Gaze Into The Face Of Fear

Books, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

The Yankees are afraid to use Rafael Soriano at home unless it’s the perfect situation for his delicate sensibilities and the team’s estimation that the least amount of damage in the shortest amount of time can be done.

This is the next step into a disastrous, Ed Whitson/Steve Trout/Javier Vazquez-style nightmare of a pitcher who simply cannot function in New York and pitching for the Yankees.

Soriano hasn’t pitched since his horrific gack and excuse-laden (from him and the management) foray against the White Sox on Tuesday night.

There’s no reason for it aside from fear and paranoia on the part of the front office and on-field personnel.

Trapped in a box with the fragile psyche and big money functioning as Soriano’s portable cage, the Yankees have to tread a fine line in what to do with him. Given the nature of their starting pitching woes, they need Soriano to perform and it has nothing to do with the $35 million contract he signed this past winter—he’s not a luxury item; they actually need him to pitch and pitch well.

You can strategically account for and provide a list of canned reasons why Soriano hasn’t been used since that fateful night against the White Sox, but they’re all easily batted down.

Here’s the truth: manager Joe Girardi and his coaching staff know how perilously close they are to mentally losing Soriano completely; it’s a critical time for him in his Yankees career. If they’d used him in the past few games in which they were either behind or leading by a wide margin, he’d have gotten hosed down by the hostile home crowd that has already seen enough of him and is so relentlessly spoiled that they don’t think about the ramifications of attacking a pitcher they need so desperately to succeed.

My feeling is that if their preferred sequence of events occurs, they won’t need to use Soriano at Yankee Stadium until Monday so they can go on the road and try to get him straight far from New York so the home booing won’t send him into an irreparable tailspin.

I totally understand the thinking, but to blatantly utter inanities skirts reality and is offensive to those who know better.

The Yankees apologists and spin machine are in full force.

Michael Kay says, “Soriano’s obviously gonna be a great addition”; Girardi says “the talent is there” or some permutation of that assessment; we hear about how dominant Soriano was last year for the Rays and that he’s a “proven closer”.

There’s nothing obvious about Rafael Soriano other than he’s on the precipice of falling over the pressurized cliff into Yankees oblivion; the talent is there, but so are the excuses like he’s got to get used to pitching in the eighth inning—and it’s ridiculous.

He’s a proven closer? He was a full-time closer for one season, enraged the Rays organization from top-to-bottom with his diva-like antics, allowed homers in two of the three playoff games in which he appeared (the second being an absolute backbreaker in game 5); and irritated opponents with his post-game shirt tail yank as he walked off the mound.

Ballplayers are notoriously cognizant of any perceived bit of showboating, but whatever gets them into a state of determination is of value; whatever works.

GM Brian Cashman didn’t want Soriano and he’s been awful.

These are facts.

I don’t believe in babying someone who’s just been given a guaranteed $35 million, but that’s where the Yankees are.

I expected Soriano to be good for the regular season, blow a game here and there with an ill-timed homer and struggles in games vs the Red Sox and Rays, but he’s spiraling and the Yankees have to navigate their way around his mental weakness.

And that’s what they’re doing.

Don’t try to tell me any different.

****

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****

Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

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A Narrow Window

Books, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

The Braves placed pitching coach Roger McDowell on administrative leave pending the investigation into the incident in San Francisco in which he was accused of threatening, abusive and offensive behavior towards the fans—ESPN Story.

Minor league pitching coordinator and veteran baseball man Dave Wallace will take over as Braves pitching coach on an interim basis.

The crux of this situation is this: is the investigation being conducted as a perfunctory method to cover all their bases before firing McDowell? Or are they going to give McDowell a chance to take an anger management course or some other means to show public contrition for what he did in an effort to keep his job?

If a sufficient amount of time passes and the episode blows over, then perhaps McDowell can keep his job.

It’s a tough road for McDowell and the Braves with Gloria Allred representing the “traumatized” family. So horribly wounded by McDowell’s tirade, presumably the only thing that will assuage their collective pain is a sufficient amount of money.

But I suppose it’s possible.

The Braves had no choice in the matter but to do something to at least delay making a permanent change, and Derek Lowe‘s arrest for DUI last night certainly didn’t make their lives any easier. They had to make the McDowell incident go away for now.

We’ll see what happens but maybe he’ll stay.

