MLB Trades On 8.31 Means Eligible For the Playoffs

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Braves re-acquire Matt Diaz for a PTBNL or cash.

Here are Diaz’s numbers against lefties in his career:

I Split PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip tOPS+
vs RHP as RHB 966 880 232 38 7 14 103 51 211 .264 .320 .370 .690 326 .330 77
vs LHP as RHB 911 840 277 52 7 29 108 44 135 .330 .369 .512 .881 430 .362 124
vs LH Starter 1058 974 124 318 54 8 30 129 51 170 .326 .367 .491 .857 478 .368 118
vs RH Starter 819 746 75 191 36 6 13 82 44 176 .256 .315 .373 .687 278 .317 76
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/31/2011.

Here are Diaz’s numbers against the Phillies current pitchers:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Cole Hamels 39 38 10 2 1 1 1 1 6 .263 .282 .447 .729
Cliff Lee 12 11 4 0 0 1 4 1 2 .364 .417 .636 1.053
Kyle Kendrick 8 8 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 .375 .375 .375 .750
Ryan Madson 8 7 3 2 0 0 1 0 3 .429 .500 .714 1.214
Brad Lidge 5 4 2 0 0 2 3 0 2 .500 .500 2.000 2.500
David Herndon 4 4 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 .250 .250 .500 .750
Roy Halladay 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000
Antonio Bastardo 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000
Total 79 75 25 5 1 4 10 2 15 .333 .359 .587 .946
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/31/2011.

He also hits Randy Wolf and Jeremy Affeldt very well.

Some Braves fans are voicing their concerns that manager Fredi Gonzalez is suggesting he’s going to platoon Diaz with Jason Heyward.

I understand the irritation at the treatment Heyward has received this season. But objectively, he looks like he’s playing hurt and is batting .188 against lefties; he doesn’t deserve to automatically be granted playing time, especially in a post-season situation. Diaz murders lefties and his defensive shortcomings will be mitigated by Michael Bourn‘s range and a Braves pitching staff that is leading the league in strikeouts and gets a lot of ground balls; late in games with a lead, Diaz will be yanked in favor of Heyward for defense.

In the short-term, Diaz playing against lefties instead of Heyward is a smart move.


Giants cut some dead and expensive weight. (No, not Barry Zito.)

Say this about the Giants, they don’t let money stand in the way of doing what they think is right for the team whether they’re benching highly paid players or leaving them off the playoff roster entirely.

Today the Giants essentially severed ties with infielder Miguel Tejada and outfielder Aaron Rowand. GM Brian Sabean isn’t going to find a taker for Rowand with $12 million coming to him next year; someone (the Phillies?) will pick him up when he’s eventually released.

There might be a taker for Tejada with his contract expiring at the end of the season.

Rangers acquire Mike Gonzalez.

It should give hope to Mets fans that the Rangers, not far removed from near bankruptcy and utter ownership disarray, are now able to buy, buy, buy to fill their needs.

Adding Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez to their bullpen could be the difference between getting bounced in the first round and winning a World Series.

The Rangers built a super-deep farm system under Jon Daniels and they’re not afraid to use it to try and win now.

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Strasburg’s Coming Back—Get The Hype And The Pitch Counts Ready

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So what’s the pitch count going to be for Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg‘s return to the big leagues?

Will the hype for his comeback from Tommy John surgery match that which surrounded him from his drafting to his rise to the big leagues?

Far be it from me to roll my eyes at the media circus that surrounds certain players, but this Strasburg madness is a repeat of the same silliness that accompanied him when he first came into the public consciousness as a college player; the same reaction when Joba Chamberlain became a phenomenon with the rules and regulations that dictated his use.

Eventually people tire of the hype for hype’s sake and move onto something else. This summer a similar media darling (whose mere mentioning begets a large number of readers and webhits—shocker!!) Brett Favre has had his name prominently suggested in a “Will he come back?!? Dum dum DUUUUM!!!!” style story.

