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Friday, October 02, 2009

Esquire: Pierce: The Smartest Man in Baseball Is an Idiot

Where’s the Chuck Wagon beef…with Tony La Russa?

Playoff baseball is a matter of very big fish and very small barrels. How often can you mock Alex Rodriguez — noted for his work in the video for Madonna’s hit single, “Justify My Starfucking” — for approaching October the way that Sarah Palin approaches a dependent clause? Okay, maybe a few hundred more times, but you can’t keep it up forever. So maybe you point out that Billy Beane’s breakthrough theories about running a small-market team — the ones that loosed upon baseball a distressful exaltation of math nerds — managed to cobble together a whole 75 wins this year for Beane’s team, which hasn’t made the playoffs in five years. You can always land on the Red Sox and their celebrity fans, who were once insufferable losers and who are now simply not losers. Then there’s Derek Jeter, who can still, you know, bite me. And that goes double for anyone who celebrates the grandeur that is The Ballpark at Big Kickback there in the Bronx.

...But the truly remarkable thing about La Russa is his rather unspectacular record at winning anything that counts. Eugene McCarthy once said of Walter Mondale that the latter “had the soul of a vice-president.” Tony La Russa has the soul of a semifinalist.

Now the lawyer is back in the playoffs, so watch it happen again. At some critical juncture — or at several critical junctures — La Russa will feel compelled to exercise his superior intellect, probably as regards to a pitcher. The TBS broadcast crew undoubtedly will point out the subtle brilliance of this maneuvering, and then the whole game will blow up in his face. If he brings in a reliever, the next pitch will be picked up by NORAD. If he leaves in his starter, the guy will petrify right there on the mound. And, by Game Three, say, La Russa will have absolutely nobody left to come in to pitch the eighth or ninth inning in a tight game. He will outsmart himself again. The wonder will be why anyone thinks outsmarting Tony La Russa is all that hard.

Repoz Posted: October 02, 2009 at 02:18 PM | 56 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cardinals

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   1. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq., LLC Posted: October 02, 2009 at 02:49 PM (#3338339)
So maybe you point out that Billy Beane’s breakthrough theories about running a small-market team — the ones that loosed upon baseball a distressful exaltation of math nerds — managed to cobble together a whole 75 wins this year for Beane’s team, which hasn’t made the playoffs in five years.
2009-2006=5?
   2. SoSH U at work Posted: October 02, 2009 at 03:06 PM (#3338380)
2009-2006=5?


Math nerd.
   3. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: October 02, 2009 at 03:08 PM (#3338383)
This article gets the....AWK.
   4. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: October 02, 2009 at 03:08 PM (#3338385)
2009-2006=5?


Well, no. It equals 3, which isn't the right answer either.
   5. SoSH U at work Posted: October 02, 2009 at 03:20 PM (#3338406)
Well, no. It equals 3, which isn't the right answer either.


Really? What is the right answer, because I get three years since they made the playoffs?
   6. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq., LLC Posted: October 02, 2009 at 03:22 PM (#3338409)
If you're writing about people being idiots, you'd better be 100% right on your facts.
   7. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: October 02, 2009 at 03:28 PM (#3338421)
I once made an obvious typo in a chatroom, and somebody tried to mock me for "mispelling" the word. A person can wait their whole lives for an opening like that. Oh, it was glorious, and ended in cybertears.
   8. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: October 02, 2009 at 03:43 PM (#3338441)
5 pennants and 2 WS titles seems like a pretty good record to me.
   9. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: October 02, 2009 at 03:47 PM (#3338448)
5 pennants and 2 WS titles seems like a pretty good record to me.

Not to mention helping our national economy by turning countless washed up pitchers into multi-millionaires.
   10. J. Bowman, upon reflection, does hate pants Posted: October 02, 2009 at 04:02 PM (#3338476)
I remember in 2006, when LaRussa secretly bet millions of dollars on his team to lose the World Series, then used his evil genius to subtly manage his team to four straight losses.
Unfortunately, the Tigers - a collection of talent so smart they know within four pitches whether the runner on second is stealing their signals - saw right through his plan. TLR was planning to retire, but has to keep managing now just to pay off his bookies.

