Travels In The Blameatorium

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

Rangers closer Neftali Feliz has been placed on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.

Naturally this is leading to the factional dispute exploding in full-force as to where the blame for this lies and what to do about it.

The obvious culprit is the attempt to make Feliz into a starter in spring training only to move him back to the bullpen when no clear-cut replacement as closer emerged. The age-old argument of whether or not a pitcher who can perform capably in both roles popped up again.

Would Feliz be of more value as a starter or reliever?

Does it matter if he’s on the disabled list?

In a similar vein as saying the sudden alteration in thought-processes and physical requirements could have played a part in Feliz coming up hurt, this is being treated as an opportunity to express the differing viewpoints with the injury as a lever to reopen that (supposedly for 2011 at least) closed door.

Michael Bates writes that the Rangers should start Feliz here on ESPN’s Sweet Spot.

Bobby Valentine said on Twitter: “I mentioned in spring training that Feliz would have a bad shoulder.”

Bates presents a numerical and historical foundation for his beliefs.

Given his intelligence and breadth of experience, Valentine is qualified to make such a prediction and gloat about it.

You can make a realistic case for both sides being right.

Feliz is still young enough that it’s unfair to pigeonhole him as a closer for the rest of his career if he’s able to start and turn into Derek Lowe—a good closer who became a consistent, durable starter.

People forget that Mariano Rivera was tried as a starter, didn’t have the stamina to maintain his stuff for the duration of a start and, more importantly, has the ice in his veins to get the big outs in a post-season game. Rivera was 26 when he made it to the big leagues to stay and was discovered to be a brilliant reliever almost by accident.

There’s no way to pinpoint why Feliz’s shoulder acted up, but that switch—physically and mentally—is a circumstantial aspect of the injury. He was a closer who appeared in 70 games last year and pitched into the playoffs all the way through to the World Series in high intensity situations; then he was tried as a starter this spring, worked as a starter, then was moved back to the bullpen.

It’s a different role; a different mindset; a different job. You can’t pigeonhole an individual into a position he might not be able to handle based on an ironclad set of principles that don’t and can’t apply to each and every person.

Prior to the Mets-Braves series, Capitol Avenue Club posted a Q and A with Joe Janish, a Mets blogger. In the piece, regarding Jenrry Mejia, Janish said:

Mejia has looked good so far in two AAA starts, but I’m wary to pin high hopes on him just yet because he has dangerous mechanics that will contribute to chronic arm problems. If Mejia ever corrects his delivery, he still needs to develop an off-speed pitch to be an MLB starter.

And Janish knows about Mejia’s mechanics and the proper “corrections” that need to be made how?

An experienced and heretofore respected pitching coach, Joe Kerrigan, tried to “correct” the mechanics of former top draft pick Brad Lincoln and was fired in part because of Lincoln’s inability to adapt to the changes and still maintain his stuff.

The same thing happened with Zach Duke as Jim Colborn, Jim Tracy‘s pitching coach with the same hapless Pirates, altered Duke’s mechanics and saw the “phenom” that Duke supposedly was (but really wasn’t) degenerate into a conspicuously hittable and mediocre pitcher.

So which is it?

Has anyone who’s exhibiting this after-the-fact armchair expertise ever stopped to think that the motion could be part of the reason why he’s effective? Why his pitches have the movement they do? That the deception or uniqueness of motion is an integral part of his “skill set”? (Another preferred term transplanted from the corporate world.)

Are they supposed to be starters or relievers?

Are the mechanics supposed to be “fixed” or left as they are?

It’s everywhere.

Phil Hughes is having the entire social network diagnosing and making suggestions as to how he can regain his lost velocity; and I guarantee that if Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild‘s long toss program doesn’t yield the desired results, Hughes will grow so desperate that he’ll try to incorporate any piece of advice he gets, regardless whether said advice is coming from an idiot or not.

Pitchers who have picture-perfect mechanics like Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan don’t come along very often. Much like there aren’t many pitchers who have the all-around ability to perform both jobs as starter and closer, you can’t shove a square peg into a round hole and not expect bits of the peg to be whittled away.

The facts are as follows: Neftali Feliz is on the disabled list; no one can directly say why because he might’ve gotten hurt if he was used exclusively as a closer in spring training or if he became a full-time starter.

Then that (whichever “that” you choose is based on your position in the argument) would’ve been the “reason” presented for his injury.

