Manager Of The Year Cannibalism

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The Manager of the Year voting is the most imprecise of all the MLB awards. There are no stats for managers so it’s a complete judgment call. The majority of the time, it goes to the manager whose team overachieves and not the manager who does the best job.

Naturally it’s subjective, but the end result winds up being cannibalistic. This is a convenient comparison to make since most of the mainstream writers appear to be the evil and unwanted offspring of the C.H.U.D. (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers).

Joe Maddon deserved to win the Manager of the Year award in the American League, but had his Rays not had that searing hot streak over the last month of the season to overtake the Red Sox for the Wild Card, my pick would’ve been Joe Girardi of the Yankees.

You can see my award winners here.

Girardi did an underappreciated and fantastic job with the Yankees this season, but came in fifth.

His pitching staff was short in the starting rotation and he and pitching coach Larry Rothschild got cheap, above-and-beyond production out of veterans Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia; they nursed along a rookie, Ivan Nova; and endured A.J. Burnett without strangling him. In the bullpen, Rafael Soriano was an injured and terribly performing nuisance; and Pedro Feliciano never threw a pitch for the team.

Giradi also navigated the difficulties of a declining megastar—Alex Rodriguez; a pair of aging and record-setting stars—Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter; and a near implosive collision with an irascible borderline Hall of Fame catcher with whom Girardi always had and presumably always will have a contentious relationship, Jorge Posada.

He handled it all and brought the Yankees home at 97 wins and an unexpected division title.

Because the Yankees have a $200 million payroll, there’s little attention given to the job the manager does; he gets the blame when things go wrong and nearly no credit when things go right.

This is where the cannibalism comes in.

Because the Rays lost their entire bullpen from a year ago; Matt Garza was traded; Carlos Pena departed as a free agent; and Manny Ramirez retired early in the season, Maddon had a lot on his desk to sift through and maintain respectability. He did.

The media at large tends to judge a manager on how the team was expected to perform…in the view of the media.

So if a voting writer picks the Yankees to win the division and they do, then Girardi isn’t going to get the credit for how it was achieved.

It’s a self-appraisal that has nothing to do with the manager’s work.

And it’s not the way to vote.

But what can you expect from a C.H.U.D.?

I suggest you be happy that they don’t drool on you and hope for the best.

Below is the C.H.U.D. trailer. The movie looks pretty bad, but then, so are most mainstream writers.

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The Papelbon Aftershocks

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Let’s separate the Jonathan Papelbon aftershocks by reaction and affect.

Jonathan Papelbon

Papelbon has never been fully appreciated for how good he’s been—especially by the Red Sox.

He has a clean motion; the post-season history of success; has done the job in a smothering atmosphere of scrutiny; is durable; throws strikes; and is an accountable team player.

Naturally, as they usually do, the Red Sox will start talking about some phantom malady that “concerned” them; in this case it will be Papelbon’s shoulder. A shoulder for which he’s missed zero time since 2006.

Statistics don’t tell the whole story with Papelbon. Because his blowups generally include 4-5 games a season where he’ll allow a crooked number of 3-5 runs, his ERA and ERA+ are always higher than they’d normally be if the lowest grades were dropped.

It’s a simplistic and self-serving effort to bolster a narrow argument to say that Papelbon is a “fly ball pitcher” and his home games being played in Citizens Bank Park will yield a larger number of home runs. His splits between fly balls and ground balls are negligible and slightly higher for fly balls; but he also strikes out over 10 hitters per 9 innings.

He’s a strikeout pitcher with a searing fastball and a vicious splitter.

He allowed 3 homers all season in 2011; 2 in Fenway Park (9th in homers out of all ballparks in baseball) and 1 in Cleveland (tied for 11th in homers).

The ballpark in Philadelphia is not going to be an issue for Papelbon; nor will the tough fans, the expectant media and the pressure of a championship or bust team upon whose hopes may ride on his shoulders.

He’s been through it before and come through repeatedly.

Philadelphia Phillies

This is as simple as it gets.

The Phillies have a superlative starting rotation; they’re old; they have money to spend and a short window to win another championship or two.

They spent a reported $50 million on the top closer on the market after the breakdown in negotiations for Ryan Madson.

They’ve acquired a known quantity for slightly more money than Madson’s asking price.

