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Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man
Before reading another excellent posting by one of my baseball and statistics students, here is an update on free agency signings and non-signings. As a Yankee fan, I can’t tell you how excited I am about the signing of Brian McCann, the 30 year old former Braves catcher. The 2013 Yankee catchers were near the bottom in most offensive categories. By signing McCann the Yankees now have a catcher who was a seven time All-Star, hit 20+ home runs for the last six years, has a lifetime OPS of .823 and in 2010 led all catchers by throwing out 36 base-runners. He is a left-handed pull hitter perfect for the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium. Cano is still unsigned. The only team I see that might contend for Cano is the L.A. Dodgers. But the Dodgers must first get rid of a high salary like Kemp before they can afford Cano. The downside of Cano is he cannot carry a team and for most of the nation he is an unknown quantity. I believe Cano will be a Yankee next year. The rumor mill now is chirping that the Yankees are chasing Carlos Beltran. The Yankees are still waiting for the MLB and the Japanese League to reach an agreement on the signing of their players to MLB contracts. Then the Yankees will go after Masahiro Tanaka, a 25 year-old top pitching prospect. News Flash: The Cardinals have just signed Jhonny Peralta, the former Tiger 31 year old SS, to a 4-year $53 million contract. In 2013, Peralta hit .303 with 11 home runs. He missed 50 games due to a suspension after baseball’s investigation into the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal. Baseball owners have just sent the following message: It pays to be a cheater.
 
As everybody knows by now, the 2013 Boston Red Sox are World Series Champions. For the first time since 1918, the Red Sox were able to celebrate being world champions at home, in Fenway Park. The tradition behind Fenway Park is just magnificent. No other ballpark in baseball comes close to how magical Fenway Park really is, for a baseball park. Everything about the park is just golden. The Green Monster, Pesky’s Pole, Yastremski’s Pole, the Citgo sign, I could go on for days. Seeing the Sox win a World Series came twice in the last ten years before this World Series, when Boston clinched the title in Colorado and in St. Louis. But when it happens at home and in the most epic stadium of all-time, it brought about just the best moment you could dream up for baseball. In a time where steroids are dulling the game and people are more interested in their fantasy football teams, switching to the NFL, this is just what baseball needed for a spark plug. This moment definitely got me going and now I can’t wait to watch baseball next season again.
 
I’ve been to numerous ballparks in my day. My collection of ballpark visits include Shea Stadium in New York, the old Yankee Stadium, the new Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Camden Yards in Baltimore, Nationals Park in Washington, Coors Field in Colorado, and Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. While Yankee Stadium, the old one and the new one, was a beautiful park full of history and just a breath-taking stadium, the only other field that can be mentioned in the same conversation as Fenway is Wrigley Field. The ivy covering the outfield wall, the brick behind the backstop, and the homemade bleachers on top of apartments deep behind left and right field are what makes Wrigley Field unique. Whoever says home field advantage doesn’t matter or that baseball is the same in every city, couldn’t be more wrong. Standing in Wrigley and Fenway sent chills throughout my body. What do these two parks have in common? They are the two oldest parks in the game. It broke my heart when I heard that the old Yankee Stadium was going to be replaced by the new Yankees Stadium. One thought to leave you with is: The older the ballpark, the better the baseball.

 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

Throughout my baseball and statistics course at Quinnipiac University, I encouraged my students to write postings for my blog. This will be the first student posting. Other student postings will follow. But, I will also be keeping my readers up to date on the future signings of the more than 150 free agents still unsigned. Of course, Robinson Cano is considered the top free agent. I predict when all is said and done Cano will be a Yankee. News Flash: The Mets have just signed Chris Young for $7.25 million. Young’s stats for 2013 were in 375 plate appearances he batted a whopping .200 with a dismal .280 on-base percentage. His 12 home runs were the fewest since he entered the majors in 2006. Boy, this signing should really excite Mets fans. Can you believe Young deserves $7.25 million? I hope you enjoy the following wonderful student posting about the history of baseball.

Baseball has long been revered as America’s national pastime. It began as a “gentlemen’s game” in the early 1800s and eventually evolved into a recreational game that anybody of any class could be a part of and enjoy. The game of baseball mainly began in and around New York. As the country went through the Civil War, the game endured and expanded with the young men in army camps and prisons, eventually reaching past the Mason Dixon line and establishing itself in the South.

The origin of modern baseball served as a way to bring people together in a divided time; it was the country’s saving grace. It still continues to bring people together in times of crisis, as seen in the tributes to the victims of the Boston Marathon this past year. Though the Civil War greatly affected the economy and society in the South, baseball erupted following the war and became a business and a way for people to make money and set a professional career path. Albert Spalding, a pitcher, manager and executive in the early years of professional baseball, once said, “Modern baseball had been born in the brain of an American soldier. It received its baptism in the bloody days of our Nation’s direst danger. It had its early evolution when soldiers, North and South, were striving to forget their foes by cultivating, through this grand game, fraternal friendship with comrades in arms.”

