- 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.