Tejada Should’ve Been In Camp Early

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One would think that the intensity and disciplined approach by Mets’ manager Terry Collins would be en vogue after Tom Coughlin was validated by the specious reason that his team won the Super Bowl for the Giants.

It’s more glaring that Coughlin’s team won under his system while their stadium/city mates, the Jets, came apart because of the overwhelming expectations created by their coach Rex Ryan with his foolish bluster and inmates running the asylum lockerroom dynamic.

In reality, Coughlin’s system has always been smarter than making outrageous statements designed for headlines. It weeds out the frontrunners that don’t want to play while Ryan’s way attracts wilder personalities and leads to the infighting that permeated their team as the season came apart.

Collins wanted Jose Reyes’s heir apparent shortstop Ruben Tejada in camp early to get a head start on his new, pressure-packed job.

Was Tejada “late”?

No. Not according to the collective bargaining agreement.

But should he have shown up early?

It would’ve behooved him to be in camp early.

In reality, a few days probably aren’t going to make much of a difference in the long-term—either Tejada’s going to handle the job or he won’t.

I happen to think he will.

But Collins’s statements implying that he was disappointed in Tejada for not taking the initiative and making sure he was able to arrive early at camp are sure to resonate with the young player. They don’t suggest that punishment is warranted or that Collins is flouting the rules. Tejada is under intense scrutiny because of the man he’s replacing. Complacency is a factor when he’s not fighting for a job and the early call into the manager’s office is a signal that even though he’s walking into camp as the starting shortstop, it’s not set in stone that the job is his if he doesn’t work and perform.

Collins can’t discipline Tejada for showing up when he was contractually obligated to do so, but he certainly can send him to the minors if he doesn’t play well in the spring.

That, more than any arcane rule of “be here five minutes early or you’re late”, is the message that the manager wanted to send.

It’s better to be strict with him than let him do what he wants and possibly fail because of it.

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The Real Reason Moneyball Was Shut Out at the Oscars

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You’re wondering how it’s possible that such a wonderful, true-to-life, triumph over adversity story like Moneyball was shut out at an aboveboard and evenhanded event like the Oscars?

See the clip below.

Putting aside the glaring inaccuracies and outright fabrications of the movie and the twisted narrative of the book, I can say that it was watchable though not particularly good and certainly not one of the best films of the year.

I suspect it was nominated as a quid pro quo for Brad Pitt and Bennett Miller and to drum up viewership from the baseball-watching crowd who would normally not watch the Oscars.

Presumably it worked.

You’re being scammed. Again.

On another note, those that are bludgeoning Billy Beane and the Athletics with the suggestion (amid unfunny quips) that Moneyball didn’t win anything at the insipid Academy Awards as another “reason” that the A’s are “losers” are just as foolish as those who cling to the book and movie as if it’s real.

There’s no connection between any of it apart from what’s convenient for those with an agenda for Moneyball to be validated; for Beane to be a “genius”; or for those who rip Moneyball because they’re too lazy or don’t have the aptitude to comprehend it and refute it on its own merits.

They’re all the same to me.

That’s been my point all along.

It was never worthy of all this attention to begin with.

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No Beer Make Red Sox Something Something

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The Red Sox have banned alcoholic beverages—including their precious beer—in the clubhouse and for the final flight on road trips for the coming season.

Read the story here—Sporting News link.

This is in response to the reports from last season of starting pitchers who weren’t working that day hanging around the clubhouse and drinking during games rather than being on the bench supporting their teammates.

There are some who say that camaraderie is enhanced by players hanging out together and having a beer, but one of the main reasons the Red Sox were said to have come apart was the disinterest on the part of those who were supposedly in the clubhouse drinking.

They’re adults, but they’re also there to work. There’s no reason for them to be drinking beer at their workplace, athletes or not.

Former manager Terry Francona was given something of a pass for the way the team collapsed. Supposedly it was a byproduct of veteran behaviors about which he could do nothing.

It’s a flimsy excuse.

Francona got the credit for the wins, he gets the blame for the losses and whether the wins stem from front office intelligence and star power and the losses from disciplinary issues and lack of fundamentals is irrelevant. He was in charge, everything stops with him.

