The Verlander No-Hit Bid—If You Can’t Do The Time, Don’t Do The Crime

Fantasy/Roto, Games, Management, Media, Players

Justin Verlander‘s bid for a third career no-hitter was—in a bizarre turn of events—a background story when this afternoon’s game between the Angels and Tigers was over.

Angels starter Jered Weaver was ejected in the seventh inning for firing a pitch over Alex Avila‘s head after Carlos Guillen went into a silly bit of histrionics after homering and Weaver yelled at him. This was in response to Weaver also yelling at Magglio Ordonez for standing at the plate on a homer which was barely fair—ESPN Story.

I doubt Ordonez was showing up Weaver; he just stood to see if the ball was fair or foul and Weaver—either angry about allowing the homer or misinterpreting Ordonez—overreacted.

The Guillen act was ridiculous.

But that paled in comparison to what Angels shortstop Erick Aybar did leading off the top of the eighth inning.

Aybar tried to bunt his way on.

Verlander fielded the ball and threw it away. According to Aybar, Verlander said he’d “get” him next year.

The question of propriety is somewhat valid in theory, but both the Angels and Tigers are in a playoff race; in fact, it could be argued that they have a case for competing with one another for the Wild Card if the races break a certain way. These games are not meaningless. The Angels need to win; the Tigers need to win; the score was 3-0. If it was 10-0, Verlander can complain, glare and threaten all he wants. At 3-0, he needs step back and think about the big picture.

Regarding the extracurricular stuff—the Weaver anger; the Guillen prancing; the Aybar bunt; the Verlander threat—if you can’t do the proverbial time, don’t do the proverbial crime.

Guillen acted like a fool and his teammate was thrown at; Aybar bunted to break up a no-hitter, Verlander is presumably going to throw at him with a 100-mph fastball when he gets the chance.

These things will be handled in time. The testosterone-filled, reputation-laden, “right and wrong” world of baseball collided today in Detroit. Barring an unforeseen run into the ALCS for both teams, they won’t face each other again until next season.

They’ll remember this because it’ll continually be brought up by the media, fans and other players until it—whatever “it” is—happens.

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LaRussa Won’t Maintain Radio Silence With Tony Rasmus

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Games, Hall Of Fame, Management, Media, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Prospects, Trade Rumors

If I were advising Colby Rasmus‘s dad, Tony Rasmus, I’d tell him to shut up.

It’s enough.

He protected his son—that’s clear. He also interfered with the way the Cardinals and manager Tony LaRussa handled him—that too is clear.

There was a rift somewhere and my guess is both parties are at fault. When you’re dealing with an old-school, thin-skinned veteran manager like LaRussa and an involved parent, this endless spitting contest is not going to do any good at all for the player—especially a player that was coached by his dad and is sensitive in his own right.

Tony Rasmus was a guest on a St. Louis radio program—The Sports Zone with Rob Rains and B.J. Rains Weekdays 1-3 on SportsRadio 1380—and discussed his son, the Cardinals and LaRussa.

You can listen here.

Following the interview, LaRussa had no comment.

We all know that’s not going to last. He’ll reply because: A) people are going to keep asking about it until he detonates; and B) he’s LaRussa.

It’s going to eat at LaRussa. He’s so competitive and intense that it extends to everyone knowing he’s a genius, telling him he’s a genius and he must-must-must have the last word.

The one thing I don’t understand is why the Cardinals are so uptight about Colby getting help from his dad. If it helps the player in any way—gives him some peace of mind or whatever—why not?

There’s a territorial fiefdom in baseball that managers feel so threatened when their handpicked coaches are “usurped” by an outsider—father or not—that they instantly rebel and react when there’s encroachment into that arena.

I believe it could’ve been smoothed over, but maybe it couldn’t.

Here’s the end result: Colby and Tony Rasmus are the Blue Jays problems/attributes now; LaRussa won another organizational skirmish with the diametrically opposed voices in his front office; and the Cardinals took steps to win now and placate the manager.

It’s over. Everyone should move on.

But we know neither LaRussa nor Tony Rasmus will do that and again Colby will be the unwitting victim trapped in the middle of loyalty to his dad and the ire of a Hall of Fame manager.

Not a good place to be for a 25-year-old.

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Indians Get Ubaldo Jimenez And Go For The Deep Strike

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Prospects, Trade Rumors

In trading star pitchers CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee at the trading deadlines of 2008 and 2009, the Indians acquired 1st round draft picks Zach Jackson and Matt LaPorta; they also acquired Michael Brantley (7th round pick), Jason Knapp (2nd round), Carlos Carrasco (a touted amateur free agent), Jason Donald (3rd round) and Lou Marson (3rd round).

