30 December 2007

Cooperstown Calling? Notes on the Hall of Fame Hopefuls...

We'll find out in a few days how many, if any new players have been elected to the baseball Hall of Fame this year. For the record, I'm guessing that Goose Gossage finally gets in this year, but unfortunately Jim Rice probably will as well. I expect that Mark McGwire will get about 35% of the vote.

I've long been a proponent of Goose getting into Cooperstown, and not just because he was a Yankee. Why isn't Goose Gossage in the Hall of Fame if Rollie Fingers (and now Bruce Sutter) are? Goose had fewer saves than Rollie, but more than Sutter, and a much better W/L record than either of them. He pitched more innings, allowed hits less often than either of them, struck out batters more often, allowed homers less often, and had a slightly lower adjusted ERA than Fingers, though slightly higher than Sutter (relative to the league) for his career. Goose was on nine All-Star teams to Fingers' seven and Sutter's six. Both Goose and Rollie led their league in saves 3 times, while Sutter did it five times. Rollie and Goose also each finished among the top 10 in the MVP voting twice (Fingers won it, with the Cy Young, in 1981). Fingers was among the top ten in Cy Young voting four times to Goose's and Sutter's 5 times, though Sutter won it once. Rollie and Sutter did each win four Rolaids Relief awards to Goose's one, but this is a kind of contrived award anyway, based simply on statistics rather than value, and statistics that can be manipulated, no less. Heck, Dan Quisenberry won 5 of them in 6 years, it doesn't make him a Hall of Famer.

I think that there are probably two main reasons that Goose is not yet in the Hall. Rob Neyer has argued that in the time it took Rollie Fingers to retire and then to be elected to the HoF, the status of the Save, as a statistic, changed. Managers started using pitchers specifically for the purpose of getting saves, and pretty soon, Goose's 310 didn't look so impressive anymore. At this point, he's only 17th on the career Save list, with fewer than Roberto Hernandez, Troy Percival, or Joe Table, and barely more than Jeff Montgomery.

Rollie and Goose were approximately contemporaries, with mostly overlapping careers, though Fingers ('68-'85) started sooner and retired sooner than Gossage ('72-94), but if Goose had retired two years earlier, he would have had a 2.93 ERA instead of 3.01, and the memory of him as one of the premier stoppers would have been fresher in the voters' minds when voting time arrived. Instead, he stayed a little longer than some of the BBWAA might have liked, pitching into his 22nd season, and still effectively I might add, with an ERA below the league average when the strike hit in 1994. I guess these guys want their favorites to ride off into the sunset as soon as their skills begin to diminish a little, that if you can't be The Stopper you should just stop. It's ironic that the same men who don't elect people like Ron Guidry for not pitching long enough also punish people like Gossage and Bert Blyleven for pitching so long.

My feelings on Rice were outlined in a post a few years ago, and have not changed significantly:

#1 - Jim Rice. I understand that he was very good, but being young enough not to have my opinion tainted by seeing him play, I can go to Baseball-Reference.com, look objectively at his numbers and admit that they are very good, but only borderline for a Hall of Famer. But then I can also visit Retrosheet and see his home/road splits and realize that he was helped a LOT by Fenway Park throughout his career. He hit .320/.374/.546 at home but only .277/.330/.459 on the road. I think you can’t vote for him for the same reason you likely won’t vote for Andres Galarraga (a better fielder with similar career numbers) or Larry Walker (a better fielder with better numbers). Their parks helped them too much.

I would add in Rice's defense that he may be knocked a bit unfairly for all the double plays he grounded into over the course of his career, as it seems that this stat is unfairly influenced by the fact that he played for a lot of teams that had good hitters, which means that thee were a lot of opportunities for him to GIDP, because there was always someon on in front of him. Still, he was slow, which made him both a lousy fielder and a lousy baserunner, in addition to being more prone to GIDP than someone with a modicum of speed.

Rice does not have longevity to cite in his career, so his case for the Hall relies entirely upon the fact that he was "dominant" for a period of time. There's no question that this is true, of course, but he also played half his games in a hitter's haven, and he did the kinds of things that MVP voters otice, like hit homers and drive in runs. What he did not do were things that are almost asimportant but that nobody realized were such a big deal at the time, like take walks and avoid making outs. In fact, in the New Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James argues that Roy White was actually a better player than Rice, when you adjust for the leagues and parks in which they played, and for the was in which they helped their teams win. Roy White, for crying out loud.

Tim Raines is the only player that's new to the Hof Ballot this year who actually deserves enshrinement, or for that matter, who's even close. His case is ot immediately obvious, because he was not a big RBI man, which the MVP and HoF voters tend to like, and didn't hit many homers for a left fielder. Still, though, he was probably the second best leadoff hitter in baseball history, though admittedly a distant second to Rickey Henderson.

Jayson Stark, in his online debate with Peter Gammons ovr at ESPN.com, argued that if you gave Raines creditfor all the time he missed due to collusion and to the players strikes in 1981 and 1994-95, he would have maybe had the 3,000 hits needed to be a shoe-in for Cooperstown, instead of only 2,605, but I'm not so sure. I projected Rock's performances out over the games he would likely have played in those years and I only found about 150 hits total, including about a dozen homers, in addition to 60 steals and 115 runs or so. In other words, not that much.

If you wanted to, you could even give him about 60 hits in 1980, when he only got a cup of coffee with the big league team, who for some reason thought it better to have Raines playing second base in Denver of the PCL, hitting .354 and stealing 77 bases in 108 games, than to have him in the majors, where their own secondbaseman (Rodney Scott) hit .224 with ZERO homers. Even considerng that he might have hit about .280 or .300 in about 200-250 or so at-bats, Raines only picks up another 50-60 hits, leaving him well below the 3,000 mark.

But forget that. We don't need to play Woulda/Coulda/Shoulda with Tim Raines. We can look at what he actually did, objectively, and see that he belongs in Cooperstown. He was among the league leaders in OBP 7 times, and was still putting up those kinds of numbers in limited playing time in his late 30's. He's 46th in career runs scored, and of the 45 players in front of him, 37 are already in the Hall, and Craig Biggio (#13), Rickey Henderson (#1), Barry Bonds (#3) and Rafael Palmiero (#29) either will be or would be if not for the steroid thing. The others are Pete Rose (#6), who's banned for life, and three 19th century players (George van Haltren, Bill Dahlen and Jimmy Ryan) who had long careers at a time when run scoring was cheap.

Jayson Stark points out:

...did you know Tim Raines reached base more times in his career than Tony Gwynn did -- and that they had nearly identical career on-base percentages? And did you know that every eligible player who reached base as many times as Raines did, and had as high an on-base percentage as he had, is in the Hall of Fame?

