Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Present And Future Of Cliff Lee

  • Short-term rental or long-term purchase:

It's a waste of time to continually speculate where Cliff Lee will be traded once the Mariners decide to pull the trigger. On a daily basis rumors, innuendo, suggestions and ideas pop up from voices credible and idiotic. It fluctuates like weather patterns and the longer it goes, the worse it's going to get.

And just think: it's only June 30th----we have another full month of daily Cliff Lee melodrama to sift through.

In today's NY Times for example, Tyler Kepner discusses potential desire of the Yankees to sign Lee as a free agent after the year; that he's former teammates and close friends with C.C. Sabathia; that he'd love the spotlight of New York----Story.

Friendship isn't going to have anything to do with where Lee signs. We've seen it before where players have been speculated to end up in certain places because of close relationships and ended up going where: A) the money was highest; B) the location was most palatable; and, C) the state of the team was positive.

It's a business and no matter how many recruiting calls Sabathia or anyone else makes to Lee, it's going to come down to what's best for the pitcher personally and professionally. That could be the Yankees; or it could be someone else; and Lee has proven himself to be immune to outside pressures when it comes to business.

We hear that the Mariners are looking for a "big league ready catcher"; that they need bats; that they need arms; that they need this; that they need that----that they at least have to surpass the prospects they surrendered to get Lee from the Phillies in the first place. Who knows?

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik is presumably encouraging the eclecticism of what he's looking for. The fewer people that know what the asking price is; the back-and-forth of whether Lee would discuss an extension in-season; the potential to keep him immediately rather than run the risk of losing him after a rental; and the number of teams pursuing him will only enhance the Mariners chances of getting a bigger package.

All the rumor-mongering is meaningless and we won't know until we know; until a deal is done; and until Cliff Lee is pitching for someone other than the Mariners. As of right now, that could be just about any contending team from either league because Lee could be the difference between missing the playoffs and winning the World Series.

  • Some safe assumptions:

On another note with Lee, you have to assume that the Yankees are caught between their future wishes to snag Lee and winning this year----which they might not do if Lee ends up with the Twins, Red Sox or any other AL contender. They'll be involved with Lee and I don't buy the thought that they won't jump in if the opportunity presents itself to get him; they are a legitimate possibility to trade for him just like the other suitors.

If they're not going to trade for Lee in-season, it's a fine line the Yankees are walking, hoping for the best case scenario.

Much like the trade rumors in recent years involving Johan Santana and Roy Halladay, the Yankees didn't want to mortgage a massive chunk of their future to get the pitcher, then have to pay him as if they were signing a free agent; nor did they didn't want the Red Sox to get him. The Red Sox haven't been mentioned as a pursuer of Lee at all, but Theo Epstein is watching and the Red Sox have the prospects to get him----don't discount the possibility.

If Lee winds up with a team like the Twins, for whom he would absolutely be a rental, the Yankees and Red Sox would have to face the idea of dealing with Lee as a Twin in the playoffs. He'll be available as a free agent at the end of the year...but he might be coming into town just having singlehandedly bounced them from the playoffs.

Much like Santana and Halladay, the Yankees and Red Sox probably want to see Lee out of the league entirely and to a team like the Rockies; Cardinals or Reds----teams that won't have the money to keep him. If Lee winds up with a money team like the Mets, the Wilpons and Omar Minaya are not going to let him leave; and they're certainly not going to let him leave to go across town to the Yankees----even if that means drastically overpaying in dollars.

Lee as a rental for a team with payroll constraints is just as important to the determination of his future address as anything else. Going to a team that can pay him might preclude his free agent availability entirely.

  • If money's not a factor, state of the team will be:

Regardless of the venue to which he ends up being traded, let's say the money is identical for the Mets and Yankees as they chase Cliff Lee after the season, will the Yankees situation still be the more ideal one over the long term?

With the financial power they have, they can buy their way out of most holes, but if the Brian Cashman/Hank and Hal Steinbrenner era has shown, it's not a "money is no object" attitude anymore.

Which team is in better position for the future?

The Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada era is drawing to a close. All are late in their careers and while they still have productivity left, they're eventually going to decline----it's unavoidable. Alex Rodriguez is 35; Phil Hughes will be a rotation linchpin; but no one knows what's going to become of Joba Chamberlain.

Let's say Lee signs for 5 years with the Yankees; by year 2 of the deal, there won't be Rivera; there won't be Pettitte; there won't be Posada. Jeter will still be there.

