100+ Wins….In 2003

Hot Stove
  • A bad sign:

This rotation—C.C. Sabathia, Mark Prior, Bartolo Colon, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte(?)—would win 100 games.

Easily.

In 2003.

But it’s not 2003.

It’s almost 2011.

And, after taking a flier on Mark Prior, the Yankees are “interested” in Bartolo ColonMLBTradeRumors Story.

Yah.

Obviously, with the absence of legitimate “stuff” to write about, entities like MLBTradeRumors, ESPN’s Rumor Central (I call it Imagination Central) and the blogosphere aren’t as creative and skillful as I at finding “stuff” to write about, so they have to report on such stories as clubs being interested in the likes of Bartolo Colon. The Yankees would undoubtedly caveat their “interest” by saying they’ll look at anyone who might help them with no expectations as to what they’ll contribute.

The mere fact that the Yankees signed Prior and are “interested” in Colon signifies that they know their pitching is woefully short and they’re willing to try anything to patch it together until they get an answer from Pettitte and things shake out in season. By then, they’ll have an idea as to what Ivan Nova is going to be (I like him, his stuff and his toughness); which Burnett is going to show up; who’s going to be available via trade.

Colon, 38 in May, pitched well in winter ball and was competent when he last pitched in the majors with the White Sox in 2009; it’s not absurd to think he might be able to help; he’d be a better bet than Prior.

Why not have a look with no expectations?

The problem is that the Yankees aren’t in a position to be rolling the dice on pitchers like Colon and Prior and expecting anything of significance, yet that’s where they find themselves after missing out on Cliff Lee.

They’re waiting on Pettitte and looking at Colon.

And it’s a bad sign.

  • Perceived reality is fleeting; true reality is painful:

For an executive whose career is based in scouting and who has made his reputation as a stat-friendly GM (before the burgeoning disaster his tenure with the Mariners has become and is rapidly getting worse), Jack Zduriencik has failed in both aspects during his time as a team boss. Not only has he misjudged the likes of Milton Bradley and Chone Figgins on and off the field, but Zduriencik’s reputation as a baseball man and, more importantly, as a human being has taken a brutal beating in the past six months.

The way he was said to have double-crossed the Yankees after an agreed upon deal for the aforementioned Cliff Lee was bad enough, but that he turned around and acquired Josh Lueke—despite Lueke’s legal issues—in the deal he did make in sending Lee to the Rangers has sullied him worse than any pure baseball move could.

These were some of the more egregious gaffes by the proclaimed “genius” and “Amazin’ Exec” since last year. Now his closer David Aardsma needs surgery for a torn hip labrum.

In the grand scheme, this is not the fault of Zduriencik. Players get hurt. But the Aardsma case, on the whole, exemplifies the growing notion that Zduriencik might be overmatched as a GM; that he—in the tradition of Dave Littlefield and Dayton Moore—might have been better off as an assistant/man-behind-the-scenes rather than the final decisionmaker.

The Mariners had been looking to trade Aardsma.

They wanted an “impact bat” in exchange for him.

I say, “yes” to the first tenet of trading him; “no” to the second.

Regardless of your definition of “impact bat”, there’s no way, no how any team was going to give up anyone of significance for a journeyman like Aardsma. I’ve always liked Aardsma’s stuff and said so, but thinking that the rejuvenation of his career as a closer for a non-contender like the Mariners was a predicate for getting a so-called “impact bat” is absurd.

Perhaps Zduriencik is still harboring thoughts that the misleading save stat would hypnotize someone into giving up what was requested in a trade, but those days are nearly gone. The number of GMs who don’t think about what they’re doing before they do it and are blinded by misleading numbers and accolades are dwindling rapidly.

The old standby of teams to trick is flying out the window with Sandy Alderson taking over as GM of the Mets. I suppose there are teams who might have taken Aardsma’s 69 saves in the past two seasons as an indicator that he’s grown into his talent. The Pirates aren’t all that bright and there’s always the Royals ready to do something stupid, but an “impact bat”? Really?

What was Zduriencik expecting?

The Mariners closer is out for now and, with the hip labrum, one could reasonably expect him to be ready for the season, but that’s beside the point. Truth be told, the Mariners would find someone else to fill the closer’s role without Aardsma and that someone else would presumably be just as effective—Brandon League for example. The mistake isn’t that they were trying to trade Aardsma or that he got hurt before they could, it’s that he’s not someone who would beget the acquisition of anything more than a useful piece; that Zduriencik was greedy in his dealings and didn’t get anything at all when he should’ve gotten something for a scrapheap pickup.

It’s “genius”!!!

  • Viewer Mail 12.31.2010:

Joe writes RE Ichiro Suzuki and the Royals:

I don’t really enjoy watching Ichiro hit much either, relative to other “star” players.  I prefer reasonable *individual* home run totals, like the last few years. But the threat of the home run still entices me.  Ichiro doesn’t do that often. Not that I dislike watching him. Entertainment-wise, he looks like Lou Gehrig in that atrocious Mariners lineup though.


People outside the Royals organization have the ability to scout too.  And they are the ones that come up with these lists.  So this is mostly viewing from the outside.

I got the impression from the linked posting by Joe Posnanski that he was reluctant to go after Ichiro the way I did, but that’s my own interpretation. I don’t stop what I’m doing or flip to the Mariners games to watch Ichiro hit; it’s not like you’re missing something you won’t see later in the game if you don’t see his first inning at bat.

With the Royals, people are missing the point of my posting. They have all these prospects, but their major league maneuvers with the likes of Jeff Francoeur, Jason Kendall, et al. indicate that there’s a disconnect on how to build a winner.

Aside from Billy Butler, their development has been wanting with the prospects they have. Whether these prospects were acquired by this regime or the prior one is irrelevant; no one ever gave the Rays grief for the foundation that was there when they arrived. It was what it was and they moved forward. Some worked out, some didn’t. I question what’s going to happen with the Royals as they try to take the next step, and given the continued mistakes by their GM, I have a pretty sound case.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Alex Gordon:

I remember when Alex Gordon was supposed to be the Next Big Thing. Too bad he didn’t live up to expectations.

He may need a change-of-scenery. He’s going to turn 27 in February which is well young enough to turn it around. There’s still time. He might be a Phil Nevin-type—another 3rd baseman who needed a break and a little bit of a struggle to develop. Gordon showed great promise in 2008, but injuries have derailed him.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE prospects:

I wonder if there’s a special place for washed away prospects… the Alex Gordons, Brandon Woods, Todd Van Poppels… part of me feels sorry for them, but then again, their bank accounts are way fatter than mine so they can kiss it for all I care. Making it big in the Big Leagues is tough. It’s not for the weak. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Here’s the problem with the “next hot prospect”—the latest being Bryce Harper/Stephen Strasburg—the outside pressures to perform and hopes of the organization can add another layer onto the already stifling expectations they’re facing.

Todd Van Poppel’s fastball was always pin straight, but he wasn’t given the chance to learn his craft before he found himself in the majors—as a prerequisite to his signing a contract after the A’s took a chance in drafting him—at 19.

I’ve questioned the Phillies strategy of leaving their youngsters in the minors for far too long. Both Ryan Howard and Chase Utley could’ve been in the big leagues at least a year-and-a-half before they were, but you cannot argue with the results. They’re maintaining a similar, no-pressure strategy with Domonic Brown.

Other clubs have tossed their kids into the fire and succeeded. Such was the case with the Diamondbacks and Justin Upton.

It all comes down to the individual case. Former Mets GM Frank Cashen always regretted rushing Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden to the majors before they were emotionally ready.

Maybe he was right.

Al Spina writes RE Bob Feller:

Bob Feller was a great pitcher, but an angry man, in my opinion, who could not relate to anyone in this day and age, let alone current athletes.

I don’t disagree.

For a long time, I ripped into Feller for being a miserable old buzzard (trying to keep it clean) for his over-the-top negative reactions to the players of today. Perhaps it was part of getting older.

Feller wasn’t shy in stating his opinion about the decline of society and the rampant disinterest in contributing to others. He may have pigeonholed every player into the same category and shown a bitterness because of it. Had he been less strident in expressing himself, his image may not have been what it was during his later years.

In the end, he did serve his country and was a great pitcher. The other stuff is a matter of personality and how he expressed himself.

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The Art Of Presumption

Hot Stove

Does a loaded farm system preclude ineptitude at the highest levels?

Can talent overcome history?

What goes into developing a prospect and why do they fail?

These are all questions that have to be answered as young players inch their way into big league duty and they have to be addressed one way or the other before crediting an organization before the fact.

The Kansas City Royals are one such organization.

All I keep hearing—ad nauseam—is how the Royals have the “best” farm system in baseball; that they’re bursting with young players on the way up and will be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.

Whether or not that assertion is accurate remains to be seen—we won’t know until we know—but to automatically anoint a moribund franchise like the Royals as a team to be watched is ignoring the wretched history of both their current management team on and off the field and their poor history of building with young players.

GM Dayton Moore has been nothing short of awful in his time as Royals GM. Amid the muck of horrific maneuvers in both trades and free agent signings in his 4 1/2 years on the job are the egregious signings of Kyle Farnsworth, Willie Bloomquist, Jason Kendall, Horacio Ramirez and Jose Guillen and his trades for Mike Jacobs and Odalis Perez. He also dumped Jorge de la Rosa for essentially nothing.

The product at the big league level has been embarrassing. There’s no other word for it. Moore is on his third manager after the retirement of Buddy Bell and the firing of Trey Hillman; it’s Ned Yost and Moore now, joined at the hip—either they’ll take the step into prominence or go over the cliff like Wile E. Coyote in a puff of smoke…together.

This winter alone, he’s made two decisions that don’t fit into any category other than ridiculous. Signing Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera as anything more than cheap roster filler made no sense; it makes even less sense to sign them and expect them to play regularly.

