Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Don't look now, but...

That's right. The freakin' National League, butt of many jokes over the past years, given the bum's rush by the neo-sabe pluotocrats (fleshy fruit simulating grey matter...), has actually gotten the jump on Ye Olde Junior Circuit.

Currently the NL has a 22-15 lead. [UPDATE: Now 24-17 after a split of four games on May 1st]

As we go into May, the NL (thanks in large part, most likely, to a series of fortuitous rainouts) has pieced together a seven-game winning streak. [UPDATE: That streak ended at eight when the Orioles beat the Pirates.] Yes, we know that some of you don't think that the Astros' games against the NL should be considered interleague play, but...get over it.

There were supposed to have been 40 interleague games in April this year, but there were three rainouts that pushed those games back. As a result, there will be 69 interleague games in May.

The Yankees will play twelve (12) consecutive interleague games beginning on May 9. That's three with the Brewers, four with the Mets (home-and-home two-game series from May 12-15), three with the Pirates, and winding up with two against the Cubs. (The Rockies will play the second highest number of interleague games in May, a total of eight.)

Who has the early lead in interleague HRs in '14? Why, Mr. Malignment himself...Albert Pujols (with three). And yes, we are pretty sure that Albert is the only player to hit his 500th HR in an interleague game.

Monday, April 28, 2014


The pattern in the carpet continued to assert itself in 2014's complete game sweepstakes when young A's righthander Sonny Gray tossed a three-hit shutout tonight vs. the Rangers in Arlington.

The A's had hit a rough patch recently, having been swept at home by the Rangers last week and then managing only a split with the the lowly Astros in Houston. Gray's performance in the A's 4-0 win gave them a leg up on their closest division rival in what shapes up to be a significant early-season series.

Gray's CG was the seventh (out of the fifteen total CGs thus far) thrown by a pitcher aged twenty-five or younger. The percentage of young starter CGs thus stands at 46%, which is up significantly from last year's percentage (26%). At this point in time last year, only one pitcher aged 25 or younger had thrown a complete game...


If you've not seen the New York Times' demographic survey of baseball fandom that was published in their "The Upshot" section last week ("Up Close on Baseball's Borders"), you owe it to yourself to check it out. While there are some questions that the crack team of analysts hired by the Times to replace Nate Silver did not get around to asking (much less answering), what's there is both fun and food for further thought.

Now, of course, given where you are in cyberspace, and knowing the penchant for roughly polished impertinence that is practiced around here, you're waiting for the other shoe to drop. (It's OK to admit it.)

But in this case the title gives it all away. The one add-on (we were going to say "strap-on," but this is a family blog...) to the "Up Close" article was a chart that looked at the second most popular team in each U.S. Zip Code. Wavering between fair use, foul play and outright plagiarism, we present that chart below:

Note that the Yankees and Red Sox dominate this map.

Now what you see here, of course, are two things:

1--The lamentable lack of imagination amongst baseball fans, who somehow find it fashionable to root for the two most flamboyant representatives of what we like to call "East Coast Shoulder-Chippiness."

2--The (equally) lamentable tendency of those denizens to diasporize (if you'll permit another coy noun-to-verb coinage here in the basement offices of Language Distortion, LLC) across the otherwise innocent American countryside.

What these two things tell us, however, is that our ostensibly crackpot notion (first broached some weeks back to an audience still trying to determine if they are bilious or bibulous in response to it)--that the Yanks and the Sox have their seasonal series expanded from 18 to 32--is not, in fact, off-base.

It's what the folks all want--on the borderline of northern Arizona, along various Maginot lines seeping across a septic span of territory from Oklahoma to Mississippi, and even infecting the border between Utah and Idaho.

The data does not lie (well, sort of). It tells us, much as it's painful to countenance, that the Yanks and the Sox are now permanently injected into the sub-stratum of the American heartland. And since the great feeding tube that is the media is, was, and always will be implacably vying for every last centime of this dim but dynamic market share, it only makes sense to give these chimps what they want.

Namely, more games between these bombastic baseball behemoths.

The next Commissioner (whoever he, she or it may be) should simply tell the schedule-makers that it's time to pack the schedule with these television dates--er, games.

Of course, this is all leading us to the steepest of slippery slopes, a cataclysm in the making. Somehow, some way, we're going to wake up one day and find out that the rules will have been changed to make it possible for these two teams to face each other in the World Series.

Just remember, though, that the latent, subliminal message in the data above is: hey, why not?

After all, the ratings would be unbelievable!

Saturday, April 26, 2014


A continuing trend in 2014's complete games: a high preponderance of pitchers with short major league careers are making the list.

The latest of these is the Nationals' Tanner Roark, the right-hander who made a splash late last season (7-1, 1.51 ERA) while showing comparable effectiveness both as a starter and in the bullpen.

Lefty hitters had been much more successful against Roark in his first five starts thus far in '14 (1.011 OPS going into today's game against the Padres), but he had an ace up his sleeve: he's been almost preternaturally effective at home in Nationals Park.

That continued today, when Roark retired the first 16 San Diego batters he faced en route to a three-hit complete game shutout--a first for him in each category.


For those who like to keep count, sixteen of the fifty-four  "orange crate art" paintings by Ben Sakoguchi featured in the Baseball Reliquary's "Purpose Pitch" exhibition (still on display through Tuesday, April 29 at the Arcadia Public Library) feature compositions based on team pictures.

That works out to just around thirty percent (30%) of the exhibition.

Just to get a sense of how representative a selection of Sakoguchi's Unauthorized History of Baseball series this exhibition is, we consulted Sakoguchi's web site, where 225 of the paintings are displayed (in somewhat smaller image sizes than we've had the good fortune to use here--our thanks to Jan Sakoguchi for providing them).

By our count, there are a total of 29 paintings in the series that feature team pictures as the primary component in the composition. (Note that we've yet to go back to see how many of Ben's paintings display orange groves...but, hey, it's tempting!).

So for the entire series, the percentage of paintings with team pictures works out to just under thirteen percent (13%).

Does that mean that Terry Cannon (who selected the paintings to be featured in "Purpose Pitch" has some kind of penchant for team photos? While we can't completely rule that out, there's a more logical explanation available.

A sizable portion of the story that the Reliquary wanted to tell in the particular location (southern California) where this exhibit has been housed dealt with history pertinent to what residents sometimes call the "Southland." Much of that history, it turns out, was best conveyed via the team photos for local, non-professional leagues that flourished during the two decades prior to World War II.

Hence a much higher preponderance of paintings with team photos here than in the series as a whole.

