Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday Lightning 6.6.2010

  • The lunacy about the draft:

As much as MLB tries to turn the draft into an NFL/NHL/NBA-style event and are ably assisted by "draftniks" who think that watching a hitter bash with an aluminum bat; or a pitcher overpower the mostly inept competition with a devastating fastball, they're missing an important point----the MLB Draft is the ultimate crapshoot.

Teams are roasted and lauded for their success and failures in mining talent and there are people in baseball who have an eye for a player and can spot him while others misjudge his abilities. I go through this every year and relate stories about players that were missed and hit based more on circumstances and luck than any innate judgmental ability, but it's getting worse.

Now, we're going to see the same silly show of Bud Selig wandering out from behind the curtain at MLB studios like the Crypt Keeper introducing another horror tale (and it might just be another horror tale if draft history is any indication). Into the deathly quiet studio he'll amble----card in hand; personality non-existent, glasses thick; suit ill-fitting; and hair floppy----to make the announcement of the drafting of a player no one knows and may never ever hear of again.

Those immersed in the draft don't want to hear this simple fact about baseball----it's in no way close to any of the other big time sports in having a general idea of whether a player is going to make it to the big leagues or not. You can bet that the names announced in the first round are going to be in the professional ranks for a significant amount of time and most will either make or get close to the big leagues for reasons other than "ability that needs to be unlocked".

No. It's not the latent talent that keeps them employed.

They'll hang around because teams want to save face and appear that they know what they're doing; because they've invested a ton of money in these amateurs and have to justify it be having them "succeed".

Another little known bit of reality----you can make a viable case (that I don't agree with) to almost ignore the draft and focus on spending money to buy big league players from whom you know what performance you're going to get. Putting aside the obvious allure of a player like Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper, with all the money tossed at an amateur, wouldn't it be better to fling the money at a guaranteed performer like Albert Pujols?

Some teams draft only to have players to trade for veterans. There's a case for doing that. Look at the legion of hyped prospects who've been failures; the mistakes that have been made or nearly made; that the amateur players are just names to the majority of the baseball-watching public (and even to many people who are in the position to make the decision in baseball) and you see that this focus on the draft is publicity seeking sham.

You show me a team that has success finding players via amateur free agency and late in the draft and I'll agree that they have a scouting eye worth noting; aside from that, I don't want to hear about the players that were drafted ahead of Derek Jeter----NY Times article----with the unsaid implication of "how could you even think of taking these players ahead of Jeter?!?". I'll tell you how: because no one knows what an amateur player is going to be; how he'll mature mentally and physically; if he'll make it.

I've given the Joe Mauer/Mark Prior argument before; the "Albert Pujols was drafted in the 13th round" argument; the justification of the Mariners taking Brandon Morrow over Tim Lincecum; but here's another one from memory of a small snippet in Sports Illustrated years ago (I couldn't find it to quote it verbatim, but my recall is pretty good): In 1987, teams were split on who should be the first pick in the draft. Ken Griffey Jr, was the clear cut choice, but many teams loved Mark Merchant.

The Mariners took Griffey, of course; and the Pirates took Merchant. Mark Merchant washed out with the Pirates and wound up in the Mariners organization. He bounced around the minors for 12 years, made it as high as Triple A until his career ended at age 29 in 1998 in an Independent League. So, what would've happened had the Mariners taken Merchant? Would they be savaged from now until infinity for a mistake? Or would they be allowed to shrug and say, "we took the player we wanted and it didn't work out"?

You tell me.

You tell me as you sit with breathless anticipation watching a bunch of 17-22-year-olds selected, becoming wealthy and bearing names you don't know and probably won't ever hear again aside from retrospectively ludicrous criticism launched by circling vultures who can't formulate an opinion on their own and wouldn't have the courage nor the capacity to jump into the ring themselves.

Don't waste my time with the draft. Let me see the player after he's been a pro for awhile. Now, it's like the Lord of the Rings trilogy----torture without foreseeable end.

  • What to do with Hanley:

It didn't generate as much of a cataclysmic explosion as his recent bout with non-hustle in which he very nearly got his head knocked off by Andre Dawson, but Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins again failed to run out a ground ball and might have cost his club a game.

On Friday with the tying and go-ahead runs on second and third base and two outs in the ninth inning, Ramirez hit a grounder down the line which David Wright grabbed and threw on one hop to Ike Davis to get Ramirez and end the game. When the replay of Ramirez was shown, he hesitated before running. On some level, it was understandable that he thought it was foul, but with his speed, had he busted out of the box the play would at least have been close and the game potentially tied. Instead, the Mets won.

Nothing much was said about it after the fact aside from a few comments from analysts; but it's getting to the point where the Marlins have to wonder if Hanley Ramirez has gotten too big for their clubhouse and might listen if teams started (as they undoubtedly have) calling about trading for him.

There's no doubt that Ramirez is one of the brightest talents in the game; that he has Triple Crown ability; but he's showing a disinterest in playing the game correctly that is disconcerting. Then you get to the burgeoning disconnect in the organization between Ramirez and everyone aside from owner Jeffrey Loria; plus the money he's due to start making next year and it's a question whether the Marlins might cut and run with Ramirez and deal him for a massive package of prospects.

