Thursday, December 31, 2009

I Had No Idea Jason Bay Was THIS Bad...

  • Perhaps Karim Garcia/Shane Spencer would've been better options:

What's most amazing to me about the fallout of the Jason Bay agreement with the Mets is how the same people who are so enamored of Billy Beane and the Moneyball lot that they dole out credit for such non-moves as the A's signing of Coco Crisp or the Red Sox choice of Mike Cameron over Bay, yet treat the Mets necessary signing of a power bat to man left field as if they just signed Julio Lugo to a $36 million contract. (Oh wait, it was Theo Epstein the "genius" who did that, wasn't it?)

There were the usual suspects like Keith Law and Rob Neyer who were in love with Bay when Theo Epstein traded from him to replace Manny Ramirez and he exploded like he'd been let out of prison (and he was in prison; he played for the Pirates), but he's suddenly and miraculously lost his luster now that he's about to be a Met.

Here are the main quotes I found about Bay and the Mets from Joel Sherman from this column:


The Red Sox were worried about how Bay would hold up over four years, with particular worry about his shoulders.


I've been waiting for an answer to this question for two days and no one's come up with anything that makes even the least amount of sense. If the Red Sox were so worried about the condition of Bay's shoulders, then why did they offer him 4-years and $60 million guaranteed? The one answer I got was that the Mets offered an easily achievable vesting option for a fifth year that pushed the deal up to $80 million and the Red Sox were reluctant to do the same.

So, what you're telling me is that the Red Sox----$36 million for Lugo; $51 million posting money for Daisuke Matsuzaka----are suddenly concerned about one year from Jason Bay? The fifth year after which they'd have been stuck with him for four full, guaranteed years? With the amount of money they threw away on Lugo and Edgar Renteria, was the prospect of a fifth year for Bay via an option such a deal-breaker?

Why make the offer to begin with? Why not make an offer of 3-years, $45 million, designed to fail, so they could have Bay reject it and move on? It sure seemed like the Red Sox wanted him back; now the hindsight and endless complaining are trying to justify the decision with cryptic references to his physical condition. I look at the game totals from his stats and all I see is a player who wants to play and wants to play every day.


In Boston, Bay was protected defensively by the Green Monster. Now, as in his Pittsburgh days, Bay will have to deal with one of the largest left fields in the majors, and he is a conservative fielder with an iffy arm and lacking speed; and the physical shortcomings should worsen during his age 31-34 seasons.


We're not going to hear the end of the horror stories of Bay's defense. Left field in Citi Field is a large expanse, but he's going to be flanked by a Gold Glove center fielder with great range in Carlos Beltran; Beltran's got Jeff Francoeur----a defensive kamikaze----in right field; they'll be able to cover for Bay enough that it's not going to be as much of a nightmare as is portrayed. Is he ever going to be Barry Bonds circa 1993 out there? No, but will he catch the balls he can get to? Yes. Will he try? Yes. If the Mets position him correctly and pay attention to fundamentals with the cut-off men being where they're supposed to be, how much of an issue is Bay's defense really going to be as long as he hits?

While I've been mostly against the shifting of players to first base as the landing spot for the immobile and defensively inept, Bay is a guy that could move to first base in the last year or two of his contract if his defense becomes untenable.

This is not something I'd worry about to the degree it's being discussed.


The Mets should have spread the Bay money on one-year contracts to multiple players to provide better quality depth around Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, David Wright, K-Rod and Santana — while hoping the quintet was healthy and productive.


"The Mets should've spread the Bay money on one-year contracts to multiple players"?

Like who?

I love when the Billy Beane-sniffers make these kind of statements without providing examples of what their plan of attack would've been. What players of note were going to come to the Mets for a 1-year deal as filler for the stars? And how would that have looked to an angry fan base that's playing "wait and see" before purchasing tickets for 2010 after the calamity that was 2009?

Would Sherman have liked the Mets to go the route they traveled in 2004 with Karim Garcia and Shane Spencer platooning in right field and Jason Phillips at first base? Where are these players that are pounding on the door of the Mets offices not just to join the club, but to do so at a discount?

Maybe they should've signed Coco Crisp.

That would've livened up the Mets Hot Stove.

Big time.


It's not as if the Mets have said, "Okay, that's it. Vault closed." They're going to get at least one and maybe two starting pitchers; they're still playing with various scenarios at catcher; and if they can do something with Luis Castillo, they can sign Orlando Hudson or trade for Dan Uggla. With the stars returning from injury, are the Mets the joke they're portrayed?

It was a year ago that Las Vegas had the Mets as one of the NL favorites to reach the World Series. The perceived state of a club is the main factor that influences players (after money) on whether to sign on. The Bay acquisition sends a signal to the other available players that the Mets have something going on; it's a means to an end. The players deliberating on the Mets can say, "they've got Bay, they've got the returning players; it's not so bad over there".

Does Coco Crisp do that for the Athletics?

The bottom line of all this is that the Mets needed to do something bold for a bat. They needed a player who wasn't a jerk; who would produce at the plate; and would play the game the right way. That they got it at their price should be treated as a positive and taken as such rather than finding reasons to denigrate what should be a happy day for the New York media even if they hate the Mets and GM Omar Minaya.

If they're going to rip it, then leave the warmth of Beane's, Bill James's and Theo Epstein's collective backsides for a moment to acquire some objectivity for what went right instead of what could go wrong; then they might be able to write something that makes sense instead of Sherman's ridiculous drivel that's similar to much of what's out there savaging the move based on little more than that it was the Mets that made it.

  • Whither Matt Holliday?

Matt Holliday's market is almost non-existent at this point unless the Red Sox, Yankees or Angels make a quick and sudden strike to blow the Cardinals current offer out of the water. The Cardinals are exhibiting confidence that the offer will be successful----link.

There was talk about the Orioles jumping in with a major offer of $130 million, but team president Andy MacPhail shot that down completely. With agent Scott Boras, there's always the chance that he's planting the phony "one mystery team" to drive up the price if he has no other options; then there's the chance that there really is a mystery team like the Yankees with Mark Teixeira a year ago.