We close out our coverage with--you guessed it--one team photo painting (Gabby's Buckaroos Brand) and one that's not (Black Bucs Brand). These two sum up two of the major subject matter areas that appear in the series--the quirky human interest item (Gabby's) and the historic milestone item (Black Bucs). What gives the series its lasting resonance is its combination of these elements (and several others as well) that provide a virtually infinite variety of perspectives on baseball's deep imprint within American life and culture.

Ben's work is thus a visual analogue to the ongoing efforts of the Baseball Reliquary. They go hand in hand, and in a perfect world, there would be a building in which all of those who own paintings in the Unauthorized History of Baseball series would donate those works to what would also be a gathering place for the programs, documents, and artifacts of the Baseball Reliquary.

While the Reliquary continues to explore the possibility of a permanent home for its collection, it's clear that a longer-term (albeit "utopian") solution along the lines of what's described above would be the optimal solution.

The logistics may be impossible, but let's not forget that other "maverick" organizations have achieved similar/analogous goals. For example, twenty-five years ago, we would have thought it impossible to have the depth of historical play-by-play data that is now available to us, thanks to the efforts of the amazing folks at Retrosheet.

Let's start the ball rolling by finding a way for "Purpose Pitch" to be a traveling, national exhibition. Once that happens, the world of baseball (and the world at large) will realize what it really has on its hands with the Baseball Reliquary and its unique symbiosis with Ben Sakoguchi.

If we build it, they will know...and they will come.

Friday, April 25, 2014


We watched Corey Kluber get polished off by the A's in Oakland in his first start of 2014.

Today (April 24th), facing the perennially enigmatic Royals, Kluber threw a four-hitter in a 5-1 Cleveland victory, striking out eleven. (He looked almost as good as he does in the watercolor--at left--by Dmitry Samarov.)

That's complete game #13 on the year.

And, as David Pinto noted over at Baseball Musings, it adds another 10+ K performance to what is currently the highest percentage of such games since the mid-60s.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


While others squawk about strikeout levels and--get this!--lower batting averages--in the 2014 season's early going (Jonah the K putting the "pander meter" deep into the red, and good ol' Rob Neyer agreeing with everyone, thus ensuring him the early lead in baseball's version of the Walt Whitman Award, given to the skroink who contradicts himself the most times in a season), we will calmly sidestep these silly irrelevancies and hope that you will, too.

For there are more interesting trends to be found as we push toward the 15% mark in the new baseball year. One of these is the percentage of close games (those games decided by 2 runs or less) that we're seeing thus far in 2014.

That percentage is up rather dramatically at the moment. Just over 52% of the games played in '14 have been close games, up from 49% last year, 47% in 2012, and a string of years (from 1998-2006) that were below 45% and which are among the lowest percentages of close games in baseball history (as the chart below depicts).

A higher percentage of close games is inversely correlated with run scoring, so you should expect that whenever close games go up, overall run scoring goes down. Since run scoring in the early part of 2014 is, in fact, essentially unchanged from 2013, it makes one think that we may just be witnessing an early-season aberration in the data. It's likely, then, that the percentage of close games will drop back toward 50% as the season unfolds.

Is baseball more interesting when there are a higher percentage of close games being played? One would certainly think so. But with run scoring in close games being a good bit lower than in non-close games (the data suggest that scoring is suppressed by right around 25%), we have less on-field excitement. Or, should we say, fewer exciting on-field events.

And this is what strikes us as being the true impetus behind the squawking about run scoring levels and strikeouts (one has not changed at all, while the other has gone up). There's a subliminal anxiety in the neo-sabe pundit class that they'll be found out as purveyors of a vision of the game that is two-dimensional. The approach to the game that they've taken condones the idea of "non-events" (or generally unexciting on-field events that don't put the ball in play--such as strikeouts) is now open to scrutiny both in terms of science and aesthetics, and it's beginning to show up in a significantly unfavorable light across the nation's sports pages.

Hence the "homina homina" from the pundits, and the puzzled looks from the theoreticians. The former made the expansive claim that the number of strikeouts don't matter, but plunging run scoring and rising strikeout averages over the past five years seem to be refuting that long, stubbornly-held belief.

And even though the data doesn't support the idea that the latest spike in strikeouts is causing a decrease in run scoring, it's that latent anxiety that the models and theories propped up over the neo-sabe age are less than the sum of their parts that is driving these displays of proto-panic.

John and his Helen (the one who launched a thousand
guitar solos...) in "happier" times.
With all that was solid looking like it just melted into air, we might have to admit that we actually need to engineer some additional extremes into the game. Ballpark shape, rule changes that permit greater variance in possible run scoring (like our perennial favorite, the 190-foot rule), rules that permit pinch-hitters to be used twice in a game--all of this so-called sacrilege might well be the salvation of the game from those who would make it colossally boring.

Except--and Walt Whitman will curl his beard in both directions at once when we say this--those boring  low-scoring close games are actually not boring...they're exciting because nothing happens to such a great extent that the games are fraught with tension...because they're close...because nothing happens.

Uh, yeah. As John Cale once sang (in a frenzy mostly designed to convince himself of the contradictory statements he'd just been making): "Right, mamma. Damn right, mamma."

There's a darned high correlation in the chart at right for the progression of runs scored in close games and the number (percentage) of those games in any given year. You just have to decide where the happy medium resides along the continuum. The answer is more than a little bit elusive, but our best guess is that you want it to be the seasons at the top of the run scoring average that are farthest to the right (thus giving you a higher percentage of close games).

Getting it to work that way, however, is by no means a drop in the bucket. It turns out that the best year for the criteria just discussed would seem to be 1960 (it's the one with 53% close games and about 3.75 runs per team per game in those close games). But it sure looks like an anomaly.

What seems likely, however, in the face of this confusion, is that strikeouts probably won't have anything to do with optimizing this situation. But the "feel" of the game will be affected...and, strangely enough, the former-analysts-turned-pundits are, all of sudden, rather panicked about the "feel' of the game.

Damn right, mamma...


The cake that didn't get eaten before the eggplant ate Chicago...
Now here's a development that would cause Marie Antoinette to lose her head. (Oh, wait...)

The Chicago Cubs just had their Wrigley Field centennial celebration sabotaged. The giant (400 lb.) cake that had been created to commemorate the occasion not only went uneaten, it was discovered in such a degraded condition that it wasn't even considered viable for the Second City's cadre of dumpster divers.

Now, over the years, we've had virtually no love for the Cubs. We might have melted a bit for the Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance squad, the one with Harry Steinfeldt and all those phenomenal pitchers, but the more recent history and those who've made it have left us with a chronic case of freezer burn.

But, for goodness' sake, that's what some dimwit in the Cubs' organization needed to acquire--a freakin' freezer for the Wrigley Field cake. Chalk another one up to that overrated brain trust (Theo and Jed) who are in process of leading the Cubs on an extended errand into the wilderness. The buck--and the cake--stops there.