He traded Zack Greinke for a large haul of the Brewers top prospects and got them to take Yuniesky Betancourt‘s contract off his hands as well. The Greinke trade has the potential to be a win for the Royals.

A few of his other calls have panned out. He acquired Joakim Soria in the 2006 Rule 5 draft and, as alluded to earlier, has built a farm system that is said to be among baseball’s best.Getting Brian Bannister for Ambiorix Burgos worked well enough; Gil Meche—despite criticism for the $55 million contract Moore bestowed upon him—was terrific for the first two years of the contract (record aside) and it was only overwork at the hands of the clueless Hillman that undid Meche and resulted in the pitcher getting injured. This too falls at the feet of Moore for not taking a stronger hand in keeping his player healthy.

But nothing short of a 2008 Rays-like leap into contention can rehabilitate Moore’s floundering reputation as a baseball boss.

Can it happen?

I have my doubts and not only because of Moore’s history. I have my doubts because of the myriad of factors that go into developing a young player into a competent big league contributor.

Having not read any of the “experts” regarding the Royals hot prospects, I can look through their statistics and reasonably determine exactly whom they’re expecting to arrive and immediately lead a renaissance in Kansas City.

Here’s a primer on how to do this if you’re looking to similarly examine any team’s minor league system: First, almost entirely ignore Triple A. Triple A is a moneymaker for their ownership and they want to win as many games as they can with somewhat marketable and recognizable borderline big league players. In general, it’s a mill for veterans who can fill in briefly at the big league level and is packed with players in their late 20s-early 30s—most of whom won’t contribute in the majors unless there’s a fluke or epiphany (or a nicely corked bat or cleverly scuffed ball).

Second, look at the numbers and the ages. For Triple A Omaha, the Royals did have a couple of names that might help them in the coming years—LHP Tim Collins and RHP Louis Coleman are two such prospects. After that, go down the line and look at the numbers of the players with the minor league affiliates from Double A on down. Check the ages first—if they’re in Double A and are 25 years old, it’s a red flag; then look at the numbers. If a hitter can do something like get on base, hit the ball out of the park, walk or steal bases, he may have some use down the line. For pitchers, look at their strikeouts, walks and hits to innings pitched ratios and how many homers they allow. ERA can be misleading, but it’s part of the puzzle.

Based on these aspects, here are the players I’d suspect are among the “hot” prospects the Royals supposedly have: 2B Johnny Giavotella; 1B Eric Hosmer; 3B Mike Moustakas. In the lower minors there are bats William Myers and lefty arms Buddy Baumann and John Lamb.

Talent-wise, the Royals future is bright.

But….

But can the major league staff develop these players? Will they be given a legitimate chance to play? Will Moore do something stupid like trade them for a useless and misjudged veteran player along the lines of Francoeur or Farnsworth?

It takes more than talent to succeed.

Manager Ned Yost‘s history is spotty in terms of developing youngsters. Intense to the point of over-the-edge, Yost was well on the way to steering his young Brewers team into a brick wall late in the 2008 season before he was fired. Had Yost been allowed to stay on the job, I don’t believe they would’ve righted the ship as they did under Dale Sveum and made the playoffs.

How many young and promising prospects did Yost have under his command in his six years as Brewers manager and how many made it? Rickie Weeks was up-and-down under Yost before coming into his own this season with a large amount of nurturing from Brewers former bench coach Willie Randolph. Prince Fielder isn’t the type to let any manager bother him one way or the other. J.J. Hardy was a solid bat and glove for a couple of years. Ryan Braun became a star. And Yovani Gallardo pitched well for Yost.

There weren’t any players for whom it could be said that Yost was a problem. As the 2008 season wound down, it was Yost’s explosiveness under pressure that laid the foundation for his necessary ouster.

The Royals have some top prospects that stagnated under Hillman. Alex Gordon has been injury-prone and, so far, a bust after being the second pick in the 2005 draft by the prior regime. I love Luke Hochevar‘s stuff, but he’s gotten blasted; he did show marked improvement under Yost. Kyle Davies may be one of those pitchers whose talent causes people’s mouths to water, but never puts it all together. Kila Ka’aihue has put up ridiculous numbers in the minors but, for some unfathomable reason, has never gotten a true chance to play every day in the big leagues. When he did get a shot late in 2010, he struggled.

Some prospects can’t be denied regardless of developmental incompetence.

Some can.

There’s no template for teaching youngsters to play in the big leagues, but there has to be a certain amount of inherent maturity. This has been evident in clubs that have had youngsters arrive seemingly from nowhere and take over their respective clubhouses in leading their teams to prominence. The Yankees with Derek Jeter; the Rockies with Troy Tulowitzki; the Rays with Evan Longoria; and the Giants with Tim Lincecum are examples of this.

Can this happen with Hosmer? With Moustakas?

For all the borderline libelous allegations levied against former Athletics manager Art Howe in the ridiculous Moneyball, one thing Howe was never credited for with the Athletics was how he didn’t screw up the young players by scaring the life out of them.

In all of Howe’s managerial stops with the Astros, A’s and Mets, there were young players who made their debuts and went on to have All Star careers and more. Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, David Wright, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Jose Reyes among others all broke in with Howe as their manager.

You know their names.

They weren’t busts.

This is a subtle, notable and unappreciated accomplishment for a manager to have on his resume.

We’ve also seen the stifling of young talent until they’re petrified to make a mistake; to get hurt; to ruin the club’s faith. Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy were supposed to be cornerstones of the Yankees growing their own pitchers rather than flinging money at the free agents.

For all the babying, rules and overprotectiveness, Chamberlain’s stock is non-existent as they’ve ruined what once looked to be the heir apparent to Roger Clemens with the nursemaid routine and jerking him between starting and relieving, pitch counts and special treatment.

Kennedy was traded away because no one in the clubhouse could stand him, he didn’t listen and he was awful.

Can the Royals avoid this?

Is it safe to assume that because they have all that youthful exuberance on the way to the big leagues that they’ll begin to improve and win in the next 3-5 years?

I don’t know.

Judging from the way they’ve run their organization up to now under the current regime, there are more questions than simple ability and opportunity can answer; judging from Moore’s history, I’d be concerned he’s going to do something very, very stupid with the young players.

It’s not as if there’s no basis for this belief.

The evidence is overwhelming and all the talent in the world is no match for rampant stupidity. Will the talent the Royals have accumulated in their minor league system account for the repeated gaffes by their GM?

We’ll see.

Under The Radar, Available And Cheap

Hot Stove
  • I think they might be useful:

For all the “name” free agents available, there are many players who are picked up off the scrapheap as an afterthought only to serve a great purpose to a club in one way or the other. It might be on the field; it might be in the clubhouse; or it could be as trade bait late in the season.

Let’s take a look at some free agents I see as useful.

Josh Banks, RHP

No his numbers aren’t impressive and he throws an absurd eight different pitches, but if he’s told—not asked, told—to cut down on that vast array of mediocrity and limited to the stuff that works, then he can be effective.

The more pitches a pitcher thinks he can throw, the less stuff he has. I know this because when I used to pitch (don’t ask), I had a similar arsenal; the only ones that were of any use were my curve and changeup, but you couldn’t tell me that then—I used to be difficult if you can believe that.

Certain pitchers have been able to throw that number of pitches. John Smoltz couldn’t wait to break out his knuckleball; but Smoltz was one of the most egotistical pitchers you could ever encounter; he had reason to be, Josh Banks doesn’t. And you can bet at crunch time, Smoltz wasn’t throwing a knuckleball.

As a cheap pickup for bullpen help, why not have a look at Banks?

Jorge Cantu, INF

Cantu’s one of those “oh him” players who has drastic peaks and valleys in his career, but always resurfaces someplace to rejuvenate his career. He was dumped by the Rays and Reds and ended up with the Marlins as a minor league free agent and pounded out a load of extra base hits.

Cantu was atrocious for the Rangers after a mid-season trade, but if he’s given a chance to play, he’ll pop 50 extra base hits. He’s not a great fielder, but he can play first, second or third adequately enough; he won’t cost a lot of money either, so if he’s not hitting, there won’t be a reluctance to bench him because of money.

Tim Byrdak, LHP

Byrdak is a veteran lefty who has been effective as a specialist for years. While many teams are looking at the annual floating lefty like Joe Beimel, Byrdak might be cheaper and would be at least as good.

Justin Miller, RHP

When he’s healthy, Miller gets people out with his slider. His strikeout numbers with the Dodgers in 2010 were very good (30 in 24 innings) and while his control is historically mediocre, he threw strikes last season.

Willie Harris, OF

Perhaps I’m having flashbacks (post-traumatic stress?) to the way Harris always seemed to torment the Mets with a big hit or sparkling defensive play in the outfield, but he has three attributes that should make Harris attractive to a contending team: he can run, he can catch the ball in the outfield and he walks.

I’d think the Phillies might have interest in Harris as a defensive replacement for Raul Ibanez. And to torture the Mets.

Micah Owings, RHP

I have a problem letting go of things that I see as salvageable.

Owings is one such thing.

Maybe it’s that he’s hypnotizing me with his ability to hit, but maybe it’s what he’s shown on the mound. To me, Owings is still a pitcher who might fulfill his potential as a pitcher and if he doesn’t, he can still be an extra bat.

Given the way certain players have been “foundlings”—R.A. Dickey, Colby Lewis—from whom teams have gotten surprising and cheap production, there’s nothing to lose from looking at a player based on availability and a roll of the dice to see what they come up with; they might even unpolish a gem.

  • Subterfuge?

Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira is implying that his text messages with Andy Pettitte give him the sense that the lefty is leaning toward retirement—ESPN Story.

Is this accurate? Or it is two players commiserating to make more money for the group and stick it to the team?

The Yankees need Pettitte. He knows it and they know it. Pettitte was unhappy with the way the team played hardball in the contract negotiations last year and he might be using this as a lever to extract more money in a new deal.

