Lines Of Office

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

I repeatedly tried to assuage the fears of Braves fans that Fredi Gonzalez was a strategically poor manager who got the job to replace Bobby Cox based on Braves ties and his reputation as a man who controlled the clubhouse.

He did some strange things as manager of the Marlins, but his teams were always competitive and—apart from Hanley Ramirez—played the game hard and correctly.

But 17 games into his first season as the Braves manager, Gonzalez is inviting legitimate bewilderment into his decisions. Not only is he backtracking on his statements that implied he was sticking with his choices for the time being as was the case with Jason Heyward batting sixth (he’s now batting second); but he’s also vacillated on the spring training pronouncement that both Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel would be used as the designated closer based on matchups. It’s been Kimbrel, period.

Sunday’s game against the Mets was a case study in managerial idiocy that cost the Braves a win against a reeling and desperate club that resorted to using starting pitchers Chris Capuano and R.A. Dickey in relief to try and snap a 7-game losing streak.

In the second inning trailing 2-1, Gonzalez called for a suicide squeeze with Tommy Hanson at the plate, 2 strikes, 1 out and Eric Hinske on third. Hanson can’t hit; nor can he bunt. Hinske can’t run. It made absolutely no sense especially with Mets-killer Martin Prado on deck.

In the eighth inning, Brian McCann got picked off first base on a failed steal attempt with Hinske at the plate and Jason Isringhausen on the mound. Heyward had drilled Isringhausen’s first pitch over the center field fence; McCann had walked. With one out, the call was ludicrous with Hinske at the plate and Chipper Jones on deck.

The Braves fans who thought Gonzalez’s penchant for “doing stuff”—a common frailty among managers—was a recipe for disaster are seeing their nightmare come to life.

With a team this talented, presumably the manager’s game-costing decisions will be muted by sheer ability; but if the Wild Card/division comes down to one or two games, Gonzalez’s missteps could cost the Braves a playoff spot.

One unknown is where GM Frank Wren stands in all of this.

Does he question his manager—as is his right—after a gaffe-laden adventure like Sunday afternoon? Or does he let it go, confident that things will work out in the end?

If I were the GM, I’d be all over my manager for any decision I saw as questionable. It’s not out of line for the baseball boss of the organization to ask his field manager why he did what he did. There are the Tony La Russa-types who chafe at having their judgment and lines of office being crossed; they have a “how dare you?” reaction when questioned, but that shouldn’t preclude the GM from doing his job regardless of poor body language and short-tempered reactions from the manager.

It’s within the GM’s job description to oversee his manager. It’s not in the vein of a Moneyball-style middle-manager who takes orders, but an honest discussion between people who have to work together to make sure things run smoothly.

Did Wren step in with Heyward batting second? Possibly.

Did he question Gonzalez as to why he didn’t tell Hanson to stand there with the bat on his shoulder and wait to strike out to give Prado a chance to drive in runs? Why he had McCann stealing a base?

If he didn’t, he could’ve.

And should’ve.

****

I’ll be hosting a discussion group on TheCopia.com starting this afternoon around 12:30-1:00 Eastern Time. Given my history of saying lots of stuff, it should be….interesting.

****

Purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide. It’s great for your fantasy baseball stuff 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.

//

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Twins Problems Won’t Be Solved By A Closer Change

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

If only it were that easy.

The Twins have moved Joe Nathan out of the closer’s role and replaced him with Matt Capps.

At least Ron Gardenhire has an experienced option to make the change, something Tony La Russa and Ozzie Guillen don’t have as they have their own issues with late-inning relievers. It’s a fine line for a manager to walk with his players in switching roles and if Gardenhire didn’t have Capps; if Nathan wasn’t returning from Tommy John surgery, it’s unlikely that he’d have pulled the trigger this quickly.

But the litany of issues affecting the team won’t be solved by Capps pitching the ninth inning instead of the eighth.

The short-handed Twins can’t keep losing games they should win.

Joe Mauer is on the disabled list; they’re not hitting as a team; they have a questionable up-the-middle infield defense; and they’re not taking advantage of good starting pitching that’s not going to last.

Francisco Liriano has been terrible and will get better; but Carl Pavano and Nick Blackburn will come back down to earth. What happens when the starters stop pitching well as well as they have; if the bullpen, aside from Nathan, isn’t as solid as it’s been?

