Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Just Imagine If This Were The Mets...

  • Cliff Lee has minor foot surgery:

New Mariners 1A pitcher Cliff Lee had surgery on his left foot to remove a bone spur and will be out for 2-3 weeks to start spring training----Yahoo Story.

Is this a big deal? Probably not. Although it should be kept in mind that it's Lee's left foot, which is his pushing leg----imperative to a pitcher----and is nothing to dismiss as a matter of course. He was cut on; he's the key to the Mariners aggressive off-season makeover; and if they want to contend they need a healthy and zoned Cliff Lee from the beginning of the season to the end. He has had injury problems in his past.

It was also smart for them to get this done before it lingered into the season.

On another note, similarly to a few weeks ago when the Mariners made the questionable signing of Eric Byrnes, is why isn't this surgery the butt of jokes it would've been had it been to Jason Bay of the Mets?

Like the Byrnes signing----almost identical in risk/reward/meaninglessness to the Mets acquiring Gary Matthews Jr.----the Mariners are given a pass because their GM, Jack Zduriencik is being feted far and wide as an emerging genius after one year on the job and a series of deep strike attempts and seemingly smart decisions; while the Mets are a convenient punchline no matter what they do. What would be said right now if the Mets new left fielder required a minor procedure in which he wouldn't miss any substantial time?

Lee's injury rap sheet is, in fact, far more extensive than that of the historically durable Bay; but if it was Bay who needed the procedure and the Mets who were the employer, imagine the hilarity that would be going on today all across the newspapers, blogs and the internets. I say this being a big fan of Cliff Lee and thinking that the Phillies made a ghastly mistake in trading him, but fair is fair.

I cannot take hypocrisy and cheap shots out of convenience. Zduriencik is the genius of the day; Mets GM Omar Minaya is wearing baseball's dunce cap; but the majority of the ridicule comes from verbal gaffes and circumstances beyond Minaya's control. Zduriencik's "genius" emanates from a solid, but occasionally questionable off-season (Chone Figgins? $36 million?) and that the Mariners jumped from 61 wins to 85, but it's easily lost that the 2008 Mariners team was one that lost 100 games instead of simply being a 100-loss team. (Sort of the like the 92-loss, 2009 Mets.) There's a difference. The 2008 Mariners roster was not a 100-game loser. Everything went wrong in 2008 and they self-corrected in 2009 and it had very little to do with anything Zduriencik did.

These implications of brilliance and lovestruck articles being written in tribute to Zduriencik are as premature as the Moneyball lust that greeted Billy Beane and his acolytes following the success of the book. We're seeing the final act playing out with that farce now. Will the same thing happen to Zduriencik? Or will he live up to the hype? And will anyone admit they jumped the gun or move the goalposts to suit their own ends?

In sports, brilliance is fleeting and easily abandoned; sadly, hypocrisy and self-justifications aren't. Let's see how it all plays out.

  • The unretired number:

The White Sox have unretired Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio's uniform number 11 so veteran Omar Vizquel could wear it in tribute----ESPN Story. I'm ambivalent on this matter----who cares?----but I find it interesting that there's little controversy over this decision when there was a massive uproar in 1993 when Barry Bonds signed with the Giants and Willie Mays (Bonds's Godfather!) was willing to allow his #24 to be retired so Bonds could wear it.

Is there that much of a difference between the circumstances aside from the fact that Luis Aparicio is not Willie Mays and that Omar Vizquel is not reviled like Barry Bonds?

Mays was okay with it back then (my guess is that he couldn't care less one way or the other; these things are more important to the fans and the organizations than they are to the players); and Aparicio doesn't seem bothered either. It's not as if the numbers were being given to scrubs. Bonds is Bonds and could (even before PEDs) be mentioned in the stratosphere with Mays; and Vizquel is about an identical player to Aparicio. I'm just wondering why no one's protesting now as they did with Mays/Bonds.

  • Viewer Mail 2.9.2010:

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE parity:

I have to disagree with you in the parity issue. Will it be really all terrible if the Royals somehow found their way to the Wild Card spot in a season with a salary cap? I find the NFL's goal of having every team play at least one Super Bowl an excellent milestone in order to have a top-quality league. Every team playing at least one World Series it's a goal that I find not only reasonably, but a must. NFL's goal is reachable by clauses on the contracts, a general code of conduct, a well-placed salary cap and educated players and coaches. It all works for the best of the league, and still allows for laughingstocks, like the Lions. And even them have the belief that someday, by working hard, they will reach the top. It'll make the MLB a better league, and baseball a better sport.

