DMB News-October 1999
October 14, 1999
Written by Tom Tippett
Welcome to the fourth edition of the Diamond Mind email newsletter. Through these newsletters, we will try to keep you up to date on the latest product and technical information about the Diamond Mind Baseball game, related player disks, and our ongoing baseball research efforts. Back issues are available on our web site (www.diamond-mind.com).
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Topics for this issue:
New baseball articles
1999 Season Disk and 2000 Projection Disk
Two tales of woe from north of the border
Version 8 news
New baseball articles
We've written three new articles in recent weeks. The first was a quick review of the 1999 season, focusing on teams and players who performed much better or worse than expected. The second was a shorter piece that looked at some interesting (and in my mind questionable) moves made by the managers in the critical Friday night games on the last weekend of the NL season. The last shows how the Diamond Mind projected standings for 1999 stacked up against those of 31 other analysts, writers and publications. (We weren't #1, but we did quite well.)
You can find these articles on our web site at:
1999 Season Disk and 2000 Projection Disk
We've begun sending out letters announcing the availability of the 1999 Season Disk (December 16) and the 2000 Projection Disk (early March). It will take us about ten business days to get them all out the door, so many of you won't receive yours until the end of October. If you wish to order any of our products by mail, this mailing includes an order form and postage-paid business reply envelope. By the way, please note your customer number -- it's above your name on the mailing label -- so you can write it on the order form.
If you wish to order by email or phone, there's no need to wait. We can take your order whenever you're ready. The prices are the same as last year:
1999 Season Disk $29.95 2000 Projection Disk $29.95 1999 and 2000 combo $44.95
Shipping and handling is $3 for delivery by first class mail and $2 for delivery via email. If you order the 1999 and 2000 combo, you'll receive both for a single shipping and handling charge. Feel free to phone or email us for the prices of priority mail or overnight shipping.
Some quick notes on how we handle these advance orders:
- we ship the orders in roughly the same sequence that the orders were received, so there's a bit of an advantage to getting your order in early. Any orders for email delivery or priority shipping (including overnight) will be sent out the first day the disk is available.
- we will do our best to ship all of the advance orders so that they arrive before Christmas, but we cannot guarantee Christmas arrival. We expect to BEGIN shipping on December 16th, but it will take a few days to get everything out the door.
- if your order includes a mix of currently available items (past seasons, version 7 games or upgrades) and these new seasons, we will ship what we can right away and send the new disks as soon as they are ready (unless you ask us to do it differently). In these cases, we'll cash your check or charge your credit card for the full cost of the order. Even though we'll be shipping more than once, you still pay only a single shipping charge.
- if your order consists solely of advance orders for these season disks, we will wait until about a week before the ship date to deposit your check or charge your credit card. That week gives us time to resolve any credit card problems without having to delay any shipments.
Thanks in advance to all of you who choose to order these products.
#1 tale of woe from north of the border
Thanks to Diamond Mind customer Steve Turner for sending this:
Before I begin this story, I must make one fact very clear. I am a jinx for my favorite baseball team. Sure, other people cry loudly that they are a jinx for their favorite team, but I have proof! Examine the following facts:
1977-1991 - Steve living in and about Toronto; Toronto Blue Jays never advance to the World Series
1992-1993 - Steve living in primeval forest in Northern Ontario (300 miles from nearest professional baseball team, which happens to be the Jays); Blue Jays win first back-to-back World Series since the '77-'78 Yankees.
1994-1999 - Steve moves back to Toronto; Jays have yet to make the playoffs since '92/'93.
Compelling proof or sheer coincidence? Let's delve further into the story...
October 1992. The Jays finish first in the AL East. Throughout Canada there is hope that maybe, just maybe, this might be the year that the Jays go all the way. In fact, their chances have risen exponentially because Steve Turner has moved away from Toronto (not to take anything away from Jack Morris, Dave Winfield et al.), although this little-known fact is not mentioned in the media.
Canadian Thanksgiving Day, October 1992. Literally, in the middle of a forest, I sit there listening to Game 4 of the ALCS on my radio. Toronto overcomes a 6-1 deficit to beat the A's 7-6 in extra innings. In the flush of victory, I run over to a nearby swamp and let out a traditional Ojibway cow-moose call. A large Bull breaks through the bush about 20 metres opposite where I was and joins in the victory celebration.
It is impossible to describe one's feelings at such a time. Your team is one game away from its first World Series appearance and the thrill of potential victory lifts your soul to unimaginable heights, and yet at the same time, in another small part of your mind, a little voice is reminding you that the bull moose a stone's throw away is at least 1500 pounds bigger than you, you have no weapon and your celebratory cow call has probably driven him into the opening stages of intense sexual urges that will remain unfulfilled because, as you increasingly realize, you and the moose share nothing in common other than the fact you are both male.
