Month: August 2006
Mystery Photo #9
by Score Bard
2006-08-30 6:51

Mystery Photo Number Nine Number Nine Number Nine comes courtesy of Garth Sears. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help figure out the who/when/where of the photo.

Click on the image for a larger view.

Thanks to all who have sent in photos. I have enough to keep us going another few weeks. Nonetheless, please send in more. If you have any old (non-copyrighted) MLB photos that might suit this game, please email them to mystery At humbug .com.

OK, Take A Guess
by Ken Arneson
2006-08-29 11:14

Who is currently leading the 2006 Oakland A’s in Win Shares?

Got your guess?

OK, now go check out the answer.

You were wrong, weren’t you?

And The Next A’s Manager Will Be Dick Williams
by Ken Arneson
2006-08-29 10:18

Don Nelson is back in Oakland???


I used to be a huge Golden State Warriors fan, but that team has been so bad for so long that every piece of hope I ever had for it has been completely squeezed dry. I’m completely numb to that team now. Or at least I thought I was, until they went and did something wacky like this. I guess there’s still a little light flickering inside me for that team, because I find this quite interesting, even if it’s only a rubbernecking-to-see-the-latest-car-wreck kind of interest.

Every time I think about the A’s losing nine straight ALDS clinching games, or about choking in September the last two seasons, or about anybody named Hatcher, I should just think of the Golden State Warriors, and be grateful. Because things could be sooooooooo much worse.

The Thievin’ A’s
by Ken Arneson
2006-08-26 11:12

Sapphire bullets…bullets of pure A’s:

  • I haven’t actually watched an A’s game in well over a week. Several of the games on their current road trip weren’t televised, and I was busy during the others.

    I feel somewhat disconnected from the team right now. Who are these guys?

    I did go back on and watch the interesting innings from Monday’s game against Toronto, where they came back from an 8-0 deficit to win 12-10. That game left me with the feeling that perhaps the best way to characterize the 2006 A’s is that they’re a gang of thieves.

    The A’s had no business winning that game, but somehow they managed to sneak their way in the back door and burglarize a W out of it. This year, it seems like there are a lot more games that the A’s have won that they shoulda-coulda lost than the other way around.

    The stats back me up on that one: they’re currently 18 games over .500 at 73-55, but their record in BP’s adjusted standings indicates they really should have a record of about 65-63 or 64-64.

    Which explains why, I suppose, that even though the A’s have the second-largest division lead in baseball, their 5.5 game lead over the Angels feels so insecure. Thievin’ may be a thrillin’ way to live, but in the back of your mind there’s always the fear that sooner or later, your thievin’ ways are going to be exposed, and you’ll be revealed for the fraud you really are.

  • Part of the A’s thievery involves fortunate scheduling. They finished playing the Yankees before they acquired Bobby Abreu, and started playing the Red Sox just as they started falling apart. They missed Roy Halladay this week in Toronto. They missed both John Lackey and Jered Weaver the last time they played Anaheim. And would the A’s be 15-1 against Seattle if the rotations had fallen so that they had faced Felix Hernandez five times and Joel Pineiro once, instead of the other way around?

    That luck may soon run out, though. If the Angels are going to make a run at Oakland, next week might be the time. They’ll play three games against the hapless-and-losing-more-hap-by-the-hour Mariners, while the A’s are staring down both Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling. Also, Tim Wakefield may be ready come off the DL to face the A’s, as well. So much of streakiness is in the scheduling.

  • This weekend’s Oakland-Texas series is a true battle of top heavyweights. The top two teams in the MLB Heavyweight Championship standings (see sidebar) are battling it out for baseball supremacy in Arlington.

    With their victory over Tampa Bay on Thursday, the Rangers had pulled ahead of the A’s in the standings. But Barry Zito’s near no-hitter against Texas on Friday not only gave him his 100th career victory, it also put the A’s back into first place.

    Sunday’s game (Dan Haren vs. Vicente Padilla) may be the Fight of the Year. The winner will have a big step up in the battle for Heavyweight Team of the Year.

  • Speaking of mystery photos…a guy in Southern California pulled a bunch of publicity photos out of someone’s trash, and put them up on Flickr.

    I think this one might be the first recorded meeting between Billy Beane and Ken Macha.

  • Nick Swisher has emerged from the worst of his slump, and been playing better of late. He’s been collecting the occasional extra-base hit, and the occasional base-on-balls.

