At 82, Earl Weaver has left the building. The Hall of Fame manager from the Baltimore Orioles passed away today of an apparent heart-attack and the baseball world is less for it. He was a brilliant manager, and colorful in ways that might make Yogi Berra blush.
His managerial record tells the story: His 1,480-1,060 record ranks 22 all-time, sandwiched in-between Clark Griffith and Bruce Bochey. His .583 win percentage is the best by any manager who started after 1960. He won four American League pennants—three in a row from 1969-1971-- and the World Series in 1970. The only time that he finished below .500 was 1986 (73-89, .451) his final season managing. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee as Manager in 1996.
"Earl Weaver stands alone as the greatest manager in the history of the Orioles organization and one of the greatest in the history of baseball,” said Orioles managing partner, Peter Angelos. “This is a sad day for everyone who knew him and for all Orioles fans. Earl made his passion for the Orioles known both on and off the field. On behalf of the Orioles, I extend my condolences to his wife, Marianna, and to his family."
Said Commissioner Selig of his passing, “Earl Weaver was a brilliant baseball man, a true tactician in the dugout and one of the key figures in the rich history of the Baltimore Orioles, the Club he led to four American League pennants and the 1970 World Series Championship. Having known Earl throughout my entire career in the game, I have many fond memories of the Orioles and the Brewers squaring off as American League East rivals. Earl’s managerial style proved visionary, as many people in the game adopted his strategy and techniques years later.
“Earl was well known for being one of the game’s most colorful characters with a memorable wit, but he was also amongst its most loyal. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to his wife, Marianne, their family and all Orioles fans.”
He was a man that loathed bunting and a strategy of station-to-station leaning on what Bill James would later make a cornerstone of many sabermatricians: don’t squander outs. He was often quoted as saying, “pitching, defense, and the three-run homer" win games. "The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field,” he said. Before the use of computers had made their way into the front offices of clubs in the league, Weaver had a legendary card system of notes that he had collected over his managerial career. He used the notes to his advantage and was keen on knowing particular pitcher-hitter match-ups in which hitters that might be weaker over the course of a season might have a particularly strong pitcher’s number. He knew his players well enough to know that some were weak or strong coming out of Spring Training, and adjusted for it. He knew his players, but rarely engaged with them. "A manager should stay as far away as possible from his players. I don't know if I said ten words to Frank Robinson while he played for me," Weaver once said. And his players often said the same of Weaver. Jim Palmer said, "The only thing Earl knows about a curveball is that he couldn't hit it," a reference to Weavers playing days. But, his system worked. The book, "Weaver on Strategy" is still a valuable read.
His rants with umpires were legendary, even if his physical stature wasn't intimidating (he was all of 5’ 7”). Weaver saw his position of “getting into it” with the umpires as part of his job, not his players. "The job of arguing with the umpire belongs to the manager, because it won't hurt the team if he gets thrown out of the game," Weaver said.
Finally, one wonders if this Weaver quote will become a reality. "On my tombstone just write, 'The sorest loser that ever lived.'” I can see Weaver arguing with God now... "Whadda ya mean, I'm in heaven?!? Can't you see I haven't cross the line?!?! Get some $%&#@ glasses!!!"
Goodbye, Earl. Thanks for the memories (CAUTION: ADULT LANGUAGE):
Major League Baseball has released the 2013 Spring Training schedule, and with it, the first Spring Training exhibition game will be held on Thursday, February 21st in Fort Myers, Florida, where the Boston Red Sox will host Northeastern University. Along with that, the following day four games for charity will be played, including one in the Grapefruit League and three in the Cactus League. The first full slate of games involving all 30 Major League Clubs will take place on Saturday, February 23rd.
To add a wrinkle, the teams competing in the San Juan, Puerto Rico pool (Pool C) and the Scottsdale/Phoenix, Arizona pool (Pool D) of the 2013 World Baseball Classic will participate in exhibition games against Major League Clubs on Tuesday, March 5th and Wednesday, March 6th. Teams representing the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Spain and Venezuela will each play two games at Grapefruit League sites, while teams from Canada, Italy, Mexico and the United States will each compete in two contests at Cactus League sites. In addition, the two Semi-Finalist teams to advance from the second round in Tokyo, Japan (Pool 1) will play two exhibition games at Cactus League sites on Thursday, March 14th and Friday, March 15th before heading to San Francisco for the Championship Round of the World Baseball Classic from Sunday, March 17th through Tuesday, March 19th.
