Myth Becomes Myth In The Re-Telling

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

Stories tend to fluctutate.

As does analysis regardless of how the stories are formulated.

It’s with that in mind that the “free agent year myth” is a worthwhile topic.

With this column from ESPN.com stat people like Dave Cameron say that there’s no evidence of a contract year boost.

Cameron’s points are propped up by reality…sort of; but just like anything else, you can find examples of players who have had it “kick in” at contract time.

That might be staying healthy in an injury-riddled career (Carl Pavano); it could be having their career-year at the right time (Brad Lidge); and there are those who made sure they were healthy and their stats were top notch with free agency beckoning even at the expense of team needs (Rafael Soriano).

No one is suggesting that Albert Pujols is going to be “better” than he’s been his entire career because of the money he’s set to make at the end of the season; in fact, if any player was a prime candidate to have an “off” year in his free agent year, it’s someone like Pujols who’s set a standard of excellence so ridiculous that even a great year for a normal player would be seen as a fall for Pujols.

And Pujols’s numbers will be somewhere in line with what they’ve been in the past by the time the 2011 season is over.

Cameron brings up familiar “walk year” names like Adrian Beltre. Beltre is much appreciated in stat circles because of his superior defense; he’s been assisted by two massive years as he was heading for free agency; but he also had several mediocre seasons with the Mariners before his free agent year of 2009 in which he got hurt and wasn’t particularly good at all.

That winter, the Red Sox signed Beltre to a 1-year, $9 million deal. This was an situation in which the stat person’s template to building a team cheaply and efficiently and a player’s motivation worked for both sides; Beltre and the Red Sox maximized assets and found value. This is an unassailable tenet of stat based theory.

It was a mutually beneficial contract. Sometimes they work as was the case with the Red Sox and Beltre; sometimes they don’t as appears to be happening now with the Rangers and Brandon Webb.

The Rays, Athletics, Marlins and even the Red Sox and Yankees have gotten great value from players who either had nowhere else to go or were, yes, looking to have a good year for a good team and cash in.

The Marlins in particular have found scrapheap pickups like Jorge CantuCody RossJohn Baker and Brendan Donnelly, gotten use from them and discarded them when they grew too expensive or were no longer producing.

In fact, I don’t believe a team can win under a budget unless they find these types of players.

It’s not a matter of simplistic “free agent year=big year”; it’s a myriad of factors that could advantage the player, team, both or neither.

To simplify it in terms of “no evidence” is just as bad as the all-encompassing implication that the promise of free agent riches is the impetus to the big year in the first place.

It’s not one thing that spurs a player. It could be anything; the promise of money is part of that “anything” as a motivating force with a great many players.

Truthfully, it’s nothing to be ashamed of; nor is it something to dismiss out-of-hand based on out-of-context statistical analysis.

****

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

****

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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//

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Cash Out

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How much is Brian Cashman going to take as Yankees GM?

How much does he want to take?

For someone who’s been with the same organization since 1986 and worked his way up from intern to general manager, it’s not easy to say goodbye; nor is it easy to relinquish the cash and cachet that comes from being the Yankees GM, but when is enough going to be enough? When does it become a negligible risk/reward? When does the aggravation outweigh all the positives that come with the job?

Cashman has had a tumultuous few months going back to the messy negotiations with Derek Jeter. The front office sabotaged and interfered with everything he was trying to do in keeping the draft picks and money that were surrendered with the so-far disastrous decision made by Randy Levine, Hank and Hal Steinbrenner to sign Rafael Soriano.

Whereas he was perceived to have full authority to do as he saw fit with the club, the panic that overtook his bosses when the Yankees failed to sign Cliff Lee might have been the beginning of the end for Cashman as Yankees GM.

The Jorge Posada controversy is another unnecessary irritation, but as far as the Bronx Zoo goes, it’s not an untenable occurrence—one that’s going to make Cashman toss his hands in the air and say, “that’s it”.

But the confluence of events—Soriano, Jeter, Posada, the Steinbrenners and Levine—could all conspire to do what few in a similar position as Cashman would choose to do.

Leave.

Don’t discount the fact that the Yankees look peaked and old; that even with the young pitching in Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos on the way up, the onerous contracts and declining production of Jeter and Alex Rodriguez have the potential to beget a couple of down years as the front office tries desperately to rebuild the dominant club they’ve been over the past 16 years on the fly, pushing him further out the door.

Spending on talent is impossible if the talent isn’t allowed to reach free agency to start with and the upcoming classes of free agents are limited and the Yankees are stuck with Jeter, A-Rod, Soriano and Mark Teixeira; they have to start thinking about an extension for Robinson Cano; CC Sabathia has an opt-out of his contract after the season, adding more headaches for the Yankees GM, whomever it is.

