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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Announcement From Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo's THE BASEBALL HALL OF SHAME

Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo's THE BASEBALL HALL OF SHAME: THE BEST OF BLOOPERSTOWN Inducts the Babe Ruth Blunder That Cost the Yankees the World Series

Best-selling Humor Series Immortalizes the Wildest, Craziest,
Zaniest Moments in Postseason History

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- The game of baseball has seen its share of memorable postseason mishaps, but Babe Ruth's World Series baserunning blunder tops the list, according to Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo, authors of THE BASEBALL HALL OF SHAME: THE BEST OF BLOOPERSTOWN (Lyons Press 2012). Nash and Zullo have chronicled more than 125 years of outrageously funny moments in the major leagues in the latest installment of their best-selling Baseball Hall of Shame series. The newest edition includes the most mind-boggling goofs and gaffes of the postseason committed by some of baseball's greatest players, headlined by the Sultan of Swat himself.

Ruth made the biggest boneheaded play of his stellar career in the top of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1926 World Series. With his Yankees trailing, 3-2, Ruth drew a two-out walk to bring up cleanup hitter Bob Meusel. Batting .315 for the year with 81 RBIs, the hot-hitting Meusel had success against Cardinals reliever Grover Cleveland Alexander the day before, notching a double and a triple. But Meusel had the bat taken out of his hands by Ruth, who defied logic when the lumbering Bambino tried to steal second base with the game on the line. Never known for his speed, Ruth took off for second only to be thrown out by five feet for the final out of the Series, handing the title to St. Louis. "He didn't say a word," Cardinals second baseman Rogers Hornsby recalled after tagging Ruth to end the game. "He didn't even look at me. He just picked himself up off the ground and walked away." Ruth later explained that he tried to catch the Cardinals by surprise, thinking no one would ever expect the steal. No other World Series has ever ended on a player being caught stealing.

Some of the other memorable miscues in postseason history featured in THE BASEBALL HALL OF SHAME: THE BEST OF BLOOPERSTOWNinclude:

  • Herb Washington proved that the idea of a designated runner - the brainchild of Oakland Athletics owner Charlie Finley - was way off base when the former college track star was picked off first base, snuffing out a ninth inning rally in Game 2 of the 1974 World Series.
  • During a heated argument in Game 4 of the 1933 World Series, Washington Senators baserunner Heinie Manush snapped umpire Charlie Moran's elastic bowtie into his throat, leaving the arbiter momentarily speechless. When the ump regained his voice, the first thing he said was, "You're out of the game!"
  • While celebrating the Minnesota Twins' 2002 Division Series championship, utility man Denny Hocking ended up at the bottom of the raucous pileup, injuring his hand so badly that he couldn't play in the ALCS.
  • In Game 2 of the 1917 World Series, Chicago White Sox pitcher Red Faber tried to steal third base only to discover that teammate Buck Weaver was still on the base. After Faber was tagged out, Weaver asked him, "What the hell are you doing here?" Dusting himself off, the embarrassed hurler replied, "I'm going out to pitch, of course."
  • Never in Fall Classic history have two teams displayed such amazing incompetence as the St. Louis Browns and the Chicago Cubs (then known as the White Stockings) when they made six more errors than hits in the 1885 World Series. The blundering players racked up an astonishing 102 errors while collecting only 96 hits.

The original Baseball Hall of Shame, first published in 1985, was an instant hit with fans of all ages, becoming one of the most popular sports humor books of all time. It spawned a Hall of Shame publishing franchise, with additional volumes on baseball, as well as football, basketball and other sports. The series has sold over 750,000 copies. For Nash and Zullo, their motto has always been, "Fame and shame are part of the game."

The book is available for purchase on Amazon.

