The King of the Tabloids...
Leave it to George Steinbrenner to be a bone-head and make some good points at the same time. In an interview with the NY Daily News, the Yankees' principal owner responded to criticism from John Henry and Larry Luccino of the Red Sox, mentioned some of his noted conflicts and problems over his thirty years as Yankees' owner, but took responsibility for them, and criticized Joe Torre and Derek Jeter.
On the state of the team he bought in 1972: When I first saw the team picture, it looked like a poster for birth control. (Mike) Kekich and (Fritz) Peterson had their wife-swapping deal. The Yankees were a doormat. I went to spring training and saw a lot of things I didn't like. I remember writing on an empty lineup card to Ralph Houk, "These men need haircuts." They didn't look like a team.
Of course, they were a team, but a mediocre one. If Steinbrenner has done nothing else as the Yankees owner over the last three decades, he has made the organization a team. It took a while, but the whole organization is run well now, and they succeed not just because they spend money, but because they spend it wisely. Such was not always the case.
On Joe Torre: Joe is the greatest friend I've ever had as a manager. It's a great relationship. I don't want to destroy that, but I will tell you this: I want his whole staff to understand that they have got to do better this year. I will not see him drop back into the way he was before. Right now he's a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Before he came to the Yankees he didn't even have a job. Three different times as manager he didn't deliver, and was fired. Look how far he's come. He's come that way because of an organization, and he's got to remember that. I'm glad that Joe is an icon. He's a hell of a guy, a tremendous manager and tremendous figure for New York. I just want his coaches to understand that just being a friend of Joe Torre's is not enough. They've got to produce for him. Joe Torre and his staff have heard the bugle.
An icon? Yes. A sure-fire Hall of Famer? No. Joe is borderline at best, because despite the four World Championships, the rest of his managerial record can best be described as "unspectacular." His success in Yankee Pinstripes may be seen by some of the voters as a happy coincidence for him, and so he may lose a little support. On the other hand (where, in case you haven't heard, I have five fingers) his four World Series titles would be two more than any other manager not in the HoF, so he'll probably get in eventually. But definintely not "sure-fire."
And Torre can only do as much as the players on his roster will allow. Granted, the Yanks had the highest payroll in baseball last year, but they're also an aging club, and nobody's going to win in the playoffs with a team ERA of 8.21.
On Bud Selig: I am a Bud Selig man. I consider him a good friend. He's a master at building people together. But while I'm loyal to Bud Selig, the biggest beneficiary in this whole plan are the Milwaukee Brewers. That doesn't seem quite right. I don't know how he sleeps at night sometimes.
Got to hand it to George there. By most accounts, Selig is very people-savvy, but also manipulative and quietly self-serving. At least Steinbrenner is openly self-serving.
On how the new CBA will change how the Yankees spend money: It's got to change it. That's a real chunk. A lot of people's whole payrolls are that. It's caused us to make slices. What we've tried to do is eliminate those perks and fringes that we would be granting without thinking. How many cell phones do we have out there? How many cars do we have out there?
That's it George, those couple dozen cell phones at $29.99/month are really what's putting you in the red, not the $200,000,000 you'll have to spend on players salaries, revenue sharing and luxury taxes. Better go out and get those No-Frills urinal cakes, too. Those SYSCO cakes cost ten cents more! Each!
On Red Sox owner John Henry's criticism of the Jose Contreras signing as "a big risk": That's just ridiculous. It makes him look stupid because they did everything they could to get him, including offering more money than we did. They offered $10 million to get him away from us. I give credit to Mr. Contreras. He wanted to play for the Yankees.
Well I'm not sure exactly why someone deserves "credit" for deciding to sign with the most powerful team in major league baseball, but as far as the question of risk goes, duh. It's all risk. There are no sure things in real, competitive sports.
On Lucchino calling the Yankees an "evil empire": That's B.S. That's how a sick person thinks. I've learned this about Lucchino: he's baseball's foremost chameleon of all time. He changes colors depending on where's he's standing. He's been at Baltimore and he deserted them there, and then went out to San Diego, and look at what trouble they're in out there. When he was in San Diego, he was a big man for the small markets. Now he's in Boston and he's for the big markets. [...] He talks out of both sides of his mouth. He has trouble talking out of the front of it.
Ouch. Lucchino and Steinbrenner are historically enemies, but Lucchino seems to haveearned this. It's pretty tough to justify criticisms of a guy who just wants to win, and will do whatever it takes to accomplish that. Sounds like sour grapes coming from Lucchino to me, though Steinbrenne rcould be a more gracious winner at times.
On the possibility of a partially state funded replacement for Yankee Stadium: Stadiums are being built everywhere by cities. Very few of them are built privately, and the one in San Francisco (PacBell) has deep financial problems, from what I hear. Building a stadium in New York costs two or three times what it would anywhere else, because of the labor unions and their power. And that's OK with me. I'm not against them. It's still a big puzzle that has got to be answered.
Well, yas and no. Yes, PacBell has problems, but no, it's not the same. While it's true that it may cost twice as much to build Yankee Stadium, the Sequel as it did to build PacBell Park, it's also true that the Yankees take in about 50% more revenue annually than the Giants do, according to Forbes. And while Pacific Bell probably paid a pretty penny to have their name inscribed upon the Giants new home, how much more would Coca-Cola, or McDonald's, or Microsoft pay to have their name(s) on the new home of the Yankees?
"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Bobby Murcer, and welcome to The House That M&M/Mars Built, Wendy's Ballpark on the US Department of the Interior Waterfront at the New York Times South Bronx, presented by Visa, It's Everywhere You Want To Be..."
On his suspension for giving gambler Howard Spira $40,000 to find damaging information on Dave Winfield : That was a very tough one to take. He did what he realistically thought was the right thing to do.
Umm, yeah!? An owner is consorting with gamblers to find damaging personal info on one of his star players to justify getting out of his contract? I'd say suspending you was exactly the right thing to do. Heck, it turned out to be the best thing to happen to the Yankees since Mickey Mantle.
On his relationship with a guy like Spira:
Bad hookup. Bad hookup. There were reasons, but no reason would've been good enough to have done that.
Well, at least he acknowledges a mistake.
On cheap-shots taken at him over the years:
I'm sure a lot of the shots have been very well–deserved.
Wow, acknowledging more mistakes, potentially.
On Derek Jeter as a potential Yankees Captain: I don't think now is the right time. I want to see Jetes truly focused. He wasn't totally focused last year. He had the highest number of errors he's had in some time. He wasn't himself.
As far as trying and being a warrior, I wouldn't put anyone ahead of him. But how much better would he be if he didn't have all his other activities? I tell him this all the time. I say, 'Jetes, you can't be everything to everybody. You've got to focus on what's important.' The charitable things he does are important. A certain amount (of his outside pursuits) are good for him and for the team, but there comes a point when it isn't, and I think we're getting close to that point.
He makes enough money that he doesn't need a lot of the commercials. I'm not going to stick my nose into his family's business. They are very fine people, (but) if his dad doesn't see that, he should see it. When I read in the paper that he's out until 3 a.m. in New York City going to a birthday party, I won't lie. That doesn't sit well with me. That was in violation of Joe's curfew. That's the focus I'm talking about.
Jeter's still a young man. He'll be a very good candidate for the captaincy. But he's got to show me and the other players that that's not the right way. He's got to make sure his undivided, unfettered attention is given to baseball. I just wish he'd eliminate some of the less important things and he'd be right back to where he was in the past.
David Pinto thinks that Steinbrenner has a point, and I have to concur, at least to a degree. Jeter had 14 errors last year, which were the most he's had since...well, 2001, when he made 15. In fact, Jeter has only one full season in which he's made fewer than 14 errors, 1998, when he made nine, so George doesn't exactly know what he's talking about there. However, his defense has slipped, even from the lows at which it previously resided. According to Baseball Prospectus, Jeter's defense was 27 runs worse than an average shortstop in 2002, not his career low, but still pretty bad. Overall, Jeter's 5.9 wins above replacement (WARP1) in 2002, which combines his hitting and fileding contributions, was the worst of his career. (That works out to over $3 million/win!) Mind you, he's never been a good defensive SS, despite what Tim McCarver tells you, but he was at least only slightly below average until 1999. I guess the thrill and excitement of being part of the Team of the Century went to his head, and he stopped working on defense. Boy of Summer said, three months ago, that Jeter needs to work more on his defense than he does on his Fleet commercials. Of course, Nomar's defense doesn't seem to have suffered from filming those commercials. Leaders lead by example first.
Show us that you want to be a leader, Derek. Show us that in the annals of history, you will deserve to be mentioned in the same paragraph as Alex and Nomar.
30 December 2002
The King of the Tabloids...
