Tuesday, February 6, 2007

256.25 schillings will get you a ticket to the Hall of Fame

In introducing his recent ESPN.com article on the staying power of baseball's most senior pitchers, writer Sean McAdams makes the assumption Boston Red Sox right-hander Curt Shilling is a future baseball Hall of Famer. But is that true? I am not so sure.

Curt Schilling has been a good, if not great, pitcher since 2001. He has won 20 games or more three times, pitched over 200 innings four times, and averaged over a strikeout an inning. Now, although I am far from a baseball statistician, those are Hall of Fame caliber numbers. Add to the fact Schilling started this run in his mid-30s and his accomplishments become all the more impressive.

However, when judging a player's Hall of Fame potential it is imperative to examine his entire body of work. Schilling has pitched in the major leagues since 1988. During that time, he has won over 10 games only 10 times, the same amount of times as Dwight Gooden and three times fewer than David Wells. Gooden's Hall of Fame chances are pretty much nil and Wells will not be considered a serious Hall of Fame candidate anywhere outside of the Bronx. For his entire body of work, these are Curt Schilling's contemparies.

Of the other elderly hurlers McAdam discusses (Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Jamie Moyer, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson), Clemens, Maddux, and Johnson are sure-fire future inductees. Glavine will join them, but I believe he needs to get his 300th to solidify his candidacy. That should happen in 2007. Moyer, although he has pitched effectively with a high-school fastball since the days of Willie Mays, has never had Hall of Fame numbers.

This brings us back to Schilling. According to baseball-reference.com, Schilling's average season is 14-9 with a 3.44 ERA in 220 innings. Again using Gooden as a reference, Dr. K's average season was 15-9 with a 3.51 ERA in 226 innings. Pretty similar.

Not to campaign for Dwight Gooden, but I don't believe Curt Schilling will be able to put together a resume fit for the Baseball Hall of Fame when he retires. If he ever retires.

(P.S. 256.25 schillings = $14.50 admission x 1.29 dollars to euros x 13.7 schillings to euros)

Monday, February 5, 2007

Wanted: Mascot Handler (Apply Within)

Are you interested in an exciting career in entertainment? Do you love sports? Can you restrain a seven foot tall pseudo-animal from mauling fans? Then the Cleveland Indians have the job for you.

According to the official job site of Major League Baseball, the Indians are seeking two mascot handlers to work with Slider, the Indians' mascot. These lucky individuals will "generate excitement and entertainment throughout the Ballpark and surrounding areas." Sounds great, right?

Unfortunately, as with many job listings, the job of mascot handler carries with it many unlisted responsibilities.

Ever wonder who feeds the mascot? Who watches the mascot while the team is on the road? Who is the first person looked at when the mascot inexplicably attacks an innocent fan? The mascot handler, of course.

The life of a mascot handler is not quite as glorious as the Cleveland Indians describe. Do you think mascots were born cheering for the home team? And who do you think cleans up when a mascot forgets his potty training?

A mascot handler must train a mascot to behave appropriately, no matter what team or element they represent. The job is not just one of brute enforcement, but one of subtleness. Prior to even being considered, mascot handlers must be well-versed in Pavlovian training techniques. Years of training goes into ensuring mascots don't root for the wrong team. All that training can be all for not in moments with one bad incident. Of course, the pressure facing mascot handlers is much greater now more than ever due to several embarrassing incidents between mascots and fans or coaches.

Being a mascot handler is hard work. While the team is on the road, your responsibilities are to care and maintain the mascot. Few people realize the energy needed to groom, feed, and keep a mascot entertained. The mascot handler is also responsible for the mascot's fitness program and may often have to run stairs with the mascot in the off-season.

Sadly, mascot handlers get little credit in the success of a mascot. Like other types of managers in the entertainment industry, mascot handlers are often ignored when a mascot achieves a high level of success. Many mascots, such as The Famous Chicken, have left their team-affiliated handlers and ventured solo, becoming more general "sports mascots". Others, such as former Montreal Expos mascot Youppi, have negotiated their own contracts with other organizations and moved on without bringing their former handlers. Of course, considering the absent-mindedness of many mascots, we may never see a mascot handler nominated into the Mascot Hall of Fame, although without a handler's loving guidance, every mascots could have ended up in the Orphanage of Cast-Off Mascots.

Finally, before considering a career as a mascot handler, keep in mind an emotional attachment may occur between handler and mascot. Like any pet, caring for a mascot becomes a labor of love. Mascot handlers must continuously remind themselves that being a mascot handler is a profession, and the mascot does not belong to the handler, but to the people. And if the mascot passes away or is killed on their watch, they must be strong and move on. Although some mascots are still cheered in death as they were in life, a mascot handler must be prepared to train the next generation of Phillie Phanatics, Sliders, or Mr. Mets.

Still interested? Apply to be Slider's mascot handler here.