We think a road trip for the Biotic Baking Brigade is in order, to attend Theo's next press conference and greet his face with the business end of a Moon Pie, all while presenting him with this year's "Mr. Marshmallow Award" (given every year to the biggest heavyweight who is really a lightweight).


Not to be outdone by Johnny Cueto, the Rangers' lefty Martin Perez tossed his second consecutive complete game victory yesterday afternoon in Oakland, as Texas blanked the A's, 3-0.

It was also the second consecutive complete game shutout for Perez, which is the first time for that feat since Cole Hamels did it in consecutive starts on August 7-13, 2012.

Perez, never this dominating previously, now has a scoreless inning streak of 26 innings.

The won-loss record for pitchers with complete games in 2014 now stands at 9-3 (.750).

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"PURPOSE PITCH" 44/45/46/47/48/49/50/51/52: THE GROUP-CLICK OF BEN

As we wind up our blogathon coverage of "Purpose Pitch"--the Baseball Reliquary's tribute to its kindred spirit, Japanese-American artist Ben Sakoguchi and his Unauthorized History of Baseball series--we must note that we've been remiss in quoting from the curator's notes that accompany this singular installation (still on display at the Arcadia Public Library through April 29!).

We're going to remedy that right now, by permitting Reliquary Executive Director Terry Cannon to guide us through nine superbly rendered artworks, all of which embody Ben's eye for history and his abiding love--actually, fixation might be a more accurate term--with the team photo.

We don't know exactly how many of Ben's "orange crate art" paintings feature team photos (or clever variants of same). There are over 200 paintings in the complete series, and we'll just have to spend an evening doing a manual count in order to put this artistic wrinkle into full numerical context.

What we can tell you is that Terry Cannon is on to this feature of Ben's work, and in his last two display cases for the "Purpose Pitch" installation, he's selected what we've taken to calling "Group-Click" with a positive vengeance.

He's also written with a vengeance--in fact, with a definite flair--and his own plain-spoken eloquence is at its most moving in his notes for these eight "group-click" works of Ben:

Union Brand Ball
The Civil War marked the first extensive connection the game made to America's long history of wars, thereby linking baseball, patriotism and the military. During the Civil War, baseball was played both informally and in organized contests by soldiers. The game boosted soldiers' morale, and was responsible for relieving their boredom and healing their homesickness. The game was even played in prison camps, thus allowing prisoners to better endure their captivity.

Some have speculated the North won the war because baseball prepared the soldiers for challenging drills and group cohesion, which wound up paying dividends in the heat of battle. "Union Ball Brand" depicts Union soldiers with baseball bats in their Civil War encampment. The game would ultimately help reunite the torn country when peace brought an end to the fratricidal conflict, thus earning its billing as the "national pastime."

Barefoot Boys of Summer Brand
...reminds us that kids are the true hub of the baseball universe. As children we learned the secrets of breaking in a glove, and we got together with friends and chose sides to play baseball. We studied the backs of bubblegum cards like our lives depended on it. We would go to sleep at night and dream of striking out the side or getting a clutch hit to win a game in the bottom of the ninth.

Baseball was never more fun than in the spring of our lives, and at times it seemed like the only world worth knowing about. The only trouble with baseball is that we all get older.


Remember the Maine Brand
Once baseball became identified in the popular imagination as the national game, it also became a vehicle to sell and export the American dream. At home, baseball has often promoted patriotism and nationalism, while beyond our shores it has bolstered U.S. foreign and military policies.

The painting "Remember the Maine Brand" recalls the sinking of the USS Maine, a Navy ship blown up in Havana, which became a rallying point for revenge and precipitated the Spanish American War of 1898, and the subsequent Philippine War. The ship's baseball team had won the Navy championship, and was scheduled to play Cuba's top ballplayers in a series of exhibitions, before the huge explosion ripped through the ship. All but one member of the baseball team perished.

Patriot Game Brand
With America's entrance into World War I in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson claimed the nation was fighting to "make the world safe for democracy." Major League Baseball became involved in the patriotic war effort from the beginning. Displaying a nationalistic sentiment, American League president Ban Johnson, with "preparedness" as the watchword, issued an official resolution for ballplayers to be trained in military tactics" to get other Americans "to emulate their example."

Players became civilian soldiers, as depicted in the painting "Patriot Game Brand," devoting an hour daily to military instruction, performing military drills before each game, traveling to and from the ballpark in military formation, and attending military training camps after the 1917 World Series. Wherever the U.S. military and flag went, Major League Baseball was eager to follow, presenting itself as crucial to the nation's morale.

Baghdad by the Bay Brand
...we see the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League as they parade through downtown San Francisco on May 16, 1914, on their way to their brand new ballpark in the Richmond district, Ewing Field. Built for $100,000, just eight years after the San Francisco Earthquake, Ewing Field was the city's first fireproof ballpark.

But it was the fog, not fire, that doomed the park. The opening dame drew a large crowd, nearly 18,000 fans, and featured the burial of a box at home plate containing relics of bygone baseball days. The game would eventually be called on account of the fog, a chronic problem which forced the Seals to abandon Ewing Fields after only one year.

Fresno Cubs Brand
All sorts of Californians played amateur and community baseball in the first few decades of the twentieth century--sometimes called the "mixed multitudes," these were Californians of both sexes, and of varied racial, ethnic, and social identities.

The state's African-American, Asian-American, and Mexican-American communities embraced the sport, and found through baseball a way to connect to their pasts, gain wider social acceptance, link to other communities, achieve control of their lives, shown pride in their heritage, and just have fun. The painting "Fresno Cubs Brand" present the first all-black amateur baseball team in Fresno, Calfornia. The 1914 club played at the Fink-Smith Playground.

Debutantes Ball Brand
'The presence of women as spectators at baseball games in the 19th century was encouraged by promoters as a way to bring in added gate receipts and--hopefully--to have a calming effect on the sometimes unruly crowds. 

"If there is any one effort that clubs ought to make more than another to promote the popularity of our game and to ensure its respectability, it is the one to encourage the patronage of the fair sex," wrote the editor of Mayer's Chronicle in 1867. "The presence of an assemblage of ladies purifies the moral atmosphere of a baseball gathering, repressing, as it does, all outbursts of intemperate language which the excitement of a contest so frequently induces."

While many women were content with their role as spectators and moral uplifters, others yearned for the opportunity to try their hand at playing the national pastime. Those who lived out their fantasy often had to endure verbal abuse from those who sought to preserve the status quo of baseball as a masculine domain. The criticisms notwithstanding, countless women pursued their own field of dreams, as depicted in the painting "Debutantes Ball Brand," contributing their unique chapter to baseball's rich heritage.

