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2007 OQ REPORT

2007 OFFENSIVE LEADERS BY POSITION

AMERICAN LEAGUE  
     
C Jorge Posada  
1B Carlos Pena  
2B Brian Roberts  
SS Carlos Guillen  
3B Alex Rodriguez  
LF Manny Ramirez  
CF Curtis Granderson  
RF Magglio Ordonez  
DH David Ortiz  


NATIONAL LEAGUE  
     
C Russell Martin  
1B Albert Pujols  
2B Chase Utley  
SS Hanley Ramirez  
3B Chipper Jones  
LF Matt Holliday  
CF Carlos Beltran  
RF Brad Hawpe  

Bold
indicates 2006 leaders.

To qualify for this list, a player must play at least half his team’s games at the defensive position indicated.

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2007 AMERICAN LEAGUE OQ LEADERS

 
Rank
 
Player
Team
OQ
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
Ortiz
BOS
174
 
 
2
 
Rodriguez
NY
166
 
 
3
 
Pena
TAM
164
 
 
4
 
Ordonez
DET
160
 
 
5
 
Thome
CHI
152
 
 
6
 
Posada
NY
147
 
 
7
 
Cust
OAK
146
 
 
8
 
Guerrero
LA
140
 
 
9
 
Upton
TAM
130
 
 
10
 
Granderson
DET
129
 
 
 
 
 
11
 
Ramirez
BOS
128
 
 
12
 
Martinez
CLE
124
 
 
13
 
Thomas
TOR
123
 
 
14
 
Lowell
BOS
123
 
 
15
 
Hafner
CLE
123
 
 
16
 
Matsui
NY
123
 
 
17
 
Swisher
OAK
122
 
 
18
 
Sizemore
CLE
121
 
 
19
 
Sheffield
DET
121
 
 
20
 
Konerko
CHI
120
 
 
 
 
 
21
 
Guillen
DET
120
 
 
22
 
Youkilis
BOS
118
 
 
23
 
Kotchman
LA
117
 
 
24
 
Rios
TOR
117
 
 
25
 
Markakis
BAL
117
 
 
26
 
Morneau
MIN
116
 
 
27
 
Figgins
LA
115
 
 
28
 
Abreu
NY
115
 
 
29
 
Drew
BOS
114
 
 
30
 
Roberts
BAL
114
 
 
 
 
 
31
 
Ibanez
SEA
114
 
 
32
 
Hunter
MIN
113
 
 
33
 
Jeter
NY
112
 
 
34
 
Cano
NY
112
 
 
35
 
Polanco
DET
111
 
 
36
 
Varitek
BOS
110
 
 
37
 
Pedroia
BOS
110
 
 
38
 
Garko
CLE
110
 
 
39
 
Millar
BAL
109
 
 
40
 
Suzuki
SEA
109
 
 
 
 
 
41
 
Johnson
OAK
109
 
 
42
 
Kinsler
TEX
109
 
 
43
 
Dye
CHI
108
 
 
44
 
Cuddyer
MIN
107
 
 
45
 
Crawford
TAM
107
 
 
46
 
Beltre
SEA
106
 
 
47
 
Lofton
TEX/CLE
106
 
 
48
 
Guillen
SEA
105
 
 
49
 
Hill
TOR
105
 
 
50
 
Vidro
SEA
105
 
 
 
 
 
51
 
Iwamura
TAM
104
 
 
52
 
Tejada
BAL
104
 
 
53
 
Peralta
CLE
104
 
 
54
 
Huff
BAL
104
 
 
55
 
Blake
CLE
102
 
 
56
 
Harris
TAM
101
 
 
57
 
Young
TEX
101
 
 
58
 
Teahen
KC
101
 
 
59
 
Mora
BAL
101
 
 
60
 
Willits
LA
101
 
 
 
 
 
