Viewer Mail 3.14.2011

Books, Management, Media, Players, Spring Training

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Chuck Greenberg and Cliff Lee:

Seeing Greenberg get the boot from the Rangers made me smile. And btw, he didn’t “fire back” at the Yankees; he was the one who fired the first shot and the Yankees responded, at which point he meekly apologized. As for Lee, I agree that his responses are honest and that his straightforward, no-nonsense attitude is part of what makes him such a great pitcher.

Tying the responses to the Lee/Greenberg comments shows an interesting dichotomy. Jane’s a (mostly) rational fan, but Greenberg’s pokes at the Yankees struck a nerve. I don’t think Greenberg was sorry; he was apologizing because of pressure from MLB itself and, obviously given his ouster, Nolan Ryan.

In the realm of rationality, I doubt most Yankee fans are going to share the grudging admiration for Lee; he’s persona non grata at Yankee Stadium because he refused the Yankees money and isn’t shy about saying why—all the more reason to believe him when he says the spitting incident in the ALCS had nothing to do with anything; clearly he had a list of reasons why he spurned the Yankees that superseded his wife being spit on. And that’s not good.

Joe writes RE the luck/intelligence argument with Johan Santana, the Red Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron:

Well “lucky” only has so much to do with it. I don’t know that they knew anything anyway. But it is obvious the risk associated with pitchers on long-term deals. The problem with that, is the Red Sox handed out long, expensive contracts to Lackey and Beckett after that. And the Yankees to CC and Burnett. And Johan at the time, was better than at least 3 of those guys. So their philosophy either changed some, or well, I don’t know.

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I am not sold on Ellsbury offensively or defensively either. But I think he can be a decent player this year. And Cameron offers much more flexibility playing in RF and DH’ing against some lefties. And he can play some center too, of course. Also, he is 37 now. So having him play sometimes, rather than everyday, should benefit him, keeping him healthy and fresh.

Of the names you mention, the only contract comparable to Santana’s is C.C. Sabathia‘s; in fact, the Red Sox got both John Lackey and Josh Beckett for close to what the Mets gave Santana in guaranteed money. Lackey’s contract is nearly identical to that of A.J. Burnett.

I still hold to the argument that neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox wanted Santana. They knew they’d have to surrender Jon Lester/Phil Hughes and then give Santana that contract to keep him. The fears regarding any hindsight-laden “expertise” have conveniently coincided with Santana’s injury.

Regarding Cameron/Ellsbury, the logic is that they have Ryan Kalish, Darnell McDonald, Josh Reddick and Daniel Nava so they can afford to move Cameron.

The same argument holds for keeping Cameron and dealing Ellsbury; in fact, they’d get more in a trade for Ellsbury than they would for Cameron and the reasons are more applicable to those you imply are in favor of keeping Cameron—age and wear; plus Ellsbury costs nearly nothing financially for the foreseeable future.

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE the Marlins:

Do you think the Marlins are contenders? Or are you just saying that they’re ahead of the Mets?

The Marlins are talented but flawed.

Their defense is atrocious and unless they take the reins off Matt Dominguez and shut their eyes, they’re relegated to either using Wes Helms or some configuration of Chris Coghlan, Omar Infante and Emilio Bonifacio at third/second base; using Coghlan would require a panicky shift of positions as they have Coghlan in center field—a position he’s never played as a professional.

I’m not a fan of the drastic bullpen alterations they’ve made.

The rotation is young a supremely talented; the lineup will score.

But do you see the mismatched puzzle pieces of the Marlins?

They have a starting rotation that, for the most part, gives up an even number of hit balls to the outfield and infield and a terrible outfield defense; they have a lineup of mashers and an inexperienced manager—Edwin Rodriguez—on a 1-year contract who, in his brief time last season, preferred small ball to going for the big inning.

It doesn’t fit.

They are contenders for the Wild Card at least, but it all has to go right. For everything to go right, there has to be continuity from the front office to the manager to the rest of the roster.

It’s not there.

Given their looming questions and the new ballpark set to open next year, I still believe that Bobby Valentine will be managing the Marlins at some point, but by the time that happens they’ll too far out of first place to be factors in the division race.

As for the Wild Card? They can hang around and hope for a hot streak to swipe it.

But I don’t see it.

And yes, the Marlins are better than the Mets.

