Viewer Mail 1.11.2011

Hall Of Fame, Hot Stove

Joe (DaGodfather on Twitter) writes RE Bert Blyleven and the Hall of Fame:

I heard something interesting this week about him. I forget who said it but they said something to the effect that he was never a number 1 and never was a game 1 or game 7 pitcher. In fact, there was one year where his Twins made the playoffs and he didn’t even pitch in that series. So basically, forget the numbers, look at what his coaches, scouts, and GMs thought of him at the time. Do you really think they were ALL wrong and don’t know what they are doing?

Also, you never said, or at least I never saw, you say anything about whether you think Palmeiro, McGwire, and Bagwell should be HOFers. Personally, I think they should. You are not comparing players in different eras. You are comparing them to the people they played with. Seems to me that most of the players in the Steroids Era were using, hence the name. So, like it or not, they were the best of that era. And the HOF is a museum. A museum is supposed to present the facts of what their particular topic is, in an unbiased fashion. You don’t have to like the steroid era. You can wish it never happened but you can not pretend it did not and wish it away. Put these guys in, let everyone make up their own minds about them.

In general, I don’t buy into the assigned “numbers” for pitchers. Much like my argument against pure stat zombieing, these are human beings with different abilities—maximums and minimums. I’ll take a chance on a player who I think can be much more than his statistical parts suggest; I also like having players from whom I know what to expect; it goes without saying that any team can use a C.C. Sabathia or Roy Halladay who are going to provide consistent excellence whether or not they have their good stuff.

A year ago, I went through Blyleven’s career season-by-season when he just missed induction and he was harmed by being on bad teams much of the time—link. His contemporaries didn’t do him much good as Jim Palmer was the best pitcher in the American League and Catfish Hunter was on a great A’s team and padded his statistics that way.

How do you pigeonhole pitchers on mediocre teams? On great teams? Who was the “number 1” starter on the Yankees during their dynasty? In season, it didn’t make much difference who was starting a game; in the playoffs, even though he was despised, when David Wells was at the top of his game, he was who they wanted pitching; I’d put Orlando Hernandez ahead of Roger Clemens from those teams as well.

You can take that analogy to your Phillies as well. Do you want Halladay (who pitched a post-season no-hitter)? Cliff Lee (with his playoff success)? Cole Hamels (a former NLCS/World Series MVP)? Or Roy Oswalt (a fearless, unflappable veteran)?

The “numerical” designation is more about identification and ego than any realistic judgment in reality.

As for the statement that Blyleven was with the Twins during a post-season series and didn’t pitch. I assume you’re referring to 1970 when he was a 19-year-old rookie. The Orioles swept the Twins in three games in the ALCS; he was on a staff with veterans Jim Perry, Jim Kaat and Luis Tiant and a young lefty named Tom Hall whose numbers were devastating. Blyleven did pitch in relief in that series.

I’m not as passionate a defender of Blyleven as Rich Lederer and the stat-obsessed are; in looking at his numbers, his contemporaries and the full context, plus the pitchers like Don Sutton who are in the Hall of Fame and is comparable in every aspect to Blyleven, then Blyleven is a Hall of Famer too.

I’m iffy on Jeff Bagwell—he may get caught up in the allegations that he was a skinny minor leaguer with no power and turned into a beast. I would not vote for Rafael Palmeiro—statistically his numbers took a wondrous jump at a strange time, a time in which PEDs were en vogue. I would’ve voted for Mark McGwire had he not embarrassed himself at the congressional hearings and then confessed to his steroid use out of personal convenience more than purely sincere regret. Now? No.

You don’t have to give them a plaque to have “everyone make up their own minds about them”. That’s rewarding them to foster discussion; the two things are not connected; that they’ve been excluded creates more of a debate than inducting them would.

If you want to look at contemporaries, look at Barry Bonds. He played clean and kept up with the users; he played with PEDs and dwarfed their numbers. It’s a transference onto the same playing field and he blew them away in both. Bonds is a Hall of Famer with or without drugs as is Roger Clemens; these other players weren’t and wouldn’t have been had they played straight.

Joe (StatMagician) writes RE Barry Bonds:

You used the words “BONDS,” “friendship,” and “loyalty” in the same sentence.

It’s interesting with Barry Bonds. Which is better? An affable “everyone’s friend” teammate? Or Barry Bonds who was aloof—even nasty—but was one of the smartest and best players of his era, steroids or not? For all the bickering and negativity between Bonds and his Pirates and Giants teammates, it was Bonds who had a profound influence on Matt Williams and Jeff Kent. He was always helping teammates with tips to be used on the field.

I don’t seecamaraderie as irrelevant, but in some cases it’s not necessary.He wasn’t his teammates’ friend? So what?

And Joe, are you buying my book this year or are you gonna keep being a mooch?

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Rafael Soriano:

Soriano gacks up big games? And wouldn’t pitch more than one inning for the Rays? Uh-oh. I don’t want him anymore for the Yankees.

It’s his history. He gives up big homers because he appears to try too hard in important spots. We saw it in game 5 of the ALDS when he allowed the backbreaking homer to Ian Kinsler in the ninth inning to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 5-1 deficit. I don’t know that I’d trust him to handle New York either.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Carl Pavano:

I wonder if we’re perhaps too hard on Pavano in regards to his hellish Yankeedom. I mean, did he really just mail it in and sit on the beach while being hurt with a smile on his face or was he genuinely upset that he couldn’t perform?

His body language in his first season was atrocious; then he got hurt. It’s possible that he got his money and lost desire; it’s happened before and if he had a mental issue with New York, the pressure and his station in life—“I got paid, now what?”—that’s understandable; but as time went on, it looked as if the perception was such that he felt there was no way to rehabilitate his image with the organization, media and fans and he gave up trying.

His injuries were real, but it was the sheer ludicrous nature of how he got hurt—crashing his Porsche with his model girlfriend; a bruised buttocks—that exacerbated his nightmare.

As a competitor, I’m sure he was embarrassed; no one wants to see such awful things written and said about themselves, but if he holds anyone responsible for his unforgettable (and not in a positive way) stay in New York, he need look no further than a mirror.

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Sparkle And Fade

Hall Of Fame, Hot Stove
  • Prosper and fall:

The most interesting aspect of free agency, for me, isn’t where Cliff Lee and the other biggest names available wind up—the players whom everyone wants—it’s the players who are good and productive but, for one reason or another, fall through the cracks and don’t get the amount of money or years they were expecting.

Players in this category are still available and looking increasingly desperate right now. Rafael Soriano is one such player. He had a fantastic year; he is a marketable commodity as a strikeout reliever who can close; but he’s in fact be hindered by the great year he had and that his agent is Scott Boras and his demands are too great for a team to pay.

It winds up being a catch-22 for a Soriano—he should get a big contract for his performance and abilities, but won’t get the big contract because of the asking price, that the signing club is going to lose a draft pick and the market for relief pitchers has essentially crashed as building a bullpen has been put into greater statistical and practical context.

It doesn’t help Soriano that his reputation isn’t great. He gives up too many homers and gacks up big games; plus, as Bill Madden wrote in the NY Daily News yesterday, Soriano refused to pitch for more than one inning several times for the Rays in 2010. The combination is not a winning one for an iffy performer with an injury history and high financial demands.

You see it with other free agents who should probably be more in demand than they are.

Adam LaRoche just signed a 2-year, $16 million contract with an option for 2013. LaRoche is a consistent all-around player from whom you know what you’ll get: 25 homers, 60 extra base hits and adequate-to-good defense. The Nats probably could’ve gotten LaRoche for a little less money, but the contract’s not ridiculous considering they needed another bat and after the loony contract they gave Jayson Werth. Why run the risk of LaRoche going to Seattle or some other bat-hungry team?

Every year Orlando Hudson finds himself looking for work and taking a short-term contract. He’s touted by the stat zombies as a plus defender and productive hitter, but the statistical analysis and resulting financial valuations may actually be harming Hudson’s hopes for a long-term contract. Those that are signing him know his options are limited; that he’s injury-prone; and the numbers are such that a value is placed on his services; teams are unwilling to go beyond that because of his numbers and history of being on the outside looking in as January/February rolls around. Hudson got 2 years from the Padres with an option, but is only guaranteed $11.5 million.

It’s the other end of the spectrum from Werth’s $126 million insanity.

  • Speaking of the other end of the spectrum:

Of course there are players who take advantage of their impending free agency by having a career year and getting paid as a result of it. Adrian Beltre, A.J. Burnett and Carl Pavano come to mind.

Beltre has had career years in two of his seasons prior to free agency and gotten paid. Like Hudson, Beltre is beloved in stat zombie circles for his defense and bat; after having an MVP-quality season for the Red Sox, Beltre just signed a 5-year, $80 million contract with the Rangers.

