At the letters: Cleaning out the inbox

Jeff Passan
Yahoo! Sports

Lots of feedback on everything from Brien Taylor to Omar Vizquel to Roger Clemens. And I make sure to read every letter that comes through the inbox. So, please, keep 'em coming.

BRIEN TAYLOR ("The arm that changed the Major League draft," June 5, 2006)

I remember when I was 12 and my brother played high school baseball against Brien Taylor. I swear he was the guy I wanted to be. Whenever we played Wiffle Ball I said I was Brien Taylor. His fastball was wicked. He commanded the diamond when he pitched. I remember seeing scouts from every team in the majors. I just wanted to say thank you. Your piece doesn't put him down for getting injured. It to me lets everyone know that he didn't just go out and blow everything, he's doing whatever he can and not looking back on the past like a lot of people do.

Jesse Newsom
Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Great story on Brien Taylor. I remember when he was drafted No. 1. I was the same age and was graduating from high school myself. Taylor's rise to the top of the baseball world was a dream that was the envy of all of us who played high school ball that year. He had the world in the palm of his left hand. I hope he's a good man and a good father.

Rob Russo
Jacksonville, Fla.

I wonder if these stories offer caution to anyone. Which next up-and-coming star is reading this? I suspect that the vast majority of the people who read your column have had to rely on other, less-glamorous talents to make a living. A torn labrum won't keep me from ever pursuing my goal of becoming a world-famous accountant. Why is this story never told: the athlete who didn't gamble everything on his/her career and made sure to have a backup plan? There probably are examples of this, but they aren't sexy (as news stories go) and they are probably few and far between.

Mario Pardo-Friedman
Albuquerque, N.M.

Just to make sure I understand completely, is all of his $1.55 million gone? Didn't Boras have him set up long-term investments of any kind?


It seems so. A lot of people asked about this, and I hinted at it in the story. Because I didn't get to ask Taylor directly, shouting out his financial situation would have been unfair. But his mother said most, if not all, of the money was gone. Scott Boras, his agent – and not, mind you, his financial adviser – said Taylor actually made closer to $3 million with endorsements.

MLB DRAFT ("Rethinking the MLB draft," June 5, 2006)

I agree that more could be done to spice up the draft's presentation, but I do not agree that this should be done. The draft, as it's currently conducted, is quite possibly the last remaining residue of baseball in its raw, wacky, stubborn and beautiful form. The monotone (robotic as you put it) voice on the conference call … leaves us nerds laughing in our computer chairs for some odd reason and restores for us all that is right about baseball. We spend months learning names like Dellin Betances and Rocky Roquet. The baseball draft is one of the last things left in sports that only the die-hards really care about. I wonder how many soccer moms in Arizona know who Justin Upton is even though they will probably be buying Upton jerseys for their grandchildren one day.

John Koenigsberg
New York, N.Y.

Perhaps, John, you could be the Mel Kiper Jr. that baseball lacks. Do you have a titanium shell of hair and paint-peeling arrogance? By the way, is anyone else tempted to start a song: "Rocky Roquet, checked out the buffet …"?

INTERLEAGUE PLAY ("Rating the rivalries," June 1, 2006)

Why in the hell aren't the Brewers and the Twins up there? Minnesota and Wisconsin are bitter rivals in every sport, and baseball is not an exception. Why don't you just take down the Packers and Vikings, too?


Fair enough, Bob, but are you sure you want them in the story if they were to have the ignominy of a one-Denise rating? Me, either.

What about Pittsburgh and Cleveland? That merits at least a little ink, doesn't it. It is such a great football rivalry – too bad it doesn't translate into a great baseball rivalry, or even a good one!

Oxford, England

I'm originally from Cleveland, and I can say with confidence that Clevelanders care about two things in Pittsburgh: the Steelers and the paralyzing odor that seems to emanate from Pittsburghers. Still can't understand why the Indians didn't play Cincinnati that first interleague weekend.

