Friday, November 19, 2010

An Unintentional Air Of Menace

  • A bolt from the blue:

Much has gone on in recent days, so I'll only have a hot stove preview of one team. Today, it's the Atlanta Braves.

Atlanta Braves

Free agents: Rick Ankiel; Melky Cabrera; Kyle Farnsworth; Troy Glaus; Eric Hinske; Derrek Lee; Takashi Saito.

Players available via trade: Nate McLouth; Matt Diaz; Derek Lowe; Kenshin Kawakami.

What they need: A power bat; a competent starting pitcher; a veteran closer; bullpen help.

Power bats to pursue:

Free agents---Lance Berkman; Jorge Cantu; Adam Dunn; Paul Konerko; Adrian Beltre; Pat Burrell; Carl Crawford; Jayson Werth; Johnny Damon; Manny Ramirez; Marcus Thames; Magglio Ordonez.

Trades---Josh Willingham; Nick Swisher; Curtis Granderson; Ben Zobrist; B.J. Upton; Justin Upton; Mike Cameron; Delmon Young; Denard Span; Carlos Quentin; Luke Scott; David Murphy; Juan Rivera; Colby Rasmus; Casey Blake; Matt Kemp; Hunter Pence; Kosuke Fukudome; Chris Young; Adrian Gonzalez; Prince Fielder.

Following their powerful blast of getting Dan Uggla from the Marlins, the Braves have put themselves into position to contend for the World Series next year if they make the other necessary improvements. Their outfield was weak with McLouth/Ankiel in center field; Diaz in left. They need another bat.

Josh Willingham would be perfect and is available; plus the Braves have the prospects to get it done within reason. While they also have the prospects to get Gonzalez or Fielder, with Uggla on a 1-year deal before free agency (I think he'll wind up staying in Atlanta), they really can't afford to go all-in with another player who's going to cost a fortune in money and, unlike Uggla, will cost a chunk of the farm system. Uggla was stolen; Gonzalez/Fielder wouldn't be.

They're not going to have the money to sign Crawford or Werth; but with Cameron possibly out of favor in Boston, he'd be a good stopgap in center field. People have discussed the Braves going after Justin Upton, but what about B.J. Upton? The Braves leadership would keep the elder Upton in line and he's a very good defensive center fielder when he's motivated to hustle.

Starting pitchers to pursue:

Free agents---Erik Bedard; Jeremy Bonderman; Doug Davis; Kevin Correia; Jeff Francis; Aaron Harang; Rich Harden; Kevin Millwood; Carl Pavano; Brad Penny; Brandon Webb; Javier Vazquez.

Trades---Matt Garza; James Shields; Shaun Marcum; Gavin Floyd; Zack Greinke; Wandy Rodriguez; Zach Duke; Aaron Cook.

The Braves have a deep starting rotation, but could use a mid-back-end, competent innings-eater. There are names that are out there and could be had cheap to see if they can return to form----Webb falls right into this category. Others like Pavano, Penny and Vazquez are a risk, but Vazquez was fantastic for the Braves in 2009. Millwood might rejuvenate his career in a return to his first baseball home.

The Braves have the prospects to get Greinke; Garza and Shields are out there; they could get the likes of Cook by simply taking his contract.

Relievers to pursue:

Free agents---Hisanori Takahashi; Grant Balfour; J.J. Putz; Jesse Crain; Matt Guerrier; Octavio Dotel; Brian Fuentes; Trevor Hoffman; Kevin Gregg; Jon Rauch; Scot Shields; Kerry Wood.

Trades---Joba Chamberlain; Bobby Jenks; Jonathan Papelbon; Mike Gonzalez; Joakim Soria; Joel Hanrahan; Heath Bell; Jonathan Broxton.

Can the Braves get by with a combination of young relievers Johnny Venters and Craig Kimbrel closing?


Would it be worth their while, if they truly intend to compete for a championship, to bring in an established closer to back up the youngsters? A closer who'd be willing to accept an ancillary role and could fill the hole if needed? Someone like Gregg, Jenks, Fuentes, Putz? Yes.

