March 2009

Managing the Future Angels

Tom Kotchman
Tom Kotchman leads the Angels organization in career minor league winning percentage and games managed.


I mentioned on Saturday that I’m working on the Database to add team and manager statistics for every year in the history of the Angels’ minor leagues, which began in 1961.

I just finished inputting the data, so I can begin running queries. Eventually you’ll be able to do this yourself, but I wanted to give you a couple of fun numbers.

Here’s the first query … Who were the most successful Angels minor league managers?

The specific query was, give me the career win-loss percentages for all minor league managers who managed at least 500 games in our system.

Here are the Top 10, with career win-loss and winning percentage:

  1. Tom Kotchman 1,340-1,010 (.570)
  2. Del Rice 306-252 (.548)
  3. Jimy Williams 371-316 (.540)
  4. Harry Dunlop 282-243 (.537)
  5. Rocky Bridges 295-266 (.526)
  6. Moose Stubing 723-662 (.522)
  7. Garry Templeton 294-272 (.519)
  8. Max Oliveras 500-467 (.517)
  9. Chuck Tanner 561-537 (.511)
  10. Don Long 698-697 (.500)

Some of you may recall that Tom Kotchman notched his 1,500th career win in 2008. He managed in the Tigers and Red Sox systems before joining the Angels in 1984.

Here are the Top 10 in total games managed:

  1. Tom Kotchman 2,350
  2. Don Long 1,395
  3. Moose Stubing 1,385
  4. Mitch Seoane 1,381*
  5. Mario Mendoza 1,241
  6. Bill Lachemann 1,134
  7. Chuck Tanner 1,098
  8. Max Oliveras 967
  9. Ty Boykin 944*
  10. Bobby Magallanes 698

* The career totals for Mitch Seoane and Ty Boykin are overstated. Seoane was fired on May 5, 2000 as manager of the Cedar Rapids Kernels and replaced by Boykin, who was the hitting coach. I don’t have the season split (yet) for each, so all I was able to do was credit both with the Kernels’ 2000 win-loss record. This problem occurred with a few other season records; my source is the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball by Baseball America, which for each team simply shows their win-loss record for a year along with all its managers for that season. I’ve already been told these listings may be inaccurate, so I have more research to do. But it’s a start.

These lists really show just how incredible a career Tom Kotchman has had, leading the organization in both total games managed and winning percentage.

Also of note are all the people who went on to big-league managing careers. Chuck Tanner is probably best known for his run with the Pittsburgh Pirates; his major-league career win-loss record is 1,352-1,381 (.495). Jimy Williams managed three clubs, and has a career record of 910-790 (.535). Del Rice was an original Angel in 1961, and managed the team in 1972.

I’m hoping to give you the ability to generate lists showing things like winning percentage by city, by level, stuff like that.

This ‘N That

Meanwhile, back in the world beyond Odd Man Out

My wife and I are headed to Florida next week to look at properties. Regular readers know we have plans to move to what’s called the Space Coast — Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island and other nearby towns.

Yes, the real estate market sucks like the sphincter of a black hole, but it’s also an opportunity to buy if you have the cash. For those of you who live in Southern California, Florida property prices are roughly one-third of what they are here.

If you’re interested, Click Here to search a Space Coast realtor’s web site. In the MLS Number field, enter these numbers separated by a comma, then click the Search button:

526176, 470878, 510668, 519450, 518200

The condos are in Cape Canaveral across the street from the Disney and Carnival Cruise lines based in Port Canaveral. The houses are on north Merritt Island, a couple miles south of the Kennedy Space Center south gate.

Merritt Island is also home to the largest wildlife refuge in the continental U.S. 

There’s baseball in the area. The Washington Nationals have their spring training in Melbourne, about 20 miles southwest of Cape Canaveral. I doubt I’ll have the time to get down there — when you’ve seen one spring training, you’ve seen them all — but I am planning to drive up to Daytona Beach to watch a college game.