I understand interleague play is done because the fans enjoy it, but how do you feel about it?

Brianna Austin
Kershaw, S.C.

Love it. It allows fans to see a new set of players in person and it allows teams to take advantage of the unfamiliar with superior scouting. For those who complain about the inequity in balance, look at the West divisions. Last year, the AL West had a huge advantage playing the NL West. This year, the NL West is among baseball's strongest divisions and the AL West is its weakest. The point: It all evens out.

BARRY BONDS ("Bonds' tragedy of errors," May 20, 2006)

You wrote, "He took steroids." There is no factual evidence of that. You are going on what is currently hearsay, rumor and innuendo.

Oliver Brown
Santa Cruz, Calif.

Actually, I'm going on the grand-jury testimony leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle. Bonds said he used the Cream and the Clear; he allegedly thought they were something else. If he was lying to the grand jury, that is perjury, which, as the government has shown thus far, is worth an entirely separate investigation.

Doesn't our country have laws about drug use and distribution and agencies that go after violators? Why does it seem that Congress keeps telling us that it is Major League Baseball's job to catch them? Instead of threatening to scold the league (I'm sure everyone's scared of that), why don't they go after the makers and distributors of the drugs? It seems that our government is more concerned with making themselves look good than actually doing something about it.

Geoffrey Benedict

Congress has been grandstanding on the performance-enhancing drugs issue from the first minute of the Capitol Hill hearings. Yet there's a difference between the politicians and federal investigators. According to the affidavit in the Jason Grimsley case, IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky made Grimsley call his distributor. He knows Grimsley is nothing more than a tentacle; he wants the brain.

I do not agree with your comments about goals and Barry Bonds. It is not the setting of goals that is an issue, but rather how the goals are achieved. The achievement of a goal regardless of the costs is something we have always disdained as a culture. Do we praise Machiavelli? No. Do we accept Bismarck's "the end justifies the means"? No. The means are everything. The means are so important to us we made our Constitution to define our means. What we love in those who succeed is not the goal itself, but what they did to achieve the goal.

Chuck Ailsworth
Bloomfield, Mich.

For years, Barry Bonds did achieve the goals, and he did it without the aid of performance enhancers. He wasn't baseball's best player, but he was in the room. Were he to admit and apologize, the general populace would be far likelier to recognize and appreciate his talent.

I love reading your articles, but I'm just tired of hearing about steroids/hGH/Grimsley/Bonds. I think it would be cool if you and any other Yahoo! writers would give a list of the five current pitchers and five current position players you see as Hall-of-Fame worthy and why. This all stems from a conversation my stepdad and I were having about Tom Glavine, and whether or not he is an "auto in."

Los Angeles

Ye ask and ye shall receive.


Ken Griffey Jr. – If not for injuries, he'd be talked about as one of the greatest players ever. He still might be up there.

Ivan Rodriguez – Twelve-time All-Star, 11-time Gold Glove winner and has an MVP award.

Alex Rodriguez – He's only 30 and he's already in.

Derek Jeter – If he stays healthy, he's a lock for 3,000 hits. He's got four World Series rings, too.

Manny Ramirez – Perhaps the greatest run producer of his generation. He's a virtual lock every year for .300-40-125.


Roger Clemens – Was great, slacked toward the end of his time in Boston, reinvented himself and is now a marvel at 43.

Randy Johnson – And to think, he didn't really start to get it until he turned 29.

Greg Maddux – Was untouchable from 1992-98.

Pedro Martinez – Was untouchable from 1997-2003 – and has been pretty close this year.

Mariano Rivera – Gets most of his love for the postseason, but he's a top-three Cy Young finisher four times.

Sixth on that list? Tom Glavine, who is absolutely a shoo-in.

