King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Good for the kids from Georgia, but the Little League World Series has finally lost this customer. Plus: Golden infielders. And: MySpace responds.


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Salon Staff
August 27, 2007 8:00PM (UTC)

I see a team from Georgia won the Little League World Series Sunday, making it three straight for the United States. Exciting title game, the news reports say.

This is the first time I can remember not watching a single pitch of the annual tournament. Used to be you could only watch the championship game, but I'd make a point of catching at least some of that. The Little League World Series was the only championship I could watch on network TV and say, "I used to play in that league."

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Wherever the champs of the Penmar Park youth basketball league go after clinching, the cameras don't follow.

Now, after growing increasingly uncomfortable with the LLWS over the years, at long last I can't stand it. There's such a lack of fun emanating from these little mini-professional ballplayers, the whole thing's just depressing. I'm with Yahoo's Dan Wetzel: They should pay those kids. They're seriously, stoically, providing a service.

The LLWS has become massively commercialized, with everybody raking in dough except the kids. It's like a miniature version of college sports, without the quality of play or the lip service to education.

Of course, paying the kids, even through some kind of trust-fund arrangement, is never going to happen, not least because the NCAA would fight it with every cannon in the arsenal. Giving a stipend to kids on account of how much revenue they bring in? Way too slippery a slope for the barons of college sport.

Cal Ripken Jr. runs a competing youth baseball organization. In an Ask Cal column in Sunday's Baltimore Sun, a reader asked Ripken about ties in tournament games, which have to happen sometimes to keep to the schedule.

"Participation in tournaments should be as much about the baseball experience as winning and losing," Ripken wrote. "Sometimes in life there are no winners or losers in a situation despite the hard work that goes into a project. It is the responsibility of coaches to emphasize this and make sure that lessons are learned -- even in the event of a tie.

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"Instead of focusing on the scoreboard, let's concentrate on stepping up to a new level of competition, competing against new teams that aren't in our league, playing on new fields and seeing where we stand among other teams in our age group."

Right, Cal. Lessons. Focusing on the positives. Next you'll be talking about kids having fun. The sponsors and TV networks will go for that, sure.

As long as they get a winner.

We need a killer fielding stat [PERMALINK]

I'm still thinking about that silly Rawlings All-Time Gold Glove team from last week. Some of the comments in the letters thread -- "Where's Bill Buckner? Ha, good one -- sent me scrounging around for some good fielding stats to compare noncontemporary fielders, such as Willie Mays and Andruw Jones.

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I couldn't find any. Still looking. Any geniuses out there?

Talking about Wes Parker vs. Keith Hernandez at first base, I had used "runs above replacement," from Baseball Prospectus' Davenport Translations. Their inventor, Clay Davenport, told me by e-mail that the stat can't be used to compare across eras, but I could use its cousin, just an adjusted version called RAR2.

Then he said not to put much faith in those numbers because they're not terribly precise. "When you see a '30,'" he wrote, "then I'm pretty sure the right number is between 20 and 40. There really is that much uncertainty in the numbers."

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Still, they're fun to poke around in. With all due caveats that the stat is the bluntest of instruments, it indicates that since 1957, one player at each infield position has pretty much been playing a different game than everybody else: Hernandez, Bill Mazeroski, Ozzie Smith and Brooks Robinson.

Of the four, Smith had the closest competition, as you might expect, since the best fielders become shortstops. Nobody quite like him, but Davey Concepcion, Cal Ripken Jr., Luis Aparicio, Bert Campaneris and Mark Belanger are sort of in the photo.

RAR2 also suggests that in both total career numbers and highest peaks, Jones is the best center fielder of the era, better than Mays. Hmm. The stat also puts Jim Edmonds ahead of Mays and -- oh, a lot of you are not going to like this -- Barry Bonds ahead of Roberto Clemente.

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The stat -- and here's another warning that we're just kind of using it as a toy here, not putting all our faith in it -- says the best right fielder of them all isn't Clemente, Dwight Evans or Al Kaline. It's Ichiro. And in Ichiro's first full year at the position, RAR2 says he's on his way to an all-time-great year in center.

Overrated? J.T. Snow, Bobby Richardson, Jim Kaat. Underappreciated? Robin Ventura, Albert Pujols, Buddy Bell.

Or maybe not.

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MySpace: It was MLB [PERMALINK]

In Friday's column about the sudden, no-warning shutdown of the MySpace page of the Cubs fan/merchandise site Cubbies Baseball, I wrote that MySpace hadn't responded to a call for comment.

Over the weekend I got an e-mail at my own MySpace page, sent from the account of Tom Anderson, the president and co-founder of MySpace and every MySpace user's default first "friend." He tossed the villain hat back to Major League Baseball.

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"The deletions happened without my knowledge, and I've already been able to restore some accounts with the OK of MLB, notably Soxspace," he wrote.

"It seems the MLB sent a threat with a deadline that was scary enough to cause our legal department to act without first appealing to the MLB. We had to take it down within their required timeframe to avoid getting sued, but we are in the process of trying to restore the accounts that the MLB will allow us to."

Sounds like MySpace needs a better legal department, but who am I to say that to someone with almost 200 million friends?

Anderson went on: "We definitely have respect for our users' efforts and sports enthusiasts generally. In fact, we plan to launch our own sports section soon, and I hope the people making these fan pages will become contributors to that section."

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