The Latest Yankees Injury: First The Jokes, Then The Reality

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Mark Teixeira has a strained right wrist and will be out for 8-10 weeks.

Considering the age permeating the Yankees’ roster, Joe Pepitone would fit right in.

When Brian Cashman broke his right fibula and dislocated his ankle skydiving and doing his Flyin’ Brian act that turned out to be Flyin’ Brian Landin’ and Breakin’ His Bones, I compared him to George Costanza, a fictional former Yankees’ employee on Seinfeld. As an organization, the Yankees are playing out the Seinfeld episode in which Elaine starts acting like (and gets identical results) as George. “I’ve become George,” she exclaimed. Well, the Yankees have become the Mets. “We’ve become the Mets!!!” Expect to hear that soon. Only it’s worse. The Mets, in recent years, have grown so accustomed to bad things happening that it’s just sort of there like a goiter. With the Yankees, though, they’re expected to be in the World Series every year. The fans have deluded themselves into thinking that they should be treated as if they won the World Series the year before even if they got bounced in the first or second round of the playoffs or, perish the thought, didn’t make the playoffs at all. History must be altered; facts must be twisted; truth must be ignored—all options are on the table to maintain the alternate reality.

A panic-stricken Mike Francesa wants them to trade for Justin Morneau. This is based on the Twins rebuilding and that Morneau will be available. What he’s missing in his desperation is that while it’s logical that the Yankees, because of fan demands and ticket prices, can’t put a team with the likes of Dan Johnson at first base and Juan Rivera/Matt Diaz or some amalgam of rookies in left field joining a lineup with a catcher who might as well not even bring a bat to the park, the Twins are in a position of having to fill a new ballpark of their own and to put up a pretense of trying to be respectable, at least in the beginning of the season. There was a similar dynamic with Francisco Liriano a couple of years ago that the Twins were going to trade him to the Yankees before the season started. Why? Because the Yankees needed an arm? And this was while the Twins were expecting to actually compete for a playoff spot.

Yankees fans and apologists in the media still don’t get it. They don’t understand that the Yankees don’t get whatever they want. You’d think it would’ve sunk in by now, especially after Cliff Lee told them to take a hike, but it’s still not getting through. Also, immediately after this story broke, a fan called into Francesa’s show and said he wouldn’t be surprised if this Yankees team doesn’t make the playoffs.

Doesn’t make the playoffs? Here’s a clip for you:

Not only is this current configuration not making the playoffs, but without Curtis Granderson and Teixeira for extended periods; with Alex Rodriguez gone ‘til who knows when; with Derek Jeter returning from a serious injury; with the age on the pitching staff, they’re lucky to be a .500 team.

There’s not going to be a Morneau trade to the Yankees. It had better sink in that this is the future that they mortgaged for so long, kicking the need to rebuild down the road with Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera maintaining performance and staying healthy at an almost supernatural rate. Last year, all three got hurt. Now Teixeira, A-Rod and Granderson are out. Now, with the age on this team and the inability for older players to take special potions, pills and manufactured concoctions to get on the field, this is what happens to players of a certain age. They get hurt and they’re out for extended periods. They can’t play as well as they once did, nor can they recover as rapidly from the wear-and-tear of the games. It would be fine if the Yankees still had an offense that could possibly account for the age and decline of their core players, but they don’t. They made a conscious and stupid decision to let Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez leave. Could they use those players as backups now?

All of a sudden, the absurd and uncharacteristic cheapness is spinning around on them and immediately blowing up in their faces. Fans are going to demand something drastic that’s not going to happen. They’d better get accustomed to the way things are and how they’ll be for the next two seasons. The type of player that will be available to them to play first base for the next couple of months is identical to the faceless cast of retread characters they have manning the outfield in Granderson’s absence—I’m talking about the Daric Barton-type from the Athletics. Barton has put up good on-base numbers when healthy, but he’s always hurt and makes Jason Giambi look like a Rhodes Scholar.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2013 Yankees.

Get used to it and brace yourself. It gets worse from here.


The Yankees’ Outfield Suddenly Looks As Bad As The Mets’

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Of course that’s in context. If you look at the projected outfields of the Yankees and Mets based on their players on paper, the Yankees are still superior. As diminished as Ichiro Suzuki is, he’s more proven that the cast of characters (led by Mike Baxter) the Mets have vying for right field. But whoever the Yankees put in left to replace the now-injured Curtis Granderson isn’t going to be better than Lucas Duda. Brett Gardner is a good player, but he’s not a prototypical “Yankees center fielder” along the lines of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, or even Bobby Murcer, Bernie Williams all the way down the line to Granderson.

In his first spring training plate appearance, Granderson was hit by a pitch and had his forearm broken. He’ll be out until May and now the Yankees are seeing how a bad bench and limited ready-for-prime-time minor leaguers can harm their rapidly declining chances to win a title. With a team this old, it’s inexplicable that they scrimped and saved to let Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez leave. Granderson’s one of the younger players on this ancient roster and got hurt while playing the game. The other, older players like Derek Jeter, Travis Hafner and Kevin Youkilis could wind up on the disabled list by waking up after sleeping in a strange position. What is going to harm this team to a greater degree—and one that hasn’t been mentioned as often as it should—is the inability to use PEDs and amphetamines to get through the season. There’s not a cure for what ails them other than letting nature take its course.

The Mets are rebuilding and had no intention nor realistic need to spend any money on players that weren’t going to help them in the distant future or were going to cost them the eleventh pick in the draft as Michael Bourn would’ve. The Yankees, on the other hand, have expectations of a championship in spite of their newfound austerity and conscious decision to stick with what they had and keep the severely declining Ichiro. With the money-related departures of Chavez and Ibanez, they’re left with limited veterans Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz as the probable left field replacement for Granderson with the possibilities of Melky Mesa and Zoilo Almonte.

Soon fans will start reverting to their “stars replace stars for even one game” template and demand the Yankees pursue and get Giancarlo Stanton. Whether the fans and media will have the nerve to suggest they pursue Mike Trout is the question. Neither will happen. Other possibilities of the more reasonable variety are Vernon Wells, Alfonso Soriano or Drew Stubbs. None are probable. Considering the expectations and lack of offense at catcher and right field with the aged and injury prone players they have in the lineup, they now have to function with an outfield that, plainly and simply, ain’t gonna cut it.

If this is an omen for the Yankees, it’s a bad one. It took one day—one day—for their weak bench to assert itself as the unpredictability of baseball from moment-to-moment reared its head. They went with the cheap bench and they’ve got the cheap bench. If a worst case scenario was predicted for the 2013 Yankees, this injury to Granderson and a comparison to the Mets is a great place to start.


The Red Sox-Dodgers Trade, Part IV—For The Teams, For the Players

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Let’s look at how this affects the teams and the players.