Amid all the accolades doled on the “Core Four” of Yankees championship players for being classy, it’s been something of a rocky road as they age. Derek Jeter‘s free agency sullied both him and the team; Mariano Rivera flirted with the Red Sox (the Red Sox!!!); Jorge Posada has been basically told, “you’re going to DH and like it”; and Pettitte is vacillating on pitching again.

I don’t see Pettitte retiring. Players know when they’re done and Mike Mussina exemplified this when he hung it up after a 20-win season knowing the team wanted him back. Pettitte’s not going to know what to do with himself if he doesn’t play; and he can still pitch.

It’s not unheard of for players to join together in such schemes to plant nuggets into the public consciousness to craft a “wag the dog” style scenario against their bosses.

Like Jeter, Pettitte is no angel; he’s not above using circumstances to his advantage. Whether or not he’s doing that now is unknown, but don’t think he’s above it, because he’s not.

  • Viewer Mail 12.29.2010:

Matt writes RE the Yankees:

It suddenly occurs to me that Carl Pavano is a perfect fit for the Yankees right now. They desperately need that reliable, veteran strike-thrower in their rotation and the 2 year strong money contract Pavano will require fits nicely into their window of contention with their current group. How ironic.

God that would be funny, but I think they’d sign Jose Canseco as a pitcher before they went to Pavano.

Mike Fierman writes RE Brandon Webb:

I understand the rangers felt like they had to do something and I get it that Webb is someone with such a well of talent that you go ahead and take a chance on him. What I don’t get, especially for a team with a 50 mill+ payroll is how you can allocate a guaranteed 3 million to this guy. if that deal was such a no-brainer then how come richer teams like the Yankees give him a MLB contract?

That’s what I was wondering. I had Webb pegged for the Yankees, Red Sox or Phillies. From the reports that have been circulating, his injury is ominous for a return to form. And Webb wasn’t a good pitcher, he was a great pitcher.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Jorge Posada:

You really think the Yankees have treated Posada shabbily? He got paid handsomely with his last contract. Now he’s an aging catcher with diminished skills. I love him but I don’t want to see him behind the plate for every game anymore.

I think they’ve disrespected him. Money is beside the point. Was it necessary to blame Posada for the struggles of A.J. Burnett, C.C. Sabathia and Joba Chamberlain?

He was good enough to catch Roger Clemens, Pettitte, David Wells and Mike Mussina, but A.J. Burnett has the audacity to complain about Posada? And don’t get me started about Chamberlain—I’d have let Posada beat him until he fell into line.

The issues between pitchers and the catcher should never have gotten into the papers; in fact, they should’ve been handled by the manager who was a former catcher for those same pitchers on the championship teams, Joe Girardi.

His skills are diminishing and obviously at his age, he can’t catch 120 games anymore, but that has little to do with calling a game. Posada’s not innocent here—he’s hard-headed to a fault—but they’re not treating him right.

Matt Minor writes via Email RE Ichiro:

paul, i was reading through joe posnanski’s archives and came across this. I think you’ll love it.

http://joeposnanski.blogspot.com/2010/09/nolan-and-ichiro.html

Thanks for the link.

Ah, Ichiro.

Here’s what I don’t get: I was attacked for saying Ichiro wasn’t as great a hitter as some suggest; for saying that he has the bat control to hit for more power if he chooses to and that his relentless pursuit of singles is a selfish endeavor to accumulate numbers rather than help the team win.

Posnanski caveats his accurate assertion that Ichiro isn’t a top tier offensive player by saying: “What I do think is that Ichiro Suzuki is one of most dazzling and unforgettable hitters I’ve ever seen. I get a jolt every time I see him step to the plate.”

Does Posnanski really think this? He wrote it, so I would assume he does. I don’t find Ichiro’s hitting all that engaging. I have little interest in watching him slap singles between third and short and he plays for an atrocious team in large part because of Ichiro’s style of hitting singles while having no one behind him to drive him in. It’s a vicious circle.

I’ve said this for years: Ichiro is overrated because his talents are misused—not due to the interpretation of his value by others.

Browsing through the comments to Posnanski’s posting, I was struck by the absence of vitriol as if they’re afraid to disagree. No one had an issue coming at me when I unloaded—accurately—on Ichiro a few months ago, but they had legitimate reason to be frightened when I retorted because I have no compunction about blasting back with no thought to collateral damage.

Let’s see if anyone comes back at me now.

Let’s….see….

Ambiguity And Brandon Webb

Hot Stove

There’s absolutely no risk and a massive reward for the Rangers to sign former NL Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb to a 1-year, incentive-laden contract with a $3 million base salary.

But that doesn’t eliminate the questions surrounding Webb and whether he’s going to regain a semblance of the form that not only won him the Cy Young in 2006, but allowed him to finish second in the voting the subsequent two years.

As recently as late September, Webb’s velocity was in the Jamie Moyer-zone of 78-82—MLB FanHouse Story.

This is a problem.

What makes the wonderment of what the Rangers are getting more pronounced is the shift from the National League to the American League and pitching in a Rangers home ballpark that is notoriously hitter friendly. If Webb’s sinker was at its diving, darting, bowling ball best, then he’d thrive in Texas; but this point is moot because if that were the case, he would’ve been unlikely to leave Arizona; and if he did leave Arizona, he’d have been in greater demand than Cliff Lee.

None of this is important in the grand scheme of things. What would concern me more than anything regarding Webb is the ambiguity in his injury. The surgery wasn’t for a torn labrum or a rotator cuff; according to this ESPN Story, Webb’s surgery was “shoulder debridement surgery, which essentially cleans out loose debris and inflamed tissue”.

He’s missed two full years with this injury and the velocity hasn’t returned yet.

If a pitcher has a defined issue, it’s repaired and there’s a proven method of rehab, then you can pretty much know what you’re getting when he returns. With this? After missing two years and being unable to break a pane of glass with his fastball in his early workouts?

You can look at other pitchers who rehabbed from injuries and compare them to pitchers who’ve had similar issues. Tommy John surgery has become so common that it’s almost a guarantee that a pitcher will be as good or better than they were before.

Rotator cuff surgery is more dicey and, for the most part, the pitchers who’ve rehabilitated have altered their approach to account for the diminished stuff.

Frank Tanana was a power fastballer in the Sandy Koufax mold who blew people away until he hurt his shoulder; rejuvenating his career as a junkballer, he carved out a long career for himself. But he, like Moyer, was a lefty.

Alex Fernandez and Steve Busby were top-tier pitchers who tore their rotator cuffs and were never the same; both retired at 30.

Another aspect of Webb’s comeback is how the injury will affect the unique sinking action that has been the foundation for his success.

For all the dissection of pitching mechanics using various techniques prevalent today—computer generated, eyeballing, whatever—no one can adequately explain why a Webb or Kevin Brown have had the ability to throw the ball and create a seemingly natural movement where others have tried to copy them with different grips, twisting of the wrist and even scuffing the ball—and failed.

Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Al Leiter made a living off of a cut fastball; Bruce Sutter from a split-fingered fastball; Webb and Brown from their sinkers.

Pitching is such an individualistic endeavor that the thought of creating a baseline set of mechanics for everyone to follow can’t work any better than trying to make everyone into a scientist for NASA. Some have the aptitude; some don’t.

If mechanics and techniques are altered to prevent injury, who’s to say that the change isn’t going to ruin what it was that made the pitcher effective in the first place?

When he broke into baseball with the Texas Rangers, Ron Darling was a pitcher who had movement with a 3/4 arm angle. The Rangers made him change to an over-the-top motion to develop a curveball. The results weren’t good. When he was traded to the Mets, they immediately switched him back to his normal way of throwing. Had he stayed with the Rangers, there’s every chance he would never have made it to the big leagues.

Webb might come back. He might need to adjust his style to account for the diminished velocity. It may be that the mere thrill of competition will pop his fastball back up into the high-80s range—that’s enough to get by if a pitcher is skillful and has control; but there will be those questions surrounding Webb; they’re not helped by the absence of a defined problem that was solved by the surgery.

A clean-up?

Personally, I’d prefer to have someone say, “you tore your rotator cuff” and move on from there rather than wait two years and still not be able to pitch.

If I were the Rangers, I’d expect nothing from Webb and be happy if he contributes anything at all. It’s a shame because the way Webb was going, he was on his way to the Hall of Fame; now, he’s trying to rebuild his career and may not have the tools to do it.

History is not his friend.

  • Viewer Mail 12.28.2010:

Mike Fierman writes RE Bob Feller and Dave Eiland:

it’s hard to even make a comparison to what guys like Feller and Williams did back then. The zeitgest was so different I think we can’t even wrap our heads around what most people simply considered to be a duty. duty..a word that hasn’t completely disappeared, but has lost most of it’s relevance. What i DO wonder is what these guys would have done if there had been draft dispensations given to Major Leaguers. How many of them would have volunteered to go anyway?

Eiland is making a fool of himself, but since he is safely out of the media glare in Florida not many are paying attention. Not only would I keep very quiet after the stunt he pulled ( and NO i do not care what the reason was- either do your job or quit)- he really hasn’t got much to crow about as a Yankee pitching coach. see Joba and AJ. but also look at CC– he’s been excellent, but his K’s have gone down and his walks, up. I’ll grant that he’s been good with some of the bullpen guys like Robertson. I’m glad he’s gone

good post

It’s such a different world now. Today’s players, for the most part, were probably treated differently from the time they were children because they could hit the ball a mile or throw harder than everyone else; this led to the sense of entitlement and the notion that the rules of regular society don’t apply to them. It’s brought us to where we are now. I would think that there are a fair number of players who would willingly go to fight if they were called upon; others would try and use connections to weasel their way out of it.

With Eiland, there’s not much more to say. I would tend to think that he’s going to keep his mouth shut; we’re not the only ones saying it and I wouldn’t be stunned to hear that someone from the Yankees contacted him and told him to pipe down…or else.

