Tuesday, June 23, 2009

JoeChat, Lom Henn Style

Zinglebert mentioned this a few weeks ago: baseball Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst Joe Morgan is again doing live chat sessions on ESPN.com. In the past, you had to be an ESPN Insider to access these gems, but now it's available to all of us cheapskates, too.

Why do we care? The good folks at FireJoeMorgan.com used to critique these chat sessions every week--and they were hysterically funny. And since FJM no longer does this and because we've ripped off 86.2% of this site from them anyway, we've decided to take up the cause--if we can consistently keep up with it week after week.

(And yes, for those of you who've followed it in the past, I used the word "consistently" on purpose.)

Also, if you'd like to see how FJM used to do it, follow this link to see the most recent JoeChat critiques. We make no promises that ours will be as good as theirs, so no getting your money back.

On with the show!

Buzzmaster: We're getting Joe Morgan right now!


Joe Morgan: The season continues to hold a lot of surprises. The Phillies as good as they looked two weeks ago is as bad as they look now, especially at home. I'm surprised that the Phillies look like they're the second best team in the NL, behind the Dodgers.

It took me 5 readings of the second sentence to figure out what he was saying. Initially, I thought he'd left out a word (common in these chats for Joe, or Fremp, or whoever types for him). But I think he means, "as good as the Phillies looked two weeks ago, they look just as bad now." Or something like that. But then he goes on to say that the Phillies look like the "second best team in the NL, behind the Dodgers." If they're playing so poorly, how can they "look" like the second best team in the NL--especially having lost 6 in a row and with Colorado having won something like 15 of their last 16???

Ugh. I'm already tired.

Vince (Pittsburgh): Will Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez and Prince fielder all be all-stars?

Joe Morgan:
Yes, I think they all should make it. The All Star lineup should be the best players in the league. They're supposed to be on the All Star team. It makes it difficult when you have as many good hitting first basemen that you have in the NL, but it was like that for years in the AL.

I agree with Joe here, and it's nice to see him give a definitive answer, as opposed to "I have no idea if all three will make it. How can I predict the future? There are many games to be played between now and then, and nobody knows what will happen."

I even agree with him that the All Star lineup should be the "best players in the league." But that's never been the case, since fans vote for the starters and due to the rule that each team has to have at least one All-Star (which will definitely benefit Gonzalez, even though he deserves to be an All Star with his 3rd-in-the NL OPS of 1.020). Case in point: a distant second place currently in All Star voting for NL first basemen: Ryan Howard (5th among NL 1B in OPS).

Ken (Fairfax): Do you see the Phillies making big moves in their bullpen with Lidge coming off the DL and Madson blowing 2 saves this last week?

Other than Lidge resuming his closer role? Isn't that big enough?

Joe Morgan: I think their concern should still be their starting pitching. Lidge should be OK when he's back. And Madsen is a setup man, not closer. I think they need starting pitching to make that staff complete.

True enough, but it won't hurt to have bullpen depth so that there is more flexibility in regards to switching out starters. But I agree that 82 year-old Jamie Moyer is probably someone you'd like to replace in your starting rotation.

SprungOnSports (Long Island): Joe, when a team like the Mets sustains so many injuries, how can't the team's medical staff and strength and conditioning coaches be the ones to blame? Who do you think is at fault, or is it just bad luck?

Joe Morgan: I think it's more a case of bad luck. If you think about it, each year it happens to different teams. There are teams now that have guys injured. The thing I admire the most about players these days is that they stay in shape year round. So I'm surprised by how many guys get hurt each year. But things happen. I wouldn't blame the medical staff or the strength coach. Look at the teams that have all the injuries. It seems the injury bug has become more prevalent than before.

I agree that it's probably luck. But could it also depend on the type of injuries? I would assume that most major league teams and trainers have similar regimens, but do they really? Could there be a trainer or two who is not as good as the others?

I really don't know, and like I said, it probably is just bad luck.

And this is a really boring chat so far in regards to analyzing Joe.

John (CA): What are your thoughts oin Tommy Hanson so far?

Joe Morgan: I haven't seen him, and I havent read a lot about him, but everything I hear about him on TV, he's going to be a star. But I don't use other peoples' judgements on players, I like to see them. I don't follow the lead of others in terms of rating players. I like to do it myself.

Tommy Hanson is one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. He is a stud. Yet Emmy Award winning baseball analyst (I wish I was making that up) Joe Morgan has YET to see him, despite the fact he's been in the majors for a couple of weeks and it's Joe's JOB TO ANALYZE BASEBALL GAMES. You'd think he'd take the time to check out Hanson, especially since Joe doesn't "follow the lead of others as far as rating players."