It’s a championship or nothing for the Phillies. With their success or failure no longer based on a winning season or making the playoffs, they needed someone they trust in the playoffs and World Series. Papelbon gives them that.

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox have a compulsive, fervent, almost blindly faithful reluctance to accept the fact that they need a legitimate closer to win.

They never appreciated what they had in Papelbon even after having endured the nightmares of 2003 and 2005 when they didn’t have a closer and it cost them dearly; they tried to go with the closer-by-committee nonsense again in 2007 and were saved from themselves by Papelbon seeing where the team was headed and offering to move back to the bullpen after an ill-advised spring stint as a starter.

Papelbon could’ve been signed to an extension, but the club never broached the subject with any seriousness. This is while they tossed money into the trash for Daisuke Matsuzaka, Matt Clement, Bobby Jenks and Julio Lugo.

They paid Keith Foulke $20 million over three years for what amounted to one season of production—and he was worth it because they won a championship they wouldn’t have won without him.

They’re not overspending to replace Papelbon; they’re not going after Ryan Madson and trust me when I say the Red Sox fans do not want Heath Bell.

Daniel Bard is fully capable of taking over for Papelbon in the regular season; but like the Phillies, the Red Sox metric is not the regular season, it’s the playoffs and that’s when Bard will be tested and judged…if the Red Sox get there at all.

Brad Lidge and Joe Nathan are more likely for the Red Sox to sign to cheap deals; they could try to trade for Joakim Soria or approach Theo Epstein to see if he’d like to move Carlos Marmol.

There won’t be a retaliatory strike of “we lost Papelbon so we need a ‘name’ to replace him”—that’s not what the Red Sox do.

Comparisons

B.J. Ryan and Papelbon are human beings; both pitched and made their living as short relievers; Ryan was 30 when he signed with the Blue Jays; Papelbon will be 31 next week.

Apart from that, I see zero connection between the two pitchers.

Ryan was lefty; Papelbon righty.

Ryan’s mechanics were among the worst I’ve ever seen; Papelbon’s are picture perfect.

Ryan was leaving an atrocious Orioles team and heading for a team that was a fringe contender at best with the Blue Jays; Papelbon’s going from one team that was picked for the World Series in 2011 to the other team that was picked for the World Series in 2011.

If there’s a legitimate comparison between two pitchers in this murky plot, it’s Madson and Ryan.

Madson’s mechanics are herky jerky and stressful—they’re not as bad as Ryan’s, but they’re not to be ignored as a non-issue either. Madson missed time with a strained shoulder in 2007.

Madson has been a closer for 2011 only; he hasn’t done it long-term; he is not a strikeout pitcher and uses different strategies with a fastball, cut fastball and excellent changeup than Papelbon does with his power fastball and strikeout-begetting split-finger.

It’s short-sighted and simplistic—the same accusations stat people levy against old-schoolers—to reference numbers as the final word without examining the other aspects of the overall equation—and I don’t mean numbers.

B.J. Ryan is not Jonathan Papelbon; Papelbon is not Ryan Madson.

There’s no connection other than the specious reasoning in equating contracts and variable statistics.

Some have suggested that Madson is “better” than Papelbon based on selective use of said statistics. Madson’s agent Scott Boras appeared close to completing another inexplicable financial coup with the $44 million rumored deal with the Phillies. That’s gone. Now Boras is going to whip out his Madson “book of accomplishments” and numbers crunching of his own to “prove” that his charge not only deserves a Papelbon contract, but more than a Papelbon contract.

The problem is there’s no one who’s going to give it to him.

I liken this situation to the Braves in 1997. Jeff Blauser was coming off a terrific season and was negotiating a new contract as a free agent. His agent was Scott Boras. Blauser felt he was worth the same money that Jay Bell received from the Diamondbacks ($35 million); Braves GM John Schuerholz reacted to this leap of logic by telling Blauser and Boras to take a hike and signed the superior defensive shortstop Walt Weiss. If Boras compares Madson to Papelbon and Mariano Rivera—and he will—any sane team is going to walk away.

Media/Fans

The one legitimate gripe from fans of other clubs is that the Phillies have blown up the market for closers with the Papelbon contract. That said, Papelbon was the number one guy on the market and he got the most money any closer is going to get. No one’s giving Madson that money or anywhere close to it. Nor should they.

Why the fans are worried about Papelbon’s years and dollars is beyond me. My criteria for a contract that’s too expensive is if a want precludes a need. If there’s an overpay for a want and you can’t buy what you need, it’s a bad deal.

