KC: Don’t give in to Scott Boras

Well, with the Royals having been all but mathematically eliminated from contention by Memorial Day–that’s what happens when you forget how to field, pitch, and hit, and aren’t fast enough to steal any bases–it looks like they’ll soon be disassembling the team. And the first to go out the door will be Carlos Beltran.

He shouldn’t be.Beltran is possibly the most underrated player in baseball. He’s a classic five-tool player, in that he makes spectacular catches, has a great throwing arm, can steal bases, hit home runs, and hit for average. For the past four years or so he’s been one of the most exciting players in baseball, but because he’s played in Kansas City, even a lot of Kansas Citians don’t know it.

Trouble is, Beltran is represented by Scott Boras, who is a leading candidate, along with George Steinbrenner, Bud Selig, and Donald Fehr, to do the most to ruin the game of baseball. I think the nicest thing I’ve ever heard Boras called was "a one-man wrecking ball." Hey, none of those words will get you fined by the FCC…

Boras gets called lots of colorful things because Boras is a master at extracting every red cent out of you. Boras gets seven-figure salaries for pitchers who can’t pitch and position players who can’t hit or field routinely. And if you happen to be any good at all, Boras will get you an eight-figure salary.

How’d World Series MVP Ivan Rodriguez end up playing for the Detroit Tigers, a team that lost 119 games last year? Easy. They were the only team willing to pay the salary Boras demanded.

So, back to Beltran. Scott Boras’ job now, the way he sees it, is to present Beltran as the best player in baseball. Or at the very least, twice as good as anyone else available. And as we all know, if you’re twice as good as someone else who plays baseball, you should make at least four times as much money.

Scott Boras is going to try to get Beltran $25 million a year. And if he can’t get it, he’ll take the best offer on the table, which needless to say probably won’t be the $9 million the Royals are paying Beltran now.

So the Royals, desperate to get more than nothing for the best player they’ve developed since George Brett, are shopping Beltran. The only thing is, how many teams are willing to give you anything in exchange for a Scott Boras client, who’s going to walk at the end of the season?

The Yankees will, but the Yankees don’t have anything the Royals want or need. They’ve depleted all of it trading for less-talented players for their pennant drives the last few years. The Royals and Yankees discussed an even-up trade of Beltran for Alfonso Soriano during the offseason, but then the Yankees traded Soriano for Alex Rodriguez.

Seeing as nobody else is likely to have an Alfonso Soriano-caliber player at an Alfonso Soriano price to offer, the Royals’ best bet is to keep Beltran around and let him give them some highlight reel exposure. The Royals’ pitchers give him plenty of chances to chase down long fly balls.

The reason for this is simple: When a free agent the quality of Beltran departs, you don’t get nothing. You get a draft pick. In the case of Beltran, you’re virtually assured of getting the team’s first-round draft pick.

When you’re a small-market team, drafting is just about your only hope for being able to find and afford another player like Beltran.

This year, Selig outshines even Steinbrenner

Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent. –Proverbs 17:28
Bud Selig has once again opened his mouth and is calling the Minnesota Twins, despite their raging success this year–and not-so-shabby last year–a candidate for contraction.

Translation: Twins owner Carl Pohlad loaned me money a few years ago, even though it was against baseball’s rules, but that’s OK because I enforce the rules, and now he can sell the team to the rest of the owners and I can make them pay more money than he could get by selling the team outright, so I’m going to do him that favor, no matter how bad it makes baseball look.

They talked during the All-Star Game about how Bud Selig once sold Joe Torre a car. That’s appropriate, because Selig is still spewing as much crap as a used-car salesman and he doesn’t know where to stop.

I really don’t understand is why Selig, in this era of corporate scandal that destroyed Enron and WorldCom and Martha Stewart and now threatens the AOL Time Warner empire, is willing to do anything that has even the most remote appearance of corruption. But maybe Selig’s like a 16-year-old with a red Lamborghini, an attractive girl riding shotgun, and a fifth of whiskey. The worst possible outcome always happens to the other guy, right?

