Could The Braves Go After Jose Reyes?

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Players, Playoffs, Prospects

With tremendous depth in their starting rotation and bullpen, money coming off the books and the gaping hole both at leadoff and shortstop, could the Braves be a stealth pursuer of Jose Reyes?

After examining their contracts, there’s an absolute fit for a dynamic leadoff hitter to slide in neatly with young core the Braves have built, mostly through the farm system.

Reyes’s price—which not too long ago was going up-up-up-up—won’t be as prohibitive to a team like the Braves unless one team (the Nationals?) gets crazy and offers him the oft-mentioned “Carl Crawford money” that Mets owner Fred Wilpon said Reyes isn’t going to get.

What if the Mets make an offer of a guaranteed $110 million and that’s the limit of what’s out there? Then what if the Braves match it?

Would Reyes—knowing how things generally go for the Mets and that the team is far behind both the Braves and Phillies in terms of talent and stability—say to himself, “I’d rather go somewhere that I know I’m going to have a legitimate chance to win while I’m still in my prime”?

The Braves are shedding the salaries of Nate McLouth after this season and Derek Lowe after next season. Chipper Jones says he’s coming back in 2012 and will be paid $13 million. Dan Uggla and Brian McCann are signed; the young players Freddie Freeman, Jonny Venters, Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, Brandon BeachyMike Minor and Tommy Hanson are all far from free agency. Current shortstop Alex Gonzalez is a free agent at the end of the year.

There’s an opening; it’s workable financially; and the player is available.

The Braves have upended the Mets one way or another since the two teams were placed in the same division in 1994. They’re the bane of the Mets existence. If the Braves want to, they can punch the Mets in the gut again by stealing away Reyes and improve themselves drastically in the process.

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MLB Trades On 8.31 Means Eligible For the Playoffs

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Players, Playoffs, Trade Rumors

Braves re-acquire Matt Diaz for a PTBNL or cash.

Here are Diaz’s numbers against lefties in his career:

I Split PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip tOPS+
vs RHP as RHB 966 880 232 38 7 14 103 51 211 .264 .320 .370 .690 326 .330 77
vs LHP as RHB 911 840 277 52 7 29 108 44 135 .330 .369 .512 .881 430 .362 124
vs LH Starter 1058 974 124 318 54 8 30 129 51 170 .326 .367 .491 .857 478 .368 118
vs RH Starter 819 746 75 191 36 6 13 82 44 176 .256 .315 .373 .687 278 .317 76
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/31/2011.

Here are Diaz’s numbers against the Phillies current pitchers:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Cole Hamels 39 38 10 2 1 1 1 1 6 .263 .282 .447 .729
Cliff Lee 12 11 4 0 0 1 4 1 2 .364 .417 .636 1.053
Kyle Kendrick 8 8 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 .375 .375 .375 .750
Ryan Madson 8 7 3 2 0 0 1 0 3 .429 .500 .714 1.214
Brad Lidge 5 4 2 0 0 2 3 0 2 .500 .500 2.000 2.500
David Herndon 4 4 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 .250 .250 .500 .750
Roy Halladay 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000
Antonio Bastardo 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000
Total 79 75 25 5 1 4 10 2 15 .333 .359 .587 .946
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/31/2011.

He also hits Randy Wolf and Jeremy Affeldt very well.

Some Braves fans are voicing their concerns that manager Fredi Gonzalez is suggesting he’s going to platoon Diaz with Jason Heyward.

I understand the irritation at the treatment Heyward has received this season. But objectively, he looks like he’s playing hurt and is batting .188 against lefties; he doesn’t deserve to automatically be granted playing time, especially in a post-season situation. Diaz murders lefties and his defensive shortcomings will be mitigated by Michael Bourn‘s range and a Braves pitching staff that is leading the league in strikeouts and gets a lot of ground balls; late in games with a lead, Diaz will be yanked in favor of Heyward for defense.

In the short-term, Diaz playing against lefties instead of Heyward is a smart move.


Giants cut some dead and expensive weight. (No, not Barry Zito.)