For more information visit Bruce Nash's website


Media Inquiries:Pam Golum, The Lippin Group (L.A.): 323-965-1990 x325pgolum@lippingroup.comLisa Lugassy, The Lippin Group (N.Y.):


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Friday, September 28, 2012

Red Sox Fans May Want to Temper Expectations for 2013

The disaster that has been the 2012 season for the Boston Red Sox is about to turn into another winter of discontent. Despite the lackluster play, jettisoning of high-priced players, and general uncertainty swirling about the team, the general feeling of fans seems to be that it is only a one year set-back and the ship will be righted in 2013. Looking at the uphill battle facing the Red Sox, it not only seems like such optimism is shortsighted, but that next season could be even worse than what has just been endured.

Fans have squarely placed blame for the horrors of this season on manager Bobby Valentine. It’s true he has done himself few favors with his frequent contrary personality and ill-timed verbal outbursts. He has also battled hostile fans and a blood thirsty media, while balancing a roster ravaged by injuries and dissent. It may come as a surprise to many, but there is a good chance that he will return in 2013 to finish out his contract. The Red Sox are far from the halcyon days of 2004 and 2007 and may not want to pay two manager salaries while mired in mediocrity. Keeping Valentine as a lightning rod while the team rights the ship in others ways may be the best strategy.

If Valentine is fired it’s not like there is a surplus of quality managerial candidates standing in the soup line waiting to be brought into the Boston meat grinder. Speculative named that have come up the most have been Brad Ausmus and Bill Mueller, neither of whom have ever managed a professional game, and John Farrell, who has elicited the greatest gossiping. It is the clamoring for Farrell that is the most perplexing. He was once a top lieutenant as pitching coach for dearly departed Terry Francona, but has most recently spent the past two seasons managing the Toronto Blue Jays to under-achieving status and seen his pitchers suffer serious injuries at a record pace. It seems that he would be more likely to provide a nostalgic link to the past than reinvigorate a team that so profoundly lost their sense of identity. Valentine is likely not the long-term manager for the Red Sox, but the team has to be smart in bringing in somebody who will help lead the rejuvenation and not simply be a placeholder.

The potential that the Red Sox may come away from the upcoming off-season without significant upgrades also endangers the belief that their swoon is of a temporary nature. Having just unloaded a significant portion of salary the Red Sox would be foolish if they don’t proceed with caution when determining who to set their sights on via trade or free agency. By most accounts the free agent shopping list is largely uninspiring, and the big names that are out there, like Josh Hamilton and Zach Greinke, come with palpable risk. Caution can often be the better part of valor, and the Red Sox may decide to wait before making their next big strike.

If upgrades can’t be found via free agency, the Red Sox will hard-pressed to find big-time alternatives on the trade market. They have boy wonder shortstop prospect Xander Bogaerts, who is virtually untouchable, but other than him the franchise lacks top prospects who are lurking at the upper levels of the minors and ready to contribute major league production. The lack of such prospects virtually ensures the team’s inability to score any big names through trade. If trades are made it is likely that they will be for lower impact players they are speculating on in the hopes that they might find a diamond in the rough, a la David Ortiz.

A final sign of discouragement for Red Sox fans is the team’s lack of breakout candidates for next season. Sure, disappointing vets like Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury may bounce back to some degree, but it’s difficult to envision a scenario of a new star emerging from the scorched earth rubble of 2012. Fans may stamp their feet and impudently point their fingers at Will Middlebrooks as the next potential savior, putting impossibly heavy expectations on a young player who produced well above any projections when he was brought up earlier in the year. He has the tools to be an excellent player, but there is no guarantee how soon he can effectively return from his injury or if he can best what he did in 2012. Sophomore slumps are a common occurrence in sports and even a composed player like Middlebrooks has a tough row to hoe to continue improving when facing so many personal and team related challenges. Even if he comes back strong, he profiles more as a solid non-superstar player, who will be better as a complimentary piece instead of a face of the franchise.

Ultimately baseball is difficult to forecast from game to game, let alone from year to year. What is a certainty is that Red Sox fans have some of the most passionate and high expectations out there, and many signs point to 2013 being a major letdown rather than a return to glory. Building a successful team is a tedious series of chess moves, gambles, and chemistry, which works out on its own time and not that of yearning and impatient fans. 


