Notes From The Ongoing Red Sox Cataclysm

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Jon Lester spoke out about the allegations of beer-drinking and chicken-eating during games and admitted that it happened; he also said that perhaps it was time to move on from Terry Francona because of the different personalities that have been imported into the clubhouse; and that the team needs more “high character” guys.

You can read the Boston Globe story here and come to your own conclusions, but I don’t get the impression that Lester is conventionally “sorry” for what he and the other starting pitchers were doing; he’s sorry that it’s come to this; he’s sorry that Francona is getting his good name dragged through the muck and has lost his job, but he qualifies the behavior as not a big deal.

In context of what’s probably gone on for years, it’s not a big deal, but sometimes it’s okay to say one is sorry even if it’s insincere.

I want to know why Josh Beckett has been so completely silent on this issue. He’s the ringleader; he’s the man who’s supposedly the alpha-male of the clubhouse; in fact, I think he’s a bully. So why isn’t he coming out and either defending or explaining himself?

Amid the fallout from the missed playoff spot, I don’t see regret that it happened, but regret that the team came undone, they didn’t make the playoffs; that the players are being inconvenienced by this upheaval.

It’s almost like the John Rocker mess from 1999 when he made those idiotic comments to Sports Illustrated, apologized the next spring…and then continued behaving like an idiot.

The Red Sox had better do what Lester said and get some character players into that clubhouse and a strong-handed manager who’s not going to tolerate any garbage; and it had preferably be someone who’s willing to take on Beckett—physically if need be—because this isn’t over; and unless it’s addressed, it’s going to happen again.

On another note, the Red Sox apparently asked for Matt Garza as compensation for the Cubs hiring of Theo Epstein.

If I were the Cubs, I’d have said: “If you’re gonna be ridiculous, we’ll forget the whole thing and you can take Theo back. See how that’ll play with the media if he’s stuck in Boston and is hiring your next manager with the world knowing he wants to leave.”

We’d see how quick the negotiations would get back online after that.

Matt Garza?

For a GM?

Please.

//

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Ryan Leads The Way For The Pennant-Winning Rangers

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As affable as he is in interviews, Nolan Ryan is neither subdued nor calm; he’s a relentless competitor who was an ornery and conservative cuss as a pitcher and has transferred that competitiveness to the front office while still putting forth that veneer of someone you’d like to have a beer with…provided you don’t mess with him.

In contrast to the way the Yankees babied their young pitchers to middling/poor results (and presumably will continue to do so with Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances), the Rangers pushed their starters to go deeper into games as they did during Ryan’s day. It’s not as extreme as Ryan having thrown 200 pitches in a start, but they’re not automatically removed when they reach an arbitrary number of pitches. And if one happens to get hurt, the coaches can explain to Ryan exactly what happened and why and not worry about being fired to keep up appearances to the general public.

This belief—that pitchers can and should be made to do more than was considered “optimal”—is permeating the organization; the Rangers haven’t had the spate of arm injuries other clubs have had. Any perceived connection would have to be studied in depth, but they’re doing something different because Ryan has allowed them to do something different.

Ryan has the cachet to tell his baseball people to loosen up on the pitch counts; his baseball people are stat savvy and scouting-oriented to find players who are either going to make it in Texas as Rangers or be trade bait. Stats have met old-school. Ryan is in a unique position that Billy Beane—née “genius” in name and creative non-fiction only—isn’t. Ryan can say, “I’ve been here before so don’t try that big league stuff on me”, but can add the addendum that he was actually good at it, unlike Beane. In fact, Ryan was one of the best and most durable pitchers ever.

Ryan’s station as president of the club lays the blame or credit at his desk if it doesn’t work or if one of the pitchers get hurt. Part of the reason teams like the Nationals are so protective of Stephen Strasburg isn’t due to any random, layman silliness like “The Verducci Effect” by that noted pitching expert Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, but because they don’t want to be held responsible if and when an injury does occur due to deviating from the preconceived “norms”.

This is why you’re likely to see Neftali Feliz, currently one of the game’s best closers, shifted into the starting rotation once and for all in 2012 as they sign or trade for a relatively inexpensive and established closer along the lines of Heath Bell or take a chance on Francisco Rodriguez. They’ll do it because they can do it and because it makes sense to have an arm like Feliz starting rather than relieving; and now, after closing in big games, he won’t have the “deer in the headlights” gaze when he runs into trouble in the third inning of a game in June.

Ryan was an innovator with his proper use of mechanics; as one of the first pitchers to integrate weight training into his regimen; and was borderline vicious on the mound. If the man running the team understands what’s being done and will comprehend why an injury occurs, there won’t be any fear of trying something different as if some lower level staffer’s job is on the line.

The Red Sox circumstances are different from the Yankees, but would’ve been handled by Ryan as well. Their pitchers don’t generally suffer arm injuries if they follow the Red Sox prescriptions, but their off-field behavior was tolerated by the club and led to the rampant dysfunction and infighting that are now coming out as part of the collapse that prevented them from making the playoffs.