Under no circumstances should he be shifted into the rotation until next season; if they do it, it has to be over and done with. No looking back.

But we’ll still have the moles emerging from their holes to express their retrospective predictive expertise and analysis of Feliz, his mechanics, his use and his future.

It’s up to you whether or not to take it seriously.

****

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.

//

Advertisements

Early Season Blues And Blahs

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

This morning I focused on the “oohs and ahs”; now it’s time for the blues and blahs.

The Yankees starting pitching holes:

You can go on and on about Bartolo Colon‘s stunningly great work so far (he has been great); and Freddy Garcia‘s craftsmanship and intelligence (he’s been really smart); but it’s 16 games into the season and they’re not—N.O.T.—not going to keep it up past May-June.

A.J. Burnett is 3-0 and hasn’t pitched particularly well; Phil Hughes is on the disabled list with a “dead arm”. All they have to rely on in the starting rotation is CC Sabathia.

It’s a problem whether you face it or not.

They’re going to have to find a starting pitcher somewhere.

And maybe Brian Cashman is right to keep asking the Mariners about Felix Hernandez.

Buster Olney wrote a piece about the Mariners last week (it’s ESPN Insider access, so no link), but here’s the crux:

If the Mariners’ decision-makers determine for themselves that Hernandez is getting fed up and bored with the losing, then the best time to trade him will be this summer. His value is extraordinary, and similarly, their trade leverage will never be higher, because of what he would immediately mean to any interested team, whether it be the Yankees or the Braves (who could put together a heck of an offer) or the Red Sox.

It’s a longshot, but maybe the Mariners will put Hernandez on the market.

Short of that, the Yankees will have to wait to see who comes available and hope that Colon and Garcia are still of use and Hughes comes back to do….something.

Speaking of the Mariners…

In that same ESPN piece, Olney wonders whether GM Jack Zduriencik will survive the continued losing that the Mariners are going to have to endure for the foreseeable future. The old standby excuse of “there wasn’t much talent there when he arrived” is actually a viable excuse; I can’t fault him for the slow starts of bats who should’ve improved the offense in Jack Cust and Miguel Olivo; but Chone Figgins is batting .162 and, so far, is one of the worst free agent signings in my memory. Giving Figgins $45 million was ridiculous and I said so at the time.

Nor is it Zduriencik’s fault that he was anointed as a genius based on an overachieving/statistical correcting season from 2008 to 2009. The 2008 Mariners weren’t 100-loss bad; the 2009 Mariners weren’t 85-win good.

That said, after last year’s on-and-off the field embarrassments, I would’ve put Zduriencik on notice that the team had better look more passionate on the field and no….controversies….off….the….field!!

Here’s what I would do if I were the Mariners. I’d call the Yankees and offer them Felix Hernandez for: Joba Chamberlain; Brett Gardner; Jesus Montero; either Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances; and the Yankees have to take Figgins and his contract back.

Take it or leave it.

The key for the Mariners is deciding who’s going to be running the club. If they’ve lost trust in Zduriencik, they have to make a change before trading season gets underway.

Your 2011 Minnesota Twins:

I find it laughable that the likes of Mike Francesa have the audacity to make “predictions” by uttering such inanities as, “I’m pickin’ da Twins because I always pick ‘da Twins”.

Um. Okay.

With that kind of expert analysis, it was a legitimate question as to why I wasted my time and energy writing my book…until the season started.

How about looking at the team before coming to such a conclusion?

The Twins bullpen is awful; their starting pitching predictably mediocre; their defense is shaky; their offense pockmarked by injuries; and I’m convinced there’s a hangover from last season when they put everything they had into finally beating the Yankees and were swatted away like an irritating mosquito.

They’re going to have a long year.

The A’s imported some hitters; so why can’t they hit?

What’s the problem in Oakland?

They bring in three good, professional hitters in David DeJesus, Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui and none of them are hitting. Their starting pitching has been masterful; the revamped bullpen mediocre. If they want to contend, they’ve got to coordinate their performances a bit.

As much as I wish I could blame Billy Beane for the meager offense, I can’t. They’re not hitting and it’s not his fault.

I’m still ambivalent about the A’s—I don’t think their starting pitching can sustain this pace—but Willingham, DeJesus and Matsui are going to hit eventually.

The staggering White Sox:

Ozzie Guillen‘s job has been “teetering” how many times now? And he’s never gotten fired.