If you’re a regular reader, you know I’ve been researching the Statesville Owls, one of two Angels minor league teams in their inaugural 1961 season. Bobby Lucas, an infielder for Statesville that year, is now the head coach at Florida A & M University. They’ll be in Daytona playing Bethune-Cookman University. So I hope to see Bobby and get some photos of him for his former teammates.

I also hope to stop by the old Cocoa Stadium in the City of Cocoa. (Cocoa and Cocoa Beach are two different towns.) Now known as the Cocoa Expo Sports Center, it’s used largely for amateur events. Cocoa Stadium was the spring training home for the Houston Astros from 1963 through 1984. Jack Hiatt, another Statesville alumnus, played there late in his career and has tales about the players jogging in uniform around the city streets. Cocoa Stadium was revived for pro ball in the spring of 1993, when the Florida Marlins used it as their spring training home their first year before moving into Space Coast Stadium (where the Nationals are now).

I’ve been asked by several people what happens to when I move. I intend to keep it going. I’ll be closer to Cedar Rapids and Arkansas, and Delta flies non-stop from Orlando to Salt Lake City so I can still visit Orem without much effort. As with everything, it will depend on finances. I’m sure I’ll be helping out the Brevard County Manatees (Brewers affiliate) with photography, and the Daytona Cubs are 75 miles to the north. So I won’t be at Rancho much, nor will I be going to the minor league complex in Tempe more than once a year, but otherwise it should be status quo.

Meanwhile, I’m resuming a project that’s been on hiatus for about a year. I started building the Database, which when finished will be the ultimate resource for statistical data on the history of the Angels minor leagues. Priorities elsewhere have kept me from working on it, but looking at my web site’s stats I know it’s always among the top pages receiving hits from visitors.

I’m working on collating the win-loss records for every Angels minor league team since inception in 1961. When it’s done, you’ll be able to see results from every year — how many minor league teams the Angels had, where they were located, what were their win-loss records, who were the managers, etc. Eventually there will be search features you can use to ask questions such as, “What is the all-time Cedar Rapids win-loss record while an Angels affiliate?”

I’d hoped to have managers’ career win-loss records, but the problem for now is that in some years the resource I’m using — the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball by Baseball America — lists multiple managers for a team. I’ve spoken with Roland Hemond, who was the farm director back in the 1960s, and he says some of these listings may be inaccurate. I should be able to produce career win-loss records for managers like Tom Kotchman, where there are no multiple managers listed for a team, but I’ll have to dig further on the rest.

The Database is also intended to polish my programming skills, specifically how ASP.NET interacts with SQL Server. If that sounds like Klingon to you, well, don’t worry about it. But my morning assignment is to explore the wonders of two-way databinding. Which does sound very Klingon.

Oh, I noticed that the Angels are on TV today against the Chicago Cubs at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa at 1 PM PDT. The Angels’ business people still can’t their act together to televise games, so for now we have to rely on WGN, the superstation out of Chicago. Check your cable listings.

And if you’re looking for a condo in Irvine, I have a quite nice place with plenty of upgrades near a top-notch school for $575,000 … Cash me out and I’m on a one-way trip to Florida.

“Odd Man Out”: Huffington Post Drops the Ball

Blogger Jon Greenberg has posted a review of Odd Man Out on the Huffington Post. Click Here to read Mr. Greenberg’s review.

Greenberg chooses to defend Matt McCarthy, downplaying the inaccuracies as “sloppy,” “mundane” and “trivial.”

He’s entitled to his opinion, although the overwhelming evidence suggested by those (such as me) who have done their homework is that the word “fabricated” better describes several passages.

Greenberg appears to be guilty of his own sloppiness. He writes:

The anger and accusations have come from several fronts. A relentless Angels blogger engrossed with the team’s minor league system has hammered the book for a month, admittedly before he even read it.

Apparently I’m the “relentless” blogger in question. But Greenberg is flat wrong when he says that “admittedly” I have not read it.

Those of you who are readers know that I received an advanced copy in January and posted a review on January 30. That was more than two weeks before the Sports Illustrated issue hit the magazine racks with the Odd Man Out excerpt, and more than three weeks before the book itself went on the bookshelves.