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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Prospect Kevin Heller Turns in His Stripes for Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees have a rivalry going back many years, with fans on both sides passionate about the team they support. That can all change suddenly in the rare instances when those fans are also players and get an opportunity to suit up for the rival. A recent example of this is Red Sox minor league prospect Kevin Heller, who gave up his stripes when he was drafted by Boston, with whom he is now doing everything he can to reach the majors.

The right-handed hitting Heller was drafted by Boston in the 40th round earlier this summer after having a stellar career with Amherst College. He left as the school’s all-time leader in hits (172), RBI (126), and tied for the top mark with 18 home runs. He was viewed as a polished college player and known for making contact; all desirable traits of a successful prospect.

After signing with the Red Sox, Heller was sent to the low minors to start his professional career. He got into a total of 19 games between the GCL affiliate and the Lowell Spinners, hitting a combined .290 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI. More information on his statistics is available at

In 2013 Heller will be given a chance to prove himself with a full-season team and see if he can make progress through the franchise’s sea of prospects. It’s no longer about draft position, it’s about talent and determination, and Heller has both in spades, so don’t be surprised to hear his name come up next season.

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: As a kid I was always fascinated by Roberto Clemente. Never getting to see him play, I viewed him as a legend and a hero- not only because of the tremendous player he was (3000 hits and the tremendous arm strength) but because of the incredible human being he was assisting others less fortunate then he until his last day. As a New Yorker, I of course grew up loving Derek Jeter. The ultimate professional plays hard every day and is a true team leader. 

How did you know that the Red Sox were interested in you?: I had received letters in the offseason and talked to individuals in the front office. Going to school in Massachusetts, I can assure you tons of friends and professors were hoping if I got a chance it would be with Boston. Also, with an Amherst alum as the GM, and more in the front office, I had heard what a tremendous organization it was to play for.  

Can you describe what your draft day experience was like?: Low key ... Spent the day in the house with my family.  Knew if it happened it would be day 3, but did think it would be around 20-30, so when it got later it did become a little nerve wracking. I actually left my house to go for a run just to get away and relax. Upon returning my family all traveled to different rooms and when it finally happened it was the best feeling and more then worth the wait. More family and friends and teammates rushed over to my house to celebrate and I couldn't be more thankful for all their support.

Having grown up a Yankees fan, what thoughts ran through your mind when you were drafted by Boston?: I laughed a little thinking back to all the years rooting against Boston. My dad quickly said ‘How am I going to wear a Red Sox hat?’ But I couldn't be happier with the team and I'm the biggest Sox fan after that day.

Besides the travel, what was the most difficult thing to become accustomed to during your first professional season?: Talent level. Facing the best of the best every day is difficult, but it's what I live for.  You can never let your guard down because everyone you compete against is so talented.  It’s an honor to play with and against these guys and I'm confident with my ability to perform at the highest level with and against them.

You were the MVP of the 2011 wooden bat Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League... How difficult was it to adjust to wood bats?: I love it - it simply feels like a purer form of baseball. The bigger adjustment was the tremendous talent in the ACBL. I was blessed with the opportunity to play every day and I really got in a rhythm swinging. I love hitting with wood, in fact, I believe I even prefer it. My dad always said good hitters can hit with anything you put in their hand; a quote I always loved.  

Not being a higher draft pick, what drives you to compete with and against other prospects who may be more well known?: Boston gave me a chance that's all I can ask for. The key is I'm here playing on the same field and in the same lineup as the top draft picks in the world. My goal now is to be the hardest worker day in and day out and not worry about the things that are out of my control, like what round people were drafted in. I'm confident I can play with anyone out there and as long as I hold on to that I believe I'll find a way to succeed. It's not what round you were drafted in but what you do with the opportunity. I'm just thankful to Boston for giving me a chance and I intend to make the most of it.  

What are you looking forward to as you prepare for your first professional spring training?: Getting a full season in, seeing my teammates and coaching staff again, and soaking in as much information from coaches and professionals as I possibly can. I can't wait to compete on the diamond again and drive for a championship on whatever team they decide is right for me and represent the Red Sox organization to the best of my ability. 


