Friday, April 30, 2010

The Rampaging Rays

  • Rays 11-Royals 1:

It has to be put into perspective that the blazing start of the Rays has been predominately bolstered by running into bad and/or struggling teams. That's not their fault----they don't make the schedule; and as I've said repeatedly, teams that make the playoffs aren't those that beat their rivals; teams that make the playoffs are teams that batter the subpar teams they're supposed to batter.

The Rays 17-5 start was accumulated against the bad Orioles and Royals; the mediocre Athletics; the rebuilding Blue Jays; the slumping Red Sox and White Sox; and they lost 2 of 3 when they played the Yankees and were almost no-hit by C.C. Sabathia (or what would've been a combination of C.C. Sabathia and Sergio Mitre, severely dampening the aesthetic; but I digress).

They're doing what they need to do----no more, no less.

They still have question marks in the bullpen; I will not trust Rafael Soriano to close a big game in September/October until he does it; but the way they're playing, they might not have to worry about a playoff spot by then. The starting pitching has been fantastic and the scariest thing about their lineup is that they've accrued this record with little-to-no offensive production from the catcher's spot (at least until John Jaso arrived) or DH.

It's only been a few games with Jaso, but if he keeps hitting like this, Dioner Navarro's not getting his job back.

Two-out rallies have carried the Rays along with the starting pitching and they're looking tough. They needed to get off to a good start to cleanse their collective palates of the poor taste from the 2009 expectations and subsequent collapse. And they have.

Aside from a 3 game set in Anaheim with the Angels on May 10-12, they'll be able to build up an even more impressive record as they play the Royals, Mariners, Athletics and Indians until they get to New York to play the Yankees on May 19th. Judging from how they've taken advantage of the favorable schedule, their lead in the division may be substantial and a playoff spot could be almost cemented by June.

  • Talented and struggling:

I don't pay as close attention to players that are doing well as I do the players doing poorly.

Specifically, I mean talented athletes who aren't getting the results for one reason or another. One such player is former Royals number one pick in the draft (first pick overall) Luke Hochevar.

Hochevar got shelled by the Rays last night for 11 hits and 9 earned runs in 2.2 innings. It's a recurring theme with him. Despite the ability that made Hochevar a first round draft pick of the Dodgers in 2005; and again the next year by the Royals, his results have been awful.

He's still only 26, so there's plenty of time for him to figure it out; but if anyone can use a breakdown and rebuilding of mechanics/mental approach, it's Hochevar; and I question whether anyone with the Royals has the capacity and courage to begin such an undertaking with a player whose pedigree and draft status make any drastic changes rife for ridicule and an even greater implication of ineptitude.

There was a pitcher a few years ago who had been a first round pick and borderline washout. Like Hochevar, he's from Denver, Colorado; like Hochevar, he got rocked around the ballpark because he didn't have a feel for pitching even with his massive ability; like Hochevar, he's a pitching prototype----tall and strong. It took a gutty and intuitive pitching coach and organization willing to gamble on the required changes to maximize their investment and ignore the risk.

That pitcher's name is Roy Halladay.

Halladay was a conventional over the top power pitcher when he arrived in the majors and was hit-or-miss with his results; in fact, in 2000, the season before Blue Jays instructor Mel Queen altered Halladay's mechanics to the streamlined, machine-like thing of functional beauty it is now, Halladay was awful----2000 Gamelogs.

It's almost impossible to reconcile what Halladay was into what he is; but it might never have happened had the Blue Jays not recognized that he was never going to fulfill his potential as he was, and had the guts to make the alterations.

The same thing can happen with Hochevar.

Do the Royals have the courage? Will they trade him? Or is it safer and easier to remain stagnant; leave things as they are in a self-destructive status quo and not have any chance of reaping the benefits from the ability that Hochevar clearly has?

Given the Royals history of organizational cannibalism, the answer is crystal clear unless Hochevar demands something be done to help him. What he's doing now isn't working and it's time for a change, be it a change of approach, or (preferably for the player) a change of scenery.

  • What will the Padres do with Adrian Gonzalez?

The Padres surprising start, obvious talent and rapid development is leaving an open question of what they're going to do with Adrian Gonzalez (and to a lesser extent, Heath Bell) when the summer comes.

If they're still hanging around contention, will they keep Gonzalez and try to win?

Before the season started (and for most of the past couple of years) Gonzalez has been a negotiable commodity. Steep demands for one of the best players in baseball have prevented a trade from being completed; but it's been an open secret that certain teams' lust for the first baseman have led them to pursue him avidly. The Red Sox and Mariners want him desperately.

But the Padres are off to a great start (14-8) and it may be time to start taking them a little more seriously than a club who's gotten off to a good start and will slowly decline into what everyone expected them to be; what they've been for the past two years.

They have a strong and deep bullpen (Bell, Luke Gregerson, Mike Adams); impressive arms in the rotation (Clayton Richard; Mat Latos, Kevin Correia); power bats (Gonzalez, Kyle Blanks, Chase Headley); and feisty winners (David Eckstein, Yorvit Torrealba; Jon Garland). With the way the Dodgers have been playing; the injury issues of the Rockies; and the way the rest of the National League is hot and cold, it's not silly to think that the Padres can hang around and win 85 or so games----a win total that could get them the Wild Card.

As much as I've criticized him for his mistakes and bizarre decisions from 2007-2009, manager Bud Black has done a fine job with his young team so far in 2010. New GM Jed Hoyer has done nothing so far in his brief time running the show aside from trading Kevin Kouzmanoff in a (wise) salary dump; collected Hairstons (Scott and Jerry); and signed Garland and Torrealba.

Will owner Jeff Moorad consider letting Hoyer add payroll rather than slash it by June/July?

It's only 23 games, but the National League is wide open and the Padres are playing hard, opportunistically and well.

They might be for real.

  • Viewer Mail 4.30.2010:

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the Braves and the Dodgers:

Glaus -- the good Glaus we know from back in the day -- was a product of PEDs... just like the Paul Lo Ducas of the world. Take him off the extra boost and he ain't shit.

And your take on the Kemp/Colletti thing is an interesting way to see it, but I think that's the sort of thing that should be kept out of the public eye. No need to bash your go-to guy in the media. That was low in my opinion.

This whole thing just proves what we already know: the Dodgers are a mess.

I've been giving Glaus the benefit of the doubt for his appearance on the list of PED users; he's a huge guy, he should be able to hit the ball out of the park anyway. The one thing I can't forgive is the absence of hustle. There's no excuse.

