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Sunday, November 15, 2009

One Worth Remembering

Still, for all the tumult, it was a hell of a life, being a baseball player and a hell of a time to be a baseball player, and for the rest of their lives, they understood what a privilege it had been.
- Mike Vaccaro from The First Fall Classic

Baseball’s 2009 postseason was certainly one to remember. Over the course of 28 days and through 30 games fans were treated to some excellent baseball (the Angels dominating the Red Sox), thrilling finishes (the two extra inning games of the Yankees/Angels series), heroic efforts (Alex Rodriguez, Chase Utley), and more than a little controversy (a handful of miscues by the men in blue). And in the increasingly crowded and competitive entertainment market, baseball did as well as it has in any recent season with television ratings higher than any since 2004, in no small part due to the presence of two teams from Los Angeles and one from New York among the final four left standing.

But as good as this most recent version was, Mike Vaccaro in his new book, The First Fall Classic: The Red Sox, The Giants, and the Cast of Players, Pugs, and Politicos Who Reinvented the World Series in 1912, reminds us of two central facts of baseball history while providing an antidote to a still too common, but preciously incorrect, sentiment regarding baseball’s past.

Regarding the former, Vaccaro’s tome aptly reminds us that thrilling finishes and controversy in October (and now November) are more than a century old, and through much of the 20th century baseball held the preeminent place in the nation’s professional sporting life.

As for the remedy, for those who still hang on to the picture of baseball’s early history as simple and even innocent as compared to dim view of modern “baseball as a business” in a world of free agency, arbitration, PEDs, and the intense media spotlight, Vaccaro provides an education in how thoroughly professionalized the game was in every sense of the word. From the intense controversy over the size and source of the player’s share of the gate, to the newspaper columns that players (some of whom were involved in the series such as Christy Mathewson) penned to monetize their position, to the large sums of money that exchanged hands in bets both outside and inside the ballpark by fans, managers including John McGraw who wagered $500 on his team (to win of course), and players alike, and even extending to the interference of an owner in an attempt to extend the series thereby increasing his profits, there is very little innocence and simplicity to be found. Perhaps Fred Snodgrass, Giants center fielder in the series and the man who would be bludgeoned with the business end of the sport for the rest of his life, would say fifty years later, “We were professionals. And professionals get paid”.

For those who aren’t familiar with the details of the series I’ll leave you to discover just how the elements of civic pride and rivalry, religion and the rift it caused in one of the clubhouses, and yes, the monetary interests of everyone involved all coalesce to make those nine days (that’s right, nine days in which eight games were played with a mostly alternating schedule – and you think modern travel is tough?) in October 1912 so interesting in Vaccaro’s retelling. One mark of the greatness of the series, as Vaccaro points out in the introduction is simply this: prior to 1912 baseball's postseason was known as the "world series" while after it was the "World Series".

While the book focuses on the series itself, similar to Cait Murphy’s excellent Crazy ’08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnets Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History, the author does a good job of setting the scene of the times by primarily following two concurrent events; the attempted assassination of “Bull Moose” presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt in Milwaukee on the day of game six, and the murder trial of New York City police officer Charles Becker in which Becker stood accused of ordering the murder of the gambler Herman Rosenthal. Suffice it to say the story ends well for one and not the other. Although Murphy’s book is a little broader in its social and historical context (not to mention its main subject matter as it deals with the entire season and not just the World Series) Vaccaro adds enough of the back stories of the players and coaches (particularly Mathewson, McGraw, Tris Speaker, Snodgrass, and “Smokey” Joe Wood), as well as the owners and “politicos” (Boston Mayor John “Honey Fritz” Fitzgerald, grandfather of JFK) to paint a picture of what it was like to live in that time. In addition, he focuses on the crowds gathered at the many sites, particularly throughout New York, where the rabid throngs could assemble and “watch” the progress of the game with as little as a six second delay through a mechanical version of MLBAM’s GameDay - a recreation sometimes complete with high tech lights and buzzers and moving figures. During the series baseball crazy fans in the tens of thousands without tickets to the Polo Grounds or the gleaming new Fenway Park would make their way to sites hosted by ten daily newspapers in New York and four in Boston to take in the action. Short vignettes of a few of those regular folks serve to complete the picture.

