Ben Johnson ran so fast in the 100-meters finals during the 1988 Seoul Olympics that it appeared as if he was either going to combust into flames or take off in flight? Yeah, well, that speed came from Winstrol, the same steroid reportedly favored by Rafael Palmeiro.

Ben’s excuse? Someone dosed his water bottle. Rafael’s? He thought it was a B-12 vitamin that teammate Miguel Tejada gave to him.

Still, those are better than the excuse Barry Bonds reportedly gave during his grand jury testimony in attempt for prosecutors to glean more information for the star-crossed slugger’s role in the BALCO case. In admitting to using “The Cream” or “The Clear,” two hardcore and ultra-scientific designer steroids, Bonds said he thought he was just rubbing flax seed oil onto his body.


Suffice it to say, my cheating days ended there. The effort, coupled with the guilt, made it not worth it. Besides, the time put into cheating could better be used for studying, or in other cases, for working out and getting stronger naturally. Honestly, it’s not too hard to do it that way. Then again, it seems as if the big thing for athletes these days is not winning or losing, but not getting caught.

Anyway, the real lesson came from my dad when he told me, “You know, a D turns into a B a lot easier than it turns into a C.”

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Rowand and Gordon on D.L. II

Of all of the players that could have suffered a season-ending injury, Aaron Rowand's might have the most dire affect on the Phillies' lineup. Yeah, the Phillies say Rowand is only expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks with a broken ankle, but let's not kid ourselves... it will be very difficult for Rowand to return to his typical pinball-style of play in centerfield this season.

Sure, it's easy enough to simply plunk Shane Victorino into Rowand's spot in center, but what about the bench? Surely, the Phillies aren't nearly as fearsome with Danny Sandoval, Chris Roberson, Michael Bourn and Joe Thurston on the bench.

And what happens when the Phillies face a lefty? David Dellucci, who had been sitting out against left-handers, will now be forced to play every day regardless of pitching matchup. Surely Dellucci is capable and he came through with 29 home runs in a full-time role with the Texas Rangers last season, but 28 of those homers were hit against righties.

This season, two of Dellucci's 12 homers have come off lefties. But aside from those two bombs, Dellucci has just one other hit against left-handers.

Then there is Rowand's defense in center. It's hard to find too many other players who go gap-to-gap as well as Rowand. Victorino is capable, and is a fun player to watch because of his energy, but he's still a little raw.

Either way, Rowand's style of play has already affected the team with two stints on the disabled list for running into things. An unpadded centerfield wall is one thing, but just think if Chase Utley would have been injured during Monday night's collision.

Meanwhile, Gordon's injury shouldn't be too serious, but it is clear that the 38-year-old veteran needs more rest between outings after admitting that he has pitched with some pain since the All-Star break. That's really not that big of a deal -- Gordon just has to be used more judiciously by manager Charlie Manuel.

Labels: , ,

Rowand and Gordon on D.L.

Here's the official release from the Phillies:


Outfielder Aaron Rowand was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured left ankle, Assistant General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. announced today.

Rowand, 28, is expected to miss 4-6 weeks and will return to Philadelphia to see a foot specialist once he is medically cleared to fly. He suffered the injury in a collision with second baseman Chase Utley during the bottom of the 8th inning of last night’s game at Wrigley Field.

This is the second trip to the disabled list for Rowand this season. He missed two weeks in May with a fractured nose and non-displaced fractures around his left eye after crashing into the outfield wall at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies will announce roster moves at a later time to replace Rowand and righthander Tom Gordon on the 25-man roster. Gordon was placed on the 15-day disabled list following last night’s game (retroactive to August 13) with a right shoulder strain.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

12 weeks to go

Here is last week's training regime for the Harrisburg Marathon on Nov. 12. A few readers have asked for my training plans so I will be publishing them here every week. So, without much more fanfare, here's the week of Aug. 14 to 20:

Hills, hills, roads and more hills this week. Did all of my runs over the hilliest loops with plenty of fartlek. Here it is:

Monday: 20 miles in 2:22. A little slow but I ran those hills.

Tuesday: 14.4 miles easy in 1:40. Hills.

Wednesday: 14 miles in 1:37. Cruised. Did I mention hills?

Thursday: 15 miles over hills with 3x1-mile in 5:30. This was a good one.

Friday: 15.6 miles easy. Hamstrings were a little tight.

Saturday: 14.2 miles in cruise control. A few surges here and there and some hills.

Sunday: 7.6 miles in an easy 53:04. Even wore my racing shoes for the first time in forever. I'd love to find another pair of Nike Air Mariahs in size 11 1/2 or 12, but I imagine they are hard to find.

Weekly total: 100.8 miles. Fourth straight week at 100 miles. 12 weeks to go.


Fun with Ozzie

When I was in high school, I was lucky enough to be neighbors with someone who had season tickets for the Orioles games at Memorial Stadium. Better yet, the seats were in the first row by the visiting team's on-deck circle where players warmed up just inches away from your head.

Once -- I'm going to say it was 1987 -- the neighbor gave me the tickets for an Orioles-White Sox doubleheader. So before each of his 9 or 10 plate appearances that day, White Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen chatted me up. All. Day. Long. He talked and talked and talked. He didn't hold anything back nor did he censor himself, which was fine by me. Then, like now, I was much more interested in reality than the airbrushed version. Like most people, I don't like to be told what to think or how to feel and if Ozzie Guillen wanted to speak to me frankly -- even though I wasn't old enough for a drivers' license -- I was going to enjoy it.

Twenty years later, Ozzie Guillen is still speaking frankly. Actually, his mouth has gotten him into a bit of trouble lately and some of his actions have made even his most ardent supporters scratch their heads and wonder what ol' Ozzie was thinking. In fact, there is even a funny story on The Onion spoofing the trouble Ozzie has gotten himself into.

Apparently, Ozzie was on a roll again yesterday in a little tirade when talking to writers about accusations of his team "cheating." Based on the story, Ozzie doesn't think much about the NL Central, nor does he think he can find a spot on his roster for the Cardinals' lefty Mark Mulder.

Sadly, I think Ozzie's run in Chicago is going to end badly. I'm not basing that on any inside knowledge or anything other than observations. It just seems that people who allow others to know what they are thinking never seem to have a long shelf life -- that's especially the case when the speaker isn't exactly "politically correct."