In 2008, Burnett won 18 games for the Blue Jays and, more importantly, stayed healthy knowing that he could opt out of his contract. He did and got a bigger deal from the Yankees.

Pavano won 18 games for the Marlins in 2004, signed with the Yankees and subsequently, rather than pitch, he went to the beach and the doctor. (He might’ve been better served to find a doctor on the beach, but that’s neither here nor there.) After rejuvenating his career with the Twins, Pavano won’t get the same money he did from the Yankees, but he’s going to get a multi-year contract in the $22-25 million range from someone. Considering his reputation after the Yankees debacle, that’s great for him.

For a long time, I’ve seen this type of behavior as a negative; now, I’m thinking it may not be as bad as it looks on the surface. While a player raising his game when money is on the line could be judged as untoward and self-serving, as long as the club knows what they’re getting, they can’t complain about it.

The Yankees didn’t know what they were unwrapping with the Pavano package and that’s why I’ve never given them a hard time about his signing. Had they not given Pavano the money, the Red Sox, Tigers and Mariners were prepared to do so. The Yankees did know what they were getting with Burnett and this is why the ripping into him is unfair. He is what he is and nothing more.

Would this type of seasonlong pressure play bode well for a post-season calmness that would result in success? Players have raised their games in the post-season. Orel Hershiser, Lenny Dykstra, Dave Henderson, Dave Stewart—all have reputations as “money” players in the playoffs.

It might be the magnitude of the moment or the desire for fame and fortune that have spurred them. Will Beltre be a similar player? We don’t know because he’s only been in the playoffs once in his career—in 2004—and went 4 for 15 in the Dodgers 4 game NLDS loss to the Cardinals.

Pavano has been very good in the playoffs; Burnett’s been Burnett—up and down.

While the “big free agent year” followed by a lull can be seen as a profound negative, judging it from a different and more realistic angle, said success in a pressure year could be a portent of success in the playoffs. Finding something a player can do well and accepting him for that isn’t such a bad thing; in fact, it’s necessary and can help a club win a championship.

Unless something big happens, I’ll do the mail tomorrow.

Andy Pettitte And The Slimy Characters

Hot Stove

Jane Heller linked this column by Wally Matthews on ESPN New York in her posting yesterday about Andy Pettitte.

Matthews suggests that Pettitte’s vacillation on whether or not to return for one more year with the Yankees may not have as much to do with money or a desire to stay home with his family as it has to do with his reticence to be an active player when he’s called to testify in the Roger Clemens perjury trial.

Here’s the main thrust of Matthews’s argument:

So either Pettitte wants to pitch, or he doesn’t.

What’s taking him so long to decide?

Well, maybe it is what is waiting for him in July, a hot seat on the witness stand in the upcoming federal perjury trial against Clemens. Pettitte is expected to be the government’s star witness against his former teammate and buddy, and in fact, might be the only man standing between The Rocket and a jail cell.

Clemens, of course, is a slimy character. His accuser, Brian McNamee, is every bit as slimy with a background that is maybe even more shady. No matter how strong the evidence or how many dirty syringes McNamee saved in a soda can in his basement, his and Clemens’ testimony will probably cancel one another out just on the sleaze factor alone.

That leaves Pettitte, and his word, as the swing vote — and you know Clemens’ attorney, Rusty Hardin, is going after Pettitte in the only areas he can in order to discredit his testimony. He is going to do his level best to crush Pettitte’s reputation for honesty and sincerity and religious convictions. Simply put, he is likely to try to paint Pettitte as a lying hypocrite whose word cannot and should not be trusted.

The cross-examination could get embarrassing and highly personal.

While I think that Pettitte will be uncomfortable in a trial situation and won’t want to answer the types of questions he’s going to be asked by Hardin during a cross-examination, I’m not buying the idea that Pettitte won’t want to be playing and embarrassing the Yankees during the trial.

Given his known religious beliefs and that he refused to lie when releasing his statement of having used human growth hormone when recovering from an elbow injury in 2002—and he easily could have—Pettitte would go into court and tell the truth as he sees it, letting the chips fall where they may.

If there’s anything I admire about the truly religious along the lines of the late Hall of Fame NFL star Reggie White, it’s the absence of fear of whatever obstacles are placed in front of them as a result of that faith.

Would Pettitte really be concerned about how he’s perceived? About the fate of Roger Clemens based on his testimony? What’s going to happen with the Yankees if he’s “dragged through the mud” as an unnamed source in the column suggests?

I don’t buy it.

Is it a factor in Pettitte’s decision? It might be; but in the grand scheme, it looks more to be a minor distraction that would be navigated by a club that’s no stranger to star-studded controversy and off-field issues. They’ve dealt with Alex Rodriguez for this long and the stuff he’s pulled and A-Rod isn’t a beloved figure in Yankees lore; Pettitte is.

Unless there are dancing skeletons in Pettitte’s closet, pounding at the door and waiting to trample his character, he has nothing to fear in terms of fan or club reaction. It would be stupid if he didn’t pitch for this reason and this reason alone.

On another note regarding public image and characterization, Matthews picks and chooses his points when pigeonholing Clemens and Brian McNamee as “slimy characters”.

We’ve all done things that we would probably prefer weren’t exposed and batted around like a game of pepper as if it’s everyone’s business to discuss private stumbles; it just so happens that Roger Clemens has had his carefully crafted Texas hero ripped to shreds because of the same determination and rage to win and be the best that helped him become one of the best pitchers in history.

Such public relations-built personalities are rarely, if ever, accurate.

I’m not defending Clemens; merely putting him into context. The stoic family man ideal may have been what he wanted out there while he was privately behaving in ways that have been exposed and are embarrassing to everyone involved. My guess is that Clemens compartmentalized his actions and truly felt he was what the public thought. It’s narcissism more than anything else.

That said, Clemens has always been generous with his time and money; he was well-liked by his teammates for the most part and always willing to help tutor young players with his knowledge.

Does that eclipse the negative things he’s done? No. But to cast him as an incorrigible villain isn’t anymore accurate than the Clemens-created persona.

Regarding McNamee, I too felt he was a “slimy” character (my word of choice was “furtive”); but in reading Jeff Pearlman’s biography of Clemens, The Rocket That Fell To Earth, McNamee is cast as a person who defended friends and took the heat for their transgressions rather than being the perpetrator himself.

If anything, McNamee is someone who doesn’t know where the bonds of “friendship” and “loyalty” end and where self-preservation begins.

Was he Roger Clemens‘s friend? According to McNamee, he was; according to Clemens he was probably just another guy who hung around with him as a wall of defense and gofer. When Clemens’s drug use became public, McNamee’s past and misplaced loyalty made him appear sleazy and self-interested.

Here’s the real truth—according to Pearlman’s book—regarding Brian McNamee.

When the PED scandal first broke and prior to Clemens’s “misrememberation” in front of congress, McNamee’s name popped up in the Jason Grimsley federal investigation. On pages 206-207 of Pearlman’s book, he quotes this Jon Heyman article in Sports Illustrated, dated November 14, 2006 in which McNamee is relentlessly defended and shown as someone caught in the middle of his loyalties and desire to work in baseball rather than an opportunistic greenfly and “sleaze”.

Regarding the stigma of being fired by the Yankees after an accused sexual indiscretion in October of 2002 when the Yankees were in Florida to play the Devil Rays, Pearlman writes the following:


What was not said—and what has gone unsaid for years—is that McNamee was made the fall guy by the organization, which later launched an internal investigation that showed the trainer to be innocent. Earlier in the evening, the woman had been seen with one of New York’s coaches, a married man with children who had paraded her around as if she were a trophy. Later on, she had been partying with a Yankee player—also a married man with children. Though McNamee was indeed in the swimming pool, he was there only at the player’s behest. He was not naked and had neither raped the woman nor supplied her with any drugs or alcohol. In fact, according to someone with detailed knowledge of the incident, McNamee aided the woman when she passed out and began to drown. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time—but not in the wrong. (The Rocket that Fell to Earth by Jeff Pearlman, page 263).


Pearlman might have added that McNamee was also taking the hits for the wrong people with a set of belief systems fostered from the code of silence in defending one’s brothers in arms.

The idea of “I got your back, you get mine” prevalent in the military and paramilitary doesn’t exist in the insular, self-serving world of multimillionaire athletes. McNamee learned that it’s every man for himself and he still appears reluctant to take care of himself and betray those that saw no hypocrisy, nor had any compunction in using him as a human shield and walking away.

As for the administering of the drugs, while it’s a weak argument, McNamee knew how to shoot the syringes into the bodies of his “friends” after needing to provide insulin to his son who’d been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes; Clemens was going to use the drugs anyway; I can understand McNamee saying that he’d prefer to be the one keeping an eye on them and making sure they didn’t shoot an air bubble into their veins to kill themselves and felt justified in doing it himself.