In prior years, Favre has created much of that himself with his retirements and unretirements, but this time he’s said he’s done and hasn’t even implied anything to the contrary.

But the stories keep popping up.

I like watching Strasburg pitch, but we’re talking about someone who had a serious injury; was babied before that serious injury; is going to be babied more now; and is pitching for a team that’s going to end up about 30 games out of a playoff position.

It’s a diversion and not worth the attention it’s getting as it approaches.

But the machine is going to spin for the purposes of gaining readers, viewers and tickets sold.

It’s already starting and isn’t going to stop.

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Cervelli’s Lucky It Was Lackey

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If Francisco Cervelli had been hitting against Don Drysdale, there’s a pretty good chance he’d be in the hospital now after getting hit in the head.

Because of Cervelli’s enthusiasm following his homer off of John Lackey in the Yankees 5-2 win over the Red Sox last night, he was rewarded with a fastball in the back—a pitch he took exception to.

And he shouldn’t have taken exception to it; he should’ve expected it.

Maybe Cervelli was watching the Little League World Series and somehow thought it was okay, in celebrating his 2nd home run of the year, to clap his hands so happily when he touched home plate.

But it’s not okay and Lackey was right to be angry and to retaliate.

You do that and you’re going to get popped. And you deserve it.

You can see the video below. (Naturally, it’s from someone having taped it from their TV and posted on YouTube.)

The Yankees defended their teammate; CC Sabathia was the most vocal in yelling at Lackey, but privately they knew it was coming; privately they knew it was appropriate.

Cervelli’s lucky it’s a different era from the 1960s when Drysdale stalked the mound with his massive 6’6″ frame and intimidating glower; or that it wasn’t Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez or Randy Johnson on the mound last night. Then the message would’ve been made much, much clearer with the long lasting mark on his body to prove it.

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MLB September Stories To Watch, Part I

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Justin Verlander‘s MVP candidacy.

I went into the reasons why Verlander is a worthy candidate here.

Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated also believes pitchers should be eligible in this piece while saying Verlander’s not his pick now. In August. Why Heyman’s writing who his MVP is in August is a mystery aside from screaming, “I dunno what else to write about so I’ll write about the MVP in August!!”

While I’m unsure of whom should actually be the MVP in the American League yet, I don’t know how even the greatest holdout that pitchers shouldn’t win the MVP can deny Verlander serious thought if he wins 26 games and leads the league in ERA, strikeouts, innings pitched and the Tigers win a division that they wouldn’t have come close to winning without him.

I still might say Adrian Gonzalez is the MVP, but it’s simple arrogance to completely exclude Verlander because of self-inflicted parameters that aren’t in the mandate of who’s eligible for the award and who’s not.

What the Yankees will do with A.J. Burnett.

Burnett has the right arm of an ace and the results of a pitcher with the right arm of an ace who decided he’d pitch with his left hand.

And he’s not ambidextrous.

I’m not even convinced Burnett is capable of tying his own shoes.

He’s going to stay in the starting rotation for the next 10 days or so because of the number of make-up games the Yankees have to play, but by mid-September, they’re going to have to come to a conclusion of what to do with him.

They could take him out of the rotation, stick him in the bullpen or just sit him down completely.

All are possible.

All are viable.

Planting the seeds for Billy Beane‘s departure from Oakland.

Already there are whispers that sound more like preparatory statements for Beane to leave the Athletics.

The time is right. Moneyball is at his conclusion (at least with people believing that nonsense); the movie’s coming out in three weeks; Beane’s reputation is pretty much shot with only those holdouts who cling to his fictional genius, trying to justify it with alibi-laden columns and statements as to how what’s happened with the A’s is the fault of Northern California because the evil politicos won’t let the A’s build a stadium.

Yeah. The A’s are going to lose 90 games because of the stadium.

Nothing’s Billy’s fault.

Interesting that the stadium wasn’t an issue when there were so many experts picking the A’s to win the AL West this year.

What happened?