Well, technically, he's wrong about that. George Van Haltren scored 68 more runs and had the exact same OBP (.385) but is not in the Hall. Jimmy Ryan scored 71 more runs than Raines with an OBP that was only .011 lower, but is not in the Hall either. But that's beside the point, and I've already explained why. It should also be noted that Rusty Staub got on base more times than Tim Raines, and Gary Sheffield has already passed him on that list. Still, though, Jayson's point (I think) is that if Raines had gotten on base by hits more often and walked less often, he'd have ended up with gaudier looking numbers, without necessarily being any more valuable to his team. If Gwynn's in the Hall, then Rock should be, too.

Others previously on the ballot:

This is my opinion on Jack Morris, excerpts from something I wrote a few years ago:

Jack Morris. Sure he won more games than anyone else in the ‘80s, but that’s a confluence of circumstances more than anything, since he happened to come into his own just as the ‘70s were ending. Seaver, Palmer, Carlton, Sutton, Ryan, Niekro, Fernando, Guidry, Dave Stieb, and a bunch of other pitchers were as good as or better than Morris for most of the first half of his career and Clemens, Hersheiser, Cone, Gooden, Viola, Saberhagen, Dave Stewart, Mike Scott and others were comparable or better than Morris for most of the latter half of his career. No other pitchers of his quality or better happened to come up around the same time and last as long, but being the best of a weak era doesn’t make him one of the best of all time.

Morris was helped by his teams’ success tremendously. From 1979-1990, when he was the preeminent starter for the Tigers, the only team that won more games in those 12 seasons was the Yankees. And he followed that up by pitching his swan song years for three World Series winners and a would-be Wild Card team, the 1994 Indians. Put him on the Cubs for most of that career and you can summarize his candidacy for Cooperstown in two words: What candidacy?

Here are my recycled thoughts on Bert Blyleven:

Bert “Be Home” Blyleven. Besides having one of the best Bermanisms ever, this guy was a heck of a good pitcher. Blyleven’s ERA was better than the league and park-adjusted average in 16 of the 18 seasons in which h pitched enough to qualify for the ERA title. The man started pitching in the majors at 19, and was 37 years old before his adjusted ERA for a full season dropped more than 5% below the league average, and it had done that only once before. His adjusted career ERA (118) is better than that of Hall of Famers Robin Roberts, Gaylord Perry, Fergie Jenkins, Steve Carlton, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro, Early Wynn, and others, I’m sure.

Only twelve guys faced more batters in their careers, and they’re all in the Hall. Only four have ever struck out more of them, and they will all be in the Hall. In the 20th century, only Tommy John, who had the benefit of good teams and pitchers’ parks, has more wins and is not or will not likely be in the Hall, and he’s only got one more.

I just don’t see, based on what they did, not what their teams did around them, how Morris gets in while Blyleven doesn’t.

I do think that Bert Blyleven may actually get in this time, given the trend that his vote totals were taking prior to last year, when he lost a handful of cvotes thanks to the newly-arrived Gwynn and Cal Ripken. Some sportswriters have been coming over to his side, but he may not get enough back before his 15 years of eligibility are up.

Other new notable names:

Brady Anderson
Momentarily held the title of the only player ever to hit 50 homers in one season and steal 50 bases in another, until that greedy Bonds character came by and stole that record, too. Had a nice six-pack and those Luke Perry-sideburns, but not much to offer besides that.

Rod Beck
Speaking of six-packs...the late Rod Beck was a fun player to watch and emminently quotable (he once defended his lack of a workout regimen by saying that he'd never heard of anyone going on the DL with "pulled fat"). He might get a few more votes that you would expect because of his recent death, but he's got no shot.

Shawon Dunston
Speedy guy with a cannon arm and some pop in his bat, but he usually didn't hit for average and he absolutely never walked.

Chuck Finley was named to 5 All-Star teams but never won more than 18 games in a season, never placed higher than 7th in the AL Cy Young voting (and only got mentioned once) and never won a World Series, having left the Angels just before they won it all in 2002. When the most famous thing you ever did was marry the girl from the Whitesnake video, your resume is pretty thin.

Travis Fryman

Made 5 All-Star teams, and hit .300 or better twice, but only played 13 seasons, never scored 100 runs, and for a guy who played his whoe career in the power-mad 1990's, he never hit 40 doubles or 30 homers, which is a big knock against you when you play a power position like third base. Cool first name, though.

David Justice has a very similar resume to Fryman, ironically, though he had more power. He never did score 100 runs though, and only played 14 years, almost a third of them as a DH.

Chuck Knoblauch
It's hard to remember how good Chuck Knoblauch once was, because all we remember now is that he dropped way off when he went to the Yankees and that his defensive yips made everyone remember, and then forget, Steve Sax.

Robb Nen
I always wanted to spell his name "Rob Nenn". Seems like that woulda made more sense. He made three All-Star temas and finished 4th in the NL Cy Young voting once, but that was about it. 300 Save guy grow on trees these days.

Jose Rijo
Talk about Woulda/Coulda/Shoulda. Rijo had a world of talent, but just couldn't stay healthy. Give him credit for trying to make a comeback at 36, after 5 years away from the majors. But nobody's gonna vote for him. When he was eligible back in 2001, he got one vote. Probably from his mom.

Todd Stottlemyre Mel's son and the first guy I ever heard of who tried to come back form a rotator cuff injury with therapy instead of surgery. Didn't work, but you gotta give him credit for trying. Maybe he should have tried steroids...?

Notable/Controversial holdovers...

Harold Baines is a tough case. Well, I don't think so, but some fans might. The guy basically hung around forever, which gives him moderately impressive counting stats (2866 hits, 1628 RBIs, 3942 times on base, etc.) but his averages are weak. For his career, he hit .289 with a modest .356 OBP and a .465 Slugging percentage that is only decent for a power hitter. He hit .300 or better several times, but didn't walk that much and never hit 30 homers or scored even 90 runs in a season. His knees went bad early and he was basically a full-time DH by age 28, so he had no defensive value for more than half of his career. Sort of the Vinny Testaverde of the baseball world, without the color blindness and all those interceptions.

Andre Dawson was a BBWAA-type player if ever there was one. He hit for average, hit homers, stole bases and drove in runs, so they voted for him, ignoring the fact that he never walked, got caught stealing too often, and his knees prevented him from contributing much on defense. His 286 career Win Shares are fewer than Chili Davis, Dwight Evqns or Will Clark, and are only a handful more than Lou Whitaker or Jack Clark. Dave Parker is even lower, at 276 Win Shares, well below the standard set by contemporary sluggers Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt.

