Saturday, April 29, 2006

NFL draft update

Saturday, 7:18 AM: Shortly after I posted this yesterday, Houston went and made mockery of me by signing N.C. State defensive end Mario Williams, making him the number one pick. That actually changes nothing that I said, save the "the Texans are going to start by making Reggie Bush the number one pick" part. Now, I wouldn't recognize Mario Williams if I tripped over him. Like almost everyone else, my awareness of his playing career is limited to a half dozen ESPN highlights chosen to illustrate his awesomeness. (Unlike almost everyone else, I admit it.) If, however, he turns out to be the player that people seem to think he is, Houston's cheapness (or Bush's intransigence) makes the Texans a better team than they might otherwise have been...

Saturday, 11:51 AM: Reportedly, LenDale White failed an NFL drug test in the run-up to the draft. Nothing that I'd seen would have dropped him out of the first round in my mind, but that might. I think he'll be a productive NFL running back. But will he play, or will he fall into the Ricky Williams' trap of being unable to stay on the field?

Saturday, 12:32 PM: New Orleans just made Reggie Bush the 2nd overall pick. ESPN's highlight reel of Bush was spectacular - he truly is an amazing athlete. That said, my first reaction to all of his plays from scrimmage was "look at the size of that hole!" Seriously, he's wonderful in the open field, but he's not going to get 5 yards downfield before he gets touched in the NFL, not consistently. I really question whether his is the kind of college dominance that translates to the pros...

(ESPN's Len Pasquarelli disagrees with me on Williams vs. Bush)

Saturday, 12:35 PM: Vince Young goes to Tennessee. Do the Jets take Leinart? As a Patriots fan, I'd rather see them continue to try to win with Chad Pennington. Do they take the QB (Leinart) or the T (Ferguson)?

Saturday, 12:47 PM: They go with the tackle. Leinart's still out there. They're apparently going to try to win with Pennington or Patrick Ramsey.

Saturday, 4:34 PM: I said yesterday that "the Patriots won't select a player that any mock draft has them selecting." Here are the picks in the mock drafts that I've seen this week:

Mock draft predictions - New England Patriots, 21st overall in 1st round

ESPN - Chad Greenway

CNN/SIDr. ZBrodrick Bunkley

CNN/SIDon BanksAntonio Cromartie

CNN/SIPeter KingDeAngelo Williams

Sporting News - Antonio Cromartie

Dallas Morning News - Bobby Carpenter

CBS SportslinePete PriscoDeAngelo Williams

CBS SportslineClark JudgeBobby Carpenter

CBS SportslineDennis DossDeAngelo Williams

Great Blue North - DeAngelo Williams

With the 21st pick, the New England Patriots selected...Laurence Maroney, RB, Minnesota.

The interesting thing about any analysis of the Patriots draft is this - the media understands that Belichick and Pioli are smarter than the analysts. Anyone else making a pick like this, picking a player higher than anyone has him projected to go, invokes the dreaded term "reach." But no one ever says that the Patriots are reaching...

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Red Sox, 4/29

This is what we call a slump.

This is what we call a bad stretch.

This is ugly.

The Red Sox have just played what we hope is the ugliest week of their season. They may have another 2-6 stretch at some point, but it will tough to match what just happened for sheer unpleasantness. It started with their continuing complete and total inability to hit Tampa's Scott Kazmir, continued the next night when Josh Beckett and Mike Timlin coughed up a 4-run lead in the 8th by allowing 3 HR, and has basically continued through Toronto and Cleveland and into Tampa. Over the last 8 games, they've been outscored 56-28, allowing 7 runs per game while only scoring 3.5. And that includes the 2 wins in the middle. In the 6 losses, they've been outscored 47-14, an average of 7.8-2.3.


And it's been team-wide. It's not that they haven't reached base (though they haven't been great at it), as their team-wide OBP of .339 for this stretch is about AL average, but they've had an awful time driving anyone in. As anyone who's read me knows, I'm an OBP guy, and don't care for AVG as a stat. I love walks.

But the simple matter is, you can get 2-3 walks per inning - someone eventually has to get a hit, preferably an extra-base hit, in order to score runs. And they've had none of that in the past week. They've left God-only-knows-how-many runners on base (last night, in one of their closer losses, they left 14 men on base, 10 of them in scoring position - 6 at 3rd base, in a game they lost by 3) because they aren't hitting, and they definitely aren't hitting for power (as their .232 AVG and .368 SLG will attest).

AL Defensive Efficiency

Manny Ramirez 882769003681130000100.3330.50.6678.921

David Ortiz 883258003751160000000.250.3680.5315.911

Mike Lowell 773029300421010000200.30.3440.44.856

Jason Varitek 652046011141030110000.30.4170.553.971

Trot Nixon 862917300230040000100.2410.3120.3453.369

Kevin Youkilis 8831271002501101001000.2260.3420.2582.837

Josh Bard 43903100020010000000.3330.4550.4441.892

Alex Gonzalez 661613000040140010100.1880.3810.1881.892

Alex Cora 42522000020000000000.40.5710.41.452

Wily Mo Pena 641513101100070000000.20.20.4670.916

Dustan Mohr 43811001100040000000.1250.1250.50.319

Willie Harris 631521000030141000000.0670.2630.0670.175

J.T. Snow 61701000110020000000.1430.250.1430.055

Mark Loretta 883615000310130000000.1390.1840.139-0.152


Ugly. And as bad as they've been at the component's of offense, as compiling 36 Runs Created in 8 games shows, they've been even worse at even scoring the runs, as their 28 actual runs scored proves.

And the pitching certainly can't be let off the hook. Through 7 innings last week in Toronto, Josh Beckett had thrown 28 AL innings, allowing 1 HR, 5 earned runs, and was well on his way to a 4-0 start. In his last 4 innings of work, there have been 5 HR, 11 earned runs, and a blown lead and a debacle loss. The last 3 nights, the Red Sox have been behind early and stayed there. Foulke and Papelbon have been pretty good (the loss that Foulke got in Toronto was really Seanez' fault), and there have been performances from Clement and Wakefield that weren't terrible, but there's been nothing great, either.