—-

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Bob Feller and Jorge Posada:

Excellent piece on the heroes of Feller’s day compared to the so called ‘heroes’ of today. Pretty sure Mike Vick ain’t gonna go fight no Nazis.

You really think Posada would waive his no-trade clause to get dealt? I feel like he wouldn’ t know how to act in another uniform. And I’m serious!

Everyone involved with the nurturing of these star athletes like Mike Vick shares in what they become as they reach the pinnacle. If they don’t know anything else, how are they supposed to know better?

With Posada, I think it’ll come down to money and wanting a new contract that he’s not going to get from the Yankees; plus, the Yankees he knew—Joe Torre, Don Zimmer, Paul O’Neill—aren’t the Yankees of today. He doesn’t seem particularly happy these days and they have treated him shabbily. For all his moodiness and reputation for being difficult, he has some legitimate gripes.

—-

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Yankees and having patience:

You’re right – Yankee fans don’t like to wait…and I don’t.

Unless you want Carl Pavano, you’re not going to have a choice. And I doubt you want Carl Pavano.

He Who Hesitates Can Win

Hot Stove

The current plight of the Yankees makes it easy for fans, media and members of the organization to panic and do something stupid. In light of their free agent loss in their pursuit of Cliff Lee and the possibility of Andy Pettitte‘s retirement, there’s a movement for them to do something NOW!!!

That it might not be a smart thing to do for the team is irrelevant. For all the success George Steinbrenner has been lauded for following his death, it’s conveniently glossed over that he did as many if not more brainless things in the interest of assuaging his own impatience.

Fans and media have been trained to expect the Yankees to respond immediately. Had George been around, the reaction to losing out on Lee wouldn’t have been an issue since had George been around, they wouldn’t have lost out on Lee.

I truly believe that.

But those days are over. Now the Yankees—-along with many other clubs—-are waiting out the winter. Unsatisfied with the remaining scraps that are passing as marketable free agents, GM Brian Cashman is sitting on his hands and preaching patience. It’s more pronounced with the Yankees because the baseball world is accustomed to the boldness and speed with which they fill their holes. The combination of Lee’s decision to go back to the Phillies and that there’s not much else out there on the market that would help them has combined to leave them waiting….waiting…waiting.

Yankees fans don’t like to wait.

But they’re going to have to.

One of the biggest obstacles in coming to an accurate prediction of the upcoming season have nothing to do with the various faults in all “systems” like PECOTA, ZiPs, Stat Zombieland AKA FanGraphs or my way of using everything I can get my hands on including whatever pops out of my addled mind—-it ‘s that no one can predict what’s going to happen at mid-season; who’s going to be available; which team will be willing to gut their system to win immediately; how past relationships and a player’s desire to go to a certain locale will influence his waiving a no-trade clause or not making outlandish demands to approve the deal.

We don’t know.

We can guess based on history, but we don’t know.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at which players might be available at mid-season—-contingent on their current club’s fortunes; the security of the front office; whether the current team has the intestinal fortitude to shun criticism and do something drastic for the long term.

Tampa Bay Rays—RHP Matt Garza, RHP James Shields:

Garza is arbitration eligible; the Rays were supposedly listening to offers for him, but haven’t moved him yet. Shields is signed through 2014 with a series of buyouts.

If the Rays falter, they’ll undoubtedly put these two pitchers on the market. There’s an overreaction in effect because of the departures the Rays are dealing with; but are Jason Bartlett, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano such massive losses? The Rays have been able to find bullpen arms and get use out of them and I have no doubt they’ll be able to do it again; the starting rotation is deep; they have bats to replace (and improve) on what they’ve lost.

The Rays are going to be in the playoff mix, but if they’re not , they’ll act quickly and move either or both pitchers.

New York Yankees—C/DH Jorge Posada:

Posada’s not going to be happy about DHing; he’s in the last year of his contract; the Yankees current situation is iffy whether they want to admit it or not. If things are going poorly at mid-season, would they approach Posada about waiving his no-trade clause to go somewhere he’s more appreciated?

Posada can still hit; for a half-season a team would put up with his declining defense. He’s a pain, but he might’ve had enough of the way the Yankees have treated him recently. He’s also playoff proven. If the Yankees are fading, they might want to get something for Posada and Posada might want out.

Toronto Blue Jays—INF/OF Jose Bautista:

Bautista is arbitration-eligible and wants (as is his right after the year he had) a long-term contract. The Blue Jays are in the middle of a retooling, have a load of pitching ready to blossom and need to make a decision as to whether they’re buying into Bautista’s breakout year in 2010.

Personally, I’m not buying it. It’s hard to deny 54 homers, but that kind of jump from a career high of 16 homers to 54? It’s a got a “Luis Gonzalez-feel” to it as Gonzalez hit 57 homers in 2001; and Gonzalez was a way better player than Bautista before and after that *magical* year.

I’d listen to offers on Bautista as the season moves along. I’d solicit them.

Baltimore Orioles—LHP Mike Gonzalez; OF/1B Luke Scott:

A lefty reliever who racks up strikeouts and is in the final year of his contract? As bad as Gonzalez was in 2010, teams will still be after him at mid-season.

With Scott, politics and ill-informed rants against the president aside, he can really hit. I wouldn’t care what he said off the field if he drove in runs and nor would any team that got him for the stretch run.

Minnesota Twins—RHP Joe Nathan; OF Michael Cuddyer; OF Delmon Young; OF Jason Kubel:

I happen to think the Twins are going to have a bad year in part because of the hangover and disappointment from the way 2010 came apart in the ALDS loss to the Yankees; in part because the essence of the Twins—-the bullpen—-has been gutted.

Nathan’s a potential free agent after 2011; Cuddyer and Kubel are as well. Young is arbitration-eligible and is coming off his career year. If things are going badly, the Twins might clear out some of these players and reload.

Cleveland Indians—RHP Fausto Carmona; OF Grady Sizemore:

The Indians are going to be atrocious; they’re waiting out the heinous Travis Hafner contract ($26 million remaining); they don’t know what they’re going to get out of Sizemore; Carmona is either really, really good or really, really bad.

New GM Chris Antonetti has some large decisions to make; if Sizemore’s playing well after micro-fracture surgery, does he move him? I would.

Carmona will be popular among the contenders if he’s pitching well; he’s signed long-term too.

Kansas City Royals—RHP Joakim Soria:

All I keep hearing is how the Royals have the “best farm system in baseball”. Okay. But how many of their prior top prospects have developed thus far under the current regime? Billy Butler. That’s it.

I looked at the minor league numbers of these prospects (all I have to go on since I don’t trust the judgment of, well, anyone)—-there are some young and impressive players down there—-but who knows?

The Royals have to decide whether they want to maximize Soria at mid-season or keep him and hope that he’ll be their closer when they’re ready to try and contend. He’s signed through 2014; he’s had arm trouble; he’ll be in demand.

I don’t know what I’d do either.

Los Angeles Angels—OF Bobby Abreu; LHP Scott Kazmir; RHP Joel Pineiro:

Abreu is a potential free agent at the end of 2011. He’s a productive bat for whom they could get a few prospects.

I don’t care how well Kazmir is pitching, if there’s an offer on the table for him to get his salary ($14.5 million guaranteed) out of town, the Angels should grab it.

Pineiro is a free agent at the end of the season.

Seattle Mariners—OF Ichiro Suzuki; INF Chone Figgins:

Would Ichiro be tired enough of the losing to okay a deal to a contender? He’s a temperamental nuisance, so I’m not going to speculate; the Mariners should look to get him out of town.

I think Figgins will play closer to his career numbers in 2011, but that contract ($26 million guaranteed) is onerous.

The Mariners are going to be awful, so they should try to clear these players.

Florida Marlins—RHP Javier Vazquez:

If Vazquez rebounds and the Marlins are struggling, they’ll get something for him. He’s on a 1-year deal.

New York Mets—OF Carlos Beltran; SS Jose Reyes; RHP Francisco Rodriguez:

Put it this way: I don’t expect either Beltran or Reyes to be wearing Mets uniforms by August and I’m not talking about them being injured (although that’s as viable a possibility as them being traded, going by their history).

Both are getting traded. Watch.

K-Rod will be harder to move, but if he behaves and is pitching well; is reasonable about his contract option for $17.5 million in 2012, the Mets can get him out of town and the return is essentially irrelevant; freeing up the money is the key.

Washington Nationals—RHP Jason Marquis; C Ivan Rodriguez:

Given their rampant stupidity this off-season, the Nationals are just as likely (if not more) to be buyers at mid-season than sellers. This is regardless of their position in the standings. But Marquis can bring back some prospects for a pitching-hungry team; Pudge would welcome a move to a contender.

Cincinnati Reds—RHP Francisco Cordero; 2B Brandon Phillips; 3B Scott Rolen; C Ramon Hernandez:

Cordero, Phillips and Hernandez are all potential free agents after 2011; the Reds are going to take a major step back; Phillips is not popular in the clubhouse.

Rolen is signed for $13 million total through 2012; if they’re out of contention, they could get a couple of prospects for him from a contender if he’s healthy. A big if with Rolen.

St. Louis Cardinals—RHP Chris Carpenter:

They’re not trading Albert Pujols and I highly, highly, highly doubt they’ll let him leave as a free agent.

Forget it.

If the Cardinals have an off-year though, Carpenter might be a great option for a pitching-hungry team like the Yankees. He’s a potential free agent after 2011 and is a major injury risk at any time to every part of his body; but if he’s on and healthy, he’s devastating.

Carpenter somewhat reminds me of Jim Palmer in that Palmer refused to pitch if he wasn’t 100% healthy; it’s not gutlessness, but a perfectionism and it’s not something to pigeonhole as “wrong”.

Houston Astros—LHP Wandy Rodriguez; RHP Brandon Lyon:

I’ve long had a man-crush on Rodriguez because of his great stuff; he’s a free agent at the end of the year.

Lyon’s a homer-prone arm out of the bullpen; he’s signed through 2012.