True story.
   11. esseff Posted: October 02, 2009 at 04:11 PM (#3338487)
So what you all seem to be saying is that it might have strengthened the thesis that La Russa outsmarts himself in the postseason if the writer could have provided, oh, say, one example?
   12. James Bailey Posted: October 02, 2009 at 04:13 PM (#3338492)
He rips La Russa for eight paragraphs and never finds room to work in the part about him hitting his pitcher eighth? Whatever. Chuck Pierce seems unnecessarily angry to me. I'm not a big La Russa fan, but how many managers have two rings? Not many. He must be doing something right at least some of the time.
   13. Shalimar Posted: October 02, 2009 at 05:01 PM (#3338576)
Pierce is brilliant, and La Russa is a #########. That should have made for an excellent piece, but I guess everyone misses the fish in the barrel occasionally.
   14. danup Posted: October 02, 2009 at 05:46 PM (#3338651)
Starfucker? Esquire, you're so daring!

What's this guy's deal? This reads like someone transcribed an episode of Rome is Burning, or Joe Morgan talking about how Tony La Russa shouldn't have written that book Men At Work.

Anyway, I'll take the two pennants and the World Series championship, which he managed to accidentally win in the course of trying to show everybody how awesome his cobbled-together bullpen and injury-plagued lineup were.
   15. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: October 02, 2009 at 05:50 PM (#3338659)
He ain't an idiot, but he can be a tool. THATS what the article should have been about.
   16. Rants Mulliniks Posted: October 02, 2009 at 06:16 PM (#3338705)
The guy's had the same ####### haircut for 40 years.
   17. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: October 02, 2009 at 06:19 PM (#3338708)
He ain't an idiot, but he can be a tool. THATS what the article should have been about.

Yeah, TLR can be toolish, but why write about it? It just seems dickish to write a screed about someone else's dickishness. It's just so boring.
   18. dangnewt Posted: October 02, 2009 at 06:20 PM (#3338710)
Pierce is saying LaRussa's post-season record is unspectacular which is not what one would expect from a genius. I think Pierce is correct. LaRussa has been managing 33 years during which time there has been 31 opportunities for him to win the World Series (94 didn't happen and 09 hasn't happened yet). With anywhere from 26 to 30 teams in the majors over this span, chance would have won him 1 - so was it his genius or a series of really strong teams that got the extra World Series title? AFAIK, the early '80s White Sox, late '80's mid 90's A's and mid-90's to now Cardinals were not considered small-market teams, so they probably should do a little better than chance. As far as playoff opportunities, he had 5 opportunities when only 2 teams from each league made the playoffs - he is 3 for 5 on pennants which is better than chance and 1 for 5 on World Series which is a little worse than chance - unspectacular seems like a fair grade. In the Wild Card Era when 4 teams make it from each league, he has been 7 times and has 2 pennants which is a little better than chance and 1 for 7 on World Series which again is a little better. If he doesn't win a pennant this year; then both pennants and World Series victories will be exactly 1 of 4 and 1 of 8. I don't see a lot of value-added by LaRussa in the postseason which is all that Pierce was saying. His record is average.
   19. cardsfanboy Posted: October 02, 2009 at 06:26 PM (#3338716)
He rips La Russa for eight paragraphs and never finds room to work in the part about him hitting his pitcher eighth? Whatever.

because it was arguably a good move? It's funny on the STLToday boards, there is a guy that almost every time he comments to a TLR article, begs for TLR to bat Pujols where he should, fourth. And actually thinks this is a good plan.