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 12/30/2002
27 December 2002
A Little History Lesson
While writing about the Jose Contreras signing, I felt like he was bound to disappoint us, though I did not really know why. Then it occurred to me that it might be because almost every other pitcher to come out of Cuba in the '90s has disappointed us, so why should this one be any different? So, not wanting to let feelings or assumptions rule me, I did some research, using BaseballReference.com, Cuban Ball.com, and some other sites, and found that I was not wrong: Cuban defectors to Major League Baseball teams have left a legacy of disappointment in the 1990's and 2000's.
Despite adamant protestations from his agent, Jose Contreras, like El Duque and other Latin American players, will probably turn out to be at least two or three years older than the reported 31, and will be hard-pressed to do as well against the majority of major league baseball players as he did against the mediocre Baltimore Orioles in 1999. Despite his reputation, Contreras really is an unknown commodity, as the only times Cubans play Americans is in international competition, for which we only allow the use of college players and some more or less washed-up veterans, or in winter leagues, where the teams are hardly of the overall quality that is typical of MLB rosters. Well, not the Devil Rays. But other MLB rosters. So we don't have much on which to base our analyses/projections for a player like Contreras, which means that we have to look at History. Sure, Contreras' signing brought headlines to the Yankees, but will he bring wins?
History suggests that he won't. Of the approximately 93 Cubans who have defected since Rene Arocha in 1991, fewer than 20 have made it to the majors, and of those, 12 were/are pitchers. How have they fared in their careers? Let's take a look:
W L G GS IP H ER BB SO ERA *ERA+
Rene Arocha 18 17 124 36 331.0 363 151 75 190 4.11 98
Rolando Arrojo 40 42 158 105 700.0 715 354 255 512 4.55 108
Danys Baez 15 14 82 26 215.7 194 95 102 182 3.96 114
Osvaldo Fernandez 19 26 76 67 387.0 439 212 136 208 4.93 88
Adrian Hernandez 0 4 8 4 28.0 25 17 16 19 5.46 82
Livan Hernandez 69 69 181 180 1216.0 1329 597 449 817 4.42 92
Orlando Hernandez 53 38 124 121 791.7 707 355 268 619 4.04 114
Hansel Izquierdo 2 0 20 2 29.7 33 15 21 20 4.55 88
Vladimir Nunez 17 26 194 27 372.0 349 180 157 270 4.35 97
Eddie Oropesa 3 0 62 0 44.3 55 39 32 33 7.92 55
Ariel Prieto 15 24 70 60 352.3 407 190 176 231 4.85 95
Michael Tejera 8 8 50 19 146.0 154 77 65 102 4.75 84
Totals 259 268 -- -- 4613.7 4770 2282 1752 3203 4.45 99
Not exactly tearing up the competition, are they? Only one pitcher with at least four more wins than losses. Only three with better than league average ERAs, one of whom has barely 200 innings under his belt. As a whole, these pitchers have combined for a losing record, a slightly below average ERA, a little more than a hit per inning, a 1.41 WHIP...in other words: Mediocrity.
And these are the stars of the Cuban Leagues! These are some of the best players Cuba has to offer! Or at least the best players to escape. When they came over, we heard alternately that Ariel Prieto, Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hernandez, Rolando Arrojo, and others were all going to be the next Luis Tiant. Instead, most of them have been hard pressed to become the next Luis Aloma. Many of them have lied about their ages to get better contracts, and their teams have been bitten in their respective asses as the pitchers aged sooner than expected. C'mon, did anybody really believe that Rolando "Honest, I'm NOT Billy Drago" Arrojo was only 30 when he signed with the Devil Rays in 1998?
Supposedly, Contreras has the potential to be a real ace. The evidence being cited for such a claim consists largely of his record in Cuba (117-50, 2.82 ERA, according to the Yankees. I couldn't find his career numbers on the internet. If anyone knows where to find them, email me.), his "barrell-chested" type body and his success against the Orioles in one game in 1999 (8 IP, 2 hits, 0 Runs, 4 BB, 10 Ks).
I just don't know. The fact that his torso resembles that of Roger Clemens doesn't necessarily mean that his pitching will follow suit. Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson are both great pitchers who don't particularly fit the description of "barrell-chested". His success against a mediocre MLB team in one game three years ago doesn't mean much, so the best we have to go on is his record in Cuba. But even that doesn't tell us much. There are so few players who play for any length of time in Cuba and then come to the US and make it to the majors (and NONE who go the other direction) that there's no way to come up with a useful "translation" for the Cuban leagues, as people like Baseball Prospectus' Clay Davenport have for the minor leagues, Japanese leagues, and others. But if there is one, it would seem that Cuban players, even stars, cannot usually be counted upon to be stars in the majors. So the Yankees may just have spent $32 million on the second coming of, well, Nardi Contreras.
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 12/27/2002
24 December 2002
More Nintendo Baseball...
Given that you are reading this now, I think it's fair to assume that most of you like both baseball and computers. This being the case, it is probably also fair to assume that at least some significant portion also likes video games, or did at one time, especially baseball video games. One of the fun things to do, in the sense that throwingthings at a neighborhood dog you never liked while it's tied to a tree is fun, is to trade all of the really good players from the other teams to your own favorite team. If, like me, you play such games to relax, rather than fooling yourself into thinking that you're developing some useful "skill".then you have no moral quandries with such tactics. You do, however, have a practical, logistical problem: How to find playing time for all those great players?
The New York Yankees, virtual masters of the reality video game called Major League Baseball, have such a problem as well. As outlined in this post, just a few days ago, the signing of Hideki Matsui gives the Yanks five outfielders who could start on most teams (Shane Spencer was apparently non-tendered and is now a free agent), and still only three outfield spots to play. First base and DH are positions in the lineup aptly and alternately filled by Jason Giambi and Nick Johnson, so there's really no room in the inn for White, Mondesi and/or Juan Rivera. Or, no room in the out, to be technical about it. And since White's got a history of injury and the Yankees already have Toronto eating some of Mondesi's contract, look for Raul to be traded. No surprise there.
Now it seems that Yankees brass was not content to have a glut of starting outfielders, nor were they apparently content with the glut of starting pitchers they already had. Steinbrenner definitely would not permit complacency, feigning a vague desire to reduce payroll, while the Arch Rival Boston Red Sox went out and spent their hard-earned money on a second potential ace pitcher. Jose Contreras, the erstwhile ace of the Cuban National Team, was signed by the Yankees on Tuesday, Steinbrenner's Christmas present to himself. Or Hannukah. Or something.
After the signing, Yanks' GM Brian Cashman was at least forthright about the order of priorities in the Yankees' front office:
"We couldn't, the right word is we wouldn't, sacrifice the opportunity to sign these talents on the basis of reducing payroll first...The mindset is still for me to reduce payroll...Obviously, when the opportunities to sign Hideki Matsui or Jose Contreras presented themselves, it was time for us to make decisions, to move now and continue to work on cutting the payroll down the line.''
Or not at all, as will likely turn out to be the case. But that's OK. It's King George's money, and last time I checked, he was still allowed to spend it pretty much however he wants. MLB, however, is also free to tax the hell out of him and give the money to his competitors. That's one of the risks he runs.
This brings the total of starting pitchers on the Yanks' roster to seven, not including Roger Clemens, whom most experts agree will be winning his 300th career decision in a Yankee uniform in 2003 as well. Which means that next year's starting rotation will be Clemens, Mussina, Pettitte, Wells, and probably Contreras. That means that Jeff Weaver will be left as a spot-starter/long reliever, making $4.1 million. No wonder they didn't want to pay Ramiro Mendoza $3 million to do the same job. It also means that Orlando Hernandez and Sterling Hitchcock will most likely be traded before next year. If they're lucky, they'll get three or four mid-level prospects out of whatever deals they make, and only end up eating half of the two contracts. Last time I checked, they can still afford it.
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 12/24/2002
23 December 2002
One Degree of Kevin Millwood...
There's an old joke about how two children are arguing over how to share the use of a sled on a snowy winter afternoon. Eventually, the smarter kid convinces the dumb kid that they can take turns: "You'll get to hold the sled for TWICE AS LONG as I will. I'll take it down the hill, and you carry it up!"