For all the criticism Boras receives, for the most part, his players get their money----eventually. Kyle Lohse had to settle for a 1-year deal with the Cardinals, but pitched so well that he got a long term deal a year later; and amid all the controversy and contretemps of the Alex Rodriguez opt-out during the 2007 World Series, Boras still negotiated the contract and got ARod another $200 million deal where there was none available anywhere except from the Yankees. So where could Holliday still wind up if it's not the Cardinals? Let's take a look.


St. Louis Cardinals:


This is still the most logical destination and where he'll presumably be when all is said and done. Holliday had no interest nor the intention of taking short money to stay in St. Louis as players have done in the past, but it's still a great baseball town; he's playing with the best hitter of the past 50 years in Albert Pujols; and as long as Tony La Russa's there, the Cardinals will be contenders.


Baltimore Orioles:


Baltimore is no longer the toxic wasteland it was five years ago thanks to MacPhail's rebuilding of the farm system, making some smart trades and convincing owner Peter Angelos to back off. The Orioles still have some issues, most notably manager Dave Trembley, who I doubt will be there when they turn the corner; but with the additions of Kevin Millwood and Mike Gonzalez and the young pitching and bats, a .500 season in 2010 isn't out of the realm of possibility; and they've got the money to pay Holliday. Plus, he'd put up big offensive numbers in Camden Yards.


Boston Red Sox:


Holliday would hit in Boston and he's exactly what the Red Sox need short of Adrian Gonzalez. Given the way the Red Sox have complained about a payroll limit recently, they'd have to find a taker for Mike Lowell and possibly J.D. Drew, but don't discount Epstein's creativity and the club's desperation to bring in a bat and assuage a skittish fan base.


New York Yankees:


The Yankees had hovered around Mark Teixeira, but weren't actively involved until they struck. I don't think they'll get in on Holliday and truth be told, they don't need him; but there's always that chance...


San Francisco Giants:


They need a bat desperately and Holliday would slot perfectly into their feisty lineup; plus Aaron Rowand could cover for his defensive liabilities in the outfield. They're not going to spend $100+ million on Holliday especially after he flamed out across the bay with the Athletics. The only way this happens is if GM Brian Sabean finds a taker for Barry Zito. In other words, forget it.


Los Angeles Angels:


In years past, I'd say this is the team to watch for with a late lightning strike as they pulled with Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero, among others. But the Angels front office was livid with Boras for the way he jerked them around with Teixeira; and while most teams talk out of both sides of their mouths when saying they're not dealing with a certain agent if they can help it, the one team I believe when they say something like that is the Angels.

From owner Arte Moreno on down to manager Mike Scioscia, the Angels are an organization that doesn't put up with crap. I'd faint if they got in on Holliday.


Don't discount the Red Sox, but my guess is Holliday ends up back with the Cardinals simply because he doesn't have much choice.

  • Viewer Mail 12.31.2009:

John Seal writes RE Mark DeRosa and the Giants:


Prince, I'm duly noting your prediction that the Giants will win the NL West and am already preparing to pummel you with ridicule come next October. (If I'm wrong, don't bother to pummel me. I will already be dead at my own hand.) The DeRosa signing is classic Sabean: sign an old guy after his career year and expect him to do it again.

Of course, my perverse and unnatural hatred of the Giants (they are the number one team in my Trinity of Baseball Evil; you can probably guess the other two) may be clouding my vision...


I picked the Giants to win the division last year at 89-73; I got almost full credit as they went 88-74, but faded down the stretch (much like my horses from last night's fun-filled foray to the racetrack---one of my horses literally just wandered off during the race, but I digress...).

I'm hurt John. I'd never pummel you for an accurate or inaccurate pick. In fact, if I chose to make you suffer, the worst thing I could do would be to let you endure witnessing the towering inferno that the Billy Beane "genius" and Moneyball has become.

All kidding aside, the Giants pitching is more of a factor than anything for me to think they're going to bust through next year. As of right now, I'd say they've got just enough hitting to be there at the end of 2010; if they brought in that one power bat, they'd be the class of the division; and when manager Bruce Bochy has had his clubs in serious contention late in a season, they generally make the playoffs. DeRosa's another good, versatile player who they got relatively cheaply and will fit into the clubhouse seamlessly.

With Sabean, he's been cleverly adroit in addressing what his club needed at a particular time. During the Barry Bonds years, the strategy was to "build around Barry" and it worked beautifully. It was expected that the Giants would be stumbling and struggling for at least five years "post-Barry", but Sabean rebuilt the farm system and got the club back to respectability faster than would've the more media-beloved GMs Beane, Epstein and Cashman .

You'll have to accept that the Giants are back in contention.

Look on the bright side! The A's got...Coco.....Crisp.

Uh.

Yah.


Joe at Statistican Magician writes RE the Red Sox rotation:


Ok, here is a huge disagreement, what is wrong with the Red Sox "back-end of their rotation?" Buchholz, Daisuke, and Wakefield trying to notch up the final two spots? Tazawa and Bowden for spot starts. Try to find a better "back end" than that.


Buchholz is still basically a rookie with great potential, who knows?

Even for a knuckleballer, Wakefield's about shot. His body's breaking down from top to bottom and if you think you'll be able to count on him in 2010 at age 43, you're dreaming.

And Matsuzaka?

Matsuzaka has flashy stats on the surface, but you of all people should know that the 18-2 record from 2008 masked what he really is. He was mediocre in 2007; he was rotten in 2009; and his Gamelogs in 2008 shine a clear light into those gaudy numbers.

He's wild; he racks up ridiculous pitch counts by the fifth and sixth innings; he gives up a lot of homers; and he's shielded in a cocoon by the Red Sox offense and bullpen. They deploy him effectively because they know what he is. He's a product of a system, not a weapon in and of himself.

Y'know who he reminds me of? Storm Davis from 1988. As a pitcher who'd get through six innings, give up 4 runs, and hand the game over to the bullpen, Davis took advantage of the Tony La Russa strategy with the A's and parlayed it into a 19-win year and a lucrative free agent contract with the Royals (provided by the "genius" John Schuerholz, apparently before he discovered his inner-"genius"). Matsuzaka is Storm Davis and while that's not bad; it's not good either.

In other words, Matsuzaka is the epitome of mediocrity. No one is concerned about facing him because he's not that good; he wasn't worth the posting money, and he's not a big time starter even at the back of the rotation. He could be replaced by a Jon Garland; by a Doug Davis, and truth be told, I'd rather have Garland or Davis. That's how little I think of Matsuzaka.

