Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Flashy vs Smart

  • Would the same offer have filled a bigger hole?

You can discount Roy Oswalt's first start for the Phillies; you can simultaneously discount J.A. Happ's first start for the Astros. Oswalt got batted around and Happ pitched 6 scoreless innings on Friday night. Oswalt will pitch well for the Phillies.

But after Brad Lidge's latest meltdown on Saturday in which he allowed a game-winning homer to the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman, I have to ask the question: would the same offer that got Oswalt, or its equivalent, have netted a reliever to bolster the real hole the Phillies need to patch? And would it have been smarter to address that need rather than to trade one starting pitcher and two minor leaguers for another starting pitcher?

We can debate the deal----I probably wouldn't have traded Happ for Oswalt, but the Phillies are only paying a portion of Oswalt's salary and now have a very good (though not dominating as some have suggested) front three in the starting rotation----but could that same offer of Happ and a couple of minor leaguers have pried Joakim Soria from the Royals? Would the Phillies be better off with Soria and their current starting rotation minus Happ and Oswalt?

Lidge has proven that he's either great or horrible depending on his mental and physical state. In 2008, the Phillies wouldn't have even made the playoffs without him; in 2009, they made the playoffs in spite of him. At times, he's looked like the unstoppable force he was for most of his time with the Astros and in 2008 with the Phillies; the bite on his slider has been at its devastating best; at other times, he's appeared ready to faint on the mound.

So is it mental?

Is it physical?

Is it both?

Lidge has had lingering elbow and knee problems, but looks healthy now; so the only thing I can surmise is that his confidence is doing what it usually does----fluctuating between high and low. Every save is an adventure with him and the Phillies organization and fan base have to hold their collective breaths when he enters a game.

Oswalt doesn't fix this issue.

Mirroring the winter, the Phillies had a choice then and now. Back then, they could've kept Cliff Lee and traded for Roy Halladay, or gone for the half-measures of trading prospects for Halladay while trading Lee to replenish the minor league system. They chose the latter and I said at the time and will continue to say that it was a mistake.

Faced with a similar conundrum of a struggling, though still very dangerous team, they could've tried to repair the bullpen or made an improving maneuver for the short-term and acquired Oswalt. He did fall into their laps to some degree because the Astros had no other trading partner for his services and club owner Drayton McLane was not-so-subtly angling him to Philadelphia as a gesture for a loyal soldier in Oswalt to try and get him a championship as his career enters its twilight.

Did the Phillies inquire about Soria?

They must've.

Would Soria----who has a no-trade clause to certain clubs, including the Yankees----have agreed on a trade to Philadelphia if they're on the list? Why wouldn't he? And if he was approached and declined, I'd have to question his appetite for winning. Why stay in Kansas City when there's an opportunity to be a closer for a title contender? In that case, I wouldn't want him.

Could Happ and a moderate package of minor leaguers have gotten Soria? Possibly.

Again, this was a situation of, "Do we patch a hole or do we strengthen that which is currently serviceable?" The starting rotation would've survived without Oswalt as long as the Phillies hit and Happ's forearm injury didn't crop up again or get worse; the bullpen is not going to survive the way it's going.

Scanning the teams that are out of contention and there isn't much to choose from for relief help. The Mariners closer is David Aardsma; the Diamondbacks are currently using Aaron Heilman (although Chad Qualls would've been a cheap and worthwhile risk for the Phillies); the Orioles have Mike Gonzalez; the Blue Jays Kevin Gregg; the Indians had Kerry Wood; the Nationals weren't going to trade Matt Capps within the division; and the Pirates had Octavio Dotel.

None of the above mentioned names are an upgrade on Lidge even as he staggers along----although Dotel is probably pitching better than Lidge which is more of an indictment of Lidge than anything else.

None of these pitchers would've given the boost that Soria would.

Time will tell if the Phillies made the right decision and I don't know if they made a run at Soria and were rebuffed; but if the Royals were willing to deal Soria as they apparently are, the players the Phillies dealt to get Oswalt might done the trick and it would've been a better option to win now than Oswalt.