On Friday, Atlanta Braves GM John Schuerholz got to be the Dumb Kid. Well, sorta. It's still a little hazy, trying to figure out what exactly happened in the Kevin Millwood-for-Johnny Estrada trade, or more precisely, why it happened. Rob Neyer has some thoughts about it, essentially speculating that Schuerholz was forced to trade him, and that he may even have traded Millwood to the Phils out of spite (towards AOL/Time-Warner). I have a hard time believing that nobody else was interested, though, as Schuerholz attests. I mean, the Yankees are considering giving up their two best prospects AND Orlando Hernandez AND millions of dollars to the Expos for Bartolo Colon and all Schuerholz could get for his ace was a third-string catcher? Let's compare:
GS CG SHO IP HR/9 BB BB/9 SO K/9 W L P/GS BAA ERA
Millwood 34 1 1 217 0.66 65 2.7 178 7.4 18 8 95.6 0.230 3.24
Colon 33 8 3 233.1 0.77 70 2.7 149 5.8 20 8 107.2 0.252 2.93
Not so different, eh? In fact, if anything, Millwood's a little better. His ERA was a quarter of a run higher last year, but that's not too much, and his career ERA ia a little lower than Colon's (3.73 to 3.85). But he allowed fewer hits and homers/inning, struck out more batters, and walked just as few. In addition, Millwood is younger by a year and a half, and hasn't been worked as hard, probably due to his shoulder injury in 1999. In fact, that's the only possible downside to the transaction for the Phils, and it's really not much of a downside. Will Carroll of Under the Knife tells his subscribers that Millwood is fine, that despite his shoulder's history, it hasn't shown any signs of problems in a while. Will says,
Millwood's shoulder problems are a bit of a yellow flag, but far from red. After his injury, Millwood worked hard to make some slight mechanical adjustments, committed to a conditioning program, and never showed signs of further difficulty. Remember that chronic problems show their face early. [...] The big question for Glavine and Millwood (and to a smaller degree, Damian Moss) is how much influence Leo Mazzone really had on their pitching.
Gosh, I hope I'm allowed to reproduce that. But if Millwood's even only healthy for this year, an there's no reason to think that he won't be, the Phillies will get a pitcher who can win 15-20 games for them, and the Braves get...well, not much. Sure, the Braves' front office is saying all the right things: "good receiver...handles pitchers well...has a good bat...nice goatee..." But they've already got Javy Lopez and Henry Blanco under contract for next year. Estrada might get to play in October, since Bobby Cox has an as-yet-unexplained penchant for carrying three catchers on his postseason rosters...if they make it to October. But frankly I think that Erik Estrada has as good a chance of helping the Braves win games next year as Johnny Estrada does.
On the other hand, this is good news for Yankee fans: GM Brian Cashman apparently has only to call back Expos GM Omar Minaya
offerring Larry Wilcox and a case of Big League Chew.
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 12/23/2002
20 December 2002
Great Nicknames Dwindling...
First, The Yankee Clipper.
Then, The Splendid Splinter.
Now, Dr. Strangeglove.
That's right folks. Dick "Dr. Strangeglove" Stuart, has died. We will miss his nickname, if not his defense. And he really was that bad. According to Baseball Prospectus, Stuart's career offense contributed +167 batting runs above replacement position. His "defense" was -154, essentially negating everything he ever did with the bat. Stuart was a pitcher's best friend. Of course, we're talking the opposing pitcher, but who's counting?
What do Branch Rickey, Gabby Hartnett, Fred Merkle, Cecil Cooper, Oscar Gamble, and Augie Ojeda have in common? They all share the same birthday! With me! Augie and I are both 28 today. (And my mom is exactly twice that, 56. No word on Augie's mom.) Pretty cool, huh? As a small birthday present to myself, I bought the sponsorship of Dr. Strangeglove's page at baseballreference.com. When they get back from vacation, I'll put a link to Boy of Summer in there, and maybe draw a few more readers. Quirky readers, but readers, nonetheless.
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 12/20/2002
19 December 2002
COMING TO A BALLPARK NEAR YOU!
ESPN is reporting that the Yankees have agreed to a three-year, $21 million contract with Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui, aka Godzilla. At this point, Matsui fits into the Yankees lineup like this:
# Name Position
1) Alfonso Soriano Second Base
2) Derek Jeter Short Stop
3) Jason Giambi First Base
4) Bernie Williams Center Field
5) Hideki Matsui Left Field
5.5) Rondell White Left Center Field
6) Nick Johnson Designated Hitter
6.5) Todd Zeile Designated Misser
7) Jorge Posada Catcher
7.5) Chris Widger Thrower Backer to Pitcherer
8) Robin Ventura Third Base
8.5) Juan Rivera Backup Center Field
9) Raul Mondesi Right Field
9.5) Shane Spencer Deep, Deep, Roving Right Field
So obviously the Bronx Bombers have some roster shuffling to do before opening day, or there simply won't be enough at-bats to go around. Rumours of Raul Mondesi being traded to San Fran may just be wishful thinking, though if the Yankees were willing to eat some of Mondesi's contract, they might get a decent minor league pitcher or something in return. And of course, there's no reason that Juan Rivera, Widger, Zeile or Spencer should really complain about a bench role, though I wish they could find a way to get Rivera more playing time. The notion of taking any at bats from Nick Johnson and giving them to Todd Zeile feels a little like taking the family checkbook and letting the dog play with it so that Fido doesn't feel left out. Thankfully, Brian Cashman seems to realize that giving up a quality starting pitcher, and two young, promising hitters for Bartolo Colon is an offer not even worth a response, according to Bob Klapisch, especially if you hafta eat most of the SP's salary anyway.
If they don't trade El Duque, and they re-sign Clemens, and they sign recently-declared free agent Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras, the starting rotation will include Rocket, Mussina, Pettitte, Wells, Weaver, Hitchcock, Hernandez, and Contreras. This means that everyone will only need to start once a week or less, which is probably the only way Hitchcock keeps from tearing something again.
They'll probably end up re-signing Rocket, and trading away Orlando Hernandez and Sterling Hitchcock, eating most of that stupid contract, and letting Contreras go to the competition. In the long run, George would always rather spend money and win than save money and lose. The Yanks will again be the cream of the AL crop next year, with Godzilla helping to incinerate the competition, and and Boss George's wallet providing fule for the fire.
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 12/19/2002
18 December 2002
As I mentioned a few days ago, there are a few other new links as well:
A couple of them have logos of their own, such as:
Baseball Guru. Piles and piles of good stuff, including blogging & commentary, pictures, polls, newsgroups, chat, links to bunches of other sites, and lots more. LOTS more.
The Batters Box. This is a blog mostly about the Toronto Blue Jays, written by Kent Williams and his staff. There must be a pretty intense following, as his brief comments about the Blue Jays' prospects in the Rule 5 draft elicited 19 comments all by their lonesome. I could say that I hate the Phillies and I get nary a blip on the comments radar. Oh wait, I have. And I didn't.
The Cleveland Indians Report is, pretty much, just what it says it is. He (I assume the author is male, as there don't seem to be any indications as to who writes for the site on the page) writes well, and prolifically, every few days or so, about the Indians mostly, but branching out into other areas as well, when necessary.
Baseball Crank. This is another good blog, but one that makes its point much more quickly than I usually do. There is value in being pithy, especially when there is a plethora of baseball blogs out there. Sometimes, the guy who gets there first wins. Also, the Crank gets into politics, law, religion and probably flavors of Jell-O, if you give him a chance. Give him a chance.
The Southpaw. Matthew Durham's got a good blog, another one that generally doesn't waste words, but who covers a lot of news with brief commentary.
OK, anyone else who knows about a good baseball site to which I should link, let me know.
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 12/18/2002
17 December 2002
All Things Must Pass...
The Dream Team lost. Thankfully, it was the mediocre and inappropriately arrogant Dream Team, but hey, they lost.
Napolean was defeated. Twice.
The Beatles broke up.
Yes, George, it turns out that you were more right than you knew, all things (and people) must pass away, and all streaks must end.
In a related story, Tom Glavine and Mike Stanton are now New York Mets. These two are the only players in MLB who have played in every postseason since 1991. Glavine, of course, has been with the Braves until recently, while Stanton has been with Atlanta(1991-93), Boston (1995), Texas (1996), and the Yankees (1997-2002). But not next year. In October of 2003, I expect that Glavine and Stanton will get to experience the thrill of criticizing Tim McCarver and Joe Morgan's skills as post-season commentators, right from the get-go. Because the Mets are not going to the Promised Land.
The Mets, who continually seem to be patching old garments with new silk, have added yet another high-priced, aging free agent to their pitching staff, and are no closer to returning to the postseason for it. Stanton's been great, but he's not as dominant as he once was, and he was overused the last two seasons, and his strikeout rate was cut nearly in half last year. He'll get away with that a little more in Shea Stadium, a park that forgives flyball pitchers with relative ease, but he won't be worth $3 million next year, certainly not when he's 38.
The Mets are going to have to do some serious soul searching if they want to win next year. You'd expect a slight improvement from...well, almost everybody.
