Duren, Duren

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  1. These stats based games are fun. But they are one dimensional. There is no room to factor in players playing hurt or injured, individual response in clutch moments, motivation, the uniqueness of each manager and so on. As a former game designer I was always aware of such issues, but in those days the options in design were very limited. Strat-o-matic has changed somewhat over the decades and is still fun. And much more realistic than the graphic oriented video format in terms of player rating and individual probabilities. But it's still all taking place in an ideal, non physical world.
  2. Books. I sure wish there were digitized versions of many of these, but a lot came before that format. But a useful way to fill time in a sports deprived world. About half my book collection, scattered in different rooms on three floors. Messy as you can see. This time gives me the chance to try and organize and thin out stuff. As a former academic, lots of these books were for professional and research purposes. Also a ton of sports, entertainment and screenwriting material too. For baseball fiction I started reading 'Return to Yankee Stadium' by Kenn Neyland. A really cool concept. Part speculative fiction, part fact about Roger Maris and how he regretted being forced to retire because of injuries. The book actually was a surprise, because it was thrown in with the Maris autograph I finally acquired at a decent price.
  3. In the 1981 labor dispute season they split the season (up to the strike, then after the strike) and added a playoff round between the two half season leaders. The strike was about six weeks. In the end the season amounted to about 110 games, not all teams playing the exact same number. In a shrewd PR move the all star game was rescheduled to inaugurate the 'return of baseball.' I remember vaguely that Gary Carter was the big star, homering and making a great tag play on a laser throw from Dave Parker in right field. Despite the acrimony of the dispute the all star game kicked off an exciting second half, with the half pennant a viable goal for most teams. If this season is to be salvaged they need a big start. Possibly some kind of all star or challenge type event to grab fan interest again. If there is a reduced schedule, it will actually make things exciting all around. The lower ranked teams will have a better chance while the top teams will have more pressure to live up to expectations.
  4. A little satire to distract from reality. TV without baseball or any sports is no fun. The last meaningful game was the world series finale. For that game I rolled my brand new, state of the art portable 13 inch black and white TV onto the patio. Adjusted the rabbit ears and the vertical hold. There it was! Party time! Mantle hits a grand slam. The 105 win Dodgers couldn't win. The hot dogs and beer were great.
  5. Who needs human players. Just some dice, paper and pen. And one of these old school stats games. This was big when I was in university. We had a draft, schedule and playoff system. About 25 teams participated. I was the champion one year. Loaded up on pitching, guys with high on base percentage and some sluggers. Also platooned a lot. Now you have video games and computer simulations. But there was something fun about the tactile techniques of these games and being face to face with your opponent. Here's an ad from an old magazine from my childhood.
  6. The over extreme panic is totally media driven. Common sense caution has morphed into paranoia by the unending fear mongering. Social psychology has many examples of crowd hysteria driven by exaggeration and misinterpreted facts. There is a phenomenon known as 'pattern matching' where a preconceived idea is projected onto something else felt to match that idea. Regardless if accurate or not. Statistically the fatalities are a small fraction compared to other viral type causes. And if you study the quasi barbaric eating habits in China where this began it would put things in a clearer context. The media are largely irresponsible, and in some cases, intentionally so. A variation of 'if it bleeds, it leads.' Also, do not discount the political and economic factors. And the timing. Remember the cynical "never let a crisis go to waste" statement? These sports organizations are trying to be politically correct and conform to the media narrative. Safer for them than to be demonized by challenging the narrative.
  7. Mentored by Gaylord Perry with his arsenal of little devices? Bat and Ball 'doctoring' had been going since the beginning of the game. With various substances and implements. Hair grease, nail files, the elementary spitball, pine tar, cork, etc. Trying to detect and enforce has met with varying degrees if success. Every player tries to get an edge. Some try these physical techniques. With mixed results. But having an outside source brings in a new angle. What was delivered? Common items or specialized whatever? Players too lazy to bring in the stuff themselves? Or unavilable through normal channels? Normally cheaters want discretion and silence about their deeds. Having an in house agent means that others will find out. An Angel employee explicitly aiding and abetting the opposition to defeat his employer's team? Willingly breaking the rules of the game? Is this a wide spread thing around the leagues? Angels need to come to grips with what's going on in and around the clubhouses.