Has the Yankees GM job become a case of diminishing returns for Cashman?

Would he like to try his luck (and garner some legitimate credit and perhaps a Hall of Fame resume) by going elsewhere and building a club without the gobs of cash available when running the Yankees?

Some have implied that spending money is the only skill that Cashman has.

It’s unfair.

He’s made some mistakes especially with pitchers, but he’s a solid GM and smart baseball man. His newfound penchant for speaking his mind has not won him any friends among the players; in fact, it almost seems as if he’s made the conscious decision to say what he wants to say and no longer adhere to the corporate double-and triple-talk that was the hallmark of his earlier days as GM. He never actually said anything that wasn’t ambiguous or couldn’t be spun the way he wanted in its aftermath.

That changed with the Jeter negotiations; with the Soriano signing; with the Posada dustup.

There will be other GM jobs open after this season.

The Nationals are in a prime location with money; access to power; and a young foundation around which to build. Current GM Mike Rizzo’s signed through 2015, but that’s not a major obstacle. Naming Cashman club president or another high-end title would stickhandle around any firings.

Andy MacPhail isn’t expected to stay with the Orioles after this year; Cashman’s worked with Buck Showalter before; and after years with George Steinbrenner, he’d deal with Peter Angelos.

If the Mariners behave horribly again at some point and/or embarrass the ownership more than they did in 2010, Jack Zduriencik might be dismissed.

Depending on what happens with the Dodgers ownership, how enticing would one of the most historic franchises in baseball be? Located in Hollywood and with money to spend, he’d have all the ingredients to win big in Los Angeles on and off the field.

The Cubs are under new ownership, have young talent and are saddled with some messy contracts, but if Cashman was able to go to the Cubs and win a title, how would that look on a resume that already has 5 championships?

If he left the Yankees, Cashman wouldn’t be out of work long and he’d probably get a good job and the opportunity to truly run things the way he wants to.

Of course nothing can compare with the thrill and excitement of New York; in retrospect, the negatives will be viewed fondly after he’s away from the crisis-a-day atmosphere for a short while, but there are options.

With the team in its current state and the interference from above, it’s possible that Cashman is looking for a way out; that his newfound honesty is a conscious and calculated strategy to make clear that he doesn’t care whether he’s the Yankees GM after the 2011 season.

Levine dictating to Cashman which players he wants signed is a form of castration.

Would Cashman like to git while the gittin’s good?

It’s a bold act, but if he rappels out of Yankee Stadium, he won’t be out of work very long.

Is peace of mind and full power worth the pain of leaving his only baseball home?

It could if Cashman’s tired of the negatives that go along with the positives; if he wants to venture out on his own.

****

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

****

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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Darn Sox

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Suddenly, after a 2-10 start, not only are the Red Sox 24-20, but they’re ahead of the Yankees.

Despite all the assertions from the likes of Joel Sherman that the Yankees missed out on an opportunity to “separate” from the Red Sox at the start of the 3-game series last week, there was no chance of one team burying the other.

It’s May.

They’re both good teams. The Red Sox happen to be better and deeper, but the Yankees will play better than the dysfunctional, overpaid, slow and tired group they’ve appeared to be over the last week.

Altered states of belief are par for the course from Sherman, Mike Francesa and other Yankees fans/apologists/media members; it has little to do with reality.

The reality is this: the Red Sox were a large collection of well-compensated talent that needed time to grow accustomed to one another.

Was their atrocious start a byproduct of this?

Maybe.

Does it really matter?

The Red Sox are playing well now; they’re scoring and getting good pitching which was the intention when they made that flurry of big and expensive maneuvers to bolster their lineup and pitching staff.

What should be of great concern to the Yankees is that Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia haven’t heated up yet and will. For the Yankees, if he’s healthy, Alex Rodriguez is going to start bashing; so is Nick Swisher; but the same can’t be expected of Derek Jeter or Jorge Posada; in addition to their pitching woes, the Yankees are faced with the prospect of needing to look for a bat. And teams are not going to be lining up to help the Yankees.

What was ailing the Red Sox shouldn’t have been unexpected. There’s an article in the May issue of Fast Company that discusses the Miami Heat as they’ve navigated their way around having three superstars in their lineup on a team for whom anything less than a championship—then multiple championships—would be a disappointment.

There are obvious practical differences between basketball and baseball. In basketball, no one can function by himself in any way aside from at the foul line—it’s a team sport, period. Baseball is an individual sport in a team concept.

But that doesn’t diminish the relevance of and necessity for teamwide cohesiveness.

