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Thursday, December 04, 2014

Posnanski: Shakedown 1968

Cool kids never have the time… but we do!

1968

In the Hall: Frank Thomas, Robbie Alomar
Talked about: Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield, Jeff Kent, Bernie Williams.
Best of the rest: John Olerud…

Based on the way the BBWAA has voted, there was not a single Hall of Fame hitter born in 1961 ([Don] Mattingly cannot get any traction), 1962, 1963 (maybe Edgar Martinez gets some love over time), 1966 or 1967.

But in 1968, there are EIGHT viable Hall of Fame candidates (nine if you consider Olerud, whose career does demand consideration).

And then, before you say, “Well, that’s just the steroids,” go on to the next year, 1969, only Ken Griffey will get elected. In 1970, there were two Hall of Fame candidates born, and I’m not sure either [Jim] Thome or [Jim] Edmonds will get the support I think they deserve. Go to the next year, 1971, only Pudge Rodriguez will get elected from that group…

I do wonder if this is crazy boom of super players has a subtle impact on voters’ mentality… a historic rush of talent like what happened in 1968 doesn’t compute easily. It just doesn’t FEEL right…

I suspect four of the nine will get elected to the Hall by the BBWAA, though Bagwell’s support did take a dip last year. Four Hall of Famers in one birth year is still a lot, but I don’t think it quite captures just how remarkable a year that was.

The District Attorney Posted: December 04, 2014 at 01:11 AM | 40 comment(s)
  Beats: hall of fame, joe posnanski

Posnanski: The 5% rule

Supreme Mathematics!

Here’s one version of what the BBWAA and Hall [of Fame] could do: Create a Hall of Fame nominating committee… The finaly ballot would have a limit — 15 players on it, 20 at the most. The committee would have to work very hard to limit it that much. But that’s good. What they would end up with is a ballot of legitimate Hall of Fame players who deserve real Hall of Fame consideration. It would be a REAL honor to be on that ballot.

And — this is important — the committee would have the opportunity to put ANYONE on the Hall of Fame ballot who deserves to have his case heard, even those who might not have received five percent of the vote the first time around. Let’s face it: Don Mattingly’s case has been heard clearly. He has been on the ballot for TWELVE YEARS. I love Mattingly, he’s one of my all-time favorite players, but how many times do the voters have to say no? Meanwhile, Lou Whitaker never really got his case heard.

The 5% rule [for elimination from the ballot] is ineffective and arbitrary. It’s a poor way to build a ballot. It gives us cacophonous ballots stuffed with cronies who the voters have already dismissed time and again. It encourages a kind of strategic voting that shouldn’t be a part of a an upright Hall of Fame process. It also creates the same conversations every year. Even I was getting tired of the Jack Morris arguments.

There are many things the Hall of Fame and BBWAA could do, I think, to make the process better. But I would begin here: Create a real nominating committee with the power to create a compelling and changing ballot.

The District Attorney Posted: December 04, 2014 at 12:56 AM | 63 comment(s)
  Beats: hall of fame, joe posnanski

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Poz: Going all the way back to 1977

Jack Brett raged at his nice boy son. And George Brett learned to fear failure. He learned to fear embarrassment. He learned to fear that voice, the rumbling voice of his father, tearing him apart over an error he made in the third or a swing out of the strike zone. After one such conversation, George tore the phone off the wall in the clubhouse. After more than one, he headed out into the night to find relief.

George Brett did not grow up to be a nice boy. He took a bat to the toilets in Minnesota. He broke a players’ leg in a collision. He leaped up to punch Graig Nettles. He struck a photographer with his crutch. He got into a fight with Willie Wilson. Nice? No. He became like Jack Brett, the essence of fury.

“Maybe I was too tough on George,” Jack would say after Brett had secured his Hall of Fame career.

Fathers. Sons. Such a riddle. When Jack Brett found out he was dying of cancer, he implored his family to not tell George.

“He’s in the middle of a slump,” Jack Brett said. “Wait until he turns it around.”


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

KC’s Baseball Writing Royalty

But Neyer didn’t just turn me on to baseball writing. He turned me onto the Kansas City Royals.

Now, I am not a Royals fan: I am a Cardinals fan, which is not quite the opposite of a Royals fan, but it’s close. But Neyer was a fan of the Royals, which was something else that was new. I hadn’t read many sportswriters who openly admitted they were cheering for a particular team; my college journalism professors had told me that was against the rules. (They were wrong, by the way.) But Neyer was passionate about his team—it was easier to be passionate back about the Royals then; it had only been a decade or so since they’d last made the playoffs—and because I was passionate about reading his work, I learned about them as well. And then I realized, that, jeez, there were a ton of baseball writers who were either Royals fans, or wrote for the Kansas City Star, which had one of the best sports sections in the country.