For the Dodgers

The Dodgers are under new ownership and GM Ned Colletti got the nod to go for it now and boy, is he. After trading for Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, and Joe Blanton, he also claimed Cliff Lee on waivers only to see the Phillies pull him back. There’s a difference between “wanting” and being “willing to take”. Colletti wanted Adrian Gonzalez and was willing to take Josh Beckett in order to get it done. Lest anyone believe that the Dodgers weren’t serious about their willingness to take on heavy salary as Colletti claimed both Gonzalez and Beckett. Had a deal not been consummated, there was a real possibility that the Red Sox would simply have given Beckett to the Dodgers. Not so with Gonzalez. Carl Crawford will be in left field for the Dodgers at some point in 2013 replacing the rotating list of names that included Marcus Thames, Juan Rivera, Bobby Abreu and now the pending free agent Victorino, who most assuredly won’t be back with the Dodgers in 2013.

The Dodgers needed a power-hitting first baseman to replace the light-hitting James Loney; they went after Gonzalez several times when he was still with the Padres; and Beckett is an extra arm in the rotation with post-season success in his past. They have the money and the desire, nor did they give up their top prospects to get this done.

For the Red Sox

This is a housecleaning and fumigation.

Naturally, as is the case with this current Red Sox group, there was additional controversy when closer Alfredo Aceves threw a tantrum and stormed out of manager Bobby Valentine’s office after Andrew Bailey was used to close a game instead of Aceves. It was obscured by the magnitude of this trade, but was a symptom of what’s gone wrong in Boston not just since Valentine took over, but going back to last season. On that note, Aceves is not the long-term Red Sox closer. Bailey is. I don’t think anyone should get worked up over the happiness or unhappiness of a useful journeyman with a long history of injuries like Aceves.

Gonzalez was a bad fit in Boston. He’s quiet and religious and was reluctant to step to the forefront as a leader.

Crawford was miserable and injured.

Beckett had behaved like a spoiled rotten brat and a bully.

Whether the Red Sox are going to keep Valentine for the second year of his contract remains to be seen, but this trade was an admission that they couldn’t go forward with Valentine or anyone else and maintain the construction of the roster and the hierarchy of the clubhouse as it was. They cleared out $261 million and left themselves flexibility to alter the on-field product as much as the poisoned off-field perception that has exemplified their team since 2011.

Let’s say the Red Sox were unable to make a trade like this and they gave in to the complaints of the players regarding Valentine. Then what? What if they hired another manager and that manager irritated the veteran players in a different way. What if he was strategically inept; soft on discipline; unable to handle the media; or what if they just didn’t like him? Then what? Were they going to give the babies another pacifier and fire him too?

They could’ve stuck a mannequin in a Red Sox uniform at the corner of the dugout with the words NOT VALENTINE stitched across his shoulder blades and until those players found a mirror and chose to act and play like professionals, it wouldn’t have made one bit of difference this season or next.

They made a bold decision to cut ties with players who no longer wanted to be with the Red Sox or shouldn’t have been with the Red Sox in the first place. Now they can move on and start again.

Adrian Gonzalez

Gonzalez is a West Coast-type who will be much better off as the silent and powerful lineup partner to Matt Kemp. As gifted a player as he is, he does not want to be the vocal leader. But if he was truly behind the text message to Red Sox ownership complaining about Valentine, then he has to make a decision: either he wants to be a representative of the team and lead or he wants to sit in the background and be left alone and do his job. He can have one or the other, but not both.

Gonzalez will be playing for a kindred spirit in manager Don Mattingly. Gonzalez has been a key member of three separate teams that collapsed in September to blow playoff spots that should have been sewn up. Mattingly’s Yankees teams were forever in turmoil and didn’t turn the corner until Mattingly’s career and greatness were dismantled by injuries. Mattingly wasn’t a vocal leader either in spite of being the captain of the Yankees and when he tried to be, it came out as awkward.

Gonzalez will revert to the MVP-candidate he was with the Padres, back on the Coast he never should have left.

Josh Beckett

It wasn’t his behavior that was the biggest problem with the Red Sox. That’s saying a lot considering how out of shape he was; how unwilling he was to acknowledge any more than the tiniest bit of responsibility nor regret for the Red Sox coming apart under Terry Francona and his part in the debacle.

It was Beckett’s frequent injuries and rancid performances indicative of someone who was saying, “Get me outta here,” in multiple ways.

I’m not prepared to say that Beckett, with his declining velocity, doughy midsection, and injuries will be what the Dodgers want: a post-season performer and ace who loves the spotlight. In fact, I’d expect something close to what he was with the Red Sox for the rest of 2012 at least. Perhaps Kemp and Mattingly can convince Beckett to show up in shape in 2013, but it’s no guarantee.

Carl Crawford

He was terrible offensively. He was terrible defensively. He looked unhappy. And he was constantly injured.

Crawford was a true 5-tool player with the Rays who degenerated to nothing almost immediately upon pulling a Red Sox jersey over his shoulders. Another bad fit who was something of a redundancy with Jacoby Ellsbury already in the Red Sox outfield, Crawford couldn’t get used to the scrutiny that he never experienced in Tampa; and he couldn’t get the hang of the Green Monster.

Crawford’s struggles are one of the reasons that those who criticize Jim Rice as a bad defensive player as an absolutist declaration of his poor Hall of Fame credentials are leaving out facts as convenient to their argument. Rice was a left fielder for the Boston Red Sox meaning that he had to learn to play the quirks and angles of that wall. He did it as well as anyone and found himself on the outside looking in at the Hall of Fame because he wasn’t Dave Winfield defensively.

Crawford might eventually have learned to handle Boston and overcome his injuries to again become the player he was, but this opportunity was too good to pass up for the Red Sox.

As for the Dodgers, they’re getting a great player who can still be a great player once he’s healthy and happy in Southern California.

Nick Punto

Yeah. It’s Nick Punto. He can do some useful things here and there I guess.

James Loney

When Mattingly took over as Dodgers manager I was sure that he was going to exert the same pressure on Loney that Lou Piniella did on Mattingly to turn on the inside pitches and hit for more power. Mattingly did and became an MVP and megastar. Loney got worse under Mattingly.

He’s a first baseman who doesn’t hit for any power at all and is a short-term guest for the Red Sox as a free agent at the end of the season. The Red Sox might spin him off somewhere by August 31st.

Allen Webster

Webster is a right-handed starting pitcher who was picked by the Dodgers in the 18th round of the 2008 draft. He’s put up solid numbers in the minors and, after having watched a YouTube clip of him appears to be a control-type righty with a mechanical, slightly across-his-body motion. Judging from that, he’s a back-of-the-rotation starter and not someone about whom anyone should get into a twist about surrendering…or acquiring.

Ivan de Jesus Jr.