And the ironic thing is that in 1995, Carl Pohlad’s company loaned Bud Selig money, because Bud Selig’s Milwaukee Brewers needed money.

Hmm. The Brewers ran out of money. The Brewers’ owner went to the Twins’ owner for money. Interesting.

The Brewers last went to the World Series in 1982. They lost in seven games. The Twins went to the big show in 1987 and won. They went again in 1991. They won. In 2001, the Twins went 85-77 and finished second in their division and even finished second in the wild-card race. The Brewers finished 68-94 and did what they almost always seem to do best: prop the Cubs up in the standings.

I know of a team in the northern midwest that seems like an excellent candidate for contraction. And that team would be:

The Milwaukee Brewers.

Leave the Twins alone.

But don’t get me wrong. Selig isn’t a complete waste. Selig is doing an outstanding job of frustrating George Steinbrenner. You see, before Selig became the most hated man in baseball, Steinbrenner had been the undisputed champion, for about 30 years. But don’t get me wrong. Steinbrenner’s having a great year. Why, last week he accused Major League Baseball of conspiring against him. He wanted superstar outfielder Cliff Floyd. Floyd went from Florida to Montreal to Steinbrenner’s archrival, the Boston Red Sox. Now it’s conspiracy.

That’s the way Steinbrenner thinks. A few years ago, George Brett had dinner with George Steinbrenner. Back in Brett’s heyday, the Yankees and Brett’s Kansas City Royals were big rivals. They met in the playoffs in 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1980. The Yankees won three of four years. At some point in their conversation, Brett noticed his view of Steinbrenner’s face was blocked by a menu, so Brett moved it. Steinbrenner put it back. “I can’t stand looking at you,” Steinbrenner said.

“Why?” Brett asked.

“You beat us too many times in the playoffs,” Steinbrenner said.

Brett asked if beating the Yankees once counted as “too many times.” Steinbrenner said yes.

Now you know why I rooted for the buy-a-championship Arizona Diamondbacks in the World Series last year. Yeah, I wanted the Cardinals to go. But I wanted Steinbrenner to not get what he wanted.

But Steinbrenner’s not just an immature little kid who’s not willing to share his toys. Two weeks ago, Roger Clemens was making a rehab start at Class A Tampa. The home-plate umpire was–horror of horrors–a woman! Well, Steinbrenner was horrified. They were mishandling his pitcher.

Earth to Steinbrenner: A rehab start is about throwing pitches to real-live batters to see a few things. First and foremost, does it hurt? Second, can you throw seven innings? Third, does it hurt?

Earth to Steinbrenner, again: Gender has nothing to do with the ability to see, to know the rules, and call balls and strikes.

Earth to Steinbrenner: The male umpires who call balls and strikes in the major leagues seem to have never read the rulebook, because they never call a strike above the belt. So if your theory that women don’t call balls and strikes the way men do happens to be true, having a woman behind the plate was probably a very good thing, and I eagerly await the day when we see women umps in the Big Leauges.

Then Steinbrenner said Ms. Cortesia should go back to umpiring Little League. “She wasn’t bad, but she wasn’t that good,” he said.

Clemens’ assesment: She did great.

So tell me who’s a better judge of an umpire’s ability: a loud, rude, obnoxious baseball owner, or a 40-year-old pitcher with 18 years’ experience in the major leagues?

Yep, Steinbrenner’s been in rare form these past couple of months. But he’s been eclipsed by Bud Selig. Pete Rose and Don Fehr are back and spewing as much garbage as ever, as well, and Ted Williams’ kids are doing their best to make everyone forget their dad’s Hall of Fame career. And Reds GM Jim Bowden made the mistake of invoking the memory of Sept. 11 when talking about a possible player’s strike. (He was wrong, of course. Sept. 11 destroyed two towers, but it didn’t destroy New York and it didn’t destroy America. A strike could destroy baseball.)

Yes, they’re all valiant attempts to look stupid. They’ve even managed to drown out baseball’s one-man wrecking crew, player agent Scott Boras. But none of them can hold a candle to Bud Selig.

