The Giants Do It Old School

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With the tiered playoff system, single game play-ins, and short series, two World Series titles in three years counts as a dynasty in today’s game. By that metric, the San Francisco Giants are a new-age dynasty. That they accomplished this with decidedly old-school principles in the era of stat-based dominance and condescension, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Michael Lewis—the chronicler of the paragon of stat-based theories of Billy Beane in Moneyball—step over Beane and saunter over to Giants’ GM Brian Sabean and declare that he always knew there were alternate methods to success in baseball, but simply forgot to say it; that Moneyball was about more than just numbers and Ivy League educated “geniuses” permeating (or infecting) baseball morphing front offices from cigar-chomping old men using randomness into put their teams together to something resembling a Star Trek convention. It was actually about value and was not a denigration of alternate methods to finding players.

Of course that would be a lie, but truth has never stood in the way of Lewis when he has an ending in mind and is willing to do whatever necessary to get to that ending—accuracy be damned.

The boxing promoter Don King was famous for his sheer and unending audacity in this vein of going with the winner, exemplified early in his career as a boxing promoter (and not long after his release from prison) when he walked to the ring with then-heavyweight champion Joe Frazier and rapidly switched allegiances to George Foreman when Foreman knocked Frazier out. King magically emerged as part of the celebration in Foreman’s corner.

But King is a genius and Lewis isn’t. In fact, King wallowed in his amorality; Lewis doesn’t realize what he’s doing is amoral to begin with. Masked by legitimacy and critical acclaim, Lewis is far worse than King could ever be.

Because the Athletics had a shocking season in which they won 94 games and made the playoffs, losing to the AL Champion Tigers in 5 games, Lewis and Moneyball again entered the spotlight as if the 2012 A’s validated a long-ago disproved narrative. As this Slate article by Tim Marchman shows, such is not the case.

Had the Athletics been as awful as many—me included—predicted, would Lewis have abandoned his vessel out of convenience? Or would have have stuck with Beane still trying to find a reptilian method of explaining away the fall of Moneyball?

I’ll guess on the latter, but don’t discount the possibility of a new book extolling the virtues of Sabean; his veteran manager with the 1880s-style mustache and grumbly voice, Bruce Bochy; and the way the Giants championship club was built.

Before that can happen, let’s get in front of whatever the latecomers and opportunists try to pull and examine how this team was put together.

Players acquired through the draft

Brandon Crawford, SS

Crawford was taken in the 4th round of the 2008 draft out of UCLA. He received a $375,000 signing bonus.

Brandon Belt, 1B

Belt was selected in the 5th round of the 2009 draft out of the University of Texas at Austin. He received a $200,000 signing bonus.

Buster Posey, C

Posey was drafted from Florida State University in the 1st round with the 5th pick by the Giants in the 2008 draft. He received a record (at the time) signing bonus of $6.2 million.

Sergio Romo, RHP

Romo was drafted in the 28th round of the 2005 draft out of Mesa State College in Colorado. Romo took over for injured star closer Brian Wilson and was brilliant.

Madison Bumgarner, LHP

Bumgarner was drafted in the 1st round of the 2007 draft with the 10th pick out South Caldwell High School in Hudson, North Carolina. He received a $2 million bonus.

Tim Lincecum, RHP

Lincecum was drafted from the University of Washington in the 1st round of the 2006 draft with the 10th pick. He received a $2.025 million signing bonus.

Matt Cain, RHP

Cain was taken in the 1st round (25th pick) of the 2002 draft—the “Moneyball” draft that was documented by Lewis as exhibit A of stat guy “genius” from Paul DePodesta’s laptop. He was taken out of high school in Tennessee—exhibit B of “mistakes” that clubs make when drafting players because selecting high school pitchers was presented as the epitome of risk and stupidity.

Cain received a $1.375 million signing bonus. The A’s took Joe Blanton out of college the pick before Cain. Blanton received a $1.4 million signing bonus.

Acquired via free agency

Pablo Sandoval, 3B

Sandoval was signed by the Giants out of Venezuela as an amateur free agent at age 17 in 2003.