61
 
Ellis
OAK
100
 
 
62
 
Damon
NY
100
 
 
63
 
Matthews
LA
99
 
 
64
 
Casey
DET
96
 
 
65
 
Stewart
OAK
94
 
 
66
 
Cabrera
LA
94
 
 
67
 
Crisp
BOS
92
 
 
68
 
Johjima
SEA
92
 
 
69
 
Cabrera
NY
91
 
 
70
 
Gordon
KC
91
 
 
 
 
 
71
 
DeJesus
KC
91
 
 
72
 
Wells
TOR
91
 
 
73
 
Young
TAM
89
 
 
74
 
Betancourt
SEA
88
 
 
75
 
Bartlett
MIN
88
 
 
76
 
Pierzynski
CHI
87
 
 
77
 
Inge
DET
86
 
 
78
 
Rodriguez
DET
86
 
 
79
 
Uribe
CHI
85
 
 
80
 
Lugo
BOS
80
 
 
 
 
 
81
 
Lopez
SEA
74
 
 
82
 
Pena
KC
72
 
 
83
 
Punto
MIN
69
 

The 2007 American League base-to-out ratio was .710.

This list includes every player who had at least 3 (at bats + walks) for each game his team played.

OQs of selected nonqualifiers, American League: Garrett Anderson LA 112; Josh Barfield CLE 66; Josh Fields CHI 107; Jason Giambi NY 109; Troy Glaus TOR 121; Howie Kendrick LA 99; Joe Mauer MIN 113; Trot Nixon CLE 90; Lyle Overbay TOR 93; Corey Patterson BAL 83; Mike Piazza OAK 92; Richie Sexson SEA 91; Sammy Sosa TEX 104; Matt Stairs TOR 133; Mark Teixeira TEX 137; Marcus Thames DET 102.

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2007 NATIONAL LEAGUE OQ LEADERS

 
Rank
 
Player
Team
OQ
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
Jones,C
ATL
162
 
 
2
 
Pujols
STL
155
 
 
3
 
Fielder
MIL
153
 
 
4
 
Howard
PHI
151
 
 
5
 
Holliday
COL
150
 
 
6
 
Wright
NY
146
 
 
7
 
Helton
COL
145
 
 
8
 
Cabrera
FLA
144
 
 
9
 
Dunn
CIN
143
 
 
10
 
Burrell
PHI
140
 
 
 
 
 
11
 
Utley
PHI
139
 
 
12
 
Hawpe
COL
138
 
 
13
 
Ramirez
FLA
135
 
 
14
 
Berkman
HOU
132
 
 
15
 
Lee
CHI
131
 
 
16
 
Ramirez
CHI
129
 
 
17
 
Griffey
CIN
128
 
 
18
 
Beltran
NY
126
 
 
19
 
Kent
LA
124
 
 
20
 
Lee
HOU
123
 
 
 
 
 
21
 
Soriano
CHI
123
 
 
22
 
Hart
MIL
121
 
 
23
 
Young
WAS
121
 
 
24
 
Rowand
PHI
120
 
 
25
 
Atkins
COL
120
 
 
26
 
Rollins
PHI
120
 
 
27
 
Renteria
ATL
118
 
 
28
 
Johnson
ATL
118
 
 
29
 
Gonzalez
SD
118
 
 
30
 
Martin
LA
118
 
 
 
 
 
31
 
Hudson
ARI
115
 
 
32
 
Weeks
MIL
114
 
 
33
 
Tulowitzki
COL
113
 
 
34
 
Willingham
FLA
113
 
 
35
 
Church
WAS
110
 
 
36
 
LaRoche
PIT
110
 
 
37
 
Uggla
FLA
109
 
 
38
 
Ethier
LA
109
 
 
39
 
Byrnes
ARI
108
 
 
40
 
Gonzalez
LA
108
 
 
 
 
 
