Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Lightning 10.31.2010

  • The Moneyball bodycount:

Like a disease whose true casualty rate is only known years after the fact when all the after-effects are calculated, the twisted narrative that is Moneyball is claiming an increasing number of victims---victims who were portrayed in a positive light. Like a flesh-eating virus that feasted on the objects of vitriol against whom the tome was intended, the book's reach has come to its logical conclusion and damaged the characters of anyone and everyone associated with it.

Retrospective regret is undoubtedly a prevailing feeling for those whose reputations have been soiled by the tale.

Run around in circles, manipulated and hoodwinked by the all-seeing, all-knowing genius Billy Beane, the "old-school" thinkers found themselves treated with outright contempt; it's only now, 7 1/2 years after the book's publication, that Sandy Alderson, Paul DePodesta, Bill James, J.P. Ricciardi and Beane himself are taking the not-so-subtle tack of running far and fast from the book.

Oh, it seemed so wonderful at the time. A skilled writer, Michael Lewis, found a story with which he could express what Bill James and his sabermetric children had been trying so hard to bring out into the public consciousness as unassailable fact. Numbers and objective analysis were meant to transform the game of baseball from an old boys network of former players who were willing to continue to play the game in a different venue----that venue being the scouting rooms and front offices----by going along to get along; Moneyball sought to craft front offices to be permeated by young men who'd be more comfortable at a Star Trek convention rather than Old Timer's Day.

The Ivy League and impressive advanced degrees were taking the place of former players whose resume was an end unto itself----they were good at playing baseball, therefore they were good at finding baseball players; at least that was the professed myth.

But just as that is a fallacy, so too is the idea that a graduate of Harvard who understood how to calculate a certain player's OPS and UZR would automatically indicate he'd transform into a baseball expert based on that fact.

Knowing how to calculate statistics does not an expert make. There has to be some nuance and room for both sides of the spectrum to have their voices heard and come to a consensus. That's what the extreme sides----the radical wings of the stat zombies and old schoolers----never seemed to understand. It was a free-for-all while the Bill James and, by extension, Billy Beane acolytes were getting the first cracks at open GM jobs in the hopes that the success of the Athletics would be replicated by sheer force of math.

But it didn't work that way.

Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi were both hired as general managers. Both had little success; both had issues dealing with ancillary aspects of the job such as handling players and placating the media; both were fired.

Beane has seen his star fall to a level where there are those wondering what all the excitement was about to begin with.

Even Bill James has been quoted as saying that, with greater frequency, he's running into avid followers of his work that he doesn't even like.

All of this is due to the true snake-oil salesman in this----Michael Lewis.

Moneyball is well-written and skillfully told to bolster the Lewis hypothesis that Moneyball was the way of the future. But if you look at history and the aftermath, you see the likes of DePodesta, Ricciardi, Beane and Sandy Alderson contradicting the tone in which they were quoted and characterized in those pages.

I don't think people realize how easy it is for a writer with any semblance of ability to present a point-of-view based on what he wants people to see. What was written may not be an overt lie----in fact, it's often true----but that doesn't make it accurate, fair or fully developed for both sides.

As Alderson takes over the Mets, he is still doing what he can to blunt the way he appears in the book. The implication that he wants a "middle-manager" to implement front office ideals is following him around like a bad odor that won't go away no matter how much he scrubs. In his interview with Mike Francesa on WFAN after his introductory press conference, Alderson essentially ran from this assertion by saying he wants a manager who can command respect off the field and is able to use his instincts when dictating strategy. This isn't a small deviation from the way Moneyball made a fool of then-Athletics manager Art Howe. And Alderson was the one who hired Howe!

As Alderson was said to allow former manager Tony La Russa to run the team the way he wanted on the field, it wasn't due to any front office decision, but a simple matter of deferring to success.

Do you see how this could be judged as a dichotomy from what Alderson said on Friday? And how the book has cast a negative light on the above-mentioned people?

As time has passed, those who were on the "right" side in the full text of Moneyball----Beane, DePodesta, Ricciardi, Alderson, James, Jeremy Brown, Nick Swisher, Scott Hatteberg, Mark Teahen----have all seen the book become a bane to their existence.

Now they're filming a movie about it.

Naturally, said movie has gone through a multitude of directors, writers, studios and transformations and is currently being filmed.

So what happens when this movie----which, according to Jane Heller, who has experience in the arduous task of trying to turn a book into a movie----will look something similar to a "misfits make good" story a la the Bad News Bears rather than a true adaptation of book-to-screen?

Will the slow extraction that Beane and co. have tried to make from that book suddenly revert to the heady days of 2003 when it was all new and exciting and the attention was causing a revolution that has sputtered? Or will it cause more embarrassment?

DePodesta has already pulled his image and likeness from the film and I admire him for it. Beane would probably like to do the same especially if the waitress-bedding and corporate-slick/sleazy portrayal one of the scripts had crafted for Beane's on-screen counterpart, Brad Pitt, is still en vogue.

I'd want to crawl into a hole if I were made to look so silly. I can make an idiot out of myself on my own without Hollywood's help.

The book will become a best-seller again upon the movie's release. Then you can re-examine the way Howe, Steve Phillips, Kenny Williams, Omar Minaya and anyone who didn't drink the statistical Kool-Aid was trashed. But reality and after-the-fact adjustments to a creation for which the stars of the show benefited are running roughshod over Lewis's book. Anyone who knew anything about baseball to begin with added a truckload of salt to the recipe while reading the book; they quickly realized what Lewis was doing.

Moneyball is a continuing farce that simply will not go away for any of the participants; and all it's doing is putting more money in the pocket of Lewis as the residue soils everyone who's been caught in the crossfire...on both sides of the argument.