  8. Every team in every sport have their own way of honoring franchise greats. Names on stadium walls, retired numbers, statues, plaques, franchise or local Halls of Fame, and so on. Statues are the most memorable, but make the biggest impact when you see them in person. The Niners recently put out a great recreation of the 1981 'catch' with an exact life size statues of Montana and Clark freezing that moment in time. The plaques in Yankee Stadium are iconic. The statues in front of Staples are memorable. When you go to Cooperstown you come away with all the plaques lingering in your memory. The statue of Rocket Richard in Montreal evokes the legend. It's a great idea to recognize and honor franchise greats. Kobe had two numbers retired by the same team. Number 12 for the Montreal Canadiens was worn by two HOF players and retired for both of them (Dickie Moore, Yvan Cournoyer) in a ceremony with both present. There are all sorts of ways of respecting the great players. Objectively, Vlad wasn't with the franchise that long. 8 years with the Expos, 6 with the Angels. Same with some other greats like Jackson and Carew who were around even less. Even Ryan played longer with Houston. Trout should be treated as an individual and not have to share any #27 honors with Vlad. A homegrown player is special. And even acquisitions from elsewhere should have had significantly longer and better careers than other places they played. Even Gretzky honored as a King is a perversion of history. His impact outside the game deserves special respect, but he was immensely better in Edmonton. In L.A. he never won a championship.
  9. Bring back more off speed specialists if you want pitchers to have longer productive careers. And teach the knuckleball! The least stress on the arm, and a great knuckleball pitcher can play forever. Hoyt Wilhelm, probably the best of them all played till he was nearly fifty. Or even the Bert Hooten 'knucklecurve.' It takes time to master the technique, and requires a specific unique grip with emphasis on the fingertips and nails. But when it works it can be effective. Mastering control is the main problem because it dips and dives all over the plate and strike zone. Lots of passed balls too, so often these pitchers have to have a catcher experienced with the way the ball suddenly moves. Even if pitchers don't use it exclusively it serves as a great changeup and lessens the need for more arm straining pitches. When it doesn't 'knuckle" properly it sails in slow and flat and can be pounded, but like any off speed pitch hitters need to stay back and get their timing right. I guess Wakefield was the most recent pure knuckleball specialist, and obviously isn't being taught or promoted. But it can prolong a career. The emphasis on power this and power that has become a macho thing too. Homeruns and strikeouts. Glorified by analytics and the media. So much of the subtle skills of the game have been overshadowed by the need for quick fix hilites. But I digress ... By contrast, the most damaging pitch on an arm also isn't used much any more. The screwball, with it's clockwise release. In the seventies, possibly the best ever screw ball pitcher won a Cy Young award. Mike Marshall, relief pitcher and stopper for the Expos and then Dodgers, where he won that award. The strain on the arm is intense, but Marshall was a student of kinesiology and knew the science well. I think he earned a doctorate and later became a professor. For his purposes he was able to execute the technique to perfection and had a long career. Doubt he could he could have lasted as a starter, but he did make more appearances than most relievers of that era.
  10. As they say in politics "never let a crisis go to waste." Next man up. Opportunity for someone to fill this vacancy and emerge as a positive surprise. These things happen all the time. One man's injury is someone else's big chance. Wally Pipp/Lou Gehrig. Back in Angel land it's still early spring training. Time for internal competition or trades. Not going to speculate on who will emerge because it could be anyone.
  11. Minor things like this happen all the time. Every team will have these situations. Many probably more severe. No past history of similar issues with him so no chronic weakness there physically. Better now than during the season when the rotation is set. Likely on the opening day roster with maybe a little extra caution with his use early in the season.
