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At the letters: Holiday mail

Jeff Passan
Yahoo Sports

Among "Moneyball," Julio Franco and the 1986 New York Mets, we've got brains, brawn and beer.

Sounds like a party.

So thanks for bringing your letters. Keep 'em coming.

My comments appear in italics.

JULIO FRANCO ("Being Julio Franco," Aug. 23, 2006)

Great article on the ageless Julio Franco. After turning 50 last year, I struggle with things that were once easy for a seasoned weekend warrior. I marvel at Julio's aging grace and humility. We can all learn from him.

Bill Glebus
Dallas


OK, are we to believe that Julio has found the fountain of youth at an age (48) when most men (short of Barry Bonds) start to turn to putty, and the key is eating 20 egg whites and drinking homemade V8 juice every day? C'mon, it's this type of journalistic naivete that led us to believe that Bonds was bulking up naturally. Steroids are readily available, especially in Mexico, and Julio has found them, which is why he is able to continue on, though I don't know why he hasn't faced the inevitable physical breakdown that occurs after years of use. Perhaps because he doesn't play every day. But given your obvious inattention to the unfortunate chemically altered sports world around us, I would call the combination of you and Franco as "Julio and Damn Fool-eo."

Bob Warja
Tinley Park, Ill.

Damn Fool-eo's response:

I will not indict anyone without evidence. Thus, without a positive test or any kind of knowledge beyond speculative, how can you just assume? Anyway, I've seen athletes with natural bodies in far greater shape than Julio Franco.

I hate the whole innocent-until-proven-guilty excuse people break out for players like Barry Bonds who have been inextricably tied to steroids. But to go in and automatically assume someone uses them borders on the same kind of recklessness, maybe even worse.

Now, there are certainly all kinds of coincidences. Franco was on the Texas Rangers when Jose Canseco was feeding steroids like a disease into the clubhouse. Franco spent time in Mexico, too, where they are far more readily available. And very easily he could use human growth hormone – any anti-aging doctor would subscribe it – and get away with it, since there's no test.

Andy Van Slyke, now a coach with the Detroit Tigers, last year accused Franco in spring training of juicing.

"He's right," Franco told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I'm on the juice of Jesus."


You finished your article on Julio Franco this way: "My palms are turned upward. My shoulders are shrugging. I don't know. And I don't want to, either." Julio is a baseball player, mentor, preacher and home to more peace that most men will ever know. You treated his physical and spiritual disciplines with a combination of sophomoric and childish quips that were painfully ignorant. You approached him like a writer who perceives people as nothing more than disposable material for your own projects and deadlines. You discarded his experience and wisdom in a careless and drunken manner. You also exposed your own carelessness and lack of motivation to find any real meaning in this life. You have never sounded more lost and clueless. I genuinely hope that you will reflect on the lessons that Julio tried to teach you. Your own cleverness and wit are far more finite than what he had to offer. And, just in case you think I sound like a bitter elder who lost control of his own kids, I'm a lot younger than Julio and my oldest is only 15 months old. If I were you, I'd talk to Julio again, whether or not you ever write about it.

Bob Cooley

If you talked with Julio, Bob, he'd probably tell you to chill.


MONEYBALL ("Rethinking Moneyball," Aug. 17, 2006)

Good "Moneyball" column. One thing that gets lost in this debate when evaluating the success of the Oakland Athletics' draft is the fact that a number of those players were taken in large part due to signability. They didn't have the budget to sign seven players for the money players in those spots normally get. To be budget conscious, and do as well as they did, is more remarkable.

Grant Driedger


I enjoyed your article on "Moneyball," especially the comparison table of stats on the seven players. One thing that is missing, though. I would be interested in seeing a table of stats on players that Oakland passed up in favor of the seven.

Dave Carpenter
Ogden, Utah

Looking back, the 2002 draft was pretty good. Prince Fielder, Jeff Francis, Khalil Greene, Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher, Cole Hamels, Jeff Francoeur, Joe Blanton, Matt Cain and Mark Teahen have all established themselves in the big leagues, and B.J. Upton, Adam Loewen, Zack Greinke, Jeremy Hermida and Joe Saunders are on their way.