In the waning years of his career, Ryan himself had a special arrangement with the Rangers that he wouldn’t accompany the club on certain road trips when he wasn’t pitching; this led to friction between manager Bobby Valentine and other old-school veterans like Goose Gossage who chafed at the preferential treatment and said so. Pitchers like Steve Carlton were known to go into the clubhouse and sleep on days they weren’t pitching. Had the Red Sox been doing “man stuff” like messing around with groupies or simply napping, no one would’ve complained; instead, there was a shadow government feel to the starting rotation and a sense they could do things that could be deemed as blatantly disrespectful to the organization and tore at the fabric of clubhouse harmony by drinking beer, playing video games and eating fried chicken.

One would be a “boys will be boys” activity of chasing girls and keeping that within the realm of the man’s world of baseball clubhouses; the other is simply childish and destructive. Ryan would absolutely have put a stop to that nonsense, presumably by removing the video game apparatus and beer from the clubhouse. The disconnect between on-field management and ownership was as responsible for the Red Sox disaster and any individual.

When he was pitching, Ryan was the intimidator who stalked the mound and would throw at anyone for impropriety. (Bunting on Ryan and making him run were ill-advised.) That has incorporated itself into the way he’s run the Rangers.

There’s a continuity with the Rangers because of Ryan and they’re able to withstand such controversies off the field as Josh Hamilton falling off the wagon and drinking before the 2009 season and manager Ron Washington having failed a drug test in 2009. It may or may not be subservient to authority figures to say, “if Nolan says it’s okay, then it’s okay”, but it’s working. They’ve been aggressive in their trades to beef up the bullpen; they built up the farm system and signed players who fit into what they’ve tried to construct rather than the biggest names out there; and they’re doing it with a $92 million payroll.

They’ve won back-to-back pennants and beaten the Yankees and Red Sox at their own game by using techniques and strategies implemented and allowed by the president and CEO of the club (and also a Hall of Fame pitcher), Nolan Ryan.

//

Ricketts Should Not Fall For “The Verducci Effect”

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I’m not referring to a writer’s research and guidelines on how to use pitchers.

I’m talking about the hiring of a GM.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is receiving endless streams of suggestions, cajoling and none-too-clever infomercial style second and third hand job applications for GM candidates. The most prominent of which being Billy Beane.

Hopefully—for Cubs fans—Ricketts performs his due diligence, conducts interviews and hires the person he wants to hire and not because a Beane acolyte keeps suggesting it or thinks “Beane to the Cubs” would be a juicy story.

In his latest piece, Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated wrote the following regarding Beane and the Cubs:

Beane, once excited about a chance to work with money on the prospect of team moving to San Jose, must understand that Oakland is a dead end job. The club will have posted five straight losing seasons, plays in a football stadium and is no closer to getting an okay to relocate. Beane turns 50 next year, and like great GMs of his era — Pat Gillick, John Schuerholtz, Sandy Alderson, Dave Dombrowski, etc. — he needs the challenge of heading another organization for personal growth, if not legacy. Beane is signed through 2014, but owner Lew Wolff will not stand in the way if Beane decides to leave.

“I think it’s something Billy might consider,” said one friend. “I’ll tell you this: if they ever get Billy to come in for an interview, it’s his job. That’s how good he is.”

Personal growth?

Is Verducci referring to Beane’s ridiculous reputation as a genius or his ginormous ego?

These nuggets coming from “friends” and “those close to Beane” are plants because Beane wants out of Oakland; he wants in to the Cubs; and the media and those close to him who may have something invested in Beane being seen as this all-knowing seer of all things baseball are trying to grease the skids and influence Ricketts to make it happen.

Verducci is the same man who wrote a piece in Sports Illustrated weeks ago defending Beane as the Athletics are—again—crumbling around him; he’s also one of the multitudes who picked the A’s to win the AL West this season.

How is it possible to receive credit without the allocation of blame?

So the A’s were good enough to pick to win the division independent of a bad ballpark and indifferent fan base before the season, yet those are two of the reasons the A’s have collapsed to 14 games under .500 and the situation is now a “dead end job”?

The A’s imported 5 “name” players this past winter—Grant Balfour; Hideki Matsui; David DeJesus; Josh Willingham; Brian Fuentes—to join a solid starting starting rotation; they were picked to win…and the team is a disaster.

He fired his manager.

And the team is a disaster.

Beane was supposedly a “genius” because he had no money to work with and somehow found a way to win; now he’s still a “genius” and “that’s how good he is” in spite of annual failures and betrayal of the tenets that crafted his “genius” to begin with?

No.

It doesn’t work that way.