Tony La Russa, the career savant (just ask him)


which is funny, yes TLR plays mind games and could be annoying as heck to other teams, but in his entire time here in St Louis I've never heard him take credit for anything. I know he is arrogant, you can tell by how he doesn't go out of his way to talk himself up, a true sign of a guy that is full of himself.

wow, this article had zero substance. No information, no intelligence behind it, and nothing factual in the slightest. I mean sure TLR has won 2 world series, has taken a team to the post season 12 times, won the first round 9 times, won second round 3 of those times(one world series) and third round(out of two chances) once. 13-11(quick math) record in postseason series play...not great but better than average.
   20. Quibbler Posted: October 02, 2009 at 06:30 PM (#3338724)
… which hasn’t made the playoffs in five years …


What's the problem here? Oakland made the playoffs five years ago. They haven't since.
   21. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: October 02, 2009 at 06:33 PM (#3338731)
What's the problem here? Oakland made the playoffs five years ago. They haven't since.

Twins fan? Or Raiders fan?
   22. JMPH Posted: October 02, 2009 at 06:34 PM (#3338732)
Oakland won the West in 2006. That was not five years ago.
   23. cardsfanboy Posted: October 02, 2009 at 06:35 PM (#3338733)
Pierce is saying LaRussa's post-season record is unspectacular which is not what one would expect from a genius

really? when does he remotely say anything resembling that in that rant?
1st paragraph----nope, talks arod, blasts Beane, Palin, Jeter and the city of New York
2nd paragrpah---nope, mentions tlr, suing twitter, and making the playoffs
3rd paragraph---nope, TLR has a law degree
4th paragraph---nope, something about a ballet school shirt
5th paragraph---close, the paragraph quoted in the lead-in.
6th paragraph---close, mentions him winning a couple of world series and losing a couple.
7th paragraph---nope, blasts against canseco, roids or whatever
8th paragraph---nope, a small comment about tlr using his relievers and having it blow up in his face.


seriously this writer is an idiot of extreme proportions, to think he brought anything of substance to his rant is lunacy, he doesn't say a damn thing in the entire article, he attempts to be funny but fails miserably(I imagine you need a working brain to make jokes work, something this guy clearly doesn't have) and doesn't say a thing in the entire 'blog'.
   24. cardsfanboy Posted: October 02, 2009 at 06:38 PM (#3338738)
Oakland won the West in 2006. That was not five years ago.

you don't expect this Pierce guy to do simple math, he has enough problem just getting his rant on track. I mean the wonder is wondering why anyone thinks this Pierce guy has a brain.
   25. JMPH Posted: October 02, 2009 at 06:42 PM (#3338742)
No, but I also don't expect comments like #20 which agree with the misinformation. I'm starting to suspect there was a joke that I didn't get, though.
   26. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: October 02, 2009 at 06:44 PM (#3338745)
No, but I also don't expect comments like #20 which agree with the misinformation. I'm starting to suspect there was a joke that I didn't get, though.

Me, too. Which is why I tried to unsuccessfully respond to it woth a joke. I suspect Quibbler was having some fun, though.
   27. cardsfanboy Posted: October 02, 2009 at 06:49 PM (#3338753)
No, but I also don't expect comments like #20 which agree with the misinformation. I'm starting to suspect there was a joke that I didn't get, though.

honestly, I think they looked at bb-ref page oak a's and counted 4 years without being in the post season, assumed that this year isn't on there and said "five years". That is about the only thing I can think of.
   28. dangnewt Posted: October 02, 2009 at 06:54 PM (#3338766)
Pierce blew the math on Oakland but when you look at his post-season record, he got the math right - unspectacular.

From paragraph 5: "But the truly remarkable thing about La Russa is his rather unspectacular record at winning anything that counts."

Pierce can be annoying but he is not an idiot.
   29. JMPH Posted: October 02, 2009 at 06:58 PM (#3338769)
honestly, I think they looked at bb-ref page oak a's and counted 4 years without being in the post season, assumed that this year isn't on there and said "five years". That is about the only thing I can think of.

It's still only three years counting this year!

