Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Lightning 2.28.2010

  • J.P. Ricciardi as an analyst?

Yeah, J.P. Ricciardi as an analyst.

After his rocky seven year tenure as the GM of the Toronto Blue Jays, the response to ESPN's hiring of Ricciardi varied from laughter to bewilderment. Because of the endless controversies Ricciardi created on his own for no reason whatsoever as a GM, the implication is that his loose cannon tendencies will be a negative on the Baseball Tonight telecast, but it's his penchant for saying whatever's on his mind regardless of consequences that will make him a good analyst as long as he doesn't take criticism or upper management entreaties to heart and censor himself.

Ricciardi's downfall as a GM wasn't that he made overtly bad moves as Blue Jays GM. Obviously, his time there won't be seen as successful and I've been the first one to unload on him when he's deserved it; but on the whole he wasn't that bad; and his record would've looked better had his team not been trapped in the AL East with the Yankees and Red Sox. Being a middling team in the American League can get you a division title if you're in the West or Central; in the East, it gets you blamed and fired.

That said, he needed to be dismissed for the Blue Jays to move forward. The main issues with Ricciardi were never his personnel decisions; it was his repeated battles with players, coaches and media members that cemented his downfall. His personality is simply not suited to being the face of an organization. There are so many examples of his explosive temper that it's stunning he lasted as long as he did.

A successful GM has to be able to say something without saying anything; to answer the questions without answering the questions; and to let criticism pass without having to respond each...and....every....time.

Ricciardi could never control himself.

It was as if any and all slights were a perceived encroachment on his manhood that had to be answered immediately for fear of Ricciardi being seen as weak. He was a self-justification machine, always quick to attack and blame others when he should have looked into the mirror or swallowed it for the greater good.

The frequent battles with players (Adam Dunn, A.J. Burnett); and the media (he claimed an "agenda" was trying to get him fired when he lied about B.J. Ryan's elbow injury) were bad enough; but his difficulty reached a critical mass when he took Roy Halladay's quiet request to be traded and blew it up so that he: A) was unable to deal the pitcher; B) angered the quiet gunslinger to the point that he was going to demand to be moved after the season one way or the other and on his terms; and C) got himself fired.

All of this is known.

What's missed about Ricciardi is that his personality traits that got him into trouble as GM----his penchant for speaking his mind like an angry caller to a sports talk show----will make him a great addition to the Baseball Tonight broadcast if he's allowed to be himself and they don't try to rein him in with their usual brand of monotonous and repetitive banality.

There's no freedom on these "analysis" shows. It's not a give-and-take between the participants. It's scripted; plotted; safe. Even those that you'd think would be a wild and crazy and say something---John Kruk for example----without remorse or fear are whittled down to a shell of what they were as players by the parameters set by the format and that they don't want to alienate the players, managers or executives.

It's the same thing at the MLB Network; there's no honesty; no genuine passionate debate. It's fake; and you can see it. The personalities are just that, personalities whose private behaviors are sorely lacking from their public attempts at swagger. I know because I've seen the dichotomy in certain participants from public to private with an almost embarrassing submission to a knockdown----justified and discreet though it was.

The main culprit in Ricciardi's failure as Blue Jays GM was what can make him a great in-studio analyst----his mouth. Whenever he was a guest on any talk show as Blue Jays GM, I wanted to listen because I knew he wasn't going to spout corporate catchphrases while saying nothing; he was going to answer the questions honestly, like it or not.

Yes, he was paranoid; yes he made horrendous gaffes as GM; but at least he was interesting. If he's allowed to speak his mind at ESPN, he can be a great broadcaster with an insider's view of players and management. Will they let him loose? My guess is no, but Ricciardi isn't the type to respond well to constraint.

Let's hope they let him do his thing; the thing he was hired for----his unfiltered rants that got him fired as a GM. It's why he shouldn't be the head honcho in an organization but might also make him someone who you'd like to hear speak; someone who could be a big winner as a broadcaster. If they let him.

  • This isn't confidence; it's derangement:

Bill Madden wrote the following about Pirates club president Frank Coonelly in his column today:

Pirates president Frank Coonelly set off a firestorm in Pittsburgh last week with his declaration: "Don't let people tell you the Pirates don't have a great future. Today is our future and 2010 is the beginning of the next dynasty of the Pirates."

Stop laughing.


That's enough laughing.

It's not that funny.

Okay. It is that funny.

Not funny HA-HA; funny sad.

Is this man out of his mind? Does he look at what the Pirates are----in large part because of him----and still decide to say stuff like this? Since he's taken over the Pirates have gotten worse, not better; and he's not even trying to fix the organization.

Coonelly's main objective for the Pirates hasn't been to build a stable organization with delineated principles on how things will be run. No, his agenda has been to implement his "innovations" from working in the commissioner's office as the vice president and general counsel for labor relations. The slotting system to pay draft picks? That was Coonelly and he's going to stick to it no matter what.

He's a lawyer; he's not a baseball guy and it shows. You can say whatever you want about former Pirates GM Dave Littlefield and CEO Kevin McClatchy, but at least they tried. They were overmatched; but not delusional. They made gigantic mistakes in personnel, but it wasn't through a barely concealed intent to do absolutely nothing. Coonelly's statement is disturbingly out-of-touch bluster more fitting from the head of a collapsing dictatorial empire than the stable and sane executive charged with overseeing a rudderless, hapless organization like the Pirates.


I suppose you can call it a dynasty if you really want to...if the type of dynasty you'd like to build if it includes losing 90+ games in each of the last five years and not having a winning season since 1992----a dynasty for ineptitude and placing a stranglehold on last place.

The organization is a train wreck and it's not due to finances; it's due to the conductor and that's Frank Coonelly. Nice work.


If he believes this, there's no gentle way to put it: the man's a lunatic.

  • Viewer Mail 2.28.2010:

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

Are you Bobby Valentine's agent/publicist? If so, you're doing a great job.

I'm more of his Don King-style promoter.

Honestly, I think Valentine is the perfect fit for the Rays----a talented team in need of strategy, discipline and control. He'd create a buzz in Tampa and baseball in general. I'm not interested in the vanilla type of manager who no one even realizes is there like Bob Geren; or a guy who screws up endlessly like Joe Maddon does because he's just not paying attention to what he's doing. If you combine Maddon's strategic gaffes with the way the Rays quit last year and I have no clue why he's still there aside from getting some leeway for the 2008 run.

There are things I can tolerate in a manager. If he's not all that strong strategically, but the players play for him and don't quit (Ron Washington with the Rangers for example), he gets points and gets to stay. If he's over the edge, but does the right things (Ozzie Guillen), okay. But if you combine strategic screw-ups with a lack of discipline and that the team quit? No chance.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

2010 Stories To Watch. Part II

  • There's a potential for endless and tiresome sequels here:

This isn't a new thing coming up with storylines for the upcoming season. Many other would-be experts do it. The difference is mine are, y'know, interesting.

The importance of the Adrian Gonzalez decision:

There's no way to know whether Jed Hoyer will be able to handle the job as an organizational boss as he rebuilds the Padres. There have been many instances where a glossy resume has meant absolutely nothing when a GM dives into his job (see Moore, Dayton; and DePodesta, Paul). It's rare though that an organization that needs to be rebuilt has an affordable, hometown star that they're guaranteed to trade sooner rather than later.