Name Pos BA / OBP/ SLG ('02 OPS/Car OPS)
1) Cedeno LF .260/.318/.346 (.664/.721)
2) Alomar 2B .266/.331/.376 (.708/.824)
3) Piazza C .280/.359/.544 (.903/.964)
4) Vaughn 1B .259/.349/.456 (.850/.910)
5) Alfonzo 3B .308/.391/.459 (.851/.812)
6) Burnitz RF .215/.311/.365 (.677/.838)
7) Perez CF .295/.331/.437 (.768/.730)
8) Ordonez SS .254/.292/.324 (.616/.594)
Alomar, Burnitz, Cedeno, Vaughn and Piazza all saw dropoffs of at about 60 OPS points or more in 2002 as compared to their career numbers. Ironically, two players who actually produced slightly better numbers than their career averages, Fonzie and St. Rey, are now gone to greener (in Ordonez's case, tealer) pastures. Of those who are left, you would expect (or at least hope for) a rebound in '03, even if it's just something close to the career averages, for Alomar and Burnitz, if for no reason other than that Burnitz couldn't possibly be any worse. Cedeno and Vaughn could bounce back as well, and if Piazza drops no more, he'll still be the best hitting catcher in baseball. Highly-touted rookie Jose Reyes can't possibly do any worse than Ordonez did, but they'll have a very hard time matching Alfonzo's production at third, unless they sign 3B Norihiro Nokamura, and he doesn't suck. So whatever they make up in regression to the mean from, Alomar, Cedeno, Vaughn, Burnitz and/or Piazza, they are likely to lose in a steep dropoff from Alfonzo to his replacement at third, and the Mets are right back where they started. Unless they buy some new wineskins, or get rid of the old wine.
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 12/17/2002
16 December 2002
Musical Mets Infielders...
A lot has happened in the last day or so. Two Mets infielders are now former Mets infielders, as Rey Ordonez was traded to Tampa Bay, and Edgardo Alfonzo has signed a four-year, $26 million contract with the SF Giants to play second or third base or maybe both, meaning that another former Mets infielder, Jeff Kent, probably won't be playing either position for the Giants again any time soon.
Among the many, sadly hilarious quotes coming from the front office of the woefully inept Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar said, "He is one of the finest defensive shortstops I've ever seen play." Apparently LaMar doesn't get out much, because despite popular belief, it turns out that Saint Rey isn't a particularly fine defensive shortstop at all, as is shown by his defensive stats available from Baseball Prospectus. Flashy? Absolutely. Good? No, not really. Or at least not great. According to Prospectus, Ordonez, in his best season (1997) saved about eleven runs more than an average major league shortstop would have saved, after adjustijng for league, park, pitching staff, the air-speed velocity of an un-laden swallow, and shoe size. Eleven. Not bad, but not great. For comparison's sake, widely acknowledged defensive shortstop extraordinaire Ozzie Smith only had two seasons in his career in which he saved fewer than eleven runs above the average (out of sixteen years in which he played at least 100 games). Not that he has to be Ozzie Smith, but heck, if you're gonna "hit" (and I use the term loosely) like that, you've gotta be contributing somnething pretty spectacular on the defensive side of things to justify making $6 million per year. The AP story also said,
Ordonez batted just .254 with one homer and 42 RBI last season and was one of the fans' biggest targets as the Mets finished in last place.
Listen, the Mets stank on ice last year, but blaming Rey Ordonez for not hitting enough is like suing McDonald's for making your kids fat. You knew better, you were just too lazy to do anything about it.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, Alfonzo's signing with the Giants means that Kent's days of protecting Barry Bonds are likely over, unless he's hired as Barry's personal bodyguard. Kent is rumoured to be going to several places, including Los Angeles and the Cubs. What's surprising is how little apparent interest ther is in a secondbaseman who has averaged .290/25/110 RBI with 90+ Runs and solid defense, plate discipline, over 550 plate appearances and just about everything else you'd want since 1997. Granted, he'll be 35 on opening day next year, but you'd think that there would be more teams vying for his services.
Alfonzo has had some trouble staying healthy the last few years, but when he's right, he's one of the better hititng thirdbasemen in the majors, and he'll be an even better hitting 2B, relatively speakng. He's just gotta stay helathy, which is like saying that we've just gotta find those weapons of mass destruction, and everything will be OK.
And yet another former Mets infielder, Todd "Good Housekeeping" Zeile, may be close to signing a on-year, $1.5 million deal with the Yankees. This is one of those moves that rings of the meddlesome King George. Zeile is old (37), not a good defensive player, has never scored 90 runs or hit .300 in a season, has only once hit more than 25 homers or driven in 100 runs, and will cost them $1.5 million. He hasn't even had what you'd call a decent year with the bat since 1999, when he hit .293/.354/.488 with Texas. Last year, whenever he wasn't in Coors Field, he hit a pathetic .233/.291/.353. Yuk. Those are bad numbers for Rey Ordonez, much less a designated hitter or firstbaseman. Besides, the Yankees already have the best hitting 1B in the AL, now that Jim Thome's a Phillie, in Jason Giambi, and one of the more patient, promising young hitters in baseball backing him up, in Nick Johnson. And Steinbrenner has the nerve to cancel people's dental plans while complaining about the new CBA.
A couple of non-Met firstbasemen changed teams on Sunday as well. Actually, they're DH's forced into 1B/LF roles on National League teams, now given the chance to fullfill their callings as designated hitters. Erubiel Durazo, the erstwhile Arizona Diamondback was traded to the Oakland Athletics despite (get this) hitting 36 homers, driving in 119, and scoring 115 runs in 593 at-bats last year! ...and the year before...and the year before that. Combined. Durazo can hit, no question about that, but can he stay in the lineup? Perhaps being on a team where he can play DH will allow him to stay healthier. This is just the kind of guy that Oakland GM Billy Beane loves: In his prime (28), cheap, gets on base, hits for power, worries about catching the ball after he watches his Soaps. It just surprises me that the Diamondbaks waited so long to trade him, especially after signing Mark Grace to play 1B before the 2001 season. It looks like Arizona got the worst of this deal, giving up a productive, cheap hitter, in his prime, and getting only some money (about $1 million, total) and a 30-year old pitcher with a 4.29 career ERA, a losing record, and enough seasons to justify a big pay raise soon. Toronto gives up Felipe Lopez, a SS prospect about whom some people are pretty excited, to Cincinatti, but they get two pretty good prospects from Oakland in return: OF John Ford Griffin and RHP Jason Arnold, both of whom came to Oakland in the Ted Lilly trade from the Yankees. Lopez is expected to eventually succeed Barry Larkin as the Reds' everyday shortstop, but then, so was Pokey Reese. And Gookie Dawkins. And Adam Everett. So I'll believe it when I see it.
The other masher to change teams on Sunday was Jeremy Giambi, who was traded to the BoSawx for minor-league RHP Josh Hancock. I won't sing Giambi's praises anymore, as I have already done so here (when I complained about the Jim Thome signing). I'm just glad he'll have an opportunity to play everyday with Boston. But if he hits like I think he will, Josh Hancock is going to be the second coming of Jim Bunning to make the Phillies look like anything short of complete fools for spending $87 million on, essentially, the same production they could have had for one-tenth of that.
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 12/16/2002
14 December 2002
I have added a whole boatload of new links. I try, whenever possible, to use a picture to link to these, though there are many great baseball blogs and other such sites that don't have pictures or graphics of their own. As one of these myself, the only way I can have graphics on my own site is either to cross-reference a picture from another site. In some cases, the pictures available to not fit into the spaces I am alloting for them, and so something is lost in the translation, so to speak. My hope is that soon a friend of mine with some ftp space can place a few of these pictures for me to use, without having to pay any actual money to the people at Blogger.
Such is the case with:
Will Carroll's Under the Knife is a newsletter to which you can subscribe that tells you about the occurrences and statuses of injuries to major league baseball players, but there are also archives available on the site itself. The staff of UTK write commentary and analysis of current events in baseball (though they haven't posted much lately) in the Daily Post Archive. I suspect that this site will be invaluable to those of us who play in fantasy/roto leagues during the season.
The Prospect Report is also a newsletter to which you can subscribe, which provides raw data on some of the better known prospects in the minor leagues, to let you know when/if someone had a significant game/series. This site also has an archive of its past newsletters available on the site, with Top Ten Prospect Reports for each organization. (Well, they're working their way through the clubs.) Want to know what the future looks like for the Pirates? It's there for you (and pretty bright, too, it turns out.) Want to know how the cupboard looks for the Yankees? (hint: bare) They'll tell you that too. Want to know how 32 year old William VanLandingham or your 29-year old cousin Bob is doing on the Angels' AA team? Look somewhere else.