  • Joe Girardi signs a 3-year contract extension:

The Yankees could conceivably have played big league hardball with Joe Girardi.

Combine the fact that the Yankees lost in the ALCS (nothing to be ashamed of for most clubs, but a travesty in the Bronx); his strategic gaffes; and that he, bottom-line, had nowhere else to go to manage, and they could probably have gotten him to sign a 2-year deal for around $2.5 million a year.

They didn't do that. Instead, Girardi received a 3-year deal for $3 million annually with $500,000 bonuses for winning the World Series.

Fair enough. The money is relatively irrelevant to the Yankees; they didn't want to change managers now; and it wouldn't look good if they lowballed Girardi a year after he won the World Series.

What this can do however, is give Girardi some security to perhaps loosen up a bit and not rely so heavily on the safety-first aspect of using stats to determine what he does or doesn't do. Because he's so invested in his increasingly famous Blue Binder, Girardi is seen as less baseball guy and more stat zombie. Girardi is notoriously smart and he relaxed a great deal from his tight-lipped and paranoid first season as Yankees manager in 2008 after replacing Joe Torre. He evolved into the manager of the World Series winning team in 2009; but he still made glaring strategic errors that could've cost the team the ALCS last year; and he did make some questionable calls in this year's ALCS loss to the Rangers.

Truth be told, the Yankees probably weren't going to beat the Rangers no matter what Girardi did, but they'd have had a better chance had he done things differently.

Now, he's getting a new pitching coach after the firing of Dave Eiland. It's being revealed that Girardi and Eiland had a growing rift following Eiland's monthlong absence for personal reasons; perhaps a new pitching coach will share a better rapport with Girardi.

As for the bit about lightening up, that's up to the manager and it can't be forced. I can equate this to the football coach Marty Schottenheimer and his repeated playoff losses coaching teams that were among the top of the league during the regular season, but always seemed to run into a wall in the playoffs against vastly inferior squads. In his last run with the San Diego Chargers, Marty decided to be the "un"-Marty and do things that wouldn't have made sense to the most freewheeling (and somewhat unhinged) coaches, nor the most conservative practitioners of safety first.

They didn't work either and the Chargers lost again. Schottenheimer was fired.

Girardi needs to go by his instincts and eyes rather than some formula. That's what Jim Leyland does and he's probably the best manager in baseball at knowing exactly when to remove his pitcher; and he does it, at times, in the middle of a count!

It's not something that can be enacted just because; much like stats, there has to be a reason behind it to allow the manager to sleep at night. Many times, stats are used for the manager to have an answer for the media after the game and that's the last thing he should be worrying about. One would hope, for the Yankees sake, that Girardi will learn this as he works through this 3-year deal. He's clearly got the support of the upper management, and that's a good place to start in improving on the job.

  • When evil meets...

Although it's been denied, should anyone be surprised that the idea of the White Sox trading Ozzie Guillen would be considered? You're talking about the James Bond Villain himself, Kenny Williams and the front office of the Florida Marlins----who will literally do anything at anytime to get what they want.

Williams is saying that the initial reports of a trade sending Guillen to the Marlins for young outfielder Mike Stanton are not completely accurate; that's not a denial.

It doesn't sound like it's happening; Guillen and Williams simply fit together. Sometimes it's that way with what would normally be viewed at people who are at each other's throats constantly; occasionally those are the best relationships as long as they're not sabotaged by one or the other for some silly reason.

That doesn't mean it wasn't kicked around, and what can you expect from teams like these? That's why they're fun to watch on and off the field.

  • The organization of "Yeah? So?" :

One thing the Red Sox have done brilliantly over the John Henry/Theo Epstein regime is to ignore what the fans want (to a point) and, more importantly, the saber rattling of the players in the media in the interests of doing what's best for the team.

The Red Sox are the epitome of a club that won't hesitate to say "thanks for you contribution and the memories, and good luck" when allowing former stars to leave or possibly leave before crawling back.

You saw it with Pedro Martinez; you saw it with Jason Varitek; you saw it with Johnny Damon; and now you're seeing it with David Ortiz.

Ortiz is quoted as being "uncomfortable" with the Red Sox exercising his 2011 contract option and wants a multi-year extension----ESPN Story.

To quote Dick Cheney: "So?"

Martinez wanted a multi-year extension from the Red Sox and didn't get it; he left.

Varitek wanted a no-trade clause; he didn't get it and stayed with the anointing of the captaincy a cost-free consolation prize to allow him to save face.

Damon wanted a 4-year contract from the Red Sox and didn't get it; he left.

Given his age and the way the Red Sox appear to want to get younger, more versatile and have increasing flexibility with the payroll, Ortiz is going to have to live with the option being exercised and that's it.

He doesn't like it? Too bad.

  • Viewer Mail 10.31.2010:

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Sandy Alderson and the Mets:

I think it'd be pretty hard to live up to any of New York's expectations... then again, it's the Mets, so the bar shouldn't be set so high ;-)

By the way, Blogspot must know me well because the captcha word I'm getting to comment here is "shots".

I'm not kidding.

I was maintaining evenness with Alderson and still am, but he....was....impressive on Friday. He sent the message immediately to Mike Francesa that he's not going to back down from him and you heard Francesa's voice and tone change. It was terrific.

Blogspot appears to be like Facebook and know all. Facebook creeped me out when I tried to start a simple promotion account for my sites by asking me if I wanted to add all these people from my past; a professor from Hunter College; my niece; some Twitter-people. It stoked my paranoia.

Now, either blogspot knows about your after-hours activities with booze; or about your after-hours activities as Acting Boss. Either/or is fine with me as long as order is maintained.