It doesn’t matter how many laudatory and patently ridiculous books are written; it’s irrelevant how much dramatic license is taken in a movie and who’s playing the protagonist; and it’s meaningless how many writers pop up to defend the indefensible with increasingly ludicrous alibis that you’d have to be bottom-line stupid to believe.

Ricketts may choose to hire Beane and Beane might do a good job, but like last season when the likes of Joel Sherman were pushing-pushing-pushing Sandy Alderson on the Mets, it has to be the decision of the man or men in charge that this is who I want running my club.

Writers have an agenda with Beane; understand that before doing what the media and fans want because they’re not the ones who are ultimately responsible for the aftermath.

And Verducci spelled “Schuerholz” wrong too.

//

MLB September Stories To Watch, Part I

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Justin Verlander‘s MVP candidacy.

I went into the reasons why Verlander is a worthy candidate here.

Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated also believes pitchers should be eligible in this piece while saying Verlander’s not his pick now. In August. Why Heyman’s writing who his MVP is in August is a mystery aside from screaming, “I dunno what else to write about so I’ll write about the MVP in August!!”

While I’m unsure of whom should actually be the MVP in the American League yet, I don’t know how even the greatest holdout that pitchers shouldn’t win the MVP can deny Verlander serious thought if he wins 26 games and leads the league in ERA, strikeouts, innings pitched and the Tigers win a division that they wouldn’t have come close to winning without him.

I still might say Adrian Gonzalez is the MVP, but it’s simple arrogance to completely exclude Verlander because of self-inflicted parameters that aren’t in the mandate of who’s eligible for the award and who’s not.

What the Yankees will do with A.J. Burnett.

Burnett has the right arm of an ace and the results of a pitcher with the right arm of an ace who decided he’d pitch with his left hand.

And he’s not ambidextrous.

I’m not even convinced Burnett is capable of tying his own shoes.

He’s going to stay in the starting rotation for the next 10 days or so because of the number of make-up games the Yankees have to play, but by mid-September, they’re going to have to come to a conclusion of what to do with him.

They could take him out of the rotation, stick him in the bullpen or just sit him down completely.

All are possible.

All are viable.

Planting the seeds for Billy Beane‘s departure from Oakland.

Already there are whispers that sound more like preparatory statements for Beane to leave the Athletics.

The time is right. Moneyball is at his conclusion (at least with people believing that nonsense); the movie’s coming out in three weeks; Beane’s reputation is pretty much shot with only those holdouts who cling to his fictional genius, trying to justify it with alibi-laden columns and statements as to how what’s happened with the A’s is the fault of Northern California because the evil politicos won’t let the A’s build a stadium.

Yeah. The A’s are going to lose 90 games because of the stadium.

Nothing’s Billy’s fault.

Interesting that the stadium wasn’t an issue when there were so many experts picking the A’s to win the AL West this year.

What happened?

The skids are being greased and the nuggets are popping up from “those close” to Beane saying he might be tired of tilting at windmills with no money and no stadium revenue; that A’s owner Lew Wolff would let Beane talk to other teams that might be interested in him.

Blah, blah, blah.

I say he’s going to the Cubs. The only question is how it’s framed when he does.

LoMo and the Twitter and the mouth and the batting average.

The Marlins demotion of Logan Morrison was a warning shot that lasted a week. They brought Morrison back quickly in the hopes that he’ll learn his lesson that he’s not a veteran; he’s not a megastar who can say whatever he wants; that he’s an employee held at the whims of his bosses for the foreseeable future.

Will he understand?

Yes.

Will he listen?

I’m not convinced.

The Marlins don’t tolerate a lot of crap; don’t be surprised to see Morrison showcased by batting fourth for all of September as they hope he has a big month and then listen to offers for him. The price would be steep because he’s cheap, young and good, but the Marlins wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger and trade him.

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Billy Beane Is Not Ready For His Closeup

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Tom Verducci took great care to rub Billy Beane‘s ego just the right way in the latest piece to justify Beane’s supposed “genius”—a genius that exists only in the realm of the absurd called Moneyball, coming soon to a theater near you.

More built-in excuses permeate the Sports Illustrated article.

Other baseball front offices are using Beane’s innovations, improving and streamlining them and are backed up by big money; the absence of  luxury boxes at the Oakland Coliseum hinders their ability to take advantage of the lucrative ballpark revenue; and limited payroll due to a cheap owner—which was the impetus for him finding other ways to compete at the start—all provide protection for Beane amid the fact that the Athletics were a very trendy selection for the playoffs this season but have again disappointed to the level of embarrassment.

They were picked in 2009 as well.

They were good enough to pick before 2009 and 2011 and when things didn’t go the way they were expected, the “reasons” popped up.

Was the Athletics fetish a byproduct of convenience to the narrative of Moneyball because the movie was on the way? Or did the prognosticators think that this year was when the A’s would turn the corner?

I don’t know.

All I know is that it hasn’t worked.

You can’t say the A’s are going to be good based on Beane’s decisions and then find a multitude of reasons why they’re not good to defend him. It doesn’t work that way.