Gregor Blanco, OF

The veteran journeyman Blanco signed a minor league contract with the Giants after spending the entire 2011 season in Triple A with the Nationals and Royals. He was an integral part of the Giants’ championship team with speed, defense, and a key homer in the NLDS comeback against the Reds.

Ryan Vogelsong, RHP

Vogelsong’s signing was mostly luck helped along by opportunity and the alteration of his game under pitching coach Dave Righetti. Vogelsong was a journeyman who has become a post-season star and rotation stalwart at age 35.

Jeremy Affeldt, LHP

Affeldt was signed as a free agent from the Reds in 2008.

Ryan Theriot, INF

Theriot signed a 1-year, $1.25 million contract before the 2012 season.

Aubrey Huff, 1B/OF/PH

Huff was a low-cost free agent signing in 2010 and was a large part of the World Series title that year. He re-signed for 2-years and $22 million and didn’t contribute on the field to the 2012 title.

Barry Zito, LHP

The Giants were in need of a star to replace Barry Bonds as they rebuilt from the “Build around Bonds” days and Zito was the biggest name available in the winter of 2006-2007. They signed him to a 7-year, $126 million contract that has $27 million guaranteed remaining for 2013. A pitcher being paid that amount of money is expected to be an ace, but Zito has been a back-of-the-rotation starter at best and was left off the 2010 post-season roster entirely. In 2012, he won 14 games and picked up the slack for the slumping Lincecum and Bumgarner to help the Giants win their 2012 championship.

Santiago Casilla, RHP

Casilla was signed as a free agent in 2009 after the Athletics non-tendered him.

Joaquin Arias, INF

Arias signed a minor league contract before the 2012 season. People forget about this, but in the Alex Rodriguez trade from the Rangers to the Yankees, the Yankees offered the Rangers a choice between Arias and Robinson Cano.

Neither the Yankees nor the Rangers knew what Cano was.

It was Arias’s defense at third base on the last out that helped save Cain’s perfect game in June.

Guillermo Mota, RHP

Mota has been with the Giants for three seasons and signed a 1-year, $1 million contract for 2012.

Hector Sanchez, C

Sanchez was signed as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela in 2009.

Players acquired via trade

Melky Cabrera, OF

The contribution of Cabrera will be debated forever considering he failed a PED test and was suspended for the second half of the season. He was eligible to be reinstated for the playoffs, but the Giants chose not to do that. It was Cabrera’s All-Star Game MVP performance that wound up giving the Giants home field advantage for the World Series

Cabrera was an important factor in the first half of the season, but the Giants were 62-51 with Cabrera on the active roster and 32-17 without him. The Giants’ success was based on their pitching more than anything else and they won the World Series without Cabrera.

Cabrera was acquired from the Royals for Jonathan Sanchez, who was talented and inconsistent with the Giants and outright awful for the Royals.

Javier Lopez, LHP

Lopez was acquired from the Pirates in July of 2010 and was a key lefty specialist on the two title-winning teams.

Angel Pagan, CF

Pagan was acquired from the Mets for center fielder Andres Torres and righty reliever Ramon Ramirez. Pagan had a fine year at the plate and in the field, leading the majors in triples with 15 and stealing 29 bases including the one in the World Series that got everyone a free taco from Taco Bell.

George Kontos, RHP

The Yankees traded Kontos to the Giants for backup catcher Chris Stewart. Kontos is a solid reliever who’s more useful than a no-hit catcher.

Hunter Pence, RF

Pence was acquired from the Phillies for minor league pitcher Seth Rosin, catcher Tommy Joseph, and veteran big league outfielder Nate Schierholtz. The Giants are set at catcher, so Joseph was expendable. Pence had a .671 OPS in 59 games with the Giants, but it was his stirring, wild-eyed speech before game 3 of the NLDS against the Reds that was widely credited by teammates as waking them up to make their comeback. His teammates were either inspired or frightened by Pence’s intensity, but whatever it was, it worked.