Their offense is better than last in the league in runs scored. Justin Morneau, Jim Thome, Mauer and Delmon Young have the career history that they’ll produce.

Will that be enough to account for mediocre starting pitching, the inexperienced bullpen and unsettled situation at closer?

The prior Twins teams had a continuity; a meshing that allowed them to win with fundamentals and players doing their jobs; if one didn’t do his job, his teammates picked him up.

That’s missing.

You can point to a number of factors beyond Nathan and the lack of offense. The new double play combination and broken leg suffered by Tsuyoshi Nishioka; the gutted bullpen and new configuration; the hangover from putting everything they had into last year only to be swatted away by the Yankees like an inconvenient annoyance—there are no clear-cut answers to be had.

They’ve made a change at closer because that was the obvious thing to do and they had a replacement on hand. But it’s not going to fix their current mess. Not at all.

****

Purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide. It’s great for your fantasy baseball stuff 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.

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//

Viewer Mail 4.18.2011

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

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the commenter who called me an idiot and my retort:

I can hear this dude sizzlin’ and fizzlin’ after that beatdown…

He never got back to me. Strange.

Fart (for real) writes RE Curt Schilling‘s Hall of Fame candidacy:

Check out Schilling’s Twitter, 3/20/2011: “Do I think I am a HOF? No.”
He’s not going to whine like Blyleven did. Smart move that might work in his favor.

He certainly ain’t getting in first ballot – those regular season stats are just sad for a HOF candidate. Nice WHIP and K/BB, and 3000 K’s, but Blyleven had all of that and more, and needed 14 ballots to get in. Then 2014-15 are loaded with sure things like Pedro, Johnson, Maddux, Glavine. Schilling may be the pitching version of Mr. October, and I say he gets in eventually, but he’s going to have to wait in line. Still, based on the tweet above, I expect him to keep his trap shut about it.

I think Schilling’s using reverse psychology trying to be Mr. Humility and appear as if he’s this common man who was pleased to have his opportunity to do his job—a job that happened to be in the spotlight.

It’s the Joe the Plumber fallacy.

One thing that has to be accounted for is his success in the steroid era; that’s something Bert Blyleven didn’t have to deal with. Blyleven was suffering from the perceptive indifference that voters had toward his mediocre record; the prevalence of statistics, a well-presented case for his enshrinement and a grass-roots movement got him in.

Schilling’s silence/openness about the voting may depend on how close he gets on the first couple of ballots. If he’s an “eventual” candidate who gets enough votes to foretell a groundswell of support growing incrementally until he’s inducted after 6 or so years, then he’ll be quiet. If he gets 40% of the vote the first year and it dwindles, he’ll start squawking. Loudly.

Norm writes RE the Mets:

I realize it’s somewhat unfair and cliched to pile on Alderson and his exec assistants at this juncture, but this whole thing is beginning to smell as bad as I feared it would.
The picking up of Emaus is symptomatic. Not that he is necessarily a bad player,or that he wasn’t worthy of a Rule 5 pickup. Just that it is a bad sign for JP to pick up a player he scouted and probably signed as a Blue Jay GM: I know this happens all the time, but it’s indicative to me of a lazy GM who ‘knows’ his ‘own’ players better than he does players from other teams and organizations. Add it to the genuine unease I feel at Alderson’s smarminess (although I loved the battle of pomposity between him and Francesa) and his pointless hiring of two ex GMs to, in essence, pick up players from scrap heaps (as the team has no money to sign or trade for expensive players) and I feel that we are in an Isiah as GM situation.

The Mets had a choice: either get aggressive and do what they did under the prior three GMs—something ridiculous like offer $200 million for Cliff Lee; or wait out the bad contracts, look for bargains and start rebuilding the organization from the bottom up.

They were smart to do the latter.

Brad Emaus‘s numbers in the minors are excellent; the Mets don’t have a second baseman; he’s worth a legitimate look instead of the reactionary, “two weeks and begone”. It’s understandable for scouts/executives to cling to players they believe in. Sometimes it works out.

I’m no basketball guy, but you can’t compare Sandy Alderson to Isiah Thomas. Thomas had no success whatsoever anywhere as an executive in any capacity; Alderson has had success and, at the very least, has a plan.

