Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Lightning 7.25.2010

  • Let's engage in some objective reality:

Considering how reviled he is throughout stat zombie circles (and I don't think much of him as a GM either), eyes must have been rolling out of heads when David DeJesus injured his hand crashing into the center field wall trying to catch Derek Jeter's drive earlier this week. In that one moment, Royals GM Dayton Moore's willingness to trade DeJesus were sabotaged.

The one reaction I saw was Jayson Stark (a non-stat zombie) saying, "Oops" on Twitter; but I'm certain that there are others who are ripping Moore up-and-down for: A) asking for so much in exchange for DeJesus; and B) not trading him earlier.

Both arguments are, of course, ridiculous.

The Royals were under no edict to move DeJesus despite their current situation of, well, of being the Royals. They're not going anywhere; they're building for a future that could be as far off in the distance as men walking on Neptune; and DeJesus is one one of their best players with a contract that pays him only $6 million next year. They have no reason to trade him unless they were bowled over by an offer. They might've gotten a break in DeJesus getting hurt so they can either deal him in the winter and possibly get more than they would've gotten now.

DeJesus is highly underrated; very versatile defensively; has some pop; gets on base; and he's affordable. Trading him prior to a lucrative enough offer being presented would've been a panic move by Moore and a justifiable reason to attack him; aside from that, DeJesus got hurt and is out for the season----accept it and move on.

None of this is the point. The point is that the agenda-driven criticism is doled out so unevenly that you'd think my repeated harping on it would yield a shift. But it hasn't.

In case you missed it, Ben Sheets of the Athletics was placed on the disabled list yesterday with a strained elbow.

In other words, Sheets is back in his office.

So, where's the criticism for Athletics GM Billy Beane for not trading Sheets earlier? The Athletics are now over .500, but in the grand scheme of things, they're not in any better a position than the Royals; not shielded from criticism for any reason other than the sacred cow that is their GM; the beacon of their "revolution" laid out in Moneyball.

The Sheets signing was a strange one to start with, especially for a guaranteed $10 million; people like me savaged it; and even the Beane acolytes in the media questioned its wisdom. Sheets didn't pitch last year after surgery on the same elbow; looked dishonest because of his knowledge that he was injured and was still trying to extract a contract from a pitching-hungry team before his season-ending surgery----it was as if he hoped someone would sign him and when no one did, he begrudgingly agreed to have surgery as if it was a cosmetic, elective procedure. I wouldn't want a guy like that on my team.

Sheets was horrible in the spring, but he did manage to get himself out to the mound every fifth day when the season started; he pitched well enough; and was a viable trade chip for the Athletics.

But they didn't trade him.

And now he's back on the disabled list.

The Athletics will be able to get Sheets through waivers after the trading deadline and if he can pitch after the stay on the DL, they'll be able to move him, but they won't get as much as they would've had they dealt him earlier.

Are the Athletics contenders for a playoff spot? They're 7 1/2 games behind the Rangers in the AL West----they're not catching them. They're 9 1/2 games behind the Rays in the Wild Card race----they're not catching them.

Aside from aesthetics and having a GM who "gets it", are they in any better position than the Royals?


To me, the Athletics and Beane deserve more criticism than the Royals do for their reluctance to trade Sheets when they could've dumped his salary and gotten something for him even if what they got was a "tools" player who wasn't performing well; or a fill-in piece that could be of use later on. After the season, they're going to get nothing for him; while the Royals will still have DeJesus and could trade him in the winter or next season.

In both cases, I actually agree with the hesitancy to make a quick trade. It's the absence of equal analysis that I have an issue with. The criticism is again based not on fact, but on allegiance, and it's wrong.

Speaking of which...

  • Disaster, thy name is Mariners:

Do you realize that the Mariners don't have one player who has 10 home runs.

It's late July.

And they don't have one player who has 10 home runs.

This is with a GM who was considered a "genius" as recently as three months ago.

I'm not blaming Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik for the entirety of the Mariners failure, but like the above section about Moore and Beane, I'm waiting for equality of judgment based not on partisanship, but on....objective reality.

