The Parting Of The Mets Sea

Free Agents, Media, Players, Spring Training

After six years in a Mets uniform as an accepted but not beloved member of the team, in one move Carlos Beltran has been absolved for his baseball-related sins.

At least that’s the over-the-top reaction to his “unselfish” decision to concede to age and injury and volunteer to move to right field.

But is this worthy of the laudatory love-fest that’s suddenly accompanying the mere mention of Carlos Beltran‘s name?

Beltran isn’t stupid. Regardless of whether or not he feels he can play center field anymore, he knows that this is a contract year and he has to play to get paid; if he thinks that playing right field will better serve that end, then he’ll play right field.

Is he being a team player? Only within the parameters of rational self-interest and there’s nothing wrong with that, but to treat it as a supreme self-sacrifice is going to the other end of the spectrum from those who blame Beltran for the way the Mets collapsed after his return last season and as far back as the strikeout against Adam Wainwright to end the 2006 NLCS.

I’ve said continuously that Beltran was not at fault for the strikeout; Wainwright threw a pitch that was literally unhittable; those that criticize Beltran for not swinging are missing the fact that even had he swung, he wouldn’t have hit it. He was frozen by a perfect pitch.

The true underlying issues Mets fans have always had with Beltran—and the reason they never embraced him as they embraced Pedro Martinez—was that Beltran joined the Mets for one reason and one reason only: money.

It didn’t help his cause that he offered his services to the Yankees for fewer years and less money than he got from the Mets.

Such an act was understandably reviled by Mets fans who are living under the onus of being number two in New York and have to hear about it constantly.

With Beltran, there’s no fan-player connection because he didn’t put up the pretense of wanting to be a Met. It’s strictly business on both sides. The relationship is one of, “if you produce, we’ll cheer for you” but there’s no emotional bond and it stems from that one act from agent Scott Boras to make Beltran a Yankee.

Now he’s getting congratulations for moving to right field.

It’s not as if he parted the Red Sea; he did what he needed to do for himself above all.

The Mets are straddling the line right now of trying to win by putting the best product on that field toward that end and doing what’s best for the club after 2011.

Is the 2011 team better with Angel Pagan in center and Beltran in right? Probably.

Would they be better off in the long run if Beltran shows he can at least play a competent center field and stay healthy? Yes, because playing center field will increase his trade value at mid-season if the Mets season spirals and they fall from contention.

I’m not convinced that Beltran, with his knee still shaky and the problem patched and not repaired, will be the “Carlos Beltran” he was before. He’s a shadow of himself whether he’s in center or right and no sudden appreciation for him as a player or person is going to bring back the MVP candidate he once was.

To imply that he did the team a favor by agreeing to make the move is as absurd as the negativity that surrounded him for his failures as a Met.

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Like Fine Whine

Free Agents, Spring Training

The embittered reaction of Yankees fans toward Cliff Lee is only increasing with time. Rather than get past the feeling of rejection, they’ve chosen to wallow in it; to continually attack Lee; to utter stupidity and bratty randomness like, “we didn’t need him anyway”; or “he didn’t appreciate the privilege of being a Yankee”; or simply by cussing him.

They’re making a mistake and it’s not just because they look foolish and ignorant.

It’s becoming more common that stars who would automatically be ticketed for the Yankees or Red Sox once they reached free agency are contractually locked up by their current clubs. This past winter wasn’t an isolated occurrence; the number of impact free agents was limited to Lee and then fell off a “cliff” to Carl Pavano.

The names floating around long into the winter are out there for a reason. Either they’re older and looking for bigger money for a longer duration than teams are willing to accept; they’re of questionable health; or have other issues that preclude clubs from getting into a deranged bidding war.

This too is going to affect the Yankees as they try to maintain cost certainty—as much as the Yankees are willing to do so.

What if the way the Yankees fans are responding to Lee after his decision gets around amongst the players who have options to make similarly large paychecks in preferable venues? What if the spewed hatred incites pause for the free agents who take offense to the subjective nature of the response?

So Lee would’ve been a great guy if he’d chosen to go to the Yankees, but he’s reviled and loathed because he decided to go to the Phillies?

What’s the genesis of the complaint? That the foundation of the country’s economic system—capitalism—benefited the Phillies rather than the Yankees? It’s been one of the imperative aspects of how the Yankees got where they are in the first place—that they had more money to spend than anyone else—but the anger stems from the system not yielding their desires; instead of accepting facts and moving on, we see relentless whining and abuse directed at Cliff Lee.

He went where he wanted to play and to a team that has a better chance to win.

Like it or not, it’s true.

He took someone else’s money. This warrants him being the target of vitriol? When the system doesn’t work for you, it’s time to either change the system or attack he who was resistant to the lure of cash and “Yankees lore”?

Reading between the lines, this isn’t about Lee spurning the Yankees in and of itself; it’s a part of the culture of entitlement that’s become ingrained in the mindset of a large segment of fans who think that everyone wants to be a Yankee; that because they want, therefore they should get.

It doesn’t work that way.

Becoming accustomed to unprecedented success has limited the joy of victory. The charm that defined the Yankees of 1996 and even 1998 and 1999 has been diminished by the off-putting attitude that permeates the organization and is spreading like an communicable disease through the fan base.

Any failure—be it on-field or off—is treated as a personal affront; this is the catalyst for a drastic downfall the likes of which is inevitable for any so-called empire who become too arrogant and self-important to conceive the prospect of failure; to repair the cracks as they happen; to adjust the expectations to be more in line with objective truth.

My advice to the still complaining Yankees fans regarding Lee?

Get over it!!

It’s capitalism.

It’s baseball.

No matter how many self-indulgent tantrums you throw, you don’t always win and Lee’s not going to demand a trade to the Yankees; you’re not getting Felix Hernandez; and with Andy Pettitte‘s retirement, you’ve got major pitching issues.

How badly this hurts the club’s playoff prospects remains to be seen, but they’re there no matter how much screaming you do.

Learn it the easy way by listening to me.

Or learn it the hard way by continuing down the road you’re on and experience the harsh hand of reality as it slaps you down with remorseless brutality.

It’s up to you.

The Blame Refrain

Media, Spring Training

When the news of Adam Wainwright‘s Tommy John surgery diagnosis spread across the web, the reactions were widespread and diverse.