    Unfortunately, he has not yet put the two together in the same game, so my Swisher fast continues.

  • Chris Dial’s defensive ratings through July 11 have Eric Chavez as a below-average fielder.

    That is unfathomable. How can a guy who catches everything be below average? I mean, Eric Chavez fields everything there is to field. E.V.E.R.Y. T.H.I.N.G.

    Maybe he had a bad three weeks while I was in Europe, and I missed it. I don’t know.

    Otherwise, if he’s below average, that means that there are seven third basemen in the AL who are fielding more than everything. Hank Blalock? Troy Glaus? Alex Rodriguez? No way, dudes.

    Time now for everyone to go over to TangoTiger’s place, and tell people who’s really boss.

Mystery Photo #8
by Score Bard
2006-08-24 8:33

Our eighth mystery photo comes from the slide pile I bought. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help figure out the who/when/where of the photo.

And in this case, why. As in, why does one guy look like he’s been in a fight, and why is the other guy laughing at him?

Click on the image for a larger view.

Thanks for all who sent in photos this weekend. I have enought to keep us going another couple weeks. Nonetheless, please send in more. If you have any old (non-copyrighted) MLB photos that might suit this game, please email them to mystery At humbug .com.

Mystery Photo #7
by Score Bard
2006-08-21 9:25

Our seventh mystery photo comes courtesy of Cliff Corcoran. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help figure out the who/when/where of the photo.

Click on the image for a larger view.

Thanks for all who sent in photos this weekend. I have enought to keep us going another couple weeks. Nonetheless, please send in more. If you have any old (non-copyrighted) MLB photos that might suit this game, please email them to mystery At humbug .com.

King Of Pain In The Groin
by Ken Arneson
2006-08-20 0:33

The Internet is weird sometimes.

Catfish Stew doesn’t have “Oakland Athletics” in its blog name or tag line, so you won’t find it at the top of many search results related to what is presumably the topic of this blog.

Yet, on the other hand, if you want to know about a “stomach punch”, you have come to the right place. A Catfish Stew blog entry is currently the #4 result for that phrase.

So, I got that going for me, at least.

And perhaps, when I add the title of this entry into the searchosphere, I can grow my Internet empire further. I shall become the King of All Pains Abdominal!

* * *

There’s a little black spot on the sun today
It’s the same old thing as yesterday

* * *

Things never go as planned. The other day, I wrote a baseball article that I thought had a fairly good point: the language we use to describe slumps lacks precision. I thought maybe some people would take the idea and expand upon it, and we’d have an interesting little baseball discussion.

Did it happen? Nope. The blog entry didn’t get a single measly comment. Not a single baseball blog linked to it. But then, something weirder happened. Two of my favoritest non-baseball blogs in the whole wide world (Language Log) and (God of the Machine) linked to the article. Which triggered a series of other, smaller non-baseball blogs to also link to the article.

Jeers to the unintended failures! Cheers to the unintended victories!

* * *

I have stood here before inside the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running ’round my brain

* * *

On Dodger Thoughts the other day, there was this exchange:

109. D4P
> Bronx Banter went over 1000 [comments] for Game 1

I blame the respective blog names. “Banter” provokes discussion; “Thoughts” provokes contemplation…


121. King of the Hobos
And Catfish Stew provokes the desire to eat, yet I have never had such a desire after reading the Stew.

Perhaps that’s because I’m better at providing stomach punches than hunger pangs. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to write something that literally makes someone else’s mouth water?

I am failing at the things I want to succeed at, and succeeding at things I have no intention of succeeding at. So who the heck am I? What in tarnation am I doing here, writing on a baseball blog, when Google loves me elsewhere?

On my more optimistic days, I imagine myself as the baseball version of Babette, a stranger in a strange land, trying to fit in, to provide the meals you expect me to provide, barely scraping by for the longest time. But one day, maybe, when things fall just right…

* * *

There’s a blue whale beached by a springtide’s ebb
(That’s my soul up there)
There’s a butterfly trapped in a spider’s web
(That’s my soul up there)

* * *

I served on a jury a year ago for a robbery. The victim got kicked, punched, and hit over the head with the butt of a gun, making him bleed profusely. He could barely see for all the blood pouring down over his eyes. When the cops showed up and caught the bad guy a block away, the victim, instead of nursing his injuries, ran over to try to punch the robber in the face.