  12. Upton and Pujols can realistically provide enough of an internal upgrade. Addition without subtraction from the same players. Playing hurt is a major handicap. No matter how game a guy is he won't be at his best. Some handle it better than others, but you still aren't going to get their best over a long stretch of games. If Pujols is as healthy as Maddon thinks he is he could modestly increase his production. With roughly the same number of plate appearances he could raise his average about five to ten points and still hit 20 plus homeruns and 90 plus RBIs. And more walks, less k's. He was clearly uncomfortable at the plate in recent years, and his swing was compromised to compensate for lack of flexibility and reach. His lower body was was just an anchor and he depended on upper body and arm strength. He also chased pitches he would have laid off because they were closer to his limited comfort zone. Even assuming he is even just slightly more mobile, it may be more important if he feels pain free. Without compensating for physical discomfort he can be more selective and less self conscious of his limitations. He is 40, so no miracles expected, but with this lineup he plays more of a supportive role. And likely more men on base to drive in. His strength. Upton hasn't shown serious decline yet, and should have a bounce back year around his career norm. Last year was one of those random seasons that happen to athletes. Not a chronic long term problem. Rendon really is the master key to having a serious slugger's row kind of offense. With power and on base ability he will either drive in runs or set the table for the bats behind him. Both ways he will be a second engine along with Trout. Often on base, often clearing the bases. Fletcher will get on base one way or another. Trout will be Trout. Ohtani as a hitter should hit 15 - 20 homers and hit 275 plus. Maybe better, depending on overall workload. And if he takes on a bigger pitching role there is plenty of depth. Simmons should be improved in a contract year. Right field should combine for 20 plus homers between Goodwin, La Stella, Adell. Catcher has been upgraded by default somewhat. Rengilfo will have his opportunities. Pujols and Upton are veteran big bats with great past production. Both have been hurt. Both seem healthy. No reason to think negatively. Together they are experienced enough to handle important situational at bats. Maddon should also give them a sense of renewal. He knows their past, has confidence in them and will devise his lineups accordingly. I can't wait to see the regular season lineup in action. Pitching has to be better by default. The manager is better. The hitters are healthy and Rendon is an enormous addition. And if Adell eventually thrives, no reason this team is not in the playoffs.
  13. A manager has to be ruthlessly pragmatic. Every player who makes the team has a role. The manager tries to put them in position to be able to perform as well as possible. He has to be encouraging and yet realistic. Very smart to think of Albert positively and spread the word. No one takes what he says as a reference to Albert's speed. That's obvious. It's about flexibility, defensive agility, joint lithness, overall mobility. And it's all relative to where he has been in recent years. Not absolute measures. I think it means that Albert will be improved and not favoring recent injuries. He will be a healthier forty year old than he was as a handicapped 35 - 39 year old. What that translates to is probably a slight upgrade at the plate and in the field when at first. Not a fountain of youth reversal, but a little better production. Maddon is really shrewd bringing this up now. It generates positive reinforcement and sets a higher bar for Albert. A message that if health isn't a detriment then more is expected. Delivered professionally and forward looking. That's how you manage a long time great veteran with intense pride. Especially as a new manager dealing with a declining former great who still has a fairly important role on the team.
  14. The more I think about it, the worse it seems. There have been some commissioners and league presidents who made various blunders. Bud Selig the worst to date. Bowie Kuhn had his issues. But this really could be something that creates major ongoing damage. The players are pissed big time. They bust their butts assuming the playing field is equal. Even accounting for savvy individuals who use their wits to personally study opposing patterns and giveaway tips. But this Astro cheating is a team conspiracy, and relied on sophisticated technology outside the game. USC was stripped of a championship fairly won on the field for an administrative red tape process rule. Seems the punishment was disproportionately vindictive too, extending into multiple penalties and essentially ruining an entire program for years. The 1994 World Series was abandoned without any winner being named. The 1919 Series title stayed with the Reds because they weren't the cheaters, but it forever was recognized as tainted. But this time the cheaters won and remain recognized as the winners. The fact that championships have been vacated in other sports (Many times in the Olympics, NCAA, European soccer etc.) should be instructive. Guilt has been confessed. It's not the issue. The cheating players have not been punished at all and have their rings and money. And still keep playing and make more money. This lack of integrity tarnished the image and mythology of the sport.
  15. Everything is ass backward. Guilt has been established. No uncertainties. The problem is the nature of the punishment. So hypocritical. The steroid cheaters were identified, punished as individuals and had their stats and reputations forever qualified as compromised. A big factor is that those players were on different teams, and therefore weren't acting together in a conspiratorial way for a common goal. Each player was focussed on enhancing their personal performance. This Astro stuff was very different. It was a conspiracy by a large segment of the team to mutually benefit each player for a collective goal. Winning games as long as they were still competing. And it took them right to the championship. MLB is afraid of actually dealing with the corruption by meting out just punishment to the actual participants. Minor organizational penalties and suspensions to management avoid the real issue. Study how Judge Landis dealt with the Black Sox scandal. Also leading to a fake World Series winner. The key players were given the ultimate punishments possible. Even though individuals had different degrees of participation. Baseball immediately entered it"s 'Golden' Age' the next season with the Ruth phenomenon. These days there are many more factors involved. Player unions, collective agreements, TV money and much more. But the integrity of the game is compromised and can't be easily glossed over. The anger coming from other players is the tip of the iceberg. This ought not to go away with the usual vague promises to do better in the future. A World Series has been forever tainted.