Hall of Fame 2012—Larkin and Raines and Pray for the Sane?

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Let’s talk about the Hall of Fame candidates for 2012.

I use every aspect of a player to assess his candidacy from stats; to perception; to era; to post-season performances; to contributions to the game.

Any of the above can add or subtract credentials and provide impetus to give a thumbs up/thumbs down.

Because the Lords of baseball, the owners, media and fans looked the other way or outright encouraged the drug use and performance enhancers, that doesn’t absolve the players who used the drugs and got caught.

Regarding PEDs, here’s my simple criteria based on the eventual candidacies of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds: if the players were Hall of Famers before they started using, they’re Hall of Famers; if they admitted using the drugs—for whatever reason, self-serving or not—or got caught and it’s statistically obvious how they achieved their Hall of Fame numbers, they’re not Hall of Famers.

As for stats, advanced and otherwise, it’s all part of the consideration process; certain stats and in-depth examinations make players (like Bert Blyleven) more worthy in the eyes of open-minded voters than they were before; the era and what they were asked to do (i.e. “you’re here to swing the bat and drive in runs” a la Andre Dawson and Jim Rice) fall into this category of not simply being about the bottom-line. Their career arcs; their sudden rise and fall and other factors come into the equation.

In short, this is my ballot and what I would do if I had a vote. If you disagree, we can debate it. Comment and I’ll respond.

Barry Larkin

Larkin should wait a bit longer.

He was overrated defensively and only played in more than 145 games in 7 of his 19 seasons. Larkin was a very good player who’s benefiting from certain factions promoting him as a no-doubter with the weak-minded sheep unable to formulate a case against him and joining the wave of support.

Alan Trammell is in the same boat as Larkin and is barely getting any support at all.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Yes.

Alan Trammell

Trammell was a fine fielder and an excellent hitter in the days before shortstops were expected to hit. He’s being unfairly ignored.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Maybe, but not by the writers.

Jack Morris

Morris was a durable winner who doesn’t have the statistics to get into the Hall of Fame. To be completely fair, his starts on a year-to-year basis have to be torn apart to see whether his high ERA is due to a few bad starts sprinkled in with his good ones and if he has a macro-argument for induction. It was that endeavor which convinced me of Blyleven’s suitability and I’ve yet to do it with Morris.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? His percentage has risen incrementally but with three years remaining on the ballot, he’s got a long way to go from 53.5% to 75% and probably won’t make it. The Veterans Committee is his only chance. They might vote him in.

Tim Raines

Are you going to support Kenny Lofton for the Hall of Fame?

By the same argument for Lou Brock and Raines, you have to support Lofton.

And how about Johnny Damon? And if Damon, Lofton and Raines are in, where is it going to stop?

The Hall of Fame building isn’t going to implode with Raines, but it might burst from the rest of the players who are going to have a legitimate case for entry and going by: “if <X> is in, then <Y> should be in”.

Let Raines wait.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Yes.

Jeff Bagwell

How does this work? Someone is a suspect so they receive a sentence of exclusion when nothing has ever been proven? Bagwell’s name has never been mentioned as having been involved in PEDs and the silly “he went from a skinny third baseman to a massive first baseman who could bench press 315 pounds for reps” isn’t a convincing one to keep him out.

Bagwell’s a Hall of Famer.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? No. Bagwell is going to get caught up in the onrush of allegations of wrongdoing and people will forget about him.

Mark McGwire

Under my Bonds/Clemens criteria, McGwire wasn’t a Hall of Famer without the drugs, so he’s not a Hall of Famer. McGwire admitted his steroid use and apologized as a self-serving, “yeah, y’know sorry (sob, sniff)” because he wanted to work as the Cardinals hitting coach.

An apology laden with caveats isn’t an apology. He’s sorry in context and that’s not good enough.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? No.

Juan Gonzalez

Gonzalez won two MVPs and his stats weren’t padded by playing in Rangers Ballpark to the degree that you’d think because the numbers were similar home and road; Gonzalez has a viable resume but will get caught up in the Dale Murphy category and be kept out.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? No.

Edgar Martinez

I’ve written repeatedly in response to those who say a pure DH shouldn’t get into the Hall of Fame: it would’ve been more selfish for Martinez to demand to play the field for the sake of appearance so he’d have a better chance at the Hall of Fame.

He was a great hitter without a weakness—there was nowhere to pitch him.

Martinez is a Hall of Famer.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Maybe.

Larry Walker

He batted .381 in Colorado with a .462 on base and 1.172 OPS. That’s going to hurt him badly.

But he was a Gold Glove outfielder who rarely struck out and had good but not great numbers on the road.

He was never implicated in having used PEDs.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? I don’t think so.

Rafael Palmeiro

In my book, arrogance and stupidity are perfectly good reasons to exclude someone.

Palmeiro could’ve kept his mouth shut or not even gone to speak to Congress at all—the players weren’t under any legal requirement to go. He didn’t jab his finger in the faces of the panel, he jabbed it in the faces of you, me and the world.

Then he got caught.