The skids are being greased and the nuggets are popping up from “those close” to Beane saying he might be tired of tilting at windmills with no money and no stadium revenue; that A’s owner Lew Wolff would let Beane talk to other teams that might be interested in him.

Blah, blah, blah.

I say he’s going to the Cubs. The only question is how it’s framed when he does.

LoMo and the Twitter and the mouth and the batting average.

The Marlins demotion of Logan Morrison was a warning shot that lasted a week. They brought Morrison back quickly in the hopes that he’ll learn his lesson that he’s not a veteran; he’s not a megastar who can say whatever he wants; that he’s an employee held at the whims of his bosses for the foreseeable future.

Will he understand?

Yes.

Will he listen?

I’m not convinced.

The Marlins don’t tolerate a lot of crap; don’t be surprised to see Morrison showcased by batting fourth for all of September as they hope he has a big month and then listen to offers for him. The price would be steep because he’s cheap, young and good, but the Marlins wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger and trade him.

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The 2011 Diamondbacks And The Towers Of Credit

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The Diamondbacks turnaround and success under first-year GM Kevin Towers has cemented his supposed brilliance. A brilliance that became more pronounced while he wasn’t a GM and had his name bandied about as a “perfect” choice for any number of GM jobs. Like a backup quarterback in football, Towers could do no wrong as long as he wasn’t specifically doing anything. It’s a safe place to be.

After being fired by the Padres, Towers was an assistant to Brian Cashman with the Yankees for the 2010 season; as various jobs opened up, he was a candidate for all of them. He was hired by the Diamondbacks and took steps to improve the club’s woeful strikeout rate by trading Mark Reynolds and in the process acquired a valuable bullpen arm in David Hernandez.

Among other moves Towers made like signing J.J. Putz at a reduced rate and retaining manager Kirk Gibson, there’s little he’s had to do with this current club—a club that’s in first place, streaking with 7 straight wins and has opened some daylight between themselves and the reeling Giants. They now lead the NL West by 5 games.

But does Towers deserve all the credit he’s getting?

Much of the foundation of this club was already in place and it’s been there for awhile. The two prior regimes acquired many of the players on the team now.

Joe Garagiola Jr. was a highly underrated GM who won a World Series, dealt with a micromanaging organizational gadfly, Buck Showalter; and an empty uniform, Bob Brenly.

Garagiola’s replacement, Josh Byrnes, contributed as did interim GM Jerry DiPoto. In fact, DiPoto warrants accolades more than Towers; he’s still with the Diamondbacks as an assistant and is a top GM candidate himself.

Garagiola acquisitions:

Stephen Drew, SS—1st round draft choice, 2004.

Justin Upton, OF—1st round draft choice, 2005.

Miguel Montero, C—amateur free agent from Venezuela, 2001.

Gerardo Parra, OF—amateur free agent from Venezuela, 2004.

***

Byrnes acquisitions:

Chris Young, CF—acquired from the White Sox for Javier Vazquez in December 2005.

Ian Kennedy, RHP—acquired in a 3-way trade with Edwin Jackson for Daniel Schlereth and Max Scherzer.

Ryan Roberts, INF, OF—signed as a minor league free agent in November, 2008.

Josh Collmenter, RHP—15th round draft choice, 2007.

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B—8th round draft choice, 2009.

***

DiPoto acquisitions:

Joe Saunders, LHP—acquired from the Angels in the Dan Haren trade in July 2010.

Daniel Hudson, RHP—acquired from the White Sox in the Edwin Jackson trade in July 2010.

***

Towers acquisitions:

J.J. Putz, RHP—signed as a free agent for 2-years, $10 million.

Zach Duke, LHP—signed as a free agent for 1-year at $4.25 million with a club option for 2012.

Henry Blanco, C—signed as a free agent for 1-year at $1.25 million with a mutual option 2012.

Willie Bloomquist, INF—signed as a free agent for 1-year, $900,000 with a mutual option for 2012.

Brad Ziegler, RHP—acquired from the Oakland Athletics for Brandon Allen and Jordan Norberto in July 2011.