The Yankees, Angels and White Sox (just off the top of my head) have better back end rotations than that. The Red Sox have some problems that you refuse to accept, but you'd better hope Epstein and co accepts them and quick if you want another playoff run.


Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the Red Sox:


I could think of plenty 'back ends' better than that, but unfortunately, none of them have to do with baseball and everything to do with the club I was at last night.

I think this dissection of the Red Sox organization and fan base as being "whiny" is great. I've been saying that for a long time, but never in such a coherent manner. I love the bit about offering $60 million to a guy who has "medical issues". Hilarious retort.


The Prince of New York Family Research Council must know: what club was this? Just for research purposes, of course.

What stunned me more than anything is that I wasn't attacked by Red Sox Nation for that very reasonable question; in fact, as stated earlier, no one even answered it!


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


I'm very grateful to the Mets for taking Bay out of the American League East. Many thanks!


It's our pleasure. Anything to help the Yankees.

  • Note on a loyal soldier:

One of my loyalest of loyalists, Isaac, has started his own blog called A Baseball Thing.

Isaac's writing is impressive on it's own, but even more impressive because he's still a teenager; and we all know what a notorious prick I am when it comes to assessing the writing of others. (It's never personal.)

Isaac's been a loyal soldier for me from the start; in fact----and this is not an indictment of anyone else----but he was the only one who was around to provide protection for me on Twitter as I was bombarded by arrows and worse in the aftermath of my picking the Angels to beat the Yankees in the ALCS. I was under siege and he had the cojones to stand with me me as I took the bullets. Amid the other reasons to check out his blog, that's a pretty good one in and of itself. Loyalty counts.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Mets Get Their Man

  • Mets agree to terms with Jason Bay:
It took awhile and it was a matter of circumstances (perhaps circumcision is a better term) to get it done, but the end result is all that matters and that end result is that Jason Bay has agreed to sign with the New York Mets for 4-years and $66 million pending a physical.

The ridicule has already changed course from the focus on the Mets sitting idly by while the Phillies made the much praised but tactically faulty decision to essentially trade Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay, to laughter at the "sinking ship" in which Bay has enlisted. And the word out of Boston is as it usually is when they lose out on a player: whining and alibis without merit or foundation.

As much as Mets GM Omar Minaya has been criticized for his mistakes, he's been smart and patient in his acquisition of most players. From the aggressive moves to sign Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez in 2005 and Billy Wagner in 2006, to Francisco Rodriguez in 2009, and the trades for Carlos Delgado and Johan Santana, Minaya's never panicked even as the world around him crumbled.

It would've been easy and understandable for him to say, "I've gotta do something" to get the press and fans off his back as the Phillies made their moves; the Yankees continued to dominate the city; and the Mets were under siege. But he waited and got the player he wanted all along at something close to their first offer at the winter meetings.

The laughter is all well and good coming from the Bronx and out of Boston, but in the end, who cares? Many times these marriages of convenience end up being the best thing that could've happened for both sides when examined in retrospect. The Mets needed a legitimate bat for left field; Bay wanted to get paid. Both sides win in that respect.

Did Bay really want to come to the Mets? I don't think anyone could argue that he did, but it probably had more to do with preferring to stay in Boston or go to a locale more palatable for his family like Seattle than any reticence about New York or the Mets. No one remembers that Carlos Beltran's first choice was to remain with the Astros after 2005; or that Scott Boras went to the Yankees and offered a cheaper deal for them to get the center fielder; he wound up with the Mets and in the end, everyone was happy.

Attractiveness of a team is based on the variable of their perception. After the year the Mets had in 2009, how could anyone look at their club and say that they wanted to be a part of the hell that they endured for the whole season? But objectively----barring a nuclear holocaust directed at Citi Field and nowhere else----could everything go as badly in 2010 as it did in 2009? With the roster they had in place before signing Bay, they'd be back around .500 if they stayed healthy. With Bay, they're right back into the middle-80s in wins and as they add a starting pitcher and another bat, they're a contender.

The worries about Bay when he was acquired to replace Manny Ramirez in the Red Sox lineup were almost identical to what they are now as he joins the Mets in a different context. Could he handle playing for a contender for the first time after years with the hapless Pirates? Would he respond to the pressure in Boston? Could he negotiate the Green Monster?

All questions were answered in the affirmative.


The Bay defensive liabilities are what they are, but with Beltran in center and Jeff Francoeur
in right, the Mets will cover for him well enough; and his issues in the field aren't for a lack of hustle. Bay was exemplary on and off the field for the Red Sox and will be the same for the Mets. His quiet influence will be another positive addition just as the Francoeur enthusiasm caught fire with the Mets and their fans.

With Bay, the Mets are getting a basher for the middle of their lineup who will be able to hit the ball out of Citi Field to add to the other hitters in their lineup that don't have a problem with the dimensions----Jeff Francoeur and Beltran. If David Wright's homer numbers end at 15-20 and he hits doubles and triples rather than homers with his shots to center and right, so what? A healthy Jose Reyes will set the table for the middle of that lineup.

The comedy routines worthy of Dane Cook, Billy Crystal and Adam Sandler (and yes, I picked the lamest comedians I can think of on purpose) are fine, but they're all too easy to cover up the truth under the surface. The Mets got their man; they're looking better to the rest of the free agent class and the skids are greased for some more improvements to a foundation that's much better than is implied.
  • The absurd reaction out of Boston:
You can mask the anger and panic with indignation and idiocy, but those that can peel back the layers will see the reality of what's going on with the Red Sox.

They're afraid.

So lacking in confidence in the current player moves that they choose to whine and react as a jilted lover by saying the insincere, "well, we can do better"; or "we didn't really want him back anyway"; or the ever popular "yeah, go to the sinking ship in Queens; who needs ya?!?" to mask their hurt and panic.

It was the same thing with the shocking Mark Teixeira decision to sign with the Yankees. The Yankees weren't even thought to be involved with Teixeira; the Angels had pulled out; there was nowhere else for him to go----until the Yankees struck and pulled the first baseman out from under the Red Sox collective noses. Instead of admitting they were outhustled, there was the indignation and acting out that has become as much a part of the Red Sox culture as it was seen to be with the Yankees and the "Evil Empire" during their years of dominance and Red Sox failure.