The son of former big league shortstop Ivan de Jesus, De Jesus Jr was the 2nd round pick of the Dodgers in 2005. He’s 25 and was stagnating as a 4-A player. Perhaps he can be a useful utility player.

Jerry Sands

Given the proliferation of statistics, there’s an idea that a player like Sands needs little more than a chance to play and he’ll replicate his massive minor league power numbers with a different organization. Sands has been a big-time power hitter in the minors for the Dodgers (functioning in the light air of Albuquerque) and never gotten a legitimate chance to play in the big leagues.

Think about this for a second. The Dodgers have had a gaping hole in left field going back years and refused to give Sands a chance to play. Doesn’t it make sense that the Dodgers would know more about Sands than some guy studying Sands’s stats and determining that “all he needs is a chance”?

He’s big and he’s righty. Maybe he can benefit from the close proximity of the Green Monster.

Rubby De La Rosa

The Dominican righty is recovering from Tommy John surgery and has put up big strikeout numbers in the minors. The 23-year-old is poised and polished and has a clean motion. Of all the prospects sent to the Red Sox, the one with the highest upside is De La Rosa.


National League Fantasy Sleepers

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Let’s look at some fantasy sleepers in the National League.

Mike Minor, LHP—Atlanta Braves

He got a lot of grief for what was perceived to be a “play me or trade me” demand that he start the season in the big leagues in the Braves’ starting rotation.

It wasn’t that kind of demand at all, but that’s how it was taken.

Putting that aside, with Tim Hudson recovering from back surgery Minor is going to have to start the season in the big leagues. He’ll want to get off to a good start to stake his claim in the rotation and validate his assertion that he belongs.

He racks up the strikeouts, hits hits/innings pitched ratio is great and he doesn’t allow a lot of home runs or walks.

John Mayberry Jr., OF/1B—Philadelphia Phillies

Mayberry has never gotten the chance to play regularly from the start of the season onward, but will in 2012.

With Ryan Howard’s return date increasingly uncertain after the procedure to clean up the infection in his surgical wound, there’s even more reason to pick up Mayberry. The Phillies’ situation in left field is in flux and he’ll also play some first base.

He has 25-30 homer potential.

Chase Utley, 2B—Philadelphia Phillies

Looking at his basic stats, it appears as if he’s on the decline due to age and injury.

It’s nonsense.

Utley has hit in notoriously bad luck in the past two seasons. His BAbip was .288 in 2010, .269 in 2011. He stole 14 bases without getting caught after returning from his knee injury. His power numbers were right in line with what he normally produces.

Utley’s going to have a big comeback year.

Chris Coghlan, INF/OF—Miami Marlins

He may have worn out his welcome with the newly star-studded Marlins, as injuries and bickering with the front office have diminished the former NL Rookie of the Year to a forgotten man.

The Marlins don’t have a prototypical centerfielder on the roster (they’re intent on going with Emilio Bonifacio), Coghlan can play the position defensively and his bat can rebound. He’ll get one last shot with the Marlins; otherwise he’s trade bait and is worth the risk in the hopes of a return to what he once was.

Frank Francisco, RHP—New York Mets

He’s not a great closer, but he strikes out over a batter an inning. If you need someone to get you some saves and don’t want to pay for them, he’s going to be cheap.

These are the Mets and fantasy mirrors reality.

Or reality mirrors fantasy.

Or both reflect a nightmare. Or circumstances.

Or all of the above.

Jonathan Lucroy, C—Milwaukee Brewers

Lucroy has a career minor league OPS of .838 and an OBP of .379. He’s hit 20 homers in a season in the minors and hit 12 in the big leagues last season.

He’ll be cheap and there’s major room for improvement.

Alex Presley, OF—Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates’ outfield situation flanking Andrew McCutchen isn’t set. Presley can run and had an .804 OPS in 231 plate appearances in the big leagues last season.

Jeff Samardzija, RHP—Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are going to trade Carlos Marmol at some point and someone—either Samardzija or Kerry Wood—will have to take over as closer. It makes no sense to use Wood at this stage of his career.

Samardzija overcame his control issues for the most part and struck out 87 in 88 innings last season.

Bud Norris, RHP—Houston Astros

Norris isn’t going to win many games for the Astros, but he strikes out close to a batter per inning and has had excellent hits/innings pitched ratios at every level.

David Hernandez, RHP—Arizona Diamondbacks

I don’t trust J.J. Putz to stay healthy and Hernandez saved 11 games in Putz’s absence last season.

Hernandez struck out 77 in 69 innings and allowed 49 hits.

Cory Luebke, LHP—San Diego Padres

Luebke struck out 154 in 139 innings last season and allowed 105 hits.

He began 2011 in the bullpen, but moved to the starting rotation in the second half. He’ll be a full-time starter in 2012.

Jerry Sands, OF—Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers circumstances in left and right field aren’t settled. Juan Rivera is slated to start in left and Andre Ethier is a free agent at the end of the season and is a good bet to be traded.

Sands has posted huge power numbers in the minors—stats—and has the speed to steal 15-20 bases.


The Dodgers Spending and the Market for Hiroki Kuroda

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There are things to admire about Ned Colletti. He’s decisive and unapologetic as to what he believes in building a team; he’s acquitted himself as a professional during the Frank McCourt vs Everyone legal inferno; and he doesn’t play games.

But it’s difficult to find justification in signing Chris Capuano to a 2-year, $10 million contract to replace Hiroki Kuroda.

Kuroda is durable; Capuano is not.

Kuroda has great stuff and can get away with not being at the top of his game; Capuano is a fastball/changeup pitcher who has to have his control to be effective.

Capuano is an intelligent man and intense competitor; Kuroda is mean.

Capuano is willing to pitch inside and knock people off the plate as a correlation to strategy; Kuroda does it because he likes to do it.

If the Dodgers are going to imply that money was a major issue to retaining Kuroda, how do they equate that with signing Mark Ellis for a guaranteed $8.75 million; Juan Rivera for $4.5 million; Adam Kennedy to a guaranteed $800,000; and having given Juan Uribe $21 million last year? They even gave a million dollars to Matt Treanor.

Matt Treanor!

The Dodgers can’t claim that they don’t have the money for Kuroda after extending Matt Kemp with $160 million.

They either have money buried, a big credit limit or the hopes of income from somewhere in the future because they’ve been spending it now.

Colletti prefers to do all his shopping early in the winter before he’s left desperate in January and February, but sometimes it behooves an executive to wait and see with the non-tenders, trade targets and players who are left on the outside looking in; they might grow desperate for work as spring training approaches and be available cheaply.

For a team with multiple issues—both financial and on-field—it made no sense to spend so capriciously on mediocrity and worse.

In addition to his on-field ability, what makes Kuroda so attractive is that he’s not seeking the type of contract a pitcher of his stature normally would on the open market. Like Roy Oswalt, he’s not walking around with dollar signs in his eyes and an overinflated opinion of both himself and the rampant executive stupidity like that which led the Nationals to give Jayson Werth $126 million.