The book is structured chronologically leading off with a recap of 1912 regular season where the Red Sox, led by Wood’s 34-5 record and 344 IP, dominated the American League with a record of 102-50 and outpacing the Senators by 14 games. The “Speed Boys” as they were known despite stealing “only” 185 bases (the Senators led with 274) and leading the league in homeruns with 29, led the league in runs scored and fewest runs allowed. In the National League the Giants, while not as dominant, won 103 games and finally shook off both the Pirates and Cubs in the final months of the season. For the Giants it was their second consecutive appearance in the series having lost to Connie Mack’s Athletics in six games in 1911 while the Red Sox were returning for the first time since the inaugural series played in 1903. From there the book offers a chapter for each of the eight games and an extra for the final day of the series along with a well done epilogue that wraps up the few loose ends that remain and provides a platform for a poignant commentary on how we remember our heroes. Perhaps the only nitpick with the presentation is the lack of an index, a feature most readers with baseball libraries would I’m sure find useful.

If The First Fall Classic isn’t quite as comprehensive in its historical context as Murphy’s or certainly Josh Prager’s The Echoing Green, in terms of the style Vaccaro hits a homerun in his descriptions of the action on the field. He notes in the introduction that the bulk of his research was in reading contemporary news accounts and so given the colorful language and detailed play by play that newspapers of that time produced, perhaps some of that rubbed off as I found that the sense of drama and reality he portrayed was simply first rate. While prior to reading I had a summary knowledge of the series, although not all the particulars to be sure, several chapters had that “page-turner” quality that are inherent in well written books. If for no other reason than its readability and drama I'd recommend this book. Of course when coupled with the other reasons noted at the beginning of this review, picking up this book is simply a no-brainer for anyone with an interest in a truer picture of the game's past.

As a quick aside, as always books like this interest me because of their ability to contrast, knowingly or unknowingly, how the game was played in the past with its modern version. And of course those that describe play in the dead ball era, when the art of playing for one run was king and defenses weren't particularly efficient in turning batted balls into outs, are even more appealing. To that end, a crucial baserunning gaffe, or should I say base coaching gaffe, by one of the teams in game three grabbed my attention since it came at an interesting time in the evolution of the practice of employing full-time coaches. While the first fill time coach, Arlie Latham, was hired by the Reds in 1900, it would be 20 years before the practice was widely accepted. Not surprisingly it was McGraw who hired both Latham and Duke Farrell as full-time coaches in 1909 while other teams used either their manager or a rotating set of players. Although the gaffe from game three might have occurred if there were a full-time coach there or not, it illustrates how far specialization in the game has come and with it a higher overall level of play.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

As Time Goes By

Today we'll run another tidbit from the errata of It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over: The Baseball Prospectus Pennant Race Book...

During which decade did baseball fans enjoy the best pennant races? Bill James, in The New Bill James Historical Abstract says unequivocally that the 1940s was "The Best Decade Ever for Pennant Races". Our compilation of Race Score by decade agrees.

Decade Aggregate Races Avg
1900s 375.5 12 31.3
1910s 234.9 9 26.1
1920s 423.6 12 35.3
1930s 226.1 13 17.4
1940s 390.9 11 35.5
1950s 371.5 12 31.0
1960s 385.1 12 32.1
1970s 310.0 17 18.2
1980s 354.1 20 17.7
1990s 247.0 16 15.4
2000s 431.5 27 16.0

The 1940s pulled out the highest average Race Score although the 1920s came in a close second and actually included one more race. Interestingly, the 1930s included 13 races, the highest percentage at 65% of any decade, and nine of those were in the NL with only 1931 excluded. However, many of the races were only marginal with the 1934 NL race won by the Cardinals on the strength of a 33-12 record down the stretch taking the highest score at 29.9 and ranking 43rd.