Having survived that ordeal, I have to wait till I return to my office a couple of days later to witness the Jays (televised) clinch their rightful berth in the 1992 World Series.
Chapter 2. My cabin in the bush had two things that separated me from the manner in which my ancestors lived: electricity and radio. Relying on these items enabled me to experience something that very few people born after 1960 ever encountered, listening to a World Series on radio.
In fact, I was ordered by family members to remain at my cabin for the duration of the series. Their intimate knowledge of my intangible impact on the outcome of important Toronto playoff games gave them the right to ban me from watching games at their houses. So be it, I thought.
However, I paddled across the lake to my cousin's house to watch Game One. Unfortunately, Jack Morris decided to give Damon Berryhill an early Christmas gift as Berryhill's sixth inning homer brought off an Atlanta Braves victory. No sooner had the game ended than the phone rang at my cousin's house. It was my sister. She wanted to know if I watched the game there. My cousin replied in the affirmative, after which I could hear my lovely sister screaming and cursing and, in not so many words, telling my cousin NEVER to allow me over to his house to watch a Jays game till next April.
The Jays won the next three games. This I learned from listening to my trusted radio at my little bush cabin. The Jays could win their first World Series with a Game Five victory, so I HAD to witness this event. I conspired to watch the game at my cousin's once more.
Sure enough, within minutes of Lonnie Smith's grand slam, the phone rang at my cousin's house. It was my brother, calling from Toronto. "Is Steve there?" I could hear him say. "Yes", replied my cousin. My poor cousin was then submitted to an extreme tongue lashing. My cousin's sister called next, and it was confirmed that yes, indeed, Steve watched the game. Now my relations in North Bay knew. I was beginning to feel like Custer at this point.
Nobody on the lake I lived on extended me an invitation to watch Game Six. I was left to listen to the game the old-fashioned way; at a cabin in the forest with a radio that could barely pick up the signal.
After the Braves tied the game in the bottom of the ninth, I couldn't stand it anymore. I turned off the radio and looked outside at the stars, content to go to bed and enjoy the solitude of the forest in which I dwelt.
Yeah right, who in their right mind would do that! The radio was turned back on, then off, then on, then off again. The tension was unbearable. The radio was turned on once more and, finally, Mike Timlin fielded Otis Nixon's bunt and threw to Joe Carter for the final out.
The Turner house exploded into euphoria! (Well, to be honest, it was just me) I ran outside and began jumping up and down in the clearing beside my camp -essentially the same leap for joy Joe Carter would mimic after hitting his historic homer in the '93 Series. Circumstances left me to share my exhilaration with the immediate flora and fauna. I could have hugged the pine trees, high-fived the alderbush and had my cries of joy responded to by the horned owls, but unlike the estimated one million people who poured onto the streets of Toronto to join the Series celebration, I only gave a few of the local bears and moose the fright of their life that night.
I have yet to watch Game Six of the '92 Series. Been over seven years now.
#2 tale of woe from north of the border
This is my (Tom Tippett's) own story.
As many of you know, I was born and raised in the suburbs of Toronto. I first became interested in baseball in the late 1960s, and because my town did not have a major league team then, I rooted mainly for the Red Sox (Yaz!), Expos (first Canadian team), and Reds (just because I liked the name Cincinnati).
My beloved Red Sox broke my heart in 1972 when they lost the division title to Woodie Fryman and the Tigers on the last weekend of the season. They did it again in 1975, but that blow was softened by the fact that another of my teams (the Big Red Machine) did them in this time.
The Blue Jays came to town in 1977, and I went to 23 games that year. They lost 21 of them. One of the wins came on a rainy September evening when Earl Weaver pulled his Orioles off the field after five innings because he claimed the field was unsafe. He later admitted that it was a ploy -- Toronto starter Jim Clancy was up 4-0 and nearly unhittable, and Weaver figured he had a better chance of winning the protest than the game. The other win was against the Red Sox in the heat of the pennant race, and I was rooting for the Sox that night.
The final tally: twenty-three games, zero nine-inning wins by the team I was rooting for. I soon began to feel I could help my team most by staying home.
During those early Blue Jay years, they were definitely my favorite team. But they were usually thirty games out by mid-August, so I didn't feel any guilt about switching my allegiance back to the Red Sox for the stretch drive. And those Red Sox broke my heart in 1977 by coming up 2-1/2 games short and again in that famous 1978 Bucky Dent playoff game. (I left work early that day and listened to the last three innings on my car radio in a downtown Toronto parking lot. I can still feel the anguish as Yastrzemski's game-ending popup settled into the glove.)