Kuroda could’ve secured a 3-year contract last season, but wanted to stay with the Dodgers and signed for 1-year at $12 million.

Few are truly appreciating how good Hiroki Kuroda is. Are they blinded by his under .500 record? Are they ignoring him?

He’s said to prefer to stay on the West Coast but if his map expands, the Yankees and Red Sox would both be after him; the Angels opened a spot in their rotation when they traded Tyler Chatwood; they’re not getting into a bidding war for Wilson nor are they going to satisfy his stated desire for $120 million—no one is.

Kuroda’s a perfect fit in Anaheim and it would be a brilliant addition to a rotation that is going to be among the best in baseball.


The RBI Stat Is Not Worthless

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Because of advanced statistics, the relevance of the run batted in has been diminished to the point where some don’t even want to know how many RBI a player has because they see it as totally irrelevant.

In a sense, I understand their point. RBI are only as good as how many opportunities a player has; he has no control over how many runners are on base when he comes to the plate; no say in whether he has teammates in the lineup who get on base; and doesn’t write the lineup so he can dictate where he’s going to bat or who’s in front of him. Like runs scored, an RBI is accumulated whenever a player hits a home run.

This makes it easy to see the redundancy of the “stat” that Mike and the Mad Dog, Mike Francesa and Christopher Russo, used to use to assess players—their version of “runs created”—calculated by adding together home runs, RBI and runs scored.

It’s not a stat; it’s a simplistic number that meant absolutely nothing.

But there is a place for RBI in dissecting a specific player’s numbers; it’s especially valuable when it’s a player who’s expected to be the main offensive force in his lineup and his numbers don’t quite add up to what logic says they should be.

Jose Bautista is one such player.

How is it possible that a player like Bautista, with 39 homers and a .450 on base percentage only has 91 RBI and 95 runs scored?

Part of the reason, obviously, is that Bautista is playing for a team with a .318 cumulative on-base percentage.

In comparison, Adrian Gonzalez of the Red Sox (playing for one of the league leaders in on-base percentage at .348) has 16 fewer homers than Bautista, but 103 RBI and 92 runs scored.

There are other aspects to consider.

The Red Sox have stolen 94 bases and been caught stealing 33 times—11th in the league. The Blue Jays have stolen 113 bases and been caught 43 times. The Red Sox don’t steal bases capriciously just for the sake of them; the Blue Jays run the bases with abandon and it costs them baserunners; baserunners that might be on base in front of Bautista at some point.

For most of the season, Bautista had Yunel Escobar and Corey Patterson batting in front of him. Escobar gets on base; Patterson doesn’t.

Gonzalez has had Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia batting in front of him. Ellsbury with his .372 OBP and Pedroia at .396 provide greater opportunities for Gonzalez to drive in runs.

What of the lineup protection provided for each player?

Stat people diminish the concept of lineup protection, but despite so-called evidence that there’s no correlation between performance and the hitters batting behind a Gonzalez or Bautista, looking at the players who’ve batted behind each and you see Gonzalez has had David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis alternating between batting fourth and fifth; Bautista has had Adam Lind and the likes of J.P. Arencibia; Aaron Hill; and Juan Rivera “protecting” him.

Their results with runners on base go as follows:


RISP 91 150 94 22 5 0 4 42 50 29 .234 .500 .415 .915 39 .281 76 153
120 291 242 74 8 2 26 26 48 48 .306 .423 .678 1.100 164 .286 100 207
Men On 118 261 194 61 14 0 13 64 61 44 .314 .479 .588 1.067 114 .343 99 190
1– 88 111 100 39 9 0 9 22 11 15 .390 .450 .750 1.200 75 .395 118 221
-2- 51 52 33 6 1 0 0 4 18 12 .182 .481 .212 .693 7 .286 40 94
–3 28 29 16 4 0 0 1 9 13 2 .250 .586 .438 1.024 7 .231 99 171
12- 29 33 23 4 2 0 2 10 9 11 .174 .424 .522 .946 12 .200 76 171
1-3 17 15 12 5 1 0 1 8 2 3 .417 .533 .750 1.283 9 .500 136 226
-23 16 15 6 3 1 0 0 9 8 0 .500 .733 .667 1.400 4 .429 168 260
123 6 6 4 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 .000 -100 -100
on 1st, lt 2 out 84 115 96 39 9 0 11 36 17 17 .406 .487 .844 1.331 81 .400 141 243
on 3rd, lt 2 out 34 38 23 9 0 0 1 22 12 1 .391 .553 .522 1.074 12 .333 105 160
on 3rd, 2 out 25 27 15 3 2 0 1 6 11 5 .200 .556 .533 1.089 8 .222 107 219
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2011.


RISP 101 192 162 54 12 0 3 74 25 34 .333 .411 .463 .874 75 .392 86 139
129 295 268 88 20 1 15 15 24 47 .328 .390 .578 .968 155 .354 101 171
Men On 128 317 279 99 20 2 8 88 31 51 .355 .416 .527 .943 147 .404 98 156
1– 105 125 117 45 8 2 5 14 6 17 .385 .424 .615 1.039 72 .421 116 181
-2- 57 76 65 18 5 0 1 15 11 18 .277 .382 .400 .782 26 .370 67 117
–3 20 22 15 8 0 0 1 14 5 1 .533 .591 .733 1.324 11 .467 179 245
12- 38 44 42 16 3 0 1 19 2 6 .381 .409 .524 .933 22 .429 96 167
1-3 26 22 19 7 3 0 0 9 2 4 .368 .409 .526 .935 10 .438 96 140
-23 14 14 8 1 0 0 0 7 4 1 .125 .357 .125 .482 1 .111 11 24
123 14 14 13 4 1 0 0 10 1 4 .308 .357 .385 .742 5 .444 58 108
on 1st, lt 2 out 92 139 129 53 13 1 4 35 7 17 .411 .446 .620 1.066 80 .450 123 179
on 3rd, lt 2 out 35 41 30 14 4 0 1 30 6 4 .467 .488 .700 1.188 21 .433 148 178
on 3rd, 2 out 25 31 25 6 0 0 0 10 6 6 .240 .387 .240 .627 6 .316 39 84
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2011.

This too can be taken out of context, but Bautista is batting under .200 with two runners on base; .250 with the bases loaded; and .390 with one runner on.

Gonzalez is batting .385 with one man on base and a ridiculous .533 with the bases loaded. Gonzalez has had almost 60 more plate appearances with runners on base than Bautista has.

Like most statistics, it’s easy to misinterpret the value depending on how it’s used. If RBI is taken as an end unto himself by saying, “wow, X has 20 more RBI than Y!” or “X should be the MVP because he had 135 RBI when Y had 101”, but it ignores other bits of information that could be just as or more important than an easy statistic to reference as validation for a successful season.