In retrospect, they would’ve been better off keeping both Lee and Sabathia and taking the compensatory draft picks when they left as free agents.

But they didn’t know that then.

It’s short-sighted to let a few deals that didn’t work out in a club’s favor influence future moves so heavily, but it gives some background to the Indians thinking—given that experience—when they acquired Ubaldo Jimenez (pending a physical) from the Rockies for Alex White, Joe Gardner, Matt McBride and Drew Pomeranz.

White and Pomeranz were 1st round picks; McBride a 2nd round pick; Gardner a 3rd round pick.

The Indians gave up a lot, but they’ve seen first hand what can happen with “blue chip” prospects and building for a “future” that may never come. They have a right to be hesitant. A natural response would be that all players are different; all deals are different; and that experience shouldn’t factor so heavily into trading for a young pitcher in Jimenez who hasn’t pitched particularly well since a brilliant start to his 2010 season and whose availability should give some pause to the pursuing teams.

But the questioning glances stem from paranoid rumor-mongering (contingent on that physical). Apart from unattributed speculation, there haven’t been any concrete statements about Jimenez being in poor health or whining about his contract.

Sometimes there’s no smoking gun. Sometimes players are traded because they’re traded and both sides feel it’s the right thing to do.

The Indians are in a terrible division and in a pennant race; they needed a starter and got one in Jimenez days after bolstering their lineup with the underrated Kosuke Fukudome.

Jimenez is not a rental as Sabathia was; he’s not going to be able to demand over $100 million in a year-and-a-half as Lee was; he’s going to be with the Indians through 2013. The players they gave up weren’t going to help them now, if at all; the Indians are supposedly still trying to improve via trade.

The Rockies are fading in the NL West race, shed some salary and brought back a few cheap, young players.

The Indians are going for the deep strike—something I’m an advocate of when the opportunity presents itself.

Go for it.

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MLB Trade Deadline Stories 7.30.2011

Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Prospects, Trade Rumors

Beware GMs/Managers on the hotseat…if they’re your employees.

The Tigers acquired Doug Fister and David Pauley from the Mariners for minor league third baseman Francisco Martinez; outfielder Casper Wells; and LHP Charlie FurbushMLBTradeRumors.

Fister’s a pretty good pitcher and, as the linked story notes, is under team control; Pauley has use and the Tigers are a veteran team with a veteran manager and a veteran GM who are under the mandate to win now; owner Mike Illich has said he’d be “extremely disappointed” if the Tigers fail to make the playoffs.

That’s the problem.

What motivation is there for GM Dave Dombrowski to hang onto any of the Tigers top prospects or think of the long-term if it’s basically known that he’s gone if the team doesn’t make the playoffs? And manager Jim Leyland can barely stand rookies to begin with.

When a GM/managerial tandem is on the hotseat as the Tigers duo is, they’re going to do whatever they can to win and keep their jobs; that could cause them to sabotage the system by making a trade that they normally wouldn’t make if they were working under long-term contracts.

Dombrowski isn’t going to save the Tigers youngsters so Al Avila has a strong base to build from when he takes over as GM; this might cause him to do something the club will regret long after Dombrowski and Leyland are out of town.

Nationals trade Jerry Hairston Jr. to the Brewers.

I guess the acquisition of Jonny Gomes made utilityman Jerry Hairston Jr. expendable for the Nationals.

Yes, I’m being sarcastic.

The Nationals appear to have gotten themselves a good prospect for Hairston in Double A outfielder Erik Komatsu, so it’s a smart move in exchange for a mediocre player.

But I have to ask again: why did they need Jonny Gomes?!?

There’s no evidence of a plan in place in Washington unless not having a plan is the plan.

Are the Nats rebuilding? Are they trying to bring in veterans and win simultaneously to developing youngsters? Why sign Jayson Werth and trade for Gomes while acquiring younger players still in the minors?

They’ve got some excellent talent in the organization now, but winning and developing is very, very hard to do. The Nationals haven’t exhibited any type of comprehensive plan to turn things around apart from being terrible year-after-year and getting terrific players in the draft.

That—with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper among others—is working.

The concerns with Heath Bell.

Much is being made of Heath Bell’s declining strikeout rate.

It could be something significant or it could be a matter of circumstance. He’s only allowed 1 homer this year and that’s a stat I’d be more interested in than his strikeouts.