The Phillies needed Papelbon and they bought him.

Everything else—the draft, the after-effects, the market—are subsidiary.

You cannot make the suggestion that Madson is “better” as Keith Law does, and then ignore his mechanical issues; you can’t dismiss the closer designation as a meaningless mental exercise as Jonah Keri does in playing up the Rays use of Kyle Farnsworth on the cheap while failing to mention that Rays manager Joe Maddon intentionally declined to name Farnsworth the “closer” because he didn’t want his skittish pitcher thinking about being the closer.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said that Madson wasn’t good at closing. He used him in the role out of necessity and, with a great sense of timing, Madson did well in 2011.

The Blue Jays erred in overpaying for Ryan. That won’t be replicated with Madson. Or Papelbon.

As for the suggestion that the Phillies don’t understand where they are and what they’re doing, it’s the height of outsider arrogance and “I’m smarter than you” pomposity.

They know.

They know that by 2014 they’re going to be ancient, super-expensive and probably on the downslide. Will it be worth it if the Phillies are hoisting a championship or two because of the players they have now? Absolutely. GM Ruben Amaro tried to maintain the farm system while simultaneously contending and keeping financial sanity and it didn’t work; the Red Sox tried to do it and it didn’t work.

They’re paying the price to win now and will pay in the future as well.

Papelbon is proven; he’s better; he’s what the Phillies needed; and they got him.

It’s not difficult to comprehend—tremors and madness irrelevant.

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Tampa Bay Rays vs Texas Rangers

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Tampa Bay Rays (91-71; 2nd place, AL East; won Wild Card) vs Texas Rangers (96-66; 1st place, AL West)

Keys for the Rays: Don’t be satisfied with simply making the playoffs; expose the Rangers starting rotation; force Ron Washington into mistakes; play solid defense; B.J. Upton.

It goes one of two ways with teams that make a frantic late-season run into the playoffs out of nowhere: they either maintain their good play and streak on (the 2007 Rockies); or they get into the playoffs, are satisfied with that and get bounced early (the 2007 Phillies).

Neither the Rockies nor the Phillies had the playoff experience that the Rays do—they’ve been here before—so they won’t be relaxed and happy that they proved a point by overtaking the Red Sox; they’re here to win.

The Rangers starting rotation is overrated after C.J. Wilson.

Colby Lewis was excellent in the playoffs last season, but he allows a lot of homers and was very inconsistent in 2011. Lefties feast on him making him a target for Johnny Damon, Matt Joyce, Casey Kotchman and Ben Zobrist.

I don’t trust Derek Holland—the Rays beat him up twice this season.

I don’t trust Matt Harrison—both Johnny Damon and Evan Longoria hammer him.

With all the extra bullpen arms Rangers GM got for manager Ron Washington, it leads down the road of overmanaging and making unnecessary changes once the starters are out of the games. Koji Uehara‘s strikeout numbers are impressive, but so too are the towering homers he gives up (11 out of the bullpen for the Orioles and Rangers is a lot); and Mike Adams has never pitched in the post-season.

The Rays are in this position because of their superior defense and a strike-throwing pitching staff—they can’t make any mistakes if they’re going to hold down the Rangers potent offense.

B.J. Upton is on a mission. He wants to get paid after next season and don’t discount the extra motivation of a potential World Series matchup with his brother Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks. When he’s playing as hard as he can—aggressively and smart—he’s something to watch at the plate, in the field and on the basepaths. In fact, he’s unstoppable.

Keys for the Rangers: get depth from their starting rotation; take advantage of Kyle Farnsworth‘s gopher ball; score a lot; mitigate managerial mishaps from Washington; keep the Rays off the bases; stop Upton and Longoria.

If Wilson and Lewis pitch as well as they did in last year’s post-season, the Rangers are going to be hard to beat. They have a lot of power and a superior defense behind their pitchers which is the actual strength of the pitching staff—not the pitchers themselves. They pound the strike zone and let the fielders—especially a nearly impenetrable infield—help their cause.

Washington tends to make too many moves once he gets into the bullpen; the Rangers push their starters during the regular season and will push them deeper in the playoffs to avoid that eventuality.

Farnsworth had a fine year closing for the Rays, but he’s still a manager’s nightmare with his wildness and tendency to allow homers. The Rangers have a group of bats who can crush a fastball—Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz.