41
 
DeRosa
CHI
106
 
 
42
 
Giles,B
SD
106
 
 
43
 
Phillips
CIN
106
 
 
44
 
Zimmerman
WAS
106
 
 
45
 
Reyes
NY
104
 
 
46
 
Winn
SF
104
 
 
47
 
Wilson
PIT
104
 
 
48
 
Delgado
NY
103
 
 
49
 
Hardy
MIL
103
 
 
50
 
Encarnacion
CIN
102
 
 
 
 
 
51
 
Bautista
PIT
102
 
 
52
 
Kearns
WAS
102
 
 
53
 
Cameron
SD
102
 
 
54
 
Kouzmanoff
SD
101
 
 
55
 
Francoeur
ATL
101
 
 
56
 
McCann
ATL
100
 
 
57
 
Young
ARI
100
 
 
58
 
Sanchez
PIT
100
 
 
59
 
Bay
PIT
98
 
 
60
 
Victorino
PHI
98
 
 
 
 
 
61
 
Greene
SD
98
 
 
62
 
Belliard
WAS
97
 
 
63
 
Hall
MIL
97
 
 
64
 
Jones,A
ATL
97
 
 
65
 
Jones
CHI
93
 
 
66
 
Loretta
HOU
92
 
 
67
 
Molina
SF
90
 
 
68
 
Drew
ARI
88
 
 
69
 
Feliz
SF
88
 
 
70
 
Paulino
PIT
88
 
 
 
 
 
71
 
Furcal
LA
87
 
 
72
 
Theriot
CHI
84
 
 
73
 
Durham
SF
82
 
 
74
 
Lopez
WAS
82
 
 
75
 
Pierre
LA
80
 
 
76
 
Biggio
HOU
80
 
 
77
 
Vizquel
SF
75
 

The 2007 National League base-to-out ratio was .712.

This list includes every player who had at least 3 (at bats + walks) for each game his team played. OQs of selected nonqualifiers, National League: Moises Alou NY 129; Barry Bonds SF 185; Ryan Braun MIL 145; Chris Duncan STL 119; Jim Edmonds STL 97; Cliff Floyd CHI 107; Nomar Garciaparra LA 87; Shawn Green NY 102; Josh Hamilton CIN 132; Geoff Jenkins MIL 103; Matt Kemp LA 123; Ryan Klesko SF 100; James Loney LA 130; Hunter Pence HOU 124; Mark Reynolds ARI 116; Scott Rolen STL 94; Luke Scott HOU 122; Mark Teixeira ATL 153.

If Bonds had played another 4 or so games down the stretch, when he was virtually inactive, he would have led the National League in OQ once again.

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THE WIZARD AND THE TENTMAKER

Is Omar Vizquel a modern Ozzie Smith, as some pundits have suggested? Close, but no cigar.

Both of them reached the big leagues as excellent-field, no-hit shortstops. Both were given up on by West Coast teams but flourished in America’s Heartland. (Smith went from San Diego to St Louis, Vizquel from Seattle to Cleveland.) Vizquel played in the postseason 6 times and Smith 4, but in Smith’s era fewer teams qualified for postseason play. Smith won 13 Gold Gloves, Vizquel 11. Here are their season-by-season OQs:

 
Ozzie Smith
 
 
 
 
1978
84
 
 
1979
64
 
 
1980
81
 
 
1981
73
 
 
1982
97
 
 
1983
94
 
 
1984x
103
 
 
1985
106
 
 
1986
105
 
 
1987
112
 
 
1988
106
 
 
1989
102
 
 
1990
88
 
 
1991
116
 
 
1992
106
 
 
1993
92
 
 
1994
88
 
 
1995x
64
 
 
1996x
98
 
 
 
 
Omar Vizquel
 
 
 
 
1989x
66
 
 
1990x
75
 
 
1991x
78
 
 
1992
90
 
 
1993
75
 
 
1994x
75
 
 
1995
85
 
 
1996
97
 
 
1997
90
 
 
1998
92
 
 
1999
109
 
 
2000
95
 
 
2001
82
 
 
2002
101
 
 
2003x
84
 
 
2004
95
 
 
2005
89
 
 
2006
97
 
 
2007
75
 

x = did not qualify as regular

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MODERN AND POSTMODERN

Growing up in midcentury America I learned the rules of baseball the way all Americans do, by osmosis. And like most Americans of that long-ago epoch, I had been playing the game for some time with other children before I learned that adults also played the game and that other people paid to watch them do it.