Ramirez is slumping this year (8 homers; 29 RBI; .286 BA; .365 OBP); and the money he's due to make beginning next year might still be a bit much for the Marlins to swallow even with some of their organizational decisions to constrain payroll relaxed by mandate of MLB and that they have a new ballpark on the way.

Ramirez's contract calls for him to receive $11 million in 2011; $15 million in 2012; $15.5 million in 2013; and $16 million in 2014. He does not have a no-trade clause.

The Red Sox have long lusted after Ramirez and have the prospects to get it done; presumably, they have the clubhouse people to keep him in line to a certain degree and make sure he hustles; he'd absolutely hit. The Angels also have the management/leader-types to prevent Ramirez from getting lackadaisical and the need for a bat.

I have no doubt that after the ball-kicking incident, teams called and were rebuffed; but eventually, Ramirez may wear out his welcome with everyone including his friend the owner; then a blockbuster might happen without warning and Ramirez could be moved by the ruthless Marlins----all for the greater good.

I don't expect it, but I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility either.

  • Viewer Mail 6.6.2010:

Matt writes RE Armando Galarraga, Bud Selig and the perfect game:

Paul, great job putting the quantum leap baseball scenario in perspective. Though I for one would welcome the idea of reversing the Denkinger call from 85' and ordering those men out of retirement to do the rest of the series over again. Now that's entertainment!

It's be pretty funny to start trying to replay all the "wrongs that need to be righted" in baseball history. On the surface, you can see a genuine consideration of overturning the call and letting the perfect game stand, but then you have the basis for all sorts of appeals, disasters and financial arguments going forward. They didn't do it because they couldn't do it and once reality set in, the play was allowed to stand.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Bud Selig:

Totally agree on the Selig tip. This is why this family is tops. We see the big picture.

We see the big picture and destroy our enemies in totality with brutal efficiency.

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE the Blue Jays:

I agree with your take on the Jays, but I like a lot what I have seen. Gregg was solid in April, but hideous since three weeks ago. They blew up two games against the Rays in the ninth, and at least three of those defeats against the Red Sucks happened because the bullpen exploded. They might not be contenders, but they will be spoilers.

Nothing can go wrong when you accumulate the amount of pitching that the Blue Jays and new GM Alex Anthopoulos has. The one thing they do have to look forward to is that once Jose Bautista and Alex Gonzalez stop hitting homers at this absurd frequency, Adam Lind, Lyle Overbay and Aaron Hill will start hitting. Lind and Hill may not be as great as they were last year, but they're not this terrible. The future is brighter than anyone thought and no deep reconstructive effort is needed to get this team back to respectability.

On another note, Edwin Encarnacion continues to show why he's the player managers most want to strangle.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Blue Jays and Michael Kay vs Phil Mushnick:

The Jays looked awfully good to me last night in beating the Yanks. Cecil stymied them and Bautista destroyed them. I don't expect them to be there in the end, but third place in the tough AL East is pretty damn good. As for the Kay thing, I don't like to be scolded either.

When a team like the Blue Jays is getting unexpected performance from what amounts to journeymen bats, it's reasonable to expect them to fall back, but they're playing tough for now and that young pitching is doing well.

I can't picture you enjoying a good scolding either, Jane. No adult wants to be spoken to or about in such a way. Kay was right for flipping out about that.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE Michael Kay and Phil Mushnick:

I listen to ESPN all the time and very little of the FAN anymore. As a matter of fact I was just in studio on Bill Daughtry's show a couple of Fridays ago. I have a big problem with these guys shooting off their mouths and never having to be accountable for it; or much less revisiting things they've said. Whatever. Sports Radio is a good listen none the less and calling in is fun. ESPN treats me with a lot of respect. Kay was right when he said his brain was more fertile than having to resort to stealing. He was also right about saying how much of a leach a guy like Mushnick is feeding off other people's careers. But Mush was right when he said all ESPN does is tell each other how great each other is.
It was a good listen. I too wish I wasn't defending Kay, but he was right. He took the low road, but he was right.

I rarely listen to the FAN and don't listen to ESPN at all. I used to listen to Todd Wright overnights when he was on and really liked his show. Mike and Mike in the Morning were okay as well. Mike Francesa is unlistenable as a solo----almost completely out of control with everything coming down to the sum of his self-perpetuated image as "brilliant" and "the best" sports commentator out there.

It's agenda-driven, commercialized and almost totally useless. My only issue with Kay, as2010BaseballGuideCover.gif I said yesterday, was the "punch you in the face" comment. It was needless and silly. Make threats personally if you're going to make them; not in the middle of a rant. It diminished his content and clouded the fact that he happens to be right.

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She-Fan said...

The Hanley Ramirez thing is sad, especially when you compare his behavior to that of Galarraga and his attitude of the past week. Two different players and situations, granted, but the former seems not to be a very good teammate and the latter is the epitome of a good sport.

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

Well said She-Fan!
And there is nothing they can do to get me excited about the MLB draft.
It's just not happening. So what do you think...depending how well the Fish are at the deadline...does Beinfest dump a malcontent like Hanley and try to cash in quietly but big? There may not be one person in Miami right now opposed to such a thing. Just a crazy thought.