Francesa’s Angel Is The Centerfold

Award Winners, Ballparks, Basketball, Cy Young Award, Fantasy/Roto, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Management, Media, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Stats, Umpires, World Series

MattHarveypics

The ESPN Body Issue is a clever and creative response to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Rather than try and create a copy as other magazines have done, ESPN went one step further using athletes naked as an “ode to exceptional athletic form.” That it’s done to spur sales and create buzz goes without mention.

Mike Francesa sounded like he was about to burst into a teary rendition of Centerfold by the J. Geils Band when discussing Matt Harvey’s participation. It’s no secret that Francesa has developed a borderline disturbing man-crush on Harvey. One can only wonder whether Andy Pettitte feels like a member of the first wives’ club as Francesa is throwing him over for the younger, stronger Harvey.

Francesa couldn’t hide his disappointment in Harvey taking part in the ESPN Magazine Body Issue going so far as to say that Harvey’s demeanor had been Derek Jeter-like in not making any stupid and embarrassing mistakes in his young career. Harvey’s rise has been meteoric, but is this as much of a misstep as Francesa implies?

Much like it’s preferable for a young pitcher like Zack Wheeler to come to the big leagues and scuffle rather than dominate making the game look easy only to be jolted later on, it’s also preferable for Harvey to be the person he is rather than transform himself into the mythic idol that Jeter has become. For Jeter, his position as the ideal for so many has resulted in a level of expectation that no one could match. He’s almost been deified to the degree that when something, anything happens that could possibly tarnish that image, it evolves into a giant story where, if it were another player, it would either be shrugged off or ignored.

In short, the Jeter image has shunned any pretense of reality. When he first started in the majors, Jeter had the guidance from his parents as well as baseball people Don Zimmer, Joe Torre and Buck Showalter. It also helped Jeter that, as a rookie, he was surrounded by players like Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden from whom he could learn and ask questions of what precisely not to do. His supposed playboy lifestyle with one starlet after another is winked and nodded at because he’s Derek Jeter. That it’s more of a show than anything else is beside the point.

With Jeter there has never been a public paternity question; never been a DUI; never been a bar fight or incident captured on cellphone camera of Jeter acting the fool. He’s guarded and careful with that image. In some instances it has turned into ridiculous expectations such as when he feigned being hit by a pitch against the Rays and took first base even though he hadn’t been hit. Parents were wondering how they could explain to their children how Derek Jeter could be so cavalier about fair play. This isn’t a carefully camouflaged, Christianity-tinged commercial from The Foundation for a Better Life in which the high school basketball player admits he touched the ball before it went out of bounds as a show of sportsmanship and Jeter was under no obligation to say he wasn’t hit when the ump told him to go to first base. The idea that he was “supposed” to do that because it was the “right” thing is ludicrous.

The one play that helped launch Jeter occurred in the 1996 ALCS against the Orioles when his deep fly ball was ably assisted out of the park by young fan Jeffrey Maier. It would not have gone out of the park if not for Maier and the Yankees might not have won that ALCS. Who knows how history would have been altered had they not won that first championship in 1996? Would Jeter turn the homer down in the interest of “fair play”? Of course not.

Jeter’s legend has grown to the level where it’s gone from he won’t take a misstep to he can’t take a misstep. That’s not an easy way to live. Harvey has the supermodel girlfriend and appears to be enjoying his success. He did the ESPN shoot and doesn’t need to explain nor apologize for it. Perhaps it would’ve helped Jeter if he’d pulled a Charles Barkley at some point and gone into an “I am not a role model” rant. Harvey probably wasn’t thinking that the appearance in the ESPN photo shoot would take a hammer to this image that the likes of Francesa were thrusting upon him, but it will have that affect. In the long run it’s a good thing.

There’s no question that Jeter is a player to emulate. For young stars including Harvey, he’s someone whose lead to follow, but that doesn’t mean the self should be superseded toward that end especially to live up to the dreamy expectations of someone like Mike Francesa.

