Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Lightning 1.24.2010

  • Does this look familiar?

Unlike Buster Olney and his regurgitated/idiotic crap on ESPN, I have great respect for Bill Madden of the NY Daily News; that said, here's a clip from his column posted yesterday about the Phillies off-season:

So the Phillies sign Joe Blanton to a three-year, $24 million contract last week and follow that up by locking up Shane Victorino for the next three years at $22 million. Then, for good measure, they sign Jose Contreras to replace Chan Ho Park as the long man in their bullpen. Indeed, it would seem the Phillies have covered all their bases in their effort to make a third straight trip to the World Series.

But here's what makes no sense: Instead of bumping Blanton from $5.4 million to $8 million, why didn't they just keep Cliff Lee at $8 million and virtually guarantee themselves a long run into October? Isn't that essentially what Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik is doing with Lee now - especially after signing his staff ace Felix Hernandez to that five-year, $78 million extension this past week?

When Zduriencik acquired Lee from the Phillies as the caboose to the three-team mega deal in December that sent Roy Halladay from the Toronto Blue Jays to Philly, he didn't know if he could sign the Cy Young-winning lefty after this season anymore than the Phillies did. What he did know was that Lee and Hernandez would give him the most formidable 1-2 starting pitching punch in the American League.

All the Phillies did was trade one No. 1 pitcher in Lee for another in Halladay. They're no better in their starting rotation than last year when the drop-off after Lee was the difference between them and the Yankees in the World Series.

The Phillies' explanation for trading Lee was weak - they said they needed to replenish their farm system after all the prospects they gave up for Halladay, and that Lee had indicated to them he wanted to test the free-agent market after this season.

Lee denied that and the fact is, even if Lee did bolt after the season, the Phillies would have gotten two high draft picks as compensation. Meanwhile, the Phillies' starting rotation after Halladay is as much a vulnerability as it was in the World Series against the Yankees - especially if Cole Hamels fails to regain his '08 form.

The Phillies' payroll - $149 million committed to just 14 players for 2011 - is going to be the highest in their history, but with pitching being as important as it is, the Mariners, with Lee as their No. 2 starter, look to be a lot better bet to make the World Series.

Now click here and see what I wrote over a month ago. OVER A MONTH AGO when no one anywhere was saying anything of the kind because they were going on and on about the Phillies acquisition of Roy Halladay as if they'd actually improved the club; hypnotized as they were by the glossy name of Halladay and the afterglow of the complicated blockbuster that was completed, no one took the time to examine the deal in depth with a cold, realistic detachment----except me. I wrote it and said it in my Podcast appearance last week.

I'm starting to lose my prodigious temper.

And I'm just getting warmed up.

  • And they call the Yankees the Evil Empire?

Imagine if you would that you're employed as a computer programmer or a lawyer.

Your contract is due to expire and your company wants to keep you even though you'd be in demand elsewhere if you chose to depart. You want to stay, so you readily enter into negotiations for a new contract. You come to an agreement and part of said agreement is what should be a formality----a physical exam. You feel fine; you're doing your job; it's nothing to worry about.

In said physical exam however, there's a discovery of the beginnings of carpal tunnel syndrome or a slightly bulging disc in your neck that you neither knew about nor are concerned will affect your ability to do your job. You don't think it's a problem.

Your employer, however, feels differently

Your employer wants to reduce the length of the contract and wants you to undergo surgery to correct the medical issue that you didn't realize you had.

Sound ridiculous?

Sound like something out of the Soviet Union, a dictatorship or a sweatshop?

Would it shock you to learn that this was exactly what the Red Sox wanted to do with Jason Bay as a prerequisite to signing off on a contract extension?

Well, it shouldn't.

According to this article by Rob Bradford of WEEI, the Red Sox deal with Bay broke down for exactly this reason----the club wanted to protect itself from an injury that didn't bother Bay; nor did it hinder his play.

Here's the relevant clip:

The team wanted to replace the guaranteed four-year contract offer with a two-year deal — at the same rate of $15 million per season — that included third and fourth years that would be contingent on Bay’s health and productivity. The contract offer also included a requirement that Bay would have to undergo surgery on his knee immediately after the 2009 regular season.

“I was shocked, to say the least, that I was being told to have knee surgery in order to get the contract,” Bay said, “particularly since I wasn’t hurt.”

After digesting the initial shock of that turn of events, Bay and Urbon arranged in late August for an independent orthopedic surgeon to examine the MRIs on both the knees and the shoulder.

"I felt great, so I didn't believe that there was anything wrong,” Bay said. “I felt extremely confident that if I had another doctor look at my films, the diagnosis would be different."

As Bay predicted, the physician came to the conclusion that there was no cause for concern.

Bay and Urbon did not share the results of the second medical opinion with the club until the Red Sox re-opened the negotiations with Bay by making a revised contract proposal in late October.

