Ravaging the Mets

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, 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, Movies, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, World Series

In a perfect world—sans Bernie Madoff—would the Mets have done everything they could to keep Jose Reyes? Would they have kept Reyes?

Absolutely.

We’re not in a perfect world and there is a Bernie Madoff and the Mets don’t have the money to spend on Reyes while trying to fill all the other holes they have and put a product on the field that isn’t going to lose 105 games.

We can go down the woulda-shoulda-coulda road for weeks, months, years. If there wasn’t Madoff, would Sandy Alderson even be the GM of the club? Would they be taking the tack of stat based, ruthless and cold-blooded reality-based analysis? Would they have kept Omar Minaya? Or would they have hired someone who was an aggressive, veteran-centric, money is no object GM?

There are no answers.

The ranting and raving about the Wilpons is conveniently ignoring that they’re in the middle of a lawsuit for which they proclaim their innocence. Comparing them to the McCourts of Los Angeles by way of Boston is a colossal waste of time because the situations are entirely different by every possible metric apart from public rancor.

Opinions are everywhere as to what the Wilpons knew and didn’t know. I don’t see how they couldn’t have been warned about Madoff or had someone see something strange in the consistency of his moneymaking skill.

But they’re saying they did nothing wrong. They want to keep the Mets.

And we don’t know what would happen if they did sell such a massive asset as the Mets; if they have that cash on hand, it might be snatched away immediately if they lose their case. They can’t be forced to sell the team if they haven’t been convicted of anything and they’re still fulfilling the bare minimum of organizational needs. That holds true whether fans are happy about it or not.

Here’s some ruthless reality in an objective, cold-blooded fashion: You can’t use financial acuity as a basis to credit Billy Beane or Andrew Friedman for being a “genius” or “forward thinker” then rip them for not spending money they don’t have to spend on one player for a team that isn’t going to be any good with or without that player.

However they arrived where they are, the Mets are in this position now. They can’t afford Reyes and they had to let him leave. That’s the way it is.

What’s being missed through all the self-serving vitriol; obnoxious and omnipotent attempts on the part of the media and fans to get the Wilpons to sell the team; the threats and tantrums and I told you sos is that with fan/media apathy comes freedom.

The morphing of Beane’s strategies from doing what needed to be done to seeking public acceptance are directly correlated to his image as an infallible genius; this was created by the twisted narrative in Moneyball. It’s coming to a merciless end as the movie was rife with ghastly inaccuracies and dramatic license to bolster a series of lies and make it more easily understandable to a layman; now the book is being viewed with renewed scrutiny as to what was true and wasn’t.

Would Friedman and the people running the Rays be able to dispatch and deal away their known players like Matt Garza if there was an intense interest in what they’re doing? If there were afternoon radio shows and tabloid rabble-rounsers, plagiarists and liars documenting what they were doing with a slant on selling papers and books at the expense of the underlying facts that may differ from what they’re presenting?

It’s easy to say yes, but the truth is that the it’s an imperceptible alteration from doing what needs to be done for the good of the organization and what might be good for the organization but will be avidly swallowed by the media.

We don’t know.

You can’t have it both ways.

You can’t clamor for an adult in the room the likes of Alderson to avoid spending long-term and deranged sums of money on Johan Santana and Jason Bay to placate the fans and win hot stove championships and then complain when he doesn’t spend more money that he doesn’t have to maintain a positive image with the masses.

This is where the Mets are. They don’t have any money and couldn’t afford Reyes. He’s gone.

Accept the basic tenets that the media at large either knows nothing or is following orders on what to write—or both.

Accept that the fans are responding to the stoking of their emotions with attacking the Mets and the Wilpons and that it’s ignoring the bigger picture of building a team; of legality; of finances.

Maybe the Mets will be better in the long run.

How they get there is irrelevant.

Because this is where they are now.

//

Advertisements

Hey, Reality!!!

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

Jon Heyman said the following on Twitter:

@SI_JonHeyman

Jon Heyman

Perception is, redsox ownership wants valentine. Lamont was on gm’s list. Would take quite a set for cherington to buck owners

“Buck owners”?

What part of “ownership” is so difficult to understand?

The owner makes the final decision, not the GM.

No GM has full autonomy.

Not the exalted Billy Beane; not Andrew Friedman; not Brian Sabean; not Ruben Amaro Jr.; not Brian Cashman; not Theo Epstein; and certainly not the newly-hired Ben Cherington of the Red Sox.