Max Stevens writes RE the Mets and Sandy Alderson:

Amidst all the popping champagne corks and confetti in Queens, count me as a Met fan who is nonplussed by the Alderson hire. I will be open minded, and I understand that the real test of Alderson's capacity to build a winner probably won't come until 2012, but I can't shake the way he comes across in Howard Bryant's great book about the steroid era, Juicing the Game, where he's depicted as adictatorial tyrant who views the manager in the dugout as nothing more than an on-the-field functionary whose sole purpose is to implement a statistically-driven front office 'philosophy.' The idea that the players on my team will be reduced to variables in a bunch of regression equations depresses me, but I'll be less curmudgeonly if the team starts to win...

He backed off of that managerial philosophy with Francesa.

Max, click on the links I provided yesterday; maintain the even-keel, but he was very, very impressive; you know how sparse I am with praise.

I honestly have no problem with dictatorial tyrants----I have that tendency myself----someone has to lead, but it has to be done with an eye on the big picture and reality. He's off to a good start with me.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger (Brooklyn Capo) writes RE the Mets and Sandy Alderson:

Now you've gone too far! With the hiring of Sandy Alderson, it's quite obvious Jeff Wilpon will have less to do with Baseball Ops and more to do with traditional C.O.O. responsibilities to include re-applying himself within the company books. If the Mets start asking for my credit score and SSN because you planted that seed into the mind of Jeff Wilpon as he suddenly finds himself with more time on his hands to read your blog to find good ideas will have to be muffled. (Anonymous Capo from NoWhere) ; /

This is the best decision the post-Doubleday Mets have made...Period. The "best" descriptive invites a different conversation.

History has proven that I

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Sandy Alderson:

I love that you got an email from "Sandy!" I see a budding friendship there. LOL. From everything I've read about his day yesterday, he was very impressive. Classy, well spoken, knowledgeable, hard working. Honestly, I don't know how the Mets could have done better.

Well, they could've listened to me and hired Josh Byrnes, or had a Halloween Zombie seance and raised Branch Rickey or Bob Howsam from the dead, but aside from that? I think you may be right.

I was a guest with Sal on the SportsFan Buzz on Monday talking about the World Series, the Mets, the Yankees and all sorts of other things. Click here to listen directly or here to download it from Sal's site on I-Tunes.

After last night's performance by Colby Lewis, I'm looking eerily prescient on the podcast. Again.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Life Under A New Ruler

  • I hardly think that's any of your business:

First email I opened this morning was from the Mets and said the following:

Before realizing it was a link to a video from new GM Sandy Alderson, I was under the brief and mistaken impression that Alderson's first order of business was to contact everyone on the club mailing list and demand to know their credit score.

Was it a way of weeding out undesirables who were leveraged to the hilt? Are the Mets----under the new regime----going to demand to have the social security number and vital statistics of each and every fan who dares even try to indulge in the new era of the Mets? Will nary a day go by without some exertion of Alderson's authority to make it certain that each and every person under his auspices knows who's in charge----even if sacrifices are made and non-key fanbase personnel are dispatched simply to set an example?*

*Doubtful I'd be among their number; the Mets need me and I think they know it; but as a possible candidate for punishment due to the crime of sedition? Yeah, I'd better bolster my protection.

All kidding aside, it was a video link and it was educational; in fact, it was impressive; but not as impressive as Alderson's appearance with Mike Francesa on WFAN's Mike'd Up. Here's the link to Francesa's site to listen.

Although I've vowed to enter the Alderson era with an open mind and no preconceived notions one way or the other----wait and see and it were----Alderson's case was compelling, The explanation of the past; eloquence; obvious enthusiasm for the job; honesty; and, most importantly, plans for the future of the Mets made me believe that he's at least going to implement a code of conduct and systematic approach rather than throwing stuff at the wall with the usual chaos that has accompanied the Mets regardless of who's been in charge for most of their existence.

At least there's someone at the top now; someone who has a clear vision that----whether it succeeds or fails----will be able to point to a reason for why he did what he did. After the way the would-be empire crumbled since the 2007 collapse, that's a far better place to be than where the club was before.

As for the interview itself, Alderson had all the answers to the questions I'd asked in my posting wondering whether he was the right man for the job.

As mentioned earlier, he discussed his past with the leadership principles he learned in the Marines and organization from being a lawyer. While these attributes weren't of great interest to me as final tenets for Alderson being the man to turn around the Mets (as others have asserted), they do give him a breadth of experience as parts of the overall qualities he's going to need running the Mets.

He told of what happened in both Oakland and San Diego as he ran the Athletics and Padres. Both teams whose payroll issues hindered what could and couldn't be done; what could and couldn't be accomplished. Like a chess match----without a long-term cognizance of how each move affected every other move----he had to eschew certain "wants" in the moment for long-term "needs" in the future in order to survive.

No one will ever accuse Sandy Alderson of not being able to express himself----in his press conference and interviews, he sounded calm, relaxed, energized and ready to take on the task. His intention to hire people with whom he's familiar bodes well for a the chain of command and deferring to those who can handle different aspects of doing their jobs, people he can trust to do things the way he wants them with continuity.

Two of the larger concerns (one I had; one others paid far too much attention to) were the idea that he wanted a puppet as a manager to implement front office edicts; and the other was the allegation that Alderson turned a blind eye to the rampant steroid use that appeared to begin with Jose Canseco and the Bash Brothers Athletics of the late 1980s-early 1990s.

I never saw the steroid issue as something that could have fallen at Alderson's desk. As he explained to Francesa, what was he supposed to do about it? He's not stupid and he did strongly suspect that Canseco was using; I believe him when it comes to denying he thought Mark McGwire was using; but, as he said, the drugs weren't illegal back then; nor were they banned by baseball. Combining those factors with the strength of the MLB Players Association, there wasn't much he could do about it even if he'd caught the players shooting the stuff into themselves in the clubhouse.