Although the new proposal still included the medical contingencies in the final two years of the deal, there was one major omission: Bay no longer was required to undergo knee surgery.

“Nothing had changed with me physically since the club’s diagnosis back in July, so I just couldn’t understand what was going on,” Bay said.

This is shedding light on exactly how the Red Sox do business. While Bay wanted to stay with the club, is it any wonder that he's now wearing a Mets uniform? The sheer audacity of trying to force a player who'd performed brilliantly and behaved in an exemplary manner since joining the club is bad enough; but to slam him as he's out the door is a window into exactly how the Red Sox operate. This paranoia and floating self-justifications that permeate the organization in the John Henry/Theo Epstein era are exposing what goes on in Boston as standard operating procedure and has for years.

Does anyone still wonder why Bay left a team he didn't really want to leave? To join the Mets, who are considered to be a club in utter disarray, but don't treat their employees like this? You hear stories like this time and again emanating from Boston. There's always someone to blame except the powers that be.

They tried to go with the ridiculous "closer-by-committee" in 2003 and lost? Blame Grady Little.

They lose out to the Yankees for Jose Contreras and Alex Rodriguez? They call for a salary cap.

Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra and Bronson Arroyo are dealt away or allowed to leave? Rip them on the way out the door.

The attempts to make complicated three and four team deals to stave off a 2006 collapse are trumped by the Yankees filling every one of their needs in trades? Claim poverty.

An enraged fan base wants satisfaction after that same season? Spend, spend, spend to fill every hole.

The Red Sox are the darlings of baseball for the ruthless way they run their club. They let stars leave when they no longer have use; they're willing to give youngsters a chance to play; and they win.

But there's a limit.

The hypocrisy and brutality with which they run their club should be seen in a new light as the mountain of evidence builds as to how they treat their players when they no longer have a similar use or won't bow to the abusive demands that are the hallmark of an arrogant and oppressive regime.

The Yankees are the Evil Empire? I think not. The Red Sox are worse.

Hiding behind the success that the club has achieved in recent years is an easy veneer of self-protection. What they've done has worked, so that makes it okay. Players join teams for money more than any other reason; a chance to win comes next; but what happens if the Red Sox positive on-field results deserts them as I suspect it will this year? Will a team like the Mets look so terrible in comparison? Will the Yankees still be seen as an Evil Empire?

Bay was ravaged by the team, the fans and the media out the door.

He was welcomed with open arms by the Mets.

In hindsight, don't be surprised to see Bay express relief that he got away from that poisonous and venomous atmosphere. Say whatever you want about the Mets, at least they'll treat him like a human being.

The Red Sox organizational depravity is making them look hideous.

Maybe because they are.

  • Here's a guy, there's a guy, everywhere's a guy, guy:

I tried. Give me that much.

I wanted some information about the still-available free agents like Ben Sheets, Jon Garland, etc, so right after Joel Pineiro signed with the Angels, so I tuned into MLB Network's Hot Stove show.

All due respect to Al Leiter (who I met when I was a kid and was the nicest guy in the world, literally); and Jon Heyman who comes out with accurate reports most of the time, but the show is unwatchable. I have no interest whatsoever in hearing player interviews because I couldn't care less what they have to say 99% of the time; the Hot Stove stuff is easily read on MLBTradeRumors or Twitter; and as for Harold Reynolds? Jeez.

Let me put it this way and run the risk of being the target for an inappropriate bout of hugging, touching and grappling, but here's a guy who's a guy that's a guy who should try concentrating on what he's saying rather than uttering the same phrase "here's a guy" to refer to....every....single...player that's discussed.

As much as people goof on Chip Caray for his obsession with the word "fisted", Harold Reynolds is to "here's a guy" what Caray is to "fisted" and I don't want to hear it. "Here's a guy" (Harold Reynolds) who should stop saying "here's a guy". It's called concentration on what one's saying. Try it.

  • Still lingering concerns about Tim Lincecum:

When the arbitration numbers were exchanged between Tim Lincecum and the Giants, clips of the diminutive righty were shown the news reports over-and-over again----and I can't shake the thoughts that he's an injury waiting to happen.

He is so, so small.

Even with the back-to-back Cy Young Awards; even with the durability he's shown along with the dominance that have made him arguably the best pitcher in baseball, I can't be alone in thinking (although others are petrified to say it openly) that the same worries that led other teams to shun him in the draft aren't still simmering under the surface for members of the baseball community that his frame is too limited to be able to maintain his power pitching over the long term.

I can't shake the thought that he's going to break down.

I'm well aware of the unique training regimen and the success he's had, but it's always there. That slender body, narrow shoulders, torque and power he generates is not something to be ignored as he's collecting Cy Young Awards and is about to make a wheelbarrow full of money. It's going to be interesting to see if the Giants look to lock Lincecum up long term, because there have to be voices in the organization saying the same thing privately----he's going to break down because he is so, so small.