Such is the case with the Padres and Adrian Gonzalez.

Hoyer has done very little this off-season aside from trading Kevin Kouzmanoff in a salary dump; and signing Yorvit Torrealba and Jon Garland. While the signings are somewhat positive to teach the young players the importance of throwing strikes and how to comport themselves as big leaguers, the key to Hoyer's entire tenure will be what he gets for Gonzalez.

Winter talks with the Red Sox supposedly went nowhere and they're going to come calling again. Hoyer, having worked for the Red Sox since 2002, knows the organization from top-to-bottom and presumably knows what he wants for Gonzalez. Once the season is in full-swing, other teams will come after Gonzalez including the Marlins, Mets, Angels, White Sox, Rays and Dodgers. Gonzalez is owed slightly over $10 million and is a free agent after 2011. They could get at least three blue chip prospects plus two or three usable parts.

Gonzalez wants to get paid and as one of the top ten (maybe top five) hitters in baseball and a Gold Glove first baseman who's in his prime (he's going to be 28 in May), he's going to get his money from someone. The Padres and Hoyer cannot screw this deal up.

On some level, it's a positive. At least we'll know based on the amount of talent Hoyer gets back where he stands as he makes his way on his own. He'd just better get it right.

The Rays:

If the Rays get off to a bad start, they're going to have to: A) come to a rapid decision with Carl Crawford; and B) decide whether or not they'd be better off with Bobby Valentine running the club on the field.

They'd be absolutely stupid not to trade Crawford if things don't jump off well at the season's opening. Crawford is a free agent at the end of the year; like Gonzalez, he wants his money and has no intention (nor a reason) to give the Rays a hometown discount; and he'll have as many suitors as the Gonzalez will. The Rays made a bold move in trading Scott Kazmir and they may have to make a similar decision with Crawford.

Regarding manager Joe Maddon, I'm biased because I don't like the way he manages (the absent-minded professor bit has been wearing thin for years); and there's not a more perfect spot in baseball for Valentine than Tampa. Would the youngish Rays front office be able to deal with Valentine? Valentine was ready to undertake the Indians and Nationals rebuilding projects and the Rays could be scotch-taped together for a quick run into contention. Plus he'd create a needed buzz.

Ordinarily, I'd say forget it, but after the way they dealt Kazmir, I believe the Rays would have the guts to make both moves.

Brandon Morrow:

The change-of-scenery will do wonders for Morrow's mental stability. In Toronto he won't have to hear endlessly about how the Mariners drafted him ahead of Tim Lincecum; nor will he be jerked around between the bullpen and the starting rotation. Morrow has great stuff and potential to be a big winner as a starter. (He should be a starter.)

The Blue Jays have to work him back slowly; rebuild his mechanics and confidence. With the way they're going to be non-contenders, if Morrow is pitching well, they should stick him in the rotation and leave him there.

The staus quo Marlins:

Maybe it's me, but I always thought that the way the Marlins dispatched established veterans for top prospects every winter created an energy and excitement that's absent with the status quo. Because the Players Association and baseball itself intervened in the way the Marlins do business, rather than trade Dan Uggla and possibly Josh Johnson, they kept Uggla and signed Johnson to an extension.

They're still incorporating youngsters into their lineup with Gaby Sanchez, Cameron Maybin and possibly even Matt Dominguez and Mike Stanton; but I'm wondering if they're going to lose something as they bring back the base of the team.

  • Cardinals sign Felipe Lopez:

Had Felipe Lopez not fired Scott Boras, he'd still be traipsing around baseball with Boras (assuming Boras even knows who Lopez is) with the "book of accomplishments and future production" that Boras uses to try and squeeze every penny from the interested clubs.

The Cardinals were in a tough spot. according to this ESPN Story the deal if for 1-year and $2 million, which for Lopez is more than fair; probably on the low side if anything. Because they were looking at going with minor leaguer David Freese, they needed to upgrade in case Freese fell on his face. Before signing Lopez, they would've been forced to play Julio Lugo there in case of a Freese meltdown.

If I had to guess, I'd say Lopez is the opening day third baseman and it makes the Cardinals better to know what they're going to get from the position.

  • Viewer Mail 2.27.2009:

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE Manny Ramirez:

Ah, I missed Manny. I love him.

I think we all love Manny. Seriously, where would we be if he read from the "baseball player book of quotations" and said absolutely nothing? At least he's interesting----as long as he's not causing trouble for the team you root for as a member or an opponent.

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

Jeter's building a huge house in Tampa. He's not going anywhere and that's that! Cashman isn't negotiating with Mo either (or Girardi), so it's not as if this is all unique to Derek.

We know he's not going anywhere. Jeter knows he's not going anywhere. The Yankees know he's not going anywhere.

With the negotiation practices, I do believe that there are exceptions in every case. As indispensable as Rivera is, he's also 40-years-old; and Jeter is as special a case as there could possibly be. To be an automaton with him is out of line on the part of the Yankees. He should be treated differently than the other players because he is different.

Friday, February 26, 2010

2010 Stories To Watch, Part I

  • Gaze into my crystal ball----Part I:

I'm writing these as they pop into my cabeza, AKA the ripe and hollow melon that sits atop my shoulders; alternatively referred to as my head.

Similarly to someone popping in and out when things need to be handled (such as Twitter-style attacks on the Mets), they'll come without warning, without sorrow, without pity; emerging like a creature from the swamp seeking a victim----or a companion. Here are some storylines to bear in mind for 2010.

Jair Jurrjens's shoulder:

If he's hurt, the Braves are screwed.


They traded Javier Vazquez and his guaranteed 200+ innings; they're relying on Kenshin Kawakami at the back of the rotation; Derek Lowe, who was atrocious over the second half of last year; Tommy Hanson, who still has to go around the league a bit before we can get a true gauge on him; and Tim Hudson, returning to full duty after Tommy John surgery.

They need a big year from Jurrjens.

The main concern I have is the lack of a concrete diagnosis on what's wrong with his shoulder. The examinations, MRIs and whatever else have said that there's no structural damage; it's inflammation. On the surface, that's good news; but while it's positive to not have some catastrophic injury, the ambiguity of not knowing exactly what's wrong and whether or not he'll be able to compete at full strength is sometimes worse than having a fixed time frame of how long he'll be out.

Will this hinder him preparing for the season? Will there be limits on Jurrjens once the season starts? What are the Braves going to do if he's hurt?

Vazquez and Jurrjens combined for 434 innings last year. Quality innings. They were going to have enough trouble replacing Vazquez; now with Jurrjens hurting and the team's offense suspect, they've got a problem if he's out. A big one.

The human shield:

For someone so immersed in "objective analysis", Billy Beane has been notoriously capricious with his managers. Look at it logically: if Bob Geren weren't Beane's "best friend", would he still be managing the team? After going 76-86; 75-86; and 75-87, how is Geren still there?