It’s kind of like 1941. Joe DiMaggio had a great year in 1941. So great, he even won the MVP that year. But nobody remembers that anymore, because 1941 was the year Ted Williams batted .406. DiMaggio was the better overall player, and DiMaggio was the far bigger celebrity, and DiMaggio handled the limelight a lot better. But 1941 was Ted Williams’ year. Nothing could eclipse him. Not Luke Appling. Not Jimmie Foxx. Not even The Great DiMaggio.

2002 is Bud Selig’s year. Steinbrenner and Rose and Fehr and the rest of baseball’s repulsive bunch will be remembered for a lot of things, but saying the most stupid things in 2002 won’t be one of them.

Another All-Star Flub

I remember when the All-Star Game actually mattered.
Well, it didn’t matter–it was still a game that didn’t count, but the guys who showed up, they showed up to play. There was a lot of pride at stake. My first All-Star memory was the 1983 game. The American League hadn’t won a game in years. Then the California Angels’ Fred Lynn came up with the bases loaded, smacked one out of the park for the first-ever All-Star grand slam, and carried the AL to victory.

These days, the only purpose the All-Star Game serves is to give Baseball Commissionerwannabe Bud Selig another opportunity to make a fool of himself. Read more

A kids’ game

The Philadelphia Phillies have one of the brightest futures in the National League. Sure, the Mets and the Braves grab all the attention. But look at them. They’re old. The Mets have Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar and Mike Piazza, and all of them are probably still in their prime, but they only have a couple more years of prime left. The Braves have Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux and Gary Sheffield, but that’s indicative of the same problem.
The Phillies are loaded with young stars. The Phillies once had a better third baseman than Scott Rolen. His name was Mike Schmidt. I can only think of two third basemen in the history of the game who deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Schmidt. In about 15 years, Rolen looks to join them. And the Phillies have a great young catcher in Mike Lieberthal and a great young outfield in Doug Glanville and and Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu. They also have one of the best young shortstops in the game in Jimmy Rollins.

The Phillies’ payroll is going to be $60 million this year. And Rolen, surrounded by these young stars, questions the Phillies’ ability or commitment to win. At the end of the year, he’s out of there.

The Phillies’ strategy should be really simple. Let these young stars get a little better, sign them to the longest-term contracts they’ll take, and play as hard as possible for two years, knowing they’ll probably finish in third place with a winning record, all the while waiting for the Mets and Braves to fall over. If everything were to stay the same, in three years the Phillies would no longer be the third-best team in their division. They’d cruise right past the gray-headed Mets and Braves.

But nobody really knows what the Phillies are going to do. In the past, when they’ve developed minor stars, they’ve frequently traded them. The last time they won anything was 1993, but that was an old team. It’s hard to look to that team for a precedent to suggest what they’ll do now, because keeping their aging stars in the mid-1990s didn’t make much sense. It’s hard to look at the way the Phillies handled players like Mickey Morandini as well. Morandini was a minor star who faded fast. Rolen and Lieberthal are superstars. Future Hall of Famers even, maybe.

In any other sport, there wouldn’t be any question what to do. They’d lock in their six young stars and tell their fans to get ready to enjoy a dynasty. But baseball isn’t any other sport. There’s very little revenue sharing. And Philadelphia’s not a major market. The Yankees are going to spend twice as much as the Phillies spend this year. It’s hard to imagine Philadelphia not being a major market, I know, but that’s how things have become in this sport.

Twenty years ago, players used to express amazement at signing six-figure salaries to play a kids’ game. Today, baseball’s still a kids’ game. And the players have the maturity of children. So do the owners and the commissioner.

There’s a solution to this madness. Bob Costas wrote a short book about it two years ago. It’s short and simple enough that even a moron like Bud Selig could understand it. Today, things have only gotten worse. Fans read Costas’ book in droves and took it to heart, but few of the owners seem to have done so.

If Selig gets his way, the Twins and the Expos will fold at the end of this season. That won’t do anything to stop the same teams from making the postseason again and again. It’ll be the Braves, Mets, Diamondbacks and Cardinals in the NL postseason again this year. And probably the year after.