Then there’s the deal of Kelly Johnson to the Blue Jays for Aaron Hill and John McDonald; its results remain to be seen.

There are certain things that Towers is good at. He builds excellent bullpens on the cheap; he loads his bench with versatile, leader-type players; and he can clear salary. But to suggest that the Diamondbacks are a product of Towers is the same fractured logic that led to him being so widely feted during the time that he wasn’t even a GM.

The one superiorly smart thing he did was to retain Gibson as his manager. Gibson lobbied hard for the job and said that his team was not going to be a pleasant opponent; they’d take people out on the bases; pitch inside; and retaliate when needed. And they have.

This Diamondbacks team is more than the sum of their parts; they play very, very hard and on the edge—like their manager did. He brought the football mentality to baseball when he was a player, took everything seriously and was more interested in winning over personal achievement; that’s how this Diamondbacks group plays.

Did Towers see that in Gibson? Was he enamored of the intensity that Gibson was going to instill? Or was it more of a, “he’s here and he’s not going to cost a lot of money” for a team that wasn’t expected to come this far, this fast?

Maybe.

Towers is a good GM.

In public perception Towers is responsible for the rise of the Diamondbacks; how much he’s owed in reality is limited because a large portion of this club was in place on his arrival and is succeeding as a matter of circumstance rather than grand design on the part of the GM.

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Showalter’s Yankees Comments Are Ridiculous

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Buck Showalter‘s image was that of a strategic wizard; a baseball hard-liner; an organization-builder and Mr. Fix-It who doesn’t tolerate small transgressions like a player wearing his socks at a different specification than Showalter deems appropriate. Nor does he allow large errors—mental and physical—like failing to hit the cut-off man, missing a sign or not running hard to first base.

It was the focus on “small stuff” like the socks that eventually grated on his veterans’ nerves and left his clubs tight and weary of the nitpicking. The Yankees, Diamondbacks and Rangers were all better because of his presence…and they were all better after he left.

With the Orioles, there was a “miracle-worker” aspect to the way the team went on a 34-23 run over the final two months of the 2010 season when he was hired to replace Dave Trembley; it was only exacerbated when they won 6 of their first 7 games to start the 2011 season.

Some actually expected this Orioles team to contend in the American League East with the Yankees and Red Sox still powerhouses and the Rays and Blue Jays having greater strengths of their own.

It didn’t take long for the Orioles to fall into a familiar fit of losing. Now they stand in their familiar terrain of last place, 25 games under .500 amid questions as to whom is going to run the club from the front office with the likelihood that Andy MacPhail will not return.

There is promise in Baltimore because of Showalter and the young players they’ve accumulated and acquired. Despite terrible records, Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman have good arms; their offense is productive with Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy, Mark Reynolds, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters; and Showalter can strategically manipulate his team to a few more wins than they’d have under a lesser manager.

Whether he was reeling from the suicide of Mike Flanagan or was, in part, frustrated by the way the season came apart after the accolades and promise, Showalter’s comments about the Yankees being disrespectful to Flanagan for preferring to play a doubleheader in advance of Hurricane Irene on Friday rather than schedule the make-up for early September is ridiculous to the point of embarrassing.

The entire quote follows:

“First of all, I felt that some of the stuff was a little disrespectful to Flanny quite frankly. That didn’t sit with me very well. I can tell you that. We didn’t say much — I think we had an April rainout there — and they just told us when we were playing. We were Ok with that. Like I told you the other day, you tell us when we’re playing, we’ll play. The whole scheme of life, the things that really consume you. We understand that sometimes our opinions on things are not relevant. They come to me when there is two options and talk about it from a baseball standpoint. Every club does that. But some of it kind of has a feeling of [hypocrisy]. I don’t know. I don’t dwell on it. Their opinion on what the Baltimore Orioles should do for their fans and for their organization isn’t really that relevant to me personally. I can tell you that. We’ll do what’s best for our fans and for our organization and we expect it back that they’re going to do the same on their side.”