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Monday, September 24, 2012

Picking the National League's Top Starting Pitcher Cy Young Candidate

With the regular season winding down there are few playoff spots or post season awards that have been definitively decided. One of the most interesting sprints to the finish is that of the National League Cy Young Award. There are two relievers very much in the hunt for the award, but the top starting pitcher candidates are not as easy to sort out. News that Clayton Kershaw may miss the final few weeks means that the starting pitcher candidates are likely down to three; Gio Gonzalez (Washington Nationals), R.A. Dickey (New York Mets), and Johnny Cueto (Cincinnati Reds). Closely examining the body of work for each shows who is best NL starting pitcher Cy Young hopeful.

Innings Pitched
Runs Allowed/9 Innings (includes earned runs)
Park Factor
Wins Above Average
Runs Better Than Avg.
Win/Loss % with Avg. Team
 *Leads League

Cy Young voters traditionally looked at wins, ERA, and strikeout totals as primary statistics when evaluating candidates, but when Felix Hernandez won the AL Award in 2010 with a “measly” 13-12 record, it marked a changing tide to more advanced metrics in determining the most deserving winner. This evolution is a good thing because the three primary starting pitching candidates in this year’s NL category are grouped closely together with the traditional measurements, and the best of the bunch can only be picked by digging deeper into their numbers.

I personally believe that Kershaw belongs in the conversation because he compares to the others in all categories except wins. However, no matter how much advanced statistics are being used as measuring tools in award races, I expect voters won’t be willing to look past Kershaw’s 12 wins and the expectation that he will miss the final three-plus weeks of the pennant race with an injured hip. For the purpose of ranking only who I think will be viewed as the three best starting pitcher candidates, Kershaw will be left out of my rankings, though it is entirely possible that he may place above one or more of these pitchers in the final official Cy Young vote.

It is important to look at the environments the pitchers threw in this season. Park Factor is a statistic that shows through averaging offensive output whether or not a ballpark is friendlier to hitters or pitchers. 100 is average and anything less than that would be more pitcher-friendly, and anything over 100 skews towards hitters. Dickey’s average starts occurred in more pitcher-friendly parks (with his home park of Citi Field in New York being one of the best), while Cueto and Gonzalez have Park Factors that are more favorable to hitters. Taking Park Factor into consideration gives Cueto’s numbers a slight nudge due to degree of difficulty, even though he has the highest WHIP of the bunch.

Methods to measure how much better than a player is than the average also tilt strongly in Cueto’s favor. His 35 Runs Better Than Average (Runs above an average player) are significantly better than Dickey (30) and Gonzalez (28). Wins Above Average (WAA) and WAR; two ways to show how much better or worse than a player is than average, also place Cueto in the top spot by a comfortable margin.

Another interesting metric to look at is Win/Loss Percentage with Average Team. This is an advanced formula that predicts what a pitcher’s winning percentage would be if they were on a team composed of otherwise average players. While all three candidates do well under this simulation, it is again Cueto who bests the field.

External factors that are picked up by the media and fans also tend to impact how effective a starter is seen. Cueto and Gonzalez will inevitably get a bump in recognition because they pitch for playoff teams, even though the Cy Young is about who has been the best pitcher, not who was the most valuable pitcher on a winning team. Dickey will garner him support for other reasons. The 37 year-old knuckleballer erupted on to the national scene this year with not only an amazing season that was 15 years in the making, but one that gives him an outside shot of winning the pitching triple-crown (wins, ERA, and strikeouts).

Although all three have a start or two remaining, I believe Johnny Cueto has been the best starting pitcher in the National League and has a good chance to win his first Cy Young Award. He has excellent traditional stats, but in digging deeper into more advanced numbers he really separates himself from the pack. I have Gonzalez and Dickey in a near dead heat, but give a slight advantage to the Nats’ lefty for the second spot (though they could flip-flop by the time game 162 has been played). Regardless of how their stats are interpreted by the voters or if a reliever ultimately takes home the hardware, one thing is for sure; there has been some terrific pitching in the National League this year, and whoever wins will have truly earned the honor.