Yet we still see the so-called “credible” reporters interjecting opinion into the situation without a shred of understanding as to this simple fact of life.

Epstein himself wanted Terry Francona back with the Red Sox and has said he would’ve stayed for the final year of his contract had Francona’s options been exercised. Francona was tired both emotionally and physically; the ownership and upper hierarchy (see Larry Lucchino) were unhappy with multiple aspects of what transpired with the Red Sox all year long and culminated in the humiliating collapse; and they wanted to make a change.

That’s their right as the owners and top-tier management.

To think that if John Henry, Tom Werner and Lucchino want Bobby Valentine and it’s “going to take a set” for Cherington to bypass ownership’s desires is pure idiocy. Cherington’s not hiring anyone that he’s not allowed to hire and if it’s Lamont instead of Valentine, then everyone is onboard with the decision.

Could it be that Lucchino is seeing an opportunity to regain the control he lost as a result of Epstein’s success as GM?

Yes.

Could it be that they don’t want to follow that same path of middle-manager to whom the players might not listen with a Lamont instead of Valentine?

Yes.

Could they want someone with a personality who’s going to energize a livid fan base and have the cachet to stand up to the bullying of Josh Beckett?

Yes.

Are they wrong to make their collective presence felt in an important hire?

Absolutely not.

The Red Sox could be ruminating on the decision or they might want to have a fallback plan so they can keep Valentine’s contract as reasonable as possible. If they eliminate all other candidates, then Valentine might feel emboldened in the negotiations to ask for more money.

I remember Gene Lamont‘s understated personality as a manager with the White Sox and Pirates to be eerily similar to that of Francona. Doesn’t hiring the same type of individual defeat the purpose of making the change?

If the Red Sox try to scrimp and save a few bucks or avoid the Bobby V package and those are the only reasons they choose Lamont over him, then they’re making a terrible mistake. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Lamont won’t work—he’s a qualified baseball man and experienced manager—but the why is important.

They might hire Lamont; they might hire Valentine; I’m thinking that Cherington’s preference would’ve been Torey Lovullo.

But don’t think that Cherington will “buck” ownership in the managerial decision.

Because he won’t.

//

This Is Not About Theo Epstein (That Comes Later)

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

Panic abounds in Boston as the prospect of a trifecta of organizational dysfunction beckons. Following the humiliating collapse and requisite sniping, backbiting and blaming one another has come the departures of the two men who were out front of the Red Sox revival, manager Terry Francona and GM Theo Epstein.

Never mind the fact that many managers could have and would have won with that roster full of talent; ignore that there are GM candidates everywhere and no one is irreplaceable, it’s a triple shot of torment to an organization that had grown so used to success that they’ve forgotten how expectantly painful it was to be a Red Sox fan.

Here are the facts with Epstein and the Red Sox: they were gutsy; they were lucky; they filled the front office with smart people; and they won.

Will Epstein have the same success with the Cubs?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Do you know how the Red Sox managed to draft Clay Buchholz? Dodgers scouting guru Logan White wanted to draft Buchholz, but was overruled by Paul DePodesta who wanted Luke Hochevar.

The Dodgers drafted Hochevar…and failed to sign him.

So the Red Sox got Buchholz.

They were lucky with David Ortiz, whom they signed as an “oh him” guy.

They were lucky that no one ever took them up on the multiple times they tried to dump Manny Ramirez.

They were lucky that the exalted genius Billy Beane turned down the offer to be GM after initially accepting. (Be funny if they hired him now!)

They were smart in ignoring conventional wisdom—Moneyball and otherwise—and wound up with the likes of Dustin Pedroia.

The key for the Red Sox was the utter ruthlessness with which they dispatched players who either wanted too much money or too many years as free agents or were no longer performing and were traded.

The dealing of Nomar Garciaparra in 2004 was an act of heresy; without it, they likely would not have won the World Series that year.

There never would have been a trade for Josh Beckett had Epstein not resigned in a power-grabbing snit after 2005; and with that trade came the MVP of the 2007 World Series, Mike Lowell—whom they were forced to take!

Letting Pedro Martinez and Jason Bay leave turned out to be prescient decisions that didn’t work out well for the players in any aspect aside from their pockets and has ended positively for the Red Sox.

The era of the rock star GM has created this concept of the all-seeing, all-knowing expert at the top of the pyramid. It’s nice, neat, salable and a load of garbage.