Waiting, waiting and waiting.

A team that was built for defense has the 9th worst fielding percentage in the American League; and is at the top of the board in errors committed----the Zduriencik strategies of dealing on the fly while clearing players and adding other players has failed. It's another case of half-measures and "doing stuff" while not fixing fundamental problems.

What are the Mariners fundamental problems, you ask?

Ichiro Suzuki for one; a lack of talent for another.

Ichiro is a diva; he's too expensive and would only have use on a good team.

What does he do that makes him valuable aside from occupying a massive chunk of team payroll for hitting a bunch of singles and selfishly accumulating hits and a high batting average? Put Ichiro on the Yankees or Red Sox and bat him leadoff and he'll score 150 runs and presumably he wouldn't behave as he does in Seattle----running the show and dictating who the manager is as a prerequisite for him to stay as he's rumored to have done with Mike Hargrove; but with the Mariners, he, along with Felix Hernandez, is one of their few publicly marketable names, therefore he gets away with it.

Answer me this: if the Mariners put Ichiro on the market, who'd want him as anything other than an exchange of contracts? Set to make a guaranteed $34 million after this season, is he of any use to another team if he's going to be the selfish "I got my hits and that's what matters" player he is now?

The argument of "I got my hits" vs "I played for the team" is subtle, but unmistakable and baseball people know it and can spot it immediately. Ichiro could hit 25 homers if he wanted to. Easily. His average would suffer, but so what? What good is it if Ichiro singles and is stranded on the basepaths because there's no one behind him to drive him in? That's a fault of the Mariners upper management for choosing to bring back Ken Griffey Jr. and not sign Jim Thome, but Ichiro is also under their watch and he doesn't play for the team. The season is lost and Ichiro's going to accrue more stats that look glossy----but intelligent baseball observers know the truth; the truth that he's an expensive, selfish and losing player.

The lack of talent in Seattle is striking. Look at their roster and they look like an expansion team. They have Hernandez, Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez and...and....and....what?


There are negligible pieces here and there; a young bat like Michael Saunders who could become something; Luke French could develop; Dustin Ackley, Johermyn Chavez are minor league bats that have promise; but what else is there?

This is all occurring as the Mariners----with a "genius" as their GM----are going to easily lose 100 games. Things went wrong for them this year and that's understandable and not the fault of Zduriencik to any greater degree than the Mets stumble in 2009 was the fault of GM Omar Minaya; or the Diamondbacks fall was the fault of their fired GM Josh Byrnes.

Mistakes were made in all cases----some explainable, some not; but the appellation of "genius" was so stupid and based on nothing other than shared beliefs that I fear I'm wasting my time in asking for the righteous and self-serving indignation that would be present in cases like Minaya and Moore.

Objective reality? I don't see it.

  • Is any other fan base this negative?

Maybe I see it more closely because it's the Mets, but are fans of the Cubs, Indians, Royals and Orioles more negative than Mets fans? And why? The team has so far surpassed any expectations before the season that there should be baseline acceptance of their current state on one end of the spectrum; and joy on the other for the mere fact that they're over .500 in late July and still a viable playoff contender.

They're streaky and awful on the road; they're short in the pitching department and don't hit in the clutch.

But they're still hanging around playoff contention.

Mets fans don't want to hear this, but any playoff run at this point would be playing with house money. In 2010, they're incorporating a better-than-expected youth movement and cheap signings like R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi; and possibly moving toward a future that is very bright not for 2010, maybe not even for 2011, but for 2012.

A playoff spot is right there for the taking with any number of National League teams this season and it may come down to whichever club gets lucky in a trade or is hot in September. That could be the Mets; it could be the Giants; it could be the Phillies----it could be anyone.