In 2009, the big trade for Matt Holliday and signings of Jason Giambi and Orlando Cabrera didn’t yield the veteran presence to bolster a young pitching staff. Holliday was traded at mid-season to the Cardinals in the annual Athletics housecleaning and the Cardinals made the playoffs; Giambi was released and wound up with the playoff-bound Rockies; Cabrera was traded to the Twins where he helped them make the playoffs.

At least Beane’s signings helped someone make the playoffs.

Are the Beane cheerleaders going to twist facts into a pretzel to somehow credit him for those playoff berths for the teams that wound up with his refuse?

In 2010, the A’s young pitching took a step forward and they wound up at…81-81.

This, of course, spurred another bout of off-season aggression as they traded for Josh Willingham and David DeJesus and signed Hideki Matsui, Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes to supplement the young pitching staff (again) and step up in weight class to battle with the perennials of the AL West, the Angels and the surging Rangers.

What we see now is a team that sits at (54-68) and is falling fast.

I may have given them too much credit in recent weeks when I’ve said that it’s going to be ludicrous for the film Moneyball to open while the A’s are in the midst of a 74-88 season.

They’ll be lucky to finish at 74-88.

Beane fired his “best friend”, manager Bob Geren, not because Geren was a mediocre manager who had lost the clubhouse.

No.

He fired him and blamed the media for taking the focus off the field and making the manager a story that wasn’t going to disappear until it was addressed.

The A’s hired Bob Melvin to replace Geren and Melvin is talking about what he wants for 2012.

Um, so now Beane’s manager has a say in what’s going on? Where’s the middle-managing ideal of a marionette dancing on the strings of the genius in the front office, doing what he was told and liking it? The same storyline and club that diminished one of the best managers in history, Tony LaRussa, to nothing more than a hindrance to that idiotic organizational ideal is going to let a respectable journeyman manager—in the Art Howe tradition—like Melvin have any say whatsoever in team construction? Really?

They also recently hired Phil Garner to work as a special adviser to manager Melvin.

If anyone remembers how Phil Garner managed, he was the epitome of the man who worked from his “gut”—that means “I don’t wanna hear nothin’ about no numbers”.

What’s he going to do over there? I thought Beane was the titular and all-powerful head of the organization who made every…single…decision based on objective analysis?

What happened?

I’ll tell you what happened: they’re desperate; they’re a laughingstock; and they don’t know where to go or what to do next to save their one asset whose end is nearly at hand—Billy Beane.

He’s what they had.

He was their beacon; the one selling point.

Now as the team is atrocious and the movie is hurtling for the remains of his reputation like an out of control train, they know the questions will be asked after-the-fact: if he’s a genius, why’s the team so terrible?

The book and movie are for the masses who aren’t interested in the backstory and reality of what Michael Lewis was doing. The majority won’t know or care that the book is a farce and the movie is a very loose interpretation of that book—“loose” in this instance meaning unrecognizable.

But the knives are out for Beane.

Many people in baseball who were steamrolled by that same train are watching with breathless anticipation for Beane to get his comeuppance.

And it’s coming.

So what now?

As 20/20 hindsight and reality has shown us the flapdoodle (I looked up a synonym for “ridiculousness” and “flapdoodle” jumped out at me) that is Moneyball, how can any mainstream writer like Verducci have the audacity to still try and defend whatever tatters are left of Beane’s reputation?

His team is a joke.

He’s a joke.

The movie’s going to be a joke.

That’s your objective reality, folks.

Flapdoodle.

//

That’s Not Moneyball, It’s MacBeth

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What’s worse than a bully?

A bully who’s tough and loud and out-front when he’s on top, but starts whining and complaining when his victims rebel and retaliate?

The bully—beaten, impotent and powerless—cries and complains that the system has been tilted to render him inert.

What happened to the character “Billy Beane” from the book (and upcoming movie) Moneyball? Why is he suddenly lamenting the days of years ago when he was considered a “genius”? Shouldn’t a true genius be able to adapt to changing times and maintain that veneer of brilliance regardless of obstacles in his path?

A psychiatrist could have a field day with Beane as he endures the embarrassment of a terrible team in advance of a movie from a book that made him into a character that didn’t and couldn’t exist.

More than any legitimate sequence of events apart from having taken advantage of an opportunity, Beane is left with this. This being the Sports Illustrated story by Tom Verducci (he of the Verducci Rules in which he dictated to big league organizations how they should use their pitchers—thanks) finding more excuses as to why Beane has become a case study in pompous arrogance and self-importance getting its just reward and comeuppance for perceived infallibility based on a crafted narrative.

Did Beane really believe the press clippings? Did absolute power corrupt absolutely? Or did the same things that caused him to fail as a player—despite all the hype surrounding his prodigious talent—cause his downfall as an executive?

He couldn’t deal with failure as a player; he apparently can’t deal with failure as an executive.

