Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Lightning 1.17.2010

  • You have to admire a guy who's free of pretense:

Jack Clark's scathing attack on Mark McGwire and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is indicative of the type of no-holds-barred, fire-breathing, polarizing figure Clark's always been. The comments, pointed and with merit, exemplify Clark, and you have to admire it.

Disgusted by the spin-doctoring from the McGwire camp; and the feigned disbelief by La Russa that McGwire was using PEDs, Clark came out with the following nuggets culled from ESPN Story regarding McGwire, and La Russa's response:

"A lot of them should be banned from baseball, including Mark McGwire..."

"All those guys are cheaters -- A-Rod [Alex Rodriguez]. Fake, phony. Rafael Palmeiro. Fake, a phony," Clark told the newspaper. "[Roger] Clemens, [Barry] Bonds. [Sammy] Sosa. Fakes. Phonies. They don't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

"They should all be in the Hall of Shame," Clark said. "They can afford to build it. They've all got so much money. And they could all go there and talk about the next way to rub something on your skin. The whole thing is creepy.

"They're all creeps. All these guys have been liars."

"They're not really a man's man," Clark said. "They're just whimpering boys who are just sad to watch. They try to put it off on somebody else. I don't know how they sleep at night, looking at all their fame, let alone the money they took by faking everybody out and lying to everybody."

And of La Russa:

"[McGwire's] own manager never knew that [Jose] Canseco and McGwire and anybody else ever had taken steroids?" Clark said to the Post-Dispatch. "Trust me, from [a former player], I have a lot of insight into who did what and when but I'm not even going to talk about it. It really doesn't matter."

McGwire's not going to retort to Clark's statements; and La Russa can't dispute Clark given the preposterous nature of his decades long defense of his slugger and friend. There's supporting a friend and there's going all in with a losing hand hoping to bluff through; La Russa did the latter with McGwire and is dealing with a similar blowback to what McGwire is facing.

Despite his protestations to the contrary, does anyone really believe that La Russa didn't have an inkling that McGwire was juicing? And in reality, what could he have done about it? The answer is nothing.

Everyone's missing a major point about PEDs in baseball while they were at the height of their use----they weren't banned by MLB!

Even if the arguments that the illegality of the drugs in the United States indirectly implied that players weren't supposed to be using them, they're legal if prescribed by a physician and are perfectly legal in Mexico and the Dominican Republic among other places; so nothing was to stop a player from going to Mexico or the D.R. and getting their boost when they were cycling; nothing was to stop them from finding a quack physician to write the prescription for the right amount of money.

Everyone was complicit in this mess. The players who are admitting what they did or are being outed unwillingly are bearing the brunt; the managers and executives who protected them are being savaged; but everyone in baseball is responsible for what happened then and is happening now.

With Clark, you have to admire him for his honesty.

He was a beloved Cardinal from the 80s and works as a sometime studio analyst; as was his wont, hasn't shied away from speaking his mind. Clark was a tough guy as a player and alienated one front office after another with his lack of tact or respect for the caste systems that permeate a baseball clubhouse.

The Jack Clark story is explained almost perfectly in the Sports Illustrated article by Rick Reilly from July 22, 1991----link.

In his career, Clark took on the San Francisco Giants management for making him play the outfield on artificial turf with a badly damaged knee----he told them to "go die".

While playing for the Padres, he challenged Tony Gwynn's perceived selfishness.

If ever there were two "get me out of here" moments, these were it; and they were only two of the more memorable incidents in Clark's career. It shouldn't come as a shock that he's unafraid to speak his mind about McGwire, La Russa and the rest of the accused.

What defense do these players have from someone like Clark, who's almost a contemporary and is simultaneously revered and reviled by diverging forces in all the organizations for whom he played. When you list Frank Robinson, Tony Gwynn, Ozzie Smith, Lou Piniella and now McGwire and La Russa among those with whom you've butted heads; and Whitey Herzog, Roberto Alomar and Andy Van Slyke who defend you to the last, you're not interested in perception, just the truth.

If critics are going to rip Clark for saying publicly what many others are saying privately, then they're in the same boat of disingenuousness as McGwire and La Russa. I say this with the greatest respect for La Russa as a field manager; and the belief that McGwire is decent, well-meaning guy. Both put themselves into their current position not by the involvement and blind eye they cast on what was going on, but by their half-truths (McGwire) and silliness (La Russa).

Just as he did in his playing career, Clark put into words what many were feeling and afraid to say. Clark never cared about perception as a player; and he doesn't care about it as an analyst. In a sea of semantics, it's refreshing for someone to come out on a side and challenge the establishment, and that's something Jack Clark has never avoided.