When there are such drastic changes made, there are bound to be upheavals. With a new first baseman (Adrian Gonzalez); a shift of Kevin Youkilis to third base; a new left fielder (Crawford); and a catcher in Jarrod Saltalamacchia with whom it’s taking a long time for the pitchers to grow comfortable in his calling of the games, there are many pieces of a complicated puzzle that have to fit together.

Pedroia is returning from injury; and Josh Beckett and John Lackey came into the season with question marks hovering over them. Beckett has silenced the critics; Lackey’s made them worse.

As long as a competent front office doesn’t panic, talent will win out most of the time as long as the talent is still there. There are circumstances in which this is not the case; it could be due to the aforementioned penchant to “do something” when leaving things alone is the best course of action; and there are situations of lax leadership and veteran players bagging the season at the first sign of struggle.

The Red Sox have proven they are not a team that quits. If the 2004 comeback from being down 3-0 in the ALCS wasn’t proof, last year’s injury-decimated squad that still somehow managed to win 89 games in the torturous American League East was a better example.

If you thought you’d seen the last of the Red Sox after that 2-10 start; that they were going to have “one of those seasons” in which grand expectations yielded a horrific result, then you’re a baseball-ignorant fool and you deserve your fate.

Sort of like Joel Sherman and Mike Francesa.

****

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

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Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide. It’s good for your fantasy baseball activities and some of my predictions have been proven to be eeeeeerily accurate already.

We won’t discuss the stuff I’ve already gotten wrong. Accentuate the positives.

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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The Clock Is Ticking On The Indians

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If you think the Indians are going to get the continued pitching excellence from the starting rotation and especially the bullpen all season long, you can forget it.

Fausto Carmona has proven he can be trusted for the most part; Josh Tomlin looks like the real deal; I’m not sold on Justin Masterson or Carlos Carrasco. The future is positive, but right now they’re still finding their way in the big leagues.

Their offense has been far and away beyond expectations; they’re leading the league in runs scored based on a couple of big outbursts like the 19-run shellacking of the Royals last week. Even if they slow down a bit, once Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana start hitting; Grady Sizemore gets back; and if Travis Hafner stays healthy, they’ll score enough to win a few games.

But it comes down to the pitching and their schedule.

The upcoming schedule is a nightmare with the Reds, Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, Rangers, Yankees and Tigers up to mid-June.

They might be back at .500 by then.

With the hot start giving them some cushion, the Indians might finish at or close to .500 this season, but reality will strike and they’ll fade from playoff contention by August. Or sooner.

****

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

****

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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Batter Down

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Where’s the genius?

Why can’t the Athletics score?

They made acquisitions to improve a moribund offense, but still don’t hit.

If you called last season’s offense impotent, you’d have been generous; so Billy Beane responded by trading for David DeJesus and Josh Willingham and signing Hideki Matsui—moves that should’ve improved the team’s output.

With a pitching staff that’s been fantastic from top-to-bottom, they should be better than this.

Who’s to blame for it?

Is it leaguewide pitching that’s stymying the A’s bats? Is it the vast dimensions of the Oakland Coliseum? Is it some other aspect?

You can justify being shut down by Felix Hernandez and Jered Weaver; but the apart from a game here and there, the A’s haven’t hit anyone—good or bad.

They’ve hit better at home than on the road.

What then?

Much like the idiotic assertion that Beane was a “genius”, he’s no more to blame for the offensive woes than he was the object of credit for when the team was a run-scoring machine.

The foundational structure of the Beane story predicates that he knows something that others don’t.

It was built on quicksand.

He brought in good bats that haven’t produced. Daric Barton hasn’t hit either.

Eventually, they will.

I think.

One has to wonder where the “objective” analysis would be if manager Bob Geren wasn’t considered Beane’s “best” friend; how long Gerald Perry is going to have to straighten out the slumbering offense as if he’s responsible for the success or failure of veteran hitters who listen to what they want to listen to from any hitting coach whether it was Tony Gwynn or Perry.

None of that matters much.

But can we trash the excuses and promulgation of the “infallible” Beane myth? And can we do it before the ridiculous Moneyball movie comes out?

No?

Ah well, I’ll do it.

You can’t rely on anyone these days, you gotta do everything yourself…

****

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

****

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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Draft Bored

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To punctuate the absurdity of the attention paid to the MLB Draft as if it’s on a level with the NBA/NFL versions in terms of relevance, I thought it’d be interesting—for context purposes only—to look at each team, their best player(s) and the circumstances under which they drafted, signed and acquired by their current clubs.

I can say this stuff because I’m not attached to a corporate entity with advertising dollars as a circular end like ESPN; not beholden to anyone but myself; do not pledge fealty to anything but the truth as I see it.

Let’s take a look. First the teams, then the “best” player(s) as I see them, then a brief background.