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Friday, September 21, 2012

How Yunel Escobar Showed Baseball is Failing to Represent Itself as America's Pastime

It was announced this week that another major league player had been caught and subsequently reprimanded for offensive language/behavior. The player in this most recent incident was Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar, who wrote a Spanish gay slur on his eye black, which he wore during a game. Major League Baseball reacted quickly, investigating and promptly issuing a three game suspension that will cost Escobar about $92,000. This isn’t something that should be swept under the rug by MLB’s cat-like reflexes in “addressing” this issue. Bigger questions like why this happened and what can MLB do to prevent this in the future should be the primary concerns of baseball.

After being informed of his suspension Escobar held a press conference where he apologized for his actions. He indicated that he meant no harm, and that he considered the words to have different meaning in his own heritage and Latino ballplayer culture than it does in American society. It’s true that words and phrases can have altered meaning between cultures and languages, but what Escobar painted on his face was offensive any way you look at it. No mea culpa can excuse the crudeness and offensiveness his actions represented, and represent what should be a serious concern in baseball.

It’s inexplicable that Escobar would not have given pause before taking the field with such hot button words splashed across his face. He is no rhubarb and has been around the block once or twice. A native of Cuba, he is in his 6th major league season, and surely been privy to what is acceptable and what is frowned upon when it comes to representing himself, his team, and Major League Baseball. This is far from being the first time in recent years that the sport has dealt with anti-gay slurs or sentiments. Having six years of experience with the media scrutiny that hangs on every word uttered by players, and videos and high definition pictures capturing every dugout slap fight and hot foot, there is no way that Escobar can claim ignorance in this matter.

Baseball cannot and should not seek to control the thoughts or personal beliefs of any of its players or other employees. What they must do however is ensure that their brand is not associated with any offensive words or actions, like what Escobar did this past week. If MLB is truly serious about condemning homophobia they have to shift from reactionary to preventative mode, through education and outreach. In his press conference, Escobar told reporters that while sorry for the slur, he only felt that way after the fact because “It’s a word used by many teams. It’s a word without meaning.” Those two simple sentences hint at the casual nature of homophobia in baseball and also sum up quite nicely the lack of sensitivity and education players have on such issues.

The heavy hand of MLB in reacting punitively to actions like those of Escobar makes for good press but does little to change the culture. Some players may be deterred from saying or doing certain things, but will likely only see the potential loss of a paycheck as a reason. If MLB could provide educational and service based opportunities to its players they could show firsthand those who are impacted by ignorant callousness, while making their sport more open and accessible to a group of people that represent approximately 10% of the population.

Baseball needs to brush aside the machismo and boys-will-be-boys mentality and make the game welcoming to all. As Peter Parker was famously told by his uncle, with great power come great responsibility. With baseball being a dominant presence in all forms of media they must be held to a higher standard for how they represent themselves to the rest of the world. They don’t need to be activists. They just need to realize there are more identities in the world than that of a ballplayer, and that they are deserving of equal respect. Until baseball makes appropriate changes they should be regarded as a bigoted organization, which isn’t deserving of the title of America’s Pastime. 


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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

MVP? Buster Posey May Not Even Be the Best Catcher in the National League This Season

Recently a groundswell of support has pushed Buster Posey to the forefront of the 2012 National League MVP race. After all, he is putting up great numbers in a San Francisco Giants lineup that lacks pop and lost outfielder Melky Cabrera to a 50 game suspension. There is no arguing that Posey is having a fine season and is deserving of the many platitudes he has and will continue to receive, but looking into the matter further, a case can be made that he is not even having the best year by a catcher in the National League.

The player standing between Posey having a stranglehold on the title of best catcher in the NL and perhaps the MVP is Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals. Always a defensive whiz, Molina has continued to improve as a hitter throughout his career, to the point where he has become an impact player at the plate. A closer examination of some statistics exploring and contrasting the two catchers  helps illuminate who is actually having the better season.