Then he piled sludge on top of the gunk by offering the utterly preposterous excuse that he didn’t know how he failed the test.

This is all after he began his career as a singles hitter…in Wrigley Field!!

Conveniently, he got to Texas and came under the influence of Jose Canseco to become a basher.

Don’t insult my intelligence and expect me to forget it.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? No.

Bernie Williams

Combining his stretch of brilliance from 1995-2002 and his post-season excellence, he’s not an automatic in or out; over the long term he might garner increasing support.

He was never accused of PED use and is a well-liked person. Looking at his regular season numbers, he falls short; memorable playoff and World Series moments will help him as will his Gold Gloves (in spite of the numbers saying he wasn’t a good center fielder).

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Possibly.

Larkin and Raines might get enshrined in 2012 by the “we have to have someone” contingent which pretty much proves the silliness of the way players are voted in, but it will only be those two.

Ron Santo is going in via the Veterans Committee and he’s dead; Tim McCarver is deservedly going in via the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting and a large crowd won’t gather to see McCarver as the only one speaking in August. So politics and finances may play a part for this class.

Raines and Larkin had better hope they get in this year because in 2013, Clemens, Bonds, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa and Craig Biggio are on the ballot.

I’m quite curious about Sosa to the point of supporting him because: A) I’d like to see the color of his skin now after a strange Michael Jackson-like alteration from what he once was; and B) I want to know if he learned English since his own appearance (alongside Palmeiro) in front of Congress.

It’s worth the vote in a non-linear sort of way.

Apart from that, it’s 2012 or wait, wait, wait for Larkin and Raines.

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The Yankees Would’ve Been Better With Beltran

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The underlying suggestion from another “Carlos Beltran offers self to Yankees” free agent story is that he was about to sign the contract with the Cardinals and had his agent contact the Yankees to see if they’d be willing to do the same contract.

In 2004 it was slightly different in several ways. His agent then was Scott Boras; now it’s Dan Lozano. The offer to the Yankees back then was for less money and fewer years than the Mets offer; this time he asked for the same deal. And back then, he was a star center fielder in his prime; this time he’s a very good right fielder turning age 35 in April whose health is still in question.

Did it come at the last second and did the Yankees turn it down without seriously considering it? Was there a backchannel communication to the Yankees saying, “keep Beltran in mind because he wants to be a Yankee”? Or did the Yankees know he was interested and wait to see what the price was before turning it down?

If George Steinbrenner were still around, a player like Beltran who clearly wants to be a Yankees would have been a Yankee. But now they’re monitoring their payroll to such a degree that amid all the ridicule aimed at the team across town, the Yankees have actually done less to address their needs this winter than the Mets have.

Rather than sign a free agent or go all out via trade to acquire one of the available starting pitchers, the Yankees re-did CC Sabathia’s contract to keep him and re-signed Freddy Garcia; they also exercised the option on the player that Beltran would’ve replaced, Nick Swisher; and today, they re-signed veteran Andruw Jones.

Apart from that, nothing.

Did they think about Beltran and weigh the pros and cons?

If they chose to replace Swisher with Beltran, they’d be getting a better player; both are switch-hitters, but Beltran is more consistent from both sides of the plate and a far bigger power threat batting lefty than Swisher; Beltran’s a proven post-season performer while Swisher’s been an abject failure; Beltran would be more expensive ($26 million for 2-years) than Swisher, who’s only going to cost $10.25 million in 2012.

Beltran’s knee problems are not to be discounted—he could wind up back on the disabled list at a moment’s notice—but apart from a hand injury, he stayed healthy in 2011. Beltran played in 142 games and adjusted well in a position switch to right field. 22 homers playing his home games in the notorious pitchers parks of Citi Field and AT&T Park bode well for a renaissance as a 30-35 homer power threat in Yankee Stadium.

Swisher has trade value because teams appreciate his on-base skills, pop and gregarious personality along with that 1-year deal; Beltran wouldn’t have cost a draft pick to sign because of a clever provision slipped into his Mets contract by then-agent Boras that his club couldn’t offer him arbitration.

Could the Yankees have signed Beltran and traded Swisher for an arm like Jason Hammel? Jonathan Sanchez? Jair Jurrjens?

Would they be better than they are now?

I’m not an advocate of standing completely pat in any circumstance and especially when the team overachieved based on luck with two veterans Garcia and Bartolo Colon, then got bounced in the first round of the playoffs; but that’s what the Yankees are doing.

With the improving Blue Jays, the Red Sox and Rays still in their division, plus the flashy signings made by the Rangers and Angels, the playoffs are not a guarantee for the Yankees anymore and this current roster is aging and thin in several key spots.

Trading Swisher for a starter and signing Beltran would’ve made the team better.

Did they consider it seriously? Or did they ignore the player who obviously wanted to be a Yankee to the point where he essentially groveled for the chance?

Twice!

The Yankees made a mistake with Beltran in 2004 and they may have just made the same mistake in 2011 at a cheaper price.

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Hoping the Astros Hire Keith Law

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The new front office of the Houston Astros led by Jeff Luhnow interviewed ESPN analyst and former Blue Jays assistant Keith Law for several roles.