“Experts” speculated on how the Cardinals would respond and forecasted their demise; Jonny Gomes of the Reds was accused of celebrating and singing (he denies this); Dusty Baker seemed genuinely saddened by the news in a non-competitive way while still wryly wondering who’d get the blame for the injury; and Rick Peterson promoted his company’s techniques to teach pitching and avoid injuries.

In today’s game there are rules and regulations placed on pitchers to maintain their health; clubs have computer printouts, historical medical reports and such inanities as “The Verducci Effect” to dictate how they treat their pitchers.

One problem.

They don’t seem to be working.

The cacophony of “protective” rules for pitchers is limitless and explainable, but it’s not fostering development; it’s creating an atmosphere of paranoia and self-righteous justification in case the pitchers don’t develop or get injured. There’s a time and place for preventative prescriptions, but taking it too far has yielded the inevitable result.

And it’s getting worse.

Let’s have a look at the frailties of today’s pitching culture.

I’m selling, you buying?

Rick Peterson is a good pitching coach with a fine resume of development and—importantly—keeping his charges healthy. Unlike many other baseball people and would-be experts, he’s willing to think outside-the-box and listen to others. That’s an impressive attribute and a testimony to his confidence and belief in what he does.

He’s also a relentless self-promoter who has a short shelf life for any organization because of his overbearing nature.

Peterson said the following on Twitter when Wainwright’s injury was confirmed:

Sad news for Adam Wainwright, TJ surgery.Avoidable.Get your pitchers to 3P Sports to learn how. ESPN http://es.pn/gx7b65

It contains the essence of Peterson in 140 characters or less. The obligatory condolences for the injury combined with an attempt to sell his wares.

Peterson is a polarizing figure.

When I read his tweets I can almost feel one hand on my shoulder and his other hand covering his mouth in a conspiratorial fashion to prevent the enemy from reading his lips and gaining insight into his skull-sessions.

Peterson’s reputation was made with the Athletics as he mentored Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson with the Athletics and all three were healthy and productive; he also turned Cory Lidle into a durable winner as a starting pitcher. With the Mets, John Maine and Oliver Perez enjoyed success they couldn’t replicate before or since. And the Brewers, with limited talent, maximized with Peterson handling the staff.

While almost everyone in baseball and in the media rolls their eyes at Dr. Mike Marshall—former big league pitcher, Cy Young Award winner, journeyman extraordinaire, iconoclast and egomaniac—Peterson has met with him to discuss pitching techniques.

Peterson’s style has a short shelf-life. Eventually his pitchers tune him out, but he does have important contributions to make to development.

If you look at a pitching coach or “expert”, you must examine their agenda. Are they trying to get you to buy what they’re hawking as Tom House does? Or do they have a legitimate history of success underpinning their theories as Peterson does?

Blame Dusty.

Baker was only half-kidding when he openly wondered who’d get the blame for Wainwright’s injury. Baker is considered to be an arm-shredder; Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan seen as modern geniuses whose reputations allow them to get away with things that would cost other baseball people their jobs.

One out-of-context example of the different terrain upon which La Russa operates was that 20-inning affair against the Mets last season. What would’ve happened had then-Mets manager Jerry Manuel inserted an infielder to pitch and lost the game? La Russa did it with Felipe Lopez and it was okay because it was La Russa. He wants to hit the pitcher eighth? He has data to back him up and he gets away with it because he’s La Russa.

Such is the nature of the benefits of being a Hall of Famer as opposed to someone hanging onto his job by his fingernails and maintaining an unfair reputation as an abuser of pitchers that Baker has.

Was Baker to blame for the injuries to Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Edinson Volquez?

It’s a major misapplication of blame to say Baker was at fault for Wood—it was Jim Riggleman who pushed Wood in the Cubs frantic run to the playoffs in 1998. Prior was a mechanical nightmare from the start and his subsequent and repeated breakdowns have had nothing to do with Baker; one would think that he’d be healthy by now; Volquez was allowed to throw pitches in the 120 range numerous times, but it’s a stretch to connect the number of pitches he threw to his eventual Tommy John surgery.

There are a different set of rules for La Russa than there are for Baker because one is La Russa and the other is Baker and it has nothing to do with results or injuries; it has to do with the way they’re perceived.

Front office edicts absolve the blame.

You can believe the propaganda and romanticized notions uttered by the likes of Michael Kay if you choose to, but think about it.

When C.C. Sabathia had a no-hitter going against the Rays early last season, Yankees manager Joe Girardi made it a point to insinuate himself into the debate by saying that Sabathia wasn’t going to throw an outrageous number of pitches strictly in the interests of pitching a no-hitter.

It was a moot point because the no-hitter was busted up before a decision had to be made. But Kay came out with his own take on the situation, quoting Girardi as if his word was gospel, “We’re not about (individual achievement) here…”

As delightful as such a thought of  all-for-one is, baseball is like anything else with fiefdoms, turf-battles and agendas. Girardi can never be blamed for a pitcher’s injury because he has little-to-no say in their use. He makes his own idiotic bullpen/pitching change decisions mid-game, but apart from that, he works in defined parapenters.

He does what the front office says and that’s what GM Brian Cashman wants; it’s why Cashman didn’t want Lou Piniella as the replacement for Joe Torre—because Piniella would’ve ignored him and was unfireable as a manager.

It’s the same situation in Washington with Stephen Strasburg. I’ve said repeatedly that there have to be people with the Nats who were relieved that Strasburg blew out his elbow while under the constraints of “protection”; there was no one to blame for the injury, therefore it was okay.

Naturally, they’d never admit it openly. Nor should they; but put yourself in their position with a once-in-a-lifetime arm placed in your hands. Do you want that on your resume that you’re at fault for his injury that cost him a year? No.

Joba Chamberlain? How have the developmental techniques worked?

Pedro Martinez was traded from the Dodgers because team doctors were convinced he was going to break down as a starting pitcher. He was so small, threw so hard and had such a violent delivery that it wasn’t absurd to harbor such a belief.

Three Cy Young Awards later, where are we?

Conjecture and after-the-fact, unprovable allegations are easy. How about we go back to Sandy Koufax and wonder how great he would’ve been had he been on a pitch/innings count from the time he began his career. Would he have been more durable? Who knows? There’s no way he would’ve been better than he was.