Teams coveting Bell have to look at his location and consider the possibility that the hitters are squaring him up better than they did before; that, more than his strikeouts, would be an indicator as to whether he’s “lost” something.

The fewer k’s could be due to any myriad of factors like pitch selection or the types of hitters he’s facing and if they’re trying harder to make contact.

If Bell’s velocity and stuff are similar to what they were in prior years, there’s nothing to be overly panicky about when trying to get him.

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Amaro’s Mirror Trades

Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Prospects, Trade Rumors

In certain deals, it seems that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. takes a sensible trade proposal, holds it in front of the mirror and does what the reflection says.

In short, he does the opposite of what he should do.

It was evident in the Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay trade (since rectified with the twin-acknowledgments that it was a mistake with the acquisition of Roy Oswalt a year ago and the re-signing of Lee as a free agent last winter), and it is so now with the trade for Hunter Pence.

Pence is a good player and he’ll help the Phillies; but when you’re trading two of your top prospects along with two other young players, I’d think you could do better than a “good” player.

I’d think that such a swap—tweaked when necessary—would bring back a star player along the lines of Hanley Ramirez.

But Amaro focused on Pence and got him. I give him credit for doing what he thinks is right in execution, not in theory.

If you compare what other clubs have acquired when they’ve traded their top prospects—specifically the Red Sox with the deal they made last winter in getting Adrian Gonzalez—reason dictates that the Phillies could’ve gotten a better player than Pence in a deal centered around Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart.

Pence is under team control for the next 2 1/2 years and he fills a void in the Phillies lineup; Gonzalez was a free agent after 2011 before the Red Sox signed him to a $154 million extension to prelude free agency, so the Phillies have more certainty with Pence, but you can’t place the two in the same category on the field.

Amaro targets and acquires.

Sometimes that’s good as it was with Lee and Oswalt.

Sometimes it’s okay as it was with Raul Ibanez and the lateral move for Halladay (as great as he’s been) at the expense of Lee.

Sometimes it’s wrong as it was when he traded Lee for Halladay.

And sometimes it’s questionable as it is now with Pence.

No matter what happens with the Phillies from here on, they could’ve gotten more for Singleton and Cossart if they’d looked elsewhere and/or waited.

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Video And Analysis Of Singleton, Cossart And Zeid

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Prospects, Trade Rumors

According to MLBTradeRumors, the Phillies sent first baseman/outfielder Jonathan Singleton; RHP Jarred Cosart; RHP Josh Zeid; and another minor leaguer to the Astros for Hunter Pence and $1 million.

It sounds like a lot because it is a lot.

Here’s Singleton:

Singleton is in high A Clearwater and is about to turn 20. He’s got a quick bat and short stroke. He’s shown the potential for increasing power as he matures and good patience at the plate. I’m not buying this “his path was blocked” stuff; he’s 19, If he could hit, they’d find a place for him to play. He’s going to be a solid everyday big league player within 3 years.

Here’s Cosart:

Cosart was also in Clearwater, is 21 and his motion is mechanical and reminds me of Brad Penny; he follows through well despite the stiff leg and doesn’t appear to overstress his arm. He’ll make it to the big leagues and be at least a fourth starter.

And here’s Zeid:

Zeid is 24 and his mechanics are awful. He doesn’t use his lead arm or his legs in any way and lands on a leg so rigid that it looks to be in danger of breaking with every pitch. Maybe he can make it as a reliever/12th or 13th man on a staff.

Considering the ownership change in Houston and that there’s likely to be a payroll rollback and a new baseball management team in place, current GM Ed Wade did a terrific job extracting two top prospects barely out of their teens; an extra arm; and a player to be named later for an outfielder who’s clearly been overrated by the Phillies.

I’ll have more about this trade from the Phillies perspective later; Pence will play well in Philadelphia, but the Astros won this deal.

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You All Do Realize It’s Hunter Pence, Right?

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Trade Rumors

The packages I’m seeing bounced around as being offered for Hunter Pence are mind-boggling.

The Phillies are ready to give up two and maybe three prospects for him including Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton and/or Domonic Brown?

The Braves are supposedly in on Pence as well but aren’t going overboard with the prospects as the Phillies are.

As I’ve said repeatedly I don’t put much stock in rumors—they could be smokescreens or outright fabrications—but use your own mind. Check this link on MLBTradeRumors regarding Pence and what do you see? You see about 10 different versions of the same story all changed within a very short timeframe. I don’t blame MLBTradeRumors—they’re a clearinghouse for this stuff putting it all in one place; I blame the sources and purveyors of this nonsense, all of whom are in cahoots to scream “fire” in a crowded theater.