He ended up punching the cop in the face, instead.

Shortly thereafter, the victim’s adrenaline wore off, and he passed out.

* * *

There’s a king on a throne with his eyes torn out
There’s a blind man looking for a shadow of doubt

* * *

Friday night, I was playing indoor soccer in my old farts’ league. A ball was sent into our offensive corner. The opposing goalie and I both chased it, arriving at the ball at the same time.

This league is presumably a non-contact, recreational league. The primary objectives are to have fun, and stay healthy. You’re supposed to avoid any sort of moves that may end up hurting someone, even if it means you might give up a goal that costs you the game.

Somebody forgot to give the goalie the message. Instead of easing up when we got close to contact, he came at me like some freakish combination of Ronnie Lott and Scott Stevens. He ran full speed for the ball, jumped as high as he could to knock it away from me, and in the process, sent his knee full force straight into my groin, and slammed the rest of me right into the hockey-style boards.

* * *

There’s a red fox torn by a huntsman’s pack
(That’s my soul up there)
There’s a black-winged gull with a broken back
(That’s my soul up there)

* * *

I hurt like hell. As I peeled myself off the boards, I instinctively screamed something profane as loud as my voice can carry. Instantly, I was insanely angry. I mean, like Jason Kendall insane; maybe even worse. The pain was killing me, but if they had measured the amount of adrenaline and testosterone in my bloodstream at that moment, I would have made Floyd Landis look clean. I barely noticed how much I hurt through my rage.

Somehow, through my madness, I kept my head just enough to stomp off the field without turning around to look at the guy. Because I don’t know what I would have done if this guy had given me any sort of John-Lackey-ugly-mug look that would have made me even more ticked off. Perhaps the words “stomach punch” would have come to my mind, and then to my fists, and then I might have ended up repeating history, wanting and trying so badly to punch the goalie, but accidentally punching the ref, instead.

So I stomped off the field and kept stomping; stomping straight to the locker room, where I grabbed my bag without showering; stomping straight out to my car, and then driving off, straight for home.

* * *

There’s a fossil that’s trapped in a high cliff wall
(That’s my soul up there)
There’s a dead salmon frozen in a waterfall
(That’s my soul up there)

* * *

Just as I was getting in my car, Huston Street was entering the A’s game in the eighth inning against Kansas City. The A’s held a slim lead. My anger began to blend with dread. Street has seemed to be losing more and more stuff lately, the result of too much work during the A’s current hot streak. “Ken Macha is going to run Huston Street’s arm straight into the ground,” I thought.

Sure enough, Street proceeded to blow the A’s lead. Then Street left the game. He had an injured groin. The A’s lost the doubleheader.

Perhaps Street’s groin injury is for the best. I think his arm was starting to wear down, and now Ken Macha will be forced to rest Street and his tired arm, and maybe, someday, when the time is right, Street will be able to return to the A’s bullpen, and lead his team to a glorious, delicious ending.

* * *

My groin injury, on the other hand…I don’t see any silver lining for it. My adrenaline has worn off. I feel like crap. There’s nothing for me to do right now except feel like crap.

* * *

I guess I’m always hoping that you’ll end this reign
But it’s my destiny to be the king of pain

* * *

My pain–the throbbing, the aching–probably doesn’t have the wonderful, juicy ending from which great stories are told. I think my story is meant to just pass out.

Mystery Photo #6
by Score Bard
2006-08-18 8:42

Here we have our sixth mystery photo. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help figure out the who/when/where of the photo.

Click on the image for a larger view.

Note: I’m running low on photos. If you have any old MLB photos that might suit this game, please send ’em in to mystery At humbug .com.

Ask Dr. Catfish Stew, World-Famous Man of Science
by Ken Arneson
2006-08-16 22:57

Dr. Catfish Stew, Ph.D., the world’s most brilliant scientist, knows absolutely everything! He can answer any question in the world! Just send your questions in to catfish @, and watch Dr. Stew astound you with his ingenious answers!


Dear Dr. Stew,

Why does sour cream have an expiration date? The cream is sour already.

–Melky C., Bronx, NY

It’s not the “sour” part that the expiration date refers to, it’s the “cream” part. After a while, mold starts to grow on the cream. At this point, the product technically ceases to be a “cream” and becomes instead a “cheese”. Economics makes it cheaper to just toss the product into the dumpster than to comply with truth-in-advertising laws and relabel the product as “Sour Cheese”.