It’s only worthless if it’s taken wrongly; but that doesn’t make it entirely worthless when used as part of the big picture and is interpreted by one who knows baseball and doesn’t take reading a stat sheet to be expertise.

Because it’s not.


Viewer Mail 5.1.2011

Books, Fantasy/Roto, Games, Management, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

Nicole writes RE my review of the Joe DiMaggio book—link:

Paul – bravo! That is one of the best book reviews I’ve read in a long time. You are an excellent writer. Thanks for lending your reviewing talents to Jerome’s book and for hosting a stop on the blog tour. We appreciate it.

Nicole was my contact when Tribute Books asked me to review the book.

Dunno if I’ve ever gotten a “Bravo” before!

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Roger McDowell:

What an embarrassment. Kids don’t belong at a ballpark? WTF!?!?! If it weren’t for kids at the ballpark no one would give a rat’s ass anyway.

You’re right.

Dude’s gotta go.

Never underestimate the power of blowback against the complainant and the power of “treatment”. The “damaged” family hiring Gloria Allred might wind up eliciting sympathy toward McDowell based on the sheer ridiculousness of it all.

He did something stupid, but if he goes through some sort of anger management course to “understand” why he behaved that way and—most importantly—if the Braves want to keep him on, he might hold onto his job.

Franklin Rabon writes RE batting orders:

I think one thing that managers drastically confuse is base stealing and base running. You want your leadoff hitter to be a good baserunner, because he’s going to be running the bases a lot, but you don’t necessarily want him stealing a lot of bases unless he almost never gets caught. Yet, a lot of managers will put a guy in the leadoff spot who steals a lot of bases, but gets caught a lot, when that player would better be utilized down in the order in front of slap hitters that need him to steal second and/or third in order to get a run across. Alex Gonzalez needs a guy on third much more than Dan Uggla does. Dan Uggla mostly just needs a guy on base, any base.

The propriety of basestealing is en vogue now more than ever with certain teams who are using it to their detriment. The Blue Jays have been running wild under new manager John Farrell and I don’t think it’s a good thing.

Yesterday Juan Rivera tried to steal third with the Blue Jays down a run and one out with 2 strikes on Edwin Encarnacion; Encarnacion struck out; Rivera was nailed by a wide margin at third.

The risk-reward was non-existent. Yes, on third Rivera could score on a wild pitch—which A.J. Burnett has the propensity of throwing—but it was a stupid idea.

In fact, off the subject, the Yankees-Blue Jays game wasn’t a case study in proper managing and execution. The Blue Jays don’t approach their at bats correctly. Why was Yunel Escobar hacking at the first pitch from the mentally fried Rafael Soriano before giving him a chance to implode? I understand it’s Yunel Escobar and he doesn’t listen or think, but it was beyond discipline; it was something you don’t do.

And Joe Girardi yanked Joba Chamberlain after he threw six pitches in the sixth inning why?

The insipid “formula”? I don’t want to hear about any formula. If any manager simply adheres to some absurd set of tenets, there’s no point in him being there at all.

In fact, this all ties in with the manager’s decision on whom to bat leadoff—many managers don’t think, nor do they lead; they follow which is the opposite of what a good manager is expected to do. With me anyway.

Mike Luna in The Bleacher Seats writes RE Michael Kay:

In what capacity does this Michael Kay person work for the Yankees? Isn’t he the TV play-by-play guy or something?

Why is he so far out front, then? He seems to act as spokesperson a lot of the time, like he’s head of their PR department. It’s just a little odd to me that he seems to need to speak for the organization, defending them where there might not need to be any defense.

Maybe I’m thinking of someone else, but is he the one that took shots at Cliff Lee during the playoffs, accusing him of cheating by touching his hat too much?

Very odd, indeed.

He’s the play-by-play man on the YES Network; host of Centerstage; has his own afternoon show on ESPN radio.

Nobody with a modicum amount of baseball knowledge goes to Michael Kay for analysis; he’s a Yankees fan with a forum and has taken his own private feuds public as he did with Joe Torre, ripping the former manager at every opportunity due to a personal and poorly concealed vendetta.

He’s not even entertaining as radio man John Sterling is; but Sterling’s act is tongue-in-cheek and he doesn’t pretend to be a reporter or analyst—it’s shtick.

Kay portrays himself as an insider with a breadth of experience from being a former sportswriter, broadcaster and radio host while still maintaining fealty to the Yankees organization.

YES has an agenda of Yankees support and Kay is the frontman.

I don’t remember if he took shots at Lee; the main distraction with Kay during the playoffs was his declaration that the ALCS was over…after the first game.

Expertise is relative and Kay is an orphan.

John Ogg writes RE my posting about Mike Francesa—link:

Just wanted to let you know I loved your article, that’s dead on about Francesa.
I belong to a site called & . With those names, you’d probably think it was a site dedicated to their greatness. Most use it now to complain about Mike and how horrible his show has gotten since Mad Dog left. They complain about how Mad Dog just isn’t the same with Francesa. We discuss sports in general and WFAN NY 660 AM.

Again, spot on about Francesa. Great article. I’m going to check out your book as well. Have a nice day. – John (Johninga at

I appreciate the compliments John.

Truthfully, I rarely listen to Francesa anymore and wonder about Russo’s listenership since he moved to satellite radio. I totally understand their need to go off on their own, but something about the duo worked; they needed each other. Neither man’s ego will allow them to openly admit this fact, but somewhere underneath the arrogance, egomania and self-importance, they have to know it.

I don’t understand Francesa’s need to be considered omnipotent and never wrong—to the point where picks are altered and he uses outside sources for fact-checking but claims to have “thought” about statements and corrected them.

It’s no great accomplishment to never be wrong—I certainly don’t want to be right all the time; it only enhances credibility to admit a mistake and be somewhat humorous about it, but his pomposity and desire to be relevant stops him from seeing or accepting it; perhaps it’s the sycophants who treat his every utterance as if they’re profound, but it all ends with the same result—a desperate desire to present this image that couldn’t exist in anyone, specifically someone who’s totally wrong as often as Francesa is.


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Hot Stove

The speed with which we get information today can be a good or bad thing. Many times it’s positive as in cases of Amber Alerts and dangerous occurrences; other times it’s not. From the premature reports of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords’s death to the comparatively trivial injury to Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in which he was accused of giving up and begging out of the NFC Championship on Sunday when he was really hurt, people’s lives and reputations are affected.

It’s reactionary and ill-thought out.

Now we’re seeing the same thing with the Los Angeles Angels and their so-called “desperation” trade for Vernon Wells.

In the immediate aftermath of the deal’s announcement, I too was bewildered at why any team would want to take Wells’s contract from the Blue Jays with negligible relief (said to be $5 million) on the remaining $86 million guaranteed. That the Angels gave up two productive and cheap pieces in Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera made it all the more confusing.