In terms of games that lead up to the regular season, there are several exhibition games at Major League and Minor League ballparks that will be played from Thursday, March 28th through Saturday, March 30th. The Houston Astros, playing their first season in the American League, will host the opening game of the 2013 regular season on Sunday, March 31st, when they welcome the Texas Rangers at 8:00 p.m. (ET) / 7:00 p.m. (CT) on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. Twelve games are scheduled for Monday, April 1st and seven games are scheduled for Tuesday, April 2nd, with the first full slate of regular season games on Wednesday, April 3rd
SELECT READ MORE TO SEE THE COMPLETE 2013 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)
Let's face it, people love contests. And, if you’re a fan of baseball, you also likely have weighed on this uniform or that, discussing the good and the bad of design.
The Milwaukee Brewers have taken the two and put them together making a contest to design an alternate on-field uniform. Over 700 entries were submitted, and now it’s down to three finalists. The pessimist says this is about saving money on a uniform design, but clearly this is about engaging fans and making them feel part of the Brewers community. Hat tip to them for that.
The three finalists – two of whom live outside of Wisconsin - have been invited by the Brewers to travel to Milwaukee for Brewers On Deck at the Delta Center on Sunday, January 27 where the winner will be announced on the Klement’s Main Stage. According to the Brewers, the “reveal” will be hosted by Brewers pitcher John Axford. The winner will receive a trip to Brewers Spring Training 2013 to see the winning design on the field at a game.
Ron Verrecchio from Catonsville, Maryland, Ben Peters from Richfield, Minnesota and Nicholas Fout from Madison, Wisconsin have all been invited to appear at Brewers On Deck to discuss their designs as they try to win the trip to Spring Training. The panel discussion will take place at 10:15 am on the Main Stage.
A fan vote to help determine the winner is now open at Brewers.com/uniform and the three finalists’ designs can be viewed below.
In addition to the fan vote, a panel of voters including Axford, Brewers President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Doug Melvin and Brewers Chief Operating Officer Rick Schlesinger will judge the finalists. The fan vote will remain open until Tuesday, January 22 at 10 a.m. CT and will count as one vote among the panel of eight judges. Other judges include Jill Aronoff, Brewers Senior Director – Merchandise Branding and representatives from Majestic, New Era and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The hats and uniforms from the winning design will be worn by all Brewers players and coaches at the Friday, March 22 Spring Training game at Maryvale Baseball Park against the Chicago Cubs.
In addition, the Brewers announced today that the uniforms will also be worn at Miller Park on Saturday, March 30 as the Brewers take on the Chicago White Sox in an exhibition game.
Merchandise including t-shirts and hats featuring the winning design will be available for purchase at the Brewers Team Store by Majestic at Miller Park and at the Brewers Team Store at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix.
The three design renderings – jerseys and hats - are below.
Snow may still blanket parts of the country today, but believe it or not, we’re 4 weeks from catchers and pitchers reporting for Spring Training, and Opening Day isn’t far behind that.
Many MLB players are already working out, at the same time, in the front offices around the league, sales teams are feverishly working to sell season ticket packages. The majority of clubs have yet to release individual game tickets for sale.
Still, it’s not too early to see what trends in the ticket resale space as we approach the season. Based on data provided by ticket resell aggregator Razorgator, some interesting trends have surfaced.
Razorgator’s data is based off of asking price across their registered sellers. With that, the data provided gives a window into how those looking to resell tickets early on are setting their price points.
The average home price on the resale market comes in at $70.42 with 11 clubs above the average and 19 clubs below. Three clubs (Cubs, Red Sox, and Giants) see the average home price above $100, with the Cubs leading the way at $120.44 followed closely by the Red Sox ($119.53), and then Giants ($111.55).