AL Defensive Efficiency

Tim Wakefield 20213.6798526503.29

Matt Clement 21111.33128618824.76

Josh Beckett 20111111413679110.64

Curt Schilling 1006.6795512806.75

Lenny Dinardo 10131077111021

Keith Foulke 5116.6732201802.7

Julian Tavarez 4003.3353312208.1

Mike Timlin 4002.6731112403.38

Rudy Seanez 3002.3311102403.86

Jermaine Van Buren 100321101103

Manuel Delcarmen 2001.67864011021.6

Jonathan Papelbon 4005.3340000300


While the pitching hasn't been great, or even very good, it has really been the offensive ineptitude that's led to this 2-6 mark.

The good news is, of course, that this is temporary. As in "it won't continue." There's too much talent here. When everyone slumps at once, as is going on, you have stretches like this. Everyone has one or two during the course of the year, and as hideous as it is while it's going on, it always (unless you're the 2002 Tigers or 2005 Royals) ends. As this will for the Red Sox, possibly even tonight. In any event, as bad as this run has been, and it's been bad, they're still tied for first in the AL East and won't, as I say, continue to perform at this level.

But the past week has been ugly...

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Friday, April 28, 2006

NFL Draft Preview!!!

Q: Everyone else has got their own mock drafts, so why not me?

A: Because I don't know enough about the players, or the teams' plans, to have a mock draft that means anything.

Q: And that's different from 90% of the mock drafts out there in what way, exactly?

A: Umm...well...I guess it isn't...

I've just got a couple of observations that I'd like to make before Saturday arrives.

  1. Point 1 is important - all observations should be paired with the thought "what the hell does he know?" Then assume that the correct answer is "nothing."

  2. All indications are that the Houston Texans are going to start by making Reggie Bush the number one pick. I think that's a mistake. It's not that I don't think Reggie Bush is a spectacular athlete, because he is. Or that I don't think he'll be an exciting and successful NFL player, because he will. But he won't have the biggest positive impact. I don't know which player that is, but it's probably a defensive lineman, an offensive lineman, or a quarterback. In my opinion. Bush will look spectacular, he'll make all of the ESPN highlight shows, and he'll go to the play-offs. If he's on a team with a good enough defense, offensive line and quarterback. I don't think a speed/finesse back is ever an essential building block, and I'd never draft one first overall.

  3. There's a lot of talk about LenDale White, Bush's USC teammate, dropping. Possibly out of the first round. In my opinion, White, as a pro, will be a more productive player in terms of helping a team win football games than Bush will. I loved Barry Sanders, but no matter how many yards he gained, he never gave the Lions what I would call a "running game." To me, having a running game means that when you get to 1st and goal from the 5, you're going to be able to run it in, and the defense will not be able to stop you. That wasn't the case with Sanders and it won't be the case with Bush. It pretty much was with Jerome Bettis, and I think it will be with White. I would personally be shocked to see White drop out of the first round, if only because I think he's an absolutely perfect fit for the Steelers, and can't imagine him sliding past them.

  4. Don't forget point 1.

  5. Matt Leinart is going to be a good pro quarterback. He may be a disappointment, however, in that he'll go to a bad team that needs/expects him to be a savior, and he won't be. But he'll be a good and effective player for someone before his career is over.

  6. Every mock draft will have the Patriots selecting someone different at number 21.

  7. The Patriots won't select a player that any mock draft has them selecting.

  8. As always, keep point 1 in mind...

  9. I remain undecided on Vince Young. Everyone says that he won't be able to play the same in the NFL, but I don't think that's true. What I do think is true is that he won't be able to play the same way as effectively, and he won't be able to play the same way and stay healthy. His ability to run will still be useful, but he's going to need to do it less frequently. The questions that remain on Young all boil down to one question - what kind of decisions will he make on the field? If the answer to that is "great ones," then he'll be a great one. If the answer is "poor ones," then he'll kill a team for 4-5 years. If the answer is "OK, pretty good, not bad but not great," then he'll have some success, win some games, and possibly, with the right teammates, win it all.

  10. Which is basically the case for all QBs.

  11. Young, because of his physical abilities, may be able to get by on slightly worse decision making than some of his peers...

  12. Remember point 1.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006


As we were driving back from Karate class tonight, I was listening to the baseball game. The Red Sox went quickly in order in the top of the 1st. The Indians came up in the bottom of the 1st, with a walk, an infield hit, and a home run. 6 batters into the game, I said to the kids "the Red Sox lost tonight." When they wanted to know what I meant, I said that "Cleveland just scored 3 in the first, and the Red Sox aren't going to score 3 tonight."

Final: Cleveland 7, Boston 1

Sometimes, I hate being right...

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Today's global warming piece

Earlier this month, Time Magazine had what they termed a "special report" on Global Warming. In it, they related, as fact, the hypotheses of global warming alarmists, used information from no skeptics, and basically produced a piece of environmental propaganda. The Competitive Enterprise Institute's Marlo Lewis has taken it apart - literally - in an enormously educational fisking. Today's must-read...

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Monday Pythagorean Report - 4/24

The Red Sox record matched their performance this week, which it didn't for the first couple. The good news is that when you can have a 3-game losing streak and still put a winning week together, that's a good thing. It actually had the potential to be a very good week until Beckett and Timlin started giving up gopher balls on Friday night.

  • It was good to see Manny finally hit a couple out. He's got a very interesting line right now (.273/.407/.379), in that he hasn't hit much, and has only got 3 extra-base hits, but he's walked 15 times, so his OBP is over .400.

  • Alex Gonzalez continues to be every bit the black hole that I feared. The 2 runs that he scored in Sunday's game were the first 2 that he's scored this year. Granted that we're still talking about a small sample size for him, too, and that he's likely to improve upon his current .211/.281/.263, I still see no reason to think that his defensive contributions approach his offensive cost. I cannot believe that he'll still be playing for this team in August if there isn't a massive improvement in his contribution.

