Cameron vs Puckett—*Wink Wink*

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Following his retirement, I saw it repeated ad nauseam that Mike Cameron has a higher career WAR (Wins Above Replacement) than Kirby Puckett.

What the implication of the “higher WAR” for Cameron suggests is anyone’s guess because they won’t come out and specifically say it.

I’m not grasping the random, silly comparison between two different players who have very little in common apart from both being center fielders.

But why pick on Puckett? Couldn’t they compare Cameron to a player with whom he has comparable stats according to Baseball-Reference’s comparison metric at the bottom of each player’s page?

Cameron’s comps are the likes of Jimmy Wynn (the Toy Cannon—great nickname), Tom Brunansky, Bobby Murcer, Chet Lemon, and Torii Hunter.

Puckett’s similar players are Don Mattingly, Cecil Cooper, Magglio Ordonez, Kiki Cuyler (the only Hall of Famer along with Puckett) and Tony Oliva.

The big problem that Puckett has is that he was elected to the Hall of Fame while probably being an “outside looking in” player had he retired of his own volition rather than because of glaucoma.

Was it sympathy? Was it a projection of what he “would” have done had he not had such a devastating career ending?

If they’re going down that road, the argument could be made that Mattingly should also be a Hall of Famer because of his injured back that robbed him of his power.

If Puckett is overrated, then so is Larry Walker who had similar home/road splits as Puckett did. And stat people push Walker for the Hall of Fame.

Walker hit .381 for his career at Coors Field. The next best number per ballpark was in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium where he had a slash line of .293/.373/.518.

After that was his other home park of Busch Stadium late in his career where he posted a .294/.391/.536.

Good but not all world or in the realm of ridiculous as his Coors Field numbers are.

The crux of the wink wink/nod nod argument is that Cameron’s career WAR was 46.7 and Puckett’s was 44.8.

Yes, I suppose technically Cameron had a “higher” WAR than Puckett, but since the people who reference WAR treat it as the end-all/be-all of analytical existence, wouldn’t it be prudent to mention that Cameron played in 5 more seasons than Puckett did to accumulate that total?

If you’d like to go by WAR, Cameron’s highest season WAR was 6.4 and his average, per season was 2.7.

Puckett’s highest WAR was 7.2 and his average was 3.7.

The aforementioned Walker had a career WAR of 67.3, but his numbers were severely bolstered by playing in the pinball machine of Coors Field in his prime. Plus there were suggestions that Walker’s power wasn’t all natural and, considering the era, everyone’s a suspect.

The only thing Puckett used in excess were cheeseburgers.

Here’s the reality, statistically and otherwise, with Cameron vs Puckett:

  • Cameron was an all-world defensive center fielder; Puckett won 6 Gold Gloves and his statistical defensive decline coincided with his burst of power in 1986. As a contemporary of Devon White and Gary Pettis, Puckett didn’t deserve the Gold Gloves.
  • Puckett batted .318 for his career with a .360 OBP and .477 slugging. Cameron’s slash line was .249/.338/.444.
  • Puckett hit 207 homers and stole 134 bases. Cameron had 278 homers and stole 297 bases.
  • Puckett averaged 88 strikeouts a season. Cameron averaged 158 strikeouts a season.
  • Puckett won 6 Silver Slugger Awards and batted above .314 eight times in his twelve year career. Cameron’s career high average was .273.
  • Puckett had a career OPS of .837. Cameron’s was .782. Puckett’s OPS+ (which accounts for ballpark factor) was 124. Cameron’s was 105.
  • In Game 6 of the 1991 World Series, Puckett made a great catch in center field to rob Ron Gant of an extra base hit, went 3 for 4 at the plate and hit a game-winning homer to send the series to a decisive Game 7, which the Twins won.
  • Puckett won two World Series with the Twins and batted .309 with 5 post-season homers. Cameron batted .174 in 112 post season plate appearances with 1 home run.

What’s the comparison here?

There is none.

Puckett and Cameron not only shouldn’t be compared, they shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same sentence.

So what’s the point?

I’m not sure because they won’t say it. All they’ll utter are interjections like “WOW!!!” followed by the indirect suggestion that Cameron was better than Puckett.

I think.