I'm not ready to write off the Dodgers. Joe Torre's history of calmly getting things back on track is too extensive to get crazy after a rotten start.

Paul Lebowitz's 2010 Baseball Guide is available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here.

I have a podcast appearance scheduled today with Sal at SportsFanBuzz. It should be...entertaining. To say the least. It always is.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hollywood-----It's ALL Good

  • It's too early for the Dodgers to panic:

Yesterday, after the Dodgers 7-3 loss to the Mets, I got an email from Bern a friend on Twitter regarding the controversy swirling around the staggering Dodgers and whether it was appropriate for GM Ned Colletti to call out Matt Kemp and Chad Billingsley for, respectively, perceived laziness (Kemp); and just being bad overall (Billingsley).

I tend to think there's more at play than a GM losing his cool with a couple of players who aren't doing what's expected of them. Obviously, Colletti is aggravated by the way the Dodgers have played; but if you look at manager Joe Torre's Yankees teams, especially the ones from late in his tenure, they got off to slow starts on an annual basis and turned it on as the warm weather arrived. Torre's not going to panic and the calm which has always been Torre's main strength as a manager will permeate the club and prevent a full-blown explosion.

Torre and Colletti still wanted to get a message out to the players and with the frustration exhibited in Colletti's questioning Kemp's commitment due to the perceived comfort with his first lucrative contract, it's very possible that this is a good cop/bad cop routine from Torre/Colletti than a straight reaction by the GM.

The truth with Kemp is that he's never been the type to adhere to the "baseball player code". From his rookie year, he had in-house issues with the veteran members of the club. One such veteran, notably, was Jeff Kent, Mr. Charm who had a well-publicized dustup himself with Mets veterans for refusing to partake in a rookie initiation prank and was hated for it; his aloof nature was loathed everywhere he went. Because of Kemp's personality and rising fame, no one should have expected him to keep quiet when called out by his GM.

Kemp has MVP talent and he'll let you know it. Being compared to Dave Winfield will cause a player to be impressed with himself no matter his personality. With Kemp, presumably it's gotten worse as he's developed into a star player and gotten his first big contract (he avoided arbitration by agreeing to a 2-year, $10.95 million deal through 2011). Interestingly, Kemp's agent is former star pitcher Dave Stewart, never one to shy away from confrontation on or off the field.

With Kemp, you're talking about a burgeoning star; playing in Hollywood; and dating pop star Rihanna. It's easily forgotten how young he is. Having been in the majors since he was 21 and still only 25, he's got some growing up to do. Sending this message to him is a combination of Colletti and Torre having seen and heard enough of the excuses and lack of hustle not just from Kemp, but from Russell Martin. It would've been unbecoming for Torre himself to lay into Kemp publicly; and I'm sure Kemp's been spoken to by Torre and coaches Larry Bowa and Don Mattingly about this.

Another aspect of Colletti's aggravation has to be the way the divorce between the McCourts has affected his attempts to improve the team. The Dodgers needed starting pitching help and given his aggressiveness, there's no doubt he would've liked to have jumped into the Roy Halladay sweepstakes last winter; and would like to upgrade the rotation now with a Zach Duke or Roy Oswalt. No one knows how deeply the divorce proceedings have infected the day-to-day business of the club.

On-field, the Dodgers will be fine. The starting rotation is seen as shaky, but Torre's other Dodgers playoff teams have never had a super-strong starting rotation to begin with; the big failure thus far has been the bullpen.

Since joining the Yankees, Torre's bullpen was paramount in his success/failure. The Dodgers bullpen has been absolutely hideous. With George Sherrill getting rocked and having trouble throwing strikes; Ramon Troncoso up-and-down; Ronald Belisario struggling; and Jeff Weaver on the disabled list, the strength has been the biggest weakness. They haven't been able to hand games over to closer Jonathan Broxton.

The team's been hitting; the starting pitching's been good enough to win. It's the bullpen that's the problem. And that will straighten itself out of the histories of the personnel are to be believed.

Clubhouse and in-house disagreements happen far more often than is publicized and many times there's far more occurring behind the scenes than is disclosed. A little controversy and fire can help spur something positive. It's an energy and isn't necessarily a bad thing. The only way to see if it worked is in retrospect. If Kemp goes on a tear; if Billingsley starts pitching as he did two years ago, then Colletti's comments will be seen as the spark; if not, it didn't work.

It's not time to freak out in Los Angeles...yet. Torre has earned the benefit of the doubt in steering a ship through any and all storms. This one is no different.

  • Cardinals 6-Braves 0:

I can handle a teamwide slump----no one's hitting----but it's the absence of passion with the Braves that would upset me more than anything. They don't hustle and it looks like they don't care.

Chipper Jones gets a pass for not running as hard as he possibly can on a grounder to second base; his multitude of injuries and rampant fragility makes it self-defeating for him to break the tape and only be out by one step rather than two.

But does Troy Glaus get that same leeway? Yunel Escobar? Melky Cabrera?

It's been 21 games for Glaus and he'd done nothing to dissuade me from thinking he's shot. If he was ripping line drives that are getting caught; if he was just missing pitches that he should hit because of timing as David Ortiz was early last year, it would be a reason to say give him time; but his bat is slow; defensively he's a statue; and he doesn't look to be playing hard.

Escobar's frequent mental gaffes are one thing, but I'd think that because of that inexcusable screw-up on Saturday in not tagging up from third on a fly out in which the Mets were conceding a run; a mistake that ran the Braves out of a potential big inning, he'd be playing like a madman for at least the next few games; instead, he's jogging at 80% speed on ground balls and displaying a similar ambivalence to Glaus.

And Melky Cabrera?

He's been awful offensively and defensively and not only deserves to be benched, but may need to be demoted.

I mentioned all of this on Monday, but it's gotten worse, not better. That environment is poisoned not just for a team that has the pitching to be a playoff contender, but for a 20-year-old megastar talent in Jason Heyward who can't help but be affected by the way they're playing and behaving. A message is going to have to be sent by someone with the Braves be it GM Frank Wren or manager Bobby Cox, because they look atrocious in every aspect and it has to be stopped. Soon.

I'm being told that it's very useful for fantasy players and that the writing's pretty g2010BaseballGuideCover.gifood.

Hey, I'm just the messenger...and the writer....and the judge...and the jury....and the executioner...

Paul Lebowitz's 2010 Baseball Guide is available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Who ARE These Guys?!?