Of course, the Braves have the prospects to get a Papelbon; to get a Soria; to get a Bell.

It's not a small thing to decide to go all in with a young closer; if they do make that call, they could wait to see which teams fall out of contention at mid-season and what comes available then.

I'd go after Papelbon.

The Braves have made the bold move to fix one of their big issues in trading for Uggla. They do need to account for the iffy return of Chipper Jones; for the slight shakiness of the rotation with Derek Lowe alternating performing excellently and poorly for long stretches; with the injury-plagued year of Jair Jurrjens.

With the right decisions, this team will be a favorite for the World Series in 2011. The Uggla deal was a great start.

  • Agendas abound:

I have little patience for those who have a clear agenda apart from the truth; if they do, I can live with it if it's an open secret and not camouflaged with specious concepts designed to divert attention from what they truly want.

We're seeing this phenomenon as the Mets close in on selecting a manager.

And I'm talking about those who are promoting, pushing and pleading for the Mets to hire Wally Backman to manage the team.

I'm all for attaching oneself to the past if it makes sense; if it has a good chance of working; if it's viable.

But Backman's main attributes as a manager appear to have more to do with his fire and that he was a member of the Mets 1986 championship team. Before getting into the lack of suitability between Backman and the Mets new front office led by military man Sandy Alderson, Backman's supporters don't have much of a case aside from pointing to faulty comparisons that have nothing to do with the Mets current circumstances.

Here's an example from the always self-justifying and clumsily fact-twisting Bob Klapisch (via Twitter):

Wally's belief in himself was one of his three strengths today.

The others were: he was the only one of the group that's been a world champion. He understands the experience first hand.

Second: he was a Met in the craziest time in the franchise's history. He's been trained to handle crises in New York.Also, lack of mlb managerial experience didn't stop the Mets from hiring Davey Johnson in '84. Look how that turned out.

Absolute garbage on all counts.

If you're going to advance your own agenda, at least do it in a way that's organized and makes sense. Make the argument as best you can; point out the flaws; make your case for said flaws to be overlooked because they're outweighed by the positives.

Instead, we hear Klapisch spouting scattershot assertions that have no correlation to the right now.

Anyone can believe in themselves; many times it's with blindness rather than due to merit.

He played for a world champion. So? He also played for a team that had the talent to win five championships and won one because of their out-of-control ways off the field----something Backman might still have lurking inside if things don't go well immediately.

He was a Met during the craziest time in their history and they never won at crunch time because of off-field distractions; Backman has behaved after his off-field issues cost him the Diamondbacks job, but is he going to be able to deal with a team in full transition? More importantly, will he fit with Alderson's philosophies?

Backman has had amazing success in the minors as a manager, but confidence is irrelevant to reality; the reality is that he's not ready to manage in the majors in New York; the experience of having been a champion as a player has nothing to do with anything; and his go-go-go style directly contradicts the patience and calmness that is preached by Alderson.

How is this going to work?

I am on board with either Bob Melvin or Terry Collins, but my choice is Melvin.

For all the knocks against his personality, he has a wry sense of humor and was well-liked by the players in both his managerial stops; he's compatible with the front office without being perceived as weak in the clubhouse and his evenhanded demeanor will be above and beyond what Backman is currently capable of, especially with the media.

The case for Backman has have little to do with the state of the ballclub and what they need; it's pure sentimentalist nonsense and an attempt to have someone whose mere presence will create an atmosphere of the easy story.

"Backman Goes Bonkers"

"Backman Lays Down The Law"


But what's more important? The Mets hired Alderson because he's going to put a stop to the off-field shenanigans that have plagued the club for the past, well, ever; why would they turn around and insert a powder keg like Backman into that mix and risk undoing all they're trying to build while they're building it?

They won't.