It wouldn't be as bad if Beane hadn't been so willing to dispatch managers without reason or remorse based on nothing more than his whims. Why was Art Howe manipulated to the Mets after three straight playoff appearances? Why was Ken Macha fired after winning: 96, 91, 88, and 93 games and finally advancing the Athletics to the ALCS after getting bounced in the first round in their previous four tries?

For someone who claims to look at the playoffs as a "crapshoot" (which is garbage to begin with), Beane was quick to dole out blame to his managers and get rid of them. This is fine. It's his right to have the manager he wants running the club on the field; but the hypocrisy is absurd. Of course, he can sit there and argue that the talent level on the Geren-led A's was such that no one could've managed them to a better record than Geren, but when has that mattered if Beane wanted to make a move?

Things are about to change though.

Beane's under fire; the A's are being judged in some circles as a sleeper contender; in others as a pending disaster. The Teflon cloak that Moneyball provided is gone. If they get off to a bad start, watch how fast Beane drags his friend in front of himself to take the bullets and sacrifices him in a last-ditch effort to save himself; and it'll happen quick.


Here's the latest from Manny Ramirez from Dylan Hernandez in the LA Times:

With a bat in his hand and a smirk on his face, Manny Ramirez walked across the Dodgers' clubhouse on Tuesday to interrupt a conversation.

"Listen," he said as he made a half-hearted attempt to suppress a giggle. "I want you to tell everyone that I felt so good practicing yesterday that I'm going to play five more years."

Three in the majors and two in Japan, he said, still laughing.

One would assume that Manny's kidding, but who knows? He might truly have the intention of playing in Japan. Or he might not. He might want a new contract; or he might be messing around. He might be stirring things up because he's bored or....oh, I don't need to be traipsing around in the head of Manny Ramirez. The stuff in my own head is bad enough.

The Red Sox shift toward defense:

There's panic bubbling under the surface in Red Sox Nation whether anyone's willing to admit it openly or not. This newfound emphasis on defense could bring down the holier than thou and "Just as Evil" Empire in Boston.

The Red Sox----even under Theo Epstein----have always been about pitching and offense. Now, it's about pitching and defense and the experimentation with more stat zombie tenets that look great on paper, but may or may not work in practice. They needed a bat that they didn't get and they're selling this defense-first strategy and Jason Bay's medical prognosis as justification for the questionable maneuvers. We'll know quickly after the season starts how it's going to go.

It's easy to say that they'll always be able to go get a bat at mid-season, but they've failed before at mid-season blockbusters. The strategy of "we'll worry about it later" is just as risky as the signings of Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro rather than Matt Holliday or keeping Bay. They're in self-defense mode already; we'll see what it looks like in May if they're not scoring; if David Ortiz isn't hitting; if it's not working.

They're going to freak if things go wrong.

  • Viewer Mail 2.26.2010:

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Derek Jeter possibly leaving the Yankees:

Agreed. Just imagining Jeter in another uniform gives me the willies. Ew.

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

As Tyler Kepner wrote in today's Times, Jeter needs the Yankees as much as they need him. Anything's possible, but I agree that he's not going anywhere.

The one thing I'm wondering is if Brian Cashman is going to try his cold detachment and finances routine with Jeter. There's no chance----none----that the Steinbrenners will let Jeter leave; but Cashman has this fetish for being the ruthless corporate executive that will do whatever's necessary for the club. What better way to present that image (and turn himself into a vilain on a scale with Bernie Madoff) than to take a hard-line stance with Jeter.

The thing is, Cashman doesn't have the personality to be a cool villain like Hannibal Lecter; he'd be a little weasely guy trying be a badass and look silly.

Jeter does need the Yankees, but the Yankees need him more; and as skilled, charming and beloved as Jeter is, he also plays hardball; it won't be hard for him to manipulate any sequence of events to his advantage and get what he wants. He won't be outrageous to the point where the Yankees will be made to look foolish, but he's savvy enough to get an extra year and more money than he's going to be worth on the field.

Bottom line, like Joe Mauer with the Twins, Jeter's going nowhere. Ever.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE Jeter:

C'mon...we all know better to say never. But, No, - he's not going anywhere. I agree with all of that. I only ask we take one thing he said and if we can read between the lines for an answer closer to the truth? Jeter said,
"I hope I never have to play anywhere else..." Was that a 'Jeterian' slip? May we infer he'd consider it? We disect everything else anybody says. I say this a fraction of his mind saying he'd consider it. He'll get hit #3000 for sure as a Yank. Will the Yanks committ & pay him long enough if he decides to chase 4000? I don't think we'll see Jeter in another uniform ever. I don't think the Yanks will hang on for 4000 though.

This is a case where it's safe to say "never".

Jeter is very, very cautious with his words and rarely----if ever----slips. That was a planned message to everyone, genuine or not, that he's not going to give a hometown discount to the Yankees. He knows he can't ruin his Yankee-legacy by playing elsewhere. The image/aesthetic is almost as important as his play on the field; a switch to another uniform would look hideous in every conceivable aspect and Jeter, as conscious as he is to perception, knows this.

He'll take advantage of everything he can while maintaining his dignity, but won't risk looking bad over money. If anyone knows how to walk that tightrope, it's Derek Jeter.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Derek Jeter Will NEVER Leave The Yankees

The most nonsensical idea being floated this spring by the media, the fans and the participants is the mere possibility that Derek Jeter will ever leave the Yankees; that the Yankees would ever let him leave; that this historic Yankees icon would put a different major league uniform on his person.

It's ridiculous.

You'll sooner see Sarah Palin building a rocket ship and taking a solo flight to Mars before you'll see Derek Jeter do anything other than re-sign with the Yankees.

How is anyone taking the notion seriously? The Yankees are echoing all the corporate junk that GM Brian Cashman so desperately wanted to instill when he took full control of the baseball operations. To paraphrase, they're saying that Jeter's situation will be resolved at the end of 2010 as per club policy; the decision based on finances and reality; what the club needs; how much money he wants; blah, blah, blah.

Jeter himself has been mostly mum on the negotiations partially because he doesn't want to sully his carefully honed and refined image by engaging in a public battle and game of hardball with the club; partially because the fight is being----and will continue to be----fought for him without him uttering a peep.

With any other player, Cashman would make the call. Even with Mariano Rivera, if the decision is made that it's time to move on and as wrong as it would be, the club would be able to survive in the regular season with Joba Chamberlain closing. Playoff success wouldn't be as assured without Rivera----the difference between the Yankees and their main competitors in the 90s, the Braves, was Rivera, period----they'd be okay. With Jeter, it's different and it's not because he's such a great clutch player and leader; not because he's the glue of the team; the captain; the professional who does everything he has to do to win; but because he just is.

There aren't many players who can be defined simply by who they are, but Derek Jeter is one.

Does anyone, anywhere need to hear the bulletpoints on his resume before knowing who and what he is by saying those two words: Derek Jeter? The name is the player and the player is the name. And by now, Jeter is the Yankees; and the Yankees are Derek Jeter.

For everything the Yankees have been since Jeter's arrival in 1996, the two entities are intertwined; one could not exist without the other. There would've been no renaissance of a Yankee dynasty without Jeter; no Joe Torre legend; no five championships.