Wallace is a respected pitching coach and good baseball man. He’s experienced in multiple facets of an organization having worked in front offices, as a minor league coordinator and in hotbeds of controversy with the Dodgers, Mets and Red Sox.

He’s no yes-man; he butted heads with Bobby Valentine when Wallace was hired to replace Valentine’s preferred pitching coach and friend Bob Apodaca with the Mets, but Wallace appeared to be a pawn in the constant tug-of-war for control between Valentine and GM Steve Phillips.

But that was personal. As a coach, he’s done a good job and he’ll be perfectly fine whether he has to take over permanently for McDowell or is only there long enough for the incident to be muted and McDowell is able to return.

****

I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic.

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Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

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Batting Orderlies

Books, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

Neil Paine of Baseball-Reference.com writes a piece on batting orders in today’s NY Times—link.

It brings up an interesting set of questions as to whom should be batting leadoff and why.

Rickey Henderson was probably the best all-around leadoff hitter in history—a fulfillment of perfection for which all leadoff hitters and clubs should aspire; as such, it’s naturally unrealistic to think that you’ll be able to find someone with the combination of keen batting eye, patience, speed and power that was Rickey.

There has to be a balance and factoring of what the rest of the lineup can and can’t do—how they’re most comfortable and best-utlized.

Carl Crawford, for example, doesn’t like hitting leadoff. In some circles, there’s the thought of, “Yeah? So?” when confronted with a player disliking or whining about a position in the batting order or on the field.

In some cases, I’m a huge advocate not of, “Yeah? So?”, but of, “What’re they gonna do about it?”

In others, it would influence me as to whether a player—specifically a struggling veteran like Crawford—is happy and comfortable in his spot.

If you look at the clubs that were mentioned as not using their leadoff position optimally, the other players matter greatly.

Is there anyone who’s better-suited to bat first? And if they are, would they help the team more in that spot rather than their other spot?

The Mariners batted Ichiro Suzuki leadoff last season and he had the third highest on base percentage for leadoff hitters at .358. I’m not getting into another debate about Ichiro batting down in the lineup; that he could and should hit for more power; but Ichiro’s OBP and speed did the Mariners absolutely no good because they literally had no one to drive him in last season. He scored 74 runs because the Mariners offense was historically horrible.

Marco Scutaro and Jacoby Ellsbury combined for a .301 OBP from the leadoff position for the Red Sox last season, but this is taken out of context. Scutaro’s OBP batting leadoff was .336 and he scored 86 runs; Ellsbury had a .211 OBP in an injury-ravaged 2010 season and this dragged the club’s overall percentages down drastically.

Scutaro is nowhere near the hitter Ichiro is, but he scored 86 runs batting leadoff with an OBP .17 lower than Ichiro because there were hitters behind him able to drive him in. I’ve long said that Ichiro’s lust for singles and stat compiling would be far more palatable were he playing for the Yankees or Red Sox and had people capable of knocking him in.

Henderson’s value wasn’t solely dictated by his on base ability in and of itself; he scored plenty of runs because he got on base, stole second and sometimes third and was suddenly able to score without benefit of the subsequent batters doing anything aside from hitting a fly ball.

Look at the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals. Vince Coleman burst onto the scene as a terror on the basepaths, stole 110 bases and scored 107 runs with an OBP of .320. Once manager Whitey Herzog realized what he had on his hands, the top of the Cardinals lineup went as follows: 1) Coleman; 2) Willie McGee; 3) Tommy Herr; 4) Jack Clark.

McGee was no on base machine; he batted .353 and won the MVP that year, but had an OBP of .384; Herr was no masher, but he benefited from Coleman and McGee when they were on base because Coleman would get on, steal second and third and be served up on a plate for Herr to drive in. In fact, based on the preferred argument as to whom should be batting first, Herr should’ve batted leadoff in that Cardinals batting order; but it’s hard to imagine the team scoring more runs that way than they did with the construction as it was.

It was confluence of events and the emergence of Coleman that led to the big RBI year from Herr and the Cardinals pennant. Nor did it hurt that Clark was behind the top three hitters and pitchers didn’t want to walk Herr and run the risk of a big inning with the powerful Clark coming to the plate.

The 1985 Cardinals won the pennant, led the league in runs scored and were 11th (out of 12 teams) in homers.

