Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday Lightning 2.7.2010

  • Would parity be good for the game?

Ignoring the obvious insanity of the projections of the 2010 season that have come out so far, there is something interesting to talk about when looking at PECOTA and CHONE.

There's a large number of teams that are expected to finish at or around the .500 mark. This could be seen as a positive aspect of revenue sharing that the playing field is relatively even despite there not being a salary cap; or it could be seen as not being in the tradition of baseball in which the survival of the fittest doesn't necessarily have to rely on money to compete and win.

Would baseball be better with the teams so closely bunched together? On the one hand, it would be a greater gauge on the intelligence of various front offices and managers. Whereas Moneyball created the illusion that statistics were the future of the game and that "undervalued" attributes were the key to winning within a budget, there is a basis for examining how teams with lesser payrolls are able to continuously compete.

The Marlins and the Twins for example have a way of running their organizations that has proven to be notoriously successful in comparison to both the giant market/big spenders like the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets; and also when pitted against the Moneyball advocates the A's, Padres and Blue Jays. Because they relied on their wits, scouting and stats, the Marlins and Twins have been able to compete on an annual basis. Logic says that once parity is so ingrained in the fabric of the game, those teams will still be able to put a decent team on the field.

But would it be as entertaining with that level playing field?

Isn't it more interesting when a team like the 2003 Yankees gets bounced in the World Series by the upstart Marlins? Or when the Cubs and Mets spend relentlessly to fill their holes and still wind up far behind teams that don't have the desire nor the wherewithal to spend in the same way?

Of course when a team like the Yankees has the manpower and money to cover for their sins, they don't have to worry about a Joe Girardi gaffe being the difference between a playoff spot and third place; but if the playing field as affected by everyone being closely matched, the strategies of the men in charge would be all the more important.

Personally, I prefer the game the way it is now. The Pirates are the Pirates not because they don't have any money, but because they're stupid. The Marlins and Twins win within a budget because of the systems they have in place; the Yankees win because they have endless cash at their disposal; they do some smart things and they treat their players right. The Red Sox use stats and scouting techniques, are aggressive and spend to cover their mistakes. The Angels have a set of core principles from which they never deviate on and off the field.

Would the game be better if every team ended somewhere between 77-85 and 84-78 and no one could predict what was going to happen because it would always end up coming down to the last weekend of the season for everyone? I don't think so.

  • The Tim Lincecum arbitration hearing:

I mentioned former Athletics owner Charlie Finley the other day and whenever I think of the arbitration process, I think of him. There was an HBO special about the Athletics and Raiders of the 1970s and the A's players that spoke always had great stories about the way Finley went through the arbitration process.

Paraphrasing from memory, Finley would rip into Reggie Jackson saying things like: "We played in 162 games last year, and he was only in 159 of them; there were three days where we didn't have someone of his caliber." Or: "Yeah, he hit 36 homers last year; and yeah, he drove in 109; but he's a superstar. He's supposed to hit 30; and he's supposed to drive in 100. So, in reality, he only hit 6; and he only drove in 9. I just don't know what to do..."

With Sal Bando, Finley would say: "Balls go by him on the left; balls go by him on the right; balls go through his legs...." and Bando said his wife had to grab hold of him to keep him from leaping across the table to get his hands around Finley's throat.

It's with this in mind that I'm wondering what the Giants are going to say about Tim Lincecum to prevent the arbiter from awarding him the $13 million that the twice-running NL Cy Young Award winner is asking for. The Giants have countered with $8 million.

That's a big gap.

The Giants are undoubtedly going to mention his arrest for carrying pot, but that's not going to be a big issue. I'm wondering if the Giants are going to break out statistics to wonder whether Lincecum is going to be able to keep up his level of work in 2010 and beyond; if they're going to bring up his quirky exercise regimen and diminutive stature as a reason that he's not worth the money; and if this is going to affect the negotiations for a long-term deal in the future.

One of the criticisms of arbitration is that it pits the player against the team in an adversarial atmosphere that can linger no matter who wins. Finley didn't care about that when he went into the hearing room; but one has to believe that the Giants won't want to go too far in criticizing one of the best pitchers in baseball. Both sides would be better off coming to an agreement before it gets too vicious to repair.

  • Viewer Mail 2.7.2010:

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

Washburn said he might retire? Didn't Damon say the same thing before he started campaigning to be a Tiger?

I think the big difference is that Damon can still play; he can still help someone. With Washburn, his stuff isn't there and if he did sign with someone, it would have to be short-term and inexpensive as a back-of-the-rotation starter. Damon is going to have to take a short-term/short-money deal because he's not going to get a multi-year contract; nor is he going to get a Roger Clemens-style deal to return at mid-season. Those days are over.

Interestingly, both are represented by Scott Boras. I'm wondering what Boras can be saying to Washburn to assuage his aggravation over sitting out this long with much of anything coming his way.


Jeff said...

I heard Sean Casey tell his arbitration story and according to the Mayor, it's a very brutal process. He came out very hurt. Of course, Casey was a good player, but not great (certainly not in the same league with Lincecum anyway) but still. He said they (the Reds) called him fat, slow, a base-clogger, etc and that it really hurt his feelings, but not as much as when they started ripping into his baseball acumen. That's what really hurt him.

Of course, that's Sean Casey. Again, not Timmeh.

And I gotta agree with you on the parity issue. I think baseball is just right having the same core of good teams, a strong mix of competitive teams and then your few scrapheap teams (Royals, Pirates) at the rear. The worst thing that could happen is that it becomes the NBA, where there are three good teams then 27 .500 and below teams. That would be awful.

Joe said...

Even with a salary cap, which would promote even more parity, there would still be organizations experiencing sustained success. Kind of like the Patriots, Colts, Eagles, etc, in the NFL. So not everyone would win between 75 and 85 games. There would still be teams that win more than 90 and lose more than 90 because they are terrible evaluators.

But I am all for some kind of cap to cut out the truly ridiculous spending.