Chicago Cubs—RHP Carlos Zambrano:

So many variables are involved with Zambrano. If he’s pitching well, do the Cubs take that at face value and think he’s turned the corner of maturity? Or would they look at their position in the standings and try to clear the salary which has over $36 million guaranteed with a vesting player option for 2013?

I love Zambrano’s talent and he’s still only 29, but if someone made an offer to take him and the money and gave me a couple of prospects, I’d cut my losses and grab it.

San Diego Padres—RHP Heath Bell:

The Padres aren’t going to win 90 games again, nor are they going to contend. They’ll trade Bell at mid-season.

Colorado Rockies—RHP Ubaldo Jimenez:

No, I don’t expect the Rockies to move Jimenez; but if they’re struggling and out of contention, why not call and ask? You don’t ask, you don’t get. It would take a lot—-a….lot….to get him, but he’s signed through 2014.

Why not ask?

Why not ask about anyone?

Sunday Blizzard 12.26.2010

Hot Stove

Admittedly, while he was alive and regularly jabbing his finger into the faces of today’s athletes, scolding them for their selfishness and behaviors, I often dismissed Bob Feller as a miserable old man who was: A) jealous of the money today’s players make; and B) held a death grip on antiquated Mid-American concepts that had no basis in reality.

Following his death, many of the eulogies and tributes extended towards him glossed over his short temper and overt lack of patience that expanded as he aged; as society grew more and more callous and disinterested.

After reading one such eulogy in The Weekly Standard, I’ve come to something of an epiphany regarding Feller’s core beliefs and why he was so irritable.

He had reason to be.

The on-line content is subscriber-only, but here’s the relevant excerpt:

And for all Feller accomplished—he was an eight-time all-star who led the Tribe to a World Series victory in 1948 and was named to the Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility—he might have put up even better numbers, were it not for the war. But then, the same might be said of all of that era’s great stars.

As David G. Dalin wrote in our November 1 issue, Hank Greenberg enlisted at the age of 30, when he was officially exempt from military duty, to fight the Nazis. “My country comes first,” said Greenberg. Feller, who joined the Navy just after Pearl Harbor, felt the same. “I’ve never once thought about all the prime years that I missed,” Feller said later. “I’m as proud of serving as anything I’ve ever done in my life.”

We admire as much as anyone today’s professional athletes, young men whose athletic skill and daring cannot but entertain and amaze us, but in the end their image is not well served by the rhetorical excess, often their own, of referring to their place of well-paid work—the gridiron, diamond, court, or rink—as the -“trenches.” Greenberg and Feller knew the difference. So did Ted Williams, who flew combat missions as a Marine pilot; same with Braves lefthander Warren Spahn, who saw action at the Battle of the Bulge.

This week, America lost (…) a right-handed pitcher, Chief Petty Officer Bob Feller, U.S. Navy (ret.).

Think about this.

And think about today’s athletes, many of whom profess a love of country that rivals those of a years past.

Would any of them—-one—-walk away from his prime years as an athlete to serve his country and place himself in harm’s way?

Every time Curt Schilling rants for one of his conservative causes, can you picture him actually taking up arms and entering into the fray to fight and risk his life? He with his faux presidential and poorly written missives concluding with, “God bless you; and God bless the United…States…of America” and ill-informed falling in line with whatever the line happens to be at the moment?

Is pitching with a bloody sock the badge of a “hero”? Or is is it something more?

For all the admiration doled on Derek Jeter (poor Derek will only have to live on $15 million in 2011), would he behave so selflessly? As selflessly as the players from the 1940s did when, presumably, many of them had the connections to get out of service if they chose to do so? Or, at the very least, could’ve been shielded in safety on a base somewhere, out of the legitimate combat theater?

Cliff Lee took “less” money from the Phillies to go where he wanted to go and received nods of approval through pursed lips as if it makes a grand difference whether he makes $125 million, $150 million or whatever amount million he’s guaranteed.

Has any current player voluntarily walked away from his contract and lush lifestyle to take part in the effort?

The only athlete who has done so since the country’s been in conflict is the late football player Pat Tillman. Apart from that, today’s players scarcely know what’s even happening overseas; that there’s still a war going on; that people are being killed in service to the country.

I’m not sitting here saying I’d do it either, but the entire cultural shift that angered the likes of Feller and others who sound grumpy and envious may not be envy; it may not be anger; it may be disgust. Disgust at the rampant disinterest in the way they got into a position to make that money in the first place.

You can agree or disagree with the wars that are currently being waged, but politics aren’t why there’s no reports of a wealthy athlete walking away from it all to join the military and it has nothing to do with principles of protest; it has to do with the self-interest and lack of concern about the community at large that weren’t considered back in Feller’s day. They served because they felt it was their duty to serve. That they cost themselves money and statistics when they could conceivably have been padding their bank accounts and numbers was irrelevant.

Their own accumulations held no sway back then. Does any player today feel a similar duty?

Judging from their actions, it doesn’t appear so.

And things are going to get far, far worse as time passes and the separation of community grows more and more vast; as the athletes make more and more money and become separated from society because of such money, fame and status.

  • It sure sounds like there are hard feelings:

I wish someone would come out and say, “Yeah, I’m mad!!!” when they’re trying to express themselves in a way that’s unoffensive and it’s known that they’re not saying everything they’d like to say.

Former Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland was a guest on ESPN Radio talking about his new job as a special assistant with the Tampa Bay Rays and his dismissal from the Yankees.

You can read Wallace Matthews’s column about Eiland and listen to the podcast here.

No one in their right mind could expect a former employee not named Gary Sheffield to detonate a bridge that he might need later in his career, but obviously Eiland was irked by what happened.

Apart from a rumor here and there, the details of his monthlong leave-of-absence at mid-season have never been disclosed; I said at the time that if I knew what really happened, I might’ve fired Eiland as well. If it’s something that would be negatively perceived in Eiland’s attempts to get another job or for him to be embarrassed in public, then the Yankees did him a favor by keeping it quiet; and Eiland hasn’t helped his own cause by refusing to expand on what happened.

Truthfully, it’s the business of Eiland, the Yankees and his prospective employers as to what happened—-nobody else’s; one would assume the Rays know what the deal with Eiland and the Yankees was; why he left at mid-summer; why he was dismissed.

But if I were Dave Eiland, I’d keep my mouth shut. The allusions to his “shock” at being fired; the inference that there’s more to the story than is being revealed; that he has a lot to say and is saying it cryptically can only hurt him in the long run.

If I were advising him, I’d drill these words into his head: “I really don’t want to talk about what happened with the Yankees; I work for the Rays now and I thank the Yankees for the opportunity and the championship ring.”

That’s it. The more he says, the more people are going to ask; and if he gets someone with a temper and faulty mouth filter (see Levine, Randy; see Steinbrenner, Hank) angry, dirty laundry might be aired; laundry that’s been carefully pushed down into the bottom of the hamper.

Keeping quiet is the best course of action—-whether Eiland will adhere to that is the question; judging from his interview last week, he’s not holding to it.

It’s a mistake.

  • Viewer Mail 12.26.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Yankees and Jorge Posada:

I don’t think Posada will be happy about being the DH either, but I do think the Yankees will pull off some sort of trade for a pitcher. Wishful thinking maybe but Cashman has to do something.

The only reason Posada might—-might—-keep quiet is his impending free agency. A whining 40-year-old with Posada’s rep for being difficult might have a hard time getting another lucrative contract.

You’re right about getting a pitcher—-he’ll get one because he has to get one, but it’s possible that it won’t be until June/July.

———

Joe writes RE Joaquin Benoit and Paul Konerko:

Why don’t you expound on the Konerko and Benoit signings? They might be winners for a year, but both of those contracts will most likely bite them. 3 years for an injury prone reliever.  And 3 years for a mid-30’s 1B with only the ability to hit.

I’m not prepared to say that Konerko will “bite” them over the long term. His hitting and durability has been consistent for the most part; defense at first base isn’t as much an imperative as it would be in center field, catcher or middle infield; the White Sox don’t concern themselves with defense all that much anyway.

He’ll hit for the life of the contract—-that’s what White Sox GM Kenny Williams is worried about.

With Benoit, you’re missing the point. Of course the money and contract are horrible, but the posting was in reference to 2011 and what the club needed; the Tigers needed bullpen help, had the money to pay for it and spent it on a pitcher who was masterful in 2010.

The Benoit deal is likely to bite the Tigers, but if he’s healthy in 2011, Benoit will help them contend. As long as it doesn’t block anyone else’s path nor prevent them from making other moves, what’s the difference?

——

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the Nationals:

I can add this to the Nat’inals talk: that ballpark is badass. I’ve been there several times and had a blast each time. The park is beautiful, easily accessible and extremely fan friendly.  One problem in DC though is the fact that it’s such a transient city… there aren’t many Nationals fans — instead, they’re mostly fans of other clubs that have been relocated to the DC Metro area. From what I have seen, the largest contention of Nats fans seems to be Latino immigrants, who, ironically, will be priced out of watching their favorite team, now that they’re doling out crazy assed salaries.

This phenomenon—-the absence of legitimate, passionate Nats fans—-was exemplified by my being linked on the Nationals fan forum in which there was little of use said; nothing to promote a discussion on the subject.

They made fun of a typo, attributed to me, but not made by me and claimed the posting was “poop” among other things without a viable retort to my allegations.

I’m willing to talk to anyone and will even alter my feelings if presented with a cogent argument; none seems forthcoming.

If that’s what they’ve got in terms of refutation, the Nats fans who bother to pay attention deserve their fate.

——

Matt at Diamondhacks writes RE me and the Diamondbacks:

If a club ever deserved “and the rest” status, it’s probably my Dbacks. I look forward to what you have to say about their makeover. Love the masthead, btw.

Happy holidays.

It’s always nice to hear from a fellow survivor from the calamity of MLBlogs. The society which has sprouted from the disaster is something of a logical conclusion considering the way the entity is run; we were lucky to get away when we did; others are still slogging away.