Perhaps Joe will get around to seeing Hanson when the Braves next play on Sunday Night Baseball. Of course, even when that happens, there will only be a 1 in 5 chance that Hanson will be the Braves' starter, so it may not be until 2011 until Morgan can rate Hanson.

Mike (Chicago): Did Joey Votto hurt his all-star chances be being out for so long? He comes back tonight in Toronto with his .357 avg with 8 HR. Can he push the Reds to a playoff berth?

The answer to the first question is, "of course!!" He's missed almost half of the season thus far. Even though he's been good, in the games he's played, he hasn't played enough.

Joe Morgan: He definitely has been hurt by the injuries for his all star chances. If he stays hot, maybe he gets picked. With him, I am starting to believe the Reds can make the playoffs. Votto would be the one to lead them. There's still a chance for that. That division is still wide open.

Injuries? Votto has been out with "stress." I think it's obvious Joe doesn't know that--he is probably not even sure who Votto is and guessed about the injury, since Mike(Chicago) mentioned Votto had been out.

For the record, I'm not making light of Votto's situation by putting "stress" in quotation marks--that was how MLB listed him on the disabled list. In fact, here is a story where Votto talks about everything he has been battling.

And the Reds only have a chance to make the playoffs because they play in the piss-poor NL Central. According to Baseball Prospectus, the Reds have a 9% chance of making the playoffs. Votto will need to hit like he did in the 39 games he has played for the Reds to have any chance.

Ben (Lincoln, NE): Joe, what's your take on the White Sox?

Joe Morgan: That's a team that I just can't figure out. Every time I think they're going to go down and they should start rebuilding, they win a few games ago. Contreras came back and looks great. They look good for a moment and then they fall back. So, I can't figure them out. They have some young players and veteran players, but I just can't figure them out. They could turn things around and win the division or they can fall deeper toward the bottom of the division.

So you're saying you can't figure them out? There is absolutely not one shred of analysis in Joe's response. Nothing about their hitting, their pitching (other than Contreras, who has looked good in his 3 starts since coming back). Just that Joe can't figure them out. How about the fact that Chicago's offense has been dreadful this season (3rd to last in the AL in runs scored)? How about that their pitching has been very good--second in the AL in ERA? Could that explain why the White Sox are hovering around .500?

It's not hard--it took me about 3.1 seconds to look that up.

Silvy (NY, NY): Will Manny's return to the Dodger lineup give LA the consistency that they need to run away with the division? Thought they've been winning, it seems like that offense hasn't been as consistent as it needs to be.

Joe Morgan: They already have the best record in baseball. He can improve their chances of winning in the playoffs. Right now this is the best team in baseball. I'm still interested to see how the team plays when he gets back. THey've played so well with Pierre at the top of the order. We'll see how they do with someone like Furcal at the top.

This could be a JoeBait--anytime someone uses the word "consistency" in a question, you have to wonder--but I'm not sure. Silvy (NY, NY) felt that he had to include that NY is in NY, so he may not be that sophisticated.

Juan Pierre has indeed played well this season: .337 BA/ .392 OBP/ .433 SLG. However, Pierre isn't typically a guy who gets on base very much (he has only 16 BB so far this year), so if some of his BA luck runs out, he won't be as an attractive an option as Furcal.

Jason (DC): Joe, Is Magglio Ordonez toast, or will he rebound in a big way?

Joe Morgan: That's a puzzling situation for me, because Jim Leyland said he's benched indefinitely. I don't know if I've heard that phrase used before with the benching of a star. Something is going on there, and we don't know what it is. I find it hard to think that a guy that has had success and can just disappear. My first thought is that he needs a wake up call and this is what that is. Maybe he just needs a good ol' fashioned kick in the pants and this is it.

Sigh. The question is, "do you think Ordonez is done?" Of course, Joe cannot say one way or the other, because no one knows for sure, and it could be something but maybe not, and who knows what the future holds?

All Joe has to do is give his opinion.

Mike (Houston TX) Hi Joe Thanks for taking my question. You are once of the best of all time !I had the privledge of seeing the you play in the 1975 series vs. Boston. I was at the famous Game 6. Was that game the greatest game you ever played in and what do ou recall the most from that game? For me it was Dwight Evans catch and Carbo's Home run.

When I first read this, I thought, "why would Joe think Game 6 was the greatest game he ever played in? The Reds lost." Especially because Joe drove in the winning run in Game 7. But I suppose it's a fair question...

Joe Morgan: It wasn't the greatest game I ever played in, because I lost. I know Pete Rose said it was the greatest game for him. I would say Game 7 was the greatest game for me, because we won and won the series.