Tommy John
Good, but not great for a long time, like Baines. Played for a lot of good teams, which helps his win total just like the reverse hurt the totals of Blyleven. People have said that he should get into the Hall, at least in part, because they named a surgery after him, but in reality, if anything, Dr. Frank Jobe ought to get elected before Tommy John does. Having the surgery with his name on it is legacy enough, in my mind.

Dale Murphy was great for about 6 years, playing every game, averaging .289/.382/.530 with 36 homers, 105 RBIs, 110 Runs, 18 steals and 90 walks from 1982-87. But for the rest of his career he hit just .247/.317/.418 with 15 homers, 45 runs, 53 RBIs, 5 steals and an average of only 101 games played per season. And that was more than 1200 games, compared to the 967 he played during the 82-87 stretch. I just can't see voting for a guy who was great for a third of his career and pretty lousy for two thirds of it.

Mark McGwire has Hall of Fame numbers, but also a huge asterisk next to his accomplishments in the minds of many fans. I think he'll get in eventually, but not this year.

The Rest of the Rest...

Dave Concepcion is probably a little underrated, because so much of his value was wrapped up in defense, but is probably a little overrated for having played on all those great Reds teams in the 1970s, so I guess that evens out.

Don Mattingly
A world of talent, but too many back problems, and gets more credit (and more votes) than he deserves for having played in New York.

Lee Smith held the All-time career Saves record for a little while, but then so did Jeff Reardon, Johnny Murphy and Firpo Marberry. Smith wasn't really the best relief pitcher in baseball, probably ever, but he was one of the first and most successful at the one-inning save, and he pitched forever. None of that makes him a Hall of Famer.

Alan Trammell probably deserves more credit than he's gotten, having been overshadowed by Cal Ripken for most of his career, but that doesn't make him a Hall of Famer, either. A good to very good player for a long time? Sure, but only truly "great" that one year, in 1987. Not enough.

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20 December 2007

The December 20th All-Birthday Team

This is a post I wrote two years ago for this very occassion, fortunately before the All-baseball.com server bit the big one and took several months worth of my (and others') work down to computer Hades with it. I've edited it a bit to update it. Hope you enjoy it...

Baseball-Reference.com is a wonderful website. They've got stats for every major leaguer who's ever played, plus managers, and notable personalities from the Hall of Fame, like Negro Leaguers, Executives and even some umpires. They've got the pages for players, teams, franchises and leagues throughout history, even short-lived entities like the Players' League and the American Association. They've got an Oracle of Baseball, which will give you a Six-Degrees of Kevin Bacon type of connection between any two players in history, say, Kevin Barker and Count Sensenderfer, for example.

But one of the coolest things they have is the Birthday Page, wherein you can find every major league player in history who shares your birthday. This being my birthday, I thought I would share with you my All-Birthday Team. These are (in my estimation) the best seasons from players born on my birthday, December 20th, compiled into a team, so that I have sufficient innings and plate appearances to play a 162-game schedule.

Note: OPS+ and ERA+ are the league and park adjusted OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging) and ERA for that season, so you have an idea of what the numbers really mean in context. The .349 batting average Spud Davis put up in 1933, during the offense-crazed Depression Years, does not mean nearly as much as the .352 Cecil Cooper hit in 1980, a relatively down offensive time. Their adjusted OPS numbers (55% better than average compared to "only" 34% better) help to compensate for that. Anywho, this is what I came up with:

Starting Lineup PA Avg OBP SLG R HR RBI SB OPS+
C G. Hartnett (1930) 578 .339 .404 .630 84 37 122 0 144
1B C. Cooper (1980) 678 .352 .387 .539 96 25 122 17 155
2B J. Williams (1899) 689 .355 .417 .532 126 9 116 26 159
3B D. Wright (2007*) 711 .325 .416 .546 113 30 107 34 150
OF O. Gamble (1977) 470 .297 .386 .588 75 31 83 1 162
OF H. Stovey (1889) 634 .308 .393 .525 152 19 119 63 161
OF D. DeJesus (2007) 703 .260 .351 .372 101 7 58 10 89
DH A. Huff (2003) 706 .311 .367 .555 91 34 107 2 139

This is a pretty darn good team. Or at least a starting lineup.

*David Wright had an MVP-caliber season in 2007, so we've replaced his 2005 NL Rookie of the Year campaign with his most recent one. Sadly, David DeJesus has actually regressed a bit since 2005, but at least he played a full season, so we don't have to rely as much on our rather weak bench.

I'll probably hit 2B Jimmy Williams, not to be confused with Jimy (one-M) Williams, erstwhile manager of the Red Sox and Astros, as he has the highest OBP. Though it may seem like he didn't hit for power, those nine homers tied him for 3rd in the NL in 1899, Williams' rookie season. Harry Stovey will hit in the #2 spot, as he gets on base and has plenty of speed, with 63 steals, which were good for 10th in the American Association in 1889, tied with Hall of Famer Bid McPhee and Tommy "Foghorn" Tucker, but well behind league leader "Sliding" Billy Hamilton's 111 base swipes. Unfortunately Hamilton was born in February, so he can't help us. (Stovey also led the 1889 AA in Slugging %, Homers, Total Bases, Extra Base Hits, Runs, RBI and was among the league leaders in several other categories that year, one of the last for the American Association, which folded after 1891.

Cecil Cooper will bat third, keeping the precious little speed we've got together. Hall of Fame catcher Gabby Hartnett bats cleanup. No argument there, I trust. DH Aubrey Huff and 3B David Wright bat 5th and 6th, respectively, giving us a right-left-right stagger in the heart of the lineup. (This way the June 26th team can't bring in Mike Myers to shut us down in a big inning.)

Oscar Gamble and his Afro hit #7, even though he actually has the highest adjusted OPS on the team. Unfortunately he only got 470 plate appearances, and I don't want to have Jim Norris or Jack Manning batting cleanup 200 times, you know? David DeJesus hits 8th and whomever we get to play short will bat last. Alternatively, if we end up in the NL, Huff plays the outfield in place of DeJesus, who goes back to the bench. Speaking of which...

    Bench                PA   Avg   OBP   SLG    R   HR  RBI   SB  OPS+         
C B. Rickey (1906) 226 .284 .345 .393 22 3 24 4 135
IF P. Baumann (1915) 260 .292 .380 .388 30 2 28 9 130
IF A. Ojeda (2007*) 132 .274 .354 .354 16 1 12 1 80
OF J. Norris (1977) 517 .270 .360 .364 59 2 37 26 101
OF J. Manning (1876) 295 .264 .281 .330 52 2 25 0 101
Team Total 6395 .309 .376 .499 971 201 953 171 137

*Augie Ojeda had a "less worse" year in 2007 than he did in 2001, so we've updated his stat line. It's still pretty lousy, but not as lousy as before.