Supporters can twist facts to suit themselves all they want, but they're not doing it smoothly or cogently. They want Wally because they want Wally. But the Mets don't need Wally. They need calm; they need cohesion; they need Melvin.

That's why Melvin should be the choice. It's got nothing to do with Melvin or Backman personally. It's because it's the smart thing to do in the long and short term.

  • Viewer Mail 11.19.2010:

Tom writes RE Joaquin Benoit:

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.

Mike Ilich is spending to build a winner and everyone should applaud that. My whole issue with the contract doled out to a non-closing reliever is that they rarely pan out. Dombrowski built the 1997 championship Marlins which was a team that was essentially put together with money. It can be done. Will Benoit be able to close if Jose Valverde can't go? I wonder.

Gary Sheffield's finally off the books; as are Dontrelle Willis, Jeremy Bonderman, Magglio Ordonez and Nate Robertson. The only loony contract that remains is Carlos Guillen. They made a similar mistake with Benoit as they did in earlier years as they overpaid. Supposedly they're going hard after Adam Dunn, but unlike Benoit, they know what they're buying in Dunn so that would be money spent within reason; the Benoit deal is a very expensive risk.

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

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.

It's a staredown now. They need to get together in a room, lock the door and get this hammered out so they can move on to other matters.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Kyle Farnsworth and Derek Jeter:

Two words: Kyle Farnsworth.

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

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

A man can dream, can't he?

Farnsworth is the Jeff Francoeur of pitchers.

The Cardinals would be another great fit for Jeter and they can reasonably compete with the Yankees in a "storied history". But we know he's going nowhere. It's enough already.

Joe writes RE Billy Beane and me:

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.

Is it bashing to question why he's still accorded this respect based on a fairy tale? It's a circular argument----Beane was the subject of a best-selling book, therefore he knows what he's saying and doing----but when is there going to be an accurate audit of his work as a GM?

He's not being sensible which, regardless of philosophy, should be a tenet not to be deviated from. It's haphazard and faulty.

I never overlooked OBP; I put it and everything else into the proper context to suit my needs.

Beane doesn't appear to have a philosophy at this point. He's trying to maintain his rep and flinging darts at the dartboard with his eyes closed hoping he hits the bulls-eye. Or at least hits the board itself.

40ozLiz writes RE Billy Beane and Derek Jeter:

I see what you mean about Billy Beane now. I was so impressed with him in Moneyball. I agree with your assessment. Maybe Mr. Beane feels the need to go to a different strategy. We'll see once they make it to the World Series.

Oh, and things that need to be requirements in Derek Jeter's contract (from the perspective of a baseball player crazed chick): 1. He can no longer wear the full uniform. He will be provided with a pin-stripe Speedo for all games. In the event that the weather is inclement, a pin-striped and sleeveless chinchilla fur coat is allowed. 2. He must never talk ever again. Just sit there, look pretty and make some good defensive plays. 3. As captain of the team, he will be provided a bleach-filled SuperSoaker gun to hose down Michael Kay, in the event that Mr. Kay engages in commentary about the game that is either untrue or irrelevant.

There's a perception that I bash Moneyball just for the sake of bashing Moneyball when all I want to do is clarify that which was false from the foundation on up. I'm not entirely convinced he has a strategy aside from maintaining face.

I think all of your Jeter stipulations are doable aside from the "good defensive plays" (his range is declining to a level making that unlikely); and the Kay hosedown----there's not enough water on the planet to handle the load!

Max Stevens writes RE Billy Beane and Adrian Beltre:

Prince, your posting today on Beltre and the A's is exactly on point. I thought the essence of Beane's approach to managing a team's budget was to maximize cost effectiveness and avoid doling out contracts that hamstring the club in the long run by leaving little to no financial flexibility. To unload Chavez and pick up Beltre in the manner that's being reported is basically to sell low and buy high. I think my stockbroker must be getting advice from Billy Beane!

It's almost stunning to me when people are making the same mistake again after just clearing up the mess. I'm not implying that Beltre would turn into the disastrous sunk cost that Eric Chavez did. Chavez got hurt----not much you can do about it----but Beltre's history and age make such a contract ludicrous.