Retrosheet is a website that has a lot of wonderful historic baseball data. They are in the midst of compiling boxscores for, essentially, every MLB game of the last century, which is a lot, so they've only gotten to about 1967, so far. They've also got data available by player names, play-by-play data you can download, hit charts, all sorts of stuff. And it's all free! Amazing.
Jamey Newburg runs an incredibly comprehensive website solely dedicated to the Texas Rangers, specifically their minor leagues. I first heard about this guy in last year's Baseball Prospectus, as they evidently used his info to save themselves a lot of legwork in research, and I can see why. He's got analysis, commentary, stats, even pictures of these kids. If you're really into the Texas Rangers, you can even buy a hardcopy of the book, but even if you're not that into the Rangers, you have to take a look at his site to see how really good, comprehensive minor league analysis is done.
Dr. Manhattan has a lot more than baseball on his website, Blissful Knowledge, but if that was all he had, it'd be worth the trip. If you're like me, and sometimes some thing other than baseball matters (sorry, John) then you might check him out.
More on the updates tomorrow...
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 12/14/2002
12 December 2002
A Few Obligations...
I promised Aaron Gleeman almost a week ago that I would plug his breakdown of this year's Hall of Fame hopefuls, so there it is. I had hoped to do something like this myself, but frankly I don't have the time that Aaron seems to have to do this stuff, and I don't disagree with him on enough of his assertions to make it worth your time or mine (or his) debating them. However, if you are into debate, and/or have been living under a rock, check out the Don Mattingly arguments that John Perricone has posted on OBM. Start here and work your way up. Just like your tax return. I happen to come down squarely on the side of those who think that you cannot allow someone into the Hall of Fame based on would-coulda-shoulda-ifs. Don Mattingly was my hero, growing up in NJ, reading the Bergen Record, listening to Al Trautwig, Phil Rizzuto, Bobby Murcer and Bill White tell me how great Mattingly was. And he was, but not for long enough. It may not be his fault that he got hurt, but he got hurt. It's not the Hall of Talent, or the Hall of Potential, or the Hall of Four-Year Statistical Greatness. It's the Hall of Fame, a shrine to the best and brightest. Let's keep it that way.
And while you're there, check out all the stuff John has going on about the Pete Rose issue. I don't have time to read it all (the cross-links, not John's stuff) but it's pretty comprehensive in terms of providing the different viewpoints, even if John's view is the most dominantly represented. John and I have essentially agreed to disagree on this one, and it looks like I'll have to plead the same on Mattingly.
Also, newcomer Alex Belth of Bronx Banter has reproduced an email I sent him, along with some of his comments, about the fact that the Yankees have allowed Stanton and Mendoza to walk. In this case, it isn't just baseball, but also religion (my other favorite topic) and Alex, despite an initail bias, professes to have been open-minded enough to consider a different perspective, and to have had his mind changed a bit. As a writer, and as a person, that is the most I could ever ask.
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 12/12/2002
Rose Trampled Under-Foot
John Dowd was interviewed yesterday by the New York Post, according to this article on ESPN.com. Dowd said not only that Rose bet on the Reds (as he has said many times) but also that there was a trail of evidence that would have led to the conclusion that Rose actually bet against his own team, and that if not for certain "time constraints," evidence of such would have been included in the Dowd Report. Dowd also said that he heard that part of the reinsttement process for Rose, should it actually take place, would entail his being hired as the manager of the Reds, replacing incumbent Bob Boone, which of course has been denied by Reds ownership. Whatever you think of Bob Boone as a manager (and believe me, there aren't many who think much good about him) you'd have to feel sorry for a guy who lost his job to a pariah like Rose. The story also says,
"Among his litany of problems with Rose, Dowd told the Post, is that he has seen no evidence over the past 13 years that Rose "reconfigured his life" as Giamatti asked the baseball great to do at the time of his banishment. Thus, Dowd sees no reason to make Rose the first player ever allowed back from the permanently ineligible list."
Now I know that a lot of my blogging and/or ranting colleagues don't exactly think the world of Mr. Dowd, or of his report, so I will not defend the report, as it is not necessary in this case. My opinion happens to be that Rose actually is guilty of betting on baseball games, probably ones in which he was involved. To me, whether or not he bet against his team is immaterial. There is no distinction made for this in Rule 21, and I don't see it as any worse than betting on your team. However, most of America would likely not agree with me on this issue, and would think that betting against your own team is a more egregious sin than betting on them, and therefore what Dowd says is almost certainly intended to influence public pinion against Pete Rose, and more specifically, against his potential reinstatement.
Last time I checked, we still had a Right to Free Speech in this country, so Dowd can pretty much say (and the Post can print) whatever he wants. I happen to be generally on Dowd's side in this matter, as I mentioned yesterday, but I think that his actions are totally inappropriate. Besides an unmasked effort to supplant Jayson Stark as the King of Unsubstantiated Rumor, this just isn't fair to anybody: Rose, MLB, or the Fans. In a world where many of us only have time to read the headlines, seeing "Dowd: Rose Bet Against Reds" in a newspaper or on a semi-respectable website like ESPN, it is completely unfair and irresponsible to go around saying and writing things like this.
It's one thing for him to go on record saying that his investigation revealed [blah, blah, blah] and that therefore he thinks that Peter Edward Rose, Sr. is guilty of [yadda, yadda]. It is an entirely different animal for Dowd to say "I don't have any proof of this, but if I was given the chance, I could have proven that Pete Rose was guilty of [yadda-yadda]". According to some, the 225-page report and seven volumes of exhibits that currently constitute the Dowd Report are far from conclusive on the issue, but now we have to consider Dowd's opinion, based on unsubmitted and/or non-existent evidence that he thinks might have been out there?!?! If he was just given more time? This is jibberish, at its most basic level. Manipulative, insulting jibberish. Dowd has every right to express an opinion, even to say that Rose is guilty of something that he thinks his research proves. Despite what some of my colleagues have said, Dowd is not prevented by the agreement that Pete Rose signed in August of 1989 from making any kind of statements. But he shouldn't be allowed to just slander Pete Rose with impunity, no matter what kind of crooked louse the guy may otherwise be.
Besides this, Dowd's comments don't even stand up under scrutiny. How much more time did he need? The investigation took about two years to complete, and I don't remember anyone previously saying that there was some kind of deadline on it. Why haven't we previously heard about this some time in the last thirteen years? Is there new evidence? Where is it? Why isn't Bud the Evil Fairy Godfather being presented with it instead of the NY Post? And how the hell does John Dowd know whether or not Rose has "reconfigured his life"? Has he been following him around to all of the gambling parlors and whorehouses Rose may have visited in the last decade? Doesn't ha have anything better to do?
And when is somebody going to inform Dowd that there have been several people removed from the permanently inelligible list? I said as much myself, with only a little research, at the end of this post. I really wish that the interviewers of people like John Dowd (or Pete Rose, or Bud Selig, or anyone else) would challenge these assertions and hold people accountable for what they say on public record. But, as is usually the case, newspapers just report what they hear, and worry about details like "accuracy", "responsibility" and "truth" later.
Pete Rose tips his cap to John Dowd for
making Rose, an otherwise despicable man, into a
sympathetic figure. Pudgy, but sympathetic.
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 12/12/2002
11 December 2002
Who Doesn't Like Roses?
In the grand tradition of mainstream media, ESPN is about a month late and a tax evasion fine short on the Pete Rose issue. Tuesday must have been a slow news day, as an application for reinstatement made by Rose more than five years ago finally became a public issue. ESPN actually does a good job of covering the issue, but most of it amounts to "Wait and see."
There's plenty to read about this from sources other than the Boy of Summer, but my thoughts on Rose's reinstatement should be fairly self-evident from my writings here, where John Perricone at OBM has morphed a few different writings into one, reasonably coherent document. There is other stuff at OBM that deals with the issue as well. Especially, you must read Elephants in Oakland's David Levens' piece, if you haven't already. I have to agree with Rob Neyer, that if Rose does finally admit that he bet on his own games, it should only worsen his standing in MLB, not help it, as he will have publicly admitted to doing the one thing that merits lifetime exclusion. Frankly, I can't see them allowing him in if it means that greater players than Rose will everafter boycott the induction ceremonies. But then Bud Selig never was much for common sense.
Just like Kathy Lee Gifford (either you hate her or you can't stand her), people are galvanized by Pete Rose. There is very little middle ground. Fans love him. But then fans thought that Ripken's streak was a more memorable moment than Fisk's homer. Many sportswriters love him. But then these same sportswriters are the ones who think that A-Rod was not the MVP of the 2002 American League. Joe Morgan loves him. Of course, Joe Morgan is an idiot. Who doesn't love him? Well, only his ex-wife (wives?), probably most of the women with whom he cheated on his wife, his former bosses (Giamatti and Vincent), and some pretty smart and informed people like George Will, Jim Caple, David Pinto and John Dowd.