Neyer led me to James, of course (and he was a Royals fan too), but also Rany Jazayerli of Baseball Prospectus (which led me to Joe Sheehan and Nate Silver and Christina Kahrl and Clay Davenport, none of whom were Royals fans but all of whom were brilliant) and my former colleague here at Sports On Earth, Joe Posnanski. These were all wonderful writers, but they were also wonderful writers about the Royals.

And the best part was that these devoted Royals fans and/or observers is that they were all so smart in a way that the team was so dumb.

No love for Lee Judge?

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 01, 2014 at 11:45 PM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: bill james, joe posnanski, rany jazayerli, rob neyer, royals

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Posnanski: A Royals Toast

I think of a time when a genial man named Herk Robinson, as general manager, wanted to hire an artist to paint the Royals players in action in order to help the scouts. When told that the scouts already had something called video, which rather precisely transferred reality to a television screen, Robinson said yes, but art, true art, can transcend reality…

The drought wasn’t the thing. Yes, it had been 29 years since the Royals last reached the postseason — and baseball has completely turned upside down in those 29 years. The game has made the divisions smaller, added wildcards, rearranged the schedule, made it all but impossible for a team to NOT go to the postseason at least every now and again. The Royals would not go. But the drought wasn’t the thing — it was the hopelessness surrounding the drought. The Royals did not come close to the postseason. The Royals did things so mind boggling that the postseason seemed as far away as flying cars and trips to another galaxy…

I think of a Royals player falling off first base like a cut down tree, and I think of another climbing the centerfield wall only to see the ball bounce off the warning track in front of him, and I think of two Royals players jogging to the dugout, each thinking the other would catch the ball which landed softly and happily in the grassy area they had left behind. I think of a player not wearing sunglasses, losing a ball in the sun and having it hit him in the face — he wore sunglasses on the plane right home to cover the shiner. I think of a pitcher so frustrated that he complained to the press that he can’t even get no-decisions.

The Royals, those Royals, are going to the playoffs.

The District Attorney Posted: September 27, 2014 at 10:18 AM | 18 comment(s)
  Beats: history, joe posnanski, postseason, royals

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Yo Joe! Unanimity, Stadium Names, Field Goals

From Brilliant Reader Melody:

Yo Joe! I’m assuming you’re not a fan of teams selling their stadium names to large corporations. It’s sad for many reasons, including a disconnect between the stadium name and the local area, as stadiums were often named for physical features of the area or important local individuals.
I know you’ve been to far more ballparks than I have– if you could re-name each one that’s sold its name, what would you choose?

Joe:

All right, Melody, I’ll bite. Here’s what I’d call each stadium — mostly I would go old school:

Baltimore: Camden Yards.
Toronto: Skydome.
New York: Yankee Stadium 2.0 (or 3.0, really)
Tampa Bay: Demolished.
Boston: Fenway Park.

 

Baldrick Posted: September 11, 2014 at 03:01 PM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: general, joe posnanski, stadiums

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Posnanski: ERA, FIP and Kershaw

Bryce Harper’s RBI against him last night was the first this season by a lefty batter. His second-worst Game Score this year is this game (7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 7 K). etc. etc. etc.

[Clayton] Kershaw is on pace to become just the fifth pitcher since Deadball to have a sub-2.00 ERA and FIP. The previous four are all-time seasons:

1946: Hal Newhouser, 1.94 ERA; 1.97 FIP
1963: Sandy Koufax, 1.88 ERA, 1.85 FIP
1968: Bob Gibson, 1.12 ERA, 1.77 FIP
1971: Tom Seaver, 1.76 ERA, 1.93 FIP.
2014: Clayton Kershaw, 1.70 ERA, 1.89 FIP.

Amazing stuff. Kershaw should become the first pitcher in more than 40 years to tilt ERA and FIP, only the fifth ever, a year up there in its own way with Gibson’s 1968 season. There is no shortage of ways to show just how awesome Clayton Kershaw is these days … but I like this one. Kershaw is dominant in old stats and in new ones. That could be what they mean by timeless.

The District Attorney Posted: September 03, 2014 at 01:08 PM | 29 comment(s)
  Beats: clayton kershaw, dodgers, history, joe posnanski

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Posnanski: Alex Gordon and the M-V-P chants

We do need a modern Foster Brooks.