The above bit about the Marlins is what you can expect (albeit in greater detail) based on stats and rational/deep-strike analysis from my book.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN.


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Memos From The Dark Side 3.12.2011

Free Agents, Management, Media, Players, Spring Training

The Sith thing from a few weeks ago didn’t go so well, so let’s try some brevity in the form of a memo; a memo—with bulletpoints—from the Dark Side…

  • Ryan’s slow and deadly trigger:

We should’ve seen it coming.

Nolan Ryan—the quiet, understated, conservative Texan who intimidated through actions and not words—and Chuck Greenberg—mouthpiece and minority owner for the Rangers who engaged in embarrassing and silly spitting contests with none other than Hank Steinbrenner—were due to part ways at some point.

Details of Greenberg’s departure are available here—New York Times Story.

Given Greenberg’s penchant for outspokenness and Ryan’s tight lips, the partnership wasn’t going to last. Like the gunslinger who rarely had to pull his weapon because it was known he wouldn’t hesitate to use it, Ryan was the same way in his playing days; he rarely had to fire his fastball at anyone because all were aware that he’d do it without compunction or concern as to the end result and Ryan would be the man left standing.

Greenberg is referred to as “charismatic” in the Times piece; I’m not sure how charismatic he is; many times loudness is mistaken for charisma. I like the way Greenberg was willing to fire back at the Yankees front office, but it didn’t jibe with the understated nature of Ryan and what he wants to build with the Rangers.

It’s best to part ways before something else happens.

  • Loquacious Killer:

I don’t believe Cliff Lee—AKA The Stone Cold Killer—is intentionally antagonizing the Yankees and their fans in interviews; he’s being honest.

The latest from the Phillies’ lefty is the following from this posting on MLB Trade Rumors:

In an interview today on Philadelphia’s WIP Radio, Cliff Lee said that his top priority as a free agent was to join the team with the best chance of winning.  After the Phillies, his next choices were the Rangers and the Yankees, in that order.  New York was the third choice since, Lee says, I felt like with what the Red Sox had done and it seems like some of the Yankee guys are getting older, but I liked the Rangers.”

Yankees fans and presumably members of the front office are going to lash out at Lee for his continued digs at the spurned pursuers, but I’m taking a different tack.

What would be said had Lee signed with the Yankees and made comments like those above?

Would they be seen as arrogant, obnoxious and unnecessary?

Or would they be taken as one who’s invested in Yankees “lore”; one who wanted to be part of a perennial winner with a “guaranteed” shot at a championship every year and isn’t afraid to express it?

If there wasn’t enough ammunition, whining and bitterness being directed at Lee for his decision before, there’s more now; he’s taking his persona as a cold-blooded and vicious competitor off the field by telling the truth as he sees it.

If he was wearing pinstripes, it would increase the inherent smugness of being a Yankee; since he’s a Phillie, he’s ratcheting up the rhetoric against him.

Here’s a flash: he doesn’t care.

The same attributes that made him such an object of the Yankees desires and have created the post-season destroyer have extended to his willingness to answer direct questions without political correctness and prepared cliches.

He’s a rare breed.

In fact, I think he’s getting off on it.

  • My book:

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon.


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Viewer Mail 1.31.2011

Hot Stove

Joe writes RE Milton Bradley:

No one hits like Albert Pujols. I am sure they would put up with Milton Teixeira though :)


Jeff at Red State Blue State also writes about Milton Bradley:

Hell, if the dude hit like Wilson Betemit they’d— wait, nevermind, the dude does hit like Wilson Betemit. But he’s making more cash than Wilson could ever dream about.

The M’s have become laughable. It’s sad really.

He was a terrific risk for the Mariners a year ago since, for no other reason, it got Carlos Silva‘s contract out of town; Silva was owned $25 million guaranteed; Bradley $21 million.

Bradley had an MVP-quality year in 2008 with the Rangers and whether you chalk up a large portion of it to playing in Texas and their hitter-friendly ballpark, he was good enough on the road for the Cubs to expect production—2008 splits link.

Feeling they could control him wasn’t far-fetched since he behaved in Texas. Lou Piniella had the reputation that suggested he’d handle a hothead like Bradley because Piniella himself is a hothead. Coming off their failed run in 2008, the Cubs needed a bat the type which Bradley was in 2008 for the Rangers.