  • Mets 4-Dodgers 0; Mets 10-Dodgers 5:

It's inexplicable how far the Mets have climbed from the clueless bunch they were as they limped home from St. Louis 10 days ago. With a record of 4-8; panic within the fan base and calls for manager Jerry Manuel's head (strongly from yours truly); and the world crumbling around them at the prospect of a front office blowout and on-field housecleaning, they suddenly and without warning have won 8 of 9 on this current homestand and vaulted from last place into first place.

Of course this has to be taken into context.

The Cubs walked into Citi Field in similar disarray; the Braves are shambolic (and the Mets got a gift from the heavens in a 5+ inning rainout win on Sunday); and the Dodgers can't get out of their own way.

Much like the schedule; the weather; and freak injuries, there's not much that can be done about it. Just as it can be taken as an excuse when a team plays poorly due to circumstance; so too should they receive credit for doing what must be done and taking advantage of that which has been bestowed. In years past, the Mets have been derelict in one of the main tenets of being a winning team----beating up on wounded and subpar teams.

In a psychological sense, it could be said that the same "niceness" that permeates the Mets organization (as exemplified by the wishy-washy firing of Willie Randolph two years ago) seeped onto the field as they took it easy and allowed self-congratulations and arrogance to combine with the misplaced kindness to deprive them of playoff spots in both 2007 and 2008.

Other teams----winning teams like the Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies and Cardinals----want no part of being gentle with their opponents; they're arrogant and smug only after they've accomplished their goals rather than before and it shows in their records of success.

It's called taking care of business and the Mets have done that in the past week-and-a-half.

It's easily lost what can be accomplished when simply doing what should be second nature by now for big league players. Throwing the ball; catching the ball; hitting the ball; running out grounders; being in the right place at the right time; taking advantage of opposing teams' mistakes.

Sound easy? You'd be stunned at home many teams can't do the small things properly. It shouldn't have to be continually hammered into their heads; but if you look at the way the Braves and Dodgers have played in their forays to Citi Field over the past five days, it clearly does need to be addressed.

Much bewilderment has surrounded the Twins in recent years as to how they've maintained a playoff contender while losing stars such as Johan Santana and getting little in return; but the Twins way is taught from the bottom of the organization all the way to the top. Their pitchers throw strikes; their players catch the ball; they hit situationally; they're organized; and there's accountability----if you don't do things the "Twins Way" you don't play. Period. This was how the Orioles functioned under Earl Weaver.

It's amazing how many games can be won when performing rudimentary fundamentals correctly.

While it's too soon to get excited about the Mets string of good play and good luck, it was clearly too soon to hit the panic button in the first week (of which I am just as guilty as anyone). With that, it's not time to declare this work-in-progress as a true contender. As I said in my book (still available), they're either going to galvanize and shove it to the naysayers; or collapse completely. In the first month of the season, they've done both.

This is the same organization that blew a 7 game lead with 17 games to play in 2007, so anything is possible; and a beaten down and weary fan base is still straddling the line between excitement and suicide.

"Can we start getting enthusiastic yet?" is a familiar refrain.

Like the person desperately looking for their soulmate, thinking they've found it and having their dreams crushed repeatedly, there's a hardening of the heart that has little to do with coldness and more to do with a desire to avoid the pain that's been all too constant in the club history.

This weekend's series in Philadelphia will speak volumes as to where the Mets are.

It's understandable to smile in looking at the standings on April 28th, 2010 with the Mets sitting at the top.

So too is it acceptable to pause, look at the situation with the still fresh memories and scars of 2006-2009----both physical and mental----and wait, just to see what happens.

  • This is laughable:

Um, so now Jason Bay's defense wasn't so bad after all?

MLBTradeRumors linked this Boston Herald article about a tweaking of the way in which Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) is calculated. UZR is supposed to be a more accurate way to gauge a fielder's range and value.

"Supposed to be" is the key phrase.

Were the Red Sox aware of the glitch in UZR when they used it as one of the justifications for letting Bay leave without so much as a serious attempt to re-sign him? Or was it propped up as an excuse to go with another stat zombie tenet of "run prevention"; to save a few bucks; and "prove" how smart they are? Again?

Unsatisfied with their record of success over the past seven years, so too has it been a hallmark of the Red Sox under Theo Epstein and John Henry to slam players on the way out the door under the guise of statistics and physical questions.

Bay's defense was poor; his MRI and physical examinations indicated that he was a candidate for a breakdown due to issues with his shoulders and knees. It was a sound business decision on and off the field to let him go.

Was it?

This is the fundamental problem with using these newfound statistics and final arbiter in whether or not a player should stay or go. As convenient as it is to utilize "verifiable" numbers to explain a player's "true" value, they will never, ever replace the contribution an experienced observer----yes, with subjective analysis.

Having watched Bay regularly over the first month of the season, it's clear that the smear campaign coming out of Boston wasn't just inaccurate, but it's wrong. Bay was never bad as an outfielder and with the Mets, he's been quite good. (He made a nifty diving catch yesterday.) He's faster than expected; and he's made a bunch of good plays.

Is he ever going to be an in-his-prime and lean Barry Bonds or Kevin McReynolds in terms of left field defense? No. Is he a statue out there who's going cost his team games? No.

The Red Sox gloss over their own faults to proffer this arrogant and pompous condescension of knowing better than everyone else. It's fueled their success; it's also crafted their failures.

The stat zombie method of analysis is not analysis. Crunching numbers and knowing formulas (that are still in the process of being "perfected") doesn't replace experience in understanding the nuance of what goes on during a game.

This new ideal of "run prevention" was profiled by Will Leitch in last week's New York Magazine----link; I emailed Leitch to point out how faulty the premise is, he didn't respond, which was disappointing. He answered me previously when I expressed my displeasure at his suggestion of Billy Beane taking over as Mets GM last year.

It's a shame that debate is muzzled with shouting down and ignoring the protests to that which is contextualized and outright wrong.

Much like the daily changes of the PECOTA "projections" (and everyone seemed to be finishing at or close to 81-81 in said "projections"----link), we're going to continue to see the alterations of the irresponsibly created formulas to bolster decisions that could just as easily be explained away with the statement, "we didn't want to pay him; we wanted to try something else". Instead, teams like the Red Sox do what they do; willing and able to take the credit, but shielding themselves from the responsibility with propaganda.

It's a foolproof way to maintain a veneer of genius. But I know the truth; and said truth is leaking out day-by-day as the numbers are increasingly "perfected" by way of changing their story.