James ranks the races of the 1940s and so here is his list alongside our ranking.

James Year Lg Score Rank Teams Winner
1 1940 AL 46.0 16 3 Detroit Tigers (90-64)
2 1944 AL 21.0 80 2 St. Louis Browns (89-65)
3 1948 AL 72.0 3 3 Cleveland Indians (97-58)
4 1946 NL 32.9 35 2 St. Louis Cardinals (98-58)
5 1949 NL 37.0 30 2 Brooklyn Dodgers (97-57)
6 1949 AL 37.0 29 2 New York Yankees (97-57)
7 1942 NL 50.9 15 2 St. Louis Cardinals (106-48)
8 1941 NL 36.5 31 2 Brooklyn Dodgers (100-54)
9 1945 AL 18.0 86 2 Detroit Tigers (88-65)
10 1945 NL 29.9 43 2 Chicago Cubs (98-56)
1947 NL 9.8 2 Brooklyn Dodgers (94-60)

The only race from the 1940s that James doesn't include is the 1947 NL race which ranks 121st on our list in which the Dodgers overcame the Braves at midseason and held off the Cardinals, winning by a margin of five games. As James notes, the NL races of the 1940s were dominated by the Dodgers and Cardinals while in the AL the races were more diverse.

This compilation by decade also reinforces the notion that modern races garner lower race scores overall as not only the average Race Score has declined but also the number of races that have positive scores has fallen from around 57% before divisional play to 44% after.

But since our Race Score gives extra weight to races with multiple teams with good records, this trend can also be attributed to an increasing competitive balance over time. As shown in the graph below for the AL from 1901-2005, the standard deviation in winning percentage has noticeably declined over time (albeit with a number of bumps along the way and a small upturn in the past five years) as the dotted linear trend line indicates. As more teams are bunched closer together, it is statistically less likely that two or more teams will break away from the pack and therefore score very highly in the Race Score metric.

Just why competitive balance has generally increased with time is another story. The most accepted notion, popularized by the late paleontologist and baseball fan Stephen Jay Gould in the context of the disappearance of the .400 hitter , wrests upon two pillars. First, as knowledge about how to play the game has improved and become standardized it has become more difficult for players and hence teams to take advantage of their less skilled competitors. Second, the general level of play has increased due to better athletes produced through a larger population from which the best players are chosen, better diet and training, and better technology, all of which moves the game closer to the limits of human ability providing less space for variation. In the end that leaves great players and great teams, in Gould's words*, less "space for taking advantage of the suboptimality of others".

* The 1996 book Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin by Stephen Jay Gould contains an extended discussion of Gould's argument. Also see my column "Schrodinger's Bat: The Myth of the Golden Age".

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Wheel of Change

With the firing of Ned Yost yesterday with less than two weeks to go in the regular season, I thought it would be interesting to continue the errata from It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over: The Baseball Prospectus Pennant Race Book with this tidbit on managerial changes and pennant winners.

After dropping a 4-2 contest to Brooklyn at Ebbets Field on Tuesday August 2nd 1932, the Cubs under manager Rogers Hornsby were sitting at 53-46 in second place staring up at the Pirates who held a 5-game lead. As in his three previous managerial jobs Hornsby rubbed the powers that be the wrong way and William Veeck (father of the more famous Bill Veeck) ousted him and his $8,000 per month salary "for the best interests of the club" as the Cubs traveled on to Philadelphia. In his place he ensconced first baseman Charlie Grimm. After an off-day the team beat the Phillies 12-1 with the Pirates dropping a doubleheader to the Dodgers to shrink the lead to three and a half games. Under Grimm the Cubs went a sizzling 37-18 the rest of the way including a 14-game winning streak from the 20th of August through the 3rd of September. The Pirates meanwhile struggled to a 27-26 finish thereby propelling the Cubs to the pennant by a comfortable 4-game margin and coming in 132nd in our rankings.