It’s not his fault that Matt Thornton hasn’t been able to close games; that the overall bullpen is killing them. Could Guillen be in trouble? Real trouble with the potential to be fired?

I doubt it, but I’ll say this: in my book, before Guillen’s 2012 contract option was exercised, I speculated that the expectations for this team were high; that they spent a lot of money and pretty much maximized the limits of their payroll—they have to win. If the relationship between Guillen and GM Kenny Williams deteriorated any further, Williams might pull the trigger on his longtime cohort.

I also suggested that Cito Gaston might be a viable replacement; Williams nearly hired Gaston to manage the team before he hired Guillen; I didn’t get the impression that Gaston wanted to stop managing after last season with the Blue Jays.

Then when the White Sox exercised Guillen’s option, I deleted what I’d written.

But could they make a move if the team’s fall continues?

The obvious new manager would be Joey Cora, but Williams thinks outside the box and Gaston is a calming voice with two World Series wins to his credit.

Don’t discount the possibility.

****

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.



//

Early Season Oohs And Ahs

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

Let’s have a look at some of the early seasons positives and whether or not they’re real or a mirage.

The rampaging Indians:

Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin are a combined 7-0; the bullpen has been brilliant; Travis Hafner is healthy and killing the ball; Asdrubal Cabrera has 4 homers(!); and Grady Sizemore is looking like his old self returning from microfracture surgery.

All of these occurrences won’t continue.

Hafner’s inevitable health problems and the tricky nature of microfracture surgery for Sizemore will be counteracted—to a point—when Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana start to hit; but the Indians are still playing journeymen Orlando Cabrera and Jack Hannahan regularly; and Asdrubal Cabrera cannot keep up his hot start.

The pitching is the question. Masterson will return to earth; the bullpen won’t be as good as it has been; and they’ve beaten up on struggling/mediocre/poor teams.

A brigade of “Indians are contenders again” believers will gather steam, but they’re not contenders. At best they could hover around .500 all season and fade out towards the end. But that’s it.

Weaver and Haren is plenty good:

And Ervin Santana is underrated as well.

Who could possibly have thought that the Angels—with their top three starting pitchers and history of success—were going to recede into the Pacific Ocean and leave the AL West for the Rangers and still-overrated Athletics without a peep?

Jered Weaver is one of the best pitchers in baseball and is looking to get paid in the not-so-distant future (free agent after 2012; Scott Boras is his agent—do the math).

Dan Haren has been brilliant as well. Those who looked at the Angels off-season and scoffed because their acquisitions were limited to Vernon Wells (who’s going to hit), Hisanori Takahashi and Scott Downs, conveniently forgot that the Angels traded for Haren at mid-season 2010.

Joel Pineiro will be back soon and rookie Tyler Chatwood has been solid. Manager Mike Scioscia didn’t hesitate to make Jordan Walden the closer and Fernando Rodney is more comfortable as a set-up man.

Is anyone still laughing at the Angels? And will they admit how stupid they were (and still are) now?

I doubt it. I’ll be more than happy to point it out though. With enthusiasm.

Burying Josh Beckett and the Red Sox:

More partisan silliness.

Beckett was hurt last year. Now he’s not hurt. And he’s pitching brilliantly.

It was idiotic to think that a 31-year-old post-season hero with Beckett’s career history was “done” because of maladies that had nothing to do with his arm.

After their hideous start, the Red Sox have righted the ship and will be a run-scoring machine when Carl Crawford starts to hit. And he will start to hit.

On another note, it’s only a matter of time before Mike Cameron is playing center field regularly. The frustration with Jacoby Ellsbury is legitimate; I was never a fan and his power display is a mirage. He’s done nothing at the plate aside from his 4 homers; is mediocre defensively in center field; and the other players don’t seem to like him.

John Lackey will also have to be dealt with. Even though he pitched well against the anemic offense of the Oakland Athletics, his behavior and body language were both troubling. Nobody’s saying that Jarrod Saltalamacchia is Johnny Bench in terms of handling pitchers, but the open animosity between pitcher and catcher can’t go on. Lackey isn’t endearing himself to his teammates with his miserable attitude and it has to be handled from the inside. If that means Jason Varitek, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis have to corner and threaten him physically, so be it.

Later on today, I’ll post about the negatives so far in early 2011.

****

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. Many of my predictions have proven accurate already; the ones that haven’t will be. Most of them anyway.