The Phillies will find that without a salary cap to keep salaries from artificially rising and without revenue sharing to give them their fair share (The Mets have to have someone to play, so why doesn’t the visiting team get half the revenue?) they won’t be able to afford to keep their players. Scott Rolen will test the free-agent waters at the end of this season. I expect he’ll sign with the Braves or the Red Sox. If he signs with the Braves, the Phillies will almost certainly dismantle, because there’s little difference between finishing third and finishing fifth, and it’s a lot cheaper to finish fifth.

And people will wonder what if. Except for Bud Selig and his buddy Carl Pohlad, who got what they wanted. They can just keep counting their money and complaining about how unprofitable baseball is.

Trolling the web for nothing in particular

Yes, Brian, baseball will soon return. I hate the things Major League Baseball does (Bob Costas once likened choosing sides between the players and the owners to choosing sides between Iran and Iraq), but we’ve chosen to stay together for the kids. I’m sure everyone who cares (and some who don’t) can guess what I think of Bud Selig, but I’ll tell you anyway, soon enough.
In the meantime, I look like ArsTechnica today. Oh well. I don’t do this very often.

Blogging. Wired News had its take on the phenomenon, and threw out some interesting stats.


In January alone, at least 41,000 people created new blogs using Blogger, and that number is always increasing, [Blogger founder Evan] Williams said. Some have put the total number of weblogs at more than 500,000.

Alongside the boom, however, there have recently been a few faint signs of backlash. As increasing hordes take on the task of trying to keep new sites looking nice, sounding original and free from banalities, more hordes just seem to fail.

Blog critic Dave Linabury offered a recipe for success:


“It really can take a lot of time,” he said. “I spend two hours a day on my weblog. Many people don’t realize this, they think it’s a quick way to get popular. And after awhile they get really discouraged and say, ‘he got 2,300 hits today, I got four.’ The bulk of people out there get less than two dozen hits.”

“I don’t want to be elitist,” Linabury added, “but all these people out there with popular weblogs, they’ve been doing it longer and they stick to their guns.”

I can attest to that. The people who get more traffic than I get almost all have been doing this longer. But I can tell you one thing: It’s never enough. Back when I was getting 80 visits a day I wanted 150. When I was getting 150 visits a day, I wanted 250. Now that I get about 500 visits a day, I’m awfully distressed to see people are getting 2,300. And by the time I reach 2,300, I’m sure there will be people getting 5,000 or even 10,000. (Note that visits are the number of unique visitors; hits are the number of files served up. Hit count is deceptive. I get 500 visits per day but closer to 1,000 or even 1,500 hits per day, due to people visiting, reading comments, and then often reading something from a previous week. And if they do a search, that’s at least two additional hits.)

Link

Another feather in Internet Explorer’s cap. To my knowledge, no new security vulnerabilities have been reported in Internet Explorer this week, but the newest security patch, released last week, contains a bug that can cause a VBscript directive that previously worked to crash the browser.

Microsoft says Webmasters need to modify their pages not to use the directive.

That’s nice (I don’t use VBscript on this site) but there are embedded devices, such as HP’s JetDirect card, that use the directive. So early adopters of this patch may find themselves unable to do their jobs.

Better webmaster recommendation: Don’t use VBscript or ActiveX or other Microsoft-owned languages in your Web pages at all. Better end-user recommendation: Use Mozilla or a derivative instead of Internet Explorer.

Link

Recompiling Debian for your hardware. This thread comes up every so often, and with the popularity of Linux From Scratch and Gentoo, the appeal of a compiled-from-scratch Debian is undeniable. But does the small speed improvement offset the increased difficulty and time in upgrading?

The consensus seems to be that recompiling gzip, bzip2, and gnupg with aggressive options makes sense, as does recompiling your kernel. Recompiling XFree86 may also make some sense. But expending time and energy in the perfectly optimized versions of ls and more is foolhardy. (Especially seeing as speed demons can just get assembly language versions of them from www.linuxassembly.org.)

Link

A Guide to Debian. This is a guide, still incomplete, that gives a number of tips for someone who’s just installed Debian. The tips are applicable to other many other Linux (and even Unix) flavors as well.