Yorvit Torrealba also has a flair for the dramatic and has gotten big post-season hits before.

Because the Rays steal plenty of bases, it’s best to keep them off-base entirely. With their defense and strike-throwing pitchers, this is a reasonable goal for the Rangers.

Upton and Longoria have carried the Rays over the past month. If they don’t produce, the Rays lose.

What will happen.

Because they finally broke their playoff hex a year ago, got past the first round; beat the Yankees; and made it to the World Series, the Rangers are a battle-proven and experienced group in their second straight season in the post-season.

But the Rays have experience of their own from the World Series run in 2008 to last season when they lost to…the Rangers.

The Rays were beaten last year in large part due to the unreliability of closer Rafael Soriano. Soriano’s gone and the Rays overall pitching is in better shape now than it was a year ago.

I don’t like the Rangers bullpen despite the acquisitions of Adams and Uehara and the presence of Neftali Feliz.

Their starting pitching after Wilson is still questionable and they’re going to have to score plentiful runs to outshoot the Rays.

The Rays pitching is in a bit of perceived disarray after their desperate climb over the Red Sox to take the Wild Card; they’re starting rookie Matt Moore—their top prospect—in game 1.

But it could be the triumph of the uncluttered mind and the self-confidence of youth that makes starting Moore a brilliant maneuver.

The Rays have used young pitchers in key spots before. David Price closed games for them in 2008 and if they think Moore can handle it, I wouldn’t bet against that analysis.

A year ago, the Rangers were the team playing with low expectations and bent on killing demons of past post-season failures; they had a full-blown ace at the top of their starting rotation in Cliff Lee; they played with reckless abandon and a go-for-it mentality of “no one expects us to be here”.

The Rays are in that exact same position this year.

Wilson thinks he’s an ace—ask him and he’ll tell you in depth—but that doesn’t mean he is one on a level with Lee; if doesn’t mean he’s going to gut it out as James Shields and Price will. And don’t discount the financial aspect in Wilson’s mind as he tries to increase his free agent paycheck after the season a la Lee and Carlos Beltran.

No one expected the Rays to be here before or during the season; in fact, the consensus I’ve seen doesn’t think they’re going to be around that long either in the post-season.

But the Rays are here to stay.

They’re going to the ALCS and the Rangers are going home.

PREDICTION: RAYS IN FOUR.

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My 2011 MLB Award Winners (And They Should Be Yours Too)

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Here are my 2011 Award Winners along with the other contenders listed 1-5. Also my pre-season picks are included.

American League Award Winners

MVP

1. Justin Verlander, RHP—Detroit Tigers

Verlander carried a mediocre team into contention and was about as brilliant as a pitcher can possibly be for the entire season. The Tigers record makes them look better than they were at mid-season when they were far from a playoff lock. Verlander won the pitching Triple Crown with 24 wins (5 losses); a 2.40 ERA; and 250 strikeouts in 251 innings.

If you use advanced statistics like WAR as a barometer, Verlander was second in the American League behind Jose Bautista with an 8.5.

The combination of being the best at his position and being imperative to the team’s success—they wouldn’t have been where they are without him—makes him the MVP.

2. Jose Bautista, OF/3B—Toronto Blue Jays

3. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF—Boston Red Sox

4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B—Boston Red Sox

5. Miguel Cabrera, 1B—Detroit Tigers

Before the season, I picked Carl Crawford.

Yes. Well.

Cy Young Award

1. Justin Verlander, RHP—Detroit Tigers

See above.

2. CC Sabathia, LHP—New York Yankees

3. Jered Weaver, RHP—Los Angeles Angels

4. James Shields, RHP—Tampa Bay Rays

5. Mariano Rivera, RHP—New York Yankees

My preseason pick was Verlander.

Rookie of the Year

1. Ivan Nova, RHP—New York Yankees

Nova has overcome every obstacle put in front of him including an “odd man out” treatment from the club that quite probably prevented him from winning 20 games as they had too many starters and Nova still had minor league options remaining. He’s fearless, he’s cool and he comes up big when the Yankees need him to. He went 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA and was completely reliable on a team that had more questions at the beginning of the season than they care to admit—including a failure to truly believe in Nova.

