2013 MLB Awards Predictions

2013 MLB Predicted Standings, Award Winners, Books, Cy Young Award, Games, History, Management, Media, MVP, Players, Stats

American League

MVP: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays

If the Blue Jays are contending as they’re supposed to, they’ll be doing it with Bautista having the type of year he had in 2010-2011 when he led the majors in home runs both years and had an OPS of .995 and 1.056.

Cy Young Award: Felix Hernandez, Mariners

He finally has an offense to score a few runs and won’t have to have people make a case and “search for points” to vote for him to win an award he should win outright.

Rookie of the Year: Aaron Hicks, Twins

He’s hit, hit with pop, gotten on base, and stolen bases at every minor league level and forced his way into the Twins’ starting lineup. Because the Twins are not expected to contend, they can let Hicks play until he grows comfortable without immediate pressure to send him down if he slumps.

Manager of the Year: Eric Wedge, Mariners

I’m expecting the Mariners to be contenders in a tough division and if they are, the manager will get the credit.

National League

MVP: Joey Votto, Reds

A healthy Votto, surrounded by power hitters and guys who will get on base in front of him will yield massive classic power numbers with a huge slugging and on base percentage. Plus he’s a Gold Glove candidate and the leader of the team.

Cy Young Award: Zack Greinke, Dodgers

Pitching in Dodger Stadium will keep his ERA supernaturally low.

Rookie of the Year: Hyun-jin Ryu, Dodgers

Ryu has an exploding fastball, a changeup, slider, curve and control. He won’t have to be the center of attention behind Clayton Kershaw and Greinke and there won’t be a large amount of attention paid to him as there would be for an import from the Far East who had expectations a la Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Manager of the Year: Davey Johnson, Nationals

Johnson’s team will be frontrunning from the beginning of the season to the end. Barring an unexpected team contending and having their manager given the credit to take the award away from Johnson, he’ll win the Manager of the Year for the Nats’ regular season success.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2013 Baseball Guide is now available on Amazon.com, Smashwords, BN and Lulu. Check it out and read a sample.

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Keys to 2013: Seattle Mariners

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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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2013 Astros Will Be A Pennant Race Factor

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The aftermath of the Astros gutting and pending 2013 disaster won’t simply affect their organization. In a positive sense, they’re getting rid of their moderate-to-highly paid players and bringing volume into their farm system, plus they’re at the top of the MLB draft and will be so for the foreseeable future. In a negative sense, they’ve all but conceded any and all pretense of fielding a legitimate big league team.

Unlike Michael Kay’s ridiculous, uninformed, petty and vindictive “prediction” that the 2012 Mets were going to lose well over 100 games, I can say without rancor or bias that the 2013 Astros are, at best, a 55 win team. It’s probably going to be fewer than that. Let’s look at why this is the case and why a horrendous club will play so great a role is the 2013 playoff chase.

Their division and status as a target

Two teams from the AL West, the Athletics and the Rangers, made the playoffs last season. A third, the Angels, significantly underachieved but still won 89 games. The fourth team, the Mariners, has improved. Because they’re going to play 19 games each against all of these clubs, the Astros and their opponents will enter each series knowing the Astros will be lucky to win a game.

Other clubs are going to go all out to beat the Astros. The games won’t take on the tenacity of Yankees-Red Sox, Reds-Cardinals or Dodgers-Giants, but they’ll entail opposing managers treating them as such because they’re games they have to win. Losing to the Astros this season will be tantamount to a fundamental gaffe such as failing to touch a base, getting caught leaving too soon on a sacrifice fly, not having the proper reliever warming up or hitters batting out of order. It’s inexcusable.

The rest of the American League

For the Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays, White Sox and Royals, the Astros are a problem. With the strength of the AL West teams, three from the division might make the playoffs based strictly on the extra few victories they’ll accumulate by beating up on the Astros.

Let’s say the Red Sox are out of contention by August and the Yankees are hovering around a playoff spot. On the weekend of August 16th the Yankees are playing the Red Sox while the Angels playing the Astros. The Red Sox won’t have a personal stake in the outcome, but nothing would please them more than hurting the Yankees. The Angels will have what amounts to a sparring session while the Yankees and Red Sox are staging a typical four hour wrestling match regardless of their positions in the standings.