Say this about the Giants, they don’t let money stand in the way of doing what they think is right for the team whether they’re benching highly paid players or leaving them off the playoff roster entirely.

Today the Giants essentially severed ties with infielder Miguel Tejada and outfielder Aaron Rowand. GM Brian Sabean isn’t going to find a taker for Rowand with $12 million coming to him next year; someone (the Phillies?) will pick him up when he’s eventually released.

There might be a taker for Tejada with his contract expiring at the end of the season.

Rangers acquire Mike Gonzalez.

It should give hope to Mets fans that the Rangers, not far removed from near bankruptcy and utter ownership disarray, are now able to buy, buy, buy to fill their needs.

Adding Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez to their bullpen could be the difference between getting bounced in the first round and winning a World Series.

The Rangers built a super-deep farm system under Jon Daniels and they’re not afraid to use it to try and win now.

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What To Do With Jason Heyward?

Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, Management, Media, MiLB, Players, Prospects, Uncategorized

The debate is raging and intense on both sides. Those who are looking at Jason Heyward‘s production as an end unto itself are saying he should be platooned, benched or sent to the minors for a spell.

His defenders point out that he’s the best on-base threat the Braves have; has been hitting in terrible luck; and that they don’t have anyone to replace him in right field.

The facts are these: he’s playing like he’s hurt; he’s not hitting the ball with authority; the Braves don’t have anyone to replace him long-term; and he still is their best on-base threat with pop.

On the Mets broadcast Friday night, Keith Hernandez said Heyward looks like he’s favoring his troublesome right shoulder—the same shoulder that placed him on the disabled list earlier in the season.

It’s been a trying season for Heyward. Upon his big league arrival he was saddled with comparisons to Willie Mays which were ridiculous and unfair. Who can say how much Chipper Jones‘s misunderstood statement that Heyward has to learn to play with pain is influencing the player’s macho decision to “man up”? If he’s playing when he shouldn’t, sending him to the minors isn’t going to help that.

Examining the full context of what Jones said, it’s not as bad as is portrayed, but when a Hall of Fame player says something to the effect of “stop crying and get out on the field”—even in perception—it gets into a 21-year-old’s head no matter how mature he is.

Heyward’s Batting Average on Balls in Play—BAbip—for ground balls is an anemic .192, so there’s a basis for saying he’s hitting in bad luck; what would concern me is the lack of authority with which he’s hitting the ball.

In comparison, Dan Uggla‘s BAbip on grounders is .266.

The bottom line is this: he’s not right and sending him down won’t repair that shoulder if he’s hurt; nor will teammates rolling their eyes at him when he’s trapped in the vortex of possibly playing injured and degenerating into an automatic out.

If the shoulder is in such a state that rest won’t do any good, then this is what they have and it has to be dealt with. Favoring it is going to get him into bad habits which would contribute to making his paltry numbers worse.

The Braves need Heyward for the playoffs and if that means sitting him down now for a month to get his shoulder healthy (or healthy enough to function), then that’s what they should do.

If rest won’t help, weather the storm; keep writing his name in the lineup; make the best of what he can do at the moment.

And hope.

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Viewer Mail 7.21.2011

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, Management, Media, Players, Podcasts, Trade Rumors

Franklin Rabon writes RE Jason Heyward and the Braves:

(T)he sending Heyward to the minors thing was totally predicated around the Braves trading for Beltran, which has almost 0 chance of happening. It was concocted almost solely by Mark Bowman, who when doing analysis says things like Juan Pierre would be a great fit for the Braves, and when he’s doing reporting, basically just reports whatever the Braves PR execs feed him.

On the same token of the PR people feeding Bowman information for the writer to get some publicity and the club to frame the story in the media, it could’ve been a message to Heyward for him to step it up or there’s the chance he could be demoted.

I don’t think Carlos Beltran to the Braves has “zero” chance of happening; they have the prospects and the need and the Mets are ready to deal; plus if they got Beltran either he or Heyward would shift to center field. I believe Beltran could play center for 2-3 months (including playoffs) and it would only boost his free agent value if he proved he could still do it at least part time.