That group is the foundation upon which the five Yankees championships since 1996 was built. It's not as difficult to replace them statistically as it is cohesively and practically. Those Yankees teams were always more than a high payroll; they were an end-result of the sum of their parts. That's something that was missed as the likes of Jason Giambi and other mercenaries were imported. Cashman has tried to get back to building from within by developing players who are Yankees through-and-through, but getting such selfless stars and having them evolve as a group doesn't happen that often.

Rivera is irreplaceable even if Chamberlain or anyone takes over and accumulates the saves. Will the new closer be able to handle a game in Boston in late September or October? Will he be as unflappable as Rivera in the World Series as the spotlight is shining upon him?

It looks easier on a stat board and in theory than in practice.

The Mets' core is younger. David Wright and Jose Reyes are entering their primes; Mike Pelfrey is blossoming into an ace; Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada have shown that the Mets farm system is far better than previously given credit for.

If the money is the same and/or Lee is heading into free agency having last worn a Mets uniform, it is really so automatic that he goes across town?

I don't think it's a done deal that any and all desirable free agents will head straight to the Yankees.

Not anymore.

  • Viewer Mail 6.30.2010:

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE my shout out during the Diamondbacks game:

Congrats on bein' liked by Sutt & Grace! I missed it too... for the same reason... gotta have Al & Dan calling my Redbirds games.

This is just the beginning, Prince.

Just the beginning....

That's what Count Dooku said. Hopefully my head will remain attached to my shoulders by the end. It's 50/50.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the shout out:

That shout out is the coolest thing I've ever heard! I would have jumped out of my seat! Wow! See? Your hard work is not in vain.

When I started getting the messages, I was in shock. I dunno what would've happened if I'd seen it live. Knowing myself, it would've gone just like I said: a slow head turn toward the TV, eyes wide in bewilderment and thinking, "did that really just happen?"

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE the shout out:

SWEET! Congratulations on the D-Back shout out! What's good is good Dude! And that kind of stuff always finds it's way. Stay ruthless. Don't forget us little people.

Thanks. There are no little people in my organization. Everyone is valuable in their own way and I never, ever forget.2010BaseballGuideCover.gif

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Selective Criticism And Agenda-Driven Justification

  • If it was anybody else...

For years, Billy Beane was seemingly immune to criticism. In the heady days following Moneyball, amid the continued success of the Oakland Athletics, people----stat zombies and starstruck readers alike (of whom I was ashamedly one)---- were reluctant to truly analyze Beane's work and come to the objective conclusion that not only is Beane not a "genius", but he's done a mediocre job building and rebuilding the A's.

Objective analysis is the name of the game, isn't it? Yet so few were willing to truly get into the muck and partake in the negative side of said objectivity----that negative side is when reality hits you in the face and you realize that the person upon whom you've placed your hopes may not be as good as the press clippings suggested.

Like the remaining holdouts----the Rob Neyers and Dave Camerons----who still occasionally provide lukewarm defenses to Paul DePodesta's nightmarish tenure as Dodgers GM with the assertion, "he didn't do that bad a job", you must realize that it's not a defense of DePodesta himself as it is a defense of what they believe. I have news for you: DePodesta did do that bad a job; in fact, he was a horrific GM who wrecked a team on the verge of a title run.

We're seeing another GM get a pass for doing a job that could only be considered mediocre at best as he makes bewildering moves; his team stumbles in the recesses of baseball's netherworld; and the the only cover he has is his reputation that was built on nothing more than embracing statistics and having a background in scouting with anecdotal success.

I'm talking about Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik.

The appellation of "genius" is thrown around so liberally in today's society in general and sports in particular that it's lost all meaning apart from something to throw back in the faces of those who provided the label in the first place when it proves not to be so.

Zduriencik was called a genius.


Was it because of the aforementioned acuity in using stats? Was it his work as the Director of Scouting for the Brewers in the drafts that yielded the likes of J.J. Hardy, Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun? Was it the Mariners drastic turnaround from 100-game loser in 2008 to a surprise contender and 85-win team in 2009 in his first year at the helm? Was it the way he was aggressive for the Mariners and made a series of bold moves such as acquiring Cliff Lee?

There's no debating that Zduriencik is a good executive; that he's got the courage to match his convictions and make rapid-fire calls; but did he deserve the accolades he was receiving this past winter when the Mariners were a trendy pick to contend for a playoff spot (by me included)?