//

Advertisements

The Yankees’ Other Key Pending Free Agent

Award Winners, Ballparks, CBA, Free Agents, Games, History, Management, Media, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Stats, World Series

Last night’s absurd 9-1 loss to the expansion-level Astros aside, the Yankees have surpassed the low-level expectations they were saddled with given their injuries to key players, lack of big name free agent signings and insistence that they’re going to get their payroll down to $189 million by 2014. At 15-10, the doom and gloom surrounding the club after the 1-4 start has subsided for the moment. That said, the age and number of injuries they’ve had will eventually catch up to them as the season moves along. If they’re still in position to be a factor by July, then it will be appropriate to laud the team’s resiliency and a playoff run.

What’s ignored in their good start is the steady hand that’s guided them through it, manager Joe Girardi. While the most prominent pending free agent the Yankees have is Robinson Cano, Girardi’s contract is also expiring at the end of the season and the team has been content to let him work in the final year with no rumors floated about a possible extension. Whether they’re willing to let the season play out and consider their options is known only to them, but unless they’re undertaking a full-blown rebuild—one that Girardi, with his resume, would not be interested in overseeing at this point in his career—then it makes no sense to run the risk of Girardi leaving.

For all the criticism he attracts for overusing his bullpen and overmanaging; for showing how clever he is with unnecessary in-game offensive decisions related to the near and dear to his heart “small ball” and doing “stuff” to make it look like he’s “managing” when just sitting there and letting the players play would be a better move, Girardi is now ensconced as the Yankees manager and those that are calling for his dismissal are complaining for its own sake.

He’s a good manager based on the following prime criteria, contingent on the situation, that a good manager needs to have:

  • The team achieves what it’s supposed to achieve

I don’t mean that the Yankees expectations are to win the World Series every year and if they don’t, the season is judged as a failure. That’s what wound up dooming Joe Torre. I mean that if a team like the Nationals, for example, doesn’t have any significant injuries and finishes at 85-77 and out of the playoffs, then that falls on manager Davey Johnson. Barring a clear screw-up, a manager shouldn’t be dumped based on playoff results.

  • The team overachieves

Girardi’s one season as Marlins manager resulted in the definition of a club that overachieved. In 2006, following a sell off the prior winter in which they dumped A.J. Burnett, Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Carlos Delgado, Paul Lo Duca, Luis Castillo and Juan Pierre, they were widely expected to lose over 100 games. Girardi won the Manager of the Year by keeping them in Wild Card contention and had them at .500 as late as September 16th before a 78-84 finish. He was fired by owner Jeffrey Loria in a fit of petulance. Not much has changed from then to now with Loria who’s on his fifth manager since Girardi.

  • There’s accountability from the top down

The worst thing a manager can do is to accept that there’s a “rebuilding” going and act as if it doesn’t matter what the game results are as long as the players “develop.” That doesn’t mean trying to win every single game like it’s the seventh game of the World Series at the expense of health and sanity, but it means that there won’t shrugging and disinterest if the losses begin to pile up.

Girardi has managed the Yankees for five-plus years and they’ve made the playoffs and won 95+ games in four of them. If they want to bring in someone else, whom are they going to hire to replace him? Is it that easy to find someone who can deal with the circus, handle the media, have respect in the clubhouse and win with a diminished and aging roster all at the same time? If they were still going to have a $200+ million payroll and toss money at all their issues, then they could find the prototypical “someone” to manage the team and be okay. That’s no longer the case. There’s rarely an answer as to who the fans/media might want as a the new manager. It’s just change for change’s sake. There are times when it’s necessary to make a change just because. This is not one of those times.

It must be remembered that had he not gotten the Royals job prior to Torre being let go, GM Brian Cashman was seriously interested in Trey Hillman. Hillman had an airtight resume, was impressive in both presence and tone and was a disaster in Kansas City. He was strategically inept and couldn’t deal with the scrutiny and media in Kansas City. One can only venture a guess as to how bad he would’ve been in New York. It’s not that simple to find a good manager, especially in New York.

If Torre was the dad/Godfather to all the players, then Girardi is the no-nonsense brother who took over the family business and is running it his way. Girardi has never gotten the credit he’s deserved for the seamless transition from Torre. He never tried to be Torre and in the first season at the helm, it caused some friction with the veterans who weren’t accustomed to the energy, detachment and lack of personal attention with a pat on the back here and a paternal embrace there that was a daily part of the Torre regime. He also missed the playoffs in his first year after Torre had made it in every one of his seasons running the show. He survived it.