This isn't a terrible bench, as Manning and Norris both had reasonably productive seasons as outfielders, with Norris likely serving as a pinch runner for Hartnett or Huff if we need to eek out a late run. Paddy Baumann played a lot of 2b and 3B in his career as a backup, and hit pretty well in 1915, if not the rest of his life. Augie Ojeda, the only below-average hitter on the team, only makes it because he has exactly the same birthday as me. Branch Rickey will become the first Player/Manager/General Manager in history, making trades from the bench. And speaking of trades...

    Trade bait         PA    Avg   OBP   SLG   R  HR  RBI  SB  OPS+
C B. Henline (1922) 481 .316 .380 .479 57 14 64 2 112
C S. Davis (1933) 540 .349 .395 .473 51 9 65 2 134
IF F. Merkle (1911) 604 .283 .342 .431 80 12 84 49 113

December 20th is blessed with an abundance of catching talent, but no shortstops worth their weight in lead. Not only do we have Hartnett and Rickey, but Butch Henline and Spud Davis were both good or very good at some point in their careers, and there's always a team that needs catching. Maybe I can get the July 23rd Team to trade me Pee Wee Reese or Nomar Garciaparra for Spud Davis. Heck, they could have Henline straight-up for a 1924 vintage Hod Ford. At least I'd have something worth running out there every day. Somebody has to bat 9th, right?

The pitching was not quite as easy to fill out, and whomever we don't trade for shortstop help is going to have to net us a solid reliever or two.

       Rotation            W   L  Sv  ERA     IP     BB   SO  ERA+ 
SP G. Pipgras (1928) 24 13 3 3.38 300.7 103 139 111
SP J. DeLeon (1989) 16 12 0 3.05 244.7 80 201 119
SP J. Shields (2007*) 12 8 0 3.85 215.0 36 184 117
SP B. Laskey (1982) 13 12 0 3.14 189.3 43 88 115
SP J. Manning (1876) 18 5 5 2.14 197.3 32 24 105

*James Shields was, in 2007, not only the best pitcher on the Devil Rays (like being the tallest guy at a Midget Convention) but also one of the 15 or so best pitchers in the American League. Suddenly he's the #2 starter on this team, and things are looking up for the 12/20 squad.

Yes, that's the same Jack Manning who's also a backup outfielder, and I made a point to pick a season in which he was worthwhile as both a hitter and a pitcher.

       Bullpen             W   L  Sv  ERA     IP     BB   SO  ERA+
SP P. Moskau (1980) 9 7 2 4.01 152.7 41 94 89
RP M. Valdes (1997) 4 4 2 3.13 95.0 39 54 135
RP V. Colbert (1971) 7 6 2 3.97 142.7 71 74 97
SP/RP D. Pfister (1962) 4 14 1 4.54 196.3 106 123 92
Team Total 95 73 15 3.39 1518.7 515 797 108

In truth, most of these guys are swing men or long relievers. There isn't a single guy born on December 20th who's got more than a handful of saves in any season of his career. Maybe I can get the November 28th team to part with Dave Righetti, since they have Robb Nen, after all. With Wes Westrum and Heinie Peitz (poor kid...) on the team, they don't really need catching, but Fred Merkle could do a nice job at first base for them.

Well, enough with this exercise in silliness, but if you've got a birthday team that
can beat mine, or better yet, if you have a shortstop or a closer to offer, let me know.

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19 December 2007

Wild, Irresponsible Speculations on the Mitchell Report

Former Senator George Mitchell released his long-awaited report on the use of performance enhancing drugs in major league baseball a week ago, and it's been met by an odd combination of outrage, righteous indignation, and yawns.

On the one hand, Senator Mitchell's assignment was colossal, to sum up the problem of PEDs in MLB and recommend a course of action. On the other hand, he was given almost no power at all with which to accomplish this assignment, whech means that the only cooperation he got was from people who had nothing to lose: Ex-major leaguers, ex-minor leaguers, long-banished clubhouse attendants and trainers, who had been labeled pariahs in MLB anyway, and of course, people from the Commissioner's office. Which assigned this task, as you'll recall.

Not surprisingly, then, there were, well, not many surprises in the report. Sure, Andy Pettitte's name was a bit of a shock, but only the most naieve among us would have assumed that it was just the difference in his workout after Clemens joined the Yankees in 1999 that got him back on track. Slap hitters like Fernando Vina and Nook Logan seem like a bit of a surprise because they don't "fit the profile" of a steroid user, but then we learned from the Jason Grimsley situation that you don't have to actually be any good to be using.

Much of the report consists of re-hashing and detailing events about which we already know: The BALCO scandal, the US government hearings in 2005, drugs being found that seemingly belonged to Manny Alexander, Juan Gonzalez, Ricky Bones, Alex Cabrera, and others. These incidents were uses as springboards to try to conduct other interviews, though the people who would make the biggest splash, i.e. the star players themselves, made little or no effort to cooperate with Mitchell in his investigation. So they didn't. In fact, the players were practically advised by their Union NOT to talk to Mitchell or his associates. In addition, because the Players' Union has beaten the Commissioner's office into submission, even some of the names that Mitchell and company were given during the investigation could not be provided in this report.

The really interesting thing about the reports is not the names in it (there are 86 players named in it, despite their general lack of cooperation) but the names that are not. Jose Canseco said he was suprised to hear that Alex Rodriguez was not named, an accusation which A-Rod vehemently denied. Almost everybody was surprised to see that Sammy Sosa was not implicated. But there are other names, hidden names, if you will, that nobody had really discussed yet:

For example, on page 99 of the report, the arrest of Luis Perez, a former bullpen catcher for the Florida Marlins and Montreal Expos is detailed, including how he turned stool pidgeon on a number of his former customers. In his deposition,

According to [MLB security chief Kevin] Hallinan’s memo, Perez told baseball officials “...that virtually every player on the Marlins was ‘doing something’ ranging from steroids and greenies, to marijuana, etc. He also claimed that every pitcher in Montreal’s bullpen was on some form of steroid.”

This was in September of 2002. It doesn't take a genious to go to baseball-reference.com and figure out who these people were.

Here is the 2002 Marlins' roster, along with a few comments.