Are they saying that Cameron was better than Puckett? That Puckett was overrated and Cameron was underrated? And if they’re trying to say something to the tune of either argument, why not just come out and say it? Why does it have to be danced around like a clumsy, worn out ballerina with the kindasorta suggestion of what’s being said without it actually being said?

I don’t know.

This is why those who aren’t immersed in numbers can’t take seriously those who use statistics as the final arbiter of all discussions. They use them when they’re convenient to their argument, leave out context and then avoid saying what they’re trying to say to avoid the attacks of people like me who don’t want to hear such silliness.

But I said it anyway.

Puckett was better than Cameron. Period.

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Raul Ibanez Can’t Play Shortstop

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Raul Ibanez is not a good outfielder.

Raul Ibanez has no speed on the bases.

Raul Ibanez doesn’t hit lefties anymore, doesn’t get on base with the frequency he once did and has to cheat by starting his swing earlier to get around on a good fastball.

These were the issues broached by stat people looking for a reason to set the tone for the debate when the Yankees interest in Ibanez was first reported.

Propaganda is part of any “revolution” with facts secondary to steering public opinion.

But do they think the Yankees were unaware of these issues when began considering him? Before they signed him to a 1-year, $1.1 million contract?

Saying Ibanez is a bad outfielder and can’t run is like saying he’s not a good shortstop or can’t throw a good curveball on the mound. He’s not going to play shortstop; he’s not going to pitch; and the Yankees don’t need him to play the outfield. If he even brings a glove along with him to spring training, it will be a first baseman’s mitt to spell Mark Teixeira a few games so Teixeira can DH against righties.

He can’t run?

Is he supposed to bat leadoff and steal 30 bases?

He’s going to DH, play some first base and, in an absolute emergency, play the outfield. He’ll bat seventh, hit 20 homers against righties and provide some punch that the opposition has to account for—not worry about—account for.

He’s a good guy in the clubhouse, will handle New York, is well-liked by the media and has post-season experience.

Could the Yankees have done better than Ibanez? If Jim Thome had stayed on the market and taken that short salary for a chance at a ring, absolutely. But Thome signed with the Phillies early in the free agent process for slightly more than what Ibanez got from the Yankees.

What those silly statements indicate has nothing to do with analysis. They’re an attempt to say, “Because Player X doesn’t do (BLANK), he’s a bad signing.”

But what if Player X isn’t signed to do the thing he can’t do? What if he’s signed to do what he does?

Isn’t that part of the equation?

The same stat people who are invested in advanced statistics have to know that Ibanez also hit in some terrible luck last season with a BAbip of .268 when his career mark is .303; that the only numbers that declined precipitously were his walk % and pitches seen per at bat. Coincidentally (or not) these are the same numbers and eyeball judgments referenced by Joel Sherman—link—to denigrate Johnny Damon as expanding his strike zone to accumulate more hits and reach 3000 for a Hall of Fame ticket.

They’re aware of this, are they not?

There are entities trying to find reasons to criticize while simultaneously bolstering their own rickety credentials as “experts”; they feel they’re smarter than inside baseball people, but don’t have facts as a foundation, so they try to trick their readers—readers who are either too ignorant or frightened to protest.

Is this objectivity? Or is it nonsense with an agenda?

Ibanez’s days as a shortstop are over.

The problem is that he was never a shortstop in the first place.

That’s conveniently left out because it fails to suit the argument.

But I guess that doesn’t really matter, does it?

//

Ibanez vs Chavez is No Contest

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Is there really a debate as to whether the Yankees should add Raul Ibanez or Eric Chavez?

Never mind the absurdity of the Yankees not having the money for both—they’re the Yankees—but let’s suspend disbelief that the holdup is financial and accept that they don’t have the money to add both players.

Why would there be a question as to which would be more useful?

Ibanez would hit his 20 homers while batting seventh as a part-time DH and once-in-a-blue-moon outfielder/first baseman and Chavez is…I’m not sure what Chavez is.

He’s handsome, was good once and is popular in the clubhouse.

So?

If the Yankees are going based on conventional good looks, it’s no contest. Ibanez with his shaved head and chaw in his cheek looks like an alien.

That the Yankees went after Carl Pavano as a free agent a year ago renders the clubhouse likability argument meaningless because in recent Yankees history, Pavano was the most reviled player this side of Jeff Juden and Mel Hall.