A batting order isn’t unimportant, but you can’t pigeonhole anything into the category of “s’posdas” based on individual achievement and ability; you have to look at the whole picture before coming to an ironclad conclusion and crediting or criticizing.

****

I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic.

****

Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

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A Diet Coke Sitz Bath

Books, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

Mike Francesa has always had an ego; such was expressed in a 1996 Sports Illustrated profile in which former WFAN program director Mark Mason said it was as “big as all outdoors”; but there’s a difference between believing what you so so fervently that you present it in a matter-of-fact way and don’t care one way or the other as to the reaction or response and not listening to dissent or acknowledging being wrong.

There’s something to be said for, “this is what I think; and if you don’t like it, too bad.”

But there’s a line between confidence and self-indulgent narcissism.

Francesa crossed that line long ago.

Now, he’s ventured into the world of arrogance meeting obfuscation meeting Diet Coke.

Interpreting what the subject of an interview is really saying by reading between the lines is an important part of being in the media; but twisting what the person said to suit one’s own needs is not only inaccurate, but it’s unprofessional.

Two years ago, the Mets had gotten off to a good start over the first 50 games and Francisco Rodriguez was fantastic early in the season; this was before injuries ravaged the entire team and relegated them to a laughingstock as 2009 was the next step in the downward spiral that they’re now trying to repair with a new baseball braintrust.

On the West Coast, Brian Fuentes was closing games for the Angels as K-Rod’s replacement; he got off to a terrible start and Francesa, discussing the Angels, Mets and K-Rod, said something to the tune of the Angels had openly admitted their mistake in letting K-Rod leave.

This struck me as a huge story. A team allowed their homegrown free agent closer to leave—the same closer who had set a record for saves in the previous year—and was now confessing that it was a mistake a month into the next season?

Wouldn’t that cause a tremor and aftershocks in the Angels clubhouse with Fuentes? With his teammates? With other players around baseball who would think it odd that the team was burying one of their players in favor of the one he replaced?

It was unheard of.

It was unheard of for a very good reason—it wasn’t true.

I scoured the web, searching for various stories in the California papers, ESPN, MLBTradeRumors and other sites to see if there was anything anywhere that indicated the Angels expressing regret—publicly—that they replaced K-Rod with Fuentes.

I didn’t find anything because it didn’t exist. Not even the worst-run teams in sports are going to allow themselves to be quoted ripping one of their players in favor of a former player—one they chose to let go.

Is it possible that someone told Francesa privately that the Angels regretted letting K-Rod go? Of course, but he didn’t provide any background to the assertion other than that the Angels regretted it and left it there as if his simple utterance was good enough for everyone to accept it.

It was a factoid. Not a fact.

Francesa’s gotten worse as he’s been left alone to do his own show without a partner to check him on the things he says that are in the realm of megalomania/egomania. I was no fan of Chris Russo, but he performed that function.

The dismissals of callers has gone on ad infinitum; but Francesa’s become delusional.

This week alone he made two ridiculous statements that are easily torn to shreds by anyone who has a basic concept of baseball.

His ironclad decree that the Yankees will always be able to stay toward the top of baseball because of their financial might sounds like it would come from a die-hard fan and not one who is supposedly the expert baseball analyst Francesa thinks he is.

Did he miss this past off-season in which the prize of the free agent crop, Cliff Lee, spurned the higher offer from the Yankees to go back to the Phillies because he was familiar with the team and atmosphere and straight out thought that the Phillies had a better chance to win?

Has he been paying attention to the new trend clubs (and players) are employing in signing long-term contracts to prevent said players from ever seeing free agency? It just happened with Ryan Braun and had previously occurred with Troy Tulowitzki and Ryan Howard.

Here’s the math: the more young players who sign long-term deals to preclude their first few years of arbitration/free agency, the fewer will be available to sign with the Yankees or anyone else; nor will they be available via trade. Revenue sharing has allowed teams to spend money they heretofore didn’t have to try and compete with the Yankees.

Do you really think that Tim Lincecum is ever going to be a free agent while he’s still healthy and in his prime? That Felix Hernandez will be traded to the Yankees simply because the Yankees want him?

Those days are over and aren’t coming back. All they have to hang onto is their supposedly bursting farm system and the money to buy the aged veterans who are a massive risk—see the offer they made to Carl Pavano.

