Paging Corey Patterson

“A talented player, he projected as a rookie who would hit, but didn’t seem to react well to the challenge of earning the job. Well, let’s not be coy about it. I don’t know how much truth there is in this, but what I was told is that, with a job virtually handed to him, he displayed what we might call a Miguel Dilone syndrome. He wouldn’t put out any extra effort as a show of good faith., wouldn’t

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take extra hitting practice or work on his defense; he just acted like the job was his. The worse he played, and he played quite badly indeed, the less receptive he became to help. When a young player does that, people say that it doesn’t seem like he wants the job. Well, of course he wants the job; every young baseball player wants to play. What this behavior suggests to me is a player with a deep-rooted lack of confidence. Men who are consumed with a fear of failing often protect themselves from the failure that they subconsciously anticipate by adopting a pose of indiffernece and hostility; any attempt to reach out to such a player would be interpreted as an attempt to force him to make an emotional commitment to the job, and thus would feed the fear and force the player to fortify his defense mechanisms. Such a player would exhibit external signs of self-confidence, and would refuse to make any special efforts to cooperate, as to do so would be a tacit acknowledgment of his unsteady position. Not until the player sheds the label of a hot prospect, and nothing more is expected of him, will the fear subside and the ability once more begin to assert itself. What can be done about it? I don’t think anything can. If a twenty-two-year-old athlete doesn’t believe in himself, deep down, I doubt seriously that there is anything anybody else can do about it that will change that fact. He has terrific talent. He might have a big year sometime. If he can have two straight big years, he might even grow into the confidence that he needs. But I doubt that anybody will ever be able to control his talent.” –Bill James, in 1985, writing about Angel Salazar, whose career line ended up, over five seasons and 886 at-bats, being .212/.230/.270. He finished his career as a Cub, in 1988.

Baseball brings people together

On our trip last year, two of the hangers-on for the game in Cleveland were Dan and Dianne. They’re getting married next Saturday, and Levi and I are going to be in attendance — in fact, Levi was apparently a last-minute addition to the wedding party.

The room we’re sharing at the Hilton Garden Inn in Twinsburg, Ohio, does have free high-speed Internet (probably wired), but since this isn’t a baseball-related trip, I wouldn’t expect there to be much blogging going on for a few days.

Actually, on Thursday evening, Levi and I might be doing some live blogging aboard Amtrak train 354, in the coach where they put passengers bound for Ann Arbor, especially if he brings that Bill James book along:

Levi: Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Me: Now what?

Levi: (Quotes a Bill James wisecrack about some player I vaguely remember, because I wasn’t paying as much attention to baseball in 1982 as Levi was)

Me: (Chuckles politely)

Now, since our first trip led directly to a marriage between two of the participants almost exactly a year later, whenever we do a second trip, I’m going to sharply curtail attendance to me, Levi (already happily married and therefore out of the equation), and whatever attractive single women I can convince to join us for all or part of the trip (“I swear, it’s just a baseball game.

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I have no ulterior motives!”).

Ten games for Steroids, Six for Milk

A Marlins batboy has been suspended for attempting to

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drink a gallon of milk on a bet before a game.

Many, many things about this story seem wrong to me.

Three is a magic number

Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn

writes today in his blog about the White Sox, their magic number, and his new concept, the “toxic number.” (Which is a concept Bill James probably already had, 25 years ago.)


From Bill James, again, from 1982: Talk about your eerie coincidences. Mookie’s real name is William Wilson, but they can’t call him that, for obvious reasons. There is another major league player who does and doesn’t do exactly the same things that this guy does, and who is the same age and color, and that man’s name is Willie Wilson. To use the same name would invite unnecessary and unattractive comparisons. Edgar Allen Poe wrote a story about a man who was haunted by another man of the same name, same build and talents and face. The idea was that you were supposed to catch on that his personality had split, and he was merely projecting himself into another character of the

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same description. The two men’s names? William Wilson. Swear to God.