It’s not an excuse, it’s a reason.

These are not defenses for being too loyal to people who haven’t shown the same loyalty; they’re explanations.

If people want to call McNamee names, “naive” is probably better than “sleazy” and “slimy”.

He thought these people were his friends. They weren’t.

Did Wally Matthews know this before calling him slimy? Or was it more convenient to his column to do so without doing any requisite research into the genesis of the case; less work to suggest that McNamee is the former Clemens flunky who’s now trying to save himself?

The answer is clear.

I have no clue what Andy Pettitte‘s motivations are; the “unnamed source” who’s “close to both men” doesn’t hold much water with me; Pettitte could be seriously considering retirement because of the trial, his family, because he doesn’t want to play or it might be a negotiating ploy to get more money.

We don’t know.

Suggesting it’s a fear of the Clemens trial is speculation at its height without basis or response from Pettitte.

When he makes his decision (and I think he’s going to pitch), we won’t get an answer to the question postulated by Matthews because if Pettitte were to say that he was retiring because of the Clemens trial, it would defeat the purpose of retiring to avoid the trial in the first place. It’s a suggestion in the wind that won’t ever be validated or denied.

And it’s a waste of time for any reason other than to get a column out of it.

Get your comments/emails in and if I get enough interesting stuff, I’ll do a whole posting dedicated to Viewer Mail tomorrow.

It’ll make my life easier.

Masters Of The Universe

Hot Stove

Pending physicals, the Rays have traded RHP Matt Garza, OF Fernando Perez and a player to be named later to the Cubs for RHP Chris Archer, OF Brandon Guyer, C Robinson Chirinos, SS Hak-Ju Lee and OF Sam Fuld.

This is a gutsy and smart move for the Rays to extract a large chunk of the Cubs system for a pitcher who was going to get a big raise in arbitration and has always been a temperamental “go this way or that way” type who might implode (he has before) on the mound if a 3-2 borderline pitch was called against him.

Would the Rays front office led by GM Andrew Friedman be this courageous if they were functioning in a crisis-a-day atmosphere like that in New York, Boston or Philadelphia?

Don’t automatically say yes because the mental adjustment and accounting for public reaction—i.e. ticket sales and sports talk radio—is not something to dismiss out of hand. Even those who partake in such ancillary concerns may not realize they’re doing it; it’s imperceptible and affecting as it seeps into the thought process before making a deal.

Teams like the Mets have historically allowed an expected reaction, positively or negatively, influence what they do—many times to club detriment.

The Rays are able to do things such as trading their number 2 starter, Garza, or allow big free agent Carl Crawford to leave without any fight at all (a fight in which they had no chance to win) and clear out the entire bullpen because they’re in a venue that doesn’t live and die with the Rays. Judging from the comparatively sparse attendance figures for such a good team, much of Tampa barely pays attention to them at all.

The Crawford case is indicative of this. Other clubs would’ve been compelled to make a perfunctory offer knowing that it would be refused. Not the Rays. They tried to sign Crawford to a team-friendly extension and were rebuffed; they accepted that they were losing him and moved on safe in the knowledge that they were getting draft picks and had Desmond Jennings to replace him.

While it would be nice for the Rays organization to get more recognition, the lack of attention has allowed them to build the team correctly and cut loose players of diminishing returns and higher cost to replenish the system.

The Rays do it right. Part of the reason they’re able to do it “right” isn’t that they have a bunch of former “Masters of the Universe” (quoting from The Bonfire of the Vanities) running the club—the arrogance inherent in such a vocation and statement isn’t unimportant as they think they can do anything and get away with it—but because they don’t have anyone picking at everything they do; such entities in the media have one eye on ratings; another eye on fan reaction; and a third eye on waiting and seeing how it works out before taking a stand.

As for the players involved in the deal, I can only go by the ones I’ve seen and the stats of the minor leaguers.

I like Garza a lot and said so in my posting on New Year’s Day:

Garza just turned 27, he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time and the Rays have been listening to trade offers for him; he’s got three years to go before free agency, but he’s undoubtedly looking for his payday before then. He’ll be motivated to have a big year.

Having gone 15-10 in 2010, he’s primed to win 18-20 this year. His strikeouts dropped by 39 from 2009-2010; his hits allowed increased; but his walks diminished drastically, so he may have been pitching to contact by design.

He’s ready to step forward.

The Rays were able to do this because of the aforementioned departures, diminished expectations, the retooling on the fly and that they have enough starting pitching depth to get by with what they have if James Shields rebounds and Jeff Niemann steps up. With David Price at the top of the rotation and youngsters Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson at the back end, the Rays will be okay without Garza.

For the Cubs, it’s a questionable move.

What are they?

They needed a starter—there’s no question about that. The offense is serviceable; the bullpen is serviceable; the starting rotation is rife with questions. Ryan Dempster has essentially proven over the last three years that he’s consistent and trustworthy; but Tom Gorzelanny? Randy Wells? Carlos Silva? And the wildest of wild cards, Carlos Zambrano?

What are they getting out of this group with Garza and Dempster?

It’s an absurd assertion that Zambrano’s blowup in August cleansed his palate and led the way to a terrific final month of the season; to see this is a portent of a maturation and finally fulfilling his limitless potential is a recipe for disaster. He’s flighty; he’s mercurial; and he’s by no means a guarantee for anything one way or the other.

As mentioned earlier, Garza’s not Mr. Congeniality either. New manager Mike Quade doesn’t tolerate garbage, so if Garza or Zambrano start acting up, they’ll hear about it; but that doesn’t eliminate the explosive combination of ingredients the Cubs have thrown into the pot.

They’re a veteran team with immovable contracts like that of Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano. The situation is untenable unless everything works out right. If Zambrano wins 18 games and Garza repeats his 2010 season, the Cubs will contend for a playoff spot; if not, they’re around a .500 team in a rough division. Trapped in that vacancy, the only saving grace for the Cubs is—as it’s always been—the loyalty of their fan base.

Maybe that’s part of the problem.

It was either try to win now or hang onto those prospects and know they were non-contenders in 2011. Time will tell if they did the right thing.

For the Rays, they extracted a lot from the Cubs.

Chris Archer is 22 and his minor league numbers are ridiculously good; he might be a contributor to the Rays out of the bullpen—much like Price was—late in the season if they’re in contention. And they might be contenders despite all the turnover.

Sam Fuld is a fallen prospect who put up good numbers in 2009 and slumped back to the minors in 2010; the Rays have shown a propensity of getting use from such players as they did with Gabe Gross.

I can only judge the others by their numbers.

Brandon Guyer is a soon-to-be 24-year-old outfielder with speed and pop; Robinson Chirinos is a 26-year-old catcher who bashed both Double and Triple A pitching in 2010 and can really throw from behind the plate (his caught-stealing percentages are impressive); and shortstop Hak-Ju Lee is a speedy, 20-year-old shortstop.

It’s clear the Cubs did this deal because they felt they had no choice if they wanted to be relevant at all in 2011.

The Rays are the exact opposite.

In general, teams that do deals because they think they “have” to make mistakes.

The Rays don’t make many mistakes.

Do the Cubs? You tell me.

Check ‘Ya Self

Hall Of Fame, Hot Stove
  • The NFL banned excessive celebrating for a reason:

The reason, I think, is that it starts fights. Mostly. But there are other cause-and-effect responses to one side or the other “winning” an argument; a game; a turf war and overdoing it with the taunting.

We saw the logical conclusion of the stat zombie “revolution” in Moneyball; and it’s going to start up again once the ridiculous—and altered—movie from the twisted bit of literary skills displayed by Michael Lewis in selling snake oil to the masses.

With every small victory (perceived or real), they’re emboldened to push a bit further, harder and with more false bravado from their afterglow of victory.

One such victory was getting Bert Blyleven elected to the Hall of Fame after his candidacy seemed dead early in the cycle.

To be fair, without the proliferation of stats and deeper analysis, Blyleven would’ve been left out completely; he’d have fallen from the ballot and treated with a Mike Francesa-like, “Bert Blyleven is not a Hall of Famuh!!!” as a dismissive end to any and all debate.

But such pomposity isn’t relegated to the Francesas of the world; it extends everywhere and that includes those who think that winning one round means winning a fight; that getting Blyelven elected will result in their way being taken as the template.

And it won’t.

Nor should it.

Like any religion or belief system, it has to be taken with nuance and put in the proper context.

Blyleven deserved to be inducted, so the zombies are justified in strutting for the time being. But, like with Moneyball, this too is going to reach it’s logical conclusion; since many of them run when confronted as individuals it’s going to cause the group dynamic to try and exert what will they have on those who see things differently and aren’t afraid to say so.