2002 Marlins

Vladimir Nunez
Vic Darensbourg
Toby Borland
Tim Raines
Ryan Dempster
Ramon Castro
Preston Wilson
Pablo Ozuna
Ozwaldo Mairena
Nate Teut
Nate Robertson
Mike Redmond
Mike Mordecai
Mike Lowell
Michael Tejera
Marty Malloy
Luis Castillo
Kevin Olsen
Kevin Millar
Justin Wayne
Julian Tavarez
Juan Encarnacion
Josh Beckett
Homer Bush
Hansel Izquierdo
Graeme Lloyd
Gary Knotts
Eric Owens
Derrek Lee
Cliff Floyd
Charles Johnson
Carl Pavano
Brian Banks
Braden Looper
Brad Penny
Blaine Neal
Armando Almanza
Andy Fox
Alex Gonzalez
Abraham Nunez
A.J. Burnett

Very few of these guys had some kind of significant spike in their production at an odd time in their careers, like Sosa did in 1998 or Bonds in 2000. But there are some potential connections here:

Tim Raines was diagnosed with Lupus in July 1999, a disease that is sometimes treated with steroids. Could he have been a link in the chain? it would not have been the firt time he was linked to drugs.

Mike Redmond is an interesting case. He joined the Marlins in 1998, as a 27-year old catcher, about the time that he should have been reaching his peak as a hitter. Despite a career minor league line of .260/.319/.332 and a reputation as a catch-and-throw guy, he hit well over .300 in limited playing time in 1998...and then did that five more times in the next eight seasons, plus a .294 mark last season with the Twins. He's 37 now and has continued to hit (most of the time). Not that a career slugging average of .368 is anything to write home about, but this comes from a guy who never hit better than .287 in a minor league season. Most guys don't get better when they face tougher competition, you know? I'm not saying he was/is using, just that it's worth thinking about.

A lot of these guys had sufferred or were suffering from injuries at that time. Cliff Floyd, Charles Johnson, Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Brad Penny, Carl Pavano, Alex Gonzalez and others either missed time due to injuries in 2002 or very recently before that season. It's certainly possible that one or mor eo fthem, in order to combat their penchant for getting hurt, might have tried HGH or some steroid. But, you know, like Pettitte and Vina, they probably only did it once or twice. Right.

Remember "Roid Rage"? Well, how about this:

In 2006, 2002 Marlins' pitcher Julian Tavarez was suspended for 10 days for punching Tampa Bay's Joey Gathright during an on-field brawl. During Spring Training. That was the 5th of Tavarez' tumultuous career, most of which were for brawling or throwing at players.

The other groub that Perez ratted out was the Montreal Expos' bullpen:

2002 Expos Pitchers
Javier Vazquez
Tomokazu Ohka
Tony Armas
Masato Yoshii
Bartolo Colon
Scott Stewart
Matt Herges
Joey Eischen
T.J. Tucker
Britt Reames
Graeme Lloyd
Dan Smith
Jim Brower
Zach Day
Carl Pavano
Bruce Chen
Tim Drew
Sun-Woo Kim
Ed Vosberg
Scott Strickland

Note that both Graeme Lloyd and Carl Pavano appear on both lists, due to a mid-season trade (including Cliff Floyd and Wilton Guererro, who had previously been suspended for a different kind of cheating), for whatever that's worth.

Matt Herges is mentioned elsewhere in the report as having bought HGH from Kirk Radomski in 2005, but he was 32 years old in 2002 and was struggling a little after a very good 2001 season with the Dodgers.

There are some injury-prone guys here, too, but there are also a few who look like good suspects for PEDs, based on sudden changes in their performance levels.

Dan Smith was 25 at the time, but had been a pro since he was 17, had an unremarkable minor league career and had flopped in two attempts at the majors. But in 2002, he "got it together" and pitched well in AAA, getting called up to the majors, where he continued to pitch well. In 2003 he was awful again, and by 2005 he was out of baseball.

Joey Eischen was a journeyman LOOGY, the very picture of mediocrity, in 2002, with a 4.37 career ERA in the majors. In 2002, however, he went 6-1 with a 1.34 ERA at age 32, and managed to sustain his success for at least a few years, though he fell apart in 2006 and did not play last year.

Other non-pitchers on that team definitely fit the "body type" you'd think of with respect to steroids and/or HGH: Vladimir Guererro and Andres Galaragga at the very least, though there may be others. Just becaus ePerez didn't specifically mention people who weren't pitchers doesn't mean that we should be foolish and think that all the hitters must have been clean.

On a more general note, look at the numbers: The 2002 Ezpos finished the season 83-79, in 2nd place, but 19 games behind the Atlanta Braves. the Marlins were worse, winning only 79 games and finishing 4th, thanks to the hapless Mets. So if the members of two teams as blatantly mediocre as the 2002 Marlins and Expos were rife with PED users, why should we believe that the players on the good teams were innocent? How can we believe that?

We can't, of course. The 102-win Braves had Gary Sheffield, Matt Franco, Kevin Millwood, and Darren Holmes, all of whom get some blame in the Mitchell Report, not to mention likely candidates who have not yet been outed like Javy Lopez, Vinny Castilla, and Julio Franco.

No one is safe. No one is above suspicion.

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12 December 2007

Diminishing Returns: Miguel Tejada Traded to Astros for a Whole Lotta Nothin'

I guess a former MVP and four-time All-Star doesn't buy what it used to. Must be that Fed Rate Cut.

The Baltimore orioles have reportedly traded shortstop Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros for five players, all of whom will be named later. By me. In this article.

I'd do it now, but unless you're an Astros' fan and/or one of their relatives, you've probably never heard of most of them.

Tejada was signed by Baltimore after his age 27 season, i.e. still in his prime, to a 6-year, $72 million contract. He is owed 413 million eac of the next two seasons, plus $2 million each in 2010 and 2011, part of his signing bonus, which will likely be paid by Baltimore. (Thanks, Cot.) In his first season, 2004, he set a Baltimore Orioles record with 150 RBI (the franchise record is 155, held by Ken Williams of the St. Louis Browns, since 1922). He finished 5th in the AL MVP Voting that season, well behind Vlad Guererro of the LAnahfornia Angels, mostly because the Orioles finished 3rd in the AL East, 78-84.

Miggy finished 15th and 20th in the MVP voting the next two years, and dropped off entirely in 2007, mostly because he missed a month with a broken wrist. That ended the 5th longest consecutive games played streak in MLB history, 1152 of them. No active player has as many as 700 consecutive games. Tejada's offensive production has dropped a bit, with an adjusted OPS of 131 in 2004, then 128, then 126, and only 109 in 2007.