  • Because it's edible doesn't mean it's good:

The other day, I clipped from the newspaper a recipe for breaded chicken stuffed with ham and provolone.

It looked good.

It looked easy.

When I cooked it, it was okay; not great; not terrible. But it didn't turn out right. It was edible, but that doesn't mean it worked.

I thought of this when I saw the reports that Cubs manager Lou Piniella intended to bat the newly acquired Marlon Byrd fifth in his projected 2010 lineup with Alfonso Soriano hitting behind him.

Um, okay...

Marlon Byrd is not a fifth place hitter. The primary function for a fifth place hitter is to protect the 3rd and 4th hitters; does Byrd do that? Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez are money in the 3-4 slots, but if he's going to shift Alfonso Soriano out of his preferred leadoff spot, why not bat him fifth? Byrd has neither the power nor the intimidation factor to bat fifth. Pitchers are going to be challenging Byrd to beat them from the first pitch of the season onward and he doesn't have the capacity to answer that challenge. It's not his fault; he is what he is and Piniella batting him fifth is going to expose that far quicker than if he were batting second, where he should be batting.

Is the notoriously finicky Soriano even on board with moving out of the leadoff spot and batting sixth? Soriano has adamantly insisted on batting leadoff. This obstinacy has extended to him going into slumps that one could only assume are self-created because he's so miserable whenever he's asked to bat anywhere other than leadoff.

I've long felt that Soriano needed to be moved down in the order. I'd have batted him third even though he's not a prototypical three hitter; the three hitter is supposed to be the best overall hitter in the lineup, but with Soriano, it would get him an at bat in the first inning to assuage his complaining about not batting leadoff. It's a conciliatory maneuver to account for him not liking hitting fourth and it gets him into a more advantageous RBI position.

Batting Byrd fifth and Soriano fifth is misusing of ingredients (that aren't all that fresh or in-season to begin with) and it's going to cost the Cubs. Badly.

This is yet another reason why this Cubs season is destined for disaster. They're an aging, overpaid and flawed roster; have a manager who knows that his window to win with the current group is closed and is aware that his time with the club is coming to an end; and an embattled GM, Jim Hendry, under the watchful eye of a new ownership. With an aura of devastation hovering around the Cubs, this latest statement will all add to another season of misery. It's another coal on the fire.

Piniella can't say he wasn't warned.

  • A reality-check for the bashers of Omar Minaya:

Those that are insistent that they want Omar Minaya out as Mets GM because of the list of gaffes----perceived and real----that have pockmarked his overall positive tenure as GM had better wake up and realize that even if the club decides to dismiss Minaya (something that's highly unlikely), there's not going to be a Pat Gillick/John Schuerholz-style GM coming in to take over. If Minaya is fired, there's one person who's going to take over as permanent GM and that's assistant GM John Ricco.

The very idea that the Mets are going to go outside of the Mets "family" to bring in an outsider is refuted by history. The Mets don't do that. They don't bring outsiders in to take over and "clean up" the organization. If anyone advocates Billy Beane coming to the Mets regardless of the mess he's created in Oakland, then fine; but it's not happening. Some have suggested the names Sandy Alderson (why?!?) and Kevin Towers among others, but the truth is, the Mets are better off keeping Minaya.

Ricco has expressed himself well as the pseudo-front man for the organization and it was said to have been Ricco who suggested the excellent move of getting Ryan Church out of town for Jeff Francoeur. He's more of a contract man and to me it's better off letting Ricco handle the incidents----like Carlos Beltran's surgery----that require a bit more verbal finesse than Minaya is capable of and keeping Minaya as the talent evaluator; trades-man; and organizational representative for the good things like the Jason Bay signing.

It's not a unique experience for a club to delineate responsibilities in such a way where there's one contract guy; a front man; and an evaluator. The idea that an "organizational czar" is the answer is ignoring what absolute power can create. The better organizations like the Red Sox, Marlins and Angels all have a variety of people providing input. There's nothing wrong with that.

If you look at other arenas like boxing, when Mike Tyson was on the rise, he had two managers---James Jacobs and Bill Cayton; and the behind-the-scenes manipulator, Cus D'Amato----handling his affairs. They created a monster of publicity and financial might; along with Tyson's formidable skills in the ring, there was little chance of failure. Cayton handled the contracts; Jacobs was the front man for press conferences, charming the gatherings with wittiness and a smile; and D'Amato was the master planner.