2. Eric Hosmer, 1B—Kansas City Royals

3. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP—Tampa Bay Rays

4. Mark Trumbo, 1B—Los Angeles Angels

5. Jordan Walden, RHP—Los Angeles Angels

My preseason pick was Kyle Drabek of the Blue Jays. He wound up back in the minors.

Manager of the Year

1. Joe Maddon—Tampa Bay Rays

Maddon did a magnificent job in leading the Rays from “out” of contention into the playoffs. Had the Red Sox held onto their playoff spot, I’d have picked Joe Girardi, but the late season run by the Rays stole a playoff spot and the MOY award for Maddon. Girardi did a magnificent job this year and that must be noted.

2. Joe Girardi—New York Yankees

3. Jim Leyland—Detroit Tigers.

4. Mike Scioscia—Los Angeles Angels

5. Ron Washington—Texas Rangers

My preseason pick was Leyland.

National League Award Winners

MVP

1. Matt Kemp, CF—Los Angeles Dodgers

Kemp’s come a long way from being benched and ripped publicly by the club for his lazy, disinterested play and poor attitude that seemed to have come from going “Hollywood”.

He dedicated himself to the game in 2011 and almost won the Triple Crown while playing Gold Glove defense in center field. He put up massive numbers with 39 homers, 126 RBI, a .324 batting average, a .399 on base and 76 extra base hits.

2. Ryan Braun, LF—Milwaukee Brewers

3. Prince Fielder, 1B—Milwaukee Brewers

4. Lance Berkman, RF—St. Louis Cardinals

5. Clayton Kershaw, LHP—Los Angeles Dodgers

My preseason pick was Albert Pujols.

Cy Young Award

1. Clayton Kershaw, LHP—Los Angeles Dodgers

Kershaw won the National League pitching Triple Crown with 21 wins, a 2.28 ERA and 248 strikeouts in 233 innings. He walked 54 and allowed only 15 homers.

2. Roy Halladay, RHP—Philadelphia Phillies

3. Cliff Lee, LHP—Philadelphia Phillies

4. Ian Kennedy, RHP—Arizona Diamondbacks

5. Craig Kimbrel, RHP—Atlanta Braves

My preseason pick was Lee.

Rookie of the Year

1. Craig Kimbrel, RHP—Atlanta Braves

Never mind the games he blew late in the season, Kimbrel struck out 127 in 77 innings and saved 46 games for the Braves. They collapsed, but it wasn’t because of Kimbrel.

2. Freddie Freeman, 1B—Atlanta Braves

3. Brandon Beachy, RHP—Atlanta Braves

4. Vance Worley, RHP—Philadelphia Phillies

5. Wilson Ramos, C—Washington Nationals

My preseason pick was Kenley Jansen.

Manager of the Year

1. Kirk Gibson—Arizona Diamondbacks

This is partially good work and partially managing a team from whom not much was expected. Gibson’s intensity and the way it rubbed off on his players and the Diamondbacks won the NL West title.

2. Charlie Manuel—Philadelphia Phillies

3. Don Mattingly—Los Angeles Dodgers

4. Ron Roenicke—Milwaukee Brewers

5. Tony LaRussa—St. Louis Cardinals

My preseason pick was Mattingly.

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Your Idiot Rumor/Stupid Idea Of The Day 7.24.2011

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It was a close call. The near winner was the rumor that the White Sox and Cardinals were discussing a trade that would sent White Sox pitchers Edwin Jackson (a pending free agent) and reliever Matt Thornton to the Cardinals for Colby Rasmus.

Supposedly the White Sox were also going to send young players to the Cardinals or a third team was going to be recruited to help facilitate matters.

Do the White Sox even have any worthwhile young players past Gordon Beckham, Chris Sale and Dayan Viciedo? And why would the Cardinals want to rent Jackson and take Thornton, who was a total disaster as the White Sox closer for Rasmus, who’s taken up residence in Tony LaRussa‘s entrance only doghouse?

Rasmus is 25 and under team control for the next 3 years. If they’re going to trade him, they’d better get a substantial amount more than Jackson and Thornton and don’t do it in a fit of pique for a manager like LaRussa who’s going year-to-year and is notoriously prickly with anyone—especially a young player—who dares rub him the wrong way.

It’s lunacy.

But there was another rumor that was even more deranged.

The worst of the worst is reserved for the Nick Cafardo weekly piece summed up here on MLBTradeRumors.