Let's just say I was completely unsurprised by his answer.

ben (los angeles) if you were the manager of the Dodgers what would you do with Pierre when Manny returns? It doesn't seem productive or fair to bench him.

Joe Morgan: I finally found someone who agrees with me. I said this on Sunday Night Baseball. You're not talking about a bench guy in Pierre. You're talking about a guy with a lifetime average of over .300. If I'm the Dodgers, instead of benching him, I'd try to trade him for a good starting pitcher. Don't make a mistake about it, the Dodgers as good as they are need another starting pitcher. But thanks for agreeing with me. I like people that agree with me. Though I like people that disagree with me so I can explain my side.

Okay, there are a few things odd about Joe's answer. First off, his notion that Pierre isn't a "bench guy." I think I know what he means, but if a guy isn't starting, isn't he a "bench guy" by definition?

The second thing: perhaps it's just because he did the game two days ago and it's fresh in his mind, but Joe knows that Pierre is a lifetime .300 hitter (.301 to be exact). Joe normally treats numbers like they have Swine Flu, so this is a step in the right direction.

Third, I somewhat agree with Joe that the Dodgers should try to trade Pierre, who has high value right now. However, I think it would be fine to keep him as insurance in case one of their other outfielders gets injured.

Finally, Joe likes people who agree with him. He also likes people who don't agree with him. Joe likes everybody!!

Ryan (VA): Hey Joe is Chipper Jones a 1st ballot Hall of Famer if he doesnt reach the 500 homerun mark?

Joe Morgan: Being honest with you...that's a great question. I don't normally answer those questions because I'm on the Board and I don't want it to look like I'm pushing for a player while he's still playing. however, I think that Chipper will end up in the Hall of Fame.

For those of you who have never experienced a JoeChat before, this is a quite typical response from Joe for this question. Joe seems to think that giving his opinion about a player's worthiness for the Hall of Fame is the same as campaigning for that player. Joe could have easily said, "I think Chipper is worthy" or "I will vote for him" or even given a reason for why he thinks Chipper should get in. All Joe has to do is give some sort--any sort--of analysis. And of course...nothing.

Mike (Brooklyn, NY): Joe do you think Joe Girardi has been a good fit for the yankees thus far?

Joe Morgan: I think he's done a good job because he didn't let them fade away while A-Rod was gone. It's still a question of who's a good fit for that team. It's a hard team to manage because of the outside influences and the Yankees are expected to win each year. I don't know who is a good fit for that team, but he has done a good job of keeping them in the race while A-Rod is out.

Girardi took a thick rope and threw it to his team and screamed, "hang on!!" He then tied the other end of the rope around Monument Park at Yankee Stadium and pulled the team back up until A-Rod came back.

Or, perhaps it's because Mark Teixeira has been hitting the snot out of the ball for the past 6 weeks (to the tune of 1.085 OPS since May 1) and the Yankees pitching being a little better than it was the first month. Joe is right that there are some challenges to managing the Yankees, but I think it's a little easier to manage a team with a lot of talent than it is to manage a team like, say, the Washington Nationals.

Rory (Arlington, MA): How about Joe Mauer. Hes been the most consistent hitter in the MLB as of yet. Do you think he will finish the year batting .400 or above?

Joe Morgan: I don't think he can hit .400. He's been the most consistent hitter. We have so much specialization in the game. What you're going to see is him facing lefthanded pitching all the time. He handles it well, but to hit .400 it's otherworldly.

JoeBait #2, perhaps?

Joe seems to think that teams will only start left handed pitchers against the Twins in an effort to stop Mauer. As if the Blue Jays will say, "fuck starting Roy Halladay tonight--we need a lefty to thwart Joe Mauer and his otherworldly average! Is John Cerutti still alive?"

Hitting .400 is obviously very difficult to do, since no one since Teddy Ballgame in 1941 has done it. But "otherworldly?" Was Ted Williams from Saturn?

Justin (Ohio): Hi Joe, was curious about your thoughts of Dusty Baker's job with the Reds this year. Seems like he is holding this thing together with duct tape at this point.

Joe Morgan: Obviously he's done a fabulous job considering the position they're in. They've lost Votto for a while.

Votto returned today.

He's done a great job with the young guys, Jay Bruce, Phillips. He's done a great job with the bullpen, pitching staff. But he's one of the best managers in the game, I wouldn't expect anything less. That's why I'm not surprised when Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa, Joe Torre lead their teams to doing well.