The distinction of the 1932 season was that it was the first time in the modern era that a team changed managers in mid season and went on to win the pennant. Perhaps inspired by the move owner P.K. Wrigley in 1938, with his team in third place with a record of 45-36 5.5 games out, fired Grimm at the end of July and replaced him with catcher Gaby Hartnett. In no small part the hiring of Grimm as the needed sparkplug was based on the results of a study performed by a University of Illinois professor Wrigley hired to psychoanalyze the team. While team chemistry is often derided, perhaps the professor was onto something. Down the stretch the Cubs posted a 44-27 record including a 10-game winning streak from September 22-28. And of course famously it was manager Hartnett who homered in the bottom of the ninth on September 28th with darkness threatening to give the Cubs a 6-5 win over the Pirates and the league lead which they would not relinquish. That 1938 race ranked 70th in our list and so in the span of six years the Cubs had twice replaced their manager well into the season and both times it paid dividends.

Although these first two occurrences were wildly successful, it would take another 40 years and the advent of divisional play before the fateful summer of 1978 would see a similar occurrence. With the Yankees sitting at 52-43 in fourth place and behind the Red Sox by 10.5 games on the morning of July 25th, Bob Lemon would replace Billy Martin (Dick Howser managed one game in the interim) who resigned after disparaging comments referencing star Reggie Jackson and owner George Steinbrenner. Lemon is credited with calming the stormy sea and the team went on a 47-20 tear to tie for the AL East title and then…well, the rest as they say is history.

It wasn't long after, that three teams in the fateful summer of 1981 would make the post season after having made a managerial change.

  • The Kansas City Royals slumped badly in the first half after their 1980 World Series appearance posting a 20-30 record under manager Jim Frey. After opening the second half 10-10 Frey was dismissed in favor of Dick Howser and the Royals went 20-13 the rest of the way winning the second half Western Division title.

  • The Montreal Expos were in a similar situation posting a 30-25 record in the first half under Dick Williams. A 14-12 record to begin the second half led to his ouster and replacement by Jim Fanning who guided the team to a 16-11 finish and the Expos only post season appearance.

  • The Yankees led by Gene Michael won the AL East first half title with a record of 34-22. However, a 14-12 start to the second half led to Michael's replacement by the miracle worker of 1978, Bob Lemon. This time though, the Yanks did not respond and went 11-14 the rest of the way before picking themselves back up and beating the Brewers and the A's enroute to the World Series. This was the only time in history that a post season team's replacement manager had a worse record than the manager being replaced.

  • But none of these were, statistically speaking anyway, the biggest turnarounds correlated with managerial changes by post season teams. That honor goes to the 1989 Toronto Blue Jays. After enduring a 12-24 (.333) start under Jimmy Williams, General Manager Pat Gillick hired Cito Gaston on May 31st as the interim manager. That interim title was quickly forgotten as the Jays reeled off a 77-49 (.611) record with the help of acquisitions Lee Mazzilli and Mookie Wilson from the Mets leading to a 20-9 August that saw them pull into a first place tie with the surprising Orioles as the month closed. After holding a slim lead most of the month of September, the Jays hooked up with the Orioles in a three game series at the new Sky Dome (opened in June and host to a new Major League attendance record of almost 3.4 million fans) on the season's final weekend with the Orioles one game back. The Blue Jays took the first two games of the series 2-1 and 4-3 to seal the deal and come in 129th in our rankings. The difference in winning percentage after the managerial change of .278 was the largest in history by a wide margin.

    All of the races already mentioned and a few more where post season teams have made managerial moves are shown in the table below and sorted by change in winning percentage.