Tampa Bay Rays—Evan Longoria

Longoria was the 3rd pick in the 2006 draft after the Stuart Sternberg operation took full control of running the then-Devil Rays. The Royals took Luke Hochevar with the first overall pick; the Rockies took Greg Reynolds next.

Of the top ten that year, the notable names are Brandon Morrow and Tim Lincecum—forever linked because the Mariners bypassed the local product Lincecum in favor of the more aesthetically pleasing Morrow (and I’d have done the same thing). Brad Lincoln went 4th to the Pirates; Clayton Kershaw was taken at 7 by the Dodgers.

New York Yankees—CC Sabathia/Robinson Cano

You can make an argument for either being the Yankees “best” player.

Sabathia was taken with the 20th pick the 1st round by the Indians in 1998. Pat Burrell went 1st overall; Mark Mulder 2nd; J.D. Drew 5th.

The Yankees paid Sabathia a lot of money to sign with them.

Cano was signed as an amateur free agent in 2001; the Yankees had no clue what he was in the minors because if they did, they wouldn’t have offered him as part of the package for Alex Rodriguez; apparently the Rangers didn’t know either.

No one knew.

In fact, none other than that noted baseball expert Mike Francesa, along with then-partner Chris Russo, took joy in ridiculing the Yankees decision to bench Tony Womack in favor of Cano in 2005 when the move was initially made.

Boston Red Sox—Adrian Gonzalez

A couple of other Red Sox players like Kevin Youkilis could be considered the “best”; Youkilis was drafted in the 8th round of the 2001 draft by Dan Duquette’s unfairly criticized regime.

In an under-reported and swept-under-the-rug fact from Moneyball, Youkilis was going to be the compensation for the Athletics letting Billy Beane out of his contract to take over the Red Sox after 2002.

That wouldn’t have gone well.

As for Gonzalez, he was the 1st overall pick of the Marlins in 2000; Chase Utley was taken 15th; Adam Wainwright 29th.

Gonzalez was traded by the Marlins to the Rangers in 2003 for Ugueth Urbina and won a World Series they probably wouldn’t have won without Urbina.

The Rangers made one of the worst trades in major league history dealing Gonzalez and Chris Young to the Padres for Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka; Rangers GM Jon Daniels has since said that the Rangers had a first baseman in Mark Teixeira and didn’t know how good Gonzalez was.

The Red Sox traded a package of prospects to the Padres for Gonzalez and signed him to a long-term contract for $154 million.

Toronto Blue Jays—Jose Bautista

Bautista is a case study of the ridiculousness of the draft.

He was a 20th round pick of the Pirates in 2000. He went to the Orioles in the Rule 5 draft in 2003; was selected off waivers by the Devil Rays in 2004; was purchased by the Royals three weeks later; was then traded to the Mets for Justin Huber; was spun off immediately back to the Pirates for Kris Benson. This all happened within a few weeks.

He was traded to the Blue Jays for a player to be named later in 2008.

Now he’s a wrecking machine and he didn’t establish himself until he was 29-years-old.

Baltimore Orioles—Adam Jones

Jones was the 37th pick in the 1st round by the Mariners in 2003. He was traded by then-Mariners GM Bill Bavasi to the Orioles in a package for Erik Bedard in what’s turned out to be a horrific trade for the Mariners.

Cleveland Indians—Shin-Soo Choo

If he was 100%, Grady Sizemore might be the Indians “best” player, but he’s not. The Indians took advantage of the fact that Expos GM Omar Minaya was under the impression that there would no longer be an Expos franchise after the 2002 season and got Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Lee Stevens for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew.

As for Choo, he was an undrafted free agent signee by the Mariners in 2000 and was traded to the Indians for Ben Broussard in 2006.

Detroit Tigers—Miguel Cabrera

Cabrera was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Marlins in 1999 out of Venezuela. The Marlins won a World Series with him as a blossoming and fearless young star in 2003, then traded him and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers in a salary dump for a package of youngsters after 2007.

Kansas City Royals—Billy Butler

Butler was taken by the Royals with the 14th pick of the 1st round in 2004. Stephen Drew was taken by the Diamondbacks next; Phil Hughes by the Yankees later.

Chicago White Sox—Paul Konerko

Konerko was a 1st round pick of the Dodgers in 1994. He was a catcher who was traded to the Reds for Jeff Shaw; then to the White Sox for Mike Cameron.

Minnesota Twins—Joe Mauer

In 2001, the Twins were ridiculed for taking the hometown, high school hero Mauer when Mark Prior was poised, polished and nearly big league ready.

It was a pick based on sentiment; it was a mistake.

Or so it was said.

