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I have lost my Golden Boy. I am upset.

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For the majority of Seinfeld fans, the most memorable story line in the episode “The Marine Biologist” revolves around George Costanza’s elaborate and continuous lying about being a marine biologist, capped by the gut-busting rescue of a beached whale with a Titleist golf ball lodged in its blowhole.

For me—and I hope I’m not the only one—it’s got nothing on the love story between Jerry Seinfeld and his beloved and beleaguered favorite shirt “Golden Boy.”

Golden Boy is a shirt that Jerry has had for six years. It’s the first shirt he wears out of the laundry; it’s the Cal Ripken Jr. of his wardrobe. But Golden Boy has problems. He’s fraying around the collar. His days are numbered.

Jerry: Elaine, see this t-shirt. Six years I’ve had this t-shirt. It’s my best one, I call him…Golden Boy.

Elaine: I’m on the phone here.

Jerry: Golden Boy is always the first shirt I wear out of the laundry. Here touch Golden Boy!

Elaine: No thanks. Yeah, Yeah I’ll hold.

Jerry: But see look at the collar, see it’s fraying. Golden Boy is slowly dying. Each wash brings him one step closer. That’s what makes the t-shirt such a tragic figure.

Elaine: Why don’t you just let Golden Boy soak in the sink with some Woolite?

Jerry: No! The reason he’s Iron Man is because he goes out there and plays every game. Wash! Spin! Rinse! Spin! You take that away from him, you break his spirit!

Everyone has a Golden Boy: that shirt or pair of pants or hat that just makes he or she feel good. Michael Scott from The Office has his jeans. The Sex and the City broads have whatever the hell they wear. Craig Sager has a whole bunch of tacky suits.

I had my Charleston Rainbows t-shirt.

I remember the moment I picked up Golden Boy and actually felt him in my hands. Mormons (Yes, that’s the second reference to Mormons in two blogs) say that when God sends them a revelation, they can’t explain the feeling—it just feels right. Well, that’s how it felt when I picked up Golden Boy. I knew that this was going to be the shirt that I would wear daily until he died, and I knew I might just die with this shirt on.

I, however, lost my Golden Boy. Where, when, and how it happened, I can’t be exactly sure. I’m fairly confident that I put Golden Boy down at a softball game in early August, but I didn’t see anyone take him away, hear him cry. He was just gone, like a child abducted unknowingly off a playground.

This is my last recorded memory of Golden Boy:

This Charleston Rainbows t-shirt was the perfect combination of two of my favorite things: comfortable clothing and classic baseball.

From 1985 through 1993, the Minor League Baseball club in Charleston was known as the Rainbows. Now an exceedingly successful single-A affiliate of the New York Yankees and known as the Charleston RiverDogs, the Charleston Rainbows club was a minor league outpost for the San Diego Padres (1985-1992) and the Texas Rangers (1993).

In addition to retro baseball, I’m a huge fans of underdog (read: bad) teams. Let’s just say that the Charleston Rainbows never really shined; starting in 1989, the Rainbows, and subsequently the RiverDogs, went eleven straight seasons without a winning record. Despite the terrible time in team history—known as the “Dark Days” according to Wikipedia—fans have fond memories of the Charleston Rainbows baseball club.

Walking through the supermarket, people would routinely stop me and ask, “Where did you get that? That’s an old shirt!” I explained that Golden Boy was actually relatively new (the RiverDogs started reproducing these shirts during the 2010 season), but that they better hurry to get one for themselves. These shirts were flying off the shelves.

You see, I wasn’t the only one who found a Golden Boy.

So today, the Charleston RiverDogs had a 25 percent off sale on all merchandise and apparel. As soon as I got out of work, I rushed over to Joe P. Riley Jr. Stadium to reunite with my best friend.

All of the Golden Boys were gone.

So like Jerry Seinfeld, whose own Golden Boy perished during a fatal spin cycle, I was forced to adopt a new Golden Boy.

Meet Baby Blue:

Sometimes all you need is a ‘lil shot in the arm…

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Or maybe, in this case, it should be shot in the ass.

I’ve spent a month away from blogging. In that time, I’ve started a new nine-to-five job and a brand, spanking new roommate moved in. Needless to say, it’s been hard to find the time to write. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t wanted to. So, with that said, pardon me if I’m a little rusty…

Mark McGwire. That’s who we’re here to talk about. Today, his admission to using steroids was the lightning bolt that came out of the sky, hit me right in the ass, and made me fire up Blogging About Baseball once again.

