The Yankees’ $189 Million Payroll In 2014 Is Going To Be A Reality

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As Mike Francesa, Joel Sherman and Peter Gammons continue the trend that was begun earlier in the year by Jeff Passan and try to goad the Yankees into abandoning their pledge to get payroll below $189 million for 2014, organizational bad cop Randy Levine says straight out that the team isn’t going to bid against themselves for Robinson Cano.

It should be completely clear by now that, yes, the Yankees are truly intent on getting they payroll below that threshold no matter what. If anything, a decision to abandon that goal would be seen with justified anger amongst Yankees fans and media apologists because the question could be asked as to why they even tried to put up the pretense if they had no intention to follow through with it.

The fact that the Yankees have played well and stayed in contention in spite of their self-imposed financial constraints, rampant injuries and father time is not connected to the way they’ve run the team this season. If they abandon the $189 million mandate, fans can demand an explanation as to why penny-pinching likely cost themselves a 2013 playoff spot.

They’re getting under the number. Period.

As for 2014 and Cano, Levine doesn’t do or say anything without the Steinbrenners knowing about it and tacitly approving of it. Knowing that he’s not particularly well-liked anyway, it’s an easy role for Levine to play the heavy and say things that will stir up rage in the media and fanbase, but will in fact be logical and factual. Cano is in a bad position in spite of his pending free agency because he doesn’t have any clear destinations apart from the Yankees; he’s 31 and the team that signs him will be paying him massive money until he’s 40; he doesn’t have Alex Rodriguez’s money-hungry ruthlessness and willingness to go wherever the most money is; and the Yankees are taking a more reasonable and long-term approach to spending.

With it all but guaranteed that the club is going to get under $189 million at all costs, the Yankees have to decide where they’re heading in 2014. They’re going to have to get a player who can play shortstop every day if need be to account for the questions swirling around Derek Jeter. Right now, it appears as if they’ll keep Brendan Ryan – a player who is superlative defensively, will be happy to be on the team and won’t complain if he’s not playing every day in the unlikely event that Jeter is deemed able to play shortstop regularly. They could hope that A-Rod is suspended and move Jeter to third. If he resists that decision, all he’ll succeed in doing is making himself look like he’s more interested in himself and being seen as the Yankees’ shortstop forever and ever like something out of The Shining no matter how much his lack of range damages the club.

There’s little they can do in terms of the free agent market. Re-signing Cano and backloading the deal will serve to keep the team’s 2014 payroll within reason. Compared to other players who’ve gotten $200+ million, Cano is as good a hitter and defender as they are. They may be concerned about his lax attitude infecting his work ethic and leading to complacency and weight gain, but for at least the first five years of his deal, he’ll be able to hit. He won’t leave. The only unknown is how long he’ll stay and for how much.

How many improvements can they truly expect to make amid the financial constraints and lack of marketable prospects in their system? Free agents are going to go elsewhere to get paid and won’t be swayed by the “Yankee history” if there’s not a giant check full of zeroes accompanying the lavish press conference and tiresome narratives. They don’t have big league ready prospects coming, Mariano Rivera is retiring, Andy Pettitte is likely to retire, no one knows what – if anything – they’ll get from Jeter, A-Rod might be suspended and their starting pitching is weak.

From the winter on, the Yankees have to decide if they’re going to do the Jeter farewell tour, let Michael Pineda, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances learn on the fly in the majors and hope for the best, or do what they did this year and keep bringing in aging veterans thinking that they’ll mix and match their way into contention.

Levine is being the front office spokesman saying what the Steinbrenners want him to say because they don’t want to have to overpay to keep Cano. The media is trying to coax the Yankees away from the $189 million mandate because the team isn’t particularly interesting when they’re not a case study for excess. Unfortunately for them, it’s happening and the plan to do it hasn’t changed one ounce since they made it their stated goal to get the payroll down. Francesa, Sherman, Passan, Gammons and fan anger isn’t going to alter it. They’ve come this far. They might as well see it through and take the beating that is almost certainly on the way.




