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MLB-WS2017: Sabrmetrics, the Rush to Forgive & Ensconced In Anaheim..of Greater Los Angeles

19 Nov

Hail the Houston Astros, MLB17’s World Series champion.

Last year it was the Chicago Cubs ending the drought of all baseball droughts (1908) in taking the title which’d seemed pretty well in the Cleveland Indians’ grasp (4-3). This year it was a first-time winner, the Astros, who joined the Major club back in 1962 as the Colt .45s and having failed in their one prior Series opportunity in falling to the White Sox in 2005 (4-0), those Pale Hose nabbing their first WS in quite a spell (1917).

The opinion amongst media is that this Astros team is a template for the future MLB. Meaning, a steady, snoozy diet of numbers and more numbers (Zzzzz).

Why the Cubs (2016), Royals (2015), Red Sox (2013) and Giants (2014, 2012, 2010) weren’t touted as such, who knows? It probably has something to do with the fact these present champions are what some are calling a sabrmetric special, aka, analytics. There’s an apropos pun if there ever was one.

Houston operators in manager A.J. Hinch (formerly of the Athletics (See; Moneyball)), GM Jeff Luhnow and club PBO Reid Ryan all relied heavily on statistics, aka, “data,” to shape, guide their roster to the promised land, making the Astros the first sabrheaded organization to grab-hold of that brass ring.

But don’t bet the farm on Houston just yet, no matter how the numbers crunch.

Astros team ERA in WS17, a whopping 4.64.

Astros team BA: .230; OB%: .297; and SLG: .467. Those #s mean the Houston dudes hit poorly throughout but slugged for go-ahead runs in key moments as the Dodgers’ slightly better pitching faltered at the worst possible times (4.45).

Those numbers, the trophy, they suggest one word: Opportunistc. That’s a good trait but not one that’ll bedrock for a dynasty.

— — —

Not too surprising to know that winning a World Series is no guarantee for lifetime employment in the Major League baseball ranks as both former skippers of note, Joe Girardi (NYY 09) and John Farrell (BOS 2013) discovered in being fired post-playoff runs by their respective ball-clubs. John was canned after the Red Sox fell to the Astros in the 2017 ALDS, 3-1, Joe pink-slipped when his Yankees lost to the same Houston club in the ALCS, 4-3.

Not every owner accords that achievement (a WS title) with such an ephemeral appreciation. Some hold it close to their hearts, or so it would appear.

Case in point, billboard billionaire (OutdoorSystems) and Angels’ owner since 2003, Tuscon native Arturo Moreno. The wheeler-dealer seems to hold the view that such achievement should afford a manager his job as long as he wants to continue in the position. Bully for him.

Mike Scioscia completed his 18th year at the helm of the Halos at conclusion of 2017. It was his 2d consecutive sub-.500 finish, in a total of six. In all, Scioscia has compiled a 1570-1346 record (.538), managed seven post-season appearances, one 100-win year (08) and one World Series in 2002, the Angels only Pennant that resulted in a championship win over the Giants, 4-3.

♪♫ And the beat goes on ♪♫.

— — —

Consider how World Series 2017 will NOT be best remembered:

The Astros first MLB title.

It’s fan-friendly watchability: G5 (Astros 13-12) ended at 1:17 AM – EST.

Cries of foul for what appeared an official ball juiced to the threads.

Clay Kershaw finally performing, for one start (G1), anyway, like the pitching great his regular season stats have predicted for years.

No, it won’t be remembered best for any of those.

What World Series 2017 WILL be best remembered for is racism, it’s knowing expression through the Astros’ Yuli Gurriel and its appeasement by Major League baseball’s Cufflink-in-Chief, Commissioner Rob Manfred.

You could say, prejudice got a pass, until spring. Sigh.

The setting: G3 in Houston with the Series knotted-up at 1-1. It’s bottom of the 2d, the Astros’ Gurriel, a 33-year old Cuban in his first full major league season, hit’s a solo shot off of Dodgers’ starter and Japanese native, Yu Darvish (b.1986) who’d been a Texas Ranger (13) through the first-half of 2017.

After all the celebrating, taking his dugout seat and of course seeming in good spirits, Gurriel threw a racist brick at Darvish (Because Yu was thoughtless enough to toss a homer pitch?) in putting fingers to his eyes in childish Western-mimick of an Asian appearance, laughing and thinking himself cute. Not done, he also was overheard spewing the word chinito, meaning Chinese boy.

In Bugs Bunny speak, Yuli is a “maroon.” But he claims to understand this mental state, at least its wrong, so MLB, his ‘mates, Astros’ fans, major and junior media have all rushed to forgive the offender. How wonderful (ugh).

Commissioner Rob Manfred did not suspend YG, not even for one contest in a Series that went seven (I‘d have banned him from entering either stadium for two (2) games). Instead, Rob gave Gurriel a 5-game delayed supension to commence at the start of the 2018 season, assuming he’s still on the team. He turns 34 in June, per his birth certificate.