OMAR VIZQUEL ("Vizquel an artist at work," May 24, 2006)

Thank you for lighting the torch that others will have to carry to get Omar Vizquel into the Hall of Fame. This Giants fan, who roots from the opposite coast, has long appreciated Omar's style and grace, and I'm happy that he's now yin to Barry Bonds' yang.

Barry Fitzsimmons
Darien, Conn.

Seeing that you are backing Omar Vizquel for the Hall of Fame, what about Barry Larkin? Often overlooked having played a decent chunk of his career while Ozzie Smith was still wowing people, Larkin has a career .295 average, 379 stolen bases, a World Series ring, an MVP award, a decent glove and was, I believe, the first shortstop in MLB history with a 30-30 season.

Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Larkin should receive serious consideration. At least, according to the numbers below, which say Vizquel shouldn't.

Here are some numbers for shortstops who are either already in the Hall of Fame or are retired and still eligible via the BBWAA vote (plus Vizquel):

WS – Win Shares
BFW – Batter-Fielder Wins
WARP3 – Wins Above Replacement Player version 3





Honus Wagner




Cal Ripken Jr.




Robin Yount




John Ward




George Davis




Luke Appling




Arky Vaughan




Barry Larkin




Bobby Wallace




Joe Cronin




Ernie Banks




Ozzie Smith




Alan Trammell




Pee Wee Reese




Rabbit Maranville




Luis Aparicio




Lou Boudreau




Joe Sewell




Davey Concepcion




Dave Bancroft




Joe Tinker




Phil Rizzuto




Omar Vizquel




Hughie Jennings




Travis Jackson




And here are some numbers for shortstops who have to wait for the Veterans Committee (plus Vizquel):

Committee (plus Vizquel):





Bill Dahlen




Tony Fernandez




Bert Campaneris




Omar Vizquel




Since Ripken is a lock and Larkin is nearly so, those two will raise the bar for future shortstops. Trammell, clearly better than Vizquel no matter which metric you prefer, will almost certainly not be elected by the writers and would then jump to the top of the list of eligible modern-day shortstops for the Veterans Committee to consider.

I'd say Vizquel's chances are about as good as mine.

J.P. Caillault
Winterville, Ga.

Ah, yes, the sabermetrician's retort. Knew this was coming the second I wrote Vizquel and Hall of Fame in the same sentence.

I would like to consider myself a fairly saber-friendly writer. Numbers have an important place in the interpretation and analysis of the game. That said, I feel bad for anyone who considers them as the be-all, end-all. Baseball is great because what it evokes that can't be put to paper, and anybody who watched Vizquel on a regular basis in his prime – and still to this day – felt they were watching a transcendent player.

What numbers don't take into account is style, and if I'm foolish for doing so, oh, well. Even though Vizquel's numbers improved as he aged – thrusting him into Hall of Fame consideration – they don't match up to some of his shortstop peers, past and present. Will his sacrifice bunt numbers get him into the Hall of Fame? Of course not. It was merely a point of comparison with Smith, though the fine folks at Fire Joe Morgan – a very funny site – seemed to miss that point.

Like J.P., FJM seems to link Hall of Fame worthiness solely with quantifiable value, which is their prerogative. I prefer to use a mixture of what I read (on stat sheets) and what I see (on the field), and Vizquel, to me, passes that litmus test.

How ugly do you see future interactions between the media and Kansas City Royals' ownership after the two radio reporters had their credentials jerked?

Parsons, Kan.

For those who didn't see, Kansas City took away two reporters' credentials following the press conference introducing new General Manager Dayton Moore. The reporters kept hammering owner David Glass about myriad subjects, including his use of revenue-sharing money and his let-him-dangle firing of former GM Allard Baird.

Having worked in Kansas City, I know Rhonda Moss, one of the reporters who had her credentials yanked, pretty well. Rhonda enjoys stirring things up. She asks questions with a distinct – and sometimes confrontational – attitude.