Nevertheless, it looks as if Ozzie keeps things loose with his team. Here's a video of a wrestling match with a professional wrestler during spring training. The best part is the look on Jim Thome's face. He seems to be thinking, "Geez, Bowa never did anything as crazy as this... and he was nuts!"

Finally, I would be remiss not to include one of the all-time great quotes from Guillen about making it in America as skinny kid from Venezuela. From The Washington Post:

"I'm smarter than a lot of guys who go to Harvard. When you come to this country and you can't speak any English at 16 years old, and you have to survive, you have to have something smart in your body. If you take one of those Harvard guys and drop them in the middle of Caracas, they won't survive. But if you drop me in the middle of Harvard, I'll survive."

How would Guillen do in Philadelphia? I think he'd be able to hold his own.

Labels: , ,

Phillies trade for Jamie Moyer

Remember all that stuff about Scott Mathieson remaining in the Phillies' rotation? Yeah, well, nevermind.

Labels: ,

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Chase Utley!

That's right... are there any questions about Chase Utley's fire after watching the second inning of the Phillies' game against the Nationals on Saturday night? Is it any wonder why so many people like watching him play?

For those who missed it, Utley bounded out of the dugout after Nats' pitcher Ramon Ortiz -- a.k.a. The Gutless Wonder -- decided he was better off throwing fastballs at hitters instead of trying to get them out. So when Ortiz drilled Aaron Rowand in the ribs during the Phils' eight-run inning, Utley, still burning about getting drilled a few batters earlier, rushed onto the field to challenge Ortiz, man to punk.

Ortiz, who was immediately ejected, just walked away.

Good move.

Here's how it is: if my son has even the slightest interest in playing baseball when he gets older and wants to understand how to play the game the right way, I'm going to get video of No. 27 for the St. Louis Cardinals and No. 26 for the Philadelphia Phillies and say, "Son, watch these two men... this is how the game is played."

Damn right!

Labels: ,

No more greenies?

When Major League Baseball announced before the season that its new drug policy was going to include amphetamines, or "greenies" there was a lot of jokes made at the expense of the players.

"How are they going to finish the season?" some asked.

"What's going to happen to half of the players in the league come September?" others offered.

Well, we're just about to the point of the season where some players hit the proverbial wall (it's a marathon, not a sprint, right?) and I'm even more curious about what affect the new policy will have over the final month of the season.

For the uninitiated, greenies are speed or a synthetic stimulant used to suppress the appetite, control weight, and treat disorders including narcolepsy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is also used recreationally and for performance enhancement and is illegal without a prescription in most cases.

It's also been a popular drug used by baseball players for the past 50 years. In fact, there are many published stories about the widespread use of greenies in big league clubhouses, including somewhere the team supplied the drugs for the players. According to legend (and Tug McGraw), greenies were the drug of choice amongst the Phillies in the late 1970s and early 1980s, not that this made the Phillies any different from any other team.

All of that aside, there has been no reports of any positive greenie tests in the big leagues this season, and it appears as if the players who were using them have made the shift to other stimulants. Coffee as well as more mainstream energy boosters favored by runners and triathletes are more prevalent in big league clubhouses, though for whatever reason, Red Bull and other so-called energy drinks aren’t as visible as they were in past seasons.

In other words, it seems like the ban on amphetamines has worked.

Hitting the wall
Putting the greenie issue aside, it seems as if one Phillie is slowing down. At least that's the way it sounded when I read a few quotes from Mike Lieberthal regarding Brett Myers' latest poor outing against the Nationals on Friday night. According to the irrepressible Dennis Deitch of the Delaware County Daily Times, Lieberthal said:

"He seems a little tired," catcher Mike Lieberthal said of Myers. "The pop isn’t there on his fastball. He has seemed a little tired in his last few starts."

Lieberthal said Myers might be going through a "dead-arm phase." The last time that phrase was used in conversation, closer Tom Gordon was theorizing on his struggles. A few days later, he was shut down and having tests performed on a sore shoulder.

By no means am I suggesting anything about Myers, but based on a quote in a newspaper it sounds as if the big pitcher is getting tired. Perhaps it's Myers' fitness that has caused this downturn? Perhaps Myers might hit the wall in the final month of the season because he isn't in good enough shape?

Remember how Kevin Millwood folded like a cheap tent during the stretch in 2003?

Labels: , ,

What does this mean for Floyd?

Despite being smacked around like a pinata at a kids' party, the Phillies plan on sending rookie Scott Mathieson back to the mound for his next start in Chicago. Forget about Mathieson's 1-4 record with a 7.23 ERA, and forget about minor leaguers Gavin Floyd (7-3, 4.15 ERA), Eude Brito (9-8, 3.31) or Brian Mazone (11-3, 2.22) as possible replacements -- the kid is going back out there.

"(Mathieson) is young and he's definitely going to be a part of our future," Charlie Manuel told the writers before Friday's game. "He's got the stuff to be a big-league pitcher. That's how [Robinson] Tejeda pitched last year - all stuff and guts."

But what if he keeps getting his guts... well, you know?

What happens if Mathieson takes another tough loss is anyone's guess, however, the interesting part is the Phillies' brass really doesn't look at Gavin Floyd as a viable option.

Yeah, that's right, the fourth overall selection in the draft is not an option.

If I were Manuel or Pat Gillick, and I didn't want Floyd any more, I'd send him out there every five days -- he could pitch reasonably well and help the team win a game and he could improve his value for a potential trade.

Of course, that's only the case if you want to get rid of the guy.

Meanwhile, Tom Gordon is going to take the weekend off to rest his shoulder. It seems as if the closer's "injury" is just a flare up from overuse and will improve with some rest.

Labels: ,

Jones fallout

Now that various outlets have confirmed that Marian Jones is just the latest high-profile American athlete to fail a drug test, the fallout and finger pointing has begun. On, Adrian Wojnarowski offers a very poignant column about how he really wanted Jones to be clean and her comeback to be honorable (it's a very good story). Now, alas, it seems as if those five World Championships and those gold medals won in Sydney are just as fraudulent as those home runs hit by Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire or any other supposed user.

Yes, sports is turning into pro wrestling, folks. But does that even matter any more? Is going to a game the same thing as checking out a movie on a Friday night? Well, the tickets to attend a game are much more expensive than a movie, and taxpayers aren't being hit up to pay for 45,000-seat movie theaters, but you get the point. Is what we are watching real?

Certainly, the idea of Jones as the American Princess has been debunked just like the Wizard of Oz. The problem is, there are many more curtains to pull back.