Jim Baker, via ESPN's Insider, looked for a dissenting opinion to all the Rose supporters, and he found a couple in the Newark Star Ledger and the Denver Post. Baker asks,
"Is there nobody in the Fifth Estate who has put forth the notion that in the context of baseball, betting on one's own games is a far worse offense than doing drugs, being a jerk or failing to hustle? Is there nobody who understands that the integrity of the play on the field is the single most important quality that baseball has to offer its fans and that actions that call into question the outcome of games override all individual accomplishments that came prior to those actions?"
The problem, it seems to me, is that we're all too young. I mean, I know, some of you are more than 28 like me, but unless Strom Thurmond reads my blog, nobody who's seeing this stuff has any first-hand recollection of what it was like when the integrity of the game of baseball was compromised by gambling. Nobody reading this was alive or lucid when the 1919 World Series was thrown, or earlier in baseball's history, when lots of issues with gambling became such a problem that the rules posted in every clubhouse about gambling had to be instituted. Those signs don't say "Thou shalt not fail to hustle." They require that anyone who gambles on games is suspended for a year, and that anyone who gambles on his own games be suspended permanently. Unfortunately, none of us can empathize with the gravity of such a situation, because the very rules that Pete Rose chose to ignore have otherwise done an excellent job of preventing this from becoming a problem, as it was in the toddler days of baseball. Our lack of appropriate historical perspective, or simply of a crisis in baseball due to gambling in our collectively recent memory, has skewed our view of how serious such an infraction truly is.
As my opinion is a matter of record, and there really are not yet any new developments on the story, only wild speculations, I'm not going to waste any more bandwidth on it. I'll let you know when there's real news.
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 12/11/2002
09 December 2002
Same Old Story
To the great relief of, well, me, the Phillies have not signed Jamie Moyer to any kind of ridiculous contract, as the Seattle Mariners have instead retained their aging workhorse, with a three-year, $15.5 million deal. With incentives, Moyer could garner up to $21.5 mil over the course of the contract. This, I suppose, is not a terrible deal by today's standards (heck, Darren Dreifort made $9 mil last year, and he pitched about as often as the retired Ron Popeil). Jayson Stark reports rumblings that Moyer's contract with Seattle takes the form of a $1.5 million base salary with incentives based on - get this - being a good pitcher! If he pitches a certain number of innings and makes a certain number of starts, he makes - are you ready? - more money! Based on performance! What a concept. You see, in the great tradition of Charles Manson and Gomez Addams, Moyer chose to represent himself in the negotiations. In doing so he accomplished two major things:
1) He saved some cash. No comission to some grubby-handed agent.
B) He was able to recognize, in ways that the agents for other players often are not (see: Alfonzo, Edgardo), his own limitations, and did not want to hamstring the organization with his contract if he should begin to suck three years from now, which is somewhat likely, given that he's already 40 and that he throws slowly enough that he can sometimes get three strikes on a batter out with only one pitch.
The Mariners also re-signed John Olerud (34 as of 1 June 2003) to a reasonable, two-year contract, kept Edgar Martinez (40), Dan Wilson (33), and Shigetoshi Hasegawa (34), offered arbitration to Norm Charlton (40), and signed Pat Borders (40) to a minor league contract. The team's other mainstays include: Mark McLemore (38), Jeff Nelson (36, no relation), Bret Boone (34), Arthur Rhodes (33), and Jeff Cirillo, who is 33-going-on-corpse. This is a team that miraculously won 93 games in the toughest division in MLB last year, but they're not doing anything to improve, so far theis off-season. GM Pat Gillick earned the sobriquet "Stand Pat" while he was in Baltimore and Toronto, for his propensity to resign guys on the roster and not make many late-season trades. The nickname seems pretty appropriate so far, but when thew Angels and A's got better, the Mariners are going to start falling off precipitously if they don't start bringing up some more young talent. (Yes, I know about Piniero and Franklin, and if Freddy Garcia's 26, I'm Elizabeth Taylor.
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 12/09/2002
06 December 2002
Stark Raving Mad
Well, he's made his decision. The most coveted free agent pitcher in the 2002 off-season, Tom Glavine, has chosen the Mets as the team with which he will most likely finish his career. Yuk. Like the best calligrapher in your print shop going to work for the new Kinko's down the street. And taking all your business with him. Thankfully for you, the calligrapher wanted $10 million to stay, and you knew that though he's still good, it's better to make some other poor fool pay him that for the next three or four years.
I initially suspected that Glavine may have a somewhat rougher time in the Mets rotation than he did as a Brave, thinking that he is a groundball pitcher, and that the Mets infield defense is only slightly less porous than, say, foam. However, it turns out that his Groundball/flyball ratio is usually right around 1.1, which means that he doesn't particularly rely on the infield defense any more than Mike Mussina or Russ Ortiz. But the Mets will need to do something about their offense, or Glavine's typical 16-10 season could be more like 10-16, without doing anything differently at all. Maybe he can help teach the other Mets pitchers how to hit.
For the Braves and Phils, this is a blessing in disguise, as neither team will be paying $10 million to a 39-year old pitcher who may be only decent by 2005. Jayson Stark reports that the Braves really wanted to keep Glavine, but that they didn't make much of an effort to keep him.
They had a lock Hall of Famer in their midst. A guy who wanted to stay. A guy who had been the face of the franchise through all the glory years. The only remaining Brave who had been on the active roster of every one of those 11 playoff teams. And they let him become a Met -- without even much of a fight.
It seems to me that the Braves put up plenty of fight. They made entirely reasonable offers to Glavine, with amounts of money vclose to what he got, and vesting options for third and/or fourth years of the contract based upon Innings pitched. Thems sounds like fightin' woids to me.
They put up plenty of fight. They just didn't allow themselves to get blackmailed into giving a player more than they think he's worth, because GM John Schuerholz knows that if you allow sentiment to get in the way of good business sense, you'll hamstring the whole operation. That's why Schuerholz has managed to bring eleven division championships, five National League Championships and a World Series championship to the Braves during his tenure, despite spiraling player salaries, a changeling roster, and the morphologically unstable economic climate in which he has found himself during that span. He knows better than to spend Big Bucks on a 36-year old free agent. Hasn't happened yet. Not gonna start now. Even if it is the only player who's been there for all eleven of those division titles. It's hard to argue much with a guy with his track record.
On the other hand, is it really such a blessing for the Phils? Stark also says that the Phils are now going after Jamie Moyer to fill the spot in the rotation that they envisioned Glavine filling. The only thing worse than spending $10 million on Glavine may be spending $9 mil on Moyer. OK, maybe not the only thing.
They plan to dive now into the arms of Glavine's 40-year-old clone, Jamie Moyer, if he'll have them. And while Moyer won't give the Phillies the same buzz Glavine would have, he's an acceptable Plan B. They'll get over it.
Moyer grew up in Sellersville, PA, just outside Philadelphia, and along my commute to work, as it turns out. I used to work with someone who went to high school with and played against him, back in the day. Anyway, the guy with whom I used to work is about 40, which means that so is Jamie, which means that he doesn't necessarily have much mileage left in his arm. A pitcher who is four years older than Glavine, has had a lot less success and relies on his defense as much as Moyer does shouldn't generate much buzz at all. What should generate some buzz (if not a few angry mobs) is that the Phillies are actually taking seriously his purported request for about $9 million a year! Moyer is certainly not worth 90% of Tom Glavine, thankyouverymuch. This is NOT an acceptable Plan B. Not at that price. Not if I'm a Phillies' Phan.
Winona Ryder reacts in shocked disbelief upon learning that the
Phillies are considering paying $9,000,000/year to Jamie Moyer.
Ironically, Moyer has been much better as an older pitcher than he was as a young one. He came up with the Cubs, in 1986, and for nine seasons, on four different teams, over the course of ten years (didn't pitch in the majors in '92), Moyer was...How do you say? Ah yes: Bad. Not Michael Jackson Bad, but not good: 59-76 4.50 ERA. But then he went to Boston, for about half a season, and went to Seattle, and he's been pretty darn good ever since: 105-49 3.84. Not Sandy Koufax, but considerably better. I'd like to say that I can explain this, but I can't. Which leaves me only to wonder when his succes is gonna run out. Clearly, we can't really look for his "fastball" to lose a few mph as an indication of his diminishing skills, as his fastball now wouldn't even be stopped and ticketed on the Schuykill Expressway, but I suspect that we'll see Moyer walking afew more batters this year, giving up a few more hits, allowing a few more runs, and basically regressing toward the mean. The mean is not awful, it's just average, so as long as they're not planning on shelling out, say $9 million a year for two or three seasons to the guy, it might not be a bad idea to sign him. Any more that $5 or $6 mil is not wise. All things considered, I'd rather they let someone like Brandon Duckworth or Doug Nickle pitch often enough to become as good as they can be, and save the money for re-signing Pat Burrell, when his time comes.