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Keys to 2013: Seattle Mariners

Award Winners, Ballparks, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, History, Management, Media, Players, Spring Training, Stats

Starting Pitching Key: Felix Hernandez

On the surface, it appears that the Mariners have taken steps not to be so reliant on Hernandez’s greatness by bolstering the offense. In reality, though, since they brought the fences in at Safeco Field and their lesser pitchers are likely to suffer, they’ll need Hernandez to be as good or better than he’s been in recent years. In addition, GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge have their jobs riding on this season. If the Mariners don’t show legitimate improvement, there’s likely to be a new regime in Seattle. Hernandez’s medical exam for his new contract made public possible future issues with his elbow. If Hernandez is diminished in any way due to the new park dimensions, an injury or just bad luck, the Mariners 2013 season is shot.

Relief Pitching Key: Tom Wilhelmsen

Wilhelmsen is an interesting story as he was out of baseball and working as a bartender before receiving a tryout with the Mariners based on Zduriencik having been part of the Brewers’ front office that drafted him in the first place.

With a fastball that reaches the upper 90s and a slow curve, Wilhelmsen strikes out plenty of hitters and in a strange way, the time away from the game is probably going to help him stay healthy. The Mariners have a mandate to contend this season and they need quality work from their closer to do it.

Offensive Key: Justin Smoak

Smoak murdered the ball in spring training, for what that’s worth. Since he was acquired as one of the key parts of the trade of Cliff Lee to the Rangers in 2010, he hasn’t hit much the Mariners at all. That said, many of his problems could have stemmed from the spacious home ballpark. He hit 19 homers in 2012 with 15 of them on the road. Perhaps the alterations and reduce the intimidation factor of the home park and spur him to return to the high on-base, switch hitting bat with pop the Mariners thought they were getting.

Defensive Key: Brendan Ryan

Ryan is in the lineup for his defense and run prevention. It seemed in years past that the Mariners were all run prevention and no runs, probably because they were all run prevention and no runs. With the smaller park, the Mariners have to keep runners off the bases and prevent big innings with the higher run totals that will be accumulated at home. Ryan, at shortstop, is the center of the diamond and the center of that blueprint.

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American League West—Buy, Sell or Stand Pat?

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We can tick Edwin Encarnacion off the board of potentially available players as the Blue Jays signed him to a 3-year, $29 million extension. I’ll discuss that in an upcoming post. Now let’s have a look at the AL West and which teams should buy, sell or stand pat and what they should be looking for.

Texas Rangers

They’re heavy buyers.

I’m not discussing any Cole Hamels rumors from now on. He’s going to be the hot topic and used as an easy “news” story designed to garner webhits. But the Rangers are absolutely going to pursue him and will make the decisive move to get a starting pitcher from somewhere. Roy Oswalt’s had two bad starts and two good starts; Neftali Feliz is on the 60-day disabled list. It’s no wonder they’re pursuing Hamels, Zack Greinke and will undoubtedly be in on Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and anyone else who’s available or not available like Felix Hernandez.

The Rangers will get a starting pitcher.

They’ll also try to bolster their bullpen with an extra arm or two like Grant Balfour, Jose Mijares or Joe Thatcher.

Los Angeles Angels

Talk of another starting pitcher, on the surface, sounds like overkill. But it was put logically recently (I’m not sure where I read it) that since Dan Haren and Ervin Santana have club options at the end of the season and neither have pitched very well, they’ll have the money free to go after Hamels or Greinke. The Angels like pitching.

If I had to guess now what they’re going to do at the end of the season, they’ll decline Santana’s option and exercise Haren’s if he’s healthy.

Since they’re 8th in the American League in runs scored, the on-the-surface suggestion would be that they’ll need a bat. But the early season horrible hitting cost coach Mickey Hatcher his job and they began to score once Mike Trout was recalled and Vernon Wells got hurt. The Wells situation will have to be resolved when he returns from the disabled list. I would think the last and possibly only resort is to eat the $42+ million remaining on his contract and dump him.