Like in golf, for instance. Last week in The New York Times, the excellent golf writer (and good guy) Damon Hack examined how the notion of illicit performance-enhancers in golf isn't such a laughable idea.

Yes folks, dope in sports is the biggest story in sports out there. Forget the drugs beat writer I suggested earlier -- how about an entire doper section in every paper.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Dope redux

The other day in the press box we had a conversation where I boldly stated that every big newspaper's sports section should have someone covering the "Dope Beat." No one disagreed with me. In fact, the consensus was that every paper should have a drug beat and it should happen soon.

The reasons why papers don't have a drugs in sports guy is too myriad to get into now, though some of it has to do with sports editors, some writers and readers not truly understanding the issues... or the fact that the performance-enhancing drugs issue is the most important sports story happening now and for the extended future. Some day maybe the editors and the readers will catch up.

Why it's such a big issue is too involved, as well, but the very legitimacy of the sports are in danger. No one really know whether they are watching honest professional sports or pro wrestling any more -- then there is the whole issue of privacy, drug testing and the role of sports in society.

Actually, it's too big for even a really long book.

Anyway, another big star reportedly tested positive -- this time it is apparently EPO, an enhancer popular with endurance athletes. According to a story by Amy Shipley of The Washington Post, 2000 Olympic darling Marian Jones tested positive last June at the U.S. national championships in Indianapolis. That's apparently where 100-meter world-record holder Justin Gatlin failed his drug test, too.

Nonetheless, these stories are going to keep coming. Whether or not it will affect the numbers of people coming through the turnstiles remains to be seen.

Oh no, Vinnie

From the "now you see why we traded him for nothing" file, we give you the latest from Vicente Padilla. This time, instead of an arrest for suspicion of DUI, Padilla decided that throwing fastballs at the Los Angeles Angels was a smart thing to do.

Here's what happened according to ESPN's Buster Olney:

On Tuesday night, Vicente Padilla stunk, and rather than just take some responsibility and do his job and try to make better pitches, Padilla started firing fastballs at the hitters. Then last night, with the Angels getting blown out, they felt the need to answer back, to retaliate, and that's how Kennedy wound up going after Feldman with two outs in the ninth inning.

That's what happened with Tino. In 1995, when he was with Seattle, and in 1998, when he was with the Yankees, Benitez made bad pitches, he got hit around and so he fired fastballs at Tino. To me, there's nothing more gutless in the sport.

You're mad because you're giving up runs? Well then, make better pitches. Don't take it out on the next hitter.

As the benches cleared in both instances when Tino got hit -- during play, while the players were still grabbing and pushing -- some of Benitez's Orioles teammates were apologizing to their opponents for the actions of the pitcher. And I suspect that this took place last night, in some form or fashion. The Rangers are a good team that plays hard, and they probably were almost as angry at Padilla as the Angels were. (And remember, the White Sox have had their issues with Padilla, too.)

Padilla will likely be suspended, but until he is manager Buck Showalter gave him an earful, while Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News ripped into the former Phillie.

Padilla is slated to be a free agent at the end of this season, and it's my guess that he won't be pitching for the Rangers in 2007.

On the subject of Padilla, I'll never forget the time last September when a uniformed member of the Phillies not-so subtly passed on information that it was highly unlikely that Padilla would return for 2006. The team had just grown tired of him.

I'll also never forget when he came four outs away from tossing a no-hitter against the Diamondbacks or sitting in the dugout during a simulated game at the Vet a few days after Sept. 11 when hitters refused to go to the plate to face Padilla. His stuff was just too nasty.

I'll also remember how Scott Rolen took a weird shine to the moody Nicaraguan. Rolen had taken to playfully teasing "Vinnie" on the field and in the clubhouse as a way of making the pitcher feel involved or part of the team... you know, one of the guys. The goofy part was that Rolen's jibes were often lost in translation since Padilla never took much of an interest in speaking English in public or communicating to teammates. Rolen said: "He has no idea what I'm saying and I have no idea what the hell he's saying. That's the beauty of it."

Padilla was also the last National League pitcher in the 2002 All-Star Game in Milwaukee that ended in a tie.

Coste to Coste

Chris Coste leaned up against his locker in the Phillies’ clubhouse casually chatting about Wednesday night’s 3-0 victory over the first-place New York Mets for the team’s third win in a row. Certainly it was no typical day for the Phillies’ catcher, who drove in the winning runs with a two-run home run in the second inning off potential Hall of Famer Tom Glavine on his way to a 3-for-3 game. After all, it isn’t every day a when a guy has a feature story written about him in The New York Times – the paper of record.

On the strength of that story, Coste received two letters from literary agents that were set beneath his cell phone that blinked on and off like a faraway beacon on the horizon. Perhaps it was another (yes, another) Hollywood agent calling to check in about developing a feature?

Heck, maybe it was the president. After all, he spent the day campaigning for money in Lancaster.

So as Coste entertained the gaggle of writers and TV folks who formed a semi-circle about three bodies deep around him, it could have dawned on him that, yes, maybe I ought to pinch myself. How can all this be happening? A triple short of a cycle and two RBIs against Tom Glavine?

Is this a dream?

“I wouldn’t have ever guessed this,” Coste said. “My whole career has been a fight and I just never got a chance. Just to make the big leagues was enough.”

But that was before. Now, after 11 seasons in the minors and five different Major League organizations – as well as two independent league teams – the 33-year old rookie isn’t thinking about his one shot. He’s already accomplished the dream. Now his trying to live it.

“To say this is a dream wouldn’t do it justice,” Coste said.

The reporters didn’t gather around Coste to hear the fairy tale stories all over again – though it was interesting. Instead they came to ask Coste about another game in the big leagues. Another game in which he produced a clutch hit, and caught a good game just like he was any other player making his way through another long baseball season. It didn’t matter that Coste had the improbable story of winters spent playing in Mexico or spending Christmases at a Wal-Mart with teammates only to have the doors of the big-league clubhouses slammed in his face year after year. It didn’t matter that he was the 33-year-old rookie who Hollywood types were looking to cash in off of like that science teacher from Texas.

In this case Coste is sharing the starting catching duties with a guy playing in his 13th Major League season for a team very much in the middle of a playoff run, and is making a significant contribution.

In fact, Coste was calling the pitches for Jon Lieber on Wednesday night as the big right-hander turned in the team’s best pitching outing of the season. With Coste behind the dish, Lieber threw a taut five-hitter where he threw 101 pitches in nine innings without a walk in shutting out the Mets.