People don’t want the truth that Epstein was hired as a face of the franchise in part because Larry Lucchino didn’t want to do the GM grunt work. But the puppet started tearing at his strings quickly as his reputation grew and the struggle became an uneasy truce.

The Red Sox will get someone else if Epstein leaves. Presumably it will be someone intelligent and willing to listen to others—something that perhaps Epstein no longer wants to do.

It could be an inspired maneuver like the Rays decision to hand control over to Andrew Friedman; or it might be as disastrous as the Jack (Amazin’ Exec) Zduriencik tenure as Mariners GM.

Who deserves the credit or blame? The person who wrote the song? The guy who sang it? The producer? The background musicians or the promoters? Is it a combination?

Without Ed Wade and Mike Arbuckle, there’s no appellation of “old school baseball genius” for Pat Gillick with the Phillies.

Without Bobby Cox laying the foundation for the Braves of the 1990s, John Schuerholz is not heading for the Hall of Fame.

Without Gene Michael, there’s no Brian Cashman.

The line between genius and idiot is narrow and has little to do with the individual, but chance, circumstance, courage and support.

It could be terrible decision for Epstein to leave. Or it could be one for him to stay. But it can’t be judged now.

And life will go on.

//

The Rays Chicanery

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

I’d be very, very careful if I were an interested club and the Rays start taking offers for James Shields after this season.

I’d be even more careful if they do it begrudgingly; portraying the role of the hamstrung, financially-strapped entity that needs several pieces and can’t afford to keep Shields while entertaining the possibility of signing B.J. Upton to a long-term contract.

Suffice it to say that the Rays aren’t going to sign Upton to a long-term contract.

It’s all part of the subterfuge and trickery that’s become a part of the Rays way of doing business.

And parties interested in Shields need to be wary before giving up the house for him.

Yesterday, Shields pitched his 11th complete game. Even in the Roy Halladay-circle of old-schoolness, that’s an unheard of number of complete games. The Rays have pushed Shields hard this season. Curiously hard.

When examining his gamelogs this season, you’ll notice that he’s been allowed to throw a lot of pitches and pitch deeply into many games despite having one of baseball’s better bullpens backing him up.

It makes me wonder why.

Under GM Andrew Friedman, the Rays have never been a club to capriciously limit their pitchers because of arbitrary, easy to remember numbers like 100 pitches or 200 innings; Shields has been supremely durable during his career and has been allowed to regularly pitch deeply into games with over 100 pitches.

Has he learned to use his defense and pound the strike zone to a greater degree? Wheras he was pitching into the 6th-7th innings in prior years and giving up a lot more hits than innings pitched, in 2011 he’s drastically increased his strikeouts and reduced the number of hits allowed. The defense is a large factor in this as his batting average on balls in play (BAbip) this season is .267 and he’s allowed 22 homers; in 2010 it was .344 and he allowed 34 homers; in 2009 it was .311 and he allowed 29 homers. His line drive percentages are the same; his ground ball percentages are up; he’s walking more batters and striking out more.

Part of his success this year is due to better luck. The disparity between a .344 BAbip and a .267 BAbip accounts for a large amount of his improved results.

Shields will be 30 in December; by the end of this season, he’ll have thrown 215 innings in four of the past five years; the one he didn’t (2010), he threw 203. He’s signed through 2014 with club options for $7 million in 2012 ($2 million buyout); $9 million in 2013 ($1.5 million buyout); and $12 million in 2014 ($1 million buyout); his value is never going to be higher than it is now and there’s a limited number of innings a pitcher—no matter how tough—has before a decline/breakdown occurs. Believe me when I say the Rays have crunched those numbers. They also have to start thinking about contract extensions for David Price, Matt Joyce and possibly would like to sign Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson to cheap, preemptive contracts as they did with Evan Longoria.

The Rays have used the “we don’t have the money” excuse to let Rafael Soriano walk after his career-best season and take the draft picks as compensation; to trade Matt Garza and Scott Kazmir for multiple young, cheap players. That excuse is highly convenient, true and should be examined with suspicion since they keep doing it over and over again and making off like bandits in the process.

With the dearth of good starting pitching out there; the way Shields has pitched; the cheapness and long-term nature of his contract; and that his value is never going to be higher, it’s right to be a little dubious if he comes available. Interested teams need to wonder why the Rays are willing to discuss him. And if the Rays say it’s because they want to sign Upton, those teams had better run away. Fast.