What exactly did Chavez do last season to warrant this fan/media groundswell that they “need” him?

It’s a factoid along the lines of Mike Scioscia’s “winning” aura; Billy Beane being “smarter than the average bear”; Keith Law’s “job offer” from the Astros; and Jason Varitek’s “leadership”.

It’s repeatedly said, printed and validated with no proof that it actually exists, but taken as true in a circular fashion with no legitimate evidence of its genesis or existence.

Statistically, Chavez was good defensively as a backup to Alex Rodriguez; offensively, he batted .263 with a .676 OPS and 8 extra base hits in 175 plate appearances. That .263 average was with a high BAbip of .320 and is not going to happen again.

He also spent time on the disabled list with a broken foot. In the past he’s had back problems that diminished him from All-Star to washout.

That is going to happen again.

Using advanced statistics, he was the epitome of the replaceable player with an across the board WAR of zero.

For that the Yankees paid $1.5 million last season and would presumably be paying something close to that again?

For that they’re trying to create payroll space?

The Yankees will be better off if they sign Ibanez and hope that Bill Hall shows enough in the spring to make the roster as a minor league free agent. Ibanez and Hall can provide something offensively and Chavez can’t.

What’s the argument?

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The Pirates Take Advantage of the Yankees

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The way a team like the Pirates has to function is by taking advantage of the big market clubs in the opposite fashion to the way those big market clubs take advantage of them. That’s what they did in getting A.J. Burnett—a talented and enigmatic arm—for just about nothing.

By design, by luck or both the Pirates aren’t the desolate wasteland they’ve been for most of the past 20 years.

That’s not to suggest they’re contenders, but they’ve taken some steps to create a viable big league club rather than a punching bag and target for looting by the bullies at the trading deadline.

We’ll never know what would’ve happened had the Pirates won the 19-inning game against the Braves on July 26th in which home plate ump Jerry Meals made one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen in my life by declaring Julio Lugo safe on a play at the plate where he was clearly out by a mile.

At the time, the Pirates were one of the pleasant surprises in all of baseball with a record of 53-47 and tied for first place in the NL Central.

They lost the next game in 10 innings, won the finale of the Braves series then proceeded to lose 10 in a row and 14 out of 16.

Can one game affect an entire season if it’s sufficiently draining, emotional and so egregious an error on the part of an outside force?

I say it can.

Naturally as the Pirates came undone, the “experts” made their snide comments to the tune of, “Remember when the Pirates were ‘contenders’?” as if they knew what was going to happen.

Well, they didn’t know. They were validating their preseason analysis of the Pirates where they’d lose close to 100 games. It was ego, not contextualized understanding. It’s similar to taking credit for the Cardinals winning the World Series when almost the whole roster was turned over at mid-season. The team that was analyzed in the preseason wasn’t the team that won the World Series, so how do you take credit for it?

The Cardinals were essentially finished by August 31st, 8 1/2 games behind in the NL Central and the Wild Card. Helped along by the Braves collapse and their own hot streak, they made the playoffs and wound up winning the World Series.

It’s post-event gloating to say one was “right” about something when there was nothing to be right about.

No, the Pirates didn’t have the personnel to hang with the upper echelon teams in the National League, but maybe with that win against the Braves, they could’ve finished at 82-80 rather than 72-90. How would that have looked on the resume of manager Clint Hurdle and in the scope of their rebuilding process? It certainly would’ve helped their young players to be part of a winning team and for available free agents to stop seeing the Pirates as a last ditch destination and instead a place where they could go to possibly be part of a renaissance for what was once a great baseball town.

The Pirates wound up at 72-90, but Hurdle’s clubhouse discipline (his biggest attribute is that he doesn’t take crap) did help the team look and play better. That doesn’t show up in any numerical formula and until someone comes up with a Not Taking Crap metric, we won’t be able to judge it.

Now the Pirates have traded for Burnett, gotten the Yankees to take two very low-level prospects and pay a massive chunk ($20 million) of Burnett’s salary.

Out of necessity, they’re signing oft-injured and talented arms like Erik Bedard and trading for Burnett. But in the best-case scenario, they’ll get good work from the veteran pitchers and show improvement in the standings. Middle-case, they’ve got players to trade at the deadline for a better return that what they gave up to get them.