The bottom line with Heyward is that a few weeks in the minors probably wouldn’t hurt him…contingent on the Braves having someone to replace him, which they don’t. And even if they trade for Beltran, the idea would be to have both in the lineup at the same time—if they’re thinking rationally that is.

Ny’er writes RE Ubaldo Jimenez:

Typical writer at work here, did you ever play the game? No. If you did your research you would see the Rockies GM has publically stated they are listening to offers. Itks why scouts from 14 teams were at his last start.

Also, Jiminez has publically cried about his contract and his stats reflect his unhappiness in the situation. This is how he is devalued.

As a matter of fact I did play in a none-too-noteworthy “career” on the sandlots and half-a-year in a junior college Fall season before I hurt my arm.

But that’s neither here nor there.

I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I said in my posting that the Rockies are listening to offers for Jimenez.

Your reasoning for him being devalued is idiotic and nonsensical. I find it hard to believe that he’s pitching poorly because of unhappiness with a contract that he willingly signed for security rather than to go year-by-year with automatic renewals and arbitration.

He signed it, he’s locked up and he doesn’t have a no-trade clause. If anything, he’ll pitch better with the Yankees, Red Sox and other big money teams after him because he’ll want to impress them and get a longer term, more lucrative deal if he’s sent to one of those clubs.

We went through this: he’s not devalued at all; if anything, he’s more valuable. The “devalued” bit was manufactured stupidity without basis other than talk floating around from unsubstantiated sources.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Roy Halladay:

I was here yesterday in the heat too and I was able to run a pretty solid 10 miles without falling apart. What was Doc doing wrong? Not taking any fluids? I don’t buy it. Everyone else was out there suffering too and doing just fine, so for a cold hearted killer to apparently wuss out like that… well, I find it all a bit odd.

Baseball and humidity go hand in hand. It’s no excuse for a poor performance, which is what that was, right? I mean, even Koufax got roughed up now and then. It’s baseball. It happens!

I wasn’t giving Halladay a hard time. I know he’s human. But the players may not think that way. Even the more educated and intelligent players like Ron Darling reverted to the primordial “man stuff” when in the heat of competition; with Halladay showing that momentary weakness, it’s not a stretch to think that other players are looking at him with a renewed sense of vulnerability.

That said, watch him go out in his next start and throw a complete game shutout with 145 pitches. I don’t question Roy Halladay’s toughness and determination.

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Demotion Sickness With Jason Heyward

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Players, Podcasts, Trade Rumors

There’s been a suggestion floated by some that the Braves should send struggling and injury-plagued future star Jason Heyward down to the minors for a brief time.

I don’t believe this to be a ludicrous idea as others do, but there are several obstacles of them making the move. They don’t have anyone to replace him nor his penchant for getting on base and the threat he poses in the lineup whether he’s hitting or not. It might work or it might send him into a funk and make things worse—that depends on the individual. And his struggles have had as much to do with injury as they have with a sophomore slump or failure to adjust.

It’s unfair to criticize the Braves developmental apparatus given the number of young players—Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann, Tommy Hanson—who’ve been homegrown, but the hype surrounding the predicted greatness for Heyward was always a portent for potential disaster.

The same thing happened with Jeff Francoeur as he was labeled a “can’t miss” superstar and was treated as such from the time he was a kid all the way up to the big leagues; the flaws in his game were conveniently glossed over as Frenchy’s “way”. That he never walked and was a Sports Illustrated coverboy after having been catered to his whole life as a multi-sport star only exacerbated the problems when he struggled and eventually was demoted.

That demotion highlighted a rift between GM Frank Wren and then-manager Bobby Cox. Francoeur was being punished for doing the same things he was feted for when they were working and he was understandably offended in a self-important and arrogant sort of way.

But that’s what they created by continually giving him passes and not correcting that which needed to be addressed.

He was in the minors for a few days and immediately recalled, rendering the maneuver pointless in both execution and practice.

Heyward’s a better player than Francoeur, but Francouer was—at the very least—durable; Heyward has been prone to injuries and it’s worrisome.