Um. No. It wasn’t a mistake.

Oakland Athletics—Trevor Cahill

Cahill was plucked in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft and he was a dreaded….high school pitcher; the exact type of prospect the Athletics and Billy Beane (according to the twisted fantasies of Michael Lewis) were supposed to avoid.

Yah.

Texas Rangers—Josh Hamilton

I think we all know the story of Josh Hamilton by now as a cautionary tale. The first pick in the 1999 draft by the Devil Rays, addiction nearly destroyed his entire life. Now he’s the reigning AL MVP.

Los Angeles Angels—Jered Weaver

Weaver was taken with the 12th pick of the 1st round in the 2004 draft.

Seattle Mariners—Felix Hernandez

The Venezuelan Hernandez was signed as an amateur free agent in 2002 at the age of 16.

Philadelphia Phillies—Roy Halladay

Those who try to manipulate you by not disclosing full details can use Halladay’s status as a 1st round pick in 1995 of the Blue Jays as an example of the value of 1st round picks.

But Halladay was a failure mentally and physically until coach Mel Queen lit into him, broke down his entire being and rebuilt him into the monster he’s become. The pitcher he is now is not the pitcher whom the Blue Jays drafted, 1st round or no 1st round.

Florida Marlins—Josh Johnson

Johnson was a 4th round pick in 2002 and is now one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball.

Atlanta Braves—Jason Heyward

Heyward was drafted in the 1st round by the Braves in 2007 with the 14th pick; he’s an MVP candidate if he can stay healthy.

Washington Nationals—Ryan Zimmerman

Zimmerman was taken in the 1st round of the 2005 draft with the 4th pick.

You can’t quibble with Zimmerman, but that was a very strong draft with Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Clay Buchholz and Andrew McCutchen all taken after Zimmerman.

New York Mets—Jose Reyes

Reyes was signed as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1999 at age 16.

Cincinnati Reds—Joey Votto

Votto was a 2nd round pick of the Reds in the 2002 draft. Brian McCann was taken later in the 2nd round by the Braves.

St. Louis Cardinals—Albert Pujols

Pretty much the only issue I had with Jonah Keri’s book, The Extra 2% detailing the rise of the Rays, was the chapter that discussed how they missed on Pujols as an example of the Chuck LaMar regime’s cluelessness concerning the draft.

Everyone missed on Pujols.

Nobody thinks a 13th round pick is even going to make it, let alone become this era’s version of Joe DiMaggio, but that’s what Pujols is.

Would Keith Law or Jonathan Mayo even have known who Pujols was had they been focusing on the draft to the degree that they do today?

No chance.

Milwaukee Brewers—Ryan Braun

Braun’s selection was discussed in the bit about Zimmerman.

You could make the argument that Prince Fielder, Zack Greinke or Yovani Gallardo are the Brewers “best” players. Fielder was said in Moneyball to be “too fat” for the A’s to draft in a draft in which they were intent on drafting players who weren’t would-be jeans models.

Fielder turned out pretty well I’d say.

Pittsburgh Pirates—Andrew McCutchen

I’m biased because I think McCutchen is going to be a MEGA-star. He too was in the Braun/Zimmerman draft.

Chicago Cubs—Starlin Castro

The Dominican Castro was signed as an amateur free agent at the age of 16 in 2006.

Houston Astros—Brett Wallace

It’s hard to pinpoint a “best” player on a team like the Astros, but Wallace qualifies I suppose.

Wallace was taken in the 1st round of the 2008 draft by the Cardinals and Ike Davis was taken a few picks later. Wallace was traded by the Cardinals to the A’s for Matt Holliday; traded by the A’s to the Blue Jays for Michael Taylor in the complicated series of deals involving Halladay and Lee; then was traded by the Blue Jays to the Astros for Anthony Gose.

Colorado Rockies—Troy Tulowitzki

Tulowitzki was taken in the 2005 draft detailed earlier.

San Francisco Giants—Tim Lincecum

The 10th pick in the 2006 draft, teams were scared off by his diminutive size (listed at 5’11”—YAH!! RIGHT!!!); his unique motion and training regimen that his stage father demanded not be altered in any way.

Back then, I would’ve drafted Kershaw and Morrow before Lincecum myself.

Los Angeles Dodgers—Matt Kemp

Kemp was taken in the 6th round of the 2003 draft. His attitude has long been a question, but his talent hasn’t.

Arizona Diamondbacks—Justin Upton

Upton was the first pick in the oft-mentioned 2005 draft. You can make a lukewarm argument against him, but he’s an excellent player.

San Diego Padres—Heath Bell

You can argue that Mat Latos is their best player, but right now it’s Bell.

