Off Season Losers In Retrospect

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Several days ago I listed the off season winners in retrospect discussing teams and the moves they made this past winter. Now it’s time for the losers.

New York Yankees

Acquired: Michael Pineda, Raul Ibanez, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Jose Campos

Subtracted: Jorge Posada, A.J. Burnett, Jesus Montero, Hector Noesi

The YES Network website still hasn’t mentioned Jose Campos since he got hurt. For that matter, nor have they mentioned Manny Banuelos’s recent injury. Maybe they haven’t been informed yet. Yeah. That’s it.

The trade of Montero and Noesi for Pineda and Campos is an absolute and utter disaster—a fireable offense for GM Brian Cashman.

Kuroda’s been good and unlucky.

Pettitte’s unexpected return has been a bolt from the blue and Ibanez has contributed the power I expected.

It’s fine to talk about them “having” to get rid of Burnett, but they’re paying him; they got low minor leaguers for him; he’s pitching well for the Pirates; and the players the Yankees got haven’t played yet in 2012. Had Pettitte not returned I guarantee there would be people now lamenting the loss of Burnett.

Guarantee.

Boston Red Sox

Acquired: GM Ben Cherington, Manager Bobby Valentine, Andrew Bailey, Ryan Sweeney, Cody Ross, Kelly Shoppach, Mark Melancon, Nick Punto

Subtracted: GM Theo Epstein, Manager Terry Francona, Jonathan Papelbon, Marco Scutaro, Josh Reddick, Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek

It’s only when you look at the list above all at once do you realize how rancid an off-season the Red Sox had. Never mind the exchange of GMs/managers. Had he stayed, Epstein probably would’ve had better success fending off the advancing power grab of Larry Lucchino but it would’ve taken a Herculean effort for Epstein to prevent the mediocrity that the Red Sox have become.

I’m sick of seeing Francona complaining about how he was treated in Boston. If it weren’t for the Red Sox, the hot chicks to whom he’s sending candid photos of himself wouldn’t know who he is; not to mention would he not have two World Series rings and respect as a “great” manager—which he’s not.

Bailey got hurt as Reddick is on his way to making the All Star team and has been the Athletics’ best player. Melancon is back in the minor leagues; Shoppach is on the trade block; Ross was playing well before he got hurt; Punto is Punto.

No one’s saying they should’ve overpaid to keep Papelbon, but giving Scutaro away for a journeyman righty Clayton Mortensen made no sense.

Detroit Tigers

Acquired: Prince Fielder, Octavio Dotel, Gerald Laird, Collin Balester

Subtracted: Wilson Betemit, Brad Penny, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen, Joel Zumaya

Fielder and Cabrera are doing their jobs at the plate and more. The porous defense created by the signing of Fielder and shifting of Cabrera to third base hasn’t been as catastrophic as expected. That’s unless the pitching staff has it in their heads that they have to strike out more hitters or pitch differently to prevent balls from being hit to the right or left sides of the infield—highly unlikely.

The Tigers are 5 games under .500 because their pitching has been bad. The off-season isn’t a failure because of the signing of Fielder, but 5 games under .500 wasn’t what Mike Ilitch had in mind when he paid all that money to sign a huge bat like Fielder to replace Victor Martinez and team him with Cabrera.

Minnesota Twins

Acquired: GM Terry Ryan, Josh Willingham, Jamey Carroll, Jason Marquis, Ryan Doumit, Joel Zumaya

Subtracted: GM Bill Smith, Joe Nathan, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Kevin Slowey

Terry Ryan was supposed to come back into the GM’s chair and start doing things the “Twins’ Way”. Well, that “way” is no longer working. The reason that vaunted “way” worked in the past was because they had talent on the roster and a club that was built for how Ron Gardenhire managed.

That’s no longer the case.

Marquis was released. Carroll hasn’t hit. Willingham’s been fantastic. The Zumaya signing was worth a shot I suppose, but he got hurt again. What he needs now is a friend—a real friend—to tell him that it’s over and he should retire before he damages himself permanently.