He has yet to be offered a position.

I hope he gets one.

Because Law has become such a polarizing, prominent and referenced voice in all things baseball, he’s accumulated a large number of fans that take every word he says as gospel and others who think he’s obnoxious and thin-skinned.

Sometimes I agree with him and sometimes I don’t.

In matters of scouting and analyzing prospects, I’ve always seen him as one who regurgitates stuff he’s heard and repeats terminology designed to sound as if he’s assessing when he’s simply attempting to sound more knowledgeable than he is.

He doesn’t have a thorough understanding of the game itself in most contexts other than those he’s soaked up from scouts and his statistical knowhow.

As simplistic as is the overused, final say argument-ender from players and managers of, “What do you know? You never played professionally,” in response to a questioning of their performance and strategy, to use a Law statement in the aftermath of his silly online slapfight with Michael Lewis over his mostly accurate review of Moneyball, there’s a kernel of truth to it.

It’s very easy to sit on the sideline and say to a Jeff Francoeur that because he bats .420 with the count 3-1, “Well, why don’t you take more pitches?” Or to tell Gio Gonzalez that (I’m making these numbers up) that when he throws a first pitch strike, he gets the hitter out 97% of the time and should throw more first pitch strikes as if he’s not trying to do exactly that.

It’s not that easy in practice and if you’ve never physically played the game, you’re missing an imperative facet to accurately gauge and understand why a player doesn’t do what seems so simplistic on paper.

The aforementioned Lewis dustup showed Law to be skittish and disingenuous. He got caught in a lie and knew he was caught in a lie—if Lewis had the interview on tape or kept his notes, it would’ve been known immediately—so he bailed out before the facts were exposed and tried to “explain”.

You can’t be smug and condescending and completely unable to take legitimate questioning of your agenda and credentials; you can’t rip into front office people and managers and hide when your own “expert” analysis is disputed.

It doesn’t work that way.

His ESPN “mock drafts” are for public consumption only and essentially irrelevant.

I could scour the web right before the draft, find the top 40 ranked prospects, look at their amateur stats and physical attributes and formulate a “mock draft” that would look like I knew what I was talking about whether or not I’d seen and heard of any of the players; there would be people who read what I wrote and defend it based on my skills at sprinkling key words into the piece based on what I wanted to convey.

If you sound like you know what you’re talking about, there will be a vast percentage of readers/listeners who take it as fact that you do, even if you don’t.

The Twitter tough guy responses to anyone who dares question him are indicative of one who has a lot to say from the safety of his computer or phone, but disappears when directly challenged.

If you examine his current Twitter feed, you’ll see that he’s still making snide and—in my opinion—unprofessional comments about people in the game; about contracts; about trades; about drafts; about everything. It’s strange from someone who clearly wants and is waiting for a potential job offer to get back into the trenches and will have to deal with those same people who will remember what he’s said about them.

Wouldn’t shutting down the tweeting until he knows about the job be the wise, intelligent thing to do?

Incidentally, Law has me blocked on Twitter. Never once have I said anything abusive. Like him, I say what I think and what I’ve said about Law is that he’s an armchair expert; I’ve pointed out his cluelessness of baseball history, and ridiculed his silly mock drafts.

Having a thin skin is unsustainable and an invitation to disaster; if he’s going back into a baseball front office, he’s going to have a big problem with those who are waiting for a chance to get back at him for the things he’s said over the years.

To use the title of his food/culture blog “The Dish”, my advice to anyone and everyone is don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.

As popular as Law apparently is with his fans, his critiques are disguised as “honesty” and devoid of accountability.

If he got back into the arena and was the person making the decisions, there would be nowhere for him to run if they failed; but he’d also get the credit if they worked.

It could mean nothing that he was interviewed last week and that he’s yet to have been offered a position; presumably it he’s not, he’ll find a way to spin it to save face and stay at ESPN. But why take the interview if you don’t have serious interest in the job?

That the Astros are a front office that is using the statistical template that Law believes in makes it a good match; but if they don’t want him, it’s going to be quite embarrassing and a window into his actual credibility within baseball.

I want him to get a job with the Astros.

I don’t want him to fail; I don’t want him to succeed.

I’m indifferent.

I’d just like to see what happens once he’s out of the studio and off the web, making decisions for a franchise and has to answer to critics rather than being one himself.

He’d better be a success.

Because people don’t forget.

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Analyzing the Red Sox-A’s Trade

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Athletics trade RHP Andrew Bailey and OF Ryan Sweeney to the Red Sox for OF Josh Reddick, minor league 1B Miles Head and minor league RHP Raul Alcantara.

For the Red Sox:

After trading for Mark Melancon and claiming to be comfortable with him as their closer, the Red Sox were still loitering around Ryan Madson and Francisco Cordero and trying to trade for Bailey and Gio Gonzalez.

They needed a legitimate closer and starting help. With the trades for Melancon and Bailey, they accomplished both.