What we’ll see as this evolves is what we saw with Moneyball; there will be an attempt to take over the world with like-minded individuals. Like something out of George Orwell or the Twilight Zone, the mysterious “they” that generally makes up any supportive mass of humanity will rise and recede; only courageous enough to take a stand when they’re among their brethren, they’ll retreat to safety when faced alone.

Watch.

Tim Raines—a borderline Hall of Famer in my eyes—will be supported by the numbers. Well, I think Tim Raines was a fine player who has a legitimate case for enshrinement, but a slam dunk Hall member? No, he’s not. And I don’t care about the statistics suggesting he is.

Barry Larkin? We again get into the “if he’s in, then why isn’t he in?” with comparable players like Alan Trammell.

When debate is stifled by shouting of one group over another; when the excessive celebrating reaches the proportions as it did during the heady days following Moneyball (and degenerated into the predictable disaster soon to get worse), we all lose.

Just as those who relentlessly drove Blyleven’s Hall bonafides up until his election, do they truly want to have their “movement” stifle anyone who dares disagree with them on a player like Raines? For years, the stat zombies tried to keep Jim Rice and Andre Dawson from the Hall when they were deserving members. They failed. They claim that the inductions of Rice and Dawson diminish the quality of the Hall itself.

It doesn’t.

Much like the Blyleven election and the Raines support, I suppose there are viable and logical tenets upon which to base the disqualification of Rice and Dawson. That doesn’t make either side “right” like it’s a math equation.

This is the problem the stat obsessed encounters when coming to any of their conclusions: they think people can be boiled down to their statistical parts.

And they can’t.

  • Viewer Mail 1.7.2010:

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the Orioles:

For me, personally, watching the decline of the Orioles over the last decade has been a real downer. Growing up they were one of the most consistently awesome teams in the game. I have always had great respect for the “Oriole Way” and hope that that way is found again with these new additions. They can only go up from here… so that’s a good sign.

You’re a little younger than me, so you probably don’t remember what a disciplined, well-oiled machine they were under Earl Weaver. They and the Dodgers were the template of how to do it right—building a team correctly and winning consistently.

Buck Showalter will get them back, but it’s not going to be as fast as the burst over the last two months of 2010 suggested.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Hall of Fame:

I’m glad for Alomar and Blyleven. They deserved entry. What I’ll never understand about the HOF voting, though, is why someone doesn’t get in one year but gets in the next. Were they less worthy last time around? Or is there a message sent: “You’re good but not first ballot good?”

I disagree with many of the justifications certain voters use to explain themselves (if they’re at all competent in their baseball analysis to start with), but the first ballot is reserved for the no-brainers.

Tom Seaver, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle—players who even non-baseball fans know around the world fall into that category. Even players I support like Dawson and Rice didn’t warrant first ballot election.

To me, John Smoltz isn’t a first ballot member (he’s going to have to wait, I’ll guess, 3 years); while his Braves brethren Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine will walk in on the first ballot. And they should.

Matt at Diamondhacks writes RE Curt Schilling:

“Unlike Blyleven, [Schilling’s] a guy who’s going to lose support the more he talks.”

I laughed, because it’s true.

I’ll see your laugh and raise it with a near-spitting out of my water when I read the opening of your latest posting:

Jeff Bagwell, a decent minor leaguer with a future in bodybuilding, who eventually hit 449 MLB homers, didn’t enter the Hall of Fame on his first try.”

Future in bodybuilding!!!!

Humanity And The Hall Of Fame

Hall Of Fame

Before anything else, I went into Bert Blyleven‘s Hall of Fame candidacy in painstaking detail almost a year ago to this day—Prince of NY Baseball Blog, 1.9.2010.

Having nothing to do with his politicking and pressuring the voters to induct him; nor his iffy win totals, Blyleven was up there with the great pitchers of his day in everything but winning percentage; he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

It’s interesting to note that Blyleven’s support was almost non-existent until the new metrics and proliferation of stat friendly writers and bloggers began pushing him so aggressively. As more stat people were allowed to vote and present their case to those that in prior years weren’t receptive to Blyleven, many slowly had their minds changed to vote yes.

With Felix Hernandez going 13-12 and (deservedly) winning the Cy Young Award a year after Tim Lincecum won the award with a less-flashy winning percentage and ERA than Chris Carpenter and a lower win total than Adam Wainwright, the numbers are having a profound affect on the post-season awards and the Hall of Fame.

Will this continue as Curt Schilling—a loud proponent of the candidacy of…Curt Schilling—gets ready for his career to be put to the ultimate test in two years?

Blyleven’s consistent harping on his own worthiness clearly had a positive influence on some of the voters; but Blyleven was well-liked in his day as a team clown; Schilling was respected on the field, but loved hearing the sound of his own voice and playing up his team-oriented nature and “gutsy” performances exemplified by the bloody sock in the 2004 ALCS.

Are Schilling’s credentials better than those of Kevin Brown? Brown was loathed by the media because he made their lives difficult— seemingly on purpose—but was gutty in his own right; his intensity to win and discomfort with the media caused many of his problems. Should he be seen in a less flattering light than Schilling because of that?

Brown was better than Schilling in the regular season—people don’t realize how good Brown really was because of his injuries and bad press; Schilling was lights out in the post-season. Along with Bob Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Dave Stewart to name three, there aren’t many pitchers you’d rather have on the mound in a make-or-break post-season game than Curt Schilling.

You didn’t see Brown schmoozing and cajoling to get his due in the HOF balloting.

Schilling?

Put it this way: people like Blyleven personally and got tired of hearing him whine; Schilling is the epitome of polarizing; he was a great pitcher who put up big post-season numbers; he’s done some incredibly nice things with his time and money in terms of charity; and he’s a relentless self-promoter who casts himself as a representative of conservative causes with his hand over his heart and waving of the American flag as if that’s the definition of right in the world regardless of context.

I truly don’t know what’s going to happen with Schilling, but I doubt he’ll get in on the first ballot and the longer he waits, the less likely he is to keep his mouth shut. Unlike Blyleven, he’s a guy who’s going to lose support the more he talks.

Regarding the other candidates, I think Barry Larkin and Tim Raines should wait a while (maybe a long while) before meriting serious consideration; that Jack Morris is a Hall of Famer; that Fred McGriff is a Hall of Famer; Edgar Martinez and Alan Trammell deserve more support; and if Blyleven’s in, then Tommy John should be in. In fact, John has a better case than Blyleven in my eyes for the combination of success on the field and that he revolutionized the game by undergoing the surgery that’s saved scores of careers, is so commonplace that it’s no longer a pitcher’s death sentence and now bears his name—a name that many mentioning it don’t realize belongs to a pitcher who won 288 games.

Roberto Alomar also deserves his election to the Hall for his on-field accomplishments. He was a great fielder; an excellent, all-around hitter; a terrific baserunner; and a clutch player. He also fell off the planet in his numbers at a young age and his career was sullied by the incident while playing for the Orioles in which he spat in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck during an argument.

Then there were the PED cases Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro; the “lumped in with the offenders” types like Jeff Bagwell; and the “ballpark question from playing in Coors Field” of Larry Walker.

McGwire and Palmeiro aren’t getting in. Ever.

I don’t know about Bagwell and Walker; fairly or not, I’d say on January 6th, 2011, that I doubt either will be enshrined.

Here’s the point: are McGwire and Palmeiro being punished because of the judgments of people without a clear cut series of rules that govern how they vote? And where does this judgment begin and end?

Since the PED issues with McGwire and Palmeiro are going to prevent them from ever receiving any kind of support, does that equate with the off-field allegations about Roberto Alomar?

People have been reluctant to discuss this, but what of the continued accusations from Alomar’s former girlfriends and his ex-wife of having unprotected sex with them while knowing he’s HIV-positive?

As much as people try to claim a separation of on-and-off field behaviors in casting ballots, which is worse? A player doing what a large percentage of his contemporaries were doing during the so-called “steroid era” and putting up massive numbers? Or going beyond the scope of humanity with a repulsive selfishness as Alomar is accused of doing in his romantic life?

You can claim there to be no connection to the Hall of Fame with the allegations against Alomar and I’ll agree with you; but to equate someone using steroids to the devaluation of one’s humanity in taking another person’s long term health as nothing to be concerned about—as Alomar is repeatedly alleged to have done—is a greater level of moral repugnance than any drug use could ever be whether it’s recreational or performance enhancing.

Alomar and his representatives “kinda-sorta” deny he has HIV, but if you read between the lines, it’s not a denial. It’s parsing.

Only he knows if he’s been behaving this way and possibly infecting lovers with a dreaded disease, but if it became publicly known to be true, would that seep into the voters’ minds?

As much as it’s suggested that players’ personalities and off-field tendencies have nothing to do with their careers, how long did Jim Rice have to wait for induction based more on his prickly relationship with the media than the proffered reasons for keeping him out?