In fact, they could've done it in his office and he couldn't have responded adequately aside from getting rid of them; and by the time the mid-1990s rolled around, all he conceivably would've been able to do was to trade the players, concede the competitive disadvantage by acquiring players who looked clean, or simply acquire a different player who was also using PEDs.

As per the manager as "middle-manager" ideal, much of that stemmed from Moneyball and the way Alderson was quoted and perceived after the book came out. Having worked with a decided individual who did things his own way (and with whom he's still close friends) Tony La Russa, there was no allusion that Alderson was ordering La Russa around; but when he hired Art Howe to manage the A's and, as was said in Moneyball, Howe was hired to do as he was told by the front office, the monster grew to monumental proportions and fed the circular firing squad of non-fans of Moneyball (of which I am the self-appointed leader of the sect).

While his actions with the Athletics and Padres somewhat validated the Moneyball nonsense in which a manager was little more than a faceless automaton whose sole purpose was to do as he was told, Alderson provided a different face to what he wants in a manager now that he's taken over the Mets; he's looking for someone who can lead on the field and work in conjunction with the front office to best utilize the players that are brought in.

That is a not-so-subtle change from the hiring of Howe; the statements in Moneyball; and the way in which Bruce Bochy was allowed to leave the Padres in favor of the cheaper and more pliable Bud Black.

It's an important deviation from the way I (accurately judging from the book and his actions) saw Alderson and what he might or might not do with the Mets.

With all of that, I think the Mets are now on the right track. The talk that this team is pretty much as is aside from a few needed subtractions like Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez, doesn't necessarily mean that they can't vault into contention next year.

With a strong foundation and a few smart maneuvers, is a team that has Ike Davis playing first base for the entire year rather than starting the season with Mike Jacobs; with Angel Pagan in center field and Carlos Beltran in right (you can bet that's going to happen) and Beltran playing the entire season; with more organized bullpen management; better behavior; Jason Bay and Jose Reyes healthy; and a more inviting atmosphere for players to want to join rather than signing with the Mets because they had no other choice----are they a 98-win team? No. But could they get a break here and there and get to 86-90 wins and make a Wild Card run? Why not?

As I've continually preached caution with the new GM, I'm going to to say, "we'll see" ad nauseam; but that "we'll see" can't help but be happy with the way the new GM began his tenure. I'm a hard man to impress; but I was impressed by Sandy Alderson yesterday as he spent his first few hours as the architect of the Mets.

  • Bullying:

In the same interview with Alderson, Francesa tried his usual "I'm Mr. Big Shot" routine with familiar bullying. One such case was when he talked about the steroid issue; the other was when he mentioned the Mets being in competition with the Yankees, he again went into ignorant Yankee-fan mode in which he takes open shots at the Mets, undermines his own credibility (such as it is), and essentially behaves as one of his less-intelligent callers who turns every statement of the Yankees into a fest of "we're the best and you're all nothin'!!"

First, with the steroid issue, Francesa came up with his "step into my minefield" query/statement of the "when did you stop beating your wife?" variety as he wondered how someone as sharp as Alderson didn't catch on to the PED use; Alderson responded with a half-humorous, but message-sending, "(how could) someone some omniscient; so all-knowing" miss such a thing? (It's about 15:30 into the interview.)

Francesa backed off.

As for the Yankees-Mets stuff, are the Mets in competition with the Yankees?


In spite of Francesa's "'da Yankees are 'da standahd" and the familiar bloviating, looking at it realistically, how many people are sitting with Yankees tickets and Mets tickets as their option for a season-long commitment or a night out and debating whether to get one or the other? Mets fans are Mets fans; Yankees fans are Yankees fans. They're not in competition with one another to garner fans; it just "is".

Are the teams in competition on the field?

Only for six games a year. They're not in the same division; they're not in the same league. There's no direct competition between the two other than for the backpages of the newspapers. In recent years, the Mets have made their way onto the backpage because of repeated disasters on the field; and to the front of the papers for humiliating incidents with high-profile players. It's a matter of context. People forget that the Mets ruled New York in the 1980s and the Yankees----simply put and factually accurate----were a laughingstock.

The teams can battle directly for free agents; but no one can match the financial might and cachet of the Yankees. The Mets aren't going to get into a bidding war for Cliff Lee because it doesn't make sense for them now; for years, the Mets had to deal with the fact that Carlos Beltran offered his services to the Yankees for less money and years than he demanded from the Mets; a player like Roy Oswalt was less likely to want to enter into an anarchy-laced club as the Mets were rightly viewed in recent years; with Alderson that won't be as much of a thought for players, but the state of the ballclub will be. Once the Mets are good, the competition won't be based on anything other than money and the on-field state of the respective organizations.

Frankly, I don't want to hear such silliness because it's got nothing to do with reporting; it has to do with egotistical domineering, which I don't tolerate. Judging from him giving as good as he got from a pure bully like Francesa, neither will Sandy Alderson.

  • Sunday Lightning Preview:

Game 3 of the World Series is tonight; also, I have some more stuff to say about Moneyball; I'll talk about the rumored discussions of a trade between the White Sox and Marlins where manager Ozzie Guillen would've been dealt (it's been denied); also Joe Girardi's contract extension; plus the mail.

I was a guest with Sal on the SportsFan Buzz on Monday talking about the World Series, the Mets, the Yankees and all sorts of other things. Click here to listen directly or here to download it from Sal's site on I-Tunes.

You are unwise to lower your defenses.

