Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jerry Manuel Jumps The Shark (Officially)

  • Does the Mets hierarchy need to see any more?

Indulge me for a moment.

Your team has lost over 90 games and is going nowhere. Winning two or three more games over the last week of the season is going to do nothing one way or the other to save or lose the job of the manager or coaches. With most organizations----even the Mets----the decision will have already been made. With a 4-3 deficit to the equally horrendous Washington Nationals in Washington and a runner on second base with two outs, why----why----would any manager in his right mind bring in his closer, Francisco Rodriguez, to record one out?

What was the plan for the bottom of the ninth had the Mets tied the game or taken the lead?

Was Mets manager Jerry Manuel going to have the audacity to have K-Rod pitch more than one inning now? Against the Nationals with both teams just running out the clock for the season to end? Was this some self-serving attempt to "win as many games as possible" for no reason whatsoever? The season's gone. Let it go. And to bring K-Rod in for more than one possible inning when: A) he simply isn't good at pitching two innings, nor is he built to pitch more than one inning in anything other than an extraordinary circumstance such as, oh I don't know, a playoff game; and B) the season is over----it's lost----risking any injury to K-Rod now is plain stupid even if not using him is Yankee-level paranoia over the innings and pitches of Joba Chamberlain.

And they lost the game anyway.

I don't want to hear stuff like "we're trying to win"; or "K-Rod hadn't pitched in four days"; or "whatever, whatever, blah, blah, blah". I'd consider shutting K-Rod down completely before I'd use him the eighth inning on the road and obviously plan to use him for more than one inning.

How much more do the Mets need to see?

Let's be pragmatic here. The coaches are going to learn their fate on Monday. It's obvious that the entire staff is either going to be fired or re-assigned within the organization. Does it make sense then to bring back the manager while firing all of his coaches? Logically, the Mets have to ask themselves a series of questions: Are they going to give Manuel a contract extension so he's not a lame duck next season? No. Are they going to fire him early if the club (presumably healthy) gets off to a bad start? Absolutely. Is he making big money to preclude the write-off from firing him now? No.

So why the vacillation?

Bobby Valentine has taken a job with ESPN to work the playoffs and possibly beyond, but there's an out to take over as some team's manager. Are the Mets going to continue down the road they're on and throw more money at their problems? Are they going to let someone else hire Valentine, who belongs in a Met uniform and wouldn't simply be taking the job for the money or because no one else has given him a chance? Or are they going to make a decisive and explosive move to ignite the fan base again, say they mean business and are no longer screwing around? Bottom line, what are the ticket sales going to look like if they bring this current field management team back without doing something drastic in acquiring players?

What more do they need to see to make the move?

  • Speaking of using closers for more than one inning:

Most closers are unable to pitch more than one inning because they've been trained to only pitch one inning. Some teams overuse their closers to their eventual detriment and such appears to have been the case with the Royals, manager Trey Hillman and closer Joakim Soria.

The Royals used Kyle Farnsworth----yes really!----to try and close out a 3-2 lead over the Yankees last night and naturally, Farnsworth found a way to blow the game. (Actually, he pulled a Scott Norwood and kicked it away with two plays that were bounced right back to him and fumbled around like someone had flung a hot piece of charcoal at him.) But that's irrelevant. Farnsworth is what he is. But where was Soria?

One would assume he was unavailable after throwing 46 pitches on Tuesday and the "strategy" that Hillman has used with Soria over much of the second half has been to use him for more than one inning. Eight times since the All Star break has Soria pitched more than one inning. For what? Are the Royals in such a position that they need to be using one of their few marketable assets to such a degree? Add in that Soria has had shoulder problems and the transgression becomes far worse. You not only have your closer unavailable for stretches at a time (hence Farnsworth), but you run the risk of injuring him for subsequent seasons being overworked for a team that's lost 94 games.

Great work.

  • Viewer Mail 9.30.2009:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Sal Fasano:

Poor Sal! And bad Rockies! That post made me even madder about the state of health insurance in this country, but I won't even start blathering about that or I'll...........

You can start blathering. The more we blather, the more we might get done. I spend the majority of my day blathering. It's not such a bad deal. Sometimes I come out with something that makes sense!

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Pat Gillick:

I assume that when you say "in some capacity" in regards to Pat Gillick possibly teaming up with the Cubs, that you mean in some capacity other than GM, right? Because the talk around town here is that Hendry ain't goin' anywhere. And I may be wrong, but just judging by Lou Piniella's body language, he's outta Chicago after his contract is up... unless they miraculously put together a great season next year (they won't).

Gillick does not need the time-consuming stress of being a day-to-day GM again (especially for the Cubs), but as club president? I could absolutely see it happening. And he's a smart executive; plus he and Piniella are tight. He'd let Hendry handle the everyday stuff----like getting rid of Milton Bradley. Good luck.

Gabriel writes RE the Blue Jays:

Good reference to Dark Knight. You think that the Blue Jays would care about their "retiring" manager? The organization is a mess, and nobody has interest in being a respectful baseball organization. They're like Rachel Phelps, one would think that with the effort put into making the organization a good baseball club, they want to be moved out of Toronto. I know it might be best for the team to trade Halladay for some arms & bats with value, but come on, don't go with the "We'll let him go because he wants to win". Build the man a good lineup (like in '92 or '93) and see the man shutout his way through a pennant. I'm very disappointed with the lack of effort the Blue Jays have displayed this season.

Gaston would be doing the organization the biggest favor if he retired. It would save them from having to fire him if he refuses to leave. You can't bring in a new GM and dictate to him who the manager's going to be; it's a recipe for disaster and the club really isn't that far away from being pretty good. If they trade Halladay, it'll be due to finances and getting something for him before he ups and leaves after the season as a free agent. The club does seem to have packed it up and gone home, which is the death knell for the management team no matter who they are.

Megan writes RE a managerial candidate for the Mets:

Why can't the Mets promote from within the organization for the managerial position? Mr. Met has been there FOREVER. Give him a shot for Pete's sake. All Mr. Met has received is a mug with Rusty Staub's face on it and Certificate of Merit for his years of service.

I doubt Mr. Met needs the aggravation of dealing with Jose Reyes and Oliver Perez. He might start smoking and drinking again. And he tends to get a big head if things go well. Or poorly for that matter.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Where's The Christian Moral Code?

  • Only when it's convenient...

There's a bit of a cause running through the interwebs about big league journeyman/lovable lug Sal Fasano and his desire to make a brief appearance in the big leagues this season not for glory; not for ego; and not even for money----but for health insurance.

Jeff Pearlman writes of Fasano's plight on Fasano's 2-year-old son has a heart condition that has required numerous surgeries almost since the child's birth and Fasano, never a big earner, needs the health insurance big league players receive automatically upon spending one second on a big league roster to pay for the massive costs of the procedures. All Fasano needs is to be on a big league roster for a second. That's it. And what makes this situation even more egregious is that Fasano plays for the Colorado Rockies, a team whose GM, Dan O'Dowd, has gone to great lengths to permeate his organization with players who adhere to a "Christian moral code"----NY Times Story.

Did O'Dowd miss the part of the Christianity stuff in which he's supposed to help his fellow man?

Or is he just using it out of convenience to ingratiate himself with his bosses and his community in an attempt to save his job? Obviously, considering the amount of luck O'Dowd's had as his job was on the line numerous times as he's made desperation managerial changes and his club has gone on ridiculous hot streaks, it's working for him on some level, but how about putting the "code" into practice to help someone who needs the help?

No one's saying that O'Dowd is consciously keeping Fasano out of the big leagues and I do believe him when he says in the article that any promise of a promotion for Fasano was misconstrued. The Rockies are in a pennant race and can't be letting off-field issues affect what they do with their roster; but I can't believe they couldn't have: A) fiddled with the roster to bring Fasano up to the big leagues as a September call-up; and B) couldn't find a team to trade Fasano for a bag of balls to get him to the big leagues elsewhere.