They’re probably not going to get the great bullpen work they did last season; they haven’t upgraded the offense and are relying on improvement from Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata, plus the continued rise of Andrew McCutchen; but their rotation with Burnett, Bedard, James McDonald, Kevin Correia and Charlie Morton is okay and Joel Hanrahan is a top closer.

The NL Central is vulnerable. The Cardinals are in serious flux; the Brewers are waiting out the news whether they’ll be without Ryan Braun for 50 games; the Reds are good, but short in depth.

If everything goes well, the Pirates could finish in third place and over .500.

Considering their circumstances, that’s very, very good and it’s refreshing that they used the Yankees’ desperation to get rid of Burnett to their own benefit.

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The Aftermath of A.J. Burnett

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It’s indicative of the Yankees that they thought A.J. Burnett, Javier Vazquez, Kyle Farnsworth and others would be transformed into something other than what they were strictly by the simple act of putting on pinstripes.

Those who try to defend Yankees’ pitching decisions by pointing to CC Sabathia are scraping through the muck of viable argument.

Sabathia would be a great pitcher as a Yankee; as a Met; as a Dodger; as a Pirate; or as a Yakult Swallow.

Burnett was never worth the money the Yankees paid him nor was he suited to develop into a solid starter behind Sabathia.

The decision the Yankees made to develop their own pitchers; to focus on statistics; to shun buying the big names on the free agent market were three separate concepts opposed to one another in a triangular fashion when they signed Burnett.

He was never that good.

Talented? Yes.

Good? No.

But they paid him as if he was; as if by merely joining the Yankees, bolstered by their offense and great bullpen, he’d relax and pitch 6 or so innings a start giving up 3-4 runs to rack up wins simply by pitching within his own abilities. Burnett used to fire every pitch like it was his last; he tried to embarrass the hitters instead of just getting them out. That would explain the rampant injuries that subsided over the past four years.

But the dying phrase for many a regime, “we’ll be able to handle him” is a self-destructive and ruinous strategy that’s failed repeatedly.

Joe Torre thought he could deal with Albert Belle when the Yankees were inches away from letting Bernie Williams depart for the Red Sox and signing Belle as his lineup replacement.

Torre could not handle Albert Belle.

The Navy Seals would have trouble handling Albert Belle.

Rafael Soriano had a reputation as a diva. Rafael Soriano acted like a diva. He allowed big homers and had trouble handling pressure before he became a Yankee; he had those same problems last season as a Yankee.

Reputations are what they are for a reason. For years, Burnett had the moniker of “injury-prone underachiever” hovering over his head with the Marlins and Blue Jays; when he busted out in his potential free agent year (he had an opt-out in his contract) for the Blue Jays in 2008 with 18 wins and 231 strikeouts, he was believed to have “turned the corner” and would blossom in New York.

He was okay in his first year and mostly bad and aggravating in the subsequent two.

The expectations were such that the Yankees and their fans were disappointed even though they got what they bought—not what they paid for, but what they bought.

At least he stayed healthy.

Comparing him to a Yankees bust like Carl Pavano is absurd because Burnett came to New York and did the best he could while Pavano was swallowed up by the pressure immediately. It wasn’t the pressure that got to Burnett—he handled New York fine—he’s just A.J. Burnett and pitched like A.J. Burnett.

That the Yankees had to pay about $20 million of his remaining $33 million to get rid of him says that they realized they couldn’t continue with him on the team. It’s not because Burnett was clubhouse poison and they had to get him out of town before he infected the rest of the room, but because he’s not that good and they didn’t want to deal with the aftermath of putting him out on the mound and watching him implode for another season.

And now he’s gone from a place he probably shouldn’t have been in the first place.

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Francesa Mails It In with Gusto and Diet Coke

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It takes a special kind of arrogance to extend mailing it in to openly gloating about mailing it simultaneously to being pompous, condescending, obnoxious and rude.

But Mike Francesa pulled it off yesterday during his interrupt…er, interview with hockey analyst Pierre McGuire.

You can watch/listen below.

In a tone of, “no need to thank me for doing you this favor of talking about hockey”, Francesa continuously interrupted McGuire as if he wanted to get the interview over with as quickly as possible to move onto more salable and important matters for his audience than the sport of hockey.

