Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Silence Of The Prince----Monsters Of The First Half, Day 3

  • "Oh Clarice, your problem is you need to get more fun out of life."

The death of George Steinbrenner and the inconvenience of the actual playing of the All Star Game interfered with my reflections on the first half of the season, conducted in three parts. Here's Day 3, although it's actually Day 4.

You get what I mean.

Someone who "gets it":

It's trendy for any organizational boss to be lauded as "getting it" if he happens to agree with a certain method of running his club. What "it" exactly is has yet to be explained. According to the stat zombies, anyone who ignores subjective (and important) aspects of building his club and concentrates on numbers above all else, "gets it".

It's not just relegated to the zombies however----everyone does it. Why there's a conscious choice to surround oneself with people who agree on everything is beyond me. Dissent and disagreement are the building blocks to moving forward. Rubber stamping a maneuver based on a supposed scientific and numerical formula is easy and explainable and a detriment to doing what's right.

As for someone who I say "gets it", I'm talking about Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolous.

Here's my version of someone who "gets it" not because I agree with everything he does----in Anthopoulos's case, I don't; I would've replaced manager Cito Gaston with someone younger and more suitable for the long term----but because the GM is making decisions that are viable in theory and he has no fear of being criticized by any baseball faction.

When he replaced J.P. Ricciardi as Blue Jays GM, no one seemed to know which direction Anthopolous was going to take. Was he an acolyte of Ricciardi, Billy Beane and by extension Bill James and the catalysts of the stat zombie movement? Would he follow the riverboat gambler and gut feel instincts of Omar Minaya, for whom he worked with the Expos before joining the Blue Jays?

Or would he choose to run his club based on the circumstances as he saw them and not due to a template from which he would not deviate even if it meant heading straight over the cliff at 100 mph?

He's chosen the third option and the latest trade he pulled off is evidence of that.

Yesterday, the Blue Jays traded shortstop Alex Gonzalez and minor league lefty Tim Collins and shortstop Tyler Pastronicky to the Braves for shortstop Yunel Escobar and lefty Jo-Jo Reyes.

This exemplifies the types of decisions that Anthopolous has made in his time as Blue Jays GM. Under the gun of having to trade Roy Halladay, he somehow accumulated a bounty in prospects from the Phillies and Athletics. He's loaded the organization up with pitching and didn't take a hot start from his club to mean that they were actual contenders and do anything stupid to tilt at windmills and fight a losing battle. In the AL East, there was no chance for the Blue Jays to maintain their position with the big shots in the division, the Yankees, the Rays and Red Sox; Anthopolous let the team play and they've predictably fallen back to mediocrity.

Now, he went for talent rather than production and reputation in trading for Escobar.

Yunel Escobar has MVP ability, but he's a player who managers loathe because he makes so many fundamental mistakes and goes beyond the scope of being referred to as lackadaisical----he acts like he doesn't care. The Blue Jays got him for a player in Gonzalez who was having his career power year and wasn't going to part of a Blue Jays revival when it happens----and it will happen under Anthopolous.

Jo-Jo Reyes has never been any good as a starter, but he's lefty; maybe he'll have some use out of the bullpen based on nothing more than being lefty.

The left side of the Blue Jays infield is young, ultra-talented and in Escobar's case, super-cheap; both can drive a manager homicide, suicide or both. Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion is 27 and combined with Escobar is either going to create a slick fielding, productive hitting duo for the Blue Jays future, or both will be dispatched as players who were absolutely worth a roll of the dice, but didn't work.

If this offer was presented to me, I'd have done the exact same thing as Anthopolous did, Escobar is going to be 28; there's every chance that he's never going to get any better than this in his attitude or performance, but he might and considering what they gave up to get him, this was a no-brainer.

Even if it doesn't work.

The turnaround of the Braves:

This team looked dead early in the year.

With Bobby Cox on the way out the door, the players were staggering around in a slumber. They made heinous mental mistakes and when they fell behind packed up their bats to go home.

But they turned things around. Led by Troy Glaus's unexpected hot streak and the bewildering slump by the Phillies, the Braves vaulted into first place and with a top-to-bottom pitching staff that's hard to match anywhere in baseball, they're as a good a choice as any to emerge from the parity-laden National League.

The trade for Alex Gonzalez is a go-for-it deal.

They were getting absolutely nothing from Escobar on the field and off the field, the other players and especially manager Cox had seen and heard enough from him. There are players in baseball who are "strangleworthy". Lastings Milledge is one; and so is Escobar. Teams have a choice when they're in contention: they can ride out the storm with players like Escobar and hope at some point the talent kicks in and the player learns how to behave correctly, or the club can throw their hands up in the air and go for it now.