He did a lot of stuff, but were they all intelligent, well-thought-out, team-building maneuvers? The Lee trade was a no-brainer; getting rid of Carlos Silva's contract and taking a chance on Milton Bradley was a good idea; but signing Chone Figgins for what amounts to 5-years and $45 million? Trading for Casey Kotchman? Bringing back Ken Griffey Jr?

Now, with the Mariners flopping in last place with a record of 31-44, 15 games out of first place and the Wild Card run a fantasy, he takes two young minor leaguers with talent and trades them to the Indians for...Russell Branyan.

The same Russell Branyan who was a Mariner last season and had his career year; the same Russell Branyan (a darling of the stat zombies) who left as a free agent and was replaced by the offensively inept Kotchman.

Why? Why re-acquire Branyan now just as Zduriencik fields offers for Lee? Not only did he surrender two young players with ability----Ezequiel Carrera and Juan Diaz----but the proffered reason for the move was something out of backwards talk usually relegated to politicians and talk show hosts to avoid actually saying something.

Zduriencik's rationale came in the following quote from this Geoff Baker column:

"If you look at our team, as we move forward, just about every player who is here now will be here again next year," he said. "We're committed to the development of our players and that goal, that objective, has never changed for us. But part of that development process is also winning games. We want our players to be able to experience winning games this year. And we're trying to do what we can to give them what they need to get there."


Will the Mariners win a couple of more games with Branyan than they would with Casey Kotchman playing first or whoever DHing? Maybe. Will it make a difference in the future? Possibly. I'm not going to talk out of both sides of my mouth and decry the importance of intangibles like the innate feel of winning games for a team's future. Winning an extra game here and there can't hurt; but this made no sense unless they're looking to spin Branyan off and get a couple of prospects they like better than the ones they traded to the Indians.

As for the analysis we've been hearing of the young players that were traded to get Branyan----that they're unlikely to break into the Mariners outfield anytime in the near future----who can know? Even if they weren't going to make it with the Mariners (and the Mariners outfield isn't so impenetrable that it's a guarantee they wouldn't have become big league factors), if their age and minor league numbers are any indication, they certainly could've brought back more than Branyan in a trade. For a team so devoid in talent as the Mariners, it's hard to understand the point; in fact, the deal made no sense.

Like Beane and DePodesta, Zduriencik is living off the subjective. He's one of "them", so he gets the benefit of the doubt. Imagine if it was Dayton Moore of the Royals who did this? The reaction would've been akin to a public flogging. But because he's made so many additions and subtractions with which the Zduriencik supporters agree, he gets free rein or gentle questioning----not the brutality reserved for the likes of Moore.

Does Zduriencik deserve it? Did he deserve credit for a team that had everything go wrong in 2008 and everything go right in 2009?

The Branyan trade is the latest hit to the monolith of the stat zombie----that if you believe what they believe you "get it"; that the decisions you make are allowed to develop before target practice begins.

Is Jack Zduriencik a "genius"?


In fact, after this trade and the justification behind it, you can make the argument that he's flying blind and throwing things at the wall for specious reasons just as the likes of Moore are accused of doing. Much like one smart action doesn't create a Hall of Fame executive, one gaffe doesn't send the executive into idiocy.

Success or failure is mostly determined in hindsight; with the way Zduriencik has been running the Mariners , I am no more prepared to cast him as a fool as quickly as others anointed him a genius. He's been on the job for a year-and-a-half----too soon to come to a conclusion one way or the other.

But re-acquiring Branyan adds to the list of reasons to take a second look at Zduriencik and hold off on the accolades for awhile to see what he does next and if what he does next works, because the things he's done in preparation for and during the 2010 season haven't worked at all.

  • Joel Zumaya's arm injury:

I saw this happen and, for an instant when the Twins broadcasters said, "Zumaya's hurt", it didn't register. Considering the numerous injuries the star-crossed flamethrower has had in his career I thought, for a second, that they were showing a clip of one of his prior ailments.

It was horrifying to see a pitcher who exhibits the veneer of toughness as Zumaya to fall to the grass and literally cry in agony. You can watch it here, but suffice it to say it didn't look good for Zumaya; in fact, it looked like a total elbow blowout. You can forget about him for the rest of the least.

It's a shame to lose a pitcher with his ability and swagger.