This is like that episode of The Twilight Zone where the guy wakes up, and he's the same, but everything else is different!
   30. cardsfanboy Posted: October 02, 2009 at 07:03 PM (#3338776)
Pierce can be annoying but he is not an idiot.
this being the first thing I remember reading by this guy, I find it hard to belief he has a brain cell. This is pure idiocy and I don't even care about the math, the guy made zero point, he makes Jim Rome appear to be levelheaded and not an idiot(and yes Jim Rome is at best a functioning retard---but that is probably too generous to him) in comparison to other idiots, Pierce may not be an idiot, but nothing in this entire article refutes the conclusion that this guy is a certified moron.
   31. Tom Nawrocki Posted: October 02, 2009 at 07:58 PM (#3338866)
this being the first thing I remember reading by this guy, I find it hard to belief he has a brain cell.


Pierce is a brilliant writer, one of the most respected in the magazine business. He may have flubbed this piece, but he's still extremely good 90 percent of the time.
   32. cardsfanboy Posted: October 02, 2009 at 08:10 PM (#3338879)
wow, I screwed up that spelling....I swear I changed it. belief? wtf Jim.

Pierce is a brilliant writer, one of the most respected in the magazine business. He may have flubbed this piece, but he's still extremely good 90 percent of the time.

ok, I don't doubt it since multiple people seem to be saying that, but this piece was truly epic in it's patheticness. I mean I'm a TLR fan and I think I could have done a better and maybe even funnier tear down of TLR(and I'm not that funny)
   33. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq., LLC Posted: October 02, 2009 at 08:11 PM (#3338880)
This is like that episode of The Twilight Zone where the guy wakes up, and he's the same, but everything else is different!
I woke up this morning and discovered that everything in my apartment had been stolen and replaced with an exact replica. I told my roommate, "Isn't this amazing? Everything in the apartment has been stolen and replaced with an exact replica." He said, "Do I know you?"
   34. JJ1986 Posted: October 02, 2009 at 08:27 PM (#3338892)
Is that Steven Wright? It sounds very familiar.
   35. ?Donde esta Dagoberto Campaneris? Posted: October 02, 2009 at 08:28 PM (#3338894)
Larry- Is that Stephen Wright? I can almost hear him telling that joke.

EDIT- Would you like a cheeseburger with your Coke?
   36. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: October 02, 2009 at 08:28 PM (#3338895)
Larry- Is that Stpehen Wright? I can almost hear him telling that joke.

Him or Jack Handey.
   37. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: October 02, 2009 at 08:29 PM (#3338898)
Well, no. It equals 3, which isn't the right answer either.



Really? What is the right answer, because I get three years since they made the playoffs?


Whoops. Snark foul, sorry. For some reason I assumed you were doing the math wrong, as in "no Post season in 2006 and beyond, thus 2009-2006. Don't know why I assumed that.
   38. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: October 02, 2009 at 08:30 PM (#3338899)
It's Wright.
   39. phredbird Posted: October 02, 2009 at 09:22 PM (#3338952)
Pierce is a brilliant writer, one of the most respected in the magazine business.


a dubious distinction at best.

