Monday, August 16, 2010

This Should Go Over Well With The Veterans

  • A bad sign:

Like Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs when Clarice Starling was told, "access to Lecter is strictly limited", such is the case with Washington Nationals rookie Stephen Strasburg.

Like a political candidate who has the penchant for displaying ignorance when allowed to go off script, the cocoon surrounding Strasburg under the pretense of protecting him has extended from on-field pitch counts and babying to off-field watchfulness over what he says, when and to whom he says it.

After his recent quotes regarding Nationals number one pick Bryce Harper, perhaps that was a good idea.

The deadline for the Nationals to sign their top pick is approaching (it's midnight tonight) and Harper remains unsigned. Strasburg said the following (the entire article is available here):

"If [Harper] wants to play here, he's going to play here," Strasburg said Sunday, after pitching five innings in the Nationals' win over Arizona. "He doesn't need advice from anybody to convince him otherwise. If he doesn't want to play here, then we don't want him here."

It's interesting that Harper and Strasburg are represented by the same agent, Scott Boras; because Boras's reputation is that of a megalomaniacal villain from one of the Die Hard films, it's not much of a stretch to think that everyone is in cahoots to create an urgency to get Harper signed. There's a Svengali aspect to the control Boras exerts over his clients that make this plausible.

Very rarely do any major Boras clients go off on their own and depart from the agenda; one noticeable exception was Alex Rodriguez after the ill-advised contract opt-out and announcement during the 2007 World Series, but ARod was backed into a corner with non-existent options and universal ridicule. He had no choice but to leave Boras. It worked out in the end, but not because of some scheme on the part of the agent...I don't think.

Despite the hype surrounding him, Strasburg is still a rookie; the gentle handling can only go so far. While he's not likely to be as much of a diva as Gregg Jefferies was with the Mets when the veterans despised him for his attitude and that he was the golden child, it can't create good will when the rookie is treated so delicately and says something utterly ridiculous when he does speak.

A veteran would have known to say that the negotiations between Harper and the Nationals has nothing to do with him; a normal rookie would've been told by a clubhouse leader like Adam Dunn, Ivan Rodriguez or Ryan Zimmerman to keep his mouth shut; but do the rules that govern Strasburg's treatment on the field and with the media extend to the initiation practices and hierarchy that exists within a clubhouse?

Strasburg's 21; he's under a lot of pressure; he answered a question and said something stupid. It's understandable that he's kept in his plastic bubble; but there are times that the veterans of a team have to educate the rookies with lessons in propriety. Is that allowed with Strasburg? Or is he shielded from that too?

  • The correct decision:

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire's removal of Kevin Slowey from a game in which he'd pitched 7 no-hit innings was the right thing to do.

Wrapped in the selfish controversy of whether or not to put individual achievement ahead of the team, there will be the inevitable comparisons to C.C. Sabathia's no-hit bid earlier in the year in which Yankees manager Joe Girardi inserted himself into the story by saying that he was going to pull Sabathia regardless of the no-hitter. There will also be discussion of Edwin Jackson's no-hitter in which then Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch allowed him to throw 149 pitches to complete it. I was dead-set against Sabathia being pulled; agreed with Hinch on leaving Jackson in the game; and agree with Gardenhire's call on Slowey.

What's the difference?

Sabathia is a historic horse who has pitched deeply into games and can handle the extra work with minimal injury risk. Jackson is also a pitcher who's been allowed to pitch deeply into games in his career, sometimes going over 130 pitches with little affect on his subsequent games. Slowey missed his last start due to elbow tendinitis.

After the 7th inning, Slowey had thrown 106 pitches; if he were allowed to continue, it would've taken at least another 20-30 pitches to complete the no-no; Kevin Slowey has never once thrown more than 114 pitches in a game for his entire big league career; coming off a missed start with an elbow problem and never having ventured that deeply into a game was not, under such circumstances, worth the risk.

It's not about pitch counts and history; it's about coming to a conclusion as to the risk/reward and viability of pushing a pitcher to and beyond his limits. Said limits are higher for Sabathia and Jackson; not for Slowey. Plus the Twins are in a dogfight for their division and need Slowey for the long-term goal. Sabathia's start was in April for a team that is essentially guaranteed to contend; Jackson was pitching for the Diamondbacks who are playing out the string.

