The Phantom Link Between Strasburg and RG III

Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Football, Games, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, NFL, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, World Series

The connection between what the Nationals did with Stephen Strasburg in shutting him down at a preplanned innings limit and what the Redskins did with Robert Griffin III only exists in the minds of those desperately searching for one.

It was again mentioned in today’s New York Times in this piece by Harvey Araton. To Araton’s credit, he references that an “a-ha moment” was a “surface comparison” with the unsaid inference that RG III and Strasburg were in no way connected except as a lukewarm defense to what Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo did in shutting Strasburg down and as an indictment for what Redskins’ coach Mike Shanahan didn’t do in leaving Griffin in the team’s playoff game against the Seahawks only to see Griffin severely injure his knee, possibly costing him the entire 2013 season and a portion of the running ability that made him so special.

The equating of Griffin and Strasburg is ludicrous. Because the Nats chose to end Strasburg’s season, the old-school types considered it heresy. Bolstered by the Nats’ loss in the NLDS to the Cardinals, the ill-informed and agenda-driven arguments suggest that had Strasburg been available, the Nats would have blown past the Cardinals and possibly gone on to win the World Series; that Rizzo’s overprotectiveness cost the Nationals that rare opportunity to win a championship—one that is not guaranteed in the future regardless of teamwide talent levels.

The truth is that the Nationals should have won the series against the Cardinals and only blew it because of a mistake they made during the season and it wasn’t shutting Strasburg down. The mistake they made was reinstalling Drew Storen as the closer as if he was a veteran along the lines of Mariano Rivera who deserved to return to his job by status after having missed the majority of the season with an elbow problem. Tyler Clippard had done an admirable job in the role and should have been left alone at least for the remainder of the season. Manager Davey Johnson, however, chose to be his iconoclastic self and hand the ninth inning back to Storen. Storen blew the fifth game of the NLDS after being within a strike of ending the game and the series three separate times with what began as a 2-run, ninth inning lead. Storen was not a veteran who had earned his stripes and had the right to walk off the disabled list and right back into the ninth inning, especially with a team that was streaking toward the playoffs. In fact, Storen didn’t regain the closer’s role until the playoffs, making the choice all the more questionable. (Notice I said “regain” and not “reclaim.” The job was just handed back to Storen based on nothing other than him having been the closer before.)

To make matters worse, this off-season the Nats decided that Storen wasn’t even going to be their closer for the next two and probably three years by signing Rafael Soriano to take the job. So what was the purpose of naming Storen closer for the playoffs if: A) he hadn’t re-earned the role; and B) he’s not their long-term solution?

The Strasburg shutdown was based on paranoia and out-of-context “guidelines” that gave Rizzo the impetus to do what he wanted to do all along: protect himself rather than protect his pitcher. Innings limits and pitch counts are tantamount to the architect of the parameters saying, “If he gets hurt, don’t blame me.” It’s selfishness, not protecting an investment.

Strasburg had already blown out his elbow once while functioning within the constraints of innings limits and pitch counts that went all the way back to his days under Tony Gwynn at San Diego State. The object of this style protectiveness is to keep the player healthy, but nothing is said when the player gets hurt anyway. Compounding matters, they continued down the road of self-interested and random limits based on whatever advice and statistics supported their decision.

If Strasburg gets hurt again, the shutdown will be seen as useless; if he stays healthy, it will be seen as the “why” when it had just as much chance of having nothing to do with it as it did in him needing Tommy John surgery in the first place.

As for the RG III-Strasburg link, no common bond exists other than that Shanahan made a mistake in leaving RG III in the game to get hurt and the Nats yanked Strasburg from the rotation in the interest of “saving” him.

In retrospect, as a guardian of his young, star-level quarterback, Shanahan should have taken RG III from the game, but he didn’t. That’s separate from what the Nats did with Strasburg because retrospect hasn’t come yet and if it does, there won’t be the aforementioned “a-ha” moment in either direction. Both players play for teams based in Washington; both are once-a-decade talents; and both had injuries. Apart from that, there’s nothing that places them in the same category except for those looking for a reason to justify or malign, and that’s not the basis for a viable argument.


Hideki Irabu Could’ve Been Really Good

Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Players

Harvey Araton writes about Hideki Irabu in today’s NY Times.

Irabu was found dead in California yesterday from an apparent suicide.

For him to kill himself, he obviously had bigger problems than just baseball; but if his baseball career had gone according to plan, perhaps he wouldn’t have spiraled to this point.

Irabu was a prized acquisition of the Yankees in 1997 after the Padres had secured his rights from the Chiba Lotte Marines and he refused to play in San Diego. Irabu wanted to be a Yankee; the Yankees wanted him; his demands were met.

In the Times piece, it’s noted by a Yale anthropology professor—William Kelly—that Irabu may have made a mistake going to the Yankees; Kelly seems to blame agent Don Nomura:

“It may be that Nomura did not serve him well as an agent,” Kelly said. “In the end, Irabu might have been better off in San Diego.”

Blaming the agent is idiotic. If anything, Nomura was doing something that star agents like Scott Boras occasionally fail to do—serve the client as a person by acquiescing to his desires. That may not be what’s best for said client, but in the end the agent is an employee and Irabu chose to go the Yankees.

He got that and more. Which turned out to be less.

