- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 29, 2003

Davey Johnson is eminently qualified to manage the Dutch national baseball team. After all, he did have Todd Hollandsworth on the roster when he was with the Dodgers.

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Which reminds me of something Austin Powers’ father (played by Michael Caine) said in “Goldmember”: “There are two things in this world I absolutely can’t stand — people who are intolerant of other people’s cultures … and the Dutch.”

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The only reason Davey got the job, I hear, is that Jimmy Dykes was unavailable.

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Who do you suppose was the second choice, Joe Hague?

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Johnson reportedly underwent an exhaustive interview process. One of the questions they grilled him with: Did you ever homer off Bert Blyleven?

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Contrary to popular belief, the Netherlands has a glorious baseball history. In fact, I’m pretty sure Dutch pitchers invented the windmill delivery.

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The previous joke is dedicated to Morey Amsterdam.

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You won’t find a more interesting baseball book than “Moneyball” (Norton, $24.95), Michael Lewis’ discourse on unconventional A’s GM Billy Beane. Every ballplayer in America should be required to read the following passage (on page 147). In fact, it should be posted in every clubhousein America:

“The A’s front office record every pitch thrown to Oakland A’s hitters, both by type and location. They’ve mined these to determine the percentage of pitches outside the strike zone each player has swung at. Each plate appearance they think of as a miniature game in itself, in which the odds shift constantly. The odds depend on who is pitching and who is hitting, of course, but they also depend on the minute events within the event. Every plate appearance was like a hand of blackjack; the tone of it changed with each card dealt.”

And now for the really good part:

“A first-pitch strike, for instance, lowered a hitter’s batting average by about 75 points, and a first pitch-ball raised them about as much. But it wasn’t the first pitch that held the most drama for the cognoscenti; it was the third. ‘The difference between 1-2 and 2-1 in terms of expected outcomes is just enormous,’ says Paul [DePodesta, Beane’s numbers cruncher]. It’s the largest variance of expected outcomes of any one pitch. On 2-1 most average major league hitters become all-stars, yet on 1-2 they become anemic nine-hole hitters. People talk about first-pitch strikes. But it’s really the first two out of three.’”

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I chose that particular passage because of the abomination that occurred Friday night at Fenway Park. Did you inspect the box score closely? The Marlins threw 252 pitches in their 25-8 loss to the Red Sox — 252 pitches in eight innings (since the Sox didn’t bat in the ninth). A 25-pitch inning used to send Earl Weaver into the dugout runway to suck on a cigarette; well, Florida’s hurlers averagedover 30 pitches an inning for the entire game.

They call this entertainment?

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Wonder what the record is for most trips to the mound in a nine-inning game …

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Other sordid details:

1. The bottom half of the first — in which the Red Sox scored an American League record-tying 14 runs — took 50 minutes. To put this in perspective, the Giants and Phillies got in a whole game in 1919 in 51 minutes.

2. Marlins pitchers, three of them, needed 91 pitches to retire the Sox in the first. So if manager Jack McKeon hadn’t (mercifully) relieved starter Carl Pavano after six batters, he might have had to lift him before the end of the inning anyway because he’d exceeded his pitch count.

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Think about that.

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The Red Sox also set a major league record by scoring 10 runs before their first out. The old mark was held by the Phillies, who scored nine against the Giants on — get this — Friday the 13th of August 1948.

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Returning to “Moneyball,” the book has this to say about former Maryland shortstop John McCurdy, one of Oakland’s first-round picks in the ‘02 draft: “McCurdy was an ugly-looking fielder with the highest slugging percentage in the country. [The As would] turn him into a second baseman, where his fielding would matter less. Billy [Beane] thought McCurdy might be the next Jeff Kent.”

So far, McCurdy hasn’t done much slugging for the A’s. At last glance, he had four homers in 499 minor-league at bats, all at the Class A level.

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My 13-year-old frets that the Orioles’ Rodrigo Lopez — he of the 1-4 record and 7.63 ERA — is turning into another Jose Mercedes. “[He has] one surprisingly good year,” he says, “and then he falls off a cliff.”

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Ex-big league pitcher Rick Rhoden might have missed the cut in the U.S. Senior Open (at 10 over), but he did fare better than three guys who’ve won multiple major championships: Dave Stockton (11 over), David Graham (12 over) and Ben Crenshaw (14 over).

Let’s see one of them slip a fastball by Mike Schmidt.

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Nice of Tom Wolfe to loan LeBron James one of his white suits for the NBA Draft. LeBron certainly looked like “A Man in Full” Thursday night.

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After ignoring the Maryland program for decades, the Wizards have suddenly drafted Terrapins two years in a row — Juan Dixon (first round) last year and Steve Blake (second round) this year. Trivia question: Who are the other three Maryland players to be selected by the Washington franchise? (Answer below.)

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I never thought I’d say this, but: After watching the first week of Wimbledon — and the parade of palookas on the men’s side — I miss Ivan Lendl.

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As for early casualty James Blake, he’s Yannick Noah (dreadlocks-wise) without the talent.

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Josef Stumpel must feel like he’s stuck in a revolving door. He started out with the Bruins (as a second-round draft pick in ‘91), got traded to the Kings (in a deal that brought Byron Dafoe and Dimitri Khristich to Boston), got traded back to the Bruins (in a deal for Jason Allison and Mikko Eloranta), and now he’s been traded to the Kings again (for a fourth-rounder this year and a second-rounder next).

How often does that happen — in any sport?

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I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stumpel eventually get traded for himself, the way Astros pitcher Mark Ross was in 1986. Ross was shipped to the Cardinals in December ‘85 for a player to be named later, but the Cards couldn’t reach an agreement with him. So he became the player to be named later.

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Which isn’t quite the same as being traded from the Phillies to the Blue Jays — and then, eight days later, being dealt back to Philadelphia. That’s what Rob Ducey had to endure during the 2000 season.

Philly GM Ed Wade got off a good line, though, about Ducey’s going and coming. “It’s value for value,” he said. “Their tools are very similar. The guy we got in return is a little older, but he’s got less left on his contract. So it’s a good tradeoff.”

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Answer to trivia question: The three other Maryland players drafted by the Wizards/Bullets were Lawrence Boston (fourth round, 1978), Len Elmore (first, ‘74) and Will Hetzel (ninth, ‘70).

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For those who would say the ACC’s kidnapping of Virginia Tech and (quite possibly) Miami is all about greed, I bring you these comments from Tech president Charles W. Steiger in a recent letter to alumni:

“Virginia Tech is very fortunate in that our athletic programs generate revenue. Only about 40 of the over 100 Division I-A programs nationally can make this claim. No taxpayer dollars are used to support our athletic programs. While we field 21 intercollegiate teams, only football produces positive revenue. These funds are used to support the remaining 20 sports and to keep our student athletic fee low. A number of schools in Virginia charge many times our $232 student athletic fee.”

All about greed? Try all about survival.

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And finally …

My buddy John Markon at the Richmond Times-Dispatch has a question for ACC commissioner John Swofford:

“How much should I ask on EBay for my ‘ACC 2004’ T-shirt, complete with Syracuse and Boston College logos?”

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