The problem with the Royals is that they're run so ineptly that even if there was some level playing field, their current leadership still wouldn't be able to compete with the Twins, Red Sox or Angels.

The NFL is such a different animal than baseball because as Jerry Jones once smartly put it (for real and I'm paraphrasing from memory); "Football isn't like baseball where you have to replace one $5 million second baseman with another $5 million second baseman; you can have stars at key positions, stick inexpensive fill-ins around them and still win". Football is also more of a team sport where they all need each other to succeed; baseball is an individual sport within a team concept.

Because baseball's union is so strong and the careers and health are more predictable, they get the guaranteed contracts that NFL players don't. The ending of a big league ballplayer's career due to an on-field collision is so rare that it's not even a consideration; in the NFL, it can happen at any moment even on the sideline if someone is in the wrong place, wrong time.

Right now, MLB teams refusing to spend vast amounts of money on middling players as they have in the past is as close as we're ever going to get to a salary cap; and you can bet that once the economy improves, this financial sanity will be forgotten as if it never happened at all.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Lumbergh aka Steve Phillips:

I don't hope Steve Phillips gets another job in broadcasting and it has nothing to do with his bad behavior. I just can't stand his "analysis." He should have gone to rehab for repeating himself in the booth.

Maybe I've been jaded by listening to Joe Morgan for all these years and when someone was finally in the booth to challenge his contradictions (sometimes three within the same sentence, literally), I was hypnotized; but I don't think so. I liked Lumbergh as a broadcaster; I thought he added something to the booth.

Joe at Statistician Magician writes re why he wants a salary cap:

Because I like there to be a level playing field in sports. I don't like chasing the Yankees financially, and MUCH MORE importantly, I don't think it is fair that small market teams have to chase us. There are small market teams that simply suck at building a winner. But the starting point is unfair to teams like the Royals and Pirates to begin with.

Would the playing field be level? Did the Yankees massive payroll win them a title between 2001 and 2008? Look at the teams that did win championships in those intervening years: the Diamondbacks; the Angels; the Marlins; the Red Sox (twice); the White Sox; the Cardinals; and the Phillies. The only ones that could be considered big market/big spenders during that time are the Red Sox. The rest were working within a middling-to-slightly above budget.

For you, as a Red Sox fan, to continue complaining about "chasing the Yankees financially" is a typical complaint from your organization when they don't get their way. The Red Sox aren't in the Yankees financial stratosphere? Are you serious? They miss out on Mark Teixeira and Jose Contreras? Well, we need a salary cap then. Waaah.

Most of the small market teams aren't even bothering to chase the Yankees and Red Sox; the Pirates don't have a plan; they don't have a clue. As I said earlier about the Royals, their struggles have more to do with being stupid than with a lack of funds. The difference between the Twins and Marlins and these other clubs is that the Twins and Marlins don't whine about it; nor are they looking to formulate a myth of brilliance where none exists as the Athletics and Billy Beane have. No salary cap is going to cure stupidity, which is a rampant condition in many baseball front offices.


She-Fan said...

The salary cap discussion continues to intrigue me. Yes, the Yankees have the most money. But aren't the Twins a so-called small market team? And don't they find a way to compete every single year?

Jeff said...

The Twins' payroll is at $96 for 2010...AND COUNTING. How is that small market?

"No salary cap is going to cure stupidity...

Exactly. For those who do not believe, please see Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, KC Chiefs, etc.

They all sucked and they've sucked for a looooooooooong time.

Jeff said...

...and by $96, I mean $96 MILLION.


Joe said...

There are always exceptions to this. Why does everyone keep mentioning those exceptions? Even with a salary cap, there will be teams that are bad year in and year out because they suck at evaluating. The Lions, for example. But if the Royals had $200 million to spend wouldn't they have a much, much better team than they do now? The answer is an obvious, YES! They could cover up mistakes and afford better players. Plus, the older I have gotten, the more I DO realize that the playoffs aren't really a great indicator of who the best team actually was. Meaning that we cannot really correlate World Series winners with parity, as much as we can correlate playoff appearances.