Prince Fielder’s Free Agent Possibilities

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Prince Fielder will not be back with the Brewers.

And I don’t want to hear how he’d “love” to stay in Milwaukee; if he truly wants to stay in Milwaukee, I’m sure he could find a way to live on the $100 million or whatever amount of deranged sum they offer. Part of the reason players generally shun their original, mid-market home is due to union pressure to take the largest offer; and that they want to outdo their peers in terms of zeroes on the check.

It’s the same form of egomania that was evident in Moneyball as Billy Beane wants a monetary value on what it is he does. (And what it is he does is becoming increasingly mysterious as time passes; it’s an existential question: what does Billy Beane do? I dunno—he’s becoming Kim Kardashian; he’s famous and we don’t really know why.)

You can forget about the Yankees and Red Sox being in on Fielder despite fan greed about bringing in another $140 million bat. Fielder won’t want to DH, the Yankees have a first baseman and don’t want to clog up the DH spot with another immobile body and onerous contract. They have to re-sign CC Sabathia and/or bring in some better starting pitching.

With the Red Sox, owner John Henry openly regretted the Carl Crawford contract and expressed his wariness at the whole free agent process—do you really think they’re going to bring in an $140 million DH? Really? They, like the Yankees, need pitching.

With that established, let’s handicap and eliminate Fielder’s possible landing spots based on who could use him and who can afford him.

Teams that could use him, but can’t pay him.

Oakland Athletics: It’s pretty funny (no, it’s very funny) that Fielder was singled out in Moneyball as being “too fat” for the team that was portrayed as openly looking for fat players, and Fielder wound up being the most productive bat in the draft.

He’s not going to Oakland and it’s not because of the ballpark or that he doesn’t appreciate the value of being around “genius”; it’s because they can’t pay him.

Pittsburgh Pirates: After their mid-summer flirtation with contention, it only took a few short weeks for whatever spell had been aiding them to wear off and they reverted back into being…the Pirates.

They were 14th in runs scored in the National League in 2011, but they’re supposedly about to ridiculously repeat the same mistake they made with Matt Capps (they non-tendered him) and decline the option on a useful arm in Paul Maholm.

Um, he’s a guy you can trade, y’know? Sort of the way the Nationals traded Capps for a starting catcher they’ll have for the next 10 years in Wilson Ramos? Get it?

Why would anyone with options want to go to Pittsburgh?

San Francisco Giants: There’s a bit of an upheaval and apparent tightening of the pursestrings with Bill Neukom forced out as CEO. They’re more likely to keep Carlos Beltran than bring in any difference-making free agent. They also have to sign Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson in the coming years, so forget Fielder.

San Diego Padres: They just traded a better all-around player in Adrian Gonzalez because they weren’t going to be able to pay him, so it would make zero sense to sign Fielder.

Teams that could use him, pay him and won’t pursue him.

Los Angeles Angels: The Vernon Wells contract is now their problem and it got Tony Reagins ousted. They have two first basemen with Mark Trumbo, the (hopefully) returning Kendrys Morales and Fielder doesn’t want to DH. I would expect them to pursue a trade for the likes of David Wright or chase Jose Reyes instead of jumping in on Fielder.

Chicago Cubs: Theo Epstein has enough problems; they’ve got Carlos Pena, who’s okay; and you can find a first baseman relatively easily.

Baltimore Orioles: Buck Showalter is running things and prefers to have a more versatile, defensively-balanced club with interchangeable parts. Offense wasn’t the Orioles problem, the pitching was.

Teams that could pay him, use him and go after him.

Washington Nationals: Are they agent Scott Boras’s new “go-to guys”? He somehow managed to get them to give Jayson Werth $126 million, are looking to make a splash and rapid leap into contention and have the money.

Adam LaRoche is owed a guaranteed $9 million, but missed most of the 2011 season; the Nats desperately need a bat; they’re better off going after Reyes, but don’t discount them on Fielder.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The McCourts are now divorced and Frank has the Dodgers; but the legal red tape requires a machete to cut through and they have to sign Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier and must begin considering locking up Clayton Kershaw.

I don’t see Fielder going to the Dodgers, but they spent last winter when no one thought they had any money; they have to be considered.

Seattle Mariners: They were last in the AL in runs scored. It’s ironic that the double-dealing they pulled on the Yankees with Cliff Lee looks like they wound up with a worse deal from the Rangers. Will ownership interfere and force GM Jack Zduriencik to keep Ichiro Suzuki rather than look for a legitimate offensive force like Fielder?