In fact, to my knowledge, the only review to appear in print before mine was the Orange County Register review by Sam Miller on January 29.

I’ll also note that in mid-January McCarthy’s publisher promised me an interview with Matt, but asked to postpone it until the week before the book’s release in late February. After I posted my review on January 30, I never heard from the publicist again about the interview. I said I wanted to interview McCarthy with a recorder on the line so all of you could hear for yourself his answers in his own voice, so there would be no disputing what either of us said. I asked her to forward an e-mail from me to Matt so I could contact him directly. She said she would; if she did, Matt did not respond.

Strictly my speculation, but my guess is that once they saw my review, and Sam Miller’s, they knew people were out there fact-checking and the jig was up. McCarthy well knows I was around Provo in 2002 — which is why there are plenty photos of him in the Photo Gallery — so perhaps he decided to duck an interview with me, knowing I’d ask hard questions about events in the book I knew didn’t reconcile.

Greenberg buys into McCarthy’s claim that any errors in the book are merely chronological slip-ups.

But back on March 6, I posted this article about a game at Ogden which clearly showed one incident described in the book was more than a chronological slip-up.

In summary, McCarthy claimed that manager Tom Kotchman ordered pitcher Hector Astacio to deliberately throw at an Ogden batter after Provo shortstop Erick Aybar was twice hit by pitches. Right away, I thought that didn’t sound right — (1) because I’ve heard Kotchman many times tell his players the best way to retaliate is to win the game, and (2) it’s against Angels policy to throw at other teams’ batters because beanball wars can result in an injury.

Looking into the facts, I found that Aybar had not been hit by a pitch at all in the game. Neither had any Provo batter. I posted the box score in that blog so you could see for yourself.

McCarthy claims he heard Kotchman order Astacio to throw at the Ogden batter. But that also doesn’t ring true. McCarthy was the starting pitcher the night before; the usual routine for a starter is that he spends the next game in the stands behind home plate charting batters or working a radar gun or just chilling out. If McCarthy was in the stands, not the visitor’s dugout, then he couldn’t have possibly heard Kotchman order Astacio to throw at an Ogden batter.

The next inconsistency has to do with McCarthy’s claim that Kotchman pulled Astacio from the game when Hector refused to throw at the batter. Well, look at the box score and you see that Astacio was getting lit up — he’d already given up five runs in four innings. This game was in the second week of the season, when Rookie-A managers usually have their starters on a relatively low pitch count that works out to three or four innings. So it looks to me like Astacio was done.

In any case, McCarthy claims he went into the visitors clubhouse to use the bathroom and found a distraught Astacio. McCarthy claims he consoled Astacio.

Well, again, this doesn’t make much sense to me. In Ogden, the visitors clubhouse is accessed through a door in the left-center field fence. The visitors are in the first-base dugout. So for a player to use the bathroom, he’d have to run all the way across the field between innings. Presumably Kotchman and pitching coach Kernan Ronan would have noticed a pitcher on his off-day sprinting across the field.

If McCarthy was charting behind home plate, though, he would have been in civilian attire and easily could have used the bathroom on the concourse beneath the stands, which would have been much closer. Having been to Ogden many times myself, I know that it’s possible to access the clubhouse by walking up the third base concourse into the front office, then hang a right and pass through a door into the clubhouse. But that’s a long way to go for a pee, especially when a bathroom was right below you on the concourse.

Greenberg apparently doesn’t see any harm in McCarthy embellishing his stories, but I can see plenty of harm in this one tale. For openers, it makes Kotch look like a head hunter. What if an Orem pitcher this year uncorks a wild pitch and accidentally hits a batter? The opponent’s manager may think Kotch ordered a purpose pitch and may order retaliation. Such retaliation often comes at the expense of a team’s top hitter. Do we want to see an Angels’ top prospect break a hand or worse because McCarthy chose to embellish? What if an umpire tosses an Orem pitcher and Kotchman because he thinks a wild pitch was a purpose pitch? Not to mention that Kotchman could get suspended and fined by the league for ordering such a pitch.