Link

Spam. A coworker walked into my cube today and asked me how he could keep web robots from harvesting e-mail addresses from his web site. I found myself referring once again to the definitive piece on the subject, from Brett Glass (who gets my nomination for the greatest computer columnist of all time, for what that’s worth).

Link

The RULE project. A project has emerged to bring Red Hat Linux back to its roots, and allow it to run on older, less-powerful hardware.

From their site:


This install option is meant to benefit primarily two classes of users:

* GNU/Linux newbies who cannot afford modern computers, but still need, to get started more easily, an up to date, well documented distribution.
* System administrators and power users who have no interest in eye candy, and want to run updated software on whatever hardware is available, to minimize costs, or just because it feels like the right thing to do.

I love their FAQ. Check this out:


1.0 Hardware is so cheap today, why bother?

1. This is a very limited and egoistic attitude. Eigthy per cent of the world population still has to work many months or years to afford a computer that can run decently the majority of modern, apparently “Free” software.
2. Many people who could afford a new computer every two years rightly prefer to buy something else, like vacations, for example…. Hardware should be changed only when it breaks, or when the user’s needs increase a lot (for example when one starts to do video editing). Not because “Free” Software requires more and more expensive hardware every year.

These guys have the right idea. I can only hope their work will influence other Linux distributions as well.

Link

Linux uptime. (Sure, a little original content.) When I was rearranging things months ago, I unplugged the keyboard and monitor from my webserver, then I never got around to plugging them back in because I didn’t have to do anything with it.

The other day, I had occasion to plug a keyboard and mouse back into it. I went in, did what I wanted to do, then out of curiosity I typed the uptime command. 255 days, it told me. In other words, I haven’t rebooted since last May, which, as I recall, was about when I put the machine into production.

Telephones and World Series

Cable guy. My phone rang Friday night.
“Hi, this is [I didn’t catch the name] from Charter, the cable company. How are you doing tonight?”

I knew I should have forked over the extra bucks for privacy guard. “I’d be a whole lot better if you’d take me off your calling list,” I said.

“You don’t even want to hear about our special offers?” he asked.

“Nope. I don’t watch TV,” I said.

He sounded disbelieving. “You don’t watch TV?”

“Nope.”

“You mean to tell me you haven’t watched one second of TV today?”

“Right.” I hadn’t. Actually I hadn’t watched one second of TV since I fell asleep during the playoffs and was rudely awakened by Frank Sinatra singing “New York” at high volume after the Yankees steamrolled the Mariners. Disgusted, I turned off the boob tube (that’s all it shows during the commercials) and went to bed.

“What are you doing now?” he asked.

“Getting ready to go out.”

“Oh, you’re going to a party or something?”

Close enough. “Yep.”

“Oh. Sorry to bother you, sir.” And he hung up.

This is the one time of year I do watch TV. That’s World Series time. Unless it’s Yankees-Braves, in which case I have more important things to do, like clean my toenails. My phone rang last night right after Curt Schilling plunked Derek Jeter. “That’s my phone,” I muttered to no one. “Don’t they know better than to bother me during the World Series?” No one answered. I picked up the phone. “Hello?”

Whoever it was must have wised up. There was no one there. Good thing. If it’d been the cable guy again, I’d have had to tell him it’s not worth $35 a month just to be able to watch seven baseball games with a clearer picture.

A few random World Series observations:

Yeah, I know Curt Schilling beat the Cards, and I wanted a Cardinals-Mariners series. Even still, he’s one cool guy. He doesn’t care who sees him praying just before each start, and he bought a ticket for his dad, who died in 1988 and never saw him pitch in the big leagues, for this game. Having lost my dad at a similar age, I empathize. And he’s just a class act. At the end of the game, as his teammates were coming off the field, he ran out to give them handshakes and hugs. Starting pitchers almost never do that. I have to root for him. Baseball needs more good men like Curt Schilling.