I dwelt in the environs of a city with a long major league history: Boston. Although too callow to notice the departure of the Braves in 1952, perhaps because this event didn’t inspire an overabundance of public mourning with the other team still in town, I was reading the papers soon enough and absorbing thereby all the mystical lore that surrounded the “The Hub” (Boston) and “The Hose” (the Red Sox).

While I was devouring the sports pages I assumed, in my youthful ignorance, that all major league baseball began in 1901, when the Red Sox did. This was a notion the local “knights of the keyboard” fostered carefully because it made their jobs easier. Baseball attracts fans who enjoy the idea of a present that has evolved from a past, and because the local baseball writers understood this, they referred to the past frequently. But for these men the past began at the boundaries of their own memories. By the 1950s most of them were too young to have watched the greats of the nineteenth century and too lazy to read up about them, so it was easiest to pretend they had never existed. Was Ted Williams as good a hitter as Hugh Duffy? Hugh who? Duffy, who he?

Hugh Duffy was a major star in Boston in the 1890s, but six decades later he was worse than forgotten: he was discredited. In the view of baseball’s owner-appointed administrators and their running dogs in the press, anything Duffy or any of his pre-1901 contemporaries did wasn’t real, wasn’t valid, wasn’t legitimate, wasn’t “modern.” Duffy wasn’t worth mentioning, so he was never mentioned, and generations of fans like me grew up knowing nothing about his exploits.

By the time I reached adulthood I considered myself as rabid a baseball fan as anyone I knew, yet I was innocent of the major league game’s nineteenth-century roots. Fortunately the publication of the first edition of the Macmillan Baseball Encyclopedia in 1969 let that cat out of the bag, and I’ll be forever grateful that it did.

Three years ago (in the 2004 OQ Report) I foresaw the inevitable decision by the panjandrums of baseball to cast all or most of the game’s twentieth-century records on the same scrap heap to which their predecessors had relegated its nineteenth century history. It’s not a question of if, but a question of when they will redraw the line and of what year they will designate as the new official beginning of major league baseball time.

The demarcation I’m seeing more and more often is 1965. A recent example is this sentence from Jim Callis in the September 15 issue of Baseball America: “When Justin Upton homered off Tom Gorzelanny on Aug. 7, he became the 16th teenager to hit a big league homer since the draft era began in 1965.”

In the worldview of Jim Callis and his allies and sympathizers, baseball time began in 1965, although I can assure them that the baseball of 1964, which Callis chooses to dismiss, resembled the baseball of 1965 a lot more closely than the baseball of 2007 does. (For the record, Jim, 6 teenagers hit home runs in 1964: Tony Conigliaro (who hit 24 of them), Dave Duncan, Tony Horton, Ed Kirkpatrick, Ed Kranepool, and Billy Southworth.)

If the post-1964 standard wins widespread popular acceptance, which it may, then Rick Monday, the first player selected in the first amateur draft, will be revered as the first postmodern ballplayer, the Adam of a new age.

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THE POWER OF HU-DU

Just about the only baseball nicknames you hear today are the ones that fans and sportswriters create by conflating the initial letters or syllables of a player’s first and last names. So Alex Rodriguez is A-Rod, Ivan Rodriguez is I-Rod, Manny Ramirez is Man-Ram, while Hanley Ramirez is Han-Ram, etc etc ad infinitum ad nauseum. Speaking of those last two guys, the Red Sox had them both but foolishly got rid of ascending Han-Ram instead of descending Man-Ram. Now the Sox are struggling along with Ju-Lu (Julio Lugo) while Han-Ram’s star is already outshining Man-Ram’s dimming beacon.