Maybe I’m ahead of the curve, but I believe I discovered Mark McGwire was juicing sometime in 1998. And if it wasn’t in ’98, then it was sure as hell in 2005 when, during his testimony in front of the House Government Reform Committee, he famously and repeatedly stated, “I’m not here to talk about the past.”

Still, I’m truly shocked about the upwelling of genuine emotion his heretofore inevitable admission has brought out of me.

I’m amazingly pissed. I mean really, really, really, f’ing pissed.

And there’s one reason: McGwire, along with fellow cheat, Sammy Sosa, broke Roger Maris’ decades old record for most homeruns (61) in a full season in 1998. And they didn’t just break it. They pulled their pants down and defecated on it. And then they set it on fire and put the fire out by urinating on it. In essence, they opened the door for Barry Bonds (who I will only dedicated this one sentence because I just might lose it) who put that crap in a flaming paper bag and put it on Roger Maris’ doorstep in 2001.

That’s disrespect. If you know you’re doing something questionable and that something could possibly ruin everything the very game you supposedly love and revere stands for, you just don’t do that.

The integrity of the game. Tarnished.

The legendary records of the game. Tarnished.

Now, I’ve come to the realization that the game I love has never been played perfectly. Through the centuries we’ve seen pitchers throw spitballs. We’ve seen signs getting stolen in the most ridiculous of ways. We’ve seen batters cork their bats. We’ve seen guys hopped up on greenies. If there’s been an avenue to exploit, baseball players have found it.

But this is my generation of baseball and I’m entitled to all the tunnel vision I want. Except that I don’t truly think this is tunnel vision.

I don’t think we will ever look at those cheating tactics with the same disdain as we do steroids. And I don’t think future fans will be able to turn the same blind eye as we did to amphetamines and corked bats and scuffed balls to steroids.

The gains that both pitchers and hitters earned from sticking needles in their ass was (and possibly is) so exponentially and quantifiably higher than any of those other means of one-upmanship.

Brady Anderson hit 50 homeruns in 1996. Before that season, his season high was 21. After that season, he never hit more than 24. He was the team’s leadoff batter. Just think about how f’ing mind boggling that is.

And then we can think about guys like Luis Gonzalez (57 homeruns in 2001) or Greg Vaughn (50 in 1998) who are a little less glaring.

Every statistic from the 1990’s is skewed…or is it screwed?

If Bonds, McGwire and Sosa had not set any records in the 1990’s or 2000’s, we would be able to forget this whole catastrophe. In 15 years, it would have been like none of this had happened, another greenie epidemic, another stolen sign debacle. If only Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa had done exceptionally well, given all of the records a spirited chase and fallen short.

If only…

Seattle’s Franklin Gutierrez robbed of 2009 Gold Glove award.

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There were very few things that Seattle Mariner centerfielder Franklin Gutierrez couldn’t catch in 2009; so few things that he earned the nickname “Death To Flying Things.”

Gutierrez was the game's best fielder in 2009.A Rawlings Gold Glove award, baseball’s highest accolade for defensive prowess, however, was one of those things Gutierrez just couldn’t snag.

In an announcement made Tuesday, the official 2009 American League Gold Glove outfield consists of the stalwart defensive standards of Ichiro Suzuki and Torii Hunter and first-timer Adam Jones.

Seattle’s Suzuki and Los Angeles’ Hunter both took home the award for their ninth consecutive seasons. Baltimore’s Jones, in just his second full Major League season, earned the Gold Glove despite playing, by all advanced defensive metrics, an average centerfield.

It was an award that Gutierrez, who patrols Jones’ former-centerfield in Seattle’s Safeco Field, should have won.

In 2009, Gutierrez played the best defense of all Major League Baseball players, not just outfielders.

The .985 fielding percentage is not indicative of how amazing Gutierrez was defensively. The almost-antiquated statistic is an effective measure of how well a player performs routine plays, but it doesn’t effectively take into account non-routine plays involving range or arm accuracy or arm strength.

To put the inefficiency of the statistic into perspective, fellow Seattle Mariner Yuniesky Betancourt owned a .968 fielding percentage in 2009. And so did Texas Ranger shortstop Elvis Andrus. Yet, Betancourt is routinely lauded as the “worst defensive shortstop in the history of the world” and Andrus is heralded as anything but.

Ultimate Zone Rating is quickly becoming the standard for measuring defensive efficiency. According to fangraphs.com, the relatively new metric is: “The number of runs above or below average a fielder is in both range runs, outfield arm runs, double play runs, and error runs combined.”