"It’s been awesome. He’s done a tremendous job back there, especially after spring training and going through that difficult situation,” Lieber understated. “He’s definitely building up his confidence.”

That difficult situation Lieber was talking about was when Coste was sent back to Triple-A even though he pounded the ball during Grapefruit League action in spring training for a .472 batting average. Instead of Coste as a backup catcher or a utility infielder, the Phillies opted to go with Sal Fasano and Alex Gonzalez instead.

Fasano, of course, was designated for assignment and then dealt to the Yankees, while Gonzalez decided to retire after hitting .111 in 20 games.

Said manager Charlie Manuel: “He’s doing a good job. He can put the fat part of the bat on the ball.”

That’s another understatement. Since making it to the Majors on May 26, Coste is mostly fattening up his stats. In going 3-for-3 on Wednesday, Coste’s average jumped to .359 to go with five homers and 22 RBIs. His on-base percentage is a robust .400 while his OPS, is a very lusty .973.

In 100 games from Fasano and 13-year veteran Mike Lieberthal, the Phillies have received seven homers, 30 RBIs and a .247 average. But take away the 0-for-13 Coste had when first making his debut, and the average climbs to .411.

Looks like the Phillies found their catcher.



“I sneak up on everybody. That’s my style,” Coste said about his red-hot start. “It’s nice being under the radar a bit. The second time through the league will be different. That’s what everyone is telling me.”

That certainly seems to be the case. Coste isn’t a secret any more. With the features in The Times, literary agents writing for ideas, and Hollywood producers looking for the latest feel-good story, it’s very likely that Coste is going to have to make some more adjustments in order to keep the good times going.

As far as that goes, Coste is ready.

“As a human you want more and you get greedy,” Coste said. “If you get up here for a year you want to stay for 15. I want to be like Julio Franco playing when I’m 47. You want more. That’s human nature.”

And at this point, more is never enough.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ol' man Lieby

Mike Lieberthal is in the lineup for Thursday afternoon's game against the Mets, which means he will tie Red Dooin for most games caught by a Phillie.

The list:
Red Dooin (1902-14) -- 1,124
Mike Lieberthal (1994-current) -- 1,124
Bob Boone (1972-81) -- 1,079
Darren Daulton (1983-95) -- 965
Jack Clements (1884-97) -- 953
Clay Dalrymple (1960-68) -- 944
Andy Seminick (1943-51; '55-57) -- 917

The Phillies sent out this little bio of Red Dooin:

Who is Red Dooin?

Charles Sebastian (Red) Dooin was behind the plate for the Phillies for 13 seasons starting in 1902. The last five years, he was the club’s player-manager (390-370 record), finishing second in 1913 (88-63, drawing 470,000). He was replaced by Pat Moran as manager in 1915, the year the Phillies won their first pennant.

In 4,004 career at-bats, Dooin (5-foot-9, 165 pounds) batted just .240, but he stole 133 bases, including double figures seven straight years. Not too many catchers these days can match his stolen base numbers.

Dooin reportedly was the first catcher to wear papier-mâché shin guards. He wore them under his stockings, according to various publications.

When his playing career was over, he performed in vaudeville as a tenor.

Dooin was born in Cincinnati, OH, in 1879 and died 73 years later in Rochester, NY.

Here's the list of games-played leaders by position:

C Mike Lieberthal (1994-current) -- 1,124
P Robin Roberts (1948-61) -- 529
1B Fred Luderus (1910-20) -- 1,298
2B Tony Taylor (1960-71; 74-76) -- 1,003
SS Larry Bowa (1970-81) -- 1,667
3B Mike Schmidt (1972-89) -- 2,212
OF Richie Ashburn (1948-59) -- 1,785
OF Del Ennis (1946-56) -- 1,610
OF Sherry Magee (1904-14) -- 1,415

So what does this list tell us? Well, because the Phillies played their first game in 1883 and have won just one World Series over that span, the names seem to indicate that the team has not been very good for 123 seasons. Just for fun, here's the what the all-time games played list should look like:

C - Bob Boone
P - Ferguson Jenkins
1B - Richie Allen
2B - Ryne Sandberg
SS - Bowa
3B - Schmidt/Scott Rolen
OF - Ashburn
OF - Bobby Abreu
OF - Greg Luzinski
OF - Chuck Klein

Remember, this is for amusement purposes only.

On another note, Lieberthal is also the franchise's all-time leader in times hit by a pitch.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Drink coffee... now!

Earlier this year I came to terms with something that had been troubling me for quite some time, and that's my addiction -- yes, addiction -- to caffeine. What I realized is that it's time for me to quit trying to quit caffeine.

The monkey can not be shaken.

Of course, like any self-respecting caffeine addict, the delivery of the intoxicant to my blood stream is very important. Anything other than diet coke, green tea and the true nectar of the gods, coffee, is a waste of time.

So it was a delight to see the top e-mailed story in The New York Times today was one about the health benefits that come from drinking coffee. In fact, coffee just might have more antioxidants than drinking green tea, and green tea has been proven in some circles to stop some forms of cancer.

So drink up, people. Have all the coffee and tea you like... just have that one healthful glass of wine to help you get rid of those shakes and get to sleep.

Charlie vs. Dallas

Anyone who saw Jim Salisbury's story in the Inquirer this morning certainly has an opinion on the little dust-up between Charlie Manuel and Dallas Green, or "Coot-off" as it has been called in these parts.

I'm not going to weigh in on either end, but Manuel is one tough dude. He's already survived cancer and a heart attack so he's going to be hard to beat in a urban combat setting.

As far as the tale of the tape goes, Dallas Green was 454-478 as a Major League manager (169-130 for the Phillies), while Manuel is 366-325 and 146-134 with the Phillies.

Dallas has that ring, though as the honeymoon reaches its 26th year.

Have a seat, Pat

Before the Phillies opened up the 10-game homestand with last weekend’s set against the Reds, one of the baseball beat writers made a bold prediction:

"If the Phillies win five of their next seven, they’re going to the playoffs."

Seven of the 10 games were against the Reds and the Mets, both of whom should be playing baseball in October. Needless to say, winning five of seven was a pretty tall order and it looked rather impossible after the Phillies dropped two of three to the Reds.

But following the first two games of the series against the Mets, a four-game sweep – as well as that 5-2 stretch – is quite realistic.