To think that one "genius" is going to walk in and recreate the culture of the Mets----which has been sullied by circumstances more than anything----is irrational. The Mets might as well keep things as they are unless it crashes totally; and that's not going to happen this year anyway. Just leave it be. A compartmentalized series of duties is actually a very viable way to run an organization, it just doesn't make people as happy if they have one voice emanating from the club, even if that voice might end up making things worse.

  • Viewer Mail 1.17.2010:

Jeff (Underboss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Billy Beane:



I believe there's some sort of cosmic harmony in the back-and-forth-edness of Beane and DePodesta's dealings with one another. It's like they're at the party no one else was invited to... but instead of feeling privileged, now they're both just miserable.

You'd have to believe that they regret Moneyball now even if they never come right out and say it; but it'd be refreshing if they did. It might even get me to lay off. Maybe.

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE yesterday's Beane posting:

Brilliant quotes indeed.

On my weekly ramblings about the Blue Jays, it's said that they're scouting Ben Sheets. I'd like another bat, but I don't think it's a bad idea to give Sheets a cheap deal with incentives.

The Blue Jays are loaded with young pitching, they don't need Ben Sheets. You're right, they need a bat more than they need him; and they're not going to pay Sheets even if it's a reasonable, incentive-laden deal. Then again, why not go and have a look? What's there to lose?

John Seal writes RE the Athletics:

Uncle, uncle, uncle!! You wrote all that just to get a comment out of me, didn't you?

I do think the Kouzmanoff trade makes sense for the A's...and, yes, it does improve the team. Look, the options at third for the last few seasons haven't been pretty ones. Jack Hannahan was a spectacular glove at the hot corner...but he couldn't hit a lick. Adam Kennedy had a hot bat last year...but, oy, that glove did not play at all well at third. At least Kouzmanoff gives the team a good--not great--bat, and a good--not great--glove at the position. He's reliable, and since Chavez began to suffer all his owies, reliability has been in short supply for the A's. AND we've still got Dallas McPherson and Jake Fox in case Kouzmanoff completely sucks!

Hairston was clearly surplus to requirements, and while I'm a Cunningham fan, how much better is he than Ryan Sweeney or Travis Buck? With Davis, Sweeney, and Crisp, the A's are set in the outfield glove-wise. Very good pitching and above average defense will win the A's their share of games in 2010, and when Carter and Taylor are ready (June?), they'll start to score some runs, too. Come 2011, the division is ours!

Hey, it's January, spring training is around the corner, and I've renewed my season tickets, so don't bring me down to Earth just yet, Prince.

Somehow I knew this was coming, but you should know by now I'm free of the constraints of agenda.

This trade----and the whole winter, in fact----is more of a symptom of what ails the A's and Beane than anything else. It's a decent trade for both sides. You keep hearing the caveats that Moneyball changed the playing field and everyone's using the same stats now, but that's when an executive has to be able to recognize unquantifiable attributes that come from a keen scouting eye. Does Beane have that eye? Apparently not. This is a problem. He can't function without the advantage he supposedly had as anything more than a mediocre GM. This switch to an emphasis on defense looks to be more of a desperation decision like settling for whatever's left in a bar at 4 AM. It'll serve a purpose, but nothing more.

Kouzmanoff won't suck; but he won't be the answer either. The concerns I would have would be two-fold: 1) Will the offense do anything at all? And, more importantly, 2) Will the young pitching continue their growth from the second half of last season?

Taylor's going to be a star; but right now, the offense is not very good; and in that division? They're going to have to score to win. With the pitching, teams have had young pitchers who looked like they were learning on the fly and ready to take the next step fall flat on their faces as the new season started. If everything goes right, the A's could contend----really----but realistically, with an entire crew of youth in a starting rotation, you can't expect a miracle.

What they can really use is a gutty, teaching veteran starting pitcher like Doug Davis who'd benefit from that defense and would show the kids how to win with stuff that can't even be classified as mediocre; but the A's look intent on moving forward, sink or swim with the babies. If they were in the AL Central, then they'd be a trendy pick to be near the top of the division, but in the AL West? I can't see it. If Beane's getting the credit for what he did right in earlier years, then he's got to take the blame for what's happening now.

  • My Podcast appearance:
In case you missed it, here's the link to my Podcast appearance on SportsFanBuzz. Here's the link----Prince on the Podcast. It's more excitement than should be legal!!

1 comment:

She-Fan said...

It's really hard to get worked up about steroids at this point, although I can understand Jack Clark's sentiments. The point is, as you stated, "everyone was complicit in this mess."