It's not unusual for clubs to do "favors" for people in promoting or using individuals who shouldn't be anywhere near a big league field. The Mets brought minor league roster filler Mike Glavine up late in the 2003 season so he could get a couple of games with his brother Tom. In the real world, Mike Glavine had about as much business being in the big leagues as I do, but the season was lost for the Mets and what was the difference? It was a nice thing to do.

In spring training, teams do things that could be referred to as outright absurd as "favors" to people. Garth Brooks played with the Mets in spring training for charity; and the Yankees put the 60-some-year-old comedian (who hasn't been funny for about 25 years and is now known more for his arrogance than his comedy) Billy Crystal into a game as a birthday present. Are you telling me that one of Fasano's former teams wouldn't take him just to help out?

The Indians are going nowhere; the Mets are too kind-hearted for their own good sometimes and might want to help; for all the criticism he receives as an owner, Peter Angelos with the Orioles is known for being a nice, generous man. No one can help? Trades can still be made. Why wouldn't there be a spot somewhere for Fasano to get that briefest of time on a roster so he and his family are covered?

It's not as if Fasano is just some guy who has no place whatsoever in the big leagues; he does have certain things he can contribute. He's likable; and he can catch.

One would also think that former teammates like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Ryan Howard and Grady Sizemore----for whom the money that the surgeries to the child are going to cost is, let's be honest, chump change----would want to help a former teammate in need. It wouldn't take much for a group of them to toss something into the pot to help out.

All the forced benevolence and insincere piety is great when players are trying to get themselves out of jams, place themselves in a favorable public light or are trying to hold onto their jobs, but when it's really necessary to live by that code, where are they? What happened to the "core beliefs" that are so ingrained in their lives?

Sadly, if anything is done, it'll only be because there's such righteous indignation at the hypocrisy and self-serving nature of such a public airing of their so-called "beliefs" that Fasano might get what he needs. It'll be the same result, but it won't be as selfless an act as it could've been had his big league call up happened because it was a nice thing to do and not due to a public outcry and self-preservation.

  • Cito Gaston's talking a lot for a guy who probably won't be back:

With GM J.P. Ricciardi's firing almost (I say "almost" since it's Ricciardi and he's like a cockroach in a nuclear holocaust----he just survives, somehow) inevitable, why is manager Cito Gaston suddenly so verbose in his analysis of former players (B.J.Ryan----Gaston wasn't impressed); and the future of the club's starting rotation (he's not sure if Roy Halladay will be a Blue Jay----no kidding!)?

As popular as Gaston is in Toronto, is Paul Beeston going to force whoever replaces Ricciardi to keep Gaston as his manager? The fans have lost interest in the club as it is; they're going to trade Halladay; and new regimes always have their share of growing pains. Is it smart to keep Gaston? And if they know that he might not be back, why isn't someone telling him to keep his mouth shut?

  • Speaking of the Blue Jays:

Former Blue Jays GM Pat Gillick's name was being floated to oversee the rebuilding of the organization after (if) Ricciardi's gone, but Gillick squashed those rumors saying that he's not ruling anything out, but it would have to be the right situation near his home on the West Coast.

Mark this down. Gillick is going to return to baseball, but it will be with the Chicago Cubs in some capacity to rejuvenate another organization as he did the Phillies and Mariners and to help his friend Lou Piniella. Watch.

  • The Mets coaches will learn their fate Monday; what about the manager?

It's being widely reported that the Mets will decide on their coaches right after the season. The truth is that the decision has been made and they're going to wait until the season's over to announce it to both the coaches and the media.

But what about the manager?

It's going to do a lot to dictate the future of the Mets if they keep Jerry Manuel. Objectively, no one can look at this club and be angry about them losing; but there have been so many fundamental gaffes and a bare-minimum effort offered by a chunk of the roster that it reflects on the manager. Poorly.

The dark cloud over the club needs to be aggressively dealt with. The coaches are learning their fate on Monday; so should the manager. And he needs to go.

  • Viewer Mail 9.29.2009:

The zombies are a popular subject today.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes:

Brains! Must... have... EAT... BRAINS... Pygmalion... Theorem... Win Theorem... *SLURP, CRUNCH, CHOMP*... BRAINS... Rob Neyer... YUM... Likey like... Murphy... Beane... GREEK GOD OF WALKS... CHAD BRADFORD... MMM... ME LIKEY...

Jeff, I knew there were innate reasons deeper than a Fulbright scholarship and unending loyalty that I named you Mid-West Capo and my faith has been rewarded.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes:

Could you never write about the zombies again? My eyes kept crossing and now they won't go back to normal, which makes blogging very difficult.

Jane, you know I would do anything for you, but this favor I cannot grant. I need the zombies. I could neither function nor live without them. They...they....complete me.

Megan writes:

No mention of Murphy's UZR? I'm highly disappointed. You just lost a valuable reader.

You've been infected with a zombie microbe. There's a cure. You must follow me. I'll do anything for my readers----especially my female readers. I can save you, but you have to trust me.

Karim writes:

Good one on gratitude and it helps a lot.

Uh. Thanks?


Monday, September 28, 2009

The Zombies Are Eating Each Other

  • They're referred to as "zombies" for a reason:

One of the things that most amazes me about the stat zombies is how they not only attack those that deviate from any and all things that they believe, but they attack each other with an even greater fervency than they treat their enemies. The term "zombie" itself implies a lack of conscious mind, but one would think that they'd at least try to keep those that agree with them on the same side. But if you look at the "discourse" in the comments on Baseball Think Factory and sabermetrically inclined sites, all you see is the nitpicking and fighting that goes on with people who are so socially backward that they're unable to engage with anyone in any context; it extends from not being able to relate to people in person to the anonymity of the internet----and it's contributing to their inevitable downfall.

They've come after me in their anonymity several times and been backhanded so quickly and with such force (and I've been gentle out of kindness) that they either cower in the corner or disappear entirely, but I'm not one of them and am easier for them to dismiss regardless of what I say or do. Yesterday though, they went after one of their own----Rob Neyer----after he posted an analysis of the Mets Daniel Murphy and his potential as a starting first baseman. Some of the comments were attacks based on the surmising that Murphy is not an everyday option at first base. The main quote:

First, anybody who says a first baseman has to hit home runs is an idiot.

Second, it's hard to win a lot of games with a first baseman who can hit (the Dodgers this year being a notable exception).

Third, anybody who thinks Daniel Murphy can hit really isn't paying close attention.

This season, 23 major league first basemen have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. Among them, Murphy ranks 20th in slugging percentage and 22nd in on-base percentage. He's just not getting the job done, and isn't likely to. You can compare him to James Loney, except James Loney isn't getting the job done, either. You can compare him to Keith Hernandez and John Olerud, except Hernandez and Olerud were both on-base machines. Olerud posted a .425 OBP in his three seasons as a Met; Hernandez a .387 OBP in his seven seasons.

Then the comments were of the following variety:

So you took a virtual rookie, playing out-of-position, that happens to play on the worst offense in the Major Leagues and in the second best pitcher's park in baseball - and you deduced that his sub-par on-base-percentage and slugging percentage isn't beneficial to the team. Way to go out on a limb!

Second, it's hard to win a lot of games with a first baseman who can hit (the Dodgers this year being a notable exception).

Maybe the dumbest statement ever from Rob Neyer. And that's saying something.

It's a wonder how the Cardinals manage to succeed. They just won the NL Central despite all that hitting their first baseman insists on doing.

In other news, the proofreading in this post is risible. Did you get so excited about tearing Jim Luttrell a new hole that you forgot to edit? It almost seems as if you really aren't paying close attention...

rob neyer you are a horrible writer

i am overly confused by this post, not really sure what your trying to say here rob, this post is not well written

"Second, it's hard to win a lot of games with a first baseman who can hit (the Dodgers this year being a notable exception)."

I'm assuming you meant "can't hit," right

Good grief!!

