Thursday, August 19, 2010

Blow Up The Outside World

  • Or don't:

It makes my life easier when I get a load of mail, comments or whatever; or someone writes something useful----in a positive or negative sense (for them)----somewhere and I happen to see it.

Such was the case when I opened today's NY Times and read three useful pieces.

The first, about Carl Pavano's resurgence with the Twins, elicits the rare combination of a hat tip for someone rejuvenating his career and reputation and the same head-scratching wonderment that accompanied Pavano's four lost years in New York with the Yankees. You can read it here----Carl Pavano Gives Twins His Best.

It's an interesting dichotomy with Pavano; presumably his Twins teammates wouldn't recognize the apparition he was with the Yankees after signing a 4-year, $40 million contract following his career year with the Marlins in 2004 when he went 18-8. It's highly likely that his Yankees teammates from that time wouldn't recognize him either, not because he's changed but because he was never there.

Pavano has had a fine year in 2010; but despite the regained respect he's accrued, he's never adequately explained what happened in his time with the Yankees that made him one of the worst free agent signings in the history of baseball. That's no knock on the Yankees or Brian Cashman for signing him; had the Yankees not paid him, the Red Sox, Tigers and Mariners were all prepared to give him a similar sum.

It didn't work for whatever reason, but injuries are no excuse for his ambivalence to living up to his end of the deal. In the article, Pavano is portrayed as leading his younger teammates----and he has----but he also has a simmering anger at the Yankees and Joe Torre for reasons that aren't entirely clear. The following excerpt is telling:

Teammates say he rarely describes his Yankees experience. “He always talks about how those were the worst four years of his life, but he never goes into any detail about it,” the left-hander Brian Duensing said. “We just kind of figure it’s because he was hurt all the time.”

But on Saturday something slipped. Pavano walked up to two reporters in the Twins’ clubhouse at Target Field and, out of nowhere, criticized the former Yankees manager Joe Torre’s explanation for removing the All-Star Jonathan Broxton as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ closer. Torre, who managed Pavano for three seasons, included several unflattering references about Pavano in his 2009 book, “The Yankee Years,” written with Tom Verducci, including a quotation that said: “The players all hated him. It was no secret.”

Pavano said: “Does Joe Torre think he’s a psychologist or something, taking Broxton out of the closer’s role? He’s not a psychologist.” Pavano called Torre a pejorative often heard on a schoolyard.

Later, after batting practice, Pavano said he was joking. But Pavano, who said he read Torre’s book, added: “He does play kind of a psychiatrist role. He’s an older, old-school guy that’s pretty wise, but I don’t know. I don’t know why something has to be said all the time. I just don’t understand it.”

The attack on Torre appears to be a retort for the book and the way Pavano was ostracized by the Yankees. Perhaps he felt that the manager should've been more understanding of what he was going through----whatever it was. But Pavano wasn't "joking"; there were players who were close with Torre like Derek Jeter and players who weren't like Alex Rodriguez. Torre is old-school and he understands the thought-process of players better than most managers in baseball. It's what he, Jim Leyland and Mike Scioscia are great at and why they run their clubhouses better than most other managers.

Any animosity the Yankees players and their manager had toward Carl Pavano was because of one person----Carl Pavano. The injuries were of a ridiculous nature and Pavano's statement: “How do you have a sense of humor when everyone’s jumping down your throat?” he said. “New York was a tough time for me to have any fun,” is absurdity at its best. All he did was have fun----on the beach; chasing girls; and not playing while getting paid.

They were jumping down his throat not because he was hurt, but because early in his first season when he was pitching (and pitching poorly) his body language suggested that he wanted to be anywhere other than on a mound in a Yankee uniform and Torre saw it immediately. That's not the fault of the manager or his teammates and their reaction to him was a direct result to that horrible attitude and disinterest in helping the team win.

To imply that the demotion of Broxton was based on anything other than performance and the pitcher's clearly fragile mental state is ignoring reality which is what got Pavano in trouble in the first place.