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 4.22.2011

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

Jason C at 98 On the Black writes RE the Dodgers, Frank McCourt and MLB:

After Mark Cuban almost ended up with the Rangers, the last thing MLB wanted was to have a bankruptcy court deciding who ends up with the club. I’m sure that factored in to why MLB acted now.

I expect litigation because Frank McCourt has nothing to lose at this point. MLB might have to settle just to get him to go away.

I think you’re right. McCourt might win in court, but even if he wins it has the potential to wind up being a USFL type “win” where he gets a dollar.

I would think the same rules apply to MLB deciding who’s allowed to own a club even if there was a bankruptcy case; they still have control over who owns the teams. I’ve never understood the fear of Mark Cuban; he’s flamboyant, but it’s not due to being a fool or meddler—he’s passionate and to the best of my understanding has allowed his basketball people to run the Mavericks (I’m not much for basketball); I’d be perfectly pleased if Cuban bought the Mets with his money, personality and aggressiveness to attract players and fans.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the Dodgers and McCourt:

He’d have to be a bit crazy to go through with a lawsuit. I’m not convinced he’s NOT crazy. So there ya go. I think MLB made the right decision (ultimately). If you don’t have any money you shouldn’t own a team.

There are two ways of looking at it: one, quit before he’s totally broke—while he can still recoup some of his money and have a portion of his fortune remaining; two, go forward with more legal wrangling, say he’s got nothing to lose and hope he wins.

He does have a legitimate beef with MLB.

They approved him, they have to live with him. As I said earlier in agreeing with Jason, they’ll have to settle to avoid making an already big mess into a radioactive, unsalvageable wasteland.

Mike Luna in The Bleacher Seats writes RE teams with financial issues:

Don’t know if it crossed your desk, but Tom Van Riper at Forbes wrote an article about contracting the Mets, moving the Dodgers back to NY, and moving the Rays or A’s to LA. Thought it might be something you find interesting.

Or, perhaps, this is the sort of thing you’d rather not waste your time on.

Link: http://blogs.forbes.com/tomvanriper/2011/04/21/move-the-dodgers-back-to-brooklyn/

I don’t have a desk. I have a cage and a little rolling table.

I’ll look at the column—it sounds interesting in a fictional sort of way and I’ll bet it makes sense, but think about the contracts; the Players Association; the fans; the media—it would be a logistical nightmare and couldn’t possibly happen.

And why is it the Mets that get contracted? If they’re contracting a team, the Rays are a better choice based on a lack of fan support. I don’t know how they’d decide which teams stayed; which went; and how the whole thing would be coordinated.

Franklin Rabon writes RE Ryan Braun (via Twitter):

You seen this? Who would have thought of the day you and Dave Cameron are in firm agreement? http://goo.gl/z8f6f

Keith Law thought it was a bad idea as well.

These guys may be smartening up. Finally.

What I was thinking about regarding these long term deals given to players like Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun and Evan Longoria is how they’re going to affect future free agent classes.

Slowly, teams choosing to lock up their players will water down the number of big names available. I’m sure player agents are displeased that their own clients are choosing to take short-term payouts at the expense of possible long-term security at huge money; it worked out for Tulowitzki, Braun and Ryan Howard

For a player who decided to shun the long-term offer as Carl Crawford did, he’s in line to get a giant contract when he does go free agent; that will be exacerbated by the paucity of free agents available as a result of the Braun-style contract.

I plan a posting to discuss this in the future.

****

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. It’s good for fantasy players and will be useful all year long.

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 onFacebook or Twitter.

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

//

How Does A Precedent Become A Precedent?

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

One thing to think about when considering the possibility of Dodgers deposed owner Frank McCourt suing MLB to regain control of the franchise: no one ever thought the reserve clause would be eliminated before Curt Flood among others had the audacity to challenge its legality.

I’m not comparing McCourt to Flood, but litigation can go either way; if McCourt chooses to go that route, he’d probably lose—as is stated in this NY Times article—but there’s a chance he might win; that he could possibly overcome the “best interests of baseball” powers invoked by Commissioner Bud Selig in taking the franchise away.

Is baseball prepared for that eventuality? To have the entire fabric of central control from the commissioner’s office torn apart because they couldn’t wait another month or two until McCourt was left with no choice but to sell the team or willingly hand the Dodgers over to MLB?

A precedent becomes such when a judge makes the decision. Undefined executive powers and arcane bylaws can be struck down by an activist judge who’s disinterested in baseball’s political connections, sees the case as a stand-alone circumstance and finds reason to believe that McCourt has been wronged.