As for the farm system, you can rave about the “high-end” prospects like Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, but as the Phil Hughes injury and team-induced failure of Joba Chamberlain has proven, you cannot automatically expect a player to fulfill his hype just because there have been rules, regulations, news stories and overprotective measures enacted to place him in a box and “guarantee” success.

The Yankees are always going to be contenders?

Does he remember the fall of the Yankees dynasty from 1965 to 1975? When they couldn’t do anything right? It happens more quickly than you realize and all it takes is one crack to slowly allow seepage to poison the whole foundation until it comes crashing to the ground; it can happen to the Yankees; it can happen to anyone.

Age; terrible contracts; failed free agent acquisitions; unfulfilled promise of prospects; bad trades; injuries and the dearth of available replacements all contribute to such a downfall.

The pieces are in place for the Yankees right now.

Then we get to the most egregious of the Francesa assertions: that Mets GM Sandy Alderson had called around to other teams during their 5-13 start to try and clean out the house.

At least that’s what Francesa’s tone implied after his interview with Alderson in which Alderson said he was calling other GMs to “gauge the market”.

There’s a bit of a difference—no, there’s a giant difference—between calling another club and saying, “What are you willing to offer for Jose Reyes; David Wright; K-Rod; the light fixtures; Jeff Wilpon; whatever?” and calling to say, “If you’re ready to deal and we’re still playing like this, call us when the warm weather hits and we’ll talk about anyone.”

It all returns to the Francesa fantasy to “break up da core” of the Mets. He’s wanted it for so long; believes—again as is his right—that it was the right thing to do after the 2008 season and thinks it’s now a bit too late, but still an alternative.

But it’s not due to analysis. It’s the propping up of the self that’s so entrenched in his mind.

“I hafta be right.”

Much like his pre-season predictions in which he made such idiotic declarative statements like “I’ll pick the Twins because I always pick the Twins”, there was no research; no basis; no nothing. Just an agenda based on his own enormous opinion of himself.

It’s getting worse and worse as he transforms from irritating in his arrogance, but making a good point occasionally, to simply formulating stories that don’t exist and living in a universe all his own.

****

I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic.

****

Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

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//

There Are Better Ways To Commit Career Suicide

Books, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Uncategorized

Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell was either drunk or left his brain back in Atlanta before the team’s trip to San Francisco as he pretty much covered all the bases of job-ending stupidity in a public rant against the San Francisco fans and various groups in general—NY Times Story.

You can read about calls for McDowell’s firing everywhere; obviously he’s not going to be able to keep his job after this.

That the offended family chose to hire matron saint of the cause célèbres and tabloid fodder, attorney Gloria Allred, is a clear indicator that they’re not letting this go until they get paid; McDowell gets fired; or both.

McDowell did something so far beyond the scope of acceptable and excusable bouts of dunderheadedness that he’s going to be forced out as Braves pitching coach. No ifs, ands or buts. At first I thought the his apology was sufficient before reading the full context of the story, but he’s gotta go.

If McDowell was a star, difference-making pitching coach with a track record that would justify his retention despite this incident, obviously the Braves would find a way to keep him on. Dave Duncan gets a pass for most transgressions because he’s Dave Duncan and Tony La Russa wouldn’t let him be fired without a patented La Russa tantrum; McDowell doesn’t get that same leeway.

Mentioning La Russa isn’t a small part of such an equation. If Bobby Cox were still managing the Braves and insisted that McDowell be given the chance to redeem himself, McDowell might survive this inexplicable act of self-immolation; new manager Fredi Gonzalez has enough problems of his own trying to establish himself amid the new clubhouse culture and rampant criticisms of his strategies that he doesn’t need to be answering questions regarding his pitching coach’s misanthropic, homophobic, abusive rant.

The Braves have no option other than to force McDowell’s resignation and presumably pay a settlement to the “damaged” family. They hired Allred because they want attention and money.

They’ll get it.

And McDowell will be gone from the Braves dugout. Soon.

I have no idea what the Braves would do for a replacement pitching coach; presumably they’d hire someone from inside the organization. Rick Peterson is out of work and highly respected, although I don’t know if the Braves would want to go the Peterson route—he’s got a short shelf-life and might infringe on Gonzalez’s authority; but he’s a good pitching coach with proven results.