The people who dealt with a borderline candidate like Brown aren’t going to be as supportive as the prototypical “blogger in the basement” who had no reason to dislike him and is simply looking at the numbers.

On the same token, Dale Murphy was considered one of the nicest, most decent men to ever put on a baseball uniform; he has a somewhat legitimate candidacy for HOF consideration, but has never come close; nor will he.

The spitting incident with Hirschbeck was said to be a major reason Alomar didn’t get in on the first ballot; but what if it was revealed that yes, he’s been putting people with whom he had intimate relations at risk due to his own denials and insistence to not practice safe sex? Would that cause anyone to hesitate?

As long as there are no clear cut criteria and people like Blyleven get results from a propaganda tour and outside support that grows exponentially, it’s not something to dismiss.

It’s a hard question to answer and I’d have to think very seriously before casting my vote for or against someone if that were the case.

Silent And Achy

Hot Stove
  • As opposed to “silent and deadly”…

Teams have made acquisitions that aren’t earth-shattering; nor are they the final piece in a championship puzzle; but as a means-to-an-end, they’re not all that bad when put into full context.

In short, they’re like a pinch or a pinprick—it hurts, but not a lot and if you have a bunch of them, you slowly start to feel the effects.

Let’s have a look.

Don’t laugh.

Orioles sign 1B Derrek Lee to a 1-year contract; RHP Kevin Gregg to a 2-year contract; acquire SS J.J. Hardy and 3B Mark Reynolds in trades.

No, the Orioles have no chance of competing in the American League East; in fact, they have little chance—Buck Showalter or not—to escape the cellar in the division; but these acquisitions at low cost will make the team viable again.

The combination of Showalter’s regime, discipline and organization and the leadership of Lee and Reynolds will make the clubhouse more agreeable.

Gregg is what he is; he has trouble throwing strikes and gives up too many homers, but for the most part, he’ll get the saves; they’ll be of the heart-stopping variety, but he’ll close the games out. Mostly.

Showalter prefers having lesser name closers so he doesn’t have to answer questions about why he doesn’t adhere to the “he’s the guy no matter what” nonsense that managers use as their security blanket to absolve themselves from thinking in the ninth inning.

Both Mike Gonzalez and Gregg will be competent at the back of the bullpen and, worst case scenario, they have trade value as the season moves along.

I’m a fan of neither Hardy nor Reynolds, but considering what they’re replacing, both are giant steps up and the Orioles didn’t give up much to get either.

You can’t reel in the big fish until there’s stability; the new manager and players will bring that stability to a once-storied franchise that has been rudderless for far too long.

Mets sign LHP Chris Capuano and RHP Taylor Buchholz to 1-year contracts.

The Mets are desperate for pitching and while this can be seen as flinging darts at a dartboard while wearing a blindfold, it’s a win-win with both pitchers.

Capuano went 18-12 in 2005 and 11-12 in 2006. In both years, he pitched pretty much identically. He pitched similarly through July in 2007 and then started getting raked all over the lot.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2008, he missed the entire 2008-2009 seasons and pitched respectably in 2010 as a starter and reliever; he was very good in the minors on the way back up to the bigs.

If the Mets can get something close to what Capuano was from 2005 through the first half of 2007, they’ll be thrilled.

Buchholz also had Tommy John surgery and it cost him the entire 2009 season; he pitched briefly for the Rockies and Blue Jays in 2010. While he was mediocre as a starting pitcher with the Astros in 2006, he found his niche as a reliever with the Rockies in 2008.

The epitome of the failed starter who makes his way as a relief pitcher, Buchholz was excellent in 63 games for the Rockies that year. He’s got a good fastball and a great curveball; his stuff appeared to translate better going once through the lineup; he’s on a non-guaranteed contract and is a fine representative of how to properly build a bullpen by finding scraps, signing them cheaply, using them, maximizing them and dispatching them when they grow too pricey.

These are both good signings.

Blue Jays sign RHP Octavio Dotel to a 1-year contract.

Dotel’s about as good (or bad) as Kevin Gregg; the Blue Jays got 37 saves from Gregg last year and now they’re taking a similar approach by signing Dotel.

Dotel gives up too many homers, but his strikeout numbers are still better than one-per-inning and, again in the worst case scenario, someone always seems to want him in a trade to bolster their bullpen late in the season; hypothetically the Blue Jays could get something for him if he’s pitching well.

Much like the Orioles, the Blue Jays are building for the future; they’re a year ahead in their development and the club is teeming with pitching; Dotel’s a stopgap; everyone knows that, but there are worse ones out there; plus he’s cheap.

  • Viewer Mail 1.5.2010:

Dave writes RE the NESN column—2011 Red Sox Will Challenge 1927 Yankees for Title of Greatest Team in Major League History:

Articles like these are actually going to make people root for the underdog Yankees in the AL East. As messed up as that sounds. If the Yankees don’t sign Pettitte, they will even have a lower payroll than Boston. Strange days.

I’m certainly not rooting for the Yankees, but I understand what you’re saying. Much like the Jack Zduriencik double-dealing in the trade for Cliff Lee, there were head shakes at what he did because it was wrong and shrugs because it was the Yankees to whom he did it. Sometimes the lesser of two evils is difficult to distinguish, so it’s best to steer clear and watch it happen with rampant disinterest.

That said, when it came from the Yankees, it was this type of arrogance that provoked Red Sox fans for all those years. This ridiculous column wasn’t coming from the Red Sox themselves, but many of their players—Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Kevin Youkilis, Jonathan Papelbon—aren’t exactly likable and this will fuel the implication of smugness and condescension from the organization.

It’s not the beaten down and abused Red Sox against the Evil Empire anymore.

Joe writes RE the Rangers, Adrian Beltre and Michael Young:

I actually suggested a while back that Young could be moved to first if they were to sign Beltre. Because the reality is, the Rangers 1st baseman were awful last year.  Maybe Chris Davis learns how to hit this year?  Maybe. But letting him figure it all out in the Minors is a better idea, seeing how they can’t really risk him being horrendous while they are fielding a competitive Big League team.  Young is being paid regardless, so they might as well use him somewhere until all those positions are occupied by someone even better than Young is.

I can’t imagine Davis cutting his strikeouts to the point where he can be trusted to get 500 at bats, but he does have power. Mitch Moreland was competent in a part-time role; he’s also hit well in the minors.

I have never understood why people ridicule Young to the degree that they do. He delivers 180-200 hits a year; 60 extra base hits; and is a leader on and off the field. He’s not great defensively, but so what? He can play every infield position for the short-term in case of injury.

He’s making a lot of money ($48 million through 2013); his numbers are way better at home than they are on the road as most Rangers players tend to be, but the difference isn’t glaring as it is with some players.

In the short-term, the team is better with Young and Beltre; if they’re thinking of clearing the Young salary for some pitching, they could conceivably do that as well.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Jon Miller, Vladimir Guerrero and the Rangers:

I’m gonna miss Jon Miller on Sunday nights. But I digress….Why wouldn’t the Rangers re-sign Vlad? He had such a good year for them and I’d be willing to bet he’s not asking for the moon. Why do they even need Beltre with Young at 3rd?

Guerrero had a great year and he, like Young, showed he could hit at home and on the road; he’s probably not going to settle for a 1-year, incentive-laden deal again after the year he had, at least not to go back to the Rangers. I think you’re right; his leadership and watchful eye over the young Latin players (along with Vlad’s mother doing the cooking) was a major part of their success this year. I’d be reluctant to dismiss that as meaningless especially with such a weak manager in Ron Washington.

Young is a far inferior fielder to Beltre and Beltre would hit in Arlington.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE pro wrestling, Scott Boras and Michael Young:

Oooooooooooooooooh yeah, brother! *Snaps into a Slim Jim*

Ask me if I feel sorry for Michael Young and his $16 million a year. I WISH I had such hard times at the office.

Scratching my head on the Rangers/Beltre thing, for the same reasons you are… I think they’d be better off saving that money til mid-season, to see where they are, and maybe go out and make some noise then.

Michael Kay and Scott Boras doing a pro rasslin’ interview with Jayson Werth strutting around in the background and primping like Ric Flair would get me to watch.

Bel–Tray To The Ran–Gers?

Hot Stove
  • Thinking and re-thinking:

For the uninitiated, the title of the posting is a play on the Jon Miller insistence in pronouncing the names of the likes of Adrian Beltre and Carlos Beltran “correctly” with the emphasis on Bel–TRAY and Bel—TRAN.

It’s funny.

In the inflection of William Shatner: “Ha……HA!”

Now to serious matters.

When the story about the Rangers possibly signing Adrian Beltre, I was dubious but for a few conditions.

One, what were they going to do with Michael Young?

Two, given his history of big years prior to free agency, can they trust Beltre to come close to the production he gave the Red Sox in 2010?