Having a team on the schedule for 19 games and realistically penciling in 13-15 wins goes a long way in bolstering one’s win total and assisting a playoff run.

Job savers and game changers

The Mariners 2013 offense is more potent with the additions of Kendrys Morales and Mike Morse. Their pitching will be affected by the decision to move in the fences at Safeco Field. They were 75-87 last season and GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge are both in the final year of their contracts. Zduriencik’s job is on the line. Would a perceived “improvement” of rising to, say, 84-78 be enough to convince ownership that the Mariners are on the right track and that Zduriencik and Wedge deserve at least one more season? If the Astros weren’t in the AL West, the Mariners would probably be around a 75 win team again. With the Astros there, the Mariners should be over .500. This could potentially save the jobs of their GM and manager.

The Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia’s job is also in jeopardy if the high-priced group plays in a similar lackluster fashion as they did last season. In spite of insistence to the contrary, GM Jerry Dipoto and Scioscia are not on the same page. Owner Arte Moreno wasn’t happy with anyone in his organization after splurging for Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson and missing the playoffs. This past winter he spent even more money on Josh Hamilton and kept his management team in place. None of that changes the fact that this current configuration is not a Scioscia team that, in the past, relied on deep starting pitching and bullpen. The starters gobbled innings; they had a proven closer and set-up men; they embodied solid fundamentals, inside baseball strategies, speed and defense. Apart from Mike Trout and Erick Aybar, this team is plodding. They rely on power, power, power with a shaky starting rotation. Could the Astros’ presence give the Angels with the extra 4-5 wins they wouldn’t get otherwise? A number of wins that last season would’ve vaulted them into the playoffs despite the dysfunction?

On the other coast, the Yankees have gotten worse this winter, not better. They’re relying on ancient veterans and reclamation projects, pinching pennies and have a manager, Joe Girardi, on the final year of his contract. If they don’t make the playoffs, someone is on the chopping block. History has proven that Brian Cashman is now the Teflon GM. It won’t be Girardi’s fault, but hypothetically if the Yankees miss the playoffs, he could be gone and it would be in large part due to the Astros getting beaten so consistently by other playoff contenders who have the advantage of 13 more games against them than the Yankees do.

The Astros will get worse as the season moves along

You wouldn’t think it possible for them to get worse with a projected payroll of $25 million and open admission from GM Jeff Luhnow that they’re going to be awful. In response to the criticism for his latest deal in sending Jed Lowrie to the A’s, Luhnow said:

“We’re not going to do something to improve a few games in 2013 that comes at the expense of our ability to compete over the long haul.”

In other words, “We’re going to be as bad or worse than we’ve been in the past two years when we lost 107 and 106 games.”

In a sense, he’s right on all counts. What’s the difference to the Astros if they win 65 or 50 games? But there’s something untoward about a team not even putting forth the affectation of caring whether they win or lose—in fact, trying to lose to get a higher draft position.

The remaining big league-caliber players they have will be traded as well. They’re already willing to listen to offers on their best pitcher and highest paid player, Bud Norris. He’s going to be dealt at some point. The other mediocre veterans they have will be available at mid-season. Carlos Pena still has power and a good glove at first base. Strikeouts and under .200 batting average aside, a contender will take him for their stretch run. Jose Veras is the Astros’ closer and if he’s pitching well is a veteran bullpen asset for the second half. Wesley Wright is a lefty specialist and every team needs more than one lefty specialist in the playoffs.

Luhnow has shown total indifference to trading his players. He’ll send them to division rivals or anywhere that he can get the most in exchange. Pena, Veras, Wright can help the Angels, Rangers, Yankees, White Sox—anyone to win that extra game or two to take a playoff spot.

The Astros are a Triple A team now and will be a Double A team by July. They can talk about the future all they want, but the present has consequences for the rest of baseball.

Expect complaints from teams like the Yankees that it’s not fair. Opposing franchises will say that the Astros should have to field a reasonably competitive big league team. Eventually, something might be done about this strategy with MLB forcing teams to provide a competent product. There’s not much MLB can do right now, but they could try to install a payroll floor in the future, something the Players Association and most other owners would agree to.