UZR exposes players’ defensive shortcomings. Yuniesky Betancourt’s negative-23.9 UZR reveals a molasses-like fielder with little range and the inability to make even routine plays. Andrus’ plus-11.7 shows a rookie with above-average range and defensive ability. Betancourt cost his team runs with his lackluster defense; Andrus saved them.

No player possessed a better UZR in 2009 than Franklin Gutierrez. In fact, it wasn’t even close.

Gutierrez saved his team 29.1 combined runs in 2009. Tampa Bay’s B.J. Upton was the next closest centerfielder with a positive-11.0 mark. Among all fielders, Tampa’s Evan Longoria was Gutierrez’s closest contemporary, but still fell 10 points short, posting a UZR of plus-18.5.

His positive-29.3 range runs saved was also 10 points higher than the next closest everyday fielder.

Gutierrez’s UZR was the best in a season since the inception of the statistic in 2002.

When one takes into consideration his solid offensive season, Gutierrez was worth almost six wins over the course of the Seattle Mariner’s 2009 season. His estimated worth was $26.4 million, but he made just $455,000 this season. He’s arbitration-eligible this year and seems destined for a significant pay raise.

Gutierrez’s omission in the Gold Glove vote is just the most glaring gaffe betrayed on the award since Texas’ Michael Young won against a much more deserving field of shortstops in 2008.

The Gold Glove vote needs to be re-evaluated. Instead of taking into account just errors, fielding percentage and personal preference (it should be noted that coaches can not vote for players on their own team) new and adjusted statistics like UZR and range runs must be included.

How can “Death To Flying Things” not be a Gold Glove winner?

Postseason FAIL.

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While the umpires in both leagues give reason to shout “FAIL“ every time they get it wrong (Tim McClelland, anyone?), there is another cause: TBS. The coverage for this postseason was simply horrible. So, thank you Philadelphia for making quick work of the Dodgers during the NLCS, sparing fans more dull commentary from Chip Caray and Dick Stockton.

How has TBS failed? For starters, the play by play was boring and the language was repetitive. Even when the umpires made an obvious error, the lack of excitement from the booth left something to be desired. Not to mention the horrible calls, mainly made by Chip Caray. He started his poor play by play during the Twins/Tigers tie-breaker. Nick Punto hit a line drive into left field. Caray called it a “Line Drive. Base Hit.” And the ball sailed into the left fielder’s glove. He quickly added “Caught out there.”

It continued during game one of the Yankees/Twins ALDS when Delmon Young caught Nick Swisher’s fly ball. Caray’s take on the play? “A base — fly ball, I should say — out to center field. That ball was hooking and nearly fell in front of Delmon Young.” Was he even watching the game? Being the son of a legend does not make you a good analyst.

It wasn’t always Chip’s fault. Point fingers at Dick Stockton as well. At one point during the NLDS between the Cards and Dodgers, he referred to Ronnie Belliard as Ronald Belisario. While I understand that they play on the same team and their names are similar, at this level in broadcasting those mistakes are unforgivable. Dan Quayle could do better, even if he can’t spell.

And don’t even get me started on how many balls were “fisted” into play.

They need fresh blood in the booth. MLB needs to put their own people in the show.

The initial numbers were records for the station, the highest in the 33 years of its existence, but that does not mean it’s a success. When the Yankees make the playoffs, television numbers skyrocket. New York is a huge market. So is Los Angeles, and there were two teams from California still in the hunt. And when TBS is the only place that baseball fans can go for a game, the numbers will be fattened.

MLB needs to step forward and demand changes in the coverage. Cal Ripken and Dennis Eckersley are fine in the studio but how about trying them in the booth? They know baseball. Then again a ten year old knows more than Chip Caray, Carl Sager, and Dick Stockton combined. Or MLB can bring in their own team. At a minimum, they can demand that Sager dress like a respectable human being and not a wannabe pimp. Lavender suits, Sager? Really?

Unfortunately, TBS has a contract through 2013. It’s entirely up to MLB on how the 2010 post season goes. Let’s hope the public outcry at the horrible coverage is heard. And be glad that Fox had the ACLS Game 4 coverage. Joe Buck’s outrage over Tim McClelland’s blown call was appropriate. Chip Caray would probably have argued in favor of the ump.

Written by LS Murphy. Mrs. Murphy is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan and is a consistent contributor to Cardinal’s Mix. She can also be followed on Twitter.

Written by dylansharek

October 28, 2009 at 2:43 pm

The Fall of Gary Matthews, Jr.