The big picture provides clarity. The 2012 Phillies are looking more and more like they're going to be a very bad team due to ongoing front office idiocy. The Braves are loaded with young players; the Mets are as well. And the Mets, with all the Bernie Madoff-spurred allegations of an inability to spend money, are still going to be one of the higher ceilinged teams in terms of spending ability and will have a lot of room to do so as the dead money from Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez comes off the books, and Carlos Beltran's contract is set to expire after 2011; right now, it's iffy as to whether the Mets are going to keep Jose Reyes after he goes free agent following 2011.

The money will be there.

Jason Bay is having an atrocious year, but is it really that different from the year Beltran had in 2005? It's better in fact because the expectations for Beltran were much higher and he took a year to adjust to New York. Bay is experiencing the same thing and may be----as David Wright was----spooked by the vast dimensions of Citi Field; I'd expect a more relaxed Bay in 2011 and for the team to get something close to what they expected this year.

The front office has been smart in not acting desperately to win now as they did in 2004 by trading Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano. In retrospect, the trade of Kazmir was only a bad deal because they could've gotten a Tim Hudson from the Atheltics for Kazmir after the season, not because of anything the mediocre Kazmir has done since with the Rays or Angels.

This negativity is out of context; the target placed on a manager in Jerry Manuel----who probably won't be shepherding the youth movement anyway----is misplaced. Any playoff for this team in 2010 would be stolen similar to the way the Rockies used a blazing hot streak all the way to the World Series in 2007; the Mets future is 2011-2012. It's close and it's bright.

Brighter than that of a lot of teams in baseball.

The doomsayers need to look at that reality and react accordingly with a cold, realistic detachment rather than continually attack and play up their own pre-season predictions that were based on selfishness rather than accurate appraisal.

But that's prevalent today as well.

  • The Yankees and Dan Haren:

If I were running the Diamondbacks front office and engaging in discussions to trade Dan Haren to the Yankees, and the Yankees had the audacity to ask for money to supplement Haren's contract and, in addition to that, were refusing to give up the players I wanted, I'd tell them that we'd continue a dialogue as the week wore on; then I'd hang up the phone, look at my assistants with head-shaking frustration and shock at the arrogance and say, "So, they want me to give up my biggest asset; give them money to pay him; and back off my demand for Joba Chamberlain----all so they can still have the money to sign Cliff Lee in the winter. Are they this self-absorbed or are they truly out of their *bleeping* minds?!?"

While the Yankees complaining about the way the Mariners and Zduriencik appeared to use them to get a better package for Lee from the Rangers had some basis, they're still behaving as if the rest of baseball owes them something. Why would anyone in their right minds want to help the Yankees both financially and in personnel? To think that the Diamondbacks are stupid enough to give the Yankees money to pay Dan Haren is so insane that only a lunatic would buy into and engage in it.

Are the Diamondbacks going to get a better deal for Haren now than they would in the winter? It's questionable; Haren's locked up contractually; the only risk for the Diamondbacks is if he gets hurt as DeJesus did----apart from any self-imposed edict, they're under no obligation to trade him.

It's obvious what the Yankees are doing----that they want Haren at their price in terms of players and want money to cover his contract so they can still find a way to sign Lee; I don't blame them for it; in fact, it's admirable that Yankees GM Brian Cashman would try to do that, but overall, it's madness.

If I were the Diamondbacks, I'd say straight out to Cashman that if he wants Haren, he's either taking the whole contract and giving me a nice package of blue chip youth; or he's getting a small amount of money and giving me a nice package headed by Chamberlain. If that's not acceptable, take a hike.

To me, playing harder ball with the Yankees or Red Sox than with other teams is part of doing business in the world of haves and have-nots. There's no restraint on salaries, so it's up to the individual clubs to check on the teams with big money and condescending attitudes by marking their territory and holding the line. This is why Zduriencik is probably being quietly applauded for his actions in the Lee negotiations----he beat the Yankees at their own game. The Diamondbacks should take heed as well.

  • Viewer Mail 7.25.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Chone Figgins:

Didn't hear about the Figgins thing. He must be homesick for the Angels, because everybody on Scoscia's teams hustles.