I was a frequent critic of J.P. Ricciardi as a GM even though I thought he was better than people suggested; Paul DePodesta was an atrocious GM, but he’s shown his attributes as an assistant with the Padres and Athletics.

Because someone failed as the boss doesn’t mean they have no discernible use.

The Mets weren’t going to be good this year regardless of expectations, hopes, and fantasy. It’s a bridge year where the barn will be cleaned out of rats and excrement. No more, no less.

Max Stevens writes RE the Mets and the doubleheader loss to the Rockies:

How much longer do you think it will be before Terry Collins‘ head explodes?  I suffered through both games of that doubleheader yesterday and felt really envious of the Rockies.  They execute.  They don’t make mental errors.  They come to play every night.  They battle back.  They’re everything the Mets are not.  I understand that they simply have much more talent on their roster right now than we do, but the Mets just don’t look prepared.  I thought Collins was all about preparation and “playing the game the right way.”  And those stands at Bailout Park looked really empty.  It reminded me of going to games at Shea in the late 70s when there were maybe 3000 people in the ballpark and you could hear the players talking to each other on the field.  Let the rebuilding begin sooner rather than later…

Collins, like Alderson and his people, isn’t stupid. He knows what the talent level is; of course that doesn’t preclude them from playing the game correctly—and there’s no excuse for not being able to throw the ball pitcher to catcher; screwing it up twice was unconscionable. Fundamentals have to be established from the bottom up.

Every team has their gaffes and the Mets have the penchant for making other teams look good. The Rockies are well-schooled and run by Jim Tracy, but it wasn’t long ago that they were dysfunctional and staggering with Clint Hurdle fired and GM Dan O’Dowd in the final year of his contract. Had they not caught fire when Tracy took over, O’Dowd would’ve been gone after the 2009 season.

This panic is misplaced. The Mets are what they are. They’re essentially starting over; to think that the new regime would walk through the door and have everyone playing the game correctly immediately was a classic overreach of change being the cure-all. It’s not.

They’ll have to suffer this season and regain the trust of the fan base. There’s no other way.

****

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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//

The Ticking Of The Clock

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

While Freddy Garcia‘s start yesterday was indeed impressive, expectations for what both he and Bartolo Colon are going to provide for the Yankees must be tempered.

Signed as “why not?” veterans from whom the club hoped to find depth and possibly some use, the two pitchers have been thrust into prominent roles out of unforeseen necessity. With Phil Hughes on the disabled list with “dead arm” and no predictable outcome for his Larry Rothschild-prescribed “treatment” of Long Toss with Larry; Ivan Nova a rookie who’s struggled of late; and the still questionable A.J. Burnett rounding out the rotation led by CC Sabathia, Garcia was a welcome respite from continuously porous starting pitching. Colon has been excellent out of the bullpen.

But if you’re expecting these two elder statesmen to maintain this level of work and drink from the fountain of baseball youth for the rest of the season, you’re in for a rude blast of reality sooner rather than later.

Garcia’s about to turn 36; Colon 38, you’re asking a lot from two pitchers who are hanging onto the last few moments of distinguished—occasionally brilliant—careers.

The media expressed lustful appreciation (amid desperate hopes) that Garcia’s performance yesterday was something to build upon, but you have to see what Garcia has become and understand that it was likely an aberration.

He relied on his control and breaking pitches and spotted his fastball while using it sparingly. He has no velocity and while that was a problem for Hughes because Hughes isn’t yet capable of getting by with a diminished fastball, it wasn’t such an issue for Garcia who hasn’t had a fastball since 2006.

The hitters are going to catch up to Garcia.

It’s inevitable.

When he doesn’t have his control, he’s going to get blasted. Much was made of his 12-6 record with the White Sox last season; what he lacks for in stuff, he can make up for in intelligence and courage…to a point.

Here are the facts: he gives up a lot of hits and homers; the Yankees can score enough to account for Garcia giving up 5 or so runs per nine innings, but there will be games in which he’s gone by the third inning and the implied simplification notwithstanding, it’s not as easy as Garcia made it look yesterday.

