Whitesoxski Exclusive: Pro Scout Eyes Papal Prospect

This week the pageantry and pomp of the Vatican is on display while it determines which of its upper echelon will assume the office of pontiff.  Amid all the hoopla it’s easy to forget that the Catholic Church is a complex, multidimensional institution that defies easy categorization.  One might decide, as many have, that the church is best defined by its clergy’s epidemic of rape and torture of children, plus its decades-long criminal conspiracy to cover up said crimes.  But it must be said the church is about more than that. There’s also its effort to keep condoms out of Africa, its ruthless suppression of women in its own ranks, and its historical support of fascist regimes such as Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany.

It should come as no surprise that an organization having its bejeweled fingers jammed into so many figurative pies (yuck) is one that has a lot to consider this week in evaluating a replacement pontiff.

Which is why there’s no better day than today to look into a potential pope’s baseball skills. If not now, when?

From Confession Box To Batter’s Box

Evaluating talent in baseball is the domain of the professional baseball scout.  Just as the Catholic clergy has a hierarchy, so too with major league baseball and its brotherhood of scouts — prelates, really — walking the land in search of a savior.  If an MLB team is a diocese and its scouts have an archbishop, he is called his eminence.  Or, in some circles, Pro Scouting Coordinator. Because I am lucky, I happen to know one such official personally.

So when I came across a YouTube  audition tape of a cassocked, left handed slap-hitter straight out of the Vatican farm system, I knew exactly where I had to go for a professional’s evaluation.

To shield my friend from any misdirected ire coming from the Catholic flock over this post, I will not use his name nor the name of his MLB team, and ask instead that any bruised believers register their disapproval in my direction alone, so that I can safely ignore it.

And now: in the interest of ensuring the Vatican has all the facts at its disposal during this time of transition, I post this professional evaluation of a lefty slap-hitting prospect in the Padres system.

Or maybe it’s the Cardinals.  I forget.  Definitely not the Angels.


Scout: Good hand-eye coordination and clearly some feel for contact. Off-balance, lunging swing is very upper-half dependent. 20 power, no real ability to drive anything, just up there looking to make contact. Front foot flies open and offline, possibly to help him get a bit a jailbreak to first. Did not see him run or play the field, and just not enough bat to warrant a second look at this time. Whispers of makeup issues.

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Posted in Prospects

A Paean To The Game (And Only The Game)

Wake up, America.  It’s time.  Time again for all of it.  For the greatness and the dross, still and forever entwined. Time again for the national reflection.

Again we are called to put up with months of shitty beer commercials, cookie-cutter interviews, boneheaded jingoism, crass public displays of faith, TV blackouts, naked larceny of team owners, Joe Buck, ESPN, and a litany of other foul crimes against dignity.

Put up with all of it we will.  We must.  Because if we don’t, there is no music.

If we don’t endure, there is no audacious changeup on a fastball count. No cutting down the runner at third from right field.  No bullpen phone, no going opposite field, no hammer and whiff for the 27th out.

No backup catcher will receive a perfecto, no platoon will counter a dominating southpaw, no hurler called up from Birmingham will throw 24 scoreless innings yet somehow earn three no-decisions for his trouble.

If we do not suffer the dumb, we will be denied the sublime.  Denied the dawn of the Trouts, the Strasburgs, the Harpers.  Denied the double steal, or the snab with the meat hand.  Denied the chance to witness CB Bucknor’s strike zone as it evolves from inning to inning, changing shape akin to the profile of a growing child.  Denied the bright tones of Jon Miller as he balances the candid with the partial.

We will again be held hostage.  Each year the price rises, the commercial common denominator lowers, the distractions become louder, the sideshow more insipid.

But the payoff remains.

Play ball.

Posted in Spring Training

The Official Song And Color Of The 108th World Series

Hunter Pence’s rubber-bat double in the endless, five-run Giants third inning was the beginning of the end for the Cardinals designs on the Fall Classic.  The seven-run cushion gave Matt Cain back the plate and a relaxed outing until his exit in the 6th at 100 pitches. Unable to repeat their legendary comeback against the Nats, the Redbirds ultimtely stepped aside to allow the SF Giants to face the Detroit Tigers in the 108th World Series.

Know what that means? No matter what, the 108th World Champion team will be wearing orange.

When it’s time to celebrate orange, it’s time for Boards Of Canada.  From 1998′s Music Has The Right To Children, the enigmatic Scottish electronic duo’s monumental chillout track Aquarius is now required listening in Mudville.  Well, even more than before, I mean.