  • Ozzie Guillen has a point:

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen needs a translator of his own; not because of his sometimes backwards and incomprehensible English, but because when he says something that happens to be accurate, his natural honesty and abrasive manner masks what he's trying to say.

If you missed Guillen's lament that Asian players get preferential treatment in becoming assimilated or at least comfortable in North America, you get a concise recap and response in this ESPN story.

In context, it's clearly understandable why teams provide translators and the like to make Asian imports comfortable. For the most part, they're less likely to have a teammate that speaks the same language as Latin players do; in addition to that, as the NY Times said in their piece on the subject, it's in the contract for the Asian players to have a translator.

Also, a large number of the players coming over from Japan and Korea are going straight to the big leagues or to the higher levels of the minors; the investment in them is larger so it behooves teams to do everything within their power to help them succeed. Such is not the case for the Latin players who are signed as free agents, many times for nothing, and are taught as they go along.

Of course for every Jose Reyes and Bernie Williams who came over and learned English (both speak the language excellently now), there are players who can't handle the culture shock and don't have the maturity to overcome it and fulfill their potential.

Think about it: how would you function at the age of 15 if you were taken from your home and stuck in a totally foreign atmosphere not understanding a word anyone said while trying to learn and play baseball?

If it had been someone who was less of a loose cannon making these statements, they'd have been taken at face value. If Yankees bench coach Tony Pena said, it would've been accepted from a well-liked and thoughtful leader and perhaps steps would be taken to rectify the gap in education and nurturing; but because it was Guillen, it was, "Oh, Ozzie's at it again" before anyone actually took a look at what he said and its validity.

There are intelligent people in and out of baseball agreeing with Guillen's assessment; maybe now a greater undertaking will ensue to make the transition easier for young players who need the guidance a mentor can provide.

  • Viewer Mail 8.3.2010:

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Mike Francesa and the Mets:

Ya hafta break up da core!


No matter what, all eyes are on the Metropolitans. Here's to hoping they figure themselves out.

The absence of stupidity in the name of perception at the trading deadline was a great first step for the Mets. I believe they're going to stay the course----a winning course even if the naysayers don't see it.

Regarding Francesa, I only rarely watch or listen to his show and I'm not begrudging the man his vacation time, but to be away almost non-stop throughout the summer? At the trading deadline? He couldn't come in for one day? It's not like he's in Europe because he hates to fly and is one of those people who'd say, "Whaddo I wanna go dere for?" if anyone dared suggest he visit France. I'll bet he's in Saratoga; he couldn't come in for a deadline show?

It appears that his disinterest in doing his job that has borne itself out in pure laziness on the air is extending to off the air as well. Why bother anymore?

Joe writes RE Chone Figgins:

I am not a big Figgins fan, not by any means. But he will most definitely be better moving forward. In fact, he should be MUCH BETTER in his final year than he was this year. He has been atrocious so far.

Considering the accuracy in your statement of Figgins's atrocious play, he can't be much worse in the final year of his contract, so you're right about that; but do you really think a limited player like Figgins will be "good" in years 4-5 of that horrible deal? When he'll be a slowing down speed guy with some on base skills at 35? I have a hard time buying it. But the Mariners did and they're not going to be able to get rid of it anytime soon.

Speaking of Figgins, yesterday I openly wondered and came to my own Magnum P.I. investigative conclusion as to the genesis of the Figgins-to-the-Braves talk and who approached whom. Peter at Capital Avenue Club (who has some inside contacts) told me on Twitter that the Braves approached the Mariners about taking Kenshin Kawakami and the Mariners said they had to take Figgins in return and the clubs couldn't match up financially.

I was sort of right in my analysis that the Braves would not have taken the Figgins contract without it being more palatable for them, and they didn't.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE the Mets and Omar Minaya:

Me? Give Omar a break? I've given him every break and still do. I prefer him over most replacements I've heard so far. There's about 7kids I want on the team right now. 8 years under sole Wilpon ownership speaks for itself but let's see how they handle their present opportunity (in 2011-12). This is the very cycle I want ended...the constant harangue about the same Met issues over and over.

