25 things guaranteed* to happen in baseball in 2008

In the great tradition of my previous Fools’ Day posts (er… post), I present to you 25 things absolutely, positively guaranteed to happen in the year 2008.  (*-Please note that all are guaranteed except those that do not actually happen.)

  1. Curt Schilling will write something in his blog on a slow news day, and it will be mildly controversial and people who know nothing about baseball will feel the need to comment on it.  Hilarity will ensue.
  2. Someone with a really good Pythagorean record (one better than one of the actual playoff teams) will miss out on the playoffs.
  3. People will spend a great deal of time arguing about whether Tim Raines or Jim Rice should be voted into the Hall of Fame, despite the fact that they do not have an actual HOF vote.  These same people will not use the Presidential vote that they do have.
  4. Oakland will go through a rough year, since they’re re-building after several years of 90 wins or so.  This, like everything else that Oakland does, will be cited as evidence that Moneyball doesn’t work.
  5. The Chicago Cubs will win the World Series.  Oh did someone else already make that guarantee?
  6. Someone will swallow hard and sign Barry Bonds*.
  7. ESPN will ignore 60% of the teams in the AL East.  (Hopefully, for Chris Berman’s sake, they’ll at least show one Blue Jays game.)
  8. The Scott Linebrink Award for the “setup guy” who had a really good season last year, and this year will be simply ordinary will go to Tony Pena. 
  9. Speaking of Tony Pena, Tony Pena (the pitcher) will face Tony Pena (the shortstop) sometime during the weekend of 6/13-6/15 when the Royals pay a visit to Chase Field to take on the Diamondbacks.  Unfortunately, the Royals don’t also play the Brewers this year, so Ryan Braun won’t be able to face off against Ryan Braun.
  10. Hey, Devil Rays fans.  Finally performing that exorcism will put you over .500!
  11. A-Rod will hit .350, hit 50 HR, drive in 130, lead the league in VORP, WARP, and HDXPIRF (well, maybe that last one was made up), carry an under-achieving team with an aging pitching staff and a bloated payroll to the playoffs, play a pretty good third base, somehow find time to steal 20 bases, donate $100,000 to an orphanage, save two kids from drowining, and hit a few game winning home runs.  He will still be derided as an over-paid, self-absorbed jerk who can’t come through in the clutch.
  12. Dane Cook will quietly receive a lifetime ban from baseball.  We here at StatSpeak hope that the emphasis is on the “quietly.”  While we’re at it, he will also receive a lifetime ban from acting.  And doing comedy.  And will be sent to Siberia.
  13. Johan Santana will not win 20 games.  That’s OK, he’ll still be the best pitcher in baseball.  This will, however, prompt cries from New York that he was “totally not worth it.”
  14. B. J. Upton will amaze.
  15. The Washington Nationals will win the award for “Best Hat” and ”Best use of the letter W in a logo since Weezer.”  And maybe 65 games.
  16. During the All-Star Game, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver will combine to say something so insanely stupid that it will become the Miss Teen South Carolina of 2008.  And they will continue along as if nothing had ever happened.  Most of America will as well because… sometimes it’s just better to leave some things alone, nod, and smile.
  17. Someone will finally explain to me how it is that the Seattle Mariners, who have a bunch of Sabermetrically inclined bloggers as their fans can still do silly things like sign Jose Vidro, Richie Sexson, Adrian Beltre…
  18. Mike Fast will do a Pitch F/X analysis on me and my 40 mph fastball.  Mike?  Where’d you go?
  19. The Boston Red Sox will win the World Series.
  20. The Cleveland Indians will win the World Series.
  21. The New York Yankees will win the World Series.  (Eventually, if I type enough of these, I’ll get one right.  The Kansas City Royals will… nevermind)
  22. The Braves will trade for Greg Maddux at the trading deadline as they try to win the NL East, reuniting the Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz trilogy of the mid-90s. 
  23. Baltimore will break their streak of fourth place finishes and will change things up by finishing last in the AL East.
  24. One of the Rookie of the Year awards will go to a Japanese pitcher.  The other will go to a random kid on the North Side of Chicago who has a broken arm and goes to a Cubs game and gets signed by the team… what?
  25. Roger Clemens* will stay retired this year.  The whole year.  Please, Roger, for the good of the game, stay retired.