Bob Gibson must be sickened by the way pitchers are babied today. The same goes for Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Jim Palmer, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton and any of the other greats who pitched until they could no longer pitch and produced into their late 30s and early 40s.

Some of today’s pitchers look like they’re ready for a bodybuilding competition and spend half their days wiling away on the disabled list; Greg Maddux had pipe cleaner arms, skinny legs, a paunch and was the most durable pitcher of his generation who never had an arm injury. Maddux had picture-perfect mechanics and trained specifically to throw a baseball, not to look good in his uniform.

Nolan Ryan is implementing a new strategy in developing pitchers and getting attention for it. If it fails, if they get hurt it’ll be taken as a mistake; if it works, others will follow suit with the techniques.

Fear is a motivating factor for change, but it’s not conducive to making a successful pitcher. But fear is what we have; blame is what we have; and failure is what we have.

It’s not working and doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon because of self-involved stupidity.

At least there’s the fail-safe retort: Blame Dusty.

Leaps Of Verbiage

Media, Spring Training

Writing takes creativity—to a point.

Being able to make that which is discussed and analyzed in numerous different places seem fresh and new is one of the keys to gaining a following. There are of course those who try to be controversial for the sake of itself; gaining a readership due to shock value can work for a short while, but eventually grows

It’s easy to create twisted, splashy headlines that are designed to garner attention but contain little in terms of substance; sometimes it’s simply misleading. Such is the case in this CBS Sports Online posting about the Twins, the Yankees and Francisco Liriano.

If you read the headline: “Report: Yanks, Twins thinking Liriano Swap” makes it look like there have been substantial discussions between the two parties to deal Liriano to the pitching-desperate Yankees; of course fans started running with this, getting excited and hoping that swinging a deal for Liriano would solve the biggest hole on the Yankees roster.

But then, reading the text, you see that it’s nothing close to what the title implies.

Nowhere therein does it say anything about the clubs exchanging names, negotiating or being serious in trying to hammer out a trade.

The reality of the posting is the following:

A potentially significant deal that might be in the works — obviously the very preliminary stages — is a swap with the Twins for Francisco Liriano.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports the Yanks are “keeping a close eye” on Liriano and, likewise, the Twins are “keeping tabs on [Yankees] prospects.”

All this says is that the Yankees and Twins are watching one another; that Yankees GM Brian Cashman has called his Twins counterpart Bill Smith and said that if he ever puts Liriano on the market to get in touch with him.

So?

There’s no story here. It’s standard operating procedure for clubs to keep an eye on potential trading partners. This isn’t so much of a Yankees-Twins deal in the works as much as it’s a someday, someday, someday scenario that would require a series of occurrences to come to pass; the Yankees are keeping tabs on Liriano just in case the Twins fall out of contention; the Twins are scouting the Yankees if the Yankees get desperate enough to make an offer the Twins can’t refuse.

This requires the fortunes of both clubs break a certain way to lay the true foundation of such a deal for a potential frontline starter—a starter the Yankees know they need.

To believe that the Yankees would be the only suitors for Liriano and automatically get him because they’re the Yankees is sadly typical today; it’s the same logic that automatically assumed Cliff Lee was going to be a Yankee regardless of what Lee himself wanted. Much of this stems from the spoiled tantrums of Yankee fans; some of it from reporters crafting stories—dishonestly in my eyes—to gain readers who, if they know anything at all, should get angry at the way they were lured into reading what amounts to puffery.

Don’t you think the Twins would prefer to deal their most valuable pitching asset to a team in the National League so they wouldn’t be haunted by him? That they’d avoid trading him to a league rival that has dispatched them in the playoffs repeatedly? That other clubs in need of pitching (that would be almost all of baseball) would also bid for Liriano? With the loss of Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals would absolutely be all over Liriano if he came available; perhaps that would spur them to include Colby Rasmus in a trade.

To think that two clubs acting in due diligence on what might happen in the future is worth such attention is a reason not to read the writer of such drivel ever again.

Sith Lord Saturday 2.26.2011

Free Agents, Media, Spring Training

You’ve heard of Sunday Lightning, well then welcome to Sith Lord Saturday—to be utilized when there’s a load of stuff to address on a Saturday.

  • The Mets, Madoff, MLB and money:

The Mets are starting to look like something out of The Producers.

Is it possible that the annual screw-ups are a matter of design? That the way the club is spiraling into the depths—first on the field and now off—is part of some grand scheme hatched by an amoral puppeteer?

No. It’s not me.

I say it’s probably not a plot. They mean well but aren’t that clever.

The latest in the Mets-Bernie Madoff saga is that the club received what amounts to being a “bridge loan” for liquidity in November; the loan, $25 million, was provided by MLB itself and was not revealed until yesterday—NY Times Story.

This story is ever-evolving and doesn’t have a clear end in sight in time or result. I’m not convinced that the Wilpons won’t be able to wriggle their way out of it; much depends, of course, on how long the lawsuit drags and whether or not it can be settled; the easy answer—that I too have been saying—is that they’ll have no choice but to sell the team.

Just yesterday I suggested that the reluctance to sell now is due, in part, to not wanting to have the profit that would accompany such a full blown sale left sitting there for the plaintiffs to take immediately.

But the more I think about it, the less appropriate is for a still-developing story to be analyzed on the fly.

People have criticized Mike Francesa for his attempts to clarify the saga by speaking to experts and taking calls from people with knowledge of the law, stocks and banking. After the first few days of the usual Francesa self-proclaimed expertise, he showed deference and admitted that he doesn’t know much about this as he tried to sift through the information he was getting.

That’s the point.

We only have bits and pieces of information and there are very few people with the breadth of knowledge and experience to interpret what’s happening to come to a reasonable and well-thought-out conclusion.

It’s all chatter now. Small, isolated jagged shards of information that, left alone, don’t tell the whole tale. But that’s all we’re getting.

It’s irresponsible for people to be predicting a sale; a bankruptcy; or vindication when few know or comprehend the scope of the situation.

We won’t know until we know. It has to play itself out completely.

  • In Brown we do not trust:

I’m not sure why the Phillies didn’t take a chance on Manny Ramirez.

They clearly don’t trust Domonic Brown as their everyday right fielder and are looking for a competent, “just-in-case” veteran who can play right. They looked into Jeff Francoeur before he signed with the Royals; and have asked the Nationals about Mike Morse.