****

I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic.

****

Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

If anyone would like to purchase an autographed copy, leave a comment; Email me; contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

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//

Book Review: Joe DiMaggio, The Long Vigil By Jerome Charyn

Books, Hall Of Fame, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

Functioning in the insular world of self-mandated perfection not only in performance but in image made Joe DiMaggio into an icon and hero to millions.

The subject of song; the essence of manhood and historical context as he married Marilyn Monroe, he became the case study of aesthetic meeting substance and eventually was never being able to effectively meet to match the expectations of an adoring fan base.

Without the exposé-style and intentionally vicious tearing the face off of a legendary figure, Jerome Charyn presents the viable truth of an untouchable figure in Joe DiMaggio, The Long Vigil.

DiMaggio’s rabid—almost stifling—following stemmed from on-field performance and perception.

When his playing career was over, there was little for DiMaggio to do aside from maintain and cultivate that view—guarded with such historical ends and palatability—to make as much money as he possibly could.

So immersed in that countenance of a quiet man whose main lot in life was to be the best baseball player on the planet and one who would never sully his playing career by hanging on for a few years and extra dollars that the reluctance to fail extended to his life after baseball.

DiMaggio’s uncompromising on-field greatness led to a pursuit of trophies off the field; it was this desire for control that created the on-again/off-again romance with Monroe. He was a stalker; a shoulder to cry on; a conduit for Monroe to get her needs and wants fulfilled—power, fame and respect in the film industry.

She used him; he used her. His post-baseball life was that of a traveling sideshow, hungering for dollars and status while hopelessly and fruitlessly trying to corral that one thing he couldn’t tame—Marilyn Monroe.

Charyn objectively sifts through the Monroe-DiMaggio union while interweaving the DiMaggio playing career into the narrative as a means to explain how he and Monroe were drawn to one another and why it didn’t succeed.

The work is presented without the vitriol and feeding of controversy other DiMaggio biographies have cultivated.

The romance—stormy and short-lived when they were together—was such that she called him when Monroe needed his cachet to extricate her from self-created messes with Hollywood, politicians and her own demons of drugs, alcohol and mental instability; he needed her because she that which he could not bring under his spell long enough to contain her own growing legend.

DiMaggio’s near-pathological need to be the best player ever was transferred to off-field pursuits—Monroe was the most fantasized woman in the world, DiMaggio had to have her.

Without pretense and a clear underlying admiration and child-like love for what DiMaggio was, there’s no hint of disappointment in Charyn’s research and analysis; but a keen sense of relief that DiMaggio was neither the unassailable totem nor the cheap and miserable man who needed to accumulate money; the man who insisted upon the monicker of “Greatest Living Ballplayer” ; collector of baubles to memorialize him as something other than what he was.

While those lustful of the DiMaggio status will be shaken by Charyn’s book, it will not elicit the anger towards those that have sought to tear down the legend.

With every fly ball he chased down with loping strides and seeming ease, DiMaggio was also running from his humanity; it was as if by becoming this larger-than-life character, he could be immortal without the responsibility of being something other than what he was. With Monroe, he couldn’t hide from this reality that he couldn’t control everything that crossed his path.

Reduced to being the worshipper rather than the worshipped as he relentlessly insinuated himself into Monroe’s world, DiMaggio is humanized by Charyn while maintaining that aura of class, style and grace he carried in Yankees pinstripes.

DiMaggio’s existence following his baseball career can be viewed as pathetic. He had no desire to be a manager; a coach; a broadcaster (though he tried that for awhile); he worked for various companies and still some criticized him for shilling in an unseemly fashion. More was expected of him as a result of that invincibility and refusal to be anything other than the best for those who might never have seen him play before.

The mirror cracked.

Hangers-on, supplicants and public reverence prevented any and all abilities to assimilate to life after baseball. A decried relationship with longtime attorney Morris Engelberg is treated by Charyn as more than a leeching, moneymaking, control scheme from lawyer to client; Engelberg cared about DiMaggio and his legend despite his entreaties for DiMaggio to keep journals of his day that, when publicly revealed, showed a man who was notoriously petty and cheap; one who had little education and less to say about anyone and anything outside of his own self-involved realm.

DiMaggio’s unassailable skills, professionalism and desire extended from his playing career to his post-baseball life and he was never able to come to grips with an awkward clumsiness—even fear—that stemmed from absence of control.