In a more understated fashion than the Rangers maneuver of signing Joe Nathan and shifting closer Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation, the Red Sox are going to attempt something similar with Daniel Bard. Bard was a starter in the minors, struggled when given the chance to close and had a brief slump at the end of the 2011 season as the set-up man that cost the club dearly during their September collapse. He’s 26 and in the same vein of limiting his innings as a starter, the Red Sox were able to build up his tolerance without indulging in the damaging charade the Yankees did with Joba Chamberlain; as he enters his prime years, Bard will be able to give them 180 innings and slowly build until he’s a legitimate, 200+ inning starter.

Of course, that’s contingent on him being good at it. Bard has a power fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s; a slider and a changeup—there’s no reason to think he won’t transition well to the rotation.

I wouldn’t trust Melancon as my closer. Bailey is a two-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year who throws strikes, doesn’t allow many homers and strikes out around a batter-per-inning; the only concern with him is his troublesome elbow, but for two low-level minor leaguers and an extra outfielder, he’s worth it as a far cheaper alternative to the free agents that are still on the market.

Sweeney is two years older than Reddick (almost to the day) and is an up-the-middle/opposite field hitter who might benefit from the Green Monster. Reddick is better defensively and Sweeney is a more proven big league player.

As a win-now team with a new, veteran manager and clubhouse loaded with veterans, the two minor leaguers the Red Sox surrendered weren’t going to help this current group, so it made sense to deal them.

For the Athletics:

I went into detail about Billy Beane’s latest rebuild in my last posting.

Strategy aside, the return for Bailey seems a bit short. Two low-level minor leaguers for an in-demand, All Star closer? Elbow problems or not, the A’s could’ve held out and waited to see if something better came along.

Head will be 21 in May and is reminiscent of the return to the Moneyball storyline of slightly out-of-shape players who hit for power and get on base. He was a 26th round draft pick in 2009.

Alcantara has good numbers in the low minors, but he just turned 19.

Who knows?

Neither is close to the big leagues.

Reddick is an extra player who might blossom if given the opportunity to play regularly. He’s shown good pop in the minors and some speed. Truthfully, what difference does it make to the A’s whether they play Reddick every day and he turns out to be better suited as a fourth outfielder? Other than to raid them for veteran, mid-season help, no one’s paying much attention to them anyway.

This trade suits the purposes of both sides although at first glance the advantage goes to the Red Sox. The Red Sox get their closer; the A’s clear out another veteran for the future (somewhere off in the distance, presumably in San Jose).

On the “ridiculous analysis” front, in this posting on CBS Sports, Jon Heyman said the following:

All in all, this was new Red Sox GM Ben Cherington’s finest moment as GM(…)

Um. Yeah. I tend to agree. After being on the job a little over two months, it’s his finest moment just ahead of getting a new chair for his office and not drooling on himself during dinner at the winter meetings.

Bravo.

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Relegate the A’s

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Since Billy Beane has become such a keen observer of European fútbol and Michael Lewis publicly stated that he sees Beane one day running a club from that sport with which he’s become enamored (to the point of neglecting his deteriorating baseball team), perhaps it’s time for Major League Baseball to consider taking a page out of the book of the “beautiful game” by relegating a club that can’t compete with the big boys.

If a team in Euro fútbol doesn’t meet the criteria to be at least competitive in their league, they get sent to a lower league; since the Athletics will be fielding what amounts to an expansion team in 2012, send them to Triple A.

The Athletics are clearing out the house of all veterans in anticipation of…something. Supposedly it’s that they’re preparing to compete sometime in the distant future, in Never Never Land or San Jose (whichever comes first) when (if) they get approval for the new ballpark that’s going to finally provide them with the necessary funds to field a team that can win.

Ah, financial sustenance, it’s the Twinkie to Brad Pitt’s version of Billy Beane, except it’s not manufactured poison in the form of food.

Forget that Beane’s entire false aura of “genius” stemmed from exactly the problem that he has now: he doesn’t have the money.

How does that work? He was a genius for succeeding without money and now he’s still a genius for failing without money?

Ignore that he’s still drawing from the well of creative non-fiction and that there are scores of people who still believe the nonsense inherent with Moneyball the book and Moneyball the movie.

Shield thyself from that inconvenient truth as it renders the Athletics a running joke in a venue where players only venture when they have no other options.

Don’t pay attention to any of it if you still have some selfish investment in Moneyball and Beane the Genius taken as fact when it’s anything but.

The Athletics are terrible.

In trading Andrew Bailey to the Red Sox along with Ryan Sweeney for the overrated Josh Reddick, pitcher Raul Alcantara (age 19) and first baseman Miles Head (age 20)—minor leaguers both far, far, far away from the majors—it all fits in with the obvious template of trades the A’s have made in dealing Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez.

The Athletics situation has been finalized.

They’re building for a ballpark rumors are saying is going to be built; a park that has yet to be finalized and for which ground hasn’t been broken. Since the Marlins received approval for their new park in March of 2009 and the unveiling is in 2012, it’s fair to presume a new A’s park won’t be ready until 2015 at the earliest.

Until then, they’ll build with youth.

Again.

Don’t you see? How many times is this farce going to be repeated?