This is somewhat understandable considering that his listeners, in general, are there to hear baseball, football and basketball. When there’s an important event in another venue—one that translates into something everyone can weigh in on like the Penn State mess—it’s a legitimate news story. After all these years on the radio and his success, Francesa’s earned the right to talk about things that he wants to talk about like golf and horseracing in spite of the small percentage of fans who are deeply invested in them.

But he doesn’t watch hockey.

Is he obligated to do so? I don’t think he is.

I’ve never held it against WFAN in general and Francesa in particular for not being all-in on hockey. It’s supply and demand. The listenership demands more baseball/football than anything else and that’s what the station provides. The number of people who simply have the radio on as background noise and leave it on even if he’s talking about something they’re not interested in is limited; others, like me, only listen if there’s something we want to hear. For a large segment, that’s not hockey.

But on a slow sports news day when the biggest story is the equivalent of a negotiating session between China (the Yankees) and Taiwan (the Pirates) over territorial rights and bullying as to whom gets final custody of an expensive dissident (A.J. Burnett), and with the New York Rangers playing so well, there was a window to discuss hockey.

But Francesa constantly interrupted McGuire; he interjected random points that he seemed to think transcended which sport he was talking about and generalized any business in terms of future value vs present need; and declared what he’d do if he were in the position of the Rangers in terms of trades.

The strangest and funniest portion was when McGuire began mentioning players’ names with Francesa (at most) half-listening. He could easily have been listing members of Canadian Parliament and Francesa wouldn’t have known the difference.

Stickhandling (hockey, y’know) around an interview by vamping and uttering generalities is frequent when discussing an unfamiliar sport—they all do it—but to do a radio interview with eyes half closed while essentially providing a detailed account of how the audience are fools for listening at all shows an audacity remarkable in its scope and embarrassing to those who let Francesa get away with it without protest.

Acting interested in a subject one isn’t well versed in is part of the job, but Francesa didn’t even think enough of the hockey fans in the audience to do that.

I’d suggest that those offended by it complain to the station, but the higher-ups probably don’t care all that much either.

It’s a lockstep of indifference. Such is life under a dictatorship run by the Sports Pope.

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My Gary Carter Story

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I’d like to say it was 1982, but don’t hold me to it.

I was around 10 and went to a baseball card convention at a hotel in Manhattan where Gary Carter was appearing and signing autographs.

We paid to get in and when we found the table where Carter was sitting, I walked over and handed my baseball cards to him. He smiled. He signed one, he signed two…and the guy sitting next to him asked in the general direction of me and my dad, “Where’re your tickets?”

In addition to the entrance fee, apparently there were blue tickets we had to buy to get the autographs.

I replied with my patented bewildered look of staring straight ahead as if the person speaking had just arrived from Neptune.

Thirty years later, not much has changed.

My dad asked, “What tickets?”

He was just as clueless as I was (am).

I had another card to sign but Carter, ever friendly, shrugged, pursed his lips and shook his head saying, “Sorry pardner.”

But he’d already signed the two cards below. We thanked him and left.

Carter, along with Al Leiter, are the two nicest ballplayers I’ve ever come across.

You can tell when the kindness is genuine and with Carter it was.

As a player, he had a reputation for self-promotion and always knowing where the camera was; that his hustle was sometimes done for the sake of perception, image and salesmanship.

When Pete Rose did it, it was okay because he also ran around, chased women and was one of the guys.

Carter was religious and straitlaced, so it wasn’t done in the context to selling himself while still maintaining the tribal acceptance. It was an end unto itself. That’s just the way he was. At least he wasn’t a hypocrite. His teammates probably would’ve liked him better if he had been.

He was called “The Kid” by fans and media because of the unbridled enthusiasm he brought to the field and that he was polite and accommodating with those same fans and media. But from certain teammates came the derogatory nicknames, “Teeth” and “Camera Carter”.

Carter was a self-promoter, but so are many players. Some are reviled like Curt Schilling; others are chuckled at like Brian Wilson.

Is it because Carter was a born again Christian, that Schilling is a conservative republican and that Wilson is just a guy with a thick beard who’s clearly goofing around?

Probably.

But what’s the difference?