  • The shout-out from the Diamondbacks booth:

I was on Twitter last night while flipping back-and-forth on TV between the Mets, Braves and Phillies games when I got a message from the hellraising Arizonan @tinapope12 that said, "U just got a shotout fr Sutton on FSN-AZ Dbacks vs Cardinals bout Edwin Jackson. Good work."

I said, "WHAT?!?!"

Then I got another message from loyal soldier @Bern_Edelen telling me the same thing. After that, I heard from a muckraking voice from our dual pasts at MLBlogs when an Email arrived from Matt at Diamondhacks filling me in on most of the details.

Evidently D-Backs broadcasters Daron Sutton and Mark Grace likes what I had to say in my posting on Sunday----link----regarding pitch counts and why it was a positive that manager A.J. Hinch allowed Edwin Jackson to try (and succeed) in completing his no-hitter despite having thrown 149 pitches in the effort. They read a large chunk of the relevant part and even had a graphic with what I'd written.

I wish I could've seen it, but even had I been watching the Diamondbacks-Cardinals game, I wouldn't have because I had the Cardinals feed on Extra Innings. I doubt Al Hrabosky was talking about me as well.

I dunno what I would've done if I did hear it; probably slowly turned my head from the laptop towards the TV thinking, "did that really just happen?"

It's nice to know that all this work isn't going to waste and that there are people reading and appreciating all the time and effort I put into it. It encourages me to push harder knowing I'm being heard by more than the loyalists who've been with me from the beginning. (And I know who you are.)

Thanks to the D-Backs telecast for using it.

Listen to my appearance with Sal at SportsFan Buzz from a week ago Thursday2010BaseballGuideCover.gif. Click on the site link or click here.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Jogging In The Park With B.J. Upton

  • No excuses and only one person to blame:

The latest----and possibly worst (so far)----disciplinary incident with B.J. Upton occurred yesterday and threatens every facet of the Rays organization as they're currently structured.

Long known for his self-serving childishness, Upton hustles when he feels like it; has been disciplined repeatedly for his transgressions; and still doesn't appear to get the point that he's not just hurting the team, but he's sullying his reputation beyond all repair.

Yesterday in the Rays 2-1 loss to the Diamondbacks, Upton jogged (lightly) after Rusty Ryal's gapper; Ryal wound up at third base and later scored on Gerardo Parra's homer. In the dugout after the inning, Evan Longoria said something to Upton and Upton exploded, charging at Longoria; the two went nose-to-nose and had to be separated by teammates to prevent a dugout fistfight----ESPN clip.

Even though it would've been a triple one way or the other, no one can defend Upton for the lackadaisical and disinterested way he went after Ryal's ball; nor can they justify the frequency with which Upton's behavior is called into question. Longoria was absolutely 100% right in challenging Upton; and if anyone thinks that it would've been better left to be said inside the clubhouse, I'm betting that this wasn't the first time a teammate and Upton had gotten into a confrontation over his immaturity; it just never got into the media.

It looks like the entire Rays team has had enough.

The easiest thing to do is to blame manager Joe Maddon. I've been open in my skepticism of Maddon's strategic skills and his new age, "cutesy" kindergarten-style of handling players. The hockey jersey road trip was an example of his attempts to have fun with his players as they wore the jerseys on a road trip during the Stanley Cup playoffs. It's all nice and sweet and fun and I'd have nothing to do with it. My attitude is that the players are on a business trip, so they're wearing coats and ties and that's it. They don't like it, they can go play somewhere else; or better yet, go home and wear your hockey jersey.

That said, I can't blame Maddon for this.

Upton's behavior wouldn't change one iota whether he was playing for Tony La Russa, Joe Torre or anyone. He's a repeat offender and the time for chalking his transgressions up to immaturity ended during the World Series in 2008 when he didn't hustle on a double play ball. If he's not going to run all out during the World Series, when is he going to go all out?

The combination of factors contributing to Upton's nonsense appear to be the following: the aforementioned immaturity; absence of discipline from the club; that he feels he's underpaid and is looking for revenge for losing in arbitration and that he's yet to receive a long-term contract as teammates Longoria and Carl Crawford did to avoid acrimonious arbitration hearings.