Every time Alex Gordon steps to the plate at Kauffman Stadium these days, fans chant, “M-V-P, M-V-P”... At the moment, Alex Gordon is hitting .281 with 16 home runs and 59 RBIs. Nothing at all about that looks MVPish… [but] Look around baseball these days… There’s a chance this will be the first full season in baseball history without either a 40-home run hitter or a 20-game winner… There are players – [Jose] Abreu, [Mike] Trout, [Giancarlo] Stanton and Victor Martinez – who are putting up what you would call traditional MVP type numbers. They’re all hitting in the general range of .300, are on pace for 30-plus homers and 100 plus RBIs. But those are the only four, as of right now, who are good bets to get there, which is crazy…

[Gordon] plays spectacular defense in left field (and it really is special defense). He’s also an excellent base runner. We’ve already pointed out that his offensive numbers, in context, are better than they look. When you add it all up WAR style – you get a legitimate MVP candidate.

Or do you? This, to me, becomes a more and more interesting question. I’m working on a piece now about the statistical revolution in baseball, and among the statistical people I’m speaking with there seems to be a growing concern that we as a so called “advanced-statistics community” are beginning to make many of the same leaps of faith and broad generalizations that doomed the old statistics. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but it’s fair to say there’s a growing sense among some that WAR is becoming the advanced version of RBIs or batting average or pitcher wins – that is to say that people, to quote Vin Scully, are using WAR the way a drunk using a lamppost, for support and not illumination. Heck, I might be the Foster Brooks of WAR.

So, I’m not sure of the answer on that one. I’m a huge Alex Gordon fan and have been for some time. I really do believe he has been one of the most underrated players in baseball because he does a lot of things well. I think he SHOULD be an MVP candidate. That said, is his defense in left field SO GOOD that it makes up for the 25 or so more runs that Jose Abreu and Victor Martinez are creating offensively? Can you even BE that good in left field to make up such a gap?

WAR says yes. I want to believe it’s true. So I believe WAR.

That’s definitely support and not illumination.

 

The District Attorney Posted: August 28, 2014 at 06:14 PM | 64 comment(s)
  Beats: alex gordon, joe posnanski, royals, sabermetrics

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Posnanski: Blaming the fans

Ehh, they’re in a pennant race, it’s about time to fire him anyway.

Tuesday night, Royals manager Ned Yost – in the moments after what was perhaps Kansas City’s signature baseball victory in 20 years – decided to unload on Royals fans for not showing up.  You can go to the most excellent Sam Mellinger to get a full recap of Yost’s blundering nonsense, but I think the essence can be condensed into his sarcastic, “I mean, what, 13,000 people got to see a great game?” opening shot… Well, every year we’ll get two or three of these blunders from managers or players… First, the statement will be widely discussed – fans lambasting Yost, a few fans will counter that he has a point and Kansas City fans must represent, other fans will lambaste those fans – and before the day’s out we’ll have Yost backtracking from the statement, probably saying he was speaking emotionally, and it was misunderstood and he loves the Kansas City fans and just wants them to be a part of things.

But I’m not sure he will get, even then, why what he said was so insulting and stupid. I didn’t get it for a long time… First, there are the obvious things. One, you can’t win a few games and expect people to just stop their lives for you… A large percentage of tickets sold are season tickets… A large percentage of tickets sold are bought well in advance… Families build their plans around their children’s schedules – and school started this week…

the heart of what’s wrong with blaming fans for anything: The fans are right. I don’t mean they are right in the “customer’s always right” sense, though that’s true too. What I mean is that fans aren’t a PART of spectator sports. Fans are the REASON for spectator sports… If more fans buy one book than any other, it goes to No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. If more fans go to a movie than any other, it becomes the No. 1 grossing movie. If more fans buy one song than any other, it shoots to the top of the ITunes list. People can and do complain about the choices of these lists and what they say about society, but what they’re not complaining about the lists themselves. The lists are reflections of the fans wishes. The fans define those lists. They cannot be wrong. A director who moans that more people should have watched his or her movie is not just ludicrous, he’s by definition wrong. Exactly as many fans watched the movie as watched the movie.

When 13,000 or so fans showed up for the Royals game Tuesday night, that was what the Royals had wrought… How many people you draw to a game is not a reflection on the people. It’s a reflection, entirely, on you.

The District Attorney Posted: August 27, 2014 at 11:05 AM | 90 comment(s)
  Beats: joe posnanski, ned yost, royals

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Posnanski: Money money money

You probably know that one of Bud Selig’s big objectives as commissioner of baseball was to even the playing field – that is, to give the small-market teams a chance to contend… Funny thing: Here at the end of his tenure, baseball is closer to Selig’s nirvana than perhaps ever before. As Brian McPherson writes in the Providence Journal, the correlation between money spent and winning is at its lowest point in a long, long time. McPherson writes that the correlation right now between wins and money is actually smaller than the correlation between wins and alphabetical order.