The A’s are an empty carcass with only the vultures circling to pick the bones.

In 2011, they were built around young pitching and a refurbished offense and bullpen; because it didn’t work, it provided the impetus for Beane to tear the club apart (again) and play for the future (again) in the hopes that when they finally are (maybe) entering a new park, they’ll (hopefully) have the foundation to compete.

Beane’s going merrily along. Part owner of the club and, in chameleon-like fashion, inhabiting the role of hapless everyman, swallowed up by the financial juggernauts and struggling to compete.

It’s satire.

How many GMs are allowed continuous losing because it’s backed up by a lie? To stare off at some plan that’s off in the distance, yet changes based on nothing other than a strategy that was sensible in theory but didn’t work?

Was it necessary for the A’s to trade their young core for packages of minor leaguers because the scheme that he concocted in 2011 faltered? Is the idea of building around strong, cheap, young pitching a fallacy because it failed in practice?

Beane’s plans are so random and capricious that there’s no defending him; his armor of “genius” was demolished long ago, yet lives on by the mass-market devotion to the collapsing entity of Moneyball.

It’s mind-boggling to me that others are either blind to it or afraid to protest.

Is objective analysis based on the side you’re on?

Or does said objectivity follow the logical precedent that a thing is what it is and can be nothing else?

The 2012 A’s have decimated starting pitching; their offense—which was weak in 2011—has gotten worse; their bullpen is essentially gutted with Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes only hanging around long enough to accumulate enough value to trade.

A team that went 74-88 in 2011 has had its strength horribly diminished for 2012.

Will the Beane apologists find a way to excuse him for losing 100 games?

The relegation concept isn’t a bad idea. A team comprised entirely of fringe big leaguers would win, as a matter of course, 50-60 games by sheer circumstance.

That’s not far off from what this current Athletics roster is going to win in 2012.

A monkey could run that team right now and be as competitive or more as the club that’s been put together by a “genius”.

He’s a big fútbol fan? He reads magazines? He’s learning that business now?

In that case, there are options. He can sign David Beckham to play shortstop—at least fans will come to see him play.

He can leave the Athletics and go run a team in another sport as Lewis suggests—why not?

Or he can stop running around to corporate speaking engagements; cease basking in the glory of a fictional tale of faux brilliance; run his team as if he cares and stop delegating to his assistants while being the big shot CEO.

I’m sick of his whining; I’m sick of people defending him out of their own selfish agendas; and I’ve had more than enough of the rampant excuses for the decaying exoskeleton of a franchise of which he’s the architect.

He wallowed in the accolades of winning without any money; then everyone else caught onto what he was doing and copied it; now he doesn’t have any money and is waiting, waiting, waiting to finally have a new park; luxury suites; the ability to attract players for reasons other than desperation.

But it’s not his fault.

Nothing is ever Billy’s fault.

Michael Lewis wrote it, therefore it must be true.

It no longer even qualifies as laughable the way Beane is allowed to do whatever he wants with impunity to any and all criticism. When will there be prevalent, mainstream criticism of this man and admissions that Moneyball is a farce sans the caveats of “you weren’t supposed to take it literally”; “it was about undervalued talent, not an end unto itself”; “he found a way to beat baseball at it’s own unfair game” and other bits of twisted, condescending inanities?

When does it stop?

Here’s reality: It’s his fault. He built it; he broke it; he tried to build it again and it collapsed right out from under him.

I believe in simplicity and it goes as follows: he got the credit, he gets the blame. Period.

He’s in the muck.

After reveling in the idolatry for so many years, let him wear the 62-100 like a bullseye and we can watch how his congregation leaps from the train to safer ground.

It’s on him and no one else. Not the ownership; not MLB; not the Yankees, Angels, Red Sox and Rangers; not the Giants for refusing to waive their territorial rights; not on the fans of Oakland for refusing to come to watch his rancid team play.

Him.

Yeah Billy, go run a soccer team. That’s a good idea. Show them you’re a genius. I’m sure they’ll buy it because it’s been such a great success in baseball.

After all, they wrote a book and made a movie about it. It has to be true.

Doesn’t it?

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A-Rod Iiiinnnnn Spaaaaaaace

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Maybe by the latter years of Alex Rodriguez’s Yankees contract, they’ll be able to send him into space for treatment on his broken down body.

In an effort to heal his ailing knee and shoulder, the Yankees okayed A-Rod’s trip to Germany for what are being called “experimental” procedures by a doctor who had been referred to him by Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant.

You can read details of the doctor, the procedures and the Yankees due diligence before allowing it here in this NY Times story.

The issue to me is how A-Rod is falling apart and the Yankees decision to let him undergo what were recently unheard of healing techniques in an effort to get something out of their remaining and regretted investment in the player.

A-Rod won his second MVP as a Yankee in 2007 then infamously opted-out of his contract during the World Series; Hank Steinbrenner’s idiotic interference and decision to give A-Rod what he wanted with a $275 million contract is going to haunt the club in multiple ways for years to come.