Someone has to get through to Upton that all he's doing is costing himself money if that's his main motivation for playing baseball. Upton was in the big leagues at 19 in 2004 after being the 2nd player taken in the 2002 draft. By 2007, he was a rising star offensively and defensively; he had another excellent year in 2008, but his game has declined markedly making his disciplinary issues more egregious. Before, as long as he was producing, it was easier to let certain things go; but in the past year-and-a-half, Upton has been awful. Comparisons can be made to the cross-state Marlins and the indicents involving Hanley Ramirez, but at the very least, Ramirez has still produced on the field even with his lollygagging; the same can't be said for Upton.

I haven't watched him enough to be able to determine whether it's a decline in skills, a prolonged slump or a byproduct of not caring, but considering the mountain of evidence that it's effort, one can only assume that Upton isn't trying as hard as he should in any aspect of his game.

Because of his affordability (he won't be a free agent until after 2012); abilities; and versatility (he can play the infield as well as center field), someone would gladly take Upton in a trade and try to straighten him out; but the Rays would only get pennies on the dollar or someone else's headache; it's not worth it to trade him now.

The Rays have been diligent in weeding their organization of troublemakers regardless of talent. It can't be lost on any observer that the Rays turnaround from perennial 100-game-losers into pennant winners directly coincided with their decisions to dump Josh Hamilton, Elijah Dukes and Delmon Young----disciplinary problems all.

They're in a box with Upton and it has to be handled.

B.J. Upton is not a kid anymore; he's a big league veteran----albeit a young one at age 25----and it's time for him to grow up. The Rays can do several things: they can bench him; they can trade him; or they can weather the storm hoping the widespread criticism he's receiving spurs something to click in his brain and he realizes that it's not everyone else who's wrong, but the man-child in the mirror. Perhaps then he'll make the conscious decision to knock it off; to play the game correctly; to respect his teammates and his bosses.

Anything's possible, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

  • Whither Bobby Valentine?

I broke one of my own rules on by treating the Bobby Valentine to the Marlins talks as if they were fait accompli and it was only a matter of time before being official; before Valentine was back in the dugout where he belongs, wearing a Marlins uniform.

I don't believe a deal is "done" until I see the player/manager/GM/owner standing in front of the team logo, blinking at popping flashbulbs and uttering tiresome clichés. Add in the actors in this Shakespearean saga and there's always the potential for the deal falling apart. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is known for his flightiness; Valentine is, well, Valentine.

I still think the deal is going to get done and Bobby Valentine is going to be the next manager of the Marlins despite what anyone says or the rumors suggesting otherwise. Small obstacles aren't going to derail this union and if this back-and-forth is any indication, it's going to be a typical Valentine/Loria soap opera.

They'll write books about it.

Hey, maybe I'll write a book about it!

Listen to my appearance with Sal at SportsFan Buzz from a week ago Thursday. Click on the site link or click here. It was in this appearance that I discussed the Rays lack of discipline that could be their undoing. Yes, I'm brilliant in my prescience----most of the time anyway.

Speaking of accurate predictions, my book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Lightning 6.27.2010

  • Parsing the pitch counts:

Everyone's an expert.

Everyone who's ever watched a baseball game and read a book of statistics seems to know that there's a certain number of pitches a pitcher should be allowed to throw; that if that designated number is exceeded by one there needs to be an investigation, prosecution and firing squad for crimes against career longevity.

Experience as a player, coach or manager has little to do with these arbitrary numbers that have become so prevalent that the "optimal" amount is known to all; and when someone dares exceed the prescribed number, or goes far beyond it in allowing one of his players to go for history? The success or failure of the quest is ignored; the dire consequences that have yet to happen become the focal point.

All from a group of people who have most likely never picked up a baseball.

Edwin Jackson of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitched a no-hitter on Friday against the Rays.

In the process, he walked 8, struck out 6 and threw 149 pitches of which only 79 were strikes----it wasn't exactly a dominating performance. As the game wore on and it was clear that Jackson's pitch count was going to be inordinately high, speculation was rampant in Tampa and elsewhere as to what Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch was going to do. Was he going to leave Jackson in to go for history and ignore the criticism that had already begun? Would he shed the label that has haunted him since he was hired by GM Josh Byrnes that he was a puppet whose main attributes as a manager were his Stanford education and that he'd provide "organizational advocacy" (whatever that means)?

Both Hinch and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. appeared worried about Jackson as the game wore on and his no-hitter was still intact, but instead of taking the safe route to have an explanation to the reporters post-game (and that's why many managers follow the new "rules" of deployment for their pitchers----not because it's the right thing to do) they let Jackson pitch and complete the no-hitter.