My favorite of these nicknames is Car-Zam (Carlos Zambrano). But if Hugh Duffy were playing today he’d have the coolest nickname going: Hu-Du.

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KNOW YOUR BELLIARDS

What is the relationship between Nationals second baseman Ronnie Belliard (listed at 5-8, 197) and former Pittsburgh and Atlanta infielder and current Detroit coach Rafael Belliard (listed at 5-6, 150)?

a. son
b. nephew
c. brother
d. cousin
e. no relation

Answer: D. They are cousins. But Rafael is 14 years older than Ronnie.

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HERO OR HOBGOBLIN

During the tortuous final days of Barry Bonds’ march to the career home run record, a lot was reimagined and written about the dimly remembered era when Hank Aaron set the record Bonds would shatter. Sadly but predictably in this new golden age of yellow journalism, almost all of this “coverage” consisted of clucking commentary about the hate mail Aaron received when it appeared certain he would hit more home runs than Babe Ruth.

While I have no doubt that Aaron received hate mail, I remain convinced that this situation was, and continues to be, exaggerated. I am white, and it was supposed to be white people who were doing all that hating, and yet no one I spoke to in 1974, and no one whose conversation I overheard, expressed anything but admiration for Aaron and his accomplishments. Similarly, I read no opinion pieces by white journalists slamming Aaron and suggesting he ought to be stopped. Indeed, all the press coverage I recall was complimentary of Aaron as a ballplayer and a human being.

If you are a public figure you will receive mail, and a percentage of that mail will be sent by people who don’t like you. By the time Aaron neared Ruth’s record he was receiving so much publicity that even though the publicity was overwhelmingly positive, he found he needed the type of bodyguard security normally employed (with no eyebrows raised) by movie stars and heads of state. Aaron was unaccustomed to this, and it made him uneasy. Reporters noticed his unease and wrote about it. Since then, unfortunately, this very small part of Aaron’s story is now regarded as its essential core.

Nobody writing in 1974 or 2007 cast their memory back to the day when Ruth, in his turn, broke the all-time home run record. When the 1921 season began Babe Ruth was 26 and had hit 103 home runs, 54 of them in 1920. The career record for home runs was 138, by future Hall of Famer Roger Connor. Connor’s record had stood since 1897.

Ruth exceeded the record while his team, the New York Yankees, was in the midst of what was then called a “western” road trip to Chicago, St Louis, Detroit, and Cleveland. Ruth hit home runs 136 and 137 in St Louis, where Connor had finished his stellar career, on July 12. He tied Connor’s record on July 15, also in St Louis, and broke it in Detroit three days later.

By 1921 Ruth had become a major star. Although almost anything he did made news, no one seemed to attach special significance to an event, the breaking of the all-time home run record, about which millions of words would be spoken and written when it happened again in 1974 and 2007. None of the St Louis or Detroit games sold out. Furthermore, I could find no evidence of anyone advocating that Judge Landis follow Ruth through the Midwest to bear witness to the ongoing pursuit of the record, or anyone excoriating 64-year-old Roger Connor, who was living in Connecticut, for not boarding a train to the Mound City so he could pay his way into Sportsman’s Park.

The aspect of the Ruth story that appears to have been uppermost in the minds of baseball fans and writers in July 1921 was that the Yankees, who had never won an American league pennant, were battling incumbent champion Cleveland for first place, and Ruth was their sparkplug. It was a battle the Yankees, powered by Ruth’s heroics, would ultimately win.