Brandon Phillips has been a full time player for three seasons and will turn 28 this Sunday. He's not old, but to call him a "young guy" as if Dusty has somehow discovered him is a little much. And while the Reds have been a good pitching team--7th in ERA in all of baseball--that's a little misleading. The Reds are 6th in ERA in the National League, but two of the teams better than them are in their division: the Cardinals (4th in the NL) and the Cubs (3rd in the NL). Still, their pitching has been their strength, as the Reds are 12th in the NL in runs scored. Sure, some of the offensive problems have been due to injuries or missed time, but how much imput does Dusty have in personnel decisions? You think the Reds would like to have Adam Dunn's .931 OPS somewhere in their lineup?

Chris (PA): Joe what do you think the Yankees should do with their starting pitching? Hughes seems to have finally come around and his confidence is sky high. Should they re-visit the discussion of moving Wang or Chamberlain to the bullpen?

Joe Morgan: The question is, who are their starters? They have CC, who has proven he's a big time starter. Andy Pettitte. Joba, the jury's still out. Burnett, he had a great year last year, but he has not been able to win the big games. Then you're deciding on Phil Hughes, Wang. The only ones I know for sure that are big time winners are Sabathia and Pettitte. I think they need to get starting pitching, but most teams are in that position. I don't think they can win with their rotation now. Well, let's put it this way, they can't beat Boston with that rotation.

Burnett was 18-10 last season, but his ERA was 4.07, and his WHIP 1.34 (after having a 1.24 WHIP in 2006-7). Burnett's problem is not that he "hasn't been able to win the big games," but rather he's allowed too many baserunners (WHIP this year: 1.44; ERA: 4.24).

I know the question was about pitching, but it's refreshing to see Joe discuss the Yankees without mentioning Derek Jeter, A-Rod, or "clutch hitting."

Wyatt Kirkhove (Aledo,IL): Does it feel great to be in the hall of fame?

Joe Morgan: I don't think you can describe the feeling of being selected into the Hall of Fame. It's like the first day I put on a major league uniform. Putting on that uniform for the first time was the most exciting thing for me. Now, once you make it, you want to be a good player for a long period of time. Making it into the Hall of Fame says that you did that. The day I stood up there with Ted Williams, Musial, all those great players sitting behind me. That was just fabulous.

This is just cool. I left this in here because I want to take the opportunity to say that Joe Morgan the player was an absolute badass. His career line is .271 BA/.392 OBP/ .427 SLG--great numbers, especially for a middle infielder. Joe played for 22 seasons. In 1975 his OPS was .974, including a .466 OBP! He followed that up by OPS-ing 1.020 in 1976. It is not a stretch to say Joe Morgan revolutionalized the second base position.

As a player, Joe was all the stuff we look for in great players today--when we talk about on-base percentage being a good thing, Joe Morgan is a great example of that. When we talk about stealing bases only being good for the team when you succeed more than 75% of the time, Joe is a great example of that, too (81% success rate for his career, with 689 total steals).

Without a doubt, Joe Morgan the Player deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Joe Morgan the Analyst should not be allowed with 75 miles of Cooperstown.

chauncey (teaneck): Is Pujos the best player in the game?

You know--Albet Pujos.

Joe Morgan: I don't know if there is anybody that's close to him. I think he's by far the best player in the game. Alex Rodriguez, Joe Mauer, all those guys are great players, but I think Pujols by far is the best player. He hits, he plays good defense, runs the bases well. He's by far the best player.

Interesting that Joe mentions Mauer here. Mauer is having a great season, but this is the first year that he has demonstrated any power. I wouldn't put Mauer in that class...yet.

And Pujols is a monster. Why would you ever pitch to him at this point?

Joe Morgan: I've said this before and I'll say it again. People talk about how great teams' bullpens are, but starting pitching is the key to winning championships. You have to have starters to pick up a lot of those innings. You can't have your bullpen picking up 12-13 outs a game. Starting pitching is the key.

Yeah, the Braves teams of the 90s proved that, right? With all of those years of dominant starting pitchers and not-so-dominant bullpens, the Braves brought home World Series title after World Series title--oh, wait--they only won one World Series!

That's not completely fair, because I agree with Joe in a sense. Starting pitching is important... and I think it's more important than a great bullpen. But there are more keys to winning championships than starting pitching. And who cares how many outs your bullpen gets, as long as you're getting the outs and outscoring the other team? Sure, you'd love to have 5 starters that can go 250 innings over the course of the season, but with the way the game is played now, 6 good innings from your starter is usually enough.

So, overall, not bad for the first one of these. I'm not convinced that Joe is actually typing these anymore, since there are very few typos and misspellings. However, this is only one chat--we'll see if this trend continues after we've done a few of these. Tune in next week!

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