Maybe that’s what the Twins need too.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Acquired: GM Jerry Dipoto, Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, Chris Iannetta, Jason Isringhausen, LaTroy Hawkins

Subtracted: GM Tony Reagins, Fernando Rodney, Jeff Mathis, Tyler Chatwood

Pujols has started hitting and the Angels will rise and fall on what he does, but the uncharacteristic decision on the part of the Angels to depart from the template they’ve adhered to for a decade has led to this disconnect between GM Dipoto, manager Mike Scioscia and the club.

Scioscia’s hitting coach, Mickey Hatcher, was fired against Scioscia’s wishes. They never took serious steps to bolster the bullpen and had too many players for too few lineup spots.

Owner Arte Moreno made maneuvers that were not team-related, but related to the TV deal he wanted to secure. And he did.

They did business like the 1980s Yankees and they’ve been playing and behaving like the 1980s Yankees. The one thing that will save them is the thing that was lacking in the 1980s: the Wild Cards.

Cincinnati Reds

Acquired: Mat Latos, Ryan Madson, Ryan Ludwick

Subtracted: Ramon Hernandez, Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Edinson Volquez, Edgar Renteria, Francisco Cordero

The Reds are in first place and playing well no thanks to Latos (he’s been horrific); Madson (out for the year with Tommy John surgery); and Ludwick (.205/.290/.402 slash line with 6 homers in a homer-friendly home park).

It’s not as if they needed Alonso with Joey Votto ensconced at first base. They have a young catcher in Devin Mesoraco so they didn’t really need Grandal. And Volquez has been consistently inconsistent and injured since his great rookie year with the Reds.

But the winter moves are what’s relevant here and if they’d held onto the players they traded for Latos (and I’m not retrospectively ripping the deal since I thought it was good for both sides), they could’ve gotten mid-season help rather than an in-season nightmare.

Milwaukee Brewers

Acquired: Aramis Ramirez, Alex Gonzalez, Norichika Aoki, Jose Veras, Brooks Conrad

Subtracted: Prince Fielder, Yuniesky Betancourt, Casey McGehee

Ramirez is starting to hit and will hit put up numbers by the end of the season. We’ll never know whether the improved defense and pop from Alex Gonzalez and a full season from Mat Gamel would’ve made up for the loss of Fielder because both blew out their knees within days of each other.

It’s not really anyone’s fault. They did the best they could under their financial and practical circumstances.

St. Louis Cardinals

Acquired: Manager Mike Matheny, Carlos Beltran, pitching coach Derek Lilliquist

Subtracted: Manager Tony LaRussa, pitching coach Dave Duncan, Albert Pujols, Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Gerald Laird, Nick Punto.

So wait…now that the Cardinals are at .500 and freefalling it’s been miraculously discovered that the transition from a Hall of Fame manager/pitching coach combination to a manager who’s never managed before anywhere wasn’t going to go as smoothly as it did when they got off to a hot start?

That replacing Pujols wasn’t as simple as signing Beltran and moving the now-injured 36-year-old Lance Berkman to first base?

Shocking.

Colorado Rockies

Acquired: Michael Cuddyer, Marco Scutaro, Ramon Hernandez, Jeremy Guthrie, Tyler Chatwood, Tyler Colvin, Jamie Moyer

Subtracted: Chris Iannetta, Jason Hammel, Matt Lindstrom, Ian Stewart, Seth Smith

The starting pitching has killed them.

They loaded up on starters, but it hasn’t been enough as Drew Pomeranz got hurt and they gave Moyer 10 starts. It hasn’t helped that Hammel has been very good for the Orioles while Guthrie has been terrible for the Rockies.

Cuddyer has been everything advertised. Scutaro and Hernandez haven’t.

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How About LaRussa Back To The White Sox?

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The White Sox have accomplished something rare in Chicago: they’re more embarrassing than the Cubs.

Sure, the White Sox have a better record than the Cubs, but they have a lot more talent; no one reasonable was expecting anything more than mediocrity from the Cubs this year and they’ve been terrible; but the White Sox are a train wreck and GM Kenny Williams is going to do something drastic.