With the Diamondbacks, as I said yesterday, you’re seeing the Kevin Towers-style of management up close and personally; it won’t take long before the bewilderment pops up and those that were steadfastly on his bandwagon go leaping off at his strange maneuvers that, at the very least, equaled the brilliant ones he made with the Padres.

For those of you unaware of Matt’s blog, if you think I’m a loose cannon, check him out. It’s a wild ride.

——-

PhillyPhanatics writes RE the Nationals:

Paul – As a guy who has watched Werth closely during his tenure in Philadelphia, I agree that this was a pretty ridiculous contract for a guy who is a complementary player being asked to be a core player.  Still, to not mention  Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann or #1 pick wunderkind Bryce Harper while excoriating the Nats for a guy who they don’t even own anymore tells me you have a lot of homework to do.  Willingham is arbitration-eligible and would have been a lame duck on a market-value one-year deal.  No, the Nats have no shot in 2011, and with Strasburg also out rehabbing, any guys on a one-year deal are absolutely trade fodder.  I don’t know if this will all pan out, but the Nats remind me a bit of the Rays with their multiple #1 overall picks.  The core players are where it’s at.  Which makes the Werth signing look like a knee-jerk reaction to losing Adam Dunn and based on fear of losing the gains they made in attracting fans of late, more so than a wise on-field move.

What homework did I have to do?

The problem implied with the Nationals signing of Werth; chasing Carl Pavano; looking at Brandon Webb; making a big offer to Cliff Lee and combining the moves they made last year are exactly the issues I’m talking about.

What are they?

Are they trying to win now? Trying to build a better reputation within baseball by making improvements to the current product even if they’re not going to wind up contending? Importing competent veterans to teach the young players to comport themselves?

Which is it?

They’ve had Willingham on the market pretty much since they got him; they benched him for reasons unknown, then when they let him play, guess what he did? He did what he always does—-hit for power, was a professional hitter who showed up every day ready to go.

If they were so concerned about his “lame duck” status, why didn’t they trade him in July of this year? This is the problem—-they traded Willingham for prospects while signing Werth to try and get better now.

You cannot do both. When Harper is ready; when Strasburg is back and has the constraints removed (probably by 2013 for that combination to take place); when they know what they have in Jordan Zimmerman and the other pitchers, Werth’s deal will be more easily judged and he’ll be 34-years-old.

Ryan Zimmerman is a superstar; I like Desmond, especially defensively; they’ve cleared the clubhouse of troublemakers, but they’re not any better now than they were before the 2010 season; in fact, they’re worse.

You can’t compare the Nats to the Rays. The Rays had a plan and a stack of young players who were developing and on the way up. They made some brilliant trades in getting Ben Zobrist, Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett; they were notoriously lucky with Carlos Pena and Gabe Gross; and they didn’t make stupid decisions like dumping a Willingham for the “future” while spending ridiculously on a good player like Werth who, as you said, is complementary.

The Nationals have shown no sign of the intelligence and guts the Rays exhibited in building their playoff teams and are now as they clear out players from whom they’ve gotten everything they could and are reloading.

The Rays had a plan. Do the Nats? I don’t see it.

Hot Stove….Um….Were We Supposed To Keep Working?

Hot Stove, Uncategorized
  • “After the season ended, were we supposed to keep working?”

This isn’t going to be a rip-fest; certain teams have done little-to-nothing this winter and for the most part, it hasn’t been for lack of trying; the market is very, very weak and logic dictates that the few attractive players available will gravitate towards the better teams or those that offer them the most money.

That said, in certain cases, it’s hard to improve when these are the moves that have been made. In other cases, teams are wise to show restraint. Some have made good moves and bizarre moves.

Let’s take a look.

Baltimore Orioles:

The hot streak at the end of the season under Buck Showalter was all well and good, but all they’ve done so far is trade for J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds—-two dramatically flawed players. While they’re both far better than what the Orioles had previously, that’s more of a reflection on what was there before rather than what they’ve imported.

Their pitching is very, very young and they’ve done nothing to bolster either the starting rotation or bullpen.

Showalter will have them playing the game correctly and that will result in better fortunes; they’re looking hard at Adam LaRoche; he, along with Hardy and Reynolds will make the offense better. The organization is not a wasteland anymore, but they’ve got a loooooong way to go.

Toronto Blue Jays:

They hired a new manager in John Farrell and subtracted Kevin Gregg, Scott Downs and John Buck. Still building with pitching, the Blue Jays aren’t spending heavily but have a lot to work with for 2011. It’s unlikely that they’ll contend before 2012 at the earliest, so the wise move is to stand relatively pat and let the young players develop.

Cleveland Indians:

With everything the Indians have done this winter, they’re primed to go from 69-93 to….69-93.

Kansas City Royals:

Not much need be said about the signings of Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur—-it’s the same story over and over for the Royals under GM Dayton Moore.

The trade he made in sending Zack Greinke to the Brewers, however, has the potential to be a big win for the club. The Royals got rid of Yuniesky Betancourt in the trade along with Greinke and brought in pretty much the top tier of Brewers prospects—-Jake Odorizzi, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain and Jeremy Jeffress—-all young, cheap and high end.

They traded David DeJesus to the Athletics for pitching.

We’ll wait and see how this all works out for the Royals. Their starting pitching is serviceable and they have some arms in the bullpen.

We’ll see…

Texas Rangers:

The Rangers made a legitimate attempt to keep Cliff Lee and failed—-nothing to be ashamed of there; their starting pitching may be short unless they make a move—-they’re in on Brandon Webb, but what any club will get from him is a bonus if he can actually pitch.

Their bullpen is unlikely to repeat the work from 2010; they’re trying to keep Vladimir Guerrero, but they can hit well enough—-especially in their hitter-friendly home part—-so that run-scoring won’t be an issue.

Their off-season has been vanilla.

Florida Marlins:

Year-after-year I’ve gone to great lengths to express my admiration for the way the Marlins do business under a tight budget. They’ve been smart, aggressive and fearless; but this winter they’ve added the word “strange” to that list of adjectives.

Sending Dan Uggla to the Braves for Omar Infante and Michael Dunn? They couldn’t have gotten more for Uggla than that?

Cameron Maybin to the Padres for two relief pitchers? Signing Randy Choate? A 3-year contract for John Buck?

The risk they’re taking on Javier Vazquez is worthwhile and they signed Ricky Nolasco to a contract extension.

Addressing the bullpen in the way they have appears to fly in the face of the correct way to build a bullpen by signing a lot of retreads and hoping to hit paydirt.

Still loaded with prospects, the Marlins will be competitive, but they’ve done some things that I can’t agree with.

Cincinnati Reds:

They lost Arthur Rhodes, Aaron Harang and Orlando Cabrera.

They kept Miguel Cairo.

Yah.

Chicago Cubs:

The Cubs retained manager Mike Quade; signed Carlos Pena to a 1-year deal; brought back Kerry Wood; and are unable to dump the contracts of Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano.

The Cubs situation is what it is. They’re not awful, but they’re not good either; this hot stove season mirrors that reality.

Houston Astros:

People jumped on the Astros bandwagon a bit early in comparing two separate entities (they and the Padres of 2009) because of similar late season spurts of solid play.

It’s a mistake.

They have some good starting pitching; subtracted Matt Lindstrom from an up-and-down bullpen; and are still building waiting for Carlos Lee‘s contract to expire.

They acquired Clint Barmes and Bill Hall to man the middle infield—-better than what they had, but not anything to get excited about.

Drayton McLane may be looking to sell the team too.

Pittsburgh Pirates:

Ooh boy….

They hired a competent manager for their station in Clint Hurdle; they’ve been spending on the likes of Scott Olsen and Lyle Overbay.

How much these moves will help in improving a 57-win team is an open question. Take solace in the fact that they can’t be much worse…I don’t think.

San Francisco Giants:

The world champions lost Juan Uribe to the rival Dodgers; they tried to re-sign World Series MVP Edgar Renteria to a contract Renteria felt was insulting; they kept Aubrey Huff and signed Miguel Tejada.

Pitching carried the Giants to the title and that’s what will keep them competitive if they stay competitive.

Colorado Rockies:

A lot of risky money was spent to keep Jorge de la Rosa;they traded for Matt Lindstrom to boost their bullpen and signed Ty Wigginton.

Jason Giambi and Melvin Mora have been subtracted.

It’s a wait-and-see winter for the Rockies. Sometimes these under-the-radar signings/trades work and sometimes they don’t.

Arizona Diamondbacks:

It’s interesting to see when the belle of the ball, the most attractive single remaining—-new GM Kevin Towers—-re-enters the fray and his supporters and detractors remember exactly what those positives and negatives of his long tenure as Padres GM were.

Towers is a smart baseball man, but he’s not the “brilliant” mind he was portrayed to be when he was an assistant to Yankees GM Brian Cashman and waiting for the offers to flow in to be a GM again.

Now he’s with the Diamondbacks, put Justin Upton on the market and took him off; as for the rest of his maneuvers? One word: meh.

J.J. Putz? Meh.

Xavier Nady? Meh.

Melvin Mora? Meh.

Geoff Blum? Meh.

And “meh” is not going to cut it in that division after a 65-97 season.

  • Don’t blast the messenger:

A Washington Nationals fan forum is attacking me for telling the truth (and whoever linked it had a typo in John Lannan‘s name for which I’m being blamed); have a look—-link.

I dunno what’s more shocking—-that they’re attacking me for the sins of their own front office or that there’s actually a fan forum dedicated to the Washington Nationals.

  • Sunday Lightning Preview:

Tomorrow, I’ll have stuff to say about Bob Feller; Dave Eiland; and I’ll answer the mail including a welcome message from a fellow survivor of the carnage that is, was and forever will be MLBlogs.

Hot Stove Loo-zers—2010

Hot Stove
  • They don’t have plans and schemes…

…and they don’t have hopes and dreams.