Over the next few years, the Blue Jays began to improve and the Red Sox settled back into the pack. Finally, in 1983, the Jays contended for the first time. I still have a clipping of the AL standings from an August day when the Jays were atop the division for the last time that year.
Steve Turner can undoubtedly relate to the next part of the story. I moved to Boston (to attend graduate school) in August, 1983, and have lived here ever since. The moment I left Toronto, the Jays began a streak of ten consecutive seasons in which they finished at least ten games over .500.
After spending a decade as a Red Sox fan living in Toronto, I was now a Blue Jays fan living in Boston. And the heartbreak continued. First, the Jays blew a 3-1 series lead to KC in 1985 (Bobby Cox NEVER should have tried to get three starts out of Dave Stieb). Then the Red Sox let the 1986 World Series slip through their fingers (or legs, as the case may be). Not to be outdone, the Jays blew a 3-1/2 game lead to the Tigers in the last week of the 1987 season.
At that point, my nerves couldn't take it any more, and I vowed that I would never ever get so involved with a team that I would lie awake at night sweating over what might happen next. I continued to root for my team (the Jays were #1 in my heart), but I tried not to get carried away.
From 1988 to 1991, the Jays and Sox took turns winning the division, but neither team was strong enough to contend with their western rivals (the powerful Athletics teams and the 1991 Twins) in the playoffs. This brings us to 1992.
My wife Jodi and I got engaged in June of that year. Not wanting to postpone the wedding until the following spring or summer, we set the date -- Sunday, October 25th. A few weeks later, one of my baseball buddies pointed out that I'd be getting married on the day game 7 of the World Series was to be played. When I admitted that the thought had never occurred to me, he figured I must really be head over heels for this woman. (He was right.)
Sure enough, the Jays went on to win the division and the AL pennant, and there was a real chance that I'd miss the event I'd been waiting for since I had become a baseball fan 25 years earlier. If the series went the distance, I would be honeymoon-bound and without radio or TV while flying cross-country for the entirety of game seven.
Fortunately, it didn't come to this. Saturday night, on the eve of my wedding, the Jays and Braves were locked in a nail-biter. Toronto carried a 2-1 lead into the ninth but gave up a run to send the game into extra innings. It was about 11:30pm. My wedding was at 10:00 the next morning. What do I do now? Do I stay up and watch the end of the game, not knowing how long that might take? Or do I turn off the tube and get the sleep I need for the big day?
I thought about this for a couple of minutes, and then . . . clicked off the set and went to bed. And, whaddya know, my guys won. Oddly enough, the winning run was scored a little after midnight, so I can truthfully say that my team won a World Series for the first time on my wedding day.
(They won #2 a year later while my wife and I were on a mini-vacation to celebrate our first anniversary. I didn't watch that deciding game either, but I did catch Carter's homerun on the radio as we drifted off to sleep.)
Did they win because I wasn't watching? A part of me, remembering all the near-misses and my 0-for-23 record in 1977, will always wonder if my decision not to watch somehow removed the curse my teams always seemed to be under.
Truth is, I don't really believe I'm a jinx, and in an era when only one of thirty teams can take the prize each year, I'm content with the fact that a team I've rooted for has won two World Series in my lifetime.
These days, I root for good baseball. Each spring I pick a different team to follow, usually a young squad that has a chance to surprise people. Last year it was the Reds, this year the Royals. I was a year early on the Reds, so maybe the Royals will make their move next year. Or maybe another team will pique my interest before the first pitch is thrown in 2000.
Version 8 News
In the last newsletter, I promised that we would begin to talk about some of the new features that would be coming in version 8. I'm going to share a few of the goodies with you in this issue.
Before I do, I want to point out that we're talking about these features first because they're among those that are finished and tested, not because they're the most important things we're working on. As we put the finishing touches on other enhancements, we'll talk about them too, either through the newsletter or via our web site.
SB/CS/PO for pitchers and catchers. Responding to one of your most frequent requests, version 8 compiles pickoffs, stolen bases, and caught stealings for pitchers and catchers.
Holds. In addition, we're now compiling Holds for relief pitchers. I'm not very fond of the Hold, because a reliever doesn't have to pitch well to get one, and because it just doesn't seem right to give a reliever a hold and a loss in the same game. (That happens when the reliever puts runners on base, leaves the game with the lead, and is charged with the loss when those runners later score.)
In the end, however, I decided that Holds are useful even if they're not perfect. We all seem to be able to live with the flaws in other pitching stats (e.g. you can get a Win or Quality Start even if you pitch poorly), so why not add Holds and live with their imperfections, too?
The boxscores and scoresheets now list blown saves and holds in addition to the W/L/S stats that you've seen before.
