September 7th, 2007 — Steroids
Troy Glaus – or, rather, Troy Glaus’ address – received shipments of steroids between September 2003 and May 2004, Sports Illustrated’s reporting.
Rick Ankiel, in what already appears to be a more complicated story, may have received HGH a step from a Florida company busted in a national pursuit of shady pharmacies issuing bogus prescriptions and doing mail-order fulfillment. Whether or not Ankiel’s scripts are part of the investigation is unclear right now – he seems to have gone to a Florida clinic, which ordered them from one of the pharmacies under question, but we’re not going to know anything for a while yet. Ankiel doesn’t seem like a likely candidate for HGH abuse, though obviously you never know.
It’s interesting – Glaus isn’t a guy I think I ever heard whispers about, but his 2003-2004 seasons were injury-wracked, and as I discuss in the book, it’s frequently players trying to come back from injury, worried that they won’t be able to re-establish themselves and continue their careers, who turn to performance-enhancing drugs.
September 2nd, 2007 — Sign Stealing
Ahhh, and I thought this was a slow year for cheating accusations. The Mets complained to MLB that the Phillies were using a centerfield camera to get their signs and tipping off batters. MLB investigated, sending Bob Watson out on Thursday, and didn’t see anything going on.
From the Philly Inquirer:
The Mets heard from former Phillies on their team and other clubs, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, that the Phillies use the camera to steal signs. The Mets possibly became sensitive to this after Monday’s 9-2 loss, so they changed their signs Tuesday.
Lefthander Tom Glavine threw seven shutout innings Tuesday before the Phillies won, 4-2, in 10 innings. The next day, the Mets reported that the Phils joked with them that they had changed their signs.
Without knowing how long the Phillies are accused of stealing signs, it’s particularly hard to figure out if there’s anything fishy in their hitting. But
At home, they’re hitting .285/.363/.480
On the road, they’re at .271/.347/.444
Last year, their split was
So it’s not as if they’re hitting dramatically better at home versus the road compared to last year.
The really telling stat would be whether the Phillies saw an advantage hitting until the other team went to using rolling signs. That’d usually be with a runner on second, though some teams are more aggressive about it depending on who’s on first or third. If the advantage went away, that’d be evidence in the Mets’ favor.
Unfortunately, as an outsider, I don’t have access to this kind of detailed splits, and when you slice data that finely, it’s often hard to see patterns for the noise.
We may also see, assuming the Phillies had a system and shut it down, the home field advantage narrow.
It’s also interesting that they traded Russ Branyan to the Cardinals a few days ago. Branyan would know if the Phillies had a system in place, but there’s no incentive for him to spill the beans, since the two teams don’t play each other in September.
Having said all that, if I were a team in the Phillies’ situation, I’d totally say things like that to screw with opponents. If they think you’re stealing signs and they go to a more complicated system, the chances they’ll cross up pitches and give up a wild pitch increase, and that’s a free advantage.
August 27th, 2007 — Baserunning
Friday’s Ruiz-Giles incident in the Padres-Phillies game brings up an issue I’ve been trying to figure out how to discuss for some time, and I’m going to give it a shot: what are the rules, and what is the actual practice, around breaking up a double play at second?
Here’s the MLB.com description, from the Padres story:
In the fourth inning, Philadelphia’s Carlos Ruiz tried to break up a potential double play by sliding hard into second baseman Marcus Giles. Ruiz took Giles out, and the two players had words, with both benches clearing. Second-base umpire Bill Welke ruled it a double play with interference on Ruiz.
Giles later left the game with a right hip pointer and was listed as day-to-day. After the game, Giles pointed to the sore red spot on his hip.
“It wasn’t a slide,” said a perturbed Giles. “That’s the only thing about it. It was just not a slide. The replay shows it. The only reason he went to the ground was after he made contact with me. It’s not a very good play. I’m all for playing the game hard. I think I play as hard as anybody. But you play hard, and you play clean.”
And from the Phillies story:
Steaming toward second, Ruiz changed his route and barreled into Giles. The two exchanged heated words and were separated by second-base umpire Bill Welke.
For his part, Ruiz agreed that the unintentional charge was an aggressive error in judgment, but he explained that he was just trying to break up a double play.
“That’s part of the game,” Ruiz said. “He thought I came in a little high. I saw the replay, and yeah. … He was still on the base, so … I [told him] I was trying to break up the double play.”
Watching the video, it’s… it’s one of the highest, latest “slides” you’ll ever see. It almost shouldn’t be described as a slide at all: when he makes contact with Giles, his head is at Giles’ chest.
As the throw comes off Giles’ hand, Ruiz is nearly sliding on his knees, his shoulder into Giles’ waist.
Giles then flips out and says some bad words in his outdoor voice. The umps quickly separate them, all the other players come out to say hello and socialize, the umpires confer, and they declare it’s a double play, with Ruiz interfering.
Let me start, then, with how the rules are interpreted, because this will be easier than the actual discussion of the rules.