//

The Cubs’ GM Search

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

Speculation as to whom the Cubs are going to hire isn’t enough; it’s already turned into the media and fans trying to dictate whom they should hire, and that’s the last thing Cubs fans and front office people should want.

The poorly disguised agendas pop up immediately.

We saw it last Fall when the Mets fired Omar Minaya and conducted an intensive and judicious search by interviewing Al Avila, Allard Baird, Rick Hahn, Josh Byrnes and Sandy Alderson. They wanted to interview Dan Jennings of the Marlins and were rejected; they even had the audacity to ask for permission to talk to current Marlins president Larry Beinfest—they were rejected there too.

Now the names linked to the Cubs are similar and depend on factional allegiances:

Pat Gillick—the Hall of Fame old-schooler who’s rebuilt teams all across baseball.

Andrew Friedman—one of the architects of the Rays who may want to have the opportunity to work with a big payroll and baseball-mad fanbase.

Brian Cashman—his contract is up at the end of the season and despite his protestations that he wants to stay with the Yankees, winning with the Cubs would be a ticket to the Hall of Fame.

Theo Epstein’s name has come up.

Some of the people the Mets spoke to are bound to be in the mix as will Logan White of the Dodgers; Kim Ng of MLB; Royals and former Phillies scouting guru Mike Arbuckle; and others who haven’t been mentioned.

Would Billy Beane be a possibility?

The Moneyball silliness is reaching its inevitable conclusion and Beane’s reputation is in tatters with another on-field nightmare for the Athletics, who have again failed to meet preseason hype. He’d be a big name for the Cubs to pursue; he’s familiar with the stat-based theory they’re said to be looking for; and both he and the Athletics have to move on from one another.

Regardless of who’s hired, it should be the decision of the Cubs ownership and no one else.

Back when the Mets were in the middle of their interviews, the wave of sentiment was twisted ham-handedly in the direction of Alderson by the likes of Joel Sherman of the NY Post.

Sherman may as well have written, “Me want Sandy” and it wouldn’t have been any more skillfully navigated than the stuff he did write; at least it would’ve been honest.

Everyone had their preferred choice for one reason or another be it a convenient story; continuity of beliefs; or name status.

But I wouldn’t want Joel Sherman hiring my GM. (Or my groundskeeper for that matter.)

And the Cubs shouldn’t want any outsiders drumming up sentiment and inviting calls to all-sports radio as to what they ought to do based on nothing other than self-indulgent propaganda.

There are many decisions that will have to be made once the new Cubs GM is in place, most notably with Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez and manager Mike Quade.

A younger, more insecure GM will want a manager who’s going to “be on the same page” as in “do what he’s told”; someone more experienced could deal with a cult-of-personality type like Bobby Valentine (who’d be a great fit with the Cubs).

Owner Tom Ricketts has to account for what would be best for the current configuration of the roster; who’d handle the Cubs checkered history; how much money there is to spend; and how quickly they’re planning to have a contender in place.

Hiring Gillick is a short-term call to win fast; hiring Friedman or Beane wouldn’t be.

Independent of what the media thinks, it’s a decision that has to be made by the ownership. The stuff coming out now amounts to little more than noise; noise that would be best ignored for the greater good.

//

The Kid Who Wouldn’t Share

Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Hot Stove, Management

I don’t pick on Mike Francesa just for the sake of it as many others do. A lot of times, it’s done with a clear and blatant agenda for things he says and does that are either meaningless and blown out of proportion or come from an understandable position.

For those that find nothing redeeming in what Francesa says and does, I have to ask: Why do they listen to and/or watch him?

I critique when applicable, credit when deserved. A short while ago, Francesa was talking about the possibility of the Yankees pursuing Prince Fielder.

Of course in the world of baseball and America, the Yankees have every right to go after Fielder. But do they need him? Would they and should they want to pay him? And is it good for baseball and for the Yankees?

A team with the firepower and guaranteed contracts of the Yankees—who are enduring a $35 million disaster from Rafael Soriano—doesn’t need to sign Fielder in any context.

For reasons I’ve never quite understood, GM Brian Cashman has wanted to reduce the payroll for years. What difference it makes to him how much money the club spends is a mystery and it’s a window into the feeding of the GM’s own ego to receive credit as the likes of Billy Beane and Andrew Friedman have for doing more with less; that Theo Epstein has gotten for drawing lines in the sand and being ruthless in his dealings with Red Sox heroes Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez.