The Yankees outbid the Red Sox for a player? Owner John Henry calls for a salary cap.

The Yankees trade for veteran stars to fill their holes while the Red Sox sit by impotently? The Red Sox have to keep one eye on now and the future because of non-existent payroll constraints.

It's a familiar theme.

Now that Bay's gone, we see articles like this from a bitter and spoiled fool named Steve Buckley implying that Bay is heading toward "Siberia". I seem to recall a similar sentiment about the Red Sox as recently as 2002 and the Mets as recently as 2004. The Red Sox turned things around pretty quickly to become a paragon of success; and the Mets were a game away from the World Series by 2006.

Now there's a new tack of a whisper campaign coming from Boston via Jon Heyman on Twitter. It goes like this:


#redsox found some "physical issues'' with #bay. #mets are believed to be aware of this. med. exam could be a marathon


So, let me see if I understand this correctly. The Red Sox were concerned about his physical issues...but still offered him $60 million? How concerned could they have been about budget, health, defense and age if they were ready to pay him that amount of money? Are the Red Sox in the habit of doing favors for their fans to keep a popular player? To spend $60 million for a player with "physical issues"?

The Red Sox are in no position----moral or otherwise----to complain about this any more than they were in a position to complain about the Teixeira mistake. They walked away from Bay; not the other way around.

The simple fact is that the Red Sox fans and media are frightened about the state of their team in replacing Bay with Mike Cameron; petrified that they have to compete with the resurgent Yankees for the division and the Mariners/Angels/White Sox/Twins for a playoff spot with an aging and overpaid roster.

That roster as currently constructed is not making the playoffs in 2010 because they don't have enough firepower; their back end rotation is questionable; they're not as good nor are they as deep as the Yankees; and the competition is fierce. Unless they do something to fix their lineup hole, they're not a playoff team and the replacement of Bay with Cameron is another nail in the coffin.

The Red Sox are in trouble and they can't complain their way out of it no matter how hard they try. Trust me, they will try and all the caveats in the world aren't going to solve their problems unless they get a legitimate power bat. And Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro aren't it. But they knew that already. Or they should.

Actually, they'd better know that for their own good.

That's a more appropriate word for their mess that they've yet to adequately clean up.
  • Viewer Mail 12.30.2009:
Gabriel (Capo) writes RE Mark DeRosa:

I have always liked DeRosa. Good signing by the Giants. I think that division could be toughest in the National League, depending on what the Marlins and the Dodgers do.


The Giants are winning that division. Mark it down now.



Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the stat zombies with a reprint of a quote and a retort:

"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."

This statement is...full...of...shit.

And honestly, I can't remember if I said this to myself or if some higher power said this to me in a delusion-filled dream.


I didn't want to mention that dream bit in the linked blog from yesterday, but it was....weird.



Jane Heller at
Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Moneyball movie:

The Moneyball movie will get made, one way or the other. It has very little to do with Billy Beane and everything to do with Michael Lewis. Hollywood loves him, The Blind Side being a good reason why.


I hope you're right, Jane. As much as a I repeatedly say that there's no Moneyball movie to be made, I'd love to see that train wreck. Can you say Hudson Hawk? Ishtar? Gigli? It's a worthy successor. Beyond worthy----and an endless fountain of material for me. It'll be a fitting end to the firestorm that's coming.

I'm a man of my word......



Joe at Statistician Magician writes RE Dave Cameron:

Yes, even Dave Cameron makes mistakes, as do you, me and everyone that has ever cared about the game of baseball.


"Even Dave Cameron"?

What is he, the Dalai Lama?

There's a difference between making a mistake acknowledging it and clinging to a lie in desperate self-interest.

Unlike Cameron, I don't have an agenda aside from the truth, so I have no shame in admitting I'm wrong.

You never hear a word about his failed prediction regarding the Marlins; nor Jason Vargas; and I'm not even getting into their repeated defending of Paul DePodesta, it's so ludicrous.

"Ignore it and it'll go away" doesn't fly with me and until they start to loosen their tenuous grip on the out-of-context numbers, I'll continue to slam down the hammer and they won't even respond because they can't.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Giants Sign Mark DeRosa

  • 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.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Stupid Contracts Put The Braves In Their Current Position

  • The subtle difference between playoff contender and title favorite:

If I made my playoff predictions today, I would have the Braves as a playoff team. Their starting pitching is still deep; their bullpen solid; and they have enough hitting to be one of the top four teams in the league. That said, there's a difference between what the Braves could've been a week ago and what they are now.

The team that had Javier Vazquez in their rotation and was only one power bat away from being frighteningly good diminished what they should've been with two rapid-fire moves that aren't just questionable, they're outright stupid.

While the talk that the Braves ownership, Liberty Media, demanded that GM Frank Wren slash payroll to somewhere around $100 million for 2010 does have an effect on the types of players that can be brought it, the whole financial mess can be attributed to some ill-thought-out contracts that have hamstrung the Braves now and will continue to do so in the future if things go badly.

Financial constraints forced the trade of Rafael Soriano after he stunningly accepted arbitration; the release of Ryan Church (which was probably going to happen anyway); the trade of Vazquez for non-entity Melky Cabrera; and the bargain-basement, desperation signing of Troy Glaus to "fill" the hole for a basher. These decisions are all side effects from the contracts that were lavished on Chipper Jones, Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson and Kenshin Kawakami. Those deals and the vast number of arbitration-eligibles on the roster has forced the club to cut corners. Because of these problems, they're faced with the problem of clearing payroll to make budget.

It's a fine line between being a title contender, able to stand toe-to-toe with the Yankees and Phillies, and being amongst the hopefuls like the White Sox, Giants, Cardinals and Red Sox----talented, close, but with major questions.

Was it necessary to give Chipper Jones an extension as lucrative as they did? Jones, one of the best hitters of this era and a Brave through-and-through, wasn't going to leave as long as the Braves were fair; did they need to give him a late-career Powerball lottery ticket? He's going to be 38 in April of 2010 and the Braves are on the hook for a guaranteed $42 million through 2012. If ever there was a player suited to be a DH, it's Jones. He can barely move in the field and his entire body is breaking down. Are the Braves really expecting to get their money's worth not just in 2012, but in 2010?