The easy thing for him to do would’ve been to copy his former manager and mentor. Instead, Girardi took little bits and pieces from his former managers Don Zimmer, Tony LaRussa, Torre, and Don Baylor. Girardi is more of a “what you see is what you get” than Torre ever was. Torre was calculating and Machiavellian. In circumstances in which he’d had enough of certain players—such as when he batted Alex Rodriguez eighth in the 2006 ALDS loss to the Tigers—the old-school and occasionally vicious Torre came out. His close relationships with Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada among others were due in part to him nurturing them through their formative years and in part because he was a self-interested actor who knew he needed those players on his side if he was going to succeed and continue in his job with an owner always looking to fire the manager if his demands weren’t met. When Girardi took the job, there were the familiar sibling tensions, especially with Posada, that he had to navigate. Sometimes he did a better job than others. Now there’s a détente between Girardi, Jeter and the other remaining veterans, but there will never be the affection there was with Torre.

He’s earned the right to have his status defined. By all reason and logic, the Yankees are playing far better than should’ve been expected given the issues they face. Girardi is looking into the contractual unknown. Perhaps they’ve told him they’ll take care of him at the end of the year. Maybe they haven’t. They could be waiting to see what happens. In any case, it’s a mistake. A number of appetizing jobs might be open after this season including the Angels (that one might be open in a matter of days), Dodgers, Tigers, Rangers, Mets, Blue Jays, Nationals and Mariners. All of those teams would be interested in Girardi.

It’s doubtful that he leaves the Yankees, but while they’re concerned about Cano’s contract, they need to pay attention to Girardi’s as well because he’s done a good job and they need him to stay.

//

Leo Mazzone’s Criticism of the Nationals’ Handling of Stephen Strasburg Invites a Strong and Selective Reaction

All Star Game, Ballparks, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

Leo Mazzone’s reputation as a pitching coach guru was bolstered by having three Hall of Famers and a pretty good background cast of characters with the Braves and was subsequently ruined by going to the Orioles and functioning without much talent. Like most coaches (and managers for that matter), it’s more about the talent than it is about any set of principles implemented by the coach or organization.

When Mazzone had Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, he looked smart. He had Rodrigo Lopez and Kris Benson with the Orioles and therefore, didn’t look as smart.

That said, it can’t be ignored that Erik Bedard had his two best and healthiest seasons working under Mazzone; that relatively pedestrian pitchers Denny Neagle, Kerry Ligtenberg, Greg McMichael, Mike Remlinger, and John Thomson blossomed with him as their pitching coach and did nothing notable anywhere else; that Kevin Millwood and Steve Avery developed under Mazzone; that Russ Ortiz, John Burkett, Jaret Wright and Mike Hampton all experienced a renaissance under him; or that the Braves came undone after Mazzone left.

Was it talent? Was it Hall of Famers? Was it technique? Was it Bobby Cox? Was it that the Braves in those years were super good and could’ve shuttled anyone out there and had them look better than they were?

Or was it a combination of everything?

Or is it something that can’t be defined as “this is why”?

Mazzone hasn’t gotten a pitching coach job since he was fired by the Orioles which leads me to believe that his reputation as someone who doesn’t adhere to organizational edicts—a version of going along to get along that’s been in place forever—is preventing him from being hired. Or perhaps it’s something else.

I don’t know and nor do you. This is why it’s silly to take Mazzone’s quotes about the Nationals’ parameters and much-discussed decision to limit Stephen Strasburg as the ranting of a has-been baseball dinosaur by referencing Steve Avery as “proof” (as Craig Calcaterra does here on Hardball Talk) that Mazzone’s way is one of the past and his opinions carry zero weight.

With the proliferation of self-proclaimed experts, stat sites, and insertion of viewpoints available at the click of a button, it’s hard to know which end is up. Everyone’s knows better than the previous person whether that person is an experienced baseball man or not. Dave Righetti and the Giants’ methods involving their young pitchers functioning similarly to the Braves of the 1990s drew old-school respect as Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum flourished. But Lincecum wasn’t working under the Giants’ program and was essentially left on his own. So where does the credit lie? Is it Lincecum’s dad? Is it the Giants for their willingness to let Lincecum pitch without limits? And who gets the blame for his poor season and decreased velocity? Does Righetti get the accolades for Cain and Madison Bumgarner? How does it work?