This trade is somewhat similar to the one the Braves made last year in getting rid of Jeff Francoeur as they sent him to the Mets for Ryan Church. Church wasn't any good and did almost nothing for the Braves, but Francoeur's time to figure it out came to an end and they dumped him----a mistake in my opinion because the club was just as much at fault for Francoeur's issues as the player himself.

With Escobar, it was enough. The pennant the Braves want to win is in 2010 and if Gonzalez helps them achieve that and Escobar fulfills his potential in Toronto, it was still worth it.

I like Alex Gonzalez as a player; I thought the Red Sox made a mistake in replacing him with Julio Lugo after 2006. Despite his low on base percentage, he has pop; fields every ball he can get to (although his range isn't what it once was); and has performed in the clutch during post-season games as he did with the championship Marlins in 2003. Most importantly, he'll play the game correctly, something that Escobar either wouldn't or was incapable of doing. Gonzalez is a cheap upgrade for this year and probably next; the Braves are better today with Gonzalez than they were a few days ago with Escobar.

Considering the circumstances on both sides, this is a win-win deal for all, no matter what happens.

If they ever hire him, can Buck Showalter turn around the Orioles?

Since Davey Johnson, the Orioles have eschewed the big name manager. With the exception of Mike Hargrove, they've chosen to go with the long-time coach/minor league manager who had a solid resume, but few discernible differences from one to the other.

The succession of names----Ray Miller, Lee Mazzilli, Sam Perlozzo and Dave Trembley----were interchangeable in their results and managing skills. Now they're functioning with Juan Samuel and playing much better than they did under Trembley (they could scarcely have played worse), but hiring Buck Showalter would accord the Orioles instant credibility and he would turn them around.

Although they've taken five steps back this year, there's plenty of talent in Baltimore and they need the discipline and strategic acumen that Showalter would provide. The question is who'd be running things and does team president Andy MacPhail want Showalter?

As adverse as he is to spending big money going back to his Twins days, I can't imagine that MacPhail would want to pay Showalter what he's going to demand; nor do I think the two would be able to co-exist long-term. It would be clear that any disagreement would be settled by owner Peter Angelos; given the way Angelos allowed MacPhail to do things his way and that the team has descended into a disaster, Showalter would get the final word.

I can't blame MacPhail for the way things went this year. He didn't spend ridiculous amounts of money for his club to run before it could walk and the players he brought in----Miguel Tejada, Kevin Millwood, even Garrett Atkins and Mike Gonzalez----made sense on and off the field. I thought they'd take a leap forward, but they haven't. It hasn't worked. I still hold onto the idea that the Orioles should've replaced Trembley (with a Showalter-type) this past winter; but they didn't. They're where they are; they're what they are.

It's because of the perceived failure that I can't blame Angelos if he dictates to MacPhail that he must hire Showalter if he wants to keep his job. The meddlesome Angelos has kept his hands off the organization in letting MacPhail do what he felt was right in rebuilding; the talent is improved, but the team's still losing.

There are many woulda, shoulda, couldas with the Orioles, but hiring Showalter is the best thing they could do right now for the organization. The question is whether or not both Showalter and MacPhail will be there when things finally get better. Showalter will be; MacPhail might not.

  • Viewer Mail 7.15.2010:

Max Stevens writes RE the Angels:

Earlier this week you wrote about how the Angels can still make a run at the AL West. I don't know if you like to engage in discussion about potential trades, but it seems to me that the Angels can put a real scare into the Texas Rangers if they acquire Adam Dunn. I think this would be a medium-risk, high-reward move for the Halos. How about a trade that sends Mike Napoli and a pitching prospect to Washington for Dunn? Would the Nats do this?

I'll talk hypothetical trades even though most of them don't make sense and are used to feed the circular world of mutual advantage (see Olney, Buster and his idiotic "rumor" of Ryan Howard for Albert Pujols).

Dunn would be a fit for the Angels as a basher in the middle of the lineup, but he doesn't really make sense for what they do, especially defensively. The DH role is blocked by Matsui and Dunn is a statue at first base. I would think the Angels would prefer to get someone like (as was mentioned on a couple of outlets today) Derrek Lee. They certainly won't give up the bounty it's going to take to get Prince Fielder; and the Angels won't deal with Scott Boras after the way the Mark Teixeira negotiations went sour.

I can't see why the Nationals would want Mike Napoli, plus Mike Scioscia loves him. That said, I couldn't see why they were so invested in making themselves shinier than they are with expansion team-type signings of Adam Kennedy and Jason Marquis. The Ivan Rodriguez signing was sensible in that they needed a veteran catcher to steward the young, flighty pitchers Scott Olsen and Tyler Clippard; and especially Stephen Strasburg.