One would assume that these people are "loyal" readers and "fans" if they took the time to comment, but the way they latch onto a typo (we all make them----even me) by calling Neyer a "horrible writer" and attacking, attacking, attacking stuns me and these are the people who hate my guts or dismiss and outright ridicule me!

I disagree with a vast chunk of what Neyer says and believes, but to call him a "horrible writer" simply isn't fair. And the sickest part of all this is that he happens to be right.

Daniel Murphy isn't a player who's not an everyday first baseman (I don't subscribe to the theory that certain positions should provide a set of perfunctory numbers as a prerequisite to playing there), he's a player who's not an everyday player period. If the Mets are intent on playing Murphy at first base next year, they're making a similar mistake as they did during one of their frequent phases of organizational rudderlessness in 2003-2004 and decided that Jason Phillips's 119 game run of solid play made him their own version of a converted first baseman along the lines of Scott Hatteberg (whose rise was documented in the farcical text of Moneyball). The opposing pitchers figured Phillips out in 2004 and he declined into what he was----a Triple A catcher who could be a serviceable big league backup on a mediocre team.

Murphy might evetually be a player who deserves 500 at bats; but he isn't now and isn't going to be next year either. He has good enough hands and an arm to be a roving utility player as he learns his way in the big leagues. If the Mets try him as their first baseman, they'll be searching for a replacement by May of 2010.

As for the zombies attacking their own, I cannot imagine anyone in the rapidly growing Prince of New York "family" attacking me like that no matter what I said or did; in fact, I trust that a large chunk of them would take the bullet to protect the Boss. I'd rather have loyalty than most anything. The zombie world is crumbling----and they're setting the charges themselves with almost no help from me. I'm perfectly willing to pick through the bones though and take advantage of the self destruction.

  • The Orioles should re-think their spring training regimen:

What is it about the Orioles that they play respectably and somewhat above their talent level for the first 3-4 months of the season, and then run out of gas like they're playing in the 120-degree heat of Saudi Arabia rather than Baltimore? It's not just this year; it's every year. It doesn't matter who the manager is; what their philosophies are; or whether they're using young players or veterans----it's the same every year. It's not a late season lull or slump; they collapse.

No matter who the manager is next year (it's safe to assume it's not going to be Dave Trembley; I'd want to speak to Gary Varsho about the job) the club has to look at how they prepare for the season physically because no matter how bad a team is, this shouldn't happen on an annual basis with the precision timing of a NASA rocket launch. With the way the Orioles have incorporated their increasingly impressive array of youngsters, it's easier to get them to do certain things in the spring at which insolent veterans might balk. What they're doing obviously isn't working and they need to make some changes in physical conditioning. They can't be much worse than they've been in recent years.

  • Mets 4-Marlins 0:

If you're the Marlins, how do you let yourself get shut out by Pat Misch?

  • Viewer Mail 9.28.2009:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the tightening NL East:

I had no idea the NL East race was as tight as it is. I guess I've been paying too much attention to the AL East.

The top three teams in the division owe a debt of gratitude for that to the Mets for being a notoriously effective punching bag without prejudice.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the Phillies late-season stumble:

The season is winding down to a snooze so I am rooting for a Phillies meltdown. That'd be a nice change.

For me and the suffering fan base of the Mets also; let someone else suffer for a change.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Lightning 9.27.2009

  • The blazing Braves:

Left for dead two weeks ago, the Braves have ripped off wins in 13 of 15 games and gotten to within striking distance of not just the Wild Card lead (2 1/2 games behind the Rockies); but a Phillies collapse away from the division title (5 games).

Granted, they've made the majority of their hay against the Mets and Nationals, but they don't make the schedule and they did sweep the Cardinals last week. No matter how and against whom they've done it, the Braves have staged a remarkable and heroic comeback into contention after they were left on life support after being swept by the Reds three weeks ago. With three games with the still fighting Marlins this week, then four more with the Nationals to end the season, the Braves are right in the thick of the Wild Card race.

What's even more impressive is that the Braves have done this with little-to-no help from Chipper Jones, who's struggled so badly that he's openly spoken of retirement. They've also dealt with the job speculation of manager Bobby Cox; the revelation of a rift between the manager and GM Frank Wren; and the announcement that 2010 would be Cox's last on the Braves bench.

Their starting pitching has been the team's strength; the bullpen has straightened itself out from their earlier season inconsistency; and their hitting has been clutch. The Braves have pulled a shocker by getting back into the race and with the schedule advantage, they could pull an even bigger stunner by coming from nowhere to still be alive----and possibly more----a week from now.

I thought they were dead.

But they're not.

  • Panic setting in in Philadelphia----and with good reason:

In what's an even stranger confluence of circumstances, the Phillies have what looks to be a safe five game lead in the NL East, but if things go horribly wrong for them (and it's not out for the realm of the possible judging from the burgeoning disaster that is their bullpen), they could actually find themselves sweating their own position come Friday.

The Phillies have today's game against the Brewers (apparently playing----or not playing depending on your perspective----for manager Ken Macha's job), four with the Astros and end the season with the Marlins. If things break wrong for them, they could be in a similar situation to the Mets in 2007 and 2008 and fall completely out of the playoffs. The five game lead with a week to go is tough to overcome----but that's what the Mets thought.

It's highly unlikely that the Phillies will collapse so they blow their lead, but what happens once they do enter the playoffs? With that bullpen in its current state, how can they expect to get through a first round series with the Dodgers or Cardinals? The answer is simple: they won't.

On the bright side, they'll get an earlier start sending Brad Lidge back to the labor-a-tory to find out what's wrong with him, inside and out. That's something to cling to.

  • Floating in the wind with the Mets:

There are some strange happenings with the Mets these days and I'm not referring to the ridiculous number of injuries they've sustained to the entire roster. Manager Jerry Manuel fielded a lineup last night that, at best, was strange.

What sense does it make, with a week left in the year and the season lost, to have both Fernando Tatis and Omir Santos in the lineup? Although he homered, Tatis isn't going to be back unless the Mets revert to their trend in the early part of the decade of giving contracts to players based on personalities rather than performance; Santos has proven that he's a backup catcher and little else. Nick Evans is sitting on the bench and needs to be given a close look to see what he is; Daniel Murphy isn't going to get any better hitting against lefties if he doesn't get the chance to hit against lefties. Josh Thole isn't ready to catch or hit in the majors, but they might as well let him play. What's the difference?

The Mets broadcasters Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez were openly wondering about this themselves. The conversation turned to the possible Manuel concerns about his job security and the idea that he might be thinking he needs to try to win as many games as possible over the last week of the season. This leads me to wonder if it's floating around the club that there could be a managerial change. Occasionally teams float trial balloons disguised as rumors into the air to get a gauge on fan reaction; I doubt most Mets fans would care if Manuel was shown the door; someone has to be sacrificed for this and the manager is the easiest solution. And realistically, even if the Mets all of their remaining games, it'll be like dressing up a D grade on a test with a plus. D? D+? Who cares?

Darling brought up a good point when he said that the injuries shouldn't be discounted as a major factor for the downfall, but that's not an excuse for everything. I hate to keep returning to the same theme over and over again, but a decisive maneuver has to be made to reignite interest in this team and with the Wilpon financial situation still murky, buying their way out of trouble by going after the likes of John Lackey or Matt Holliday won't solve the underlying issues that have plagued the club since the end of 2006.

The Mets history has been to vacillate. When the Bobby Valentine/Steve Phillips era was drawing to a close, they were intent on dumping both if they dumped one; instead, they hedged and allowed Phillips to fire Valentine and hire Art Howe, setting the organization back further than they would've been if they'd pulled the trigger on both. With Willie Randolph, the voices wanting to replace him after 2007 were quieted and it left the manager hanging in the wind, with both him and the club----and most importantly, the players----knowing he was under a death watch and would be fired with the slightest hiccup. Sometimes taking a step back and holding back on such a move is smart; but in most cases, a decision of finality is better than the alternative even if it means making a mistake. In the case of Manuel, I can't imagine that the final week is going to alter that conclusion one way or the other. If the decision's been made, it's been made no matter what they look like in the final days of the calamity of 2009.

