What we're watching – June 5

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– Zack Greinke, coming off his worst start of the year, will try to
join Roy Halladay at nine wins when he takes on the Blue Jays tonight.
Greinke allowed four runs — three earned — over seven innings in a
loss to the White Sox last time out. He faced the Jays back on April 29
and won that one, despite giving up his first two earned runs of the
season. The Jays will go to Ricky Romero, who has given up 10 runs in 9
1/3 innings since rejoining the Toronto rotation last month. One more
bad outing could result in a demotion back to Triple-A, as the Jays
aren’t known for their patience.

– Tonight’s game in Cincinnati matches up the game’s top two
power-hitting pitchers. Carlos Zambrano has hit 13 homers in 260
at-bats since the beginning of 2006, while Micah Owings has six homers
in 146 career at-bats. Owings, at .315/.344/.555, possesses the far
better career line of the two.

– Weather permitting, lefties David Price and CC Sabathia will
engage in the first on what will hopefully be a long series of duels
over the next several years. Price did pitch once against the Yankees
last year, throwing 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball in relief after
starter Edwin Jackson was lit up. Sabathia has won four in a row and is
5-3 with a 3.46 ERA this season. He’s 7-1 with a 2.44 ERA lifetime
against Tampa Bay.

– Bobby Abreu is two hits away from reaching 2,000, but he could
have a difficult time getting those against Detroit’s Justin Verlander
tonight. Verlander has had three starts this season in which he’s given
up a total of two hits.

– Todd Helton’s next homer will move him past George Brett into a
tie for 100th place on the all-time list. He’s at 317 right now.

Game of the Night

Milwaukee vs. Atlanta – Two of the NL’s top young starters, Yovani
Gallardo and Jair Jurrjens, will face off in Atlanta. Gallardo and
Jurrjens were both within a month of each other in 1986, and both are
sporting identical 5-2 records at the moment. Both have allowed three
runs or fewer in all but two of their starts. Tonight’s game will also
make Nate McLouth’s debut as a Brave. He was set to start in center
field and bat third before Thursday’s game was postponed due to rain.

Report: The Yankee Stadium charity is a secretive, self-dealing boondoggle

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The New York Times has a blistering report on the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund. The Fund is the charity the Yankees created in 2006 as a means of making up for the negative impact the construction New Yankee Stadium had on the surrounding community, primarily via its taking over 25 acres of parkland.

The idea of the Fund was a good one: to distribute $40 million in cash grants and sports equipment, and 600,000 free baseball tickets to community organizations in the Bronx over four decades. And it has been distributing funds and tickets. As the Times reports, however, the manner in which it has done so raises some red flags. Such as:

  • Charitable donations have, in an amazing coincidence, often gone to other charities which share common board members with the New Yankee Stadium Fund;
  • Funds have gone to many wealthy groups in affluent parts of the Bronx far away from the Stadium while the area around the stadium remains one of the most impoverished in the nation. For example, a private school in a wealthy part of the borough and a rec center in a gated community have gotten a lot money that, one would think anyway, could be and should be devoted to organizations closer to the ballpark that are in greater need; and
  • There has been almost no transparency or oversight of the Fund. Reports which were supposed to have been submitted have not been. And no one, apart from the Times anyway, seems to care. The Yankees certainly don’t seem to. Indeed, as the article notes, the team has worked hard to keep the Fund’s operations out of its hands. They just got their new ballpark and write the checks and hand out the tickets. Everything else is someone else’s problem.

Cronyism in private philanthropy is not uncommon. As is a lack of oversight. Often it’s the best connected people who receive the benefit of such funds, not the people most in need. This is especially true in charities whose creation was not born of a philanthropic impulse as much as it was born of a need to put a good face on some not-so-good business dealings.

If the Times’ report is correct — and the lack of anyone coming forward to dispute it on the record despite the Times’ requests that they do suggests it is — it appears as if the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund is one of those sorts of charities.

Who is the fastest sprinter in baseball?

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We’re not talking the 100 meters here. We’re talking practical baseball sprinting. That’s defined by the StatCast folks at MLB as “feet per second in a player’s fastest one-second window,” while sprinting for the purposes of, you know, winning a baseball game.

StatCast ranked all players who have at least 10 “max effort” runs this year. I won’t give away who is at the top of this list, but given that baseball’s speedsters tend to get a lot of press you will not be at all surprised. As for the bottom of the list, well, the Angels don’t pay Albert Pujols to run even when he’s not suffering from late career chronic foot problems, so they’ll probably let that one go. I will say, however, that I am amused that the third slowest dude in baseball is named “Jett,” however.

Lately people have noticed some odd things about home run distances on StatCast, suggesting that maybe their metrics are wacko. And, of course, their means of gauging this stuff is proprietary and opaque, so we have no way of knowing if their numbers are off the reservation or not. As such, take all of the StatCast stuff you see with a grain of salt.

That said, even if the feet-per-second stuff is wrong here, knowing that Smith is faster than Jones by a factor of X is still interesting.