Charyn’s biography shows the congruent yet divergent career arcs of two icons in American history. Monroe’s was on the upswing and she used DiMaggio as a means to her ends; DiMaggio, looking for a post-career diversion with another trophy.

Charyn’s portrayal is not so much a tearing the cover off of DiMaggio much as he was able to tear the cover off a baseball with his bat and catch up to it with his glove, but a way to make a symbol of the National Pastime into what he truly was and not who the myth-makers and sleaze merchants choose to present.

For those who were offended by the negatives in recent expository books regarding DiMaggio and those who look upon him as the consummate professional in uniform and polished entity who married the world’s most desired woman, this book is an evenhanded, well-written and even gentle presentation to understand that living up to a crafted plot is impossible and damaging to the individual who attempts it, thereby leaving an inevitably tragic end as DiMaggio’s life did—lonely and almost pitiful.

DiMaggio happened to be one of the best baseball players in the history of the sport and married Marilyn Monroe.

He was also flawed and sad regardless of those accomplishments.

He was a human being. No more; no less.

****

I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic.

****

Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

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//

Context Terrible

Books, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

I saw the story about former Mets and Royals righty Brian Bannister‘s decision to retire from Japanese baseball and wondered why he would announce it in such a way.

The AP report on ESPN made it appear as if Bannister was terrified by the earthquake and tsunami last month and just bailed on the Yomiuri Giants because he didn’t want to deal with another natural catastrophe. It would be understandable if that were the case, but it’s hard to see a baseball player putting forth that image of fear when there was the built-in excuse (just provided by Gabe Gross, who also retired) that his heart’s no longer in doing everything necessary to play up to the level he needs to.

I thought it was odd.

Then I checked into the story a bit more and found this on the Japan Times site which clarifies the reason Bannister is retiring a bit better when it says: “Yomiuri right-hander Brian Bannister has voluntarily left the Giants organization, citing fears over the nuclear crisis facing the Fukushima Daiichi plant following the March 11 earthquake in eastern Japan.”

Bannister has retired saying he doesn’t intend to pitch at all, but that’s neither her nor there.

The nuclear fear is a little more palatable than simply saying. “I’m outta here” after the earthquake. That one sentence regarding fear of nuclear contamination explained Bannister’s position in far more clarity than the out-of-context presentation on ESPN; it’s a concise lesson in the importance of full disclosure in writing a story.

****

I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic.

****

Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

If anyone would like to purchase an autographed copy, leave a comment; Email me; contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

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//

Your World Frightens And Confuses Me

Books, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Spring Training

I feel like Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.

I see the new rules and regulations for pitchers and can’t help but wonder whether little elves have whispered them into the ears of those in command of the nurturing of such talents as Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Stephen Strasburg.

It makes me want to run off into the woods, hide and long for the halcyon days of experience, analytical observation and allegorical techniques rather than paranoia and failed strategies masquerading as “development”.

Is this divine intervention or a glitch in the “process”?

I don’t know.

But what I do know is that Chamberlain’s development was stagnated; Strasburg is out for most, if not all of this year; and Hughes is on the disabled list, headed for the MRI tube and everyone involved with the Yankees is in a panic as to what the issue is that’s causing Hughes’s lost velocity and now inability to complete a bullpen session.

The spin doctoring is reaching ludicrous proportions. A few weeks ago, an expert in the realm of all things baseball—none other than Michael Kay—paraphrased manager Joe Girardi when he explained why Hughes wasn’t undergoing a precautionary MRI to see if something was amiss in his arm by saying, “we don’t do MRIs for the sake of them” or something to that affect.

Why?

Given the rampant paranoia and anal retentiveness which has permeated the so-called “development” of the Yankees’ young pitchers, was a medical exam including a check of the innards of Hughes’s valuable right arm such a ridiculous notion? Or were they skirting the issue because they were petrified as to what they might find?

Now there’s more garbage coming from the mouth of GM Brian Cashman as he self-justifies by citing cases like Brett Cecil of the Blue Jays and Hughes with the possibility that the diminished velocity isn’t due to a lack of throwing enough, but because their innings jumped too far too quickly.