Zduriencik drafted Fielder with the Brewers.

They do have the money to sign him and their young pitching can’t go on with a team that simply doesn’t score any runs.

Florida Marlins: They’re repeatedly referenced as teams that are going to go all-in for players in free agency. Albert Pujols has been talked about, but he’s not leaving the Cardinals. One drawback of the Marlins pursuing and getting Fielder would be the homers he’d hit in Florida would be accompanied by this monstrosity.


Here’s my guess: Fielder goes to Seattle for 7-years and $148 million.

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Billy Beane And The Cubs Are A Match Made In _________

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It’s a match made in blank because we don’t know.

How will a Billy Beane with money at his disposal function differently than the Billy Beane with creative non-fiction bolstering everything he does as the touch of a deity?

We’ll see.

Everyone is on the same playing field now and with clubs like the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets using some semblance of the stat-based techniques in building their franchises, Beane’s not doing something different with obscure numbers that few are even aware of anymore.

What he was doing with the Athletics wasn’t the work of a genius, but the filling of a gap and utilization of weapons that hadn’t been widely discovered or implemented yet.

It’s opportunistic and smart, but hardly the work of a “genius”.

We’ll never know what would’ve happened had Beane followed through on his agreement to take over as the GM of the Red Sox after the 2002 season. What we do know is that the moves he had planned would’ve been retrospectively disastrous.

Under Beane’s Red Sox regime, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and Jason Varitek were all part of an alternate universe in Red Sox history—a universe that Red Sox fans are undoubtedly pleased is embedded in a reality that can’t be found in Moneyball—in print or on screen.

Could it have worked with the blueprint Beane had in mind for the Red Sox?

Possibly.

But given the notorious impatience of Red Sox fans and the expectations accompanying Beane’s arrival, griping from the media and fans would’ve started immediately. Add in that the team had yet to break the “curse” and it was a recipe for disaster.

Even in a storybook sense, it’s difficult to imagine that Beane’s Red Sox could’ve been more successful than that which has been built under John Henry with Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein calling the shots.

Much of what happens is determined by luck and timing. Had Epstein not resigned in his gorilla-suit encased snit after the 2005 season, the Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell acquisitions wouldn’t have taken place. Would they have been better with Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez? Again, possibly. But no Lowell and Beckett make a repeat plot of the 2007 championship impossible. And the only reason they took Lowell was because the Marlins forced them to take his contract to get Beckett. Lowell was a key player in 2007.

The groundwork for Billy Beane’s departure from the Athletics is being laid as we speak.

The combination of next months’s release of the movie version of Moneyball; the way the Athletics have crumbled to an embarrassing irrelevance as anything other than a running gag verifying the absurdity of Beane’s supposed “genius”; the gridlocked stadium situation; that owner Lew Wolff has said he wouldn’t stop Beane from leaving; and the old “those close to Beane saying he’s frustrated” sham being planted in the media, all adds up to an exit strategy and golden parachute for a stagnated boss.

There was a suggestion that the Dodgers might be a viable situation for Beane. I don’t see that happening. They’ve been there, done that with Paul DePodesta and it didn’t work. Why do it again? If Ned Colletti leaves and MLB and the McCourts are still wrestling for control of the club, Kim Ng is a perfect choice. Her hiring gives positive public relations to all involved; she seems to know what she’s doing; she’s working for MLB now; was in Los Angeles before as Colletti’s assistant; and she’s agreeable to both sides.

Forget Beane in LA. We’re about to see his Hollywood foray and it’s about as realistic as the cooking school in Tuscany attended by all chefs at Olive Garden. In other words, it doesn’t exist. Beane’s movie fantasy has him being played by Brad Pitt and there will not be a sequel unless the real Beane turns a bigger trick than making everyone think he’s a genius in a setting vastly different than the one in the first story.

If Beane jumps ship, he’s landing on the North Side of Chicago to take over the Cubs.

And it’s going to happen.

Remember you read it here that Beane is going to be the next Cubs GM.

Maybe it’ll have a better ending than spin-doctoring and excuses to justify a farce.

But it is the Cubs after all. They’re sort of the Tropic Thunder of the baseball world.

Keep that in mind before thinking Beane’s walking in to save the day.