In 2013, though, it won’t change the reality or the outcome. As a direct result of the Astros switching leagues, people will save or lose their jobs because of it.

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Managerial Tornado, Part I—Acta, Mills, Valentine, Pirates, Marlins

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The managerial tornado is touching down. Some, like the fired Manny Acta and Brad Mills, were caught in its path and disappeared; others landed to clean up the wreckage. The Indians fired Acta yesterday and, predictably, replaced him with Sandy Alomar Jr. In spite of the designation as “interim,” Alomar is going to get the fulltime job in part because the Indians are restarting their rebuild, in part because they don’t have any money to pay a big name manager, in part because if they don’t give him the job another team is likely to hire him, and in part because he’s popular in Cleveland. He’s a top managerial prospect and very nearly got the Red Sox job last year.

With the Marlins preferring a cheaper, younger, calmer presence than Ozzie Guillen and Alomar’s ability to speak Spanish, he’d be a good choice to take over that mess. The Angels’ situation is unsettled and the Rockies job might come open.  Regardless of his denials, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington slipped up by essentially saying straight out that he’ll use a different strategy to replace Bobby Valentine. Cherington later tried to “clarify” his remarks. Just stop it, huh?

Firing the manager is the easy thing to do and sometimes unavoidable. Acta has functioned in bad luck for his managerial career with a lack of talent on his rosters. He was the Nationals’ manager as they were losing so relentlessly that the were able to secure the top picks in the draft two straight years and were lucky enough to have once-in-a-decade franchise players sitting there waiting for them with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Two managers later, Davey Johnson is reaping the benefits. With the Indians, injuries and underperformance did Acta in. His firing was fait accompli even though upper management itself, GM Chris Antonetti and team president Mark Shapiro, are under siege for their mistakes. Some have wondered why the Indians didn’t wait until the season was over, but they’ve done this before with Eric Wedge and they were firing Acta anyway, so what’s the difference? He’s a Rene Lachemann-type: someone who knows what he’s doing, is well-respected as a baseball man, and hasn’t had the luck of other, inferior managers like Bob Brenly. Brenly could’ve been replaced by a mannequin, few would’ve noticed and the strategic mishaps would’ve been far fewer.

The mistake that owners and top bosses make is even acknowledging the media’s questions about the managers and GMs when said managers and GMs have long-term contracts. Whether or not they’re thinking of making a change or the decision has already been made, there’s nothing to be gained by replying as if the speculation has validity. Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington and his gung-ho assistant (to the point of sociopathic behaviors) Kyle Stark are said to be on the firing line because of the Pirates’ collapse and Stark’s ridiculous Navy SEAL training regimens for low-level minor leaguers. Team president Frank Coonelly was asked about their job status of his staff and said they’re going to be back for 2013. That’s funcutioning under the assumption that Coonelly is safe and I don’t believe that Coonelly’s job is particularly secure, so if Coonelly is fired, one would assume that the rest of the front office will be out the door as well. I’d have fired Coonelly two years ago.

The Marlins are a disaster and after initially believing that Guillen would survive in part because of his 4-year contract, the team has quit, Guillen dared owner Jeffrey Loria to fire him, and they’re scaling back payroll to $70 million. First the front office led by Larry Beinfest was predicted in jeopardy, now it’s implied that the front office is safe and Guillen is going to be dumped. I believe that Loria’s going to fire everyone and start over.

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Jason Bay For Chone Figgins–Do It Now

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In a trade of retrospective failures, the Mets and Mariners should exchange two disastrous contracts by trading Jason Bay for Chone Figgins.

Contrary to the narcissism of the armchair experts, neither contract could have been predicted to have turned out as badly as they have. Bay has been injured and unproductive. Figgins has been plain bad. At the time that they were signed, the contracts were heavy but no one—no one—could’ve predicted that Bay would fall off the earth and hit for no power while becoming injury-prone; nor could they have expected Figgins to become a hitter who can’t break the Mendoza Line (named for Mario Mendoza because of his terribleness at the plate).

Even if the Mets were desperate to sign a bat and overpaid for Bay when they were bidding against themselves, he’d been productive and a better than rumored outfielder who put up power numbers while playing in Pittsburgh’s big ballpark. He’d handled the pressure of Boston and navigated the Green Monster of Fenway. 20-25 homers wasn’t an outrageous demand and statistics/caveat emptor warnings against him are post-scripted, self-congratulatory and narcissistic.