  • Take the message and put aside the messenger:

Had it been someone else that gave the withering critique of struggling Yankees pitcher Javier Vazquez, it may have been accepted as the analysis of a former player who understands the breadth of Vazquez's battle against himself and the perception of his unsuitability to pitch in New York.

Instead, since it was the polarizing Curt Schilling, it's dismissed as the ramblings of an obnoxious and narcissistic man who loves nothing better than to listen to his own voice; see it in print; and revels in the attention he receives.

But what about when he says something that makes sense?

It happens more often than you realize that Schilling's self-serving rants are peppered with kernels of truth and intelligent analysis. Yankee fans loathe him because he was a Red Sox and because he's Schilling (which has a definition unto itself); because of that, they're ignoring the message behind what he said----the possible accuracy in his assessment of Javier Vazquez's prospects for succeeding in his second go-round in New York.

The entire context is available here----ESPN Story and it's almost verbatim what I said when the Vazquez re-acquisition was consummated.

Here are the relevant quotes:

"It is easier to pitch and be successful in the National League than it is the American League," Schilling said on 1050's show with Seth Everett. "If anyone thinks that Javier Vazquez is going to be different the second time around than he was the first time I think they are fooling themselves."

"Here's the thing about Javy and I tried to preface this, but the negative always drowns out the positive," Schilling said. "I love the kid. He has phenomenal stuff. I thought he was a superstar when he was in Montreal, but I think you are kidding yourself if you think the second time in New York will be different than the first time. I'm not sure why that would be."

As controversial as Schilling is, there's no way to pigeonhole him. The same quote that Catfish Hunter uttered about Reggie Jackson can be applied to Schilling:

"He'd give you the shirt off his back. Of course he'd call a press conference to announce it."

Yankee fans reacted with rage at Schilling's statements regarding Vazquez in what was more of a reflexive response rather than fervent disagreement with what he said. Even the most hard-core Yankee fan and positive thinker is probably echoing the Schilling sentiments in their minds, though they're loathe to admit the fear; and even more repulsed by the idea of agreeing with Curt Schilling about anything.

It's there though; and as talented as Vazquez is, until he starts pitching up to snuff, the questions will be asked if it's nothing more than New York that's the problem.

  • Viewer Mail 4.28.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Ryan Howard:

I guess the signing of Howard will now trigger a discussion of Werth and whether the Phillies will let him go for budgetary reasons. Seems like he'd have market value.

Jayson Werth is going to have many, many suitors in the off-season and I don't see how the Phillies will be able to afford him now unless they backload the deal very heavily until after Brad Lidge and a couple of others are off the books; and Werth is not going to give the Phillies a discount. He wants to get paid, and someone's going to pay him.

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols:

This makes life for Cardinals fans very, very difficult.

Now I officially hate Ruben Amaro.

I would dearly have loved to have seen and heard the reaction to this in the Cardinals executive offices. They have no choice but to pay Pujols, but now the dollar amount presumably will have to double what the Phillies gave to Howard. That's not the responsibility of the Phillies, but I have to believe that they heard from the commissioner's office about this.

Paul Lebowitz's 2010 Baseball Guide is available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here.

Read what I wrote about Javier Vazquez and a bunch of others stuff before the fact.

It's creepily accurate.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

That's A Lotta Cheddar; A Lotta Greenbacks....

  • A lotta money:

It's official.

The maneuvers the Phillies are making aren't just haphazard and bewildering on the field, but financially, they're bordering on long-term lunacy.

Yesterday it was announced that first baseman Ryan Howard agreed to a contract extension worth a guaranteed $125 million from 2012 through 2016. There's a $23 million option for 2017 with a $10 million buyout. With the $19 million he's making this season and the $20 million for next year, Howard will receive at least $163 million from the Phillies for the duration of his deals. He has a limited no-trade clause.

To put this in perspective, the Phillies will be paying the 30-year-old Howard a lot of money until he's 36.

This is not to denigrate Howard in any way, but to be blunt, have the Phillies lost their collective minds?

I've been dubious about GM Ruben Amaro Jr since he signed Jamie Moyer to a 2-year extension in the heady afterglow of the 2008 World Series win; then my jaundiced view became even more pronounced as he rode a second straight pennant into some context-switching justification for the questionable trades and contract extensions he's executed.

Amarao said all the right things----stuff right out of the "executive's book of quotations" that are on a level with the ballplayer cliches laid out like something out Bull Durham----ESPN Story.

"We just felt it was good timing for us..."

(Blah, blah, blah.)

"We felt No. 1, he's one of the elite offensive players in the game..."

(Blah, blah, blah.)

We could have waited another year and a half or so and dealt with it later on..."

(Blah, blah, blah.)

...but the fact of the matter is we decided he is that important to our organization and to our club and to our future."

(Blah, blah, blah.)

"The numbers don't lie. He's also one of the most durable players we have. Ryan's basically ready to play 162 games. I think that means a lot...."

(Blah, blah, blah.)

Given the type of person Howard is, there's little-to-no chance of him turning into Mo Vaughn and expanding to the width of a parade float. Nor are there going to be off-field issues that will make the Phillies rue the day they agreed to this contract.

But that doesn't mean this is a good idea.

In pure practical terms, it's on a level with the ubiquitous ACME products to which Wile E. Coyote is so blindly dedicated in his futile hunt for the Road Runner.

With the Howard contract, the Phillies are locked in with almost every core player from their championship teams aside from Jayson Werth and Jimmy Rollins; and given what they've done in terms of a long-term view, clearly they're going to come to an agreement with Rollins (a free agent after 2011) at some point.

Is this smart?

Let's wind the clocks forward to 2013.

The Phillies roster will consist of the guarantees to:

Ryan Howard, age 32----$20 million

Roy Halladay, age 36----$20 million

Chase Utley, age 34----$15 million

Then there are the departing or possibly departing players from 2012 (Shane Victorino; Placido Polanco; Cole Hamels; Joe Blanton; and Carlos Ruiz); plus Brad Lidge is receiving big money through 2011. As stated earlier, one would assume they're going to sign Rollins.

What's that team going to look like?

I had no intention of mentioning in the given name of the Stone Cold Killer, currently set to make his return to the mound for the Mariners; the same pitcher they traded for prospects in the convoluted trade to get Roy Halladay while gutting the farm system almost completely; the same Stone Cold Killer who in 2011 may very well be plying his trade with his icy ruthlessness 90 miles up the interstate in a Mets uniform.