as for the comment that wants to label larussa unspectacular because he's only won two WS after ... so ... many ... opportunities, well, i put those words in ellipses to make a point. there aren't too many other managers that have had those opportunities, so who are you comparing him to? an arbitrary chance construct that ignores the fact that he's been in the position to win a world series a lot more times than most other managers. most other managers ever. to make my point another way: gene mauch was considered a great manager, and we all know his record in the postseason. larussa has managed a comparable amount of time and had much more success.
the groupthink around here has always been that a short series is a crapshoot. so how does larussa get hammered, or damned with faint praise as it were, for something that is almost out of his control? how does he get called unspectacular when he's managed so many teams through the marathon of a season and into the playoffs?
now, if you want to pull up someone like, say, casey stengel, well fine. larussa doesn't compare as well as stengel, i suppose. but stengel is deeply underrated because he was clownish, or he had a strong team in a weak league so all they had to do was put together a good series every year, a lot of things went right for him, yada yada. stengel is inner circle as managers go, so ya it isn't surprising if larussa isn't perceived as good a manager.
larussa is going to pass mcgraw in wins if he sticks around for 3 yrs. this is not an unspectacular record.
larussa gets pissed on because some people just don't like him. they don't like his haircut, or they don't like his gamesmanship (sometimes i don't), or they don't like him for being at the forefront of the modern use of relief pitchers. tough. he's proved that he can manage, and manage well, because he has been doing it for a long time. sample size, guys. when a manager has a substantial one, it speaks volumes.
   40. Walt Davis Posted: October 02, 2009 at 09:29 PM (#3338965)
Let's be very clear. Pierce doesn't claim that LaRussa isn't a genius but only an average manager. The headline calls him an "idiot" and Pierce refers to him as a "blight."

It's horribly written, unfunny, full of ad hominem attacks and offers not one shred of evidence in support of its thesis. Pierce accuses LaRussa of being a self-proclaimed genius but this article makes it rather clear to me that nobody is more full of themselves than Pierce.

Except perhaps me.
   41. Zipperholes Posted: October 02, 2009 at 09:29 PM (#3338966)
Pierce is saying LaRussa's post-season record is unspectacular which is not what one would expect from a genius.
I don't see a lot of value-added by LaRussa in the postseason which is all that Pierce was saying.

Nope. He pretty much blasts him about 20 different ways (most of which, I have no idea what relevance they have to evaluation of a baseball manager).

Not to mention providing almost no facts, botching what facts he does provide and peppering pointless personal attacks throughout.

Charlie Pierce is utter trash.
   42. cardsfanboy Posted: October 02, 2009 at 09:33 PM (#3338969)
I love posts 39, 40, and 41.

I haven't checked this, and I was at a bar when I read the trivia question, but in the 2000s, the Cardinals have won 33 post season games, what team is second in the national league....and the answer was D-backs with 14, to me that indicates that TLR/Cardinals have done something to win games in the post season.
   43. Bob T Posted: October 02, 2009 at 09:34 PM (#3338970)
It was better than his Slate piece last year complaining that no one should root for the Arizona Cardinals at all in the Super Bowl because they played such a poor game against the Patriots.
   44. JJ1986 Posted: October 02, 2009 at 09:37 PM (#3338972)
and the answer was D-backs with 14

Mets should have 14, 3/4/1 in 2000. 3/3 in 2006.
   45. cardsfanboy Posted: October 02, 2009 at 09:47 PM (#3338979)
it may have been 2001, (as I said I wasn't entirely sober). Just thought the number was a little low for the second place team in the NL in that category, but I guess that it is right, just seems a little low.

It was better than his Slate piece last year complaining that no one should root for the Arizona Cardinals at all in the Super Bowl because they played such a poor game against the Patriots.

really? what brilliance. I can understand not rooting for them because their owner is on par with Loria for pure evilness (to fans, Bidwell is actually supposedly a decent human being, something Loria can't claim) but who cares about the Patriots? outside of Boston that is, I mean it's not like they are this mythical Red Sox nation or something, they are just another team.
   46. dangnewt Posted: October 02, 2009 at 11:17 PM (#3339056)
phredbird - you were the first (at #39!)to make the key point. That LaRussa's lack of a record of overperformance in the post-season doesn't mean that he is a bad manager. My comment at #18 was not to convince anybody that LaRussa is good/bad/indifferent as a manager but simply to make sure that people didn't miss what I saw as the key claim that Peirce was making - LaRussa is an average post-season manager - is mathematically an accurate and verifiable claim.

I agree that winning a pennant or World Series is pretty much a crapshoot and I have no idea how to quantify how much a manager does once in the post-season to help or hurt his team. That said, LaRussa has won about as many as one would expect for the number of times he's gone. If anyone wants to make a case that he is a better post-season manager than his record indicates, I'd be happy to read it.