If Cashman’s still the GM (he too is a free agent at the end of the season), he is not going to want Fielder—a mercurial player and person who’s fat and, if he’s paid and being used strictly as a DH, is bound to get fatter as he ages.

But never mind that. Here are the current guaranteed contracts on the Yankees books:

Alex Rodriguez: $143 million.

Mark Teixeira: $112.5 million.

CC Sabathia: Either $92 million or more if he opts out at the end of this season and they try to re-sign him, and they don’t have much choice.

A.J. Burnett: $33 million.

Derek Jeter: $36 million.

Mariano Rivera: $15 million.

Robinson Cano: signed through 2014 at $29 million with $4 million in buyouts—they have to extend him.

Soriano: $25 million. (He’s not opting out to go anywhere.)

Curtis Granderson: $12 million guaranteed through 2012 with a 2013 option at $13 million.

And that’s before getting to Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain who are both arbitration-eligible.

Francesa wants to add Fielder and his $150-180 million demand to the bill? With Scott Boras as his agent? And surrender the draft picks?

How much is enough? Does he have a concept anymore? Or is he so addled by the Yankees success in the past 16 years that he can no longer understand reality?

Francesa’s the kid who won’t let anyone else play with his toys.

It’s no fun to hang around with a kid like that.

No fun at all.

//

Book Review—The Extra 2% By Jonah Keri

Books, Management, Players

There are easy and convenient explanations from both side of the spectrum in baseball analysis as to how the Tampa Bay Rays were able to craft one of the best and most efficient organizations in baseball.

Were they the product of stat-based theories with some outside-the-box application of strategies from other industries?

Were they beneficiaries of the ample number of high draft picks accumulated as a “benefit” of being so awful for so long?

Are there ancillary aspects to the surge from baseball purgatory to a case study of how to run a team properly?

Is it all of the above?

Jonah Keri answers all of these questions and more in The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First.

Stuck in a small market with an atrocious and difficult to access stadium; a history of heinous on-field results and rotten off-field behavior; awful front office decisionmaking; and an owner who micromanaged and alienated civic leaders and local businesses, the heretofore named Devil Rays were a laughingstock like no other.

There was no hope; no future; no reason to pay attention to them…until they were taken over by a young, fearless and energetic group led by Stuart Sternberg.

Foregoing what had failed in the past for the Devil Rays and other clubs, sifting through what worked and didn’t work by cutting to the heart of what makes a successful player, team and organization, the newly named Rays have become the blueprint on how to run a baseball team whether in large or small market.

What was the secret?

Those who are invested deeply in stats see the Rays as a validation of their way of doing things with cold, objective reasoning; old-school thinkers point to the high draft picks, speed, pitching and defense that would’ve made John McGraw proud; others (myself included before reading the book) feel that the Rays turnaround began in earnest once they stopped tolerating players like Elijah Dukes, Josh Hamilton and Delmon Young whose behaviors on and off the field led to the perception that the Rays were like the lawless deserts of Yemen—anything goes with no one willing to put a stop to it. They also stopped bowing to the Yankees and Red Sox as evidenced by the willingness to get into on-field scraps with both.

The truth is that it’s a combination of everything.

Sternberg, team president Matthew Silverman and de facto GM Andrew Friedman took advantage of the foundation that was left by the prior regime; they were lucky with players like Gabe Gross, Grant Balfour, Dan Johnson and Carlos Pena; they jettisoned the likes of Dukes and Hamilton and were unperturbed by Hamilton’s blossoming into a star with the Reds and Rangers; they got rid of Young, but made sure they acquired the pieces—Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett—that were a tremendous boon to their leap into a pennant winner.

The Rays took bits and pieces from everyone and everything.

They utilized former Indians and Rangers GM John Hart’s innovation of locking up players long-term before they reached arbitration years; it was that which allowed them to sign Evan Longoria to what’s being called the most value-laden contract in baseball history.

Dumping contracts before they became prohibitive—like their trading of Scott Kazmir—provided freedom to do other things they would otherwise not have been able to do like trade for an established closer in Rafael Soriano.

They’ve opened baseball academies in countries where baseball isn’t a known entity; I’ve long thought there were ripe areas to explore in the Middle East, Europe, Africa and South America. The Rays are doing that and finding players whose athletic skills would’ve been on a soccer field rather than a diamond; they’re bound to find players in this manner and other clubs will by copying them.