And he has failed.

You can pick apart the bottle-capping, self-image preserving snippets from the Verducci article:

“Is it a more challenging environment? Absolutely,” Beane said. “Ten years ago teams didn’t value young players, other than as chips or assets to get the players they needed.”

***

This year Beane found too many phone calls that came his way that sounded like this: “I have interest in one of your players and this is what I’m going to give you for him.”

“That’s not deal-making,” Beane said.

***

“We had seven years. Tampa Bay — and they are very, very smart — has made it to the playoffs two out of the past three years, and may not make it this year, and then what? To have any kind of window will take building a team organically, having to have something like 80 percent of your roster [homegrown]. That is extremely hard.

I can go through these statements and tear them apart easily. If you look at the foundation of the Yankees and Braves teams from the 1990s, the majority was homegrown and buttressed by smart trades and free agent signings.

The deal-making process may have changed, but Beane’s complaints appear to stem from things not going his way rather than the way they’re done now.

And the Rays are contending and stockpiling draft picks. With their intelligence and ability to make the most out of what they have, they’ll remain competitive even without a new ballpark with the corresponding revenue.

Beane kept the A’s contenders briefly, but could not maintain because he was exposed for what he is and isn’t. Oh, and the A’s need a new ballpark. That’ll fix all the issues of Beane’s gaffes in drafting, trading and free agent signings. That’s it.

Are you still buying this?

Here’s the objective truth: he is an opportunist whose time is coming to an end.

He’s not a genius no matter who tries to continue promulgating that lie because it serves as a foundation for what they believe and want you to believe.

During the spellbound afterglow of the revolution reaching its apex, it was conveniently forgotten that those who join in on any kind of a movement at the last second will leap from the hurtling train when it goes off the rails; all that’s left are the sycophants and true believers whose self-interests dovetail with the protagonist and the mythmaker.

Beane’s running low on allies; after the movie and this disastrous season (the witches tell me to expect 75-87), he’ll be increasingly isolated.

Like MacBeth.

The false king is sobbing and indulging in self-pity.

I have no pity and I’m sure a great many people in baseball who either lost their jobs or were steamrolled by the Moneyball bandwagon feel the same as I do.

He asked for it and he got it.

The good and the bad.

Don’t cry about it now.

//

Viewer Mail 8.3.2011

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Brendan writes RE Brian Cashman, Derek Jeter and the Yankees:

“What if he’s not there to be the one voice to prevent Randy Levine and Hank Steinbrenner from doing such short-sighted and stupid things as outbidding themselves for a pitcher with issues on and off the field like Soriano?”

Correct me if I’m wrong and I’m the one living in a parallel universe, but didn’t the Yankees do exactly the short-sighted and stupid thing described above despite the wise, cool-handed GM? And didn’t they do the very same thing with their 37-year-old, 85 OPS+ing future Hall of Fame shortstop?

Cashman was adamantly opposed to the Rafael Soriano maneuver and said so before and after. My point was that there are going to be other such decisions if Cashman’s not there and another GM is brought in—a GM with less capital than Cashman’s accumulated from his long association with the club and success and ability to rebel and maybe get his way.

If Cashman were making the call regarding Jeter, and it was a pure “in the now and future” baseball move, he’d have looked for an alternative and moved on with a different plan; there were ancillary concerns with Jeter and they weren’t based on sentiment and team history alone.

Aside from the 3000th hit and the disastrous PR hit they’d have taken had he left (and Jeter really had nowhere to go anyway), they didn’t have a suitable replacement for him as we’ve seen in their attempts to fill in with Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena. I suppose, if they had to, they could’ve shifted Alex Rodriguez back to shortstop and found a third baseman along the lines of Mark Reynolds, but the reaction to that among the fan base would’ve been terrible.

Despite their shoddy treatment of Jeter, the fans would’ve had a fit if they saw him playing shortstop for the Tigers, Giants or Reds.

Money isn’t the problem with Jeter and it never truly is with the Yankees—they have the money; and if they lose, it won’t be because the lineup couldn’t carry him and his diminished production.

Cashman has been ruthless in his assessment of players. It was he that wanted to allow both A-Rod and Jorge Posada to leave as free agents before he was overruled by ownership. He was right in both cases.

I’ve been as intense a critic of Cashman as anyone. His pitching decisions have been atrocious with Kyle Farnsworth, Steve Karsay, A.J. Burnett and others along with the foolish rules enacted to “protect” the pitchers; but to criticize him for Jeter? You can’t do it. They knew what the deal was and what they were getting.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Moneyball and my posting about Billy Beane.

Right on point. Had me LOLing from “Yay” onward.

Oh, just wait.

Did you see this bit of revisionist history/pitiful whining in Sports Illustrated by Tom Verducci?

I’m preparing to unleash the full power of the Dark Side because there are certain bullies who deserve every single bit of it.