If you want to argue that Pierce's premise is baloney, I agree. The number of LCS and WS a manager appears in will always be a pretty small sample.

If you want to argue that to only look at the number of pennants or WS rings when passing judgement on a baseball manager is stupid, I agree.

If you want to argue that the number of times a manager brings a team to the post-season is more important than the number that you actually win (as long as you win your share ;-) I agree. Even if it pains me to admit that, by that measure, LaRussa is a better-than-average manager.
   47. Rough Carrigan Posted: October 02, 2009 at 11:20 PM (#3339060)
Has anyone told Buzz "the animal" Bissinger that someone's denigrating Tony LaRussa?

There could be trouble.
   48. phredbird Posted: October 02, 2009 at 11:36 PM (#3339065)
Even if it pains me to admit that, by that measure, LaRussa is a better-than-average manager.


i don't want to belabor this, but tony larussa is a great manager. he is going in the hall of fame, not because he told funny stories to reporters or managed in one town so long he achieved sainthood. he hasn't done either of those things. st. louis may be warming up to him now, i don't know, but i know for sure he was denigrated in stl for a long time because he ain't whitey ford.
the dude managed teamst that won tons of games and put his team in position to win championships. that's what good managers do.
   49. God Posted: October 02, 2009 at 11:39 PM (#3339067)
but i know for sure he was denigrated in stl for a long time because he ain't whitey ford.

Whitey Herzog was no Whitey Ford, either, and they liked him okay.
;)
   50. esseff Posted: October 02, 2009 at 11:47 PM (#3339074)
LaRussa is an average post-season manager


See, I might be receptive to hearing this argument, but given the stridency of the rhetoric in the Esquire piece, I don't think at all that this is "the key claim that Peirce was making"
   51. Mayor Blomberg Posted: October 03, 2009 at 12:18 AM (#3339085)
So, let me get this straight. If Joe Torre doesn't manage again after the Cards, he's a sucky manager.

If Joe Torre doesn't manage again after 2000, he's a great post-season manager.

In 2009, Joe Torre's a not-impressive postseason manager.

Something's really ##### with the definition of "good postseason manager." Aside from the fact that the worst postseason managers all wind up being good managers to have gotten there enough (cf. Cox, Bobby).
   52. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: October 03, 2009 at 12:51 AM (#3339102)
larussa is going to pass mcgraw in wins if he sticks around for 3 yrs. this is not an unspectacular record.

40 minutes ago, he passed McGraw in games.
   53. Srul Itza Posted: October 03, 2009 at 12:58 AM (#3339105)
Something's really ##### with the definition of "good postseason manager." Aside from the fact that the worst postseason managers all wind up being good managers to have gotten there enough (cf. Cox, Bobby).


Well, the first requirement for being a good post-season manager is . . . making it to the post-season.

Sort of like the recipe for rabbit stew. First, catch a rabbit . . .
   54. AndrewJ Posted: October 03, 2009 at 02:08 AM (#3339121)
If you're writing about people being idiots, you'd better be 100% right on your facts.

Indeed. In Pierce's recent book IDIOT AMERICA (which I largely enjoyed, BTW), he quotes at length Ralph Ketcham, one of my old Syracuse University professors and perhaps the James Madison authority, about the need for an educated and aware American populace.

Pierce identifies him as "Ralph Ketchum."
   55. pinball1973 Posted: October 03, 2009 at 11:09 AM (#3339197)
This guy's too much of an ####### to be the typical "baseball is something for me to hate loudly" fan. He could be a sportswriter with tiresome (I couldn't make it through the boring, un-inventive quote, much less be bothered to read the article itself) garbage like this.
   56. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: October 05, 2009 at 01:44 PM (#3340486)
This is like that episode of The Twilight Zone where the guy wakes up, and he's the same, but everything else is different!


Which episode was that?

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