Weekly Pepper - Week 17

by Gregory Pratt, BaseballEvolution.com
July 28, 2008

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Gregory Pratt is busy.

Leeryano -- Francisco Liriano claims that the Minnesota Twins are keeping him in the minors to limit his major league service time and consequently delay his arbitration eligibility.  His agent is asking the players' union to investigate the matter, but I'm with the Twins on this: baseball players make no bones about their being mercenaries ("This is a business!"), and I think it's okay for management to play the same game. Of course, there's a strong argument to be made that it would be in the Twins' best interest to bring him up right now so that he can make a difference in the race against the Chicago White Sox, but if they think they can compete without bringing him up immediately, then who am I to tell them otherwise? All I know is this: mercenaries should not expect to be treated as if they were nuns, and I applaud the Twins for doing what they think is right against the MLBPA's objections.

Lowe Esteem -- I was playing pool on Saturday night, when I looked up and saw that Derek Lowe was one-hitting the Washington Nationals on my friend's television set. He's done well for himself this year. I won't say he's "underrated" or anything, but he's a good pitcher who doesn't get as much attention or respect as he deserves. I think he's better than Brad Penny even at this stage in their careers, and I hope Clayton Kershaw takes time to learn from him in the time in which their careers coincide. Kershaw got the first win of his career Sunday following Lowe for what I hope is the first of many times.

Haren -- While I have Dan Haren on my fantasy team, I did not realize until this weekend just how good he's been. How good? He's leading the National League in ERA. I don't think it's going to last, as I expect someone like Tim Lincecum or Edinson Volquez to take that crown, but he has definitely been a quiet ace in the shadow of Brandon Webb.

New Rule -- "1000 strikeouts" is not a "milestone." It is a fine personal achievement, it shows that you've been in the majors for enough time to show you're a "legitimate" major league starting pitcher with a career to be proud of, but it does not mean anything beyond that. Ryan Howard strikes out that many times in a season, and you don't hear him bragging about it.

Yankees on the Market -- The New York Yankees traded minor-league outfield prospect Jose Tabata with pitchers Dan McCutchen, Jeff Karstens and Ross Ohlendorf to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte. I hope those guys all become something at the major league level, because I'd like to see a winning Pirates team in my adult lifetime. That said, I'm happy for the New York Yankees, who I'm hoping will win a playoff spot, preferably a Wild Card behind the Tampa Bay Rays, and I think these guys will be solid additions. Maybe Nady more than Marte, who I am going to be watching closely, as he has a reputation for being a man who cannot pitch in the most competitive of circumstances -- "million dollar arm and ten cent head" -- and I suspect that that is still the case. The Bronx is not the same as Pittsburgh or Chicago, where he previously had problems, for that matter. He sure looked good striking out David Ortiz on Saturday afternoon, but we'll see whether he can be the man the Yankees need him to be.

Psychobabble -- I remember when I was a debater in the Chicago Debate League with Scott Glab as one of my judges.  We were talking about the future of the Cleveland Indians, back in the days when Andy Marte's future was as bright as a Kennedys, and I thought of that short discussion on Marte's future (and the depths to which he has fallen) while watching Homer Bailey get lit up by the Colorado Rockies this week. His stock has definitely fallen, and he has had an ugly major league career so far, but I hope that he can get over it and make something of himself. Hawk Harrelson occasionally muses about preferring to draft pitchers with lesser stuff than objectively better pitchers because their sense of "competition" is keener and they are more likely to work hard and "compete" for their spots, but it is true that baseball is a game of adjustments, and that is something that Bailey is going to have to do now. It is entirely possible, on the other hand, that his agent and his family are pushing him to be mediocre now, so that he can conserve his arm until Dusty Baker gets fired and he can go pitch without fearing abuse.

Minor Deals -- Jon Rauch got traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks by the Washington Nationals to shore up the bullpen, and I do not see it being a great addition to the Diamondbacks unless Rauch has a bat deep in his equipment bag somewhere. Randy Wolf got traded to Houston for reasons that only Ed Wade can understand.  Casey Blake is a Dodger now, for what is, I think, the most interesting package dealt so far. The Indians got two minor-leaguers with potential for the decent third-baseman/outfielder, and I particularly like Jon Meloan, who might well be a good pitcher someday. He has great strikeout numbers, but is mediocre in every other aspect of the pitching game, which might well be something that good coaching can cure. Carlos Santana is a decent prospect, too, but Meloan appears a more interesting high-reward guy.

Minor Deal II -- Manny Ramirez is tired of the Red Sox and willing to accept a trade. It is unlikely that anyone will be willing to part with the prospects necessary and take care of his contractual demands, so this is just another silly encounter for ESPN to talk about. And you know what I think is bad for baseball? ESPN, which featured I think four Dodgers-Cubs games in a two-week span a small while ago and continually features the same old matchups between the Red Sox and the Yankees and someone not either of those teams. It's embarrassing and disrespectful to baseball when more people have the "honor" of watching Derek Jeter play lousy defense than do Hanley Ramirez play lousy defense.

History of the Week -- Goose Gossage was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday along with Dick Williams, Larry Whiteside, Dave Niehaus, Walter O'Malley, Barney Dreyfuss, Bowie Kuhn, and Billy Southworth. I don't have a problem with any of these guys in the Hall of Fame if the Hall is going to give space to broadcasters, owners, and relief pitchers, so I recommend reading all of their Hall of Fame pages, and their Wikipedia pages. I am especially interested in Dick Williams' career because he is one of the game's great managers and characters, but is often overlooked in favor of "flashy" contemporaries like Billy Martin, so I specifically recommend this article, although my favorite incident of his career -- and maybe my favorite 70s World Series moment -- is best-covered by the baseball-reference.com bullpen:

It was still 1-0 in the eighth when Joe Morgan drew a one-out walk off Fingers and went to third on Bobby Tolan's single. That brought up Bench, who was still looking for his first RBI of the Series.

On a 2-1 pitch, Tolan stole second as Bench took ball three. On the bench, Dick Williams was thinking.

"Suddenly I remembered something that Billy Southworth had done when he was managing," Williams said. "I turned to my pitching coach Bill Posedel and told him, "If this next pitch is a strike, I'm going to go out there to the mound and act like I'm giving Fingers hell because he shouldn't be giving Bench anything to hit with first base open.

"I'm going to wave my arms and act like I'm calling for an intentional ball four. But instead I'm going to tell them to throw the damn ball right down the middle of the plate for strike three. Bench will never know what hit him."

The pitch was a strike and Williams went to the mound to explain his plan. He then told Fingers, "Be sure you throw a breaking ball, because if it's a fastball and somebody figures out what we're doing, Bench can hit the shit out of it."

He also warned Tenace not to jump back behind the plate too quick. Morgan, standing at third base, warned Bench to be ready but it was too late. Fingers threw a slider on the outside corner and Bench took it for strike three.

Fingers called it the best slider he had ever thrown.

This game of ours is a great game. Starting soon -- perhaps as soon as next year -- I am going to start attending every Cooperstown induction ceremony, because I think all baseball fans have a duty to protect the game and honor it, and that'll be my way. Until then, congratulations to those inducted and those who had the pleasure of enjoying their careers live.

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 gregory@baseballevolution.com.