Without the Yankees, Jeter would still be a great player if he'd spent his career as a Dodger; as a Royal; as a Pirate; as a Met, but it wouldn't' be the same. If he'd played anywhere else, the name Derek Jeter wouldn't automatically elicit admiration and respect by fans, media, players, coaches and executives simply by saying it. The knowledge of his total package of performance, professionalism and behavior to craft the persona that is aboveboard in a team and individual context and has made him who he is and what the Yankees have been with him as their face.

The hardline negotiating practices of Cashman are all well and good, but to me it shows a lack of respect to what Jeter has done for the franchise to treat him as if he's just another employee.

He's not.

Does anyone truly believe that if it comes down to zero hour and Jeter is implying that he might leave if he doesn't get what he wants----and if Cashman makes the determination that he has to let Jeter leave----that the Steinbrenners will allow it? That Hank and Hal will sit by idly while Jeter signs with the Dodgers? The Cardinals? The Mets? Really?

The articles that are popping up now with the idea that the contract is going to be a battle between the sides based on the viability of a player entering his late-30s and the amount of money he wants; what they feel he deserves; and what's in the budget are the stuff of bad fiction. It's garbage. There will be no budget for keeping Derek Jeter. As classy as Jeter is portrayed, he also plays hardball off the field when necessary. If that means he's going to use his status to squeeze an extra year and another $25 million on top of the Yankees offer, he'll do it, and they'll give it to him.

Neither side has a choice.

Derek Jeter will be a Yankee forever. He'll play into his 40s; surpass every number in the Yankees record book; and eventually be managing the team. Jeter himself would never, ever ruin his aesthetic by joining another organization and the Yankees won't let him wear another cap; or have another club's name on his Hall of Fame plaque.

The two need one another, and to think that the club is going to let Brian Cashman make that call is giving a little too much credit to the GM. This is not a baseball decision; it's an organizational decision that will be made by the owners based on what they need on and off the field----and they'll make it; and he'll stay.

Enough with the stories.

Derek Jeter will NEVER leave the Yankees. No matter what.

And that's the way it should be.

Now and forever.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Did They Need This?

  • Already it's tiresome:

There's a reason teams don't announce that their managers or GMs are going to be retiring at the end of a particular season even if it's a widely known and unspoken fact----to prevent the manager, players and the club in general from having to deal with stuff like the following headline:

Cox delivers his last camp speech


What's next?

Bobby Cox uses the urinal on a February 28th for the last time as Braves manager.

Bobby Cox spits tobacco juice during a thundershower in Florida for the last time as Braves manager.

Bobby Cox looks befuddled at something Yunel Escobar does at 3:30 PM on a Wednesday for the last time as Braves manager.

This is the problem when a manager is known to be leaving. It's never going to end and while Cox is a fine manager, clubhouse boss and handler of players, this could eventually become a distraction if the Braves hit a slump. The last thing the players need is another query as to why they're struggling, but it's unavoidable: "Is Bobby Cox's status affecting the club?" It's the same thing as when a manager is under fire and has his head on the chopping block, but in some ways worse because it's known that he's on the way out, period.

With certain managers, it might be a disciplinary issue; that won't be the case with Bobby Cox as long as Chipper Jones, Brian McCann and Derek Lowe, etc. are around the police the clubhouse; but it's unnecessary. Since Cox is still going to remain with the Braves in some capacity as an adviser, what was to stop the team from giving him a contract extension that said he'd be managing in 2011, but quietly had the language of his deal in the event he chose not to manage anymore?

Joe Torre hinted at 2010 being his last season managing the Dodgers, and he's backtracked on that idea. Does Torre know that he definitely wants to manage after 2010? He probably feels like he does in February, but who knows what handling Manny Ramirez is going to do to him by August? The question with Torre is if he's enjoying the job; whether or not he's going to feel as if he has the energy at age 70 to do it as best he can after this year; and how the Dodgers play this year. If they win the World Series, I'd be shocked if he didn't walk out on top.

With Cox, it's almost as if he's being pushed out by GM Frank Wren; that he doesn't really want to hang it up but almost feels like he had to make a decision and the tensions between the two have made the situation so untenable that he's ready to call it a career after 2010 to end the speculation and put a finality on the relationship. I can't imagine Cox needed this aggravation of answering the questions over-and-over about how being a lame duck will affect how he does his job.

After managing for so long and being such a baseball lifer, Cox is not going to know what to do with himself in 2011 after spending a few days of what would be his spring relaxing running the club; he'll realize he doesn't have to be anywhere for team-related business and be bored stiff.

The Braves have a solid club, but the strange decisions made by Wren have reduced what could've been a favorite in the National League into the status of "one of the clubs to watch" in 2010. Add in the Jair Jurrjens shoulder issue; the lack of offense; and the lingering farewell tour for Cox, and things could spiral if they get off to a bad start.

Cox and the Braves didn't have to answer these questions and read the partially well-meaning/partially "we don't have anything else to write about" stories emanating from Braves camp regarding a circumstance that shouldn't have been such in the first place. The simple phrase: "Bobby Cox will manage the Braves as long as he wants" would've avoided all of this; it may not have been 100% truthful, but it would've been for the greater good.

  • Viewer Mail 2.24.2010:

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

What did you expect Damon to say? They all say that stuff when they come to the Yankees. "Oh, I've always wanted to put on the pinstripes." "This is where I've always wanted to play." "I love New York." Blah blah. Aren't we used to it by now? Was he supposed to say, "Oh, crap. I'm stuck in Detroit?"

It would've been funny if he'd pulled an Eli Manning-type maneuver from when he was drafted by the Chargers, walked onto the stage like an eight-year-old giving an oral report; looked at the hat and jersey like they were radioactive; grimaced like he was about to have a public colonoscopy and refused to put the jersey and hat onto his body as he reluctantly posed for the pictures.

Obviously, Damon wasn't going to say, "This sucks!!! Friggin' Boras!!!!" But he could've chosen his words a little better. What would've been wrong with him saying something like, "The Tigers are a historic franchise"; "Jim Leyland's a great manager and I look forward to playing for him"; "They came up with the best offer"; "It's a team with a lot of young talent and they really made me feel wanted"----all would've been true; but for him to stand there and say, "This is where I always wanted to be," isn't saying the right things at a press conference; it's a lie.

I know Damon doesn't tend to think too much about, well, anything, but his statements were embarrassing. He's a veteran; he should know how to handle these press conferences by now without making himself look foolish.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Damon/Boras and Kevin Trudeau:

I think the Damon/Boras aberration could've have toned down the fake enthusiasm, or at least the lying part.

Trudeau... like ya say, I gotta admit, the man is very good at what he does. He just happens to lie, cheat and steal.

There wouldn't have been anything wrong with Damon being enthusiastic; putting the past behind him; happy to be with a club that's respectable; that wanted him; and, most importantly, paid him without trying to get him for pennies on the dollar for his value; but it was so far over-the-top that you have to question the man's grip on reality. Is he that addled?

With Trudeau, I can't get enough of the infomercials. It's theater when he stares into the camera and says something like "President Obama should give me a medal!"; or when he's got his Playboy Playmates "hosting" a "talk show" for him to discuss his "consumer advocacy". There have been times where I've sat there watching and said, "yeah, yeah, that's a good idea...." which is the mark of a truly brilliant salesman, con-man or both.