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 12/06/2002
04 December 2002
I'm going to do a little house cleaning today. As Todd Hundley has been, effectively, dumped on the Dodgers, I'm removing DumpToddHundley.com from my links. It was never really my thing anyway. Besides the banner for DumpEricKarrosandMarkGrudzielanekand
ProbablyMoises AlouWhileYou'reAtIt.com would be way too long.
I had a suggestion a few weeks ago for a link to TheDiamondAngle.com, and I'm going to put in a button for them on the right, in place of the aforementioned website being, ironically, dumped. It's an online baseball magazine to which you may subscribe, but also has a lot of good writing available to anyone in their archives. Apparent reader James Townsend, who doesn't seem to be affiliated with the magazine, recommended them to me. Thanks again, James.
Lewis R. McLain, who happened upon the Boy of Summer while looking up Brian Kingman on Google, scolded me for not immediatley knowing the name of the last pitcher to lose 20 games in the majors in one year, and perhaps rightly so. In the process of learning about this, he recommended that I check out 20gamelosers.com, and so I pass the recommendation on to you, the live studio audience. Did you know that there are 19 Hall of Fame pitchers who have lost 20 or more games in a season at least once? Neither did I.
And last, but not finally, the illustrious John J. Perricone, whose priorities are clearly in order, has gotten over 20,000 visitors to the aptly names Only Baseball Matters, complete with new Civil War color scheme. John's done a lot of cool stuff with his little slice of the Internet, including links to books you can buy from Amazon.com, from which he'll get a little dough, which will help when he loses his job because of spending so much time making his website awesome. Keep up the great work, John.
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 12/04/2002
03 December 2002
Would You Like To Play A Game?
OK kids, let's play a game. It's called "General Manager." Your job, as GM, is to pick a player for your team from the two presented to you. The following two players both play first base and are both considered approximately average defensively at this position. Neither has any apparent propensity for stealing bases. The following stats are for 2002:
AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG
Player A 480 89 124 26 31 69 121 144 0.259 0.414 0.505
Player B 480 101 146 19 52 118 122 139 0.304 0.445 0.677
Clearly Player B is a better hitter than Player A. He got more hits, scored and drove in more runs, though they both walk (and therefore get on base) a LOT, and strike out about the same. Seems a pretty easy choice, right? But let me cloud the issue a bit. Player B hit a lot more homers, but hey, 31 dingers in a season is certainly no slouch. Player A played on a team that provided him with fewer opportunities to score and drive in runs, hence some of the RBI and Runs scored differential. However, most of the disparity between the Runs and RBI comes from the fact that Player A hit about 150 points lower with runners in scoring position than Player B, though the differences in their career numbers in these situations is not as great, only about 30 points in BA, 60 in OBP. This is a significant difference, but I should also tell you that Player A has not had nearly as many opportunities to hone this skill, as he has never been allowed to hold a full-time job. Getting murky, isn't it?
Well, then you should know that Player A is only 28, while Player B is 32. Also, Player A is already signed to your team, and will not become a free agent until the end of 2003 or 2004, whereas Player B is a free agent asking for a 6-year, $80-something million contract. So it's not a question of whether to go out and sign Player A or B so much as it is an issue of whether to spend an extra $13 million every year for the better part of the next decade on a player who is already past his statistical prime or to keep and use the current player in that role and ink him to a much less burdensome contract. So sure, Player B is the better player, but is he really $13 million better? Given the chance to play every day, Player B is probably only worth a win or two over the course of a season more than Player A. That was an expensive win.
Most of you have already figured out that Player B is everybody's favorite throwbackin', from the heels swingin', big Illinois farm-boyin', Howdy Doody ears havin', slugging firstbaseman free-agent: Jim Thome. The more astute of you (don't break your arms patting yourselves on the back) might also realized the identity of Player A, except that I've tricked you. Another confession: Player A is not real. Well, kind of. Player A is a projection of Jeremy Giambi's combined 2002 stats over the same number of plate appearances that Thome had. Not so different, huh? And this doesn't even consider that Giambi was actually more productive as a Phillie than he had been as an Athletic. If you project those numbers out over the same playing time Thome saw, you get:
AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG
Jeremy 450 92 110 29 35 81 150 156 0.244 0.435 0.538
Jim 480 101 146 19 52 118 122 139 0.304 0.445 0.677
The RBI come up, as do the Runs, homers and walks. The difference in OBP is only ten points now, and despite only hitting .244, he slugs .538, making him the approximate statistical kinsman of Carlos Delgado.
Now the issue is becoming substantially less opaque. Should you...
A) Play the guy you've already got, who hits like Carlos Delgado, and costs relatively little. Or...
2) Sign the guy who hits like, well, Jim Thome, will cost about 10-15 times more, can't be traded, and is likely to be a shadow of his former self by the twilight of the six or seven year contract, during which he will be making $15-20 million.
If you picked door #2, you'll usually win at the game of "General Manager." It all comes down to opportunity cost: If you can get 90% of the production you want for 10% of the cost of another option, you take it, and spend the other 90% of your allocated funds on something else. Like a starting pitcher. Or a better thirdbaseman. Oh, too late.
The real tragedy here is that Giambi still won't get to play. First he was behind Mike Sweeney in KC, then he was behind his older brother in Oakland. When Jason bolted for the Bright Lights of NYC, Jeremy probably figured that he had a straglehold on the 1B job, but alas, Scott Hatterberg (!?) usurped the starting job from him, and he was traded to the Phils, where he couldn't even convince Larry Bowa to let him start in Travis Lee's stead, and Lee has sucked like a Shop-Vac since 1999. You think Bowa's gonna let him play and make Thome sit? Or Bobby Abreu? Or Pat Burrell? Or even Marlon Byrd? Nope. And so another promising young hitter's career will be wiled away on the pine, sacrificed at the altar of the God of Public Relations, without even a visit to the oracle of the God of Winning Ballclubs.
Now who looks like Howdy Doody?
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 12/03/2002
02 December 2002
The Less-Than-Perfect Trade
Welcome to another edition of the Perfect Trade Show. Every baseball fan has heard it at least once. It usually happens during the Rain-Delay-Gotta-Pass-Time-Somehow-So-We'll-Open-Up-the-Phone-Lines-and-Any-Idiot-Can-Call-In-Show. The [Whoozits] are having problems with [position] and everybody knows it. Some player on [Doo-Wahs], who are going nowhere, is really good at that position, is young and relatively cheap. Some knucklehead calls in and says, "Hey, Why don't the [Whoozits] just trade for [really awesome, young, cheap player] from the [Doo-Wahs]? He's good, and what do they need him for? They suck! We can give them [1/2 dozen or more minor league scrubs and/or aging, under productive free agents]! That would solve the problem right there!" Caller hangs up, beaming because he has just solved his favorite team's problem perfectly. Show hosts proceed to mock caller for his naivete, and probably his accent, saying that trading seven or eight lousy players for one great one will never happen. You idiot.
Last year, I heard this on a Yankee rain delay. Someone called in and asked, "Why don't the Yankees just solve their left field problem by trading for Vladimir Guerrero? What do the Expos need with him? They suck anyway. We could give them Orlando Hernandez and Christian Parker and Chuck Knoblauch and David Justice and Randy Kiesler or something like that!" Add a case of Stadium Dogs, and you'd have probably had a deal. John Sterling and Michael Kay then laughed about this, pointed out the obviously ludicrous nature of the suggestion that a Superstar player like Vlad the Impaler could come at the cost of all the Yankees' flotsam and jetsam, and went on to the next caller.
Well, now Bob Klapisch is reporting that the Yanks are actually considering a trade with the Expos, not for Vlad, but for Bartolo Colon. Of course, Omar Minaya denies it, and anyway is smarter than to consider such a ridiculous trade as that mentioned above, but Bartolo for Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera and maybe El Duque is at least a viable option. I'm certainly not privy to any of the trade talks, but it seems to me that this rumour must not be true, because Minaya would be a fool not to accept it. His bosses, ironically his competition, won't be give him the chance to sign Colon, whose market value is currently as high as it's ever going to be, not for the kind of scratch a 20-game winner is going to demand, but Nick Johnson and Juan Rivera can be renewed for several more years before hitting arbitration. Hernandez is a decent starter, and would fit in nicely as a #2 or #3 in Montreal, and if he asks too much next year, they can let him go as a free agent. They won't have Colon after next year anyway. And Johnson should turn into a very special hitter in the next few years.