Soldiers played for fun. It became a way for officers and other soldiers to play together, with the focus on abilities and talent, instead of military rank or social status. They played for fun as a distraction from the war and it not only boosted morale and promoted teamwork, but also helped the men to work out and be active. Both Union and Confederate officers shared this sentiment. According to baseball-almanac.com, Private Alpheris B. Parker of the 10th Massachusetts wrote, “The parade ground has been a busy place for a week or so past, ball-playing having become a mania in camp. Officer and men forget, for a time, the differences in rank and indulge in the invigorating sport with a schoolboy’s ardor.” These baseball games were originally referred to as “Townball” and became popularly organized in both army camps and prisons in the North and South.

Sports can be incredibly powerful and can bring people together even in the midst of the most terrible circumstances and divisions that occurred during the Civil War. This war was the bloodiest Americans have seen and many people do not know that something positive other than the end of slavery could have come out of the war. Baseball was, and will always be a common ground in a divided nation. As Walt Whitman once said, “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game.”

 


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

Unless you have been in a cave for the last three weeks, the names Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin are very familiar to you. As a recap both Richie and Jonathan were starting linemen for the Miami Dolphins this year (in fact side-by-side linemen). Jonathan abruptly left the Dolphins and claimed he was a victim of bullying by Richie and other teammates. Various tweets between Incognito and Martin surfaced and were made public. Incognito was heard using the N-word and threatening to kill Martin’s entire family. This led to Incognito being suspended for conduct not becoming of an NFL player. Martin so far has made no comment. However, Incognito has talked to the press admitting he said everything that we heard in the tweets. He also said he was not a racist and in fact Martin was his best friend. So the question is: If Martin was his best friend why did Incognito say and act the way he did to Martin? In one of Incognito’s press conferences paraphrasing him he said his behavior was the result of the CULTURE OF THE LOCKER ROOM. One dictionary definition of culture is it represents a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterize an institution or organization.

Why am I writing about this in my baseball blog? The answer is the culture of a locker room exists in all sports. My view of what happened between these two men was in fact caused by the culture of the locker room. To be hazed and made to do embarrassing tasks is the culture of most locker rooms. It is considered a rite of passage for a first year player to suffer through all sorts of hazing. In the case of the Dolphin locker room, rookies were asked to spend several thousand dollars for dinners for their teammates. They were also the brunt of all sorts of embarrassing pranks. It seems that Incognito went too far and Martin could not take it anymore. Yes, I believe Incognito when he said he is not a racist and had no intention of hurting anyone in Martin’s family but was himself a victim of the locker room culture.

Can any good be derived by what happened in the Dolphin locker room? The answer is YES. We must change the culture of the locker room. This includes locker rooms for high school, college, and professional athletes. Instead of hazing a new player let’s welcome that player into our family. Make the player feel at home and treat the new player with the same respect as we treat the veteran player. In the case of Martin, he was a second year player but because of his intellect was considered different from the average NFL player. Being different is also another reason that certain people are bullied and hazed.

Unfortunately, the locker room is not the only place where bullying can take place. Bullying also can take place and does take place on the playground. When a child seems different other children group together and begin hazing or bullying that child. This becomes a daily routine and the affected child may eventually be unable to take it anymore. Just like Martin refused to return to the Dolphins, the child may refuse to return to school. Are the children doing the bullying necessarily bad children? I do not believe these children are bad but like Incognito they are victims of the culture of the playground. The playground is a children’s locker room.

Can this problem be solved in the locker room and on the playground? I believe the answer is YES. It is up to the person in charge of the locker room or playground to make it clear that hazing and bullying will not be tolerated. The coach or teacher or parent must be alert to any hints that this conduct of behavior is going on and instantly stop it.

It is imperative that coaches, teachers and parents teach the children and adults they supervise that a team or group of classmates are a family and should act like a family by respecting each other.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man
The blog below was written by Dr. Martin E. Cobern, a longtime friend of Dr. Stan, the Stats Man. Despite the fact that we support warring factions in the baseball wars, our friendship has lasted for over 40 years. When he is not blogging, Dr. Cobern is Vice-President, Research at APS Technology, Inc. in Wallingford, CT. I know you will enjoy reading about his experience of actually being at the clinching sixth fame of the 2013 World Series.

Last Wednesday, through the good graces of a friend, I was able to witness a once in a century event. (OK, since this is a stats blog, a once in 98 years event!) From my Pavilion Box seat behind third base, I saw the Red Sox win a World Series at home! My perspective, however, was a bit different from that of most of the fans at Fenway. I am a recent convert to Red Sox Nation.

I grew up in the Bronx as a Brooklyn Dodger fan, floundered for years after the Great Betrayal, and then found a new team - The Mets. I kept my loyalty to the Amazings even as we moved to many other cities around the world.  I taught it to my daughters, neither of whom had ever lived in the city. When they each chose Tufts for college, they joined the Boston world. At their urging I became a Red Sox fan about a decade ago, while still maintaining a lingering loyalty to the Mets. I did, however, throw out my VHS tapes of the 1986 World Series.