Are the Mets going to make the same mistake of letting the circumstances play themselves out before taking action and have no solid alternative? They need to make a bold move and that is to bring Bobby Valentine back right after the season ends. If they don't, someone else will hire him and they'll again be on the outside looking in on what they "should've" done. This Mets foundation can be scotch-taped together very quickly for a playoff run next year, but not if they're still too nice and try to be all things to all people. They need to be brutal this one time and make the move before it's too late.

  • La Russa wins in more ways than one:

Since the firing of Tony La Russa cohort Walt Jocketty and the prior stripping of his organizational power as owner Bill DeWitt somewhat cleverly played the stat zombie/scouting operations against one another with the hiring of Jeff Luhnow and a sudden reliance on numbers and cheapness, La Russa has quietly stewed over the penny-pinching and ignoring of his suggestions.

Now, with another division title in the bag and a pretty good shot to win the pennant, the Cardinals placated their free agent-to-be manager with the aggressive and expensive acquisitions of Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa. DeWitt has stated his intention to not just lock up Albert Pujols past his current contract (expiring after 2011), but to do everything he can to keep Holliday. La Russa looked like he was halfway out the door several times with the interference of armchair experts who disregarded his and pitching coach Dave Duncan's advice, but he's won in more ways than just on the field. He's not going anywhere; and even with Duncan's anger at the treatment by the club of his son Chris, it's hard to see him leaving either. He and La Russa are attached forever; where La Russa is, so will be Duncan; and where that will be is St. Louis.

  • Viewer Mail 9.27.2009:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Joba Chamberlain:

Joba would never have gone past the sixth, perfect or not. The point was for him to pitch well, and he did. But it would have been fun if he'd retired every Red Sox hitter he faced.

You're right and it would've been interesting, but the organization did not need the aggravation that would've come with yanking a guy who had a perfect game going. It's just as well that things transpired as they did for everyone involved.

  • Overt scumbaggery:

Jeff at Red State Blue State mentioned the John Stossel-Kevin Trudeau interview yesterday, so I found it on YouTube and posted it below. It has that rare combination of Scientology, snake-oil and horseshit. It's a textbook case of capitalism at its worst and you have to grudgingly admire it.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Marlins Will Rue The Day They Didn't Beef Up The Bullpen

  • A proven closer might've made the difference for the Marlins:

They're not dead yet, but after last night's devastating loss to the comatose Mets, the Marlins are on life support in their playoff chase. Given how they've been given last rites so many times this season, it would be foolish to count them out with a week left in the season----anything can happen----but one can only wonder what might've been had they followed through on their attempts to beef up their bullpen at mid-season. Are they going to be hovering around the firepit in the backyard and reminiscing over their season while still wondering what might have been?

Having sniffed around and gotten into serious discussions with the Padres about Heath Bell, but deeming the demands too steep, the Marlins stuck with what they had, relied on journeymen like Brendan Donnelly and shut their eyes going with skittish Matt Lindstrom and the young and inexperienced Leo Nunez. It's cost them more than one game and could very well have cost them a playoff spot.

As talented as Nunez is (and I still can't fathom what Royals GM Dayton Moore was thinking when he traded that arm for Mike Jacobs), he's not experienced at closing; his command isn't very good; and he tends to leave fat pitches out over the plate because he relies too heavily on his velocity and gives up a lot of home runs. Eventually, he's going to be an All Star closer, but he isn't now. What would the Marlins look like had they made the move for Bell; or if they'd gotten Billy Wagner from the Mets; or Brad Ziegler from the Athletics? There's no way to answer the question, but one can only assume they'd be better off now with those four of five extra wins they would've gotten with a legit closer.

It's only par for the course for the Marlins to shut their eyes and go with what they have, for better or worse. For much of this season and under Jeffrey Loria's ownership and Larry Beinfest's running of the organization, it's worked brilliantly but the downside of that is sometimes the learning process costs a team games and that's what's happened with the Marlins and their closing situation. An inspiring season for a club that few expected to contend is now assured; but it could've been so much more.

  • A simple strategy for Jeff Francoeur:

Jeff Francoeur has been a revelation for the Mets with his enthusiasm, attitude and all-around hustling play. He's embracing New York and New York is embracing him; his acquisition for the mediocre and somewhat miserable Ryan Church will be seen as a huge win for the Mets and Omar Minaya in the coming years especially if Francoeur is able to fulfill his multiple-MVP talent in a Mets uniform.

That said, there's still the problem of a football player's over-aggressiveness that's hampering Francoeur from maximizing his ability. Every hitting coach has a theory on how to combat this, some make sense and some don't. One of the problems that Francoeur had in Atlanta was that he was playing near his home and had dozens of people diagnosing and treating his struggles with various remedies. Once he started slumping, being dumped on by upper management and ripped in the media, he was a mechanical and mental mess trying to incorporate everything that anyone and everyone suggested which placed him into an even bigger funk.

What I'm wondering, amid all the ideas of opening up his stance; closing his stance; moving his hands higher or lower; checking his eyes; etc, did anyone think of the simplest strategy there is? And that strategy would be to treat the beginnings of his at bats as if he's ahead in the count 2-0, 3-0, or 3-1 and pick a zone in which he'll only swing if the ball is there. Without being condescending for anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about, hitters ahead in the count look for a pitch to crush and if the pitch isn't in their "happy zone", they let it go. What's to stop Francouer from implementing this simple yet effective strategy to increase the number of pitches he sees and thereby raising the number of pitches he has to choose from and getting more pitches to hit? He'd definitely walk more under such a mandate and he'd have a chance of becoming the superstar all his tools suggest he can be.

  • What would the Yankees have done with Chamberlain if he had a pefect game going into the middle innings?

Twitter was abuzz as Joba Chamberlain retired the first 11 Red Sox to face him last night. "Perfect game!!!!" Blah, blah, blah. There was little chance of that really happening, but I was left wondering what the Yankees would've done had Chamberlain entered the seventh inning or so with his pitch count around 90 and had a perfect game going.

Would Joe Girardi have bowed to history rather than the JOBA RULES/JOBA RUINATION? Would GM Brian Cashman have called down at a certain point and said to get Chamberlain out of the game and that he didn't care how deeply he was into perfection? Would the bench have deliberately called an inappropriate pitch from the dugout to try and bust it up?

We'll never know because it didn't get that far, but I'll tell you what would've happened----they would've pulled him if his pitch count got high enough. Period. After all they've gone through with babying him, they're not going to let history or anything stand in the way of their "plan", as faulty and stupid as that "plan" is.

I'm not saying they would've been wrong. I wouldn't let him pitch 120-140 pitches either. It would've been interesting to see; and I can tell you right now that Girardi, pitching coach Dave Eiland and Cashman all breathed a sigh of relief when Victor Martinez took Chamberlain deep.

  • Viewer Mail 9.26.2009:

Jeff at Red State Blue State RE Rich Harden and Kevin Trudeau:

I think Harden asked not to pitch again because he's embarrassed to be a part of that club. I would be.

As for Trudeau, remember when John Stossel got his ass?! That was brilliant. How he's still going I haven't the faintest clue. These are the same people who voted for Strom Thurmond over and over again (I presume).

I think you're letting partisan politics affect your view of the Cubs, Jeff. They've underachieved, but it's not like the current mess we have here in New York with the Mets; or in Cleveland with the Indians.

I did see the John Stossel-Kevin Trudeau interview. I don't know how he does it either; the guy's a genius in his way. It's like he had a grand plan for when they shut down his Coral Calcium operation to become a healthy living advocate and drug company whistle blower. He's a chameleon and as disgusting as he is, I can't help but admire him for his sheer audacity. It's those kind of balls that make someone very, very rich.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Kevin Trudeau and his "public service":

What a great idea. Writing books as a public service instead of making money on them! There's just one hitch: paying our bills. Does he address how we're supposed to do that in his infomercial????