  • Not that Loretta's been much better. He's only at .237/.291/.325 which, the walk-off dramatics on Patriots' Day notwithstanding, isn't going to get it done. Pedroia can come up and take one of those middle infield spots, but he can't take both. Loretta is, to this point, less concerning than Gonzalez simply because he's a player with a positive track record. It's much easier to look at his line and say "small sample size - he'll improve" than it is to look at Gonzalez' and say the same thing.

  • Keith Foulke was excellent yesterday, and very good Friday night. He took the loss on Friday, because Seanez gave up a 2-run double after Francona lifted him. I didn't understand, and still don't, why he was pulled from that game. In any event, on the week Foulke pitched in 5 games, throwing 6 2/3 innings and giving up 2 runs, 7 base-runners and having 6 strikeouts. He looks like he's just about all the way back.

  • One of the things that Bill James, among others, has talked about is optimal bullpen usage, and the foolishness of saving your best relief pitcher for pitching the last 3 outs with a lead that you may not have when it's time to get those outs. Yesterday's performance illustrated what he's talking about, and Francona, and the Sox, handled it just about perfectly, or at least it would look like it if Foulke were still their best reliever. The keys outs of that game came in the 6th inning with the starter tiring, the lead down to 1 run, and 2 on with 1 out. Instead of going to the "middle relief" because it was the middle innings, Francona went to Foulke, who closed the door. Papelbon gets a save for pitching the 9th with a 3-run lead, but the key relief performance was Foulke's, who kept the lead when it was at its most precarious.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/24/2006


New York6.24(1)4.18(3)0.676(1)11698-2







Los Angeles4.84(9)5.05(7)0.481(8)9101091



Tampa Bay5.16(7)6.37(13)0.405(11)8118110



Kansas City3.94(14)6.53(14)0.284(14)512413-1

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)




New York8676

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)

New York10755




Standings for the week





New York5.2(8)3.8(3)0.64(4)32320


Los Angeles5.43(6)4.86(6)0.551(6)43430






Kansas City3.67(14)4.83(5)0.376(12)24240

Tampa Bay4.17(10)7.33(13)0.262(13)2415-1


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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Great Coulter column

As a general rule, I find Ann Coulter entertaining. Sometimes I think that she's lets the invective run away with her, and ends up saying things that are, well, stupid, but I agree with her on most issues. But her column this week (LIE DOWN WITH STRIPPERS, WAKE UP WITH PLEAS) is absolutely outstanding - must read.

The basic point of her article is that there's a fairly standard piece of age-old wisdom, a cliched proverb, that has been lost or thrown overboard by today's post-modern "nothing is a sin but judgementalism" society. "If you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas" sounds so trite and obvious as to be worthless, but it is not. The fact is that certain behaviors increase the likelihood of certain consequences, and it's not wrong to say so. It's wrong to avoid saying so. I heard a lot of it in the aftermath of the Imette St. Guillen murder in NY. Whenever anyone would venture the opinion that a single woman leaving a bar alone and drunk at 2:00 in the morning is perhaps not the best example of safe behavior, there would be an immediate outcry against whoever chose to offer that opinion. "You're blaming the victim! She didn't deserve what happened!" Well, no, of course she didn't. That goes without saying. But that doesn't mean that it isn't risky behavior. And it doesn't mean that the behavior shouldn't be criticized, and it's not "blaming the victim" to say that indulging in risky behavior increases the chances of unpleasant consequences.

And Ann's on top of her game today in saying so...

Yes, of course no one "deserves" to die for a mistake. Or to be raped or falsely accused of rape for a mistake. I have always been unabashedly anti-murder, anti-rape and anti-false accusation — and I don't care who knows about it!

But these statements would roll off the tongue more easily in a world that so much as tacitly acknowledged that all these messy turns of fate followed behavior that your mother could have told you was tacky.

Not very long ago, all the precursor behavior in these cases would have been recognized as vulgar — whether or not anyone ended up dead, raped or falsely accused of rape. But in a nation of people in constant terror of being perceived as "judgmental," I'm not sure most people do recognize that anymore.


The liberal charge of "hypocrisy" has so permeated the public consciousness that no one is willing to condemn any behavior anymore, no matter how seedy. The unstated rule is: If you've done it, you can't ever criticize it — a standard that would seem to repudiate the good works of the Rev. Franklin Graham, Malcolm X, Whittaker Chambers and St. Paul, among others.

It's an excellent piece...

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

AL Pitching & defense - 4/20

One of the things that's hardest to do in baseball is evaluate defense. Or, more specifically, to separate defensive contribution to run prevention from pitching contribution to run prevention. Most people recognize, at this point, that fielding percentage tells us, other than in a few extreme cases, very little about defensive performance. One of the things that I like to look at is something that I came up with on my own, independent of all of the other people who came up with it on their own. The main goal of defensive players is, put simply, to turn batted balls into outs. What I've got in the following table is one method of looking at that. Basically, you look at pitching stats, and calculate what the opponent batting average is on balls that were put in play. The formula I use is (H-HR) / (PA-HR-SO-BB-HBP). That misses ground-rule doubles, but for the most part, it identifies which teams are turning batted balls into outs, or failing to do so.

We're very early in the season, the sample sizes are ridiculously small, but there has already been a tendency on the part of some Red Sox fans to swoon over Boston's defense, particularly the infield defense provided by Alex Gonzalez. I don't see it, myself - he's been fine but nothing special to my eyes - but if he's really been tremendous, we ought to see some evidence of it. And certainly the Red Sox run prevention has been excellent so far. But is that pitching or is that defense?