According to Klapisch, the trade makes sense for the Yankees, who may have to pay Roger Clemens $10 million per year for two years just to make sure that he wins his seventh game next year (the 300th of his career) in Pinstripes. Clemens will already receive about $10 mil in deferred compensation from his previous contract with the Yankees, and they'd hate to have to be paying him to pitch for someone else, but he will be 41 at the end of 2003, and has only pitched more than 205 innings once since joining the Bombers in 1999. He may be one of the hardest-working 41-year olds around, but he's probably not worth what Manny Ramirez is getting paid.
I honestly don't know a ton about Juan Rivera, but I've seen him play a pretty good defensive CF, and if he can hit .275/.330/.450 next year, his defense will help improve on Bernie Williams' enough that they won't need to trade for/sign another OF. John Sickels, who knows more about such things than most of us do, pretty much agrees. Obviously they've gotta do something with the Rondell White/Raul Mondesi/Shane Spencer/Juan Rivera/Nick Johnson/Hideki Matsui OF/DH logjam, and Klapisch suggests that this trade would be just the thing. I suggest that they bite the bullet and make the unpopular but sensible trade with the Mets and Rockies instead, getting rid of White and Mondesi, freeing up salary to get someone like Matsui, and that they keep Juan Rivera, who would make the MLB minimum, freeing up enough salary to pay Clemens or someone else the money Roger's requesting. They will have plenty of offense to go around, with Jeter, Posada, Giambi and Bernie Williams providing their consistent levels of production, Nick Johnson maturing another year, Alfonso Soriano likely splitting the difference between his 2001 and 2002 seasons, and whomever they insert at 3B (Ventura) and the remaining OF spot (Matsui), that they can afford to suffer Rivera's offensive contributions for a season.
This could be a terrible trade for the Yankees, regardless of what the Rocket does next year. Not because Juan Rivera is the second coming of Mickey Mantle, but because Bartolo Colon may be the second coming of Kenny Rogers. Rogers was a decent pitcher with Texas, but was signed to a 4-year, $20 million contract (which was a lot of money, way back in 1996) on the merits of an uncharacteristically good 1995 season, during which he won a career-high 17 decisions and had an ERA two thirds of a run lower than his previous career average. When he went back to his established levels of play, he was villified by Yankee fans, scapegoated by Yankee brass, and caricatured by the Yankee beatwriters.
Colon, though clearly not the type of pitcher that Rogers was when he came to the Big Apple, is in a similar situation: His career ERA before the start of the 2002 season was 4.09, so his 2.93 of last year was, if not a "fluke" at least not typical. Winning 20 games also marked a career-best, two more wins than his previous high-water mark, in 1998. Colon is only 29 right now, but players in his shape (read: pear) don't tend to wear well. Roger Clemens may be of a similar body type now, but he was quite a bit leaner at the age of 29 than Colon is. And the contract he'd demand, something like Mike Mussina's 6 years/$88.5 million, would be an albatross around the Yankees' collective necks about half way into it, at best.
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 12/02/2002
27 November 2002
*Aaron, IOU $1,000,000. Put it on my tab.
In his most recent ESPN column, Jayson Stark discussed the possible merits of sending Mike Hampton from the Rockies to the Braves, and boldly predicted, "He can't be any worse in Atlanta than he was this year," which is like predicting that James Coburn will make fewer movies in 2003 than he did last year.
Stark mentions several factors that may help Hampton, including the effect of his home park: The Ted, instead of The Rock.
Just this past year alone, 54 percent more runs were scored at Coors (991) than at Turner (642). So if Hampton's ERA merely makes that mathematical drop, according to scale, he'd go from 6.15 to 3.98.
Stark's problem is not that he fails to recognize the significance of things like park factors, it's that he fails to appropriately comprehend and use them. What he says is true, but misleading. Yes, there were 54% fewer runs scored at Turner Field than at Coors Field, but this does not account for the facts that the Braves offense, outside of the Brothers Jones, was abysmal, and the Rockies was actually somewhat decent. Or that the Braves pitching staff was excellent and that the Rockies pitchers sucked rocks. And the assumption that Hampton's ERA will drop by the same amount doesn't account for the fact that he'll still have to make something like 15-17 starts in parks other than Atlanta's.
To compensate for these sorts of issues, people like Baseball Prospectus develop things called Park Factors that account for all of the variations and attempt to isolate the average effect that a particular park has on offense in a particular year, or in a 3- or 5-year span. As best as I can tell, The Ted had a park factor of 986 last year, and Coors Field had a factor of 1125 (1000 = no effect). So then, if you assume that Hampton's Home ERA (5.68) will exactly follow this trajectory, you only get a difference of
Well Jayson, that's not too bad. You were only off by A WHOLE RUN!
And this doesn't even address what he did on the road last year (6.44 ERA). Even if his road ERA comes back to around league average after he works out some bad mechanical habits, that still leaves him with a net ERA ~4.75. Doesn't sound like $6,000,000 worth of pitcher to me, but I guess it's better than $12,000,000.
A few weeks ago, after the NL Cy Young Award was announced, Stark wrote this column about Curt Schilling, and his supposed slights in the CYA voting in recent years. The original headline (for which, I realize, Stark is not responsible) said something about Schilling's chances for the Hall of Fame being hurt by his lack of Cy Young support in the last few years. My immediate reaction was, "No, Schilling's HoF chances are being hurt by his lack of being consistently great over the course of his career." To Stark's credit, I discovered when I read the article that he had no intention of implying that Schilling should be considered for Cooperstown, not without at least three more years like the ones he's had for the Diamondbacks in 2001 and 2002, which is unlikely. What he did say was,
"Before Schilling came along, how many pitchers do you think had ever had seasons in which they won 20 games, finished at least 16 games over .500 and piled up more than 290 strikeouts -- without getting a Cy Young out of the deal? Uh, how about zero -- at least not since 1956, when the Cy Young came into existence."
This simply isn't true. A search for pitchers who won more than 19 games, with a winning% over .800 (I had to pick a number, as Aaron Haspel doesn't have a "Games over .500" criterion yet.) and more than 290 strikeouts reveals that in fact Randy Johnson did exactly that, going 20-4, with 292 K's in 1997, and lost the Cy to Roger Clemens, who led the league in everything that year.
Schilling is only the fourth National League right-hander in the last 60 years to win 22 games or more in two straight seasons. You've heard of the others -- Ferguson Jenkins, Juan Marichal and Robin Roberts.
Well, yes, this statement is true, but it has some inherent flaws. First of all, wins have a lot more to do with run support, bullpen help and opportunity than they do with great pitching. A quick search for 22+ game winners since 1942 at Godofthemachine.com reveals that such immortals as Clyde Wright and Bob Porterfield have won 22 games in a season at one time. Not such a stringent criterion, is it? Secondly, Stark's decision to narrow it down to only the Senior Circuit makes the feat seem something more than it is. If he had included the AL in his survey, you could add Mike Cuellar, Catfish Hunter, Bob Lemon, Mickey Lolich, Denny McClain, Jim Palmer, Wilbur Wood('71-'73) and Hal Newhouser ('44-'46). Still sounds like a pretty exclusive list, just not as snooty as it once may have been, given that the club membership has just tripled.
Despite his reputation as a workhorse, Schilling has had trouble staying helathy over the course of his career, and of course he has had some tough luck, like his 1998 season in which he led the NL with 300 strikeouts, 268.7 innings, and didn't even rank in the top 7 in Cy Young voting, due to his 15-14 record on an abysmal Phillies team. But mostly Schilling's career has been hurt (if you can call making $10 million/year "hurt") by his lack of health. Despite pitching in the majors since 1988, Schilling only has about 2400 IP, and 155 wins, about 10 or 11 full years' worth. And that lack of pitching time has hurt his Cooperstown chances mors than any bad luck has. On the other hand though, if he hadn't had some of those injuries, he might not have learned some of the physical and mental disciplines that have made him the great pitcher he has been for these last few years. And we'll never know anyway.
Finally, one last nit-pick on poor Jayson: In his article about the Giants hiring of Felipe Alou, he makes this statement:
Not with Barry Bonds on the premises. Not when you're talking about a team so loaded with veteran players that all the Giants' rookie position players combined got fewer at-bats this season than Tsuyoshi Shinjo. Not when your talking about a team whose key players come from hometowns as diverse as Villa Clara, Cuba and Los Altos Hills, Calif. [bold added]
Now, I know that this is "just" grammar, but to make the mistake of writing "your" when he should be writing "you're", especially when he just got it right in the previous sentence, is really annoying, at least for me. Nobody who's being well-paid to write for an organization as huge as ESPN should be making such a mistake, and if he does, his editor ought to catch it.
OK, that's enough Stark Reality for now. Happy Thanksgiving!
Posted by Travis M. Nelson at 11/27/2002