The review in today’s Los Angeles Times quotes Howie Kendrick as saying that McCarthy’s claim he went to dinner with Kendrick and Casey Kotchman was also false. Reviewer David Davis wrote, “[McCarthy] says he was inspired to write Odd Man Out after former colleagues began making contributions on the field. Guys like pitcher Joe Saunders and second baseman Howie Kendrick, who now play key roles for the big-league team in Anaheim.”

Given that McCarthy apparently made up the spring training friendship with Howie Kendrick, and the many denials by other players mentioned in the book who are now in the big leagues, I have to wonder if McCarthy simply used their names to embellish the book to make it more attractive to a potential publisher.

Alan Schwarz, The New York Times sportwriter who wrote the authoritative dissection of McCarthy’s claims, replied yesterday on to McCarthy’s claim that Schwarz refused to accept McCarthy’s “point-by-point rebuttal” of the inaccuracies Schwarz questioned. Schwarz said that McCarthy’s claim is “not only preposterous but adds to his growing list of outright falsehoods.” Schwarz has an audio recording of his conversation with McCarthy which he offers to “make available to any interested party” to prove McCarthy is lying. I’ve left a message to take him up on the offer, although I suspect he wrote that in anger and the Times lawyers will stop him.

Finally, on a personal note … As to Greenberg’s claim that I’ve been “relentless” in hammering the book — guilty as charged.

The book is untrue. I don’t like lies. This happens to be a subject about which I’m very knowledgeable, so I can speak with some authority as to the truthfulness of the book.

McCarthy now says he should have used a fact-checker. One reason I wanted to talk to Matt before publication was to offer to fact-check the manuscript for him if there was going to be a revision. I knew right away when I read it that it had a lot of mistakes — some of which were trivial, but others that would be damaging to the reputations of many people. Tom Kotchman can take care of himself, but what about the many guys named in the book who long ago left baseball and now work in blue-collar jobs while trying to feed a family and pay a mortgage? McCarthy alleges underage drinking, attempts to seduce underage girls, and players offering to peddle illegal druges. These are all crimes. The statute of limitations expired long ago, but nonetheless both employers and spouses are going to question if the player actually engaged in these illegal behaviors.

If Greenberg doesn’t like me standing up for the truth and for what’s right … too bad.

The least he can do is post a correction admitting his accusation that I hadn’t read the book was false. It would be even better if he’d post where he got that lie from.

UPDATE March 13, 2009 11:00 PDT — I posted a comment at the end of Mr. Greenberg’s blog entry asking him to retract his allegation that I haven’t read the book yet criticize it anyway. That comment was deleted within a half-hour after I posted it. Read into that what you will.

“Odd Man Out”: Update

On February 19 author Alex Belth posted a favorable review of Odd Man Out, after interviewing Matt McCarthy. I posted a reply warning Mr. Belth that the book had credibility issues, but he blew me off with a post accusing me of being “self-serving.”

Two weeks later, The New York Times published its review exposing all the inaccuracies in McCarthy’s book, and I waited to see if Mr. Belth would do the right thing.

It took a while, but he finally has.

Belth published a blog today that first allows McCarthy to respond to the NYT article, but then gives NYT reporter Alan Schwarz an opportunity to respond to McCarthy’s claims that Schwarz wouldn’t allow McCarthy to offer a “point-by-point rebuttal.”

Click Here to read Belth’s blog post.

Here’s what Schwarz had to say about McCarthy’s repeated claims that he wasn’t allowed to defend himself:

Mr. McCarthy’s claims that he was denied an opportunity to, in his words, ‘rebut’ his own errors are not only preposterous but adds to his growing list of outright falsehoods. Our interview spanned more than an hour and was comprised mostly of my describing to him every substantive error — sometimes literally showing him things like transaction logs that proved he had the wrong person involved in some distasteful scene, and a copy of his own original contract that proved one quote-laden episode with Tony Reagins to be completely fabricated — and explaining its relevance to the larger picture. He offered explanations for each of them (and I put the most relevant ones in the article so that his side was fairly represented). This went on for probably 10 or 12 of the most substantial errors, with my explaining at every juncture that, while some were clearly not that big of a deal, they called into question the veracity of many other, less provably false scenes that real people said had not happened as he described.