I'm of course talking about Cliff Lee.

I wasn't going to mention said Stone Cold Killer, Lee, but the Phillies attempts to maintain their excellence while putting forth the myth of keeping some semblance of a farm system intact is an irresolute strategy of indecision and a foundation built for collapse from top-to-bottom and requires mentioning Lee as a major part of that faulty scheme.

Apart from Domonic Brown and Phillippe Aumont (acquired in the Lee trade and now starting in Double A), the farm system has been stripped of most legit prospects. They're hard-pressed to ante up the cash it's going to take to keep Jayson Werth and will be top-heavy to nightmare proportions by 2012-2013 without the young players to replace the departing veterans. It was the home-grown talent that formed the basis to the Phillies National League dominance in the past two years.

The Phillies didn't have the money to keep Lee to team with the devastating and sublime Roy Halladay to form the most frightening 1-2 punch in baseball, but they have the money to throw at Ryan Howard? When he's a year-and-a-half away from free agency? When he's looking like a player it wouldn't be absurd to bench or for whom to pinch hit against left-handed pitchers because he's grown so inept hitting against them?

Howard's never going to be Keith Hernandez defensively; but nor is he Dr. Strangeglove, Dick Stuart. He's quicker than you realize; is a good guy; and clutch bat. This doesn't mask the holes in his game such as strikeouts and embarrassing failure against lefties.

Had the Phillies looked at this with a long-term goal in mind rather than some misplaced idea of doing the "right" thing; had they gauged accurately what the landscape would be as Howard tested the market, they would've realized that he would've accepted the same deal (and possibly far less) when free agency came calling in the winter of 2011-2012.

Which team would: A) have the money to lure Howard away from the Phillies; and B) have the hole at first base or DH to sign Howard?

The Yankees? They have a first baseman by the name of Mark Teixeira (he's pretty good); and aren't going to pay that money for an aging, big name DH.

The Red Sox? They're not signing a one-dimensional player to a contract that lucrative. If they pay that amount of cash to a free agent, it'll be Adrian Gonzalez; and they're not going down that David Ortiz-road for a DH again.

The Orioles? They have the cash, but Andy MacPhail doesn't like spending money that way; it's easier and smarter to carve it up and fill numerous holes than spend it on an aging and limited player.

The Angels? They spend their money on pitching and if they wouldn't go that high to keep Teixeira, they're not giving it to Howard.

The Mariners? They presumably have the money, but GM Jack Zduriencik isn't spending it on Howard.

The Mets? They have a young first baseman, but even if they didn't, they won't import a former Phillie unless his name is Utley or Lee. They're also going to have to worry about keeping Jose Reyes and David Wright.

The Nationals? They made a massive offer for Teixeira, but would Howard want to leave a ballpark tailored to him with a contending team to go to the Nationals? Stephen Strasburg or no Stephen Strasburg.

The Cardinals? Bill DeWitt and John Mozeliak would probably like nothing better than to get five minutes alone in a room with Amaro and Phillies owner David Montgomery because after the Howard deal, you can forget about Albert Pujols giving a hometown discount to the Cardinals as his own free agency beckons. Howard is also from St. Louis, but he's not Pujols; he's not one of the top two hitters in baseball; he's not a Gold Glove-caliber fielder.

The Cubs? With the contracts----Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano----they currently have on the books? No chance.

The Dodgers? Who knows what their finances and payroll are going to look like after the McCourts complete their divorce? They're not paying Ryan Howard when they're going to have to keep Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Jonathan Broxton and Clayton Kershaw.

Where was Howard going? With the better player in Gonzalez coming up on free agency and basically the same player (4 1/2 years younger) Prince Fielder also going to be available, who was going to dole out that guaranteed cash for Howard?

No one. That's who.

A preemptive signing to head-off free agency is a smart move for certain players, but if the Phillies were going to pay someone on their roster that kind of money to make sure he stayed long term, that player should've been Chase Utley, not Howard.

Utley has a short swing resistant to slumps; plays a Gold Glove-caliber defense at second base----a more difficult to replace position; and has a the lithe build to maintain his excellence over the long term.

Amid all the mistakes Amaro and the Phillies have made in trying to retain their lofty position, this one is going to cost them the most in the pocket and on the field.

What a colossal blunder by the Phillies. Again.

  • Staying in-state and on topic:

Combine a writer who doesn't know what she's talking about and an executive who doesn't know what he's doing and you get the Molly Knight piece in ESPN the Magazine. (I can't find a link online.)

Entitled "Buried Treasure", Pirates GM Neal Huntington tries to justify the Pirates plans to build....whatever it is they're building. I dunno what.

Claiming to be taking risks by stockpiling former number one draft picks who've fallen out of favor or failed miserably, Huntington lays out his case. Selfishly and weakly explaining away ineptitude after-the-fact is always endlessly entertaining. The packages the Pirates received in trades of Nate McLouth; Jason Bay; Xavier Nady; Damaso Marte; Nyjer Morgan; Jack Wilson; and Freddy Sanchez all have one thing in common----they're replete with former number one draft picks.

The status of the number one draft pick is treated as if it's an end unto itself; equated to a guarantee of aptitude and potential for success.

To the statement, "he's a former number one pick", I say: Yeah? So?

Collecting former number one draft picks for no reason other than the fact that they're former number one draft picks is just as much a vapid enterprise; a failed plan than using statistics as the end-all be-all of existence. When assessing prospects, one has to have an eye on what it is exactly that makes a successful player; and such a skill only evolves from an experienced eye.

Listed as they are in the article, one can only wonder if anyone with the Pirates analyzed the acquired players aside from their status as a former top pick to bolster the reasoning behind their acquisition in the first place.

Bobby Crosby? Can't hit anymore.

Bryan Morris? 23-years-old and still in high A ball in the minors.

Lastings Milledge? A player I happen to like, but who isn't hitting and is with his third organization at age 25.

Craig Hanson? Horrible mechanics and worse results.

Tim Alderson? From the numbers, he's currently getting hit hard in Double A.

Jeff Clement? He's been shifted from behind the plate to first base, will be 27 in August and isn't hitting either.

The capricious decision to accept players who are somehow validated by their lofty status as high draft picks is ignoring any and all scouting acumen in finding players (if the Pirates have any).

What people need to understand about the draft----regardless of the methods employed by the clubs, be it stat or scouting based----is that in the end, for the average player money is the main reason they're kept around and given chance after chance.

