Thursday, June 10, 2010

Springing The Killer

  • The Mariners are in the hotbox with The Stone Cold Killer:

There are varied circumstances for a club to hold their fire in cleaning house when they've gotten off to a bad start. Most important are the realistic nature of a playoff chase and whether or not they're better than their results.

When I say "better", I don't mean by statistics alone; I mean looking at a team and having the ability to say, "we're a better team than this" and we can expect a run once things get into line.

Occasionally such a belief may seem delusional in the moment, but winds up being precisely what was needed----what was right----in hindsight. One such case was the 2005 Houston Astros.

On May 24th of that year, the Astros fell to 15-30; they were in last place in the NL Central, 14 games behind a powerhouse Cardinals team. What was even more glaring and panic-inducing, they were 11.5 games out of the Wild Card, ahead of only the Colorado Rockies in the National League.

Having made the NLCS the year before, the club lost Carlos Beltran to free agency and, despite a deep pitching staff, were stumbling along with speculation rampant about a widespread sell-off of veteran players.

Much-criticized owner Drayton McLane resisted. He didn't fire manager Phil Garner; he didn't allow any nuclear maneuvers. With Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens in the rotation; a lineup that still boasted Lance Berkman, Craig Biggio and Morgan Ensberg; and a bullpen with Brad Lidge and Chad Qualls, the Astros were better than their performance and McLane allowed the roster to stand and try to right the ship.

And they did.

Finishing the season on a 74-43 run, the Astros won the Wild Card by a game over the Phillies; beat the Braves in the NLDS; the Cardinals in the NLCS before losing in the World Series to the White Sox.

Because of the talent-level and histories of their players, they had reason to hold their fire, ignoring pressure from the public and media.

This season, we've already seen teams with levels of ability higher than their performance who resisted similar entreaties to do something drastic. The Dodgers got off to a rotten start; were in-fighting and dealing with the overhang of the McCourt divorce infesting everything they were doing; but Joe Torre's history dealing with slow starts from the Yankees indicated that he'd maintain his composure; keep command of the clubhouse and the team's ability would shine through. It did and they're now in first place.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are teams that have to look at their faults and recognize the inevitable.

I'm of course talking about the Seattle Mariners in general and Cliff Lee in particular.

Overrated (by myself included) and flawed from the start the Mariners are 24-36; 9 games out of first place in a struggling AL West. For some teams, a 9 game deficit in June isn't enough to throw in the towel; but for the Mariners, it is. They're not capable of making a run in the division and they can forget about the Wild Card.

The starting pitching has been good beyond Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez; the bullpen mediocre at best; and the lineup rancid. Can GM Jack Zduriencik look at the bats and say there's enough of a reason to hold his fire on putting Lee up for auction? Chone Figgins's production is inching toward respectability; and perhaps he can expect better production from Milton Bradley; but what of Casey Kotchman? Rob Johnson? And the rotating rabble that's functioned as DH? Ken Griffey Jr.'s retirement saved Zduriencik from the agony of releasing an icon; Mike Sweeney has a sore achilles and is on the disabled list----he won't play when he gets back if he's still with the team.

Add into the mix that the Diamondbacks are going to start listening to offers on Dan Haren; that White Sox GM Kenny Williams is going to drop a stick of dynamite into his clubhouse which could put Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd into play; that Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster could be had from the Cubs; that Roy Oswalt is floating around; plus lower echelon names like Kevin Millwood, Jake Westbrook and Wandy Rodriguez (who I like a lot) are out there----and the desperation to trade for Lee is diminishing rapidly. Lee's either going to be a rental or the trading team is going to ante up prospects to get him and sign him to what amounts to a free agent contract.

The Mariners need to make a concerted effort to build the foundation for a Lee trade fast; before he gets hurt. The longer a team will have Lee for this season, the more the Mariners are going to get for him----and as things play out, with the options mentioned above (and others I haven't thought of yet) I'm starting to believe the Mariners aren't going to get all that much for Lee unless someone panics.

Back-up plans reduce desperation. The Mariners might either have to take a lesser package for Lee...or Zduriencik might look at the depth of next year's draft and decide he's better off taking the compensatory picks he'd get for Lee's free agent departure and hold onto him.

It's getting dicey for the Mariners who had a plan to go for it with two top starting pitchers; a superlative defense; and speed. It's failed miserably and now they're in a box with diminishing routes for escape.

It's getting more tenuous by the day and they'd better move. Soon.

  • What would be said if a dreaded blogger wrote this?!?!