But then I looked at it more deeply.

The trade, after cursory internet reaction, was awful. When examined closely, it made a certain amount of sense. Now, after studying the Angels; their situation; their division; their needs; and what Wells and subsequent additions will provide, it could get them back into the playoffs.

The Angels faded out last season for three reasons: a lack of scoring; injuries; and a bad bullpen.

If the Angels make one more acquisition to bolster the lineup, the scoring problem will be mitigated. The negatives of Wells—apart from his salary—are known and accurate: he’s streaky, doesn’t get on base and is overrated defensively. But for the Angels, he fits into what they want to do.

Affording them the option of not having to rely on a 24-year-old Peter Bourjos to save their season, they can play Wells in center field if necessary. This would free them to do a couple of things. They’re pursuing Scott Podsednik or Vladimir Guerrero.

The Podsednik talk elicits ridicule in stat zombie circles, but isn’t a terrible idea at all. He can still run and play solid defense in left; with a career .340 on base percentage, he’d give RBI chances to the bats behind him. Plus he’d be cheap.

I’d go after Guerrero before Podsednik. Guerrero’s rejuvenation in Texas was not due simply to him being in a hitter’s heaven of a ballpark at home; I think he was healthy again. Guerrero hit well on the road last season and if he returned to Anaheim and provided 25 homers and 90-100 RBI—not absurd requests—the Angels offensive woes at DH are solved.

In addition to that, who can tell how much Guerrero’s absence as a father figure to Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis contributed to their poor seasons? If Aybar and Izturis hit somewhere close to the way they did in 2009, the Angels will have far more scoring opportunities.

The offensive woes were evident in greater detail after Kendry Morales‘s season-ending ankle injury. Right there, the Angels went from having a power hitting first baseman and a rightfully part-time power hitting catcher in Napoli to having Napoli playing every day at first base and the no-hit Jeff Mathis catching.

Losing the big power threat affects everything. Napoli was admirable in an unfamiliar role, but it meant that he was playing every day; that Mathis was playing regularly; and that Bobby Abreu was relied on more than was feasible given his age.

Certain players are better off not playing every day because once they play every day, they’re exposed. This is what happened to Napoli playing first base in place of Morales.

With Wells in and Napoli and Rivera out, the Angels not only have another power bat in their lineup, they’re free to address other needs at either DH or left field.

The Angels troubles were exacerbated by Howie Kendrick‘s poor year accompanying the down seasons from Aybar, Izturis and Abreu. Was Kendrick exposed like Napoli after he was forced to play every day following the free agent departure of Chone Figgins? Considering his career in the majors and minors, I’d say no; he’s been a .300 hitter at every level.

Abreu, despite his age, has been too good for too long to have another down year like he had in 2010. Being left alone in the lineup didn’t help Abreu either. The lineup’s better, Abreu will be better.

So let’s say Abreu gets back to 20 homers, and a .370 on base percentage; that Wells hits 25 homers and drives in 90; that Morales bats .300, has 25 homers and 100 RBI; that they get either Guerrero or Podsednik; that Kendrick, Aybar and Izturis have better seasons—don’t you see how much that will improve their offense?

In addition to losing Morales, the injuries to Joel Pineiro and Scott Kazmir sabotaged the Angels badly in 2010. Pineiro was on his way to a fine season before a strained oblique landed him on the disabled list. Kazmir hadn’t pitched all that well, but he provided innings at the back of the rotation.

Amid all the stories of the failed pursuits this winter—most notably Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre—it’s forgotten that the Angels made a significant mid-season upgrade in their starting rotation when they got Dan Haren from the Diamondbacks. Replacing the hittable Joe Saunders with Haren gives the Angels two top-tier starters fronting their rotation with Jered Weaver and Haren; right behind them is another very good pitcher, Ervin Santana; then you have Pineiro and Kazmir.

That’s one of the top rotations in baseball.

The bullpen?

Even if you don’t trust Fernando Rodney as closer, they acquired lefties Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi. Downs—durable, underrated and able to get out hitters from both sides of the plate—will help a lot. Takahashi was invaluable to the Mets in a variety of roles from starter to long reliever to set up man to closer. He’s fearless and the Angels are presumably going to use him in a similar way as the Mets did. There were many games that Takahashi entered with the Mets trailing by multiple runs; he quieted things down and gave the club time to chip away. The work he did as a closer was impressive.

The Angels have a slight hole behind the plate with the departure of Napoli, but they do have a prospect in Hank Conger to share time with Mathis and Bobby Wilson. Conger has hit at every minor league level—minor league stats.

Manager Mike Scioscia—a tough as nails, defensive-minded catcher as a player—likes his catchers to be able to handle the pitching staff first and foremost. If Conger can do that, he’s an under-the-radar Rookie of the Year candidate.

I’d shut my eyes and play Conger.

As for their competition in the AL West, is it so crazy to think the Angels could emerge from the three team scrum with the Rangers and Athletics?

The Rangers can really hit, but have questions in their starting rotation; their bullpen won’t be as good as it was last season; and their manager Ron Washington is a walking strategic gaffe waiting to happen. They’re the American League champs and will be so until they’re knocked off the perch, but they’re beatable.

The Athletics are a trendy pick (again) because of the aggressive acquisitions of David DeJesus, Josh Willingham, Hideki Matsui in the their lineup; Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour for the bullpen. But their starting rotation is very, very young; young pitchers tend to fluctuate in performance as they’re establishing themselves. It’s not an automatic that Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden will repeat their work from last season.

There’s an eagerness to leap back onto the Billy Beane bandwagon—an overeagerness based on the desire to “prove” Moneyball as having been accurate in advance of the movie even though there’s no connection to what Beane did this winter to Moneyball the book or film.

But I digress. I’ll swing that hammer when the time comes.

Are the Angels, with their success over the past decade, suddenly fodder for ridicule? Isn’t it possible that they calculated the pros and cons of taking Wells’s contract for Napoli and Rivera and decided it was worth it?

Regarding the money, what’s a reasonable amount to pay for the top earners on a club? How much of a percentage is doable? For the Blue Jays, with an $80 million payroll, Wells’s onerous deal, with $23 million coming to him this season, had to go; for the Angels, with a $120 million payroll and substantial money coming off the books after this season, it’s not crazy to handle Wells’s deal without complaint. How much is a viable percentage for a team’s big money players in relation to the club’s payroll? For the Blue Jays, Wells didn’t make sense; for the Angels, he does.

The key for the Angels in 2011 is that they score enough runs to support that starting rotation. With Wells and one more offensive player added, they’ll have achieved that end. In the final analysis, that’s all that really matters in making them a legitimate playoff contender again; and no matter what print and online criticism they receive, they are contenders again because of the acquisition of Vernon Wells.