The time has passed for him to trade half his roster and he was right to hold his fire at the deadline. They were only 3 games out of first place and had played better to reach .500. Since then, they look like they’ve started their off-season early.

Ozzie Guillen has been rumored to be on the hotseat so many other times and was never fired; he has a contract for next year so there is reason to believe he’ll be back.

But there’s also reason to believe he won’t.

The Marlins wanted Guillen this past winter and the White Sox players don’t seem to be responding to him anymore. The easiest thing to do is to bring in a new manager rather than a boatload of new players especially with the immovable contracts the White Sox have.

The obvious choice in a chain-of-command style scenario would be Joey Cora, but Williams thinks outside the box and does what he wants. Another name I’d expect to be floated is the man who came in second to Guillen when Guillen was hired: Cito Gaston. Gaston didn’t look like he wanted to retire from the Blue Jays after last year and with Jack McKeon and Davey Johnson back in the dugout, it’s not as much of an anomaly to have a much older manager. Gaston will be 68 starting next season.

But how about Tony LaRussa returning to finish his managerial career where he started it?

Owner Jerry Reinsdorf is still close with LaRussa and the Cardinals are in flux despite their flurry of moves to placate the manager and win now.

In fact, the series of trades—that could be referred to as desperate—could be framed as having been made to win immediately in a last ditch effort to close out the LaRussa-era as a winner.

Could the Cardinals be preparing for a future without Albert Pujols just in case he does leave after the season? And would LaRussa have any interest in managing the Cardinals without Pujols?

He’s going year-to-year with his Cardinals contracts and with the rampant dysfunction that’s coming to light with the fight between Yadier Molina and Gerald Laird and the multitude of issues between LaRussa and Tony Rasmus that expedited Colby Rasmus being traded, maybe he and the Cardinals would like to go their separate ways.

If Pujols leaves, the Cardinals are going to be severely compromised in 2012 and at his age (LaRussa will be 67), does he need the aggravation of a Cardinals clubhouse sans Pujols and little chance to win?

The White Sox will have a lot of talent on the roster in 2012 and are ready-made to contend—a perfect spot for LaRussa in both practice and aesthetics.

It’d take a lot for it to happen, but it’s a viable landing spot for a 2-3 year window to try and win another championship and go out in the venue where he came in.

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The Gerald Laird-Yadier Molina Fight (AKA “Disagreement”)

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It’s being reported and confirmed (in a spin-doctory sort of way) that Cardinals catchers Yadier Molina and Gerald Laird got into an altercation Wednesday night; Cardinals GM John Mozeliak called it a “disagreement”; Laird is said to have called Molina a “cheater”.

In the linked piece above, Dave Brown speculates that it might’ve been about card playing. Unless he has inside knowledge about what happened—and it doesn’t appear that he does—I don’t see how it’s possible to suggest it in the way Brown does:

It’s probably at cards — ballplayers love to play cards to pass the time.

He may be right, but it probably wasn’t the smartest thing in the world to use that all-encompassing context without knowing that’s what caused it.

What’s to stop me from suggesting Laird is a religious fanatic and clubhouse busybody and was calling Molina a cheater because he was betraying his wedding vows? (Is Molina even married? I don’t know, but you see my point.)

To follow up on that concept however, there are different categories of teammates fighting amongst themselves. If it’s in the heat of competition and about something that was going on on the field, then it’s okay and can be smoothed over quickly. I take it as a positive if players are intense and passionate enough to be that feisty to fight over on-field matters.

If it’s over a girl/groupie; a card game or money borrowed in any fashion, it’s not good at all and can leave lingering hard feelings and factions within the clubhouse.

Teammates get into shoving matches all the time and they’re usually forgotten as par for the course. These are grown men living and working together for up to 9 months a year—of course they’re going to fight—but you can’t have players fighting over money.

You just can’t have it. It’s not dysfunctional—which a team can survive; it’s disastrous—which a team can’t.

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