The word arcane means “understood by few”; I find it hard to believe that Selig himself understands the potential ramifications of this move in any great detail.

Will McCourt have the stomach to add to his legal woes—and stratospheric bills—by suing MLB on top of his divorce; fending off the apparent IRS investigation; the loans; and whatever else is going to pop up in this train wreck?

An answer of “no” could be what baseball was banking on when executing this preemptive strike before the Dodgers were bankrupt and couldn’t pay their bills; but perhaps they would’ve been better-served to wait it out and let the situation crumble organically rather than force it along by stepping in before the fact.

If he chooses to go forward with a legal challenge to baseball’s anti-trust exemption and broad powers to do whatever they want, McCourt will more than likely lose; his finances will be in further ruin; and he could very well get a first hand view of Dodger Stadium parking lot security because he’ll have to take a job as a guard.

But it could go another way.

He might win.

It would take years; he’d have nothing left; but he might win.

Then what’s baseball going to do?

I’m not entirely sure they thought this through completely before acting and it could be a gigantic mistake for the long-term future of the entity known as Major League Baseball.

****

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. It’s good for fantasy players and everyone else.

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.

A Passover Bounty For The Hebrew Hammer

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

Ryan Braun signed a contract extension with the Brewers through 2020.

Like Troy Tulowitzki before him, Braun’s new contract is on top of his prior contract that he signed after his rookie year. He’s guaranteed $145 million with a mutual option for 2021 and a $4 million buyout.

He’ll be 37-years-old at its conclusion.

Braun is a terrific hitter as is Tulowitzki, but I’m not a fan of these souped-up, long-term deals for players in their 20s. Essentially the Brewers and Rockies have locked themselves in with two fine players through the ends of their careers for a lot of money.

As much as there’s a new formula for value placed on players and what they’re likely to be worth financially, a 10-year commitment to one player is far too much for me to stomach. And for teams with payroll constraints like the Brewers and Rockies, it’s a risk to give even the most conscientious and serious players that kind of security.

Both Tulowitzki and Braun were signed at reasonable rates for the foreseeable future—Tulowitzki’s was until 2015; Braun’s 2016; now they’re locked in with their clubs.

Was there a sense of urgency to do this now? And the reaction to Braun making this decision to forego his chance at free agency in four years time is being treated as if he did the Brewers a tremendous favor. Ken Griffey Jr. took a far below market value contract at the time ($116.5 million) when he forced the Mariners to trade him to the Reds, the Reds and no one but the Reds. That didn’t go so well.

When Griffey’s deal was announced, Scott Boras said: “If the player owns a Rolls-Royce and he chooses to sell it at Volkswagen prices, that’s his right.”

Braun and the Brewers made a mutual decision to rely on one another for the rest of Braun’s years of productivity. Both sides seem happy, but I wouldn’t have done this due to the potential of complacency; satisfaction; injury; and age.

2021 is a long way away.

****

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

****

Purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide. It’s good for fantasy players and everyone else.

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.

//

Emergency Powers—Selective And Despotic

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

Anytime you have a decision made based on the good of the community and delivered by unquestioned decree, you should question its motive and whether said decision has been made based on facts alone or ancillary influences.

Such is the case with MLB’s decision to take over the operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers from Frank McCourt.

You can read the details here—NY Times.com.

Under no circumstances am I defending the behavior of Frank McCourt and his wife Jamie, but there’s an aspect of piling on and  flinging everything into the bonfire as if lawlessness has taken hold and the powers that be had no other option.

The reviled autocratic leader—McCourt—has been forcibly removed after metaphorically robbing from the state’s coffers in treating the franchise as a personal cash machine to supplement delusions of a growing empire.

But what about baseball’s despot; also autocratic—yet likable in a rumpled, befuddled sort of way—Commissioner Bud Selig?

McCourt, scrambling for cash to pay his bills and maintain the Dodgers, was desperately seeking a buyer or a loan to maintain the team. Baseball was right to step in before it truly got out of hand and one of the signature franchises in the sport was bankrupt and unable to function.

But the selective enforcement allowed by the “best interests of baseball” clause bear an eerie similarity to a dictatorship that simply decides to eliminate an enemy without trial.

Anything can be explained by legalese, smooth talk, evidence as to the damage being done or sheer loathing raining down on the persecuted; but is it fair? Should baseball be able to do this at a moment’s notice just “because”?