They could use a lefty specialist like Mijares or Thatcher and if the Brewers make Francisco Rodriguez available, a reunion with his former team would be a positive for both sides.

Oakland Athletics

Who would’ve thought the A’s could legitimately consider being buyers at mid-season? Certainly not me. Credit goes to Billy Beane for getting solid youngsters from the Diamondbacks and Nationals in off-season trades. Yoenis Cespedes is another matter since he’s supremely talented and injury-prone.

They’re not going to buy and they’re not going to clear the decks of everything from the roster to the light fixtures to the sinks.

Balfour will be in demand; perhaps they can get a couple of minor leaguers for a team that needs a back-end starter in Bartolo Colon (how about the Mets?). I’d probably find a taker for Daric Barton. It’s not going to happen for him with the A’s and he does have some attributes.

Seattle Mariners

According to Geoff Baker in The Seattle Times, “…the Mariners do not appear to be gearing any efforts towards contention before 2015.”

Jeez.

Baker’s column was in reference to the suggestion that they pursue Justin Upton, but if they have no intention of contending until 2015 they not only shouldn’t buy, but they should look to trade Hernandez. What good is going to do them if they’re not going to contend for another two years?

Whether it’s ownership interfering with GM Jack Zduriencik or not, it can’t be ignored that the Mariners’ offense is historically awful with four regular players batting .203 or below and all four—Brendan Ryan, Miguel Olivo, Justin Smoak and Chone Figgins—were brought in by Zduriencik.

2015? The Mariners have a loyal fanbase, money to spend, a horse at the top of the rotation and young pitching on the way.

If this is true, then they should sell any player making significant money and that includes King Felix. As it is, they’ll look to move Brandon League and listen on Jason Vargas. Anyone want Figgins? I thought not.

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Stat Guy Strong Arm

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Dave Cameron of USS Mariner and Fangraphs provides this prescription to begin fixing the Mariners woes for 2012.

Here’s the clip from the above link:

Transactions

Trade RHP Michael Pineda, RHP Brandon League, OF Greg Halman, 3B Chone Figgins (with Seattle absorbing $16 of remaining $17 million on Figgins’ contract), and SS Carlos Triunfel to Cincinnati for 1B Joey Votto and C Yasmani Grandal.

Trade 1B Mike Carp to Milwaukee for 3B Casey McGehee and RHP Marco Estrada.

Trade OF Michael Saunders and RHP Dan Cortes to Florida for RHP Chris Volstad.

Trade LHP Cesar Jimenez to New York for OF Angel Pagan.

Sign Chris Snyder to a 1 year, $3 million contract.

Sign Erik Bedard to a 1 year, $4 million contract.

Sign Jamie Moyer to a 1 year, $500,000 contract.

That’s only part one; I can’t wait for part two. Maybe there he’ll send Miguel Olivo and Brendan Ryan to the Yankees for Jesus Montero.

This thinking epitomizes what one William Lamar Beane—aka Billy Beane—said to Tom Verducci in one of the “it’s not Billy’s fault” pieces that came out to defend Beane (in advance of the homage known as Moneyball, THE MOVIE) for putting together a bad Athletics team; a team that Verducci himself picked to win the AL West before the season.

Beane’s argument was that the new breed of GMs have burst into baseball and are doing essentially what Cameron is doing; they’re saying “here’s what we’ll give you and if you’re smart, you’ll take it” in a Luca Brasi (or Frank Wren) sort of way.

Short of kidnapping his family or putting a gun to his head, I don’t know what Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik could do to Reds GM Walt Jocketty to get him to accept the above package for Votto.

Though I see Tommy John in his future, Pineda’s very good; League is a guy you can find very cheaply on the market; Halman strikes out too much, doesn’t walk and from his numbers is a bad outfielder; Triunfel hasn’t shown he can hit in the minors; and you can have Chone Figgins and we’ll pay him. For that, you can give us a top catching prospect and one of the best hitters in baseball. We all done? Okay. Good.

The other deals are just as delusional.

