Thursday, May 8, 2008

Renteria Cha-Cha-Cha

The second-worst part of last night's game was watching Edgar Freking Renteria trot home for the winning run after the cranially-gifted Placido Polanco hit a broken bat single over Julio Lugo Stinks' head. A lot of people across baseball — we'll call them "National League fans" — swoon at Renteria's name, calling him a great, throwback ballplayer. Let's just say we've heard it too many times, especially in light of the Titanic wreck that was his 2005 season with the Sox. Oh yes, but he does the little things. Splendid. That's exactly what we want out of our professional baseball players: for them to concentrate on the little things. Who cares about the big things, like hitting or fielding?

Now, players are entitled to off years, and Lugo's made a late career out of them (His error, of course, being the worst moment of the night). But we always figured Renteria was kind of a dick, so we were happy to read this ESPN The Truck Magazine article about Renteria's beef with O-Cab, the man he replaced on the Sox roster, in which Renteria sounds like a total jerk. At issue is an investment that Cabrera, the second most popular player in his native Colombia, made in the Colombian baseball league, which is run by Renteria — the most popular player. There was a falling out, and Renteria holds a hard grudge against Cabrera, who can't figure out why. You can read the entire article here, but here is the end, which sums up their frosty relationship nicely:

Cabrera says it was Edinson [Renteria]'s mismanagement of the league that caused him to walk away, and he's stunned by the personal attacks. "That's what happens when you deal with people who can't separate business issues from personal issues," Cabrera says. "My intent in what I've said publicly has been good for the league. It's promoted the league to move forward, to be recognized."

This dispute won't soon be resolved. The Tigers and White Sox have 12 more games this season — another dozen opportunities for uncomfortable moments on the field. During their first meeting of the year, when Cabrera reached second base in the fifth inning, he tried to engage Rentería in conversation, saying, "Man, it's cold out here, huh?"

Rentería, planted at shortstop, stared straight ahead. He did not say a word.

Maybe we're being too hard on Renteria, as he did ground out to Keith Foulke to end the 2004 World Series (which was nice), though he gave part of that back by pulling off the same stunt to end the 2005 series against the White Sox with Papi on deck (we don't forget these things!). Actually, between those series and the 1997 World Series, Renteria has been the last batter of three postseason series. Is that some sort of record? You'd have to figure that it is, given that the last batter is almost always going to be on the losing team, and the losing team is less often likely to repeat their performance. I mean, it gets way deeper than that, but I don't plan to go into it unless someone can think of a good candidate off the top of their head. Someone from the 01-07 Yankees or 90's/00's Braves, perhaps?

Speaking of repeat playoff performances, we remembered that Jordan's Furniture had a promotion last year where, if you bought furniture during Spring Training, that ish was free if the Sox won the World Series. This year, they've apparently upped the ante, demanding a(nother) Sox sweep. While I obviously think the odds of that are fairly excellent, not everyone agrees, though Carl Bialik of the Wall Street Journal tried to pin the exact odds down:

So I turned to several sports statisticians, whose answers for the probability of a Red Sox sweep are higher than you might think: Somewhere between 2% and 5%. They all pointed to sports books that had the Sox as among the favorites to win the American League pennant, at about one in four or five. (See, for instance, TradeSports or BetFair.) That reflects their dominant championship last year and their high level of talent. Then the probability that the Red Sox sweep the Series is equal to about 0.2 — the chance they make the World Series — multiplied by their probability of sweeping the Series. If each game is a toss-up, that’s one in 16: 1/2 multiplied four times, for the four wins needed for a sweep. That translates to one out of 80 that Boston will sweep the Series. But sports-book odds suggest that the Red Sox are likely to be better than their World Series opponent, because the odds they’ll win it all are greater than half their pennant odds. That can nudge the probability of a Sox sweep up to one in 50.

If you're looking for a duvet... this seems like easy money.

Back to the Renteria series-ending thing for a moment. I personally think the odds are less likely that Craig Counsell would have scored the winning run in two World Series Game 7s — for two different teams — than one batter ending three series. But who knows. By the way, Craig Counsell? 34 career home runs.

And now, your moment of zen:

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