AL Defensive Efficiency
Team ERA IP H Rank R ER HR Rank HBP Rank BB Rank SO Rank GO RankBABiPRank

Cleveland Indians4.871331252777217571149990714550.26211

Detroit Tigers4.2133122165621646103969812164130.26842

Los Angeles Angels4.3313113888063221259417961114860.28293

Toronto Blue Jays5.5211912847773241343468855161120.28654

Chicago White Sox4.53131136667661752134385514340.28745

Boston Red Sox3.761341377605613243343938151100.29526

Baltimore Orioles5.614315714958924134369139510182140.29757

Tampa Bay Devil Rays6.02130153119387197812581170114970.30598

Oakland Athletics5.2913113558277143101450101011313430.30719

New York Yankees4.05120127363541113236593812110.311810

Texas Rangers4.85131.671541375711974332284415080.314711

Seattle Mariners4.99140.67150108178197812611211714155110.315712

Kansas City Royals6.7711714199988211143721481312520.323513

Minnesota Twins5.7512215311797820104328173215080.323614

To me, that looks like pitching. The defense has been good, 6th best, so far, in the AL in turning batted balls into outs, but I think that the run prevention has primarily come from the pitching staff. They've allowed very few baserunners other than hits (3rd in both BB and HBP), and while they've only been in the middle-of-the-pack at striking batters out, they've been outstanding at keeping the ball in the park (2nd in HR allowed). The defense has been better than average, but, given that they're only 10th best in the AL at ground outs, it's hard to see how you could realistically attribute much of the run prevention to some stellar infield defense...

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Early Show finds one side to Rumsfeld debate

Syler and MurthaThe CBS Early Show this morning continued its tradition of "fair and balanced" reporting, as they addressed the interminable firestorm that has surrounded Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, seemingly since he was first appointed 5 1/2 years ago. They addressed the Rumsfeld issue twice in the first hour, and both times the focus was on the critics and criticism. There were no defenders of Rumsfeld in evidence, save for short clips from the President and the SecDef himself, and their comments were immediately followed by critics explaining how they're lying.

The first segment was the "straight news" report from CBS White House correspondent Bill Plante. This segment did include short clips from Bush and Rumsfeld, but immediately followed by "balancing" their comments with those of critics.

Plante: And Rumsfeld, who made it clear that he's not thinking of leaving either, portrayed the complaints against him by retired commanders as the result of his drive to make fundamental structural changes in the armed forces.

Rumsfeld: When you make a decision, you make a choice, somebody's not going to like it.

Plante: One of Rumsfeld's critics, retired Lieutenant General John Batiste, said that wasn't the secretary's problem.

Batiste: With all due respect this has nothing to do with change. Military's been changing for a very long time. The issue, again, is accountability for very poor strategic decisions that have essentially put us where we are today.

So, after calling Rumsfeld a liar, they went on to other important things (like the birth of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' baby) for a few minutes, before coming back to Rumsfeld. This time, it was a one-on-one interview between Rene Syler and Rumsfeld critic US Rep. John Murtha, D-PA. There was, of course, no Rumsfeld supporter to be found, but we could at least expect a sharp grilling of Congressman Murtha, right?

That is, of course, a question that is both rhetorical and facetious. The "grilling" of Murtha included questions such as "was that a mistake, do you think?" and "is he just making an excuse?" If Murtha was a hired spokesman for an organized "get Rumsfeld" coalition, he couldn't have scripted questions better suited to letting him make his argument. (Video of the segment here...)

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Odds and ends

Boston beat Tampa Bay last night, 7-4, in a game that wasn't decided until Adam Stern's diving catch in CF with the bases loaded in the top of the 9th. It was an exciting game, in which both teams got good starting pitching, but the Red Sox beat up on the Devil Rays bullpen. I've got a couple of game comments, and a couple of other things...

  • I think that, on the whole, Terry Francona has done a pretty good job. But he made a couple of decisions last night that I did not like.

    • They attempted a sacrifice bunt two different times, and I, as a general rule, HATE sacrifice bunts. The first one last night, however, did not bother me. The second one bothered me a lot. In the 7th inning, with the Sox down by 1, Wily Mo Pena led off the inning with a walk. I had no problem whatsoever with Alex Gonzalez bunting, moving Pena to 2nd with 1 out and the top of the order coming up. But in the 8th inning, with runners at 1st and 2nd and no out, he asked Adam Stern to bunt with Alex Gonzalez on deck. The left-handed hitting Stern was facing a right-handed pitcher, with no lefties in the bullpen. And Gonzalez is a close to an automatic out as there is in baseball. Even had Stern succeeded, they were still likely to need a hit from Youkilis to score a run in that inning. Now, as it was, Youkilis doubled in 2 and was driven in by Loretta, so Boston ended up with 3 runs in the 8th, but it was still a bad decision, in my opinion.

    • He waited too long to get Timlin up in the bottom of the 7th, and ended up sending Clement out to start the 8th because Timlin wasn't warm yet. Predictably, the inning started with a double, and Timlin came in with runners on and proceeded to give up the lead. If he wanted Timlin to pitch the 8th, which I'm sure he did, he needed to get him up sooner, so he could start the 8th...

  • One of the things that Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are great at is evaluating what a player can do, and putting that player in a position to succeed, as opposed to focusing on what a player cannot do. The Red Sox have shown signs of getting that, as well, but there are segments of the fan base - vocal segments - that just drive me crazy. I turn on WEEI on occasion, because I'm interested in Boston sports, and that's what they (most of the time) talk about. But frequently, I immediately turn it off again, because the callers are, for the most parts, morons. What I'm particularly vexed about right now is the people who think that Mark Bellhorn was an offensive problem because of his strikeouts, but don't have any concerns about Alex Gonzalez. Bellhorn was a decent defensive middle infielder who struck out a lot, but also drew walks and hit for power. Gonzalez is a good defensive middle infielder who doesn't strike out a lot, but provides nothing offensively. No walks, no power, no average - nothing. But there are people who just obsessed about Bellhorn, because the strikeouts were big, obvious failures you could point at, but Gonzalez' failures are less obvious. Never mind that he's failing far more frequently, the weak ground-outs and pop-ups seem preferable to many people than the strikeouts...

