- The saga of Mark DeRosa:
The litany of mistakes that cost the Cubs what was their last World Series chance with this current group and with Lou Piniella as manager began in game one of the NLDS in 2008 as Piniella chose to start Ryan Dempster. Dempster had a fantastic year and statistically, deserved the game one start; realistically, he is not the guy you want starting game one of a playoff series; and his results bore that out.
After the Dodgers dispatched the Cubs like debris after a would-be Cubs ticker tape parade, the Cubs made another series of ghastly blunders. The Milton Bradley signing is a gaffe that requires no discussion; the other mistake was trading Mark DeRosa to the Indians for minor league pitchers Chris Archer, John Gaub and Jeff Stevens.
The three minor league pitchers look to be talented in judging by their stats, but the idea in making that deal for the Cubs was not to bring in some young pitching to replenish a destitute farm system; the idea was to piece together some chips to get Jake Peavy from the Padres. This move is the latest example of a GM----Jim Hendry----going against his manager's wishes and making a decision with it in his mind's eye for an even bigger move far off on the horizon. Piniella did not want to trade DeRosa; and he most certainly didn't want to have to deal with Milton Bradley; and they didn't even get Peavy!
In a trade reminiscent of the ridiculous Paul DePodesta decision to jettison a chunk of the Dodgers roster in 2004 as they were rolling toward the playoffs and possibly the World Series, Hendry didn't learn from another GM's mistake.
In the hopes of spinning Brad Penny off to the Diamondbacks for Randy Johnson while not having a deal in place with either the Diamondbacks or Johnson himself, DePodesta wrecked the Dodgers on and off the field in one swift and stupid strike. Only someone without even the most basic comprehension of clubhouse chemistry would've thought that Bradley being in the clubhouse instead of DeRosa was an upgrade. The fiery "do anything and everything to win" DeRosa was the glue of the Cubs clubhouse and he was gone----and they didn't even get Peavy!!
The idea that a team will live with the return on such a trade if the next trade doesn't go through is acceptable in certain cases. In this case and the case of the DePodesta Dodgers, it wasn't acceptable. If the Cubs were making that move with an eye on Peavy; or the Dodgers with Johnson, a deal should've been in place before signing off on trading important cogs to the club's prior success. It was a big mistake and began the Cubs tailspin that's not going to end anytime soon until a new regime is in place.
They blew it.
With the Giants signing DeRosa, the one big thing they gain along with his attitude is versatility. (That Giants club is loaded with gamers from DeRosa to Aaron Rowand to Edgar Renteria.) Because Pablo Sandoval can play first or third base; because the newly signed Mark DeRosa (2-years, $12 million) can play anywhere; because Freddy Sanchez can play second or third base, the Giants still have multiple options to fill their need for a bat.
The talks for Dan Uggla (another fiery gamer) have hit a snag, but that doesn't mean they can't be revisited and Uggla can be shifted to first base or left at second as DeRosa plays the outfield. They could go after Adam LaRoche, who'd be a great fit in that clubhouse; or there's the reasonably priced and well-respected Jermaine Dye. With their pitching, the Giants are automatically in contention, but if they want to be taken seriously as something more than a member of the group of "maybes" that are permeating the National League now, they need a guy who produces runs by himself.
If I were advising the Giants, I'd check in to see what the Tigers are thinking with Miguel Cabrera. It would be stunning if they wouldn't be willing to talk about it and there's a possibility that their desire to clear some salary and replenish the farm system would trump what Cabrera's talents would be worth in an even swap. Would the Giants have to take a Nate Robertson, Dontrelle Willis or Jeremy Bonderman contract along with Cabrera and not give up the entire farm system? Maybe.
The Tigers haven't exactly been the sharpest tools in the shed when judging minor league talent. It would come down to the Giants being willing to take on the payroll. Cabrera's got $126 million coming to him through 2015, so I wouldn't expect the Giants to make that kind of move financially unless they were able to find a taker for Aaron Rowand, but it's something to explore.
They'd be contenders with the addition of Dye, Uggla or LaRoche, but with Cabrera they'd be the instant favorites in the National League.
- Those goalposts are heavy, everyone-----HEAVE!!!!
And I do mean heave in every possible definition of the word.
If it wasn't so absurd at how the stat zombies are shifting the Moneyball/"stat revolution" goalpoasts (and not too subtly, I might add), it'd be funny; not funny ha-ha, but funny sad; funny embarrassing; funny to the point where I might actually lay off a bit and let them wallow in their own morass of humiliation.
But it is that absurd.
They're still clinging to the Moneyball-created ideal that every major league baseball front office will one day be a computer suite filled with Ivy League-educated armchair experts who look at the game with the detachment and clarity of a scientist trying to send a rocket to the moon or cure a dreaded disease. If they had their way, the winter meetings could conceivably mesh with a simultaneously held Star Trek convention and no one would know the difference as to whom was there to attend what because they'd be there to visit both!
Much like the Moneyball movie and Billy Beane's sudden abandonment of his portrayal as an infallible genius as he comes under increasing scrutiny and fire for his practical ineptitude over the past year, the hardest of the hard core stat zombie continues to try and salvage whatever's left from the inferno.
Here's the newest shifting of the goalposts about Moneyball from Rob Neyer in his SweetSpot blog on ESPN:
Michael Lewis' book took two intellectual tacks: one, that winning without money means appreciating undervalued assets; and two, that objective analysis generally is more useful than subjective analysis. Billy Beane once said -- and honestly, I can't remember if he said this to Michael Lewis, or to me -- something like, "I might be a better general manager if I never watched a single game." The idea being, of course, that our eyes and our emotions can lead to poor decisions, relative to relying on the cold, hard facts. (Another thing Billy Beane has said: "In God we trust; all others must bring data.").
