Thursday, November 18, 2010


  • Ah, muck beasts---will you ever learn?

Throughout recent baseball history, as relievers have become more imperative to winning; as pitchers have been trained to be happy with 100 pitches/6 innings (whichever comes first); as managers have taken and bastardized the Tony La Russa strategy of using various pitchers contingent on the circumstances, the number of pitchers who, in years past, would've been disposable or ill-thought-of because they couldn't make it as starters and weren't mentally or physically adept at closing have received multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts.

But have the results for these pitchers lived up to their financial value?

Yesterday I was flabbergasted by the lucrative and preposterous contract the Tigers bestowed upon Joaquin Benoit----ESPN Story.

Benoit----as a set-up man----has received a 3 year, $16.5 million contract.

Benoit, dumped by the Rangers after missing the entire 2009 season with a shoulder injury, signed with the Rays and had a career year in 2010 with a 1.34 ERA; 75 strikeouts in 60 innings and 30 hits allowed. He also gave up 6 homers; homers have been a bugaboo for Benoit in his career and are a concern for a reliever.

Another reliever (not-so-coincidentally, also of the Rays), Grant Balfour, will presumably get a multi-year deal from someone.

It's lunacy.

Taking a look at some of the more "irreplaceable" set-up men in recent years and you notice something striking----none of them were signed for a long-term, expensive contract; in fact, most were foundlings or lucky acquisitions because they'd failed elsewhere.

The World Series champion Giants won their title with Sergio Romo; Guillermo Mota; Santiago Casilla; Ramon Ramirez----none of whom would or should receive a long-term, guaranteed contract.

The other playoff teams were of a similar ilk. The Reds had Arthur Rhodes (released and left for dead in a career sense several times); Nick Masset (bounced from the Rangers to the White Sox to the Reds); and Aroldis Chapman (a Cuban defector).

The Yankees? Kerry Wood (dispatched by the Indians after washing out as their closer); plus Joba Chamberlain and Dave Robertson (both homegrown).

The Rangers, Twins and especially the Rays did the same type of thing. They used pitchers they'd essentially picked up as "maybe this will work" types; or developed their own relievers, used them and are currently discarding them choosing to let someone else make them financially secure.

The Phillies won their championship in 2008 with relievers they patched together; only in the afterglow of the title----seemingly blinded by the assertion that they "must" keep the group together----did they spend a lot of money to maintain their bullpen with inconsistent results. This year's bullpen, with Chad Durbin; Jose Contreras; Danys Baez; J.C. Romero; Ryan Madson, was expensive and shaky. And they haven't learned their lesson since they just gave Contreras a 2-year contract to remain.*

*What's with Ruben Amaro Jr. and overpaying to keep his players; with giving multi-year contracts?

Is this wise?

For years, the Yankees made expensive bullpen acquisitions the likes of Kyle Farnsworth, Steve Karsay, Tom Gordon and Paul Quantrill among others. The results weren't good. It appeared as if they were trying to replicate the success they had in 1996 with the good fortune Joe Torre had in discovering "the formula" of getting a lead after six innings and shutting the game down by going to Mariano Rivera/John Wetteland. The did continue the success with Jeff Nelson, Mike Stanton, Ramiro Mendoza and a couple of others as Rivera took over as closer. But for the most part, teams that spend lavishly on non-closers eventually regret it.

It says something about the Rays that they find a load of arms who've underachieved or failed miserably; who've had injuries and are willing to join Tampa to rejuvenate their career and earn that big contract. They don't even make a perfunctory attempt to keep the likes of Benoit or Balfour; they know that it's a poor investment over the long-term and the non-tenders, minor league free agents and failed starters will provide a wealth of names to fling at the wall and see if they stick.

Look at the likes of Benoit and Balfour; look at how they reached their current circumstances and how the Rays acquired them. Balfour was a power fastballer with bad control who'd been terrible with the Twins and Brewers before finding a home with the Rays. Benoit, as mentioned earlier, was coming back from injury and had little more than his power fastball and impressive stuff (which I always liked----it's in writing) and the desire to bolster his credentials to do as he did yesterday and get paid.

La Russa has been blamed for the importance of relievers in today's game, but what people misread is that La Russa has a reason for doing what he does; some managers change pitchers simply "because"----because of a stat sheet; because they don't want to be criticized-----"because". Teams adhere to this theory and overspend to compensate for it.

Now, we see erstwhile smart teams like the Marlins----who built excellent bullpens with pitchers they found, dusty and in need of refurbishment, in the trash----trading commodities like Dan Uggla, Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin for a load of relief pitchers; then they made it worse by overspending on John Buck with the money saved by dealing Uggla.

Buck's useful----he's got some pop; has a take-charge attitude and can catch well enough----but he's not worth $18 million over 3 years; and this is after the Marlins have gotten by with catchers they "found" as well, Ronnie Paulino and John Baker. I don't understand it.

The way to build a bullpen is by having a good closer and finding pieces through any means necessary. Like the Rays do; like the Marlins did. It's not about money; not about stats; not about anything other than results. It's a mistake that teams continue to make and it's getting worse by the day.