Here’s the relevant bit:

Some Nationals people believe a change of scenery would greatly benefit B.J. Upton, and are considering “offering the moon” for him.

The “moon”? For B.J. Upton?

The same Nationals organization that thought they were going to straighten out Lastings Milledge, Scott Olsen and Elijah Dukes is going to somehow get through to Upton?

Have they learned from their mistakes in the attempted nurturing and maturing of the aforementioned problem children and the failures? Do they have a new strategy that the Rays haven’t tried?

The Rays have benched, yelled at, physically challenged and fined Upton. They’ve had leaders like Troy Percival, Jason Isringhausen, Gabe Kapler and Evan Longoria in their clubhouse and not one has gotten through to Upton. Joe Maddon is probably the easiest manager any player is ever going to play for while according him a modicum of respect. Short of sticking him in a room alone with Kyle Farnsworth and telling Farnsworth to do whatever he has to do short of killing Upton to get him in line, I don’t know what else they can do.

So what gives the Nats the idea that they’re going to unlock the secret to Upton’s massive talent? Who came up with this concept and why would they surrender the “moon” to get him? Is this the same line of thought that spurred them to give Jayson Werth $126 million? Because if it is, maybe they should do the exact opposite of what they think is a good move now.

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The Pavanover II

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Brian Cashman tried to bring back the original Carl Pavano for a 1-year encore to his hellish Yankees tenure from the years 2005-2008, the majority of which was spent on the disabled list (and the beach; and in car accidents; and in the gossip columns; and looking for new agents; and as the foundation for endless, hilarious ridicule).

Pavano declined the Yankees offer, choosing instead to return to the Twins.

It was better for both parties. A Pavano redux had very little chance of succeeding in any context.

But the Yankees, in a weird way, did bring Pavano back.

They brought him back as Rafael Soriano.

When he was signed, there was an open fissure between the Yankees top-tier hierarchy of Hank and Hal Steinbrenner and Randy Levine vs the baseball people led by GM Brian Cashman.

In retrospect, Cashman may not have been being honest as an end unto itself when he said at the Soriano introductory press conference that he was not on-board with the signing of the reliever. The obvious excuse was that Cashman didn’t want to spend the money nor surrender the draft picks to the division rival Rays, but now that Soriano has been an absolute and utter disaster in every possible permutation—both on and off the field—it might’ve been that Cashman knew something from the gossipy world of MLB executives and on-field personnel that made him say, “let me distance myself from this right from the get-go”.

Defending the Yankees, there was never an allegation of Pavano being a malingerer before he was signed; he’d pitched well and durably for the two immediate seasons prior to inking his 4-year, $39.95 million deal; had the Yankees not signed him for that money, the Red Sox, Mariners or Tigers would have.

The Yankees acquisition of Pavano can’t even be called a “mistake” in the classic, second-guessing baseball world sense; it didn’t work for a multitude of reasons.

That said, a reuniting of Pavano and the Yankees this season would’ve been a ghastly mistake…but not in comparison to the pitcher they did sign, Soriano.

Was there a demand for Soriano? Would any club have given him more than 1-year or approached that guaranteed cash?

Soriano has behaved abominably going back to last season with the Rays when his attitude and clear looking toward future riches influenced his relentless whining and atrocious body language whenever Rays manager Joe Maddon either asked him to pitch more than one inning or enter a game in a non-save situation.

He was the epitome of what the Yankees tried to avoid in building their dynasty of the 1990s—the selfish player who was more interested in his paycheck than team goals.

Nor did it help that, throughout his career, Soriano has had a penchant for allowing home runs at the most inopportune times.

But the Yankees upper management, spurned by Cliff Lee and  concerned about the lack of action in a weak free agent class, chose to toss a portion of the money allocated for Lee at Soriano. The money isn’t as much of an issue as the public disagreement between ownership and the GM; that Cashman’s contract is up at the end of the year and he might have seen the Levine-executed public castration as the final boot out the door.

If Soriano pitched and pitched well, behaved like a “Yankee”, then all parties would’ve agreed to disagree and been happy that the signing worked.

But it hasn’t worked.

In fact, since he arrived, Soriano has exhibited diva-like behavior that would make Madonna blush.

