The Rays-Royals Trade Part II—The Responses

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When someone has a following—justified or not—they can pretty much do or say anything and that base is going to agree with them; purchase what they’re selling; and spread the supposed gospel. When this is done, not in public where there’s a face and consequences, but from the privacy and safety of behind a computer screen, on blogs, and in social media, it degenerates into an irresistible force crashing into an immovable object; of those who spout theories vs individuals who have an actual stake in the outcome.

The Royals traded top minor league outfield prospect Wil Myers, righty pitcher Jake Odorizzi, lefty pitcher Mike Montgomery, and low minor league infielder Patrick Leonard to the Rays for righty pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis and a player to be named later. This sparked reactions that ran the gamut, mostly falling in line with the factions of baseball analysis establishing their positions and following their leaders.

Let’s look at the reactions and assessments.

Royals GM Dayton Moore

Moore may or may not be under pressure to win in 2013 with his job on the line. His response to the criticism of this trade can be read here in a Bob Nightengale piece, but he seemed most annoyed at the implication by ESPN’s Keith Law that Moore did this to try and save his job.

Law has a right to his opinion—presumably there will be a Latin-laced reply coming soon—but looking at it from Moore’s point-of-view, having his baseball GM chops would be far preferable to having his integrity questioned. The entire basis of the argument is somewhat faulty. Does it turn Moore into a conniving schemer if he makes a move to try and win now if that’s what his bosses want?

I can see where Law and Rany Jazayerli are coming from in questioning the wisdom of this trade. Jazayerli makes a compelling case on Grantland. But the overwhelming and toe-the-line agreement coming from their loyalists is bordering on disturbing. If you’re the GM of a baseball team who’s spent your life in baseball and is respected, perhaps not for the work as a GM, but as an overall body of work in scouting and development and you’re forced to endure the taunts of a guy who is working at Best Buy and used his break to tweet about what an idiot you are, it would tend to get on your nerves. Multiply that by 1000. By 10,000. How would you react?

And this is the problem with the new age of baseball. Everyone’s an expert, thinks they know more than baseball lifers, and is free to critique with impunity. There’s no checking of credentials before they’ve carved themselves a forum and are somehow given credibility through osmosis and fantasy. It’s beyond comprehension for someone who has never picked up a baseball in his life and started watching the game two years ago to have the unmitigated arrogance to think his ability to read a stat sheet has injected him with some form of expertise.

Following the initial ganging up on Moore based on past maneuvers and current perceptions, the judgment of his trade has been mostly split with even people who are immersed in prospects such as Jim Callis saying that he doesn’t think it’s a terrible deal.

As I said in my prior posting concerning this trade, I think it’s an understandable decision for both the Rays and Royals.

The Jeff Francoeur factor

I’m missing the connection where it was said that the presence of Jeff Francoeur was the “reason” the Royals felt comfortable trading Myers.

If the goal is to create a firestorm, the easiest way to do it is inserting Francoeur into any conversation whether he belongs there or not. This trade had nothing to do with Francoeur vs Myers. It had to do with the Royals using a prime asset for the future to get themselves better in the present. You can disagree with the logic, but not by using Francoeur to bolster your case because not even the Royals think that Francoeur is the long-term solution in right field. In fact, they might be working on a deal to find someone to replace him as we speak. Then what’s the reaction going to be?

Was Myers the long-term solution in right field? Perhaps. Perhaps not. It’s pointless to compare him to other players based on numbers, him winning minor league player of the year, other attributes used to provide “reasons” why he shouldn’t have been traded. The number of factors that go into a prospect making it or not making it and when he does it are so vast and variable that the word “prospect” is rife with questions on its face. It comes down to projection, analysis, opportunity, and performance.

I don’t know what Myers is and nor do you. It’s easy to attach oneself to buzzwords and think you know, but the Royals have had Myers since he was drafted and clearly felt that he was expendable in comparison to other players they might have been able to slip into the deal in his place  such as Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas and still gotten Shields or a Shields-type.

Truth be told, I would not have made this trade if I were the Royals. But I’m not in Moore’s position and the opinion “I wouldn’t have done it” doesn’t make it wrong.

Andrew Friedman lust

It’s interesting that in the above-linked Baseball America Q&A, Callis says that the trade moves the Rays from middle of the pack in terms of a farm system from “middle of the pack” to “upper quartile.”

The “brilliant” GM of the Rays who stockpiles prospects and uses cutting edge, secretive techniques to find players only had a middle of the pack farm system? And Jazayerli writes in the Grantland piece of Moore, “After the 2010 season, the Royals had fashioned the greatest farm system in baseball, the greatest anyone had seen in years.”