Morse would be a fine pickup for the Phillies—a Jayson Werth-type gamble of a player who’s never gotten a chance—if the Nats are dealing him.

I doubt they will. The Nats offense is weak and I sense that Werth will be playing a lot of center this season with Morse in right to boost the offense.

The Phillies have a tendency to make absolutely sure their in-house products are ready before letting them play full time in the big leagues. They did so with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and J.A. Happ—all three of whom could’ve been productive big leaguers before they got the chance.

In fairness to the Howard situation, his way was blocked by Jim Thome and they had nowhere to put him.

The others were held back until their mid-20s.

You can’t argue with the Phillies development apparatus, but Brown is the one player they refused to trade in the flurry of deals for Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, et, al. They can’t give him a legitimate chance to play?

One could argue that the decision to hold said players back is financial; that they want to get full production from them in their prime years before having to pay them big money. You could blow the financial sanity argument away by looking at the lunatic contract they gave to Howard to preclude his free agency.

I can’t escape the fact that the Phillies are looking for a right field bat; that Manny signed for nothing with the Rays; Charlie Manuel was a father-figure to Manny; in the Phillies offense, he’d be an ancillary piece; and in the ballpark, he’d hit his homers.

They put up with Werth’s attitude, could Manny have been much worse?

  • Slow and steady editing; thinking before hitting publish:

Some people shouldn’t indulge in stream-of-consciousness reactions before commenting.

Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated is one such person.

He appears to have deleted the tweets, but I know he said them because I saw them and commented on them as they happened. It’s not a big deal, but Heyman said something to the tune of the Indians were making nice under-the-radar signings to improve.

Chad Durbin and Orlando Cabrera might be nice signings for a team like the Yankees as veterans to bolster to the current roster, but the Indians?

At risk of betraying the mysteryyyy of my upcoming book, the signings of Durbin and Cabrera are likely to spur the Indians from a record of 67-95 to a record of….67-95.

The Indians could be slightly better than that if a vast array of “ifs” come to pass.

If Travis Hafner stays healthy…

If Grady Sizemore recovers from micro-fracture surgery…

If Carlos Santana develops into the Victor Martinez-type hitter he’s shown minor league evidence of being…

If Carlos Carrasco and Justin Masterson show anything as starters behind Fausto Carmona

If Michael Brantley and Matt LaPorta hit…

If, if, if…

These tweets were following the criticism of Luis Castillo for not showing up to Mets camp early; then Heyman made snide comments about being “sick” of Castillo and that the club should release him and sign David Eckstein.

Thanks for the input and idiocy after: A) Castillo wasn’t required to arrive early; and B) the player’s brother was having surgery.

There are clever analytical responses that are inherent to credibility—this is required for an outlet like Twitter.

Heyman’s missing it.

There’s being witty without being mean.

He’s missing that too.

Not only is he weak (he blocked me on said apparatus known as Twitter—literally for nothing other than pointing out that he’s got no sense of humor); and he’s somewhat vicious in a wimpy, passive-aggressive sort of way.

It’s not a positive trait to have especially if he can dish it out and not take it.

Viewer Mail 2.25.2011

Free Agents, Media, Spring Training

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Hank Steinbrenner:

I agree about Hank. Very entertaining and good copy for us bloggers.

Hank the Tank just says “stuff” and much of the time I don’t think it’s off-the-cuff and reactionary to a question he was asked; I truly believe that he plans these things. Maybe not verbatim, but he’ll have something in his head that he wants to get out, it eats at him and pops out in the most inappropriate ways.

I don’t understand why Hank chose Derek Jeter to pick at. It’s as if the mansion offends Hank’s delicate sensibilities. George used to give Jeter a hard time as well. I could see if Jeter was risking his reputation in places he’d be better-served to avoid, but Jeter’s been around too long and is too smart to risk it all now.

It seems to me Hank—more than Hal—is offended at paying the salaries he does and the only way he can express that indignation is with his idiotic statements the type which he uttered earlier this week.

Perhaps that too is a calculated act; Jeter, as captain of the team, has to take the brunt of criticism directed at others in the clubhouse and keep quiet about it. Alex Rodriguez is too sensitive; Jorge Posada would explode; Mark Teixeira is too vanilla to criticize—that leaves Jeter.

I’m sure he doesn’t like it; doesn’t understand it; doesn’t agree with the bullying nature of segments of the Steinbrenner clan, but he knows the deal, shakes his head and lets it go.

Let Hank say his piece 3-4 times a year and go back to the horse ranch to scream at the trainers and maybe even the horses.

Who knows? About his horses, he might say, “He was too busy thinking about his future out at stud than the race…”

Know what? The same could be said of Jeter!

Tim Berger writes RE the Cardinals:

You can’t replace Carpenter. he’s worth 6 wins to the cards this season, which puts them back at .500. This doesn’t affect the win/loss percentages of the Brewers and the Reds (or if it does, it actually might give each of them a win). You can’t mute a loss of an ace, and your inference that they can recover even half of Wainwright’s wins back with Kevin Millwood is laughable. Healthy Scott Rolen – pretty lucky, run producing Jonny Gomes – pretty lucky. But Bruce and Stubbs are only getting better, Phillips actually had a down year, and Votto’s year is just a start. Lets start with facts, fill the middle with rational inferences, and end with reality – which spells an atom bomb sized whole for the Cards, one they likely cannot recover from.

Who said anything about Chris Carpenter? He’s supposedly healthy. If he gets hurt (not a small possibility given his history), then they’re screwed.

You missed the point of what I wrote. The value of Wainwright wasn’t the number of wins he accumulated as much as it was the quality innings he threw; they can patch together the wins elsewhere.

It’s beyond simplistic to say that because he was a 5.7 WAR player last year, then the Cardinals will be a .500 team without him. It’s like looking at a playoff series and matching the players up on a position-by-position basis—it’s meaningless.

I’m glad I made you laugh, but am not sure what’s funny. You’re telling me that Kevin Millwood can’t win 10 games for the Cardinals by showing up and being competent? Competence and durability is why Millwood is still around.

Jeff Suppan won 44 games in 3 seasons with the Cardinals from 2004-2006 with nothing in terms of stuff. Nothing. Millwood or some other cog can’t replicate that?