Bell was picked by the Devil Rays in the 69th round of the 1997 draft but didn’t sign; he signed with the Mets as an amateur free agent in 1998. Much has been made of the Mets “failure” to give Bell a real opportunity and his clashes with then-pitching coach Rick Peterson.

Despite his frequent travel time on the Norfolk shuttle between the big leagues and Triple A, Bell did get a chance for the Mets and pitched poorly. The trade the Mets made of Bell and Royce Ring for Jon Adkins and Ben Johnson was awful, but I’m sick of Bell complaining about how he was treated by the Mets.

If he’d pitched the way he is now, the Mets wouldn’t have traded him.

Are you starting to get my point?

Watching the draft to the degree that MLB and ESPN are trying to sell it is a waste of time, energy and sometimes money for the observers.

You never know which players are going to make it and from where they’re going to come.

Accept it or not, it’s the truth.

****

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

****

Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide. This type of analysis is what you can expect if you can handle it.

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.

//

Mocking The Draft

Books, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Games, Hall Of Fame, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

It’s nearly draft time in Major League Baseball and the leeches looking to sell you things, invite webhits or garner viewers are out in force.

Now I must have my annual rant as to how silly it is to pay attention.

Predicting MLB stardom/productivity/failure is a colossal waste of time.

Regardless of the strategy utilized by various teams—college players; high school players; tools; stats; legacies—you cannot escape the simple fact that the games from amateur to pro are so different, you could conceivably place them in different categories of competition.

In the NBA and NFL, the games are essentially the same.

In MLB, it’s not.

They use aluminum bats in the amateurs. The pitchers have to account for the inability to jam the hitters by tricking them. This diminishes the use of the fastball—unless we’re talking about a lights-out 100+ mph bit of gas from a Stephen Strasburg-like prodigy—and reduces the velocity.

You can scout and project, but to think that the amateur results will translate to the professional ranks is ludicrous in most contexts.

They’re names, nothing more.

The media controls much of a drafted player’s profile. If they’re coming from a big college program, have had success in the College World Series, or Keith Law starts telling people how good they are, suddenly they’re in the public conscisousness.

They’re names.

Gerrit Cole; Anthony Rendon; Bubba Starling; Dylan Bundy; Daniel Hultzen.

Who are they?

I know Cole’s name because there was an article about him in the NY Times by Tyler Kepner—link. He was drafted in the first round by the Yankees out of high school and decided to go to college.

And?

I’ve heard that story before. Repeatedly.

The young player who was primed to be the top pick in the draft, but announced his intention to go to college.

Todd Van Poppel.

Remember him?

In 1990, then Braves GM Bobby Cox was scared away from drafting him because of that ironclad decree that he was going to college.

Instead, the Braves settled for Chipper Jones, a high school shortstop.

The Athletics (under Sandy Alderson) used one of their extra first round draft choices on Van Poppel; lo and behold, money attracted his signature.

Van Poppel, compared to Nolan Ryan in high school (presumably because both were Texans) became an eminently hittable journeyman; Jones is going to the Hall of Fame.

Cole’s about to go in the first round again. Will he make it? Who knows? But because he’s such a revered prospect, he’s going to get chance-after-chance-after-chance not only because of the money invested in him, but for the drafting team to save face for drafting him.

Don’t discount perception in the course of a player’s development or the recognizability of names to drum up press coverage even if the player isn’t any good.

It ain’t a straight shot.

NFL and NBA players are going straight from the amateurs to the big time.

In MLB, they have to work their way up to the big leagues.

Of course there are some college players who are determined to be close to big league ready and will be up sooner rather than later, but that doesn’t happen successfully very often. Chris Sale did it last year for the White Sox, but the White Sox drafted him with the intention of using him almost immediately and told him so.

Sometimes they’re not ready; sometimes they have to be adjusted mentally or physically; sometimes their skills/tools/whatevers don’t translate.

There are a myriad of reasons why a player makes it or doesn’t and they’re all viable and only understood in retrospect.

Glossy and idiotic.

For what purpose do I want to read about a kid that I’m not going to see in the big leagues for 2 years (if they’re on the fast track) to 5 years (if they’re normal) or never at all (which happens more often than not)?

Bud Selig can come ambling out to the echo-chamber of the MLB Network studio and announce the names; the analysts can regurgitate stuff they’ve read or been told as a basis for the drafting of said player; fans can debate about things they know nothing about…and nothing will change as to the survival-of-the-fittest nature of the primordial climb to the big leagues.

These young players better enjoy their moment in the spotlight, because many times it’s the last bit of positive attention they’re going to get for playing the game of baseball.

They’re selling if you’re buying.

It’s cyclical. Go up and down the drafts at random and look at the first round picks; see how many made it and how many didn’t; think about why.