Beeeebzy at Pretty In Pinstripes writes RE Damon/Boras:

I especially enjoyed hearing Damon say (I'm paraphrasing here): "If the Yankees played the Tigers [instead of the Twins in the ALDS] the outcome would be different".

Anyway, I think that Damon and Boras aren't lovers anymore. Scott Boras didn't attend Johnny's press conference.

Now that the honeymoon's over, is there trouble in paradise? Could it be that Johnny Damon grew the testicles necessary to fire Scott Boras, or at least get angry with him?

I doubt it, but I'm bored and I currently have nothing better to do than to speculate about the reasons behind Boras' absence yesterday.

Johnny Damon will never, ever fire Boras: A) because he probably doesn't realize that his agent hindered him this winter at getting a mutli-year deal and staying with the Yankees; and B) because he doesn't appear to be a confrontational type; it's easier to stay with what he's got than venture into the unknown even if that might be best for his career. I'll bet smart people like Alex Rodriguez likely advised him to take control and he didn't listen.

It is interesting that Boras wasn't there. Perhaps he was busy confronting Felipe Lopez as he suggested he planned to do when Lopez fired him; maybe he was working on his death ray; encasing interns in carbonite; or simply wiling away the afternoon pulling wings off flies. Agenting is a tough business and a man needs to relax----especially when he screws one of his clients so royally, or should I say Tigerly.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Admiration Tango

  • A spin so dizzying, it starts to make sense:

I'm a fan of audacity.

No so much a fan, but a grudging admirer of those that can speak nonsense with a sincerity that makes it almost believable. For years, I've watched the infomercials of flim-flam kingpin Kevin Trudeau. Relentlessly amused, bewildered and occasionally disgusted at his sheer lack of interest in anything aside from selling his junk and making money, I've grown to respect him in a "well, you hafta give the guy credit" way because he's such an unrepentant and cunning scumbag with no concern about consequences as he bounces from one scheme to another.

With the self-assured nature of a pure salesman and the ability to blame the invisible "evil", he's had no qualms about playing to the fears of society while making preposterous claims of being able to "grow new brains with coral calcium" or to cure cancer with his "Natural Cures" book that the hideously evil and undefined "they" don't want you to know about. Able to perform legal gymnastics to vault from one collapsing get-rich-quick scheme to the other and land on his feet takes talent and a lack of humanity.

There's always some other plot once one shady (at best) business is shut down for good. He sold memory tapes; golf instruction videos; vitamins designed to cure anything and everything; wrinkle cures; self-defense manuals; and Atkins Diet guides. Shut down from continuing with the vitamin ads----ads that were straight out of fantasyland and designed to prey on the desperate, ill, infirm and stupid----he took advantage of the right to free speech by publishing books designed to promote natural cures; to lose weight; to get out of debt; to receive free money from the government; and he reinvented himself as a self-proclaimed "consumer advocate" and bestselling author.

The books are inane, poorly written and farcical. The reviews on are clear evidence of what people thought of his claims (you can spot the difference between the ones he planted and the real deal); of how his consumer advocacy was little more than the advocacy designed to put money into the coffers of Kevin Trudeau; but what difference did it make? There was always another scam available; another lurking beast to blame for all the ills of the public; and Trudeau is constantly there as predator interested in nothing more than getting his hands on your money----one way or the other.

As much as you want to condemn it; despise it; regulate against it, you still have to tip your hat. You still have to say, "Wow, I couldn't do that". Still.

Cynical pragmatist that I am, I still hold out that small shred of hope for society; that there's a positive end somewhere; that eventually, an evolution will render unnecessary pretense and disingenuousness for self-justification and public consumption.

Call me a hopeless (hapless) romantic if you want, but under all this stuff in me (after you get past the knives and the slapjacks) I still think we're salvageable. On some level. This is why I shake my head in befuddlement when I see the text of press conferences such as Johnny Damon's welcome to the Tigers. An additional shred of hope disappears.

Here are the relevant quotes:

"This is where I wanted to be..."

"The Tigers were my first choice. I love it here and think I am a good fit...

"The Tigers are a scary team, and the fact that this team has gotten even younger makes it a lot more fun."

"It is where my family wanted to be. Contrary to what has been reported, I wanted a place where I could win right away. I have always been truthful and Detroit was always my first choice, and my wife and I are going to love it there."

"This is so much different than the last time..."

"This is the first time I feel at home."


All I can do is shrug and wonder when how long after the press conference agent Scott Boras folded Damon up and placed him into the carrying case in which one totes their ventriloquist dummies to the next gig.

I'm not going to bother dissecting the quotes. It's not worth it. But think about this: if he only ever wanted to be in Detroit, then why did it take so long for him to agree to a contract when the news broke of the offer two weeks ago? Why stay on the market? Was he waiting for the next "place he wanted to be"? And why negotiate with the Yankees; with the Braves; with the Rays; with the White Sox? Was he playing hard-to-get with the Tigers? Was he hoping someone would panic? Or was he mouthing the words scripted from carefully orchestrated and choreographed play that is a Scott Boras-player signing?

It's almost sad when a grown man is reduced to doing what he's told, when he's told and why he's told; but Johnny Damon has no one to blame but Johnny Damon. He's the one who listens to his agent; he's the one who is either too lazy or is completely unable to think for himself that he parrots whatever lines are fed into what passes for his brain; and this is why when a player shuns Boras to do what's best for himself----Alex Rodriguez; Felipe Lopez----or a club says, "I'm not dealing with this guy anymore" as the Angels have, you salute them just as readily as you credit the tap-dancing and nonsense that emanates from the player and his agent in press conferences like yesterday's.

It works both ways.

Like with Kevin Trudeau, in order to succeed in selling garbage, there has to be someone willing to buy it; and I can guarantee you the lunacy of the Johnny Damon press conference is an example of the puffery so dumbfounding that you'd have to believe it was true even if all logic indicates that it's not.

Any normal thinking person wouldn't believe someone would have that kind of temerity; but Damon did. Just look at the quotes and see.

  • Viewer Mail 2.23.2010:

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the Dodgers and Khalil Greene:

I have no sympathy for the Dodgers and their Manny situation. Any team that utilizes his services knows what type of drama they're getting into ahead of time.

As for the social anxiety disorder, this seems to be a new age dilemma, though I doubt it really is. Greene, Votto, Willis, Greinke... these guys have all come forward because now it is okay, it is acceptable to come forward and call it what it is. In the 40s and 50s and 60s one would be shunned and ridiculed to admit as much, which proves the social zeitgeist continues to morph. I wonder what other dynamic shifts are in store for us this decade...

Manny gets away with it because he hits, period. There are concessions a team has to make for the greater good and with Manny, you have to accept the negative part of Manny being Manny if you want to get the positives; the only thing any club can do when dealing with him is hope that the positives outweigh the negatives long enough to get what they need from him before it explodes. In retrospect, the Red Sox did get two championships that they probably wouldn't have won without Manny; so I think it's a fair trade-off. I'd certainly take it.