Gardenhire was gutsy and accurate strategically and in overseeing the health of his player. The Twins won. I don't see the controversy aside from random idiocy and lack of understanding of facts.

  • Viewer Mail 8.16.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Joe Torre:

Maybe Torre will write another book while he contemplates his future in baseball. Calling Tom Verducci!

This is just the beginning of the sniping that would occur if we saw Torre return to New York managing the Mets! And imagine, just imagine the sight of Torre's hitting coach, Don Mattingly, wearing blue and orange.

The wellspring of writing possibilities for Torre, Verducci and everyone else will be endless----more reason to hope it happens.

Max Stevens writes RE the Mets and Torre:

I have mixed feelings about Joe Torre becoming the manager of the Mets. He would definitely bring a much needed boost in respectability for the franchise. Regardless of whether all the criticism is warranted, I think the Mets are perceived as a team club where bad things happen. It'd be nice to get past that, and Torre definitely helps in that regard. I guess he'd be good at keeping the clubhouse together. But I hate the way he blows through bullpens. Do the Dodgers even have one complete game this year? I guess that's not entirely Torre's fault, but he has a pretty short hook all the same...

Not to be misunderstood, I don't see Torre as a strategist on a level with Tony La Russa or Jim Tracy; his contributions have always been more of steering the ship and making mostly good game-management decisions; dealing with the press; and navigating the clubhouse egos.

The idea of "bad things" happening to the Mets are a creation of the media to take shots at the organization. It stopped for awhile when they played well early in the season and returned as they slumped. The laughter directed at teams like the Mets, Cubs and others is not evenhanded analysis but an attempt to either be controversial or funny.

Torre's bullpen handling can't be any worse than that of Jerry Manuel or Willie Randolph before him; and he's won everywhere and through everything over the past 16 years. It's cheaper to bring in Torre and pay him than it is to fire the GM and pay him off while hiring a new manager and venturing into an even more uncertain future.

NapLajoieonSteroids writes RE Torre:

Whenever I think of Torre I think of these two things:

1) The Yankees were damned lucky that during the Dynasty years Torre had three or four bullpen arms (essentially Rivera, Mike Stanton and Jeff Nelson for the stretch run) and one of them was Mariano Rivera. If he only had Stanton or only Nelson, he wouldn't have taken those teams so far 'cause he would have burnt them out with the way he manages bullpens.

2) I understand that Scott Proctor was already in his late twenties when he arrived to the show, so it wasn't like he was someone who needed (or deserved) protection, but Torre completely destroyed him with the workloads. Torre punished him to a point where I imagine (fancifully) Proctor could make a strong case out of suing Torre for damages towards his ability to earn a living.

The poor guy probably cried when Torre became manager of the Dodgers.

A manager is only as smart as his players' performances. Torre stumbled onto the "formula" in 1996 as he got a lead after six innings and turned the game over to Rivera and John Wetteland. Was it luck? Possibly. But he deployed his players well and gained their support.

Could Derek Jeter have developed as he did under Buck Showalter or a more tightly wound manager who didn't provide the fatherly support system? Would the Yankees have panicked after the first two games of the 1996 World Series against the Braves with another manager?

I can't defend the use of Proctor, but after watching Manuel select one pitcher and continually pitch him every single day until he's useless (Fernando Nieve; Manny Acosta; the over-warmups of Francisco Rodriguez) and then he moves onto the next one. Randolph blew out his bullpen early in the seasons he managed the Mets, how much worse could Torre be?

If Torre is simply lucky, I'll take the luck if I'm the Mets. It was bad luck that cost the Mets the 2006 World Series with Duaner Sanchez's car accident and it's snowballed from there to their current state as the MLB piƱata.

To be frank, Scott Proctor was a journeyman and as cruel as it sounds, pitchers like him can be found relatively easily, so teams tend to use them until they're exhausted and discard them.

Considering the current view of the Mets, Torre would add credibility to the organization upon his arrival and that's what they need more than a complete overhaul. They have money and more talent than they're given credit for because it's easier to ridicule without context, and that's what's been happening for years.

He'd be a perfect out front representative for the Mets.

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 later this week. I see a bad moon rising.

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.

Do I really look like a guy with a plan?

1 comment:

She-Fan said...

Donnie Baseball a Met? Noooooooo.