I'm not sure why it's acceptable for mainstream media people to either make stuff up or mail it in with crud simply because it's obscured by the veil of credibility that accompanies being employed by an entity which implies accuracy or inside information. The latest example of this comes from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports who (like a vast chunk of the "insiders") flings stuff at the wall based on the whisperings from unnamed sources and writes them up as if they're sacrosanct facts which aren't a matter of "if" they'll happen, but "when".

Here's a link to Rosenthal's posting on Fox Sports regarding Cliff Lee. According to Rosenthal, the Yankees are getting Lee. Period.

Here's the relevant clip:

The Yankees are going to end up with Mariners left-hander Cliff Lee. The only question is whether they land him in a trade this summer or as a free agent this winter — and a trade might not be as far-fetched as it appears.

True, the Yankees currently boast five healthy and effective starters. True, they simply could wait for Lee to become a free agent and sign him in the offseason without losing any young talent. But one rival executive says the Yankees will be undeterred in their pursuit of Lee on the trade market.

His reasoning is simple.

“Top of the rotation starter,” the exec says.

Lee repeatedly has made it clear that he wants to hit the open market, but the Yankees almost certainly will be his high bidder and perhaps he would make an exception to get to them sooner.

Number one, the Yankees under Hank and Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman are no longer the Yankees of George Steinbrenner where money is no object. Number two, are they going to give up the prospects it would presumably take (let's say Jesus Montero is part of the deal) to get Lee, and give another pitcher $130 million? Number three, they need bullpen help and a bat more than they need Cliff Lee.

If Andy Pettitte is going to retire after this season (by no means a guarantee), then the Yankees will have the hole for Lee; but will they want to spend the money on an arm? I've gotten the impression that the Yankees are going to prefer to spend the cash to get Carl Crawford than Lee. Javier Vazquez is coming off the books after this season; they'll have a spot open in the rotation because of that; but Cashman still sees Joba Chamberlain as a starter; they have C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes and maybe Pettitte; do they need Lee as anything more than an expensive bauble to impress the world with their financial might?

The only way I would give up a good package for Lee----and this goes for any and all teams----is if he agrees to a contract extension to remain with the team long-term. Aside from that? With the number of pitchers I mentioned above as alternatives? No chance.

The Yankees need bullpen help more than they need another starter. For the playoffs, they're throwing Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte and Hughes out there; who gets bumped for Lee?

They could also use a short-term bat like Luke Scott or Cody Ross more than they need Lee.

If the argument to trade for Lee would be to get a leg up on the negotiations for a long-term deal----even when they don't need him now and could wait until after the season to sign him for nothing more than draft picks----then that's totally ridiculous.

Regarding Rosenthal's source? Think about it. The quote, "top of the rotation starter" is a bit dubious, is it not?

I love how opposing executives make off-the-record comments in reference to another team's inner-workings. Apart from sewing-circle gossip and third and fourth hand information, how could they know what the Yankees plans are except for the specious reasoning that "the Yankees go after the big names".

Bloggers get savaged for this type of speculation, but because the likes of Rosenthal have a press pass and supposedly talk to people inside baseball, this garbage is given credence.

When web-searching for the Lee-Yankees story, some interesting hits popped up on Yahoo. Click here to have a look at what surfaced in its entirety.

There were numerous stories----from Rosenthal----about Lee; they ran the gamut from Lee not even being traded from the Indians(!) to this stuff now. If he keeps trying to cover the story from every possible angle, maybe eventually one of his "sources" and speculative nonsense will end up being right.

I go back to the Raul Ibanez-PED question that came from a blogger----Jerod Morris AKA J-Rod (good grief)----and how Rosenthal was one of the reporters who took part in Morris's roasting.

The Morris posting wasn't out of line considering the era, Ibanez's production and that if anyone actually read said posting, all it did was ask the question; it didn't openly accuse Ibanez of anything untoward and Rosenthal was presumably smart enough to know that; but there he was joining in on the attack of a blogger who was neither prepared for, nor had the self-assuredness to handle the media firestorm that engulfed him.

Furtive, squirming and clearly frightened, Morris came to exemplify the image of the blogger sitting in his mother's basement and unable to defend himself when cornered. He was an easy target for the smug and condescending attacks perpetrated by one whose credibility is based on little more than a prominent role and recognizable position.

If they want to take someone on who's going to fire back, I'm available.

I'm not expecting to hear from any of them in the near or distant future.

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.


She-Fan said...

Not that I wouldn't love Lee for the Yanks, but we don't need another ace right now, as you point out. We need bullpen help and a bat off the bench. But who knows.

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

yea...The pitchers seem to be getting lined up. I don't want the Mets making a pitch for Lee if we can't negotiate a deal with him. It's just a game of chicken now. Who's going to disturb the hive first? I think the Tigers and the Twins have already forced Kenny's hand. I think Kenny Williams strikes first and blows it up. Early bird gets the worm.