With the "social anxiety" stuff, I do have empathy, but that can't affect business as usual. The Royals dealt with Greinke because of his physical gifts and money invested and it paid off; Votto's not going anywhere because he can hit. Greene is not in a similar position and the Rangers have to look at the big picture and not worry about a player who wasn't going to help them that much----if at all----anyway.

Ric Nunez writes RE Koby Clemens:

That kid sure can put some great numbers. Will this guy play well in the majors? Time will tell.

I was stunned to see he put up those stats. Stunned. It's a safe bet he's going to make it to the big leagues not because of his name, but because he can clearly hit and play a position that is notoriously hard to fill----catcher. His pedigree won't have anything to do with it.

The BrooklynTrolleyBlogger writes RE Koby Clemens and Manny:

Pete Rose Jr. comes to mind. He had an 800 pound gorilla on his back and kinda caved. He put together a nice little independent career for himself, for what it's worth.
And you're dead on about Manny. I have my reasons for knowing but he's very cerebral about hitting and preparation.
I'm not even touching that social anxiety disorder. Pfff.

Pete Rose Jr wasn't that great a prospect as I recall, but considering the amount of pressure that must've been on the son of a famous star like Rose, even making it as far as he did was an accomplishment.

With Manny, people think he's an imbecile because he wants people to think he's an imbecile; and he's a hitting savant who's far smarter than he's given credit for.

Joe at Statistician Magician writes RE Koby Clemens:

Well, I am not very adept at minor league numbers. But Clemens is 22 and still in A-ball. Also, the parks and leagues in the minors vary for how easy it is to hit. I have no idea how that affects Clemens, but it needs to be looked at.

All you have to do is look at how his teammates and opponents have hit in comparison to Koby Clemens and you can get a gauge on how much better he was regardless of the parks and leagues----2009 California League. As buried as you are in stats, I shouldn't have to explain this to you unless you're deliberately trying to take things out of context as is the modus operandi of the common, everyday stat zombie.

J. Michael Blanks writes RE Koby Clemens:

Prince, Koby was a star pitcher in HS who happened to hit well and play 3B, he chose to not pitch. He had a good rookie season, but then fell off. He rebounded last year and I believe he did get a call up to AA Corpus Christie. Koby's, and the Astros problem is that he must have some hole in his game defensively. He keeps getting moved around (3B, DH, OF & C). If He had major league talent defensively at either 3B or catcher, you would think the Astros would be inclined to have pushed that development. As it is, if he can make the jump to AAA this year, he may hold some value later as a trading chip to an American League team. BTW, you always write good stuff, and I have read your take on things since you were part of that "other" site.

Thanks for the compliment and for reading.

With Clemens and his position, I've never seen him, but if he can catch adequately, I'd think he'd be able to carve a big league career for himself even if his name was Koby Jones. He was in Double A for five games. His caught stealing percentage behind the plate has been around 25%, which is good enough if he hits.

Worst case, there's nothing wrong with being a roving utility player who gets 250-300 at bats a year. There are more workmanlike players in the majors than is generally discussed. It's only when said players are forced into being more than what they are that they're exposed; some players are only supposed to be part-timers. If Clemens is able to create a niche for himself even if he's not the mega-star his dad was, more power to him; and there's nothing wrong with using his last name to his advantage; it also helps that he's not a pitcher so he's clearly climbing the minor league ladder on his own merits rather than because of his famous father. As I said yesterday, there are many, many players who hang around the majors with no discernible use like Eric Bruntlett; Clemens can likely contribute somehow, which would render his name meaningless.

Regarding the "other" site (MLBlogs), it's a shambles over there from what I understand----strangely congruent to the way MLB itself is run. Every early blogger who participated; cared about what they were doing; and contributed from the beginning has been driven off by the disinterest and shambolic handling of the entity. There's a vindictive, self-serving and unprofessional aura that is unmistakable.

All you have to do is take a look at the characters involved in the tragicomedy and you understand why it's in such disarray. From MLBlogs to the MLB Network, it's bursting with ineptitude, disinterest and characters whose public faces and attempts at swagger and class are diametrically opposed to private behaviors. Given what I know, the revelation of such would make them look (let's be gentle) not....good.

Considering that fact and to hammer the point home, here's a quote regarding a fictional agent of chaos (not a genuine agent of chaos such as myself), the Joker:

No one's gonna tell you anything. They're wise to your act. You got rules. The Joker, he's got no rules. No one's gonna cross him for you.

Methinks I know too much...

Beeeebzy at Pretty In Pinstripes writes RE Khalil Greene:

Khalil Greene: Social Anxiety Disorder, Schmocial Schmanxiety Schmisorder. The man can't play baseball. Simple as that. At his best he was mediocre, at his worst he was abysmal.

If you can't handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen. To play any professional sport you need to be fit mentally as well as physically. If you're regularly unfit, then you shouldn't be a professional athlete. Especially if, when you're fit, your skills aren't even good enough. Hang up your cleats, put your bat and glove away, and start a blog, bitching and whining, like Schilling did when his skills declined.

Teams shouldn't have to nurse these players suffering from mental illnesses with no timeframe for recovery. Especially when the player himself doesn't seem to be making the effort to get better or learn how to play with his issues. With a physical injury, there's normally a timeframe you can work with. With mental illnesses, there's a chance they'll never go away. If the player can't overcome it and perform, and won't even try to, then you should cut the cord.

A team is not a player's biological family. They're not stuck with a player and his baggage. Ruthless as it may be, a player's own personal well being isn't the organization's true concern. Winning and making a profit are the organization's concern.

It's not personal, dear. It's strictly business.

Also, you
would mention Cody Ransom.

If anything, a player needs mental toughness more than he needs physical talent. How many players have had the gifts that other, lesser players haven't but have failed miserably? The first rounds of every year's draft are stacked with players who haven't made it for reasons aside from physical.

Even a Yankee fan can grudgingly appreciate how Dustin Pedroia spat in the faces of everyone who said he was too small; wasn't fast enough; wasn't strong enough; wasn't good enough and spun that into a Rookie of the Year, an MVP and a championship ring. Without the David Ortiz-sized chip on his shoulder, he wouldn't be as good a player.

The list of such players----whose mental determination superseded the lack of talent----is endless. Jamie Moyer was told to quit numerous times; could anyone look at David Eckstein while he was in the minors and say, "this kid's gonna fashion a 10 year big league career, win a World Series MVP and be the glue to two world champions"? No way.

I can hope for Greene to find the help he needs, but in the final analysis, this is not the Rangers problem.

With Cody Ransom, he does have use----he's the Phillies replacement for Eric Bruntlett and he'll do....what....Bruntlett, um....did.

Whatever that.....was.

Monday, February 22, 2010

This Ain't Nepotism

  • Does this look like a prospect?

While doing my research into the Astros minor league system and scanning the numbers for their High A team in Lancaster, California, I stumbled across a player who put up the following stats; stats that are borderline ridiculous at any level:

Batting Average-.341

On Base Percentage-.415

Hits-150; Runs-76



Home Runs-22



These numbers were compiled in 121 games and 513 plate appearances.

Without knowing the name of this 22-year-old catcher---yes, catcher----and part-time third baseman, you'd automatically think that he was not only going to end up in the big leagues at some point, but he has a chance to be an All Star.

