The Greatest Final Weekend Ever?

There will be an epic battle this weekend, quite possibly the greatest finish ever. Three games, winner takes all. It is so compelling that it clearly needs an Muhammed Ali-like name, so we can remember it forever with just the phrase. So get ready for: The Battle in Seattle!

Yes, this weekend’s Mariners-Rangers series is one for the ages! It’s the one you’ll be telling your grandkids about! For the winner of this series will crowned the 2007 MLB Heavyweight of the Year.

For those of you unfamiliar with this crown, it works like boxing: if you beat the champion, you become the champion. We start out each season with the previous year’s World Series winner. Every game the champion plays is a title bout.  If the champion loses, a new champion is crowned. The team that finishes the regular season with the most title bout victories is declared the Heavyweight of the Year. (In case of ties, the team with the fewest losses wins.)

The Mariners are the current champions. See the Catfish Stew sidebar for the full MLB Heavyweight standings.

Going into this final weekend, the Chicago White Sox are in first place, with 13 wins. But oddly, the White Sox have actually clinched a second-place finish, despite their current lead in the standings. That’s because the teams tied for second with 11 wins, Seattle and Texas, play each other this weekend. By Sunday, one of them will at least match Chicago’s 13 victories. And since the Chicago will have more title bout losses than either the Mariners or the Rangers, the White Sox can’t finish in first place.

And so, we are left with possibly the greatest Heavyweight finish in the history of major-league baseball: a three-game, winner-take-all series for all the marbles.

Seattle Mariners. Texas Rangers. The Battle In Seattle! It’ll be great. I just can’t wait.

Questions Without Answers

Am I bad person for laughing out loud at the video where Milton Bradley got tackled by his own manager and ended up injured?

Where is Ken Macha when you need him?

How is Jorge Velandia still playing in the major leagues?

Suppose, for a moment, that the A’s sign Barry Bonds next year…and you wanted both Bonds and Jack Cust in the lineup on the same day…which one would you put in the field? Would you play a real centerfielder (Kotsay/Denorfia) beside your choice and sit one of (Swisher/Buck/Barton)?  Or would you put Buck or Swisher in CF?

When Bob decided to rename the divisions after the best player from the winning team who played his entire career with that team (Tim Salmon, for instance), it got me wondering. Which retired A’s players actually qualify? The A’s don’t keep players like Tim Salmon for their whole careers; they all leave one way or another. Which one of the following possibilities (those with over 100 career games) would Bob have picked if the A’s had won the AL West instead of the Angels?

Player Games
Lance Blankenship 461
Troy Neel 230
Steve McCatty 222
Mike Norris 204
Jose Herrera 141
Mark Acre 114
Jeff Jones 112
Herb Washington 105
John Briscoe 102

Or would Bob have weaseled out of this tough decision and just went with an active player like Eric Chavez or Mark Ellis instead?

How did Rusty Greer become a prototype? Seems like every other OF prospect is compared to him these days. Seems pretty random to me. Can I start using Toaster writers as my prototypes, instead?

It’s driving me nuts, and I can’t put my finger on it: whose swing does Daric Barton remind me of? I want to say it’s kinda like a cross between Ted Williams and Jon Weisman, but that’s not quite it.

Doesn’t Jerry Blevins remind you of Bob Timmermann with a better fastball?

Isn’t disallowing Dallas Braden from using his screwball like not allowing Mark Donohue to write long paragraphs? You’re taking away his genius.

When is Philip going to fork over my hard-won Cesar Izturis bobblehead to me?

Is anybody out there interested in sharing some partial season tickets for next year? One of the people in my group is dropping out. Email me at catfish AT zombia.com if you have any interest.

Barton and the Crab-Man

If you look at the Athletics franchise career leaders in OPS and OPS+, you’ll find a bunch of Hall-of-Famers (Jimmie Foxx, Eddie Collins, Home Run Baker, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane, Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson), a few Hall-of-Juicers (Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi), a couple of classic baseball names (Matt Stairs, Gene Tenace), and…Bob Johnson.

Bob Johnson is largely forgotten in Athletics lore.  His name appears in the top ten of nearly every batting category in franchise history, so being forgotten hardly seems a fair fate.  He played 10 years with the A’s, averaging 25 homers and 104 RBI.  His career rate stats were .296/.393/.506.  So why is he forgotten?

Part of it is that he started late; he was 27 years old in his rookie season, and he never accumulated the kind of career totals that would make him a Hall-of-Fame candidate.

But I think a lot of the reason is because his name was "Bob Johnson".  Johnson had a nickname, "Indian Bob", from his 1/4 Native American lineage.  But that’s not the kind of nickname we repeat in these days of political correctness.  So he remains "Bob Johnson", a name that could not be better chosen to blend into the background and fade from attention.

* * *

Daric Barton made his major league debut this week, and has impressed mightily.  So far, he’s hitting .353/.450/.471.  Those numbers are positively Bob Johnsonesque!  Barton’s debut is probably the second-most exciting thing to happen to the team all year.  The kid can hit.  Dan Johnson’s days as Oakland’s first baseman are numbered.

And yet, Dan Johnson is the source of the most exciting thing I’ve heard all year:  he got a nickname.  Dan Johnson has one of the few names that could possibly surpass Bob Johnson in forgettability.  In ten, fifteen years, will anyone remember Dan Johnson and his brief tenure in Oakland?  Certainly not, especially if we keep calling him "Dan Johnson".

But now there’s this:  apparently, Marco Scutaro was recently making fun of Johnson for the way he was chasing down a popup in Oakland’s large foul territory, saying he ran after it like a crab.  A nickname was born:  Dan "Crab-Man" Johnson.

I hereby declare a new law:  Dan Johnson shall be henceforth be called "Crab-Man Johnson" in all forms of conversation.  Anyone who fails to use the nickname shall receive a $100 fine.   All in favor, say aye!

Dan Johnson was just passing through, a forgettable face in the crowd, in a forgettable year for the franchise.  But Crab-Man Johnson is a classic baseball name that will likely live forever.  It leaves a smile on my face.  This season shall not have been in vain.

How I Learned to Stop Analyzing and Love the Game

"Baseball analysis is dead."
Gary Huckabay

"Well, he was an ugly guy. With an ugly face.
An also-ran in the human race.
And even God got sad just looking at him. And at his funeral
all his friends stood around looking sad. But they were really
thinking of all the ham and cheese sandwiches in the next room."

Laurie Anderson

I went to the A’s-Tigers game on Sunday, the one where the A’s came back from a 7-0 deficit to win, 8-7. I got home and couldn’t think of a single intelligent thing to write about it. It was only when I read the obituary after the weekend that I realized why.

"The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry, and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why, and Where phases.

"For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question How can we eat? the second by the question Why do we eat? and the third by the question Where shall we have lunch?"
Douglas Adams

So I turned off my analytical mind, stopped thinking about why the game turned out the way it did, and just let whatever seemed interesting lead me wherever it would go. I ended up with this, a montage of a bunch of batted balls that fielders failed to catch:

Don’t try to understand what this means, you unsophisticated ape-descendant. Just relax and enjoy your Catfish Stew.