McCourt has financed his lavish lifestyle using the Dodgers as a lever to gain more and more credit and buy more and more “stuff”; the divorce from his wife Jamie and legal battle for the franchise has been an exercise in humiliation like something from the shlock-mill of Aaron Spelling; but in looking at the team itself, has he been a terrible owner when assessing results on the field? Has he interfered with the club operations to its detriment?

How is what McCourt has done to the Dodgers in any worse than the way the Pirates have degenerated into a laughingstock? It’s notable that the Pirates are now—conveniently—being terribly mismanaged by a longtime Selig ally, Frank Coonelly.

Why is it that George Steinbrenner repeatedly ran afoul of baseball protocol (such as it is) with his antics and frequent suspensions, but was never permanently forced out as owner?

Baseball stepped in with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria when it was discovered that he was fiddling with the revenue sharing dollars he received from richer clubs, pocketing it rather than spending it on players as was intended; but the Marlins are a profitable, successful franchise that provides better bang for their buck than just about any other team.

The allegation that Fred Wilpon’s close relationship with Selig has assisted him in getting a loan and time to straighten out the team’s legal issues is reasonable and calls into greater question the way MLB has snatched control of the Dodgers from McCourt.

You can compare the differing circumstances in a myriad of ways and justify the takeover of the Dodgers; but so too could you wonder why it’s the Dodgers with whom they’ve stepped in so forcefully but not the Pirates or Mets.

For all the ridicule that the McCourts’ ownership has engendered, have they faltered on the field?

They’ve made the playoffs in four of the seven years he’s owned the team.

Have they scrimped on signing players?

They doled lucrative contracts on Derek Lowe, J.D. Drew, Jason Schmidt, Rafael Furcal, Andruw Jones and a host of others.

Have they shunned paying for their draft picks?

The Dodgers gave a $5.25 million bonus to 2010 1st round pick Zach Lee which was $4 million more than the preceding selection, Jesse Biddle, got from the Phillies—perceived as an organization that runs their club correctly.

Has McCourt overtly and negatively interfered with the on-field product and told his manager or GM what to do?

It’s possible, but from what I can see based on the GM maneuverings since McCourt bought the team—and that includes former GM Paul DePodesta and present GM Ned Colletti—he let them to do whatever they wanted.

He hired the biggest name manager in Joe Torre when he came available and the team has been consistently good.

Adding the violent assault on a San Francisco Giants fan in the Dodger Stadium parking lot to the list of McCourt transgressions is equivalent of tossing another charge into the indictment since it’s there and easy to use as an extra tool to pry the club from McCourt’s clutches.

The admission that there wasn’t enough security to prevent the beating is legitimate, but have you ever seen ballpark security? It’s not as if there are moonlighting cops or former CIA operatives running around to watch over the customers as they head to their cars; many times the security personnel are worse than the troublemaking fans themselves!

The personality-based viewpoint with which McCourt has been pigeonholed and the way baseball pushed him aside is justified by rule of baseball. It’s better to intervene too early rather than too late, but why the Dodgers and not the other teams and owners mentioned above?

Of course baseball had to take over the Dodgers; barring a miracle or owner-friendly negotiation with the creditors, McCourt’s ownership was no longer tenable. But the timing and seemingly capricious handling should be scrutinized more than it has been.

A lack of fairness and whimsical action without due process should be a concern to all. Practically and by delineation of powers, Selig had a right to do what he did and he had to do it; but the proffered justifications are troubling considering the way other clubs and owners have skated by without meaningful repercussions for their actions.

This was clearly personal. And that makes it all the more worrisome as to the broadbased powers allowable in the “best interests of baseball”.

****

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

****

Purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide. It’s good for fantasy players and everyone else.

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.

//

Deface Of A Franchise

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

David Wright is the Mets most valuable asset on and off the field.

He’s their recognizable star; an upstanding citizen; still a top tier player at a hard-to-fill position; signed long-term to a reasonable contract; a stand-up player and leader in the clubhouse while others have shied from the responsibility.

That’s why the Mets should trade him.

Let’s take a look at the reasons why.

“Da core” is broken.

Don’t think for a second this is akin to Mike Francesa’s tired and self-serving attempt at attention-grabbing after the 2008 season in which he insisted the Mets had to “break up ‘da core”.

There is no longer a core to break up.