The Name Game

Growing up in Philadelphia, and raised in an extreme sports environment, Jayson Stark has always been an idol of mine. In fact it was reading his Philadelphia Inquirer column every week that eventually propelled me into sabermetrics. His columns always combined humor and statistics in order to show all of the hilarious or newsworthy baseball happenings that could not be seen on an ESPN show. Not shocking in the least, ESPN eventually brought him onboard. That being said, I thought I would do my sports-writing idol proud by writing an article in a style similar to his.
The idea for this came to me when the Phillies signed Chad Durbin to be their: (circle the correct answer)

  • A) 5th Starter
  • B) 6th Starter
  • C) Mop-Up Reliever
  • D) Waste of Space
  • E) Who cares, we have Adam Eaton!?

Regardless of the answer you selected, this now gave the Phillies Chad Durbin and J.D. Durbin – two completely unrelated Durbins. Now, it isn’t as if we’re talking about two guys with the last name of Smith. I never knew “Durbin” was a last name until a couple of years ago and now there are not only two in major league baseball but two on the same team?
More interestingly enough, there have only been four Durbin’s in the history of major league baseball and the other two ended their careers during, or before, 1909. The only two Durbin’s in the last 98 seasons of major league baseball are now on the same team – and have no relation to one another.
The Phillies acquired J.D. Durbin after the Diamondbacks placed him on waivers in April. Durbin had appeared in one game for Arizona and surrendered 7 hits and 7 runs in 2/3 of an inning. For the Phillies, Durbin was somewhat serviceable, even throwing a complete game shutout against the Padres.
J.D. Durbin made his Phillies debut on June 29th during the first game of a double-header against the Mets.
At the time of acquiring J.D. Durbin, the Phillies had a minor league prospect with the name J.A. Happ. Due to rotation injuries, Happ made his first major league start on June 30th, against the Mets.
Now that would be odd enough, on its own, however the Phillies also acquired J.C. Romero from the Red Sox. Romero also made his Phillies debut on June 29th, during the second game of Durbin’s double-header.
So, to recap, not only did the Phillies have three pitchers with the first names of J.A., J.C., and J.D., but all three of them made their Phillies debuts within the span of 48 hours from June 29th-June 30th!
And, speaking of the Phillies, they acquired Tad Iguchi from the White Sox towards the end of the season. Since he would not have been able to play for the Phillies until May 15th, if he re-signed with them, he went elsewhere (Padres). The Phillies, in need of another bench player, decided to sign So Taguchi. I guess this way the transition will be easier for the players.
Or how about the Twins deciding to replace Luis Castillo with Alexi Casilla.

  • Believe it or not, the American League had an Ellis, an Ellison, and an Ellsbury.  And no, they were not Dale, Pervis, or Doughboy.
  • The Athletics had Dan Haren and Rich Harden.
  • The American League also had a Joakim, a Joaquin, and a Johan.  That’s never happened before with different players.
  • Lastly, there was the Rays’ Delmon Young and the Dodgers’ Delwyn Young, who sadly never got to face each other.

Speaking of “Young’s,” the NL West not only had two of them, but two Chris Young’s.  They could not be more different, either, as one is a 9-ft tall, white, former ivy-league pitcher and the other is a 6-ft, black, college-less outfielder.  Pitcher Chris Young (PCY for those keeping track) won the 2007 battle as his younger counterpart went 0-10, with a walk and 4 K’s against him.

  •  Orlando Hudson went 2-11, with an RBI and 4 BB, against his “River” counterpart Tim Hudson.
  • Unfortunately, Reggie Abercrombie never got to face Jesse Litsch.  I wonder what Sportscenter would call that matchup.  Reggie and Jesse?  Reggie and Litsch?  Abercrombie and Jesse?  Ugh, who knows…
  • Aaron Rowand and Robinson Cano didn’t face each other this past year either.
  • Somehow, the Blue Jays and Rockies have played nine times and we are still waiting on a Halladay/Holliday matchup.
  • Scott Baker didn’t pitch against, or to, Paul Bako in 2007, though my fingers are crossed for 2008.