You might even be more shocked when you see the name of this player.

Koby Clemens.

That's right. Rocket's son.

Who knew?

It's natural to look at the son of one of the greatest pitchers in history when he's drafted and automatically think there's nepotism at work especially when the hometown of said pitcher and former and current employer of Roger Clemens is the team that does the drafting. It wouldn't be the first time that a player wound up in a club's system or even in the big leagues due to a favor (see Glavine, Mike-New York Mets, 2003; and Sullivan, Marc-Boston Red Sox ); but sometimes these players can actually play, as is evidently the case with Koby Clemens.

In fairness to the examples of Glavine and Sullivan, they may genuinely have had some ability to warrant being a professional player. Could they be any worse than a chunk of amateurs who are drafted and signed specifically to be minor league filler because they look good; or because they can run; or because they have the loosely defined appellation of "tools" that validate why they were selected to provide an excuse if (when) they fail?

Occasionally those "filler" players come up with a pitch or a wrinkle or simply mature and make it to the big leagues and succeed (Doug Jones; Bruce Sutter; and Tim Wakefield were examples of this); but most of the time, you can gauge which players are ticketed for the big leagues and big league success and which aren't. Occasionally all it takes is an opportunity as happened with Casey Blake.

Of course, there are even players who make it to the majors for no discernible reason and have even managed to carve out moderately long careers for themselves without being able to do much of anything at all and for reasons that no one can explain or define such as Eric Bruntlett and the immortal Cody Ransom. Do they have a greater claim to a big league job than another player who wouldn't be any worse, but has to walk around with the stigma of being a relative of a powerful baseball figure?

The allegation of "oh, he's here because of his last name" is cheap and easy and many times, accurate; but there are times when it's not. There are times when said performer is good enough to make it on his own. If anything, the pitchers who face Koby Clemens will be even more determined to get him out since there are extra eyes watching everything Koby does because of who he is. What better way to get noticed than to strike out Roger Clemens's son five times in a game or to make him look foolish?

It's not easy being the son of an icon; especially an icon who's been under such heavy fire and scrutiny in recent years. Some progeny wilt under the pressure; but in looking at the way Koby Clemens bashed the league in 2009, he's apparently a genuine prospect; not because of his name, but because of his ability and according to the numbers, Koby Clemens's ability is pretty substantial.

  • Sympathy and business:

Contrary to popular belief, I have absolute sympathy for someone who is dealing with whatever personal issues are causing them to be unable to perform, but there comes a time when business has to take precedence over sympathy and it's reaching that point with Rangers infielder Khalil Greene.

Greene, signed to a 1-year major league contract with the Rangers worth $750,000, won't report to Rangers camp and there's no timetable for joining the club, if he joins them at all----ESPN Story. Greene had a social anxiety problems with the Cardinals last season and it's clearly affecting him on the field.

This is a case of the Rangers having to do what needs to be done for the good of the organization as a whole; and that means cutting ties with Khalil Greene. They can't be wasting a spot on the 40-man roster for a player who is mentally unable to perform and, with brutal honesty, can't physically perform all that well anymore either. The issues might be related, but Greene was never all that productive a player to begin with.

If Greene were a different player, the Rangers would be well-served to keep him around and hope he got everything together. The Reds were in a similar situation with Joey Votto, but Votto is an All Star caliber player; the Tigers dealt with "social anxiety" last season for Dontrelle Willis; but Willis has a better resume that Khalil Greene and was being paid a ton of money.

It's different with Greene.

If I were the Rangers, I'd offer him all the help I could while terminating the contract because that's what's best for the club. They can't waste a roster spot on him; nor can they sit around and wait, hoping to get something from him, especially when he may not have all that much to offer on the field to start with.

  • It must be spring...

The birds are singing; the sun is shining; pitchers and catchers have reported...and Manny Ramirez is saying stupid things that are more complex than people realize.

The latest from Manny is that 2010 is going to be his last year in a Dodgers uniform----ESPN Story. Here's a couple of Manny snippets:

"I won't be here next year, so I just want to enjoy myself,'' Ramirez said. "I don't know [if I'll play next year]. I just know I'm not going to be here. When the season is over, I will see where I'm at.''

"The game is still fun, but I think I have to wait until the season ends and see where my family is at before I make a choice,'' Ramirez said. "I will just wait and see how my body reacts."

"From the waist down, I feel 15,'' he said. "From the neck up, I feel 43. I feel good.''

This is "Manny being Manny" but not in the way that most define "Manny being Manny".

Manny Ramirez is seen in many circles as a space cadet who says things that don't make any sense at all; that he's a hitting savant who doesn't think; doesn't plot; doesn't have something else in mind when he behaves outrageously or speaks bizarrely.

That's not the case.

Manny is more savvy and clever than people give him credit for. He does and says weird things. Sometimes it's innocent; other times it's not. This first statement isn't simply Manny walking into camp and saying stuff about his swan song; about how unsure he is about continuing to play after 2010; about how he's enjoyed being a Dodger and will move on if necessary.

This was the first shot of Manny implying he wants a contract extension. And if he doesn't get it, he's going to start the negative parts of Manny being Manny; the parts that the Red Sox saw over-and-over again that led them to repeatedly try and get rid of one of the best hitters of this generation; that saw them finally say enough and trade him even though they were in the middle of a playoff run and ran the risk of blowing that for the sake of getting Manny off the team.

Trust me when I say this wasn't a rambling bit of incoherence from Manny Ramirez. It was a message that if he's playing well at mid-season (or in May), he's going to want a new contract. He's not going to get it from the Dodgers; but reality has never been a hindrance to Manny when he's got something entrenched in his head, sensible or not. It's starting now. And it's not the first thing we'll hear from Manny.

Manny being Manny can be good; Manny being Manny can be bad. This may be a combination of both because a money-hungry Manny puts up massive numbers; but a financially motivated and bitter Manny can cause serious issues with the club. I have a feeling the opening statement from Manny is an indicator of both.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Lightning 2.21.2010

  • Damon go where Boras baaaaaaaaad!!

Johnny Damon finally agreed to join the Tigers on a 1-year, $8 million contract. One has to wonder if Damon still believes that he was best-served by his agent; whether or not he has the capability or wherewithal to look into the mirror and say to himself, "I screwed up; I should've told Scott where I wanted to be and taken the Yankees deal".

It's also a question as to how deeply Boras is going to wade into the muck----something to which he clearly has no aversion given his past and present behaviors----to try and convince the nauseated public and the player that it's actually a good thing that Damon rejected the Yankees offer of 2-years and around $14 million and wound up in Detroit for a year. The Tigers are not going to contend this year, so Damon won't be playing meaningful games in August and September. One thing he can cling to is chance for a big year and improved economic climate to make up for the money he left on the table this winter.

There's talk that he got a no-trade clause in the deal. Presumably, this was an attempt on the part of Boras to "win" something in the negotiations. Maybe it was either/or; either a 2-year deal without a no-trade; or a 1-year deal with a no-trade. The fact is that Damon's going to be begging for a trade at mid-season. He might even wind up back with the Yankees.