Friday, October 29, 2010


  • Sandy Alderson's anointing:

I keep hearkening back to the passage in the updated version of Jim Bouton's Ball Four after Bouton made a comeback with the Braves in 1978. He pitched a few games and, using his knuckleball, pitched relatively well. Two of his starts were against the Cincinnati Reds of Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench-fame; in one, Bouton got shelled; in the other, he allowed 2 runs and 5 hits in eight innings, losing 2-1.

Afterwards, the Reds were unimpressed with Bouton's stuff and said so as if it was embarrassing for them to have done so little offensively against a comebacking knuckleballer----still somewhat vilified for what would now be considered a tame book----whose main attributes as a big leaguers were his notoriety and Braves owner Ted Turner's iconoclasm.

The results were irrelevant. Bouton held down such a powerhouse team even though he lost; but the Reds found any number of excuses as to why they couldn't hit him. Bouton's friend and longtime big league pitching coach Johnny Sain said that Bouton had established a new criteria for a good/bad start; don't look at the results; just ask the other team what they thought.

My mind is calculating the possibilities now and I'm thinking of several things as Sandy Alderson has been officially announced as the new Mets GM with the press conference to come later this afternoon. As you may or may not have heard, I had my reservations with Alderson-----I preferred the younger and more recently employed as a GM, Josh Byrnes----but I'm all in with Alderson and will support and defend his decisions provided they make sense.

And that's all I ask.

That said, I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the universal support Alderson is getting as if he's an automatic guarantee to turn the team around. He isn't. Amid all the accolades, it's not easily glossed over that he hasn't been an everyday GM since 1997; his Athletics teams were terrible from 1993 through the end of his tenure; and his vaunted "leadership" and "organizing skills" couldn't alter that reality.

That objective reality.

It's not easy to walk away from the day-to-day operations of anything and keep tabs on the inner workings and overt negatives that go with the job. Of course, anyone will remember the good things; the fun times; the success; the wins. It helps that Alderson has remained around the game and, as recently as two years ago, was the president of the San Diego Padres.*

*Incidentally, for those who've wondered where I got my assertion of Alderson's dictatorial and fiefdom-laden final years with the Padres, read this. I ain't makin' this stuff up.

Alderson, 62, is said to be fully invested in turning around the Mets; and Pat Gillick ran the Phillies at age 70; age is not a factor; it's the little detailed stuff that can grow tiresome for someone who may not have the patience to sit around and deal with an agent calling to whine about playing time for his client.

Since I mention Gillick and to put this into the context of football coaches, you have to look at the different circumstances----best and worst case----and determine whether or not this will work. Gillick, Bill Parcells and Vince Lombardi are individuals who never really walked away from their chosen vocation before diving back in full bore. With Gillick and Parcells, it worked; with Lombardi, it didn't. Lombardi was a case in which he should've stayed retired and knew it immediately after taking over as head coach/football czar of the Washington Redskins.

Then there are others who walked away for a long stretch and came back. Dick Vermeil left the Philadelphia Eagles, citing burnout, broadcast college football for years and returned to win a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams; Joe Gibbs came back after leaving the Redskins, ran his racing team, came back to coach and it didn't work.

This has happened in every sport. Scotty Bowman is an example in hockey. Jack McKeon was a great baseball man who finally won his World Series with the Marlins at age 72.

It's not something to discount with Alderson.

I'm also uncomfortable with asking people from other organizations what they think of my hire to fill such an important function as restoring industry-wide credibility on the field to a team like the Mets; a team that so desperately needs it. Recommendations from outsiders is of little consequence to me; and forget about what the media thinks (who cares?!?).

Alderson's choice of assistants will be telling. He's looking to bring in longtime lieutenants J.P. Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta.

I like Ricciardi. He's a smart baseball man whose time with the Blue Jays was marred by his temper and inherent inability to do the "GM thing" and use carefully-worded responses to any and all questions and/or criticisms. As an assistant, I believe he'd be a great asset.

With DePodesta, as I said a few months ago when it was revealed that DePodesta had removed his name and likeness approval from that insipid Moneyball movie, maybe he was among, well, among everyone who was made to look awful by the increasingly discredited and ridiculous book. (I'll discuss that tomorrow.) As bad and ill-suited as he proved to be as Dodgers GM, I'll give him the similar "wait and see" I'm giving Alderson----as I give anyone. Plus, I don't think he's going to want to leave his job in San Diego and traipse cross-country to work for the Mets, Alderson or not. (And if he does, he can take his blog detailing the inner-workings of the front office and deposit it into the Hudson River.)

Leadership and a resume are great, but we'll see with Alderson.

We'll see what he does.

We'll see what he says.

We'll see who he hires to assist him in the front office and who he interviews as manager.

We'll see.

In the end, I hope it was the Mets decision to hire Alderson and not a move to placate anyone and everyone who had something to say about the matter. At the end of the day, it's about looking into the mirror and knowing----knowing----you stayed true to yourself in the face of the consequences and appraisal of others. With the Mets, it's hard to know what they're thinking or why they do....anything.

It's Alderson's ball now.

And we'll see.

  • Speaking of potential Mets managers:

Without knowing which names were on Alderson's (or Byrnes's for that matter) double-super-secret list of five people he'd like to interview to be the new manager, here are my assessments based on his and the organization's qualifications.

Alderson would want someone who'd do as he's told and work at a reasonable price; the club wants someone with ties to the Mets.

Personally, my focus would be on the following (in no particular order): managerial experience; strategic skills; discipline; ability to handle the media; skills at defusing controversy and nuance with the front office; patience; and is not a former pitcher.

Here's a presumptive list of names who've either been mentioned or should be (again, in no particular order):

Wally Backman:

Backman has managerial experience in the minors and has been nothing but successful on the field; he'd be popular with Mets fans; certain factions are openly pushing him; and he'd work super-cheap for the opportunity.