Knowingly critical retrospective shots aimed at Hughes for not being able to do what Garcia did are unfair and inaccurate. When Garcia next pitches, don’t be surprised to see him  gone by the second inning and along with him will go the “easy” and “crafty” stories of what he did against the Rangers.

Colon hasn’t been a full-time big league starter since 2005; he’s been a lifesaver in relief this season; he’s quieted games down and allowed the Yankees time to mount comebacks. This is not unimportant, but it’s no harbinger of long term viability.

It’s early in the season; veteran players are fresh and healthy; the days of players in their mid-to-late 30s being able to maintain for the duration of the season are long gone. There are no more amphetamines or PEDs aside from the possible use of growth hormone to assist these players for sustainability. All they have is Red Bull-style stimulants and coffee.

Will that be enough for the past-their-prime Colon and Garcia to fill the gaping holes in the Yankees rotation?

Naturally, GM Brian Cashman will be scouring the universe for starting pitching help as the summer draws near; but teams aren’t going to be in a rush to help the Yankees and the deals that will be out there might be contingent of which of the hot young prospects the Yankees are willing to trade.

Not only will Garcia and Colon not be able to hold down the back-of-the-rotation spots into heavy trading season, but I can’t see them being effective past May, if that.

And I don’t care if Garcia put on a pitching clinic; if Colon has looked like his old self. It’s not going to continue. Because it can’t.

****

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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//

Sifting Through The Wreckage At Turner Field

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

Considering its history as a house of horrors, why should this weekend be any different for the Mets at Turner Field for their series with the Braves?

You can run through the litany of things that have gone wrong already—read the New York newspapers for the slice and dice; listen to Mike Francesa tomorrow for the savage and vindictive postmortem—I don’t need to get into that; it’s predictable and tiresome.

I’m here to say the following: Don’t be surprised.

Don’t be surprised at all.

In your heart-of-hearts, were you expecting anything different from the Mets this year? Really?

The only small alteration I’m willing to make in my team prediction for them this year is that they could possibly be worse than 73-89.

Did you believe Chris Young would stay healthy? That Brad Emaus would turn into Dan Uggla? That Mike Pelfrey would seamlessly step up into the number 1 slot in the rotation? That the changes in culture and strategy from the front office on down would come into effect immediately?

Young hasn’t been healthy since 2007 and even then he wasn’t durable—he tired out by August; now he’s already on the disabled list. The Mets and Young are making his bout with biceps tendinitis sound like a positive because it’s a different injury than that which he experienced before. To me, this is a problem in and of itself. If a player has repeated injuries to the same area of his body, at least you know what it is; if he starts injuring other areas, you have to worry about the prior issue and the new issue.

Young will pitch when he pitches, but he won’t pitch much and you’ll never know when another trip to the disabled list looms.

As for the other stuff? I’ll lift from The Dark Knight when Alfred consoles Bruce Wayne/Batman with the entreaty to endure the inevitable pain to reach his desired end.

Did you think there wouldn’t be casualties in the teamwide sense as the Mets start over under a different regime? That they were going to vault into contention—in a rough division—based solely on new management, adherence to fundamentals and statistics?

They’re not good. This year is a bridge year in which they’re going to comb through the entire structure, see what they have; what they want to keep; and whom they’ll dispatch.

Accept it. 2011 is shaping up to be an on-and-off field disaster. Teams recover quickly with a plan and intelligent management. The quick-fix strategy didn’t work under Omar Minaya and they’re trying something else.

A smooth and easy transition was fantasy.

Endure.

On the other side, Braves fans shouldn’t take a doubleheader sweep of the Mets as a cure to all their early season ills. A lot of teams are going to look good against the Mets this year.

Much of the focus for the Braves has been the bullpen/lineup decisions of manager Fredi Gonzalez.

Gonzalez expressed his reasoning for batting Jason Heyward sixth here—link.

I understand where he’s coming from in his decision to bat Nate McLouth second. Many want Heyward to bat second, but I wouldn’t bat him second either; my concern moving forward would be that Gonzalez is going to stick with his lineup out of a resolute stubbornness; managers—especially new managers—need to set lines in the sand as to what their limits are; some would view an early change as caving to overt public pressure and a sign of weakness that can be exploited later on by players, media and fans. If Gonzalez acquiesces so quickly in a belief that Heyward batting sixth is the right thing to do, then where does it end?

