Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Other people's work

Here are a few Pirate-related links from the past week that I found interesting, useful, or both.

*Both Charlie and Pat posted responses to this post of mine, making some good points. In fact, Charlie is making something of a series of it (Part II, Part III). It's good stuff.

*Eight years after Francisco Cordova and Ricardo Rincon combined for a no-hitter against the Astros, Damaso Marte did the same thing. Pitching for the Licey Tigers in the Dominican Winter League, Marte teamed up with Ervin Santana and Carlos Marmol on a 2-0 no-hitter against the Oriente Stars. Marte struck out three Stars during his 1 2/3 perfect innings.

*The use of ADD/ADHD medications such as Ritalin and Adderall has skyrocketed over the last year. MLB granted 28 waivers (called "Therapeutic Use Exemptions") to players for the drugs in 2006, but that number increased to 103 last season. That's more than 8% of the total player population, where the estimated incidence in children is between 3% and 5%. ADD/ADHD meds simulate many of the salutary effects of amphetamines, which were used widely throughout baseball before their inclusion in the latest round of drug testing. This is an issue for all teams, of course, but I bring it up here in part because Adam LaRoche was prominently diagnosed with ADD and treated with Ritalin in early 2006. It seems likely that LaRoche is among the legitimately afflicted, but if there's some kind of crackdown as a result of the report, he could get caught in the crossfire.

*When I said that I wanted to see less of Ronny Paulino next year, this isn't what I meant, although I'll take it. Paulino has apparently lost a fair bit of weight: The P-G pegged it at ten pounds a week ago, while the Trib thinks that it's closer to fifteen. That's pretty good, but it's not in the same league as former Pirate minor leaguer Jeff Bennett (lost in the Rule 5 draft in 2003), who claims to have lost a whopping 60 pounds. Even the fat version of Bennett was a pretty decent pitcher, so it'll be interesting to see how he does this year after dropping so much dead weight.

* Former Pirate Don Cardwell has died. As always, the NYT obit is a good place to start reading. Cardwell, who played for the Pirates from 1963-1966, came to Pittsburgh in the deal where Dick Groat was sent to the Cardinals. Cardwell pitched a no-hitter in 1960 and won a World Series in 1969, but his most important accomplishment in black and gold was leading the league twice in hit batsmen (1963 and 1965), no easy task during the Bob Gibson era. To honor him, why not throw something at someone's head during your lunch break?

* Ex-Buc Marc Wilkins has started a baseball academy in Ontario, Ohio. Ex-Met Joe Crawford (NOT the ref) is part of the staff. Wilkins apparently decided to make the jump after visiting the academy run by ex-Buc Jeff Wallace in nearby Alliance, OH. Rumors of a feud with Jeff Tabaka's academy remain unconfirmed.

*Remember Jermaine Allensworth? One of our many past center fielders of the future who didn't pan out, he was a Pirate from '96-'98 (as well as one of my late grandfather's favorite players, god rest his soul). I was mildly surprised to notice that Allensworth, now a grizzled 35-year-old veteran, is still active. He last played in the affiliated minors in 2002, but has kept busy in independent ball since then, and just this week he signed a new deal for 2008 with the Schaumburg Flyers of the Northern League. In this respect, he's following in the footsteps of fellow ex-Buc OF prospects like Will Pennyfeather and Trey Beamon, both of whom had long Indy-league careers. I have a lot of respect for those guys. There aren't many rewards to that lifestyle beyond long bus rides and baloney sandwiches, and you don't take (and keep) a gig like that without having a deep and abiding love for the game of baseball.

*Shane Youman is apparently a class act, not that we would've expected any less. Also of interest: In the article, Youman says that the Pirates "told [him] they took a calculated risk" in putting him on waivers. Not a big thing, but it does provide confirmation both that they would've kept him in the organization if he'd cleared waivers, and that they knew there was a chance he might be picked.


richiehebner said...

Another memory from my first years as a baseball (and Pirate fan) falls to the Grim Reaper. All of those guys' faces are embedded in my brain, striking dramatic (and entirely unrealistic) windups and stances. They all had lean, hard faces, and looked like the worked three jobs in the off-season to feed their families (many of them did). Cardwell was a serviceable player, but he is part of a bag of memories that are preserved in an album in my desk. He was also one of those players whose card you'd get over and over again (along with such luminaries as Don Schwall, Tommie Sisk, Pete Mikkelsen, Al Luplow, Jesse Gonder and on and on), when you were dying for a Clemente, Stargell, Clendenon or Law. I have the Topps card for every Pirate player from the 1965, 1966, 1967 and 1968 season editions, and I'm keeping them.

WTM said...

I think Dejan has mentioned in the PG that Youman is a very good guy.