Why is this a funny thing?

Because, I believe the reason for whatever actual effect we are seeing is pretty directly tied to the steroid years that Selig has been running away from for more than a decade… I have a theory – one that directly relates to my belief that many baseball teams are doing something that is monumentally stupid. I’m referring to the huge, long-term deals that they are giving players – deals that last until the players are in their mid-to-late 30s, and sometimes even carries them into their 40s. These contracts are a death trap, a suicide rap, and while there are exceptions to every rule, there are never more than a few exceptions…  in the late 1990s and early 2000s… we suddenly started seeing 35-year olds performing at very high levels… My guess is that this seemingly reasonable conclusion that baseball players had started to beat the aging process was, in fact, quite unreasonable and it is probably the biggest factor in these massive, sprawling and utterly doomed long-term contracts… Baseball owners’ and GM’s madness for big money contracts to aging players has, in its own way, evened the game more than anything else Selig or any other commissioner has done.

The District Attorney Posted: August 26, 2014 at 03:15 PM | 26 comment(s)
  Beats: bud selig, economics, joe posnanski

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Posnanski: The Royals might actually know what they are doing

In a small way, the Royals are back-to-back World Champs.

I And so, more or less from the start, the Royals became a more professional operation under Moore. He hired some excellent people to work with him. He dazzled people inside baseball with the team’s commitment to building a farm system. And, in short order, the Royals were not the joke of baseball. The Royals lost 100 games four times between 2002 and 2006. They have not lost 100 since.

That, though, is not exactly something you brag about on your resume, and while Moore made the Royals slightly more respectable, he and his staff could not do much more. They continued to make horrendous blunders on the Major League roster. Moore hired Trey Hillman to be the manager. He signed Jose Guillen and Gil Meche to team-record contracts. The Royals talked a better game but continued to feature an allotment of aging Jason Kendalls and Ross Gloads and Miguel Olivos and Scott Podsedniks, while mixing in relatively-young versions of Yuniesky Betancourt and Kyle Davies and Luke Hochevar. The results were, in their own way, as depressing as ever…..

In 2011, there were signs that Moore’s work was having an impact. That was the year I wrote my Sports Illustrated story about the Royals’ future dynasty, and the year various people around the sport began gushing about their minor league system. Then, last season, the Royals won 86 games, their most since the strike – a season so promising that even Moore’s ill-advised “In a small way, I feel like we’ve won the World Series” quote at the end did not tarnish the optimism.

And … it is working. Shields has been the good pitcher the Royals expected. And the Royals’ rotation has been altered. Last year, the Royals led the American League in ERA. This year, they have five pitchers who are on pace to throw 170 innings and win 10-plus games. I’m no fan of the pitcher-win statistic, but it is telling that the last time the Royals had five pitchers with 10 wins was, yep, 1985….

And what makes all of this so satisfying for Royals fans because most never saw it coming. They were the same old Royals until, suddenly, they weren’t. They were defined by their blunders until, suddenly, some of their plans actually worked.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 20, 2014 at 03:37 PM | 109 comment(s)
  Beats: dayton moore, joe posnanski, royals

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Posnanski: It’s been a trying year for Bryce Harper

I deduce that Poz started off writing about Strasburg and couldn’t find a new angle, but I dunno, you tell me.

the Washington Nationals are in first place. It is easy to miss that when you’re inside the beltway. More than that, at this moment the Nationals are in first place by 4 ½ games, which is the biggest lead in the National League. More than that, the Nationals have the best run differential in the National League… The Nationals have the best record in baseball when scoring four or more runs – 53-6. But they have one of the worst records in baseball when failing to score four runs (9-45). This schizophrenic tendency drives Washington’s most extreme impulses…

[Stephen] Strasburg… leads the National League in starts and strikeouts and his 177-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio is fantastic. But he also is posting the highest ERA of his career so far (3.39) and the Nationals are just 12-12 in games he starts. He has honed his change-up into one of the most devastating pitches in the game, but his velocity slowly comes down and hitters have teed off on his fastball for much of the season. Even teammates have commented on how aggressively hitters attack his fastball. He could get to 200 innings for the first time this year, but he does not have a complete game and has only twice even started the eighth inning…

If he was any 26-year-old pitcher leading the league in strikeouts … but he’s not. He’s Stephen Strasburg. This is Washington. The pontificating never ends.

There’s only one player who feels it even more.