It would make sense that the top 3 priced tickets by home average have either small-historic ballparks (Cubs and Red Sox), while just behind them you see the 2012 World Series Champion Giants. But, in a sign that fans feel that only two years into a new ballpark they can unload tickets for roughly what they got into them for, the fourth-highest priced resale home ticket price by average goes to the Miami Marlins at $89.85. We’ll see how that number changes (if at all) as we approach the season. It’s possible with the fire sale that’s happened with the club that the resale market could be flooded, thus driving the price down.
The best bang for your buck for the average price on the resale market goes to the Cincinnati Reds ($44.10) and Washington Nationals ($41.27), both of whom won their Divisions.
When it comes to the average resale asking price for away games, the average is $75.55 with just eight teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cardinals, Reds, Cubs, Orioles, and Mariners) toping the list above the average. Expectedly just two clubs (the Yankees at $148.53 and Red Sox at $109.13) have an average away price above $100. Both clubs are iconic brands with storied histories, so the ability to ask such a high price across the country makes sense.
At the bottom the list, the Miami Marlins in their post-fire sale mode, are garnering the lowest asking price for an away team at just $57.34. The Twins, at #29 come in at $63.21.
Once again, the best bang for your buck for away games is the Washington Nationals. While not the cheapest resell average out there, at $67.13 they rank #23 out of the 30 clubs by average resale asking price.
For interleague, it seems that in the New York area, the Yankees and Mets still garner extreme interest. Based on Razorgator data, the average ticket price for the May 27-28 series between the two pulls at $214.10 is almost exactly 3 times the interleague average of $71.38. A great deal looks to the Dodgers at Yankee Stadium on June 18-19 at $75.49.
Click to see in larger view
Other points of interest….
The current resale cost of purchasing a Yankees or Mariners home game ticket are nearly identical ($66.44 for the Yankees compared to $64.78 for the Mariners)
The Astros, who lost more than 100 games this past season and could potentially have it happen again in 2013 have an average asking resale price for home games at $51.71 or more than $10 what the Nationals are coming in at ($41.27)
For some strange reason, the Mariners rank #8 for away games with an average asking price of $77.56. Maybe this is the King Felix factor, but one would be hard pressed to make a good case for that.
If I’m a fan, and the Giants are scheduled to visit, I’d get in on it now. At an average of $70.68, the current World Series champs rank #19 for away price. That’s lower than the Astros, Brewers, Rays, and Mariners.
SELECT READ MORE TO SEE THE INFOGRAPHIC DATA FOR EACH OF THE 30 CLUBS
Since Bud Selig stepped into the ownership ranks of Major League Baseball, he seemed to be everywhere, all the time. Early in his Brewers ownership tenure there didn’t seem to be a committee that he wasn’t on, learning every aspect of the ownership and league structure. But, if there was a defining moment for Selig—one in which he positioned himself to become the “every owner” commissioner that he is today— it has to be 1993, just a year after taking on the role of acting commissioner.
That year, real concerns began to surface over revenue-sharing. Remember, at the time, there was little if any. The AL had a system where sharing was 20 percent and the NL was 5 percent. Just prior, the Yankees inked their deal with MSG in 1989 worth nearly $500 million, and the Orioles were ushering in big revenues after the success of Camden Yards opening. To address the issue, a meeting was called in Kohler, WI where large revenue club owners formed one caucus while small and mid-markets formed another. The meetings were so acrimonious (Paul Beeston, then the president of the Blue Jays said that acrimony wasn’t a strong enough word; hatred was more appropriate) that Selig had to shuttle notes back and forth to try and keep communications going. In the end, Selig was able to calm the waters by building consensus (although the issue on revenue-sharing was not fully resolved until January of 1994), something that has become the current commissioner’s strongest strength.
Flash-forward to today, and Selig is about as beloved as one commissioner can get with his employers, the club owners. I have joked that he is so beloved by them that if they could, they would make Selig the eternal commissioner of the game going so far that upon his passing, they would stuff him, prop him up in a chair, hold a séance and let Selig run the league from the afterlife.
Of course, that’s not going to happen. But, there will come a day when he actually retires from the position (something that has become bit of a running joke as he has said he was going to retire more than once only to be lured back by the owners), or, he’ll remain in the position until his passing.