If there was a veteran solution to place in right field in his absence, sending Heyward down for a few weeks to get comfortable at the plate and to make sure he’s healthy wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but there isn’t.

Sending him to the minors now would do more harm than good to the player and the team.

I was a guest on the latest Red State Blue State podcast. It’s entertainment in its purest form.

Subscribe to the RSBS Podcast by clicking *HERE*

Subscribe via iTunes by clicking *HERE*

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Lines Of Office

Books, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

I repeatedly tried to assuage the fears of Braves fans that Fredi Gonzalez was a strategically poor manager who got the job to replace Bobby Cox based on Braves ties and his reputation as a man who controlled the clubhouse.

He did some strange things as manager of the Marlins, but his teams were always competitive and—apart from Hanley Ramirez—played the game hard and correctly.

But 17 games into his first season as the Braves manager, Gonzalez is inviting legitimate bewilderment into his decisions. Not only is he backtracking on his statements that implied he was sticking with his choices for the time being as was the case with Jason Heyward batting sixth (he’s now batting second); but he’s also vacillated on the spring training pronouncement that both Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel would be used as the designated closer based on matchups. It’s been Kimbrel, period.

Sunday’s game against the Mets was a case study in managerial idiocy that cost the Braves a win against a reeling and desperate club that resorted to using starting pitchers Chris Capuano and R.A. Dickey in relief to try and snap a 7-game losing streak.

In the second inning trailing 2-1, Gonzalez called for a suicide squeeze with Tommy Hanson at the plate, 2 strikes, 1 out and Eric Hinske on third. Hanson can’t hit; nor can he bunt. Hinske can’t run. It made absolutely no sense especially with Mets-killer Martin Prado on deck.

In the eighth inning, Brian McCann got picked off first base on a failed steal attempt with Hinske at the plate and Jason Isringhausen on the mound. Heyward had drilled Isringhausen’s first pitch over the center field fence; McCann had walked. With one out, the call was ludicrous with Hinske at the plate and Chipper Jones on deck.

The Braves fans who thought Gonzalez’s penchant for “doing stuff”—a common frailty among managers—was a recipe for disaster are seeing their nightmare come to life.

With a team this talented, presumably the manager’s game-costing decisions will be muted by sheer ability; but if the Wild Card/division comes down to one or two games, Gonzalez’s missteps could cost the Braves a playoff spot.

One unknown is where GM Frank Wren stands in all of this.

Does he question his manager—as is his right—after a gaffe-laden adventure like Sunday afternoon? Or does he let it go, confident that things will work out in the end?

If I were the GM, I’d be all over my manager for any decision I saw as questionable. It’s not out of line for the baseball boss of the organization to ask his field manager why he did what he did. There are the Tony La Russa-types who chafe at having their judgment and lines of office being crossed; they have a “how dare you?” reaction when questioned, but that shouldn’t preclude the GM from doing his job regardless of poor body language and short-tempered reactions from the manager.

It’s within the GM’s job description to oversee his manager. It’s not in the vein of a Moneyball-style middle-manager who takes orders, but an honest discussion between people who have to work together to make sure things run smoothly.

Did Wren step in with Heyward batting second? Possibly.

Did he question Gonzalez as to why he didn’t tell Hanson to stand there with the bat on his shoulder and wait to strike out to give Prado a chance to drive in runs? Why he had McCann stealing a base?

If he didn’t, he could’ve.

And should’ve.

****

I’ll be hosting a discussion group on TheCopia.com starting this afternoon around 12:30-1:00 Eastern Time. Given my history of saying lots of stuff, it should be….interesting.

****

Purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide. It’s great for your fantasy baseball stuff all year long.

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.

Become a fan on my Facebook fan page. Click on the link.

//

Sifting Through The Wreckage At Turner Field

Books, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Uncategorized

Considering its history as a house of horrors, why should this weekend be any different for the Mets at Turner Field for their series with the Braves?

You can run through the litany of things that have gone wrong already—read the New York newspapers for the slice and dice; listen to Mike Francesa tomorrow for the savage and vindictive postmortem—I don’t need to get into that; it’s predictable and tiresome.