  • Pedro Martinez picked up the 200th win of his Major League career Monday night. I don't care much for wins as a statistic, but you've got to do something right to get 200 of them, and Pedro's done more things right than almost any other pitcher in history. I think the days of his being "PEDRO!" are over, but he gave me as much pleasure in a Red Sox uniform as anyone. Red Sox fans have been blessed over the past 20 years to have, consistently, an all-time great at the front of their pitching rotation, first Clemens, then Martinez. So congratulations to Pedro, and thanks again for the great memories.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Monday Pythagorean Report - 4/17

It was my position coming into the season that the Red Sox would be a good offensive team again this year. I think that I'm right, but it sure hasn't been so far. What they have been is a great pitching team, particularly when Schilling and Beckett have been on the mound, and Papelbon's been basically untouchable, so they've played numerous close games, and when they've taken a lead into the 7th inning, they've won them all. But I've said it before and I'll say it again - they aren't going to keep winning at this rate with an offense that doesn't score more runs than this.

A big part of the problem has been Manny Ramirez. Another big part is that Alex Gonzalez has been every bit the black hole that I feared he'd be. And the lineup Saturday included Josh Bard and Alex Cora and Adam Stern. It was very, very ugly. When Pena's double bounced into the stands instead of the triangle, it left them with runners at 2nd and 3rd with no outs. The next four hitters due up were:

The results were, unfortunately, predictable. They did get a great at-bat from Josh Bard, who fouled off numerous pitches and worked a walk. But then, Gonzalez struck out, Stern struck out and Cora grounded out, ending their 1 serious threat for the day.


AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/17/2006


New York6.67(1)4.33(3)0.687(1)8466-2










Tampa Bay5.62(3)5.92(13)0.476(11)67761

Los Angeles4.5(11)5.17(8)0.437(12)57661


Kansas City4.09(14)7.45(14)0.25(14)3829-1

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)





Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York10953





Standings for the week


New York7.5(1)4.83(5)0.691(1)42420



Tampa Bay5.86(4)4.86(7)0.585(4)43430





Los Angeles4.83(10)4.83(5)0.5(9)33330





Kansas City4.17(11)8.67(14)0.207(14)1506-1

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Maundy Thursday

I came to the realization years ago that I'd never be able to read all of the great books ever written. There's just not enough time in one lifetime to get to everything, and the list continues to grow. I have an entire shelf of Dickens, and I manage to get through about 1 a year. Shakespeare wrote 37 plays, I've read 9. How long would it takes to read through Hardy, Eliot, the Brontes? And that's just the product of one nation, and a relatively short time period.

I've recently come to the same conclusion with regards to the world's great music. I'm never going to hear it all, much less actively listen to and learn. But I've had the opportunity, through the choir at church, to get more than my fair share. As I commented last year at around this time, the choir gets much, much more out of the service music than the congregation does. There is no piece of sacred music that I've ever sung that is capable of being appreciated on one hearing the way that it is after weeks or months of working on it for performance. And that's proving true yet again.

Last week, for Palm Sunday, we sang the Gounod Sanctus from Messe Solenelle, and it was fantastic. And yet another piece that, absent the choir singing it, I'd have been unlikely ever to be acquainted with. Tonight, Maundy Thursday, we'll be singing three selections from the Theodore Dubois Seven Last Words Of Christ. Another fantastic work that is, I suspect, not known at all in the general population.

We've been listening to it in the car while riding back and forth to karate for the past few weeks, and had an interesting discussion about one of the selections with my oldest. The first word from the Cross from the book of Luke, chapter 23, verse 34: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." The Dubois setting starts with this, then incorporates a choir, crying "He is death guilty, take him, let us crucify him! Be his blood on us and then on our children!"

My son, 13, didn't like that. He was disturbed by the text, and upset that that choir was singing it, and expressed the opinion that he, himself, wouldn't do it. So we talked a little bit about the setting.

Solo: Father, Father, Father forgive them
For they know not what they do.

Solo: And the people clamored...

Choir: He is death guilty! He is death guilty!
Take him, take him, let us crucify him!
He is death guilty! He is death guilty!
Take him, take him, take him!

Be his blood, be his blood on us, be his blood on us,
And then on our children, our children,
Be on us and our children!

Solo: Father, Father, Father forgive them
For they know not what they do.

It is unpleasant. The crowd is loud, the crowd is raucous. The text is not something that you want to be saying, as a general rule. "Let us crucify him" is not a standard prayer. But as a musical setting, it works really well. One of the things we all remember is Jesus saying "Father, forgive them." But out of context, it doesn't have the full power. Dubois' setting puts the context back in. We start with the prayer of Jesus to forgive the people, then we are essentially assaulted by the crowd as the clamored "let us crucify him!" And then the piece finishes with, again, the voice of Jesus - "Father, forgive them." It makes for a very powerful statement...

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Mike Lowell update

In my weekly Red Sox report on Monday, I made a comment about Mike Lowell, saying that "if a single 0-4 can drop you from "pleasant surprise" to "take him out and shoot him," it's too early to evaluate the numbers." That is emphasized - strongly - by where Lowell is today. Following his 4-4 with 3 doubles in yesterday's home opener, he went from .190/.292/.381/.673 to .320/.393/.600/.993. So he went from "pleasant surprise" to "take him out and shoot him" to "dominant MVP candidate" in the course of 8 at-bats.

"It's too early to evaluate the numbers" doesn't begin to describe it, and the people who were calling for the Red Sox to cut him yesterday sound even more like idiots than they did 24 hours ago...

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Never try to return a "boy's hat"

Before today, I had never before heard of Park Slope, a Brooklyn neighborhood which is apparently just as full of pompous, politically correct leftists as Berkeley or Cambridge. But there's an odd synchronicity today, as the discussion I'm about to link to is relevant to a discussion that I had earlier today.