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Will the real Gary Matthews, Jr. please stand up?

From 2003-2007, Gary Matthews, Jr. was an above-average outfielder, patrolling centerfield and providing a significant amount of pop in the first-half of the batting order for the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

In 2008, Matthews’ production dropped off and he clubbed just eight homeruns with 46 RBI while batting significantly lower than his career average of .258.

What happened to Gary Matthews, Jr.This year, Gary Matthews, Jr. disappeared.

In parts of 103 games, he hit just four homers and scored just 44 runs. The speed that once made him a top of the order asset and outfield whiz vanished. His Wins Above Replacement (WAR) dwindled for the second consecutive year and his Ultimate Zone Rating, an indicator of fielding prowess, dropped to -17.6, nearly twice what it was in 2008.

Gary Matthews, Jr. is approaching liability status. His contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is valued at nearly $10 million a year, making him one of the highest paid fifth outfielders ever. The 5-year, $50 million contract he signed with the Angels in 2007 has rendered him non-tradable.

Prior to the 2009 season, the Angels looked to deal Matthews. One suitor was the Cincinnati Reds, but they balked at the idea of giving up an arm for a league average bat with dwindling speed and glove skills.

It’s hard to imagine how much the 2009 campaign hurt Matthews, Jr.’s trade value.

Matthews, Jr.’s struggles coincides with three events: the move from hitter friendly Ranger’s Ballpark in Arlington to the dimensions of Anaheim in 2007, his implication in the purchase of Human Growth Hormone and steroids the same year, and left knee surgery prior to the 2009 season.

Matthews, Jr.’s lack of power can also be linked to all three sources.

Ranger’s Ballpark is the seventh most friendly hitter’s park. Angel Stadium is ranked 15th, putting it right in the middle of the pack. The dimensions of the two parks are almost the same, but the air is incredibly different and that’s one thing Matthews benefitted from. Of the four homeruns Matthews hit this season, one was in Arlington on September 20.

An indication that his knee is still bothering him is his stolen bases. In 2006 and 2007, he stole a combined 28 bases. In 2008 and 2009, he stole a total of 12. At the same time, his slugging percentage has gone from a pretty good .457 average in 2006/2007 to a poor .359 in 2008/2009.

According to Matthews’ FanGraphs profile, there is no indication that pitchers are pitching him any different. He’s seeing the same stuff and handling that stuff in the same way (groundballs, flyballs, line drives), but isn’t driving anything out park.

One writer pegs Matthews, Jr. as a player who may never bounce back.

With another season’s rest, Matthews will look to improve upon his 2009 season. If the Angels have it their way, it won’t be in a Halo uniform.

Gary Matthews, Jr. is yet to get a hit this postseason.

Tim McClelland’s bad day.

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Last night’s American League Championship Series game between the Angels and Yankees was just another lynchpin in the case supporting instant replay in baseball.

Game 4 was not even about baseball; it was about disastrous officiating. Nitpicking over catcher Mike Napoli’s positioning behind the plate, a missed pickoff play at second base, and a botched tag up call weren’t even the worst of it. In what Kevin Kaduk of Yahoo! is calling the “worst call of all time,” crew chief Tim McClelland called the Yankee’s Robinson Cano safe at third base, despite the fact that he wasn’t standing anywhere close to the bag and had been physically tagged with a live ball.

The controversial calls made the umpires the stars of the show. And that’s unforgivable.

The only part about this messy affair I can forget about is the whole much-ado-about-nothing home plate umpire Jerry Layne had with Napoli’s “standing kneel.” If it was impeding his line of sight, then it was admirable that he spoke to Angel’s manager Mike Scioscia, got the problem fixed, and then was done with it.

While I didn’t see any problem with how Napoli was positioned, the brief delay foreshadowed what can only be described as the Murphy’s Law of Umpiring.

Blown call #1.

Blown call #1.

In the top of the 4th inning, second base umpire Dale Scott called the Yankee’s Nick Swisher safe on a pickoff attempt by the Angel’s Scott Kazmir.

As the FOX Sports feed replayed the video on the stadium’s big screens, a collective grumble rose from the legions of Angel’s fans in attendance. Kazmir’s throw was, in fact, on the mark. Swisher should have been called out. Nevertheless, Swisher advanced to third when Derek Jeter walked to load the bases.

Cut to the next batter: on a sacrifice fly to right field, Swisher held the bag, waiting to tag up and score. When the ball dropped into Torii Hunter’s glove, Swisher broke for home plate, apparently plating another Yankee run.