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Don Mattingly’s Al Davis Compact

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No matter how this season ends for the Dodgers (75-87 looks about right at this point), manager Don Mattingly should get a pass on his managerial record.

Off-field courtroom distractions stemming from the McCourt divorce and MLB’s attempts to seize the club have compounded the on-field issues that have ruined what looked like a pretty good team before the season began.

Injuries to key players Casey Blake, Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Jon Garland and Rafael Furcal left them without important veterans; terrible years from Juan Uribe and Furcal mitigated a fine year from Andre Ethier; an MVP performance from Matt Kemp; and a Cy Young-caliber season from Clayton Kershaw.

None of that is Mattingly’s fault.

Having spent his entire playing career with the George Steinbrenner Yankees from their most dysfunctional seasons of the 1980s through the beginning of the renaissance of the early-1990s, Mattingly always seemed to have just missed. He made the playoffs for the first time in his career in 1995, but retired after that season because of recurring back problems and the Yankees desire to move on with someone who was more of a threat at the plate.

The Yankees first championship of this era came the next season.

Managing the Dodgers, he’s been saddled with an even more embarrassing set of controversies than what he endured in his playing days with the Yankees. But he’s handled them calmly and without offering as an excuse the injuries or ownership questions.

Much like all of Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis’s coaches in the past 15 years, anarchy yields a pass for the man in the middle.

Mattingly is the man in the middle for the Dodgers.

He’s made some strategic blunders this year, but the club being under .500 and out of contention can’t be traced to a few gaffes by the manager. One important aspect in judging a manager is the “screw this guy” potential from the players.

The Dodgers players have never indicated the attitude that they’ve looked at Mattingly and said, “screw this guy” as if they’re going through the motions for aesthetics without caring one way or the other what happens. Mattingly’s the type who players don’t want to let down. It just so happens that the Dodgers are hopelessly outmanned this season and the off-field nightmare is contributing to the aura of chaos.

If the Dodgers are under new ownership next season, have a new GM or bring in a new manager, Mattingly should get another chance as a manager somewhere; 2011 isn’t an accurate barometer of what he can be; he’s got the added advantage of being a baseball guy whose in-game accomplishments as a player will automatically breed respect and that’s a big chunk of being a successful manager.

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Was McCourt A Mistake? ‘Twas

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Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball would be much happier had the only Frank McCourt they ever heard of was the late author of the books Angela’s Ashes and the sequel ‘Tis.

The embarrassments and legal fights as to whom is going to control the Los Angeles Dodgers—one of the game’s historic franchises in an imperative market—is going on-and-on.

Baseball has rejected McCourt’s latest attempt to stabilize the club finances with a loan from Fox. You can read the details of the whole mess and McCourt’s lawyer’s reaction here on ESPN.com.

The bottom line is this: even if McCourt had Warren Buffett advising him with a comprehensive plan for restructuring the debt; new growth avenues; guaranteed earnings; and common-sense principles, the deal would still be rejected.

It was Buffett who soothed the fissure between the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez after A-Rod’s infamous 2007 World Series contract opt-out.

He couldn’t fix the McCourt-MLB fight to the death. It’s over.

Baseball wants to be rid of McCourt and they’re doing it in a legal, slick and smart fashion by miring him in court proceedings, exhausting both his resources and resolve until they run dry and are hoping he’ll go away because he has no other choice.

If McCourt sues, it’ll be still another obstacle to his divorce settlement with wife Jamie that was contingent on the Fox deal; it will exponentially increase the astronomical legal bills on top of what he’s already accumulated.

It’s a war of attrition that McCourt can’t win because he’s running out of options, time and money.

Baseball wants McCourt out as Dodgers owner.

And they’re going to get what they want. Soon.

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Emergency Powers—Selective And Despotic

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Anytime you have a decision made based on the good of the community and delivered by unquestioned decree, you should question its motive and whether said decision has been made based on facts alone or ancillary influences.

Such is the case with MLB’s decision to take over the operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers from Frank McCourt.

You can read the details here—NY Times.com.

Under no circumstances am I defending the behavior of Frank McCourt and his wife Jamie, but there’s an aspect of piling on and  flinging everything into the bonfire as if lawlessness has taken hold and the powers that be had no other option.

The reviled autocratic leader—McCourt—has been forcibly removed after metaphorically robbing from the state’s coffers in treating the franchise as a personal cash machine to supplement delusions of a growing empire.