He made his own schedule in spring training; had little to do with his new teammates and didn’t even put forth the effort to create clubhouse continuity; he avoided the media after a blown game; complained about not being accustomed to the set-up role (a role he held every year but the previous two and in 2009, he shared the closing job with Mike Gonzalez); he ripped the Yankees lineup and shunned any responsibility for himself and the job he’s supposed to be doing; now he’s hurt with elbow inflammation and out for at least 6-8 weeks—ESPN Story.

What makes matters worse is that I don’t get the impression from Soriano—given his behaviors present and past—that he’s all that bothered about being on the DL.

Whereas Pedro Feliciano is ready to do anything and everything to get back on the field, feels legitimately terrible about not living up to his contract and loves to pitch and compete, Soriano has his money and is on the disabled list.

His tone is one of satisfaction.

Will he work hard to get back?

Do his teammates even want him back?

In a weird way, this might be a blessing in disguise for the club and manager Joe Girardi; not only does Soriano taking up residence on the disabled list free the manager of having to use a struggling pitcher whose role was designated to be the “closer in the 8th inning”, but when and if Soriano gets back he won’t be automatically slotted into the 8th inning role (I would hope; this is Joe Girardi we’re talking about, so who knows?) simply because that was his “job”.

The signing has been a nightmare in every conceivable metric; now he’s out, probably won’t be around the team at all and won’t work all that hard to get back as quickly as possible.

In the short term, the disabled list’s gain may turn out to be the Yankees gain as well. How the usurping of Cashman’s authority, the money and the lost draft picks affect the Yankees future remains to be seen, but judging how it’s gone so far, the entire result is probably going to be terrible.

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I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic. Check it out.

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Stuff Even I Don’t Know

Hot Stove

Contrary to popular belief, there are things I don’t know. In some cases I may think I know them, but really don’t.

I’m not alone in this regard.

In reference to the side aspects of a human being—not an athlete,a human being—there are many things that go on in an individual’s life that affect their work. Sometimes it’s self-created; others it’s just…life.

I got to thinking about this after reading Bill Madden’s column yesterday and how Rafael Soriano‘s reputation has taken a beating for his behavior as a member of the Rays and Yankees GM Brian Cashman’s reluctance to sign him.

According to Madden, the Rays despised Soriano:

But losing his No. 1 draft pick wasn’t the only thing that bothered Cashman about signing Soriano. The 31-year-old Dominican’s makeup is – and should be – of great concern. Despite his league-leading 45 saves and 1.73 ERA, Soriano was hated by almost everyone in Tampa Bay last year. His periodic hissy-fits over being brought into games in non-save situations, or being asked to pitch more than one inning wore thin on Rays manager Joe Maddon. The final straw was the last game of the season – Game 5 of the ALDS versus Texas – when Maddon asked Soriano to pitch the ninth inning with the Rays trailing, 3-1. After throwing a tantrum in the bullpen in front of all his fellow relievers, Soriano trudged into the game and promptly gave up a single to Nelson Cruz and a game-breaking homer to Ian Kinsler.

This is an example of “stuff” I didn’t know. I was aware that Soriano didn’t like entering games in non-save situations, but had no idea it had reached the level of public tantrum in a playoff game—a game that was still within reach; in reach until Soriano came in anyway.

The easy answer is to blame Maddon for this; to suggest that the B.J. Upton lack of hustle and clear absence of discipline that’s present in the Rays clubhouse—amid the new age culture cultivated by Maddon—is responsible for the players feeling they can get away with anything. But I don’t see this as the fault of Joe Maddon; it’s people showing who they really are.

Did Soriano have it in mind that entering a game in a non-save situation wouldn’t add to his number of saves and, by extension, not contribute to his paycheck in free agency?

Of course.

Is this natural with a human being?

Yes, but here’s the difference between the Soriano-type and another player who would have an eye on the numbers both statistically and financially—the other player, while selfish, would do his job for the team absent of the shortsightedness displayed publicly by Soriano.

Curt Schilling could be considered an attention-seeker who liked to hear his own voice and have his face plastered all over the newspapers with stories—that may or not have been accurate—of his on-field heroism. This, more than anything else, is why the “bloody sock” was seen as a possible ruse. It was very convenient and sounded like something Schilling would do. During his time with the Phillies when he showed up his teammate Mitch Williams in the 1993 post-season by draping a towel over his head, it was an act that shouldn’t have taken place. Was Schilling intentionally playing to the camera? Or did he genuinely not want to watch?

It was probably both.