    Year Team Lg Manager W L Pct Replaced By W L Pct Change
    1989 Toronto AL Jimmy Williams 12 24 0.333 Cito Gaston 77 49 0.611 0.278
    2003 Florida NL Jeff Torborg 16 22 0.421 Jack McKeon 75 49 0.605 0.184
    1981 Kansas City AL Jim Frey 30 40 0.429 Dick Howser 20 13 0.606 0.177
    1978 New York AL Billy Martin 52 43 0.547 Bob Lemon 48 20 0.706 0.159
    2004 Houston NL Jimmy Williams 44 44 0.500 Phil Garner 48 26 0.649 0.149
    1932 Chicago NL Rogers Hornsby 53 46 0.535 Charlie Grimm 37 18 0.673 0.137
    1982 Milwaukee AL Buck Rodgers 23 24 0.489 Harvey Kuenn 72 43 0.626 0.137
    1983 PhiladelphiaNL Pat Corrales 43 42 0.506 Paul Owens 47 30 0.610 0.105
    1988 Boston AL John McNamara 43 42 0.506 Joe Morgan 46 31 0.597 0.092
    1938 Chicago NL Charlie Grimm 45 36 0.556 Gabby Hartnett 44 27 0.620 0.064
    1981 Montreal NL Dick Williams 44 37 0.543 Jim Fanning 16 11 0.593 0.049
    1996 Los Angeles NL Tommy Lasorda 41 35 0.539 Bill Russell 49 37 0.570 0.030
    1981 New York AL Gene Michael 48 34 0.585 Bob Lemon 11 14 0.440 -0.145

    A few notes:

  • Fifteen years after his replacement by Gaston, Jimmy Williams was once again shoved aside in favor of Phil Garner who led the Astros to a playoff appearance in 2004 making Williams the only manager to capture such a "distinction".

  • "Trader Jack" McKeon captures the second biggest turnaround with the Marlins 75-49 finish on the way to their second World Championship. McKeon was no stranger to big turnarounds. On May 23, 1978 the A's were leading the AL West by two games with a record of 24-15 when manager Bobby Winkles, deciding he'd had enough of Charlie Finley, stepped down. McKeon replaced Winkles, who ironically had replaced him the previous season, and the A's went on to post a 45-78 record good for the largest drop in winning percentage after a managerial change at -.250.

  • The replacement in 1982 of Buck Rodgers by Harvey Kuenn was told in colorful detail by Daniel Okrent in his classic 9 Innings. Mike Caldwell, Ted Simmons, and Rollie Fingers were among the most vocal of Rodgers critics. In fact, a public tirade by Fingers after he wasn't brought in against a lefty in the ninth inning of a May 31st loss sealed the coffin.

  • From an analysts perspective the thing to note is that except in the cases of the first three teams listed in the table, all the rest were respectable to good teams who simply played better once their new managers were in place. The aggregate winning percentage of these thirteen before the change was .512 while after it skyrocketed to .616. In other words, these teams were already in a position to succeed.

    Aside from these teams there have been 276 others since 1900 (not counting the 1961-62 Cubs whose famous "college of coaches" experiment failed) that have employed multiple managers (with the 1937 Tigers and 1968 White Sox employing five managers each). Obviously the vast majority of managerial changes engender no such turnaround. Even so, considering only the 52 teams who already had a .500 record or greater when their first manager was replaced, we find that roughly 20% (13 of the now 65) of the teams equipped to win, went on to post season play after changing managers. Most front offices would take those odds. Knowing when to pull the trigger, on the other hand, is the tough part.

    Friday, August 08, 2008

    The More and the Less the Merrier

    This is a continuation of the serialization of "The Great Pennant Race Abstract" from the book It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over: The Baseball Prospectus Pennant Race Book.

    One of the three components of our methodology in ranking the races is to consider the number of teams involved. Obviously more teams typically leads both to more fan interest across the country as well as heightened drama.

    But what about the greatest two team race? That distinction belongs to the 1942 NL race won by the St. Louis Cardinals. The reason that race scores so highly is because it was so close, being decided by just two games, and both teams easily topped 100 wins with the Cards winning 106 and the Dodgers 104. There was also plenty of drama for good measure. On the morning of August 16th it was the Dodgers, featuring a pair of 23 year olds in Pee Wee Reese and Pete Resier, who held a nine and half game lead over the Cardinals. But the Branch Rickey built Cards, and second youngest team in the league with contributions from rookies Stan Musial in left field and Johnny Beazley on the mound, would go on to win 35 of 41 games and 12 of their final 13 while the Dodgers finished 25-17 to take the pennant and eventually the World Series over the Yankees in five games.