It is important to keep in mind that although the Babe wasn’t juiced that year or any year in the Barry Bonds sense, the ball was. Baseball owners denied it then and have never officially acknowledged it, but in 1920 they had mandated the use of a significantly livelier ball in the belief that increased offense would revive interest in a sport polluted by the recent Black Sox game-fixing scandal. As the dynamic of the game began to shift from strategy and speed to raw power, the strong and charismatic Babe Ruth was the player best positioned to lead the game into the new era.

Flash forward to the mid-1990s. Club owners, trying to cope with another tidal wave of fan disgust following the strike-shortened seasons of 1994 and 1995, sought again to rekindle interest by inflating the offense. Although circumstantial evidence suggests that a still livelier ball was introduced, a charge baseball denies as it always has, the men who ran the game discovered they no longer needed to resort to measures this desperate in order to manipulate scoring totals. The players would do that for them. The ballplaying fraternity had learned of modern witch doctors whose potions would, if ingested in carefully calibrated dosages, enhance performance. All the panjandrums of baseball and their allies in the media had to do was sit back, ignore the ethics of doping, and apply gentle-but-firm squeezes to the plenteous teats of their bigger and better cash cow.

But while there was plenty of new milk, not everyone liked the taste. Strictly speaking, ballplayers’ use of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone wasn’t cheating because it wasn’t against the rules. But a portion of the public regarded it as cheating, and by the turn of the century they had begun to grumble about the increased domination of the game by grotesquely swollen behemoths capable of propelling a ball over a distant fence with a checked swing.

That baseball fans might be enjoying the game less didn’t concern ownership as long as they kept buying tickets and tuning into television broadcasts. After all, football and wrestling fans didn’t call it cheating when their idols bulked up with steroids. And why stop there? Enduring culture hero Popeye used a performance-enhancing substance, and everybody liked Popeye, didn’t they?

(Eric Lisann comments: Although steroids, HGH, and the like were not always specifically proscribed in baseball's rules, their possession and sale, as well as their use, has always been a criminal offense. The same was true with respect to the use of amphetamines in the 60s and 70s. Shouldn't the repeated commission of a criminal offense by a player in an attempt to increase his competitive abilities have warranted a more vigorous sanction and legitimate response from a game touting itself as the “national pastime?”)

This brings us to the pumpkin-headed avatar of 21st century baseball, Barry Bonds. Bonds is correctly described as “controversial” because public opinion is divided about him: many fans like him and many fans don’t. (Hank Aaron was never described as controversial.) The anti-Bonds crowd objects to him because they believe he cheats, i.e. he owes his success, and specifically those feats that no player has ever performed before, to the unfair advantages that performance-enhancing drugs provide.

Pollsters have noted that levels of support for Bonds appear to be fractured along racial lines, with African-American fans much more likely to approve of Bonds’ quest to overturn Aaron’s record than fans of other races. This phenomenon baffles white people, who can’t help noticing that Aaron is as black as Bonds. While I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of these findings, I have noticed that there also exists a striking age differential. The older you are, the less likely you are to root for Barry Bonds.

At age 43, Bonds has settled comfortably into middle age. So what is it about his public image that appeals so strongly to the young? Why do they hail him as a hero?

Barry (who has attained so high a place on the peak of celebrity that just one name is sufficient to identify him):

1. has no visible parents telling him what to do.
2. has a lot of money and displays it ostentatiously.
3. wears what is still a fashionable hairstyle.
4. displays the bulging muscles of a typical video game character.
5. encases himself in body armor like video game characters do.
6. has a narcissistic personality distinguished by churlishness and a disrespect for others; in the parlance of youth, he has “attitude.”
7. does not acknowledge the authority of, and is therefore disliked by, baseball commissioner Bud Selig, the apotheosis of the disapproving but hopelessly out-of-touch and impotent naysayer.
8. entertains us in the here and now, unlike Hank Aaron, an identityless name from a distant and rejected past.

For much of today’s generation, using steroids and/or HGH to gain an advantage is not cheating. Or, if it is cheating, it doesn’t trump the many pluses of being Barry Bonds.