I thus saw the game as a fan whose vision was not distorted by decades of suffering, and that made the experience even more special. Arriving at Fenway is not like going to any other park. The Stadium is part of the neighborhood. Apart from the security check, it is hard to distinguish whether you are in the park or out as you walk down Yawkey Way.

We parked across the street from the right field gate, Standing there was the “bull pen cop” from the Detroit series, enjoying his fifteen minutes. We waited our turn to take our picture with him. The stadium has the air of a neighborhood block party, with booths and vendors in the “street.” It is world apart from the sterile concrete corridors of Citi Field.

The season ticket holders who filled much of Section 12 greeted us like long lost cousins. We soon joined in the many rituals, including singing each player’s signature song. There was a sense of inevitability that filled the air. Whether it was the Dropkick Murphys doing the National Anthem and “Shipping Up to Boston,” complete with young step dancers, or Luis Tiant and Carleton Fiske throwing out the first balls, there was a feeling of calm assurance in the stands. When a few shaky innings by Lackey and the infield led to nothing for the Cardinals, we were just waiting for the explosion, and we didn’t need to wait long.

The Cards had obviously decided that Papi was not going to beat them and walked him four times, but he scored twice. After the three run third, we started the fourth with a special cheer for the slumping shortstop, “Drew is due!,” and he responded with a lead-off home run. With three more runs in the bag, it was time to relax. We began our chant for the Bird fans a few sections over. As their amazing starting pitcher crumbled, we sang “Wacha, Wacha” without stop. It was all in good fun, without the nastiness seen in other parks. (You know who you are!)

The postgame celebration continued in the same vein, with the players’ kids roaming the outfield and step dancers mingling with dignitaries. The TV announcer even got Papi to repeat his famous war cry. It was a marvelous experience, and well worth going to work on Thursday after three hours’ sleep.

Copyright 2013  Martin, E. Cobern, November 7, 2013


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

Speaking of marathons, here is an interesting statistic about this year’s New York Marathon. Of the 50,740 runners who started the NYC Marathon, only 436 did not finish. The oldest finisher was 89 years old. How About that? Now, returning to baseball, I would like to offer my congratulations to the Red Sox organization and Red Sox Nation for winning the WS the right way. A sample of their sportsmanship was a full-page ad they placed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to say ‘thank you’ to the Cardinal organization and its fans. The letter signed by the Red Sox owner, chairman and president said, “The Midwestern welcome you extended to our team and our fans during this year’s hard-fought World Series is truly appreciated.” The placing of the WS trophy on the finish line of the Boston Marathon during the WS Parade was a fitting tribute to all those whose lives were affected by the Boston Marathon bombing. As a Yankee fan, I offer kudos to Red Sox Nation. Here is a flash about the Yankees cross-town rivals. The New York Mets have officially moved to a new radio station. Starting next year the Mets will be heard (if you are interested) on WOR (710-AM). This move was necessary since the Yankees signed a deal with WFAN, which had covered the Mets since the station’s inception in 1987.

As we all know baseball does not end after the World Series. Welcome to the “Hot Stove League.” For those of you who are not familiar with this term, the phrase does not refer to an actual league. It refers to all off-season rumors, trades, and re-signings, which occur during the time–period beginning with the end of the WS through the winter meetings to the beginning of spring training. My baseball blogs have not ended but will follow the Hot Stove League. Also, I will be presenting guest blogs, some written by the students in my Baseball and Statistics class at Quinnipiac University.

The Yankees have signed Jeter for a one year contract valued at $12 million. Since his option year contract was for $9 million, they actually gave him an extra three million. Yes, this was the right decision based on what Jeter has meant to the franchise. However, I am sure that this led to many fans buying season tickets after the announcement. This was an essential signing. Can you imagine Jeter playing for the Red Sox? As a Yankee fan, my answer is no. On the other hand, I can see Big Papi someday playing for the Yankees.

What about the other Yankee free agents. With many question marks about the opening day Yankee line-up and free agents able to sign with new teams beginning on Tuesday, Nov.5. Here is the latest news. The Yankees made one-year qualifying offers at $14.1 million (this amount is determined by baseball’s labor agreement)  to their three top free agents on Monday, hoping to bring them back with short-term deals or at least receive draft choices if the players depart in free agency. The three players are Hiroki Kuroda, Robinson Cano, and Curtis Granderson. The players have until Nov. 11 to decide on the offers. If they decline and eventually sign with another team, the Yankees receive compensatory draft picks. Cano will definitely enter free agency. His agent is talking about $30 million for 10 years. Can you believe that? After all, I witnessed many times this year Cano’s lack of hustle. I would assign a 50% probability that Kuroda and or Granderson do take the one-year offer. Kuroda at 39 seems happy in New York and Granderson is coming off an injury plagued year. Having horrible years, the Yankees did not make offers to Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. Both of these players need to leave the pressure of the Big Apple and start over with a new team. Look at the success A.J. Burnett had with Pittsburgh. Surprisingly, Boone Logan was not offered a contract.   
Stay tuned for future Hot Stove information.

 


 
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