Or maybe they do have hopes and dreams.

Maybe that’s the problem.

Let’s have a look at the hot stove losers…so far.

New York Yankees:

Desperately in need of pitching, they had their sights set on Cliff Lee as far back as a year ago and they didn’t get him.

Andy Pettitte is still undecided as to what he’s doing—-I’m not prepared to sign off on the idea that he’s “leaning” toward retirement; I think the closer it gets to spring training without a decision, the better it is for the prospect of him pitching.

Having not been helped by a weak/unsuitable market, they’re biding their time and hoping to stay within striking distance of a playoff spot to make a bold maneuver at mid-season 2011. But that doesn’t diminish the horrible winter they’ve had.

They kept Derek Jeter after a contentious and embarrassing negotiation for both sides; they retained Mariano Rivera.

On the surface, signing Russell Martin to take over behind the plate may solve the issue of Jorge Posada‘s declining defense, but Martin’s not exactly Charlie O’Brien and his offense has declined on an annual basis for the past three years with injuries a concern. In 2007, Martin appeared to be developing into a Mike Piazza-lite with speed; now he looks more like Paul Lo Duca.

And don’t think for a second that Posada’s going to put on a happy face about DH relegation.

Pedro Feliciano will be a boost to the bullpen; Mark Prior probably won’t even pitch.

The Yankees are accustomed to buying whatever they want; that hasn’t worked and they’re scrambling with nowhere to go.

Minnesota Twins:

One of the keys to the Twins being the Twins over the past ten years has been their liberal use of their bullpen. That bullpen has lost Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier—-two workhorses—-and is now relying on Joe Nathan‘s successful return from Tommy John surgery and a cast of thousands to replace the valuable innings eaten by Crain and Guerrier.

Orlando Hudson, Jim Thome and J.J. Hardy have been jettisoned with only Hardy’s departure a positive.

Alexi Casilla will take over at second base after he lost the job with lackluster play in 2009. Tsuyoshi Nishioka was imported from Japan. Do you know what they’re going to get from either? Because I don’t know what they’re going to get from either.

Nor do the Twins.

The starting rotation isn’t impressive and they’re trying very hard to keep Carl Pavano.

Carl….Pavano.

Los Angeles Angels:

The Angels made what they thought was a competitive offer for Carl Crawford; it turned out to not be a competitive offer for Carl Crawford.

They were in on Cliff Lee and had no chance whatsoever of getting him. They wanted pitching and a bat and have gotten nothing. Rafael Soriano and Adrian Beltre may still be on their radar, but so far all they’ve done is sign Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi.

Their starting pitching is still deep, but there’s something profoundly off with the Angels; something that’s hard to pinpoint.

With the Rangers still solid and the Athletics drastically improved, these fault lines in Anaheim are a portent of dark times in 2011.

Seattle Mariners:

Eric Wedge is a good hire to manage the team, but they traded for Brendan Ryan; re-signed Erik Bedard (if something’s working, why mess with it?); and signed Jack Cust.

These moves alone should catapult them from 61 wins to at least 67.

GM Jack Zduriencik must be a genius judging from the fact that he’s still employed.

New York Mets:

New GM Sandy Alderson is using an Indiana Jones-style machete to slash through the tangled vines left by years of mismanagement, disorganization, warring fiefdoms and short-sightedness.

Because of this, the Mets have done almost nothing and are preaching patience to a disgusted fan base; it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Washington Nationals:

If you check the Nats official website, you’ll see they have a picture of Rick Ankiel‘s dramatic homer in San Francisco in the NLDS while playing for the Braves—-link.

He won’t have to worry about dramatic playoff homers while playing for the Nats.

They overpaid for Jayson Werth; they traded Josh Willingham for the “future”; they have no pitching and no plan.

The team slogan should be “Waiting for Strasburg—-Again”.

St. Louis Cardinals:

Signing Lance Berkman to play right field might do as much harm defensively as it promises to help the lineup—-and I believe Berkman will thrive at the plate.

They acquired the mediocre Ryan Theriot to play shortstop and surrendered the useful Blake Hawksworth to get him; they re-signed Jake Westbrook; their bullpen is still a question mark at best.

I also have to wonder how the Albert Pujols contract situation and that Chris Carpenter is due for an injury (as is his history) will affect them as the season moves along.

San Diego Padres:

Suffice it to say that this team is not going to win 90 games again.

They traded Adrian Gonzalez for the future and got some high-end prospects—-none of the offense-generating variety—-that won’t help them in 2011; they acquired Jason Bartlett who isn’t any great shakes; they signed Orlando Hudson who’s becoming the Kurt Bevacqua of the new millenium. They’re looking at Derrek Lee. Big deal.

Does anyone know what they’re going to get out of Cameron Maybin?

They signed Aaron Harang who, if he was the “Aaron Harang” from 2007 would not only have had his option exercised by the Reds; as a free agent, he’d be looking at a $90 million deal.

  • What about everyone else?!?

Don’t think that I’ve forgotten or am ignoring the rest of the clubs in baseball; I’ll have some things to say about them and not in a “Gilligan’s Island” off-handed “and the rest” variety in adding the Professor and Mary Ann at the conclusion of the credits in the black and white version of the show.

I’ll have some stuff to say. Plenty of stuff. Tomorrow.

I’m considering changing the format of my postings; rather than one long deal published once, I may start stretching them out intermittently. Instead of bulletpoints, there will be separate postings.

It’s under consideration.

I’ll keep you informed; don’t panic.

I was on a week ago Wednesday with Sal at SportsFan Buzz talking about the winter thus far. Click here to go to his site and get it from I-Tunes and here—-The SportsFan Buzz: December 15, 2010—to get it directly.

Hot Stove Winners—2010

Uncategorized
  • In no particular order:

There are still a couple of “name” free agents available, but I highly doubt that any team’s acquisition of Carl Pavano or Adrian Beltre will catapult them from one category into another.

As for trade possibilities, it’s been all quiet. I believe—-without inside information—-that the Yankees have started laying the groundwork for a mid-season deal for a Chris Carpenter or Ubaldo Jimenez.

It’s bizarre that my speculation is generally more on the money than those with inside information, but that can stem from the hand-in-hand nature of executives, agents and writers all using one another to get their messages out there.

I’m not hand-in-hand with anyone.

Let’s have a look at the winners.

Tampa Bay Rays:

On the surface, one wouldn’t think a team that is dumping salary and in a nightmarish division could be considered a “winner”, but the Rays looked at their circumstances both financially and practically and acted accordingly.

Carlos Pena was a leader in the clubhouse and despite his on base ability, defense and power, he batted under .200 last year; they’d gotten everything they could get from him.

Carl Crawford was not staying in Tampa no matter what and the Rays had no chance to come within $50 million of the offer the Red Sox presented.

They’ve also allowed Rafael Soriano, Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler and Joaquin Benoit to leave. Ordinarily, one would say that has gutted their bullpen, but no club in baseball has been better at finding the refuse of other teams and inserting them successfully into their bullpen mix than the Rays.

They traded Jason Bartlett to the Padres for four prospects—-all young, cheap and with big strikeout numbers on the mound or on base numbers at the plate. After his career year in 2009, Bartlett reverted to what he is in 2010: an okay player who can catch the ball well enough at shortstop.

The Rays have replacements in hand (Reid Brignac, Desmond Jennings) for the departed; and they have a LOAD of compensatory draft picks.

One of the reasons I’d love to see teams allowed to trade draft picks is to see what the Rays would do with such an opportunity—-it’s be Jimmy Johnson-esque.

The Rays will be competitive. Watch.

Boston Red Sox:

They improved both the lineup and defense with Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Their bullpen is deep, experienced and playoff-proven with Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks joining Jonathan Papelbon.

They re-signed Jason Varitek to keep the clubhouse in order despite his rapidly declining skills, but with that lineup, they can carry Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia as the catcher as long as they handle the pitching staff.

The Red Sox set lines in “trying” to retain Beltre and Victor Martinez and I’m of the mind that they knew all along that unless the market crashed completely they weren’t going to be able to keep either, nor did they truly want to.

With this flurry of imports, the Red Sox are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the American League and that includes the Yankees.

Chicago White Sox:

“James Bond Villain” Kenny Williams needed a power bat? He signed Adam Dunn.

He needed to keep Paul Konerko? He kept Paul Konerko.

He’d grown tired of watching Bobby Jenks gack games? He dumped Bobby Jenks.

There is no one more aggressive and gutsy in baseball than Kenny Williams; what makes him more impressive is his utter disregard for what anyone says or thinks of him. He just does things and, for the most part, the things he does work out just fine.

Detroit Tigers:

Ignoring that they overspent for Joaquin Benoit and Victor Martinez, they filled two holes with the signings. My main concern regarding finances has never been the amount of money spent, but whether the money spent for “wants” precludes that which is left for “needs”. But the Tigers filled two needs in the bullpen and lineup with Benoit and Martinez.

They kept Magglio Ordonez on a 1-year contract and also retained Jhonny Peralta. They’ll be ready to move at mid-season as well.

Long term, these decisions may prove costly; but for 2011, they’re winners.

Oakland Athletics:

I’ve often torn into A’s boss Billy Beane for using Moneyball and his reputation as a “genius” to shield him from ghastly personnel moves; but he’s quietly had a terrific off-season and brought the A’s into legitimate playoff contention.

He used the organizational depth he’d accumulated in prior deals to acquire the underrated bats David DeJesus and Josh Willingham to bolster a putrid lineup; he signed Hideki Matsui to a team-friendly contract; and they still have a very deep pitching staff.

Even if the staff takes a step back from their league-leading ERA, the lineup will account for any fallback.

They’re still hanging around trying to get Adrian Beltre too.

Philadelphia Phillies:

Two words: Cliff Lee.

As my Phillies fan friend said in an overnight text message informing me of the Lee signing—-“Mwaahahahahaha.”