I said that I would be happy to quote portions of the journals he said corrorborated what he had written in the book; he declined to let me do so. I asked to speak with the teammates he claimed supported him; he declined to say who they were.

At the end of the interview, I asked Mr. McCarthy if there was anything he wanted to add, anything that was important given what the story was going to be about. He thought for a moment and said no. I then told him that if he realized there was anything he wanted to add or clarify, that he had my cell phone number and I would be available to him all day for as long as he wanted. He said OK. I have not heard from him since.

Schwarz goes on to accuse McCarthy of lying about their conversation, and notes that he has an audio recording of it.

It appears that the jig is about to be up for Matt McCarthy.

“Odd Man Out”: L.A. Times Review

David Davis adds to the critical chorus in his review of Odd Man Out for the Los Angeles Times. Click Here to read the review.

Davis interviewed McCarthy the day afterThe New York Times published a scathing review that concluded many parts of the book were “incorrect, embellished or impossible.”

Much of the article covers familiar territory for those of you reading my posts covering the Odd Man Out controversy. What’s new are previously unrevealed details about how the book came to be published:

He says he was inspired to write “Odd Man Out” after former colleagues began making contributions on the field. Guys like pitcher Joe Saunders and second baseman Howie Kendrick, who now play key roles for the big-league team in Anaheim.

The book, McCarthy says, came from two Mead notebooks of material he kept during the 2002 season, writing at night and during mind-numbing 17-hour bus trips. Four years later, he began to shape the narrative. He showed a draft to a college friend, Sports Illustrated staff writer Ben Reiter, who gave it to Chris Stone, the magazine’s baseball editor. Stone steered McCarthy to Scott Waxman’s literary agency, which sold it to Viking.

Reviewer Davis posed this question:

Still to be determined is McCarthy’s legacy. Will he be remembered as this generation’s Jim Bouton and Pat Jordan, authors, respectively, of the baseball classics “Ball Four” and “A False Spring”? Or, is he the latest iteration of James Frey, author of the faux memoir “A Million Little Pieces”?

His answer came at the end of the article:

The controversy appears to be driving sales, with “Odd Man Out” climbing the bestseller lists. But with McCarthy’s credibility undermined, it’s clear that this book is no “Ball Four” or “False Spring.”

Click Here to read all blog entries on Odd Man Out.

UPDATE March 14, 2009 11:00 PM PDT — Los Angeles Times blogger Carolyn Kellogg comments on why “memoirs should be honest,” to use her words, citing McCarthy’s book as an example.

Keeping Score

Going through my bookshelves, I came across a ten-year old document that I thought you might find interesting.

As part of a research project, I’d contacted Howe Sportsdata to ask if they had any official rules for scoring a professional ballgame. I was looking at official score sheets of minor league games, and found some symbols I’d never seen before. Howe sent me a document they distributed to all official scorers, which is a remarkable insight into the scorekeeping trade.

At the time, Howe was the official scoring service for minor league baseball, and collated data for Major League Baseball. Howe is no more, having been acquired by SportsTicker in December 1998. SportsTicker was just acquired by STATS Inc. on March 5. MLB brought all its stats services in-house a few years ago, and shortly thereafter took responsibility for collating minor league data.

One thing I found out from the Howe people is that there is no “official” way to score a ballgame. Most of us learned to score ballgames when we were children, but there are many systems and some people simply make up their own.

Here’s what the Howe document had to say on the subject:

It is not a requirement, but we are trying to develop a standardized scorekeeping system throughout professional baseball. Toward that end, we are supplying you with 200 play-by-play scoresheets, good for 100 games. We understand longtime scorers have their own particular method that they will want to stay with, but otherwise scorers are strongly encouraged to stick as closely as possible to the uniform system outlined here.