Whereas a player of similar talent who was drafted later is going to be more disposable, the top draft picks are going to get one chance after another even if their performance make clear that they're not going to make it. It's face-saving more than talent recognition and maximization. "Unlocking a player's talent" would be better described as "getting something from the money we spent".

Moneyball tried to insist that Billy Beane and the stat zombies had found a way to "card count" in a casino to get players that were able to play baseball and weren't walking testimony to "tools". It didn't work any better than the teams who rely on scouting and, in many cases, was worse. Teams don't give away number one draft picks unless they're remarkably desperate and stupid (the Mets with Scott Kazmir); or they find a team that's hypnotized by the mystical and ephemeral status of said players as number one draft picks----as the Pirates clearly are.

It's a cannibalistic process perpetarted by an organization that has neither the personnel, the intelligence nor the courage to run their club properly. This collecting of players based on draft status is another example of why the phrase "only the Pirates" is uttered so regularly and with such contempt.

  • Big Z out of the pen:

I savaged the Cubs last week for their decision to move Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen, but money aside and the non-existent hopes the Cubs presumably have to get Zambrano's contract off their books, he pitched in relief last night and looked like a different pitcher.

He threw strikes; threw hard; was so fired up that he was pumping his fist after striking out Wil Nieves to end the eighth inning of a tie game with two runners on base, and retired the Nationals in order in the ninth. The Cubs won the game in the tenth.

Ignoring that he's being paid nearly $18 million this year and has been banished to the bullpen, if he pitches the way he did last night, the decision might actually work.

Paul Lebowitz's 2010 Baseball Guide is available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here.

Love me or hate me (there's no in between) I bring the party with me.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Symptoms Of The Braves Run Deep

  • Mets 1-Braves 0 (5+ innings):

There was endless debate and questions (mostly directed at Ken Davidoff) on Twitter about whether Mike Pelfrey was going to be credited with a complete game and *asterisk* marked shutout because of the Mets' rain shortened 1-0 win.

Regarding baseball's longstanding rules for governing weather-shortened games, it's time to suspend such shortened games rather than declare them over and in the books after they're official. It's unfair to the losing team to possibly be deprived of a chance for a playoff spot because of circumstances and rules over which they have no control. It wouldn't hurt anyone to finish the games at a later date and it would be more fair.

As to the game itself, the Braves are slumping terribly; despite all that great starting pitching they have, there are numerous issues that have to be addressed if they want to be legitimate contenders----something they would've been had they done the one thing they needed to do in the winter and gotten a legitimate basher for the middle of the lineup.

Because of financial constraints, the Braves rushed to make the Javier Vazquez trade for Melky Cabrera with an eye on getting a serviceable outfielder for the present (Cabrera), and a golden arm for the future (Arodys Vizcaino, 19 and currently struggling a bit at class A Rome in the Sally League). Time will tell with Vizcaino; but Cabrera has been a train wreck----looking too comfortable in his position; slow; fat and, most glaringly and disturbing, lazy.

Troy Glaus is moving with the speed of the walking undead and appears surprised when he manages to range far enough to his right or left at first base to snare anything in his general vicinity; and his bat has been slow and weak. Worse yet for Glaus is his own lack of hustle. He's not even making the pretense of running hard----in fact, when running the bases, he's moving slower than the aforementioned walking undead and with less determination; at least zombies avidly pursue their goals of eating brains or infecting the general population with the rage virus and/or killing them completely.

Glaus looks like he doesn't even care.

Short of benching (or if it goes on for another month, outright releasing him), I don't know what you can do with Glaus.

Cabrera is another matter.

Going back to 2008, Cabrera----who was considered a 4th outfielder at best when he broke in----let success get to his head and forgot what it was that got him to the big leagues and allowed his emergence as a semi-regular player, clutch hitter and Yankee-fan favorite in 2006-2007. He maximized his abilities back then, but got too comfortable in his status and let it get to his head; this culminated in a profound lack of aggressiveness and commitment in 2008 and a trip back to the minor leagues.

In 2009, Cabrera had a fine season with numerous big hits; he was an integral part of the Yankees championship. Traded to the Braves as part of the Vazquez deal and making big money for the first time ($3.1 million), he's again let it get to his head.

Psychologically, Cabrera appears to be a player who becomes ensconced in a belief that his spot in the lineup----and the big leagues----is guaranteed and it's shown in his play. He's lost his fear of demotion and is clearly a player who needs to be teetering on the precipice of losing his job to maximize his talents. It's one thing to slump, but if said slump (both offensively and defensively) is a direct result of being out of shape and disinterested, something has to be done. First, I'd bench Cabrera; better yet, I might even send him to the minors for a drastic wake-up call.

It reflects poorly on the player that each and every time he feels as though his roster spot is assured, he drops into comfortable mediocrity and worse. Cabrera needs a slap figuratively and maybe even literally; but do the Braves have a Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada or Joe Girardi to provide the tough love?

It's one thing to be slow afoot and to have declining quickness of reflexes as has happened with Glaus; but to run at 3/4 speed on a ground ball double play is an egregious act that is a reflection of the player and tantamount to spitting in the face of the Hall of Fame manager, Bobby Cox. Cabrera's been awful in every respect.

This behavior is a malignant growth that must be excised, but the question is whether there's anyone in the Braves clubhouse to do it. Chipper Jones is the leader of the team along with Brian McCann and Tim Hudson; but it's hard to confront a veteran in Glaus. To compound matters, this attitude can permeate to the youngsters----Tommy Hanson and Jason Heyward----and cause an even greater mess.

Thus exacerbates the drastic error the Braves have made in declaring that 2010 is Bobby Cox's last year as manager. Jones, McCann and Hudson are going to listen to Cox----they're not going to challenge nor embarrass their longtime manager out of loyalty; but Glaus and Cabrera don't have similar allegiance and they're acting as if they're playing for their grandpa as he screams at them to get out of the shed; it's, "yeah, whatever old man" with a half-assed trot to first base replacing the dismissive wave and continuation of bad behavior.

They should never have openly said that this was Cox's last season. He's under contract as a consultant for an extended period; all they had to do was give him a managerial contract for 2011 with it silently stated between the parties that this was going to be his last season on the field and he was going to step aside.

Farewell tours work for players, not for managers.

The Braves were a self-sustaining unit during the glory years of the 90s and early 2000s where a lack of effort would've been dealt with by Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Fred McGriff, Jones, et al. Now is not the case as divergent personalities are poisoning the clubhouse. It doesn't help that the solid relationship Cox had with team president John Schuerholz when Schuerholz as GM has been replaced with the clumsily hidden contempt between Cox and GM Frank Wren.