It’s not machismo, it’s calculation and it’s a mistake. It takes more courage to change something that’s not working rather than stick to it out of a sense of obligation and worry about the perception.

I don’t think Heyward should be batting sixth; his on base skills and power are going to waste with the weaker parts of the batting order behind him. He’s going to walk a ton and see few pitches to hit.

Here’s my Braves lineup:

1. Martin Prado-LF

2. Freddie Freeman-1B

3. Chipper Jones-3B

4. Jason Heyward-RF

5. Brian McCann-C

6. Dan Uggla-2B

7. Nate McLouth-CF

8. Alex Gonzalez-SS

You can flip-flop McCann and Uggla based on lefty-righty issues, but I see Uggla as a Graig Nettles-type when the Yankees in the late 70s, early 80s heyday had him batting sixth. Sixth is a pure basher slot for a flawed bat—which Uggla is. He strikes out a lot; gets on base; and has power.

Gonzalez batting eighth should improve his on base percentage and possibly raise the number of baserunners when the lineup turns over. If McLouth starts hitting, then perhaps move him up in the lineup. This is a suggestion to jumpstart both McLouth and Freeman and it removes Heyward from the wasted sixth spot.

Let’s see how long Gonzalez clings to his template when there are smarter configurations right in front of him.

****

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.

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//

Cycle Over A Cliff

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

It wasn’t all that long ago that Lenny Dykstra could be referenced as a breaker of stereotypes.

The myth of the typical brain-dead jock who had no interest in reading; wasn’t concerned about nuance; didn’t truly grasp what he was doing in business was shattered by Dykstra’s “success” after his baseball career ended.

Dykstra’s perception as a business savant was evidenced by the amount of money he supposedly had; the business deals he was willing to partake as a high-stakes gambler (something he also had a fondness for). He was willing and able to do whatever he needed to do to make it. As one of the more egregious and early examples of PED use becoming prevalent in baseball, of course Dykstra was willing to go that extra mile without fear of consequences.

Some see that as an attribute and it is…to a point.

He accumulated a lot of credit and bought a lot of stuff; he’d built a reputation as one who transformed himself up from a ballplayer to a boardroom titan whose aggressiveness on the field meshed seamlessly into the corporate world.

No, it wasn’t all that long ago that I shook my head and said, “Of all the Mets from the 1980s who you’d expect to hit it big off-the-field as an entrepreneur, Dykstra was the last one you’d pick.”

That was a team that housed Yale graduate Ron Darling; BYU graduate Rick Aguilera and other highly intelligent people.

But it was Dykstra who built up an empire.

Or so we thought.

It turns out that the instinctive belief of “no way”—based on historical facts that we were too brainwashed to believe—was accurate.

The empire wasn’t real, but the image was. Those who dealt with him treated the others who’d encountered him before as a barometer. “Well, if (blank) says Dykstra’s okay, then Dykstra must be okay.”

It was a cycle.

A cycle over a cliff.

Dykstra was arrested yesterday and charged with a whole host of white collar crimes relating to his myriad of businesses—most of which were feeding into one another as a Madoff-lite style bit of financial roulette and chicanery—ESPN Story.

While playing, Dykstra had no concept of half-speed. It was 1000 miles per hour on and off the field. Gambling? Partying? Playing as hard as he could and acting like an obnoxious, loud-mouthed (though still likable to some degree in a Manny being Manny sort of way) jerk? PEDs? Playoff homers? Writing books?

Lenny did it all.

It was easy to ignore his behaviors; his punch-drunk slurring when speaking; that he wasn’t educated enough to know what he was doing in the financial realm.

Because he had a large credit line, flamboyant lifestyle and the ability to purchase, rent, hire, buy and sell, Dykstra had “made it”.

But he hadn’t.

Unlike a true visionary like Steve Jobs; or a financial wizard like Warren Buffett, Dykstra didn’t do anything. He’d built up a lucrative car wash business—intelligently—while he was still playing, but that wasn’t enough. He had to be a big shot. All or nothing.

Unlike one who builds and creates, Dykstra’s money was the shifting and manipulation of paper; the use of his name and press clippings as a lever to gain access to cash and people with cash.

But it was a ruse that cannibalized itself.

Didn’t anyone who dealt personally with Dykstra stop and consider the possibility that it was all a farce?