Was it necessary to sign Tim Hudson to a 3-year, $28 million extension just as he was returning from Tommy John surgery? Given the current market and that there are so many pitchers who've got a better history of durability and aren't still recovering from major surgery, the Braves could've gotten Hudson back for probably $8 million less. That savings would've been sufficient to keep Vazquez.

Kenshin Kawakami is the latest in a long line of imports from Japan that is overpaid and underwhelming. His stuff is okay; he could be a useful back-of-the-rotation starter, but not at $6.67 million annually through 2011. After the way Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kaz Matsui and Hideki Irabu flamed out after hype that bordered on the ludicrous, I would only take the type of Japanese player like Hideki Okajima who was inexpensive and under-the-radar. No ifs, ands or buts.

The Derek Lowe signing was seen by the industry as overpaying to get the player. Notably it was the Mets----who are unfairly saddled with the industry dunce cap that should be relegated to the Pittsburgh Pirates of the world----were stunned that the Braves went as high as they did with Lowe. Lowe is owed $45 million through 2012; the Braves were willing to give him away this winter and found no takers; and the pitcher is angry at the club for so desperately trying to unload him. I'm not prepared to say Lowe's finished despite his poor 2009, but that contract is an albatross unless he reverts to what he was with the Dodgers. There is a chance of that happening.

After signing Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito in two solid moves to shore up the bullpen, the Braves were blindsided by Soriano's decision to accept arbitration after seeing the writing on the wall of his free agent marketability. Wren did a solid job in getting Soriano's contract off the team and bringing in the impressive power arm of Jesse Chavez from the Rays. That has potential to be a big, stealth move; Chavez will be at least as effective----and possibly more----than the inconsistent, mentally shaky and homer-prone Soriano.

The arbitration situation of the Braves is even more troubling for the payroll. Matt Diaz, Jair Jurrjens, Peter Moylan and Melky Cabrera are heading for arbitration and all are due big raises. With these issues, it's understandable how the Braves have simply let Adam LaRoche leave without so much as a reasonable offer; and have decided to roll the dice with Glaus. But the trade of Vazquez for such little return was a byproduct of the massive contracts that are more than likely going to be anchors weighing the club down as early as this coming season.

How much blame to dole on Wren and Wren alone is a question. Did ownership interfere in the Chipper negotiations? As disliked as Wren is, he's never been beholden to legends (as evidenced by stupid by admirably ballsy battle with Cal Ripken Jr in Baltimore as their GM), so it's possible he wasn't on board with that extension.

John Schuerholz is still the president of the club and one would assume that he has plenty of sway with what's going on. Because he was referred to as a "genius" for all those years doesn't make it so. When Schuerholz took over as Braves GM in 1990, the pieces were already in place for the dominant National League club over the next decade-and-a-half.

A club that happened to have three Hall of Famers in their starting rotation by 1992, and a lineup boosted by another Hall of Famer in Jones is hard to screw up. Only one of those players,----Greg Maddux----was acquired by Schuerholz. Tom Glavine was drafted in 1984; John Smoltz was acquired in a trade for Doyle Alexander by then-GM Bobby Cox in August, 1988; and Jones was drafted first overall by Cox in 1990. The "genius" Schuerholz is the same guy who was virtually run out of Kansas City because of ridiculous contracts doled on Storm Davis and Mark Davis to disastrous results.

It could be that the Braves situation is a result of a combination of circumstances all mixed together to create a team that is good, but not as good as they could've been and there's plenty of blame to go around. With Cox on the way out after 2010 and the money issues due to those contracts, they might've been better off going for it all in 2010 because there's every possibility of a sell-off after next year. Then they're really in trouble because that entire front office has been hit or miss in every aspect for the breadth of their careers from top-to-bottom.

  • Almost zero hour for Jason Bay:

There are rumblings that the Mets have had just about enough of waiting for Jason Bay to make his decision as he hopes for another suitor to appear or for the Red Sox to either decide to expand their budget or make a deal to create room for Bay's salary.

This is turning into a staring contest between the Mets and Bay with the Red Sox (and I think the Angels) hovering around. There's been talk that the Red Sox might try to backload a long-term deal with some creativity to be able to keep Bay while staying under the luxury tax threshold. It's possible that they find a way to do it; but I think the easiest thing for them to do if they're so intent on keeping Bay is to trade J.D. Drew, move Jacoby Ellsbury to right field and re-sign Bay with the money saved from Drew's $28 million guaranteed through 2011.

As for the Mets, I'd set up a meeting with Bay and his agent, look into his eyes and ask him point blank if he really wants to play for the Mets, is willing to join the club for money and little else, or if this is a negotiation ploy----and I'd be able to tell which it was. If I didn't like the answer, I'd move on immediately, which the Mets seem about ready to do anyway.

Then Bay's really screwed.

There are options out there aside from Bay; in fact, while I prefer Bay over Matt Holliday, the crashing market might make it feasible for the Mets to seriously consider Holliday. At the very least, if they make a public (and moderately sincere) move on Holliday, it'd put a scare in Bay that might get him to take the Mets offer as it stands.

Let's make a decision already. It's enough.

  • Viewer Mail 12.28.2009:

Joe writes:

Numbers play the game, not humans :)


There's living on the edge and there's leaping over the cliff like Wile E. Coyote. I'm running things, but Jeff is Acting Boss, there's a limit to the control I have over him from this distance and he's looking askance at you to start with. That kinda statement might send him to the point of no return and I won't be able to stop him this time. Tread carefully.


Ric Nunez writes RE my sledding video clips:

Fun videos Paul, the only snow here is fake one


Yeah, but you've got the beach in Florida. The snow's fun, but in my experience bikinis trump sledding.

Speaking of the sledding videos, I sent them to my mother and here's her quote, verbatim: "The friggin' idiot's gonna kill himself."

Um. Yah.

I saw the following parody last night on "That Mitchell and Webb Look" sketch show and while it's funnier if you're familiar with "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares", it's funny on its own merit and worth watching.




Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunday Lightning 12.27.2009

  • Lessons from Lombardi:

Having just finished reading That First Season, by John Eisenberg detailing Vince Lombardi's inaugural year as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers, I got to thinking how his strategies are still applicable today.

Even though times have changed drastically from the days of virtually non-existent salaries and the equivalent of indentured servitude that professional athletes endured in the 1950s and 60s, there is still much to be learned from the success of the greats from that era. One such great from that time was the Hall of Fame football coach Lombardi.