The rift is well-known and part of it had to do with the GM's treatment of Jeff Francoeur as Francoeur's star faded in Atlanta and resulted in a stupid trade with a division rival (the Mets) for a non-entity who's no longer with the team and was benched by Cox (Ryan Church). It goes even further than that and is a large factor in Cox's decision to step down even if they refuse to admit it. I don't think Cox wants to retire as manager; by the third week of spring training next season, Cox will already be tired of "consulting" and won't know what to do with himself.

The fundamental mistakes are a symptom. I can't give Yunel Escobar too hard a time for his mental mistakes; that's the type of player he is----strangleworthy with MVP talent. Nor can I be an after-the-fact hypocrite and rip the non-tendering of Kelly Johnson because Johnson's gotten off to a hot start (7 homers) with the Diamondbacks. Johnson was awful last year. Not re-signing Adam LaRoche in favor of Glaus and making the desperation trade of Vazquez are the major gaffes that fall squarely at the feet of Frank Wren.

The personnel mistakes should be the focus.

Unless this is dealt with, it's going to get bad in Atlanta.

If Jones and McCann aren't providing the veteran leadership the club needs, don't forget that Billy Wagner is in that clubhouse. Wagner's not shy about voicing his opinion and calling out teammates; a few more days of this and he's going to pop off.

Once the in-fighting starts, things could spiral and explode. Fast.

Then we get to the Mets.

Is this a legitimate hot streak for a team that was playing far beneath its capabilities? Are they self-correcting to their talent level? Or is it nothing more than a string of good play as they exhibited in late August 2005 to briefly vault them into playoff contention before fading as quickly as they rose?

It was an extraordinary bit of luck that struck the Mets like lightning during those heady few weeks of 2005. Non-prospect Mike Jacobs turned a pinch hit cameo into a big league career; they hammered the Diamondbacks in a 4-game sweep; came within inches of acquiring Manny Ramirez in a blockbuster trade (a trade that was so close to completion that Yankees GM Brian Cashman reportedly called his Mets counterpart Omar Minaya to thank him for getting Manny out of Boston); and crawled within 4 games of first place Atlanta, setting off a flurry of optimism before falling to earth in September.

They weren't that good then.

What are they now?

The Mets pitching has been terrific from top-to-bottom; the lineup has cut a wide swath of streakiness and underachievement----specifically David Wright, who looks lost----but they've taken advantage of the staggering Cubs and Braves on this homestand. A clearer indication of what the Mets are will be seen over the next seven days as they play the Dodgers at Citi Field and then travel to Philadelphia to face the wounded Phillies.

A week from now, will they be viewed in the increasingly positive (or less hate/agenda-fueled) light of today? Or will it return to the savage attacks that weren't fair last season; and were conveniently aimed at a wounded animal in the last six months?

  • The blazing Rays:

It's not their own lack of success with the conscious decision to shy away from power; nor is it the growing panic in their fan base that should be concerning the Red Sox. The Yankees are so much better and deeper than the Red Sox that anyone other than the stat zombies and Theo Epstein-worshippers could see what was coming; but it's the Rays blazing start that should be causing the greater consternation in the Red Sox front office; in fact, as we speak, they may be preparing to call in the nuclear codes and do something drastic to wake their slumbering, slumping and desperate club.

They know they were lucky to get out of the Rangers and Orioles series with 2 wins, let alone 4; and what should be most worrisome is the Rays.

It's not the Yankees that have to be striking fear into the Red Sox, but the Rays are a club that should be fostering the fear of "we don't have an answer for these guys" in Boston.

The Rays starting pitching has been superlative in their 14-5 start. Matt Garza and David Price have been devastating. Their bullpen is a question mark----I still don't trust Rafael Soriano; but the lineup has hit when it's counted and what should be the most terrifying aspect about them is that they've amassed that record with Dioner Navarro batting .136; and almost no contribution whatsoever from the DH spot.

If and when the Red Sox hit the panic button, it won't be because of the Yankees; it'll be because of the Rays.

I'm kicking at the door; and it's coming down sooner rather than later. Join the w It's unavoidable.

Paul Lebowitz's 2010 Baseball Guide is available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Lightning 4.25.2010

  • How about Gary Allenson to replace Dave Trembley?

The Orioles are going to have to make a managerial change soon.

It's unavoidable.

Born out of some misplaced and overly sentimental sense of loyalty, the wrongheaded decision to make all the moves they made this past winter and move forward with Dave Trembley must be rectified; they can't continue on their current course losing, losing and losing some more in the endless cacophony of creative ways that they have so far.

It's 18 games into the season for the Orioles.

They've lost 16 of those games.

This isn't to blame Trembley for the way they've lost. He didn't pick the players. he's using the troops he has; they're not hitting; and the bullpen has been catastrophic. Many times, the only reason a manager is fired is because it's the easiest course of action to make a bold move. They're certainly not going to make any huge trades now. If they do start dealing the marketable players they have----Kevin Millwood, Luke Scott, Ty Wigginton----it won't be until the beginning of June at the earliest.

The quickest and cheapest alternative is to chop off the infected limb to save the body; and that limb is manager Trembley. He's on the last year of his contract and it's a widely known non-secret that he was on thin ice to start with.

Loyalty is one thing, but delusion is another.

Team architect Andy MacPhail is notoriously patient, sometimes to a fault; but Trembley is not Tom Kelly----a fantastic manager who was MacPhail's field boss with the Twins; he's not Dusty Baker; MacPhail's manager with the Cubs, who had a resume of success. Based on his record since taking over, Trembley shouldn't have been brought back for 2010 to start with; now there's no excuse for not doing something.

Assuming the liquidation of the manager is completed, where can the Orioles go?

In recent weeks, I've suggested that a respected and feisty coach the likes of Joey Cora----Ozzie Guillen's bench coach; or Pete Mackanin----Charlie Manuel's bench coach----would be solid selections. Others have suggested Bobby Valentine.

With Valentine in mind, it occurred to me that I can't remember the last time a coach from another club was hired away mid-season to take over as a flailing club's manager. I may be wrong about that. In 1985, Valentine was hired away from his job as Mets third base coach on Davey Johnson's staff to take over the sinking Texas Rangers. That Rangers team was so awful that the hiring of Valentine didn't pay dividends until 1986 when he took a very young team into contention and to 87 wins.