In practice, a runner headed to second is allowed to slide into second and/or the person trying to make the transfer and throw to first as long as it’s remotely plausible that he’s going to touch the bag. Hard slides are fine, but there should be some way that you could reach out and touch the base with your arm, for instance, as you slide two feet outside an imaginary first-to-second line. Their intent can clearly be to take out the fielder and hinder the throw, but they need to have some claim of trying to get to second base.
That’s where Ruiz got into trouble: he’s clearly not trying to get to the base, but running right for Giles, and into him… and if he’d taken the same path and slid earlier, he almost certainly would have gotten away with it.
The rules, then, are quite different.
From 2.00 Definition of Terms
(a) Offensive interference is an act by the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play. If the umpire declares the batter, batter- runner, or a runner out for interference, all other runners shall return to the last base that was in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference, unless otherwise provided by these rules.
I’ve heard it argued that on a 6-4-3 double play, only the shortstop is the fielder, so the second baseman is a legitimate target, but that’s not true: the same section goes so far as to define “A FIELDER is any defensive player.” Unless you want to argue that the second baseman isn’t trying to make “a play” based on the 7.08(b) wording that a runner’s out when:
(b) He intentionally interferes with a thrown ball; or hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball;
Doesn’t cover “fielder making a throw”. I don’t think that’s valid.
(Obstruction’s sometimes brought into this, but it’s not applicable: obstruction, in the rules, is when a fielder who isn’t fielding the ball or trying to make a tag, gets in a runner’s way.)
There are two principles at work here:
- the fielder has the right to make a play on the ball
- the runner has the right to advance on the basepaths however they see fit
Of those, the fielder has precedence: if a second baseman’s tries to field a ground ball between first and second as a runner from first advances, the runner has to go around or stop (there’s a specific exemption of this in 7.08(a)(1): a runner is out when “He runs more than three feet away from his baseline to avoid being tagged unless his action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball. ”
Further, when there’s a force on at second, there’s another rule that applies in 7.09(d): It’s intereference if
(d) Any batter or runner who has just been put out hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate;
Once the force play is made, you can’t go running around the field. They’re not going to call you out for something you couldn’t prevent, though, which is why if you slide into the second baseman, it’s cool – you’re already getting down out of the way of the throw, no foul.
Similarly, there are two more rules that specifically call the double play out:
(e) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.
and, to a lesser extent, (f):
(f) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a batter-runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball, with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead; the umpire shall call the batter-runner out for interference and shall also call out the runner who had advanced closest to the home plate regardless where the double play might have been possible. In no event shall bases be run because of such interference.
Here’s the analogy I like to use: would it be okay for the runner to second to, instead of sliding, instead punch the second baseman in the face to prevent the throw?
I know it’s a little ludicrous, but the answer is clearly no, isn’t it? It’s an act that doesn’t have anything to do with getting to second and is specifically intended to prevent the double play.
Similarly, what if a second baseman took the throw and in making the catch, ran up towards first and towards the outfield, only to be taken out by a runner who’d stopped and run after him? Similarly crazy on consideration — it’s interference, obviously — but why is that different than a off-second slide?
Intent matters. The runner’s allowed to get around the bases however they want, and the slide into second is allowed as a legitimate way to get there. The hard play at second place is allowed because runners are granted an enormous benefit of the doubt by tradition, as I noted earlier, but there are limits to what the umps allow.
And to bring this back around, it seems that Ruiz’s takeout of Giles was obviously intended to break up the double play, so much so that Giles got the interference call.
Coming up: why not run through second base?
August 24th, 2007 — Further reading
I read everything I could get my hands on to write the Billy Martin part of the book, and I mentioned in the book that I was particularly interested in a book that’s not yet written (focusing on Martin’s baseball life and times more than which of his wives was the worst).
There are two widely-available books out on Martin: The Last Yankee, by David Falkner, and Wild, High, and Tight, by Peter Holenbock. They’re both essentially the same book, though I’d recommend Holenbock’s if you’re going to chose one: there’s significantly more in it. Right now, though, it’s a little expensive to come across, while the Falkner book is cheap (see below).
Both of them, do a good job of tracing Martin’s path up from the mean streets, finding baseball (through Casey Stengel) and his turbulent life, including the alcoholism, the womanizing, and all that good stuff. You can really sense how the madness that drove him to succeed also destroyed him, and there’s enough baseball content that if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll be okay.
The other big one is Martin’s autobiography, which is widely available for next to nothing:
Written by Martin and Peter Golenbock (who, you’ll note, wrote High, Wild, and Tight), it’s almost entirely fact-free. It’s a staggering bundle of self-justification, lies, half-truths, fabrications, and sometimes, surprising insight into how Martin’s mind worked. Having read this, and Golenbock’s biography, it’s not hard for me to believe that when Martin went to explain his latest bar brawl or run-in with the umpires that he was convinced that he was in the right, and that whatever story he was peddling was the absolute truth.