Orioles director of communications Greg Bader added the following (clipped from The Sporting News):

“Are we really still talking about this? We’ve just seen a hurricane come through this region which has caused millions to be without power, tens of millions of dollars in property damage and even several deaths,” Bader told ESPNNewYork.com in an email Sunday night. “We’ve got people out there literally trying to put their lives back together and yet there are some still worrying about a rescheduled game time?”

How the Yankees preferring to keep one of their two scheduled days off for September turned into a show of “disrespect” for Flanagan and a lack of concern for people whose lives were impact by the hurricane is a mystery to me.

That Showalter and Bader would bring other issues into the debate as if the Yankees were sitting around and diabolically scheming to sabotage the Flanagan tribute and simultaneously downplaying the severity of the hurricane indicates a tone-deafness bordering on the stupid.

The Orioles need follow their own rules of propriety and put things in perspective. They should let it go before saying something else idiotic and looking more petty than they do now.

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Billy Beane And The Cubs Are A Match Made In _________

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It’s a match made in blank because we don’t know.

How will a Billy Beane with money at his disposal function differently than the Billy Beane with creative non-fiction bolstering everything he does as the touch of a deity?

We’ll see.

Everyone is on the same playing field now and with clubs like the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets using some semblance of the stat-based techniques in building their franchises, Beane’s not doing something different with obscure numbers that few are even aware of anymore.

What he was doing with the Athletics wasn’t the work of a genius, but the filling of a gap and utilization of weapons that hadn’t been widely discovered or implemented yet.

It’s opportunistic and smart, but hardly the work of a “genius”.

We’ll never know what would’ve happened had Beane followed through on his agreement to take over as the GM of the Red Sox after the 2002 season. What we do know is that the moves he had planned would’ve been retrospectively disastrous.

Under Beane’s Red Sox regime, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and Jason Varitek were all part of an alternate universe in Red Sox history—a universe that Red Sox fans are undoubtedly pleased is embedded in a reality that can’t be found in Moneyball—in print or on screen.

Could it have worked with the blueprint Beane had in mind for the Red Sox?

Possibly.

But given the notorious impatience of Red Sox fans and the expectations accompanying Beane’s arrival, griping from the media and fans would’ve started immediately. Add in that the team had yet to break the “curse” and it was a recipe for disaster.

Even in a storybook sense, it’s difficult to imagine that Beane’s Red Sox could’ve been more successful than that which has been built under John Henry with Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein calling the shots.

Much of what happens is determined by luck and timing. Had Epstein not resigned in his gorilla-suit encased snit after the 2005 season, the Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell acquisitions wouldn’t have taken place. Would they have been better with Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez? Again, possibly. But no Lowell and Beckett make a repeat plot of the 2007 championship impossible. And the only reason they took Lowell was because the Marlins forced them to take his contract to get Beckett. Lowell was a key player in 2007.

The groundwork for Billy Beane’s departure from the Athletics is being laid as we speak.

The combination of next months’s release of the movie version of Moneyball; the way the Athletics have crumbled to an embarrassing irrelevance as anything other than a running gag verifying the absurdity of Beane’s supposed “genius”; the gridlocked stadium situation; that owner Lew Wolff has said he wouldn’t stop Beane from leaving; and the old “those close to Beane saying he’s frustrated” sham being planted in the media, all adds up to an exit strategy and golden parachute for a stagnated boss.

There was a suggestion that the Dodgers might be a viable situation for Beane. I don’t see that happening. They’ve been there, done that with Paul DePodesta and it didn’t work. Why do it again? If Ned Colletti leaves and MLB and the McCourts are still wrestling for control of the club, Kim Ng is a perfect choice. Her hiring gives positive public relations to all involved; she seems to know what she’s doing; she’s working for MLB now; was in Los Angeles before as Colletti’s assistant; and she’s agreeable to both sides.