What is this obsession with Erik Bedard and the Mariners? Haven’t they had enough?

Moyer? Again? He’s had a wonderful career, but he’s almost 50. Move on.

You want Pagan? He’s yours.

Why the Marlins would take Cortes and Saunders at all, least of all for Volstad, is unclear and unexplained.

Without getting into a long-winded “my way’s better” critique of Cameron’s plan, how about—before anything else—Zduriencik walking into ownership on hands and knees and begging to let him get rid of Ichiro Suzuki? Signing Josh Willingham? Pursuing Jose Reyes or Prince Fielder? Making a major bid for Yu Darvish? Jim Thome? David Ortiz?

Wouldn’t these be preferable options than making a lunatic proposal for Votto that would be rejected?

These deals are typical of the concept that outsiders with a forum and a stat sheet envision as the simplicity as to how deals are made. We call you, you accept and we’re done.

Much like the same people have the audacity to say—in a grudging tribute to Tony LaRussa on the day of his retirement and immediately after he wins a World Series—“I didn’t always agree with his strategies, but…” they have this vision of innate knowledge that doesn’t exist; of what they’d do.

They cling.

They cling to Moneyball being “real”; cling to the likes of Charlie Haeger, R.J. Swindle and Dale Thayer; and cling to a so-called revolution that was self-serving from the start.

It’s fine to print an off-season prescription of a scenario that could only exist in Tolkien, but this is reality; you’re not getting Votto for that package even if you do put a gun to Jocketty’s head and/or kidnap his family.

Jocketty would say, “kill me first”.

And I would say that too.

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Team Turmoil

Books, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

By now you’re probably aware of the Jack WilsonEric Wedge disagreement over Wilson leaving last Wednesday’s game after making two errors at second base—Seattle PI Blog.

Most observers have taken stood squarely behind Mariners new manager, Wedge. I also agree with Wedge’s anger, but have to give some perspective as to Wilson’s position—literally and figuratively—in the matter.

While it’s not as egregious as it was last year, this Mariners early season distraction is a sign of still simmering issues in the clubhouse. The front office flung manager Don Wakamatsu overboard as the team’s promising season was a disaster on the field and a humiliation off. Wedge was hired because he’s more of a known quantity and fearless disciplinarian who isn’t going to tolerate similar nonsense as that which undermined Wakamatsu’s credibility and, in part, cost him his job.

But here’s a legitimate defense of Wilson: he’s a shortstop and not a second baseman; he’s a free agent at the end of the year; and it’s not very fair of the Mariners to do this to him at this point in his career.

Learning a new position on the fly in the final year of his contract is difficult on many levels—financial and practical; clearly he’s going to have trepidation about the shift and won’t be immediately comfortable. We’ve all had moments of “forget this, I’m leaving”; it just so happens that Wilson did it on a major league baseball diamond and had to answer a load of questions about it after contradicting his manager’s statement as to why.

It was a mistake and a lack of communication, but Wilson’s point-of-view isn’t out of order.

Wilson may statistically be seen as inferior defensively to Brendan Ryan at shortstop (and it’s highly debatable), but shouldn’t Wilson—as the returning veteran—have gotten priority to where he plays independent of stats?

Ryan can play second base as well. It’s not as if they imported Ozzie Smith to play shortstop; we’re talking about Brendan Ryan.

Wilson had never played second base professionally before this season and Ryan has. Is it fair to expect Wilson to be able to handle it without missing a beat? Without mistakes and frustration? Even a little fear?

Tsuyoshi Nishioka of the Twins just had his fibula broken by Nick Swisher on a clean play in which Swisher was breaking up a double play. It’s one of the hazards of playing second base and overcoming those mental hurdles without adequate preparation or experience takes time.

Regardless of the new, no-nonsense manager in the Mariners dugout, this provokes greater outside wonderment at the club hierarchy and why they’re so fond of making these questionable changes for negligible reasons. Last year it was the moving of an elite defensive third baseman, Chone Figgins to second base and Jose Lopez to third; this year it’s Wilson to second to make room for Ryan.