Bay is being paid $16 million in 2012 and $16 million in 2013. He has a vesting option for 2014 at $17 million with a $3 million buyout. He has a no-trade clause, but presumably he’d waive it to get out of New York. I was never an advocate of simply releasing him. Some foolish, forum-infused (ESPN to be specific), non-experts have postulated that the Mets should’ve released him last season and signed Endy Chavez to replace him.

Great idea.

And by “great” I mean stupid.

But now, with another 3 months of injuries and ineptitude, it makes no sense to move forward with him if he’s not going to be part of the club when they turn the corner; when they have other players like Kirk Nieuwenhuis that need and deserve to play. Bay hasn’t been a Carl Pavano-type of signing where he didn’t want to play; one who appeared to choose the disabled list over being on the field and whose body language indicated someone who doesn’t care. Bay’s a good guy, has worked hard and hasn’t performed well as a Met.

Figgins is a player who appeared out of his comfort zone as a highly paid free agent and key to the Mariners’ resurgence. In the Angels’ structure, where he was able to blend into the background and Mike Scioscia was clearly in charge, he was fine. With the dysfunctional and disappointing Mariners and the jerking back and forth between second base, third base and the outfield and a powerless figurehead manager, Don Wakamatsu, he turned into a different person from what the Mariners thought they were getting.

It’s better in Seattle now with Eric Wedge, but Figgins’s die was cast.

Perhaps the take-no-crap Terry Collins and a new home will revert Figgins into something useful.

Figgins is making $9 million this season, $8 million in 2013 and has a vesting option for 2014 at $9 million. The Mets would have to eat some money in the deal, but they’re going to end up just letting Bay go anyway. It’s not out of the question that Figgins’s versatility and speed could be of use to the Mets where it’s not for the Mariners.

They haven’t worked in their current addresses and both are going to be dropped for nothing. Why not trade them for each other and see if the new venue helps?

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The AL/NL MVP Dichotomy

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On one side, you have a pitcher who has to deal with the dogmatism of the self-involved voters who feel as if they’re the interpreters and adjusters of stated rules.

On the other, you have a player who’s put up numbers that justify a Most Valuable Player season, but is on a team that is out of contention.

How’s this going to go?

Justin Verlander of the Tigers is a clear MVP candidate as well as the AL Cy Young Award winner.

Matt Kemp of the Dodgers is leading the National League in homers and RBI and is right behind Jose Reyes and Ryan Braun for the lead in batting average.

Of course stat people will scoff at the value of both RBI and average, but the Triple Crown is the Triple Crown—it still has meaning as a symbol even if the results aren’t showing up in the won/lost column for the Dodgers.

The Tigers pulled away from the NL Central pack with a 12 game winning streak, but before that their playoff hopes rested largely on the shoulders of Verlander and Miguel Cabrera; without Verlander, they would’ve been barely in contention, if at all.

This is a situation where Wins Above Replacement—in context—is a valuable stat.

Kemp’s WAR is 9.6; let’s say the Dodgers found someone who was serviceable in center field, they still would be well below the 79-77 record they’ve posted with a second half string of good play after an awful start.

Verlander’s WAR is 8.6 and the Tigers would have no chance of replicating even a quarter of what Verlander has meant to the team given the dearth of pitching available. If the Tigers were to lose Cabrera, they would’ve found someone—Carlos Beltran; Josh Willingham; Michael Cuddyer—to make up for some semblance of that lost offense. Such was not the case with Verlander.

The other MVP candidates in the National League like Albert Pujols are just as irreplaceable as Kemp; the Brewers strength has been on the mound and they have enough offense to function if Braun were injured; in fact, there’s an argument that Prince Fielder has been more valuable to the Brewers than Braun has.

In the American League, the same holds true for the Red Sox with Adrian Gonzalez and the Yankees with Curtis Granderson. Had either player gone down, the Red Sox could’ve plugged someone in at either first or third base and gotten by without Gonzalez; the Yankees would’ve gotten a corner outfield bat, shifted Brett Gardner to center and survived with the rest of the lineup picking up the slack.