Forget Beane in LA. We’re about to see his Hollywood foray and it’s about as realistic as the cooking school in Tuscany attended by all chefs at Olive Garden. In other words, it doesn’t exist. Beane’s movie fantasy has him being played by Brad Pitt and there will not be a sequel unless the real Beane turns a bigger trick than making everyone think he’s a genius in a setting vastly different than the one in the first story.

If Beane jumps ship, he’s landing on the North Side of Chicago to take over the Cubs.

And it’s going to happen.

Remember you read it here that Beane is going to be the next Cubs GM.

Maybe it’ll have a better ending than spin-doctoring and excuses to justify a farce.

But it is the Cubs after all. They’re sort of the Tropic Thunder of the baseball world.

Keep that in mind before thinking Beane’s walking in to save the day.

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Don Mattingly’s Al Davis Compact

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No matter how this season ends for the Dodgers (75-87 looks about right at this point), manager Don Mattingly should get a pass on his managerial record.

Off-field courtroom distractions stemming from the McCourt divorce and MLB’s attempts to seize the club have compounded the on-field issues that have ruined what looked like a pretty good team before the season began.

Injuries to key players Casey Blake, Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Jon Garland and Rafael Furcal left them without important veterans; terrible years from Juan Uribe and Furcal mitigated a fine year from Andre Ethier; an MVP performance from Matt Kemp; and a Cy Young-caliber season from Clayton Kershaw.

None of that is Mattingly’s fault.

Having spent his entire playing career with the George Steinbrenner Yankees from their most dysfunctional seasons of the 1980s through the beginning of the renaissance of the early-1990s, Mattingly always seemed to have just missed. He made the playoffs for the first time in his career in 1995, but retired after that season because of recurring back problems and the Yankees desire to move on with someone who was more of a threat at the plate.

The Yankees first championship of this era came the next season.

Managing the Dodgers, he’s been saddled with an even more embarrassing set of controversies than what he endured in his playing days with the Yankees. But he’s handled them calmly and without offering as an excuse the injuries or ownership questions.

Much like all of Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis’s coaches in the past 15 years, anarchy yields a pass for the man in the middle.

Mattingly is the man in the middle for the Dodgers.

He’s made some strategic blunders this year, but the club being under .500 and out of contention can’t be traced to a few gaffes by the manager. One important aspect in judging a manager is the “screw this guy” potential from the players.

The Dodgers players have never indicated the attitude that they’ve looked at Mattingly and said, “screw this guy” as if they’re going through the motions for aesthetics without caring one way or the other what happens. Mattingly’s the type who players don’t want to let down. It just so happens that the Dodgers are hopelessly outmanned this season and the off-field nightmare is contributing to the aura of chaos.

If the Dodgers are under new ownership next season, have a new GM or bring in a new manager, Mattingly should get another chance as a manager somewhere; 2011 isn’t an accurate barometer of what he can be; he’s got the added advantage of being a baseball guy whose in-game accomplishments as a player will automatically breed respect and that’s a big chunk of being a successful manager.

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2012 Starts Now For The Blue Jays

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The Blue Jays can and will contend for a playoff spot in 2012 if they make smart personnel decisions this winter.

Here’s what they have to do:

Get a legitimate closer.

GM Alex Anthopoulos is notoriously close-to-the-vest in how he runs his team; there’s no ironclad “strategy” of using stats or scouting; he doesn’t betray his hand and acts stealthily and aggressively in making his moves.

He may or may not care what’s said about him, but he doesn’t allow it to interfere with what he does.

This past winter, Anthopoulos signed two former closers in Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch; he also traded for Frank Francisco.

In the logistical sense, they were all interchangeable and were signed to short-term deals to preclude widespread complaining about not being the closer. But if the Blue Jays want to be taken seriously next season, they have to get someone better and more trustworthy than Rauch or Francisco. (Dotel was traded to the Cardinals at the end of July.)

The market will be flush with established closers via free agency and trade. Heath Bell, Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Papelbon (who worked with Blue Jays manager John Farrell with the Red Sox) and Ryan Madson are all free agents or potential free agents. Jonathan Broxton is a probable non-tender; and Joakim Soria is a trade candidate.