These days, it’s all done by computer. Go into any press box in affiliated baseball and you’ll find them connected to a web page programmed by MLB Advanced Media (commonly known as BAM). It’s all a standard interface. When entering lineups, the scorer actually enters for each player a unique ID number assigned by BAM.

But if you’re a fan, you’ll still do it the old-fashioned way, with a scorebook and a pencil.

The Howe document includes a sample scoresheet, the sheet for Game #7 of the 1960 World Series between the Yankees and Pirates. It’s famous for Bill Mazeroski hitting a home run in the bottom of the 9th to give the Pirates the championship (long before it was called a “walk-off” homer.)

Here’s a tidbit I bet you didn’t know … No batter struck out in the game.

Click Here to view the Howe document. You need Adobe Acrobat Reader Version 7 or later to view the document.

“Odd Man Out” in Perspective

Click Here for some R-rated humor from Sportsman’s Daily.

“Odd Man Out”: McCarthy Says He Was “Careless”

Matt McCarthy told USA Today that he had been “careless” with some of the details in Odd Man Out, but stands by the “crazier stuff” that has raised the possibility of litigation by those he named.

“It bothers me to have been careless on some of these small details, especially when I was painstaking about most others,” McCarthy wrote in an e-mail. “I trusted my notes and my memory on some smaller details, and there were obviously a few instances in which I didn’t have things quite right. That’s my fault, and I’ll take the blame. … But if people are waiting for me to break down and confess that I made everything up, it’s not going to happen.”

I documented on March 6 one incident that’s beyond a “small detail,” in which he claims that Provo manager Tom Kotchman ordered a pitcher to throw at an opposing batter after shortstop Erick Aybar was hit twice by pitches. Aybar wasn’t hit at all in the game — no Provo batter was — and the Ogden batter McCarthy claims was the target of retaliation wasn’t even in the lineup. In any case, if no Provo batter was hit by a pitch in the game, then there would be no reason for Kotchman to order retaliation, which not only is against Angels policy but would also get him a fine and possible suspension by the league.

More importantly, McCarthy’s claims that the book is backed up by detailed notes in his personal journal are starting to ring hollow. The New York Times reporters said they asked to see the journal, but McCarthy refused. McCarthy said in interviews on KPCC FM and NECN TV that he had offered a “point-by-point rebuttal” to the Times, but the reporters refused.

The article quotes McCarthy’s publisher as saying that “it’s likely a revised version of the book will be released.”

“Women in Baseball” Video

The Fullerton Museum hosted on March 7 a lecture on women in baseball. Jean Ardell, the author of Breaking Into Baseball: Women and the National Pastime, was the featured speaker along with two former players from the
All-American Girls Professional Baseball League
that was the subject of the movie A League of Their Own.

I videotaped the lecture for Jean. If you’re interested in the subject, or you just want to hear a lot of anecdotes about the AAGPBL and the movie, you may find the video of interest.

Click Here to watch the video. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch. It runs about 80 minutes.

“Odd Man Out”: Matt McCarthy on NECN TV

Matt McCarthy appeared earlier today on NECN TV. Click Here to go to the NECN page with the video clip.

McCarthy backpeddles on the accusation that Tom Kotchman wanted Alex Dvorsky to use steroids, saying the coaches didn’t want the players to use steroids. He also retracts his claim that he stays in touch with his teammates, saying he only stays in touch with a few former college and pro ballplayers.

Regarding the New York Times article exposing inaccuracies in the book, he repeats the same spin from his KPCC FM appearance last week. He claims that any inaccuracies are minor, just inconsistencies like who made the last out in an inning.

That is clearly a lie, because as I showed on Friday an incident he claimed happened in Ogden couldn’t have possibly happened. The Times documented many more examples, such as claims about what certain people did on a road trip only they weren’t with the team on that road trip.

McCarthy also states that he and his publisher offered the Times a “point-by-point rebuttal” prior to publication, but that the Times refused. But the Times authors wrote, “He declined to show how those journals corroborated his stories.”

McCarthy said he and his publisher stand by the book, and it won’t be withdrawn.

Click Here for all my blog posts on Odd Man Out.