Sunday, August 7, 2016

Shields Are Down

What could go wrong? I can't count the number of ways.
You could be mauled or burned for starters.
You could still drown in knee-deep waters.
That's enough to hold up and  hide in this cave.
Shields, "Big Business"

It Bites: Could it get any worse? It did—once in the past 103 years.

Today, James Shields started against the Baltimore Orioles. He wasn't good.

Shields retired four batters. He also gave up home runs to four batters.

Shields was tagged for eight earned runs in just 60 pitches.

That's brutally bad, historically bad—almost worst-ever historically bad.

Shields finished the game with an impossibly-low game score of -15.

Recall that the game score of an average start is 50. A truly brilliant start would range from the 70s up to 100. A putrid washout would drop a guy's game score down to the 20s, maybe teens.

But almost before Robin Ventura could even finish one of his patented long yawns in the dugout, Shields's doleful drubbing had descended him to the historical depths of a -15 game score.

In baseball history dating back to 1913, there have only been 16 worse game scores than -15. And believe it or not, one of them was spun by a Pale Hose hurler, the famed Ted Lyons.

Jim Margalus at South Side Sox identified it, a 16-2 evisceration at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. It was a battle of third and fourth-place teams, but the Senators created just a bit  of separation between the two clubs by pounding Lyons, who was struggling through his rookie season. Washington jumped out 6-0 in the 1st, made it 12-0 by the 3rd, and led 16-0 before the South Siders finally put a two-spot on the board in the top of the 8th.

The White Sox committed a whopping seven errors in the loss, yet somehow 14 of Lyons' 16 runs were earned. It could have been even worse; Senators were nabbed in three of their four steal attempts.

Lyons went on to Hall of Fame election; this debacle was just the 20th in what would become a 484-start career. Lyons retired in 1942, notching a 5.1 bWAR and finishing 12th in MVP voting.

"Big Game James" is merely a hurler on his last legs, who has topped that age-41 season of Lyons' in bWAR only twice, and never finished higher than 16th in MVP voting.

The last word on Big Game James is best left to a namesake, James Fegan of BP Southside:
Whatever, it is over now and we are still alive.
Not without scars; Fegan sat in the center-field bleachers for the game.

Something tells me the current No. 25 jersey will not be immortalized here.

Oh, and Lyons also has had his No. 16 jersey retired by the White Sox. 

The last player to wear that jersey? Ken Williams.

No Justice

Everyone is crying out for peace, yes,
none is crying out for justice.
Peter Tosh, "Equal Rights"

Tears of a Clown: New York City, of all places, allows A-Rod to bow out "gracefully."

I come here not to bury A-Rod, although today's performance makes me tempted to grab a shovel.

My emotions are somewhat conflicted when it comes to PEDs.

I don't downgrade PEDs as some would, equating them with the greenies of the 1960s and 1970s. But there's little I can do about the fact that everyone in the MLB of a decade or two ago looked the other way. There's little choice any fan, historian, scholar, writer has to do but do the same.

The truth is, the numbers are the numbers. You can't selectively erase them. And once it became clear that it wasn't just the hulking homer hitters who were doping up, but pitchers, runners, and fielders, the unbalanced became more balanced.

[Quick aside, I never will understand the fraternity that protects users. You had White Sox like Paul Konerko and Frank Thomas adamantly, violently against PED cheating—but ultimately, they looked the other way. The Big Hurt was a HOFer in any era, but Konerko on a more even playing field goes from an are-you-kidding candidate to well, yeah, Hall of Very Good.]

All that said, so much of the coverage of today's unsurprising announcement that the New York Yankees no longer wanted to pay Alex Rodriguez to play baseball for them was effete, flaccid, kowtowing. Press row may feign garrulousness, but damn if the hankies weren't soaked and the Hallmark aisle at Walgreens ransacked bare as A-Rod limped into the sunset.

To wit,'s Richard Justice, who goes beyond his customary feckless horseshit to set a new bar for beer crying:
Here's hoping that [Rodriguez] understands that plenty of people know how hard he worked to change, and in the end, how much he contributed to the game.  
He was a joy to watch. He would do things that would bring you out of your seat, and two innings later, he would do something even more spectacular. For that, every baseball fan owes him. 
We were part of the lucky generation that got to watch Alex Rodriguez play baseball. Let's how the ovation he hears at [his last game at] Yankee Stadium on Friday rings in his ears forever.
I "owe" Alex Rodriguez? Great player, unique talent, but, nope. A thousand times, nope.

Barry Bonds is the greatest player of my lifetime as a fan. I have mixed feelings about the hubris that drove a no-brainer Hall-of-Famer like Bonds to PEDs. But Bonds never even got the chance to weep his way through a midseason retirement after a shitty partial final season.

Why's that? Well first, he never had a shitty partial final season, rocking a 3.4 bWAR in 2007 that was just three years removed from his final full-season, 39-year-old bWAR of 10.6.

Second, in the most convenient collusion ever called, no team rang him up again. Coming off 3.4 and 4.0 bWAR in his 40s. Three years removed from his fourth consecutive MVP. Remember, it's not that Bonds was insulted with lowball offers and called it a day, or demanded only to return to the Giants.

No calls. No tears.

I get it, Bonds was as tone deaf to the adoration of media and fans as Rodriguez was driven by it, and that makes a big difference when it comes time to roll credits.

Justice, to be fair, pitched the Astros to sign Bonds in 2008—although it's hard to imagine a guy who despised Bonds as much as Justice did wasn't writing it up to take the piss out of the sub-.500 Astros, Bonds himself, or simply to amuse himself for a day.

No matter: Justice sure didn't write a tear-stained homage to Barry as Bonds sat by the phone in March 2008, waiting for a call. Or in April 2008 ... May 2008 ... June 2008 ... ad infinitum.

There are a lot of things that should ring in Alex Rodriguez's ears forever. Cheering isn't one of them.