Here's what I think is going to happen barring a total collapse: Manuel will be replaced sooner rather than later by Bob Melvin; Fernando Martinez will be playing right field starting the next homestand (I think this will occur regardless of how this road trip goes); and Minaya will survive at least into early next year as Steve Phillips did in 2003 after Bobby Valentine's ouster.

Depending on how things go, Minaya will either remain as the GM or be fired early next season, replaced on an interim basis by John Ricco or Wayne Krivsky (unless they bring in an assistant GM to be the next guy in line) and they'll go from there. Minaya will have at least another 8-9 months before being dispatched. It's only fair.

Graham writes RE Stephen Strasburg and Ron Darling:

I think it's a little over-critical to lambaste fans who had shown up to see Strasburg. Having a general sense of your team's long-term well-being and wanting to see what you paid for in the short term are not mutually exclusive.

As for Ron Darling, this kind of comment really shouldn't be much of a surprise. This was the guy who broke his thumb -- on his pitching hand -- and tried to stay in the game. This was the guy who retired and walked away from $500,000 rather than be put on the disabled list for the first time at the end of his career. (These are anecdotes from Ron's book, the title of which escapes me at the moment.)

You raise a very interesting point about the cost-benefit paradigm of pitching mechanics. Steve Stone summed it up pretty well when reflecting on his career and his Cy Young season: "I would rather have one year of 25-7 than four years of 15-15." (Paraphrased.)

By the way -- I've just discovered your blog. It's terrific!

I totally understand where fans who were aggravated at the sight of Miguel Batista striding out to the mound when they expected and paid to see Strasburg. It's like buying tickets to Metallica and seeing Hanson come out.

With Darling----the book is called: The Complete Game: Reflections on Baseball and the Art of Pitching----I read it; it was okay; not as good as I expected----he was a tough guy, but he's also smart enough to realize in the aftermath of his comments how idiotic it would've been for the Nationals and Strasburg to take that risk. For what? To prove something? What if he really got hurt? Then what?

I'd trade greatness in a brief time for slightly above average for the long term too, as Stone suggested. It's like Joe DiMaggio said when he retired, "I no longer have it," and he didn't want to diminish his greatness by hanging on. Some think differently; Steve Carlton hung around and wanted to still pitch and tarnished his legacy with a journeyman's jaunt to the Giants, White Sox and Twins. No one is in a position to tell another person when they should quit doing what they want to do with their lives and careers even if it's obvious that they should move on.

Thanks for the compliment. The army grows!!!

  • The Prince on the Podcast:

I'll be a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz later today and it should be posted and ready to go later on in the afternoon.

Be prepared. Be very prepared...

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and Noble.com. 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.

It's still useful.


She-Fan said...

I think some of the American-born ballplayers need a translator!

Jeff said...

I think Guillen's rant is getting the necessary attention now... but you're right in that it was dismissed early on as 'just another Ozzie rant'.

We've talked about this before on your blog, how some guys don't need a translator but still employ them so they're there as scapegoats when the player doesn't feel like talking (ahem, ICHIRO)... and that annoys the hell outta me.

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

Mickey Rivers and Rickey Henderson could have used a translator.

I think Ozzie brought up a great point that has gotten dismissed outright in the past by Baseball. The Old Establishment never saw it necessary to provide such services for reasons that I don't need to get into. Baseball is much more sensitive/helpful today but not nearly enough for Ozzie. Latinos have gotten around the language because of the quantity of players on a given roster/system. Spanish Media has helped along the way. But listen to Tony Perez, Tony Oliva, Orlando Cepeda, Vida Pinson......etc and they'll tell you. Ozzie didn't say anything malicious. But sometimes the truth comes off as a little rough, especially when Ozzie makes the pitch.

You couldn't be more right about Mike the Sports Pope. I'd like to use a different word for him.

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