The remnants of the title-contending Mets from 2006-2008 are either gone, aging or preparing for departure. Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph were fired; Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo have been released; Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes are free agents at the end of the year and will either be traded or allowed to leave; Johan Santana is a forgotten man as he rehabs from shoulder surgery; Carlos Delgado, Jose Valentin, Billy Wagner and Duaner Sanchez are gone and long since forgotten.

Since the injuries to teammates mounted in 2009, there’s been a sense of lone man on an island surrounding Wright. As the Mets have collapsed on and off the field, Wright has endured; asserted his desire to stay; played hard and through aches and pains; withstood the unfair vitriol from frustrated fans as the sole remaining target for their abuse—and he’s behaved classily and professionally.

There’s no longer a core of anything. This season is degenerating rapidly into a disaster and the Mets most marketable asset is Wright.

They could extract a bounty for him.

With their current weaknesses, financial situation and season spiraling as it is, they could bring in a large haul for Wright.

He’s signed to a reasonable contract through 2013 that pays him $14 million this season; $15 million next season; and a $16 million option for 2013 with a $1 million buyout. He does not have a no-trade clause.

He plays a premium, hard-to-fill position and a change-of-scenery to a more friendly home ballpark and surrounded by better players in a more positive atmosphere would return him to MVP contending status.

Given these factors, a starting point in any trade talk would have to include a blue-chip pitching prospect; a blue-chip infielder who can hit and run; an innings-eating, relatively young starting pitcher; and another young bat with an attribute—speed or power.

Everyone and everything should be on the table.

No team should be excluded from soliciting an offer for Wright and that includes the Phillies, Braves, Marlins and Yankees.

All have prospects to deal; all could put Wright somewhere; all could fit him into their salary structure at least for the short-term.

How would the Phillies—who are going to need a bat—look with Wright at third base bashing in Citizens Bank Park and Placido Polanco moving to second? If and when Chase Utley comes back, they could shift he or Wright to the outfield.

The Yankees and Braves also could send him to the outfield; the Marlins are desperate for a third baseman and if they’re in contention, would they include Matt Dominguez to get Wright? They’ve got the nerve to do it.

The Dodgers, Angels, Athletics (who were suggested as a possible destination for Wright on Bleacher Report a couple of days ago), Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Padres—all are locations that could use Wright and have the goods to get him.

It’s best for both sides.

The new Mets baseball operations crew, led by Sandy Alderson, made their name in objective analysis and an absence of fear. The current club circumstances won’t be affected by dealing Wright. Fans aren’t coming to the ballpark; they’re going to lose 90 games with or without Wright; they have multiple needs and financial issues hindering their flexibility; he—as opposed to Beltran, Reyes and Francisco Rodriguez—isn’t carting a load of baggage or impending free agency to dilute the return in a trade.

In making a smart, aggressive deal, they could be ready to start anew by opening day 2012 with the Wilpon financial morass (hopefully) settled; a load of money off the books; and a stable of young players with fresh legs, unsullied by the residue of past failures.

Wright is 28-years-old and the frustration of losing and drama is wearing on his once-sunny disposition.

He’s tired and you can see it.

Knowing how things are clearly getting worse before they get better and that his compatriot Reyes—who was meant to be the other half of the dual-cornerstones for years of contention—is heading out the door, makes this an obvious call for everyone.

Perception and reality make the time right.

Wright isn’t the type to ask for a trade, but then neither was Roy Halladay.

Halladay stayed in Toronto as long as he could stand it, but finally asked out. It was one of those rare deals that worked for both sides. The Phillies got a star pitcher still in his prime at a financial discount; the Blue Jays acquired an ace starting pitcher and future Cy Young Award candidate in Kyle Drabek.

The Mets aren’t contenders for anything this year aside from a high pick in the 2012 draft—they look terrible; they are terrible. Clinging to the past and hoping that Wright can lead the next wave of young players into viable contention—something that won’t happen until 2013—is a mad shortsightedness in the interests of current perception and is exactly what they’ve tried to get away from with the hiring of Alderson.

Keeping Wright is the equivalent of refurbishing a dilapidated house by holding onto a valuable painting hanging on a crumbling wall.

It’s pointless when the same painting can be dealt or sold for great value.

Rather than patch a defaced and collapsing property, they need to reach the root of the problem. The Mets have to rebuild the foundation entirely.

There’s nothing left for Wright with the Mets.

It’s diminishing returns if they keep him.