And with that deferred susp’n which presently amounts to no punishment at all, an awful message was sent to the public: In the rush to forgive and return to calm waters (Darvish took the high road but was in no good position to protest), racism will be tolerated by MLB if the offender “understands” his wrong, claims non-intent and an immediate susp’n in penalty might upset the balance of play when TV ratings ($) are at stake.

And what DIDN’T Baseball’s response do?

It didn’t help Baseball, domestically or internationally. That it was the Dodgers on the receiving end of Gurriel’s racist buffoonery works double damage to the national pastime’s image, the team that in Brooklyn under the Walter O’Malley, Branch Rickey, Mulvey & Smith ownership, rostered Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier (47) and has since been a leader in making the game a showcase of diversity for all races including Hispanic Central America (Fernandomania) and throughout much of the Orient (Nomomania).

It didn’t aid in the fight against racism.

It didn’t help Rob Manfred who is now a symbol of weak leadership, defined forever by his failure to take the bull by the horns.

And it didn’t really help the Astros whose title is now tainted, reminiscent of the Italian national soccer team’s World Cup win in 2006 (Germany).

When deadlocked in the championship match, Marco Materazzi hurled a harsh, family insult to France’s superstar Zinedine Zidane who head butted the offender to the ground. ZZ of course received the red-card (expelled), Italy received the advantage in OT and went on to win the Cup yet left their pride on the field.

Astros won the Series. I don’t know how much Gurriel’s presence shaped the result. He did contribute. Exactly how much of a factor his presence in all games 4 thru 7 had is neither here nor there, for justice, doing the right thing, shouldn’t balance on whether the wrongdoer is a star player or off-the-bench reserve.

But as disturbing as Gurriel’s goof and Manfred’s knee-buckle was how the Astros rallied around their teammate, acting as if his friendly clubhouse persona absolved each of them from holding the Cuban to a standard of decency and he to any sort of symbolic sacrifice in Series time lost.

So much progress yet still a ways to go. I’m hopeful Yuri helps us get there.

Steven Keys
Can of Corn
Photo credit: can-of-corn; YuriGurriel, wc.cca, 7.23.17, Baltimore, K.Allison, 1.8m; MikeScioscia, 12.9.15, A.PardavilaIII, wc.cca, MLB-WinterMeet, 5.2m; RobManfred, wc.cca, 7.15.14, wc.cca, fanfest, A.PardavilaIII, 3.5m; Y.Gurriel, 7.23.17, wc.cca, Baltimore, K.Allison, 1.2m;
Posted: 11.18.17 @ 8:28pE, edit 11.19; Copyright © 2017

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MLB16 Chin Music: Angels Weep But Gods Still Favor Pujols & Trout

29 Sep

It won’t be the question that keeps Anaheim Angels’ braintrust fidgeting when their 2016 season ends with conclusion of Sunday afternoon’s game against the visiting Astros. More likely it will be the implementation, whenever that might be, of the painful answer they already know: Mike Scioscia has gotta’ go.

Mike’s a pretty brilliant baseball mind. No doubt on that point (.541 (17)). And in his day, a pretty nifty ball-player, too. A two-time All-Star and champion (1981, ‘88), he was a mainstay backstop with Southern California rival, the Dodgers.

scioscia-wc-12-9-15-a-pardavilaiii-5-2m-wintermtgJim Fregosi (1979-81) and Gene Mauch (1981-82, ‘85-87) made the Anaheim Angels of Greater Los Angeles Metro respectable but it was Scioscia who finally molded and managed them to that brass ring, the 2002 World Series title (v. SF). To date it’s the Angels only pennant and championship.

But if it’s not working, and it hasn’t been for six of the last seven seasons, it’s gotta’ be fixed, that is, if you (owner) still have designs on winning again.

It’s not just ‘not working’ at Angel Stadium, it seems to have slipped into reverse. From 98 wins (‘14), to 85 (‘15) to 70-whatever this 2016.

Apart from that well-meant but somewhat ill-advised Josh Hamilton signing, you can’t really lay much blame at the doorstep of Angels’ owner Arte Moreno.

scioscia-wc-4-7m-7-23-11-k-allisonNumber one, he’s forked out the moolah in massive amounts to top talent in recent years in hopes of re-capturing the glory of the early 2000s, stars enough to make a tiny All-Star team, contract-money enough to fund a tiny space program but results so small the hardware would barely furnish the mantel in a “Tiny House (ugh).”

Two, Arte’s loyal, especially to dedicated employee who brought a long suffering franchise their first championship. That’s a rare thing today, in big business or small. And then how was Moreno to know Vlad Guerrero would turn out to be post-season pedestrian (17g (‘05-08): 1.rbi, 0.hr, 7r).