With all of that, Schilling has been an impossible person to categorize because he has done so many nice things for people with money and time that I get the impression that his acts of kindness—while making him look good—are done because he is a decent man.

As an athlete he left it all out on the field and would’ve done anything for his teammates.

Is Soriano willing to leave it all out on the field? The suggestion that Mariano Rivera will be a calming and positive influence on Soriano is not without merit; but I have concerns about players getting their clubs to sign or acquire friends.

I don’t want players making personnel moves. In fact, the players should have no say whatsoever in the composition of the team.

If an executive is so tone deaf to the clubhouse and its hierarchy, he shouldn’t be running a club in the first place. Any good manager or executive has to know the difference between a divisive force and a player who straddles the line of positive and negative influence to the other players.

As they were phased out as team stars in the late 1980s, Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez both became somewhat embittered by their descending career trajectories and didn’t help the Mets move on into new clubhouse leadership.

It’s a fine line and this is why you’ll see a good front office dispatch veteran players who, while still having something left on the field, aren’t so indispensable that they’re worth the oncoming aggravation. Getting rid of a player at the right time is a risky proposition.

On the one hand, it’s a message: “If we’ll get rid of him, we’ll certainly get rid of you!” On the other hand, making a drastic clubhouse change can blow up something that was working. It’s not to be done for the sake of it and makes nuance an imperative. A good leader has to acknowledge and take steps to counteract these factors.

You can equate this to the new concept of the field manager being a “middle manager” who takes orders from the front office; the public castration has stripped that manager of authority; if the manager doesn’t have clear support from the front office, there are players who will bully and push the envelope with the manager. Not every superstar is Albert Pujols who leads by example and supports his manager. Star players have and will continue to get their coaches/managers fired by one method or another.

The front office must support the manager.

Off-field team camaraderie is not of utmost importance to win. Some of the best clubs in history—the Athletics of the early-1970; the Yankees of the late-1970s—had players who literally hated each other personally. But on the field, if you went after one of them, you went after all of them.

Sometimes a team that gets along too well off the field is indicative of a loser on it. If a season is lost and the passion dissipates, what’s there to fight about? A team united in their disinterest is far worse that players fighting because they care.

This is why we can’t accurately assess everything on a club. We can listen to and read stories such as the Madden piece about Soriano, but until they’re proven accurate in the long term, we don’t know.

With the Rays there was much talk about the aforementioned Upton and the dugout confrontation between him and Evan Longoria after Upton failed to hustle for a ball hit into the gap in a mid-season game against the Diamondbacks.

To imply that to have been the first time someone on the Rays from teammates to coaches to the manager to the front office had confronted Upton about his lackadaisical play is ridiculous. Something like that only goes public when propriety is thrown out the window because co-workers have had enough and aren’t waiting until they’re out of the camera’s eye to let an Upton known that they’ve had enough.

Over the course of a season, these things happen hundreds of times between teammates and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.

The easy answer with a team like the Rays is to blame the manager, but Soriano and Upton would act this way no matter who they played for. When the Rays made the deal for Soriano, they had to have weighed his reputation with the risk/reward of acquiring him. He was expensive ($7.5 million for the 2010 season), but the Rays were only giving up Jesse Chavez to get him and they knew that without an established closer, they’d have trouble competing with the Yankees and Red Sox. Then there was the draft pick they were going to get when he left.

Soriano’s free agent aspirations were a boon and a detriment as he was determined to have a big statistical year, but threw what Madden called a “hissy fit” when asked to do anything more than accumulate a save.

Presumably he won’t behave that way with the Yankees, but you never know. The one thing the Yankees have an advantage with is that manager Joe Girardi has a terrible temper and won’t hesitate to drag Soriano into his office by his shirt collar and let him know that selfishness is not tolerated in his clubhouse.

As far as the off-field stories go, we all hear rumors. Some of the players and people who have great reputations as bastions of their community may not live up to the portrayal. Others who are seen negatively are oftentimes not putting up a pretense for public consumption and that’s not what the employers, image makers and fans want.

They don’t want a human being; they want the idol to worship.

I think that’s worse because when the person falters—as he inevitably does—it jades those that thought the object of their affection was something that he never really was in the first place.

These are not issues to ignore. The only thing a club can do in the case of a Soriano or anyone else is mitigate them with checks on the behaviors. Apart from that, they have to hope it doesn’t tear the clubhouse apart.