On the field his numbers with the Cubs were somewhat respectable—albeit not in the stratosphere they were in 2008 with the Rangers. But there were the repeated incidents that hover over Bradley like a vulture.

In retrospect, the Mariners got rid of a pitcher, Silva, who was a disaster for them and saved $4 million on the contracts; but Bradley was a terror off the field—again—and he didn’t hit.

Taken by itself, this latest incident is unresolved and wouldn’t be enough to dump Bradley and eat the remaining $12 million on his deal. But it’s not an isolated incident; it’s an endless pattern in the history of Milton Bradley.

Add in that the Mariners were a dysfunctional, poorly behaved nightmare on and off the field last season and the question has to be asked: When is enough is going to be enough?

New manager Eric Wedge has a lot of work in front of him straightening out the on-field product and heading off the disciplinary issues that doomed Don Wakamatsu; he managed Bradley in Cleveland and they didn’t get along there either; do the Mariners really want to put Wedge in this situation where it’s a matter of when, not if, Bradley does something else? It could be arguing with an umpire; fighting with a teammate; or something worse off the field.

It’s interesting that you mention Wilson Betemit, Jeff—Betemit was much better than Bradley last season and not only in the context of the year Bradley had. Betemit had 13 homers in 315 plate appearances; batted .297 and had a .378 OBP and the Royals had him on a minor league contract!!

There is no reward to having Bradley on the team. Even if he comes back and plays well—and he’s been written off before and come back—what’s the trade-off? The Mariners have no shot at contention and a message needs to be sent to the rest of the team that they’re not going to tolerate misanthropic behavior. His mere presence is more of a negative than eating the money would be and I wouldn’t let him anywhere near spring training.

Mike Fierman writes RE my Saturday posting on the Mets and Bernie Madoff:

One of your best- I don’t even think the LaRussa/Ankiel comparison was needed.

I’m not one to shy away from compliments!

You may be right about the Tony La Russa/Rick Ankiel analogy, but I wanted to get something on-field and baseball-related in there to make clear how insane it is that the red flags of Madoff’s operation were missed by some very smart people.

In this NY Daily News story, Fred Wilpon and family are said to be “devastated” by the lawsuit and implication that they knew what was going on.

Naturally we don’t know what they knew and didn’t know.

A kind and generous man, I do not think that Wilpon “knew” what Madoff was doing; but because he wasn’t paying close attention to the preposterous nature of the consistent gains regardless of economic times, he’s not absolved.

As I said on Saturday, what was he going to do if he did find out about it? He could’ve pulled his money out and blown the whistle, but sometimes it’s just easier to feign ignorance when the evidence of a “too good to be true” nature is everywhere.

Savvy people can sense when something in their realm of expertise is off; someone close to Fred Wilpon had to have sensed something. They had to have.

Norm writes RE the Mets and Madoff:

The funniest thing about the Madoff-Wilpon story has had to be Mike Francesa’s take on it. He went from months of berating callers who were trying to explain how the Wilpons lost tons to a complete about-face yesterday without anything close to a ‘whoops’ or a ‘my bad’.

Apologize?

Acknowledge being wrong?

Mike….Francesa?

Are you kidding?

I don’t have an issue with saying the words, “I don’t know” when I don’t know. But Francesa, so immersed in his own ego that he can alter any event into him having a Nostradamus-like foresight as to its outcome—whether he said it publicly or not—won’t ever say those credit-accumulating words: “I…was…wrong.”

It’s not hard; nor is it an admission of weakness to not know everything.

On a whole other level, if he were to admit to having not known the scope of the Wilpon financial hit, his self-proclaimed image of an insider would disappear. The Wilpons were in financial trouble and no one told Mike Francesa about it?

If he didn’t get wind of the story from a credible source off-air, then it couldn’t be true. In his mind anyway.

Come on, Norm. This is a guy who had his football picks altered to be more accurate than they were; were you expecting any utterance of contrition for being wrong about this? NEVER!!!!

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Randy Levine and Chuck Greenberg bickering over Cliff Lee:

I care about what Levine said to Greenberg. I think other Yankee fans care too. And the consensus is – Good for Levine! Greenberg has been sniping at the Yankees and their fans since Mrs. Lee whined about having beer dumped on her at Yankee Stadium. He was apparently made to apologize by MLB. But it continues. I think Levine was trying to say, “Enough already. Just worry about your own team.”