After the game----amid the celebration of Jackson's accomplishment----there were the armchair experts shaking their heads and adding their theoretical analysis of what effect the game was going to have on Jackson for the rest of the season short-term and the rest of his career long-term. Treated as if there was some egregious bit of baseball malpractice committed by Hinch and Stottlemyre allowing Jackson to finish the game, it seemed tantamount to a surgeon accidentally amputating the wrong limb from a diabetes patient.

He threw 149 pitches.


Will the number of pitches in this one game affect Jackson's career one way or the other? Was he laboring at the end or did he find his groove after walking seven of the eight in the first three innings?

It's a never-ending argument and there's no winner or loser. You can't prove or disprove a floating theory that's based on the last person that spoke; the last one to create a "system" of determining the "proper" use of human beings. If Jackson stays healthy, it'll be said that the Diamondbacks dodged a bullet by flouting sanity and conventional wisdom; if he gets hurt, this will be the game that was the proximate cause of his injury.

Who can know?

The 149 pitches were referenced again-and-again because it's so unusual for a pitcher to accumulate such a high number of pitches; but let's say Jackson gets hurt, was it this one game that created the injury? Or was it the number of pitches he's thrown in the past two seasons?

Looking at Jackson's pitch counts this year with the Diamondbacks and last season with the Tigers and you see that he's thrown 114 pitches or more five times prior to the no-hitter. And last year? When he was playing for a widely respected manager in Jim Leyland, he was pushed hard, surpassing 109 pitches eleven times; in one game, he threw 132 pitches.

Will that be the cause of a Jackson injury? Does anyone know? Can the aches and pains, tears and blowouts that happen to pitchers all the time be pinpointed to one single game in which he was in a climate controlled environment, straightened out his mechanics and got better as the game went on and pitched a no-hitter?

Because there are people who have a basis in theory and practical experience to make claims as to the number of innings and pitches a pitcher should be allowed to throw, voices everywhere express their dismay when someone is allowed to go beyond said limits. It's a case of regurgitation as to what was last heard and it's not expertise; it's not knowledge; it's repetition based on nothing.

Nolan Ryan is pushing his pitchers harder with the Rangers. If it works, you'll see the sentiment of treating pitchers with rules, regulations, pitch counts and babying disappear into the background and they'll be given the opportunity to get into a zone through feel and timing and not pulled because they've reached a number plucked out of thin air.

Safety and pragmatism has its place, but when it's exercised to avoid criticism, it's just as bad as the night Dallas Green allowed 23-year-old Al Leiter to throw over 160 pitches on a chilly night in 1989 only to have Leiter blow out his arm and not return to regular big league duty until 1993.

Breadth of knowledge, analytical expertise and common sense are far better than having someone plugging numbers into a computer and acting in their own self-interests for credit or to avoid blame.

Edwin Jackson threw 149 pitches to pitch a no-hitter. Is it such a bad thing? No. In fact, it's a good thing despite the "experts" decrying the decision to let him finish the game because they're not experts at all.

  • Cubs will have to eat almost all the money to deal Zambrano:

I was looking at the standings and considering the various teams that: A) could use Carlos Zambrano; B) have the management team to deal with him and rebuild his mechanics and mental state; and C) have the bad contracts to exchange for him or the financial flexibility to take his contract in whole or part.

There's no one.

The Mets have replenished their image and aren't going to insert Zambrano into a happy and harmonious clubhouse even if the Cubs eat a chunk of the money and take both Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez in return.

The Tigers, Phillies and Rangers could use a Zambrano with his head on straight, but it's hard to see any of them wanting the aggravation and won't take the contract. The Cubs are not sending him to the one place that could help Zambrano----the Cardinals.

Zambrano is essentially unmovable right now.

With the Cubs season shot, the best thing for them to do is hold onto Zambrano and wait until the end of the season when a new baseball operations team will undoubtedly take charge and either see if a new manager/pitching coach combination can reach him; or possibly make a trade in the winter for a bad contract. It can't get much worse, so why exacerbate it when they have a chance----albeit slim----to avoid eating all that money now? Or maybe it's salvageable with Zambrano in 2011 and beyond. Nothing is irreparable.

Carl Pavano just pitched his second straight complete game against the Phillies and Mets.

If that doesn't prove that anyone can come back and anything is possible in baseball, I don't know what does.

  • Mariners re-acquire Russell Branyan:

Uh. Why?