It seems that the Mariners are shifting players around based on numbers without accounting for the human being who’s asked to do something he’s unsure of and possibly lacking competency in doing.

As said earlier, Wilson’s a free agent at the end of the year and at age 34 with injury issues and poor offense, his options aren’t going to be great to begin with; it’s probably his last chance at a decent, long-term deal. The last things he needs are an injury or terrible year playing second base instead of shortstop.

As for Ryan, this is the second time this young season he’s been discussed in a bizarre context and neither have been his fault. First there was the NY Times column about which I wrote a posting on March 27th where the Cardinals winning record in games with Ryan in the lineup last season were somehow connected (banished logic included); now he’s caught in the crossfire of a teammate being usurped.

For a limited in talent, journeyman player, Ryan’s getting a lot of—too much—attention and now it’s affecting the whole Mariners team; a team that didn’t need controversy after a disastrous 2010 and hired the new manager specifically to get past all of that.

Instead of turning the page, the Mariners have picked up where they left off. And it’s not good.

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Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s 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.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

If anyone would like to purchase an autographed copy, leave a comment; Email me; contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

I’ve started a Facebook fan page. Like it today.

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Viewer Mail 3.29.2011

Books, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Spring Training

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett:

I don’t think Hughes is the #3 pitcher because he’s being coddled in terms of pitch count. I think the choice was all about A.J. and giving him confidence by not demoting him to #3.

It’s a fair point.

But we both know Hughes is going to be watched this year and they really can’t afford to baby him with the rotation in the state its in. I hold steady with wondering if Joe Girardi is going to take the bullpen-based strategy to its logical conclusion and overuse his relievers. And now with Pedro Feliciano hurt they’re more stretched. Plus Rafael Soriano isn’t assimilating to the culture all that well and if anyone’s being coddled, it’s him.

They’ve got issues and don’t fall into the trap of, “oh, the Yankees will just make a trade at mid-season”. It’s not that simple anymore.

Franklin Rabon at As If I’m Really Conscious writes RE Barry Bonds and perjury:

I will say one thing about the various perjury cases involved with steroids. The government takes perjury very seriously, regardless of what the subject matter is. I think the sort of error that a lot of us are making when looking at these trials, as farcical as they may seem, is looking at them from a steroids/baseball angle. That really doesn’t have much to do at all with why these cases are being brought. If you want to point the finger at the government interjecting itself, it was the hearings on steroids in the first place. Once you lie to the government under oath, the die is cast.

Barry Bonds may well be acquitted of perjury, despite the fact that it’s relatively obvious that he did indeed lie under oath, but do you think others in a similar situation will be a bit more wary of lying under oath? You bet.

Another fair point and Franklin’s a lawyer.

The Kimberly Bell testimony turned out to be far more damaging than was initially suggested it would be; if Bonds really confessed to using steroids, then it comes down to if the jury believes Bell—NY Times Story.

But the suggestion that he couldn’t perform sexually isn’t within the confines of steroid side-effects I’m familiar with and I have read up on the subject from the likes of the late bodybuilding guru Dan Duchaine.

It’s the exact opposite in fact. If they’re going by the typical steroid factoids, then it has to be allowed that Bell wasn’t familiar with the increased libido that’s another hallmark of steroid/HGH use.

I understand that they’re using Bonds as an example, but given some of the crimes people who lie are charged with I’ve never been of the mind that lying under oath is going to be a line they wouldn’t cross. For people who might lie to protect someone, yes, this might be a deterrent.

I still can’t get past the “no turning back now” concept that the government feels they’d lose face—win or lose the trial—if they cut a deal or didn’t try as hard as possible to convict him. They know he’s not going to do hard, if any, time.

We’ll have a result soon enough.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Brendan Ryan and “WINNING”!

To think the Cardinals success or lack thereof was dependent upon Brendan Ryan is… asinine. Seriously.

Jeff is referring to my posting from Sunday afternoon and the NY Times article equating winning games with….something other than reality.