Sometimes you need to take a step back and do the math; examine the reality of the stories people tell and calculate their likelihood.

It had to be right in front of their eyes, but the foundation of his acumen—success as a baseball player—wasn’t a building block for that billionaire future he envisioned. It was a sham.

Now Dykstra’s been arrested. Presumably, there are a lot of people swindled out money and time who must be wondering why they didn’t see the warning signs.

They saw them—they must have—but ignored them.

Dykstra was the last person from that Mets team you’d think would have huge non-baseball success post-career.

And he didn’t.

****

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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//

Disabled Developmentally

Books, Games, Management, Media, Players

Today the Yankees placed pitcher Phil Hughes on the disabled list with “dead arm”—ESPN Story.

Naturally, there was the requisite gun-jumping from the not-so-venerable New York Post as George A. King III wrote that Hughes had been demoted to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

Why is it that I feel as if “George A. King III” should have a few more pretentious names like Winthorp, Kingsbridge, Cooleridge, Bottomtooth to complete the picture of someone wearing a medieval costume with a smug look on his face?

The Post never seems to get these things right. In a continuation of similar type behaviors exemplified by Joel Sherman last July when he wrote that the Yankees had acquired Cliff Lee, King wrote of Hughes’s dramatic fall from 18-game winning All-Star to minor leaguer.

Hughes will go to the minors, but not immediately.

He’s going to the disabled list; then presumably he’ll go for a few rehab starts in the minors to try and find the critical few inches lost from his fastball.

The public reaction on Twitter was one of righteous indignation as if they wanted to keep pitching Hughes in his current incarnation—something that was a practical impossibility. He can’t pitch this way because he doesn’t know how to function without something that’s always been there: a power fastball.

Placing Hughes on the disabled list is a far better decision than sending him to the minors. Going to Triple-A wasn’t going to do him any good if there’s a physical/mechanical/mental issue that’s preventing him from throwing his normal fastball; and this isn’t an Oliver Perez/Mets-style bit of organizational sleight of hand to claim a questionable injury and placate a player who didn’t want to go down to the minor leagues—if the Yankees wanted to send Hughes down, they could’ve sent him down; Hughes has no say in the matter.

Something’s off with Hughes and a DL stint is viable in trying to discover what that something is.

They couldn’t keep pitching him in this condition. This is the right move.

On another note, in an ironic twist, on the same night that one of the starting rotation linchpins for the Yankees—Hughes—was again a shell of his former self (and got shelled because of it), the aforementioned Lee pitched a 12 strikeout, complete game masterpiece for the Phillies in shutting out the Nationals.

Had the Yankees gotten Lee, they wouldn’t be in such a mess.

But they didn’t.

And they are.

****

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.


//

Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong

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

Given the current events, it’s ironic that the title of this posting and its creation emanates from spin doctoring. A hit song from a mediocre band, The Spin Doctors, around 20 years ago was called “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong”.

And it fits for Yankees GM Brian Cashman as he twists himself into a pretzel that’s worthy of an Olympic gymnast or triple-jointed circus freak.

Pedro Feliciano is out for the year with a shoulder injury and probable surgery; in fact, he may never pitch for the Yankees at all after signing a 2-year, $8 million contract.

First Cashman blamed the Mets and their “abuse” of Feliciano; then, yesterday when discussing the injury, he began his verbal gymnastics that are so ludicrous and self-serving that they’re bordering on embarrassing.

The Yankees and Mets had a brief spitting contest that made the Yankees look foolish and self-indulgent as they engaged in a bit of buyer’s remorse after Feliciano went on the disabled list.

In the rarest of rarities, the Mets looked smarter than the Yankees; in a nod to the new organizational hierarchy led by Sandy Alderson, the Mets are no longer taking these attacks without retort. They stood up for themselves as pitching coach Dan Warthen said straight out that part of the reason the Mets didn’t re-sign Feliciano was due to workload issues.

Does Cashman, in all his cautious phrasings and clever corporate machinations, not realize that the statement “no evidence of a capsular tear whatsoever,” is as much a direct indictment of his own club’s operations as the silly and specious retrospective blame he placed on the Mets?