Alderson is a stat friendly GM who will eschew the bunt; capricious stolen bases; and high-risk gambling and aggressiveness.

Backman's entire being has been one of feistiness and forcing issues on and off the field.

Backman wants to push the envelope; Alderson wants to run the team based on percentages.

Backman, despite his fiery nature and other attributes is a loose cannon in the Billy Martin mode. The potential for an embarrassing explosion is far greater than the good things that would come from his hiring.

On one end, you have Alderson, the Ivy League educated lawyer and Marine combat veteran who won't take kindly to a firestorm created by his less-than-media savvy manager saying or doing something stupid. On the other is Backman with all his baggage.

In fact, the two are the antithesis of one another in terms of personality and preferred strategy.

It doesn't fit.

As much as the Mets brass likes Backman, there's no way----no way!!!----Alderson will hire him to manage the team.

Bob Melvin:

Melvin is criticized for a vanilla personality, but he's a good strategist who doled out the innings of his pitchers evenly and well in both of his managerial stops with the Diamondbacks and Mariners. He made the right calls in both places and was popular with the players.

He got caught up in a situation with the Mariners in which he inherited Lou Piniella's players and they all got old at once; the Diamondbacks simply didn't play as well as they should have considering their roster----neither case was his fault.

Melvin already works for the Mets as an advance scout; would deal well with the media; and maintain an even keel with the players.

He's a major possibility and I'd be on board.

Clint Hurdle:

Hurdle has experience with the Rockies, but aside from that blazing hot streak at the end of 2007 that ended with a National League pennant, he never won more than around 75 games a year; and those teams were talented. It concerns me that the Rockies (especially Troy Tulowitzki) went on an utter tear when Jim Tracy replaced Hurdle in early 2009.

He has Mets ties having managed in the minor leagues and played for the team in the 1980s. He's in charge of his clubhouse and would deal well with the media.

I wouldn't go there.

John Gibbons:

I've been mentioning him repeatedly. Gibbons would work well with the front office; has experience having managed the Blue Jays; came up with the Mets as a player and managed in their minor league system; and, as I've also said repeatedly, he....doesn't....take....crap.

I'd seriously, seriously consider Gibbons.

Bobby Valentine:

Alderson's not hiring Bobby. Forget him re-joining the Mets; it's not happening; and it probably wouldn't work between him and Alderson.

Larry Bowa:

People don't remember that Bowa spent the final few months of the 1985 season with the Mets; I don't know if that counts as having "Mets ties", but it's true.

Bowa is a great strategic manager; has all the good qualities of Backman without the lunacy and potential for explosion.

But the players hated Bowa in both of his managerial stops in the mid-1980s with the Padres; and with the Phillies from 2001-2004.

I doubt the Mets would hire him.

Terry Collins:

It's easy to scoff at Collins because of his reputation as a raving lunatic----he inspired mutinies in both of his previous managerial stops with the Astros and Angels; but that was over ten years ago. DePodesta was prepared to hire him to replace Tracy to manage the Dodgers before DePodesta himself was fired; Collins is already working for the Mets as their minor league field coordinator and is respected within the organization and industry.

He's someone to consider.

Chip Hale:

Hale has minor league managerial experience and has been a longtime big league coach; he's already working for the Mets and is a positive presence in the clubhouse and on the field. I sense the same type of positive attitude and aura as has been shown by Astros manager Brad Mills.

If he doesn't get the big job, I'd keep him on the staff.

Lee Mazzilli:

Mazzilli would love to return to his first baseball home. He's experienced with New York; would deal well with the media; has experience in the twin-nuthouses of the Yankees and Orioles. He wouldn't put up with garbage either.

One would assume he'll get a call from Alderson and while I'd prefer other candidates, I could live with Mazzilli.

DeMarlo Hale:

With minor league managerial experience with great success and having been a third base coach and bench coach for Terry Francona, he's a viable candidate; but he has no Mets ties.

I can't see it.

There are extremely competent candidates in the above list, but it's hard to know what Alderson's thinking until he starts interviewing and makes a hire; then it'll be clear where this is going----good, bad or risky.

Again, we'll see.

  • Hello McFly?!? HELLOOOO!?!?

It didn't take a genius in the predictive arts to suggest that Rangers manager Ron Washington was a split second away from doing something stupid at any time, but is there anyone in that Rangers dugout to suggest to Washington that he's doing something he shouldn't be doing? Something that makes absolutely no sense?

With the Rangers trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning in game 2 of the World Series, Darren O'Day struck out the first two batters to face him, allowed a single to Buster Posey, and Washington pulled O'Day in favor of Derek Holland with Nate Schierholtz at the plate.

Not Aubrey Huff; not Pablo Sandoval----pretty much the only two left-handed bats who were something to be minutely concerned with on the Giants roster---but Nate Schierholtz.

Never mind that Schierholtz murders left-handed pitching; never mind that the side-arming O'Day has handled left-handed bats well enough when given the opportunity to pitch to them; what was the point of this move with Schierholtz at the plate and Cody Ross and Juan Uribe due up after him?


This isn't second-guessing; the move, like much of what Washington does over the course of a game, made no sense whatsoever; and naturally, it blew up in his face as the Giants busted the game open with a 7 run inning...with 2 outs.

Awful managing; just awful.

  • Viewer Mail 10.29.2010:

Max Stevens writes RE Cliff Lee:

Call me a naive hippie, but what difference does it really make to Cliff Lee whether his contract is worth $125 Million or $150 million? $25 million is obviously an obscene amount of money for me and you, but will it really make a difference in Cliff Lee's life? I guess what I'm trying to say is that the Rangers can offer him more money than he'll ever need, so why would he want to go to the Yankees after the stuff that happened with his wife? He's a country boy from Arkansas who likes to go deer hunting. I think Texas is a much better fit than New York, inconsequential salary difference be damned...