Granted, Branyan is ten steps up at the plate from Casey Kotchman, but are the Mariners suddenly fancying themselves as contenders? And is Russell Branyan going to be the offensive key at DH or first base to spur them onto a run?

Then you add in what they gave up to get Branyan and the questions become even more stark. Ezequiel Carrera is 23; Juan Diaz is 21; both are outfielders; both have ability for an organization that's very thin in pure talent.

Does Branyan make the Mariners better right now? Considering how abysmal their offense is, of course he does; but unless the "genius" GM Jack Zduriencik has a master plan to spin Branyan elsewhere, I don't see the point. The Mariners are 14 games out of first place and don't have the talent to say they've underachieved and warrant bringing in a veteran like Branyan and giving up useful young pieces to get him.

The Mariners have played up to their abilities; and those abilities are that of a last place team. Let's hear Zduriencik referred to as a genius after this. Let's see how the stat zombies explain away this "brilliant" maneuver that ain't all that brilliant.

  • Viewer Mail 6.27.2010:

Joe writes RE Carlos Zambrano:

Z's only 29? He feels older than that...

That's because he's been around for so long and was in the big leagues at 20. This is part of the reason that he's not someone to dismiss as "finished" because he's an easy target in the demise of the Cubs from World Series contender in 2008 to....this.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Carlos Zambrano and Milton Bradley:

Zambrano and Milton Bradley should form their own team and call it the Nutjobs.

There's genuine anger and there's freaking out for affect. I'm paraphrasing from memory, but I remember reading in Sparky Lyle's book The Bronx Zoo how Reggie Jackson started throwing things in the clubhouse and Sparky asked him, "What time does Act II begin?" Reggie responded with the customary and threatening, "What did you say?!?" And Sparky repeated himself. Twice I believe. Nothing happened physically or otherwise.

With Reggie it was an act. With Zambrano, he looked like he was legitimately flipping out even though the reports have made it look like a fight was closer to happening than it really was. Milton Bradley asked for help and has behaved since coming back, though he still hasn't hit.

It's currently chaos at Wrigley. Chaos for a talented team in disarray.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE the Cubs:

I wonder what Tom Ricketts' new "stat zombie" has to say about Carlos? What a meltdown.

It's interesting that you brought that up. For anyone who missed it, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts hired Ari Kaplan as "statistical analyst manager"----ESPN Story.

Contrary to the popular misconception about me, I'm not anti-stats; it's a good idea to have people who are well-versed in statistical analysis to add to the discussion of building and re-building an organization. What I do have an issue with is the use of statistics as the be-all/end-all of putting a team together; in addition to that, I have a problem with the idea that the Cubs owner "gets it" because he's hired someone like Kaplan.

Think about the implied arrogance in the statement that one person or another "gets it". They "get it" why? Because they agree with you? It's like a religious or political argument----if you're on my side, then you're smart and know what you're talking about. It's patently absurd.

The factional chasm is growing ever-wider between one side and the other and I have no interest in partaking in it. I come to my conclusions how I come to my conclusions. Take it or leave it.

Listen to my appearance with Sal at SportsFan Buzz from a week ago Thursday. Click on the site link or click here.2010BaseballGuideCover.gif

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Someone To Blame----Unfairly

  • Another explosion from Carlos Zambrano:

Carlos Zambrano might----might----have been an attractive possibility to a club who would take a chance on his talent if the Cubs: A) were willing to eat a large chunk of the remaining guaranteed money on his contract; and B) either gave him away for little-to-nothing in terms of players or took a rotten contract back in return.

Now, after yesterday's dugout blowout with stoic (unless you make him mad) teammate Derrek Lee, Zambrano has been suspended indefinitely by the Cubs. You can see the confrontation

Zambrano was angry at what he perceived to be his defense's lack of effort in not diving for balls he felt were catchable. In watching the video and not knowing what Zambrano said, it didn't appear to be as egregious as the reports are implying. With Zambrano it's an accumulation of incidents rather than the incident itself.

As much as Zambrano has disappointed, he hasn't pitched that terribly this year as a starter or reliever. Because of his contract; disinterest in fitness; and self-destructive emotionality, his reputation is shot; his marketability non-existent, but what makes this worse is that everyone involved with the Cubs----teammates, management and fans----have had it with him. Just plain had it.

