Saturday, March 6, 2010

2010 Stories To Watch, Part V

  • I keep churning out the sequels from my mill of schlock:

The stories never end!!! It's a shame the mainstream writers can't combine finding them and writing about them interestingly. Never fear. I'm here.

Jose Reyes's thyroid:

From what's popping out of Mets camp and the medical community's reaction to the news that Jose Reyes possibly has an overactive thyroid, it doesn't sound too serious----NY Times Story----but the club is being extra-cautious; the fans are panicking; and the cheap shot artists are wading even further into the depths of revulsion than I thought possible.

Given the disaster/train wreck/nightmare of 2009, the Mets aren't taking any chances with their players. Any and all medical issues will be treated as conservatively as possible. This will only be a negative if the paranoia leads them to overdoing it and yanking a player for a paper-cut ; aside from that, it's spring training and even if Reyes misses a week or two, he'll be ready to start the season. He's not a pitcher; the only things a regular player works on in spring training are his timing at the plate and being in game shape and Reyes has been exercising with a trainer for months; he's in game shape already.

With the laughter that's emanating from the fan bases of opposing clubs, while it's on a lower level given the severity of other off-field happenings, this is in the same ballpark of finding humor in Jon Lester's cancer or Cory Lidle's plane crash. Reyes has a medical issue that for all they know might be career or even life threatening, but they revel in it anyway.

When the news first came out of a concern about blood tests, who knew what it was or how serious it could be? But it didn't prevent any ridicule; the newfound ammunition to attack the Mets.

You have to seriously consider the mentality of someone who feels it's appropriate to laugh at a person's health problems. This isn't a hamstring pull; it's something else; and those that feel it's more of a reason to indulge in over-the-top hilarity are playing with fire because the ludicrous way in which things came apart for the Mets in 2009 can happen to them and their clubs just as quickly.

Will they be laughing then? Jumping for joy? Probably not, but then I'm assuming they're bright enough to make the connection to begin with, which is a drastic fault in my premise for which there's no repair.

Youngsters, hype and managerial factors:

Jason Heyward is being greeted with star stricken awe at the mere sight of his power displays in batting practice. There's a lot to love about the Braves young right fielder and many reasons for the club to shut their eyes and let him start the season as a big leaguer.

That said, he's only 20 and the pressure on him to be the one basher the club needed this winter----and didn't get----will be enormous. No one will know whether Heyward could handle said pressure except in retrospect; but there's been a history of overreaction over prospects in Atlanta and a penchant for rushing them to the big leagues when they still had holes in their game.

Jeff Francoeur's rise and fall with the Braves has been well-documented here. Francoeur was brought to the big leagues at 21 as the homegrown savior. He played well----but not as well as he could've had the club reined him in slightly from his go-go-go attitude of wanting to swing the bat from the dugout while the pitcher was still warming up to start the inning.

Would Francoeur be a better player today had they disciplined him just a bit so he wasn't overaggressive to his detriment? Absolutely. And this is before even getting to the way the club and fans soured on him as his inevitable struggles began.

Jordan Schafer got off to a hot start at the plate; hit 2 homers in his first week and was being treated as a burgeoning star; but was quickly overmatched as it became clear that he couldn't catch up to even an above-average fastball. Watching Schafer, I don't know what can be done about that. He simply doesn't have the bat speed to be more than a fourth or fifth outfielder or Triple A filler.

They did get use from Andruw Jones in the 1996 World Series when the 19-year-old homered in his first two at bats; but he struggled overall in his formative big league seasons; and it wasn't slumps or a lack or an absence of physicality----it was that he wasn't ready. If you examine his play, you see mistakes that were due more to being polished and prepared than his talent being great enough that he could compete.

He struck out too much; he was impatient at the plate; and a real gauge of his intuitive baseball skills----caught stealing----show that he was wanting in readiness. He did become a star and MVP candidate, but he might've been better, faster had he been allowed to develop in the minors rather than rushed to the majors.

Those Braves teams were able to make mistakes in advancing their youngsters too soon because the All Stars in the lineup and especially the three Hall of Famers on the mound (Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux) covered for a multitude of developmental sins and crafted an image of "genius" in the front office where none existed. It's easy to cover mistakes with a great team.

Such is no longer the case for the Braves.

That margin for error is gone because the current club needs Heyward to be a mid-lineup terror; and it's not fair. He might be able to handle it; to stand up to it; to produce. He's far more talented that Schafer and Francoeur; but he's still only 20 and the lust he's engendering from a few spring training games and hype isn't going to help. In fact, it might hurt.

Another important aspect in the promotion of youngsters is the agenda of the club and the manager. Braves manager Bobby Cox appears to be pushing hard for Heyward to be with the big league club to start the season. In Mets camp, manager Jerry Manuel sung the praises of 20-year-old righty Jenrry Mejia yesterday making it sound as if he not only wants him on the big league roster at the start of the season, but is willing to use him as a set-up man for Francisco Rodriguez.

