Wednesday, March 3, 2010

2010 Stories To Watch, Part III

  • I am altering the deal...

Most sequels get worse as they repeatedly focus on the same theme with rehashed ideas, but like The Empire Strikes Back, my sequels with the 2010 Stories To Watch are getting better and better.

Perhaps you think you're being treated unfairly?

Josh Hamilton:

How relieved are the Rangers now that the talks with Josh Hamilton about a long-term contract extension last spring went nowhere?

Combined with his injuries and that he needs an almost 24-hour babysitter, and that his sobriety is always going to be a question, the club would've been insane----and I said this a year ago----to give a player like Hamilton, with all his baggage, a long-term deal.

The injuries are one thing, but I have a problem with the "I'm cured because of Jesus" stuff. That's not an indictment; it's not a judgment; it's simply a cold, hard fact that as long as there's an escape hatch, he's vulnerable to relapse. Leaning on an institution such as the church or the Bible in which anything and everything can be justified and forgiven is a get out of jail free card; there's always the chance of slippage and begging for forgiveness.

And Hamilton did slip over a year ago when he was caught drinking and partying in a bar.

It might've been easier to swallow if he'd played as well as he did in the first half of 2008 when he was an MVP candidate and became a cause célèbre, receiving accolades; writing books; and was held up as an "inspiration".

To me, it was all an invitation to disaster.

He receded to more normal production in the second half of 2008 with only 35 more RBI after having 95 at the break. In fairness to Hamilton, he was playing in the Texas heat; he must've been exhausted emotionally especially after his performance in the home run hitting contest at the All Star Game; and he'd never played a full professional season.

None of that is an explanation for falling off the wagon in the winter of 2008-2009. There's nothing wrong with slipping up, but if you're going to be preaching as Hamilton was; if you're going to be taking part in all the stories of "triumph over adversity and addiction", you'd better stay straight. This is one of the main reasons that it was premature to start canonizing the guy for staying clean for what amounted to a brief time.

In 2009, he had numerous injury problems that sabotaged his season. From his rib to his groin to his abdominals to his back, he missed almost half the season and his numbers dove to a fraction of what they were with 10 homers and 54 RBI. Now, he's bruised his left shoulder after diving for a pop up in a spring drill and is "out indefinitely"----ESPN Story.

It was lunacy for the Rangers to even entertain the notion of giving Hamilton a long-term contract if they really even considered it to begin with; now, with all the injuries, 2010 will be a clear window into what can be expected from the player moving forward. He's 29 now; he's had his addictions; he's come back to baseball; he's risen and fallen; it's time to move past all that and look at the player as an entity unto himself; and if he's continuously hurt, he's not much use to anyone regardless of how much talent he has.

The Stephen Strasburg watch:

The pressure on the Nationals to bring Stephen Strasburg up to the big leagues is going to be enormous; the pressure on the pitcher is going to be absurd; and I think he'll be much better off getting the full year at Double or Triple A to have an uninterrupted professional year under his belt before coming to the big leagues. The Nationals are not going to be good; nor are they going to be much improved from what they were last season. By matter of course, they'll be better because it's hard to be much worse. Bringing him up into a circumstance where he might experience shellshock along with all the pressure is a mistake.

Barring anything miraculous happening in Washington (and I ain't talking governmental), I've said a couple of times that I'd keep him in Double A for the whole season ; the more I think about it, the better it will probably be for Strasburg to spend the year at Triple A Syracuse.

The players in Triple A aren't prospects anymore; more often than not, they're journeymen and insurance to function as the 23rd to 25th man on the big league roster. Since Triple A has become a moneymaker, there are almost all veteran players on the rosters from the ages of 25-33. It would be a good opportunity for Strasburg to pitch to experienced players who wouldn't be starstruck at the phenom; in fact, they'd want to bash him to get themselves some attention. A little adversity wouldn't hurt Strasburg and it's better for him to get it at Triple A than in the big leagues.

We'll see what the Nationals do.

Ken Macha's job status:

He wins. He gets the most out of the talent on his roster. He makes the correct strategic moves. And he's always seemingly on the verge of getting fired.

Billy Beane in Oakland didn't seem all that bothered about letting Macha walk when his manager was asking for too much money after the 2005 season. They broke off negotiations; Beane interviewed a few other candidates before he and Macha reconciled and agreed to a 3-year contract.