The Yankees can provide reams of printouts and cutting-edge medical recommendations for their treatment of their young pitchers, but all are either hurt (Jose Campos, Manny Banuelos); inconsistent or worse (Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain); stagnant (Dellin Betances); or have the fault shifted elsewhere for the Yankees’ shoddy assessments (Michael Pineda).

Did Avery get hurt because of the Braves’ overusing him or would he have gotten hurt anyway? Avery was another pitcher who learned his mechanics from his dad and was left to his own devices. It was only after he got hurt that those mechanics were deemed as the culprit. And now, years after the fact, Mazzone’s getting the blame.

Would he have gotten hurt anyway? Judging from the way pitchers are constantly injured—clean mechanics or not—it’s a pretty safe bet that he would’ve.

Will Strasburg get hurt? He was babied from college onward and still needed Tommy John surgery.

Some pitchers are overused at a young age and get injured; others stay healthy. Why doesn’t Calcaterra reference Maddux, who as a 22-year-old was handled by another old-school manager Don Zimmer and pitching coach, Dick Pole, and allowed to throw as many as 167 pitches in a game in 1988? Maddux credited Pole for teaching him proper mechanics and Pole has bounced from team-to-team because he—guess what?—asserts himself and doesn’t go with the organizational flow.

Jim Bouton wrote about this phenomenon in Ball Four when discussing why Johnny Sain hopped from club-to-club and never lasted very long in any one place. Ego and control are far more important to an organization than getting it right and iconoclasts don’t last unless they have massive success.

Mazzone’s not wrong here. In truth, nor are the Nats. There is no “right” or “wrong”. I disagree with the way they’ve implemented their plan because there were methods to keeping Strasburg’s innings down without going to the controversial extreme of shutting him down when they’re going to need him most in the playoffs (the 6-man rotation for example), but the smug condescension and retrospective denigration of Mazzone’s work is pure second guessing and random outsider expertise to prove an unprovable theory with the selective references to match.

//

A Bad Week For MLB’s Radical Right

Ballparks, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

Political ideologies aren’t judged on their tenets, but on their representatives. Because we see the front people of their particular positions as extreme and overtly unlikable, the entire platform is poisoned because of personality and presentation.

It’s with that in mind that it makes many self-proclaimed conservatives—in statements and action—in MLB look hypocritical.

Three such individuals have found themselves in the public eye this week for various reasons that run the gamut on the scale from the overreaching, delusional businessman; to the ignorant and mouthy; and to the disturbing.

Here they are.

Curt Schilling’s video game company goes under.

Rhode Island has had a very public shortfall in their pension funds to retired city workers in the municipality of Central Falls, but the state had enough money to guarantee loans worth $75 million to Schilling’s video game company to lure them from Massachusetts.

Schilling, whose right wing politics were fodder for ridicule during his career, was playing the big businessman running a fledgling and hit-or-miss enterprise of creating video games and it collapsed without warning in a most embarrassing fashion.

I’m trying to reconcile how Rhode Island found the money to make that loan guarantee to Schilling and his video game company. Was there a coherent plan that made it a decision with solid foundation that simply failed or was the Republican governor of the state,  Donald Carcieri, trying to use Schilling’s star power to get himself reelected? Was Carcieri himself hypnotized by Schilling’s presence? Or was it bad business?

Possibly all of the above.

Carcieri lost and the business has gone under.

You can read the details here on Boston.com and decide for yourself.

Luke Scott has a lot to say.

Having first come under fire for his insistence that President Obama is not an American citizen, Luke Scott of the Rays is no stranger to controversy for his statements. Earlier this year, he said some none-too-flattering things about Fenway Park calling it a “dump”. Last night in the ninth inning of the Rays’ 7-4 win over the Red Sox in Boston, Franklin Morales drilled Scott. The benches emptied and there was a lot of shouting and shoving but no punches thrown.

Ostensibly the incident was in retaliation for Burke Badenhop hitting Dustin Pedroia in the sixth inning. Naturally Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine couldn’t resist stirring the cauldron by saying, “Maybe it was the Ghost of Fenway Past remembering he bad-mouthed all our fans and our stadium, directing the ball at his leg.”

Did the Red Sox pop Scott because of Pedroia or was it because of what he said about Fenway?