Baseball-Reference has the draft history right here. Take a look.

MLB, ESPN and other sites paying close attention to the draft and making an infomercial-style, glossy sales pitch and the masses are buying it.

That’s on them; and you if you choose to partake in it.

What I’d like to see.

I’d dearly love to see the draft eliminated entirely.

Think about it; it’s un-American to tell a person that he has to go to a specific place against his will. As much as Scott Boras is reviled for his manipulations of the draft and attempts to circumnavigate it with his diabolical chicanery, he’s not wrong.

Imagine if a law school student were subjected to a draft and forced to go to a city not of his choosing.

The government would intervene. The people would revolt.

But it’s allowed in sports.

Eliminating the draft would raise the prices of the top players and would truly indicate which clubs are smart and willing to spend to find players.

Short of that, how about allowing the trading of draft picks? Imagine what the Rays would do with their massive number of accumulated selections from departed free agents? They’d move up and down the board to get the players they want at a reasonable cost while bringing in multiple assets.

I’d love to see a team with the courage to say, “we’re not indulging in the draft; we’re gonna scour the international market worldwide and spend out draft money there to bring in 50 players for the cost of 1 and hope we hit on at least 5.”

How would that work?

It couldn’t be any worse and it would be far more interesting.

There are so many aspects to the draft from development to opportunity to intelligence to scouting acumen that you can’t account for.

Keith Law can play MLB’s version of Mel Kiper Jr. and presumably make a nice living at it; he can travel around, collect names of players in a word-of-mouth fashion and present the myth that this guy is the next Chipper Jones; the next Ken Griffey Jr.

It doesn’t happen that way. Reality intervenes very quickly, but once the reality hits, the “experts” and MLB draftniks are preparing their sales pitch for 365 days hence.

As long as the system stays the same, I’m going to scream at the wind on an annual basis.

The only thing I can say is, you fly back to school now little (Bubba) Starling. Fly fly. Flyflyflyfly….

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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. Check it out.

****

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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Precision Strikes 5.17.2011

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

Time for short bursts of stuff.

Let’s take a look.

Rafael Soriano, oh boy…Rafael Soriano.

Rafael Soriano’s comments regarding his elbow pain are laughable.

Actually, they’re not laughable; they’re indicative of the personality issues about which the Yankees were warned before signing him.

You can read the madness here on the LoHud blog.

There’s not much to say about a player who has exhibited the selfishness that Soriano has; the stupidity; the disinterest in team dynamics or living up to his contract and doing his job. It hearkens back to the days of the Yankees mercenaries in the 1980s with the likes of Mel Hall and Pascual Perez skulking and soiling the clubhouse.

Soriano is violating the team concept and cohesiveness that was one of the main attributes of the championship Yankees teams of the late 90s and it’s getting worse with every new incident, comment or self-serving act.

The Vin Mazzaro debacle.

In the grand scheme, it’s one game and is relatively meaningless in every context other than to make a young pitcher the butt of jokes; but I haven’t the faintest idea as to why Royals manager Ned Yost left Mazzaro in the game to absorb that kind of beating.

In case you missed it, Mazzaro allowed 14 earned runs in 2 1/3 innings.

You can make the case for letting him finish the 4th inning, but to send him out for the 5th was inexcusable.

There’s having a pitcher take one for the team and there’s idiotic abuse. That was idiotic abuse.

Mazzaro was sent to the minors after the game.

If this was anyone but LaRussa…

Tony LaRussa gets away with things because he’s Tony LaRussa. If it were any other manager who decides to bat the pitcher 8th; alter the entire way he uses his pitching staff; acts as condescending and thin-skinned as LaRussa sometimes does, they’d never, ever get away with it.

But because he’s rightfully considered one of the best managers in baseball history, he can do things others can’t.

Case in point was putting Albert Pujols at third base last night.

Pujols played third base when he first came to the big leagues, but hasn’t manned the position since 2002 when he appeared in 41 games there. He’s had elbow problems and the last thing the Cardinals need is for Pujols to blow out his arm making a throw from third base.

It’s too great a risk. But LaRussa did it and gets away with it whereas other managers wouldn’t. 2661 wins gives a fair amount of leeway.

A lot of leeway.

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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. Check it out.

****

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 5.17.2011

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

Patrick writes RE the Yankees:

In fairness to Joe Torre (and those are not easy words for me to type) Rodriguez had been about 4 for 45 in the playoffs since his game 4 3rd inning HR at Fenway Park in 2004. All singles too. He was not getting it done and he was a complete distraction.