Mike Lamb is 3-9 in his career against Adam Eaton (who isn’t?) as well as 1-7 off of Todd Coffey.
Coffey and Lamb usually don’t go well together, though, but Felix Pie is also 0-1 off of the caffeinated one.
Eaton has never gotten to face Pie yet.  I’d like to put a pie in Eaton’s face.  3 yrs and 24 mil worth of pies!
In what would probably cause the universe to crumble, I am patiently awaiting a Rick VandenHurk vs. Todd Van Benschoten matchup.  I’m feeling 2008 or 2009.
In the long-name department, Jarrod Saltalamacchia went 1-2 against Andy Sonnanstine.  Salty also went 0-2 against Mark Hendrickson.  He went 1-1 against Ryan Rowland-Smit, but Ryan had two last names to reach eleven letters and therefore had an unfair advantage.
Easily the most hypocritical name award goes to Angel Pagan.  You can figure that one out.  Did you know, though, that the National League had “Two Wise Men”?  That’s right – Matt and Dewayne.
Though Matt Wise surrendered a hit to Angel Pagan, he struck out Dewayne Wise, proving what we already knew – Matt Wise is the smartest pitcher ever.
On a sad note,  2007 proved to be a disappointment in the generic name field (not Nate Field or Josh Fields).  Combined, there were only four Smith’s.  Jason, Joe, Matt, and Seth.
Even sadder, we only had three Williams’ – Dave, Jerome, and Woody.  Scott Williamson tried his hardest but that does not count.  Could be a cool sitcom title – Three Williams and a Williamson.
Major League Baseball spanned the endpoints of the life cycle this year.  On one side we had Alan Embree (embryo) and Omar Infante (infant) and on the other there were Jermaine Dye (die) and Manny Corpas (corpse).
Dye has never faced Corpas but is 2-7 in his career off of Embree.  Infante has also never faced Corpas but has doubled in 4 at-bats against Embree.
Jorge de la Rosa and Eulogio de la Cruz did not face each other this year despite being the only two “of-the” names.  And, just to clarify the none of you who asked, Valerio de los Santos would not qualify for this category since de los would technically be “of-them” or “of-those.”
Miguel Cairo has long been the MVP of this group but he welcomed two additions this year in the forms of Ben Francisco and Frank Francisco.  I had always thought of Francisco as a Spanish first name but was very surprised to find it as an American last name.  In fact, if you say Ben Francisco really quickly and in front of a drunk, it could even sound like San Francisco.
I recently got an original NES and could not help but notice that two major leaguers sound like items from a Zelda game.  Don’t both of these sentences make sense?

  1. Link, to defeat Ganon, you must hit him in the lower Velandia.
  2. Use your Verlander to blow up the stones blocking the entrance.

One of my favorite movies is Sinbad’s Houseguest, and whenever I hear the name of Giants’ 2B Kevin Frandsen I am reminded of Sinbad’s character Kevin Franklin.  Something tells me Frandsen never impersonated a dentist.
In addition to everyone else we had six players with job names.  Chris Carpenter and Lee Gardner maintained the stadiums and fields, Scott Proctor made sure they didn’t cheat, Skip Schumaker supplied them all with cleats, while Matt Treanor helped rehab Torii Hunter.
Schumaker did not face Carpenter, Gardner, or Proctor.  Treanor is 1-3 off of Carpenter in his career.  Hunter was 3-6 with a HR and 2 RBI off of Carpenter (career), as well as 2-6 with an RBI off of Proctor.
Clearly, a Hunter is more valuable than a Proctor and a Carpenter.
Point blank – the following names sound incredibly made up and fake:

  • Frank Francisco
  • Dave Davidson
  • Emilio Bonifacio
  • Rocky Cherry

When primitive men first began to speak it was easiest to combine two words together without any intermediates.  Thousands of years later we still have names like Grady Sizemore, Jarrod Washburn, Mark Bellhorn, and Chris Bootcheck.
Speaking of Chris Bootcheck, I wonder what he and Jon Knotts would talk about.
In the anatomy field, Rick Ankiel and Brandon Backe were in the same division, with Ankiel going 0-3 with an RBI off Backe.

  • DIRTY NAME AWARD – Rich (Dick) Harden
  • ACADEMY AWARD – Sean Henn
  • LED ZEPPELIN AWARD – Scott Kazmir
  • FUTURE PIZZA SHOP NAME AWARD – Doug Mirabelli (hon. mention – Mike Piazza)
  • FICTIONAL SERIAL KILLER AWARD – Mike Myers (as usual)
  • NAME TYPO AWARD – Jhonny Peralta
  • MOST FUN TO SAY AWARD – Jonathan Albaladejo
  • IMPERVIOUS AWARD – (tie) James Shields and Scot Shields

And there you have it.  We covered the life cycle, the entertainment (regular and adult) industry, jobs, cities, the bible, and more.
We can only hope that 2008 will finally bring us a VandenHurk/Van Benschoten or a Holliday/Halladay.
Keep your fingers crossed.