Lombardi took what had been a perennial doormat in the NFL----the Green Bay Packers----and molded them into the most dominant and successful team in the league winning five championships in nine years including the first two Super Bowls; but what was even more stunning was how he took what was basically the same team from 1958 and had gone 1-10-1 and turned them around to 7-5 in one year.

How did he do it and how are those lessons still applicable in any sport, including baseball? Let's take a look:


Power:


Lombardi wouldn't have taken the job if he didn't have full autonomy to do whatever he wanted with any and all players. If that meant cutting or trading what had been the most recognizable and best player, then so be it. He didn't want to deal with what was the equivalent of a College of Cardinals in the Packers' executive board which oversaw the publicly owned company that was the Packers. Once he was free of the interference of the know-it-alls on the board, he was able to dispatch players who he felt were either divisive forces or wouldn't be of much use once the team was ready to contend for a title.

The player that Lombardi used for those purposes was star wide receiver Billy Howton. Howton had been the leader on and off the field, such as a leader is for a team that in so horrific that they only won one game; but Howton was loud, arrogant and insolent----the perfect candidate to be thrown out the door at the first opportunity, and that's exactly what Lombardi did by trading Howton to the Browns.

Part of the idea behind the deal was to send the message that no one in the organization was safe; but Lombardi was smart enough to get something of use for Howton in defensive end Bill Quinlan. The player he got back was important, but not as important and the stamp he put on his club by sending a shock through the entire locker room that times were different; that Lombardi was running things. Period.

The days of a manager/coach having that kind of power to run off a player unilaterally are over in every sport. One only has to look back to Jimmy Johnson's failed tenure as Dolphins coach to understand that. Johnson's main regret from that time was that he wanted to get rid of Dan Marino and didn't; it was the right thing to do for the club and for himself----but for whatever reason, he tried to scotch tape a team together as quickly as possible with Marino and it didn't work.

Was it fear? Was it resistance from ownership or the fans? Or was it that he didn't have the guts to do what was right? We'll never know, but he should've coldly pulled the plug on Marino and moved on.

With players being so well-compensated and, in baseball, having no-trade clauses in their contracts, there's no way for a manager to exert his will over the players in the same manner as Lombardi did; but the manager must have the backing of ownership if he's going to maintain respect in the clubhouse. You need only look at the managers who've been successful for the longest time and get the most out of their clubs to understand how important the respect/fear factor is.

Joe Torre rules by force of reputation and personality; the players know who's in charge.

Tony La Russa has heavy say-so over his roster and if he decides that a player isn't going to play for whatever reason, then the player isn't going to play.

Ron Gardenhire has that hammer in Minnesota with the Twins----if you don't play and behave the Twins way, not only are you not going to play, at the first opportunity, you're going to be gone.

One of the biggest issues I had with Moneyball was the relegation of the imperative job of field manager to little more than a conduit for upper management to dictate what happens on the field. I don't care how strong the personality of the front office boss is, he can't be with the players 24/7 running the club in the trenches. If the players know that the manager is adisposable entity who can be overridden at any time by the GM, why should any star player buy into what he says? Why listen to him? Why respect him?

The manager must have some power or it can't work.


Conditioning:


If the players aren't in shape, they can't perform up to their capabilities. And I'm not talking about some new age workout regimen that will get the players hurt.

See Brian Cashman's hiring and almost immediate firing of Marty Miller as Director of Performance Enhancement----whatever that is----in 2007 and relenting to Torre's and the players' concerns that Miller's techniques weren't applicable to baseball. Numerous players got hurt under Miller, specifically to their hamstrings and backs. Cashman has always been susceptible to anyone who walked up to him with a chart or graph that looked good on paper, so his hiring of a baseball neophyte like Miller should come as no surprise.

Players being in shape during Lombardi's era meant that they were able to execute their assignments with as much precision in the fourth quarter as they could in the first. That had nothing to do with planning; that had to do with being in shape; and Lombardi's players were in shape or they were gone.

It takes very little effort to run hard to first base; to be in the proper defensive position. I'm convinced that most pitchers injuries occur not due to mechanical flaws, but due to physical exhaustion. Once a pitcher is tired, he loses his proper mechanics; once he loses his proper mechanics (not using his legs and hips as much as he did earlier in the game) more stress is placed on his arm and injuries occur. That's not due to throwing too many pitches; that's due to not being in shape to complete his motion correctly.

Lombardi ran his players into the ground like they were in the Marines in that first year for several reasons. One was to get the players ready; the other was to find out who was committed to the cause; and if they weren't, they were dispatched.


Flexibility with rules:


Everyone knows the dirty little secret that Albert Pujols could walk up to Tony La Russa and punch him in the face and the main concern of the club (and La Russa) would be whether Pujols hurt his wrist or broke his hand; and that if David Freese did the same thing, Freese would be playing in Taiwan.

The old saying of "remember the golden rule----he who has the gold makes the rules" was in effect during Lombardi's day in a different way. The players weren't making big money, but if it was a star player without whom the team couldn't win, they were allowed certain liberties in the interest of the greater good. Of course that was kept quiet.

There was one such player named Bobby Dillon. Dillon was a defensive back who had retired after the 1958 season, but it didn't take long for Lombardi to realize that he needed Dillon to come back. Dillon initially refused until training camp was nearly over when he gave in and returned. Lombardi tried to exert his will and maintain the rules for Dillion by informing the player that he'd have to be fined for every day he missed camp. Dillon, stunned and enraged, told Lombardi said he wasn't paying a fine because he hadn't been holding out; not only that, if that was Lombardi's attitude, he wasn't coming back. Lombardi gave in for expediency, but not before getting it straight with Dillon that if anyone asked, he'd been fined just like everyone else.

Was it ethical?

Was it living up to some spartan code of "everyone treated the same"?

No, but it was smart because he needed Dillon and needed to maintain the veneer that he'd worked so hard to erect with the other players ofan incorruptible force who treated player one just as he treated player 36.

One would've thought that a devout Catholic like Lombardi would've run off the wild partiers before he'd even taken off his camel-hair coat and fedora; but those players----Paul Hornung and Max McGee especially----were imperative to the team. Hornung's after-hours partying was legendary for the time (it mostly consisted of drinking and chasing women), but on Sunday, he was always ready to do anything and everything to win, from running to throwing to catching to blocking and kicking field goals. His off-hours activities didn't matter to Lombardi as long as he didn't do anything to make the team look bad.