In this NY Times piece, Girardi was quoted with the following:

“Guys have taken steps back after being extended more than they’re accustomed to doing,” Girardi said, adding: “Because everything was going so well, we felt pretty good about it. But as I said, I don’t feel so good about it now. I mean, we’re concerned about it.”

Yes, well…

But what about pitchers like Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain who weren’t treated as delicate flowers; were allowed to do something novel for a pitcher: PITCH?

I don’t want to hear this after-the-fact, self-righteous idiocy. The fact is that the pitchers upon whom the Yankees banked their future have not come close to living up to the hype in theory nor practice and a large chunk of that is due to the way they’ve (mis)treated them.

The “obvious process” has failed. Don’t cry about it now; and don’t wallow in a retrospective fantasy world in which they “know” they did the right thing.

They didn’t do the right thing. They hindered their evolution with these rules that yielded nothing close to what was intended. In fact, the rules might very well have destroyed them.

Most of the participants are hoping there’s nothing physically wrong with Hughes; I take a different tack: they’d better hope there’s something wrong with Hughes; if there isn’t, there’s no answer to the question as to why he can’t throw a fastball anymore.

I go back to Steve Avery of the Braves—a lefty pitcher with star status and a blazing fastball; Avery lost that fastball for seemingly no reason whatsoever; he had surgery and never recovered. There was no explanation; they tried to alter his mechanics; he bounced around for a few years and receded into retirement at age 33.

Avery wasn’t babied; Hughes was. But we have the same result.

Was it worth it?

It’s weirdly ironic that on the same night as the Hughes catastrophe became public, Ian Kennedy—failed Yankees prospect whom they shipped out of town in equal parts because of his mouth, his hard-headedness and that he was awful for them—pitched a masterful 3-hit shutout over the Phillies.

The next generation of Yankees homegrown stars—Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos—are coming; the Yankees are doing the same things with those hot prospects as they did with Hughes, Kennedy and Chamberlain.

They should probably be prepared for the same results too.

Your world frightens and confuses me.

If you’re a Yankee fan, “Brian’s World” should frighten and confuse you too because it’s degenerating into a “B” horror movie the type of which would’ve come from Ed Wood.

And 30 years from now, it won’t be a campy classic that’s so bad, it’s good. It’ll just be bad.

But what do I know?

I’m just a caveman.

A caveman who was right.

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I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic.

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Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

If anyone would like to purchase an autographed copy, leave a comment; Email me; contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

Become a fan on my Facebook fan page. Click on the link.

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The Jeter Book

Books, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

I’m not getting into a detailed analysis of something I haven’t read, but you have to understand that the new book by Ian O’Connor about Derek Jeter had to have a little more spice than the St. Derek image of consummate professional, winner and champion on the field/bon vivant, model and actress-dating playboy off the field to sell more than the perfunctory amount of copies that generally occur for a star biography.

“The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter” is discussed in this ESPN.com piece.

That the title sounds like a biblical tome more than a book about a baseball player might be a bigger aspect of the portable prison in which he resides than many realize.

Some of the headline-grabbing revelations suggest a continuing rift between Jeter and GM Brian Cashman after the contentious contract negotiations from last winter; that Alex Rodriguez and Jeter’s turf war escalated to crisis levels; and, unbeknownst to Cashman, former Yankees manager Joe Torre was his usual Machiavellian self in taking the side of Jeter rather than his GM and A-Rod.

Controversy sells. What’s been leaked by the publicists to the websites and newspapers (they work hand-in-hand you know) is designed to create a buzz that wouldn’t exist if this were simply the typical “play hard, respect your parents and your elders, keep true to your word and things will work out in whatever endeavor you choose” we’ve come to expect in any written piece about Jeter.

After the book is released and the context is fully revealed perhaps it can be a retrospective positive for Jeter and will free him from the shackles of being “Derek Jeter” the character—the public face that was the catalyst for the uproar last season when he was lambasted for “cheating” when he acted as if he’d gotten hit by a pitch against the Rays when he hadn’t.

The expectations for Jeter have become so stifling that he can’t jaywalk without it becoming a media circus.

If the book allows him to be Derek the man and forces the participants to hash out their differences, they’ll thank O’Connor for writing it. Jeter is admirable and flawed. His caricature is such that no one, nowhere could possibly live up to it. He’s in a cage. Maybe O’Connor’s book will—unintentionally—be his key to act like a person rather than an untouchable, deified idol.