    That great Cardinal team, then nicknamed the "St. Louis Swifties", was also interesting in that they led the league in runs scored (4.84 per game, a fact that is often forgotten), batting average, on base percentage, and even slugging percentage despite hitting just 60 homeruns finishing sixth in the eight team league. To make up for their lack of homerun power which saw their infielders hit just 9, the team slugged 69 triples and 282 doubles both of which led the league. Enos Slaughter racked up 17 triples and 31 doubles while 6'2" second sacker Marty Marion hit 38 doubles. Sportsman's Park certainly played as a hitter's park but they also led the league in fewest runs allowed (3.09 per game) by a wide margin led by MVP Mort Cooper who twirled 10 shutouts on his way to 22 wins.

    On the other side of the coin the only five team race among the 165 that had positive Race Scores was the 1988 AL East race which ranked 23rd and was won by the Red Sox with a record of 89-73 with the five teams finishing within 3.5 games. This race scored highly despite the victor only garnering 89 wins in part because of the 30% bonus awarded to a five team race.

    Team Name G W L PCT GB RS RA
    Boston Red Sox 162 89 73 0.549 - 813 689
    Detroit Tigers 162 88 74 0.543 1 703 658
    Milwaukee Brewers 162 87 75 0.537 2 682 616
    Toronto Blue Jays 162 87 75 0.537 2 763 680
    New York Yankees 161 85 76 0.528 3.5 772 748
    Cleveland Indians 162 78 84 0.481 11 666 731
    Baltimore Orioles 161 54 107 0.335 34.5 550 789

    The Orioles were out of the race early as losers of their first 21 games shattering the previous record of 13 and the Indians, while briefly in first place in April, soon turned mediocre. It was the Yankees and Tigers who then got hot and occupied the top two spots, 6 games in front of the rest of the pack as July dawned. Over the All-Star break the Red Sox, with a record of 43-42, fired manager John McNamara and promoted coach Joe Morgan (more on managerial changes below). The Sox then started the second half with a 12-game winning streak, picked up Mike Boddicker at the trading deadline to fill out the rotation, and pulled into a tie with the Tigers on September 3rd. From there they built a five game lead by September 23st but then promptly lost seven of their last nine and just barely holding on.

    The Tigers were by then the oldest team in the league (more on old teams below) and their offense faded down the stretch as did the Yankees pitching, which was second worst in the league only to Baltimore. The Yankees had a managerial change of their own when Billy Martin, returning to the job for the fifth and final time, was fired in late June when the Yankees slipped from first.

    What Have You Done For Me Lately

    This is a continuation of the serialization of "The Great Pennant Race Abstract" from the book It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over: The Baseball Prospectus Pennant Race Book.

    Many readers will be interested in which pennant races in the last few years rank the highest and so here are the top 10 races since the dawn of the new millennium.

    Rank Year Lg Div Score Teams Winner
    1 2007 NL West 32.7 3 Arizona Diamondbacks (90-72)
    2 2004 AL West 31.8 3 Anaheim Angels (92-70)
    3 2002 NL West 30.0 3 Arizona Diamondbacks (98-64)
    4 2005 AL East 28.0 2 New York Yankees (95-67)
    5 2004 AL East 27.9 2 New York Yankees (101-61)
    6 2006 AL Central 27.0 2 Minnesota Twins (96-66)
    7 2002 AL West 26.2 2 Oakland Athletics (103-59)
    8 2000 NL East 25.0 2 Atlanta Braves (95-67)
    9 2001 NL Central 24.0 2 Houston Astros/St. Louis Cardinals (93-69)
    10 2007 AL East 22.9 2 Boston Red Sox (96-66)

    The most recent race to make the list is of course the excellent 2007 NL West race between the Diamondbacks, Padres, and Rockies thanks to the improbable heroics of the Rox. But just two years ago, the 2006 AL Central race was very tight as the Tigers, after leading the division for almost the entire season, were passed by the Twins on the season's final day as the Tigers fell in twelve innings to the lowly Royals as the Twins beat the White Sox.

