Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Lightning 11.28.2010

  • Overestimated value:

At least the Pirates got something for Zach Duke.

It may not wind up being much of anything (a player to be named later from the Diamondbacks), but it's better than the idiotic maneuver they pulled last season with Matt Capps as they non-tendered him and watched haplessly (or Piratanically) as Capps was in heavy demand from 2/3 of the teams in baseball after he was dumped; re-established his value with the Nationals; and was traded to the Twins for their top catching prospect, Wilson Ramos.

This from an organization that saw fit to dole a 2-year contract on Ramon Vazquez and avidly pursue Akinori Iwamura, only to release both when getting a glimpse as to what they purchased.

Amid all the repeated accolades as to the way the Pirates minor league system has been rebuilt and they're bringing up prospects such as Pedro Alvarez, there's still this overwhelming sense of incompetence that they plainly and simply do not know what they're doing.

The dealings with Duke hammer this point home again.

Zach Duke is not a particularly good pitcher, but he has use. His career has been one of drastic rises and falls; when he arrived in the big leagues in 2005, he dominated; such respected voices as Peter Gammons couldn't contain their enthusiasm for the then-22-year-old lefty as he went 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA in 14 starts over the final two months of the season.

It's so easy to by mystified by a hot streak; this is especially true for a pitcher who'd essentially been ignored in the draft (Duke was 20th round pick of the Pirates in the 2001 draft); and sliced through the league the first time around. It was only in subsequent years that reality hit both Duke and the Pirates.

He's been on some awful teams; shown 200-inning durability and competent performance. There are far more workmanlike players in baseball than is generally discussed and there's nothing wrong with that; not everyone can be Albert Pujols. Carving out a career with status as a cog in the machine, number 4-5 starter isn't such a bad deal for the player or team.

The Pirates didn't get the memo.

In 2009, Duke had a very good year despite a 11-16 record; had the Pirates not been delusional regarding his potential; if they'd looked at their circumstances and said, "we're not good; this guy's never going to be more attractive to trading partners than he is now; he's going to get super-expensive as soon as next year and is a free agent after 2011; let's move him now," they'd have been fine. But they didn't.

Conceivably, they could've gotten a couple of prospects for him from a good team with superior evaluative skills who would've known what Duke is and isn't. For a team like the Yankees, Duke would be a 5th starter; he'd go 12-9 with a 4.80 ERA; give them 175 innings do as he was asked without over-the-top demands he couldn't fulfill. For the Pirates he was a waste of time who they eventually gave away because of finances and stupidity.

It's not the big moves that build and rebuild a team, but the conscious decisions of what to do with a negligible talent and when to cut losses. The Pirates got a player to be named later; they slashed Duke's salary; but they minimized rather than maximized. As long as the Pirates are doing business in this way, what possible chance do they have of rising from the annual catastrophe they've been for most of the past two decades?

None. Unless they're really, really lucky.

I wouldn't expect good fortune to start smiling on the Pirates anytime soon.

  • The Jeter Chronicles:

The Yankees don't want to overplay their strong hand here.

They don't want to embarrass their captain.

And Jeter doesn't want his image sullied any more than it's already been.

Derek Jeter has to jump out front of representatives and, rather than take a hands-off approach, tell them to get something done----fast.

Presumably, with Jeter as smart as he is, this has happened.

What people fail to see when an army of representatives are posturing is that the actual client may be sitting back and trying to stay above the fray. Listening to advisers, lawyers, front-men and flunkies lulls the person at the center of the storm to what's really going on; what's being said and done on his behalf.

I can recall several instances to this effect.

Alex Rodriguez had his Svengali/agent Scott Boras pulling his strings for so long, A-Rod didn't know how to extricate himself from the control of his father figure/hit-man. It was only when a similar amount of vitriol was directed at A-Rod as is being aimed at Jeter now; the frightening realization that the Yankees were legitimately telling him to take a hike with his opt-out and absurd demands, that he took steps to straighten the mess out.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, also repped by Boras, saw the potential for a deal to join the Red Sox in serious jeopardy as he wanted to make the jump from Japan to North America; the Red Sox, like the Yankees with A-Rod, had all the cards; Matsuzaka was also facing the cultural reaction back home in Japan had he let money stand in the way of pride in performance and challenging himself against greater competition.

In another venue, Mike Tyson----in 1988 at the top of the world as the undefeated and unstoppable force as heavyweight champion of the world----had one fight that everyone wanted to see. Tyson vs Michael Spinks was supposed to establish, once and for all, who held the status as best heavyweight in the world. Because they were represented by different managerial camps, a deal was slow in coming. Tyson was accused of being afraid to fight Spinks; Spinks sat by silently as the wheels spun. Tyson, having had enough of the bickering managers, told his manager Bill Cayton to get the deal done for the fight.

The fight was billed as "Tyson vs Spinks---Once And For All". It lived up to the billing; Tyson hit Spinks once and that was all.

In all three cases, there was nowhere for the participants to go. A-Rod had no other comparable offers on the table; Matsuzaka was faced with the one option of going back to Japan; and Tyson wanted to prove his superiority over his closest competitor.

Derek Jeter is sitting in a similar position.

He has nowhere to go.

The public is turning on him.

The Yankees are holding a united front (and muzzling Hank Steinbrenner) in refusing to be blackmailed by Jeter.

He has to step forward and tell his people to shut their mouths and get this straight before it spirals completely out of control.

He's smart enough to do that. Jeter didn't get into his current circumstances by being totally blind to reality. It's probably happening as we speak. It better be.

  • A contending rotation:

For all the ridicule directed at the McCourts, their embarrassing divorce and "Beverly Hillbillies" antics that have come to light in the court proceedings, one thing that's always lost in the muck is that they allow their baseball people to make the moves they feel are necessary to win.