I don't think you're naive at all; I agree. Aside from the oneupmanship and faux validation one gets from the "biggest" contract, what's the difference? How many more cars and houses can he buy? Twenty generations of Lees are never going to be able to spend that money unless they're ridiculously stupid. I'd rather play where I'm happy.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the World Series and me:

Your predictions for Game 1 were on the money. The Kinsler pickoff was something we saw in the ALCS and I have no doubt we'll see it again.

I'm going to bask in being right as long as it lasts and beyond.

Joe writes RE the World Series and me:

You know, we will pick up on your accuracy. You don't need to retell us that you were right. :)

Joe, did you ever stop to think that maybe I'm just as stunned as everyone else when I get something right? (It's not true, but something to think about.)

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Game 1 of the World Series:

I felt like I watched two different games: the nail-biter back and forth of innings 1-4, then a wild free-for-all in innings 5-9.

Guess Cliff Lee isn't Sandy Koufax or Christy Matthewson... yet.

You just can't predict baseball, Suzyn.

Well, they can't (and I mean the evil, Kevin Trudeau "they"); apparently I can. For now.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger (Brooklyn Capo) writes RE the World Series and the Mets (separately of course):

My World Series experience is flat out sucking Bro! No FOX on Cablevision for me. I've been listening on the radio. At least during the ALCS I got to listen to Soup Campbell (calls a great game with Dan Shulman!) but now I'm stuck with Joe Morgan. *sigh*

Bombs Away! You had me at "Throw". There's nothing like a snapping curveball and a good carpet bombing.

My guess is, the first conflict of interest Alderson and the Wilpons will have will be over SLOTTING the draft. I like the choice of Alderson for a bunch of reasons; he won't let Jeff Wilpon be a back seat driver. But I give Jeff a lot of credit for checking himself and hiring someone who no doubt will dominate Jeff's business and baseball acumen. It takes a smart and secure cookie to do that. I think Jeff handled himself well and did a good job.

Carpet bombing is another thing I'm good at; and I relish it too. Gotta love your work!!!

The Mets really didn't have much of a choice; and while I still say that the Wilpons own the thing and therefore have a say in what goes on, they had to look at the lackluster ticket sales and the declining enthusiasm for the team and realize they had to do something drastic. The foundation is pretty good for Alderson to walk in and look really smart really fast----if he does smart things; and there's no one to blame because Jeff----as you said----is checking himself.

I was a guest with Sal on the SportsFan Buzz on Monday talking about the World Series, the Mets, the Yankees and all sorts of other things. Click here to listen directly or here to download it from Sal's site on I-Tunes.

Listen to both my "raspy, sexy" voice (not my words); and the content is pretty good too.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Time To Strut---For Now

  • Pimpin' :

I'm a "throw the bomb early"; "deep strike"; "what's the point of having power if you don't use it?" type of guy.

With that in mind, I have to mention certain things that occurred in game 1 of the World Series that I predicted with an almost disturbing level of accuracy----an accuracy that in years gone by would have had me convicted as a practitioner of the black arts.

I'm a Dark Lord of the Sith, remember.

You can get game recaps anywhere, but you can't get statements of self-promotion and over-the-top declarations of arrogance (and have them be accurate!!!) on those same platforms; in fact, you can only find stuff like this emanating from a big time rapper or a James Bond villain bent on world domination.

If that's what you're looking for, you came to the right place.

Join me as I bask in my own terrificness (after game 1 anyway) from my World Series Preview published Monday and discussed in my podcast appearance----The Prince on the Podcast----with the SportsFan Buzz later that night:

This is a case in which the Giants lack of patience is going to help them----at least against the Stone Cold Killer, Cliff Lee. Because Lee has such amazing control, it makes no sense to wait for a pitch to hit; it's not going to work. As I've said numerous times, if the hitter waits Lee out, he's going to be down 0-2 or 1-2 before getting comfortable at the plate; then Lee's going to rip off that wicked curveball. The Giants hackers----Juan Uribe* especially----are going to have to do the damage against him.

*Uribe is 11 for 37 in his career vs Lee; with a double, a triple and 2 homers. Watch that matchup.

Despite his reputation----like that of The Most Interesting Man in the World, a reputation expanding faster than the universe----the Giants have shown little reverence to the best pitchers in baseball. They didn't care that they were facing Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt; they won't care about facing Lee; Lee's going to get knocked around at least once in this series.

The Giants went up to the plate hacking; Uribe homered; and Lee got pounded.

And then there's this:

Basestealing and reckless abandon baserunning is one of the reasons the Rangers are in the World Series. They took a "everything we've got" approach to both playoff series and it worked; but their aggressiveness could cost them with a defensively sound and fundamentally solid team like the Giants. Giants catcher Buster Posey threw out 37% of the baserunners stealing against him in the regular season; the Rangers can't have the tying run picked off in the late innings as Ian Kinsler was in game 1.

Taking risks is great----it's what brought the Rangers this far----but eventually, if you do it too many times, it's going to cost you; you're going to get caught.

Kinsler got busted being too aggressive again in the eighth inning as he tried to take second base on what he thought was a wild throw; it turned out that Aubrey Huff had the ball and threw Kinsler out at second base.

This was while the Rangers were down by four runs.

And it cannot happen.

Without getting into another indictment of the discipline that has to be enacted on a team with aggressive players, there's a difference between outright stupid aggression and intelligent, controlled aggression; it's an example of freedom within structure and the Rangers----at times----have been sorely lacking in that.

The Giants aren't.