Marco Scutaro, 2B

Scutaro was almost steamrolled by Matt Holliday of the Cardinals in the NLCS, but he came back from that and batted .500 in that series, winning the MVP. Then he had the game-winning hit in game 4 of the World Series.

Scutaro was acquired from the Rockies in late July for infielder Charlie Culberson.

Manager Bochy was run out of his longtime home as a manager, coach and player with the Padres when the front office wanted someone cheaper and more agreeable to the new age statistics and doing what he was told. Then-Padres team president Sandy Alderson allowed Bochy to interview for the Giants’ job—a division rival no less—and made utterly absurd statements of his policy being to allow his employees to seek other opportunities blah, blah, blah.

The Padres didn’t want Bochy back because Bochy didn’t do what he was told by the stat guys in the front office. In exchange, they got a far inferior manager Bud Black, and the Giants now have two championships and the hardware (and parades) to say there are different methods to use to win. Sometimes those methods work better without the fictionalized accounts in print and on film.

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Tebow vs Sanchez is a Media/Fan Creation

College Football, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Football, History, Management, Media, NFL, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Stats

It’s no secret that Tim Tebow the person is a franchise that wouldn’t exist if his personal story wasn’t as unique and interesting as it is; if he weren’t the salable force for conservative values with an overt Christianity and deeply held beliefs that, as far as we know, are sincere. Because he’s had crackling moments such as the touchdown he threw to win the Broncos’ Wild Card playoff game last season and orchestrated “winning” moments late in games again-and-again, his quarterbacking skills legitimize an attempt to make him a starting player and not a project that would take years to develop and undo what it was that made him a success. His current mechanics and abilities do not translate to the NFL. As he stands right now, he’s not viable in the NFL running what amounts to the wishbone and resisting all efforts to turn him into a slash player who functions in multiple roles—occasionally at quarterback—and is a weapon that has to be planned for.

In spite of the Jets’ best efforts to suggest that he’s going to be used for X amount of plays per game, opposing defenses will keep him in the back of their minds, but not worry about what he’s going to do in games because he’s so prone to mistakes and limited in what he can do. He can throw the deep ball; he can run; people like him; he has a flair for the dramatic.

That’s about it.

Mark Sanchez, on the other hand, is not likable. He’s shown immaturity, arrogance and isn’t an off-field choir boy. On some level, he deserves credit for not portraying himself as anything but what he is. He’s the prototypically handsome quarterback who would be perfect for a football movie. He’s also been demonized (as a perfect foil to the angelic Tebow) because of his frailties. To blame Sanchez for the Jets’ disappointing 8-8 finish is ignoring all the disarray surrounding him. The loudmouthed Rex Ryan; the infighting; the open second-guessing of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer—all contributed to the club’s lack of cohesion. Objectively, if you look at Sanchez’s stats from his three year career, the numbers from 2011 are nearly identical to what they were in 2009-2010, but because year 3 was supposed to be the year he led the Jets back to the Super Bowl and was a Joe Namath not in his off-field skirt chasing but as a leader of men and it didn’t work out, that’s the storyline that’s easiest to submit.

His stats are below.

Year Age Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Int% Lng Y/A AY/A Y/C Y/G Rate Yds 4QC GWD
2009 23 196 364 53.8 2444 12 20 5.5 65 6.7 4.9 12.5 162.9 63.0 195 1 1
2010 24 278 507 54.8 3291 17 13 2.6 74 6.5 6.0 11.8 205.7 75.3 171 4 6
2011 25 308 543 56.7 3474 26 18 3.3 74 6.4 5.9 11.3 217.1 78.2 243 4 4
Career 782 1414 55.3 9209 55 51 3.6 74 6.5 5.7 11.8 195.9 73.2 609 9 11
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/27/2012.

Here’s the truth: Tim Tebow can be a useful NFL quarterback, but he’s not going to be one immediately and if a team is going to use him as such, it either has to be an expansion team (Los Angeles?) that will use him to sell the franchise and allow him to learn on the job amid the rampant mistakes he’ll make or a team that’s going to be so awful that they can toss him out there and hope the God Tebow so fervently believes in tosses a lightning bolt down and transforms him into Steve Young.*

*I’m not sure if the Mormon God and Tebow’s God are on speaking terms, but that would need to be collectively bargained.