They’re trying to get their payroll in line to adhere to the new luxury tax guidelines and that contract is an albatross that will prevent them from acquiring players in their primes that are going to help them more than a deteriorating and overpaid player nearing 40 and beyond.

He hasn’t played in more than 138 games since 2007 and last season, he played in 99; his body is failing him; and his production, while still good, isn’t going to be worth anything close to the $143 million on his deal through 2017.

Opposing clubs no longer fear him. He’s still a threat, but not an overriding concern.

Do you realize he was paid $31 million in 2011?

That he’s going to receive $29 million in 2012? $28 million in 2013?

That they’ll pay a player $61 million from ages 40-42?

And that he’s already in drastic physical and performance-related decline at age 36?

No one should be surprised that the Yankees okayed his trip to Germany, nor should they be surprised at the team letting him explore every avenue he can to stay on the field and provide something for that money; the main thing for the Yankees was that they wanted to make certain that whatever A-Rod was doing, it wasn’t going to violate MLB rules. As long as he’s not going to get in trouble and have it trickle down to the team, they’ll let him do what he wants to get healthy.

On the bright side, by the time the contract is in its waning, merciful days there might be a new procedure available…on Jupiter!

And at that point, I’m not sure the Yankees are going to be all that bothered if A-Rod boldly goes where no one has gone before for an experimental treatment and doesn’t come back.

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Yankees Signing of Okajima Isn’t Flushing Money Down the Toilet

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Hideki Okajima is exactly the type of signing a team in the hunt for a lefty specialist should make.

The Yankees signed the former Red Sox lefty to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Okajima was a find for the Red Sox based on luck, but he turned out to be an excellent reliever—and not just a lefty specialist—from 2007 through 2010. His performance in 2010 was subpar, but he had several injuries that hindered him. He spent much of 2011 in the minor leagues.

The saga of Okajima and how he wound up with the Yankees is a cautionary tale that the Yankees have clearly learned something from.

The Red Sox signed Okajima because he was lefty and that he was their bigger name acquisition Daisuke Matsuzaka’s friend, but he became an important cog in their bullpen until last season.

On the other side of the equation, the Yankees spent $8 million on Pedro Feliciano to be their lefty specialist and Feliciano didn’t throw one pitch for the Yankees in 2011 because of a shoulder injury; he had rotator cuff surgery in September and is trying to come back in 2012, but his career is in jeopardy. If the Yankees get anything from Feliciano next year, they’ll be lucky.

Luck. Again.

The same sort of luck that brought Okajima to the Red Sox was evident on the opposite end of the spectrum with the Yankees and Feliciano.

For years, the Yankees had watched Feliciano function as an effective workhorse for the crosstown Mets and signed him based on the need to get out the likes of Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Hamilton.

One of the main reasons the Yankees signed him was because of his known durability; that’s why it was so absurd that Yankees GM Brian Cashman, in an act of self-preservation and shifting of the blame for Flushing (see what I did there?) $8 million down the tubes, dropped Feliciano’s injury on the doorstep of Citi Field and the Mets by using the term “abused” in discussing the pitcher’s past workload.

Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen came out swinging at the allegation with the perfect reply: “They didn’t know that when they signed him?”

Warthen also added that the Mets monitored Feliciano and that the pitcher always wanted the ball; in fact, he wanted to pitch more.

It quieted down quickly.

This all could’ve been avoided had the Yankees decided that a cheaper alternative like Randy Choate would’ve been at least as effective as Feliciano and gone in that direction rather than overspending for a luxury item.

Or they could’ve just signed someone’s friend and gotten lucky.

That would work just as well.

The one issue I can see is if Okajima is ineffective or injured, the Yankees won’t be able to blame the Mets. But if that happens, they’re not going to be paying the pitcher $8 million for nothing, so it’s a wash. And a cheap one at that.

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Scott Boras, You Just Keep Being You

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The problems that Prince Fielder is going to have in securing the contract he wants are many.

Without the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies in pursuit; the Mets and Dodgers in financial disarray and out of the running; the Angels having spent on Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson instead of Fielder; the Cardinals signing Carlos Beltran and shifting Lance Berkman to first base rather than signing Fielder to replace Pujols, that leaves a limited number of destinations who could—I didn’t say would—but could pay him the amount of money for the number of years he desires.

The Orioles, Nationals, Mariners and Cubs can do it.

A year after Boras somehow, some way convinced the Nationals to give Jayson Werth $126 million, they’d be pretty stupid to fall for the same trick twice even though Fielder is far younger and more productive than Werth.

The Orioles have the money, but are they willing to spend it? GM Dan Duquette likes to have that one offensive and pitching star and insert fill-in pieces around them, but the Orioles haven’t spent that kind of cash in years.

The rumblings from around the Cubs are that Theo Epstein wants to tear the whole thing apart—Fielder would be a repeat of the mistakes he made in his final years with the Red Sox in overpaying for free agents to placate the masses rather than what would be good for the team; that’s not what he envisioned nor what he did in practice when he took over the Red Sox in 2003-2005.