But Moore is an imbecile who deserves to be fired?

How does this work? If someone agrees with you or has success based on a myriad of undefinable, unpredictable aspects, they’re a “genius.” If they don’t they’re subject to relentless attacks not just on their credibility but on their professionalism and integrity?

Any GM is only one bad deal away from being put on notice; one bad season—regardless of prior success—of being fired. Considering the pressures and scrutiny they have to endure now in comparison to 20 years ago, I don’t know why anyone would want the job as a GM in the first place.

As for Friedman, fans and media members with about 25 of the other 29 teams are musing as to what their team would look like if he were their GM. Again, like Myers, we don’t know. Friedman has a freedom with the Rays to do what he wants because he works hand-in-hand with his ownership and has that success rate to fall back on. But he also has freedom because the Rays don’t have any money; have a limited fanbase; and in spite of recent years, an excuse for failure circling back to the lack of money.

Would Friedman be able to do the things he does—trading top-tier arms like Shields or Matt Garza—if he were running the Yankees, Mets, Phillies, Red Sox or whoever? No. He wouldn’t. Because those are different markets, with different needs, different constraints, and different expectations than the ones confronting him now with the Rays. Much like taking a player out of a situation that he can handle like Josh Hamilton in Texas and putting him in New York, Boston or Philly can have severe consequences to him as a person and a player, it’s the same thing with front office people, managers, and coaches.

Friedman is who he is and does what he does because of a situation with the Rays that is unlike most others.

Much like Myers, there’s no quantifying it because we don’t know.

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I Haven’t Seen Fiction This Ridiculous Since Moneyball

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This is the problem with the proliferation of the world wide web and the hunger for information. People start preferring webhits and attention over accuracy and we see stuff like this on MLBTradeRumors with a link to Bob Nightengale writing something utterly absurd in theory and practice.

The “rumor” has the Red Sox sending Carl Crawford to the Marlins for Hanley Ramirez and Heath Bell.

Yah.

If you read the piece you see what we usually see with a rumor that has no basis in fact. Three writers chime in on it with Ken Rosenthal saying the Red Sox are “determining” Crawford’s market; Nightengale formulating this loony deal; and Buster Olney shooting it down.

Of course it was published with all the “rumors” on MLBTR.

The Red Sox calling teams to gauge their interest in trading for Carl Crawford is similar to disgraced former Senator John Edwards calling the Obama administration to gauge their interest in him becoming Secretary of State in a potential second term. There’s no harm in asking but it’s not going to happen.

It’s unclear whether Nightengale had a dream about an actual marlin talking to a man wearing nothing but red socks in Crawford, Texas and took it a few steps further to create this farce, but at least that would make sense.

Let’s calculate this deal, shall we?

Crawford, before he got to Boston, was a wonderful player, but he’s coming off an atrocious first season with the Red Sox and has just returned from multiple issues with his wrist. A rebound for a great player who’s going to be 31 in three weeks is a reasonable expectation, but Crawford’s contract is even more difficult to swallow than the concept of this fantasy disguised as a trade. Beginning in 2013, Crawford is owed $102.5 million through 2017. Do you really believe the Marlins—new ballpark and increased spending parameters or not—are going to take that amount of money? And if you think sending Ramirez (owed $31.5 million in 2013-2014) and Bell ($18 million for 2013-2014) to the Red Sox will make the deal more tolerable, here’s the math: the Marlins will be taking on an extra $53 million.

Do you really think that’s going to happen? Really?

As for the Red Sox, why would they do this? Yes, they can use Ramirez and have long coveted him going back to the days when Theo Epstein had “resigned” in a power struggle and snit with his boss/father figure/mentor/nemesis Larry Lucchino and Ramirez was traded to the Marlins to get Josh Beckett against Epstein’s better judgment. He tried to get him back multiple times and the Red Sox could use a shortstop who’d mash the Green Monster, but what are they going to do with Bell? Add in that manager Bobby Valentine is already having trouble with several Red Sox veterans and you’re going to drop the pouty nuisance Bell and the lazy Ramirez into the toxic stew? All of this is before getting to the fact that over the first four months of the season, Bell has been about as bad as a big league pitcher can possibly be.

How can this be taken seriously?

Could the Marlins and Red Sox consider doing something drastic after the season if their 2012 results aren’t what was expected? Yes. If Crawford plays well for the rest of the season and is healthy, I’m quite sure both he and the Red Sox wouldn’t mind a parting of the ways. The Marlins are open to trading anyone and everyone if it makes sense and no one on the roster is safe. But this? Now? Ridiculous.

