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Weekly Pepper - Week 10

by Gregory Pratt,
June 8, 2008

Other Weekly Peppers:

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Gregory went bowling for the first time in his life this week and rolled better than Barack Obama by about thirty points. He hopes to bowl more often and improve markedly in the coming years. The rest of the week is an insomniac's blur, as Pratt was hardly able to sleep for much of it and stayed up watching HBO movies as a result. He recommends "The World According to Garp."

Cultural Suicide -- I read in this article that the Royals want to bring the fences in at Kauffman Stadium. Here's the relevant section: "Nobody wants to go there and hit when it's 385 [feet] to the gaps," said one baseball man. "So why overpay for some free-agent slugger when you can move in the fences and elevate your own guys' power? The way that park is now, guys hit the ball on the screws in those gaps and it doesn't go anywhere. It dies." Historian Bill Jenkinson has compared the smaller ballparks of today with those of, say, Babe Ruth's time and asked what the outcry would be if football fields were shortened by twenty yards, or basketball hoops lowered by a foot, to make it easier to score points? Contrast that with the lack of response from fans today as the league makes it easier for hitters to erase homerun records of the past with tiny ballparks and "juiced" baseballs. I feel as if the game's integrity and its history have been assaulted by the league and its owners and its union for as long as I've been alive, and I wish I could believe that someone is protecting the game from being sold-out in the interest of selling an extra ticket or two.

State Farm Calls Shot, Strikes Out Looking -- If there is anything positive to come from David Ortiz' recent injury, it is that this will prevent him from participating in the shameless "State Farm Call Your Shot" promotion at the All-Star Game. The promotion is what it sounds like: at the ASG, MLB was going to trot Ortiz out at Yankee Stadium to hit a homerun to any part of the park. Besides the fact that it is inappropriate for a Red Sox player to call his shot at Yankee Stadium, and ignoring the fact that re-enacting the "Shot" at Yankee Stadium when it occurred at Wrigley Field is like re-enacting the invasion of Normandy on a Lake Michigan beach, it is an unnecessary promotion bordering on the idiotic, and I hope Ortiz' injury kills it. Jon Heyman, on the other hand, thinks MLB should call on Ryan Howard to do it because he's "the closest thing baseball has to Babe Ruth." Except he has never pitched a major league game, strikes out way more than Ruth did, has a much lower average, hits fewer homeruns, and is a much lesser athlete than Ruth, who was, at his peak, a high-quality right fielder. Hey, nothing against Ortiz or Howard or anyone else -- but we shouldn't toss out the names of legends as if they were scuffed balls, and we shouldn't treat the game's history like that, either. It's cultural suicide.

The Bob Saget of Managers -- When John McLaren went off on his team during the week, they won one game and then went back to losing. Whether they win or not has more to do with whether or not they are a good team or not than with anything McLaren says to the media, but the Chicago Tribune still referred to the tirade as being "too thin, too late, and too inconsequential." I agree with that. But watching his rant, I think of Bob Saget, and his most recent "comedic" routines. I don't know if you've seen any of them -- it was my misfortune to -- but he goes onto the stage and says the foulest things imaginable in an effort to erase the memory of Full House. That's who John McLaren is becoming, when he should be cursing himself for taking the job and Bill Bavasi for awful roster construction.

A Wolf Will Always Be a Wolf -- Am I the only one who is a big fan of Randy Wolf? I'm under no illusions about his greatness, but he is a more-than-serviceable National League pitcher, and his comeback has been a success. Maybe I've got a bias because Wolf's work ethic stands strong in a day where Carl Pavano, Mark Prior, and Mike Hampton are stealing money from their employers, but I like him and I hope he can have a strong year.

Vernon Wells -- Since coming off the disabled list this weekend, Wells is 5-7 with a double, a homer, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored. When he went down with an injury I worried that he wouldn't be able to come back strong, but I hope that this is a harbinger of things to come.

Nicknames in Houston -- I liked Lance Berkman better when we called him "Fat Elvis," not "Big Puma." Of course, they can call him whatever they want if he keeps producing as he has been so far this season.

No More Workhorse (Verse) -- The song "No More Workhorse" by Will Oldham reminds me of the modern starting pitcher: Many lights up today / Many lights up this way / What is this road here, / Where have I come? / I am a rich man / I am a very rich man / I have good pants on / Stitched and stitched; / I am in stitches / I am laughing at you / I am in britches / I've written books for you / I held my own for you / Where is my tongue? / I am no more workhorse / I am no more workhorse / I am no more workhorse / I am no more workhorse / I am a grazing horse / I am a grazing horse / I am your favorite horse.

Workhorse II (Snark) -- Mark Prior is once again out for the season, but rest assured that he will do everything in his power to bilk another million dollar contract out of someone next season to run a few towel drills and discover a new injury.

Workhorse III (Mystery / Prose) -- I'm not sure I understand how pitchers today manage to get hurt as often as they do despite the fact that they are babied beyond anything pitchers even fifteen years ago could've "hoped" for. These injuries certainly aren't the result of pitchers throwing harder today than they did in the past, because they do not as the "100 MPH fastball" is not a product of modernity or medical innovation. (That said, I do not doubt the theory that pitchers throw harder more consistently today because you can not let up against inferior offensive hitters in this era like you could in inferior offensive eras, but I am not sure that pitchers today are throwing so much harder so often that it is equivalent to throwing a hundred innings less a year.) I have had questions about this subject for quite some time and have been doing research on hurlers past and present but I can not find any satisfactory conclusions and it is difficult to determine. A part of me wonders if steroid abuse and overly-muscular (though "natural") frames have something to do with the influx of injuries despite the decrease in workload, but who knows.

History of the Week -- When I last saw Keith (on Tuesday, at the Sox game) he asked me where I heard the anecdote about Joe DiMaggio and Lefty Gomez that I referenced in last week's Pepper. It's from a book I have, Hall of Fame Players: Cooperstown, written by a panel of baseball historians, writers, and statisticians about everyone enshrined in the Hall up to publication (ending with Boggs and Sandberg). I'd recommend it to all of you who want to have a greater understanding of the game's history. It's a great book, with entries on all enshrinees, from the only sportswriter elected to the Hall (Henry Chadwick, who was so respected in his time that umpires would ask him to intervene during rules disputes) to famed umpire Billy Evans (who was originally a sportswriter, but umpired a game after the regular ump failed to show up and then took on the job to supplement his income) to all of the game's players, too. I think it's important to understand the game beyond statistics (but not without statistics) and this book incorporates both masterfully.

Gregory Pratt is a political science and history double-major at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His political commentary can be found at the Office of the Independent Blogger, and he can be reached at

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