Torii Hunter asked for an appeal. Chone Figgins stepped on third. Third base umpire Tim McClelland raised his right arm and pumped his fist. According to McClelland, Swisher had left early, thus nullifying the run and ending the inning.

Blown call #2.

Blown call #2.

One has to believe that McClelland was trying to right his crew’s wrong because Swisher, by all accounts, did not leave early.

By far the most egregious error came in the top half of the 5th inning. On a ground ball to reliever Darren Oliver, Jorge Posada attempted to score from third base but got caught in a rundown. Robinson Cano, who was on second, smartly began to advance to third, recognizing Posada’s imminent fate. As Posada retreated to third base, Cano stopped in his tracks a foot or so from the bag. Angel’s catcher Mike Napoli ran down the line and tagged both Posada and Cano as the two admired the shiny white object in the dirt.

That’s a double-play, right?

Well folks, not last night.

McClelland called Cano safe. In a postgame interview, he said he couldn’t see that Cano was off the base “for whatever reason.”

Blown call #3.

Blown call #3 or "What's that white thing?"

To add my opinion to the slew already available on the Internet, baseball must institute some kind of instant replay.

On that end, I am not for the let’s-review-everything mindset that has slowed down so many football games. Baseball is already snail-paced and by instituting anything that extends a 3-hour game to a 3 1/2 hour game, the sport will lose even more fans.

Baseball should have a review team ready, whether it’s in the booth, clubhouse, or production truck, to reverse or uphold calls. It can be quick and simple, done on the fly. There’s not as many nuances in baseball’s individual plays as football’s and I think this is a feasible and easy solution.

Use instant replay extensively only during the postseason and the run up to the postseason. These games often dictate who is going to the World Series, not who is going to finish 63-100 or 83-80.

Each blown call takes a small part of a team’s ultimate fate out of its hands and directly in the hands of umpires. That’s not how it should be. And while last night’s calls didn’t have a firm bearing on the game’s outcome, how demoralized were the Angels? They must have felt like they couldn’t win, no matter how hard they tried.

I understand the hesitation to remove the human element from a sport built on physical prowess and natural ability, but games like last night’s should never happen.

Would the Rockies have even made the World Series in 2007 if Matt Holliday was called out on during the 164th game of the season against the San Diego Padres?

That’s where we need instant replay.

And we need it now.

Forgive and Forget: The Miguel Cabrera Debacle

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Should Miguel Cabrera be punished for his actions during the playoff run?The Detroit Tiger’s Miguel Cabrera apologized to his teammates after his drunken night of debauchery this past weekend. And while his hangover didn’t hurt his baseball skills, it did hurt his image and that of the team. When history looks back on the Detroit Tigers and their 2009 collapse, Cabrera’s indiscretion will be pointed out as beginning of the end of their playoff dreams.

On September 6, the Tigers had a comfortable seven game lead in the American League Central. By September 15, that lead dwindled to 4.5 games. Late season collapses are nothing new in a game where anything can happen, but neither are late season surges. Minnesota took charge. They never gave up hope. Now they head to New York to face the Yankees while the Tigers go home. The extra innings loss to the Twins only makes Cabrera’s antics stand out more. It will sum up the Tigers season.

Should Cabrera’s indiscretion really matter though?

Yes, it matters a lot. Cabrera can apologize to his teammates all he wants but he disgraced his organization, himself, and the game of baseball. The Tigers need to figure out what to do. And the Player’s Union has to have him face serious punishment.

Baseball players are held at a high standard. Boys and girls idolize them. Adults revel in their ability to play the game and get paid millions of dollars to do so. Then something like this happens. The Average Joe sits back and watches it unfold. In a situation where a regular employee might be terminated, we watch as these players get a slap on the hand and offer a half-hearted apology. We watch as they get fined more than we make in a year, knowing it won’t dent their wallet in the least. Nor will it change future behavior.

The Tigers and Major League Baseball owe it to their fans to make an example of Miguel Cabrera. They need to do more than just fine him. They need to show us that they do not tolerate this kind of behavior.

What would be a suitable punishment? Attend AA meetings maybe? Or spend time in the off-season going to different schools around Detroit and talking about alcohol abuse? Regardless of what we the fans may think, we already know what will happen: Cabrera’s apology will suffice.

Even if his actions essentially  tell kids it’s okay to get drunk and make a fool of yourself, all you need to do is apologize and it will all go away.

Written by LS Murphy. Mrs. Murphy is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan and is a consistent contributor to Cardinal’s Mix. She can also be followed on Twitter.