I’m inclined to think that it was a combination of the two and Scott was conveniently (or inconveniently for him) batting in the ninth inning of a game the Red Sox were likely to lose. They had the opening and took it. Morales didn’t throw at Scott’s head, so I don’t think this is that big of a deal; certainly not worth the war of words that’s not going to stop anytime soon as long as the managers are involved.

The Thong Song seems so long ago for Chad Curtis.

The journeyman Curtis had found a home as a useful extra outfielder for the Yankees and contributed many clutch hits to the 1998-1999 World Series winners. But because he made the mistake of choosing to take on Derek Jeter when Jeter was joking with Alex Rodriguez (then of the Mariners) during a bench clearing brawl between the two clubs, he was run out of town following the 1999 season.

Traded to the Rangers, Curtis again found himself talking about things other than baseball when he objected to teammate Royce Clayton playing Sisqó’s Thong Song in the Rangers’ clubhouse.

It doesn’t make much difference now, but Curtis happened to be right in both cases.

It was entirely inappropriate for Jeter to be standing in the middle of the field chatting with A-Rod while Joe Girardi was brawling with Frankie Rodriguez and Don Zimmer was staggering around on the field as if he was having a heart attack. Since it was Jeter, his behavior was sacrosanct even when he was wrong. Curtis called him out publicly and was dealt away.

As far as the Thong Song goes, if children are allowed in the clubhouse or there are religious people who object to certain content, that has to be taken into account for the sake of the group. Curtis didn’t like it and had a right to express that.

But Curtis’s presence in the news today is a typical political scandal as he has been charged with sexual misconduct for inappropriately touching two teenage girls at a Michigan school where he was volunteering.

“Inappropriate touching” could entail any number of things. Who knows if it’s true? If it is, listening to the Thong Song might’ve been a better alternative to the urges that caused Curtis’s behavior and all three of the above cases are prime examples of why athletes might be better served to keep their political affiliations more ambiguous or be quiet about them entirely.

//

Riggleman’s Not Dead, He Just Killed His Career

Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Players

Doug Glanville writes an interesting piece about Jim Riggleman on ESPN.com entitled, Remembering Riggs.

“Remembering Riggs” is something one would use to headline an obituary or a eulogy.

In a way, it’s accurate.

Glanville’s impassioned and believable defense of Riggleman notwithstanding, as I said right after the resignation was announced, there’s really no way for Riggleman to rebound from this and get another managerial job in the big leagues.

Club will forgive about anything.

Joe Girardi was called insubordinate by the Marlins and somehow got himself fired after winning Manager of the Year; Terry Collins endured two mutinies and was hired by the Mets, in part, because he doesn’t tolerate any nonsense; Jack McKeon‘s 80; Davey Johnson hasn’t managed in 11 years; Ned Yost got the axe with 2 weeks left in the 2008 season and his Brewers in playoff position; and managers who plainly and simply aren’t good at their jobs like Bud Black receive contract extensions.

Going back into history, you see other managers who received chance after undeserved chance because they’d accumulated friends in baseball or because they won.

Political patronage and nepotism keeps on employed in baseball. Winning nullifies personal issues which would exclude people from jobs in the workaday world.

Don Zimmer got the Cubs job because he was close with GM Jim Frey; Jeff Torborg was friends with Jeffrey Loria; and Billy Martin was George Steinbrenner’s quick-fix option despite his unreliability and self-destructive nature.

Riggleman is a better manager than many of the names listed; according to Glanville’s account, he’s also a better human being.

But he quit.

This accountability and loyalty line is great, but no one had a gun to Riggleman’s head when he signed the contract to manage the Nationals; he’s not stupid despite doing one overtly stupid thing in resigning. Had he played it out, waited and even gotten fired, there was the chance that he’d be hired as a manager again. Now he can forget it.

He’s not dead as the Glanville title implies, but his managerial career certainly is and it’s not coming back as a zombie either.

//

Jim Riggleman Shouldn’t Have Quit…

Draft, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Players

…he should’ve waited for the Nationals to fire him.

When the news first broke that Riggleman had resigned, it was obvious that it was contract-related. I immediately thought back to two similar situations in which managers wanted their status defined one way or the other and wound up issuing ultimatums that cost them their jobs.