I’m here to say the following: Don’t be surprised.

Don’t be surprised at all.

In your heart-of-hearts, were you expecting anything different from the Mets this year? Really?

The only small alteration I’m willing to make in my team prediction for them this year is that they could possibly be worse than 73-89.

Did you believe Chris Young would stay healthy? That Brad Emaus would turn into Dan Uggla? That Mike Pelfrey would seamlessly step up into the number 1 slot in the rotation? That the changes in culture and strategy from the front office on down would come into effect immediately?

Young hasn’t been healthy since 2007 and even then he wasn’t durable—he tired out by August; now he’s already on the disabled list. The Mets and Young are making his bout with biceps tendinitis sound like a positive because it’s a different injury than that which he experienced before. To me, this is a problem in and of itself. If a player has repeated injuries to the same area of his body, at least you know what it is; if he starts injuring other areas, you have to worry about the prior issue and the new issue.

Young will pitch when he pitches, but he won’t pitch much and you’ll never know when another trip to the disabled list looms.

As for the other stuff? I’ll lift from The Dark Knight when Alfred consoles Bruce Wayne/Batman with the entreaty to endure the inevitable pain to reach his desired end.

Did you think there wouldn’t be casualties in the teamwide sense as the Mets start over under a different regime? That they were going to vault into contention—in a rough division—based solely on new management, adherence to fundamentals and statistics?

They’re not good. This year is a bridge year in which they’re going to comb through the entire structure, see what they have; what they want to keep; and whom they’ll dispatch.

Accept it. 2011 is shaping up to be an on-and-off field disaster. Teams recover quickly with a plan and intelligent management. The quick-fix strategy didn’t work under Omar Minaya and they’re trying something else.

A smooth and easy transition was fantasy.

Endure.

On the other side, Braves fans shouldn’t take a doubleheader sweep of the Mets as a cure to all their early season ills. A lot of teams are going to look good against the Mets this year.

Much of the focus for the Braves has been the bullpen/lineup decisions of manager Fredi Gonzalez.

Gonzalez expressed his reasoning for batting Jason Heyward sixth here—link.

I understand where he’s coming from in his decision to bat Nate McLouth second. Many want Heyward to bat second, but I wouldn’t bat him second either; my concern moving forward would be that Gonzalez is going to stick with his lineup out of a resolute stubbornness; managers—especially new managers—need to set lines in the sand as to what their limits are; some would view an early change as caving to overt public pressure and a sign of weakness that can be exploited later on by players, media and fans. If Gonzalez acquiesces so quickly in a belief that Heyward batting sixth is the right thing to do, then where does it end?

It’s not machismo, it’s calculation and it’s a mistake. It takes more courage to change something that’s not working rather than stick to it out of a sense of obligation and worry about the perception.

I don’t think Heyward should be batting sixth; his on base skills and power are going to waste with the weaker parts of the batting order behind him. He’s going to walk a ton and see few pitches to hit.

Here’s my Braves lineup:

1. Martin Prado-LF

2. Freddie Freeman-1B

3. Chipper Jones-3B

4. Jason Heyward-RF

5. Brian McCann-C

6. Dan Uggla-2B

7. Nate McLouth-CF

8. Alex Gonzalez-SS

You can flip-flop McCann and Uggla based on lefty-righty issues, but I see Uggla as a Graig Nettles-type when the Yankees in the late 70s, early 80s heyday had him batting sixth. Sixth is a pure basher slot for a flawed bat—which Uggla is. He strikes out a lot; gets on base; and has power.

Gonzalez batting eighth should improve his on base percentage and possibly raise the number of baserunners when the lineup turns over. If McLouth starts hitting, then perhaps move him up in the lineup. This is a suggestion to jumpstart both McLouth and Freeman and it removes Heyward from the wasted sixth spot.

Let’s see how long Gonzalez clings to his template when there are smarter configurations right in front of him.

****

Purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

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.

Become a fan on my Facebook fan page. Click on the link.