With many players, interacting with fans at card shows is a necessary chore for extra cash they can shove in their pockets without notifying the federal government. Some of those players who were derisive of Carter did exactly that and worse, acting like they were doing a favor by chitchatting with the people who are essentially paying their salaries and being nice to a kid to give him or her a lasting memory.

With Carter, it wasn’t like that.

He was a truly nice man and giving human being. Baseball and the world are a worse place without him.

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American League Fantasy Sleepers

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These names jumped out at me as I’m working on my book. (See the sidebar. Available soon.)

B.J. Upton, CF—Tampa Bay Rays

Upton is probably one of the most aggravating players in all of baseball to fans, teammates and everyone else. So talented that he can do anything—-anything—on the field, his motivation and hustle are contingent on the day and his mood.

But he’s a free agent at the end of the season and wants to get paid. Expect a big power/stolen base season and a return to the high on base numbers from 2007-2008.

Carlos Villanueva, RHP—Toronto Blue Jays

He won’t cost anything and was under-the-radar impressive when the Blue Jays put him in the starting rotation last season.

They have starting pitching, but with Kyle Drabek a question to make the team and the limits still being placed on Henderson Alvarez and Brandon Morrow, Villanueva is a veteran they could count on as a starter they don’t have to limit.

As a starter, he was able to use all of his pitches including a changeup. Strangely, he gets his secondary pitches over the plate consistently, but not his fastball.

Jim Johnson, RHP—Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles haven’t specifically said what they’re doing with Johnson. They’ve implied that he’s staying in the bullpen, but the acquisition of Matt Lindstrom frees them to make Johnson a starter where he could be very effective.

Either way, he’s not a “name” closer or guaranteed starter who’d be overly in demand.

Jacob Turner, RHP—Detroit Tigers

As the Tigers proved with Rick Porcello, they don’t let a pitcher’s inexperience dissuade them from sticking him in the rotation.

Turner has far better stuff than Porcello—a good fastball and wicked hard curve. He throws multiple variations on his fastball, has great control and is poised and polished.

Adam Dunn, DH—Chicago White Sox

I have trouble buying that a veteran who hit 40 home runs annually and wasn’t a PED case suddenly lost it all at once.

The not-so-witty line, “Dunn is Done” is a cheap shot and inaccurate.

He was terrible last season to be sure, but he was also unlucky (a .240 BAbip vs a career number of .292).

Dunn still walked 75 times and in comparison to his absurd .159 average, a .292 OBP is pretty good.

The combination of the new league; the expectations and pressure from a big contract; and a raving maniac manager in Ozzie Guillen put Dunn out of his comfort zone. A year in with the White Sox and a more relaxed and understanding manager, Robin Ventura, along with the diminished team-wide expectations will let Dunn be himself—a gentle giant who walks a lot and hits home runs.

Hisanori Takahashi, LHP—Los Angeles Angels

The Angels were kicking the tires on Francisco Cordero and Ryan Madson and it wasn’t to be a set-up man.

If Jordan Walden is suffering from shellshock after the way his massive gack against the Athletics late in the season essentially eliminated the Angels from contention, they might have to pull him from the closer’s role sooner rather than later.

Manager Mike Scioscia is loyal to his players and doesn’t make changes like this until he absolutely has to, but the Angels can’t afford to mess around with the money they spent this off-season and the competition they’re facing for a playoff spot.

Takahashi can do anything—start, set-up, close—and is fearless.

Worst case, if your league counts “holds”, he’ll accumulate those for you.

Fautino De Los Santos, RHP—Oakland Athletics

Don’t ask me what the A’s are planning this year because as the trades of their starting rotation and closer and signing Yoenis Cespedes signing prove, they’re flinging stuff at the wall and hoping something sticks.

Although Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour are on the roster, they might be willing to look at a younger, inexperienced closer at some point. Fuentes is hot and cold and Balfour has never been a full time closer.

De Los Santos has an upper-90s fastball and as the season rolls on, it’s likely that both Fuentes and Balfour will be traded. They’ll need someone to rack up the saves and De Los Santos is as good a choice as any.

Kila Ka’aihue, 1B—Oakland Athletics

His minor league on base/power numbers are absurd and the A’s first base situation is muddled at best.