I don't think people realize that this stuff happens all the time off the field but it's more pronounced and a bigger case is made of these altercations when they occur in the dugout because they're public. It can be a useful air-clearing session when it finally blows up and it's not a bad thing. People don't have to get along personally to work together.

It's hard to imagine someone regretting getting the money they wanted, but Figgins looks miserable in Seattle; the team is dysfunctional and awful and he left the Angels----a great situation with an organized and successful team----to go into a wasteland that's not going to get better anytime soon. It's hard to give him a pass for repeated lack of hustle, but zoning out when losing day-after-day is understandable.

Angels people are probably looking at the Figgins-Don Wakamatsu incident and saying, "Chone didn't act that way here," and it's more of a comparative teamwide assessment than a simple statement of fact.

He's got his money though.

Joe writes RE my delving into the 80s:

Funny how you are stuck in 80's mode the day after I watched 'Hot Tub Time Machine.'

Did you watch the unrated version? I haven't seen it yet.

I'm sensing a future for you in the deadpan comedy arena, Joe. Maybe you can open for Ken Davidoff and his ventriloquist dummy, "Dolan".

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE the Mets:

Cliff Lee ~ I wish I was as optimistic as you. In my heart I think Baby Jeff and Mets R Us are going to blow it. I don't think they'll be as committed to signing Lee as they'll need to be. You also must take this into consideration; Reyes' deal is up after 2011 as Wright's will be. The Wilpons should know at this very moment, at least in theory, if they are going to pay the big money needed to retain them. KRod's deal is up after next season and in two season's time the effective Johan window will close.

And a moment of silence for your boy and mine, Fernando Nieve; ruined by Jerry Manuel in 2010.

The Lee-to-the-Mets scenario is going to be determined by whether the Yankees get Haren and if the Mets pay Lee when he's available; but it's not a Hail Mary situation where they have no chance of getting him----things have broken relatively well for the Mets lately whether people admit it or not.

This idea that the Mets aren't willing to pay players is silly. They paid for Bay; they still have a high payroll----we're not talking a Marlins/Padres-style sell-off.

Wright is going nowhere. Not by trade, nor by free agency. He's locked up through 2013 anyway. Reyes might be allowed to leave; Santana's here to stay; Francisco Rodriguez? He has a $17.5 million club option for 2012 with appearance/health clauses that he'll easily reach. Even without K-Rod, they can find someone to close.

Regarding Nieve, people loathe admitting this, but there are players who you sign, use, exhaust and discard. Nieve has a good fastball and slider----ability to be a useful pitcher, but he's not someone you can say the Mets "ruined". Could Manuel have been more judicious with him? Of course, but it's not on the level with abusing K-Rod, Mike Pelfrey or Santana. Nieve served his purpose and they designated him for assignment. He might be back or he might not. Life will go on.

I was a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz on Friday and the appearance was brilliant as usual. I'm always ahead of the game. Always.

You can listen directly here----link----or click on Sal's site and download it from I-Tunes.

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.

Give in and love it, what's the point in hating me? You can't argue with popularity.

Well, you could. But you'd be wrong.


She-Fan said...

The Yankees are right to try to make the best deal they can - for them. If the Diamondbacks have other suitors for Haren and the deal is better somewhere else, then let them take it. But the trading deadline is looming, so who are the other teams and what are they offering?

Anonymous said...

Ichiro a diva? Perhaps, but if you actually read any of the interviews he's given, it seems pretty clear that he does care what happens to the team. I think part of what Americans see as selfishness is simply a cultural emphasis that doesn't translate well.

For instance--"Ichiro should dive for more balls in the outfield." Ichiro has stated more than once that he doesn't do that often for two reasons: first, because diving rarely makes the difference between catching and not catching; and second, because diving is more likely to injure him, costing the team his services.

Or another good one--"Ichiro should steal more often." Considering that last year was the first time in his career that he finished outside of the top 5 in the AL, that seems a bit harsh. Ichiro's thoughts on the matter? Better (if you're not sure you can take it) to hold back and remain on the bases than get thrown out and cost the team both a lead runner and an out. His 80%+ career success rate speaks for itself.