You don’t think they’re going to get a better performance from Kyle Lohse? He can’t be much worse. With a full year from Jake Westbrook, a minute improvement from Jaime Garcia and if whomever they plug into Wainwright’s spot is breathing and throwing strikes, they’ll have a win total in the mid-80s as a team; however many they win after that will determine their fate.

As for the Reds, yes Jay Bruce is getting better.

But what’s the genesis of the opinion that Drew Stubbs is getting “better”? He’s been in the big leagues for one year, hit with some pop, struck out a ridiculous amount of times and had a poor average/on base percentage of .255/.329. He’s got speed and is a good outfielder; in the minors, he never hit more than 12 homers and bashed 22 last year. You think he’s going to improve on that? Based on what?

As for Votto’s year being a “start”, you’re asking a lot. Another near Triple Crown/MVP season isn’t fait accompli. He’s a fine player and will put up big numbers, but a “start”? Really?

Obviously you’re a Reds fan and need to look for a few facts, rational inferences and reality of your own before pointing said stick at me.

You can equate the Twins trading Johan Santana in 2008 (and getting nothing in return) as losing their ace and recovering from an “atom sized hole” in their rotation; they nearly made the playoffs.

You can’t make these “season’s over” assertions in February especially with a team that has Albert Pujols in a contract year and Tony La Russa managing it.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the Cardinals and Adam Wainwright:

The main issue (for me anyway) is that we don’t match up with the Reds, Brewers and Cubs when it comes to 1-2 in the rotation anymore. And, the bigger problem: team morale.

It’s my team. I’m behind them all the way no matter what. But I’d be a liar if I didn’t say we aren’t the favorite in the NL Central anymore because of this. We’ll be lucky to be in the hunt after the All-Star break. And MY morale… well, not feeling much of it right now. Still dealing with the shock and everything.

This just blows.

It’s a positive that it happened so early in the spring that they’ll be able to come to grips with it, find alternatives and let it go by the time the season starts.

I wouldn’t worry about the 1-2 matchups—they’re generally overblown and much of the time the pitchers don’t face one another in the games.

I’m low on sympathy after what’s happened to the Mets in recent years. I understand though.

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE the Cardinals and Kevin Millwood:

I watched Millwood in Texas and he’s no slouch. I don’t think he’s a big game pitcher, but he’s a grinder. He’s a durable veteran who does his job.

He may not be suited to be your #1, but the Cards already have one of those. Millwood could slot in nicely behind Carpenter.

People are forgetting about Garcia. He was a rookie and was terrific.

As I said earlier, they could do worse than Kevin Millwood; Dave Duncan is the man who coaxed 18 wins out of Kent Bottenfield. He and La Russa have had their gacks (I’m going to talk about that very thing in an upcoming post), but with a veteran like Millwood, what they’d need is innings and he can definitely deliver those.

Gabriel writes RE the Cardinals and the media:

I think nobody should bag the season without even playing the first game. No one knows how things are going to unravel. The tone of the news reminded me of tabloids, always looking to sell the shocking news instead of presenting objective analysis.

It’s a big loss and a huge story, but it’s not a catastrophe of monumental proportions. Things need to break right for them, but it’s not absurd to believe they can win without Wainwright.

You’re expecting objective analysis? Is there such a thing anymore?

Well, there is here, but elsewhere?

It’s mostly agenda-driven, twisted and self-aggrandizing knee-jerk responses or lame swings at comedy.

These types are looking for attention and, unfortunately, getting it.

Surviving Wainwright

Free Agents, Media, Spring Training

With the news expected to be catastrophic regarding the condition of Adam Wainwright‘s elbow, the reactionary “experts” are already declaring the Cardinals 2011 season over.

A team managed by Tony La Russa; with Dave Duncan as a pitching coach; that still has Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter and Matt Holliday has had their season declared over.

It’s a bit premature.

Does it make things more difficult?

Absolutely.

Does it end their season in February?

Of course not.

Here’s how and why the Cardinals can survive the loss of Wainwright.

WAR—this is what it’s good for.

This is one of the few instances in which the statistic Wins Above Replacement (WAR) has some use. For me anyway.

Granted, Adam Wainwright is one of the best pitchers in baseball with a post-season resume of coming through with the games on the line.

Forever linked to Carlos Beltran as one who came through (Wainwright) and one who failed (Beltran), that defining career moment of a devastating and perfectly placed curveball to end the 2006 NLCS sent the Cardinals to their championship and the Mets into the beginning of their tailspin that’s still going on.

For the record, as I’ve said repeatedly, Beltran is not to blame for that strikeout; Babe Ruth himself couldn’t have hit that pitch. No one could’ve hit that pitch. It was beautiful in its devastation and the credit goes to Wainwright with no blame to be placed on Beltran.

Of course it’s impossible to “replace” Wainwright, but his 5.7 WAR from 2010 is something that can be accounted for with La Russa’s strategies; Duncan’s reclamation skills; a step up in performance from Kyle Lohse; and continued improvement from Jaime Garcia; and durability from Jake Westbrook.

The positive of WAR I just elucidated is also the negative—the Cardinals are not going to replace Wainwright with a ham-and-egger baseline minor league pitcher. They’re going to need either a step-up performance from the above mentioned names and to find someone to mold into a serviceable arm to take the innings. The innings are more important than that accumulated wins of Wainwright.

Garcia/Lohse/Westbrook and…?

There’s talk that the Cardinals are looking at Kevin Millwood. On the surface, Millwood was awful for the Orioles last season, but that may have been due in part to being an Oriole; that there’s a misinterpretation of his performance based on a 4-16 record; and that he’s still floating around with the dearth of pitching available.

A logical fallacy would suggest that if the 36-year-old Millwood had anything left, someone would’ve signed him already. Millwood wants a major league deal and looked to be biding his time for an eventuality like the Wainwright injury. He was very good for the Rangers in 2009; and last season, he provided 190 innings for the Orioles. Innings are what the Cardinals need right now and Millwood has proven that he can gobble innings.

Manipulated by La Russa’s bullpen management and Duncan’s mechanical tweaks along with having a very good team behind him, there’s no reason that Millwood can’t account for at least part of the Wainwright’s loss. No, the Cardinals won’t be as intimidating without Wainwright fronting the rotation, but they can absolutely survive.

Getting past the immediate response to a 4-16 record—look at Millwood’s Gamelogs from last season—you see he was quite serviceable and occasionally good.