He's still a productive hitter, and could likely hit .285 with 25 homers aand a .360 OBP if he got to play all year. Any drop off he'd experience from leaving Camden yards would likely be mitigated by the fact that the NL isn't quite as good as the AL these days, so his numbers won't likely suffer much. Assuming no long-term detrimental effects from the wrist injury, he should bounce back and put up two more solid seasons with the bat, albeit with some normal age-related decline.

But Tejada was atrocious with the glove this year, 15 fielding runs below average according to Baseball Prospectus, 13th in the 14-team AL in Fielding Win Shares among shortstops, according to the Hardball Times. Maybe some of that was the wrist, and he wasn't running as hard or diving as much for fear of re-injuring it, but in any case, it wasn't good.

The Orioles were thinking about moving Tejada to third base before he got hurt, and it's likely that Houston plans to do the same, despite Miggy's wish to stay at short. The Astros have Adam Everett, who can't hit worth a damn, but is the best defensive shorstop in the major leagues. Plus, the Astros don't have a thirdbaseman, unless you count Ty Wigginton, who would best be used as a DH. On a AAA team.

As for the swag from the trade: the Orioles get OF Luke Scott, RHPs Matt Albers and Dennis Sarfate, LHP Troy Patton, and minor league 3B Michael Costanzo.

Luke Scott: Scott hit .286/.363/.603 with 31 homers in a full season at AAA in 2005, then parlayed a .299/.400/.541 in 2006 into a promotion to the big leagues, where he was even better, hitting .336 with 10 homers in 65 games. He started out a little pull-happy in 2007 and his batting average suffered, but finished strong, hitting .296 after the All-Star Break after hitting just .226 in the first half. He won't be 30 until the end of June, and is only in his 3rd major league season, so he should be a solid and affordable outfielder for a few years, hitting .270ish with power and patience through his arbitration years. Not a superstar, by any means, but then Tejada's not going to be either.

Matt Albers: Albers has only brief stints in the majors, but at age 24, has been in the minor leagues for six years. His experience in AAA th elast two years is also brief, as he's been in the major league bullpen much of that time, but when he did pitch, in 13 starts he had a 3.81 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 78 innings, but also 32 walks. Before that, he dominated AA as a 23-year old in 2006, with a 2.17 ERA in 19 starts (116 innings), including 95 strikeouts and 47 walks. He was more dominant at the lower levels, but no longer strikes out a batter or more per inning, which means he can't allow all those walks without eventually paying for them. He also found it much harder to prevent homers in the majors, allowing 18 of them in 2007 in only 110 innings of work.

He's young still, but he's going to a hitter-friendly park in a better league, and he's probably going to have to do two of the following three things to have any success: cut the homer rate in half, cut the walks per game in half, or start striking out a batter per inning again. Even if he manages one of those, it would only get his ERA down to something like 4.75 or so.

Troy Patton: Patton has the most upside among the players acquired in the trade, if only because he's young and left-handed. He was listed as the Astros' 3rd best prospect by BAseball America last spring, but that was before his so-so 2007 campaign.

He thorws in the mid-90's (or at least he did when he was drafted) with good control (the best in the Astros' minor league organization, according to Baseball America), and is very young, having just turned 22 in September. He's only got two starts in the majors, and for that matter, only eight starts in AAA, so the Orioles will likely give him a chance to win a major league job this spring, but if not, there's no rush. It's not like he's the difference between them finishing 4th or beating out the Yanks and Sox for the AL East crown.

Patton's strikeout rate has been steadily decreasing since he's been a pro, from almost 11 per nine Innings Pitched in the Sally League in 2005, down to 9/9IP in High A in 2006, then a little over 7/9IP in AA, then down to just under 6/9IP in AA this year, and finally about 4.6/9IP in AAA before his major league call-up. So his star has dimmed a bit, and if he loses any more of that, he'll flop in the majors. You just can't come into the majors as a youngster with an average stirkeout rate and expect to succeed, not unless everything else goes perfectly, and it almost never does. He could still have a career, hopefullt as something more than a LOOGy, but I'd be concerned about an injury at this point, if I were the Astros' GM.

Dennis Safarte: A big righty (6'4", 210 lbs), Safarte was doing OK as a starter in the Brewers' system, with high walk rates, but also high strikeout rates and low hit-rates to counter them. The Brewers convverted him to relief last year, and then sold him to Houston, who used him in relief in seven games, wherein he basically blew everyone away, allowing only one run in 8.1 total innings, whiffing 14 and walking only (get this...) one. The Orioles apparently convinced themselves that Safarte had "turned a corner", or something like that, preferring to look at these two weeks of near perfect work and ignore the seven years worth of evidence suggesting that he's probably going to walk about two batters per inning in the majors, if they give him enough chances. He'll be 27 in April, and he's cheap, and the Orioles aren't going anywhere anytime soon, so he's worth a look, but don't expect the second coming of Tippy Martinez, much less Gregg Olson.

Michael Costanzo: Not to be confused with George from Seinfeld, Constanzo is a big boy (6'3", 215) with a big arm and a big swing. He had been part of the Brad Lidge trade and played for Philadelphia's AA team in Reading this year. A pitcher in college, he has the best-rated arm in the Astros farm system, but despite that, Costanzo is not thought to be a gread defensive player, having made 34 errors this year in 137 games at the Hot Corner. His 27 homers led Reading and were second best in the Eastern League, though his 157 whiffs led the league. He's got some patience, with 75 walks, but with such a penchant for striking out, it's unlikely he'll be able to hit much over .240 in the big leagues.

Lots of power, some patience, strong arm, lots of strikeouts...sound familiar?

Costanzo reminds me of Russell Branyan, except that when he was in AA, back in 1998, Branyan was even more patient, even more powerful AND a year younger. Branyan has bounced around to eight different major league teams, and hasn't even gotten 400 plate appearances in a season with one of them. Costanzo is likely going to be moved to the outfield (if he can demonstrate that he's got the range for it) or to first base or DH, assuming he ever gets to the majors. He's got a little time, but will be 24 next year, and if he doesn't cut down on the errors, the strikeouts or both, without losing the homers, he'll never make it. Also, he can't hit left-handed pitching at all.

In total, the Houston Astros got themselves an expensive, but productive, aging star, and they gave up five players of marginal quality. Scott should be a "useful regular" for a few years, and he looks like he might be the best of the bunch. Patton was once a top prospect, but the more he pitches, the less he looks like one. Albers is seeing his top prospect sheen come off a little too, after pitching badly as a starter in the majors and then even worse as a reliever. He's got a lot of work to do just to reach mediocrity. Sarfate is as likely to bean the mascot as he is to pitch 50 solid innings out of a major league bullpen next year. Costanzo looks like Russ Branyan-lite. Looks to me like the Orioles didn't get much for their marquee player.