I think they both need to keep quiet.

Levine could’ve turned around and said exactly that. “Worry about your own team.” But he didn’t.

The “welfare “stuff was ridiculous.

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats has two comments; first RE Levine vs Greenberg:

From what I understand, Greenberg didn’t direct his comment about Lee at anyone in the Yankee organization. He was asked a question by a fan at the local Ranger Fan Fest and he gave his [purely speculative] opinion.

He wasn’t sniping at anyone, as far as I can tell. Somebody seems to be a little overly sensitive [speaking about the Yankee front office, not Ms. Heller above].

I’m channeling my inner Don King when I suggest a fight between Levine and Greenberg under the promotional title: Greenberg vs Levine—Two Jews Slap-Fighting.

And RE the Mariners:

As far as the Mariners go, I feel bad for those poor fans up in the Pacific Northwest. I am a Rangers fan and I grew up hating [but respecting] Griffey Jr. and his organization.

Still, to see them fall so far in recent years, after their one decent stretch in the ’90s, leaves me with a fair amount of sympathy.

They need to rebuild. They need to do what the Rangers did just 4 years ago and tell their fans “Please stick with us, we won’t be this terrible forever. We’re turning this ship around.”

Part of that process would probably involve letting their GM go, as he seems both dazed and confused most of the time. Then you sell off the pieces you don’t absolutely need and get younger.

Off the top of my head, I would hold onto King Felix, Gutierrez, and Ichiro. I suppose you also give Justin Smoak an opportunity to prove himself [I never understood why fans around here were so excited about the guy or why the M’s seemed just as excited].

After that, restock your system and put a few warm bodies on the field until fresh talent comes up.

I suppose all of that sounds easier than it is, but at least it’s a plan. Right now they just seem to be wandering in the dark, hoping some natural disaster wipes out the rest of the American League or something.

Jack Zduriencik is a very intelligent baseball man who made a lot of moves to slash money, import and dispatch players.

His three biggest downfalls stem from the appellation of “genius”—which wasn’t his fault; the over-aggressiveness to get better fast rather than let the team grow organically with a cautious approach; and the shunning of responsibility and personal conduct exemplified in the blame game firing of Wakamatsu; and the bad actors brought into the organization.

I’d give Zduriencik a pass for the player moves that failed; but the lack of discipline in the organization is inexcusable.

I would not move Felix Hernandez; I’d keep an open mind on Franklin Gutierrez but wouldn’t be inclined to deal him.

I’m not a fan of Ichiro Suzuki; I think he’s a losing player who senses which way the wind is blowing in terms of club fortunes and goes for stats once the season is lost; he’s overpaid and underproductive. Last season, I got into a monthlong series of debates about Ichiro. I insist he could hit for more power if he decided to do so but would prefer to accumulate his gaudy hit totals with singles to left field.

That’s neither here nor there.

Apart from these players, if you look up and down the Mariners roster, there’s a limited number of players other teams would: A) want; or B) give up anything of significance to get.

We won’t know about the Zduriencik drafts for some time and he may not be there to reap their rewards, if any.

Pat Gillick lives in Seattle. And the Hall of Famer hasn’t officially retired.

I hope I’m not being cryptic.

Sunday Lightning 1.30.2011

Hot Stove
  • Theater of the idiotic:

The carping between the Yankees and Rangers is like one of those arguments of indefinable origin that escalates without anyone remembering how it started in the first place.

Randy Levine with the Yankees and Chuck Greenberg with the Rangers seemingly can’t stop themselves from taking shots concerning Cliff Lee—whom they both failed to sign.

The latest is Greenberg’s assertion that the Rangers stayed in the Lee sweepstakes long enough to prevent the Yankees from nabbing him early in Lee’s free agency jaunt, allowing the Phillies time to cobble a suitable offer to swoop in and get him.

Levine responded with the following:

“I think Chuck is delusional,” Levine told ESPNewYork.com. “He has been running the Rangers for a few minutes and seems to believe he’s mastered what everyone else is thinking. I think he should let Cliff Lee speak for himself. I’ll be impressed when he demonstrates he can keep the Rangers off welfare. What I mean is make them not be a revenue-sharing recipient for three years in a row, without taking financing from baseball or advance money from television networks. Then I’ll be impressed.”