They need to start over.

And the best way to do that is to trade David Wright.

Now.

****

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

****

Purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide. It’s useful all year long and all me, take it or leave it. No fear; no remorse; no apologies.

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.


//

Mets Dump Brad Emaus

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

After 42 plate appearances; a .162 batting average with no power; and a .262 on base percentage, the player that some were suggesting could  be the Mets version of hitting the lottery as the Marlins did with Dan Uggla in 2006, is gone.

Or maybe not gone.

It depends.

The Mets designated Brad Emaus for assignment today and recalled Justin Turner. What that means is that Emaus has to pass through waivers and, after ten days if he’s unclaimed, the Rule 5 selection will be offered back to the Blue Jays; if they refuse or decide to work out a trade with the Mets, he can stay with the club where they’ll be free to send him to Triple A Buffalo—technical details culled from MLBTradeRumors.

On the bright side for the Mets, the way Emaus hit, it’s hard to see anyone claiming him and having to keep him on the big league roster; the Blue Jays may not be interested in taking him back either, so he’ll stay a Met.

I was skeptical when all this talk about Emaus began after the Mets claimed him. His minor league numbers are eye-catching, but lightning strikes like what happened with the Marlins and Uggla are exceedingly rare. Emaus did have an on base percentage .100 points higher than his putrid batting average, so he has ability to work the count and get on base; and his defense at second was better than advertised.

But what were the Mets expecting here?

Assistant GM J.P. Ricciardi drafted Emaus when he was the Blue Jays GM, so he knows him. Presumably the Mets front office wasn’t as excited about him as the numbers-crunchers were. It takes more than numbers to evaluate a player and perhaps Emaus can still be a productive big leaguer; he isn’t one now.

I understand the impatience of the Mets in this case; it’s a signal that they’re not beholden to a Rule 5 pick if he’s not performing up to big league standards; on the other hand, would it have hurt to give him another 40-60 at bats? He seemed overmatched, but if they liked him so much to give him the starting job out of spring training, he warranted a longer look that this.

The Mets will say all the right things: “We liked and still like Brad”; “He’s got a lot of ability, but needs more minor league seasoning”; “This is not a reflection on the player, but we need someone to help us now.”

All are reasonable. But they don’t make much sense in the long term scheme. This team is going nowhere in 2011. Brad Emaus or Turner playing second base isn’t going to affect fan attendance one way or the other. If the Mets truly believe in Emaus, they should’ve at least given him 20 more at bats. Who was it going to hurt?

****

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

****

Purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide. It’s useful all year long.

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.

//

The Birds Crash Into Reality—Hard

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

All this hatred towards Kevin Gregg is misdirected.

He’s not any good.

It’s not his fault.

And it’s not as if anything more should’ve been expected of him. He’s wild and gives up too many hits and homers—totally unreliable as a closer.

Much like Gregg, I’m not sure why people believed that the mere presence of Buck Showalter would overcome youth on the pitching staff and an overwhelming sense of mediocrity for much of the roster.

The Orioles went 34-23 under Showalter after he took over last season; they got off to a 6-1 start this season.

All of a sudden, the Orioles were rising, rising, rising like a soaring bird freed from its cage…until reality set in.

Having beaten up on the slow-starting Rays and Tigers to begin the season, they then ran into the Rangers who won 2 of 3; then came the Yankees who swept a rain-shortened 2-game series (in which Gregg gacked up a lead with a towering bomb allowed to Jorge Posada); and the Indians (another team for whom reality will be cruel)  battered them in 3-game sweep.

Last night, the sliding Twins came to town and beat the Orioles too as Gregg turned a manageable 3-2 score into a 5-2 deficit in the ninth inning. The Orioles scored a run in the bottom if the ninth to make it 5-3.

Overall they’ve lost 8 in a row and no amount of Showalter attention to detail is going to gloss over the truth that they’re still rebuilding and in a nightmarish division with four teams that are far better than they are.

Thos who express their love for Showalter and lament having “missed out” on an opportunity to get a difference-making manager for their teams are failing to grasp an important point—no matter how good the manager is, he has to have players.

The Orioles don’t have the players, therefore they’re not going to be good.

They’re proving that right now.

****

I’ll be hosting a discussion group on TheCopia.com shortly. The discussion will be baseball. My statements will be strong. And if no one joins in, I’ll just talk to myself.

****

Purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide. It’s useful all year long.

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.

//