But what about baseball’s despot; also autocratic—yet likable in a rumpled, befuddled sort of way—Commissioner Bud Selig?

McCourt, scrambling for cash to pay his bills and maintain the Dodgers, was desperately seeking a buyer or a loan to maintain the team. Baseball was right to step in before it truly got out of hand and one of the signature franchises in the sport was bankrupt and unable to function.

But the selective enforcement allowed by the “best interests of baseball” clause bear an eerie similarity to a dictatorship that simply decides to eliminate an enemy without trial.

Anything can be explained by legalese, smooth talk, evidence as to the damage being done or sheer loathing raining down on the persecuted; but is it fair? Should baseball be able to do this at a moment’s notice just “because”?

McCourt has financed his lavish lifestyle using the Dodgers as a lever to gain more and more credit and buy more and more “stuff”; the divorce from his wife Jamie and legal battle for the franchise has been an exercise in humiliation like something from the shlock-mill of Aaron Spelling; but in looking at the team itself, has he been a terrible owner when assessing results on the field? Has he interfered with the club operations to its detriment?

How is what McCourt has done to the Dodgers in any worse than the way the Pirates have degenerated into a laughingstock? It’s notable that the Pirates are now—conveniently—being terribly mismanaged by a longtime Selig ally, Frank Coonelly.

Why is it that George Steinbrenner repeatedly ran afoul of baseball protocol (such as it is) with his antics and frequent suspensions, but was never permanently forced out as owner?

Baseball stepped in with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria when it was discovered that he was fiddling with the revenue sharing dollars he received from richer clubs, pocketing it rather than spending it on players as was intended; but the Marlins are a profitable, successful franchise that provides better bang for their buck than just about any other team.

The allegation that Fred Wilpon’s close relationship with Selig has assisted him in getting a loan and time to straighten out the team’s legal issues is reasonable and calls into greater question the way MLB has snatched control of the Dodgers from McCourt.

You can compare the differing circumstances in a myriad of ways and justify the takeover of the Dodgers; but so too could you wonder why it’s the Dodgers with whom they’ve stepped in so forcefully but not the Pirates or Mets.

For all the ridicule that the McCourts’ ownership has engendered, have they faltered on the field?

They’ve made the playoffs in four of the seven years he’s owned the team.

Have they scrimped on signing players?

They doled lucrative contracts on Derek Lowe, J.D. Drew, Jason Schmidt, Rafael Furcal, Andruw Jones and a host of others.

Have they shunned paying for their draft picks?

The Dodgers gave a $5.25 million bonus to 2010 1st round pick Zach Lee which was $4 million more than the preceding selection, Jesse Biddle, got from the Phillies—perceived as an organization that runs their club correctly.

Has McCourt overtly and negatively interfered with the on-field product and told his manager or GM what to do?

It’s possible, but from what I can see based on the GM maneuverings since McCourt bought the team—and that includes former GM Paul DePodesta and present GM Ned Colletti—he let them to do whatever they wanted.

He hired the biggest name manager in Joe Torre when he came available and the team has been consistently good.

Adding the violent assault on a San Francisco Giants fan in the Dodger Stadium parking lot to the list of McCourt transgressions is equivalent of tossing another charge into the indictment since it’s there and easy to use as an extra tool to pry the club from McCourt’s clutches.

The admission that there wasn’t enough security to prevent the beating is legitimate, but have you ever seen ballpark security? It’s not as if there are moonlighting cops or former CIA operatives running around to watch over the customers as they head to their cars; many times the security personnel are worse than the troublemaking fans themselves!

The personality-based viewpoint with which McCourt has been pigeonholed and the way baseball pushed him aside is justified by rule of baseball. It’s better to intervene too early rather than too late, but why the Dodgers and not the other teams and owners mentioned above?

Of course baseball had to take over the Dodgers; barring a miracle or owner-friendly negotiation with the creditors, McCourt’s ownership was no longer tenable. But the timing and seemingly capricious handling should be scrutinized more than it has been.

A lack of fairness and whimsical action without due process should be a concern to all. Practically and by delineation of powers, Selig had a right to do what he did and he had to do it; but the proffered justifications are troubling considering the way other clubs and owners have skated by without meaningful repercussions for their actions.

This was clearly personal. And that makes it all the more worrisome as to the broadbased powers allowable in the “best interests of baseball”.

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