This “battle” exists in the desperate clutching at webhits and stories to tell during the dull days of NFL training camp. Talking about what Tebow does on the field in drills is irrelevant; so too is discussing Sanchez’s state of mind as he enters this competition months after signing a lucrative contract that was intended to set his mind at ease and convey the message that he’s the man around here. Perhaps this will help Sanchez. If he’s able to overcome the scrutiny he’s under because of the golden boy who was brought in to share his job and take away his spotlight, it will mature him and he’ll become the leader the Jets need. Or it might exponentially multiply the disarray surrounding this team and speed Sanchez’s departure.

If Sanchez doesn’t rise to the challenge, they’ll have to move on. This will expedite the process either way. But to think that it’s a competition is ignoring the fact that Tebow cannot start every game for a team that has designs on a deep playoff run as the Jets clearly do. It’s not a story on the field. It’s a Don King-style boxing promotion that, if judged realistically, wouldn’t be worth the pay-per-view cost and anger thereafter when those who purchased the snake oil realize that they’ve been had.

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The Marlins: A Wolf in Tacky Clothing

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The Marlins are the hot topic, so let’s see how they’re doing what they’re doing and try to come up with reasonable answers to some questions.

Where are they getting all this money?

The Marlins and owner Jeffrey Loria contributed a fraction of the amount of money it took to build their new ballpark, but they’re expecting to double their revenues and benefit from such potential windfalls as parking, concessions, corporates sponsorships and luxury suites.

The parking especially should yield a significant amount of profit because the club is leasing the parking garages from the city at a finite fee.

You can read about the ballpark finances here; the SEC is investigating the sleight-of-hand used by the club to get the park built.

To put it in simpler terms, if I had the capital that Loria had to start with; received 80% financing, friendly loan terms and ancillary income streams to supplement what I already have, I’d have a website and advertising to rival ESPN. I’d have to spend the money to boost my product and that’s what the Marlins are doing. It’s partial justification of the ballpark; partial investment to keep the money rolling in; and a partial attempt to save face.

Channeling his inner Steinbrenner.

Loria’s a mini-George Steinbrenner and that’s extended to this employment of relatives (David Samson is his son-in-law); capricious firings of managers (he’s on manager number 7 if you count Jack McKeon‘s two stints); wild spending sprees and anger at players who don’t perform immediately; and his new dress code which requires Jose Reyes to shave his beard and cut his Predator hairdo.

Loria is a throwback to the Nixon Republicans where Machiavelli’s playbook held sway; there are ironclad rules for conduct and behavior; none are allowed to do anything that irritates or disrespects Loria in any way; and general, societal propriety is fundamentally ignored when it suits one’s ends.

Anyone and everyone walking willingly into a business deal with Loria had better realize that he’s ruthless, petulant and sees litigation and oversight as Don King sees it—a cost of doing business. He was all smiles with Reyes, but if things don’t go as planned, he’ll trade Reyes as quickly as dumping a former favorite son in favor of another when it’s more convenient.

Speaking of which: What about Hanley Ramirez?

The Marlins staff is insisting there’s no issue with Ramirez shifting positions to accommodate Reyes; that he only wants to win; that he’s not going to be traded and other bits of bulletpoint, stick-to-the-company-line propaganda.

Buster Olney said the following on Twitter:

Marlins upset with Hanley, because given his subpar year in ’11, they were greatly surprised he wants more money to change positions.

Have the Marlins met Hanley Ramirez?

I called this three weeks ago and Ramirez has a point. The Marlins—formerly the team whose foundation rested on his shoulders—figuratively and literally shoved him aside for an inferior player in Reyes; in addition to that, they’re paying all this cash that, for years they said they didn’t have, to outsiders like Reyes and Mark Buehrle and offering the dreaded no-trade clause (which they have a policy against) to Albert Pujols because he’s a “special case.”