It's hard to gauge what the Nats are doing. One minute they're looking at Roy Oswalt and being discussed as buyers at the deadline; then they're said to be entertaining offers for Dunn. As the Mariners have proven under Jack Zduriencik, it's very, very hard to do both simultaneously.

I don't see the Angels going crazy to get a bat and dealing their top prospects. It's not what they do. When they acquired Scott Kazmir last year and Teixeira the year before, in retrospect, they didn't give up much of anything. They're not going to betray that for an Adam Dunn.

The Angels might go after Jayson Werth and figure out where to position everyone later. In fact, they might trade for Werth with an idea on keeping him long term.

Joe writes RE Ubaldo Jimenez and stat zombieism:

Lack of understanding? I'd say your logic is flawed, but there isn't any logic in there. In your alternate universe, guys like 2008 Brad Lidge somehow are more worthy than Chase Utley -- as I believe you thought Lidge could win the MVP. But I guess the only way you could ever learn that your thinking is incorrect, is to build a team and then watch it fail. But we know that isn't going to happen. If we didn't have "pitcher wins" as a stat, we would be more knowledgeable baseball fans.

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes in response to Joe:

Free your mind, Joe.

I don't recall Prince making his statement based on "pitcher wins".

It's not about the wins. It's about Ubaldo carrying his team, being the best all around pitcher in the NL right now. In baseball, that sorta thing is REALLY REALLY REALLY important, y'know, carrying a team, igniting a team, leading a team.

Free your mind, man.

Free your mind.

I find it to be a disturbing betrayal of the tenets you supposedly live by when you resort to overt disrespect for another's views by making comments the type you made in response to me, Joe. When you have no argument, you turn to the old standby of ridicule.

Although we disagree, I expected better from you.

The only conclusion I can reach is that you're afraid. Afraid because you intrinsically know what would happen if I were ever given a team to run; know that if given the resources practically and financially to do it right, I'd have a title contender in three years----even the Pirates.

I'm pleased that you have my future so carefully mapped out and calculated as well as you calculate your precious numbers. Sadly, you have no idea what I can or will do in the future.

Somewhere in your numerically-infected, stat zombie decayed brain there remains a semblance of truth. Presumably that's why you still choose to read me. But if you're so diametrically opposed to what I say and feel there's no basis behind it, why bother? Why not stick to the Dave Camerons; the Rob Neyers; the Michael Lewises; the Bill James acolytes and their narrow views of the world? Wallow in the condescending pomposity therein; a world where everyone agrees and chooses to heap abuse down on those who dare to challenge them rather than engage in a substantive debate. Shake your collective heads at the Neanderthals such as myself and begin a new enlightened society with your so-called "revolution" that's been so successful with the Athletics; the Blue Jays; the Dodgers; and the Padres----all who collapsed under the weight of Moneyball and stats above all else.

Now that, to me, is a failure worth watching. And you'd have a front row seat to observe the carnage.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE George Steinbrenner:

When I saw the name Dave LaPoint, I cracked up. Guys like that were part of Steinbrenner's legacy too, along with Whitson, but he did have other attributes, as you point out.

Most Yankee fans don't want to recall the days of LaPoint and Andy Hawkins, but they should be remembered because there were days that players treated the Yankees as if they were the Pirates of today----a place you went because you had little choice and wanted to get paid.

I'd gladly take the seven championships since Steinbrenner took over the team----he rebuilt an organization that was rancid from the inside out. Would any other owner have been able to turn it around to that degree? I don't think so.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE Steinbrenner:

George may be many things to me as a Baseball fan and not all of them good. But as a MAN of this city I appreciated every second he walked our city streets. Because! ~ Because the guy had guts and that's what you needed here. Yankee Stadium lay center mass of every blight that comes with urban decay and ruin (in the late 70's). George never blinked. George never flinched. George engaged in a game of chicken, allied with the willing against everything wrong in this city back in the day....fought the long fight....and in the end, won.

I can't imagine that he ever would've moved the Yankees out of New York, but that was part of the beauty of his irrationality----no one knew what he was going to do next. He was a bully, but he eventually won and made himself a fortune; lunacy and business savvy aren't all that far apart; he hopped over one line to the other, but you cannot argue with the results no matter how he achieved them.2010BaseballGuideCover.gif

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She-Fan said...

I'd be very interested to see what Showalter could do as manager of the O's. He's a very smart guy.

Jeff said...

I bet Bobby Cox threw a kegger once he knew Yunel was out the door.


Gabriel said...

I don't like the trade, but I've learned that Anthopoulos knows what he's doing, so let's give him (and Escobar) the benefit of doubt. I think his line of thinking is: get Escobar, if he works, trade him when Hechavarria is ready, if not, trade or release him when Hechavarria is ready.

It's the most interesting trade so far, though.

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