Los Tomboys Brand
For women players in the postwar Mexican-American communities of southern California, baseball was a way to defy the social mores of their times and make gains in the field of gender equality. "Los Tomboys Brand" documents the Orange Tomboys from the Cypress Street Barrio, who were the regional women's team champions in 1947.

Led by the Cornejo sisters, the Tomboys played 26 games in Orange County and won every one of them. "Nobody liked us because we beat everybody," remarked Lucy Cornejo, one of five sisters who played on the team. "We were rivals to everybody."

House of David Brand
Any discussion of the national pastime's hirsute highlights must include the House of David, the Benton Harbor, Michigan-based religious colony whose barnstorming baseball teams crisscrossed America from World War I through the mid-1950s, playing against all forms of amateur and professional competition. 

The House of David ballplayers caught the nation's attention with their long hair and bears, which were forbidden to be cut or shaved as a code of their religion. Much like the Harlem Globetrotters in basketball, the House of David players were great showmen who delighted crowds with their zany antics and entertaining style of play. They mixed trick plays into games, and many an opposing ballplayer was tagged out with a ball conveniently hidden in a long beard.'

Even a cursory perusal of Ben's imagery for these paintings indicates that he's operating at the pinnacle of his game. Like a musical composer who's mastered the art of variation, Sakoguchi takes the dusty old cliché that is the "team portrait" and creates something both vibrant and uncanny with it. If, as William Carlos Williams says, the pure products of America go crazy, then this is a type of madness worth reveling in. There is something lasting and true in these snapshots of history, of extraordinary common folk resisting adversity, embracing their otherness, and learning to play with extremity as if it were a strange but wondrous musical instrument. There is a noisy joy in life and living here that all of us slogging through the shadowy muck of meta-irony need to recapture.

All of these nine paintings are grand-slam home runs, each hit with two out in the bottom of the ninth, with the home team down three runs. We all rise, collectively, as one, and salute the man who brought us the joyous and unexpected riches of victory.

2014: COMPLETE GAMES #9, #10, #11

Three more complete games last night (actually, it's this night, but we missed the witching hour due to a switching problem). We are now actually ahead of last year's pace: in 2013, the eleventh complete game did not occur until April 26. The projected total of complete games for the season is now at 88.

We'll have to do some more research to determine who was the last person to have two consecutive complete games before Johnny Cueto did it earlier today (that's April 22nd). At the moment we're guessing that it was Roy Halladay.

Meanwhile, the Giants' Madison Bumgarner had one of those "complete game losses," dropping a 2-1 decision to the Rockies in Colorado.

We can more easily research the question of who's had the most complete game losses in a single season. Using data from Forman et fils dating back to 1914, that record appears to be owned by Elmer Myers, who had nineteen (yes, 19!!) complete game losses in 1916. (Myers had a total of 23 losses for the Philadelphia A's that year, who wound up 36-117 for the season, just two years after having been in the World Series.)

Of course, in recent years, those totals have been much lower: last season, Chris Sale, R.A. Dickey, and James Shields led MLB with two complete game losses apiece. Brandon McCarthy had four of 'em in 2011.

Finally, the Rays' David Price joined the CG crew with a 6-3 win over the Twins. Price's three earned runs allowed is the most of any in a complete game thus far. Six of the eleven CGs this season are also shutouts.

[UPDATE: And it's Price who turns out to be the last pitcher to throw consecutive complete games before Cueto. David did it with his starts on 7/7/13 and 7/12/13. Unlike Cueto, however, Price took the loss in one of those starts. We will go back further and look for the last pitcher to win consecutive complete game starts...]

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


With Phat Albert (a nickname only a motherless child could love) hitting the 500 HR level this evening, we need to take a quick (and possibly dirty...) look at just where he might wind up when his career winds down.

Now we're not here to use Bill James' favorite toy (and, yes, we're leaving out the capital letters that Bill has favored when developing the more informal tools in his icebox...better that you were the e.e. cummings of sabermetrics, Bill, than one of those fellows who SHOUTS due to "caps lock-jaw"). We don't want no stinking probabilities.

Better to concoct a number via a collective group-grab, by looking at all of the top homer hitters through age 29 and calculating several "percentage relationships" to get a sense of what these sluggers do in their 30s.

The key "percentage relationship" (watch out now, this may soon become an oh-so-salient term in online dating...) is deceptively simple: it's the number of HRs hit from age 30 as a percentage of total HRs hit.

Just off the top of your heads, kiddies: tell us whom you think hit the most percentage of his HRs from age 30 on? And the least?

Does the highly prolific (read: 500+) HR hitter hit a higher percentage of his HRs from age 30+ than the merely average prolific HR hitter (those who occupy slots 27-100 on the all-time HR list)?

Let's answer the last question first. It looks like the more HRs you hit, the more of them you're likely to hit from age 30 on. The top 25 HR hitters (Albert is #26 at the moment, but we're leaving him out of this for purposes of the calculation...) have hit just a tad more than half their lifetime HRs once they turn 30. (The exact percentage is 50.2%). The hitters in that next echelon (335 to 493 HRs) hit a much smaller percentage of their lifetime HR total from age 30 on. (That exact percentage is 40.9%.)

The hitter with the highest percentage of HRs hit from age 30 on? It's our old friend, the Hall of Fame pariah Rafael Palmeiro, with 73%. Raffy hit 414 of his 569 lifetime HR total from the age of 30 on.

That total is good for third place on the all-time 30+ HR chart. Who's first? Why, Barry Bonds, of course (503). Babe Ruth is a distant second with 430 HRs from age 30 on. Bonds hit 66% of his HRs after turning 30.

Of the 500+ HR hitters, who hit the lowest percentage of his bombs beginning at age 30? It's Eddie Mathews, with only 28%. Jimmie Foxx (29%) and Mickey Mantle (30%).

The aggregate is 44% of the HRs hit by the top 100 HR hitters were hit from age 30 on. So we can say that the relationship is 88% of the HR totals hit through age 29 will he hit in the thirties. The player closest to that model is Frank Robinson, who hit 262 HRs (45%) from age 30 on.

Albert Pujols hit 366 HRs through age 29. Using 88% of that total as the projection, we come up with a total of 324 more HRs over the balance of his career, which would bring his lifetime total to 690. Given his slowdown from ages 30-33, however, we don't expect that he'll come close to that figure: it's more likely to be in the mid 600s.

We'll put the whole list out there for you a bit later in the season.

Monday, April 21, 2014


You probably haven't thought about the connection between the Mandlebrot set and Oscar Gamble's afro, but we're here to tell you that...

...Ben Sakoguchi hasn't either.

But by now you know that he could have, anytime he wanted to.

We are now entering the half-world of pure baseball extremity, where crackpots and visionaries merge in the gloaming that Gabby Hartnett wrought, where improbable products become niche industries that thrive despite all odds, altering surfaces even as they seep into the pores of the half-conscious mind.