Three, is this a maneuver to make-up for the loss of Cliff Lee and spend that money they had lying around rather than to shore up a hole that didn’t exist or would signing Beltre really help them?

The Young situation isn’t as much of an issue as it would appear on the surface. As tired as the team leader, Young, apparently is of switching positions, what choice does he have? That the Rangers “approached” Young about moving (again) is irrelevant; what’s he going to do about it?

As ludicrous as I found the assertions from two years ago that Young, as an employee, had no right to be irritated about the change from shortstop to third base, it’s somewhat factual that he has nothing to say about it. It was a gesture that the Rangers even consulted with him in the first place. Now if they sign Beltre, Young’s either going to be a DH or perhaps shift to first base or the outfield.

Young’s contract pays him $16 million annually through 2013—it’s hard to move unless they took back a similarly bad contract like A.J. Burnett, Barry Zito or Carlos Zambrano; the Rangers trading Young for pitching is not out of the question, but even if they don’t, the signing of Beltre, shifting Young to DH and allowing Vladimir Guerrero to leave is financially reasonable enough…if they can trust Beltre to perform close to his free agent-year level at the plate.

Can they trust Beltre to perform up to his free agent year level at the plate?

I say probably not, but he’ll hit in Texas.

Beltre put up massive numbers in two of his seasons prior to becoming a free agent. In 2004 he hit 48 homers and batted .334 for the Dodgers; in 2010, he was an MVP candidate on and off the field for the Red Sox.

While he struggled in Seattle, part of that was due to the pitcher-generous dimensions of Safeco Field. He’s always hit well in Texas’s hitter-friendly park (.857 OPS in 229 career plate appearances) and his fielding is among the best in baseball at his position.

Presumably the Rangers would have to surpass the contract offer Beltre received from the Athletics that was said to be worth $64 million over 5 years; Beltre isn’t young anymore (he’ll be 32 in April), so they’ll have to trust he’ll be healthy and productive into his late-30s—not all that big a risk; with Beltre hitting in that ballpark and the improved defense on the left side of the infield, the combination of the Gold Glove-winner Beltre with Elvis Andrus at short would help the pitching staff greatly.

As for the idea that it’s a post-Lee desperation move, I don’t see this as a “let’s sign that guy then” to account for the loss of Lee. The Rangers have proven to be very intelligent and calculating with Jon Daniels as the GM; they’d lament the loss of Guerrero (my speculation: watch him go back to the Angels), but if that’s the price of signing Beltre, so be it; their offense wouldn’t suffer and they’d have a superior defense.

I thought it was a bad idea when it was reported to be “close”—ESPN Story, grain of salt—but overall, it’s not much of a gamble when assessing all the factors; in fact, in all areas Beltre is a good fit for the American League champion Rangers because he’s a good clubhouse guy and would perform on the field.

  • “Listen up ‘ya pencil necked geeks!!”

When I was a kid, I used to be a pro wrestling fan. That was before it became so repulsive that it’s not suitable for children. But I had a flashback when I read the following ESPN teaser headline: MLBPA finds no rule-breaking by Boras.

Who among us that remember wrestling in the 1980s and 90s couldn’t picture Scott Boras as a rule-breaking manager; a Bobby “The Brain” Heenan type who interfered in matches; hit people over the head with his binders of accomplishments he totes around to extract every single penny he can in service of his clients; screamed at and threatened the fans; and stood during interviews screaming at the camera (I could see Michael Kay as the play-by-play man and interviewer) and doing the pro wrestling manager thing?

If ever there was a “rule-breaker” manager, it’s Scott Boras. And he’d probably relish the role as villain—he plays it perfectly and I don’t think it’s an act.

Rule-breaker or not, Boras deserves credit for one thing: He gets his clients paid.

And that’s his job.

You heard it right here, brother…

Managerial Torture Device

Hot Stove
  • The hotseat is almost empty:

I’m an advocate of using power and weapons when they’re available, otherwise what’s the point?

This isn’t a capricious suggestion to bully or abuse those that are weaker, but a logical and organized strategy to achieve one’s ends. It only makes sense to make use of everything available to succeed.

That said, the managerial hotseat—a look at baseball bosses in uniforms and suits—who might be in trouble is always fodder for an interesting bit of speculation.

But what happens when there’s a bloodletting in a prior year? When a spate of managers and executives who were accurately judged to have been on notice that their jobs were in jeopardy and have been replaced or survived?

Obviously, the new people taking over aren’t going to be fired unless they commit some heinous act off the field or they’re presiding over a disaster. We’ve seen this twice in recent weeks as the University of Pittsburgh fired their newly hired head football coach Mike Haywood after a domestic violence arrest—Sporting News Story; and the New Jersey Devils fired their first year head coach John MacLean after an atrocious start for a consistently successful franchise—NBC Sports.

If you look at the usual suspects or teams that had issues a year ago, all have been resolved. The Mets, Cubs, Orioles, Yankees, Royals, Reds and others have settled their situations with contract extensions or new hires. The Rangers aren’t firing Ron Washington the year after he won the pennant; the Diamondbacks new GM Kevin Towers kept Kirk Gibson, so presumably, he’s safe. Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland are both in the final years of their contracts, so if things go badly for the free-spending Tigers, I suppose there could be changes made, but owner Mike Ilich is very loyal and doesn’t fire people for the sake of it; if a change is made, it wouldn’t be until the end of the season and I doubt it’s going to happen anyway because the Tigers are going to be good.

That said, there are a few baseball people starting the season in trouble or could be in trouble if circumstances are right (or, for them, wrong).

Could there be certain people in jeopardy? Maybe?

Let’s see.

Ozzie Guillen, MGR—Chicago White Sox

“What you see here, what you say here, what you hear here, let it stay here when you leave here.”

For time immemorial, this has been a mantra amongst team personnel. Some even have signs up in the clubhouse/locker room to hammer home the point in some similarly phrased context that essentially means, “keep your mouth shut”.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen’s son Oney either hasn’t gotten the memo or doesn’t care.

Judging from this ESPN Story regarding Oney’s Twitter revelations about Bobby Jenks and GM Ken Williams‘s response, Ozzie has to pull the reins on his son if he wants to have any kind of relationship with his boss; if he’d like to remain as the White Sox manager past this season…or even last the season if the team underachieves.

Ozzie can claim that he doesn’t have control over anything Oney does, but this is about the Ozzie’s job; it’s about the clubhouse and that which should not be out in the public sphere.

This is the responsibility of Ozzie Guillen and it’s undermining his job in a myriad of ways. There’s been controversy and conflict with the White Sox since Ozzie took over—they seem to cultivate it—but this is different.

I’ve wondered about Ozzie’s job security before but the club has never appeared to come close to pulling the trigger. This past winter, they were willing to let him leave to take over the Marlins if the two clubs could come to an agreement on compensation. His contract is up at the end of the year with an option for 2012. Ozzie’s a fine manager and an interesting guy; I fully expect him to be managing the White Sox for this season and in the future, but eventually it’s going to get to a point where enough’s enough.

He needs to tell his son to control his keyboard.

Jack Zduriencik, GM—Seattle Mariners

Ah, the fleeting nature of “genius”.

A year ago, Zduriencik was the toast of baseball having “turned around” the Mariners from the 100-loss, dysfunctional nightmare they were in the final year of Bill Bavasi as GM; he and manager Don Wakamatsu led the Mariners—through pitching, defense, aggressiveness and stat zombieing—to a surprising 85 wins in 2009.

The reality though wasn’t as simple as competent management coming in and straightening out the mess. The 2008 Mariners weren’t 100-loss bad—injuries sabotaged them. Were they as good as some (myself included) suggested they’d be? Good to the point of contention? No. Were they a team that would’ve been that bad had they been healthy and gotten expected performances from the likes of Carlos Silva and Erik Bedard? No chance.

On the same token, the Mariners would’ve had to have everything work as well in 2010 as it did in 2009 for them to achieve the heights that were implied from the “genius” of GM Jack Zduriencik.

They didn’t.

Cliff Lee‘s acquisition and Felix Hernandez‘s Cy Young Award-winning year didn’t help what might have been the worst offense I’ve ever seen in all my years of watching baseball. To make matters worse, there were the off-field controversies to make the team look like a zoo.

Ken Griffey Jr‘s alleged mid-game nap; Chone Figgins‘s confrontation with manager Wakamatsu; the way Zduriencik appeared to double-cross the Yankees to extract more from the Rangers in trading Lee; the acquisition of the criminally charged Josh Lueke; and the firing of Wakamatsu was an unfair sacrifice for Zduriencik’s own failures have all contributed to the declining reputation.

He was retained, but I have to believe that the Mariners front office seriously considered making a change. A good manager who won’t put up with garbage was hired in Eric Wedge, but the team isn’t good and unless they behave themselves and, at the very least, play competently, Zduriencik will be in trouble sooner rather than later.