//

Viewer Mail 3.10.2011

Books, Management, Media, Players, Spring Training

Mike Fierman writes RE Moneyball, Billy Beane and me:

May I say that you seem obsessed with Beane. he’s just not worth the amount of time you spend railing against him and a book he didn’t shape, edit or write. My advice would be to move on…

He didn’t shape, edit or write it—that’s true; but he’s an accessory after-the-fact to its continued prominence and the myth that it was a realistic story.

I’m not obsessed in any way; I’m trying to shatter the belief system that those who have a knowledge of formulas and numbers can storm into any front office and run a big league club with no qualms nor the proper etiquette required to deal with those who’ve been in the game as a career and have contributions to give.

Beane took part in the book and if he’s the genius he’s supposed to be, he had to sense where Michael Lewis was going with it. If he didn’t, he’s not only not a genius, then he’s a fool as well.

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE Moneyball:

I wonder how much you could accomplish in your life if Billy Beane weren’t acting as your white whale, tormenting and obsessing you to no end.

When it comes to you vs. Beane, I have to ask, how many movies have they made about Paul Lebowitz that starred Brad Pitt as the main character?

Clearly you must be jealous. Or something.

You’ve figured it out, Mike.

I’m jealous.

I want to be a demagogue; I want to be reviled in the industry; I want a large percentage of baseball people/media/fans to be waiting for me to fail; and I want to have a hunky actor bedding down unsuspecting, hopefully disease resistant waitresses in a nonsensical script adapted from a ridiculous book.

The amount of time you and Mike have spent reading me, you know by now that I have no agenda apart from the truth as I see it; Moneyball offended me in a myriad of ways not only because of the way quality baseball people were ridiculed, but because of the pompous presentation and biblical, condescending tone it set as if to say, “HALT INFIDEL!!” and implied you’d go to baseball-related hell if you didn’t adhere to the commandments of Beane in tales regaled by the self-proclaimed conduit to the masses, Lewis.

As for who’d play me in a movie, I dunno who could do it. It’s like the line attributed to Don King years ago: “If Don King didn’t exist, you’d hafta invent him!!”

Same goes for me.

Ed Avery at the Ed Avery Report writes RE Jason Heyward:

It’s been a real pleaser to watch Heyward here in Atlanta, this kid is the real deal, and not just on the field, the kid is a star.

The most impressive thing about Heyward wasn’t his performance in and of itself, but that at age 20 and with that hype surrounding him, he withstood the expectations.

And I mean “withstood”; not “met”.

I’d never, ever put the kind of pressure on a young player as Bobby Cox did last spring comparing him to Willie Mays. Even if it’s accurate, it’s not fair; it puts a player in an awful position because the media, such as it is, will run off with that statement and either question the player’s talent if he doesn’t produce immediately or hold it over his head with comparisons that few, if any, could meet.

I’d be vigilant about his injuries and the sophomore slump (yes, it exists), but he’s going to be a fine player for a long time.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE my book:

BAM!

POW!!!

Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe and on Amazon.

//

Instant Gratification

Hall Of Fame, Media, Players, Spring Training

I fancy myself as a pretty good judge of talent.

But sometimes I miss.

Yes.

It’s true.

Digging through some old baseball cards, I found certain young players who, at the time, I thought were going to be stars; because they were going to be stars, I felt it was prudent to protect their rookie cards not only in plastic looseleafs, but in an individual plastic sheet before putting it into the plastic looseleaf.

Some of the names now appear ridiculous.

Todd Hollandsworth.

Tony Tarasco.

Ben Grieve.

Of course there were a few that were good for awhile like Raul Mondesi.

Then there are the Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Greg Maddux, Cal Ripken that have some legitimate value.

It’s a crapshoot to see if a young prospect is going to live up to the hype or not.

We can also look at the drafts from yesteryear and examine the 1st round picks to get a gauge on how easily a players career can falter.

1992 had Phil Nevin, Jeffrey Hammonds, Paul Shuey and Preston Wilson sandwiching Derek Jeter.

In 1993 Darren Dreifort was selected after Alex Rodriguez; after that there were a series of names you might or might not recognize before Billy Wagner was taken. Three players after Wagner, Chris Carpenter was picked.