Baseball also desperately needs another commissioner like Bart Giamati. Is it just me, or is baseball commissioner Bud Selig the worst public speaker in the history of public speaking? It really bothered me that he had to refer to a script to present Barry Bonds with his worthless Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award or whatever it’s called. Selig’s speech could be summed up as, “Barry, you had a fantastic season, taking a record that once belonged to Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, and Mark McGwire, joining the ranks of three of the greatest sluggers of all time, while also having one of the greatest all-around offensive seasons of all time. It’s my pleasure to present you with this award, previously awarded to McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn. Congratulations.” But it took him what seemed like several torturous hours to say that. What I just wrote isn’t particularly eloquent, but compared to Selig’s speech, it’s practically Shakespearean.

At any rate, I was happy to see Arizona win. I can’t root for the Yankees. Used to be the only team I disliked more than the Yankees was the Mets. But if the Mets were playing the Yankees, I’d have to root for the Mets just because they aren’t the Yankees. Yeah, I know, that sounds un-American this year. But two people I respect–one of whom I respect so much, his picture hangs in a frame in my living room, across from a picture of Abraham Lincoln–feel exactly the same way.

So here’s to Arizona. And to the American League, who next season will hopefully put the Yankees in their proper place.

Fifth.

A flair for the dramatic

Writing about baseball two days in a row? Hey, it’s my site.
We played a doubleheader last night and won both games. I caught the first game; the second game the manager shooed me over to first base. I haven’t played first since one inning in high school, which was a disaster. I last played semi-regularly when I was 12, and that was mostly as a joke. I could make the catches but I was just over five feet tall so I sure couldn’t stretch to get the ball a split second sooner.

I did decent; I made 3, maybe four putouts. There were two bad throws, one I would have nabbed if I’d been six feet tall; the other I got the glove on but really awkwardly and I couldn’t keep control of it. I was pretty mad about that one. I’m a whole lot more comfortable in right or left field these days.

Enough about my reliving the glory days I never had. What about that All-Star game? Ripken has a great flair for the dramatic. First, A-Rod, elected to play short, shooed Ripken over to his old position and moved to third. And Ripken homered in his first at-bat.

That’s the story of Ripken’s career. Ripken had no business playing short at age 40. Ripken really had no business starting the game. But Ripken spent 14 years doing what he had no business doing. He was always too big and too immobile to play short, but he played it and played it well. Shortstops have no business playing uninterrupted for 14 years. Ripken did that.

And really, that’s what defines an All-Star. Yes, the numbers are a big, big part of it, but Ripken’s a star, whether he’s hitting .320 or .220, and Ripken’s a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer whether he hits his way into winning his old job back (Ripken’s not even a regular on his own team anymore) or whether he goes hitless for the rest of the season.

And Commissioner Bud Selig made a total ass of himself, not knowing the difference between home runs and RBIs when talking about Cal Ripken’s achievements, and mispronouncing Honus Wagner’s name when talking about Tony Gwynn one-upping his impressive career batting stats.

It was tonight’s All-Star game that reminded me of what makes baseball such a great game. Baseball is full of great moments like that–great players, sometimes running on fumes, coming back and showing us one last time what made them great in the first place.

So what’s wrong with baseball? I honestly think baseball needs another Lyman Bostock. Lyman Bostock wasn’t a great player. He didn’t have time to become one, because he only played four seasons. But after making runs for the AL batting title in 1976 and 1977, Bostock signed with the California Angels, becaming one of the first of the high-priced free agents, and he immediately fell into a slump. He didn’t even hit his weight his first month, so he went to the owner of the team and tried to give back his salary, saying he hadn’t earned it. When the owner turned it down, he announced he was giving the money to charity instead. Thousands of requests came in, and Bostock went through them himself, wanting to determine who needed the money the most. Tragically, Bostock was shot and killed in Gary, Indiana, near the end of that season. He worked his tail off trying to get his batting average up over .300 by the end of the year. He was batting .296 when he died.

We’ve had tons of great stories since 1978. Ripken, of course. McGwire and Sosa’s friendly rivalry as they chased Roger Maris’ home run record. Orel Hershiser’s 59 consecutive scoreless innings. The emergence of Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux when it appeared the era of truly, truly great pitchers was over.

But without another Lyman Bostock, they just look like a billionaire boys’ club. Emphasis on “boys.”

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