A recent poll of active players revealed that in overwhelming numbers they would, if given the opportunity, honor retired steroid king Mark McGwire by voting him into the Hall of Fame. I don’t doubt that the majority of today’s players would love to trade places with Barry Bonds.

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BEING THERE FOR BARRY

At the end of a crowded media session in San Francisco just prior to the All-Star Game, Barry Bonds grinned and muttered, “They all say I’m the most disgusting thing, but they all stand here for me.” Bonds was half right. The media all stood there for him, but not all of them were inclined to pity or censure him. While opinion about Bonds was mixed, I’d describe the overall tone of the home-run-chase media coverage as “gleeful.” Whether they came to celebrate his virtue or his wickedness, what they catered was a true love feast.

One of the celebrants, the Bonds apologist who writes under the pseudonym Dan Le Batard, called the Giant slugger “as fascinating and persecuted a sports figure as we’ve had in the modern age.” Just as a paranoid person doesn’t necessarily have real enemies, a person harboring a persecution complex is not necessarily one who is actually being persecuted. Exactly what persecution has Barry Bonds suffered? In my eyes, being criticized is not the same thing as being persecuted.

The media was solely responsible for creating the “Be There For Barry” movement, the idea that both Commissioner Bud Selig and soon-to-be-former home run king Hank Aaron must validate Bonds’ accomplishment by following the Giants around the country in a protracted ceremony of coronation. The more zealous pundits, beating this drum every day, seemed to be expecting no less than the spectacle of Selig and Aaron bestowing, in public, the osculum infame, the ritual kiss under the tail that symbolizes obeisance to the devil.

Selig, predictably, inflamed the issue by equivocating. This may have been theater. For the enigmatic Selig, dithering about his intentions may have been either a public relations blunder or a strategic masterstroke aimed at stimulating more publicity for baseball. I don’t believe Selig is a stupid man, and I often suspect he has deliberately created his public persona as a lightning rod for fan discontent.

Aaron, while forthright in his refusal to participate, also found himself castigated in some quarters. One national columnist, Todd Boyd, opined that Aaron’s unwillingness to become part of Bonds’ entourage was tantamount to a hate crime.

In sharp contrast to the forgotten epoch when Ruth set his record, in 2007 San Francisco Giants games were carefully purged of any and all competitive elements. They became nonstories with nobody seeming to notice or care who won or lost. Following the last out, game narratives were abbreviated to make room for paragraphs speculating about the possible monetary value of the record-setting home run ball.

In these games the participants (Bonds’ teammates and opponents) were reduced to props in events that had ceased to be athletic contests and became elaborate stage plays. Games with Bonds in the lineup were exhibition games, theater, bat-and-ball entertainment, about as genuine as a home run derby. I actually heard Tony Bruno, a national radio commentator, suggest with tongue not in cheek that the “format” of these games be changed to scrap the traditional batting order so that Bonds might bat four consecutive times at the beginning of the game, with courtesy runners employed whenever he failed to hit a home run or make an out.

After a losing effort on July 19, San Francisco pitcher Matt Morris, a 2007 newcomer who still seemed disinclined to get with the Giants’ program, remarked, “I don't know what the goal is here. To win games?” A week later management sent Morris a message: no raining on our parade. They handed him a one-way ticket to Pittsburgh, baseball’s boneyard.

It wasn’t lost on ownership that these pseudo-games sold out, and they attracted high television ratings. Whether fans regarded Bonds as hero or hobgoblin didn’t matter. What mattered was they wanted to watch Bonds perform. And if a squirming, scowling Bud Selig provided the illusion of more drama, that made the show better, so that’s the role he would play.