Viewer Mail 1.23.2011

Hot Stove

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the Mets:

As always, I feel like I’m getting an honest reaction to the Mets mess from you… but I wonder, what in the world was the reasoning behind making an official announcement (IN JANUARY) that Mike Pelfrey would be the Opening Day starter?

IN JANUARY!?!?!??!

It’s a new trendy thing and I don’t understand it either.

For certain teams, it’s known who the opening day starter is and it’s generally more of an honorific than any strategic reason. Bobby Valentine was the first manager I remember doing it with Pete Harnisch of the Mets in 1997. Harnisch pitched okay that day, but then missed the next four months of the season with depression related symptoms. It’s hard to know whether the pressure from being named the opening day starter long before the season exacerbated the condition—this is an extreme case—but it’s possible.

To me, the pressure of being anointed as the “number 1” can do more harm than good. Mike Pelfrey knows he’s the main man on the Mets staff until Johan Santana gets back and I understand the idea that they’re giving him the heads up. If he can’t handle knowing he’s the opening day starter, how’s he going to handle a playoff start?

I get it.

But I’m of the mind that the media and public get information on a need-to-know basis; it was clear to everyone that Pelfrey was going to take the ball on opening day. Was announcing it necessary? No.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Brian Cashman and Rafael Soriano:

According to the beat writers, Cashman owed it to them to explain his reversal on the Soriano signing. It would have been totally disingenuous for him to say he’s adamant against signing Soriano one minute and then turn around and announce the signing – without explaining to the media what happened. Can’t fault him for being honest. I don’t, anyway. Was it awkward? Absolutely.

I don’t think he owed them anything. The first mistake he made was making such a declarative and “final” public statement regarding Soriano. If his bosses were considering Soriano as a fallback plan, Cashman should’ve kept his mouth shut. Perhaps this was an attempt, on Cashman’s part, to pressure Hank and Hal Steinbrenner and Randy Levine to back off on Soriano so as not to appear to be undermining their GM.

Then again, he’s been with the Yankees a long time; I doubt he’s that naive.

I do fault him for being honest. He started a bonfire for no reason other than his own ego. It’s his job to take the hits for his bosses and if he thinks he’s bulletproof, well, all he needs do is look at how Jack Zduriencik’s star fell after being cast as a “genius” in some quarters and whose job is on the line. (I preached caution with Zduriencik, a fact for which I’m remarkably smug.)

I was going to say some things about this today, but will wait. Bill Madden wrote an interesting piece on Cashman in today’s NY Daily News speculating whether he’d like to go elsewhere and build a club the way he wants to without interference and big money from above—link.

Rather than comment on it, I’m planning a similar GM dissection as to the ones I, um—inflicted? perpetrated? completed? Which word is best?—on Sandy Alderson and Josh Byrnes while the Mets were in their decades long interview phase of finding a GM to replace Omar Minaya.

It’ll be an evenhanded look at Cashman from start to finish and may take a couple of days to complete. Of course it’ll be worth it.

Max Stevens writes RE the Angels and Vernon Wells:

Prince – What is your take on the big trade between the Halos and the Jays? I think the Angels FO panicked and that this will prove to be a huge mistake.  Aside from Wells’ huge multi-year contract, there’s now some serious age on the Angels outfield…

I went into this yesterday and didn’t mention the word “panic”, but it’s not something to discount. They were shut out on everything they tried to do and had their hearts as set on Carl Crawford as the Yankees had on Cliff Lee. Then they saw Adrian Beltre go to the Rangers; watched the Athletics drastically improve both their offense and bullpen; and had a team that was essentially the same as the one from last season—aside from the additions of Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi—that fell under .500.

It’s not as horrific as is being suggested; the Angels have a lot of money and cash coming off the books after this season—$33 million for Scott Kazmir, Joel Pineiro, Fernando Rodney and Bobby Abreu; and Torii Hunter‘s coming off after 2012—the money’s not an issue with Wells.

Maybe they looked at the free agent class for next year and didn’t feel confident they could lure a Jose Reyes or Prince Fielder to improve the offense; the free agent outfield crop looks weak. I wouldn’t have done this if I were the Angels, but I don’t see it as out-and-out panic.

Norm writes RE the Mets, Blue Jays and Sandy Alderson:

Re. Wells- I think once the Jayson Werth signing raised the bar for 30+ year old decent 5 tool player contracts, the Wells contract starts looking more reasonable.
As a Toronto (and occasionally a Met) fan I see a probable problem: notwithstanding the financially sound move of removing Wells’ contract from the Blue Jays’ books, the move smells of a ‘diminish expectations’ strategy, similar to the one Alderson seems to be employing.


Alderson seems like a disingenuous careerist and a master at diminishing expectations.  And his hiring of two Moneyball acolytes fails the smell test too.  And of course begs the question why did the Mets need to pay big bucks to 3 GM types for the purpose of making zero important moves in the off season?  You could have paid any sabermetric geek 100 grand to negotiate a Chris Young contract and to try and get rid of Perez and Castillo?  Are you telling me that the Mets needed to ‘lock down’ Ricciardi and DePodesta before some other organization grabbed them so that when the Mets are ready to spend (2012?2013?) they will be available to them?!!  Who the heck was going to hire JP?!!

I edited it down for space, but you can read the full context of Norm’s comment here.

The difference between Wells and Werth is that the Wells contract was already signed and is of shorter duration now; Wells will be able to a contribute to a better team, faster, than Werth will. Maybe I underestimate ownership/GM stupidity, but I can’t imagine a player the caliber of Wells/Werth getting that kind of contract again.

The Blue Jays expectations are somewhat muted. It seems that they’re getting their ducks in order for a full-fledged run in 2012 and beyond; part of that is getting rid of the Wells contract. Alex Anthopoulos is a very bright GM; he paid short money to bolster the bullpen, cleared Wells, and got players in Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera who will help the team this season.

The Blue Jays are relying on young pitching which is always a risky proposition. Development of Brandon Morrow and Kyle Drabek is paramount to their future and the prospect of the Blue Jays making a run this year is contingent on them. Before this trade, they had a lot riding on younger players coming off bad years (Aaron Hill; Adam Lind); kids (Morrow, Drabek, Travis Snider); question marks as to what they really are (Jose Bautista); and people you want to strangle (Edwin Encarnacion).

Contending in that division is a lot to ask of the Blue Jays.

I had similar concerns about Alderson. But he’s backed away from Moneyball like it was a poisonous cobra and he’s sorting through the wreckage of Mets dysfunction—it’s not an overnight process. I’m not sure what he was supposed to do in terms of bold maneuvers when the market was limited, the chance at contention this year dim and contracts like Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez due to expire after 2011. If he’d gone after Lee, Werth, Zack Greinke or any of the other names, the Mets wouldn’t be any better and they’d be making the same mistakes the prior regimes did in trying to win immediately and damning the future.