Which makes me wonder: Have reporters soft-pedaled Wal-Mart that much? Because between child-labor and eroding-of-small-town-America issues, you'd figure Glass has faced tougher questions than ones about his driving a baseball team into the toilet. To yank the credentials of a team that gets more attention than it deserves was pure bush league. I'd suggest some kind of a boycott, but, well, the Royals already have one on their hands. Their average attendance is 17,580 – less than half the capacity of Kauffman Stadium.

ROGER CLEMENS ("What planet is Rocket on?," May 31, 2006)

You mention in your column that there are 15 teams that have a better record than Houston. How many teams had a better record than Houston last year during the first half of the season? I'm not an Astro fan, but will you admit you were wrong about his decision if this team turns around in the second half and makes the playoffs?

Irvine, Calif.

I think you might end up eating crow come October because of your Roger Clemens article. Have you forgotten the last two years when Houston came out of nowhere to make it to the playoffs, including last year's World Series? Have you forgotten that Houston had a great April this year and they've recently fallen on hard times, mostly because of their starting pitching?

Ed Joyce
Beijing, China

For all of the Astros fans who e-mailed, please remember I picked them to win the division this year, so their slide – much like the Braves' – has been a painful reminder. Look, last year was last year and this year is this year. The run Houston made last year was unprecedented, and according to Baseball Prospectus' playoff odds report, the Astros currently have an 8.15 percent chance of making the postseason.

You are so jealous of Roger Clemens and his money.

Jim Colyer
Nashville, Tenn.

Nah. What I really want is frosted tips when I'm 43.

OVERPAID/UNDERPAID PLAYERS ("Bargains and busts," June 1, 2006)

They say that the most painful thing about Fenway Park are the tiny seats. I think the most painful thing is finding out that your ticket is lined up with a Matt Clement start. Twenty-seven mil over three years? I think you have an addition to make to the overpaid list!

Nashua, N.H.

He was on there originally, but I gave Clement the benefit of the doubt because of the mysterious biceps injury he can't seem to shake.

Did you forget Carlos Beltran at $17 million?

Dan Plofsky

What, for the underpaid list? First off, Beltran makes about $13.5 million this season; his contract averages $17 million a year. More important, he's fifth in baseball with a .631 slugging percentage, gets on base more than 40 percent of the time and could post a 40-homer, 30-stolen base season.

For all-underpaid, I nominate David Wright. Of course, it would be better if he could throw straight at third base, but he is having another great season, and what does he make, MLB minimum?

Steven Poser
Upper Saddle River, N.J.

He makes $374,000. And his numbers (.336-11-44-.406-.564) and Miguel Cabrera's (.339-9-43-.430-.567) are practically identical. It's a toss-up.

How can Takashi Saito and Todd Coffey possibly be bigger relief pitcher bargains than the Baltimore Orioles' Chris Ray?

Reston, Va.

Ray has given up runs in six of his last 10 outings. Saito and Coffey have better numbers, though Ray, at $335,000, is still a bargain.

How do you leave off Kazuo Matsui making $8 million a year?

Kearny, N.J.

Sometimes I swing and miss. This was one of those times. Matsui absolutely deserved to be the second baseman on the overpaid list. Mea culpa.

Good overpaid list, but I was a bit underwhelmed by your underpaid. Many of those guys are young and not yet eligible for arbitration. Sure, they're not making a lot of money, but that's only due to a technicality. Their pay days are on the way. I'm more curious to see a list that follows the Nomar model: free agent signings that are outperforming their contracts.

Zach Goodman
Warren, N.J.

Frankly, Zach, I'm not sure there are too many bargains following the Nomar model. The market has more of a tendency to overpay than allow for good deals. What I wanted to highlight was who had performed well commensurate to their salary. And for those who chimed in that no baseball player is underpaid, I understand. Just consider the context.

What are the salaries for sportswriters this year?

Billy Vaughan

Let's just say we fall in the underpaid category.

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