Go figure.

The Phillies have been very good with the bats lately. That’s pretty obvious, especially when they have scored 24 runs in two games against the team leading the NL East by 13 games. Actually, the Phillies’ bats have been excellent when Pat Burrell has been on the bench and both David Dellucci and Shane Victorino have been in the lineup. Since the All-Star Break, the Phillies are 7-3 in games in which Burrell does not start.

I’m not sure what that means, but it seems as if the team’s lineup has a little more pizzazz with Victorino and Dellucci.

Of course, pizzazz isn’t quantifiable by too many traditional statistical formulas.

The plan

A couple of regular readers were curious about my marathon training program, and what I did to prepare myself for those races. I really don't know how to answer these questions since everybody reacts to training regimes differently.

Personally, I like to run a lot of miles. It makes me feel better, though I have learned through trial and error that if I do too many weeks over 110 miles, I have a tendency to break down. Back in the old days, I cranked out months of 130-miles weeks only to get to the starting line worn out. That really sucked.

However, 100 to 105 miles per week seems to be the magic number as long as keep my interval sessions more strength-based than repeats on a track. I seem to recover pretty quickly from workout to workout when sticking to a steady and strict 100-mile plan.

Anyway, for those who asked, here's what I did last week and I'll try to keep this updated for the personal and public record. Why should there be any secrets?

Monday: 14.4 miles @ medium pace with hills. Surged on all hills.
Tuesday: 20 miles on grass @ 7:06 pace.
Wednesday: 13 miles easy.
Thursday: 17 miles on grass @ 6:50 pace.
Friday: 14.4 miles easy.
Saturday: 14.4 miles with 5x 1 mile in 5:45.
Sunday: 7 miles easy in 48:42.

100.2 miles for third straight week... fourth 100-mile week in last six weeks, with two weeks at 7,500-feet of altitude mixed in.

There are 13 weeks to go before the Harrisburg Marathon on Nov. 12.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

More dope

The following received post of the week honors on, a web site devoted to distance running, track and field, etc. We'll let readers make their own conclusions on the research.

The post:

A list of T&F, XC and USATF Road-Race athletes who have been caught using illegal performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and sanctioned by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) over the past six years can be found at

To this list I added the athlete’s event, coach, sponsor and agent (see list below).

Since 2003, 20 athletes have received severe sanctions by USADA. 17 received 2-year suspensions, Michelle Collins & Regina Jacobs received 4-year suspensions and Jerome Young a lifetime suspension. Another 10 athletes received less severe sanctions (9 got warnings and Rickey Harris a 1-year suspension).

Despite all the talk about “lifetime bans”, since 2000, the USADA has issued lifetime bans for only three athletes across all sports. They are Jerome Young (T&F/400m, 2004), Tammy Thomas (Cycling, 2002) and Tony Dees (T&F/110mH, 2001).

GENDER: 60% male / 40% female
RACE: 70% black / 30% white
EVENT: 60% sprints / 20% throws / 15% distance / 5% jumps
SPONSOR: 60% Nike / 15% Adidas / 15% all other sponsors / 10% no sponsor
COACH: 30% Trevor Graham(Sprint Capital) / 15% John Smith(HS Intl) / 10% Remi Korchemmy(ZMA)
45% 9 other coaches (1 athlete each)
AGENT: 15% Emanuel Hudson / 15% Renaldo Nehemiah / 10% Charlie Wells / 60% 12 agents (1 each)

- Distance events and the jumps appear to be fairly clean – or their athletes are smarter about not getting caught.

- 60% of those who caught doping were sponsored by Nike. But this is roughly in line with the percentage of all pro T&F athletes sponsored by Nike. I counted all the Nike sponsored athletes who participated in the 2006 USATF Outdoor Championships, and then counted the athletes sponsored by all the other shoe companies. Of the “shoe company” sponsored athletes at this meet, 60% were sponsored by Nike. Nike sponsored 70% of the shoe-company sponsored sprinters, 46% of the distance runners, 78% in the throw events, and 72% in the jump events. So it appears that Nike sponsored athletes are no more or less likely to dope than athletes sponsored by other shoe companies.

- The athletes of just 3 coaches (Trevor Graham, Remi Korchemmy, John Smith) account for 55% of all serious doping offensives since 2003. I’ve heard that Korchemmy (age 73) may yet be banned for life due to his involvement with BALCO (or at least retire). Graham is currently under investigation and could end up receiving a long or even lifetime ban. And there have been serious allegations linking John Smith to BALCO (
- Three agents also account for 45% of the serious doping offensives since 2003. Like coaches, agents can be enablers, finding drug suppliers and doctors for athletes who decide to dope. A 2-year/lifetime ban on coaches, agents and doctors is something that I believe needs to be considered. Doping can end up financially rewarding for the coach, doctor, and agent -- not just the athlete who today assumes nearly all the risk. There needs to be a risk of severe financial loss for coaches, agents and doctors, if T&F’s doping problem is to be solved.

- If I included in my analysis the 10 doping athletes who received less severe sanctions, the demographics of this larger group of 30 dopers would be: 70% male, 80% black, (66% sprints, 13% throws, 10% distance, 10% jumps) and (69% Nike, 10% Adidas, 10% other sponsors, 10% no sponsor).

DOPING LIST [Athlete (event) -- Coach & Sponsor – Agent]

2006 SUSPENSIONS (2+ yrs)
Justin Gatlin (100m, 200m) – Trevor Graham & Nike – Renaldo Nehemiah
John Capel (100m. 200m) – Mike Holloway & Adidas – Self
Serene Ross (Javelin) – John Zera & Unattached – Self

2005 SUSPENSIONS (2+yrs)
Tim Montgomery (100m) – Trevor Graham & Nike – Charlie Wells
Chryste Gaines (100m, 200m) – Remi Korchemmy & Nike – Renaldo Nehemiah
Larry Wade (110mH) – John Smith & Nike – Emanuel Hudson
Deeja Youngquist (marathon) – Teddy Mitchell & Saucony – agent?
Erick Walder (LJ, TJ) – Dick Booth & Adidas – Bob Pelletier