The man's a sociopath, Jane.

John Seal writes RE Rich Harden:

As an A's fan, I'm of two minds about Rich Harden. One says he's a big baby: with the A's, he'd repeatedly shut himself down because he didn't 'feel right'. He'd then spend three or four weeks nursing his boo boos (which frequently were never diagnosed as anything) before taking the mound again for a few starts, after which the whole cycle would start over again. My other mind says: isn't is refreshing that there's a baseball player who won't try to man his way through an injury, only to make it worse? On this point we agree: it is well past time for Harden to move to the bullpen. It's clear that his body isn't built to support a starter's workload, and he could be a superstar closer if he wanted to be. Let's hope there's a team out there willing to try the experiment.

Jim Palmer was the same way with the refusing to pitch unless he was 100%, but Palmer won three Cy Young Awards. I honestly think Harden's got something wrong with his entire musculature; it's always something different. Maybe he needs a higher fat content in his diet and body. I'd hesitate to give him too much credit on his own for this decision to shut it down; he's definitely got people whispering in his ear to protect himself for impending free agency, but no one's telling him that the economy is in such a state that the days of teams throwing money at anything and everything are over.

The one thing that will preclude him from being a closer is that he obviously wants to get paid and starters make far more money than closers do. If it happens, it'll be because some team signs him as a starter, he gets hurt again, and they agree to make the move. Since he's never closed before, he wouldn't get much money at all to do the job out of the box. He's going to have a hard time getting more than a 2-year deal and it's going to be with a team that wants him as a starter. The move to the bullpen will be done in desperation after another injury-riddled, teasing, lost season.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Open Season On Excuses----It's Already Begun

  • Your numbers are nothing to my analysis:

A nod and tip of the cap for the above line goes to my newly crowned Tex-Mex Capo, Gabriel Gutierrez. I wish I'd come up with it. My power base is beginning to consolidate and my strong suggestion is to jump on the train...before you find yourself under it.

The season's not even over yet and the stat zombies are already laying the groundwork to formulate canned excuses why they were wrong about so many different things this season. And I don't want to hear it. Some examples of what you can expect to read and hear repeatedly follow:

"Predictions are based on historical performances and cannot be taken literally over a long season."

"Injuries and managerial ineptitude contribute diminished production."

"This is not an exact science; mid-season issues alter results."

In other words, "We would've been right if...."

That takes balls. I'm serious about that. It takes a sheer and unrivaled audacity to be so horribly wrong about so many things while still claiming some faulty appellation of expertise. It's great because it's only going to contribute to their rapid downfall.

We know the truth.

It takes no skill or analytical ability whatsoever to plug numbers into a calculator or computer based on some formula and spout predictions, then hem and haw as to why they were wrong; the
myths promulgated by the stat zombies and armchair experts will continue ad nauseam, but the number of people who are afraid to protest is declining exponentially.

The Fall of the House of
Moneyball has emboldened those that were reluctant to challenge the experts and the second look at baseball's numerical age will be its undoing. Watch.

It's a dirty job cleaning up the toxic wasteland created by the out-of-context numbers that have overrun the game, but
somebody's gotta do it. Might as well be me.

  • Why would someone want to go see this game?

rampant disbelief that such a small crowd attended the clash of the titans between the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The estimated number of fans in attendance is generally reported to be about 3000 people. The G-20 summit is being cited as a reason for this, but how many people would want to go see those two teams in the middle of a workday as the season winds down? The Pirates are atrocious and the Reds are riding a hot streak to a relatively respectable record considering where they were a couple of months ago.

What was there to watch? Why is this even an issue? They
could've given the tickets to this game away and the crowd wouldn't have been much larger. Who cares?

  • I admire Rich Harden in a weird way:

Unlike Milton Bradley, who was asked to leave the Cubs clubhouse for the greater good, Rich Harden has requested that he not pitch again for the rest of the season due to arm fatigue----ESPN Story.

It's strange how this works. Harden, a free agent at the end of the year with Cy Young Award talent when he's able to drag himself out the mound on a regular basis, is refusing to push himself to try and prove his health and maximize his dollars on the free agent market. While there are always pitchers who have their big years when free agent money beckons----A.J. Burnett and Ben Sheets to name two----and then revert to what it is they are when they're safe and secure, Harden is being honest about his situation and it's going to cost him a lot of money. At least he's being honest.

In regards to what to do with Harden, if there ever was a pitcher who has the talent to be a top starter but not the stamina or durability, it's him. He needs to move to the bullpen because he can't handle the workload of a starter. He's got the power fastball and wicked slider to blow people away for one inning at a time; someone has to convince him of that fact and he could be a star----a
healthy star.

  • You see more interesting things at the dark:

One of the best things about waking up in the middle of the night is that you get to see the newest of the new Kevin Trudeau infomercials. The latest from the "leading consumer advocate, health counselor, drug company
whistle blower"/ex-con sociopath is a book called: "Free Money 'They' Don't Want You To Know About".


Much as I admire Rich
Harden's honesty, I admit a grudging admiration for Kevin Trudeau. He's such an unrepentant scumbag that you can't help but shake your head and acknowledge his nerve. The best line from the newest product is that he's not making one penny on the new book. He's doing it as a public service.

Yah right!!!!

Maybe he's onto something though. From now on my books and analysis will be presented as a favor to society as a whole. No need to thank me. My benevolence knows no bounds.

But then, I'm not a very good liar; so it wouldn't work. I'll have to push forward as is. For better or worse.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Frank Wren's Cluelessness Goes On And On

  • A lame duck veteran manager is a recipe for disaster:

For what possible reason would any GM want to put his manager in the position where he has to endure what amounts to a farewell tour amid speculation as to who's going to replace him? And why would that same GM do that to a Hall of Fame manager who has contributed so mightily to his organization?

Atlanta Braves GM Frank Wren has had a checkered career so far as a boss. I've repeatedly mentioned his one year in Baltimore as the Orioles GM where he made the brilliant maneuver to take on Cal Ripken Jr in a power struggle. Wren lost. (Or won, depending on whether you think getting fired from the Orioles was a negative or positive.) Then, after replacing John Schuerholz as the Braves GM, Wren botched the parting of the ways with both Tom Glavine and John Smoltz and alienated Cox to the point where the manager was prepared to pack up and go home in spring training of this year. He overpaid terribly for Derek Lowe; and messed with the head of Jeff Francoeur so horribly that they traded him to the hated Mets for a mediocre Ryan Church. Now, he's made another gaffe in announcing----a year before the fact----that longtime manager Cox will retire after the 2010 season.

I don't care who the manager is, it's hard to maintain discipline and respect if it's known that he's going to be gone after the season. Cox has lost a step as manager; he's made some strategic and personnel gaffes that have cost his club games; and while he's not making "old man" errors as Connie Mack did while he was still sitting in his suit and waving his scorecard managing the Philadelphia Athletics into his late-80s, it won't take much for the whispers to start next year if his mistakes continue or get worse. Would it have been that big a problem for the Braves to say that Cox is planning to manage in 2010 and possibly 2011, knowing that he had no intention whatsoever to manage after next season? He's under contract as a consultant as soon as 2010 ends, what would be the difference?

This is another huge mistake on the part of an overmatched GM----specifically when it comes to dealing with people----and it's going to come back and bite the Braves. As they get further and further away from their glory days and the stars from that era disappear one-by-one, it'll be Wren who tries to rebuild the club to what it was. His bad start is getting worse and worse and I don't care how much young talent the Braves supposedly have on the horizon, their GM is making a big mess that he's utterly incapable of cleaning up.

I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing for a manager to be functioning under the terms of his contract even if there's only one year left on the deal, but Bobby Cox is different. He doesn't deserve to be left hanging in the breeze, but that's exactly where he is and it's just plain wrong.

  • Well, this is no more ridiculous than Moneyball:

I got an Email from I-Universe today asking the following:

Paul, is your book ready for the big screen? Find out with a Hollywood Book Trailer.