Genius, huh?

Don Mattingly, MGR—Los Angeles Dodgers; Edwin Rodriguez, MGR—Florida Marlins

I think of one thing when I look at the first year manager Mattingly and the 1-year contract of Rodriguez—Tony Perez.

Tony Perez was hired to manager the Cincinnati Reds by GM Jim Bowden in 1993; the team was floundering after high expectations and, after a 20-24 start, Bowden fired the inexperienced Perez and replaced him with Davey Johnson. Bowden suggested he wasn’t happy with the moves Perez was making, but there were also allegations that Perez was only hired for his Reds ties and to take the heat off of owner Marge Schott after her racially-offensive statements were revealed.

Regardless, Perez was treated shabbily.

With Mattingly and Rodriguez, could something similar happen if their teams’ seasons are going down the tubes?

Mattingly has no managerial experience and a good, veteran Dodgers team. I think he’ll do well given his baseball intelligence, affability and that the veteran players won’t want to let Donnie Baseball down. But a bad start in a tough division exacerbated by managerial gaffes? Who knows? There’s always a “quick-fix” veteran type manager like Jim Fregosi floating around who’d love a short-term job with veterans the type which the Dodgers have; and don’t even dismiss Joe Torre coming back if he’s told Donnie’s gone whether he takes the job or not.

With Rodriguez, there was an air of “oh, whatever, let’s just keep the guy we’ve got and see what happens”. The Marlins again flirted with Bobby Valentine; they openly tried to get Ozzie Guillen; Rodriguez did a good job after taking over for Fredi Gonzalez last year and is getting his shot, but the Marlins have a couple of factors that might make a quick move possible: they have talent, high expectations and a petulant owner who makes rapid-fire, emotional decisions.

If the Marlins are 17-23 after 40 games don’t—do…..not—be surprised to see Bobby Valentine managing that team in June.

I’m saying it now.

Remember it.

  • Viewer Mail 1.3.2011:

Joe writes RE Daisuke Matsuzaka:

Yes, Dice-K is not the best #5 ever.  But being “disappointing” and being “bad” are different. He is still a decent pitcher. And certainly an above-average #5 in this day and age.

He’s not a decent pitcher and I suspect you wouldn’t say he was if he were wearing a uniform other than that of the Red Sox. For every great start he provides in which he throws 8 no-hit innings, he’s awful in about four others.

If you factor in the posting money and his contract, the Red Sox paid $100+ million for him and he’s been—on the whole—mediocre at best; then you look at his attitude and complaining, that he’s a wild, back-of-the-rotation starter and you have a lot of money wasted. If Matsuzaka deserves credit for anything, it’s that they signed Hideki Okajima ostensibly because he was lefty and Matsuzaka’s friend (not necessarily in that order) and got a very good reliever.

It doesn’t matter much because the Red Sox are so good, but they’d love to be rid of Matsuzaka and plug in someone cheaper and better; and that they could easily find someone cheaper and better is a reflection on Matsuzaka more than anything else.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the NESN column comparing the Red Sox to the 1927 Yankees and Dice-K:

Thanks for the laugh, which is what I did when I read that NESN headline (and story). My friend, a Red Sox fan, said to me the other day, in reference to Dice K:
“I eat my liver every time I have to watch him pitch.” The whole thing is ridiculous on so many levels.

Does he have his liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti? Might as well make it elegant.

And Jane’s posting today—Those Red Sox People Are So Amusing—is reason number 9,897 that I worship Jane Heller—she gave me a shout out!!

Kyle Johnson writes RE Terry Francona:

Interesting to see you listed Joe Torre as a better manager than Terry Francona. Any particular reasoning behind that?

I like Francona as a manager, but the assertion that he’s the “best” manager in baseball? I don’t think so.

To me, the title of “best” should go to someone who makes a significant difference in the team’s fortunes through sheer force of will. Tony La Russa is one such manager.

As successful and well-liked as Francona has been with the Red Sox, I don’t see him as a difference-maker for a bad team. He had a terrible team with the Phillies and the results were predictably terrible. He’s had a very good team with the Red Sox and has won two championships.

The other managers I mentioned had a longer experience and less of a cocoon in which to manage. In his final years as a manager, Torre’s reputation was such that the players seemed to be thinking, “well, we’re supposed to make the playoffs” and would turn it on until they did make the playoffs. Vince Lombardi had that.

Francona is still an implementer of front office edicts. He does as he’s told. He’s entrenched now, but that doesn’t alter the perception that other managers could and would win with that roster. The ancillary aspects of the job in Boston—handling the media, knowing his place and making mostly good strategic maneuvers—don’t eliminate this truth that he was hired to placate Curt Schilling and to follow the orders of the front office that Grady Little didn’t.

He’s a good manager; it’s worked, but only partially because of Francona.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the NESN column:

This is the sorta thing that keeps me going as a writer. I mean, it’s just more proof that you can make a living writing crap.

Either that, or by doing what one’s told in terms of content. Maybe there was an editorial demand to come up with something so over-the-top that it elicited this kind of response.

It’s aggravating when we’re putting out quality stuff and this type of nonsense is treated as credible on a supposed entity for sports “news” like NESN.

Matt at Diamondhacks writes RE the 2011 Red Sox vs the 1927 Yankees:

I dont know how many games the Red Sox will win,  but the 1927 Yankees outscored opponents by 376 runs.  Today’s equivalent run differential, with the addtl eight games, amounts to 395.

The Red Sox, strong as they appear, wont come close to that:

1998 Yankees 114 wins…..+309 runs
2001 Mariners  116 wins….+300 runs
1975 Reds 108 wins…. +254 runs

You mean the numbers back up my rant?

I’m not sure how to deal with this. Like Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, I’m just a caveman and your numbers frighten and confuse me.

Multi-Level Ridiculous

Hot Stove

This could be a duplex, triplex, quadriplex or multiplex.

Or more.

If you haven’t seen it, I’m of course talking about this, um, hyperbolic (let’s be generous) assessment of the 2011 Red Sox—2011 Red Sox Will Challenge 1927 Yankees for Title of Greatest Team in Major League History.

The title is bad enough. It inspires thoughts of Don LaPre with his “Greatest Vitamin in the World”; of Kevin Trudeau and his mysterious “they” who are out to get you, persecute you and destroy your life; of Sean Hannity and his “the hair does look different” when buying into the Elian Gonzalez haircut/faux photograph conspiracy theories during that mess in the year 2000 after the Cuban boy was rightfully reunited with his father.

You could equate this with anyone from the left, right, center, commercial, financial, PR, tabloid or whatever.

Written by Eric Ortiz, a few things about him and his column become clear: contrary to popular notion, the fluctuating concept of intelligence implied by graduating from Stanford doesn’t automatically equal a deep baseball knowledge of history and reality; he has nearly no objectivity nor encompassing knowledge in what he’s talking about; and I’m getting the idea that NESN has a Michael Kay of their very own functioning in a world of make believe.

And that’s before getting into the actual content.

Enthusiasm is one thing. Derangement is another.

The 2011 Red Sox and the 1927 Yankees?

Really?

Ortiz is making this comparison in January?

Good grief.

Let’s do this and let’s do it in an organized fashion.

Hold on tight.

The off-season “champion” doesn’t matter much.

Going back years, we’ve seen teams that were the “champions” of the off-season start the year with outrageous expectations and flame out almost immediately, the holes they failed to fill too gaping to cover by headline-making acquisitions.

How many times did George Steinbrenner sign the big free agent (or three) and watch as his meddling and failure to adequately address the necessary ancillary pieces in building a club cause his team to underachieve? It happened on an annual basis in the 1980s and was even more pronounced directly following the 1996-2000 dynasty as the dismantling of the cohesive unit was exacerbated by the losing mercenaries he brought in.

The Mets, under both Steve Phillips and Omar Minaya, would draw attention to themselves by making drastic alterations only to have dysfunction and mismanagement sabotage them to the point of embarrassment.

It’s happened with stat zombie teams as well—the Mariners and Athletics in recent years.

And, guess what? It’s happened with the Red Sox. Picked to be a World Series winner last season because of the signings of John Lackey, Mike Cameron, Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro, the club stumbled with the new “defense-first” strategy early in the year and were derailed by injuries, poor performance by important pieces and two teams in their division that were healthier and better in the Yankees and Rays.

I love the decisions the Red Sox have made this winter; I think they’re the best team in the American League, but that makes little difference once the games start. The off-season champion is often standing on the outside looking in and wondering what went wrong with their master plan.

The 1927 Yankees? Did he do any research before coming to this conclusion?

Comparing eras—especially eras from nearly 100 years ago—is impossible and a colossal waste of time and energy. But looking at the differences between the 1927 Yankees and the Red Sox, along with the other clubs mentioned in the piece as examples of the “best” ever are helpful in detonating the foundation of Ortiz’s piece from the ground up.