Hello, Dr. Stew,

On old records, how does the speed stay at 45 even though the circle gets smaller as you go towards the center? Shouldn’t it slow down since the distance is less?

–Pete Burns, Liverpool, England

This is a corollary to Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. Just as time slows down as you approach the speed of light, time also slows down as you approach the center of a rotating disc. So even though a point at the center and a point at the middle both travel at 45 revolutions per minute, the “minute” varies depending on where you are relative to the circle’s center. This is explained by Einstein’s lesser known equation, E = Pi x r².


Dear Dr. Stew,

When does afternoon end and evening begin?

–Sidney Lanier, Macon, GA

Few people seem to realize that the word “evening” actually comes from the verb “to even out”. Even fewer know what, exactly, “evening” evens out.

The etymology of the word “afternoon” is obvious, of course: it refers to the time after noon, but before sunset. There was also an old English word, “forenight”, which was the opposite of “afternoon”–meaning the period after sunset, but before midnight. Over time, unfortunately, the word been shortened/merged with “night”, and the resulting lack of precision causes a lot of confusion.

But back in the day, “afternoon” and “forenight” were both common words, with perfect opposite meanings. And being perfect opposites, the two time periods were required by definition to last the same length of time each day.

Under the simple definition of the terms, this only happened twice a year–at the fall and spring equinoxes, when sunset hit at exactly 6pm. Without some process for “evening” these time periods out, “afternoon” would last longer than “forenight” during the summers, and be shorter in the winters, and they would no longer be perfect opposites.

Evening out the two time periods is quite simple. You figure out the amount of time between sunset and 6pm, and subtract that much time from the other side of 6pm, to form the new period of the day called the “evening”.

So for example, if sunset is at 5pm, the “evening” would last from one hour before 6pm until one hour after 6pm, i.e. until 7pm. Subracting two hours from the forenight evens out both the afternoon and the forenight to five hours long each.

Similarly, if sunset is at 7:30pm, the “evening” would last from 4:30pm until 7:30pm, and the “afternoon” and the “forenight” would each be an even four hours and 30 minutes.

So to answer the original question, from the fall equinox until the spring equinox, afternoon ends and evening begins at sunset. From spring until fall, afternoon ends and evening begins at the 6pm mirror of sunset.


Dr. Stew,

Why do the Oakland A’s keep beating the Seattle Mariners game after game after game?

–Demilitarized Zone, Seattle, WA

I have no freakin’ idea. They just do.

Eskimo Ballplayers Have 108 Words for Slump
by Ken Arneson
2006-08-15 12:57

The term to describe the state which lies approximately halfway between normal performance and a slump is: a Lull.

Barry Zito is in a lull. The good news is that he thinks he knows why he is in a lull: a mechanical problem. The mechanical problem would explain why he got clobbered by Texas last Wednesday, and why he was throwing 84mph fastballs last night, one of which was crushed for a two-run homer by Ben Broussard.

Fortunately for Mr. Zito, he’s is just about the only player on the team who is currently in a lull or slump. The rest of the team is firing on all cylinders, and the A’s now have the second-largest division lead in baseball at 5 1/2 games. But never mind that: the A’s have a good thing going, and we don’t want to jinx it by talking about it too much. Back to slumps.

We definitely could use some more precision when talking about slumps. If Eskimos can have N words for snow, why can’t we have some more words to describe slumps? This would be especially useful for fantasy baseball players, because you’d want to drop a player if he’s in one kind of slump, but keep him if he’s in another. So I’m going to make up some more terms.

So when you want to know why Jorge Posada just went 0-for-25, you could answer, “Oh, I think he’s in a…”:

  • Gauss.

    This is a purely statistical slump. There’s nothing wrong with you physically or mentally, you’re just running into a stretch of bad luck that falls within a normal, Gaussian distribution of hits and outs.

    If you’re player is in a Gauss, you keep him.

  • Byrnes.

    Like the Gauss, the player in a Byrnes is physically and mentally fine. But in this case, the Powers That Be uphold the It-All-Evens-Out Principle, by making sure an extreme, prolonged hot streak is followed by an extreme, prolonged cold streak, both of which go beyond normal distributions. Named after Eric Byrnes’ 2003 season. In 2003, Byrnes had an OPS of 1.073 in May and .978 in June, which he followed with an OPS of .328 in July, and .533 in August.