But one thing is being missed in all of this.

It’s Hunter Pence.

He’s a pretty good player. That’s it. He’s consistent in his power and overall game; he can run; he’s good defensively with deceptively strong and accurate arm considering the fact that he throws like there’s something wrong with him physically (he’s awkward) or mentally (his eyes are deer-in-the-headlights wide).

He doesn’t strike out an absurd amount and doesn’t walk. Pence is arbitration eligible after this year and a free agent after 2013. He’s a useful piece and a good guy.

He’s not worth the Phillies offer.

If the Phillies hold off until after the season, the packages that are being discussed could yield a superstar player who may be too costly for his current team or is disgruntled and wants out. Of course that type of player will be more financially expensive than Pence, who they’ll have under team control for the next 2 1/2 years, but it’s a lot to give up for a supporting player. That’s what Pence is.

If I were surrendering that package, I’d approach the Marlins about Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison or Mike Stanton before going after Pence; go to the Rays and ask about Evan Longoria—who knows what they’ll say? How about the Orioles and Nick Markakis? The Dodgers about Andre Ethier or Matt Kemp?

Any of these players would be preferable to Pence and might be obtainable with the package of Singleton, Cosart and Brown.

Much like the decision Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. made in December of 2009 to trade Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay and “replenish” the Phillies system, it wasn’t well-thought-out, nor was it smart.

You’ll notice that none of the young players the Phillies got in that trade—Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez—are being discussed in these Pence scenarios.

The Phillies need to step back and think before pulling the trigger on a good bat when what they’re giving up could get them a great bat if they wait.

They’re making a mistake. Again.

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Politics And Baseball

Books, Games, Management, Media, Players, Politics

Watching this burgeoning disaster/insurrection of the Republican Party in the battle over the debt ceiling and I think back to the caller who told Mike Francesa that he would’ve ordered Jorge Posada to bat lefty against Rays reliever J.P. Howell because of Howell’s lack of success vs lefties.

The caller—courageous over the phone and without any concept of humanity nor Posada’s pride and prodigious temper—would’ve demanded that the borderline Hall of Fame switch-hitter bat completely opposite to the way he has for his entire career.

The Tea Party and people who feel that a baseline understanding of baseball statistics are connected.

Government—in order to function—requires working with others. This intractable attitude with which many of the newly elected representatives walked into Congress was fine when pounding their fists on the desk and holding firebrand rallies to “reign in spending” and “fix what’s broken in Washington” without minute details of how to complete that impossible task; but when they actually have to govern, that attitude gets you absolutely nowhere; in fact, it grinds the machine to a halt.

You can understand the frustration of longtime Washington insiders like Sen. Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House John Boehner when they exhibit the look of resignation that there’s no talking to those who think they have a mandate to make change and won’t budge.

It’s as if there’s no talking to these types because there is no talking to them.

Fools who sit on the sidelines and utter such idiocies as “if people get outta the way, things get done” plainly and simply don’t know what they’re talking about. What that statement means is a mystery as if somehow, some way legislation will be passed as if by magic.

How does this relate to baseball?

Because of Moneyball, outsiders with no comprehension of the game itself felt they were somehow qualified to walk into a MLB front office and start ordering veterans—players and executives—around. With Billy Beane‘s obnoxious personality as their template, they were going to “do things differently” like that caller to Francesa suggested.

You know what would happen if that caller told Posada to bat lefty vs Howell? He’d: A) be crawling around on the floor looking for his teeth; B) be ignored; or C) be crawling around on the floor looking for his teeth.

It doesn’t work the way they think in politics or baseball.

You have to compromise within reason without betraying the core beliefs you may have; you have to work with others; and you have to listen to reason.

I see none of that going on in government nor in still protesting areas of baseball where there are those who are so invested in stats and self-important arrogance are wriggling and trying to survive like a gravely wounded bug, lying on its back and flailing with the last ounce of strength to live.

The revolution is over.

It’s time to listen and compromise.

But they won’t because they think they know everything.

And they’ll learn. The hard way.

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Hideki Irabu Could’ve Been Really Good

Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Players

Harvey Araton writes about Hideki Irabu in today’s NY Times.

Irabu was found dead in California yesterday from an apparent suicide.

For him to kill himself, he obviously had bigger problems than just baseball; but if his baseball career had gone according to plan, perhaps he wouldn’t have spiraled to this point.