                Statistic                                      Posey                                          Molina
Batting Average
170 *Leads Majors
Home Runs
Stolen Bases
Runs Batting (Runs better or worse player was than average)
WAA (Wins Above Average)
OWAR (Offensive Wins Above Replacement
Total WAR
Games Caught
Stolen Base Attempts Against
Caught Stealing %
Fielding %
Def. Runs Saved Above Average Per 1200 Innings
DWAR (Defensive Wins Above Replacement)

There is no denying that Posey is having a monster year with his bat. His 170 OPS+ not only leads the NL, but also bests Angels rookie sensation Mike Trout (169) for the major league lead. Posey’s basic numbers like batting average and home runs are similar to those of Molina, but playing half his games in a pitcher’s stadium like AT&T Park increases their significance.

On paper Posey’s offensive output looks great, but not like those of a classic masher, however taking a deeper look shows how impressive he has really been. In addition to his OPS+, his 47 runs batting total is comparable to offensive assassin Miguel Cabrera’s 48. Additionally, Posey’s 6.6 offensive WAR places him 2nd in the National League, behind only Andrew McCutchen and comfortably ahead of fellow MVP  candidate Ryan Braun (Molina is currently tied for 6th in this category), which is particularly unusual from the catcher position.

Molina would be getting much more attention for his offensive production if it wasn’t for Posey. He is just below the San Francisco catcher in almost every offensive category, and only bests him on the base paths with his 12 steals; no small feat for a member of the notoriously lead-footed Molina family.

While the numbers clearly show Posey is having a slightly better year than Molina at the plate, the opposite is true when it comes to their defensive work. It all starts with the 123 games (1045.2 innings) Molina has caught so far in 2012, compared to 106 games (914 innings) for Posey. Both players often play first base when not catching. Molina having caught more games allows the Cardinals to plug a typically stronger hitter into their lineup at first base, instead of having to rely on a backup catcher. Both St. Louis and San Francisco have weak hitting backup catchers, making every game they can be kept on the bench a boon for the offense. The approximate 15 extra games caught by Molina has given his team an additional advantage beyond what he brings beyond his own presence, making his impact that much greater on his team’s lineup.

The defensive dominance of Molina doesn’t stop at his superhuman ability to play so many games. He is significantly above the league average in just about every defensive metric, making him one of the best and underappreciated weapons in the game. National League catchers have thrown out an average of 27% of base runners this year. Posey has nabbed a very respectable 31%, but Molina is in another stratosphere at 46%. He not only cuts down the runners, but he makes them think twice about running. Posey has had 116 runners attempt steals, which is nearly twice as many as the 67 brave souls who have been willing to test Molina.

In addition to his powerful arm Molina is a graceful defender. His mere 3 errors have led to a nearly flawless .997 fielding percentage, besting Posey’s .991. Another metric calculates that Molina has saved 18 runs more per 1,200 innings than an average catcher, while Posey is 13 runs below average. That difference of 31 runs represents a significant chasm in impact, which is also played out in their defensive WAR (Molina: 2.5 versus Posey: 0.3).

WAR is certainly not the end-all, be-all of stats, but it can be a useful tool in evaluating the impact of a player’s combined offensive and defensive production. It is clear that Posey has the offensive edge, and Molina has him easily on defense. WAR shows in the sum total of the offensive and defensive skills of both players that Molina is only slightly behind Posey this season (6.4 to 6.3), and has been see-sawing back and forth recently, meaning that his dominance with the glove makes up the gap in hitting.

It can’t be said enough that there is no one stat that tells the full story, but evaluating as many advanced baseball metrics as possible can provide a great deal of clarity. Buster Posey has had an amazing year and is worthy of all the accolades, but the numbers show that Yadier Molina is having essentially the same impact. As debates over who will win the National League MVP heat up over the final few weeks of the season, it’s important to keep in mind that Molina is not only a viable candidate, he might just end up deserving to be a frontrunner.


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