There are so many variables in a player’s development that the last thing he needs is to be anointed before he’s physically and emotionally ready.

You would think the lesson of caution would have permeated any fan base by now—especially ones like the Yankees and Braves who have known success and recent failure for big time prospects who simply didn’t make it for one reason or another.

But they’re not.

The Braves haven’t placed any undue pressure of Freddie Freeman, but they did place the entire organization’s fortunes on Jason Heyward last year; Bobby Cox went so far as to compare him to Willie Mays. Heyward was one of the rare few able to withstand the hype; we’ll see with Freeman.

Memories of the Yankees trio of homegrown pitchers who were meant to dominate baseball—two of whom failed—should cause hesitation among the Yankees, the media and fans before raving about Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos.

Apparently not.

We hear the fans go off in borderline orgasmic glee at the mere sight of Banuelos and Betances; David Wells makes idiotic statements to the tune of Banuelos being ready to pitch in the majors now; the media runs with the stories because they know that it can create a critical mass of attention.

Do they not remember Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy? Of the three young pitchers, only Phil Hughes is doing what he was supposed to do; Chamberlain is a nondescript middle-reliever and butt of jokes; Kennedy is in Arizona.

It never stops.

Is Banuelos ready? I doubt it. Physically perhaps he can compete; but emotionally? Do they really want to take that chance now? Especially with the starting rotation questionable at the back end?

Two prospects who did make it were Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry; both had moments of true greatness; both flamed out with drug, alcohol and personal problems before they could be what their abilities suggested. Yes, they had good careers, but they were nowhere near what they were supposed to be; what they should’ve been.

Former Mets GM Frank Cashen always lamented rushing both to the majors and felt partially responsible for their off-field failings. It’s not a remote concept that both Strawberry and Gooden would’ve been better equipped to deal with the spotlight had they spent full seasons in Triple A before coming to the majors.

Is Cashen being too hard on himself? Probably. Both Gooden and Strawberry would’ve found trouble whether they were in the majors at 19 and 21 respectively or 21 and 23.

To their credit, the Yankees are steadfastly refusing to rush Banuelos and Betances despite their tattered starting rotation; but that’s not stopping the lust.

This is one of the reasons it was so important that they get Cliff Lee—so they didn’t have to make that decision so quickly; the decision to try and win now with pitchers who could help that end or leave them in the minors to grow as players and people.

Will they make the same error they did with Chamberlain and let the lofty hopes of a franchise simmer like an unstable volcano, unleash him to the world, then deal with the fallout from scaling back and placing him in a preferable role?

I doubt we’ll see Banuelos or Betances coming up to the big leagues this season other than in September for a look-see at the big leagues. And if that means missing the playoffs, so be it.

The instant gratification from a youngster who’s homegrown and deemed “ready” and simultaneously fills a need is tempting; it’s a siren whose true face and consequences are known only in the aftermath.

Naturally it’s more of a point of pride to say, “these are our players”. That’s why there’s such a bond between Yankees fans and the “core four” of Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera; they weren’t mercenaries; they’re Yankees; they bleed pinstripes and there’s a connection that comes with that.

The Mets of Gooden and Strawberry could say the same thing; regardless of the success the duo had in latter years with the Yankees, they’re still Mets. It was that way with Lenny Dykstra in his star years with the Phillies—he didn’t look right in a uniform other than that of the Mets.

The Braves had that with John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Chipper Jones. The Phillies have it with Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels.

It’s a comfort to say, “they’re ours”.

What’s missed is how rarely that happens; that young players come up together; bleed, fight, scrap and win. That nostalgia for days gone by and the realization it may not happen again explains why it hit people so hard when Pettitte retired; a piece of that history is gone; it’s a form of baseball mortality and the innate knowledge of the passage of an era.

But they’re trying to force it to happen again with the youngsters the Yankees have accumulated; it’s bad enough to saddle young players with the hopes of a franchise; it’s worse to force it on them.

In fact, it’s a recipe for disaster.

We’ve seen it over-and-over again.

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