    If your player is in a Byrnes, you might seriously consider dropping him.

  • Gomes.

    Named after the guy who carried my 2006 fantasy team for one month, and then killed it for two, before we finally found out he had been playing with a bum shoulder since early May. It’s a slump caused by an undisclosed injury.

    This one may soon be renamed the ARod. In either case, Gomes or ARod, these things are murder to your fantasy team.

  • Chavez.

    This is a slump caused by a fully disclosed injury. Named after Eric Chavez, who hasn’t hit a lick in 2006 since injuring his forearms, but who plays anyway because his defense is unaffected by the injury. In other words, there’s not much excuse for keeping him from your non-keeper fantasy team.

  • Miller.

    This is a slump caused by an identified mechanical problem. Similar to the lull, except that the player cannot correct the mechanical problem, and continues to make the same mistake. Named after Damian Miller, who, in his one year at Wrigley Field, got into a bad habit of trying to pull everything for home runs, and had the worst hitting season of his career. Miller understood exactly what he was doing wrong, but couldn’t get his muscle memory to change, and stop making the mistake.

  • Crosby.

    Bobby Crosby gets hurt a lot, but even when he’s healthy, he doesn’t hit nearly as well as he should by looking at him and his talent. You’re in a Crosby when you’re healthy, there’s something mechanically wrong with your swing, and you can’t identify what it is.

  • Blass.

    This is a slump caused by a psychological block of some sort. Named after Steve Blass.

I’m sure y’all can come up with more/better terms that these. So fire away…

Mystery Photo #5
by Score Bard
2006-08-15 9:36

Our fifth mystery photo comes courtesy of Jon Weisman. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help figure out the who/when/where of the photo.

Click on the image for a larger view.

Note: I’m running low on photos. If you have any old MLB photos that might suit this game, please send ’em in to mystery At humbug .com.

Is It Real or Is It Photoshop?
by Ken Arneson
2006-08-13 22:21

Apparently, doctoring photographs for use in news stories is all the rage these days, so I thought I’d dip my hand into the popular culture of the day and test the waters.

Here are some photographs I (presumably) took from Sunday’s A’s-Devil Rays contest in Oakland. See if you can tell which photos are real, and which ones are Photoshop.


Mystery Photo #4
by Score Bard
2006-08-11 9:37

This is our fourth mystery photo. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help figure out the who/when/where of the photo.

Click on the image for a larger view.

If you have any old MLB photos that might suit this game, please send ’em in to mystery At humbug .com.

A’s All-Time Web Gems
by Ken Arneson
2006-08-10 21:10

Baseball Tonight is running a series, showing each team’s top three web gems of all time. No word yet on which day they’ll show the A’s; they’ve only listed the schedule through August 19.

But I thought I’d try the exercise to see how many all-time A’s web gems I could recall. I’m sure I’m forgetting some good ones, but here’s what I came up with:

  • Joe Rudi, 1972 World Series.

    This is probably just a nice play if it happens in June, but his scrawl against the wall is the signature image of that World Series.

  • The Bill Buckner Gaffe, 1974 World Series.

    No, not that Bill Buckner gaffe. With no one out in the eighth inning of game five, Bill North misplayed a Buckner hit, turning a single into a double. But when Buckner got greedy and tried to get three bases out of it, the A’s executed a perfect relay throw, Reggie Jackson to Dick Green to Sal Bando, and nailed Buckner at third. Instead of a runner on second and nobody out, there was nobody on base, and one out. The A’s won the game by one run, and clinched the series.

  • Dick Green’s bellyflop, 1974 World Series.

    Green was the fielding hero of the 1974 series, beyond the relay throw to nail Buckner. He launched three double plays in Game 3, the most memorable one with one out in the ninth, and A’s leading 3-2. Green stretched out to stop a ball up the middle, and from his belly flipped the ball to Bert Campaneris, who fired over to Jim Holt at first for the final out of the game.

  • Dwayne Murphy, off with his cap!

    I can’t actually remember any specific web gems from the Billy Ball era, but I do remember Dwayne Murphy being the defensive star. My memories aren’t of the great catches he made, but of him returning to his spot after the great catch to retrieve his hat. He always placed his cap so loosely on his head that it fell off with just the slightest motion. For me, in those days, the fallen cap was the very symbol of great defense.