The second piece is the game report from the Mets game last night. In the article detailing the Mets 3-2 over the Astros last night, you see another bit of twisted logic----link.

It's not about the game, but about the Mets approach to the draft. Here's the excerpt:

But at least by one measurement, the Mets are spending more money than they were a year ago. In 2010, according to Baseball America, the team spent $3.85 million in signing nine of their top 10 picks, including the $2.52 million used to sign Matt Harvey, the North Carolina pitcher who was their No. 1 pick and was represented by Scott Boras.

That was twice what they spent in 2009, when the Mets finished dead last in spending on top draft picks. This year, they will finish ahead of three division rivals — the Phillies, the Florida Marlins and the Braves.

But Jim Callis, Baseball America ’s executive editor, said the Mets’ total spending on draft picks — $4.72 million — ranked 20th out of 30 M.L.B. teams.

Callis considers this odd given that the Mets should have considerable financial resources from their new stadium and cable television network.

“It looks like business as usual for the team,” Callis said. “The question is why they are not being a lot more aggressive.”

Aggressiveness in this instance would be the willingness to consistently draft players in the top 10 rounds who are higher rated than others still available and almost certain to ask for more money. Yet the Mets do not necessarily do that. “The Mets are conservative year after year after year,” he said.

I don't know about the players they drafted----the MLB draft is the ultimate crapshoot despite assertions that certain teams have better systems than others. None of the analysts have much of a grasp it either. Baseball is not football, basketball or hockey where the game is identical from one level to the next and a more realistic extrapolation of how a player will perform is possible. You don't know. And judging from the retrospectively good drafts the Mets have had over the past few years----netting Ike Davis, Mike Pelfrey, Bobby Parnell, Jon Niese and Josh Thole----their system of selection isn't any worse than most teams.

Here's what I don't understand: in the Moneyball farce, one of the foundational pieces of Billy Beane's supposed genius was his reluctance to spend a load of money in the draft for players who looked good, but couldn't play. Instead of doing that, he based his strategy on college players who were closer to MLB ready; weren't as recognizable by the masses and were therefore cheaper to sign.

A couple of notes on Beane: A) his drafts haven't been particularly good in the years following Moneyball; and B) he's somewhat abandoned one of the tenets that Michael Lewis claimed "defied logic and reason" by drafting high school pitchers highly.

A stat zombie tenet is to use money wisely. Does spending lavishly imply success? This is exactly what the stat zombie train of thought has been railing against for years. The idea is to find players who can play; the concept of capricious tossing of money is against the very fabric of how a business should be run in both the stat zombie world and in life.

The remaining holdouts who think Moneyball was accurate are the same people who attack teams who do things differently to their chosen template; any resulting success is chalked up to luck because they don't act in a similar way.

The third piece in the paper is by Tyler Kepner and is an excellent, evenhanded analysis of the Mets under Omar Minaya. You should read it----Decision on Minaya Will Be Telling for Mets.

  • Viewer Mail 8.19.2010:

Max Stevens writes RE the Mets and Angels:

Do you really see Kazmir for Castillo as a viable trade? I think it might work for the Mets, though I believe theyd be taking on significantly more salary with Kazmir's deal. But why would the Angels do it? Howie Kendrick has been ok at second base even if hes not lived up to the initial expectations that he could eventually win multiple batting titles.

It's purely financial. I just threw it out there because it's strange how far Scott Kazmir's stock has fallen and the Angels would love to be rid of the remaining money on his contract (he's owed a guaranteed $14.5 million); Luis Castillo still has some use despite the vitriol he receives in New York. It's nothing to do with Kendrick or the Angels current roster. I like Kendrick; it's more about getting rid of Kazmir's contract. I also think it'd be entertaining to see Kazmir back in the Mets organization.

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Francisco Rodriguez, the Mets and the MLB Players Association:

MLB's union is too much of a bully. It needs to stop.