This morning, several of the homeschoolers who meet at Park Street Church, met for a field trip at the USS Constitution Museum in Charlestown, MA. Now, Park Street is a conservative evangelical church, located at the corner of the Boston Common, about two hundred yards down Beacon Hill from the Massachusetts State House. In other words, we're not talking about a red state environment here. Well, I tagged along on the trip, which involved 5 families, 5 moms (and me) and 16 kids. After touring the museum, we sat on the grass outside to picnic before taking the tour of the ship itself. As we watched, the kids scattered about in little groups to eat. And the girls all ate with the other girls, and the boys all ate with the other boys. The girls sat and talked, the boys ran around and swung sticks and climbed the cannon and cannonballs. And when one of the moms commented on that, I responded that "it's all our fault for imposing those artificial gender stereotypes upon them."

At which point everyone laughed. The fact is, if you've had both boys and girls, if you've dealt with kids, you recognize that there are inherent differences. Obviously, each and every individual child is different, and there are boys that show tendencies more often seen in girls, and there are girls that exhibit tendencies more often seen in boys. But there are behaviors that are masculine, there are behaviors that are feminine, and they're inherent. And they're real. And they show themselves early.

So, after coming home, as I was making a brief tour of the web, I came across the great Park Slope hat spat. And frankly, it has to be read to be believed. It started with a woman (OK - that may be unacceptable stereotyping on my part - it may have been a man using the name "Helene." Maybe I shoud just say it was a "person") making a post that she had found a "boy's hat" and would like to return it to its owner. This, apparently, is unacceptable to some people in 2006 America, as the first response to this message was from someone taking umbrage at the fact that the hat was characterized as a "boy's hat." And led to a long debate in which the term "gender sterotypes" was used more than once, and, unlike my usage, in a non-facetious manner.

It's an interesting read, and would be funnier if it weren't quite so chilling...

Technorati tags: ParkSlope, Hat, Gender, Stereotyping

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Global warming - another view

There's a great piece in the UK Telegraph today. A geologist currently engaged in paleoclimate relief (think Dennis Quaid in The Day After Tomorrow), Professor Bob Carter has some things to say about global warming:
Consider the simple fact, drawn from the official temperature records of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, that for the years 1998-2005 global average temperature did not increase (there was actually a slight decrease, though not at a rate that differs significantly from zero).

Yes, you did read that right. And also, yes, this eight-year period of temperature stasis did coincide with society's continued power station and SUV-inspired pumping of yet more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

In response to these facts, a global warming devotee will chuckle and say "how silly to judge climate change over such a short period". Yet in the next breath, the same person will assure you that the 28-year-long period of warming which occurred between 1970 and 1998 constitutes a dangerous (and man-made) warming. Tosh. Our devotee will also pass by the curious additional facts that a period of similar warming occurred between 1918 and 1940, well prior to the greatest phase of world industrialisation, and that cooling occurred between 1940 and 1965, at precisely the time that human emissions were increasing at their greatest rate.

And he sums up the essentials of the issue perfectly.
The essence of the issue is this. Climate changes naturally all the time, partly in predictable cycles, and partly in unpredictable shorter rhythms and rapid episodic shifts, some of the causes of which remain unknown. We are fortunate that our modern societies have developed during the last 10,000 years of benignly warm, interglacial climate. But for more than 90 per cent of the last two million years, the climate has been colder, and generally much colder, than today. The reality of the climate record is that a sudden natural cooling is far more to be feared, and will do infinitely more social and economic damage, than the late 20th century phase of gentle warming.

Sing it, brother!

Technorati tags: BobCarter, Global, Warming, GlobalWarming

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Good news/bad news

Good news - Apparently the Red Sox and David Ortiz have reached agreement on a new contract, to be announced this afternoon, worth ~$48-$50 million over 4 years.

Bad news - Coco Crisp is headed to the DL for 4-8 weeks with a broken index finger on his left hand, suffered sliding into 3rd after being picked off 2nd on Saturday night.

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AL Pythagorean Report - 4/10/2006

One of the things that I like to do during the baseball season is compile a weekly report of the AL standings, looking at runs scored and allowed, to see who's better than their records and who's worse.

For those unfamiliar, the Pythagorean report is based on a Bill James discovery regarding the relationship between runs scored, runs allowed and winning percentage. It intuitively makes sense that a teams record will be related to how many runs they score and how many they allow. What James discovered was that, for almost all teams, the winning percentage is very close to a ratio of the square of the runs scored to the sum of the squares of the runs scored and runs allowed. Which was dubbed the "Pythagorean" theorum of baseball.

The report consists of, for each team, their runs/game, runs allowed/game and Pythagorean project winning percentage, along with their rank among the teams in the league for each of those categories. The Pythagorean winning percentage is calculated as (r ^ 1.83) / ( (r ^ 1.83) + (ra ^ 1.83) ). (1.83 has been determined to be a slightly more accurate exponent with the current offensive levels than 2.) Using the Pythagorean winning percentage, the expected wins total is calculated and compared to the actual win total. Finally, any difference is expressed as "luck", with negative numbers representing underperforming teams.

Finally, there's a linear projection of final records, based on current winning percentage, and based on Pythagorean winning percentage.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/10/2006



New York5.83(2)3.83(2)0.683(2)4224-2









Los Angeles4.17(12)5.5(9)0.376(11)24331

Tampa Bay5.33(7)7.17(14)0.368(12)24331


Kansas City4(13)6(12)0.323(14)23230

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)





Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)

New York10953




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Red Sox, week 1

Week one of the baseball season goes into the books, and the Red Sox are out to their best start in 7 years, taking 5 of 6 on their opening road trip. There have been some great signs, but also some not-so-great signs, and there are some odds and ends worth discussing.

All comments here are made with the full understanding that anything can happen in one week, it's a ridiculously small sample size, and nothing that happened last week should be considered likely to continue JUST BECAUSE it happened last week.

That said, on to the odds and ends and observations:

  • The brightest note of the week, for Red Sox fans, was the performance of Curt Schilling. Schilling's an important piece of the puzzle, and he struggled last year due to injury. He's now 18 months removed from ankle surgery, and there was no reason to think that he wouldn't return to his former excellence if healthy, but until we saw him perform, there were going to be questions. Well, he's now allowed 3 runs in 14 innings over two starts, and looks just like the Schilling we'd hope to see. Two starts doesn't mean much performance-wise, but health-wise, it appears that all systems are go.