  • Mike Gallego, pick ’em.

    If they had had web gems back around the turn of the 90s, Mike Gallego would have been a regular. I’m not sure how you pick just one of his plays. There’s the one where he charged a weakly hit ball from second base full speed, picked it up and flung himself parallel to the infield grass, and flipped the ball to first. There’s the one where he dove into the hole between first and second, ended up on his back, and from that prone position, flung the ball between his legs to first. And then there’s the time…

  • Felix Jose, stumblin fumblin catch

    I can’t remember exactly when or against whom, but in 1990, just before he got traded for Willie McGee, Felix Jose made some crazy stumblin’, bumblin’ catch in right field. As I remember it, he fell down and rolled around while the ball bounced off his glove, off some other body part, and then ended up in his hand somehow.

  • Randy Velarde, unassisted triple play

    What gets forgotten is that the reason there were two runners on in the first place is that Velarde had made an error on the preceding play.

  • Terrence Long, robs Manny Ramirez of a game winning home run

    With the possible exception of his 2-homer game in the 2001 ALDS, this was the highlight of Terrence Long’s career.

  • Jason Kendall, game ending tag at home

    This was one of those crazy games in Arlington, when nobody can stop anybody from scoring. It was 11-10 A’s in the ninth, two outs, when Kendall blocked a ball in the dirt. Michael Young tried to score, Kendall dove back to the plate, and tagged Young out to win the game.

  • Eric Chavez, pick ’em.

    Like Gallego, Chavez is a web gem highlight reel all by himself. There are multiple plays where he covers yards and yard of the enormous Coliseum foul ground, making over-the-shoulder catches, sliding into the dugout, etc. There are all kinds of hard hit balls he’s snared, even though the ball already seems to have passed him, like this one. And then there’s the quick-thinking double play he turned the other day against Texas. How can you pick just one?

Missing from my list: those crazy plays by Eric Byrnes. Most of the time Byrnes made a crazy play in the outfield, it was because he took a bad route to the ball to begin with. I’d rather give props to someone like Mark Kotsay, who makes those same plays look much easier.

Mystery Photo #3
by Score Bard
2006-08-09 11:14

Here we have our third mystery photo. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help figure out the who/when/where of the photo.

Click on the image for a larger view.

If you have any old MLB photos that might suit this game, please send ’em in to mystery At humbug .com.

Pirates Overtake Greens
by Ken Arneson
2006-08-08 13:46

No, I’m not reporting that Jim Tracy’s team has switched divisions, or suddenly became more talented than the Oakland A’s.

Instead, I just felt compelled to pass on this news item from upcoming Swedish parliamentary elections:

The Pirate Party claims it is now larger than the Green Party, with nearly 8,000 members.

The party, which campaigns to legalize file sharing, says it now has 7,729 members. The Green Party, one of the Social Democrats’ key allies, now has 7,249 members.

Yes, the Pirate Party may actually have a chance to win seats in the Swedish parliament. As a point of comparison, the Green Party currently has 17 seats of 349. What’s more, since no one party is likely to win a majority of those seats, these Pirates might actually hold the deciding votes in who forms the next Swedish government.

Yes, we will vote for you to be Prime Minister, Mr. Persson, but only if you promise to make Talk Like A Pirate Day a national holiday. Also, we want Roberto Clemente’s picture on the 20-crown note.

And why not? If terrorists can win democratic elections, then why not pirates? If wrestlers and bodybuilders can govern states, then why not swashbucklers? If Christians and Muslims can band together in numbers to impose their theology on the state, then why not Pastafarians?

This is where the world is headed. One day, the world will end, not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with one, pure expression of absolute absurdity.

Praise Be for Eric Chavez, Deity of Fielding
by Ken Arneson
2006-08-08 9:33

Bill King’s ghost has just returned from Canton, Ohio, where he spent the weekend providing the play-by-play to all of John Madden’s Hall of Fame highlight videos. Just in time, because right now, I desperately need a really good Holy Toledo. Can I please have a Holy Toledo?

Holy Toledo!

Thanks, Bill.

This incantation was conjured up by Eric Chavez, who is simply having the most astounding season of fielding I have ever had the pleasure to witness. Great fielding seasons don’t get the kind of attention that having a bunch of walkoff hits like David Ortiz gets, but after last night’s game, it’s obvious to me the Chavez is having a season for the history books. This is defense of Ozzie Smith-Brooks Robinson-Bill Mazeroski’s ilk, the kind of defense that deserves to be remembered for generations.