So does it come down to the “best” player? The “most valuable”?

And are these arguments going to mirror one another in each league while, in some way, validating both?

I only hope that George King of the New York Post no longer has a vote. It was King who famously left Pedro Martinez off his 1999 ballot because he was supposedly convinced by people he respected the year before that pitchers didn’t deserve MVP votes (EUREKA!!!) and left the deserving winner off his ballot entirely depriving him of the award that went to Ivan Rodriguez. In a ludicrous bit of backpedaling and stupid “explanation”, King said that he thought then-Red Sox manager Jimy Williams was more valuable to the Red Sox than Martinez.

If he has a vote this season, one can only hope that King hasn’t been studiously watching the job done by Eric Wedge with the Mariners and deemed it more important than Verlander’s work; if that’s the case, then Verlander’s going to be left out in the cold just like Martinez was and it’ll be a case of idiocy all over again.

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MLB Trade Deadline Stories 7.22.2011

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I don’t do rumormongering just for the sake of it; everything here is my own speculation as to what makes sense and/or analysis of what’s being said.

Of course “sense”, “logic” and “reality” often has little to do with what’s presented as a story.

Let’s take a look.

Keeping Izzy.

I don’t buy the “Mets are not trading Jason Isringhausen” stuff. If it’s August and the team has faded, he should be on the table.

But only if it makes sense.

Unless they’re offered something that the Mets really like (and it won’t be a top prospect), they’re not getting a lot for a pitcher who’s likely to retire at the end of the year and has had multiple arm problems. And the concept of Isringhausen mentoring the younger pitchers who are going to get a shot at closing—Bobby Parnell and Pedro Beato among them—is legitimate.

In 2006, it was Isringhausen who guided Adam Wainwright through the unfamiliar terrain of moving from a career starter in the minors and long reliever in the majors as a rookie, to being a post-season closer.

It worked out pretty well for the Cardinals in the long and short term as Wainwright helped them to a championship, then slotted into the rotation as one of the best pitchers in baseball who had a post-season pedigree for getting the big outs.

If Isringhausen can impart similar wisdom for the Mets, he’d be more valuable than any low-level minor leaguer they’d get in a trade.

Mariners awful stretch shouldn’t detract from the positives of 2011.

A year ago, the Mariners were 38-60 after 98 games; this year after a 12-game losing streak, they’re 43-55.

They were considering being buyers at the trading deadline before that losing streak, but now they’ve fallen essentially to where they were expected to be before the season.

That doesn’t mean it’s all negative.

Last season, the team was in absolute disarray on-and-off the field with poor behaviors, a lack of respect for the manager and shady dealings in trades.

They were a disaster.

Now with Eric Wedge bringing order in the clubhouse and young players Dustin Ackley (who reminds me of Chase Utley—a very good thing) and Michael Pineda arriving on the scene, there are positives now where there were few a year ago beyond Felix Hernandez.

They still have one of the worst offenses I’ve ever seen and are saddled with Chone Figgins‘s onerous contract and Ichiro Suzuki—two collapsing singles hitters are owed a combined $34 million.

They still have a lot of work to do and a lot of dead money to subtract.

They’re not close to contending, but even as they spiral towards 95 losses again, it’s not as all-around bad as it was in 2010.

In a way, it’s progress.

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Team Turmoil

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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 4.3.2011

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Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the Mariners and Jack Zduriencik:

I bet if the “GENIUS” Jack Z. changed the club’s name to the Seattle Non-Conformists, no one would even notice. Maybe a handful would… care? I dunno.

Non-conformists? Acceptable.

Socipathic? Not-acceptable.

Look, I can’t blame Zduriencik for the appellation of genius or the “Truly Amazin’ Exec” silliness from the despicable Joel Sherman—he didn’t write this stuff and unlike Billy Beane, he didn’t appear to wallow in it and taking advantage of it to enrich himself and sow the seeds of that image.

You have to consider the sources who are plastering that image on someone who’s trying to do his job. None of them were operating from a baseline of credibility; either they had an agenda or didn’t know what they were talking about to begin with.

As for the Josh Lueke trade; the double-dealing when it came to Cliff Lee to the Yankees, then to the Rangers; and Milton Bradley, there are a lot of problems that had nothing to do with what happened between the lines.