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06 December 2007

Look Out for Those Tigers...

I think I can confidently speak for the rest of the American league when I say:


Did the Detroit Tigers really just pull that off? Did they really just trade for one of the best hitters in the major leagues, improving what was already one of the best offensive teams in the majors? Did they actually manage to get a 25-year old, potential star pitcher as a throw-in? Do they actually have two (TWO!) All-Star shortstops?

Well, technically one of those, Carlos Guillen, will be a firstbaseman next year, which is OK, because his 859 OPS in 2007 would have been second only to Carlos Pena in the American League, if he'd been a firstbaseman last year. He wasn't. he was an All-Star shortstop, but he'll fit in just fine. That, however, wasn't good enough, so back in October, Tigers' GM Dave Dombrowski traded for the Atlanta Braves' shortstop, Edgar Renteria, a 5-time All-Star himself (though not in 2007, despite hitting .332) to shore up the infield. Can't blame him for not wanting to put the likes of Sean Casey out there next year.

But Dombrowski wasn't satisfied to stand pat with that improvement, which was probably worth two or three wins alone.

In November, he traded a back-up infielder who can't hit his way out of a paper bag, Omar Infante, to the Cubs for Jacque Jones, who had an off year, but is likely to hit .275 with 20+ homers next year if he's healthy.

And then, this week, while everyone else was fretting about where Johan Santana would end up, and whether the Yankees or Red Sox would get him, how much they'd have to give up for him, how much money he would want, and whether or not he would veto the trade...the Detroit Tigers used the diversion to quietly work out one of the biggest off-season trades in history, getting Miguel Cabrera AND Dontrelle Willis for six prospects.

Granted, they gave up a lot, but they could afford to give up a lot. They took on a lot of salary with Jones and Renteria (and will pay out even more when Willis and Cabrera either come up for arbitration or get signed to long-term contracts), but again, they can afford it. In case you couldn't tell by the insane salaries being handed out to pedestrian players (and the ludicrous one going to good players) Major League Baseball is virtually swimming in money these days, and unlike some other teams (the Yankees shall remain nameless), the Tigers aren't crying poor.

There are rumors that they'll flip Willis to the Mets or somewhere else, but if it were me, I would hold onto him for the year. They only got him in this trade because he had an off year and his trade value was low, and they won't get as much as they should for him if they trade him away again. His 5.17 ERA last year was largely due to the bad luck he had in Florida, an unusually high .329 opponent batting average on balls-in-play in 2007 (8th highest in MLB among qualified pitchers, where the league average is about .290 or .300). If he reverts to the norm in 2008, he'll give them 35 starts and 220 or so innings with an ERA about 10% better than average, and will be a veritable bargain at the $9 million or so he'll get in arbitration. They'll get a lot more for him if they wait to trade him until next winter, when he's a 15-game winner, than if they trade him again now, as a 15-game loser.

In any case, the Tigers' farm system is all but bereft of any real talent now that they've given up all of these players to prime the pump for 2008. Briefly, the players they gave up were:

For Renteria: Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez

RHP Jair Jurrjens went 7-5 with a 3.20 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 112 innings in AAA this year, then went 3-1 with a 4.70 ERA with Detroit last year. He's 6'1" and 160 lbs right now, so he needs to fill out a little, but he'll only be 22 in January, so there's time for that, and it may help him weather the strain of pitching and stay a little healthier, something that's been a problem for him. His strikeout rate in the minors was decent, his walk rate good and his homer rate excellent, so he could be a nice 3rd or 4th starter.

OF Gorkys Hernandez just turned 20 in September, and hit .293/.344/.391 in the Class A Midwest League this year. That's nothing special in and of itself, but the .293 average was 6th in the Midwest League, and he also stole a league-leading 54 bases (getting caught only 11 times). He's still young enough that he could develop more patience (only 36 walks in 481 at-bats) and as his frame fills out, he should gain some more power.

For Willis and Cabrera: Andrew Miller, Cameron Maybin, Burke Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz, Mike Rabelo, and Dallas Trahern.

OF Cameron Maybin was the youngest player in the American league this year, at just 20 years old, and got his first major league hit, and his first major league home run, off Roger Clemens in his second game. Unfortunately, he never got another homer, and indeed, only one more RBI, in the other 22 games he played, hitting a weak .143 overall. The Fish will likely play him in the majors next year anyway, as his .309/.396/.488 averages over 700 or so minor league at-bats suggest that he's close enough to being ready for the Show. Word of warning: he also struck out 206 times in 191 games in the minors, so there will be some growing pains on his way to becoming an All-Star, which probably won't be for three or four years at the earliest, if it ever happens at all. Regardless, he and Miller are the obvious jewels in this trade for Florida.

LHP Andrew Miller looks like he's going to be an awesome pitcher. But looks aren't everything. He's a 6'6" lefty who throws in the mid-90's, and he's only 22. He struck out 117 batters in 142 innings at four levels (High-A through the majors) this year, but he also walked 64 batters and gave up a homer every 8 innings at the major league level. Like Randy Johnson, he may take some time to harness his stuff and develop better control. Hopefully it won't take him until he's 26 to have a decent season, as Johnson did.

Mike Rabelo caught about 50 games in the majors this year, hitting a weak .256/.300/.357, which wasn't much different from the .263/.332/.346 he hit in his 6-year minor league career, spanning over 500 games. He'll be 28 in a month, and is probably as good as he'll ever get, which is to say, as good as a few dozen guys you can normally get off the waiver wire.

Eulogio De la Cruz will be 24 when the 2008 season starts, and he did well enough at two levels (AA and AAA) in 2007 to merit a long look in spring training next year, maybe even a bullpen job. He throws hard despite his size (5'11", 160 lbs), but doesn't have a lot of control or movement, and so he walks too many batters to make it as a starter in the majors (about 4/9 innings in the minors). He could be a short relief guy, but his manager will have to keep him on a short leash, given his control issues.

Burke Badenhop is a big righty (6'5", 220), a polished, college-experienced pitcher with good control (about 2 walks/9 innings in 67 minor league starts) and reportedly an excellent sinker. He'll be 25 when next season begins, but has pitched only 19 innings above Class-A ball at this point, so he'll likely have to prove himself in AA and AAA before being brought up to the majors. On the other hand, he is in the Florida system now, where they have tended to skip AAA entirely if the major league club had a hole to fill, so we could see him in the majors sooner rather than later. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus thinks he could be a solid #4 or #5 starter in the majors very soon.

