Viewer Mail 1.19.2011

Books, Hot Stove

Ah, the mail.

The Other Mike at (or is it “in”) The Bleacher Seats writes RE Rafael Soriano and the Yankees:

This is one of the better (and more rational) analyses that I have read regarding this signing. Jon Heyman’s gut reaction was “best ‘pen in the majors” and I have a serious problem with that. Soriano only really serves to replace the loss of Kerry Wood from last year’s squad. I doubt he’ll be doing much more work than Wood did for them down the stretch.

What the Yankees really needed was to get at least one starting pitcher and somehow address their older (and slower) fielders. Russ Martin was a good pick-up, but his hitting is questionable in my mind.

As far as having the “best set-up/closer combo” I don’t know about that. I’ve seen the Rangers’ Ogando/Feliz combo and in a 1-to-1 pitch-off I think it’s a push. Especially considering that Ogando and Feliz will be older and wiser after their first full seasons in the bigs.
[Disclaimer: I am a Rangers fan, so I’ll admit that I am a bit biased. I tried to think of another set-up/closer combo, but I’m not familiar enough with anyone else’s roster to know set-up men.]

I’m surprised that more people aren’t looking at what this means for the reliever market in the next couple of seasons. $12MM/year is an awful lot of money to pay someone that isn’t even your closer. Even if he were the closer, he’s only topped 10 saves twice in 9 seasons.

Considering that a player’s value is often based on how much he is getting paid compared to how much other players in similar positions (and with similar skill) are getting paid, what might this mean for signing relievers in the future? At $12MM, will anyone besides Boston or NY be able to afford a top-of-the-line closer?

I straddle the line between rational and deranged depending on the moon and the tides.

Jon Heyman’s gut reactions are of little interest to me; I respect his ability to get a story and that he’s not mean-spirited in the way he presents them, but he’s got a super-thin skin and his analysis leaves a great deal to be desired.

The “best” is a term that can only be used in retrospect. Will Soriano be good for the Yankees during the regular season? I say absolutely…mostly. I don’t trust him in a big game given his history; the attitude problems won’t be an issue in the Yankees clubhouse…I don’t think.

The Yankees starting rotation is currently so short that they’re going to have games in which they have trouble getting the game to Soriano/Rivera. We can debate “best” forever; doing it before the season starts is a war of attrition.

The Red Sox bullpen is excellent; the Athletics bullpen is deep and diverse; you can make a case for Alexi Ogando/Neftali Feliz. It’s an endless stream of speculation. Which is more important? Having the ironclad, “it’s Soriano in the 8th and Rivera in the 9th” to take the game out of manager Joe Girardi’s (and the Blue Binder’s) hands? Or is Tony La Russa with his mixing and matching result in a “better” bullpen?

I don’t see the Soriano contract as a problem, per se. It’s the Yankees; they have the money; they have more money to spend on mid-season acquisitions and free agents after the season; and the opt-outs are much ado about nothing; the only way Soriano leaves is if Rivera gets hurt, Soriano takes over as the closer and has a 2008 Brad Lidge-style run leading the team to a championship. The odds of that are about non-existent since Soriano has seen his market (and not the closer market, his market) crash; he was saved by the Yankees desperation this winter.

Next winter the list of free agent closers with a better resume than Soriano will include Jonathan Papelbon, Lidge and possibly Francisco Rodriguez. Also available, as of right now, will be Heath Bell and Fernando Rodney. Closers with club options on their contracts are Jose Valverde, Joe Nathan and Francisco Cordero. Trade possibilities are Jonathan Broxton and Huston Street.

Is Soriano that stupid to opt out of a guaranteed $11 million in 2012 and $14 million in 2013? Forget it.

Performance wise, he’s a huge question mark in a big game and his attitude is similar to the mercenary-types the Yankees imported to terrible results as they frantically tried to win another championship, eschewing the cohesion that was a hallmark of the dynasty.

Teams are backing away from the big money closer and the saturated market will keep prices down in 2012. In fact, we might see four or five of them sitting out and waiting into January/February waiting to see who blinks.

And then there are the Moneyball comments.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes:

If it has a good soundtrack and the occasional flash of female nudity, I will go and see it.

But I am a pig and easy to entertain 😉

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes:

I can’t figure out why you’re so fixated on this movie! It’s rare when Hollywood stays faithful to a book when shooting an adaptation. “Reimagining” happens all the time – and with good reason a lot of the time. Moneyball won’t be a documentary; it’s a fictional tale loosely based on the book. I’m looking forward to it, mostly because it’s about baseball.

Joe writes:

The only place I ever even hear the word ‘Moneyball’ is here…

And Norm writes:

Will the movie address the steroid usage?  The fact that the A’s success was predicated on PEDs?
Nah, the movie will just try for a subtle rehash of The Blind Side, facts be damned.  And without the Black Man as Jesus character, I can’t foresee boffo box office.

Here is something people don’t seem to get: I’m trying to expose the reality behind a fantasy. It’s not on a level of debunking biblical myths; nor is it the exposing of a scam, but it’s an attempt to provide some background into a story—and that’s what it is, a story—that was crafted, marketed and created based on nothing other than an agenda by Michael Lewis to prop Billy Beane up as “better” than everyone else and replace the old-school baseball people who inhabited front offices before the book with Ivy League educated “geniuses” who were reinventing the wheel and steamrolling—with stats—anyone and everyone who got in their way.