Irabu was a prized acquisition of the Yankees in 1997 after the Padres had secured his rights from the Chiba Lotte Marines and he refused to play in San Diego. Irabu wanted to be a Yankee; the Yankees wanted him; his demands were met.

In the Times piece, it’s noted by a Yale anthropology professor—William Kelly—that Irabu may have made a mistake going to the Yankees; Kelly seems to blame agent Don Nomura:

“It may be that Nomura did not serve him well as an agent,” Kelly said. “In the end, Irabu might have been better off in San Diego.”

Blaming the agent is idiotic. If anything, Nomura was doing something that star agents like Scott Boras occasionally fail to do—serve the client as a person by acquiescing to his desires. That may not be what’s best for said client, but in the end the agent is an employee and Irabu chose to go the Yankees.

He got that and more. Which turned out to be less.

There are circumstances in which a pitcher is overvalued for the interest he’ll generate off the field rather than what he can do on it. Kei Igawa was signed by the Yankees as a response to the Red Sox getting Daisuke Matsuzaka; Irabu was the Yankees’ version of Hideo Nomo.

The expectations for Irabu were heightened by Nomo’s sudden and unforeseen explosion and the Yankees hype machine. Nomo arrived amid little fanfare aside from the way he extricated himself from Japan by “retiring”. No one predicted much and Nomo turned into a sensation; Nomo’s parents had received assurances from Dodgers GM Fred Claire and manager Tommy Lasorda that the club would protect him. Irabu had no such protective measures; all he had was the albatross of being the “second guy” after Nomo. “You think Nomo’s good? Watch this!!”

It’s not easy being the “second guy” especially playing for the Yankees under George Steinbrenner.

With a near 100-mph fastball and devastating split-finger to go along with a wild personality, the decision to lever his way to the Yankees wound up being a big part of his undoing.

Irabu was a disappointment, but he did have good stuff. That power fastball and split-finger could’ve made him a useful and probably very good big league pitcher. But the Yankees needed a Nomo and Irabu wasn’t Nomo.

Lineups were to be left in ruins at the mere sight of Irabu; the club, fans and media waited for devastation when he was merely “okay”.

Okay wasn’t, nor would it ever be, good enough when saddled with those demands for that team with that owner.

Clearly that professional failure to meet lofty and absurd fantasies were only a fraction of the myriad of issues with Hideki Irabu and those issues caused him to end his own life.

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MLB Trade Deadline Stories 7.28.2011

All Star Game, Books, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Trade Rumors

Update: Click here for a new posting with video and analysis of the young players traded to the Astros for Pence.

Are you buying this? I’m not buying this.

Some of these rumors are so ridiculous that they couldn’t possibly be true in any business enterprise other than baseball.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re not accurate.

According to MLBTradeRumors, the Phillies offered top prospects Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton and possibly even Domonic Brown to the Astros for Hunter Pence.

Pence is a good player, but he’s not worth two top prospects, let alone three. Ruben Amaro Jr. has done some stupid things in his time as GM, but he’d redeemed himself in my eyes with his fearless recognition and correcting of the mistake he made in trading Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay. If he sells the farm for Pence, it’s a stupid thing to do because that package could get essentially whatever the Phillies want now and definitely after the season—better players than Pence.

I’m not buying this story and if I’m the Phillies I steer totally clear of Ryan Ludwick as well. They really don’t need a bat to that desperate degree.

Speaking of Ryan Ludwick…

If I were the Braves, I’d forget Ryan Ludwick too. Josh Willingham, yes. Ryan Ludwick, no.

And speaking of Willingham…

I’m getting a “we don’t care anymore” vibe out of Oakland.

The team is atrocious and the lukewarm defenses of Billy Beane are becoming even more ludicrous. Please don’t think silly stories that are popping up of Beane “figuring it out” are anything more than those still invested in the validation of Moneyball.

Without that book and forthcoming movie (which has nothing to do with the text of the book—you’ll see), Beane might’ve been fired long ago. The team’s a disaster. Don’t tell me anything different and don’t remove blame from the man in charge—Billy Beane. He gets credit for the good, he gets blame for the bad. That’s the way it works in reality; not in Michael Lewis’s fantasy world.

On a related subject…

Can we bag the growing talk about the brilliance of Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos? It’s ballooning into the eventual designation of “genius”—something that is easy to anoint and nearly impossible to achieve, especially in baseball. It’s too fleeting; too dependent on perception and story-framing; too reliant on the last move that might or might not have worked.

He’s a good, gutsy GM whose team is hovering around .500 and probably has a bright future.

Let’s leave it there for now.

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