In 2006, The Athletics made it further than they ever had before under Beane as they advanced to the ALCS and got swept by the Tigers...then Beane fired Macha citing the ephemeral and oft-repeated reason for a change, "lack of communication"----whatever that means.

Macha was hired to replace Brewers interim manager Dale Sveum after 2008 and got as much as could reasonably be expected from the flawed Brewers roster as they ended at 80-82; but his job was in jeopardy after the season before he was kept on in what was a lukewarm retention. His contract is up at the end of the season (the Brewers hold an option for 2011) and there's a manager in waiting in bench coach Willie Randolph.

It could be that Macha's not the yes man that many insecure GMs prefer; it might be that the players don't like being told the truth from the manager. Not that Randolph is any kind of a yes man either, but he may be better able to relate to the players than Macha.

Under no circumstances is Randolph positioning himself behind Macha to push him over the cliff; but the club would be better off with Randolph managing the team and if they get off to a bad start, Macha's getting fired.

  • Viewer Mail 3.3.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Barry Zito:

I have no personal affection for Zito or the Giants, but I hope Zito has a good season and redeems himself. You're right - the contract was what it was.

I can understand Zito's frustration with the way Bruce Bochy yanks him immediately if he gets into trouble; but the team and the manager had no margin for error. Maybe with the offense improved----albeit slightly----he'll be given a bit more rope. And was he supposed to turn down the contract? Give some money back?

I dunno what people want from the guy. His quirkiness does sometimes seem to be crafted for public consumption, but so what? If he pitches well, no one will care. Just like before, it'll be "colorful" instead of "annoying".

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Barry Zito:

Excellent piece on Zito. Well put. I think a lot of people lose sight of how that contract came to be (including myself). Considering the facts, I still refuse to stop bashing Zito (for now). His failure is my gain... and I am a sick, sick man. Hahahahahaha!

In case anyone missed it, Zito blocked Jeff on Twitter, which in and of itself is hysterical. Getting blocked is pretty funny; it's happened to me and in some cases, I still dunno why. (Then again, this is me we're talking about, so the odds are I did something to invite it, just by being me.)

Jeff, send me the link to that posting of when he blocked you.

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE Barry Zito:

And after all, if you get anything more than that from Barry Zito it'd be a bonus.

There's no reason at all that he can't be a 200-inning guy; win 16-18 games based on hanging around and getting a little lucky; and being seen as "rejuvenated" and "regaining his form" when he's probably not going to be pitching much better or worse than he always has. It's all got to be put into context. In today's game, the big name pitchers are getting over a million bucks per win, so if he gets offensive support and wins those 16 games, his contract won't be seen as "terrible" anymore.

John Seal writes RE the Giants:

Okay, I'm out of hibernation. As you may recall, Prince, I'm a hardcore Giants-hater, so when I saw you assert that they are 'loaded with prospects' I almost choked on my Billy Beane Geniusburger. Okay, Posey and Bumgarner are special...but what's after that? An exonerated Angel Villalona? Thomas 'Slowfoot' Neal? Okay, maybe Zach Wheeler...but he's pretty far away, and Sabean'll probably flip him for Gary Matthews (senior, not junior).


That made me burst out laughing. I understand there's lots of bread and condiments, but not enough beef.

John, I need you on Twitter as the Prince of New York Family West Coast Spiritual Adviser. I'm thisclose to running the whole place (possibly into a ditch, but whatever).

Pablo Sandoval's still a kid; and you mentioned Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, who look like All Stars----if a team has developed three All Stars in the majors (Sandoval; Tim Lincecum; and Matt Cain) and two more on the way, they're looking loaded to me

As for the others, I'm going by my research of the system and stats, so take it with a grain of salt; but from my that research I saw great numbers from: Brock Bond; Joe Paterson; Dan Runzler; Brandon Crawford; and Scott Barnes and a couple of others.

A's fan or not; Giants hater or not, considering where they were----with a roster that would've won 125 games in 2002, but was ready for pasture in 2006----you have to give GM Brian Sabean credit for re-stocking as quickly as he did. Even if none of these kids make it, the five I mentioned earlier is a pretty good place to start in referencing homegrown talent.

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