On the surface, my initial reaction to such a request would be, "What the hell would you make a movie out of my Baseball Guide for? What would the movie be? What's the point?" Then, I thought about it and realized that they tried to make a movie out of Moneyball; how much more ridiculous would it be to make a movie from my book?

Considering Moneyball itself and how time has proven it to be such a farce, why wouldn't someone want to make a movie out of my Baseball Guide? I can do the Brad Pitt over-the-top crap that the original Moneyball script portrayed Billy Beane to be----why not? Just get me a waitress named Cammi and an Igor-like assistant to be my personal Paul DePodesta. In fact, my book is more honest and realistic than Moneyball could ever hope to be. It was more skillfully written by someone who actually knows something about baseball----ME.

I'm open to listening to movie deals. Just bring the checkbook.

  • Viewer Mail 9.24.2009:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the rebooting of the space shuttle known as my website:

Congrats on getting this back up and running. But I liked the other site better because we could leave comments instead of filling out this form!!!!!

I'm double-publishing here and on the alternate site, so if there's any preference to that, everyone's free to read me there. I'm beginning the preparations for some major changes in the coming months, so whichever is preferable to the reader is fine with me.

  • Oh, I'm so clever:

I wrote the following line on Twitter and it was strangely well-received for something that popped out on a whim. I was watching TV and a Cymbalta commercial came on, and the following simply emanated from my empty head:

Side effects of Cymbalta include dry mouth, constipation and diarrhea. These are also side effects of being a Mets fan.

It's funny but also sad. Because it's true.

Lidge Is Unusable

  • There's a legitimate case for Brad Lidge to not even be on the Phillies post-season roster:

If the decision was based on merit and not past performance, it would be a no-brainer----Brad Lidge would be left off the Phillies post-season roster entirely.

Last night was the latest in the long line of heroically heinous performances from the highest of the high/low pitchers in recent history. The same Brad Lidge who carried the Phillies to the world championship in 2008 and had viable cases for both the Cy Young Award and the MVP has been quite possibly the worst pitcher in baseball this year. If the Philles playoff spot were in any doubt, Lidge would not be pitching save for a blowout on either end. The club can't go on trying to straighten out a mentally and mechanically shot pitcher regardless of what he did for them in the past.

Looking at the play-by-play of last night's blown save to the feisty Marlins, it doesn't look as bad as it actually was. I saw it happen like a train wreck. Lidge started the inning by giving up a rocket down the right field line to Ross Gload that went for a double; after Chris Coghlan flew out to right field and Gload advanced to third, the pitcher very nearly escaped with a high-wire save not due to anything he did himself, but for a series of strike calls from home plate umpire Sam Holbrook that were, at best, horrendous. Two pitches to John Baker were so rotten that Baker----a disciplined hitter with a great handle on the strike zone----didn't know what to do next. The 3-2 pitch wasn't even close to being a strike; not only was it low, but it was outside; but Holbrook called strike three. After Baker was rung up and protested, Holbrook started jawing back and forth with Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez, who he subsequently ejected.*

*The Marlins telecast had a closeup of Gonzalez and Holbrook going jaw-to-jaw and it was a fine example of what really goes on during the majority of these manager-umpire screaming sessions. Some spittle from Gonzalez's mouth got on Holbrook; Holbrook screamed at Gonzalez not to spit on him and things degenerated from there. Most of those arguments are rarely about the actual play after the initial discussion. They usually end up with talk about spitting, gum and bad breath; and of course an ejection.

Hanley Ramirez was next to bat with two outs and Holbrook made another horrible strike call. Ramirez eventually walked. Jorge Cantu was smart enough to start hacking as soon as he got to the plate and ripped a single to center to tie the score and send Ramirez to third. Brett Carroll, hitting for the pitcher, drove another single to center to win the game 7-6 for the Marlins. (He also received, in order, a shower from a Gatorade jug and a series of cream pie facials. Looked like fun.)

The win kept the Marlins playoff hopes alive and may have not only sent the Phillies to the inevitable, final decision for 2009 not to use Brad Lidge under any game-winning/losing circumstances, but to seriously consider not even having him on the playoff roster. While that would be an earth-shattering and ballsy move to make considering what he did for the club last year, what would they do if Lidge were just "some guy"? It wouldn't even be worth a conversation. He wouldn't pitch and wouldn't be on the roster.

Lidge's problems aren't going to be solved within the next two weeks. It's going to take a chunk of the off-season and next spring to get him right. If he's physically injured, it'll take a handling of whatever issue is affecting him; and his mechanics and mental condition are in such disarray that a combination of Sigmund Freud and Dave Duncan couldn't fix him in such a short time frame.

The Phillies have a problem heading into the playoffs. A big one. And I don't know what they can do to fix it. Nor, apparently, do they.

  • More on Bobby Valentine:

The speculation that Valentine's reported agreement to return to the position of ESPN studio analyst is that he's putting managing next year on the back burner for now. It's nonsense. (Although one fascinating byplay if he is in the studio will be how he'll interact with his former boss/nemesis Steve Phillips from his Mets days. I'm wondering if the two have made peace in the intervening years. Knowing how both of them are, I'd say there's a detente and little more.)

Valentine wants to manage and he wants to manage on the big stage. There's been talk about Washington and that's a good job with primary access to plenty of money and power. (I'd want to run the Washington franchise if I had my choice.) But Valentine wants the Mets job and everyone knows it. He's hedging his bets with the ESPN gig and has the same out clause that every manager who heads into a studio has in case a job opens up. He doesn't want to be seen as sitting and hovering around another man's job waiting for his desired position to open up. (Joe Girardi was ripped for doing that during his year in the YES studio.)

As for the talk of his Mets tenure ending badly, was he really at fault for that? Look at the roster he had to deal with in 2002. There was a horrible mix of personalities. Mo Vaughn looked more like he was training for a Sumo competition rather than to play baseball; Roberto Alomar arrived shot; a mercurial Jeromy Burnitz was awful; and there were a bunch of journeymen and poor fits for New York, Valentine and the Mets.

Are the Wilpons watching this current Mets team as they stumble along functioning as a pug looking to make some fast cash being brutally beaten by the climbers? They're not just losing; they're non-competitive. It's not even a salvageable circumstance where they can have a look at some promising prospects because they simply aren't there. Josh Thole? A slap-hitting catcher who's weak defensively? I'm confident I can find one of those pretty quickly and cheaply. Bobby Parnell? Great talent, needs to work on his command. Daniel Murphy? I'm sorry. Not an everyday player for a contender.

Manager Jerry Manuel doesn't deserve the blame for what's gone on this year, but can the Mets justify bringing him back and spending even more money to place gauze over a wound that requires drastic surgery?

If they wait; if they sit on their hands out of a misplaced sense of "fairness" and "doing right", they're going to see the manager they need----and who needs them----take another job because he couldn't sit out any longer.

Then where will they be?

They'll be in a bigger mess than they're in now. A mess that can be scotch-taped together relatively quickly with the right manager. That manager is Bobby Valentine.

  • Viewer Mail 9.24.2009:

Megan at YankeeMeg writes RE Curt Schilling:


"The Sock" had a better chance of winning Kennedy's seat. But then again, Schilling would had "quieted" the sock somehow. Perhaps in a windowless room with his family. The Sock's ego may be as large as Curt's.

I think we may have the basis for a potentially lucrative horror movie here. "The Sock" takes on a life of its own a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers; or steals Curt's identity like Single White Female; or a hostage drama with Samuel L. Jackson as the negotiator/former NAVY SEAL who rescues Curt's family from the hideously deranged prop, er, sock. Let's get to work on a collaboration. My name on top, of course.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Schilling:

I was hoping Curt would run. It would have been so entertaining to watch him get, like, two votes.