The ouster of Scioscia is a move many in baseball have probably pondered at each season’s end since 2012. That year marked the Halos third consecutive absence from the post-season after having made the grade in six of eight seasons prior in that successful span from 2002 (WS) thru 2009.

Since that well-deserved World Series victory in 2002 the Angels have been ignominiously bounced from six of those playoffs, going 1-12 in four divisional series, just slightly better in the two American League Championships at 3-8.

Point being, the Angels post-title decline has been clear n’ steady. There have been respites by way of playoff appearances, some in bunches (‘04-09), one set-apart (‘14), none of them at their opening having conveyed a strong sense of World Series Wherewithal (See; Above).

morenofan-wc-j-miller-6-9-7-188kIn his defense, the Pennsylvania native (11.27.58) has had his share of untimely injuries (Hamilton, Weaver, etc.) and line-ups somewhat lacking in both pitching (starters – mid – close) and hitting, particularly contact men (.300), though, such bats are at a premium today in free-swinging MLB and Angels 2016 team-BA does trend well (.260 (6-AL)).

Current Halos’ GM Billy Eppler, a sabrmetrics adherent, has only been on the job a year and can’t be expected to shoulder much blame for current malaise, though, his number fixation (WAR, OPS, etc.) does not invite hope. Any administrative blame to be doled out must be born by Bill’s predecessor, Mariners current GM in Jerry Dipoto (2011-15), along with farm-system (Mike LaCassa) and scouting (Ric Wilson) directors. Get the big bucks, you get to bear the brunt.

But line-up deficiencies, whether they be in All-Star caliber or utility players, those workaday guys that can fly under-the-radar yet meet important team needs that don’t necessarily get quantified in sabrmetric – fantasy reports, plague nearly every team in both loops.

Even baseball’s 2016 version of the NHL’s Presidents’ Trophy winner (regular season’s best) in the Chicago Cubs (Did I just write that? Good sign, Bruins-backers), have an Achilles heel or two which Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein must lose a wink or two fretting over every nite they hit the hay (Zzzz).

pujols-4-14-12-laawc-1-26m-m-olearyTwo men you can’t fault for Angels “free-fall from ecstasy (Skowron)” are Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.

In four full and one partial season (99g / 2013) with Halos, Albert, finishing his 16th MLB run and a likely 1st-ballot HOF’er when he hangs up his spikes, has clubbed 490 (+/-) ribbies and 146 taters, 29 per, on average. Pretty terrific production for a man in his mid-30s.

How many more runs of bountiful the Sporting Gods afford Al is hard to predict.

He turns 37 in January but is seems a well tuned machine and wouldn’t surprise if he produced for 2-3 more years. But one thing this fan, and AP himself most assuredly, would not want to see is that career BA dropping below the .300 mark. It currently stands at .309 but he’s been well off that average since exiting the Gateway City and will likely fall below the hallowed marker with 1-2 more full seasons of play. It’s something to ponder, anyway.

trout-wc-7-24-11-501k-md-k-allisonMike, a fan favorite due to his easy adjustment to the majors, daring style of play and, though seems in need of work on driver attentiveness (“CHP Says…” / ocregister / 9.1.16 / Schwebke & Sudock), shows a spirit for the game and concern for others, finishes up his 6th season in Anaheim and stands as a strong AL-MVP candidate, leading the loop in OB% (.441), BBs (113), likely to reach the 30 and 100 plateaus in HRs and RBIs respectively and has surpassed the 100 mark in runs-scored for the fifth time in his relatively short MLB career. He’s presently leading in that latter category (122) in a year when it‘s a good chance that 20+ players will reach the century mark in runs.

It would not be hyperbole to write that the rise of Hamiltonism (See: Billy (198 runs in 1894)) is in no small measure due to the corresponding rise in Troutonics.

Back to Mr. Scioscia. He is an Anaheim legend and will have his number or name retired. But Mike and his betters should keep in mind that all good things come to an end and change, too often today instituted haphazardly for no good reason but to keep the pay-checks coming, can in fact work a real benefit, for the franchises and legends in question (See; Curly Lambeau, Tom Coughlin, Casey Stengel & Mike Babcock whose Red Wings record compares to Mike‘s own).

What the contract between Scioscia and Moreno states in its particulars (term, payout, etc.), this writer need not know. Such agreements, if wisely drafted, contemplate the multitude of circumstance, including the above postulated.

.....canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: M.Trout, wc, MD, K.Allison, 7.23.11; M.Scioscia, 7.23.11, wc, MD, K.Allison; M.Scioscia, wc.cca, 12.9.15, A.Pardavila, WinterMeet; Moreno-Fan, J.Miller, 6.9.7, wc; A.Pujols, wc, 4.14.12, M.O’Leary; M.Trout-Fan, 7.24.11, MD, K.Allison; Canned-corn
Posted: 9.29.16 @ 4:40pm, edit @ 10:17 EST; Copyright © 2016