There are other veterans like Pedro Martinez to consider or perhaps Jarrod Washburn. The in-house options include Mitchell Boggs who was a good starter in the minors.

You can forget about Joe Blanton.

The Phillies would be stupid to trade him considering the age on their rotation; he’d do the same things for the Cardinals as Millwood; and the Phillies would not want to send to Blanton to a potential playoff opponent.

It’s not ideal, but the Cardinals can get by without Wainwright.

A weak and winnable division is rife with opportunity.

Much was made of the Reds reaction when the news of Wainwright’s injury reached their clubhouse. Jonny Gomes was accused of  singing (which he denied and clarified—link); Dusty Baker commented in wonderment as to whom was going to get the blame for the injury.

Dusty Baker and Tony La Russa are not friendly and it was a wry message from Baker to the public at large that injuries happen to pitchers without the need for a convenient scapegoat.

Baker is a target for the dual downfalls of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood; it’s ignored that it was Jim Riggleman who abused Wood in 1998; that Prior was always an injury waiting to happen.

It’s meaningless whether or not Gomes was outwardly happen, misunderstood in his reaction or is quietly pleased that the Cardinals are weaker but saddened at the injury to a star of the game.

What matters is the truth; the truth is that it’s human nature to feel some sense of satisfaction at that which benefits themselves. These things happen between teammates, let alone competitors. Do you really believe that the on-the-bubble reliever in spring training is joyful when his competition for that last spot in the bullpen does well?

No.

The Reds chances to win the NL Central are helped by Wainwright’s injury and it’s dishonest to suggest that they’re having sympathy for the Cardinals.

I’m not sure if the Reds should be laughing all that much though.

I thought the Reds were remarkably lucky last season that they got a healthy year from Scott Rolen and were able to overcome Brandon Phillips‘s mouth to the degree that they did. They did almost nothing to improve this past winter and have dramatic question marks remaining.

The NL Central might only take 85 wins for the title; the Reds are in the mix for that number, but so still are the Cardinals along with the Brewers and even the Cubs.

Laughing now is probably not the best move for a Reds team that had a lot go right for them last season.

Selfish agendas stay the same.

With or without Wainwright, looking at my predictions for the 2010 NL Central, I doubt much would change aside from the numbers of wins the teams will accrue.

Casual observers, hypnotized by the star power of Carpenter and Wainwright, don’t realize how good Garcia was last year; Westbrook is a solid pro; and if the Cardinals are able to coax a better year out of Lohse (he can hardly be worse than he was), they’ll be okay.

The loss of Wainwright would be equivalent to the Yankees losing C.C. Sabathia; the Phillies losing Roy Halladay; the Dodgers losing Clayton Kershaw; the Giants losing Tim Lincecum. But it all has to placed in the proper context.

The division is open; the Cardinals have a good team that can hit and pitch; a Hall of Fame manager/pitching coach tandem. The devastation is muted by these factors. It would be hard for the Yankees to compete without Sabathia considering their division; the same goes for the Dodgers in the NL West; the Phillies and Cardinals can account for the absence of such a force because of circumstances.

Count out the Cardinals at your own risk because it wasn’t all that long ago that they collapsed at the end of the 2006 season and nearly missed the playoffs, then recovered to win the World Series.

Greeted with such terrible news at the open of spring training, there are teams that would bag the season now. In February. The Cardinals are not one of those teams. In fact, they’re more likely to come out swinging with both fists. If you’re not paying attention, you might get caught with one of said fists and subsequently knocked out before knowing what hit you.

The Reds should take heed amidst their gloating, silent and otherwise. Because by October they may not find many things to laugh about.

Diversionary Tactics

Books, Media, Spring Training
  • Stereotypes are not good:

In this posting from the still headless ESPN Sweet Spot, Bill says that “people” still don’t get Moneyball.

Apparently Bill is like Kramer, Ke$ha and Prince (the musician, not me—okay maybe me too) in that he has no need of a last name; all that need be said is “a new posting by Bill is up” and everyone will automatically know by name recognition that some quality insight is coming their way.

And so too is a misplaced and all-inclusive assertion that “people don’t get Moneyball”.

The mysterious and undefined “people” are again referenced.

Perhaps some specifics as to whom these “people” are would help.

Bill links this column by Monte Poole in the Mercury News to “prove” that the criticism of the book and Billy Beane was based on a misinterpretation of what the book was saying.

In a sense, in certain cases such as the Poole example, he’s right; but I’m still waiting for a coherent counter to my argument—that I’ve repeated ad nauseam—that Moneyball was not simply an account of how the Athletics won with a minimalist payroll and that they’d discovered “market inefficiencies” to find players who were cheap, available and useful.

No.

Those that support Moneyball to the last and those that criticize it based on the opposite principles of what Beane was doing are both wrong.

Arguing wrongly does not make that which they are arguing against “right” as Bill is implying in his piece.

If one side says go right and the other says go left as a means of opposition, what happens if the correct road is somewhere in the middle of the two extremes?

It’s conveniently forgotten that the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The simplistic nature of the customary debate regarding Moneyball is not clarifying the gist of the story.

The true flaws of Moneyball and why Beane engendered such vitriol for his role in the book have nothing to do with the failure to repeat the success he had in the early part of the decade coinciding with the book; it’s not the concept of exploiting market inefficiencies that has crafted the continued idol-worship and defense of Beane himself.

He still has his corporate speaking gigs and personality, but did he not expect to be a target when he was characterized as an arrogant, dismissive, condescending and obnoxious jerk who ridiculed and bullied anyone who dared disagree with him?

He’s not running from Moneyball insomuch as Moneyball is engulfing him; it was a bit of creative non-fiction designed to promulgate this myth of Beane as an invincible destroyer of conventional wisdom and old-school baseball dogma.

Who really cares about the exploitation of market inefficiencies at this point? The reason Beane is so reviled in many circles is because of that persona which he was only to happy to inhabit; it benefited him when the book came out and now it makes him look like a despicable, self-promoting and abusive entity who was always going to be lambasted when he failed.

The book was twisted for the purposes of Michael Lewis; it made Beane a household name and a lot of money. But others who were shredded in the book are, no doubt, taking a perverse pleasure in the character “Billy Beane’s” downfall. It’s not Beane himself as much as it’s the portrayal that’s created this inevitable end.