Such has been the case as they've assembled a starting rotation that will allow them to contend in 2011.

Jon Garland signed a 1-year, $5 million contract with $3 million in incentives and a vesting $8 million option if he pitches 190 innings----ESPN Story.

Garland is not a great pitcher; he's someone from whom you know what to expect. He'll give up a lot of hits; a lot of homers; throw strikes; gobble innings; and hand the game over to the bullpen with a chance to win most of the time. There will be a few games in which he gets blasted; a few games in which he pitches masterfully.

He is what he is.

This is another case of the Dodgers taking advantage of a pitcher who wants to play close to home (Garland is from Southern California); and is interested in playing for a manager----Don Mattingly----who's not going to be a pest.

In addition to the retentions of Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda and the acquisition of Garland, the Dodgers have a rotation that isn't comparable to that of the Red Sox or Phillies in terms of absolute depth or dominance, but is good enough to be in contention.

There is the potential for top-of-the-rotation terror throughout the league if Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley pitch up to their potential; but even if they repeat their 2010 performances, this is a good team with the potential to be top tier.

Questions abound about new manager Don Mattingly, but I don't see his lack of managerial experience to be a hindrance to winning. Mattingly's smart enough to lean on his coaches for advice. Because he's so affable and the players revere him so much, they won't want to let Donnie Baseball down. This is not the case with every club and manager.

With a veteran club, that's very, very important and should overcome any strategic gaffes Mattingly's going to make.

Make jokes at the expense of the McCourts all you want, but they've consistently put a good product on the field and haven't let outside distractions stop the baseball people from doing what needs to be done.

There are far worse owners in baseball in both theory and practice.

  • Viewer Mail 11.28.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Derek Jeter:

Anybody who calls Jeter Captain DP should be stripped of their right to comment about anything! Bah, that gets me so mad. I agree with you that he's not going anywhere. The only - and I repeat ONLY - place he might have gone is to the Dodgers if Torre had still be the manager and the McCourts hadn't run the team into the ground.

Oh, I took members of your fan base to the woodshed about the "Captain DP" stuff during the season.

I speculated on the Joe Torre-Dodgers possibility when the Jeter contract concerns began in the spring. Los Angeles with Torre would've been a viable option because of the manager and that Hollywood would be a suitable atmosphere on and off the field for Jeter's interests and perception.

Now, he'd play for Mattingly, but it's not the same as it would've been with Torre----the championship Yankees connection is gone from LA; and the Dodgers won't pay him.

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE reporters and Derek Jeter:

For the average reporter, anything is good for a story. Columns in the tone of "Where Could Jeter Go?" are going to be read because people like gossip, people like to make opinions on what should anyone do. I could bet that every baseball reporter knows Jeter is staying with the Yankees, but writing anything that questions that truth brings traffic to the website. Reporters would write about their mom joining the Pirates on a slow news day.

On a separate note, what do you think about the Jays' bullpen? The top three relievers were offered arbitration but it's highly unlikely they'll accept it, so we'll see new bullpen faces...

I've become less stringent in my assessment of certain reporters after communicating with them regarding editorial demands as to what they include in their stories. That said, I don't have much patience for the falseness of a "source close to the situation"; it could be anyone saying anything; or it might not even exist at all.

The Pirates could use my mother; she's dealt with me; she'd frighten them into line.

Regarding the Blue Jays, they have so much pitching that they'll be able to shift some of the excess to the bullpen; I'd try Casey Janssen as the closer.

Mike Fierman writes RE the Yankees dynasty:

good point jane- if Mr. Torre was still at the helm in LA that would at least have given Jeter an illusory bargaining chip.
I agree that even if jeter had a great 2009 Cashman would not have tendered a larger contract than the overly lavish 3/45, but Cash now has the vox populi on his side thanks to .270 and all the accompanying side dishes of bad numbers.

thank you for filling out the Showalter discussion, but i think i might stick with the conventional, if dull, party line that it was Stick Michael who built that team and set up the dynasty, not showalter.

Michael and Showalter worked in concert to put together a team that was a cohesive and interchangeable unit on the field and didn't tolerate such bad actors as Mel Hall off the field. One thing that we can agree on is that the George Steinbrenner suspension removed a meddling and impatient wild card who'd blow up all they'd built in the aftermath of one destructive explosion.

Joe writes RE the Yankees dynasty:

Michael Kay would have won 4 rings at the helm of those Yankees teams :)

Joe's half-kidding and half-right (unintentionally I presume).

The Yankees teams of 1998-1999 could've won without a manager; but the 1996 and 2000 teams would've had a hard time without Torre.

In 1996, they would probably not have won with anyone other than Torre. I believed that then and will maintain that belief forever.

The 2000 team lost 15 of their final 18 games and the first game of the ALDS to the Athletics; it would've been easy at any time during that collapse for a manager to flip the food table and start screaming like a maniac to send the team into a greater funk; further tightening them with a contagious bout of hysterics. If that had happened, they could've been bounced by a younger A's team that was ready to take out the champions.

Torre remained calm; they righted the ship and won that ALDS; then they steamrolled through the Mariners and Mets to win the World Series. With another manager, I can't imagine that happening.

I was on with Sal at SportsFan Buzz Wednesday talking about the Hot Stove; the Mets; Derek Jeter; post-season award winners; and other stuff. You can click on the link here directly or here for Sal's site to listen on I-Tunes.

1 comment:

She-Fan said...

I haven't taken a poll of the Yankees Universe, but it doesn't seem to me that the majority of Yankee fans have turned on Jeter. (Fans of other teams are another matter.) My position is that he's asking too much but that the Yankees' yammering to the media is making things worse. They need to shut up and work out a deal.