  • Beckett was awesome in his first appearance. Struggled early, but never gave in, and was dominant his last three innings. A great sight.

  • As was Papelbon, who's been lights out in his appearances. And there are good signs from Foulke as well, his opening day struggles notwithstanding.

  • After Tuesday's debacle in Texas, there was panic in certain corners over whether Wakefield would be able to succeed with Josh Bard behind the plate. Yesterday proves nothing, but it does, at least temporarily, quiet that reaction a bit.

  • As positive as the pitching/defense has been, the offense is a bit of a concern. If you look at some of the numbers, that sounds strange, but it is. Yes, they're 5th in the AL in runs scored. Yes, they're leading the league in OBP. Both of those numbers, however, are compiled primarily on the strength of one of the worst pitching performances in recent memory, as the Orioles, led by Daniel Cabrera, walked 13 and hit 2 on Friday night. Fortunately for them, they've had some hits at good times, but they're going to need to perform better than they have. They've failed to reach 5 runs scored in 4 of their 6 games so far. The fact that they've won 3 of those 4 is credit to the pitching and defense, but they can't win consistently (nor, for that matter, can any other AL team, not the way the game is played these days) scoring 4 runs or less.

  • This morning, I'm listening to people panicking over Mike Lowell. And my reaction is, "wait a minute - I looked at Lowell just yesterday, and was pleasantly surprised!" Well, this morning, Lowell's hitting .190/.292/.381. You'd be justified in taking him out back and shooting him. But yesterday, he was hitting .236/.350/.471. If a single 0-4 can drop you from "pleasant surprise" to "take him out and shoot him," it's too early to evaluate the numbers.

  • That said, Alex Gonzalez is also producing exactly what you'd expect, i.e., nothing.

  • The offense works if you get runners in front of Ortiz and Ramirez, which you'd expect to see happen. And if Nixon and Varitek hit, and Youkilis extends innings, and Lowell puts up numbers similar to his first 5 games as opposed to his first 6. So far, it isn't working very well. Well enough to go 5-1 with the pitching they got, but not well enough if the pitching slips at all. And I said "if" there, but it should actually be "when" because the pitching will slip, at least some.

  • But, on the whole, if you have to choose between iffy production with wins versus great production without, well, you take the wins. You can't keep getting them without better offense, but for one week, that's a good way to start...

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Thus endeth the streak

Jimmy Rollins was 0-4 in yesterday's Phillies game, ending his hitting streak at 38 games. I'm glad that I wrote this yesterday...

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Jimmy Rollins

On August 22nd of last season, Jimmy Rollins of the Philadelphia Phillies went 0-4 in a game against the San Francisco Giants. Since then, the Phillies have played 38 games, and Rollins has at least 1 hit in each of them. There is a debate, if not raging, then getting ready to rage, about whether Rollins, if he hits in the next 19 Phillies games, passes Joe Dimaggio or not. Since it's extremely unlikely that this remains a topic for discussion next week, never mind in 3 weeks, I want to get my 2 cents in now.

There seem to be 2 distint schools of thought on this one. The first is that the streak ended when the season ended, the second, which is where I stand, is that the streak continues until he goes hitless.

One of the people whose analysis I greatly respect, the Baseball Crank, has this to say on the subject:
Personally, while DiMaggio's record is perhaps the #1 baseball record I'd love to see broken, I don't regard a streak over two seasons as quite the same, especially a hitting streak, the very essence of which is the mounting pressure of going a month or two without an off day. It should go in the books if Rollins or someone else does it, but it shouldn't wipe out Joe D.

It depends on what you mean by "wipe out." I certainly think that there's room in the baseball record books for "longest consecutive hit streak" and "longest consecutive hit streak (season)." But if Rollins actually does make it 57 straight, that's the longest consecutive games hit streak. Period. The idea behind keeping track of hit streaks is that it's a notable feat. For someone to take the field in 57 consecutive games and get a hit in each is an astounding accomplishment. And it's an accomplishment regardless of whether there is an All Star Break in the middle, an offseason in the middle, or no gap whatsoever.

In fact, I think that you can easily argue that it is more impressive to do it with an offseason intervening. The notable thing about a streak is that it's a streak. It's not necessarily bringing extreme value to the team - a player could go 1-4 or 1-5 every day with a single, and he's not providing any real value to the team (as Red Sox fans present during the Shea Hillenbrand era are well aware) but it's still a noteworthy accomplishment, a statistical freak, to get a hit every day. A .300 hitter would be expected to go hitless in a 4 at-bat game about 25% of the time. String 10 of those together, and the odds of going hitless in at least 1 is about 93-94%. A 20 game hit streak, for a .300 hitter getting 4 at-bats (not plate appearances) per game, is about a 1 in 250 event.

And that's true whether there's a gap in the middle of it or not. I think it's fair to say that if Rollins had hit in the first 36 games of 2005 and then gone out for 3 months with an injury, no one would think that the streak was over when he came back. I don't see how the intervention of an off-season can end it. Indeed, I think it's harder and more impressive if he can actually come off 6 months away and continue it. I understand the argument that the mental pressure is harder if he doesn't get the "break" that the offseason provides, but I disagree with it. He had to answer questions about it all winter, and then all spring. If anything, he had more pressure on opening day than he would have if game 37 had been August 1st of last year.

So, if he does it (which he won't), he's got the record.

Technorati tags: Rollins, Dimaggio, HitStreak, Phillies

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Red Sox, game 3

4/5/2006 - Boston 2, Texas 1

That's a good one, in so many ways. There aren't going to be many nights when Boston is held to 2 runs, so it's always great when one of those nights comes along and they win it anyway...