Right after the A's picked Swisher, the Philadelphia Phillies took Hamels, a high school pitcher. Right after the A's picked Blanton, the San Francisco Giants took Cain, also a high school pitcher.

Oakland's proclivity toward college players prevented it from landing pitchers Jon Lester and Jonathan Broxton and catcher Brian McCann, who went in the second round, as well as the Florida Marlins' Josh Johnson (currently No. 2 in the majors in ERA), who went in the fourth.

The A's did select 12 high schoolers, including one named Trevor Crowe with the 608th overall pick. Crowe went to college and is now among the Cleveland Indians' top prospects.

And then there was the 1,208th pick, in the 40th round, a kid out of Mississippi State who wanted to go back to school. His name was Jonathan Papelbon, and the A's couldn't sign him.


'86 METS ("The wild bunch returns," Aug. 18, 2006)

Was there ever a film or documentary about the '86 Mets? If so where is it available?

Jing
San Francisco

Yes, it's called "Dazed and Confused."


Why are the '86 Mets celebrated? Sure, they won 106 games and the World Series, but, as your article even states, they were and are a very dysfunctional lot at best. Drinking, drugs, adultery, gambling, insubordination to name just a few. This is celebrated? If they worked in the real world, they would've been fired no matter how well they did their job. Why celebrate these guys at all? How about an organization like the Atlanta Braves? How much trouble have any of their players got in over their 15-year run? That is an organization of class, respect and professionalism. That is certainly the one I would have my kids look at.

Chris W.
Kennesaw, Ga.

Perhaps if the Braves drank a little more they'd have won more than one World Series after 14 straight playoff appearances.


I know this is TMI, but I was 16 and at my girlfriend's house during Game 6 and was, uh, unavailable for the end of the game. What an awful, awful feeling I had the next day.

Walter Rudisill
Philadelphia

All these years Boston Red Sox fans were saying they got screwed during Game 6, and you actually meant it.


FANTASY-LAND ("When fantasy meets reality," Aug. 25, 2006)

I was one of the 12 finalists in that fantasy league last year. The 12 of us have stayed in touch and have a rematch league going this year (which, of course, Anthony is winning again). Thanks to Yahoo! Sports and the Giants, I have made 11 friends for life. You did a great job summing up the experience that the 12 of us dreamed about winning. I'm not sure my wife would have let me take the job, but it sure seems that Anthony was the perfect fit for the internship. When you are 12 out of 23,000 to make the league, that is enough of an honor within itself.

Brad Taylor
Somersworth, N.H.


THE YANKEES ("Abreu leaps into the fire," Aug. 9, 2006 and "Yanks' big question mark," Aug. 10, 2006)

Oh, brother.

The New York Yankees rifle the cash register yet again for another player to add to a ridiculously bloated payroll, and another sportswriter can't wait to wipe the Pavlovian drool off his keyboard to laud the move.

Here's my question, Mr. Passan: Will anyone ever write an article addressing the absolute mind-numbing and fan-alienating excess that the Yankees engage in?

This isn't a competitive sport anymore. It's turned into nausea avoidance for those of us who really used to like the game.

All you can hope for every season is for the Yankees to slip on a banana peel and the rest of the league to be left to compete among themselves.

Gosh, that'll get me out to the ol' ballgame.

George Young
San Francisco

If you think it's bad now, just wait until the new Yankee Stadium opens.

Frankly, I think the current system works. The Yankees haven't won a World Series in five years despite payrolls that exceeded $200 million. They may corner some of the best talent – the trade for Bobby Abreu was theirs and theirs only, because they could afford him, and that, I agree, skews unfair – but talent generally doesn't determine the champion. You can't say the '96 Yankees were baseball's most talented team. They just played best in October.

While they were the highest-paid, it wasn't by much: The Yankees' payroll was $52.1 million. Baltimore was next at $48.7 million.

So, instead of allowing your mind to be numbed and yourself to be alienated, why don't you instead pick a team that does it right – the Minnesota Twins, the A's or even the Marlins if they get an owner who will spend money – and not waste so much energy on hating a team that because of its market gains innate advantages in the same way the Washington Redskins are worth $1.4 billion and the Minnesota Vikings $720 million.


