Monday, July 02, 2007

Completely Random Baseball Post

All right, training camp starts three weeks from today and in the meantime, I suspect the only Steelers news will consist of (a) rookie signings and (b) jackassery taking the form of arrests.

To kill time until then, I figure we might as well mix it up around here. I suppose we could talk about the Steelers, but frankly, I'm tapped. Top 25 lists? Meh. Is Willie Parker a legit NFL back? Boooorrrrriiiiinnnnggg (at least in July, anyway). Will Troy Polamalu re-sign? I'll save us all the drama and spill the beans: Yes, yes he will. Will Alan Faneca re-sign? Prospects do not look good ... oh, wait, check that: definite maybe.

Anyway, while we wait for the craziness to start up, here's something kinda interesting I heard on the radio yesterday: Dan Duquette, hated by Red Sox fans everywhere, is currently the director of operations for the Israeli Baseball League.

Yeah, I didn't know Israel had a league either. Anyhow, during the radio interview, Duquette was talking up the IBL, explaining how its niche will be as a developmental league, and also going through some of the rules. For starters, there are no games scheduled from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Also, all games are seven innings. Finally -- and this is so kinda ... weird, it's genius -- all ties are decided by ... home run derby. Didn't see that coming, did you?

Duquette (who seems much less like a douche on radio than he was as Red Sox GM) told a story of how two teams were tied after seven -- one pitcher threw a no-hitter, his counterpart, a two-hitter -- and they went to The Derby to decide it. Each team select three players, and the teams' batting practice pitchers throw to their own players.

Art Shamsky, a former major leaguer and current manager of the Modi'in Miracle, was on the mound tossing home-run-derby BP when one of his players -- a former minor leaguer from the Dominican Republic -- swung wildly at a pitch he had no chance of hitting out of the park. Shamsky was so incensed that he hit the dude with the next pitch. That's right, the batting practice pitcher throws at his own player. Nice. As the story goes, the guy jacks one on the next pitch, game over.

Yep, you just don't get this kind of action in major league baseball. Which leads me to this semi-serious question: Would the Pirates have a better chance of winning games if they could just go the home-run-derby route instead of extra innings? I know, this presupposes they're tied after nine innings enough for it to make a difference. Okay, how about this: what, if after seven innings, the Pirates got to go all home run derby with their last six outs while their opponents just played regular ol' baseball?

I'm basically making stuff up at this point, but it does point to a larger issue: without implementing a legit salary cap in baseball, is there any way to make more teams more competitive? Yeah, reading Moneyball might be a start for Dave Littlefield, but if every GM's reading it, and assuming every GM isn't completely retarded, every team should improve (assuming luck is randomly distributed), right?

Obviously, letting the small-market teams have the home-run-derby advantage is an idiotic idea, and not something I'd seriously recommend (unless you think it'd work), but things are getting silly. The Pirates, Royals, Reds, Montreal Nationals have been dreadful forever. Some of it is crappy front office management, but some of it is not being able to compete for the same talent. I'm not breaking any new ground with these statements, and honestly, it's not something I have to worry about as a Red Sox fan, but jeebus, as much as I want to watch the Nats -- or even the Pirates, for that matter -- it's damn near impossible without the aid of a six-pack and some heroin.

Something else I was thinking about while watching the Red Sox lose a home series to the freaking Rangers: if you're the Pirates (or more specifically, a Pirates fan -- I don't think any Pirates players read this blog), and you could have one player from the Red Sox in some special Title IX draft exemption, who would it be?

My first thought is Manny Ortiz -- John Kerry's favorite player -- but Ramirez is too old, and Papi isn't much of a first baseman. Maybe Josh Beckett? I would say Pabelbuns, but how often is it the closer's fault the Pirates lose? Kevin Youkilis is an above-average player on a really good team, but I don't think he'd do much to help the Buccos. In fact, I think you could say that about most of the team's field players outside of Manny. Okay, I'm going with Beckett. And I'm throwing in Schilling at no extra charge.