Valentine is not the right choice for the Orioles now.

At his age (60), he is not going to want to play wet-nurse to a bunch of kids and patch together a team that's in a division with the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox for what would be a futile effort over the next two years at least.

Bearing in mind the rarity nowadays of a club plundering another team's coaching staff for a manager, the Orioles have one choice and one choice only to take over as manager----their manager at Triple A Norfolk, Gary Allenson.

Allenson is the epitome of the "baseball-lifer" who's always been respected for his intelligence and acumen as a backup catcher to Carlton Fisk with the Red Sox in the late 70s, early 80s; and as a minor league manager. He's been in the Orioles organization since 2006 and knows the young players he'd be handling in the majors.

It's making things worse to hire a manager who has no experience whatsoever in doing the job despite a winning pedigree; and while a sound, impressive resume doesn't necessarily mean that it would work in the big leagues, the Orioles have few options. Royals manager Trey Hillman is a prime example of a great choice in every conceivable way, but one who has failed. That shouldn't dissuade the Orioles from giving Allenson the job.

Since the Orioles don't have anyone on their current staff to take over, they have one option----Allenson. He deserves a chance to manage in the big leagues and the Orioles circumstances are so dire that they have to make a change; keeping it in the organization with someone who knows the team and the players is the wisest course of action.

This is nothing personal against Trembley. I admire the man. His rise to big league manager was similar to the way a football coach makes his way up to the big time. High school coaching; college coaching; working his way up through the bushes, riding buses clawing his way to the show; but it's not working; and such a rise is hard to replicate in baseball in which players have guaranteed contracts and can look at a manager like Trembley and say, "Who are you to be saying anything to me? You never played pro ball."

It's not his fault, but he's not the solution either.

Unless MacPhail is hiding at Dick Cheney's undisclosed location, waiting things out, he has to do something and soon.

This is the move he should make, and it may happen as early as tomorrow regardless of the designated replacement, Allenson or someone else.

  • The Frozen Bomb:

You've heard of a "frozen rope" line drive.

You've heard of a "bomb" of a home run.

Well, last night in the Phillies 3-2 win over the Diamondbacks, if you saw Jayson Werth's first of his two homers, you saw a "frozen bomb".

Werth's homer was hit so hard; on such a line off of Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy that it could've injured someone severely like a missile if it hit them squarely.

It was a frozen....bomb.

As for the game itself, I have no idea who that Diamondbacks pitcher was, but what's he done with the Ian Kennedy we've come to know and about whom we've come to shake our heads?

He threw strikes; looked confident and poised; was doing instead of yapping; and he was efficient. Whether he can continue this work is the question. I'm dubious.

Naturally, the Diamondbacks bullpen blew the game in the ninth as Juan Gutierrez allowed Werth's second homer (also a rocket) to give the Phillies the lead and the game.

The Phillies have struggled offensively without Jimmy Rollins. Rollins had gotten off to a hot start and without him, they've looked off kilter. They didn't hit Kris Benson on Friday; Kennedy last night; and are facing Rodrigo Lopez today. They should've put up big numbers against those pitchers, but didn't.

  • Speaking of missing bats...

Did the Brewers leave their bats in Pittsburgh?

Some were looking on in star-stricken awe at the offensive firepower of the Brewers as they scored: 11, 8, 8, and 20 runs in four straight games. To put those massive numbers into proper context, they were facing: Jason Marquis in the first game; and the Pirates in the subsequent three games. They've scored 2 runs in the last two games at home against the Cubs and were stymied by the useful Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly.

As with most teams that are reliant on the home run, the Brewers can be nullified by good pitching; pitching that throws strikes and keeps them off the bases so that when they do hit the ball out of the park, they're all solos.

Speaking of Ted Lilly, if the Cubs fall out of contention and Lilly shows himself to be healthy, they're going to get some good stuff for him in a trade. He's a respected veteran; he's a competitor; has experience in pennant races; and is a free agent at the end of the year. He'll be in heavy demand at the trading deadline for any and all contenders and would be a good, possibly playoff-implication-level pick-up.

  • Viewer Mail 4.25.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE ARod and home plate collisions:

Well, A-Rod certainly does generate blog comments and good material. We have to give him that. As for Elliot Johnson/Cervelli, that was in spring training, talk about unwritten rules of baseball.

In a way, ARod is like the stat zombies----what would I do without him?!?

I honestly don't understand the controversy over the Elliot Johnson-Francisco Cervelli collision. Had Cervelli not gotten hurt, it would've been seen as a clean, hard play; and the games in spring training are games. I love how Joe Girardi came out with the gem (paraphrasing): "It's when you don't go hard that you get hurt."


And it was in the same spring training of 2008 that Shelley Duncan went into Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura, leading with his spikes, with the intent to injure another player in retaliation for the Johnson hit. There's a difference between playing hard and sending a message cleanly and trying to hurt someone. The home plate crashes were a combination of said messages and playing hard; the Duncan move was filthy. No one would've said a word had Duncan slid in hard and knocked Iwamura into the next county; but the spikes? Absurd.

And it was in a "meaningless" spring training game.

On a far lower scale, it's the fog of war.

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Mark Teixeira:

Teixeira and Keith Hernandez are a lot alike, especially on defense. My dad and I argue over who's the better defensive 1st baseman ad nauseum.

The only defensive comparable to Keith Hernandez that I've seen was Don Mattingly. Teixeira's not in their class. Hernandez was the best I've ever seen, pure and simple. Great range; classic instincts; strong, accurate arm; plus the glove. He was a weapon over there, especially against the bunt.

John Seal (West Coast Spiritual Advisor) writes RE the Athletics:

Just realized I referred to Jack Cust being at 'triple-AAA'. If ever there were a 'triple-AAA' hitter, though, it's Big Jack.

Maybe he learned to be a mechanic or roadside assistant during his trek from one organization to another finding his way in the world like Caine from Kung-Fu; in that case, you'd have been right with the designation.

There are worse bats being used as regulars or semi-regulars in the big leagues today. At least with Cust, you know what you're getting. The A's have been kind of cruel to him I think, for no reason other than that they could. Neither Jake Fox nor Eric Chavez have done anything at all to justify being in the lineup; it's another error in management for Billy Beane for reasons only he knows, assuming there are reasons.

There's absolutely no reason that I can think of for you to not have purchased my 2010BaseballGuideCover.gifbook yet, but I'm slightly biased.

Paul Lebowitz's 2010 Baseball Guide is available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here.