When that happens, a new era will be ushered in. In the past, I have leaned back on the things that made Selig work so well… an owner… one that could relate to both small and large revenue makers… a consensus builder…. In the end, I have begun to believe that times have changed, and that at the very least, the next commissioner may not have to be an owner. At the same time, I don’t see an outsider—your Fay Vincents, or Peter Ueberroths—being a good fit. I’m shifting more internally.
It may be that his relationship in the labor trenches might preclude him from eventually landing the position, but I’m finding it harder and harder to not envision Rob Manfred, the current Executive Vice President, Economics & League Affairs of the league as the next commissioner of Major League Baseball. If there’s a #2 in baseball, it seems to be Manfred. The one matter that could make the transition interesting is that Manfred and MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner have become a well-oiled machine on labor issues. Selig has become more of a “big picture” figure with the league while Manfred has worked to implement the desires of Selig and the owners. This matter of having the commissioner out of direct talks has served itself well, and one wonders if that dynamic would be a key aspect that the owners would wish to retain.
At the same time, Manfred has become a key figure. If there’s one that understands the mindset of the league, it’s likely him, and based upon the long-standing relationship with Mike Weiner, it could work.
The bigger question—the one that looms out there—is how Manfred would be working the phones and being the master consensus builder that Selig is. Fans bemoan Selig, but in speaking with owners across the spectrum, they all say that Bud can be on the phone speaking with a low-revenue owner at one moment, and with a larger revenue-maker the next, and he seems to always be able to come across as understanding the needs of each. It’s a rare quality that whoever takes over the helm will be measured by. Whether that’s Manfred, a current owner, or an outsider, “communication” and “consensus builder” both have become cornerstones of Lords of Baseball.
Selig’s contract expires at the end of the 2014 season, but it’s likely that he’ll renew then, as well. One can’t imagine that at some point, somewhere, a conversation about his replacement hasn’t happened. But, if there were real seriousness in the effort, there would have been a search committee prepping for the transition. To date, none has. Maybe I was right to begin with. Maybe Selig will be the eternal commissioner of baseball. If the owners could make it happen, I think that would suit them just fine.
Reference: Details on revenue-sharing prior to Kohler via “In the Best Interest of the Game” by Andrew Zimbalist
Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association today announced substantial changes to the league’s drug policy that will now provide for unannounced, random blood testing for the detection of human growth hormone (hGH) beginning with the upcoming season. In a landmark agreement, MLB players began hGH testing beginning with Spring Training in 2012, and all players were subject to hGH blood testing for reasonable cause at all times during the year. During the 2012-2013 off-season, players have already been subject to random unannounced testing for hGH.
Since July of 2010, Major League Baseball has conducted random blood testing for the detection of hGH among Minor League players.
To add, the league and union for the players addressed elevated testosterone. The sides have agreed to establish a longitudinal profile program, in which a player's baseline Testosterone/Epitestosterone (T/E) ratio and other data will be maintained by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-accredited Montreal Laboratory currently employed by MLB and the MLBPA. Using Carbon Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) analysis on all specimens that vary materially from a player's baseline values, each player will now have a unique profile. In the past, players had looked to skirt the edges of a 4:1 T/E ratio. Now, a player will be evaluated based on their unique baseline. To add further disincentive to use testosterone as a performance-enhancer there will be an increase in the number of random IRMS analysis the league and union’s lab conducts on specimens.
Last season, Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, and Yasmani Grandal all tested positive for elevated testosterone, while Eliezer Alfonzo was able to have a 100 game suspension rescinded. In the case of Alfonzo, he raised issues that were nearly identical to those resolved in the arbitration involving Brewer, and NL MVP Ryan Braun where chain of custody of test samples were challenged. That loophole has since been closed.
Of the changes to the drug policy Commissioner Selig said, “This agreement addresses critical drug issues and symbolizes Major League Baseball’s continued vigilance against synthetic human growth hormone, Testosterone and other performance-enhancing substances. I am proud that our system allows us to adapt to the many evolving issues associated with the science and technology of drug testing. We will continue to do everything we can to maintain a leadership stature in anti-doping efforts in the years ahead.”
MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner added in a statement that, “the Players are determined to do all they can to continually improve the sport’s Joint Drug Agreement. Players want a program that is tough, scientifically accurate, backed by the latest proven scientific methods, and fair; I believe these changes firmly support the Players’ desires while protecting their legal rights.”
Christiane Ayotte, the Director of the Montreal Laboratory where testing will be conducted said, “Although the Montreal Laboratory has made extensive use of IRMS in the past, the addition of random blood testing and a longitudinal profiling program makes Baseball’s program second to none in detecting and deterring the use of synthetic hGH and Testosterone. A drug testing program that follows over a thousand steroid profiles and tests over a thousand blood specimens each year compares favorably with any WADA program.”
Major League Baseball became the first pro sports league to implement hGH testing. The NFL and NFL Players Association agreed to hGH testing prior to MLB as part of their latest labor agreement but have not yet been able to implement the program.
When the results of the Hall of Fame voting was released yesterday—a spectacular O-fer that hasn’t been seen since 1996—I hesitated to write a column on the matter. Slings and arrows were flung, fingers were pointed, and the debate rages on.
But I couldn’t help but get back to the fact that what’s really happening now with these players from the steroid era hitting the ballot was somehow all missed. Yes, there have been lots of articles on the topic, but it’s not just the steroid era that’s to be discussed, it’s the present.
I am not advocating a witch hunt. I am not advocating an erosion of player rights. I’m advocating education. I’m advocating being on watch. I’m advocating a certain amount of proactiveness on the part of the writers.
While MLB has stepped up testing at the Major and Minor league levels, I’m not seeing the same level being put forth by the writers, and when I say “writers”, I include myself.
Yes, I have published data on drug suspensions—voluminous amounts of it. I have done analysis each year. And yet, I, of all people, should have seen the signs.
We can go back to last year and start with Melky Cabrera or Bartolo Colon. Here were two examples of players that last year saw performance well above what should have been their statistical norm. But, it goes further, and here’s where we as writers need to tread lightly.
In 2011, the BBWAA voted Ryan Braun the NL MVP and shortly thereafter, by only a break in the chain of custody that today would be rendered moot by changes to the drug policy, Braun avoided a 50 game suspension for elevated levels of testosterone. Melky… Bartolo… Yasmani Grandal… Eliezer Alfonzo (although his suspension was rescinded)…. Ryan Braun. There’s your pattern. There’s your story.
The league and player’s union realize that at the Major League level the issue of elevated testosterone has surpassed steroid use by the players as a substance they may be able to get away with. Today, it will be announced at the Owner’s Meetings that there will be changes to the drug policy, and one wonders if addressing elevated T/E will be part of it.
This is all at the Major League level, because of course, that’s where the bread and butter is and that’s where the issue PEDs have reared its ugly head the most in the media and in the halls of Congress. But, if we truly want to understand the culture driving PED use, then we better roll up our sleeves and begin taking a good hard look at what’s been happening this whole time in the Minors.
In looking at the total drug suspension record for last year, there were more than 10,000 tests and 104 suspensions, or roughly 1 percent of the total. Still, with enough data over the years (you can see it all here), the trends are there. Yes, steroid use is still in baseball. Yes, amphetamines are there. It’s not as if there’s a switch that says when a player goes to the Majors, this whole cycle of PED use stops. After all, the money in massive salaries is the allure that continues to push players to try and gain competitive advantage, so we’re not out of the woods, and not by a longshot.
So, it’s here that we writers should consider focusing. No, it’s not as sexy and self-serving as getting up on your PED soapbox for the Hall of Fame voting, but it gets your eyes focused on the players that will eventually be hitting the ballot.
Maybe the issue is we’ve gotten it all wrong; this notion that it’s the “steroid era”. Maybe, we should look at it for what it is which is the perpetual, never-ending battle between those that are seeking competitive advantage with PEDs and those trying to prevent it. The best the writers can do is get educated to best address the complex issue. Don’t use it to witch hunt. Use it so that when the time comes when the fans ask, “Why were you asleep on watch when this all went down?” at least you can say, “I wasn’t.”