Hypothetically, if Zduriencik is given a clean slate—let the 2009 (good) and 2010 (bad) seasons cancel themselves out—the Mariners still have to perform as if they’re in the right direction on the field and behave appropriately off it. Eric Wedge was a good hire toward that end, but with Bradley, there’s going to be an incident that will sully the organization again.

They have a loyal fan base in Seattle; they spend money; and have a nice ballpark. It’s a good locale to build a team.

Franklin Rabon writes RE the Dodgers and Hong-Chih Kuo:

The Dodgers have only one lefty and he’s their designated 8th inning guy who can’t throw more than two days in a row?!

I’m not of the mind that a team has to have a lefty specialist just for the sake of having a lefty specialist. You can find a lefty somewhere. Look at Royce Ring—he’s been everywhere; he’s been awful; and teams keep bringing him in because he’s lefty and breathing, not necessarily in that order.

You have to look at the opponents and the circumstances; if the Dodgers were in a division with the Red Sox, then I’d say they have to have a couple of lefties; but they’re in a division with the Padres, Rockies, Giants and Diamondbacks. Is there a group of lefty bats that have to be worried about among that group? Not really. As the season moves along and they need a lefty specialist, they’ll be able to find one.

Regarding Kuo, how many pitchers are asked to throw three days in a row in today’s game? Even the closers aren’t pushed that hard for fear of burning them out. With a dominating lefty with a 100-mph fastball and vicious slider like Kuo, I’d use him judiciously to make sure he’s healthy; he’s had Tommy John surgery twice and if the Dodgers are going to do anything in October, they’re going to need Kuo. Why burn him out now because he’s lefty?

JoeNats writes RE Nyjer Morgan:

As a Nats fan, I cooled to Nyjer in a game where he made a gallant attempt at a catch at the wall, missed it, and then–instead of keeping his head in the game and following the ball–threw his glove to the ground forcing Willingham to retrieve the rebound too late to thwart an inside-the-park home run. I get the impression that Morgan is just as hard on himself as he is on others and became a bi-polar influence in the clubhouse. As the season ran on, his impatience chilled potential rallies as he was thrown out on steals too early in the game and too early in the situation. If Morgan can temper his overall anger, I do believe he would make a good centerfielder and great base stealer and team personality.

He’s got a temper and as I said in my posting, I think it stems from his hockey experience where you can’t let any transgression go without retaliation.

My issue with Morgan wasn’t the player himself, but the lovelorn worship he received after playing brilliantly for the Nats following the trade from the Pirates.

He is what he is and part of that is getting caught stealing—a lot. Morgan needs to be reined in. Maybe going to the Brewers—the first club he’ll join with any legitimate designs on contention—is what he needs.

Like Elijah Dukes, the Nats had to get Morgan out of there and they got something for him in Cutter Dykstra; Morgan will be playing semi-regularly-to-regularly for the Brewers before long and they’ll be a better club for it.

Pam writes RE the NY Times picture of the Phillies that I posted here:

Yeah, the picture is pretty creepy.

Now if they were holding lightsabers…

They could be the Jedi trying to arrest Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith. We know how that turned out.

I’ll be Palpatine.

I am Palpatine.

Joe (DaGodfather on Twitter) writes RE the Phillies pic:

I have a better question. Where’s Blanton? Wasn’t it the Phantastic Phour themselves who said that they would not do things like that if if did not include Blanton?

Including Joe Blanton in that article would’ve been pretty silly. He’s a pretty good pitcher who doesn’t belong in their group. I think back to the 1993 Braves. They’d just signed Greg Maddux and insisted that any profile of Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Steve Avery included Pete Smith.

Pete Smith.

Pete Smith went 4-8 that year and after the season they traded him to the Mets of all places.

It would’ve been funny if they had Blanton lounging in front of the mound in a provocative position as the “Phoursome” was posed as they are now.

****

My podcast appearance with SportsFanBuzz previewing the season is posted. You can listen here The SportsFan Buzz: March 30, 2011 or on iTunes.

I was on with Mike at NYBaseballDigest and his preview as well. You can listen here.

****

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 also out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.


//

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.