Hair Ball Brand brings us one highly singular Shrine of the Eternals inductee (Dock Ellis) and two matter-of-fact masters of "alternative natural apparel" (Oscar Gamble, who is rumored to have once blown a bubble gum bubble that matched the circumference of his hairdo; and Johnny Damon, who should have donated his hair to the Jimmy Fund when he cut it all off after abandoning Boston for New York).

Did Oscar start hitting homers when he grew that Afro? Possibly, but the real reason might have been his switch to the American League. He really liked hitting in Yankee Stadium (.969 OPS). Gamble was arguably the last great platoon superstar to play for the Bronx Bombers. Interestingly, he also hit like a madman when he played against the Yankees (.992 OPS).

By contrast, Johnny Damon simply had the Caveman look (aided immeasurably by those Geico® commercials that first aired during his tenure with the Red Sox). He was a much more orthodox ballplayer than Gamble, despite the freewheeling image. He could hit and field and run, with his only vice being his ongoing delusion that if he amassed 3000 hits, he'd wind up in the Hall of Fame. He wound up 231 hits shy of that mark, and he's likely more of a lugnut than a Cooperstown plaque recipient.

Perhaps Johnny would have found a way to get over the hump had he only been given the opportunity to "take the cure." You know, that all-over rejuvenation on display in Mudville Brand. While also bringing us in contact with Shrine inductee Jim (Mudcat) Grant, Ben's painting celebrates the many uses of mud in the little world of baseball.

And that means Lena Blackburne's mysterious concoction, the so-called "secret sauce" of baseball, where the sheen of the ball is smoothed and molded via the "goop" from Blackburne's personal swamp.   Nearly three-quarters of a century later, this concoction from the Jersey side of the Delaware River is still the only game in town for MLB.

So while Mighty Casey may have brought natural air conditioning to Mudville with his epic whiff, there's joy to found in the land of slop after all. After all--much more so than hope, mud springs eternal.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Henderson Alvarez, who rolled out his third lifetime CG--all of them shutouts, one a no-hitter (on the final day of the '13 season)--to give us a total of eight thus far in '14, clearly likes his new home ballpark a good bit more than his previous one.

Alvarez' lifetime ERA in Toronto's Rogers Center (where he toiled from 2011-12) is 4.68, while his ERA at Marlins Park in Miami (eleven GS beginning last year) is now at 3.47. 

His CG today was a two-hitter against the Seattle Mariners. Alvarez was particularly efficient, as is increasingly the case in CGs during our pitch count-conscious age: he threw only 90 pitches.

It's clear from his splits data that he's going to have to find a way to get left-handed batters out if he's going to be a successful starter in the big leagues. 


It's rare for Ben Sakoguchi to insert an "asynchronous" popular culture reference into his baseball paintings. (If you're just joining us, these are also known as The Unauthorized History of Baseball and there are fifty-four of them currently on display in the Baseball Reliquary's "Purpose Pitch" exhibition--through April 29--at the Arcadia Public Library).

By "asynchronous," we mean a reference that is significantly displaced from the time frame of the event being depicted, or from the life and times of the subject. Usually these are rather tightly aligned, but here, in Man in Black Brand, Ben ties pioneering African-American umpire Emmett Ashford (whose "historical moment" occurred in the mid-1960s) with a fanciful, post-integration comedy-action film franchise (Men in Black) starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

Ben is doubly playful here. "Man in Black" refers both to the hue of Mr. Ashford's skin and to the color of his uniform.

Ben also captures the flamboyant nature of Mr. Ashford's approach to his work, which was occasionally derided in the press.

Some fifty years hence, however, we only remember his pioneering spirit and his enthusiastic exuberance for his chosen line of work.

Ben matches that exuberance with his own flamboyant use of color, a dynamic sense of composition, and an eye-catching use of the airbrush.

Place name check: Ben continues to delight in the arcane and forgotten locations in California. Black Diamond is a community that no longer exists, being the original name for the town in the northern portion of the East Bay that is now called Pittsburg. Its only remnant, as you'll see if you visit the Facebook page devoted to it, is one of the town's main thoroughfares, which is named Black Diamond Blvd.

Friday, April 18, 2014


It occurred tonight (4/18), in the game between the Rangers and the White Sox, a 12-0 rout for Texas, behind the three-hit pitching of lefty Martin Perez.

Perez is off to a terrific start: he's now 3-0, with a 1.86 ERA. He's not going to be nearly that good over the course of a full season, but he is likely to be a useful pitcher for the Rangers.


Keep in mind that the Baseball Reliquary "brain trust" (Terry Cannon and Albert "Buddy" Kilchesty) are as savvy about aesthetics as they are about history.

That's one reason why the works on display for "Purpose Pitch," their special exhibition of selected works from Ben Sakoguchi's Unauthorized History of Baseball series (now winding down its run at the Arcadia Public Library) blend these two attributes.

Which explains why these three larger-than-life compositions have been included in the series.

The deep roots of pre-integration African-American baseball are exemplified here--and the variations in personality amongst the individuals who represent the spirit of those times.

There is freewheeling, self-propagating legend in Satchel Paige. Ben captures the languid lankiness of Paige, that self-possessed meta-meditativeness which "littery men" (Mark Twain again, always looking askance at those who won't rise up from the cavilries of journalism like to call "preternatural cool."

Ben blurs it, just enough to leach out the photo-realism, but he doesn't soften the image by doing so. Satch looks tired, resigned, but also determined and proud.

There is the communitarian element in the African-American subculture of those times, as shown in the circle of youth paying rapt attention to Josh Gibson--the centerpiece of the Homestead Grays, the New York Yankees of the Negro Leagues.

Josh looks weathered (it's the shadowing effect that Ben employs...) but he is bringing hope and pride to young boys who will soon be given a chance that never came his way--an opportunity (however cloaked in difficulty) to play major league baseball.

And that brings us, once again, to Jackie Robinson. (Just a few days ago, MLB continued its tradition of honoring Jackie's entry into the majors with a day where all players wear his #42--it's one of the few unalloyed successes in the Bud Selig era.)

You could call this one "the three stages of Jackie." There's the junior college basketball star; the electrifying running back for UCLA; and the established superstar on the most successful franchise in the National League during the 1950s.

We wouldn't be surprised to discover that this painting of Jackie is Terry Cannon's favorite. It's bold, direct, and simple. It covers a great deal of ground in a minimum amount of time. The expression on Jackie's face is one of deep but vigilant pride, a self-realization captured in the glint of an eye, revealing to us that  the man knows he embodies adversity, extremity and otherness all at once, each force coursing through both his mind and his bloodstream in an equal but oscillating measure.