Through the efforts of a friendly librarian I know, I recently was able to check out a Bill James collection from 1989, This Time Let’s Not Eat the Bones: Bill James without the Numbers. There’s some good stuff in there about 80s baseball, much of it still of interest and still applicable today.

But some of it is just plain fun as a trip down memory lane with the irascible James as a guide. I’ll share some of it over the next few weeks, until the book’s due back at Bezazian Library.

So here’s James on Lonnie “Skates” Smith, writing in 1986, when Smith had been a Royal for a few years:

I wouold try to tell you what a bad outfielder Lonnie is, expect that I confess that I would never have believed it myself if somebody had tried to tell me. I will say, though, that the real cost of Lonnie’s defense is not nearly as great as the psychic impact of it. He makes you wail and gnash your teeth a lot, but he doesn’t really cost you all that many runs.

One reason for that is that he recovers so quickly after her makes a mistake. You have to understand that Lonnie makes defensive mistakes every game, so he knows hot to handle it. Your average outfielder is inclined to panic when he falls down chasing a ball in the corner; he may just give up and set there a while, trying to figure it out. Lonnie has a pop-up slide perfected for the occasion.

Another outfielder might have no idea where the ball was when it bounded off his glove. Lonnie can calculate with the instinctive astrophysics of a veteran tennis player where a ball will land when it skips off the heel of his glove, what the angle of glide will be when he tips it off the webbing, what the spin will be when the ball skids off the thumb of the mitt.

Many players can kick a ball behind them without ever knowing it. Lonnie can judge by the pitch of the thud and the subtle pressure through his shoe in which direction and how far he has projected the sphere.

He knows exactly what to do when a ball spins out of his hand and flies crazily into a void on the field. He knows when it is appropriate for him to scamper after the ball and when he needs to back up the man who will have to recover it.

He has experience in these matters; when he retires he will be hired to come to spring training and coach defensive recovery and cost containment. This is his specialty, and he is good at it.

I read the articles so you don’t have to

The September issue of Playboy has an article about Jose Canseco’s ex-wife Jessica, to go along with some photographs of her in which she’s wearing ballet shoes but seems to have forgotten to put on her tutu, or her leotard, or anything else a ballerina might wear. Actually, I take that back — she’s wearing leg warmers in a couple of the photos.

Anyway, the article is chock full of fascinating facts. For example, Jose met her at a Hooters in Cleveland, where she was only in her third day on the job — and the very next night, Jose made blooper-reel history with the home-run-bouncing-off-his-head incident. She says he likes his women “meaty,” so he often encouraged her to eat more. Also, she claims to have had sex with him in Fenway Park. And, yes, she reports that there was a lot of steroid-related testicular shrinkage, but since he was also taking human growth hormone, the other part of the frank-‘n’-beans combo was larger than normal. (They did have a daughter together, so everything was apparently working well enough.)

Things went badly once she realized he was cheating on her; she found such items as Jose’s private cell phone (she cracked the voice mail password and found messages from four women) and a little black book in which Jose had made copious notes about physical descriptions of various women so he could remember who was who. Her last-ditch effort to save the relationship was a menage a trois involving her, Jose, and a friend of hers, but it didn’t work.

Elsewhere in this issue of Playboy, we learn that “when you’re Hef, every day is an adventure,” as we have been learning in Playboy for over 50 years now. (I mean the royal “we,” obviously.)

Actually, there was some useful information in this Playboy, although it’s not baseball-related: I learned of the existence of this upcoming Rhino box set, although I’m a little dubious about the August 30th date, since it’s listed on neither nor (although only lists their releases for the 16th and 23rd).

The days they come, the days they go

Some days, you look out your office window and wish you’d taken the day off to go see the Cardinals and Cubs at Wrigley Field, like you used to always do back when tickets were more readily available after the first day of tickets sales and such outings didn’t, therefore, have to be so rigorously planned.

Other days, you don’t.