After Barry Bonds’ career ends, we will remember him not as a friendly, fun-loving athlete who reached out to fans like Babe Ruth, or as a dignified athlete and positive role model like Hank Aaron, but as an athlete who, aided and abetted by management, sought to maximize his entertainment value by playing a “bad guy” in the tradition of a Ty Cobb, Joe Medwick, Reggie Jackson, and Albert Belle. We may well mark the Barry Bonds era of the early twenty-first century as a turning point in the history of baseball if the game evolves, as it appears it may, into a spectacle possessing sporting origins but devoid of legitimate competition, much like professional wrestling. For although he wears double-knits and swings a bat, bad-guy Bonds seems less inspired by Cobb, Medwick, Jackson, or Belle than by The Iron Sheik, The Undertaker, and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

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RUMINATIONS

* No team played better than .600 or worse than .400 this season. That hasn’t happened since 2000.

* In a September radio interview I heard Jake Peavy assert, “ERA, I don’t care anything about that. I want to win.” That is as simple a statement of baseball’s basic credo as you could ever hope to hear. (See Prime Start: The Concept.)

* Ryan Howard, who whiffed 199 times this year, is baseball’s new single-season strikeout king, but he won’t hold the record for long. An imminent threat to break Howard’s record (and reach the magic 200 mark) is Oakland’s Jack Cust, a breeze-batting bearcat everywhere he’s been. For Cust, who will be 29 on Opening Day, baseball is truly a non-contact sport. He entered the 2007 season with 59 strikeouts in 144 major league at-bats, on top of 1204 in 3706 minor league at-bats. After 25 games with the Portland Beavers this spring, during which he struck out 29 times in 80 at-bats, Oakland summoned him back to the majors, where he added 164 Ks in 395 at bats. He now boasts 539 big league at bats and 223 strikeouts. By the way, he runs his own baseball academy in New Jersey.

* Speaking of strikeouts, Russell Branyan will be 33 on Opening Day 2008, and I now concede that there is no longer any possibility of his winning a job as a major league regular. He began 2007 with the Padres, who released him in August. Cleveland signed him to a minor league contract, and he played one game for their Buffalo affiliate (0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts) before the Phillies bought him and almost immediately peddled him to the Cardinals. Enjoy this peripatetic player while you can, because he’s running out of teams although he can still demonstrate long ball power. Branyan hit just .197 and struck out 69 times in 163 at bats, but he produced a 104 OQ (by definition a bit better than the league average) and delivered several dramatic hits in the clutch.

* Jimmy Rollins had the greatest 500-out season in history (203 runs produced, 120 OQ, 504 outs). For the list of previous 500-out seasons, see the 2005 OQ Report .

* Full circle: the Cardinals and Phillies used 53 players (28 by the Cardinals, tying the National League record) in their epic matchup of September 18. No pitcher pitched more than 3 innings. It was spring training all over again!

* When the Indians became impatient with Josh Barfield’s impatience at the plate they called up 21-year-old Asdrubal Cabrera to play second base, and the team promptly ran away with the A.L. Central race. Cabrera, who was born in Venezuela but grew up in Puerto Rico, plays good defense and can hit some (104 OQ). Not bad for a guy named for someone whose chief distinction was being beaten and beheaded by Scipio Africanus (not Scipio Spinks) in the Second Punic War. (Does he have a brother named Anibal?)

* Did any 23-year-old pitcher look better this year than Fausto Carmona? Think the Indians would have won their division without him? The handling of Carmona exemplified the astute management that elevated this team to champion status.

* Is Jeff Keppinger the next Don Kessinger?

* An overlooked facet of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn’s game was his steadiness in the field. Gwynn played regularly (mainly in right field) for 19 seasons and never made more than 6 errors in any season. In 2326 games as outfielder he made 62 errors, which works out to 1 every 37.5 games. He won 5 Gold Gloves.

* The now-retired Craig Biggio set an offensive record in 1997 that will never be broken. What is it? Answer: Biggio played 162 games and grounded into 0 double plays.

* When in Zamboanga, stay at Yang’s Hotel.

October 2007

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