All are worthy of consideration and are better than Rauch/Francisco.

Find a veteran anchor for the starting rotation.

The Blue Jays let a future Cy Young Award winner get away.

No. I’m not talking about Roy Halladay. I’m talking about Chris Carpenter.

To be fair, when the Blue Jays non-tendered Carpenter under J.P. Ricciardi’s regime, Carpenter was injured and hadn’t been particularly effective; the talent that made him a 1st round draft choice wasn’t going to be fulfilled until he was streamlined—mentally, mechanically and physically—under Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan with the Cardinals. The Blue Jays wanted to bring him back for less money, but he smartly went to the Cardinals, rehabbed his injury for a year and became a star when he got healthy.

Carpenter has a $15 million option for 2012, but he’s a 10-and-5 player so he can veto any trade; for him to waive it, the trading team would presumably have to give him a contract extension.

The Cardinals are in major flux, but if they’re looking for salary relief and want to bolster a sagging farm system, they could exercise the option rather than pay Carpenter’s $1 million buyout and trade him. This would all have to be done within a rapid series of maneuvers to make it work.

Shedding that $15 million and trading him would give the Cardinals room to re-sign Albert Pujols; re-signing Pujols might be the key to LaRussa coming back for another year; Adam Wainwright will be back next season and they could bring back Joel Pineiro to fill Carpenter’s slot and hope reuniting with Duncan will return Pineiro to his Cardinals form.

The Blue Jays have prospects to trade.

Carpenter leading a rotation with Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Kyle Drabek would be superior to most of baseball if the younger pitchers fulfill their potential; Carpenter could teach them how.

Be flexible and think outside-the-box.

They don’t have the cash to go after Jose Reyes and they signed Yunel Escobar to a contract extension; but Brett Lawrie‘s ability to play third and second base allows the Blue Jays to go after a David Wright.

The recently acquired Kelly Johnson is a free agent, but if they offer him arbitration he’d probably take it. An infield of Adam Lind, Johnson, Escobar and Lawrie can mash—whether it’d be adequate defensively for the pitching staff would have to be determined.

The Mets probably aren’t going to trade Wright, but the Blue Jays have a lot of young pitching and outfield bats. Anthopoulos thinks outside-the-box and goes after players who “probably aren’t” getting traded. Sometimes the players who “probably aren’t” getting traded do get traded and extract a major chunk of a trading team’s farm system. (See Ubaldo Jimenez.)

Alter the strategy on the bases and with the lineup.

The Blue Jays run the bases with abandon. If they’re doing it at the bottom of the lineup to try and make something happen, it’s an arguable premise; doing it in front of a basher like Jose Bautista is a mistake.

Without doing any deep statistical research into the matter, there’s no excuse for Bautista to have 37 homers and only 83 RBI.

Before Corey Patterson was traded, he was batting in front of Bautista for much of the season; Patterson steals bases, but has a woeful on base percentage. Escobar also batted in front of Bautista and gets on base at a good clip. Since his arrival, Colby Rasmus has been batting second with Bautista third.

A better plan would be batting Bautista fourth and having Escobar lead off; Johnson would bat second; Lawrie third; and Rasmus and Lind behind Bautista.

The haphazard stolen bases also have to stop.

Temper expectations and idol worship.

There was recent talk of Anthopoulos being a “genius”.

Yah. Well. Billy Beane was a genius once too. So was Theo Epstein. So was Jack Zduriencik.

Are you getting my point?

Listening to sports talk radio on Friday, Jim Mora Jr. was being interviewed about the upcoming NFL season and he subtly hit back at the notion of Patriots coach Bill Belichick being a “genius” saying something to the tune of, “he’s a good football coach; a genius is someone who comes up with life-saving vaccines”.

He’s right.

The Blue Jays have been built the right way so far, but expectations and idolatry have doomed even the smartest people with the most coherent and logical plans.