- Josh Beckett struggled in his Red Sox debut. He had trouble with his control, and allowed the first batter of the night to score. He threw 81 pitches in the first 4 innings. But he kept working out of trouble, and ended up going 7 innings, throwing 109 pitches, and allowing only the 1 run. He was throwing 95, and touched 97 a couple of times on the gun. A very, VERY encouraging outing from Mr. Beckett. If this is the kind of game we see from him on a regular basis, then it wasn't a good trade - it was a great trade....

- Nixon had a big hit. The offense was doing nothing against Kameron Loe. When they did get baserunners, they were getting erased in double plays. Crisp hit a one-out triple in the 6th, and they couldn't get him in. But when Loe finally left a pitch up, in the 7th, Nixon drove it into the right-field stands for the 2-1 lead, that would end the scoring for the night.

- The Red Sox caught a huge break in the bottom of the 8th. Mike Timlin was making his season debut, and he was shaky, to put it generously. With 2 on and 1 out he gave up yet another hit, and the tying run moved up to 3rd, loading the bases with 1 out. Or, at least, that's what should have happened. Fortunately for the Red Sox, when Texeira reached 3rd, he got waved in, and thrown out. Never should have been sent, and a major break for Boston.

- John Papelbon pitched the 9th instead of Keith Foulke. And he was dominant. Two strikeouts and a pop-up. 11 pitches, 8 of them for strikes, and 95 on the gun. An outstanding performance for his first Major League save.

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Red Sox, game 2

4/4/2006 - Texas 10, Boston 4

If the first game was an example of everything going to script, so was the second. But it was a script for a horror story. Wakefield had nothing, giving up 7 runs (with a little help from Lenny DiNardo) in less than 3 innings. Josh Bard didn't look great behind the plate, and the offense did nothing. David Riske struggled in his Sox debut, giving up a 2-run homer in his inning of work, and Rudy Seanez loaded the bases with no one out before wriggling out of the jam in his 2006 Sox debut. And Manny Ramirez, while seeing 28 pitches in his 4 at-bats, working the pitcher and working the count, struck out 3 times and stranded 6 runners.

Bright spots:

- Coco Crisp continues to impress, going 3-5, and Mark Loretta had a couple of hits. David Ortiz doubled and walked twice. (With the first three on that many times, you'd expect some offense, but Manny, as previously noted, had a rough night. And the other never all reached in the same trip through the order.)

- Wily Mo Pena made his Boston debut and doubled off Texas' (right-handed) closer.

- Youkilis doubled, for his first hit.

- The defense was solid again. (Except for the passed balls...)

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Red Sox, game 1

4/3/2006 - Boston 7, Texas 3

So the first game is in the books (and yes, I'm 24 hours late with this.) And it went just about the way you'd script it if you're a Sox fan.

- Schilling went 7 very strong innings, giving up a 2-run homer and not much else.

- Coco Crisp didn't do much, but scored from first twice on doubles, easily each time, and made a great catch in the 9th.

- Alex Gonzalez got a couple of hits. (Though that may be a bad thing. If he gets off to a hot start, he'll look productive in a month, even if he isn't...)

- Mike Lowell hit a home run. One of the real big question marks going in to the season is whether Lowell's got anything left. 1 HR in the first game isn't tremendously meaningful, but it's a good thing to see anyway.

The only downside was the performance of Keith Foulke, who gave up a couple of long fly balls and a run, but apparently he was just working on locating his fastball with the 5 run lead, and wasn't mixing the change (his best pitch) in. There were dozens of panicked calls to WEEI today, as there will be every time he allows a baserunner, saying "cut him and make Papelbon the closer!" but I remain convinced that he'll be a very effective pitcher this year. Again.

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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Last pre-season comments

Now that we're just minutes away from the opening of the Major League Baseball season, it's time for my final pre-season comments and predictions. They're a little bit scattered, and I've not done some of the analysis that I've done in other seasons, but I'm going to make some predictions anyway...

  • I'm not as impressed with Toronto's off-season as most. If their offense is better, I think it's only marginally better. I think that their pitching is marginally better, and their defense significantly worse, which means that despite the upgrade in the pitching staff, they allow more runs. I think that the Yankees and Red Sox each score about 900 runs, with the park differences offsetting the better NY offense. I think that the Red Sox have better pitching and defense than the Yankees.
    Boston wins, but NY wins enough to win the Wild Card.

    AL East

    Boston97Division winner

    NY93Wild Card


    Tampa Bay75-


  • Other AL division winners - Minnesota, Oakland

  • I'm not a big follower of the NL, and can't speak intelligently on it, but if were going to let that stop me, I wouldn't be blogging, right? I see a lot of people picking the Dodgers in the West, but the Grady Little factor won't let me pick them. So I'm going with the Giants. In the East, Atlanta is my pick every year until they finally finish 2nd. Houston could be competitive if Clemens comes back, but the Cardinals win the division. The Wild Card goes to someone. Maybe the Phillies or Mets, maybe even the Dodgers or Brewers. Eeny-meeny-miny-mo - my certified, obviously well-considered pick for the NL Wild Card is ... the Dodgers. And they make a painful exit in a game or two that they should have won, but the manager didn't understand when it was time to remove a pitcher, or how to get the right batter/pitcher matchup.

  • So, to summarize, my season picks are:

    2006 pre-season predictions
    AL Division WinnersNL Division Winners

    Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves

    Minnesota TwinsSt. Louis Cardinals

    Oakland A'sSan Francisco Giants

    AL Wild CardNL Wild Card

    NY YankeesLos Angeles Dodgers

  • The White Sox are a big disappointment to those picking them to repeat. Their defense is a little worse than last year, the pitching's a little worse, they still haven't figured out that small ball's a bad idea, and the HRs aren't as fortuitously timed this year. The White Sox win about 87 games, and people wonder what happened.

  • At some point during the season, there will be another bump to the interminable, never-ending, tedious steroid story, and the media will bay at the moon for another 2-3 days. Nothing new will be said, nothing new will be learned, nothing will change, but they'll talk and write about nothing new for several days.

  • When the season ends, I'll make no predictions about the post-season, as anything can happen in a short series.

  • I'll enjoy the baseball season. Tremendously...

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