Beane has been rightfully cowed; because certain columnists don’t “get” Moneyball doesn’t mean that there aren’t those who do “get” it and savage it based on reality.

I will be retreating to my Scandinavian love cave to re-write my book on this subject in the future—then we’ll see what responses to the truth about Moneyball crop up.

I’ll emerge moderately deranged, but with an explosive and masterfully written manuscript.

  • Hank the Tank:

Am I the only one who pictures Hank Steinbrenner as the out-of-control Will Ferrell character in Old School, Frank the Tank?

In case you missed it, Hank went off on the 2010 Yankees, essentially accusing them of resting on their 2009 championship and coasting to their loss in the ALCS.

The allusion to “players building mansions” was clearly a shot at Derek Jeter since he’s the one building a mansion but I don’t see how any rational human being can believe a team that made it to game 6 of the ALCS and lost did so due to a lack of concentration.

Jeter had an off year, but unless he was whipping out blueprints in the middle of the clubhouse and saying things like, “And here’s where the breakfast nook will be”; “My NY shaped pool will be heated”; “Security will be on a presidential level to keep Michael Kay away”; and “The servant’s quarters will be as big as this clubhouse, peons! Bow to your captain!!”, then it was more ridiculous bloviating from Hank.

Tony Kornheiser expressed it perfectly on ESPN in a rant that suggested Hank is an unaccomplished rich kid who doesn’t have the experience nor right to say such things.

To me this is similar to a Lenny Dykstra logical fallacy that because family members worked at Dykstra’s car wash franchises and earned money from said work, then Dykstra “bought” their houses.

No, it doesn’t make any sense; I don’t know anyone, anywhere who’d like to have a statement equated with the punch drunk ramblings of Lenny Dykstra.

He backtracked yesterday saying that he wasn’t referring to Jeter and blamed it on poor choice of “euphemism”.

Yah!!! Right!!!

Hank’s entertaining and I hope they don’t muzzle him; he’s good copy!!

“C” Is For Cookie

Media, Spring Training

And that’s not good enough for me.

ESPN the Magazine published an article about pitchers who once threw blazing fastballs and saw their velocity decline as they made their way up through the minors.

I can’t link the article by Tim Keown because it’s “insider” content; it’s not particularly relevant to this posting.

Tim Alderson of the Pirates is one such pitcher who lost his fastball. Alderson was a classic physical specimen when he was drafted by the Giants in the 1st round of the 2007 MLB Draft. At 6’6″, 217 pounds with a power fastball and a curve, it wasn’t a matter of “if” he made it to the big leagues, but “when”. The Giants have a habit of finding pitchers and developing them as evidenced by the success of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner; Alderson, as a high pick, was going to get every opportunity to follow those three to San Francisco.

Alderson pitched well for the Giants in the low minors and was traded to the Pirates for Freddy Sanchez.

Then he fell off the earth.

His numbers took a free-fall and his fastball disappeared.

Here’s a snippet from the article:

“I couldn’t even play catch without feeling uncomfortable,” (Alderson) says. And on those occasions when he threw a pitch that felt pretty good, he’d steal a glance at the radar-gun reading and see “84” cackling down at him.

Sadly, Alderson’s situation is not unique. the path that brought us to him started with a question: Why do so many of baseball’s highly prized young pitchers, free of health problems, lose significant velocity during their first few years in professional baseball? Madison Bumgarner, Andrew Miller, Brad Lincoln, Rick Porcello—even Tim Lincecum—all lost zip as young pros. Some have adapted and recovered, some have not.

The piece goes on to document the alterations in training programs of certain pitchers to regain their fastball by incorporating extreme long tossing among other unconventional techniques sometimes frowned upon by clubs; it also mentions the Pirates training program for pitchers and the excuse disguised as a reason for Alderson’s diminished velocity.

Pirates minor league coordinator Jim Benedict says physical maturity is the main impediment to Alderson’s velocity. “He’s heavier now, and the way he threw wasn’t going to fit a bigger man. He had a unique delivery in high school. It was away from fundamentals and way away from the foundation we teach. It wasn’t going to work anymore.”

Without getting into a series of snide comments about the Pirates organization as a whole, how many pitchers have the “fundamentals” they teach developed?

This has nothing to do with a critique of the Pirates or explanation of what befell Alderson and others.

That’s the point.

Trying to pinpoint what it is that causes a pitcher to suddenly lose his fastball is the same as explaining why he has it in the first place. Years ago, the Mets had a pitcher named Gene Walter who was one of the physically strongest men on the team; Dwight Gooden wasn’t as strong as Walter, but Gooden—long, lanky and lithe—had a fastball that not only blew batters away, but it had a late “kick” that made him impossible to hit when he was on top of his game in his early-20s. Walter was a lefty journeyman. The suggestion that there’s a correlation between one person and another is ludicrous.

Fast twitch fibers; flexibility; leg strength; hand size; mechanics—all play a part as to why a pitcher can and can’t do certain things.

There’s a tendency to look askance at someone who has a different style—like Lincecum. I’ve long contended that had Lincecum not had such an involved father who demanded that his son’s motion not be altered in any way, it’s very possible that he too would’ve been among the Aldersons who “lost” it for an inexplicable reason that is very clear if you look hard enough.

Perhaps the explanation lies therein.

How do you take human beings with differing styles and craft a cookie-cutter way of training them? Yes, there’s the argument that they’re all performing the same (unnatural) act of throwing a baseball; but to have one person who’s 6’6″ and 250 lbs with an over-the-top delivery and fastball/curve repertoire and force him onto the same program with a 5’10” lefty who throws an 86 mph sidearm fastball is absurd.

Some pitchers—sinkerballers for example—are better with more work; others, smaller power arms like Pedro Martinez, needed more rest.

Who can explain it? Much like the different people you encounter in life, you cannot pigeonhole them as one particular thing.

How many pitchers have been laid waste as they incorporate any and all advice they receive to get along in the organization? How many times have clubs—with good intentions and/or paranoia—shielded that which needed to be allowed to fly (Stephen Strasburg and Joba Chamberlain) and seen them get hurt anyway and/or fail miserably?

Organizations choose safety-first over accurate analysis and implementation. If a club is investing the dollars they do in a young player, shouldn’t they be on a program suited to them as individuals rather than what everyone else is doing?