“Special case” meaning Pujols has the ability to tell the Marlins to take a hike if they don’t give him the no-trade clause.

The Marlins are said to be out of the Pujols bidding.

So Ramirez is being disrespected and shunned at every turn and he’s supposed to be happy about it? While it’s not unprecedented for clubs to extend players (Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun) who are already signed to extensions to keep them happy and assure they’ll be members of their teams until they retire?

For all of Ramirez’s history of being a malcontent, malingering and not hustling, he’s got a gripe.

I’d be annoyed too.

The right thing to do is to take care of Ramirez financially, but Loria and the “right thing” depend on how it benefits Loria. If I were Ramirez, I’d ask to be traded.

This thing isn’t over no matter how many denials and soothing statements the Marlins make and it’s going to get worse before it gets better and may culminate in Ramirez’s departure from Miami. They’d better get a lot for him because a trade of Ramirez for Reyes and a couple of middling players is not a trade the Marlins would’ve made, but that’s what they may end up doing if they don’t mollify Ramirez.

And it doesn’t appear that they’re going to.

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Viewer Mail 3.10.2011

Books, Management, Media, Players, Spring Training

Mike Fierman writes RE Moneyball, Billy Beane and me:

May I say that you seem obsessed with Beane. he’s just not worth the amount of time you spend railing against him and a book he didn’t shape, edit or write. My advice would be to move on…

He didn’t shape, edit or write it—that’s true; but he’s an accessory after-the-fact to its continued prominence and the myth that it was a realistic story.

I’m not obsessed in any way; I’m trying to shatter the belief system that those who have a knowledge of formulas and numbers can storm into any front office and run a big league club with no qualms nor the proper etiquette required to deal with those who’ve been in the game as a career and have contributions to give.

Beane took part in the book and if he’s the genius he’s supposed to be, he had to sense where Michael Lewis was going with it. If he didn’t, he’s not only not a genius, then he’s a fool as well.

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE Moneyball:

I wonder how much you could accomplish in your life if Billy Beane weren’t acting as your white whale, tormenting and obsessing you to no end.

When it comes to you vs. Beane, I have to ask, how many movies have they made about Paul Lebowitz that starred Brad Pitt as the main character?

Clearly you must be jealous. Or something.

You’ve figured it out, Mike.

I’m jealous.

I want to be a demagogue; I want to be reviled in the industry; I want a large percentage of baseball people/media/fans to be waiting for me to fail; and I want to have a hunky actor bedding down unsuspecting, hopefully disease resistant waitresses in a nonsensical script adapted from a ridiculous book.

The amount of time you and Mike have spent reading me, you know by now that I have no agenda apart from the truth as I see it; Moneyball offended me in a myriad of ways not only because of the way quality baseball people were ridiculed, but because of the pompous presentation and biblical, condescending tone it set as if to say, “HALT INFIDEL!!” and implied you’d go to baseball-related hell if you didn’t adhere to the commandments of Beane in tales regaled by the self-proclaimed conduit to the masses, Lewis.

As for who’d play me in a movie, I dunno who could do it. It’s like the line attributed to Don King years ago: “If Don King didn’t exist, you’d hafta invent him!!”

Same goes for me.

Ed Avery at the Ed Avery Report writes RE Jason Heyward:

It’s been a real pleaser to watch Heyward here in Atlanta, this kid is the real deal, and not just on the field, the kid is a star.

The most impressive thing about Heyward wasn’t his performance in and of itself, but that at age 20 and with that hype surrounding him, he withstood the expectations.

And I mean “withstood”; not “met”.

I’d never, ever put the kind of pressure on a young player as Bobby Cox did last spring comparing him to Willie Mays. Even if it’s accurate, it’s not fair; it puts a player in an awful position because the media, such as it is, will run off with that statement and either question the player’s talent if he doesn’t produce immediately or hold it over his head with comparisons that few, if any, could meet.

I’d be vigilant about his injuries and the sophomore slump (yes, it exists), but he’s going to be a fine player for a long time.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE my book:

BAM!

POW!!!

Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe and on Amazon.

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