Beane’s one of them.

If there’s collateral damage to those who are invested in the appellation of genius to the extent of losing any and all concept of “objective reality”, so be it. They’ve earned it too.

//

Manager Billy

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In a destructive fashion that almost appears intentional, Billy Beane has taken steps to dismantle the aura of genius created by Moneyball as if the yoke around his neck was far too much for him to bear. In the years since the Michael Lewis farce was published, Beane has eschewed a vast number of the tenets upon which the foundation of his supposed infallibility was concocted.  Hindered by the fleeting nature of perfection, Beane’s work hasn’t only been slipshod for the most part, but it’s been poor; in addition to that, his treatment of players and employees—specifically his managers—has been at best inconsistent and arbitrary.

How is it possible that Bob Geren is still managing the Athletics?

Of course you can make the argument that Geren hasn’t been at fault for the team’s mediocre showings since he took over; but given the way Beane callously dismissed the managerial contributions of Art Howe and Ken Macha, one cannot escape the contention that the only reason that Geren is still there is because of his personal friendship with Beane.

After the Brian Fuentes dustup several weeks ago—that was the fault of the manager—what other explanation is there?

You can read about the issues with Geren and the club in detail here in a piece by Ann Killion for Sports Illustrated.

Because Beane’s entire being was crafted by Moneyball, his only recourse is to live up to the fantasy by doing what it was that he was said to have been doing, or demolish it completely.

With the ridiculous movie soon to be released, Beane’s story is nearly at its logical conclusion and it ain’t gonna be Rocky. My friend Jane Heller was right when she told me that the movie would get made and it would bear little resemblance to that which was intended when the entire concept of a movie adaptation from that book was hatched.

When a manager isn’t given credit, nor should he be given blame. So who else is there apart from the “all-seeing/all-knowing” general manager?

Eventually it gets to the point—even for his remaining idol-worshippers for whom he can do no wrong—that there’s nowhere else to look but Beane.

As the team is stumbling badly and complaining about the way in which they’re handled, how is it glossed over so ignorantly? Fuentes isn’t a good closer, but he was right in his complaints about a “lack of communication”—conveniently the very reason (arbitrary as it was) for the firing of Macha.

All Macha did was win; all Geren has done is lose; but Macha wasn’t Beane’s buddy, so the clear implication is that Geren is either there because Beane is objectively looking at the circumstances under which the manager is working and saying, “it’s not his fault” or he’s keeping him for a subjective reason such as friendship—a reason that contradicts that which the Beane legend was based as a ruthless corporate titan or cold Michael Corleone clone who did whatever was necessary to win and maintain control.

But Macha was fired for no reason other than Beane’s whims; Howe was pushed out the door in part so he could make an amount of money with the Mets that he never would’ve made with the A’s (I honestly believe Beane was doing Howe a favor financially), and because Beane wanted to make a managerial change.

So what now?

It won’t happen, but here’s what I’d like to see: Manager Billy Beane.

Rather than “manage the team from the weight room” as was alleged in Moneyball, let Beane get back into uniform and put the onus of the entire organization on his desk. There’d no longer be anyone else to hold accountable; no one to toss overboard but Beane himself. But as much as every GM claims to be the one who is responsible for what goes on throughout an organization, that’s the last thing 99.9% of them would be willing to do.

It’d be a predictable train wreck, but a fitting end to the myth of Lewis and Moneyball.

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Jim Tressel And George Steinbrenner

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

What would one of the most famous alumnus of Ohio State University think of the Jim Tressel scandal and resignation?

Would said individual have joined the brigade of those who leapt off the Tressel bandwagon of success as soon as the allegations of impropriety and rule-breaking forced him to step down?

Or would he have defended his friend?

What would George have done?

The George I’m referring to is the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner—a man who, like Tressel, knew his fair share of scandal and punitive measures being taken against him; and who, like Tressel, had reasons for doing what he did. Whether they were good, bad, self-serving, nitpicky, mean-spirited or politically motivated reasons is irrelevant—nothing was done just because.

If Steinbrenner fired his manager, it was because he wanted to make a change.

If he contributed to Richard Nixon’s presidential re-election campaign illegally, it was because he wanted his candidate to win, circumnavigated legality and was convicted and punished.

If he tried to dig up dirt as a vengeful act against one of his own players, Dave Winfield, and got involved with a sleazy hustler like Howie Spira, it was because he was irate at having been essentially taken in a contract negotiation to sign the star outfielder.

Steinbrenner was friends with Tressel.

In fact, when the college football game dubbed The Boss Bowl was staged at Yankee Stadium last December, Bill Madden wrote about Steinbrenner only being seen wearing one ring other than a Yankees championship ring; that ring was the 2002 Ohio State National Championship ring given to him by…Jim Tressel—NY Daily News Story, 12.28.2010.

How would Steinbrenner have reacted to this mess in which Tressel is embroiled? The mess that cost him his job and sullied his reputation?