You can twist that into anything!! Literally. Did they have Jobu—the good luck charm from Major League? How about the clubhouse man? Did he have something to do with it?

It’s like the woman who sat behind home plate during the 1986 World Series rotating her arms—did that “distract” Calvin Schiraldi, Bob Stanley and Bill Buckner and play a part in the Mets comeback victory?

It’s ludicrous.

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I’ll be a guest on two podcasts tomorrow. In the afternoon, I’ll be on with Sal at SportsFanBuzz; in the evening with Mike on NYBaseballDigest.

****

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s 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.

Now it’s also out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.


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Welcome To The Charlie Sheen Wing Of Analysts

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Of course, I’m referring to “WINNING!!”

In today’s NY Times, Mike Tully writes in the Keeping Score feature that To Create Winner, You Have to Find the Winners.

Examples cited to “prove” his point are David Eckstein‘s overachievement and two championship rings; records of players who—in any permutation—have very little to do with their teams winning or losing; and Carlos Beltran‘s return to the Mets lineup last season coinciding with their slide from contention to mediocrity and embarrassment.

How does one quantify this?

It’s not even an old-school, antiquated notion that can be picked apart by new metrics; it’s simple baseless nonsense.

Although it’s rife with assertions that are akin to a shooting gallery to pick off one-by-one, the best example of the bizarre leaps of logic in the piece is the following about Brendan Ryan:

St. Louis traded shortstop Brendan Ryan to Seattle in the off-season after his career-worst .223 batting average. The Cardinals were 17 games over .500 with Ryan, seven games under without him.

So?

The 17 games over .500/7 games under stuff is meaningless without full context. Did Tully look at the games in which Ryan played and how the pitchers pitched? Whether Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday homered or drove in multiple runs? If the opposing club had a bad day in one way or another?

It’s as if he credited Ryan for his attendance though Ryan—with his .223 average, no power, little speed, no on base skills at the plate and his very good defense—had that much of an influence on the “winning” when he played and the losses when he didn’t.

The Cardinals defense at shortstop was markedly worse when Ryan wasn’t playing and his primary replacements—Felipe Lopez and Tyler Greene—were; but you can’t judge whether the diminished defense had to do with the poorer record without tearing the whole thing apart.

That’s the point.

Tully leaves out a warehouse full of accessible information to bolster a non-existent case that cannot be bolstered without doing some actual research beyond the won/lost record.

Some people who rely on stats are bad enough with their condescension and self-important beliefs that since they can calculate a formula they’re automatic “experts” who can tell Tony La Russa how to run his team; but those on the other side (the radical opposing wing led by Murray Chass and others) is, in a way, worse!

It’s as if those still resistant to any kind of statistical analysis are more invested in maintaining their position than using new metrics to increase their understanding; slow to evolve because even the tiniest utilization of a new and potentially valuable tool is perceived as an admission of weakness.

We see this in Mike Francesa who’s always about 3-5 years behind everyone else, yet never admits the alteration in what he calls “expertise”. I haven’t heard him reference the “stat” he and his former partner Chris Russo used called “runs created” in which they’d add up the homers, RBI and runs scored of a hitter; this was ignorant of the fact that, yeah, a hitter gets an RBI and a run every time he hits a homer—it’s a bit redundant.

No, it’s a lot redundant.

I’m no stat guy, but I use stats in their proper place to try and come to a consensus in my own mind as to what I think is going to happen; how teams would best be served in acquiring and subtracting players among other maneuvers on and off the field.

The piece printed in today’s Times is a colossal waste of energy that has to be addressed because there are going to be a substantial number of people who want to believe it and will use it as “proof”.

As for Brendan Ryan, let’s see how his reputation as a “winner” plays out in Seattle with the Mariners, a team destined to lose 95 games—a number of games they’d lose with or without Ryan.

Why?

Because the Mariners are terrible and Ryan is a fringe big leaguer who benefited by playing for the Cardinals.

At least Charlie Sheen has a viable excuse for his delusions: he’s a drug addict!!

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s 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.

Now it’s also out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.


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