Does Cashman not see the logical trap he stepped in yesterday? If Feliciano was healthy when he signed with the Yankees, the Mets can justifiably say, “Hey, he was fine with us; what’d you do to him?”

Cashman looked foolish.

Of course the workload may have been a factor in Feliciano’s injury, but we don’t know. He was fine when he signed; now he’s not.

Cashman, sensitive to the allegations of hypocrisy due to the overuse former manager Joe Torre inflicted on the likes of Scott Proctor among others, went into a backtracking exercise of inanity—ESPN Story.

The statements are ridiculous on so many levels. First he’s running from having laid the label on the Mets and fundamentally blamed them for Feliciano’s injury; then he’s saying he covered his bases with the relievers telling them to speak up if they couldn’t pitch; he holds Torre responsible for the perception of disinterest in the health of the pitchers’ arms; then he implies that such a problem is no longer a factor with the Yankees because Joe Girardi is the manager.

Read between the lines.

With Feliciano, he needed someone to hold accountable for possibly tossing $8 million into a shredder. Who better than the reeling Mets?

Concerning Torre, Cashman claims that he was involved by telling the pitchers to be honest with their old-school manager; a manager who had the personality and history of success to stand up to his GM and wasn’t afraid to do so.

And with Girardi, he’s saying he now has a manager who’s going to do what he’s told.

Cashman needs to stop.

Just walk away.

It’s enough.

The bottom line is this: If he thought Feliciano was abused, he shouldn’t have signed him. Period.

Cashman needs to find a mirror that wasn’t salvaged from a funhouse.

The Yankees bought it. The Yankees own it. The Yankees are paying for it. Accept it and move on.

****

Purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide. It’ll be useful all season for your fantasy sports needs and pure entertainment.

I published a full excerpt of my book here. It’s about the Mets and it’s coming true as we speak. Right on the money and it ain’t too funny.

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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//

Viewer Mail 4.14.2011

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

Kevin Guiney writes RE the Red Sox starting rotation and me:

The back of the bubblegum card tells me that Beckett, Lackey and Matsuzaka have all trended into 5+ ERA pitchers in the AL East. Ironically enough, it also tells me that you are an idiot and there’s a reason “we’ve never heard of you”.

Rather than present an intelligent and researched counterargument to my posting The Back Of The Bubblegum Card Tells Much, you offhandedly reference a negligible (at best) stat like ERA, and call me an idiot.

One of the most out-of-context statistics in baseball is ERA. One game can blast it into the stratosphere as evidenced by Jonathan Papelbon in 2009-2010; aside from a few games in which he got rocked all over the park his numbers were nearly identical; as a result, his ERA was two runs higher from one year to the next.

Are you able to grasp this concept?

Do you know how to examine that which you’re attempting to “discuss”? Naturally that’s contingent on calling your comment a retort to my posting instead of what it is—a simple hit and run job with no capacity to present a case for what you supposedly believe—based on ERA of course.

I suppose it’s easier to do what you did, mention a number, call me a name and recede into the sludge. Making a broad-based assertion followed by a pathetic attempt at an insult and then running away isn’t much of a challenge for me, but I’ll answer you anyway.

The mere mentioning of the AL East as if it’s the hideous beast of baseball is meaningless. Did you look at the individual records of Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka before saying they all pitch to a “5+ ERA”?

Do you know how to research such a thing? It’s not difficult to find the information, but given your clear lack of skill and simmering anger stemming from the frustration of being a fan of the pitching-short Yankees, I can understand how you chose this tack.

Did you look at individual matchups? Gamelogs? Ballparks? Advanced statistics as to why the ERAs are as they are? Could you decipher this information and come to a rational and intelligent conclusion to dispute my posting that the Red Sox are going to wind up ahead of the Yankees?

It doesn’t appear so.

Do you remember when Lackey broke into the big leagues and the AL West was the powerhouse of baseball with three teams over 93 wins? Did that division not have hitters to reckon with? The 100-win A’s of Miguel Tejada (the 2002 MVP) and Eric Chavez? The last place team in the AL West that year was the Rangers who had Alex Rodriguez hitting 57 homers. Would that affect a pitcher’s ERA?

Is it simply the AL East that causes the ERA jump—by magic—or is it the relevant teams in the AL East and the players they have? Rosters are not static as evidenced by the Rays of 2011 in comparison to 2008-2010. Did you check individual circumstances with players and the Red Sox pitchers to see if they’re good or bad matchups?