As long as the players didn't embarrass the club, were on time, paid attention and played like hell when it was time, he couldn't have cared less what they were doing off the field.

If I was a manager or coach today, my two main rules for after-hours activities would be: A) be ready to play on time; and B) stay out of jail.


Psychology:


Lombardi was a teacher as well as a coach and part of teaching is knowing how to reach every individual pupil. Some need gentility; some need a good swift kick in the ass. Lombardi was a master psychologist. When the players had everyone jumping on them, Lombardi patted them on the back. When everyone was telling them how great they were, he unloaded on them.

Individually, he would berate them and drill in what they'd done wrong; he'd push them to their physical limits and beyond; then, just as they were ready to attack him en masse and tear him to shreds, he'd pat them on the head and tell them they were doing a great job. No one knew what to make of him and the dichotomy quelled any dissension before it took root and sabotaged the team from the inside.


Execution:


There was no secret to what the Packers were going to do. They were going to run the ball down the opponents throat with a fairly small number of plays in which the players had the flexibility to adjust based on what the defense was doing. It was structured, but had options to maximize what was available.

There's no need----in any sport----for a complicated series of ways to trick the opponents. If a team has the talent and executes their gameplan, there's little for an opponent to do to stop them. If you look at the way the aforementioned Twins have been able to maintain their consistency and contend while losing one star after another due to payroll constraints, it's because they play the game the right way. Their pitchers throw strikes; their baserunners take the extra base; they move runners along; and defensively, they're always in the right place.

When a team has talent and is well-schooled in fundamentals so they're second nature, you'd be stunned to see how many more games they'll win with the same talent that couldn't do anything right previously. And again, if they can't get with the program, they're gone. It's not hard. A team basically telling their opponent what's coming while knowing they can't be stopped is a dominance that has little to do with talent; it has to do with a team effort and teaching. Such a combination is unbeatable.


These lessons last through the decades not because they came written on some tablet delivered from the heavens, but because they're logical, pragmatic and most importantly, they worked.


  • Viewer Mail 12.27.2009:

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the Orioles:

Not to get all sentimental or anything, but I sorta miss the days where the Orioles were the class of the Major Leagues. Still have a long way to go to match those high standards.


People forget that those Orioles teams, led by Earl Weaver, were immersed in numbers and was enamored of players who walked and hit the ball out of the park. They also built their clubs on deep pitching staffs that gobbled innings and threw strikes.

Weaver was a tyrant and a genius. He would find each player's unique abilities and maximize what they could do rather than whine about what they couldn't. Combined, John Lowenstein, Gary Roenicke and Benny Ayala were the most productive left field in baseball. Weaver couldn't care less about a player's feelings; if you produced, you played; if not, you sat. Simple. His pitchers listened to what they were told, or they didn't pitch. Easy.

He also made do with what he had in his strategies. Weaver was an advocate of pitching and three-run homers, but when he didn't have the power to play that way, he ran all over the place. He didn't like it, but he didn't complain and did it for the sake of the team.

Had Weaver's teams won just one more World Series than they did, they'd be right up there with the Big Red Machine and the late 70s Yankees in terms of recognition. Weaver won only one World Series in 1970, but they could easily have won five more. In 1969, they were overrun by the Miracle Mets; in 1971 and 1979, they lost game sevens to the Pirates; in 1980, they won 100 games and missed the playoffs because the Yankees won 103; and in 1982, they came storming back from a seven game, late-August deficit in the AL East to tie the Brewers in the next-to-last day of the season before losing on the final day of the season.

I still feel that Weaver's never gotten his due even though he's in the Hall of Fame. The guy was a master.

  • Is that bigfoot?

I found this footage hidden in the woods. Dunno who it could be...alright, it's me. I went sledding in the snow like an eight-year-old yesterday. And I was shrieking like a girl. Sue me.



video





video

Saturday, December 26, 2009

How Much Have The Orioles And Nationals Improved?

  • Mid-Atlantic Maneuverings:

The Orioles and Nationals have both been strangely aggressive this off-season and neither appear done in their shopping. Let's take a look at how much better they've made their respective clubs and whether their fans should be enthusiastic, confused, concerned or all of the above.


Baltimore Orioles:


Under team president Andy MacPhail, the Orioles ceased the "strategy" of owner Peter Angelos that included undermining and interfering with everything his baseball people tried to do, nixing deals that would've made the club better and signing players past their primes in a desperate and futile effort to keep up with the Yankees and Red Sox.

MacPhail has never been one to spend money even when there's been money available. It was his modus operandi when leading the Twins to two World Series wins in five years in 1987 and 1991; and it was the way he ran the Cubs as they came within one game of the World Series in 2003. The Orioles were a laughingstock at the major league level; they were a laughingstock at the minor league level. Angelos hired and fired GMs, managers; jettisoned players and alienated a loyal fan base.

Now, they're made a series of savvy trades of clubhouse poison Erik Bedard; the fading Miguel Tejada; and veterans Chad Bradford and Aubrey Huff to clear salary and replenish the farm system. MacPhail's work is paying dividends with the emergence of a load of young pitching and catcher Matt Wieters. Combining that with the outfielders Nick Markakis and Adam Jones and there's a nucleus for a contender sooner rather than later.

Even with that, it was unexpected that the Orioles would be so aggressive in acquiring veterans this winter. In trading for veteran pitcher Kevin Millwood from the Rangers, signing closer Mike Gonzalez and third baseman Garrett Atkins, it can be asked whether the Orioles are making a similar mistake now as those that got them into the mess that required someone like MacPhail to even have to convince Angelos that his way wasn't working.

There's a major difference between the two situations of then and now.

The Orioles that were haphazard and clueless in the early part of the decade and collapsed were constantly throwing money at their problems. That money was wasted on players who were looking for the one last payday of their careers no matter the circumstances of the club or had nowhere else to go.