It shows how a man can reflect on the forces in his life that propel him toward his destiny.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

2014: COMPLETE GAMES #5, 6

Ah, they are coming fast and furious now, and it serves us right, now, doesn't it, for mouthing off about getting the MLB CG total under a hundred.

Today we had a complete game shutout from Adam Wainwright (who led the NL with five complete games in 2013) and one of those complete game losses from the Braves' young lefty, Alex Wood (his first career CG). The Braves lost to the Phillies, 1-0, but Philadelphia starter A. J. Burnett was relieved after throwing seven scoreless innings.

What we can tell you here is that the current record for the least number of complete games in a season was set in 2007, when starters had just 112 CGs. Last year, starters made a run at it, but wound up with a total of 124.

At this point in the season, the current pace for CGs, with this little two day flurry, is now up to just a little over 64.


Let's just submit that this odd phrase "homeopathic social healing" is what history is supposed to be, but  often isn't. When it is that, however, it creates changes that are momentous and irreversible. And in their linked vision of baseball and American history, the Baseball Reliquary and Ben Sakoguchi demonstrate a deep understanding of that concept, even if they might not articulate it as such.

There is a strong linkage between the forces of progressive social policy and the changes in baseball that are now mostly taken for granted--integration and free agency. These are mostly treated as separate issues, but in the flow of history as a set of self-correcting actions, we can see that the achievement of one leads inexorably to the achievement of the other.

The voting membership of the Baseball Reliquary had a strong sense of this in 1999 when it inducted Curt Flood as one of the first three members of its Shrine of the Eternals. They recognized Flood's pivotal contribution to what would change the "landscape of labor" in the game forever.

A few years later, they were guided by the Reliquary brain trust (Terry Cannon and Albert "Buddy" Kilchesty) to examine the antecedents of that effort, and to honor the efforts of individuals whose ceaseless efforts to publicize the lingering social problems that baseball continued to support (segregation and racism) were instrumental in bringing pressure on those inside the game to create a "home remedy" for a problem that was much wider and more socially pervasive.

Ironically, one of the key individuals championing human rights, integration, and the breakdown of centuries of prejudice was a "card-carrying" Communist--journalist Lester Rodney. (There are many ironies about Communism and the American imagination; let's just leave it at this for now.)

Rodney's fiery prose reached beyond its own obscure setting in the Daily Worker and was soon joined by a chorus of voices--a "homeopathic social cure" for an issue that had proved intractable since the days of Reconstruction. As a result, Jackie Robinson could state that "baseball has done it"--it had done something that politicians and philosophers, judges and juries, social workers and businessmen had been unable to do. The iron-clad barriers of race began to be torn down.

But even as that process began to take hold, there was still the "plantation" aspect of the business of baseball, with its reserve clause and regressive pay scale. It would take another twenty years after baseball's integration to cement in place a truly effective players' union, led by Marvin Miller.

Over the course of ten years, Miller employed a series of carefully structured battering-ram techniques to remove the final elements of the "stacked deck" approach to baseball labor relations. Curt Flood was the pioneer of that effort, essentially sacrificing the last 4-6 years of an accomplished major league career in order to create a test case for enhanced workers' rights.

While Flood was a more flawed choice for such a role than had been the case with Jackie Robinson a quarter-century earlier, the pathos that emerged from his troubled effort to carry the weight of such a crusade on his shoulders was not lost upon his fellow union members. They responded by calling the first actual work stoppage in 1972, and increased the pressure on "the Lords." Miller and his team of legal strategists redoubled their efforts, and the momentum of "homeopathic social healing" found an outlet in the courts a few years later, resulting in the labor structure we have today (even though it continues to be under siege, either subtly or not-so-subtly, from the institutional managers of what Leonard Koppett called Baseball As Big Business).

As is often the case, the Reliquary voters were able to separate wheat from chaff, and all three of these individuals--Flood, Rodney, and Miller--are now inducted in the Shrine of the Eternals. The direction that path took--from Flood to Rodney to Robinson to Miller--is a revealing example of how the patterns of history reverberate in ways that expose linkages between events that might otherwise not become apparent. That's the value in "homeopathic social healing," the type of history (and social change) that comes from people, not institutions.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

2014: COMPLETE GAMES #2, 3, 4

We had three complete games today (April 16). That's the first time since last September 6th, when Scott Feldman (Orioles), Patrick Corbin (D-backs) and Yusmeiro Petit (Giants) went the distance in their games. (Of these three, only Feldman is in a starting rotation this year: Petit has been shifted to the bullpen; Corbin had Tommy John surgery and won't be back until 2015).

Two of the three complete games today came in the same game (between the Braves and Phillies: Atlanta won the game, 1-0, behind Julio Teheran). Cliff Lee went all the way in a losing cause. Last July 13 the Rockies and the Dodgers played a 1-0 game;  Tyler Chatwood and Zack Greinke hooked up in a CG duel, with Greinke getting the win.

The other complete game today belongs to the Reds' Johnny Cueto, who pitched a gem against the Pirates, allowing just three hits and striking out 12.

All in all, pitchers who threw complete games in 2013 had a combined 96-28 record. That's a .774 WPCT.

We had three complete games on the same day during 2013 on: September 6, July 13, July 9.

We had three complete games on the same day during 2012 on: August 27, August 4, July 31, June 25, June 20, June 3, April 21.

We last had four complete games on a single day on June 15, 2011 (Livan Hernandez, Carl Pavano, Josh Beckett, Gavin Floyd).

Won-loss records for complete games in 2011: 130-43 (.751). In 2012: 107-21 (.835). In 2010: 119-47 (.716).

We still think we'll be lucky to get to 100 complete games in 2014. The watch is on...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Sometimes there are simply no words necessary to describe artistic output or achievement.

That would certainly be the case with this pair of Ben Sakoguchi "orange crate art" paintings, two of his very greatest in the Unauthorized History of Baseball series.

The level of inspiration reaches Olympian heights here. And there's really no mystery why that's the case.

Ben simply is at his best when he is dealing with controversy. The hotter it is in the kitchen, the better he likes it.

And it's no coincidence that the two subjects here, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose, have managed to occupy the most controversial, most infamous, and most timelessly unresolvable niches in baseball history.

They will likely forever be on the outside looking in with respect to baseball's mainstream meritocracy, as represented by the Hall of Fame. It's a virtual certainty that their twinned status as the game's accursed will make it impossible for either to be "rehabilitated" without the other one being granted the same reprieve from eternal judgement.

And, given that, they will remain in that special limbo reserved for players whose on-field greatness is more than necessary for enshrinement, but whose lapses in judgment were so egregious that they cannot be countenanced even in an honorarium with racists, sociopaths, and whitewashed cheaters.