2004 SUSPENSIONS (2+ yrs)
Michelle Collins (200m, 400m) – Trevor Graham & Nike – Jos Hermens
Jerome Young (400m) – Trevor Graham & Adidas – Charlie Wells
Calvin Harrison (400m) – Trevor Graham & Nike – Karen Locke
Alvin Harrison (400m) – Trevor Graham & Nike – Renaldo Nehemiah
Regina Jacobs (1500m thru 5000m) – Tom Craig & Nike – Emanuel Hudson
Kelli White (100m, 200m) – Remi Korchemmy & Nike – Robert Wagner
Torri Edwards (100m, 200m) – John Smith & Nike – Emanuel Hudson
Mickey Grimes (100m, 200m) – John Smith & Nike – Kermit Foster
Eddy Hellebuyck (Marathon) –Self & New Balance – Shawn Hellebuyck
Kevin Toth (Shot Put) – Kent Pagel & Nike – John Nubani
John McEwen (Hammer) –coach? & NYAC – agent?
Melissa Price (Hammer) – Mark Colligan & Unattached -- self

2004 to 2006 WARNINGS
Leo Bookman (200m) – coach? & Nike – agent?
LaMark Carter (LJ, TJ) – Dean Johnson & Nike – Cubie Seegobin
Chris Phillips (100mH) – Tim McCrary & Nike – Robert Wagner
Bernard Williams (100m, 200m) – Mike Holloway & Nike – Kimberly Holland
Rae Monzavous Edwards (100m) – coach? & sponsor? – agent?
Tim Rusan (TJ) – Dick Booth & Nike – John Nebani
Sandra Glover (400mH) – Don Glover & Nike – Renaldo Nehemiah
Chris Phillips (100mH) – coach? & Nike – agent?
Eric Thomas (400mH) – Kim Wrinkle & Nike – Caroline Feith
Rickey Harris (400mH) – coach? & Unattached – agent? (Harris got a 1 year suspension)

Friday, August 04, 2006


Remember all that stuff I wrote about believing Floyd Landis and about how a good Mennonite boy from Lancaster County would never, ever do something as silly as dope in the Tour de France when he had already been drug tested 20 times?


Well, if his T/E ratio was really 11 to 1 as been reported, and if there was really a synthetic found in the test after that amazing Stage 17, well...


If all of that is the case, then it seems as if dopers can come from anywhere -- even old order Mennonites from Lancaster County.

Either way, the news of that long-awaited "B" sample should be revealed tomorrow at 5 a.m.. What that will solve is anyone's guess. What happens if the next sample comes back under 4 to 1?

Nevertheless, I am correct about one thing -- the issue of drugs and steroids in sports in the most important story of this generation. It supercedes everything.

In the meantime, here are a collection of stories about the on-going Landis case:

  • Inaccurate synthetic test?

  • Lancaster Newspapers collection of Landis stories

  • Michael Johnson on Justin Gatlin (and Landis)

  • Floyd Landis's Alcohol Defense -- The Wall Street Journal

  • Masseur Rejects Charge by Gatlin’s Coach -- The New York Times
    This story includes a claim that the masseur was beaten up at this year's national championships in Indianapolis.

  • Doping Scandal Could Hurt Track and Field on Financial Side -- Super Athletics
    To which I say, good. Perhaps with less interference and money from corporations only interested in their own gain (cough, cough... Nike, cough), maybe the sport will be more pure.

  • Floyd Landis Re-Considered -- Amby Burfoot

  • The Hall of Shame Gets Bigger -- Amby Burfoot
  • Friday morning musings

    Here's one from a columnist named Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch where he writes that it could be worse for the Cardinals and their fans during the current losing skid -- they could be Phillies fans. Yeah, ouch.

    Either way, Gordon doesn't shed new light on anything. It's included here because I thought it was interesting how the Phillies and their organization are viewed outside of the vortex of the Delaware Valley. Judging from the column, it's safe to say that it's not very different.

    Meanwhile, the Phillies have won three games in a row, six of their last seven and eight of the last 10 games to climb out of oblivion to just 2 1/2 games off the pace in the wild-card race. That makes the Phillies and the Yankees the hottest teams in baseball.

    And to think, all it took was a little trade for both teams.

    Ex-Phillie watch
    Vicente Padilla, who general manager Pat Gillick shipped to Texas for, well, nothing, during the off season, was picked up for a suspected DUI last night.

    Soapbox time: As a father of a two-year-old boy and uncle to three kids all under the age of three, irresponsibility while driving is very troublesome -- and this has nothing to do with Padilla because he hasn't been indicted and is only a suspect. Nevertheless, it's hard to have any sympathy for jackass drivers who could do damage to themselves or a child. I've lost one too many friends because of car accidents that could have been avoided.

    Rant over.

    Back to Padilla -- now does everyone understand why the Phillies cast him out for nothing? Certainly, Padilla's habits in Philadelphia were no secret and this doesn't take into account his fitness, or lackthereof. In fact, a bunch of writers knew that the team was going to let him walk as early as last September when the Phillies were still in the wild-card race and Padilla was pitching quite well. But whether he pitched well or not, the enigmatic Nicaraguan just wasn't worth the trouble.

    Padilla definitely has a few demons brewing beneath the surface. After all, he was in the car during a car accident in his native Nicaragua where his best friend was killed a few years ago. Through it all, the Phillies always denied -- at least officially -- that Padilla had a problems. It always seemed as if the Phillies were more concerned about touting Padilla's potential as a pitcher than anything else. Yes, he was very talented -- actually, there was a time when hitters feared Padilla like no other pitcher. I still remember Padilla coming four outs away from a no-hitter in a game at the Vet against the Diamondbacks.

    But Padilla, from a severely rural and poor upbringing in Nicaragua, never really knew how to fit in with his teammates on the Phillies or the media. He spoke English and could communicate with teammates, but often refused to do it. Sometimes it seemed as if he was from another planet.

    Lets hope the Rangers are less worried about what Padilla can do on the mound and help him get himself together.

    More Abreu trade fodder
    In today's edition of Baseball Prospectus, Jim Baker wrote a story about how Bobby Abreu and his penchant for drawing a walk per game makes the Yankees almost unbeatable. Almost.

    Here's a graf from the opus:

    I'm not saying that Abreu in and of himself makes the Yankees unbeatable, but he assures them of having more of the type of individual games where the records show teams have a much easier time winning. Ideally, that is what all deadline deals should do for those in competition.

    Abreu had another multi-hit game for the Yankees last night and the Bombers are undefeated since his arrival. Based on wins and losses it appears as if the trade worked out well for both clubs.

  • Lidle’s First Win as Yankee Comes With a Sweet Reward -- The New York Times
    Looks like the Yankees like ice cream, too.