Now Bobby Valentine is in charge and, with support and likely prodding from the front office, has banned beer.

Does it matter?

If the Red Sox are playing well and as a cohesive unit, the banning of beer will be seen as a significant flashpoint in Valentine’s taking of the reins from Francona and consciously deciding that he wasn’t going to make the same mistakes as his predecessor. If they’re not playing well, the tightness of the rules and treatment of the players like naughty children will be cited as the problem.

In reality, the Red Sox success or failure will be determined on the field. The beer drinking in the clubhouse didn’t start during their slide; they were probably doing it all along and got away with it because they were winning and that Francona was too laid back. It became an excuse and if Francona saw what was going on and failed to stop it, it’s a blot on him as well as the Red Sox players who partook in it.

The bully in the room, Josh Beckett, is the one that has to be watched. Already he’s deflecting responsibility for what happened and, as is his nature, is going to test Valentine every chance he gets to try and gain control of the relationship. How that manifests itself and how Valentine responds will be the twin indicators of the Valentine tenure. Maybe Beckett will buy in; maybe he’ll build a still in the trainer’s room like Hawkeye in M*A*S*H.

Contrary to popular belief, the beer drinking wasn’t the cause of the Red Sox stumble and its banishment won’t be the impetus of a comeback.

They have to pitch and play better. Had they done that, Valentine wouldn’t be their manager; Francona wouldn’t be in an ESPN booth; Theo Epstein wouldn’t be running the Cubs; and this whole story wouldn’t be a running joke that the Red Sox are bad boys who had their beer confiscated.

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Ryan “The Hebrew Hammer” Braun Wins by Split-Decision

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You’ll hear both sides debate the Ryan Braun drug test issue like the conservatives who think guilty is guilty regardless of how the evidence is gathered and liberals ranting and raving that the rights of the innocent are protected when the rights of the guilty are upheld.

Did Braun take a substance to help his performance or did he get caught using something else that wasn’t a PED, but was on the list?

It all goes back to the fine print of the rules and the clumsy, self-serving, stupid way this whole case was handled.

You can read it in detail here on NYTimes.com; briefly, here’s what it comes down to:

  • Braun took a urine test.
  • There was no nearby FedEx center open for the test administrator to drop the sample off, so he took it home and stored it in his fridge.
  • He shipped it on the next Monday.
  • There was no evidence of tampering on the sample, nor to the bag in which it had been placed.
  • Braun had elevated levels of testosterone and failed the test.
  • But then, the story was leaked.

The final bulletpoint is the key to the whole thing.

Braun had rights. Those rights were undermined. That fact has made this an important decision to stop the prevalent whispers that come out in what’s supposed to be a confidential process.

Baseball can proclaim that the revelation of the 2003 list of PED failures helped bring about a “cleaning up” of the game; that in the end, something good came out of the failure to adhere to the rights of the players who, in spite of their supposed guilt, shouldn’t have had their failed tests revealed in the first place.

The union should’ve destroyed the list and didn’t, so it’s their own fault.

But everyone—players, agents, union reps, front office people, owners and MLB executives—were either directly involved in the PED use or just let it go for their own ends.

Once the groundswell of protests at records being demolished and dwarfed, they reacted.

It’s pure marketing and pandering to customer desires: they wanted more scoring, they got more scoring; as people got angry at the overt manner of players bulking up and shattering records, baseball outlawed steroids and HGH and started testing for them.

It’s similar to the angry reactions to repeated stories on ESPN and other “sports news” outlets for continually talking about Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin regardless of whether the players warrant that level of coverage—it’s what the paying customers want.

Confronted with a public outcry and governmental intervention at activities that it both tacitly encouraged and turned a blind eye to, baseball enacted testing and levied harsh penalties for using a list of drugs that might or might not have been prototypical “performance enhancers”.

Is there a place for, “Well, he was guilty anyway so what’s the difference?”

In reality, yes, there is a place for that.

But in the legal system where Braun is part of a union and the union and regulating committee have entered into a binding agreement as to how it should be handled and Braun is vehemently voicing his innocence and won’t back down, there was no choice other than to exonerate him.

The rules of the treatment and testing program can be read here on a PDF file.