K-Rod embarrassed himself, the franchise and baseball as a whole. In my opinion, such actions should call for no money.

If I punch someone at my job and get arrested I get fired, union or not.

Baseball's union needs to get a grip and set down some moral guidelines that its members should be expected to follow.

You have to give the union credit for becoming so powerful after the indentured servitude under which contracts defined their careers before Curt Flood, Dave McNally, Andy Messersmith and Marvin Miller fought back and won.

The union will never give in on the issue of contract sanctity. Considering the Shawn Chacon ruling for a similar transgression, the Mets have a shot of winning.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE K-Rod and the union:

I agree with Jeff. Yesterday I said the Mets should get really angry and with the contract thing they did. I applaud them and hope they can work out a satisfactory settlement with the union.

With that amount of money, there's no way this gets settled. Plus, the Mets aren't going to pay him off to leave; it's an all-in gambit and, as I said yesterday, it's worth a shot.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger (Brooklyn Capo) writes RE K-Rod, the Mets and the union:

Today, unions protect screw ups. They no longer hold themselves to standards. Standards don't pay dues. If you want to break the union grip on the game, owners need to stay away from long term contracts. The closer they get to the days of one year contracts, the less centralized power the union will have. Don't go totally off on the Union. They've had owners who think more as individuals than a league and can't all agree if a baseball is round. When you put the Goonies on the other side of the bargaining table with the Baseball Union...what you get is an obscene control of power by the players within the owners enterprise. NFL players wish they had what MLB players have. MLB owners wish they had what the NFL owners have. These two leagues will be speeding past each other in the night when both their CBA agreements come due.

This is an excellent comment and dead on the mark.

Times are changing a bit though. With the attempt to more accurately value players with stats (and yes, I do think stats have some use in this endeavor) and the rising number of teams unable or unwilling to spend massive money on mediocre players, the list of players who have to settle for 1-year deals or even minor league contracts when such a thing would've been unheard of even five years ago is putting them in a position where they have to wait and scrounge and hope for the one stupid owner before grabbing whatever they can as spring training approaches.

Charlie Finley had it right when he suggested in the early 70s that every team should agree not to give their players anything more than a 1-year contract; the annual free agency would flood the market, cause players to make sure they played hard and behaved themselves and keep prices down for everyone.

Oh, and it's never going to happen.

Listen to the Red State Blue State podcast appearance. Click here for the RSBS blog and here to hear it directly.

I'm scheduled to be on with Sal at SportsFan Buzz today. It should be up sometime in the afternoon. I'll provide the direct posting tomorrow, but if you simply cannot wait, click onto Sal's Twitter account here and he'll let you know when it's ready to rock.

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...

Very good article by Tyler Kepner today. Interesting idea about Kevin Towers too.

Jeff said...

Why wouldn't Charlie Finley's dream come true (RE: 1 year contracts all around)?

Would that be considered to be collusion?

I expect that if the owners DID try something like that there would be a revolt among players and the union, possibly leading to another strike.

But something has to be done about MLB's union and its overbearing strong-arming. This has gone waaaay beyond what Curt Flood & Co. were actually fighting for.

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

Pavano ~ Specifically, Kenny Rogers, Kevin Brown, Kyle Farnsworth and Javier Vasquez have had that same look on the mound as Pavano did early on.

I'm sure Chad Curtis has a thing or two to say about Torre. Torre was cut-throat. St. Joe? Cold-hearted Joe? He was both. If he didn't like you, you were out of luck. He'd mesmerize the press also. He was in complete control of his Q and A's. Players didn't even know he was telling the press they sucked.

MLB Draft ~ Hmmm. You're both right (just sayin..). You never can tell as you say, yet we have a nice little list to show now. BUT, the Wilpons are committed, instituted or not to slotting. That's why they came in 20th. Boris or not, Wilpons are staunch believers in a structured scale for these picks. That's them. I'm on the fence about it because again, you both make a good case. To me it one of those "it is what it is" things.

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