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Fool of it

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Happy April Fools' Day! i did think about trying to come up with something appropriately hoaxish, but couldn't come with anything that was plausible enough to merit consideration (that ruled out the 'RUSS ORTIZ SIGNS WITH AZ' headline), yet extreme enough to be a good joke: 4 Corners Fan outdid me, in the comments on yesterday's piece. I like the one KTAR pulled this morning, claiming that to help the state meet its budget, tolls were immediately being imposed on valley freeways. "On the Loop 101, drivers will pay $1.01. On the Loop 202, it's $2.02. On State Route 51, it's a real bargain at 51-cents," with exact change required at the on-ramps, where toll-collectors would be stationed. Amazingly, some people swallowed it whole.

There have been some good baseball hoaxes in the past - even the creation myth of the sport itself, which did not involve Abner Doubleday. The best one was in the April 1985 edition of Sports Illustrated, where George Plimpton wrote about incredible rookie baseball player Sidd Finch, who was training with the Mets in Florida, and could pitch at 168 mph with pinpoint accuracy. The sub-heading of the article read: "He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd’s deciding about yoga —and his future in baseball." Take the first letter of each word to find Plimpton's secret message; the full piece can be found here. Amusingly, the teacher who 'played' Finch in the photos for the article still gets recognized as him.

In a similar vein, last April, GQ magazine ran a story on Jake Floyd, the 13-year old GM of the Ash Fork Miners, who play in the Desert Cactus Independent League here in Arizona. I particularly liked the way the writer even fabricated some new-fangled fielding metrics - ISH and OSH for infield and outfield stolen hits - and also gave Floyd a 9-year old intern, who has a shrine to Bill James in his bedroom. It's as much a sardonic comment on the ever-younger wave of general managers in the major-leagues; it was a dark day when I discovered that our GM, Josh Byrnes, at 37, is four years younger than I am. :-( Cross that potential ambition off the list...

Finally, one that no-one seems to know whether it's a hoax or not. Robert Edward Auctions found this artifact in the estate of baseball historian Al Kermisch. To quote another historian of the sport, John Thorn, "Apart from the schoolboy delight in reading this, it is a significant testament to the atmosphere in the single-league era, when professional baseball was losing ground to college football for many reasons, including the atmosphere at the park."

The 1898 document pictured above, entitled "Special Instructions To Players," regarding the use of obscene language by players at the ballpark, to intimidate umpires and opposing players, and to verbally battle with unfriendly fans. Reading this document started out very drab for a sentence or two, but then quickly got our attention as the language used became very unexpected for an official Major League baseball document, let alone one devoted to demanding players not use "any indecent or obscene word, sentence, or expression." It turned "blue," and, well, got "bluer."

Scans of the document can be seen at the link above, though it had perhaps best be viewed with some caution. Maiden aunts should likely stay clear, but fans of Deadwood will likely feel right at home. There are a few phrases in there which I feel deserve to be brought back into popular usage, adding a welcome blast of variety to the usual F-bombs.

Team Marketing will be releasing their annual Fan Cost Survey tomorrow, but have already given the highlights. It starts, "Baseball has never been more popular, or more expensive to watch. On the heels of another record-setting season, the average ticket price has gone up to $25.40, a 10.9 percent increase from last season. Team Marketing Report’s 2008 Major League Baseball Fan Cost Index jumped 8.3 percent to $191.75 this season. Both increases are the highest for MLB since 2001."

Looking into the specifics, there are some jawdropping numbers there: the Red Sox average ticket-price is $48.80 - that's more than three times the cost of the least expensive ticket, $15.96 for...hey whaddya know, it belongs to the Arizona Diamondbacks again. Expect a rant from diamondhacks on how this independent survey is wildly inaccurate, not independent and how the researchers must have been bought off by Jeff Moorad, in 3...2...1... Alternatively, since that's basically what we got last year, there may instead be a piece on how our caps, at $22, are the most expensive in the majors, and how this proves Ken Kendrick is Satan incarnate. :-) Actually, sympathy is due to 'hacks; the MLBlogs network went through an update of its own lately and...let's just say it doesn't seem to have been as well thought-out as ours. However, going by the logo on his page, he's now an Angels fan?

Good piece in the Republic on Lyon closing. Looks like, if nothing else, he will peeve a lot fewer opposing fans:

I'm going to downplay this as much as I can all year. It's the same for me when I go out there to pitch any inning. I'm not going to change what I do. It's just a different inning than what I've been pitching the last couple of years... I try not to think about all the hoopla and the ninth inning. It's just a save situation. Just go out there and try to throw quality strikes and make pitches. Most of the time if you do that you're going to be successful.

Speaking on behalf of my gastro-intestinal tract, I welcome this. I think we had our fill of drama last season. It was a very promising first outing for Lyon, but I suspect we won't know for sure until he's blown his first save - how he responds to that, will be the true test of his mettle. If he does the same as he did last season, we will be fine - he came into 39 games in 'save situations' [AZ leading by three runs or less] and only blew three of them.

A couple of final notes on yesterday's game. According to HitTrackerOnline.com, Byrnes and Young's homers were the two longest balls hit in the majors so far, in terms of actual distance, at 458 and 443 ft respectively. I was surprised that Eric's went further than Chris's upper-deck shot, but just one of our CF's 32 blasts in 2007 was bigger - the one off David Wells on 09/22, at 479 feet. Byrnes' best was a May 8th, 470-foot shot, against Adam Eaton. Both came at Chase, as did nine of the ten longest homers hit by Diamondbacks all year. Only one road homer passed Byrnes' Opening Day distance; a 467-footer by Mark Reynolds off Lance Cormier at Turner Field, on 08/17.

Jeff Salazar's homer wasn't as far, and was only the third of his career - however, all come as a pinch-hitter, in only 18 PA's. He's now a remarkable 7-for-16 with three HR off the bench. "I don't know if I want to continue that trend or not," he said. "Probably the biggest thing that I learned was to try to anticipate situations... If you can be ready before he [Kirk Gibson] tells you to be ready, I think it makes it easier. You don't hit a panic mode... It's still not easy. I'm still accustomed to being an everyday guy." If you keep delivering like you did yesterday, Jeff, we will soon be saying "Tony who?", in addition to "Jose who?"