Don Zimmer won a shocking NL East title in 1989 with the Cubs and was named Manager of the Year. In 1990, the Cubs fell to 77-85 and spent a lot of money that winter for outfielder George Bell, closer Dave Smith and starter Danny Jackson to join Ryne Sandberg, Greg Maddux, Andre Dawson, Mark Grace and Shawon Dunston for a club that was expected to contend.

Struggling at 18-19 and with Zimmer angry about his uncertain contract status, Zimmer was fired. Apart from a stint running the Yankees while Joe Torre was recovering from prostate cancer, Zimmer never managed in the big leagues again.

Charlie Manuel also wanted his contract addressed by the Indians in 2002.

Having won 181 games in 2000-2001 and making the playoffs once, Manuel had a case for an extension. But the Indians were transitioning from their years of contention. Mired in 3rd place with a 39-47 record and heading in a different direction, they fired Manuel.

In a sense, you can say that Zimmer was better off having been fired by the Cubs. Had he remained as their manager, would he have eventually become Torre’s right-hand man in the Yankees dugout during their dynasty? Doubtful. His lovable reputation belies the feisty and fearless competitor he’s always been; it was Zimmer’s public rebuking of George Steinbrenner that sowed the seeds of his Yankees departure.

Manuel got the Phillies job because he was an agreeable choice for their veterans. His personality—on the surface—is the opposite of the manager he replaced, the fiery and intense Larry Bowa. Manuel’s success as Phillies manager speaks for itself. He comes off as laid back until you cross him. That’s when you discover that Cholly’s in Charge.

In short, Zimmer and Manuel landed on their feet.

Riggleman won’t.

Resigning because his option for 2012 had yet to be exercised was an act of self-immolation from which there’s no recovery.

For all his faults as a GM, Mike Rizzo was under no obligation to deal with Riggleman’s contract now.

The spinning by Riggleman and his agent, Burton Rocks (Burton Rocks?) borders on the farcical. Riggleman said he didn’t issue an ultimatum, but if he didn’t issue an ultimatum, then why’d he leave so abruptly with the team streaking and playing well? Riggleman’s agent said his client “will manage again”. Unless said agent pulls a Moorad and purchases a club of his own and hires Riggleman, that’s not happening. Even Rocks might look at Riggleman and say, “Jim, you quit on the Nats.”

It was always known that Riggleman was a caretaker whose job it was to rein in an out-of-control clubhouse, enact club edicts on the use of Stephen Strasburg, deal with the media and be the “veteran baseball guy” to bridge the gap from rebuilding to contention.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Worst-case scenario, if he did a good job and was fired, he’d be in the mix for another big league job as manager. Now he won’t. Not only does it look terrible for him to throw this brand of tantrum, but there’s a very good chance of him being blackballed for this ill-advised, not-entirely-thought-out fit of pique.

In a lukewarm defense of Riggleman, there was never a clear mandate as to what the Nationals are; what his job description was.

Did they want to win immediately? The signings of players like Jayson Werth indicate that was the goal.

Did they want to develop young players with winning secondary? Letting Drew Storen close and the rules enacted to protect Strasburg (they worked really well) implied otherwise.

It’s difficult to function without a stated objective.

Had he let this play out and gotten fired, Riggleman would’ve been on the side of right and possibly gotten another managing job. He’s not a great manager, but he is a good baseball man and a respected person. There are worse managers in baseball than Jim Riggleman.

Being fired is better than detonating bridges and setting oneself on fire.

He had no leverage, but he did have the perception of fairness to support him.

This was a colossal blunder.

Riggleman wanted security and he sure got it.

He’s secure in the fact that he’s never going to manage in the big leagues again.

And he’s got no one to blame but himself and whoever gave him the lamebrained advice to quit.

//

Viewer Mail 2.16.2011

Spring Training

Joe writes RE WAR:

The way you look at WAR is wrong. It is a statistic trying to tell us how good a player is, taking into account all facets of the game. You don’t bring in “team” just like you shouldn’t in MVP discussions, etc. It is all opportunity driven.


James K also writes RE WAR:

Yeah, you’re misunderstanding WAR. Check out WAR primers from FanGraphs and Yahoo!

Now, now…coming at me with a condescending pat on the head—no matter how slight—will not be met with a positive response.