Of course, sports is reliant on people and their performance; you can’t look at the numbers, calculate a formula and automatically expect the desired result—it doesn’t work that way. In any endeavor of dealing with human beings, there are bound to be times for a necessary and conscious decision to deviate from established praxis.

The front office and manager Joe Maddon are aware of this; Maddon is allowed the freedom within structure to defer to his baseball wisdom—accrued through years and years of doing anything and everything within the game—and run his team as a man with a brain and not as some faceless, middle-managing automaton.

Maddon isn’t under threat of job security if one of his off-beat maneuvers doesn’t work. I’m on record as saying that I don’t like the way Maddon game-manages; nor am I a fan of his quirky “theme trips” like players wearing hockey jerseys on the road. I’m the “you’re wearing a coat and tie and shut up” guy; but Maddon’s style is suited to the Rays from the front office through the players.

Sections in the book—such as the discussion of how the Rays missed out on Albert Pujols (it’s specious and mentioned that every team except the Cardinals missed on Pujols); and the battle for viability with no money and a terrible ballpark—drag a bit; but this is no love letter to the Rays way of doing business at the expense of dissenting thought.

All voices are heard without ridicule or dismissal.

The Extra 2% and the Rays turnaround under a strict budget is compared to the Moneyball model, but Moneyball and The Extra 2% are sparsely compatible. You can almost see Keri’s subtle and lightly expressed eye-rolling at the cut-and-dried nature in which Moneyball was presented as a biblical text; that the implication in Moneyball of “if you don’t do it this way, you’re a moron; Billy Beane is Midas, period” is viewed with disdain.

The Extra 2% is not Moneyball and like other strategies, the narrative therein cannot be copied by mirroring what the Rays have done. Each circumstance is different. One question postulated and answered is whether the Rays would be able to run their club the way they do if they were in a more scrutinizing market with a fan base that reacted angrily if something like trading a Kazmir was done while the team was still in a moderate form of contention.

The easy answer is no.

But given the fearlessness with which the front office has squeezed every ounce of use they could from the players they’ve had and dispatched them without remorse, I believe they would run the team in the best way based on the bottom line of winning and doing it within their financial parameters; it’s a testament to the strategy. It’s not about taking Wall Street to baseball; it’s about doing what is necessary to maximize the investment and that, more than anything else, is the overriding theme of the book.

The Rays way is done without smugness, condescension or abuse; it’s systematic and it works. You’ll see that in Keri’s book.

Speaking of books, my book got a nice shoutout on Twitter from WCBS in New York sportscaster Otis Livingston.

olivingstonnyc

You can’t start your baseball season off right before checking out http://amzn.to/hSJEEO and get my buddy @PRINCE_OF_NY book.. I did!

I published a full excerpt on Wednesday here.

The book is available  now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.


//

Masters Of The Universe

Hot Stove

Pending physicals, the Rays have traded RHP Matt Garza, OF Fernando Perez and a player to be named later to the Cubs for RHP Chris Archer, OF Brandon Guyer, C Robinson Chirinos, SS Hak-Ju Lee and OF Sam Fuld.

This is a gutsy and smart move for the Rays to extract a large chunk of the Cubs system for a pitcher who was going to get a big raise in arbitration and has always been a temperamental “go this way or that way” type who might implode (he has before) on the mound if a 3-2 borderline pitch was called against him.

Would the Rays front office led by GM Andrew Friedman be this courageous if they were functioning in a crisis-a-day atmosphere like that in New York, Boston or Philadelphia?

Don’t automatically say yes because the mental adjustment and accounting for public reaction—i.e. ticket sales and sports talk radio—is not something to dismiss out of hand. Even those who partake in such ancillary concerns may not realize they’re doing it; it’s imperceptible and affecting as it seeps into the thought process before making a deal.

Teams like the Mets have historically allowed an expected reaction, positively or negatively, influence what they do—many times to club detriment.

The Rays are able to do things such as trading their number 2 starter, Garza, or allow big free agent Carl Crawford to leave without any fight at all (a fight in which they had no chance to win) and clear out the entire bullpen because they’re in a venue that doesn’t live and die with the Rays. Judging from the comparatively sparse attendance figures for such a good team, much of Tampa barely pays attention to them at all.