  • Viewer Mail 1.24.2010:

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

Contreras sweats more than any player I've ever seen. He needs someone to mop up after him - literally.

I burst out laughing at this comment. Leave it to Jane...

One thing, are we going just by baseball with this (thankfully) impossible to quantify assessment? You do remember Patrick Ewing, right?

Franklin Rabon AKA Bravesbloggerinlawschool writes:

hey paul,

Just to clear up confusion, the last line "has there ever been a borderline HOF..." was just meant to say "wow what a prospect Andruw was." Not predict HOF success from MiLB numbers.

My point is that today when the term "uberprospect" gets attached to guys with decent speed and 25 HR power, Andruw Jones was a real super prospect. I remember Francouer being referred to as a super prospect. Jeff Francoeur was nowhere in the same ballpark as AJ prospect wise.

My point was that the term "super prospect" or the even worse "uberprospect" gets so overused, that numbers like Andruw's put things in a little perspective as to what a true superprospect is.

also, not sure its clear, but just so I dont get in the quasi-anon smackdowange, this is franklin rabon.

I knew it was you, Franklin. The only thing that annoys me is Anonymous. As long as there's a name attached, it's fine.

With Francoeur, while I'm not going to search in detail, I can guarantee you that the same things that are hindering his rise to fulfill that potential in the majors were present in the minors----specifically swinging at everything within the zipcode of the stadium (and slightly beyond). The Braves didn't address them because he was hitting with power and getting on base at a decent clip for someone who didn't take walks.

Bottom line, they let it go while he was doing well and once he started to struggle, it was too late to do anything about it as everyone was dumping on him and giving him advice----advice that he tried to cut and paste into his game to try everything. The fractured relationship with the club and GM Frank Wren had a lot to do with Francoeur's struggles.

Those things must be handled in the minors if they're going to be handled at all. Also, the personalities of the two players is so different that there's no way to compare them. Jones looked like was asleep half the time from the way he was oblivious to the post-season pressure in 1996 to the relaxed way in which he pursued flyballs in center. Francoeur always looks like he's on the verge of spontaneous combustion because he's such a package of energy. That contributed to his rise and fall with the Braves----he's better off with the Mets and his results will show that in 2010 as they did over the second half of 2009.

A follower on Twitter who took the name of NYGovPaterson (he's not the real Gov. Paterson) writes:

Excellent work! I lived the read and will definitely return for more in the future.

I aim to please, even fake Governors of NY. In many cases (such as the former Governor of Alaska) a fake Governor is a more viablecandidate and public servant than the real one.

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE Roy Halladay:

I feel bad for Roy Halladay. He's not going to win a lot of games because of the bullpen :(

Don't feel bad for Roy Halladay. He wanted out of Toronto; he wanted to go to Philadelphia; he'll get what he gets from that decision. I don't think he realized he was going from one incompetent GM (J.P. Ricciardi) to another (Ruben Amaro Jr.) He'll learn. The hard way.

Jeff (Underboss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Gov. Patterson:

Gov. Patterson's eyesight must've improved. He's commenting on your site!

Perhaps he's also available for the Phillies bullpen... I mean, his eyesight can't be any worse than Contreras', right?

If not his eyesight, at least his taste has improved. Even if someone has to read it to him, that's at least two new readers for the Boss.

I didn't know a lack of vision contributed to Contreras's lack of directional skills with his pitches; even if he can see perfectly well, after a few outings the Phillies fans will wish they were the ones with the vision problems. Or they'll shut their eyes. Or simply get up and leave.


Joe said...

The Red Sox have showed a willingness to lock up players for more than they are worth (on a few regrettable occasions). Both Varitek and Lowell have been well overpaid the past few seasons.

Sure, the organization is cutthroat. But I wouldn't want it any other way. I don't want them holding onto players simply because they are good guys and have played well in the past. I want production.

If they were concerned at all about Bay's health, then they very well should have tried to cover their asses. Bay was a questionable signing at four years to begin with. If health concerns were a reality, then what is wrong with trying to add in some protection for the club?

It is simple, you value Jason Bay much more than the stat guys do. You see a middle of the order bat who probably is better defensively than given credit for.

We see a terrible UZR, and poor defensive metrics across the board. A guy whose 'WAR' was only 3.5 in a perceived "great" year by the average fan. And we see a player who has skills that will take a hit in the coming years, based on age.

It is simply a difference in philosophy.

Joe said...


Jeff said...

People say the same thing about Roy Oswalt, that he'll break down due to small stature. So far, so good.

She-Fan said...

Patrick Ewing did sweat a lot. But he was running up and down a basketball court. Contreras sweats standing in one place waiting for the manager to come take him out of the game!