My assessments of Paul DePodesta are well known, but people say nothing but nice things about his as an assistant. He happened to be an atrocious, wood-headed GM; that doesn’t mean he’s not a useful assistant; it’s happened before that the lieutenants don’t make it as commanders—we’re seeing it with Dayton Moore and Zduriencik.

Ricciardi has a good baseball mind; he can’t be a GM because his mouth is almost completely uncontrollable; he was working in the Red Sox front office for a day before he took the Mets job—and the Red Sox are pretty clever.

If the Mets didn’t allow Alderson to bring in the people he wanted, they would again look like the same haphazard, backbiting mess they were under Minaya and that’s precisely what they want to get away from.

Gabriel writes RE the Blue Jays and Wells:

Actually, I think the Blue Jays now don’t have to send cash to the Angels, it was a straight two-for-one trade. I’m not very happy because I like Wells as a player. I just hope that money that came off the books is well spent and takes the Blue Jays into contention, since the division is a nightmare.

It’s been reported in a couple of places that the Angels got $5 million from the Blue Jays. The money is somewhat irrelevant considering what they were paying Wells and how the Blue Jays made out in the deal.

The Blue Jays have stacked the organization with pitching and I trust Anthopoulos for the most part. All the pieces are in place for them to contend soon—this year if everything works right, but definitely by next year.

Hot And Not

Hot Stove
  • Brilliance either way:

The overwhelming reactions to the Rays “combo” signings of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez have tended toward the ludicrous with a fair amount of ignorance thrown in.

To think that the Rays do anything just “because” is missing out on the way the front office has run their club since gaining their footing after a rough first year.

Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez for a combined $7.25 million for 1-year? In what world would this be considered laughable, risky or something any club wouldn’t do if given the opportunity?

Contrary to prevalent perception, the Rays were still going to be dangerous this season despite the free agent losses they mostly allowed without a fight. Of all the players they lost, the only two they presumably lament are Carl Crawford and Matt Garza, and they had justifiable reasons for their departures; apart from that, Carlos Pena was a declining force at the plate; Grant Balfour, Lance Cormier, Rafael Soriano, Jason Bartlett—all were pickups whose value was extinguished and are replaceable.

They couldn’t afford to keep Crawford—plain and simple—and they didn’t put up the pretense of an offer that was doomed to fail. Garza was growing more expensive and the Cubs gave up a massive package for him to augment the already bursting Rays farm system. Along with all those draft picks they accumulated with the other free agent defections, the Rays are well-stocked for the future.

With the rotation and lineup—a sum of the parts entity that was third in the American League in scoring despite having no DH; a first baseman batting under .200; and subpar performances from Ben Zobrist and Bartlett—they’re still dangerous.

It’s conveniently ignored that the majority of the players who left had ready-made replacements or were part of a bullpen that the Rays patched together with stuff they essentially found in the dumpsters of other clubs.

Manny was not the Manny we’ve come to expect last season, but he’s not finished either. His overall numbers—9 homers, 42 RBI, 25 extra base hits, a .298 average and .409 on base in 90 games look pretty good to me considering that the Rays designated hitters from last season were Pat Burrell (released) and Willy Aybar (whose main problem is that he’s Willy Aybar).

Manny Ramirez for $2 million? The Yankees would’ve jumped on that deal too.

Add in that the Rays know how to build a bullpen on the cheap and will have the prospects to be able to make a big mid-season splash if they need to bolster the bullpen. As I said a few days ago, there are going to be a lot of closers entering their walk year; a couple of their clubs are going to have down seasons and look to deal. If something can be worked out with Francisco Rodriguez‘s contract option from the Mets, he’s one to watch as are Francisco Cordero of the Reds and Heath Bell of the Padres.

The question of where this places Desmond Jennings is reasonable, but I wouldn’t be stunned to see Damon playing some first base to ease—not eliminate—but ease the amount of running he’d have to do on the Tropicana Field turf. People don’t realize that the first baseman, sometimes, does more running than an outfielder with covering the base and functioning as the cut-off man, but the Rays are willing to think outside the box and their current first baseman is listed as journeyman Dan Johnson. Why not Damon there for 50 games or so?

Teams that win know when to take a chance on a veteran who is approaching the end of his career, but still has something useful left. The Rays got themselves two and they got them cheap. If you’re laughing at them for it, it’s either due to fear of what they might accomplish this year or because you haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about. These are two brilliant moves even if they don’t work.

  • Then there’s this:

This deal isn’t as awful as it’s being portrayed, but it still makes little sense for the Angels.

The Angels and Blue Jays completed a trade that sends Vernon Wells and $5 million to Anaheim for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera.

It’s January and Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos deserves to win executive of the year for getting Wells’s contract off the Blue Jays books and getting pieces of use in the process.

The Blue Jays are still relying heavily on a very young starting rotation and their offense is diminished from last season; they’re also hoping either Octavio Dotel or Jon Rauch can close—they have issues of concern—but getting the Wells contract off the books is a tremendous coup. That they received Mike Napoli—who replaces the no-hit Jose Molina as the primary catcher—and Juan Rivera, who will hit his 15-20 homers and play a serviceable left field, makes the trade a total win for the Blue Jays.

As for the Angels?

So it’s not that terrible. But that doesn’t make it wise.

Here’s the big problem with Vernon Wells: he’s a good player making Albert Pujols-level money. And this can’t work. Apparently $5 million went from the Blue Jays to the Angels as if that’s going to make a dent in the financial catastrophe that is the Wells contract which still has $86 million to go through 2014.

The Angels have money to spend—judging from this move, money that was disagreeable to owner Arte Moreno to hold onto. That’s dismissible I suppose. As long as it doesn’t stop them from making other necessary moves, it’s explainable. But what about the players?

They’re shifting Wells to left field for Peter Bourjos to get a legit shot at center field and Bobby Abreu to DH. Does this make them any better? They’re replacing Napoli behind the plate with Jeff Mathis (can’t hit, mediocre defensively); Bobby Wilson (28-years-old and yet to hit in the big leagues; has a good arm); or Hank Conger (23, has hit and thrown well in the minors). Unless Conger delivers at the plate, do you see the problem here?

It’s a lateral leap and doesn’t help that much in the short or long term.

The caveat of “not that bad” aside, this makes no sense for the Angels right now. If, in the short term, it catapulted them over the divisional competition—the Rangers and the Athletics—for 2011, then it made sense; but they picked up a financial albatross at age 31 who has pop, but doesn’t improve on what they gave up and it costs them a ton of cash.

The Angels offense and bullpen were their main obstacles to contending before and this doesn’t do one solitary thing to fix that; if anything, it makes them more expensive and less flexible.

It won’t be a disaster, but it won’t be good either.