It could be the difference in this series.

But it's still only one game.

One game.

I'm looking pretty smart for now.

For now.

Onto more serious matters.

  • Honesty makes people cranky:

Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was blunt (while still being polite) in his press conference on Monday. You can read about it in detail here and here.

Among ancillary issues like free agents Jamie Moyer, Chad Durbin and Mike Sweeney; along with the contract status of manager Charlie Manuel (he's signed through next year), Amaro talked about Jayson Werth and Jimmy Rollins. He was refreshingly honest about both.

Regarding Rollins, he said:

"I don't know if it's about being in shape as much as it is making an adjustment," Amaro said of Rollins, who signed a five-year, $40 million deal in June of 2005. "As you get older, you have to make adjustments. I think trainers have addressed that with Jimmy. I'm sure that's something Jimmy will be cognizant of."

And with Werth:

"Jayson had a good year," he said. "It wasn't an extraordinary year. He had a tough time with men on in scoring position. It wasn't as productive a year as he's had in the past. But I think if he's not with us, there are players we can either acquire or are in our own organization that can help us."

Reading between the lines and ignoring the insane contract the Phillies gave to Ryan Howard, Amaro is being super-smart here with both Rollins and Werth. Rollins is really in no position to be making demands regarding a contract extension past his agreed-upon deal that expires next year; and Werth is not going to be back with the Phillies; so for Amaro to make these statements was refreshing and wise in both sending a message to the players and their agents; and to the fans that they'd better prepare for some firestorms as the team transitions in the next couple of years.

As for the "adjustments" Amaro mentioned, this to me is dual-sided; Rollins's injury issues need to be addressed; but so to does his approach at the plate.

Rollins has not been good since his 2007 MVP year; his descent has been rapid and he's entering an age in which he, as Amaro implied, is either going to have to adjust or continue his plummet. It remains to be seen whether Rollins accepts the fact that (like Manny Ramirez pulling his "Manny being Manny" routine) J-Roll can't "be J-Roll" and still be a productive player.

If he wants to get another contract similar to the one he has now, he's not going to have a choice; but would Jimmy be able to meet "J-Roll" somewhere in the middle for the good of the team and, by extension, the good of himself? I don't know.

Werth will only be back with the Phillies if his market collapses a la players in the past who've felt they should be getting more years and more dollars than the teams were willing to spend. It's happened relatively frequently in recent years with the aforementioned Manny; with lesser players like David Eckstein; and with players like Jody Reed whose agent cost him a long-term contract with stupidity.

The one example of this (and I've always admired it) was John Schuerholz during his negotiations with Jeff Blauser after Blauser's agent started comparing the contract Jay Bell signed with the Diamondbacks to what he was going to want for Blauser as Blauser was coming off his best season in 1997; Schuerholz balked at the comparison...then turned around and essentially told Blauser to take a hike when he signed Walt Weiss. Blauser was forced to take a short-term deal with the Cubs; never regained his top form; and was finished two years later.

Werth's agent is Scott Boras; he wants to get paid and is an in-demand free agent; the Phillies payroll is already bursting at the seams despite Amaro's assertion that they have money to spend. Presumably, they could keep Werth if Werth's demands are reasonable or, as I said before, his market collapses.

Don't bet on it. The teams that will have interest in Jayson Werth----Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, Angels, Orioles and others----have the cash. Werth's getting his money and it won't be in Philadelphia.

Amaro is being very, very smart and calculating here and it's a good sign for the Phillies because compounding the mistaken contract extension for Howard would only doom the team to a Rollins-style, teamwide fall by 2012. At least now, Amaro is looking at the circumstances and reacting accordingly. Whether or not the tempestuous Phillies fanbase and Rollins are going to let that go quietly is the question.

My prediction is a resounding no.

  • The rush to be "first" to report:

Yesterday afternoon, the interwebs were buzzing with a story that Bobby Valentine was going to be the next manager of the Milwaukee Brewers----CBS Sports link.

Turns out that the story of Valentine being the next Brewers manager are either completely inaccurate or woefully premature.

He might still be the next manager of the Brewers, but obviously the reporter heard something was close; was led to believe something was close; or flung the story out there, hoping that it was true without it being true.

This is the problem with the news-at-the-click-of-a-button world in which we now live. Everyone wants to be first; to get the credit; to accumulate the traffic; to have their name attached to having "broken" the story; but is it breaking a story when a reporter writes something before it's confirmed as final and then embarrasses himself by being wrong? Or is it flinging the bomb (as I mentioned I like to do earlier) and hoping that he's right?

I'm not a reporter, I'm an agent of chaos, agent provocateur and analyst----I can get away with it because people aren't coming to me for game reports and breaking news; but when someone has such a story go viral, doesn't it dampen their credibility (if they indeed had credibility to start with) more if they're wrong than it bolsters it when they happen to be right?

I have no idea whether Valentine is going to be the next Brewers manager----it wasn't that long ago that Valentine's deal to replace Fredi Gonzalez with the Marlins was all but done and then fell apart; he might be the next Brewers manager, but "will" be? I don't know; and apparently, no one else does either.

  • Upcoming stuff:

I'll do the mail tomorrow.

In the coming days, I'll be discussing Sandy Alderson and the possibilities for Mets manager including how a Wally Backman-Alderson union would look on and off the field and if the combination work.

Also, the rumors are saying the Yankees are talking about a 3-year deal with Joe Girardi at about $9-10 million; that will be....discussed.

I was a guest with Sal on the SportsFan Buzz on Monday talking about the World Series, the Mets, the Yankees and all sorts of other things. Click here to listen directly or here to download it from Sal's site on I-Tunes.

It's my birthday. You should send me stuff. Stuff I'd want, to be specific.