You can read the entire ESPN column here.

Apart from the desire to get the last word in, what’s the point in all of this?

Why is Levine even responding to an assertion from Greenberg that has no basis in any statement anyone from the Lee camp has made? From what I understood, the Phillies were always lurking around Lee and had told his agent that before signing anything to please come back to them and give them a chance to make an offer.

What difference does it make anyway? The Yankees are smarting from the hit they’ve taken as they aura of financial invincibility was damaged not by any economic downturn, but by a player choosing to go elsewhere for less money.

As for the revenue sharing comment, how is that Levine’s business? It’s a bullying tactic from one who believes they’re supporting another by saying, “I’m paying you, therefore I own a part of you; so you do what I say and shut up.”

It’s authoritarian from a entity that is not an authority.

Worse, it actually sounds like something Lenny Dykstra would say.

When Dykstra talks about one of his many familial financial squabbles, his argument is that because his relatives worked for him in running his car wash franchises, that he—Lenny—“bought” their houses.

How that makes sense is up to you to judge.

Does Randy Levine feel comfortable with using logic similar to that of Lenny Dykstra?!?

Because the Rangers spend less money on players and the Yankees more, the rules of baseball dictate that the Rangers get money from the higher spending teams; that has nothing to do with Levine—who’s not an owner of the Yankees—and is specious reasoning at its best; at worst it’s plain stupid.

Regarding the idea that Lee should “speak for himself”, why should he comment? He’s being dragged in the middle of a custody fight between two parties who haven’t the right to claim he belongs to them in any capacity after the fact. Lee decided to go to the Phillies; the Yankees and Rangers are still bickering over the remnants of a player who is not a member of either organization and decided to go to the other league.

Did the Rangers offer hold things up as Greenberg claims? Who knows? More importantly, who cares?

  • Aaahhh!! My eyes!!!!

Is this somehow related to Billy Beane‘s lost Midas touch?

Are they trying to regain his Moneyball aura of infallibility with the new golden uniforms they’re going to wear?

If nothing else the A’s new uniforms will distract opposing hitters because they’re so awful, but I’m wondering who was in charge of: A) designing them; and B) approving them.

They’re hideous and if this is Beane’s doing—if he touched the uniforms and they turned this color—then he should stop touching things. Immediately.

  • Perhaps I can find new ways to motivate them:

The above line is from Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi and it implies pretty much what you think it implies.

Take this for what it’s worth, but Buster Olney said the following on Twitter in reference to the Athletics pursuit of Mariner infielder Chone Figgins:

The Figgins conversations with Oakland/Seattle happened three weeks ago. Seattle not motivated to move him; it was never close to happening.

“Not motivated to move him”?

Really?

Of course we don’t know what the A’s offered for Figgins; what the financial deal would’ve been; what the Mariners were willing to do, but “not motivated to move him”?

How could they not be motivated to move him?

Figgins was awful last year; the Mariners are going to be terrible; he’s making a lot of money; he acted like a baby as the Mariners season crashed around him and nearly got into a fistfight with then manager Don Wakamatsu over lack of hustle.

With the Mariners current circumstances—in a full-blown rebuild and mired in a tough division—why wouldn’t they be “motivated” to move Figgins?

To give Figgins the benefit of the doubt last season, you can say that the way the Mariners played and behaved—after years of Figgins being in a controlled and organized atmosphere of the Angels—must’ve come as some sort of a culture shock; the tone around the club was poisonous. He played better in the second half of the season and I do think he’ll have a normal year in 2011—.290 average; .370 on base; 40+ stolen bases; good defense back at third base; I also think Eric Wedge’s presence in the manager’s office will prevent some of the nonsense that went on last year; but “not motivated”?

Why?

There are few players on the Mariners roster for whom it makes sense to say they’re not listening to offers. Felix Hernandez and Franklin Gutierrez are two. Other than that, why not listen? Why not see what they can get back? And why not be aggressive in bringing in pieces that are cheaper and more pliable to a long-term future of good play and good behavior?

This comes on the heels of the decision to keep Milton Bradley and the earlier discussions involving David Aardsma (before he needed hip labrum surgery) that they wanted an “impact bat” for him.

“Not motivated”? An “impact bat”?

They need a reality check in Seattle. Soon.

I’ll respond to mail/comments tomorrow.