Dallas Trahern is a lanky righty (6'1", 190) who just turned 22 a few weeks ago. He has survived on finesse, producing a lot of ground balls with his sinker but not striking out many, even in the low minors. His career minor league strikeout rate is only 4.78/9IP, and his walk rate (2.74) is good, but not excellent. His 3.38 ERA in the minors is largely due to the fact that he's reluctant to give up homers (only 31 in 500 minor league innings) and he's pitched in places that tend to favor pitchers. He's young still, but not many guys learn to throw with another 5 mph in their 20's, so I doubt he'll ever make much of a dent in the majors. Too bad, too. He's got a great baseball name.

So anyway, there you have them, the eight players the Tigers have surrendered in order that they might achieve victory in 2008. It's likely that Magglio Ordonez and Placido Polanco will come back to earth next year, but it's also likely that Jacque Jones will bounce back, and that Curtis Granderson and even Miguel Cabrera should at least stay the same, if not improve next year, and the OF/1B/DH spots have plenty of depth, with Jones, Granderson, Guillen, Magglio, Gary Sheffield, Marcus Thames, and young Ryan Rayburn to rotate through five spots in the batting order.

The starting rotation, RHP Justin Verlander, RHP Jeremy Bonderman, LHP Dontrelle Willis, LHP Kenny Rogers and LHP Nate Robertson could be great, with star potential in three of them (Verlander, Bonderman and Willis) a solid innings-eater in Robertson, and a crafty old lefty in the Gambler.

The bullpen was not great last year overall, but it has a lot of young arms in it, which should only help them next year as they mature.

Even though the Tigers faltered late in the year and finished a seemingly-distant 8 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central, the real difference between the teams (by Baseball prospectus' Third-Order Wins) was virtually nil, and Detroit just added two great hitters and a potentially great pitcher, so the Tribe had better watch out. Not to mention the rest of the Junior Circuit.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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03 December 2007

Pettitte Returns to Yankees in 2008...but What About the Rest of the Rotation?

Andy Pettitte's agent, Randy Kendricks, has announced that Pettitte will pitch for the Yankees in 2008, rather than retiring. Yankees' GM Brian Cashman had previously said, when Pettitte declined his $16 million option for next year, that Andy had a standing offer for that amount, whenever he wanted to pick it up. pettitte had said that he would either pitch for the Yankees or retire, but had offerred few hints as to which direction he was leaning, if any.

Kendrick's announcement comes on the first day of the MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, and as such, is probably no accident. Cashman and the Steinbrothers are trying to acquire themselves a bonafide ace in Johan Santana, the first they will have had since Roger Clemens won the Cy Young Award in 2001. (Pettitte himself won 21 in Pinstripes in 2004, but finished a distant 6th in the CYA voting, and had an ERA over 4.00 for the year.)

But the Yankees have said that they want the bidding to end, and with Pettitte on board, feel confident enough to draw a line in the sand, setting a deadline of today for any deal. They could still go after Oakland's Dan Haren if no deal for Santana is reached. they'd have to give up a similar package of prospects, but would not have to shell out a $150 million contract for him, and would not have to worry about him vetoing a trade. Santana, for his part, has said that he would veto any trade that happens during the 2008 season, which further increases the pressure on Minnesota to act now.

It's possible that the Yankees increased their offer to Pettitte in an effort to get him to commit, though Pettitte, a family man and attested devout Christian, wouldn't likely respond to such blatantly mercenary tactics. Well, maybe for an extra three million.

Pettitte, a slightly better than LAIM pitcher, is there to shore up the rotation, but is decidedly not an "ace". The rest of the rotation consists of Mike Mussina, a once great pitcher who's going to be 39 years old before the week is out and who likely doesn't have much left in the tank, Chien-Ming Wang, whose inability to strike anyone out makes him a risk to implode at any minute, and some combination of youngsters like Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy and/or Kei Igawa.

In some ways, this could actually help the negotiations with the Twins over Santana, as it takes a little of the pressure off New York to acquire the ace that everyone thinks they need so badly. Even without the trade, they've got Pettitte and Wang both slated to log 200+ innings (we hope) of average to above-average work in 2008, plus some combination of Hughes, Kennedy, Igawa, Moose, and Joba to fill in the other three slots. That's about 700 innings they need to get out of six pitchers, some of whom might be pretty good.

They could (and I think should, though almost certainly won't) turn Mike Mussina into a "Sunday Starter" like the White Sox did with Ted Lyons back in the 1930's. Mussina did much better late in the 2007 season with longer rest, and having an extra couple of days off in between starts might do him some good going forward, making him more effective when he does pitch and extending his career by a year or two. The extra rest might help him go seven innings or more when he does pitch, and most of the young guys in the rotation should be flexible enough to work around him. This of course, will never happen, for two main reasons:

1) It's different. Baseball people detest "different".
B) The Yankee Public would never swallow it. "Dat S.O.B. makes eleven million dollahs and he only pitches once a week!? #&%$@* BUM!!"

In any case, Pettitte's assured presence on the team next year means that Cashman and Co. don't have to sell the farm to buy one workhorse, even if he is the best bred horse this side of Sandy Koufax. I still think that they should give up Austin "Action" Jackson, Melky Cabrera and either Hughes or Kennedy to get him, but if not, they can certainly survive next year without him. It should be noted, though, that the yankees have supposedly told Minnesota that Jackson is off-limits as the third player in the deal, which means that the Twins will have to pick someone like Jeff Marquez, Kevin Wheelan, or Tyler Clippard. Maybe, since the Twins value speed so much and don't seem terribly interested in power, the Yankees can convince them that Brett Gardner would make a good third piece of the puzzle? Probably not.

The real problem is that the likely alternative would be for Boston to get him, in which case the Yankees are in trouble. Boston added their prized CF prospect Jacoby Ellsbury to the trade mix, but then took Jon Lester off the trading block, so things are still at a stalemate. Ellsbury made a splash by hitting .353 in his major league debut, impressive even if it was only 33 games. But Ellsbury's a year older than Melky Cabrera, and has even less power. Their minor league composites are pretty similar.

           AVG   OBP   SLG
Melky .294 .344 .422
Ellsbury .314 .390 .426

Melky started younger, and has a little (very little) more power. He homered once every 53 at-bats in the minors, compared to Ellsbury, who went yard about once every 102 at-bats. But Ellsbury walks more and has a lot more speed, which makes him the better prospect, despite his age and relative lack of experience. If Boston puts Lester back on the table, I doubt the Yankees will have a chance.

In any case, it will be nice to have Pettitte back. I've always liked him, and it would be a shame to see him go.

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