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I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic.

****

Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

If anyone would like to purchase an autographed copy, leave a comment; Email me; contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

Become a fan on my Facebook fan page. Click on the link.

//

Viewer Mail 4.25.2011

Books, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

Mike Luna in The Bleacher Seats writes RE the Dodgers being moved back to New York:

Oh, no, there’s no shot of this happening. Riper’s logic seems to be that the Mets are a fake New York team and the Brooklyn Dodgers never should have left anyway. Somehow moving one and destroying the other would make everyone (30 or so very old Brooklyn fans) happy.

Never mind that the LA Dodgers have plenty more fans than their Brooklyn counterpart.

These sorts of articles always rub me the wrong way, as they tend to make assumptions like that everyone in NY is a Yankees fan anyway and no one would miss the Mets.

Maybe we should move all of the old teams back to where they started. The A’s could move to KC and then Philly. The Rangers & Twins to DC. The Brewers to Seattle. LA & SF back to NY. Nationals to Montreal. The Yankees to Baltimore.

Mike is referring to this piece in Forbes by Tom Riper suggesting the Dodgers be moved back to Brooklyn.

It’s hard to tell if Riper is serious about this, but if he is, it’s absurd. The Dodgers still draw 3 million fans; the Mets are an institution (insert joke here) by now; and this is a half-fantasy disguised as a solution.

On another note, I’m all in favor of the Yankees going back to Baltimore. I’ll help them pack if they agree to transport a large chunk of their fan base, Mike Francesa and Michael Kay.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Felix Hernandez:

I’d like to see Felix get dealt, even if it is to the Yankees. It pains me to see his efforts squandered with no supporting cast. He looks like he could use a hug.

His efforts being squandered is an important point; plus he’s signed through 2014 and trading him could yield the foundation to rebuild the Mariners faster than they might if they keep him.

The two biggest factors are: Will he ask out because he’s tired of the losing and wasted effort? And who’s making the call for the Mariners?

VB27 writes RE the Mariners:

Joba Chamberlain has very little value. The Mariners could do a lot better than than “Joba Chamberlain; Brett Gardner; Jesus Montero; either Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances” if they decided to put King Felix on the market. And there is really no reason for them to do so for AT LEAST the next year and a half. He is the only real draw they have and Seattle can afford to pay him. Plus, with Smoak looking like he’ll stick at first for a long while, they’d have to put Montero at DH, lessening his value to them. It just not going to happen.

VB is referring to my proposed trade the other day and conveniently leaving out the fact that I said the deal as presented is contingent on the Yankees taking the full contract of Chone Figgins.

Montero is 21-years-old; I find it laughable that it’s automatically assumed that he’s not going to improve enough defensively to be able to catch in the big leagues. Judging by his caught stealing percentages in the minors, he’s got the arm to catch; the other stuff—blocking balls; calling a game—can be taught.

The concept that Chamberlain has “very little value” is propaganda on the opposite end of the spectrum of that which created the Joba Legend to begin with. Part of it is the fault of the Yankees; the rest stems from the media expectations of such a hyped prospect. He still throws a fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s and if he can’t start, he could be a good closer; he does have value given his age and low cost.

There’s validity to what Buster Olney wrote last week concerning the possibility that Hernandez might force his way out of Seattle. You do have to consider the source as Olney occasionally conjures things out of mid-air, but Hernandez is pitching with no margin for error on a start-by-start basis; because the Mariners can’t score, he’s never at liberty to let it fly, fire his blazing fastball and dare the hitters to touch him with it in mind that if he gives up a homer, so what? It’s always a one-run game where he doesn’t have the luxury of making a single mistake.

Would it be worth it for the Mariners to trade their one ultra-marketable commodity and get rid of that idiotic Figgins contract while bringing in a closer, a 27-year-old outfielder who can fly; a star pitching prospect; and a power bat who can catch?

The Mariners are going to be out from under the Milton Bradley contract after this year and Ichiro Suzuki‘s contract after next year. They’ll have a lot of money to spend to sign free agents and make bold trades to get better quickly.

It’s not something to dismiss out-of-hand.

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I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic.

****

Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

If anyone would like to purchase an autographed copy, leave a comment; Email me; contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

Become a fan on my Facebook fan page. Click on the link.

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