The Crawford case is indicative of this. Other clubs would’ve been compelled to make a perfunctory offer knowing that it would be refused. Not the Rays. They tried to sign Crawford to a team-friendly extension and were rebuffed; they accepted that they were losing him and moved on safe in the knowledge that they were getting draft picks and had Desmond Jennings to replace him.

While it would be nice for the Rays organization to get more recognition, the lack of attention has allowed them to build the team correctly and cut loose players of diminishing returns and higher cost to replenish the system.

The Rays do it right. Part of the reason they’re able to do it “right” isn’t that they have a bunch of former “Masters of the Universe” (quoting from The Bonfire of the Vanities) running the club—the arrogance inherent in such a vocation and statement isn’t unimportant as they think they can do anything and get away with it—but because they don’t have anyone picking at everything they do; such entities in the media have one eye on ratings; another eye on fan reaction; and a third eye on waiting and seeing how it works out before taking a stand.

As for the players involved in the deal, I can only go by the ones I’ve seen and the stats of the minor leaguers.

I like Garza a lot and said so in my posting on New Year’s Day:

Garza just turned 27, he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time and the Rays have been listening to trade offers for him; he’s got three years to go before free agency, but he’s undoubtedly looking for his payday before then. He’ll be motivated to have a big year.

Having gone 15-10 in 2010, he’s primed to win 18-20 this year. His strikeouts dropped by 39 from 2009-2010; his hits allowed increased; but his walks diminished drastically, so he may have been pitching to contact by design.

He’s ready to step forward.

The Rays were able to do this because of the aforementioned departures, diminished expectations, the retooling on the fly and that they have enough starting pitching depth to get by with what they have if James Shields rebounds and Jeff Niemann steps up. With David Price at the top of the rotation and youngsters Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson at the back end, the Rays will be okay without Garza.

For the Cubs, it’s a questionable move.

What are they?

They needed a starter—there’s no question about that. The offense is serviceable; the bullpen is serviceable; the starting rotation is rife with questions. Ryan Dempster has essentially proven over the last three years that he’s consistent and trustworthy; but Tom Gorzelanny? Randy Wells? Carlos Silva? And the wildest of wild cards, Carlos Zambrano?

What are they getting out of this group with Garza and Dempster?

It’s an absurd assertion that Zambrano’s blowup in August cleansed his palate and led the way to a terrific final month of the season; to see this is a portent of a maturation and finally fulfilling his limitless potential is a recipe for disaster. He’s flighty; he’s mercurial; and he’s by no means a guarantee for anything one way or the other.

As mentioned earlier, Garza’s not Mr. Congeniality either. New manager Mike Quade doesn’t tolerate garbage, so if Garza or Zambrano start acting up, they’ll hear about it; but that doesn’t eliminate the explosive combination of ingredients the Cubs have thrown into the pot.

They’re a veteran team with immovable contracts like that of Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano. The situation is untenable unless everything works out right. If Zambrano wins 18 games and Garza repeats his 2010 season, the Cubs will contend for a playoff spot; if not, they’re around a .500 team in a rough division. Trapped in that vacancy, the only saving grace for the Cubs is—as it’s always been—the loyalty of their fan base.

Maybe that’s part of the problem.

It was either try to win now or hang onto those prospects and know they were non-contenders in 2011. Time will tell if they did the right thing.

For the Rays, they extracted a lot from the Cubs.

Chris Archer is 22 and his minor league numbers are ridiculously good; he might be a contributor to the Rays out of the bullpen—much like Price was—late in the season if they’re in contention. And they might be contenders despite all the turnover.

Sam Fuld is a fallen prospect who put up good numbers in 2009 and slumped back to the minors in 2010; the Rays have shown a propensity of getting use from such players as they did with Gabe Gross.

I can only judge the others by their numbers.

Brandon Guyer is a soon-to-be 24-year-old outfielder with speed and pop; Robinson Chirinos is a 26-year-old catcher who bashed both Double and Triple A pitching in 2010 and can really throw from behind the plate (his caught-stealing percentages are impressive); and shortstop Hak-Ju Lee is a speedy, 20-year-old shortstop.

It’s clear the Cubs did this deal because they felt they had no choice if they wanted to be relevant at all in 2011.

The Rays are the exact opposite.

In general, teams that do deals because they think they “have” to make mistakes.

The Rays don’t make many mistakes.

Do the Cubs? You tell me.