So, here’s what seems to have happened in Harpergate. Nationals manager Matt Williams went on a radio show Tuesday morning and the hot topic was Bryce Harper because Bryce Harper is always the hot topic…

You can’t go on the radio as the manager of the Washington Nationals, tell someone that sending Bryce Harper to the minors is NOT a stupid idea, and then expect Washington to sit still. It’s WASHINGTON for crying out loud…

Thursday afternoon, in the 13th inning against the Mets, Bryce Harper mashed a long walk-off home run to extend the Nationals lead.

“I haven’t felt like that in a long time,” he said afterward, and for a few hours all was all right in our nation’s capital.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Posnanski: Four theories about Hall of Fame voting changes

Theory 1: Because they don’t want performance enhancing drug users in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

...The Hall leadership may not want [Barry] Bonds or [Roger] Clemens elected, but it never really looked like they would be anyway. And I don’t think the Hall of Fame directors are manipulative in this way. I’m sure they’re not weeping for Bonds or Clemens, but I don’t believe that was the impetus here.

Theory 2: The Baseball Hall of Fame wants to maintain exclusivity.

... My sense in talking with people who have intimate knowledge about the Hall is that, if anything, the Hall of Fame would like to add MORE players from the last 40 or so years…

Theory 3: The Hall of Fame wants to clean up some of the BBWAA untidiness.

Now, we are getting to the point… The 15-year process has always been clunky. And it’s even harder in today’s world, where everything moves so fast and everything is so magnified. We in the BBWAA spend way too much time arguing about players and leaving them in limbo… Ten years is plenty. If anything it is too long.

But, I don’t think it stops here. I have one more theory.

Theory 4: The Hall of Fame is setting up for some major changes.

A few years ago, the Hall of Fame created a Special Committee on the Negro Leagues… a screening committee created a 29-person Negro Leagues Hall of Fame ballot… I have been told this by people who would know – getting Buck O’Neil into the Hall of Fame was the biggest reason the Hall of Fame had created these committees and set up this vote in the first place… Buck still fell short… And I think the Hall of Fame leadership learned a hard lesson: Museum or not, you can’t just give up complete control of your own business… By taking away five years of the BBWAA’s voting, the Hall can have their own committees consider players five years sooner…. They understand the BBWAA is evolving, baseball coverage is evolving, the idea of baseball credibility (which the BBWAA always provided) is evolving too…

So, this is my theory: The Baseball Hall of Fame is making some smallish changes now to set itself up for bigger changes soon. I’m sure they would deny this, and I would bet even they don’t know what those changes are. But they’re coming. I think in 10 years, the Hall of Fame will have a more open Hall of Fame voting policy that the BBWAA will have a part in but will not control entirely.

The District Attorney Posted: July 30, 2014 at 02:27 PM | 39 comment(s)
  Beats: awards, buck o'neil, hall of fame, joe posnanski

Posnanski: Hey, Rube: Phillies pay dearly for Amaro’s misguided loyalty

Ruben’s Pholly.

The Howard contract was the one that should have snapped Amaro out of whatever loyalty spell he was under. The second he offered that catastrophe of a deal, baseball writers all over the country wrote in all capital letters: “ARE THE PHILLIES OUT OF THEIR MINDS?” There was no other question.

This was way back in 2010, and it was utterly inexplicable — a $125 million deal that would not even begin for two years for a declining slugger? I believe it is the most inexplicable bad contract ever handed out. Sure, you could argue for other terrible that were more expensive and harmful — this Pujols deal could end up setting the standard — and there have been many smaller deals that are hard to explain, like the Twins giving Ricky Nolasco a four-year, $50 million deal.

But combine the situation (Howard still had TWO YEARS left on his deal), the age (he turned 32 before the contract even began) and an honest assessment of the player (a power hitter who couldn’t run, was a liability at first base, couldn’t hit lefties and was unlikely to age well) and I think you are talking about the most inexcusably bad contract in baseball history.

Then again … it was a loyalty contract. Howard was such an integral part of the Phillies rise, such an unexpected joy when, in his first full year, he hit 58 homers and led the league with 383 total bases. The Phillies wanted to keep him as a Philadelphia sports hero. Noble cause. It blinded them to the obvious: Howard’s best days were behind him….

Amaro wanted to hold on. It’s a natural instinct. And it’s a destructive one. It never fails to amaze how obtuse Major League general managers can be about things seemingly as obvious as aging.  Now, the Phillies are terrible, they are old, they have not developed a useful young player for themselves in about a decade, and Baseball America has ranked their minor league system 22nd, 23rd and 27th the last three years.


 

 

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