The Royals kindasorta gave Ka’aihue a chance for the first month of 2011, but abandoned him when he got off to a bad start. The A’s have nothing to lose by playing him for at least the first half of the season and, if nothing else, he’ll walk and get on base.

Hector Noesi, RHP—Seattle Mariners

Noesi doesn’t give up a lot of home runs and has good control. These attributes will be magnified pitching in the big ballpark in Seattle and with the Mariners good defense. He also strikes out around a hitter per inning, so that all adds up to a good statistical season if you’re not counting wins.

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The A.J. Burnett Trade Talks Drag On…and On…and On…

All Star Game, Ballparks, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

Palestinian-Israeli hostage swaps have gone more smoothly and been resolved faster than the Yankees-Pirates negotiations for A.J. Burnett.

Are the Yankees stunned that the Pirates haven’t surrendered to their will as they have in the past? Or are they waiting them out and hoping that the Pirates front office—not known for their strategic brilliance—panics and maximizes the offer.

The Pirates should turn the tables and wait the Yankees out this time; let them sift through the other calls they’re getting, see how much money each suitor is willing to absorb and what prospects they’ll give. Eventually, the Pirates will probably be the last team standing. And if not, so what? They’ll have lost out on A.J. Burnett, not Tim Lincecum.

A truly smart (and prospectively funny) tactic for the Pirates would be to acquire Burnett and a chunk of Yankee Money (it’s like real money, only entitled, arrogant and bullying with a picture of George Steinbrenner in various poses on each bill), then hope Burnett is pitching well by mid-season and dangle him to the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers, Rays or Indians, get a couple of better prospects and watch the Bronx burn as the Yankees are paying Burnett to pitch against them.

Knowing Burnett, he’ll probably pitch well against the Yankees and hurt them as much as an opponent as he did while a member of the team.

Now that’s smart business and it’s entertaining too!

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The Angels’ DH Glut

All Star Game, Ballparks, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

When the Angels signed Albert Pujols, it created the “problem” of too many bats for too few spots in the lineup.

Because they had a first baseman that hit for power in Mark Trumbo; another first baseman that hit for power still trying to come back from injury in Kendrys Morales; and veteran Bobby Abreu as the DH, it’s considered too many players to keep and keep happy.

The player most frequently discussed in trade suggestions has been Abreu.

GM Jerry DiPoto was probably speaking out of pragmatism rather than playing his cards close to the vest when he said they weren’t looking to trade Abreu.

Abreu is coming off a subpar season considering the consistent offensive numbers he’s posted in his career. In 2011, he batted .253 with 8 homers and a .717 OPS.

Abreu will be 38 in March, but he’s only being paid $9 million in 2012 and even if he repeats the production from last season, is a .353 OBP with 30 doubles and 21 stolen bases that bad? If he’s hitting in front of Pujols, he’ll score plenty of runs getting on base and advancing without giving up an out. The biggest difference between Abreu’s 2010 season and 2011 was the decline in home runs; other than that, the numbers were almost identical.

For the Angels, there isn’t an ironclad solution for the glut of bats.

Trumbo has tremendous power and hits tape measure home runs, but he strikes out a lot, doesn’t walk at all and is returning from a foot injury. Trumbo is preparing for a shift to third base, but manager Mike Scioscia likes defense and Trumbo has never played third as a professional—Scioscia won’t play Trumbo at third if he can’t handle the position defensively.

In spite of the Angels playing up how great Morales looks, he had an injury that, in years past, would only have happened to someone playing for the Mets when he broke his ankle jumping on home plate after hitting a game-winning grand slam in May of 2010.

That’s almost two years and multiple false starts ago. He can’t be counted on until he proves he can play again and stay healthy.

The biggest variable as to what the Angels do with Abreu might be Vernon Wells.

Wells was so horrible last season at the plate (.218/.248/.412 slash line with 25 homers) that they wouldn’t be crazy to accept that the $63 million remaining on his contract is gone and release him if he’s not hitting by May. The GM who traded for Wells, Tony Reagins, was fired and the Wells trade was a major factor in his dismissal.

Releasing Wells would be costly, but he’s untradeable, they have two young outfielders in Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout to play center and left and the bats to account for the one thing Wells has done: hit the ball out of the park.

But they only have the bats if they keep Abreu until they see what they have with the other players.

And that’s what they should do.

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