Part of me wanted to see it; part of me still has some sympathy/pity remaining that I've been unable to exorcise completely in my quest for pure ruthlessness. It might've been painful to see the guy embarrassed as badly as he would've had he made the plunge (which he probably never had any intention of taking anyway). Curt needed an attention boost and he got it. We won't hear from him...until the next time.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Curt Schilling and Brian Cashman:

The "Sock" is in the Hall of Fame. You know how fucking stupid that is!?! Jesus.

As for Cashman being a student of Sun Tzu, I'm not so sure. Sun Tzu's strategies teach methodical planning which results in stupefying your opponent and, ultimately, BEATING your opponent. He may have racked up some trophies a while ago, but not since implementing his newfound albeit odd strategies (Joba-rules included).

Perhaps you're right about Sun Tzu. I have the book, but haven't read it for awhile. Cashman might pick and choose his use of strategies outlined. But maybe this is all part of some grand design. (Yah right!)

Cashman racked up trophies using Yankee-money and what was built by Gene Michael. He wants his recognition and is doing whatever he has to to get it. For better or worse.

I'm continuing with publishing the blogspot site. You can read me either here or at my regular website----PAULLEBOWITZ.COM. The foundation is being laid for some changes to my personal site in the coming months.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Good For Country; Bad For Comedy

  • Curt Schilling chooses not to run:
In what can only be described as a sudden burst of sanity and a remarkably wise decision to avoid embarrassment, Curt Schilling has put ego aside and decided against pursuing Ted Kennedy's open senate seat in Massachusetts----ESPN Story.
Obviously, the proffered reasons for Schilling's decision aren't the real reasons he chose not to run. His vague explanation (on Joe Buck Live no less; I'm stunned they decided to make another show after the disaster that was the premiere) was that "it just did not make sense".
No kidding.
Of course, Schilling peppered his appearance with the usual array of random quotes that politicians and egomaniacs repeat to say something while saying nothing. Much like the florid embellishment from a student who studied his bullet points and outlines rather than content, Schilling came up with the following little nuggets:

"I think the country is sick and tired of elected officials beholden to special interests," Schilling said. "I think we're at a time and a place where we're voting for the lesser of two evils instead of the best candidate."

It's sort of like, "Thomas Jefferson lived a very, very, very, very long time ago..." Word count has little to do with content. Random postings and catchphrases designed to say nothing do not an effective----truly effective----public servant make. He or she might win, but won't get anything done. You could play "lawyer" just as easily as you could play "outsider politician" with that stuff. "My intent is to present evidence in the form of several writs, along with expert testimony for exclusion and briefs containing exculpatory evidence for your honor."
Being a blithering idiot doesn't automatically preclude anyone from running for public office. (In most cases, it's apparently a prerequisite----see Palin, Sarah.) But a Schilling run would've been fodder for comedy gold; and he would've been humiliated in dozens of ways as he entered a ring in which he has no business. In addition to the potential revelations that might've destroyed a political career, they could also have derailed any hopes he has for induction into the Hall of Fame. It was the smart move for him to back away from his self-serving political aspirations and involve himself in politics where it's safest----on the sidelines.
Admittedly, I'll miss the smug look of self-righteous satisfaction Schilling presents and the potential for hilarity, but it's just as well this way for everyone involved.
  • These late season hot streaks are nice, but essentially meaningless:
Both the Athletics and the Padres have taken seasons that were looking like a toxic wasteland and parlayed late season hot streaks into what will eventually be somewhat respectable records (considering where they were at mid-summer).
The A's have played so well that they're not going to be that far away from .500 by the time the season ends. In fact, their record under the Pygmalion Win Theorem (for what that's worth) is right around .500. That said, they have a lot of young players and a lot of young talent, especially on the mound; that's hard to predict what you're going to get from one year to another, so if Billy Beane makes the mistake he made last year of bringing in veterans to try and compete immediately next year, I'd expect a repeat of what happened earlier this year. The A's should move forward and clear out the remaining up-and-down veterans like Jack Cust while they can still get something for them. Repeating mistakes is not the hallmark of a "genius".
As for the Padres, what can you say? They've turned around what was expected to be a disaster of epic proportions into a solid ending; they'll win close to 20 more games than most people (me especially) expected. That doesn't change the simple fact that they have a looooong way to go before contending. They've got some young pitching in the impressive Clayton Richard and the improving (everyone hold their collective breath) Kevin Correia; there are some young bats in Kyle Blanks; and Everth Cabrera is going to be a megastar.
Still, I wouldn't let this burst dissuade me from clearing out the likes of Chris Young and even Heath Bell because early next season could be a sudden wake-up call from the positive feelings that are easily misread in late August and September.
  • Viewer Mail 9.23.2009:
fab923 writes RE Bobby Valentine and the Mets:

No question, no discussion just the Mets reversing their huge mistake by letting him go. If the Wilpons are afraid then help them by letting them know. Mail it in.


Fred & Jeff Wilpon
c/o Citifield
120 01 Roosevelt Ave.
Corona, NY 11368

We could be starting a movement here.
The support for this potential maneuver is surprising even me----and I presented a case which I would consider pretty solid for a reunion of the Mets and Bobby Valentine. And the Mets are paying attention.
Never mind that the club is sleepwalking through the remaining lost days of this season; never mind that the Mets fans have become so immune to the relentless abuse heaped on them due to the past three seasons that they're barely paying attention anymore; the club needs a spark that Valentine is known to be able to provide. The Mets have been hit and miss when a confluence of events has knocked at their door with a unique opportunity to do something drastic. They grabbed the chance with Mike Piazza, Johan Santana and Francisco Rodriguez; they missed it with Vladimir Guerrero. Valentine is coming home to the States; having him come home to the Mets simply fits.
The allegations that Valentine is a manager who players don't want to play for are ridiculous. Valentine may be a lot of things, but he's not stupid. Every player he took on in public was a player he either didn't want or didn't think he could win with. Look at the list: a barely hanging on Goose Gossage; Rey Ordonez; Todd Hundley; Darryl Hamilton; and Pete Harnisch. Is there one irreplaceable fan favorite there? Valentine knew that in order for him to succeed, he had to forge relationships----not bonds, but functional relationships----with his stars. He did it in Texas with Nolan Ryan; and Mike Piazza with the Mets. The truth is, for all of the negatives about his reputation, Valentine generally left the clubhouse to the players and his veterans Al Leiter, John Franco and Robin Ventura to police----and it worked.
For all the impressive things Willie Randolph did in instilling discipline and almost getting to a World Series; for all the good will the charm of Jerry Manuel has engendered, combined the two aren't the strategic equivalent nor are they the cult of personality that is Valentine. It's the cheap, smart move for the Mets and they need to stop vacillating and thinking and feeling guilty about sacrificing Jerry Manuel undeservedly----I'm sorry, this is a business and what's gone on here just isn't good enough----and pull the trigger ruthlessly and without hesitation. Citi Field would be alive again as soon as the number 2 with the name VALENTINE was pulled back over Bobby's shoulders. And he wants to come back. They have to do it.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Tony La Russa:

Let's put your predicting to the test. Try announcing something like: "Tony LaRussa will DEFINITELY sign another multi-year contract with the Cardinals after the 2009 season."

I cannot tell a lie: I dunno if that's happening. Deep down, considering the way they placated him with the acquisitions of Mark DeRosa and Matt Holliday, I believe the Cardinals will step up and keep both La Russa and Dave Duncan, but there's still a chance they might go elsewhere. A chance.

Julia at Julia's Rants writes RE Brian Cashman:

Cashman - what an interesting person. I agree with your assessment as to why Girardi is the manager. Cashman comes across as an insecure person who is not at all comfortable allowing anyone to "share the power" with him. I can't help but wonder - If George Steinbrenner was still in charge would we be onto "Joba 12.4" a la Cashman?