Alderson’s lucky that he’s a high pick; that he was so expensive to sign; that the Pirates traded one of their best players for him; if he wasn’t, he’d either be released and bounce from one organization to another (or one country to another) trying to salvage, hang on and find that one coach who “gets” him and can unlock the potential that made him a top prospect in the first place.

Cookie cutters are for cookies. Not for talented athletes.

Clarifications And Rhetoric

Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Media, Spring Training

Let’s start with a comment from Joe regarding yesterday’s posting.

I enjoyed this post. The one thing you could have left out was taking a shot at Dave Cameron by saying he is a stat-zombie, and is still clinging to the Moneyball-farce. Whether you think he is, is besides the point. It took away from respectually-disagreeing, which is fine. The rest of the post was really just you disagreeing with these two opinions. And was well-written and well-thought out. I would be a little concerned with his weight, and declining K rate. But I hardly think he is going to become an albatross if he doesn’t opt-out. And even if he did, this is the one organization best-suited to take that hit. Josh Beckett isn’t the same body-type. But I would feel more comfortable moving forward with Sabathia for the next five, than I would with Beckett or Lackey the next four years (And I am actually confident that Beckett and Lackey bounce back). Five years, $115 million is certainly risky for a pitcher that is going to be on the wrong side of 30, but sometimes I think it can be overblown. If this were a mid-market team, then I would hope for the opt-out to be exercised. But it isn’t a mid-market team, it’s the Yankees. However, if CC DOES opt-out, and wants an even longer deal — which he obviously will. Then I would let him walk. The deal getting even riskier, does not help the Yankees. Also, Joe Sheehan used to work for BP. So yes, he enjoys the numbers.

Joe straddles my line between remarkably useful and strangleworthy; or at least a conk on the head when he aggravates my admittedly irascible temperament.

Respectually is not a word.

Apart from that, maybe Joe’s right.

As much as the term “stat zombie” has served my purposes, perhaps it’s time to abandon it for a more inclusive discussion on what I believe and why I believe it.

In order to engage rather than immediately incite a reaction from the stat inclined to think I’m attacking them with a fighter’s stance, I’m taking a step back from the mentality of hitting first and asking questions later.

I never saw the term “stat zombie” as a negative along the lines of “stat geek” which I would find a thousand times more offensive. A geek is inept, clumsy and socially clueless; a zombie is the walking undead functioning without a conscious mind.

There’s a big difference.

Mindless adherence to numbers without room for nuance is the essence of being a zombie.

I used the term occasionally in my upcoming book and I’m not changing it now. But it’s not fostering debate. It’s inspiring an immediately contentious atmosphere and while I’m essentially unbeatable in such a circumstance, I’ll step back from it in favor of less incendiary terminology.

As for Sabathia, he did have a knee problem last season; this can be viewed in a couple of ways that bolster mine and Sheehan’s positions.

Sabathia admitted that his right knee was bothering him last season and he had a “clean-up” surgery to repair it—NY Post Story.

Since it was his right knee—his landing leg—it wouldn’t be as much of a concern were it his left leg; the dominant side is far more important to a pitcher to balance in the leg lift and explode off the rubber. The left leg holds up the entire body as Sabathia loads up to throw; this would be of greater concern to me.

The pain clearly didn’t affect his performance, nor his durability. But it’s not something to dismiss. Since he’s lost weight and had the issue repaired, it’s all the more reason to discount it as a reason not to bring him back if he does opt out.

His performance in 2010 with a knee problem and the steps to ease the pressure are bigger indications that he’s going to do everything he can to live up to his salary and importance to the club independent of salary and contract length.

But Sheehan’s suggestion of knee problems is not so easily ignored.

Here’s what I would do if I were the Yankees; if Sabathia has another Cy Young Award-caliber year and opts out—I’d give him a raise and do everything I could to keep the years at five.

Hypothetically, with his current deal, a raise from 4 remaining years at $92 million to 5 years at $130 million isn’t out of line for either side. Sabathia’s not getting that money anywhere else; presumably the only way he’d leave the Yankees would be to head back to Northern California. The Athletics can’t pay him; the Giants are going to have to lock up both Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum and are still under the Barry Zito albatross through 2013.

He’s got nowhere to go for a raise.

With the Yankees sudden interest in fiscal restraint, it has to be taken into consideration how much money they’ve wasted in the past. This year alone they’re paying Damaso Marte and Kei Igawa a combined $8 million and tried to bring back Carl Pavano.

Carl.

Pavano.

Are they going to explain away letting Sabathia walk over an extra year and $30 million? The Yankees?

He won’t leave whether he opts out or not. They won’t let him leave because he’s got nowhere to go and they can’t let him leave.

Finally, I received the list that Sheehan alluded to in comparing Sabathia to other pitchers of similarly grand stature.

Special shout-out to Baseball-Reference for the information.

The lists are available here for the height requirement and weight of above 260 pounds; and here for 270 pounds-plus.

Here’s what I wrote yesterday before having the lists:

But here’s what I suspect: Sheehan’s size-based argument against Sabathia was hindered by the pitchers who inhabited said list since they weren’t on a level with C.C. Sabathia; nor were they on a level with Harang or Zambrano.

If he listed them, I’m betting the prevailing response would be, “Who?!? You’re putting him in a category with Sabathia based on what? Because he’s big?”

I was right.

Here are some of the more recognizable names; you be the judge: Chris Young, Daniel Cabrera, Armando Benitez, Jon Rauch, Seth McClung, Jonathan Albaladejo, Andy Sisco…do I need to go on?

Young was an All Star; I always loved Cabrera’s talent; Benitez was a good closer; Rauch is useful; Mike Francesa had a man-crush on Sisco; but are any of the names on that list in a category with Sabathia?

No.

Not even close.

It ‘s a reflection on the twisted nature of such an argument that the names were left out. If they’d been added, the disclosure would’ve been full and while it might have watered down Sheehan’s hypothesis, at least he’d have been on the high ground and not appeared to have been hiding facts for convenience sake.

These…stat….people (there, I said it) have something to say.

If they want a debate, it works both ways. I’ve made my way to the bargaining table sans the high intensity of unrestrained rage (yet still armed with Force Lightning if anyone still wants to scrap—and lose).

If they want a meeting of the minds, I’ll listen. Attentively and with my guard still up to an acceptable level.

Joe (StatMagician on Twitter) is a peacemaker—the ambassador to the stat people.

We’ll see where this goes…