The Baseball Reliquary's voters, however, are free to make a meta-commentary on this painted-into-a-corner circumstance. They don't have to condone what Jackson and Rose did, they only have to put it into a different historical context.

They can say that these two deeply controversial characters, who possess differing amounts and types of pathos with respect to the situation in which they find themselves, are deserving of recognition in spite of (and possibly even because) their infamy.

That argument may not convince the moral purists. But an anti-institution is free to prick the bubble of overstuffed morality, and when the voters for the Shrine of the Eternals were given their opportunity to weigh in on the cases of Shoeless Joe and Charlie Hustle, they wasted no time in enshrining these two outlaws.

For Ben Sakoguchi, it was an opportunity to take narrative and composition to levels beyond the merely indelible. Shoeless Joe is captured in the burnished, wistful colors of the past, as a figure of legend. The arc of Pete Rose's story and his innate aggression is on display in what might be Ben's wittiest and most caustic juxtaposition of images.

It will soon be twenty-five years and counting for Rose, and shortly thereafter, an entire century for Jackson: their exile and disgrace is one of the game's most public and problematic signposts. The Reliquary voters (and Ben Sakoguchi) have doubled down on the proposition that it will remain just this way for--if not forever, then for a long, long time.

Which means that the power and pugnacious poignancy of these works is unlikely to fade anytime soon.

Monday, April 14, 2014


[We have not mentioned it for awhile, so let's do so quickly here. This series of entries celebrates the landmark exhibition of a very special symbiosis that exists between Japanese-American artist Ben Sakoguchi and "anti-institution for all seasons" The Baseball Reliquary. It's entitled (as our headline says...) "Purpose Pitch" and it's showing at the Arcadia Public Library through April 29.]

With the next two "orange crate art" paintings taken from Ben's Unauthorized History of Baseball series, we enter into one of the game's oddest paradoxes. While baseball has become increasingly fascinated with home runs (actually, besotted would be the more accurate word...), there has been a problem with any one individual hitting too many of them in a single season.

This first manifested itself in 1961, when Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle made the first serious run at Babe Ruth's single-season home run record.

It was a two-part problem. First, there was the fact that Babe's record was a round number (60). People go ga-ga over round numbers, and the idea that a round number would no longer represent the pinnacle of power in baseball was more than distressing--it was downright un-American.

Second, 1961 was an expansion year in the American League, and eight additional games were placed on the schedule to accommodate the new ten-team league. Commissioner Ford Frick, fully in thrall of Problem #1, created Problem #2 by issuing an edict that Ruth's record could be official broken only if HR #61 came within the old 154-game schedule.

Otherwise, there would need to be an asterisk (*) placed by anyone who exceeded 60 homers.

And, of course, Roger Maris managed to hit 61 homers that year, but it took him until game 162; and, as Ben so forcefully notes, he was given a bushel's worth of asterisks from the Lords of Baseball (and many of the serfs as well).

After that, the Lords really decided that they just didn't want anyone to get too close to that particular record again. They adjusted the strike zone in 1963; they pressed for uniform ballpark dimensions that eliminated most of the short porches; they quite probably fiddled with the baseball.

The result was that only three batters managed to hit 50+ homers in a season for the next thirty-three years (Willie Mays, 1965; George Foster, 1977; Cecil Fielder, 1990).

That changed in 1995, when Albert Belle hit 50 in a season shortened by the belated strike settlement. Offense had taken an sudden swing upward in 1993-94, and Belle's season started a cacophony of dingers.

In the next twelve years, there were twenty-two (22) player-seasons in which 50+ homers were hit, including six instances where both Ruth and Maris' totals were exceeded.

While this was exhilarating at the time (the 1998 race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa was a deliriously souped-up "do-over" of the 1961 Maris-Mantle assault on Ruth), the bloom seemed to wither on the vine when Barry Bonds came along in 2001 and shattered McGwire's new "round number" record (70) with a figure that was not only not round, it wasn't even divisible (!).

There are times when we figure that it was the irretrievable loss of a "round number" home run record that launched the steroids backlash. Round numbers are just not something to mess with, and the last ten years have seen a campaign of moralizing that makes the Ladies' Temperance Society look like just what it was--a goddam tea party. (And let's not tread further down that analogy, OK??)

Hence the three reviled "amigos" in Ben's cleverly named Asteroid Brand. (And the cleverness extends to the carefully symmetrical logo design between this painting and its companion, where Maris, the other maudit masher, is given his dollop of sympathy.) All of these guys have had some form of cosmic slop visited upon them because they did something just a bit too well--and the glow of the stars has become tainted and unnatural as a result.

But what Ben is telling us is that when we look to the sky in search of our demons, we're not going to find these guys depicted up there, in those pointy, asterisk-like stars. Once we figure that out, we will forgive these guys our trespasses--and new shapes will grace the sky as a result. Roger Maris is in the Shrine of the Eternals, and rightfully so; if the guardians at baseball's barbarous gate dawdle too long in the case of his other "amigos," it might just come to pass that Barry, Sammy and Mac will be twinkling in the Reliquary's night sky.

And there would be absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


It's important to remember that the Baseball Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals has a literary component (or, as Mark Twain would say: a lot of "littery men" tend to abound there). Among the eclectic and eccentric folk that populate that "Hall of Fame for the rest of us" are folk who possess(ed) a good deal of flair with the pen.

The first of these "littery men" to make the cut into the Shrine is one whom we don't often associate with the written word, but whose resume as baseball's most maverick owner includes an absolute mastery of wordplay.

That would be Bill Veeck (or, more accurately, Bill Veeck, Jr.), who survived the partial loss of a leg with the same élan with which he piloted the lowly St. Louis Browns. As owner of the floundering franchise during its last (and darkest) hours (1951-53), Veeck (who reminded us how to pronounce his name by citing the unforgettable phrase "as in wreck"...) created a series of marketing innovations that did more than push the envelope--it set the whole stack of mail on fire.

Ben Sakgouchi knows an original when he sees one, and he wastes no time in giving us a panorama of Veeck's "greatest hits." (He is kind enough, however, to leave out "Disco Demolition Night," which brought out more venom on the south side of Chicago than anyone could have expected, spiraling into baseball's version of Altamont--bikers and disco records made for downright incendiary bedfellows.)

It's best to capture Veeck in his overall element--as huckster extraordinaire, and as one of baseball's genuine wits and most assiduous forward-thinkers. Those two traits did not often mesh in the little world of baseball biz-ness, as magisterial biographer Paul Dickson points out on more than one occasion.

While Dickson's bio is highly recommended, it's better to meet Veeck (like Twain) in his own voice. Thanks to the great and all-too-forgotten sportswriter Ed Linn, you can do that to your heart's content in the all-time classic Veeck (as in Wreck), still firmly in the top ten of books about baseball. Linn honed Veeck's natural eloquence into incandescent prose, and we suspect that it's largely on the basis of the book that the original Reliquary voting group decisively made Veeck a charter member in the Shrine of the Eternals.