Were there teams that would've rolled the dice on Zambrano if the circumstances were right? Yes. His contract is horrific. He's making $17.87 million this year and in 2011; $18 million in 2012; and has a vesting player option for $19.25 million in 2013----difficult, but not impossible to move if he starts pitching as he's capable of.

And that's the trick.

No one is ever going to be happy with Carlos Zambrano until he pitches up to his abilities; but if you look at his numbers, he's been quite good up until the last year-and a half and even since then he hasn't been overtly "bad". You need a pitcher to guarantee you 33 starts? 200+ innings? Go deeply into games? Show some fire? And hit? Putting the contract and recent events aside, why wouldn't you want to take a chance on Zambrano?

His reputation is shot; the Cubs season is going down in flames; the entire front office, on-field management and players have to know that the end is near for this current group and Zambrano has become the lightning rod for what's befallen them since their NLDS loss in 2008.

Still only 29 and portrayed as the epitome of what's wrong with the Cubs, Zambrano is taking the heat----he needs a change of scenery desperately----but is the heat entirely fair?


The Cubs are a nightmare and while he's being crucified for being a repeat offender, there's more than enough blame to go around for what's happened to the Cubs even if Zambrano is removed from the equation completely.

  • Viewer Mail 6.26.2010:

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Bobby Valentine and the Marlins:

Maybe Valentine in South Florida will get people to the ballpark. Watching a Marlins game is so depressing -- not because of the on-field product, but because there's simply no one there, at the stadium.

I doubt many fans will come to see a manager manage be it Bobby Valentine, Lou Piniella, Tony La Russa or Connie Mack; and if they do, it won't last long if the product is poor. The Florida fans simply aren't that interested in baseball compared to football, college and pro----it's the way it is.

Taking a different view of that situation, the fan ambivalence is a boon to the way the Marlins do business. On the surface, with the way the dispatch employees at a moment's notice once they've outlived their usefulness, would a more passionate fan base affect the way they run things? It's possible. A lack of fan reaction has allowed the Marlins to do as they've pleased and it's benefited them immensely in building their organization.

We'll see what happens when the new ballpark opens; if the frequent rain showers and ballpark built for football is really the detriment as it's been assumed or if fans simply aren't interested enough in baseball to show up. It's opening in 2012 and presumably the club will be young, talented and managed by Bobby Valentine. Then we'll see.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Bobby Valentine, Jeffrey Loria and Joe Girardi:

If Loria had a problem with Girardi's "insubordination," how's he going to react when Valentine goes off to the media? Should be entertaining.

Valentine has a cachet and resume to be a little more free with his comments to the media and his bosses than Girardi had. Girardi was a rookie manager who probably should've tempered himself a bit to account for certain things even if he felt he was in the right. Loria is notoriously touchy and more than willing to exert his authority as the owner of the club----and it's his right to do so.

There'll be a honeymoon period between Valentine and Loria that will prevent any early explosions, but Bobby V is Bobby V and he brings that party with him.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE Bobby Valentine, the Marlins and the Mets:

Loria, David Samson, Beinfest, Valentine and what coaches he brings in, make for one of the elite front offices in Baseball. If you throw in their very fertile farm system...when the Marlins get their new park they are going to be down right insane with the cash infusion. The Wilpons will still be their relenting, meek/mawkish selves and there-in stemmed my "fear", which should have been taken in jest, of Valentine at the helm for the Fish.

I've never hidden my admiration for the Marlins, but given how well the Mets have played; have replenished their image throughout baseball this season; I'd think you'd feel better about the future.

They've weathered the borderline ridiculous attacks that amounted to brutalizing a wounded animal for sport and convenience and shown themselves to be a healthier organization than was alleged. (Not even the Pirates have dealt with the vitriol the Mets did this past winter.)

There is room for certain concessions out of kindness while still being ruthless. The Mets traded Billy Wagner to a contender last season, forfeiting the draft picks that would've come with keeping him (and got a decent bat in Chris Carter to boot) because I think they felt, in part, that it was the right thing to do for Wagner personally. That's not to be ignored when players are considering coming to the Mets----they're nice to their employees, sometimes to a fault; but I don't think it's a bad thing.

Valentine's a great strategic manager, but he does have his faults as I detailed yesterday. We'll see if he's learned from his mistakes once he takes command.

Listen to my appearance with Sal at SportsFan Buzz from a week ago Thursday. Clic2010BaseballGuideCover.gifk on the site link or click here.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.