John Seal (West Coast Spiritual Advisor) writes RE Billy Beane:

Okay, okay, you don't like Beltre (who probably won't sign with the A's anyway), but how about the Mazzaro and Davis trades? The fans are divided on both, but even though I love Rajai I think this was a sensible sell-high move, and IMHO the DeJesus for Mazzaro deal is a win for both teams.

Let me down easy, Prince.

I loved the trade for David DeJesus; I thought it was a great move. The Rajai Davis deal was taking a player who had no spot and for whom they gave up nothing to get and they moved him for a couple of prospects; that's a great move as well. The A's have enough pitching to account for giving up Vin Mazzaro and that accumulation of pitching is a tribute to the good things Beane has done.

My fundamental issue is the question: Why is Beane still the "go-to-guy" for all baseball wisdom? It's as if there's a "Billy will show us the way" belief that's based on Moneyball. How about looking at his actual work rather than a book and an upcoming movie that promises to be even more ridiculous?

He's showing himself to be as occasionally stupid as the GMs who he was portrayed to have lured into his traps in the book. More so in fact.

Would Beltre make the A's better next year? Absolutley. Would it make sense long-term? No.

If they're willing to accept that, then they should go ahead and sign him.

The A's can compete for a playoff spot next year if they improve that woeful lineup a bit more; DeJesus was a first step.


Gabriel said...

Lots of mail today!

I feel the Braves are going to give the Phillies various headaches through next season. I'd go after Soria for no other reason that he was excellent while he was on a poor team. You can only imagine his performance if he plays for a competent team - top class closer.

Jeff said...

If I were the Braves, I'd throw everything at winning now. NOW! That means going out and making big moves, the sorts of moves that make the Uggla deal minor.

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

I haven't been Wow'd by any candidate. No one really stands out for me. I think part of the sentimentality for Backman is lack of a stand out candidate. If I'm choosing from the list of final four, I'm with Backman too. And it's not because I really want him, it's just the other guys seem so inconsequential to me. But Backman is also one of those cats who is nothing without Baseball. He needs Baseball to exist. There's been many great managers in Baseball history cut from that mold. You have to admit Wally fits a profile. I'll keep it local too and I don't think it's hyperbole to just toss this around for fun; Billy Martin, John McGraw, Leo the Lip, even Casey who manipulated the platoon system before they had a name for it, were all unconventional loners, kooks and boorish but at the same time brilliant managers. From once being 'marginal' players, they get their starts somewhere.
Who ever Sandy hires will have my full support regardless.

pedros rooster said...

I was all set to argue with you about a few things, because I enjoy statistics and analysis (and arguing), and enjoyed reading Moneyball way back when. Then I perused the actual roster construction of those fabled A's teams.

Hmmm. Seems to me that they had very high draft picks like Mulder, Zito, Giambi, Grieve, and Chavez all pan out together; had a few others blossom (Hudson, Tejada), then made a few decent midseason trades for Damon and Dye, etc.

It looks like they got lucky with a lot of homegrown talent, then were asked to explain it. Perhaps they simply shared their drafting philosophy with Lewis, who then applied it to the coming wave of draftees, who ultimately didn't pan out. Or hubris got the better of them, and they really believed they had it all figured out.

In any case, it seems that their draft success came when they were a poor team and drafted high. When they became a good team and drafted lower, their acumen disappeared. A simplification, I'm sure, but I think it works.

Not sure that Beane is to blame for the Moneyball narrative, tho. I'd imagine he just shared some ideas, which were blown up by a guy who wanted to write a very interesting book.

Oh, and as bad as Farnsworth usually is, he's no Francoeur. Farnsworth actually has one or two good numbers on his resume; Francoeur gets by on his winning smile, his arm that "ZOMG! saves hundreds of runs a year!!!!", and a half a season back in 2005.

Thanks for an interesting read.