They’re in a great position now to take the next step, but keeping from doing something stupid isn’t as easy as it sounds.

If they follow some incarnation of the plan I laid out (or something similar), they could be a playoff team in 2012.

If….

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Ryne Sandberg, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano And The Cubs GM Search

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

The Cubs are looking for a new general manager and will presumably be looking for a new manager as well. It would best serve Tom Ricketts and his ownership to hire the new GM and let him select his own manager rather than bow to pockets of public pressure to bring Ryne Sandberg back to the organization. It’s been written that Sandberg would be willing to come back now that Hendry is gone.

Would Sandberg have done much better with this Cubs group than the man Hendry selected, Mike Quade? Maybe he’d have had the cachet as a Hall of Fame player to reach Carlos Zambrano, but apart from that the team is what it is and wasn’t going to be much better than this.

I completely understand what Hendry was thinking in both the realistic and Machiavellian senses when he decided against Sandberg. As I’ve said repeatedly when the “perfect” or popular choice is passed over for one reason or another, the manager can’t be seen as more powerful than the GM. Steve Phillips and Brian Cashman of the Mets and Yankees respectively shunned the focus group choice for new manager—Lou Piniella—and it wasn’t a pure baseball decision. No GM in his right mind if going to willingly hire a manager he can’t fire; a manager who won’t listen to his titular “boss” because he doesn’t have to listen to him. Piniella was quite effective at leveraging his popularity with fans and the media to force his will on the organization. With the Cubs, it worked briefly, but that success petered out and left the club with onerous contracts like that of Alfonso Soriano.

So why would Hendry, whose job was clearly and accurately on the line, hire Sandberg and marginalize himself? He didn’t and lost his job anyway, but the same thing probably would’ve happened had he hired Sandberg, so at least he went down with the manager he preferred rather than what would’ve been palatable to Cubs’ fans.

As for the team itself, despite the perception of disarray, they’re in good shape to get better quickly regardless of the new GM.

Starter Ryan Dempster is noncommittal about his 2012 player option with the club, but the Cubs should absolutely be hoping that Dempster returns. For $14 million, you’re getting 200 innings and consistency; if his services were to be purchased on the open market, he’d receive 3-4 years and around $16 million per season—ore more. It helps that he doesn’t sound as if he wants to leave the Cubs, but the question becomes whether he’d like to use his player option as a hammer to extract an extension from the new GM. If he does, I’d consider it…within reason.

The 2012 projected starting rotation for the Cubs is already in good shape with Dempster, Matt Garza, Casey Coleman and….Carlos Zambrano.

As the smoke has cleared from Zambrano’s latest explosion in which he “retired” then “unretired” and was suspended without pay for 30 days, cooler heads have to prevail.

Everyone—myself included—said that Zambrano had to be released because no one was going to take his contract and baggage. But throwing $18 million into the trash is not the way to do business; short of releasing him, what are the Cubs going to do with Zambrano? Depending on who’s hired as the GM, there’s always a chance that the new manager and pitching coach will be able to get sledgehammer Zambrano’s thick head to get something of use from him in the final year of his contract. This suggestion will and should generate eye-rolls and sighs of resignation, but unless the Cubs take a Barry Zito-type contract, they’re paying Zambrano; if they’re going to do that, they might as well try to rehabilitate him and release him if he acts up again.

Either way, it should be up to the new GM.

Aramis Ramirez‘s club option is a no-brainer and should be picked up.

The only things the Cubs can do is look at their current situation and accept that this is what they have for now and they have to make the best of it. Soriano’s going nowhere, but with Dempster and Ramirez both coming back and a tweak here and there with the fresh air of a new baseball regime, they could jump back into contention by next season.

All of this implies continue bad news for Sandberg in his quest to be Cubs manager: if the GM is from outside the organization and is going to be allowed to do what he wants, he’s not hiring a legend in the city to manage the team either because of the aforementioned power issue; so Sandberg have to continue his huff with the Phillies Triple A team and wait. Again.

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