The “revolution” so often referred to by those who are still placing relevance on the book’s supposed accuracy petered out; it wasn’t because of blowback, but because when taken to the logical conclusion and used as a blueprint, Moneyball doesn’t work.

Lewis and his supporters can move the goalposts all they want with the shaky, “you weren’t supposed to take it literally” defense, but maybe I read a different book than what Lewis wrote—and interpreted it wrongly.

I don’t think I did.

I have a fundamental problem with people who have neither the competence nor practical knowledge believing they know more than a lifelong baseball person or one who’s watched the game and its participants long enough to be able to come to a conclusion with information and experience rather than pure statistics.

Others seem to be afraid to protest because of the shouting down that occurs whenever a dissenter is posted on Baseball Think Factory or a chat forum created to have a back-and-forth of ideas.

A numbers cruncher walking into Bruce Bochy’s office and suggesting he bat pitcher Woody Williams second? In what world—corporate or otherwise—would someone have the audacity to go to a baseball lifer and, because of numbers, be that idiotic and wood-headed that they: A) thought it was a good idea; and B) didn’t have the social skills to realize the breach of etiquette in approaching the manager of the team with such stupidity?

And it’s not an isolated incident.

The book created a culture of would-be experts who don’t know basic facts about baseball, the history, and the participants.

The movie will have nothing to do with the book and main characters from the book either pulled their names and likenesses from the project as Paul DePodesta did (and I respect him for it); or will presumably want to crawl into a hole and disappear if the screenplay drafts which have been leaked are anywhere close to what’s going to be thrust upon us.

Billy Beane had a long run as Teflon Billy. It was a circular entity. Beane was a genius because Moneyball said so; his maneuvers/wheeling and dealing failed, but he had the numbers to back up everything he did, so it was all okay; nothing was his fault. The A’s lost in the playoffs? Get rid of the manager. He wanted to clean out the house of all veterans just because? He did it. He traded for veteran stars like Matt Holliday and abandoned objectivity when using sentimentality to justify bringing back a shot Jason Giambi? It was all justifiable because he was Billy Beane; because he’d become this totem to worship rather than a baseball executive whose very touch didn’t turn everything to gold. And it all stems from the book.

Yet the remaining holdouts who have a stake in being “right” ramble on about their “revolution” that no longer exists. If they were correct, it was about data; if someone thinks differently and uses an breadth of experience in studying the sport to come to their conclusions and are correct, they were “lucky”.

It’s not hard to win an argument when never admitting to be wrong; when continually shifting the playing field to an area where their way works. The arrogance and stifling of debate is more off-putting than anything in the tale itself.

Norm mentions The Blind Side and it’s a clear window, along with Moneyball, into Lewis’s agenda. He’s a skillful writer who saw an opportunity and ran with it. While it’s made Billy Beane famous and accrues him respect and a ridiculous speaking fee, more than a few people in baseball who were savaged without remorse, pity or concern about their reputations and lifelong work haven’t been sad to see Beane get his comeuppance.

Here’s a revelation for those who wonder why I don’t write a point-by-point dissection of Moneyball and the failures therein: I did.

It’s fragmented and needs to be edited and streamlined, but there’s a book there.

And here’s another revelation: I sent an outline to a publisher for whom I’ve done some reviews and received the following email:

Thank you for sending us your outline. It’s an interesting outline, but unfortunately, we switched distributors to W.W. Norton who published Moneyball and our relationship with them precludes us from considering a book on the subject.

As far as rejection letters go, this is one of the better ones. It’s not on a level with one Charles Bukowski received that said, in caps, “WHAT THE <BLEEP> IS THIS?!?”, but I’m getting there.

What are they afraid of?

If I’m a crank and a lunatic (as some see me); if their way is the “right” way, then why not let me come after them publicly and have an in-print basis for their contention that I’m wrong?

I understand money; I understand business; and I understand the tie-in Lewis, the book and the movie have with publishing and studios; but what are they afraid of?

Would they have a viable response? Let’s see what they have to say then as I singlehandedly carpet bomb their “revolution” using nothing but facts and reality; something that Hollywood and Moneyball advocates knows absolutely nothing about.

2 thoughts on “Viewer Mail 1.19.2011

  1. Damn! Crack that whip yo!

    And I have to add my two cents about Jon Heyman… I respect the guy for what he does and that he’s seemingly respected among his peers, but he DOES come off as having thin skin, wimpy even — and that voice and that ting of passive/aggressiveness that comes through reminds me of Dustin Hoffman’s Raymond Babbitt. I keep waiting for Heyman to throw papers around and scream “ten minutes to Wapner! Wapner! Wapner!”

  2. Don’t misunderstand, I have nothing against Heyman. He’s good at what he does and I appreciate that he’s in the middle of things, breaking stories.

    He is prone to hyperbole in a similar fashion to other sports media is, such as suggesting that such-n-what team has the best rotation/bullpen/bat-boy/etc in baseball.
    I would also appreciate it if he had personal and professional Twitter accounts that were separate. I follow him more for baseball news and less for ‘what I did on my red-eye flight to NY’ kinds of updates.

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