UPDATE: The BBWAA reports that no players elected in this year's class. Select Read More to see the vote details. Let’s get some things clear first before we get started….
I don’t have a vote (I’m not yet in the BBWAA, and it would be 10 years after that before I'd be allowed to vote for the Hall of Fame)…. I believe that the Baseball Hall of Fame is a wonderful museum and research facility built at the fictitious location where the birth of baseball is said to have occurred…. People are not all “rainbows and unicorns.”…. Cheating in baseball began long before steroids were the lightening rod they are today... The HOF isn’t Church, so don't vote like it is…. Those that are not filling out their ballots as a form of protest are weak, making the story about them, and need to get in the trenches, deal with it or step aside. Your vote is a privilege, not a right. Deal with the complexities of it all.
With that all out of the way, if I had a ballot to fill, here’s how I would have voted this year:
My ballot has 8 votes, which leads to a real issue that may come up this year: there may not be enough votes for a given player to garner the 75% threshold needed for inclusion. With the PED controversy surrounding Bonds, Clemens, Bagwell, and potentially Piazza (see how that creates this silly slippery slope?), along with the strong ballot could create the conundrum. The last time there were no inductees on the player ballot was in 1996 with Phil Niekro (68% of the ballot) and 1971 when the best Yogi Berra pulled was 67%. So, it has happened, and this year is a good chance it could happen again. If there's a player that has a shot, I'm giving it to Raines.
The best thing about all this is it creates debate. The issue this year is the addition of suspected steroid users. Baseball isn’t Church. The voting body isn’t judge, jury, and executioner. The lone exception for me is Rafael Palmeiro. In his case, he did test positive for steroids. Beyond that, “suspected” isn’t the same.
I get that people don’t want PEDs in the game, and no one could be more agreeable on that than I. But, what people are really concerned about are the “sacred numbers.” You don’t really care about PEDs in the game. No one cares about the fact that this year saw the most Minor League drug suspensions since testing began. No, you like your HOF plaques clean and memorable. No one drank. No one womanized. No one was a racist. No one cheated. No one Juiced. As I said at the beginning, the Baseball Hall of Fame is in Cooperstown, the fictitious birthplace of baseball. That’s somehow appropriate.
For several years now in the NFL coaches have gone wireless on the sidelines, and quarterbacks have plays called into their helmets. But, for Major League Baseball, the old-fashion landline handset from the dugout to the bullpen has remained a constant and technologically outdated. But on Tuesday, at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, that changed.
That’s because the league announced that T-Mobile is now the Official Wireless Sponsor of MLB as the two entered into a multi-year, multi-million dollar partnership. With it, ballparks are going to begin being outfitted with new wireless systems.
Under the agreement, T-Mobile will provide MLB with a new On-Field Communication System, powered by T-Mobile’s nationwide network technology. The first use of this technology will be in a wireless voice system connecting managers in select Major League dugouts to coaches in bullpens. This dugout-to-bullpen system will start to roll out in 2013 and the new On-Field Communication System solution will offer greater mobility as well as options for future innovation within the game.
To add, the agreement will have T-Mobile also tapping its nationwide 4G network, currently available in 229 metro areas, reaching more than 220 million people, to further enhance and broaden network coverage and connectivity for fans in MLB ballparks.
Bobby Valentine, who lasted just the 2012 season managing with the Boston Red Sox, has found a a new home, this time on radio.
The former manager will be coming to NBC Sports Radio doing call-ins weekly to affiliated stations and NBC Sports Radio talk hosts. In addition, Valentine will become a part-time co-host of a soon-to-be-announced daily Monday-Friday talk show that will debut in April, 2013, as the network expands its programming lineup.
"I can't wait to get started on NBC Sports Radio,” said Valentine of the new gig. “I'm looking forward to talking to our affiliates and network shows, and to being a major contributor to the network. I always state my honest opinion and I can't wait to share it with NBC Sports Radio listeners."
NBC Sports Radio launched its new, full weekend lineup of programming this past Saturday and Sunday. Launched last September, the joint venture of NBC Sports Group and Dial Global launched NBC Sports Radio. The fledgling effort offers sports talk programming to radio stations nationwide and distributed by Dial Global.