Winning without money is not about appreciating undervalued assets. Winning without money is being smarter and a better judge of what's important without being so arrogant and pompous that you dismiss everything that doesn't have a numerical value attached to it. If Larry Beinfest tells me he likes a player and doesn't know why----he just likes him----I'm more inclined to listen to Beinfest than I am to the aforementioned DePodesta based on history and success.
Would "objective analysis" have looked at a player like Casey Blake, who in years past and based on numbers, would've been seen as an "organizational player"; in other words----filler? A guy to be kept at Triple A and little else. What was it that made Mark Shapiro and the Indians see something in Blake, who'd never gotten a real chance to play in the big leagues and washed out in three organizations before becoming a hustling, fundamentally solid cog for both the Indians and Dodgers division winners starting at the advanced age of 29? It sure wasn't his minor league numbers that indicated he'd become much of anything in the big leagues. His numbers were okay in the minors; maybe he could be a useful utility guy. Maybe. So what was it that led the Indians to give him a chance to play? Was it "objective" or "subjective"? And who was right?
Is objective analysis really such a step up over taking everything into account? Did it work in San Diego? In Toronto? In Los Angeles? In Oakland? Even in Boston, where the Red Sox have covered their mistakes with gobs and gobs of money? The elephant in the room that's conveniently ignored for expediency is that the Marlins and Twins are not stat zombie organizations and have been far more successful with a reasonable budget than any of the stats-obsessed teams.
This implication that Michael Lewis would've written a "different" book if he were observing a stats-oriented team today is accurate, but not in the way the blog posting suggests.
Lewis had an agenda.
That agenda was to write a book that put the stat "revolution" in the best possible light to extol the virtues of Bill James, Billy Beane, et al. I have no doubt that as skillful as Lewis is, he could write a similar book in as convincing a manner about the Marlins or Twins and create another "revolution" by those gullible enough to believe that every word uttered by the likes of James and regurgitated by Beane are equivalent to the biblical testimony delivered by Moses.
Does that make the end result of Lewis accurate? Or is it the work of a writer trying to craft a story to fit his purposes? Lewis could've written anything about any team and the sheep would've started grazing and defending it to the end. It's not real.
This relentless quoting of Beane has become so tiresome that it's all but ignored now. Given the way the Athletics "objective reality" has them destined for last place in the AL West next year and on track to win maybe----maybe----75 games, do they even want to face reality at this point?
Coco Crisp? Yeah, let's talk about his defensive value. That'll explain it.
Michael Lewis doesn't know anything about baseball. He's not the conduit to bring the world of the stat zombie to the masses; he's a writer selling a narrative; a narrative that no longer fits into the real world because it hasn't worked!! Instead of his followers admitting this simple fact, they cling; they twist; the shimmy and shake trying to remove the shackles of reality that they were so beholden to when the book was released and the few years in which it was taken as gospel.
Their side is losing, but the founding members of the cult remain. To the last. You almost have to admire it. Almost.
- Viewer Mail 12.29.2009:
Joe writes RE Kenshin Kawakami and his contract:
I was kind of shocked that the Braves extended Hudson THREE years after having surgery as well. As for Kawakami, how is 6 million too much? According to Dave Cameron, an average player on the free agent market right now costs $9 mill...
Kawakami's salary is too high because: A) he's about to turn 35; B) he isn't particularly good; and C) the Braves could get a similar result from their fifth starter if they slotted Kris Medlen or James Parr in and let them pitch.
Joe, are you really coming on my site and referencing Dave Cameron?
The same Dave Cameron who smugly ridiculed the Marlins as contenders before the season started?
The same Dave Cameron who extols the virtues of Jason Vargas?
The same Dave Cameron who still inexplicably defends the tenure of Paul DePodesta as Dodgers GM?
That Dave Cameron?
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Jason Bay:
I think the Mets should have that sit down with Bay and his agent and say, "Are you coming here or not?" So annoying to have to wait on a player.
It is enough already. There's giving a guy time to think about a job offer and there's this.
The Mets appear to have had enough as well. GM Omar Minaya was quoted over the weekend as saying he's interested in Matt Holliday, but that Bay's going to be easier to sign. Bottom line, unless Bay knows he's got another deal in hand (and if that were the case, he'd have signed it already), he'll be screwed if the Mets move on.
If Bay can't cash in as heavily as he wants after the career-year he had in 2009 and his strong season-and-a-half showing in Boston, then he'd better just cut his losses and take the best offer on the table and end the pissing contest because it looks like he's already lost as much as a guy about to make a guaranteed $65 million can lose.
Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes:
After seeing Joe's comment on the Sunday Lightning, I had to restrain my rage by meditating on peaceful thoughts. Fifteen minutes later I realized it wasn't working... but I still managed to keep my mouth shut. Not.... sure.... I can.... much.... longer....
In all fairness to Joe, sometimes it's hard to tell, but I think he was kidding just to get me to react.
Gabriel writes RE the Braves:
Would you pay 6 million to an average player? I wouldn't.
I think the Braves will break down the stretch unless they make a couple of good trades at midseason.
I don't consider Kawakami an "average" player to start with.
Jason Heyward is supposedly the real deal and the Braves have shown no fear in bringing a very young player up and inserting him right into the fire as they did with Andruw Jones in 1996. They'll be running a big risk putting the pot of gold on a 20-year-old with their current roster as veteran as it is, but they might be better doing that than overpaying at mid-season, something they've made a habit of to their detriment.
Objectively, they might be better served to go into the season with what they currently have and see what comes available as the season moves along. Adrian Gonzalez will be out there; as might Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Lee. Their pitching will keep them competitive even if they don't get a bat right now.