Um…yes, I do understand WAR; but the way it’s presented is of little use to me because I don’t need to have a starting point of zero to get a grasp on the value of a player.

It may sound egotistical, but I don’t care; I can judge a player without a baseline number comparing him to some generic “Triple A player” who’s available, replaceable and negligible in performance to the next guy.

In a team sport, how do you not bring team into the discussion? Would Jayson Werth have accumulated his 5.2 WAR from 2010 had he not been in the Phillies lineup? What’s his individual value going to be with a rotten team in 2011, the Nationals?

My guess is that it’ll go down; and even if it doesn’t, so what? What good does this do if one component of the unit is head-and-shoulders above his counterparts on his and other teams and the team is still terrible?

Let’s have a look at an example different from Werth; a cog in the machine if there ever was one: Scott Brosius.

With the Athletics in 1996 and the Yankees in 1998, Brosius had a similar WAR of 5.3 (1996), and 5.7 (1998). The 1996 A’s went 78-84; the 1998 Yankees 114-48.

If either team had Brosius or didn’t have Brosius the results would’ve been close to what they were; as a part of the group he was an important part, but that had little to do with the end results positively or negatively.

How do you remove the team aspect in judging a player in a team sport?

Baseball is a sport of freedom within structure; of individual within a team concept; you can succeed individually as much as you want, but without the team you’re nothing.

The number assigned to the player based on WAR has nothing to do with winning in that team concept especially when it’s interpreted wrongly and treated as a final answer in judging a player who might put up big numbers because he’s part of a great team and in an advantageous situation.

According to the suggested links of WAR explanation, this is not taken into account.

Maybe this will, er, slam my point home in a clearer fashion:

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE Zack Greinke:

But, his ERA last year was 4.17, which is more par for the course for Greinke.

I can’t believe in the guy when he follows up his Cy Young campaign by reverting to such pedestriocity.

Pedestriocity?

The rule here is that no one uses words that I don’t understand.

Actually his 2.16 ERA in 2009 was more out of line with his career than was the 4.17 in 2010.

Check his Gamelogs and you get a clearer picture of how he pitched. Looking beneath the vanilla result presented by ERA, you can conclude that the increased walks and homers emanated from poor location; Greinke wasn’t hitting his spots as he was in 2009 and he gave up more walks and homers which led to the repeated crooked numbers he allowed.

Objectively, the Brewers didn’t give up that much to get Greinke and it was a no-brainer for them to make the move whether it works or not; my main question with him is his emotions and how he’ll react to expectations that were previously—again to the WAR debate— individual and non-team related; no one expects anything from the Royals in a team concept (at least, apparently, until 2013 when the prospects supposedly arrive); the Brewers are supposed to contend now and without a big performance from Greinke, they won’t.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE C.C. Sabathia:

Yeah, I don’t see him opting out… but, Bengie Molina hit for the cycle so anything is possible I suppose.


Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan also writes RE Sabathia:

CC can certainly test the open market after this season, but as you say – Who will pay him more than the Yankees will/can? Meanwhile, he had knee surgery and has to prove he can bounce back THIS season.

The opt-out is put into the contract for a reason and with the way Sabathia’s pitched, the market and his durability, he’d be foolish not to consider it. Much like the Yankees exposed themselves stupidly with their public disagreement, Sabathia and his agent are leaving that door open so it’s known he might be available after the season.

It’s in his mind that no one can outspend the Yankees; but the chasm between Brian Cashman and his bosses regarding Rafael Soriano, plus the clear desperation inherent with the club considering Carl Pavano and signing the retreads they have clearly have emboldened Sabathia to make let it be known that he has the choice at his disposal.

Norm writes RE Mike Francesa and Bernie Madoff:

Francesa still taking calls on Madoff…and still revealing ignorance…this is what happens when you are surrounded by lackeys and yes-men; no one has the temerity to tell him he should shut up and not embarrass himself.

I didn’t mention it when it happened, but you reminded me of the recent show dedicated to the 2000 Mets-Yankees World Series and his interview with Don Zimmer; Francesa went to great lengths to praise Evan Longoria and, without saying it specifically, there were the ever-present shots at David Wright because he’s Wright and not Longoria.

The familiar themes—egomania, omnipotence, expertise not just in sports but in everything—have rendered Francesa transparent to the newer listeners as well as the old. It’s tiresome.