Rafael Palmeiro; Pat Hentgen; Tejada; Kris Benson; LaTroy Hawkins; Javy Lopez; Kevin Millar----all came and went without adding much to the on-field product. But the contracts doled out to those fading veterans weren't completed with an end in mind. They were mutually advantageous in their panic. The Orioles needed a name to put an artifice on their crumbling foundation; the players needed someplace to get a guaranteed contract for good money. The Orioles weren't much better with these players than they would've been without them; and they definitely weren't better in the future than they would've been had they given a young player a chance to play rather than clinging to the glorified past of the likes of Tejada and Palmeiro to draw a couple thousand extra fans in a year.

The acquisitions of this winter have not been on the level of those deals. In fact, they fit very neatly into what MacPhail has built.

Millwood is still an innings-eater; he's gutty; he's got experience in winning clubhouses; he can still pitch; and he's willing to mentor the younger pitchers Brad Bergeson, Chris Tillman Brian Matusz and David Hernandez. In a business sense, they got him for Chris Ray who----while having shown ability earlier in his career----was returning from Tommy John surgery and struggled this season. Nor does it hurt that Millwood is singing for his free agent supper. It's a total win for the Orioles in every aspect.

Atkins's star had fallen with the Rockies as he lost his starting third base job to Ian Stewart and was dumped, but the Orioles needed a third baseman or first baseman who could hit. While Atkins's numbers away from Coors Field are pedestrian, two things might help him with the Orioles: A) a change of scenery; and B) Camden Yards.

On a one-year deal with an option, Atkins is a great, low-cost roll of the dice for the Orioles.

There were questions regarding the decision to sign Mike Gonzalez to a 2-year, $12 million contract to take over as closer.

Did they need Gonzalez?

No.

They could've taken a veteran off the scrapheap or one of their younger relievers and used them to close, but the money spent on Gonzalez is negligible; they're not losing their high draft pick as compensation; and in the worst case scenario, there's always a market for a hard-throwing lefty reliever who racks up strikeouts. It's not a lot of money for what Gonzalez will provide.


The American League East is hellish, but with if the Orioles young pitching matures quickly, there's no reason they can't make a run at third place and .500 in 2010. That would make the venue even more attractive to free agents and make a leap into contention a realistic possibility in 2011.

These were more excellent decisions by MacPhail and the Orioles, whose fortunes are finally looking up. It's about time for a storied franchise that was once the crème de la crème of the baseball world.


Washington Nationals:


I'm not exactly sure what to make of the Nationals.

Obviously the needed to do something to garner interest in their club and after a 103-loss year, but the decisions they've made are more of the type an expansion team would make to import some recognizable veterans, but wouldn't make the team any better than they'd be if they'd stood pat with youth.

Were the Nationals as terrible as they looked early in the 2009 season (26-61 under Manny Acta)? No. Their pitching was bad, but talented; and they can hit.

Were they as close to .500 as they looked after Jim Riggleman (33-42) took over for Acta? No.

But how much better are the Nationals going to be in 2010 with their imports? Not enough to make it noticeable.

With their current roster, if everything goes right, they're about a 73-win team. That's it. You won't see any Seattle Mariners-style turnaround from 100-losses to over .500 and rising because the Mariners climb was due more to everything that could've gone wrong going wrong in 2008 and a few smart signings and trades, plus health from their players resulted in an 85-win year in 2009.

Is Jason Marquis a difference-maker? Brian Bruney? Matt Capps? Ivan Rodriguez? Eddie Guardado?

Of all the players the Nats have brought in during their aggressive winter, the only one I'd have any legitimate interest in if I was a GM for a contender would be Capps. Aside from that, there's not much of an improvement; in fact, there's a slight downgrade because Rodriguez is going to block Jesus Flores from playing.

In the National League East, which is going to be about as rough for the Nats as the AL East will be for the Orioles, they could be much better in theory with the results not much better on the field. The Braves are better than they were last year; the Phillies are still very good; the Marlins are tough; and the Mets were a punching bag due to injuries more than any continuing downward spiral.

With Bobby Valentine available, interested in the job and an instant credibility-enhancer as well as being one of the best field, if not the best field managers in the world, the Nats decided to keep Riggleman as full time manager. I have no problem with Riggleman; he's not going to embarrass the club on or off the field and he can run things well enough, but is he going to be managing when they turn the corner with Stephen Strasburg fronting the rotation? If not, then it made no sense to keep him on.

If the Nats were signing these players with the idea that they were going to have chips to trade at mid-season, it would be one thing, but I get the impression that they're getting these players with the intent of keeping them, and that's puzzling. It's going to get worse if they continue to aggressively pursue John Smoltz because the last thing the Nats or Smoltz needs is the situation of the Nationals. If it comes to pass, I have to question the sanity and objectives on both ends. It's a bad idea much like many of the decisions made by the Nats so far this winter.

  • Viewer Mail 12.26.2009:

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Troy Glaus and the Braves:


Signing Glaus, to me, tells Braves fans that Wren is just sorta half assing it. And Bay? Holliday? What happens when the big teams just move on without them? They get even LESS money. Holding out ain't gonna get em more money this off-season.


A Braves fan on Twitter said that Wren was told he had to slash $10 million from what was the original allotment for 2010, so that makes it a little more understandable that they went cheap and rolled the dice with Glaus. I'd have signed Garrett Atkins in that case; but this only makes the Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami, Tim Hudson and Chipper Jones contracts look all the worse.


Joe at Statistician Magician writes two comments, one RE Glaus; the other a question:


The Braves do need another bat, but taking on Glaus for very little money is not a "stupid" deal. I must disagree. Worst case scenario, they have a good option off the bench. But you are right when you say they need someone more reliable, and that they do...


Who is "fuckbrain?"


Strangely, the Braves still have enough pitching to make the playoffs even with the Glaus signing, but there's a difference between a possible playoff run and being a contender to win the World Series.

Jeff and I have been discussing the individual we refer to as "fuckbrain" on Twitter; it's not confidential material as to who "fuckbrain" is, but the context is relegated to Boss/Underboss for legitimate personal reasons.

Regarding "fuckbrain" I say the following: Now Joe, if you hadn't disappeared from under my auspices for several months without a word, there was every possibility of a promotion to Florida Captain despite your tendency toward stat zombieness; with that, there was the chance of inclusion in knowing said privileged information. As of right now, you've got a way to go to get back in my good graces. Only then (if it happens) will you learn the identity of "fuckbrain" who isn't much of anything to worry about anyway.