Girardi is not exactly a great communicator, he very easily could have found the means of bringing Jeter (the Captain) into an early meeting with Posada and said something along the lines of “look, we’re not getting it done collectively right now, and I need to shake up the line up as we are short and bat you 9th, I’d just as soon give you a couple of days off to clear the cobwebs, but we only have a three man bench.”

To me some of this is on Cashman for giving Girardi 12 regulars three of whom are catchers by trade. No flexibility in bats.

You can back up the Alex Rodriguez batting 8th maneuver statistically, but if they were going to make a drastic change in batting order, I’d have done something that would’ve been outside the box and not embarrassing to a player of A-Rod’s stature and ego like batting him leadoff.

Making the player angry used to work with the Darryl Strawberry-type, but A-Rod’s a notorious baby; conscious of his image and perception; batting him 8th was a form of public castration and that’s exactly what Torre wanted to do.

Joe Girardi has handled this situation brilliantly; he’s dealing with former teammates and navigating their steep decline while trying to keep his team in contention amid a tattered pitching staff, rampant injuries and a crisis-a-day atmosphere.

Girardi is under no obligation to explain anything to anyone, but he could’ve talked to Posada beforehand and tried to defuse the situation before it was triggered; I certainly wouldn’t have brought Jeter into the office to explain it. These are grown men and need to act like it.

Regarding the bench, it’s not good. As much the signings of Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez were lauded before the season, neither can provide much of anything considering Jones’s own fall and Chavez’s injury history.

Cashman tries to save a buck here and there—for reasons that are and will continue to be a mystery to me—and it shows in their roster.

The 2011 Yankees are echoing the 2009 Mets.

And that’s not good.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the Yankees and Jorge Posada:

Well said. I think the whole thing has reached Planet Ridiculous, mostly because the fans and media have put he (and the other three of the “core four”) up on such a pedestal that they’ve become god-like. I hope it doesn’t happen this way for Jeter too.

It’s unavoidable. The Yankees front office isn’t precisely innocent here. It’s one thing to get into the back and forth of contretemps with Posada…*

*Incidentally, in the discussion group I run on TheCopia.com (self-promotion alert), someone responded to my reference to “Jorge Posada and the Contretemps” that they’re going to start a band of the same name; I want a piece of that action.)

…but they’re using the slumping Posada to phase him out completely; they’ve had enough of him and he’s not long for the roster.

Joe (statmagician on Twitter) writes RE Carlos Beltran and Jesus Montero:

I could see a team surrendering a little more for Beltran than he is worth, if they need him. But Montero is stretching it. And the Yankees already have three outfielders…I know, Beltran could DH, but Montero is too much.

You can’t account for desperation. We don’t know what’s going to happen especially if Beltran is still hitting. The Indians got Carlos Santana for a pending free agent (and very good player) in Casey Blake; the Nationals got Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps.

These things happen.

Montero might be a bit much and Brian Cashman most certainly wouldn’t do that deal, but the Hank and Hal Steinbrenner and Randy Levine have not been shy about interfering in baseball operations (thus far to nightmarish results with Rafael Soriano), so if things spiral and they need a splashy headline and a bat to try and save the season? Anything’s possible.

40-Oz Liz writes RE R.A. Dickey‘s love for Lord of the Rings and the correction for the NYT link I posted last week—click here:

So there is someone out there who is a baseball fanatic, as well as a Lord of the Rings/Hobbit nut? And I thought that stuff was like water and oil! This is fantastic!

Now please show me someone who likes to turn National Geographic TV specials into drinking games, and please show them my way.

I’m like Randal from Clerks II. There’s only one return and it’s not of the King, it’s of the Jedi.

If any ballplayer started to suggest a drinking game based on Nat Geo or Lord of the Rings, he’s getting duct taped and left in a locker somewhere.

They’re not as evolved as you or me. Most of them anyway.

****

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 Facebookor Twitter.

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

//

A Mets Thing

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

Since Chris Young and Jenrry Mejia were scheduled for surgery on the same day, I can see the following happening to the Mets and only the Mets.

Doctor: We’re ready to put you under now. Just relax and breathe normally; begin counting down from 100 and you’ll just got to sleep. When you wake up, your elbow will be as good as new Mr. Mejia.

The patient begins to squirm and act panicky; nurses and orderlies are called to hold him down; restraining his large frame on the table, just before he falls into unconsciousness due to the anesthesia, he manages to utter the words, “I’m not Mejia, I’m Young!! Shoulder!!! Shoulder!!!”

The doctor peers down at the 6’10” frame and pale skin of Chris Young, shakes his head and says, “Athletes are the biggest babies. Now, let’s fix this young man’s elbow!”

Sound farfetched? Maybe. But it is the Mets we’re talking about. All things are possible. All….things.

****

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.

//