When would it end if innuendo, speculation and public response were the determinative factors in whether an individual saw his reputation and ability to make a living compromised by something that hadn’t been handled properly? If one link in the chain is corrupted, the whole thing has to be tossed out.

Braun and every player in the MLB Players Association have rights—rights that were negotiated and are legally binding.

He’s the reigning National League MVP and the validity and perception of his entire career up to now hinged on this decision. If there was any doubt as to its accuracy, he had to be found not guilty.

When the union agreed to the testing program in order to keep labor peace and “clean up” the game, there was no provision that a failed test would be out in the media five months in advance of his hearing so the player had to hide in his home and keep silent on an allegation that he denied.

Being innocent until proven guilty is relevant and if baseball is angry at someone, they should be angry at whomever decided it was a good idea to let the media know that Braun failed the test in the first place because since the other procedures—agreed to by the union—had been followed, the tipping point was that the public knew about Braun’s failed test before his appeal had been heard.

If it hadn’t been leaked, Braun would undoubtedly have lost his case.

It isn’t so much that Braun is “innocent”, it’s that people with knowledge need to keep their mouths shut. If there’s anyone to blame, it’s the person who leaked the story to begin with.

Don’t think that these dropped nuggets aren’t intentional and strategic in an attempt to preclude a player from winning a case such as this and it was the overthinking and attempts to be clever on the part of baseball that has again sabotaged their attempts to be aboveboard.

It was a circular circumstance that got Braun off.

It’s appropriate because there are few entities that are as adept at the circular firing squad as Major League Baseball.

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Life Will Go On Without Mariano Rivera

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The reaction to the inevitable end of Mariano Rivera’s career inspired maudlin whimpering and prognostications of doom as to the Yankees’ fate without the all-time saves leader.

Rivera’s cryptic statements and oft-mentioned reluctance to leave his family every February have led to the belief that this is definitely his final season.

Rivera’s comments saying he knows what his decision will be, that he’s not sharing it with the media yet and that he’d like to go out on top of his game all point to retirement, but if he’s decided to retire at the end of the season, then why not just say it?

Rivera may be leaning a certain way, but because he’s chosen not to state it outright, he’s leaving himself plausible wiggle room to do what he wants.

There’s no reason to go into a depression about it now and contemplate an immediate future without Rivera.

It’s in the post-season where Rivera has become something more than Joe Nathan who, like it or not, for a few years put up regular season stats very comparable to Rivera’s. Had Nathan been able to get the outs in the post-season—outs that Rivera has consistently recorded—won a championship or two with the Twins and been the man on the mound to celebrate when they did it, he might be mentioned as a “Hall of Fame closer” in his own right.

Rivera’s longevity and maintenance of greatness, along with the way he’s gotten batters out all combine to highlight his uniqueness. There’s been no deviation in the strategy from 1996 to now. It’s the cutter, the ice in his veins, and that’s it.

Whereas pitchers like Trevor Hoffman had to adjust from his younger days as a flamethrower to a changeup artists, it’s “here it is, hit it if you can” with Rivera, as it’s always been.

The Yankees won’t prototypically “replace” him because they can’t. They’ll stick someone in the role and hope.

But that’s not something to worry about now; he hasn’t said anything specific despite the allusions. That’s because he’s not 100% sure yet in spite the suggestion and panicky, borderline sickening reactions to the contrary.

Eventually it’s going to happen. It could be in 2013, 2014 or 2015. We don’t know. But it will happen. In his absence, the Yankees will find someone to accumulate the saves during the regular season even if it’s (uch) Rafael Soriano.

Life will go on.

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Josh Beckett’s Ego Trip and Pending Collision

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Josh Beckett is incapable of saying he’s wrong.

He’ll dance around it. He’ll hem and haw and admit to making “mistakes”. But say the words, “I was wrong”? Beckett? Never.

You can read Beckett’s maintaining the Beckett line here on BostonHerald.com.

In truth, there’s a logical basis for Beckett and the Red Sox players to suggest that the beer, chicken and video game stuff that went on in the clubhouse during games weren’t a problem when the team was winning, so why should they have been a problem when the team was losing?