It’s one thing if a blogger or some idiot on Twitter comes up with a rumor, portrays himself as an insider, promotes it and garners attention as a result, but these are supposedly “credible” reporters with “contacts” inside baseball and they’re providing the masses with what amounts to a narcotic designed to give them a fix of “rumors” for the day. Whether or not it’s something that cannot and would not happen is irrelevant.

If you want fiction, read Philip Roth; if you want to be fed garbage, go to McDonalds; but please don’t enable this sludge. It’s a lie and you’re being played for fools.

//

Viewer Mail 3.1.2011

Media, Players, Spring Training

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE Francisco Liriano:

I read this morning that a trade was imminent, but apparently it fell apart because the Twins refused to take Hank Steinbrenner.

I truly wouldn’t be surprised on a couple of fronts. One, because the Twins history of trading has been spotty; and two, because of the media nonsense that’s cropping up regarding Liriano.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today is going on and on about the Yankees and Twins as if they’re avidly talking trade while both sides are insisting that Liriano is not on the market and no negotiations are ongoing. It was exacerbated by Jim Bowden (and we all know how credible he is) saying the following on Twitter:

Bob Nightengale of USA Today just told us that he thinks its possible that Liriano is traded to the Yanks in nxt 2 weeks for Nova or Joba +

I do suppose there’s some accuracy in the far-ranging statement of “it’s possible”.

It’s possible that space aliens will reveal themselves and take control of planet earth.

It’s possible that Adam Sandler will cease being annoying.

It’s possible that Sarah Palin will say something intelligent and unrehearsed.

It’s possible that Hank Steinbrenner’s head will pop like a pricked balloon.

Under those parameters, anything is possible, but in reality, none of that stuff (apart from maybe Hank’s head exploding) are expected in the foreseeable future.

For what possible reason would the Twins—who harbor championship aspirations—trade Liriano in spring training to a rival for those hopes?

In spring….training?

Why?

And why help the Yankees?

And for Joba Chamberlain? Really?

I can see it in July if the Twins fall out of contention; then it makes sense, but now?

On the other hand, if I were advising the Yankees, I would not trade Ivan Nova for Liriano. Liriano is not a drastic upgrade from Nova in anything but name recognition/fan-media placation.

From Nightengale we received that insipid speculation and from Andrew Marchand of ESPN, we get this piece that looks like a high school essay with an assigned set of bulletpoints that had to be placed into the text to receive a passing grade. One particular gem was this:

If no trade is made, the Yankees will likely watch the Twins closely because Liriano is the type of starter they would like to slot behind CC Sabathia in their rotation.

No kidding. Thanks for that.

Marchand’s lucky I’m not grading his paper.

Is this what passes for “reporting”? Baseless speculation and nonsense?

Naturally none of the silliness discussed above precludes the Twins from turning around and trading Liriano to the Yankees, but because the reporters writing about it are treating us like dolts isn’t mutually exclusive from the Twins or Yankees doing something stupid. Both can and often do exist side-by-side.

That said, the Twins aren’t trading Liriano to the Yankees in spring training. No way.

Pam writes RE Cliff Lee and the Yankees:

I was deeply disappointed when Lee decided to go elsewhere—-a reasonable and fair reaction, IMHO. I wanted my favorite team to improve–who doesn’t? However, I moved on after a few days of mourning. I have grown very weary of the fact that the “Yankees missing out on Cliff Lee” is still an issue with some segments of the media and with the chunk of Yankees fans that embarrass me and make me say, “See? This is why people hate the Yankees, you schmuck!”

If I had a magic wand, I’d wave it and then Cliff Lee would be a Yankee. But I don’t.

***

Mike Fierman also writes RE Cliff Lee and the Yankees:

i didn’t get to the end of this article but i got the gist of it. So what if i hate him for not wanting to be a Yankee? I do hate him and wish him nothing but bad luck. I love my team and anyone who prefers to play somewhere else for less money is the object of my antipathy. I guess it’s a slow time and you needed an off day. i get it…

It is why people hate the Yankees, but it’s not due to the Yankees themselves; it’s due to the segment of the fan base who feels as if it’s a personal insult if they don’t get everything they want and any and all players bends to their will and money.

Disappointment is thoroughly understandable, but the non-stop complaining is beyond tiresome; it’s self-defeating. If I’m a prospective free agent and I see that this is the response I would get from Yankees fans for the slightest misstep and the money is similar in a different locale, it could be this one small thing that prevents the future acquisitions of marketable free agents.

As for the slow day/off day business, all you need to do is read the above pieces from Marchand and Nightengale and see the true essence of “slow day/off day”.

The post emanated from the constant social media carping whenever Lee’s name was mentioned. It’s whiny; it’s babyish; it’s bitter; and it’s stupid.