Atlanta Braves:

They needed a bat and got that bat in Dan Uggla; to make it even more of a steal, they got him for almost nothing.

Scott Linebrink helps the bullpen and while they’re still in flux at the closer’s spot, one thing I’d keep my eye on is a potential Billy Wagner return at mid-season.

The Phillies are loaded, but the Braves are very, very good.

Milwaukee Brewers:

The Brewers went from having Randy Wolf as their number 2 starter to having Yovani Gallardo (their erstwhile number 1) as their number 2 behind former AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke; they also acquired Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays.

Having not surrendered anything of note from their powerful lineup, their only question is the bullpen and I’m wondering if they’re making a stealth move on Rafael Soriano.

The Brewers are ready to contend for real.

Los Angeles Dodgers:

Amid the lunacy surrounding the warring McCourts, GM Ned Colletti has quietly and relatively inexpensively improved both the entire Dodgers roster.

Jon Garland was signed to provide innings; Matt Guerrier is a highly underrated and durable reliever; and Juan Uribe provided pop and clutch hits.

The Dodgers also kept Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Rod Barajas and might be in on Johnny Damon.

In an under-the-radar fashion, the Dodgers are again a team to watch for on-field stuff rather than courtroom drama.

  • Viewer Mail 12.23.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE my new site and the Washington Nationals:

Love the new look of your blog! Very easy to use with great graphics. Kudos. As for the Nationals, they’re surreptitiously becoming the new Yankees.


Thanks for the compliment about the site.

I dunno if the “new Yankees” stuff is exactly a compliment considering how the off-seasons of both clubs has gone so far. And the Nats may be after Carl Pavano!!

Caveat emptor.

Jim Downs writes about me and the Nats:

A couple of mistakes in your post. Scott Olsen is not longer a National, he signed with the Pirates on 6 December and the Nationals had a .500 record in their first year in Washington (not in Montreal). Only time will tell if the rest of your post has any merit. I would only point out that they do have some decent young prospects for pitching within their organization. Pitchers such as Jordan Zimmermann, Colin Balestar, Garrett Mock, Aaron Thompson, Yunesky Maya, and Ross Detwiler all have some potential to become good starters.

Jim’s right about my mistake. I checked MLB.com and their transaction listing for the Nats and Olsen was listed as having signed a contract. It didn’t specify where, but I knew Olsen had signed with the Pirates. It’s an inexplicable mistake and I should’ve fact-checked.

Regarding the status of being at or over .500, I meant over .500, but that’s not a big deal.

As for the Nats pitching prospects? You’re asking a lot from that group if they’re going to be part of a team that has visions of contention in the NL East as they clearly do with the deranged contract they gave to Jayson Werth.

Jordan Zimmerman is still returning from injury and could be serviceable; Balester was consistently blasted as a starter and may be a good reliever; Mock is another reliever; Thompson’s minor league numbers are not promising; I saw Maya pitch against the Mets—-he’s a right-handed cunnythumber and is awful; Detwiler’s put up good minor league numbers and maybe they can get something from him.

But this is the point. What are they? If they had a powerful lineup to account for the building starting rotation filled with mediocrity and question marks, then okay; but they don’t.

They have a good bullpen that was abused trying to win as many games as possible early last season; they can’t really hit. As I said yesterday, they’re waiting for Stephen Strasburg (again) and for Bryce Harper to come and save them.

Is this the plan? Relying on the pitchers you mentioned and Jayson Werth?

I can’t see how it can possibly work.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the Nats:

I really don’t understand the Nat’inals either. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really feel sorry for Ryan Zimmerman. He’s loaded with talent and promise… talent which is wasted, and I assure you that THAT ain’t promising.


Ryan Zimmerman should be rightfully annoyed that Werth is getting paid so well. Zimmerman signed a long-term deal, but he’s far superior to Werth and plays a more difficult position to fill.

Gabriel writes RE the Nats:

I think the Nationals just want to make money through ticket sales on the days Strasburg pitches. There’s no logic on that team.


Washington is such a promising venue for a team; access to fans and political power. I’ve often said that if I were going to run one team in baseball, it’d be the Nationals. Current ownership deserves credit for aggressiveness and because they’re willing to spend, but they need to think about what they’re doing before they do it.

National Catastrophe In The Making

Uncategorized
  • A non-partisan nightmare:

The factional disputes inherent in Washington politics are generally put aside when a true catastrophe occurs. Of course there are always—-in every situation—-those who will take any kind of disaster and twist it to suit their own needs, truth be damned.

In a baseball sense, the Washington Nationals have the potential to be just such a calamity.

What are they doing?

You can debate the Jayson Werth signing; call it an expensive mistake; say that they’ll be paying a good player great player money until he’s in his late-30s. But the fact remains that at least Werth is a good player. The assertions that he’s a “player who’s never driven in 100 runs” as if that’s the barometer of the contract are absurd.

But it’s the other moves the Nationals have made that are going to exacerbate the hellish fate that awaits them.

They desperately need pitching. Their current number 1 starter is listed as Livan Hernandez; they re-signed Chien-Ming Wang after Wang missed the entire 2010 season recovering from shoulder surgery and hasn’t pitched at all since mid-2009; they have the middling likes of Jason Marquis, Scott Olsen and John Lannan on the roster; they’re looking at Carl Pavano; and appear to be waiting—-again—-for Stephen Strasburg to arrive, yank open his shirt, show the “S” on his T-shirt and rescue the franchise.

That didn’t exactly work the last time.

As for their offense, are they better with Werth? Perhaps they would be had they not traded Josh Willingham to the Athletics for outfielder Corey Brown and RHP Henry Rodriguez.

This exacerbates the overall point.

What are the Nationals?

What’s the plan?

Are they trying to win immediately?

Are they rebuilding and trying to compete simultaneously?

Do they have the young personnel to justify the aggressive, expensive and risk/reward decisions that are currently being made?

The latest is Rick Ankiel.

Rick Ankiel?

Like Werth, I have to ask the question: is he going to pitch?

Ankiel can play the outfield; he’s better than what they currently have on their depth chart beside Werth (Nyjer Morgan and Roger Bernadina), but he’s not better than Willingham. Willingham’s abilities have long be underappreciated and he was inexpensive for everything he did. When he was with the Marlins, all the focus was placed on Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez, but the hitter I most feared in a big situation was Willingham. And they dispatched him for the future.

But are they playing for the future or making the mistake of being several things at once?

Well-run teams who are successful are learning the error of their ways as they use dual strategies of winning and maintaining the pipeline. They’re correctly altering their strategy. But the Nats? A franchise that has had one .500 season since 2003 (when they were still in Montreal); they’re not good. They’re not in a financial position to be making such prohibitive signings as Werth for that amount of money.

But they are.

One thing that’s glossed over when players are signed to deranged contracts like that of Werth isn’t that it’s an overpayment for a limited player; it’s that it hinders what the club can do to fill out the roster.

Such is the situation the Cardinals are going to face with Albert Pujols as they come to grips with the prospect of a contentious negotiation with the Joe DiMaggio of this generation; can the Cardinals maintain competition with Pujols taking up a massive percentage of their payroll so they can barely afford anyone else?

Jayson Werth is not Albert Pujols.

The only answer to my question as to whether there’s a plan is this: there is no plan. They’re just doing things. Things that aren’t going to assist in a leap to contention; things that are going to keep the club in the netherworld of mediocrity and worse. They’re in a vicious division, they have no pitching and they can’t really hit.

So where’s the improvement?

It’s not there.

  • Viewer Mail 12.22.2010:

Matt writes RE the Yankees and Zack Greinke:


If I were the Yank’s I’d take Derek Lowe off the Braves hands, presumably for little more than his salary commitment. He’d eat innings per usual and with their offense I could easily see him being a 15 game winner. For what it’s worth (not much) I was at Fenway this summer and watched Grienke throw a 1-run complete game loss against Clay Buchholz‘s gem and obviously came away impressed. I think he’d have thrived in NY or anywhere else.

I actually—-and this is 100% true—-had mentioned Derek Lowe as an option for them and deleted it. I don’t see the Braves moving him now with the Phillies as loaded up with pitching as they are; the Braves are a Wild Card favorite with Lowe; they’d need to bring pitching back to replace him and dealing him makes no sense now.

I love Greinke’s talent. What impresses me most about him is the way he can amp it up when he gets into trouble, raising his fastball from 92-93 to 96. His control, command and stuff are undeniable. The big issue is his mentality and handling the pressure. There won’t be as much pressure in Milwaukee as there would’ve been with the Yankees, but he couldn’t deal with pitching for a rotten team in Kansas City; there’s always a chance of those issues recurring.

I do hope he handles the off-field stuff and shows what he can do on the field in a pennant race.


Max Stevens writes RE the Athletics:


Prince, have you noticed that the Oakland A’s have quietly made themselves a much better team this offseason, perhaps even the team to beat in the AL West?  They already had pretty solid pitching, and the addition of Willingham and Matsui brings some much needed thunder to their lineup.  There’s a lot of ‘ifs’ involved in my thinking about this, but let’s say the A’s get Beltre, the Rangers don’t re-sign Vald or find a suitable replacement for him, and the Angels fail to upgrade their offesne significantly.  If all this happens, Oakland will win 90 games or so, which would probably be enough to take the West.  What say you?

I think the A’s are going to be really good next year. Their pitching is young, but they have a lot of it; I would hesitate to expect young pitchers to repeat their work from one year to the next, but the extra firepower in their lineup will give them the leeway to fall back and still bound into legitimate contention; that division isn’t particularly great either, so they have a giant opening to dive through.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE yesterday’s posting:

“Understandable but mistaken.”

OH BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURN!

Jeff, I bring it sometimes. I….bring….IT!!!!

I was on with Sal at SportsFan Buzz last Wednesday talking about Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford and all the other stuff that’s gone on in baseball. Go to Sal’s site for the I-tunes link or click The SportsFan Buzz: December 15, 2010 to listen directly.