The Mariners can pay Fielder and desperately need his power, but it may come down to GM Jack Zduriencik completing the triple play of convincing team ownership to cut ties with Ichiro Suzuki after the 2012 season; getting them to at least let him listen on Felix Hernandez for a big package; and talking Boras into lowering his demands from 10 years to 6-8 years.

Chubby order.

That’s another thing.

There’s a legitimate concern that Fielder is going to turn into Mo Vaughn; that his knees won’t be able to handle his weight; that his defensive shortcomings will grow worse as he gets older; and that if he stays in the National League, he won’t be hidden as a DH.

But Boras is undeterred.

Amid talk that Fielder might be willing to take a shorter term, massive cash contract and try for free agency again at age 30-32, Boras lashed out as only he can by doing his “Boras-Thing” and turning Fielder into Barry Bonds.

The quote from this ESPN Chicago piece vaults right into the top 10 of 2011:

“Not only is that inaccurate and delusional, but it seems that some people have gotten into their New Year’s Eve stash just a little bit early this year.”

Classic Boras.

While his clients drink the Kool-Aid, Boras’s own agenda must be considered as he tries to save face and reputation by delivering for his last remaining big name client on the market.

Mark Teixeira and Beltran both fired him.

Reports had Ryan Madson’s goal of a 4-year, $44 million deal about to be met before the Phillies came to their senses and went after Jonathan Papelbon instead; now Madson is waiting…waiting…waiting (that’s the hardest part).

Francisco Rodriguez made a high-profile hiring of Boras at mid-season only to see his no-trade clause rendered meaningless as the Mets traded him before Boras could submit the list of teams to which he couldn’t be traded; then he waived his 2012 option to be a free agent and, with the closer market flooded and offers non-existent, K-Rod accepted arbitration from the Brewers. One would assume that since he took arbitration, the no-trade clause is not in effect and the Brewers can turn around and trade K-Rod wherever if they choose to—that’s not what a veteran pitcher with K-Rod’s on-field resume expects when they hire Boras.

It’s down to Fielder.

Boras is clinging to that final vestige of prestige and fear engendered by the mere mentioning of his name. That reputation has been a burgeoning entity and raised him into the stratosphere of agents who get things done.

But it also feeds on itself.

That’s the line he’s straddling with his outward display of confidence mitigated by a reality that he knows all too well.

There’s plenty of time and several destinations for Fielder, but for how long can Boras continue with his PR blitz of bloviating and outrageous demands as teams consider alternatives to Fielder?

Don’t underestimate Boras, but for Fielder it’s coming down to numbers—on the check; the length of contract; and the scale. He might have to tell his agent that it’s time to be more flexible and hope that the next time he’s a free agent, the list of teams that can and will bid on his services isn’t as limited as it is now.

Or he could get a different agent.

Players have done that recently as well.

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Mount Kill-A-Met-Jaro

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I searched the web and social media sites and no one—no one!?!—came up with the clever “Kill-A-Met-Jaro” gag? I’m disappointed with the world in general and impressed with myself in particular.

More so than usual.

With the Mets having advised pitcher R.A. Dickey that they: A) would prefer he doesn’t try to climb Mount Kilimanjaro; and B) won’t pay him if he does and is unable to pitch due to an injury incurred during the expedition, it’s not necessarily a “no” from the Mets; it’s just an advisory of the risks Dickey is inviting by doing it against club wishes.

In this Wall Street Journal piece, Brian Costa relates Dickey’s preparation for the task and the Mets objections.

D.J. Carrasco continues being an unending burden on the Mets. This time it’s not for his performance or that the club, for some reason, gave him a 2-year contract last winter, but that he purchased the oxygen deprivation mask in which Dickey trains for the climb.

Carrasco’s a gift in his own right—the kind that keeps on giving.

All kidding aside, Dickey’s highly educated; a bit quirky; and a grown man—he can do what he wants—but for someone who took so long and had such a long and arduous road to stick in the big leagues and garner a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract, it’s a bit irresponsible to put himself at risk even if there supposedly isn’t that much risk.

From the time he was drafted and the Rangers discovered that he was born without an ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and slashed his signing bonus because of it; to his ineffectiveness and big league struggles; then bouncing between the minors and majors trying to master the knuckleball and finally landing with the Mets, Dickey must’ve decided that the climb is a worthwhile endeavor.

It’s his right to do it, but it’s also within the Mets rights to try to talk him out of it and remind him of the professional and personal gamble he’s taking.

I was a guest today with former MLB player Les Norman on his baseball show Breakin’ the Norm on the ESPN affiliate 810 WHB in Kansas City talking about Yorvit Torrealba‘s shoving incident with the umpire in Venezuela. The show begins at 7 PM Central Time.

Click on the link above; check my Twitter/Facebook pages; or back here to listen.

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The Genius Will Return…In 2015

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It’s almost biblical or a tenet of faith for any religion or cult.

According to the actions of Billy Beane along with whispers and reports from sources in the MLB front office—MLB Trade Rumors—the Athletics are likely to receive approval to build a new ballpark in San Jose. They’ll have to pay the Giants to relinquish their territorial rights, but they’re expecting to get their new park.