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Posted in Giants, Tigers, World Series

Cardinals, Giants And Clutch (Not Cargo)

The Cardinals and Giants can’t both cheat death. | SportsonEarth.com : Gwen Knapp Article.

Use the word clutch in ordinary conversation to a sabermetrician and you’ll get the look.  It’s similar to what a botanist does when encountering a new species of weed.  A glance that says this again? Really?

The look is that special grimace of pity and consternation usually reserved for children or the religious  - for anyone either unqualified due to youth or who has thrown in the towel rather than put in the work to face an enormously complex reality.  In the look is a tut-tutting built upon a mountain of data, a set of experiences and evidence that says the stuff you think happens doesn’t actually happen, or happens for reasons you have no idea about.  In short, clutch is bullshit, say the statheads.

But data doesn’t reflect the deep subjectivity of some concepts embedded in some words.  Clutch is not statistically quantifiable in the first place, at least not in terms that  adequately match the psychology surrounding its use.  Clutch is a recollection of specific game situations — of which there are only a few in a season, the more casual the fan, the fewer the recalled situations — where a player in a failure-based game failed to fail.  If he fails this way a couple of times, he’s clearly clutch.

Called to an NCLS Game 7, in a Gwen Knapp article, the Cardinals Kyle Lohse explains the flip side of clutch: “gamers”.

“Unfortunately, we don’t win until we absolutely need to,” said Kyle Lohse, who will start in Monday night’s survival game instead of prepping to face the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.

Both teams love cheating death. The Cardinals have done it in six straight elimination games going back to last season. The Giants are 5-0 in the same situation this year.

“They have the guys who have done it, too,” the Cardinals’ Lance Berkman said, “which is one of the things that makes tomorrow night so intriguing, because I don’t think you’re going to see a choke factor.”

Berkman, recovering from an injury and inactive in this series, gave an eloquent tutorial on one of the most controversial concepts in sports. He does not acknowledge “clutch,” a mystical element that marks players and teams that succeed under the ultimate pressure. For true believers, a Game 7 would be the ultimate test of an athlete’s ability to elevate in big games. Berkman is not a true believer.

Instead of clutch, there are guys I would call gamers,” he said, “guys that are just the same on Tuesday nights in the middle of June as under the brightest lights.

This is why the idea of clutch will never go away: when you say a baseball player is the same on a Tuesday in June than in a Game 7, you’re only saying his rates of failure are comparable, irrespective of pressure. But a genuine pressure in the form of constant failure is always there. Clutch is only a coincidental, momentary exception to the overwhelming and natural state of failure that baseball celebrates.  The clutch double and the leadoff double in May with a 6 run lead are both relatively rare; it’s only the Game Sevens that aren’t.

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Posted in Cardinals, Giants

A New York State Of Grind

Recalling a New Pitch and a Strange Death – NYTimes.com.

Far be it from me to suspect ill will from my classier friends in Detroit, who are too all busy enjoying their pennant win to exult in the health issues of opponents.  But the specter of Jeter writhing on the infield nonetheless came (briefly) to mind when our Motor City correspondent @DawnMGibson forwarded along the story of 19th-century hardballer from Gotham James Creighton, who may have invented the fastball shortly before dying in circumstances shrouded in greater mystery than that surrounding any decision to play Nick Swisher in the post-season.

Despite the pitch that Creighton introduced, he is best known for his mysterious death. On Oct. 14, 1862, when he was just 21, Creighton played in his final game for the Excelsiors against the Unions of Morrisania and died four days later in Brooklyn at his father’s home on Henry Street, writhing in agony.

In 1862, a man named John Chapman played first base for the Excelsiors, replacing a man who joined the Confederate Army. In the 1890s Mr. Chapman said that Creighton, in his final at-bat, swung so hard that he burst an internal organ but still cracked a home run. Almost immediately this Robert Redfordian myth became Mr. Chapman’s legend.

No known record can verify Mr. Chapman’s story, but historians like Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Thorn who have delved into Creighton’s life believe that he probably had a chronic hernia that was exacerbated by his penchant for throwing around 300 pitches a game. Eventually it became infected.


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Posted in Tigers, Yankees

Brett Myers Hits The Road? (South Side Sox)

Brett Myers Hitting the road?

Quick micropost to test the new blogging software. Free agent outlook: Brett Myers – South Side Sox.

Given my baggage over this guy’s years-past asshole behavior, I do have to say Mr. Myers comported himself admirably this year, which is to say he set up fairly well and stayed out of the media.  As Mr. Neadly at South Side Sox points out, the baggy-pantsed Myers was pantsed by longballs often enough to remind the world of the risks of contact pitching, but did manage a healthy WHIP of 1.125 in 34 innings and so might look like a closer to a GM who thinks that dip in his WHIP is stable.

