Baseball BeatSeptember 26, 2005
Shame, Fame, and Lame
By Rich Lederer

The second-to-last weekend of the regular season received a good deal of my attention but not quite all of it, as I was also busy watching USC pummel Oregon after falling behind 13-0, the Americans bounce back to defeat the International team in the President's Cup, and just enough pro football to keep tabs on my fantasy team.

Powered by Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Fred Couples, Chris DiMarco, Jim Furyk, and Brian Westbrook, I hereby deliver reality baseball in a smorgasbord format.

A Snitch in Time Saves Nine?

Rafael Palmeiro's season and possibly career came to an abrupt end following a claim from an anonymous source who said the 500 HR/3,000 hit club member cited a vitamin he received from Baltimore teammate Miguel Tejada as possibly causing the positive steroid test that led to his suspension this summer. Palmeiro was just 2-for-26 with one RBI in seven games following his suspension last month.

Executive vice president and general manager Jim Beattie made the following statements:

"He wanted to come back and play, but I think in this instance we had to do what we felt was best for the rest of the players out there."

"He won't be dressing for the rest of the year. [We made this decision] for a variety of reasons; one, he would not play very much, if at all. And for him to get back into the flow of things would take some time, and then, obviously, the distraction of bringing all this back into the clubhouse."

"It's better off for these guys to be allowed to play out the season with as little distraction as they can. It's been a long season with respect to that."

Beattie also said it was "doubtful" that Sammy Sosa would return to the Orioles this year. The slugger who ranks seventh in career home runs with 574 was in a 5-for-50 skid when placed on the disabled list at the end of August. Sosa's career may also be in jeopardy after hitting .221 with 14 HR and 45 RBI.

All of the news out of Baltimore wasn't so gloomy though. Tejada, who the Orioles said was absolved by MLB of any wrongdoing, hit his 50th double of the year during the past week. Brian Roberts had 50 two-base hits last year. The B-12 Bomber and his keystone partner are the only players in Baltimore history to accomplish that feat.

Most Versatile Player?

Chone Figgins and Bartolo Colon were named co-MVPs of the Los Angeles Angels this year.

Figgins is valuable in the sense that he is versatile, but he isn't the Most Valuable Player on the Angels. The MVP of the Angels this year is the same player who was the MVP of the AL in 2004. The only difference between Vladimir's two seasons is about a dozen games, which has had the effect of slightly reducing some of his counting stats. In any event, Guerrero beats Figgins up and down and around in all the summary stats, including Win Shares and Value Over Replacement Player (VORP).

At the risk of sounding as if I'm arguing out of both sides of my mouth, I believe Figgins is more valuable than the raw statistics suggest. You see, a player who allows a manager the flexibility to write his name on the lineup card at any one of several positions is more valuable than what VORP tells us because the size of rosters is finite rather than infinite. Figgins, who has played 52 games at 3B, 46 in CF, 39 at 2B, and filled in occasionally at SS, LF, RF, and DH, gives his team roughly the equivalent of three or four players wrapped into one.

I like the fact that Figgins is being recognized for his role with the Angels and am hesitant to find fault with his teammates selecting him as their co-MVP. He's probably worthy of being the Most Valuable Player on a half dozen teams this year but not one with Vladi on board.

Cy Young or Sigh Old?

Colon didn't do himself any favors in the Cy Young balloting by allowing ten hits and six runs, including three home runs in an 8-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Sunday. His record fell to 20-8 with a 3.51 ERA.

The Cy Young Predictor, a Bill James concoction that tries to project the winner based on past results, rates Mariano Rivera (7-4, 1.41 ERA, 42 saves) as the most likely choice. Rivera has had an outstanding season and could also get support for the Cy Young as a Lifetime Achievement Award in a year in which many questioned him after he got rocked in his first two outings.

Over in the National League, Chris Carpenter (21-5, 2.71) is still the favorite according to the Cy Young Predictor, but I can't help but think that Dontrelle Willis (22-9, 2.44) would win if the voting was held today. He has more wins and a better ERA than his chief rival. Carpenter and Roger Clemens (12-8, 1.89) lost ground this past weekend when the former got shelled (5 1/3 IP, 12 H, 9 R/ER, 3 BB, 4 SO) and the latter sat out with a sore left hamstring while Willis (8-5-1-1-2-7) pitched another gem.

While on the subject of pitchers, Tom Glavine won his 274th game in a 5-2 victory over the Washington Nationals on Saturday. He needs 26 more wins to reach 300. Two more good years, right? Not so fast. Glavine won 9 games in 2003, 11 in 2004, and has 12 with one week remaining in the 2005 season. However, the two-time Cy Young Award honoree won 13 or more games in each of the prior 12 campaigns.

According to Lee Sinins, Glavine has 306 Runs Saved Above Average (RSAA). All of the retired pitchers above Glavine are in the Hall of Fame except. . .well, I think you know who.

The other two members of what was once known as the "Big Three" made news this week as well. Greg Maddux picked up his 13th victory of the year last Thursday and has a chance to extend his record of winning 15 or more games to an 18th year if he can get a "W" in his final two starts of the year (tomorrow and Sunday).

Maddux's numbers are pretty much in line with those in 2003-2004. The four-time Cy Young Award winner (in four consecutive seasons) still throws strikes and gets two times as many ground balls as fly balls. If not for his tendency to give up home runs these past three years, Maddux would continue to rank among the elite pitchers in the game. He is tied with Phil Niekro at 318 wins and will be trying to surpass Nolan Ryan and Don Sutton (324), Eddie Plank (326), John Clarkson (328), and Steve Carlton (329) when he returns in 2006 at age 40. Twelve more wins will vault Maddux into the top ten all time.

While Glavine and Maddux are trying to add to their career win totals, John Smoltz may skip his next scheduled start on Wednesday to rest his sore right shoulder if the Braves clinch a playoff spot before then. The 1996 Cy Young Award winner has thrown 229 2/3 innings this year, his highest total since 1997.

Win One for the Gipper Guillen?

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen says if the team wins the World Series, he might step down. First things first, Ozzie. I can see Joe Torre saying something like this but Ozzie Guillen? If he wants to retire, fine, but I don't think it is going to motivate his Sox one bit. Now if Frank Thomas was on the postseason roster. . .