In the end, Boras did find his "one stupid owner" to, well, do something relatively stupid. Tigers owner Mike Ilich should've stuck to a 1-year, $5 million deal for Damon and said, "take it or leave it". He had nowhere else to go. The White Sox weren't going to get crazy with the money; the Rays and Braves don't have the money; and Damon wouldn't have had much choice but to go to Detroit.

Johnny Damon has been ridiculed relentlessly during this whole process, but it's not as if he was ever in control (or wanted to be in control) of his career. Always content to let things take care of themselves. In ballplayer parlance, that's "leave me alone; talk to my agent; I don't wanna think."

Damon left the Red Sox when he didn't want to leave the Red Sox; he left the Yankees when he didn't want to leave the Yankees. Now he's a Tiger and coming up with the crap that "Detroit is where he wanted to be".

Yah. Right.

In a lukewarm defense of Damon, though, Boras got him the extra money from the Yankees in 2005 that wasn't forthcoming from the Red Sox; and he somehow found a way to let the player save some semblance of face in 2010 by not winding up with something that, in the macho world of the professional athlete, would've been seen as scrounging for remaining scraps somewhere in the neighborhood of $2-4 million. Damon hasn't done anything different during this foray into free agency than he did before----he trusted his agent and didn't want to make any decisions on his own----the other times it worked out; this time, it didn't.

There's also been questioning of what the reaction of the Yankees faithful will be when Damon returns to Yankee Stadium in a Tigers uniform. The idea that he's going to get booed is ridiculous. That's not to say he won't, but why would he?

Did he say anything negative about the Yankees aside from the bitter comment about hoping they don't ask Derek Jeter to take a 20% paycut?

Did he up and leave when he was given a fair offer?

Did he play poorly?

We're not talking Carl Pavano here. Damon was a loyal Yankee; he played well; he behaved professionally; and his agent misread the market in, to be fair to Boras, an understandable fashion considering the history of the Yankees. How many times have they said one thing about the vault being closed and then mystically came up with the extra cash when zero-hour arrived?

Neither Boras nor Damon (if he thought about it at all) realized that Yankees GM Brian Cashman is truly in charge now and the days of preceived overpaying are over. It cost Damon because he's now a Tiger; but there's no reason to boo him; and just as there was no reason to credit him for any savvy when he got his money from the Yankees in 2005, there's no reason to blame him now. He did as he always has done; he listened to his agent. And this time, it was a mistake.

  • A good day for the Mets:

Let's spin the wheel and stare into the abyss.

Looking at an alternate history, if you will.

It's December. The Mets are desperate to make a move, any move. The Jason Bay negotiations are on hold; the fan base is still livid from the lack of movement and the 2009 catastrophe; season ticket sales are lagging; and a popular free agent coming off an injury is insisting he's healthy and ready to have a big year in 2010.

The Mets, panicky, worried about Bay returning to the Red Sox; about not getting any other help to bolster a needy lineup and assuage a battered fan base, sign Carlos Delgado to a contract for 2010 ignoring that he's going to be 38 at mid-season and is trying to return from hip labrum surgery; that his total immobility at first base was evident in winter ball. They decided to shut their eyes and do something; to make a deal for a recognizable name; and a player who performed well for them.

It's now February.

Pitchers and catchers have reported.

The Mets are putting a positive spin on their winter after getting Bay and having to endure the Carlos Beltran-surgery calamity.

And the news comes out that Delgado needed additional surgery on his hip labrum and also microfracture surgery on the hip socket. According to his agent, Delgado's going to be out for four months and "will be the Carlos Delgado of old in four months rather than an old Carlos Delgado".

Um. Okay.

What, pray tell, in this alternate universe, would be said about the Mets now if this had happened while Delgado was under contract for 2010? Even if it was for a low base salary of $1.5-2 million, would the Mets be given a similar pass for this occurrence as the emerging "genius" in Seattle Jack Zduriencik is getting for Cliff Lee requiring surgery on his foot?

You tell me.

Truth would have nothing to do with the reaction; and the Mets aren't going to get credit for refusing to buckle under the pressure of needing to do something; but they were smart. Beyond smart. More evidence that despite the laughter they sometimes invite (Prevention and Recovery?), things are about to turn around in Flushing. Believe it.

As for Delgado himself, this is a new trend with players and their agents that also occurred last season as Ben Sheets was insisting he was healthy, wanted a load of guaranteed money----and when said money wasn't forthcoming, he decided to have surgery as if he was doing the world a favor. Would any of the money have been returned to the club from Delgado and Sheets had they received said guaranteed contracts and been unable to play? For all the criticism levied against teams for shady negotiations, the players indulge in it as well. While it may not be overtly duplicitous, it's sleazy and it makes the player and his agent look terrible.

In addition that bit of brains (yeah, that's right; brains...from the Mets) they also filled their catching divot with the signing of veteran Rod Barajas to a 1-year contract.

The negatives about Barajas are going to be repeated over-and-over again. He doesn't get on base; he's slow; blah, blah, blah. But he hits the ball out of the park; he can throw well; the pitchers like working with him; and he's a veteran who knows his way around. The Mets got him at a lower rate (around $1 million base) and for fewer years (one) than Bengie Molina was demanding and, truth be told, they'll get similar work from him.

The Mets pitchers, especially Johan Santana and Francisco Rodriguez, are happier today than they were yesterday.

  • Viewer Mail 2.21.2010:

Joe at Statistician Magician writes RE Jose Reyes batting third:

If your opinion is that "the best overall hitter should hit third," then David Wright should be batting third. He is their best hitter.

Do you read what I write, Joe? Or do you sift through and nitpick (in a stat zombie fashion) to bolster your own argument?

Here's what I wrote yesterday:

The club's best overall hitter should always hit third. That doesn't necessarily mean the hitter who hits the most homers; has he highest average or on base percentage; but the hitter who can do the most "stuff". For the Mets, right now without Beltran, that's Jose Reyes.

Wright strikes out too much to bat third and they need his power (assuming it returns) in the cleanup spot to drive in Reyes and whoever is in front of Reyes. With Bay and Jeff Francoeur behind Wright, he'll get the protection he needs and be driven in when he walks; with Reyes on base in front of him, he'll see some fastballs because of the stolen base threat. There's a difference between being the statistically "best" overall hitter and being able to do the most "stuff" to determine who's the "best".

In my world----the only world that makes any sense despite the rampant chaos----the "best" hitter the Mets have is Beltran because he's a switch hitter and does the most "stuff"; after that, it's Reyes. He's the best fit to bat third.

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

(Damon's) a great guy in the clubhouse even if he does talk with a speech impediment (could never manage to pronounce Teixeira properly). No matter what the situation, he always spoke to reporters when others slunk away. No Damon bashing from me.

I feel somewhat badly (as much as I can feel badly about anything) in making fun of Damon and I'm a Mets fan!!! Damon having been a Yankee or not is irrelevant to me on a personal level.

Obviously, he's not that bright or is too lazy to think for himself (the more likely scenario). There's no reason for any Yankee fan (or Red Sox fan for that matter) to bash Johnny Damon. That won't stop them, but it's not right. He plays hard; he plays hurt; he's a stand-up guy; and he does his job. What's there to bash?