Dunno if I'd call Cashman "interesting". He's kind of a middle-managing corporate nebbish. But he's obviously a student----inadvertently or not----of Sun Tzu and Machiavelli. Working for the Yankees does that to you.
They've apologized all over the place and have said that it should be running by today and given me some free stuff as consolation...but it's still not running. I'm going to be double posting here and there when (don't wanna say if) it's running again. I'll keep everyone posted.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

You Shouldn't Take Me So Literally

  • Astros fire manager Cecil Cooper:
Here's what I wrote on Friday in discussing managers that are (or should be) in trouble when mentioning the now former Astros manager Cecil Cooper:

Both he and GM Ed Wade are in trouble in Houston. Cooper doesn't get much respect in the media and apparently in the clubhouse; he's somehow kept a team with shaky pitching competitive. I don't think he's as bad a manager as he's portrayed. That's not going to save him from owner Drayton McLane's itchy trigger finger.
Cooper's gone.

Naturally I didn't mean, y'know, immediately.
There are only two reasons to fire a manager with so little time left in the season: 1) the club is collapsing and has no choice as the Brewers did last year when they replaced Ned Yost with Dale Sveum and recovered from their swoon to make the playoffs; and 2) they're going to do it as soon as the season ends anyway and the replacement for the rest of the season is going to be the permanent replacement and they're letting him have a look at the club for the duration.
Aside from those circumstances, why fire Cooper now? Would it have made that much of a difference if he'd finished the season?
The talk was so rampant that Cooper had lost the clubhouse that it obviously was an issue, but I don't know any manager----from Tony La Russa to Joe Torre to Billy Martin----who could've done much better than Cooper did with that roster, especially that pitching staff. It's not very fair that he was dismissed in this way.
That said, McLane has been ripped before because of not seeing "reality" or making capricious hirings and firings and been proven to be right. Last season, the Astros looked dead and were widely expected to clean house of some veterans; instead, they traded for Randy Wolf and LaTroy Hawkins, were ridiculed endlessly----and crawled back into the race. They were in similar circumstances in 2005 when they looked to be dead at mid-summer and fought back to make it to the World Series.
Who the next manager of the Astros is going to be depends on what McLane does with GM Ed Wade. If Wade stays, I think Larry Bowa is a real possibility to take over the Astros; if not, it depends on who he brings in as GM. (Dan Duquette's name keeps popping into my head for some reason.)
That team can hit; if they brought in some pitching, they'd be pretty good. When examined objectively (and ignoring the criticisms of the organization), the situation in Houston isn't all that bad.
  • In other circumstances, this would be a terrible loss for the Red Sox:
If the difference between the division title and the Wild Card were that much of an problem, the Red Sox blowing a 6-0 lead to the lowly Royals would be met with rightful indignation. That the Yankees lost as well would only make it look worse; but the first round playoff matchup is more of a factor to the Yankees than it is to the Red Sox.
The last thing the Yankees want to see in the first round is the Angels. Mike Scioscia's team has harpooned the Yankees lofty hopes so many times that the Angels are a more of a recurring nightmare than a rival. Such is not the case for the Red Sox.*

*That said, much like the Yankees-Red Sox playoff matchups, eventually if the Red Sox run into the Angels enough times, one day they're going to lose.

Aside from that possibility, the Red Sox plaster the Angels all over the place with regularity and I don't think anyone's all that intimidated by the prospect of facing the Tigers or Twins; while the loss to the Royals was embarrassing, it's essentially meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
  • Viewer Mail 9.22.2009:
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Brian Cashman:

I agree that the Yankees' "plan" for Joba has gone horribly awry, and I also agree that it hasn't been all about what's best for Joba but also what's best for the Yankees. But I'm not getting the Cashman thing - about how he has to be "right." The only thing that will make him right is if the Yankees win the World Series.

You have to read between the lines when it comes to this type of assessment. If you examine everything that's happened since the last championship (in 2000!!!), and the way the game has changed with GMs becoming the equivalent of rock stars in a sports context and expanding their outreach to corporate speaking gigs, best-selling books and appellations of Einstein-level brilliance, it's easier to understand why Cashman has tried to place himself as the center of the Yankees universe.
Think about it: why would it matter to any executive if his bosses are telling him that he has $200+ million to spend on players? Why was he under such a self-imposed mandate to get the payroll down? What did he care? Was the money coming out of his pocket? No.
Because he no longer wanted to hear the caveat for the Yankees success, "well, look at all the money they spend" and not get any acknowledgment for the good things he's done as GM; and had to sit by while Billy Beane and Theo Epstein were referred to as "geniuses", Cashman jumped into the fray. He's using stats above all else; he tried certain innovations such as the hiring of a baseball outsider as the strength coach in Marty Miller because of Miller's glossy plans, charts and graphs that did little more than improve the players' abilities to injure their backs; he consolidated his power as the main voice of the club; he had a large hand in forcing out the one man who could've and would've pushed back at the organizational dictate on how to use the young pitchers----former manager Joe Torre.
Cashman wants to be known as the architect of this club.
And he is. For better or worse.
The Joba Rules/JOBA RUINATION comes from him.
The manager, Joe Girardi, is who Cashman wanted because he's disposable and would do anything for the opportunity including following the most ridiculous orders and acting like he's on board. (Why do you think he didn't want Lou Piniella or Don Mattingly to replace Torre? Because he wouldn't be able to fire them, nor would he be able to control them.)
The pitching decisions were made by Cashman and right now, A.J. Burnett is looking to be another in a long line of gaffes along the lines of Kyle Farnsworth, Steve Karsay and Carl Pavano.
It's about him. It's not about the organization. It could be that he ends up being right, but in watching what they've done to Chamberlain; the way Burnett's been awful; and the questions heading into the playoffs, this has just as much chance of exploding in another first round knockout similar to the ones that eventually doomed Torre----but there's no one to blame. Cashman's the man now. Just like he wanted. It's his baby. We'll see how it evolves.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Milton Bradley:

Oh boy, Prince. Rumors circulating that there may be an Oliver Perez for Milton Bradley trade during the offseason. I'm sure the Mets could get Bradley to behave (that's a lie).

I have to say that if I'm the Mets and I can get out from under that $4 million difference between the two contracts and get Perez out of here, I'd seriously consider it.

Anonymous writes RE the Mets and Bobby Valentine:

Why would Bobby V want to return to the Mets? I sure haven't Fred Coupon/Wilpons vote of confidence in July 2002 & then firing Bobby V 3 months later. A manager, owner & GM most trust each other. Freddy Coupon stabbed Bobby V in the back. IMO the Mets would have to give Bobby V LOTS of perks & a gauranteed contract etc to return to this dysfunctional, sloppy team.

Well, anonymous (I dunno the point of hiding your identity, but whatever), any potential issue about the way that was handled wouldn't be a problem now. It was seven years ago and Valentine is on the record as saying that he's still friends with Fred. The main culprit in how that was handled was a nifty and Machiavellian end-around by GM Steve Phillips. It was understood throughout that year that if one of the GM/manager tandem went, then both would go. Phillips skillfully and somewhat admirably weaseled his way around the manager, got him fired and was allowed to hire Art Howe to replace him. Phillips was also fired early in 2003.
Valentine's reaction when told of his dismissal wasn't any anger toward the Wilpons; it was bewilderment at Phillips keeping his job. "And Steve stays?!?" was the widely circulated retort.
Fred's problem hasn't been that he's cheap. How can a club that spends the way the Mets do be considered cheap? It's that he's too nice. Fred doesn't want to be perceived as the bad guy and that's placed him into a position where giant messes have been made where there shouldn't have been. His son Jeff is a bit more ruthless and pragmatic, but he too has shown tendencies to hesitate from coldly and brutally doing what needs to be done for the greater good.
As I said before, Valentine and GM Omar Minaya have a great relationship. The money wouldn't be a problem. It's cheaper to hire a new manager to try and fix what's there now than it is to start over with a pricey move on Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, Joel Piniero or John Lackey. Valentine would walk back to NY from Japan to get himself on the big stage again and make a load of money. Looking at the Mets foundation----Johan Santana, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, David Wright and Francisco Rodriguez----Valentine would think (accurately) that he'd be able to patch things together for a title run very quickly.
Past bitterness wouldn't be a factor. These things are easily forgotten and quickly forgiven.