I think we know the answer.

As a total outsider and college football neophyte with no connection either way, I have to ask: Considering some of the things that are going on in big, massive moneymaker college sports programs, was Tressel helping his kids make some extra money and gain perks such an awful thing?

So they were trading memorabilia for tattoos—so what?

In 1989, Barry Switzer was forced out at the University of Oklahoma for a series of transgressions by players that included a shooting, drug dealing and allegations of rape—Sports Illustrated 2.27.1989.

Because Switzer won and won and won during his run at Oklahoma, his personal behaviors were never scrutinized to the point where he was either told to rein in his players and himself or he’d have to go. Many winked and nodded at Switzer, envying him for the way he lived his life without pretense or restraint.

But once the scandal erupted and the team wasn’t winning National Championships, it was easier to dump Switzer to show that the university was “serious” about cleaning up its act.

Were they?

Or did they want to put on a show of zero tolerance to get the media and angry public—and donating boosters—off their backs and continue the financial and practical support for the school?

Switzer’s personal life dovetailed with the way he ran his programs, college and pro. He was proud of his lack of hypocrisy as a poor kid who made good; a drinker, partyer and womanizer; the stories of his generosity with money and time are prevalent.

Because Switzer didn’t live with the preferred conservative, made-for-public-consumption face that many like to associate with football coaches, there was always a risk of something terrible happening; after the series of incidents related in the SI story, he was no longer viable as the leader of Oklahoma’s massive football program and once the threat of money no longer coming in from supporters was issued, it was easy to force him out.

How does this relate to Tressel?

The overwhelming sense I get from reading the articles and editorials is that Tressel is viewed as a wily politician who played the angles. If that meant looking the other way when he knew there were violations going on, helped his players line their pockets with feigned ignorance as his personal protective shield, or behaved in a manner that the public Tressel would consider immoral while the private Tressel shut his eyes and ignored what he knew in the interests of winning, so be it.

Part of Tressel’s problem appears to be that image that was so carefully crafted with the ends justifying the means. Quite possibly, in his mind, the young men he was in charge of weren’t doing something so awful that it was a detached brick in the foundation of a downgrading of society; in essence, “it’s just tattoos and the trading of collectibles”; “they’re getting no-show jobs and cars to drive and no one’s getting hurt”.

No harm, no foul. Just don’t get caught.

They got caught.

The integrity of the public and the games weren’t harmed by this as they would with the dealing of drugs or shaving points.

In comparison to some of the stuff the players could’ve been doing, was what they were doing worthy of this outrage?

I find it laughable at the speed in which those who were supposedly ardent supporters and “friends” of people who get embroiled in these types of circumstances abandon them when they’re no longer of use. Tressel wasn’t going to get past NCAA sanctions; his position was impossible to maintain; and the team wasn’t going to be as successful as OSU fans are accustomed with him staying.

That, more than his lying, is the reason he had to go.

Tressel’s rectitude was probably partially real, partially a salesmanship persona. In order to function in that world, it’s necessary. Those aghast at the dichotomy between the public Tressel and the private Tressel need to examine their belief systems. Switzer was the same guy privately as he was publicly; Tressel was being a politician as his “senatorial” image suggests.

Switzer’s players acted with the tacit acknowledgement of the coaches and university supporters, it was okay as long as they won and didn’t wind up in jail or the morgue.

It’s like this everywhere.

Was Tressel being a self-interested liar with ends justifying the means? Or was he functioning as anyone who wants to run a big time college football program has to function in order to win and keep the money rolling in?

George Steinbrenner understood how these things worked and would most likely have supported his friend.

And he wouldn’t have been wrong.

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Clarifications And Rhetoric

Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Media, Spring Training

Let’s start with a comment from Joe regarding yesterday’s posting.

I enjoyed this post. The one thing you could have left out was taking a shot at Dave Cameron by saying he is a stat-zombie, and is still clinging to the Moneyball-farce. Whether you think he is, is besides the point. It took away from respectually-disagreeing, which is fine. The rest of the post was really just you disagreeing with these two opinions. And was well-written and well-thought out. I would be a little concerned with his weight, and declining K rate. But I hardly think he is going to become an albatross if he doesn’t opt-out. And even if he did, this is the one organization best-suited to take that hit. Josh Beckett isn’t the same body-type. But I would feel more comfortable moving forward with Sabathia for the next five, than I would with Beckett or Lackey the next four years (And I am actually confident that Beckett and Lackey bounce back). Five years, $115 million is certainly risky for a pitcher that is going to be on the wrong side of 30, but sometimes I think it can be overblown. If this were a mid-market team, then I would hope for the opt-out to be exercised. But it isn’t a mid-market team, it’s the Yankees. However, if CC DOES opt-out, and wants an even longer deal — which he obviously will. Then I would let him walk. The deal getting even riskier, does not help the Yankees. Also, Joe Sheehan used to work for BP. So yes, he enjoys the numbers.