I have concerns about managers who are retiring (Cox) or know their jobs are on the line based on how well their club gets out of the gate (Manuel). The Braves made a short-sighted and desperation trade in 2007 as John Schuerholz was moving from the GM chair to the club presidency. In sending a giant package of prospects including Elvis Andrus; Neftali Feliz; Matt Harrison and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the Rangers for Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay to win another title and cement Schuerholz's "genius", they gave up a chunk of talent. I have to wonder whether Schuerholz's last two months as GM factored into the decision to go for it in such a way.

It didn't work as the Braves stumbled down the stretch and were an also-ran and if they had that deal to do over again, I'm sure they'd hesitate and probably not do it.

With Heyward, if he's ready, he's ready. Let him play. With Mejia, I have no problem with a club incorporating a youngster into the majors out of the bullpen (Mejia's seen as a starter, long term). It's a great strategy to get a young pitcher accustomed to the majors and learn how to escape jams under short pressure. That's what the Cardinals do; but the Cardinals have an entrenched manager/pitching coach combination with Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan and don't have the history of abusing their relievers as Manuel does.

I wouldn't let Mejia get anywhere near the big leagues as anything other than a secret weapon late in the season if the Mets are contending. Aside from that, he's in the minors as a starter. Period.

The Phillies might be prepared to rush the centerpiece to the stupid trade of Cliff Lee to the Mariners----Philippe Aumont----to the majors not only because they'll want to prove that they didn't make a mistake, but because their bullpen might be so awful that they'll need Aumont.

And it'll be a mistake.

Managers and executives who might be trying to win one last time; save their jobs; or justify something they've done have to have their agendas questioned and possibly overruled for the long-term future of the club.

  • Barry Zito picks up the spare:

Giants pitcher Barry Zito hit Prince Fielder with a pitch in the first inning of the game between the Giants and Brewers on Thursday in retaliation for Fielder's over-the-line celebration of a game-winning homer on September 6th of last season----Article.

This was a non-story for a few reasons.

Could Barry Zito hitting someone with his 86 mph "fastball" be considered as retaliation? Prince Fielder shrugged it off because he didn't even feel it; because it created as much of an impact on Fielder's well-cushioned body as a butterfly landing on his shoulder; and because I think even Fielder realized that his game-winning homer and teammates' "bowling pin" reaction wasn't just bush league, it was little league and beyond over-the-top in celebration.

Bottom line: had it been Tim Lincecum drilling Fielder with a 98-mph fastball that could've actually done some damage, he might not have shrugged it off as easily; in fact, he would've charged the mound and used Lincecum as a toothpick. At this point, Zito's "fastball" can't break through a piece of wet toilet paper. That's not that hard to dismiss by Fielder because Fielder was barely aware that he got hit to begin with.

In the end, Zito got his "revenge" which was more for pubic consumption and to save face with his teammates than any legit retaliation. Retaliation only works if it achieves a desired effect; and presumably Zito's teammates approve of what he did and respect him for it and Zito feels better about himself.

But I can tell you that if it was Lincecum, Matt Cain or Brian Wilson on the mound, the exchange would've been something like the following:

Fielder (pointing his bat at the mound): "What the fuck?!? You throw at me, you better knock me out, motherfucker!!"

Pitcher with an actual fastball: "What's the problem? I'm pickin' up the spare you fuckin' cocksucker!"

Then, my guess is there would've been a fight. Just a guess.

  • Viewer Mail 3.6.2010:

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the GM rankings:

Yur boy Beane came in at the arbitrary number 10 position! What has he done? What has he won? How many league titles? How many World Series?

The Rays had one good year. It's gonna take more than just one good year to convince me.

And Jocketty is too far down. I'd have him in top 5.

"drenched copies of Moneyball"...?


I didn't get past the naming of Friedman as number one. After seeing that, there wasn't much point in reading further.

The Rays have a load of talent as I documented yesterday, but a vast chunk of it was in place when Friedman arrived; how does he get credit for that?

I thought the "drenched copies of Moneyball" line would get a reaction. Heh.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE a clever line:

Good move by Joe with that EOW. Sounded plausible to me.

Agreed. In case anyone missed it, I was almost sent into a blind rage with the following Twitter tweet from Joe regarding Friedman's ascent to the top of the pops:

The stat 'EOW', efficiency over wins, gives him a 96.2 on a scale of 100.

I must admit, I didn't think he had it in him. There's hope that I can still rehabilitate him from the stat zombie infection.

Joe at Statistician Magician writes RE the GM rankings:

I thought ten was fair for Beane.

I don't want to get into ranking them from 1-30 because there are so many factors that go into such an arbitrary list that it's a waste of time. Once you get past the top 10 or so, it's negligible as to what's "right" and "wrong".

Just like Ruben Amaro Jr, Omar Minaya, and Jon Daniels----who all have black marks against them heading into the season----the only way Beane will be judged is if his moves work or not. If the defense-oriented shift he made; the signing of Ben Sheets; and the reliance on young pitchers is a success, he'll be seen as "smart"; if they don't pan out (and they won't), the luster will be diminished even more in the post-Moneyball sobering up that's taking far too long. We'll know by mid-May at the latest.

It's a fleeting assessment that relies on factors that are too hard to quantify, especially coming from a stat zombie.

1 comment:

She-Fan said...

Your mill of schlock. LOL. I hope Reyes is OK and I think the Mets are perfectly right to treat his condition with seriousness. It's not a pulled hamstring.