There are circumstances in which a pitcher is overvalued for the interest he’ll generate off the field rather than what he can do on it. Kei Igawa was signed by the Yankees as a response to the Red Sox getting Daisuke Matsuzaka; Irabu was the Yankees’ version of Hideo Nomo.

The expectations for Irabu were heightened by Nomo’s sudden and unforeseen explosion and the Yankees hype machine. Nomo arrived amid little fanfare aside from the way he extricated himself from Japan by “retiring”. No one predicted much and Nomo turned into a sensation; Nomo’s parents had received assurances from Dodgers GM Fred Claire and manager Tommy Lasorda that the club would protect him. Irabu had no such protective measures; all he had was the albatross of being the “second guy” after Nomo. “You think Nomo’s good? Watch this!!”

It’s not easy being the “second guy” especially playing for the Yankees under George Steinbrenner.

With a near 100-mph fastball and devastating split-finger to go along with a wild personality, the decision to lever his way to the Yankees wound up being a big part of his undoing.

Irabu was a disappointment, but he did have good stuff. That power fastball and split-finger could’ve made him a useful and probably very good big league pitcher. But the Yankees needed a Nomo and Irabu wasn’t Nomo.

Lineups were to be left in ruins at the mere sight of Irabu; the club, fans and media waited for devastation when he was merely “okay”.

Okay wasn’t, nor would it ever be, good enough when saddled with those demands for that team with that owner.

Clearly that professional failure to meet lofty and absurd fantasies were only a fraction of the myriad of issues with Hideki Irabu and those issues caused him to end his own life.


Bring The Truth, Bring The Pain

Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hot Stove, Management, Media, Players

The Jose Reyes Chronicles needs to be published on a daily basis.

Let’s take a look.

Nice hatchet job. And by “nice” I mean ridiculous.

Harvey Araton wrote this piece in today’s NY Times about Jose Reyes.

It’s a none-too-subtle rip job disguised as journalism.

Are these writers so dense that they haven’t gotten the message that when Alex Rodriguez says something like Reyes is the “greatest player in the world” that it smacks of a lesson he learned during his apprenticeship under Madonna? That he’s keeping his name in the public consciousness by any means necessary?

It’s not a shot at Derek Jeter; it’s something he said to garner a reaction.

He’s getting it and you’re enabling him.

Did Araton read the New Yorker piece? Is he banking on people innocently opening their Times sports section this morning and taking everything he says as gospel and contextually accurate? Or is he twisting the spirit of what was said to convenience his conclusions?

Here’s Araton’s quote from the column:

Six weeks ago, a healthy majority of respondents happened to agree with the owner Wilpon’s assessment, as quoted in a magazine article, that Reyes would not be worth “Carl Crawford money” ($142 million over seven years) because he is too often injured.

Here’s the quote from the New Yorker piece:

“He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money,” Wilpon said, referring to the Red Sox’ signing of the former Tampa Bay player to a seven-year, $142-million contract. “He’s had everything wrong with him,” Wilpon said of Reyes. “He won’t get it.”

Far be it from me to explain the concept of reading comprehension an underlying meaning to a columnist from the New York Times, but that’s not quite an equitable analysis of what Wilpon said.

Is Rafael Soriano worth the $35 million he got?

Is Jayson Werth worth the $126 million he got?

And on the other side of things has Bartolo Colon been worth the $900,000 the Yankees are paying him for the masterful comeback season he’s put together?

It’s not a difficult concept to grasp unless you perhaps have…an agenda!

But why would anyone read that column and think Araton sat at his keyboard with an intention to savage the Mets and lavish love upon the Yankees?

These are the Mets.

All the talk of the Mets “run scoring” machine—achieved with the absence of home runs, assisted by all the walks, the Reyes baserunning/hit show, and unsung heroes—is silly. They had a few big games in the Texas bandbox and against some bad pitching in Detroit.

Because of parity and over-and-above the call of duty performances from the likes of Justin Turner and Dillon Gee, they’ve hung around .500 and looked better than anyone reasonably expected.

The key word is “looked”.

This is not a contender; it’s not a good team; and a vast number of the prominent names currently in the lineup won’t be with the club when the Mets turn the corner back into contention under Sandy Alderson.

These are facts.

Reyes may be there and he may not. And not be for the “Carl Crawford” money that so many have suggested he’s going to want.

The sudden strain.

For everyone who went on and on about Reyes’s historic durability—which is generally factual—there’s always been and will be this issue where his hamstrings are vulnerable. It’s a career-long worry and could preclude him from getting the money that—according to Araton—Wilpon “said” he’s not going to get.

Combine the hamstring problems with an important factor that’s missed by those who say Reyes is heading for that Crawford contract: the Yankees and Red Sox are not going after him and nor are the Phillies.

Where’s he going to get this money?

The Angels and the Nationals can do it. But will they? The Angels wanted Crawford and were blown out of the water by the Red Sox.

The Nationals ownership is loaded and ready to spend and Reyes is a target.

Where else?

Right now, he’s as likely to stay with the Mets as he is to go elsewhere because of the scarcity of teams that can and will pay him and that the old hamstring problem has crept up again.

Few will admit this, but it’s not a bad thing for the Mets that Reyes felt that tightness and needs an MRI; nor is it a bad thing that they’ve come down to earth against a blazing hot Yankees team.

It’s a means to an end that could result in them keeping Reyes for a reasonable sum and not what Wilpon “said” in the inaccurate world of Harvey Araton.