    The 2004 AL West race takes the second spot and the 38th overall as the Anaheim Angels finished one game in front of the A's and three games ahead of the Rangers. The Angels took matters into their own hands by beating the Rangers three out of four and the A's four out of six to close the season. Although the Diamondbacks in the 2002 NL West race were in sole possession of first place after July 15th, the race scores well since it tightened in the final week before Arizona swept a 4-game series with the Rockies to end the season and win by just 2.5 games over the Giants.

    The unbalanced schedule since the introduction of divisional play coupled with the fewer number of teams per division - especially since 1995 and the addition of two more divisions - makes it a bit more difficult for modern races to rack up really high Race Scores. When you consider that 176 of the 312 races occurred since the inception of divisional play in 1969, and yet only 12 of the top 50 races but 28 of the next 50 are from this period, you can see how the calculation of the Race Score favors the past. Traditionalists will no doubt agree that this is the way it ought to be.

    Saturday, July 12, 2008

    Rookie Reporter Showdown

    Given that I think all of us have at one time or another thought that we could call a game better than this or that announcer, I thought this contest was interesting. Gillette is offering fans the chance to join the broadcasting team during the 2008 World Series.

    To enter you have to go to the site linked above and upload a video that proves you're better than they are. Gillette will then choose 48 finalists from across the country to compete in a series of "reporter" challenges hosted by ESPN baseball reporter Erin Andrews that will air during live local MLB telecasts. Viewers are then asked to vote for their favorite to decide who will be the Rookie Reporter. Good Luck!

    Monday, July 07, 2008

    Dr. Stat Attacks!

    Very funny stuff from Joe Posnanski. When I was at Tropicana last year they had no such cartoon but given the atmosphere they're trying to create there and the ginormous video screen that dominates the venue, it doesn't surprise me.

    Saturday, July 05, 2008


    In an ongoing effort to wear oursevles out completely before we move to Pittsburgh, my 12-year old daughter Laura and I ascended (and descended) Pike's Peak today.

    We were up at 4:30 armed with breakfast courtesy of my lovely wife and our backpacks loaded with great snacks and headed out to a place called The Crags campground which is on the back of the mountain at an elevation of around 10,000 feet. We disembarked and were on the trail at 5:50AM.

    After hiking a couple miles through the forest you come out just below the tree line and then after a series of switchbacks have to ascend almost straight up the bluff to reach the saddle at just below 13,000 feet. That stretch was particularly trying for us and we had to stop frequently and used up a good portion of our water.

    Once we got to the saddle the hiking was easier and our spirits were better as evidenced by this photo where Laura shows the way to the summit:

    However, after crossing the road used by a gazillion tourists on this day and paralleling the road for a long ways, we came to the final boulder field to ascend the last 500 feet to the summit. We got off the trail a little and although our route was shorter it was not easy and by the time we reached the summit just before 11AM we were both spent. But still, we had to stand in line for about 10 minutes to get the obligatory picture taken (the walking stick isn't just for show, I needed it to hold myself up :)

    After the photo we had our lunch in the gift shop and hung around for about an hour drinking as much water as we could and digesting. We headed back at noon (kind of hoping someone in a truck or SUV would ask if we wanted a ride part way down to where the trail intersected the road) and although it was easier and faster going down, our calves and ankles got very sore from navigating the rocks and trying to avoid slipping (it rained starting about 3/4 of the way down). Anyway, we were back at the car at 4:30 and are now immovable in front of the TV and computer for the remainder of the evening. All told it was about a 12 mile hike and although we had gone on a few hikes in the preceding weeks, they were nowhere close to as long.

    It was harder than we both thought and I was so proud of Laura for sticking it out when early on she was having some trouble. She was quite a trooper and of course just spending the time with her was a treat.