Until then, the apparent entreaty to suffering A’s fans is to endure; do penance; be patient; follow the great leader and put faith in him, trusting that he’ll show the way.

Support a team that’s going to be stripped down to its bare bones (again) in the hopes that someday, someday, someday the “genius” that is their overrated and propagandized GM will reappear and the team will rise to prominence.

Of course it won’t hurt that the A’s are going to have money to spend on players similarly to how the Marlins are now.

In 2015.

But for now, it’s a housecleaning.

Again.

I don’t care one way or the other what Beane says and does—I see right through him and his nonsense—but when is the mainstream media going to stop kowtowing to this man and see him for the snakeoil salesman that he is?

Since the last time the Athletics were relevant for reasons other than a celluloid bit of dramatic license or a crafty bit of creative non-fiction, Beane is on his third manager and second rebuild with one season of 81-81 since 2006 to show for it; they haven’t been contenders in spite of various attempts to recreate some semblance of competitiveness. That competitiveness from the early part of the 21st Century was based more on having three All-Star starting pitchers and stars at key positions than it was for finding “undervalued” talent and “genius” in doing so.

It’s a circular proclamation based on a lie and there’s nothing to replicate. He’s not a card-counter—he’s flinging darts at a dartboard while blindfolded. It’s partially his fault; partially due to circumstance; partially due to an attempt to maintain that veneer of brilliance that was never accurate to begin with.

Regardless of the positive analysis of the packages of young players Beane’s received in trading Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez (and presumably what he’ll get for Andrew Bailey and whatever else isn’t nailed to the floor), why does he have to tear apart what’s already in place in anticipation of whenever the new park is going to be open for business?

Is that the shining light off in the distance now? The new park?

The A’s spent years cultivating the young core of pitchers; they’re all in their mid-20s and the types of arms around whom a club should be built. Twice he’s tried to bring in veteran bats to augment those young arms and they’ve failed both times; but that’s a reflection on him and bad luck than it is a failing of the concept of keeping the young pitchers and trying to find someone, anyone who can produce offensively.

In 2009, he made what turned out to be a disastrous trade for Matt Holliday in which he surrendered Carlos Gonzalez; signed a shot-as-an-everyday player Jason Giambi and an out-of-place Orlando Cabrera.

It didn’t work.

In 2011 he signed Hideki Matsui, Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour and traded for Josh Willingham.

It didn’t work.

So now it’s another teardown? Another reconstruction? How many does he get? Three? Five? Ten? Thirty?

A normal GM judged on his accomplishments gets maybe two rebuilds—and that’s if he’s got a track record of success a la Pat Gillick.

Can Beane be mentioned in the same breath as Gillick?

Gillick’s in the Hall of Fame; Beane’s in the Hype Hall of Fame.

Or the Gall of Fame.

Is he Connie Mack or Branch Rickey where he can do whatever he wants with impunity based on success that was fleeting and had a limited connection to anything he actually did? Success that’s perceived to be more than it was because of that book and now a movie in which he was portrayed by the “sexiest man alive”?

He’s fired managers for reasons and non-reasons. He’s blamed others and used his image and roundabout excuses to shield himself from the ridicule he deserves.

Now it’s the new ballpark that will save him.

His drafts have been mostly atrocious and the rebuilding of the farm system by trading his established players for the crown jewels of other organizations smacks of desperation.

But he’s got a plan in place. They’re loading up the farm system with power arms and bats that hit homers and get on base. And they’re not done.

The new park is the key.

Then he’ll be on the right track.

Then he’ll put a team together that’s going to win.

But it’s not going to happen until the new ballpark opens.

“We may not be much now, but you just wait boy!! Wait until we have that new park and—guess what?—will be able to spend money to buy established players. Then we’ll show you.”

Believe it if you want. Compare the A’s situation to other clubs who needed a new park, got it and became powerhouses.

But you can’t compare the A’s to the Marlins because the Marlins, in spite of a terrible 2011 season of their own amid unrealistic expectations and capricious, Steinbrenner-like behaviors of their owner Jeffrey Loria, had a foundation of young pitching and bats that the Athletics didn’t; ballpark or not, the Marlins were pretty good because they have a gutsy baseball management team that is skillful at talent recognition and does something that Beane has been shoddy at doing: finding players.

Apart from being able to spin doctor his way out of anything and manipulate the media with deft use of the language, reputation and an intimidating bullying nature, what has Beane done to warrant the pass?

Nothing.

2015 is plenty of time for Michael Lewis to plan and complete a sequel to Moneyball with a new plot.

“Billy Saves Christmas”?

“Selig’s Choice”?

What will happen when they have the new park and the latest strategy fails?

Will there be increased scrutiny on what he is and what he’s done rather than the unfounded and illogical belief the he knows what he’s doing? That it’s all part of one grand scheme to rule the world?

Salesmanship is a form of genius and the people keep buying it.

I suppose that’s something to hold onto when everything else comes undone.

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I’ll be a guest later today with former MLB player Les Norman on his baseball show Breakin’ the Norm on the ESPN affiliate 810 WHB in Kansas City. I’ll link the appearance and post it here.

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