  • Best Hitters Still Chasing Yankee Clipper -- The New York Times
    Every one is taking notice of Chase Utley.

  • Abreu Is Just the Latest to Get in Line for a Ring -- The New York Times
  • Thursday, August 03, 2006

    Ex-Phillie alert

    Ice cream and online-poker lover, and budding pilot, Cory Lidle made his Yankees debut this afternoon and turned in another decent performance in the Bombers' 8-1 victory over Toronto.

    Lidle's line: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HR, 1 WP, 1 HBP on 80 pitches.

    Lidle's batterymate was Sal Fasano, who went 0-for-4 at the plate with three strikeouts to help his batting average dip to a not-so robust .111. Can't say we're surprised.

    On another note, Bobby Abreu was flip-flopped in the batting order with Jason Giambi, going from fifth to third, and responded by going 3-for-5 with his second double (padding?) with a pair of runs. In the three games since joining the Yankees, Abreu is hitting .385 and has only walked once.

    I suggest you check out Dan McQuade's "Ex-Phillie Watch" page on his trenchant site, Philadelphia Will Do.

    According to the page, it appears as if Abraham Nunez has performed a little better than David Bell since last week's deal with the Brewers.

    On another note, here's why the Yankees are a great organization as written in the Associated Press recap of the game:

    The gametime temperature was 97 degrees as much of the East and Midwest continued to deal with a stifling heat wave. The Yankees offered free water at various points throughout the stadium, opened some air-conditioned suites to use as cooling rooms and aired public address announcements from manager Joe Torre and pitcher Mike Mussina urging fans to stay hydrated.

    It should also be noted that the Yankees did not use the big jumbotron in the stadium to further conserve energy.

    Who says the Yankees are wasteful? They're green, too!

    Philly ranked 9th

    According to The Sporting News, Philadelphia is the ninth-best sports city in the magazine's newest ratings. That's down from No. 2 (behind Boston) last year. Chicago jumped up to the top spot in the rankings, followed by Miami... yeah, Miami. The city where they fill up the ballpark for Marlins games (insert sarcasm font).

    Here's The Sporting News' full list of the 99 top sports towns.

    Just for fun, I'm going to rate my top sports towns under the following criteria:

  • Participating in sports is more important than spectating. If the city's claim to fame is fighting at the parking lot tailgate party before the game or firing a flare gun across the field during Monday Night Football, chances are that town isn't going to rate as high as the one with a 10K every weekend or a top-notch marathon or cycling race.

  • The city ahs to be one that I have visited in the past decade. That eliminates most of the midwest right there.

    Here we go:
    1.) Denver-Boulder
    This is the sports Mecca. There are at least 60 Olympics athletes currently living in Boulder County, which is less than 30 miles north of downtown Denver. For those who like playing sports, Boulder is the best city in the U.S., but for those who would rather watch others, University of Colorado, Colorado State and the Air Force Academy are very popular for the college fans, while the pros are represented in every major league sport, including the NHL.

    There's also a fairly large PGA event, NASCAR races, and the weekend warrior bit happening constantly. That's the way it is when there are 300 sunny days a year.

    Of course, the entire state of Colorado shuts down when the Broncos play, but that's nothing new.

    2.) Washington, D.C.
    Remember, this is my list. And yes, sports fans in D.C. are a rather apathetic lot since the real spectator sport in this industry town is politics. However, the Redskins are about as popular as sports franchise can get. I remember when I was a kid growing up in the area that the waiting list for Redskins season tickets was 154 years. People who wanted to watch an NFL game had to drive all the way to Baltimore.

    They don't have to do that to watch baseball anymore now that the Nationals have brought baseball back to the District. The attendance for Nats games isn't the greatest, but the enthusiasm for the team is pretty high.

    Fans in the District seem to get excited about their little niche as opposed to the NHL and NBA. Lacrosse is popular and so is the University of Maryland and Georgetown hoops. Bigger still are the D.C. United in the MSL. That one franchise could be keeping the entire league afloat.

    More importantly, the D.C. area has some of the bst golf courses in the country and some of the best urban and cycling trails anywhere. Between Rock Creek Park and the C&O Canal path, runners and riders can take off for days without retracing their steps. For those who prefer to be in the heart of the city, the Mall is a great place to log those miles. The last time the Phillies travelled to D.C., I put in a 13-miler that took me around all of the monuments on the Mall, through Capitol Hill and past the congressional office buildings, the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Capitol, before heading to RFK Stadium to loop back to the other side of the Mall.

    Man, was that ever fun.

    D.C. also has the Marine Corps Marathon, which, aside from the start and the transportation to the race, is one of the best organized races out there. Plus, the D.C. running scene is top notch, too. I remember watching Bill Rodgers win the Cherry Blossom 10-miler in the late 1970s (maybe '79).

    Enough of D.C.

    3.) Boston
    See Washington, but with more sports enthusiasm for its teams. Plus, the Charles River running path is a lot of fun, and the Boston Marathon is the greatest sporting event in the world.

    No, I'm not exaggerating.

    4.) Chicago
    Actually, Chicago should probably be ranked higher, but I haven't been there in a long time, unless the airport counts.

    5.) Philadelphia
    Yeah, why not. There are a lot of really good places to run/bike in Philadelphia. During the fall of '97, my friend Tom and me put in some kick-ass, 10-mile tempo runs on the Falls Bridge loop that still rate as some of the best and most fun workouts I've ever done.

    Best sporting event in Philly? The Penn Relays. There's nothing like a sold-out stadium to watch some of the best athletes in the world.

    There it is. Notice any west-coast cities? Me either.
  • Wednesday, August 02, 2006

    End of the line?

    According to numbers cruncher Clay Davenport of Baseball Prospectus, there is a 1 in 194 chance that Chase Utley will catch Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak and a 1 in 244 chance of Utley passing Joltin' Joe.

    At the same time, there is a better than 20 percent chance that Utley's streak ends tonight. Or, for the more postive folks out there, a 20 percent chance of the streak reaching 40 games.

    How did Davenport arrive at these numbers? Well, let's allow him to explain:

    Hitting streaks are notoriously difficult beasts for a statistician to deal with, even though they seem to be a simple application of probability. You would think that it would work like this: take some representation of his ability to get a hit, say his current average of .328, and then invert it to .672 (1 minus his average), his chance of not getting a hit in any AB. If he gets four ABs a game, his chance of not getting a hit in any game is just .672 raised to the fourth power, or .204. You have to reverse it again to get .796 (his chance of getting a hit in a game), and raise that to the number of games needed--currently 23--so you have .796 raised to the 23rd power, or 0.05%, about 1 chance in 190.