Did you do any digging at all?

Are the Red Sox current struggles a permanent state of being that your allusion to the ERA implies? Or is it more than that? And would that require you doing something other than finding a number, calling me an idiot, trying—and failing—to offend me?

Here’s my advice: if you’re going to come at me, you’d better be prepared; and if you’re going to call me names in something baseball related, I’d suggest you have your position ensconced with verifiable facts and a coherent, organized presentation.

Maybe I’m wrong about you. It’s possible that you have acquired an innate understanding of baseball that Theo Epstein, Bill James and one of the best front offices in all of baseball has yet to grasp; something that says an ERA of 5+ is a clear indicator that you’re right and they’re wrong. Perhaps Theo has been blinded by the glare of his two championship rings to be able to accurately gauge the numbers any longer.

I doubt it though.

You’re overmatched beyond belief here, but are welcome to continue your masochistic exercise in making a fool of yourself. I’ll be more than happy to batter you again if you so desire.

It’ll be my pleasure.

****

Check out my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available.

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.

//

Covering The Bases Of Inaccuracy

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

Considering his success as a manager, it’s odd that certain factions have chosen to take the Twins awful start and a statement he made yesterday as an all-encompassing indictment of the entire tenure of manager Ron Gardenhire.

Gardenhire said that he and pitching coach Rick Anderson have been trying to convince Francisco Liriano to “pitch to contact” rather than try and rack up strikeouts.

Was this a discouragement against the strikeout? No, I doubt it. I see this as an entreaty for Liriano to trust his stuff and stop being so concerned with missing bats; make the pitches and let the movement, velocity and location take care of itself.

Laying the blame for the Twins slow start at the manager’s desk an after-the-fact emergence of those who’ve surreptitiously criticized the Twins and their style for years, but didn’t have the courage to do so while the team was making the playoffs on an annual basis.

Because they do things their own way, the stat people have ridiculed them as a creation of luck; that Gardenhire was along for the ride as they’ve made the playoffs in six of his nine years as manager; the one year they didn’t, they lost in a one-game playoff. His faults have been perceived as evident in their consistent playoff losses.

It’s a fact that they’ve only gotten past the ALDS once.

But facts don’t always tell the entire story. The reasons for the criticisms of Gardenhire may be accurate and factual in the bottom line, but it doesn’t make it fair.

You can’t have it both ways.

You can’t say the manager is at fault for the negatives and deserves no credit for the positives. In stat circles as an excuse more than a reason, the playoffs are seen as a crapshoot. If that’s the case, you can’t hold Gardenhire responsible for continually running into the Yankees in the ALDS and losing; nor can you say his strategies didn’t work if there’s no blame to be doling out.

Now the Twins are off to an atrocious start not because of anything Gardenhire has said, done or not done; they’re off to an atrocious start because they’re a strangely constructed team that endured heavy under-the-radar free agent losses that undermined their template for winning.

Without the bullpen arms Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch and Jesse Crain; and the departure of defensively superior shortstop and second baseman J.J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson, how do you think the pitchers—none of whom apart from Liriano are particularly good—are going to fare?

When a contact-based, bullpen reliant starting staff has their defense compromised and relievers dispatched, what’s going to happen?

It doesn’t help that the Twins haven’t hit, but their defense is awful and this is directly affecting the pitchers. They’re walking too many people; giving up too many hits and homers.

Could it be that the pitchers don’t trust the defense and trying too hard to pitch differently from what they’re accustomed to and what they’ve been taught? That the absence of trustworthy bullpen arms is in their heads as they feel they have to pitch deeper into games? Are they trapped in the purgatory of  bad defense, pitching to contact, conserving pitches and an offense that hasn’t started hitting?

As much as his decisions can be criticized, Gardenhire is in control of the clubhouse and his players play the game in a fundamentally correct fashion. It’s worked for them every year. Through lost stars like Johan Santana, injuries and a limited payroll, they’ve won.

Gardenhire wasn’t appreciated for the good things, but now all of a sudden his managing is why the Twins sit at 4-7?

He’s not doing anything different than he did before. His team’s just oddly constructed and not very good.

****

Check out my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available.

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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