In the book, I suggest that Steve Goldman, who wrote the outstanding Forging Genius, would do a fine job with the baseball career of Martin. In Forging Genius, he writes about how Stengel learned at each stop in his career, and relates how the circumstances changed him as a player and manager until everything came together and he encountered success.
It’s exactly the kind of book I would have loved to have read about Martin and didn’t. Martin was for a long time one of Stengel’s favorites: as Stengel moved up the minor league ladder as a manager, he frequently promoted Martin with him. Martin must have learned much from him in the years he played, but we don’t really get that from any current book. And if you’re like me, and what you’re really interested in is his relationship with his pitching coach, who he brought in to teach his staff to spitball, or Martin’s amazing in-game strategies, you just don’t get that from what’s out there now. I know that’s not the kind of book that sells 100,000 copies, but it’s a book I think the baseball world would be richer for having.
Which reminds me: here’s a link to Goldman’s book.
August 18th, 2007 — Uncategorized
One of the incidents I couldn’t find a way to cram in — In the 1880s, St. Louis Browns outfielder Curt Welch hid cases (cases!) of beer behind the billboards of Sportsman’s Park, so he could enjoy beers while playing at the home park.
August 16th, 2007 — Steroids
ESPN, many other sources
This cracks me up. Bonds sets the home run record and Selig looks like a weasel. He took forever to do anything about Giambi’s situation, and when he does, he does… nothing. Because Giambi cooperated with Selig’s barely-breathing commission and does charity work.
Wow. Is that really the standard? Can players get out of other punishments by piling up community service time ahead of their rule-breaking?
The contrast, though, is between Selig and Landis. Landis, coming in after a scandal, did much to restore fan confidence in the game through swift, merciless, and sometimes unevenly administered punishments for gamblers as he cleaned up the game.
Selig, in many ways responsible for the crisis in fan perception of the game, did such a bad job selling baseball’s new drug policy he hasn’t redeemed himself in the eyes of the public and still can’t stop reminding people of his role and particularly his awkward position and decades-long failure to do anything.
August 12th, 2007 — Errors and Clarifications
As pointed out after the excerpt ran:
He managed the 1976 team to an American League championship and two World Series victories in a row.
This is incorrect and really badly worded. Elsewhere in the chapter I think the order/secession is clearer. More properly, this should be
He managed the 1976 to team an American League Championship, the 1977 team won the World Series. You might also give him some credit for the 1978 team: Martin was fired mid-season, and the team ended up winning a World Series with Bob Lemon at the helm.
I’d have to hunt through the copies to see where I introduced the error, but in one of the revisions, I was looking at Martin’s managerial summary page while re-writing, and screwed up.
August 9th, 2007 — Further reading
If you’re thinking of buying the book, or just want a free read, the Billy Martin chapter from The Cheater’s Guide to Baseball is available for your enjoyment at ESPN.com. Enjoy!
August 9th, 2007 — Gambling
There’s a lot in ESPN’s coverage on cheating today that’s worth noting, but I wanted to particularly mention Wright Thompson’s article on Shoeless Joe Jackson (“The fight goes on to clear Shoeless Joe’s name“). It’s a sentimental little piece about how people in South Carolina carry a torch for Joe.
The article doesn’t deal with the actual charges against Jackson, glossing them over in passing (“they point to his batting average during the World Series…”) as if they have merit, and there’s a good reason for him to do this: baseball historians who look at the 1919 White Sox evenly, who delve into the evidence and what happened when, and why — people who wrote books like Eight Men Out, Shoeless Joe, the list goes on and on — find that Joe at the very least entered willingly into a conspiracy to throw the series for money, and that his performances in the World Series followed the conspiracy’s motivation at the time, including poor offensive and suspicious defensive failings.
And that’s really just the start of it.
I sympathize with those who want to think the best of the dead, and the desire to believe in the innocence of someone you’re personally connected to. I can even sympathize with Jackson himself, who at the time thought it was no big deal to take the money in a sport overrun with corruption. But none of that changes what he did, and it’s a disservice to write a wistful story about believing in innocence without acknowledging the guilt that lies at the heart of the scandal.
August 8th, 2007 — Steroids
From the MLB press release:
“I congratulate Barry Bonds for establishing a new career home run record. Barry’s achievement is noteworthy and remarkable.
“After Barry came out of the game, I congratulated him by telephone and had MLB executive vice president Jimmie Lee Solomon and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson — both of whom were at the game and witnessed the record-breaking home run — meet with him on my behalf. While the issues which have swirled around this record will continue to work themselves toward resolution, today is a day for congratulations on a truly remarkable achievement.”
I love the passive-tense blame-shifting there at the end.
While the issues which have swirled around this record will continue to work themselves toward resolution,
It’s almost Nixonian. “Mistakes were made” indeed. Like, for instance, MLB’s commissioners botching baseball’s drug policy for twenty years from Ueberroth through Selig.