The other thing that's eternal, of course, is hope; and there is hope on the south side of Chicago that, one of these days, the name of Veeck might return to the owner's slot on the team's masthead. That's because Veeck's grandson, William "Night Train" Veeck, now 27 years of age, is currently ensconced in the White Sox front office. This is one case where we hope that history will actually find a way to repeat itself.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Well, that didn't take long. Andrew Cashner, riding what is a brief but spectacular run of ace-level pitching, tossed a complete game, one-hit shutout last night in San Diego. The Detroit Tigers were helpless virtually from the first pitch, managing only a bloop single (Rajai Davis in the sixth inning).

That's the first of what will likely be around a hundred or so for the 2014 season. Right now, however, we're more interested in Cashner, who suddenly seems poised to break out as a major force for the Padres.

A first round pick by the Cubs in 2008, Cashner was sent to San Diego in 2012 by Chicago's still lightly-dusted Gold Dust Twins (Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer) so that they could consummate their bromance with Anthony Rizzo (the big, hulking first baseman who'd become much more than a sixth-round draft choice to both men while they were exiled BFF's).

Rizzo looks to be a middling major-league first baseman, but Cashner, after having pitched through a series of injuries (including a freak hunting accident--Cashner, from Conroe, TX, ranks high in the "good ole boy" quotient), has emerged in his last eight starts (since last August 25) as a certifiably scary varmint (0.92 ERA).

As always, QMAX (short for Ye Olde "Quality Matrix") gives us a mess of useful detail. Since throwing his first "1S" start (August 25, 2013, against--appropriately enough--the Cubs), Cashner has thrown five more "top hit prevention" starts (games in the 1S or 2S region of the QMAX chart). His raw QMAX averages over his last eight starts: 2.25 S/2.13 C/4.38 T.

That's Koufax-Gibson-Maddux-Pedro territory, assuming (and yes, it's a big assumption...) that it can go on for an entire season.

It looks like Cashner got sent to the right place for potential hitter domination. He's showing a marked tendency to thrive in Petco Park, which favors pitchers anyway. In 2013-14, he's got a 1.96 ERA at home (QMAX: 2.71/2.57/5.38) as opposed to 3.80 on the road (QMAX: 4.13/2.67/6.80). In his last five starts at home, his ERA is 0.50.

Of course, it's too soon to take any of this to the bank, but there's a distinct possibility that we are seeing the emergence of a superstar, right here, right now. If so, the Padres can send flowers to Theo and Jed in thanks for their Anthony Rizzo man-crush.

Friday, April 11, 2014


Buzzy the fly (who knows how to carpet-bomb an email account better than any measly two-eyed hacker) sent us a strange but interesting note passed between several well-known (but who-shall-remain-semi-nameless) muckety-mucks in MLB after the galvanizing game between the Red Sox and Yankees last night:

Gotta hand it to Buzzy: his ability to transmit and receive while flying such elaborately evasive routes (both in real time and in cyberspace...) is nothing short of astonishing.

So what about it? Spelling errors aside (and believe us when we tell you that this is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to such matters...grammar and syntax? Ha!), there's something bracing in the idea that the Yankees and Red Sox would face off more times during the regular season.

What else would serve the high-parochial East Coast shoulder-chipness now that El Mamon (the notorious porn ring that had locked up the Internet sex trade from south Philly to the Hamptons...) has been given its walking papers? After all, we are not competing for people's hearts and minds any more, now, are we? No, we grind out dollars these days by going for the groin...

So, thus. How to get a bunch more games between the dirty Yanks and the filthy Sox? Simple. Exempt 'em from interleague play, with the exception of one (1) home-on-home rivalry. For the Yanks, it would  be the Mets. For the Red Sox, you could (as some have been known to say, under a particular form of duress...) "rotate."

This gets you fourteen (14) more games between the gilded Gold Dust Twins of the Grand Old Game. A baker's dozen (plus a drummer) for the type of Grand Guignol that makes cable stations and their ratings simply explode. (We'll leave the "squealing with orgasmic delight" to those who measure their lives by the OMG-meter.)

And after last night's game, in which Michael Pineda created a stir of passion built around a series of semi-pornographic images of a sticky substance (purported to be pine tar) exuding from his pitching hand--OMG, thank the Lord that it wasn't visible on any other appendage!!--it's clear that when it comes to the Yanks and the Sox, there's no such thing as too much foreplay.

Yep, that's right...they have a
Bobble-Head™ for everything...
Pineda, the embattled young righty whose career has been on hold for two years after arriving in NYC in exchange for Jesus (Montero, that is...not the crazy bowler in The Big Lebowski), looked great last night--if you could keep your prurient eyes off his pitching hand, that is. Finally, someone apparently prevailed upon him to wash that hand, and that was good for a couple of innings worth of additional blather, during which time he became somewhat more hittable.

We'd like to ruminate a bit more on why pine tar is such a lurid topic...on how it has, rather improbably, taken hold of the prurient imagination in baseball over rival substances with so much seemingly greater potential for this role (such as K-Y jelly), but it will probably lead only to other random conundra such as: beta vs. VHS, J-Lo vs. Christina, E. Howard Hunt vs. G. Gordon Liddy, ex-Lax™ vs. high colonics (just to return to the original "region of inquiry"). The mind is alternately a swamp and a mine field, and neither a candy mint nor a breath mint will come close to restoring it to anything remotely resembling freshness.

But let's return to the ostensible subject of that email, shall we? Purists (assuming they haven't already been rounded up and stashed inside a Zip-Lock® compound somewhere...) will argue that such an expanded rivalry will fatally unbalance the schedule. Our reply to that is that they obviously haven't taken a good look at the schedule lately. But the good news is that by dispersing interleague play across the entire schedule, it becomes easier to simply toss in extra "Gold Dust Twin" games like so many additional croutons in a salad.

So--32 games? Hell, why not. Just imagine the scandal if, in one of those expansive years, one of these teams just goes bonkers on the other one and runs up a 26-6 in-season record. Since it is now officially a world where size matters, such an epic performance would become the stuff of instant legend, and would allow the high-parochials to amuse themselves to death at each other's expense.

Perhaps this--along with those metal detectors--can be the last, loopy legacy of Budzilla's reign of berserkitude over beisbol.

Though Buzzy insists that he'll soon turn up definitive evidence that the Pooh-bah of Piffle™ is the kingpin in a holding company that has locked up the entire supply of pine tar known to man. (All the better to grease a slippery slope, no doubt.) Let's all send Bud a copy of Monopoly® as his retirement gift, shall we??