Joe straddles my line between remarkably useful and strangleworthy; or at least a conk on the head when he aggravates my admittedly irascible temperament.

Respectually is not a word.

Apart from that, maybe Joe’s right.

As much as the term “stat zombie” has served my purposes, perhaps it’s time to abandon it for a more inclusive discussion on what I believe and why I believe it.

In order to engage rather than immediately incite a reaction from the stat inclined to think I’m attacking them with a fighter’s stance, I’m taking a step back from the mentality of hitting first and asking questions later.

I never saw the term “stat zombie” as a negative along the lines of “stat geek” which I would find a thousand times more offensive. A geek is inept, clumsy and socially clueless; a zombie is the walking undead functioning without a conscious mind.

There’s a big difference.

Mindless adherence to numbers without room for nuance is the essence of being a zombie.

I used the term occasionally in my upcoming book and I’m not changing it now. But it’s not fostering debate. It’s inspiring an immediately contentious atmosphere and while I’m essentially unbeatable in such a circumstance, I’ll step back from it in favor of less incendiary terminology.

As for Sabathia, he did have a knee problem last season; this can be viewed in a couple of ways that bolster mine and Sheehan’s positions.

Sabathia admitted that his right knee was bothering him last season and he had a “clean-up” surgery to repair it—NY Post Story.

Since it was his right knee—his landing leg—it wouldn’t be as much of a concern were it his left leg; the dominant side is far more important to a pitcher to balance in the leg lift and explode off the rubber. The left leg holds up the entire body as Sabathia loads up to throw; this would be of greater concern to me.

The pain clearly didn’t affect his performance, nor his durability. But it’s not something to dismiss. Since he’s lost weight and had the issue repaired, it’s all the more reason to discount it as a reason not to bring him back if he does opt out.

His performance in 2010 with a knee problem and the steps to ease the pressure are bigger indications that he’s going to do everything he can to live up to his salary and importance to the club independent of salary and contract length.

But Sheehan’s suggestion of knee problems is not so easily ignored.

Here’s what I would do if I were the Yankees; if Sabathia has another Cy Young Award-caliber year and opts out—I’d give him a raise and do everything I could to keep the years at five.

Hypothetically, with his current deal, a raise from 4 remaining years at $92 million to 5 years at $130 million isn’t out of line for either side. Sabathia’s not getting that money anywhere else; presumably the only way he’d leave the Yankees would be to head back to Northern California. The Athletics can’t pay him; the Giants are going to have to lock up both Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum and are still under the Barry Zito albatross through 2013.

He’s got nowhere to go for a raise.

With the Yankees sudden interest in fiscal restraint, it has to be taken into consideration how much money they’ve wasted in the past. This year alone they’re paying Damaso Marte and Kei Igawa a combined $8 million and tried to bring back Carl Pavano.

Carl.

Pavano.

Are they going to explain away letting Sabathia walk over an extra year and $30 million? The Yankees?

He won’t leave whether he opts out or not. They won’t let him leave because he’s got nowhere to go and they can’t let him leave.

Finally, I received the list that Sheehan alluded to in comparing Sabathia to other pitchers of similarly grand stature.

Special shout-out to Baseball-Reference for the information.

The lists are available here for the height requirement and weight of above 260 pounds; and here for 270 pounds-plus.

Here’s what I wrote yesterday before having the lists:

But here’s what I suspect: Sheehan’s size-based argument against Sabathia was hindered by the pitchers who inhabited said list since they weren’t on a level with C.C. Sabathia; nor were they on a level with Harang or Zambrano.

If he listed them, I’m betting the prevailing response would be, “Who?!? You’re putting him in a category with Sabathia based on what? Because he’s big?”

I was right.

Here are some of the more recognizable names; you be the judge: Chris Young, Daniel Cabrera, Armando Benitez, Jon Rauch, Seth McClung, Jonathan Albaladejo, Andy Sisco…do I need to go on?

Young was an All Star; I always loved Cabrera’s talent; Benitez was a good closer; Rauch is useful; Mike Francesa had a man-crush on Sisco; but are any of the names on that list in a category with Sabathia?

No.

Not even close.

It ‘s a reflection on the twisted nature of such an argument that the names were left out. If they’d been added, the disclosure would’ve been full and while it might have watered down Sheehan’s hypothesis, at least he’d have been on the high ground and not appeared to have been hiding facts for convenience sake.

These…stat….people (there, I said it) have something to say.

If they want a debate, it works both ways. I’ve made my way to the bargaining table sans the high intensity of unrestrained rage (yet still armed with Force Lightning if anyone still wants to scrap—and lose).

If they want a meeting of the minds, I’ll listen. Attentively and with my guard still up to an acceptable level.

Joe (StatMagician on Twitter) is a peacemaker—the ambassador to the stat people.

We’ll see where this goes…