I have a comment on your Randy Johnson column. The Yankees don't need him to be in top form to win the AL East. After getting swept by the worst team in baseball (Kansas City Royals), it is clear that the Red Sox are reverting back to their usual, suspect selves and imploding. The Yankees won't win the World Series (which is right up there in terms of importance as the Red Sox winning it) without Johnson in top form, but they are clearly going to win the East.

Signed, Hopeless Red Sox fan.

Brett Allred
San Diego

Just thought you'd like to know this was written Aug. 10, 2006 B.M – Before Massacre. Please, Brett, send lotto numbers next time.


ROOKIES ("Rookies drinking it in," Aug. 15, 2006)

Don't you think the 1986-1987 rookie crop deserves some consideration as the best ever? Granted, some of them made their debut sometime in the 1986 season, but that's true with the current crop also (e.g. Papelbon). Most of them were eligible for Rookie of the Year in 1987. Look at this group from 1987: Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Larkin, Will Clark, David Cone, Bo Jackson, Greg Maddux, Fred McGriff, Ruben Sierra, Doug Drabek and Matt Williams. Not too bad, and I've left out a few minor stars such as Jamie Moyer. It seems to me that about once every 10 years or so we have a significant changing of the guard in baseball. Clearly, 2006 is one of those years, just as 1987 was.

Eric Rankin
Regina, Saskatchewan

The premise was a good one. A little research bore it out though and killed Eric's point.

Official rookies in 1986: Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Barry Larkin, Will Clark, Ruben Sierra, Doug Drabek.

Official rookies in 1987: Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, David Cone, Bo Jackson, Greg Maddux, Matt Williams, Fred McGriff.

Now Maddux did pitch 31 unspectacular innings in '86 – not enough to qualify him as a rookie that season – so that's why he appears in '87. Going strictly on debuts and numbers, the Class of '86 is about as good as you'll get. Performance-enhancing drugs or not, Bonds is one of the greatest players ever. Maddux deserves the same mention among pitchers. Larkin is a guy who may actually get some Hall of Fame support. Palmeiro, who had 73 at-bats in '86, would have been a Hall of Famer until his positive steroid test. Cone won a Cy Young in 1994 and finished in the top five three other times. And McGriff played on five All-Star teams.

All in all, the debuts in 1986 were all-timers. But the rookie class? Not so much.


Ian Kinsler?

Billy Hilliard
Paris, Texas

Yes. And Nick Markakis and Adam Jones and all of the others I didn't mention. Look, I know this is the Internet and there's unlimited space and all, but did it truly offend you – as it seemed to a handful of other Texans – that a story about rookies in 2006 did not include a rookie from the Rangers?

If so … well, I'd still vote for Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Liriano and Justin Verlander before Kinsler, so tough.


I know most national writers these days have no time for paying attention to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but could you please give Ronny Paulino some love? He is hitting .315 with six home runs in his rookie season. I know he doesn't have the flair of some of these other guys and was never supposed to be this good, but please just drop his name next time when discussing the young talent this year.

Adam
Oil City, Pa.

If Paulino learns to take a walk, he could turn into an All-Star. As it stands, he is an above-average defensive catcher, sixth in throwing out attempted base stealers and pitchers' earned-run average but with 11 errors. His bat could use some more power (a .401 slugging percentage generally doesn't cut it), but he's still just 25. The Pirates hope that means he's willing to grow.


ETC.

I haven't liked you since your very first column, and when the Tigers miss the playoffs, I would like you to resign from Yahoo! Sports. Is there anyway that this will happen?

Joshua Wright
Chicago

All you had to do was say please. Too late.


I enjoy your writing. I also enjoy fighting with my brother about what you have written. I am an unrepentant Yankee fan, while my brother is a supporter of that team over in Queens (blame our Irish grandparents). Notwithstanding the logic of the Bible and Abraham Lincoln, we have come to understand that a house divided against itself can stand. It just gets a little loud in there.

Matt Mulcahy
Bedminster, N.J.

Yahoo! Sports: Proudly causing familial strife in the Mulcahy home since 2006. I like it.