Computer manager options. In version 8, you'll have the ability to choose whether the computer manager (CM) or a human manager handles four different types of decisions -- selection of starting lineups, substitutions, game tactics (swing away, steal, and so on), and running/throwing decisions.
Some of our customers have expressed the view that the game shouldn't ask the manager whether to take an extra base or where a fielder should throw the ball, because in real life these decisions are made by the players or coaches. This new feature allows you to let the game make these decisions for you while retaining control over subs and game tactics.
Others have said that they like have the CM make tactical decisions but prefer to make substitutions themselves. In version 8, you'll be able to do this.
Longer player names. To conserve space on the 80 x 25 screens in the DOS world, we chose to limit player names to 10 characters (short names for screen display, reports, boxscores) or 18 characters (full names). In Windows, we have more freedom to choose fonts and type sizes, so we've expanded the name fields to enable us to store all known player names without abbreviations.
DH-specific saved lineups. With the advent of inter-league play, teams now play some games with the DH and some without. In version 7, the computer manager always chooses the first saved lineup if a lefty is on the mound and the second if a righty is pitching. It then adds or subtracts the DH from the lineup as necessary. But that doesn't give you much control over how to set the lineups for inter-league games, so version 8 adds the ability to save DH and non-DH versions of each of these lineups as well.
Weather. When our weather model was first developed, we thought we were being quite clever when we added logic that would automatically decide to close the roof on a retractable roof stadium whenever it was raining or too cold. It never occurred to us that baseball would put a team in a place where they'd close the roof when it was too HOT. So we've enhanced the weather system to make that decision and to create realistic temperatures for cities like Phoenix where the normal summertime highs are well over 100 degrees.
Schedule templates. Our friends in the commissioners office have made life very difficult for the people who prepare league schedules. At one time, you could count on teams playing each other an equal number of times, with an equal number of home and road games. Now, with three-division leagues, inter-league play, and one league having more teams than the other, these conventions don't work. Today's real-life schedules are unbalanced and include inter-league matchups where all the games are played in one city. This makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to design a schedule generator that will match what the real-life schedulers are forced to do.
For this reason and others, we've introduced the concept of a schedule template. A schedule template is just like a real schedule but uses dummy team IDs. When you apply this template to a league that you created, your team IDs are substituted for the dummy ones and presto, you've got a working schedule.
Version 8 will include templates for a variety of schedules that you might want to use in your league. We'll include all of the formats that have been used in real life (one 8-team league playing 154 games, one 10-team league playing 162 games, and so on up to today's complex inter-league formats).
Furthermore, you'll be able to create a template from a schedule you've already created. This provides a handy way to move a schedule from one league to another (provided the leagues have the same structure, of course) even if the teams are different.
Schedule editing. We've also added a few features to make it easier to hand-craft your schedules. The most important of these is to copy a block of games. In many league structures, you can put together a balanced schedule that has everyone play everyone else for a period of time, then do it again with the home and road teams reversed. Our block copy command has a "reverse teams" feature that lets you do just this.
Choosing lineups and making substitutions. I've always thought that our lineup screen was a good one -- lots of relevant data a couple of keystrokes away plus handy tools for working with saved lineups and manipulating the batting order. I still feel that way, and we've tried to retain as much of that as we can in the more mouse-oriented Windows world. In addition, we've added some important new features, including these three:
i) a little check box will allow you to toggle between seeing (a) all of the batters or pitchers on your roster and (b) a list of players who are available to enter the game. This is quite handy when you're seeking a pinch hitter, pinch runner, or defensive replacement and need to see who's on the bench.
ii) when working with saved lineups, you get to see the lineups themselves and not just a list of the lineup names. And you can rename these lineups from this window, instead of going over to the manager profile editor to do it.
iii) during a game, you have a chance to undo any mistakes you might make. In version 7, when you inserted a player, he was in the game, period. In version 8, you can make a bunch of moves, then click on the Cancel or Restart button if you decide you made a mistake or simply change your mind. As in real baseball, there is a point of no return -- once you click on OK, it's as if the subs have been announced to the stadium crowd, and you cannot back out at that point.
Dual-role players. Some of you use older seasons that have players who did a significant amount of pitching and playing in the field the same year. To conserve memory and disk space, the game has always allowed only one set of ratings for each player (either batting or pitching), so we've been forced to create two copies of these players. Version 8 allows a player to have a full set of ratings for both roles, so we'll be able to do a better job with these older players and with the handful of modern position players who are occasionally used as emergency pitchers.
There's lots more to talk about, but this is already getting pretty long, so I'm going to stop here and resume the discussion in the next newsletter. Thanks for reading.
- Jim Wheeler