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Posted in White Sox

Dr. Donald Liu, Hero, White Sox Fan 1962-2012

Dr. Donald Liu

Dr. Donald Liu: Hero

Spotted a tragic South Side news item about University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital pediatric surgeon Donald Liu losing his life on Sunday in the act of saving two kids from drowning in Lake Michigan.

Hats off to Dr. Liu and to everybody else dedicated to helping others get through a world stocked with more than enough grief to go around.

Funeral services are being planned for noon Wednesday at KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation, 1100 E. Hyde Park Blvd., Chicago. Liu will be buried wearing University of Chicago Medicine surgical scrubs and holding a White Sox baseball, a video game and his children’s pictures.

Full story here.

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Posted in In Memoriam, South Side

Liriano: South Side Snares Southpaw Starter #3

Picture of Francisco Liriano

Liriano: Sox rotation tilting to the left

Minutes following Saturday’s 5-2 smacking of Al West-leading Texas, pulling 2.5 games ahead of the Tabbies and reaching 10 games over .500, the White Sox front office announced its season-defining buy.

For the first time since 1986, the White Sox have cut a deal with the Twins, snaring LHP Francisco Liriano in exchange for backup SS Eduardo Escobar and hurler Pedro Hernandez.  Not in possession of the widest arsenal, the 28 year old hurler’s fastball nonetheless sits at 92 and complements a nasty slider.

Liriano’s seen starter and pen duty this season, posting a 3.68 ERA in 11 starts in his most recent string.  He’s a strikeout generator, sporting 9.8 Ks per nine innings, but also loses the zone enough to post 5 walks per nine in his 100 innings pitched this season for the Twins and their skipper Burl Ives.

Liriano’s a free agent at the end of the year and is owed around $2M for his rental.  40-man configurations for the Sox now seem likely to include the callup of SS Tyler Saladino to plug the bench gap left behind by Escobar.


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Posted in Trades, Twins, White Sox, White Sox Game Wrap

Is Zack Greinke Headed Down I-94?

Picture of Pitcher Zack Grienke looking unhappy

Manny Parra and Kameron Loe getting the stink-eye.

The Brewers are sellers at 14 games back and there’s nobody in their immediately available inventory more dealable than Donald Zachary Greinke. At 9-3 and 3.44, his adding a wipeout cutter to his repertoire this season has goosed his win % nicely as the expense of the NL.  ESPN reports four teams including the Sox sent scouts to watch him loom large over the Phillies on Tuesday, retiring the last 14 batters he faced,  handing a 6-1 lead to the Brewers pen in the 7th.

The scouts from the White Sox, Braves, Angels and Rangers on hand to witness Greinke’s fine start were surely reporting home over the cheers in CBP as Zack’s high was brought low. Or, more accurately, brought Loe, as in Kameron Loe, the Brewers bullpen problem whose ripped offerings to Carlos Ruiz and Hunter Pence fueled a Phillies comeback victory and brought the crowd pleasant memories of distant glories shrouded in the ancient mists of…last year.

Jim Margalus at South Side Sox is glum on the prospect of a Greinke arrival in Chicago, as he thinks the price is too dear for a half-season rental. NotHawk over at South Side Asylum is similarly pessimistic.

I’ll agree there’s not much material to trade that makes any sense. The Sox are in the hole already over the Myers deal’s player to be named later, the farmhands are greener than guacamole, and the roster as constituted will have its hands full suppressing the Tabbies and Indians.


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Posted in Angels, Braves, Brewers, Rangers, The Business Of Baseball, White Sox

Konerko Leads Rout Of Visiting Ice Fishermen


A picture of a network switch used on the internet

All that — just for baseball. And maybe cats.

Twins 4 White Sox 11

Missed Konerko’s huge night at the plate? asks my Facebook wall, not a little smugly. Why, yes. Yes, I did. Slaving over a hot spreadsheet, if you must know.  Work’s been heavy lately, thanks for asking.

If only there was some way to catch up. If only we had a giant network of computers filled with video and data about baseball games, then one might not find one’s self out in the cold when the White Sox accomplish something notable, such as when Adam Dunn reaches 30 HRs, Paul goes 4 for 4, and the Tigers lose to the Indians, putting first place in the division again up for grabs with a Sox-Tabbies tie.

What we need is a network of networks that all talk to each other.  An internetwork, if you will.

Well, maybe one day.


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Posted in Twins, White Sox, White Sox Game Wrap