But that’s not going to be good enough for a media and fanbase that wants contrition. Even if Beckett doesn’t think he was wrong—and I guarantee you, he doesn’t—it wouldn’t hurt to apologize for aesthetic purposes and put the whole thing behind him; to say he’s going to be the good soldier rather than try to find a way to maintain his ego.

It’s a sign of overwhelming arrogance and personal weakness to never apologize; never admit wrongdoing; always find a caveat to defend oneself.

There’s no one left in the clubhouse to play the galvanizing, publicly diplomatic, privately intimidating leader. As he gained weight and lost playing time, Jason Varitek’s influence waned; it’s a good move for the Red Sox to let both him and Tim Wakefield go.

Dustin Pedroia was truly offended at the way Francona was treated; he could probably play the role of the clubhouse leader, but would he interfere if (when) Beckett and Valentine begin butting heads? Pedroia might pragmatically steer clear and let the situation resolve itself. That’s what I’d do.

Beckett is the self-important, arrogant and obnoxious alpha-male. Bobby Valentine is a loose cannon with some of those same traits. Valentine’s not going to let one wayward player ruin what’s probably his last chance at managing in the big leagues.

They’re going to clash.

This beginning is not a good sign for the 2012 Red Sox because if Beckett is intent on continuing to behave as he always has and tries to exert his will on Valentine, Valentine is not going to be conciliatory or back down as Terry Francona did.

And as long as Beckett is on his ego trip, it’s going to get messy. Fast.

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A.J. Burnett’s Yankees Epitaph

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There are some pitchers who need to be left alone.

Because pitching coaches are pitching coaches, they feel the need to jump in whenever they see something amiss or the results are lacking and adhere to mandate of “do something” even if there’s really nothing to be done other than letting the pitcher try to straighten himself out or wait for him to come and ask for help.

Upon his arrival at Pirates’ camp, A.J. Burnett made a few comments about his time with the Yankees that have been taken as criticisms of the Yankee organization.

Here’s Burnett’s quote from this piece in the Washington Post:

“I let a few too many people tinker with me, maybe,” Burnett said. “When you let that happen, you start doubting yourself sometimes. You wonder, ‘Am I doing it right? Is this how it’s supposed to feel?’ and things like that. In ‘09, nobody messed with me. I was able to do what I wanted to do on the mound, whether it was turn around, close my eyes and pitch upside down. Then you have a few bad games and you start changing and listening.”

There are absolutely pitchers who have to be hounded; some have to be cajoled; others need to be left alone. It’s up to the individual pitching coach to gauge and determine how best to unlock the potential and get the pitcher to be the best he can be or to find a way for him to get hitters out regardless of stuff.

Earl Weaver and his pitching coaches George Bamberger and Ray Miller were great at that. Weaver would spot a flaw in a pitcher, whether it was a pitch he shouldn’t be throwing or a pitch he should throw and didn’t have in his repertoire, and he’d have his pitching coach instruct him on how to throw it; if the pitcher resisted, Weaver would ask him if he wanted to be a loser all his life—but he only intervened as the enforcer and left the tactical and mechanical work to the pitching coaches.

It worked with Mike Torrez, Steve Stone and Ross Grimsley among others.

Greg Maddux openly says that Dick Pole was the pitching coach who influenced him most on his way up to the big leagues, but Pole has bounced from team to team because he insinuates himself on the manager. Some managers don’t like that.

So there’s a limit to what the pitching coach can do and much of it is contingent on the manager and the pitchers.

I’m not blaming Joe Girardi, Dave Eiland, Larry Rothschild, Mike Harkey or any of the other Yankees’ staff members for Burnett’s complaints, but because Burnett struggled with inconsistency for much of his time as a Yankee and again proved why he’s basically a .500 pitcher in spite of having all-world stuff, there could be something to Burnett’s statements. It could be that the Yankees should’ve just tossed their hands in the air and let him be rather than immediately fiddle with him. They tried everything else.

As for Burnett, if this was a problem, he should’ve expressed it earlier rather than be polite and incorporate every little suggestion he received. Tom Seaver pushed back if his pitching coaches and catchers tried to interfere with him when he felt strongly about something. Perhaps Burnett’s lack of focus and lapses in competitiveness stem from his laid back personality. If he were a little more feisty, he and the Yankees might’ve been a lot better off.

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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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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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