    Gotta love math. There are other variables to this, but all those numbers make me start to feel dizzy. It's better if the author explains it.

    Here's the story from Davenport on Baseball Prospectus. You need a subscription to read it.

    Gabe Jennings on the way back

    There really aren't too many eccentric personalities in sports. Sure, there are a few owners that didn't follow the trends, and every once in a while a superstar like Charles Barkley comes around who refuses to be a captive of his fame. But usually, most athletes are so focused on training, the money and whatever other egocentric persuit is in their periphery.

    So when someone like Gabe Jennings comes around, people like me take notice.

    Jennings, for those locked into the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NASCAR mindset, was an Olympian at age 21 who disappeared from competitive track-and-field after the 2000 Sydney Games and his graduation from Stanford. Amongst laser-focused athletes, Jennings was a treat. He was a real intellectual who ignored the superficial and materialistic pursuits of mainstream American culture, who once, in a post-race interview, described the sound of the drums he heard in his head as he dashed for the finish line in a race.

    In the six years that have passed since the 2000 Olympics, Jennings rode his bike from the U.S. to Brazil where he documented it all for Track & Field News, including his mugging, being a target of coconut-throwing monkeys, and then getting Hepatitis A at the end of his ride.

    Jennings also went to Kenya to run, but he pretty much dropped off the grid where one can assume that he was trying to "find himself." Most importantly, he really wasn't too consumed by making another trip back to the Olympics.

    "For two or three years, I didn't care," Jennings told Curtis Anderson of the Eugene, Ore. Register-Guard. "Call it complacency, but no matter how much your coach or your parents tell you that you can be the best, or that you have this incredible talent, if it doesn't come from your heart, it doesn't matter. And for the next few years, it didn't matter to me."

    But now Jennings is back and training thanks to a second place finish in the the 1,500 at the U.S. Championships in Indianapolis with a time of 3:39.42 last May. Thie only perosn to beat him was two-time Olympian Bernard Lagat.

    This weekend Jennings will race in Eugene -- the Mecca of U.S. track & field -- at the 1,500 meters at the Road to Eugene '08 track and field meet, next week. At the same time, Jennings has one eye trained on the 2008 Olympics and winning a medal for the U.S.

    But that's now. The Olympic Trials and 2008 games are still a long way off. Obviously, Jennings showed he can maintain his focus during his career at Stanford, but it is a fair question to ask if Jennings will still be interested in running when the big meets come around.

  • The Gift of Gabe is Back -- Eugene, Oregon The Register-Guard
  • Play me and trade me

    As this week’s baseball trading deadline passed with all the subtlety of a hammer pounding a nail, it quite fascinating to think of the notion of the trade. Actually, it’s quite baffling to think of it. No, not the trade that sent the Phillies best hitter and hottest pitcher to the New York Yankees for four minor leaguers with very limited potential. That’s a different story that will be discussed for years. For this it’s the actual concept of the trade that’s weird.

    Think of it – an employee for a company is just shipped off without warning to another totally different company. Sure, they’re in the same business, but it doesn’t really seem fair.

    Does it?

    For instance, I doubt that there is any chance that someone in your company’s accounting department is going to come into the office tomorrow morning with a yellow post-it stuck to the computer with the message, “Come see me” from the boss scrawled on it. And it’s doubtful that the scene that happens quite often in pro sports will be played out when the Accounting guy shows up at the door of the boss’s office.

    “You wanted to see me, boss?”

    “Yeah, Bob, come on in and sit down. Close the door behind you, too, please.”

    “Sure thing… what is it, boss?”

    “Well, this isn’t going to be easy because, as you know, we really like your work around here, and your jokes were knocking everyone out at the company’s summer luau last month. We just really like having you around, and that’s not because you are having a great season with the company softball team, either. It’s more than that… ”

    “So what is it, boss?”

    “Well, as you know we’re a little short staffed in the marketing department. We just really need some extra help down there with all the vacations coming up and the fiscal year ending. Anyway, I don’t want to drag this out so I have to put it straight – we’ve traded you to a medical supply company in Duluth. Now I know what you’re thinking and I want you to know that we didn’t want to do this. But they really needed a top-notch accountant and they’re a really good company. I think you’ll fit in well there and really help them out.”

    Yes, people in certain industries get transferred from place to place all the time. It’s also more than common for military professionals to bounce around the globe from base to base, packing and re-packing the family for the next home, school so they can make a new set of friends only to re-start the process all over again in a few years.

    Actually, I have a close friend who requested his “trade” within his company. He did it not once, but several times, going from Boston to Washington, D.C., to Toronto and then back to Boston where he eventually left as a free agent to go to another firm. During all of this my friend said the most important thing he learned was to make sure he emptied the trash can before the movers came to pack everything up and ship it to another city.

    “If you have trash in Boston, it’s going to show up in the same trash can in Washington,” he said.

    The funniest thing about trades in pro sports is how non-chalant the athletes are about being told they were being sent somewhere else to work. Oh sure, they act surprised and talk about the friends they made and the good times with their former employer, but there is always one phrase every pro jock uses when discussing their trade to a new team. In fact, every former Phillie used it on the way out the door this past week:

    “It’s part of the game. It’s part of the business… ” said David Bell on his way to Milwaukee last Friday.

    “It’s part of the business… ” said Bobby Abreu as he headed to New York to join the Yankees.

    “I wanted to stay here but it’s part of the business…” added Cory Lidle as he joined Abreu on the way to the Bronx.

    “I enjoyed my time here. I wish it could've included a playoff run, but it’s part of the business… ” added Rheal Cormier as he left Philadelphia for Cincinnati.

    Where’s Crash Davis when you need him? And there’s one aspect of the sporting life that most people are glad hasn’t gone mainstream.

    Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    More reading ...

  • More piling on the Phillies in The New York Times where Murray Chass not only takes a bit of a shot at the team for dealing Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle, but also one for hiring Charlie Manuel over Jim Leyland.

    There was no mention of the fact that Manuel will more than likely manage the Phillies in 2007.

  • Floyd, Floyd, Floyd... not good.

    Much more on this later. Meanwhile, athletes seem to like to use testosterone as their performance enhancer of choice.

  • © 2006 - John R. Finger - all rights reserved