The ADD controversy also made me think of LaRoche. I don't see what MLB can do about it beyond being more rigorous in checking to see players have legit prescriptions. If medication has been properly prescribed and there's a valid diagnosis, denying an exemption would probably just lead to an arbitration case that'd be a slam dunk for the player. ADD is a controversial affliction and there's a lot of judgment involved in the diagnosis, or at least that's my understanding, so it's going to be hard to make a case that a specific diagnosis is bogus.

A lot of the controversy that seems to hit the MLB program comes from the nut who runs the world doping agency, or whatever it's called. That guy strikes me as more of a publicity hound than a legitimate health advocate. Bud and his minions deserve a lot of criticism for turning a blind eye to the problem for years, but some of the criticism MLB has received seems a bit unbalanced to me. Some of the international authorities don't seem to understand that a pro sport can't dictate standards the way amateur sports do. Olympic athletes don't have unions and the sports don't have to deal with the collective bargaining laws.

WTM said...

"Your comment will be visible after blog owner approval"? Having spammer problems?

Vlad said...

Sorry about the comment thing, guys. I'm still playing with the settings on this thing. I wanted some kind of non-e-mail notification of comments, but I accidentally turned on full moderation instead. I kind of wondered why nobody was commenting on this last entry, but I just figured that nobody else out there was as interested in Marc Wilkins as I am.

The first time a Pirate death really shook me was Dick Stuart. His playing days were over a long time before I was born, but I was lucky enough to meet him at an event for the 30th anniversary of the '60 team (everybody who was still alive was there except Vinegar Bend Mizell, which I guess is unsurprising in retrospect). I was a dorky little 11-year-old, and he was really nice; he offered me an autograph for free even though there was supposed to be a fee, and then he accidentally-on-purpose dropped the pen when I tossed it to him.

Like you, Wilbur, I'm skeptical about there being a good solution to the ADD problem, but I don't think for a minute that the lack of a good solution will stop Bud from plopping his hand into the pie if he thinks he has something to gain from doing so.

richiehebner said...

Bud will plop his hand into it, but he had better be damned careful. A tremendous number of people in this country take medications that operate either on brain chemicals or on receptors, to ameliorate mental illnesses large and small. We've come a long way toward removing the stigma that has attached to mental illness and its' treatment, both through therapy and medication. All we need is Selig hamhandedly trying to treat this as a doping issue and causing people who happen to play baseball but have to cope with real-life illnesses being forced to choose between living a full life and being a (less effective) baseball player. Never mind the destructive effect this would have on kids who want to play ball, but have illnesses, who would then start to resist treatment for fear of being caught taking unapproved medication. ADD is a bad test case, because doctors often are cavalier and a bit wanton both in daignosing and treating it, but for those who do suffer from it (and I know several), it is real and can be a serious impediment both to learning and to day-to-day functioning. If you want to create a bright-line standard for determining whether some form of medication or substance ought to be regulated, it ought to be whether the medication 1) helps to bring the user to some measure of parity with his peer group, 2) that its use is not for the sole purpose of bringing up to a level beyond the skills and performance leve of his peer group, and 3) that such a judgment be based on the opinion of his own medical doctor, assessed and ratified by a panel of mental and/or physical health practitioners. It should not be made either by Bud, or by Coonelly's successor.

WilliamJPellas said...

Loved the comments about Allensworth, Pennyfeather, et al. Playing professionally in the independent leagues is what baseball is really all about. Or at least, it's what made us all fall in love with the game in the first place. Talk about nostalgia, and talk about throwbacks to days long past. I'd imagine that a handful of guys in "I-ball" do...okay...financially, particularly if they develop a local cult following that can boost the box office. There might be a handful of guys who see $100,000 a year in total compensation (meaning salary plus local endorsements and PR tours, that sort of thing). But the vast majority are playing for peanuts. No doubt, ya gotta love the game to stick around like that. And of course every once in a while one of those romantic losers will actually get signed by the rest of professional organized baseball; a few of them have actually tasted the bigs, though I don't know of any who have made a noticeable impact.

Thus, 2 questions for Mas: first, do you have any specific information on the salary structure in the various independent professional leagues? Second, do you have any kind of a list of ex "I-ball" types who have gone on to play MLB? Anyone currently active?

sludgeworm said...

Atlantic league salary and alumnis...
Players in the Atlantic League typically make under $3,000 a month. While the $3,000 per month maximum is not a salary cap, Joe Klein, Executive Director of the Atlantic League said that "(The eight teams) do their budgets together," Klein said, "It's hard to get them all in the same room, no less to agree on the same number." according to Mike Ashmore of the Hunterdon County Democrat.

Vlad said...

There are a fair number of guys who worked their way up from indy leagues to The Show. Off the top of my head, three of 'em are Andy Barkett, Jim Rushford, and Shawn Wooten. Most don't tend to stick around long, but it's still a pretty impressive achievement.

Sludgeworm's numbers for the Atlantic League are actually on the high end of the indy ball salary scale. Teams in the Frontier League (like the Washington Wild Things) have a hard cap of $60k for the whole roster, and most of the players are making $600 a month.