The game was totally different then. There were only eight teams in the American League; the ball was dead; the crisis-a-day media wasn’t hovering waiting to post a blog, tweet or go bonkers on a radio show in dictating the decline and fall of the club after a 3-game losing streak; Babe Ruth, if he were playing today and behaved as he did then, would rival Kim Kardashian in the gossip pages; and expectations weren’t prefaced by a suggestion of such dubious magnitude that this is a team that will rival one of the best in history.

The 1927 Yankees had a Hall of Fame manager (Miller Huggins); and Hall of Famers at 1st base (Lou Gehrig); 2nd base (Tony Lazzeri); two HOF outfielders (Earl Combs and Ruth); and HOF pitchers Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock.

How many future Hall of Famers do these Red Sox have? Potentially, there’s Kevin Youkilis and Jon Lester. Maybe. Dustin Pedroia? I suppose winning the Rookie of the Year and the MVP in his first two seasons give him a good start, but Fred Lynn won both in the same year with the Red Sox and became a very good journeyman player, not what he was expected to be after the start to his career.

The competition in 1927 wasn’t anywhere close to what it is today. The game was based on speed and inside baseball. When you look at those Yankees, led by Ruth (60 homers) and Gehrig (47 homers) and examine the league leaders from that season, you see that while that duo combined for 107 homers by themselves, the next highest total in the American League was Lazzeri with 18; after that, you had Ken Williams with 17; Al Simmons with 15; Harry Heilmann with 14.

Who could compete with that kind of power? Was there anyone in that era—in which the game was still evolving—that could handle a 1-0 lead in the seventh inning with Ruth and Gehrig due to hit and a tired starting pitcher who wasn’t coming out of the game for a fresh arm?

Those Yankees could pitch and they played good defense; but it wouldn’t have made much of a difference if their pitching was slightly subpar; if their defense was a bit shoddy. This is because they battered pitchers into submission!!!

The 1927 Yankees scored 131 more runs than the next highest scoring club in baseball, the Detroit Tigers.

Who could compete with that?

The 2011 Red Sox? They’re going to score a lot of runs; they’ve got great pitching; they’re built to win now and have all the attributes that Ortiz mentions—on base skills, power, speed, great defense—but can injuries be accounted for? Can the other teams in the American League who are also very good and/or have money and prospects to make drastic improvements at mid-season be so easily dismissed to the point of thinking this Red Sox team is going to compete with the 1927 Yankees?

“Dice-K might be the best no. 5 starter ever”.

What?!?

Has Ortiz ever watched Daisuke Matsuzaka pitch? And if he has, would he know what he was looking at to begin with?

I would expect such similar nonsense from a fan blog or the aforementioned Michael Kay. This is what passes for analysis?

It would be one thing if he were simply writing the best-case scenario and going over-the-top, but the way this is presented it’s as if Ortiz has never watched a baseball game in his life and has neither the statistical nor in-the-trenches knowledge to comprehend anything about baseball—the future or the past.

“Dice-K might be the best no. 5 starter ever”?!?

Um, okay.

Off the top of my head, here are a couple of problems with this suggestion: One, teams have only used a regular number 5 starter going back to the late 70s, early 80s; before that, they used a swingman/extra guy to take the start when they wanted to cut back on the workload of the main men.

Two, the best number 5 starter idea is demolished by Daisuke Matsuzaka not being any good and that the teams who accumulated big win totals with deep starting rotations had starters who were far superior to Matsuzaka.

A quick search of teams had superior number 5 starters (in no particular order) like the 2002 Yankees (Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens, David Wells, Orlando Hernandez, Andy Pettitte and an extra guy named Ted Lilly); the 1998 Braves (Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Kevin Millwood and Denny Neagle); the 2005 Cardinals (Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder, Matt Morris, Jason Marquis and Jeff Suppan); and the 1988 Mets (Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, David Cone, Sid Fernandez and Bob Ojeda).

There are others you could dig through and find a better number 5 starter. Oh, and none of those teams won the World Series. Not one.

All due respect to Terry Francona, those teams were managed by men who were better managers than he—Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Davey Johnson.

Finally, we get to Daisuke Matsuzaka himself.

He’s not any good.

You can parse his 2008 season any way you want, but he’s been a disappointment on and off the field and has progressively gotten worse as teams have learned to wait for him to walk them. He’s been injury-prone, selfish, whiny and eminently hittable. Sprinkling in a near-no-hitter every once in a while does not a successful pitcher make. The wins he has accumulated stem more from having an excellent team behind him, complete with a deep bullpen to bail him out of trouble and win him games after he logs his usual 5 innings with 3 runs allowed (if he’s on his game).

Matsuzaka has been nowhere near worth the press, the money (posting and contractually), nor the hype. He’s been a better investment for the Red Sox than Kei Igawa was for the Yankees, but I’d have been a better investment for anyone than Igawa was for the Yankees.

The “best no. 5 starter ever”?

Yah.

Speaking of accumulating wins…

If the 2011 Red Sox win 117 games or 99, what’s the difference if they don’t meet the expectations that are apparent in such propaganda as written by Ortiz on NESN?

The 2001 Mariners are mentioned:

The 2001 Mariners won 116 regular-season games to set the American League record for most wins in a single season and tie the 1906 Cubs for the major league record (though the North Siders accomplished the feat in 152 games). Both those teams failed to win the World Series. The Cubs lost to the White Sox in six games in the Fall Classic. The Mariners didn’t even make it that far, falling to the Yankees in five games in the ALCS.

The Red Sox have no intention of suffering a similar fate. The way they are constructed, they could surpass the 116-win mark, but nothing less than a World Series title will make Boston happy.

Yes, I’m quite sure the Red Sox have no intention of suffering a similar fate. Whatever that’s worth.

What a win total has to do with anything is beyond me; much like expectations, they’re meaningless in practice. A fundamental lack of understanding of the nature of how teams win is the culprit in missing that reality.

The Big Red Machine of the 1970s were picked to win every year and it was said the Machine was equipped with a “choke” because they always lost until 1975-1976.

The Orioles of the 1970s were considered a similar disappointment as were the Dodgers. The Athletics and Mets of the 1980s were in this category as were the 116-win Mariners and the 1990s Indians and Braves. That the latter mentioned clubs kept running into the Yankees and losing is irrelevant—they lost.

You can’t quantify a number of wins as meaning anything. Those 2000 Yankees collapsed at the end of the season and turned it on for the playoffs; the 2006 Cardinals did the same. Both won the World Series.

The great Braves teams were never able to overcome the absence of a reliable, big time closer; no one in their right mind (or with the faintest clue about baseball) could look at that 2001 Mariners team and think they’re one of the “best” teams in history.

Those massive win totals are—many times—a confluence of events more than any teamwide “greatness”.

It doesn’t help that they lost.

The 1988 Mets and Athletics were “better” teams than the champion Dodgers, but the Dodgers had the hot pitcher (Orel Hershiser) and the magic (Kirk Gibson). Does anyone remember the Mets and A’s as anything other than underachievers that Hershiser single-handedly ripped to shreds?

As for the 1927 Yankees, by 1929, they were dethroned by a Connie Mack‘s masterfully built competing juggernaut Philadelphia Athletics. The Yankees team in 1929 was essentially unchanged from 1927. They too lost.

It happens more often than you’d think, but judging from the pants-changing excitement exemplified on NESN, you’d never know it.

Hubris makes for great sports moments.

Buster Douglas knocked out the “invincible” Mike Tyson.

The New York Giants beat the “unbeatable” New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

The United States hockey team defeated the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics.

It happens and it happens all the time. Many times it’s a byproduct of self-importance and arrogance; others it’s due to unfilled holes and factors that can’t be accounted for…especially in JANUARY!!!!

When idiotic fan blogs disguised as even-handed journalism like that which was written by Eric Ortiz on NESN begin popping up this early, it has a tendency to snowball; to create an atmosphere of loathing in the hopes that such a team—unbeatable, unstoppable, unbelievable—will lose.

Other clubs know the difference and if they try just that tiny bit harder just to stick it to those that view themselves so highly, upsets are inevitable.

With the tiered playoff system and short series, anything—anything—can and usually does happen.

This Red Sox team is terrific on paper; but they, like any other team, are not unbeatable, regardless of this bit of “journalism”. If this is an example of the hubris we’re going to see as the season wears on, I’m going to be among the number that hopes to see the team lose just to see this type of thing proven wrong not only because it’s arrogant and obnoxious garbage but because it’s an invitation to disaster.

Disaster has a way of finding those that dismiss it’s potential for wreaking havoc on the best-laid plans.

My suggestion to those that are buying into the hype is that they calm down because they’re asking for fate-related trouble. Big trouble.

Fate will find you.

It always does.