Chavez won his fifth straight gold glove last year, but he won it more on reputation than on merit. His throwing shoulder was hurt, and he was unable at times to make the long throw across the diamond, resulting in a lot more errors than he usually makes. He is injured again in 2006, this time in his forearms, but this injury only affects his batting, not his fielding.

He’ll win his sixth gold glove this year. This time, it will be fully deserved. Perhaps some of the defensive metrics will disagree with me, but Eric Chavez is having the greatest fielding season in Oakland A’s history.

He only has three errors so far this year, his last one coming on Saturday in Seattle when a bad hop skipped off his glove, ending an A’s record 65-game errorless streak. I sometimes think errors are judged by the emotion they generate: are you surprised he didn’t make that play? If yes, call it an error. Chavez didn’t make the great play to snag that high hop. We’re surprised. With a lesser third baseman, it might have been called a hit.

Chavez is making every single play he should make, and adding some jaw-droppers in between. As much as Milton Bradley’s walkoff homer might have stunned the Blue Jays into a pennant-hopes-killing funk, and turned the A’s fortunes in the other direction, it was Eric Chavez’s defense that was the key to that series. Toronto hit rocket after rocket at him, and Chavez kept turning doubles into double plays all weekend long.

The latest jaw-dropper took place last night. With one out, runners on second and third, and Texas one run down, Chavez took a chopper near the bag, and quickly tagged out Mark DeRosa trying to return to third base. Now, I can’t ever remember seeing a 5-unassisted at third base like that before, but Chavez didn’t stop there. After tagging out DeRosa, he jumped over him into foul territory, planted his feet, and fired across the diamond to throw out the batter, Ian Kinsler. Double play, inning over.

Mouth agape.

What can you say after a play like that? Only two words come to mind.

Mystery Photo #2
by Score Bard
2006-08-07 8:56

OK, here’s the second mystery photo. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help figure out the who/when/where of the photo.

Click on the image for a larger view.

If you have any old MLB photos that might suit this game, please send ’em in to mystery At humbug .com.

Mystery Photo Request
by Score Bard
2006-08-05 20:40

After looking more closely at my stack of mystery photos, it looks like there are really only four or five different games that the photos come from, in just two different ballparks.

That’s not going to make this game much of a challenge. So I’m going to ask for some help. If any of you have some old photos lying around of MLB games, that you either (a) don’t know the who/what/when of the photo, or (b) you know, but think it would make a fun challenge for others to figure out, please email them in to me at this email address:

mystery ATsign humbug  .com

I only want your own personal photos, that I would have the rights to publish. Please don’t send me copyrighted material.


Did You Feel A Draft?
by Ken Arneson
2006-08-05 1:23

Since we’ve already said our goodbyes to Barry Zito, everything else is just gravy, baby. Our first scoop of gravy last night in Seattle wasn’t quite the vintage Zito flavor, but we’ll take it. His curveball wasn’t really working, and the umpire’s strike zone was pretty small, making it hard to put in any sort of dominant performance. But this game was a perfect example why Barry Zito is a much better pitcher in 2006 than 2004. He now has the arsenal to get through a whole game, even if he’s missing some of his bullets.

So a solid, but unremarkable performance for Zito: 7IP, 1 run. He was helped by a good performance at the plate by Marco Scutaro, who hit a double and a homer filling in for Bobby Crosby, who hit the DL earlier in the morning. Jay Payton, who fortunately did not break his hand that HBP by Scot Shields on Wednesday, helped with a really nice catch on a drive by Ichiro to end the 7th. It all added up to a 5-2 A’s win in Seattle.

Like last Saturday, when A’s fans gave Zito a curtain call, probably the most memorable event of the game happened as Zito walked off the field after throwing his last pitch. As he got to the dugout, it was pointed out to Zito that he had pitched his last inning with his fly open.

Considering that Zito set the Mariners down 1-2-3 in that, um, condition, could we have seen the birth of the pitching equivalent of the rally cap?

The shutdown zipperdown? Ewwwww, let’s hope not, but if it works…

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This is Ken Arneson's blog about baseball, brains, art, science, technology, philosophy, poetry, politics and whatever else Ken Arneson feels like writing about
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