  • Genius!!!!!

So let me see if I understand this: the Athletics just get out from under the Eric Chavez contract...and they offer Adrian Beltre $64 million over 5 years?


It's genius alright. Marketing genius. Flimflam genius.

I've had enough of Billy Beane.

Not only has his work been an overt betrayal of that which made him famous to begin with in the Moneyball fantasy, but he's been outright stupid in the past few years. Safely protected by the veneer of "genius", he's done whatever he's wanted to results that could only be described as poor.

For all the "objective analysis" that's played up as his bottom line reason for doing anything, he spends lavishly and stupidly on the epitome of unquantifiables. The Japanese pitcher upon whom he's just won the posting (for $17 million) on Hisashi Iwakuma is a question mark; the money doled on the likes of Michael Ynoa as he recovers from Tommy John surgery is languishing; and his floating set of principles aren't just tiresome----they're enraging.

Which is it?

Beltre's defensive attributes are played up; his leadership; his determination----all "intangibles"----as it's glossed over that the two best seasons of his career have come in contract years. First with the Dodgers in 2004, he hit 48 homers and finished second in the MVP voting; he got the identical contract then from the Mariners then that the A's have offered now. He was an okay player for five years with the Mariners, got a 1-year contract with the Red Sox for $10 million....and had another year like he had in 2004!!!

Beltre was terrific for the Red Sox and will finish in the top 10 of the MVP voting. But he's also going to be 32 at the start of next season and will be signed until he's 37; he'll have that history of his huge contract year numbers followed by a drastic drop and he'll be older. Much older.

Is Beane out of his mind?

He's long past becoming a parody of himself.

He's a farce.

Just like Moneyball the book. Just like Moneyball the movie.

Just like Beane is now.

When the news first trickled out that new Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers was listening to offers for Justin Upton, I thought he'd reverted to "Randy Myers Claim Mode"; or that he'd confused Justin Upton (the "good" son) with his malcontent brother with the Rays, B.J. Upton.

For those of you unaware of the Randy Myers fiasco, in 1998, Towers----worried that Myers would be claimed by the Braves on waivers----claimed the Blue Jays lefty....and the Blue Jays said, "take him". Of course, taking him meant taking the remainder of his $12 million contract. The Braves had not intention of claiming Myers.

The George W. Bush-style "strategery" almost go Towers fired.

But when it became known what the asking price is up to five players for Justin Upton----a 23-year-old who's signed through 2015 for a reasonable $50 million----then it's not so ludicrous.

Why not see what they can get for him?

In the end, I think it's unlikely that Upton gets traded, but if a suitable offer comes along the Diamondbacks would be foolish not to consider it.

The Yankees and Derek Jeter are going back-and-forth in their contract negotiations----ESPN Story----with both sides knowing that they're going to have to get a deal done to, if for no other reason, save face.

The Yankees don't need the aggravation of enduring the fallout of Jeter leaving and having to find another solution at shortstop; Jeter has the problem of no other team willing to even make a move on him because they know it's a waste of time. It's hard to hold the former team hostage when there's no other team in pursuit.

A deal will get done.

Jeter's not going anywhere and the Yankees aren't letting him leave. Period.

  • Gazing into the crystal baseball:
I'll return to the Hot Stove Previews tomorrow and do the mail; plus we'll see whatever else pops up as the day moves along. We'll....see.....


Tom said...

Agreed on the Benoit deal, but it seems when you have a 'deep pockets' owner whose primary interest these days is in buying the Pistons, a guy like Dombrowski (GM + Pres) can go wild. Fresh out of the Willis contract fiasco (and I'm not sure that we're still not paying him), Sheffield (who we're still paying) and Bonderman, he's overpaying again. There are a number of middle relievers out there that didn't require 3 years and multi-millions. Crain, Wheeler, Mota all are acceptable in a middle relief role. I think the Tigers thinking also revolves around their skepticism of Valverde's health. He limped across the finish line last year and with his violent delivery he's not long for the program as the closer. So, without Benoit ever being in that position as a closer, they're looking at him to fill the gap if and when Valverde goes down again. Regardless, more of this overspending is going to go on this off season and I'm sure the Tigers will play a big part of it. Got to amp the volume to sell those full season ticket packages.

She-Fan said...

Yes, the Jeter deal will get done because Jeter will have to concede on the # of years in that contract. Does he really want to play into his 40s? Not likely.

Jeff said...

Two words: Kyle Farnsworth.

I know you mentioned him, but it cannot be overstated... paying that sorta money for shit will most likely yield... shit.

Oh, and I had a dream last night that Jeter was wearing the birds on the bat.

A man can dream, can't he?

Joe said...

I don't understand why you are bashing Beane for suddenly investing in something that isn't as easy to quantify, many years after a book apparently quoted him as saying he wouldn't do so. Just like when you used to overlook OBP, you now view it as something more now. Just as Theo took for granted his pitching depth in 2006, he now focuses more so on it. Philosophies can change.