Viewer Mail 4.3.2011

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

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the Mariners and Jack Zduriencik:

I bet if the “GENIUS” Jack Z. changed the club’s name to the Seattle Non-Conformists, no one would even notice. Maybe a handful would… care? I dunno.

Non-conformists? Acceptable.

Socipathic? Not-acceptable.

Look, I can’t blame Zduriencik for the appellation of genius or the “Truly Amazin’ Exec” silliness from the despicable Joel Sherman—he didn’t write this stuff and unlike Billy Beane, he didn’t appear to wallow in it and taking advantage of it to enrich himself and sow the seeds of that image.

You have to consider the sources who are plastering that image on someone who’s trying to do his job. None of them were operating from a baseline of credibility; either they had an agenda or didn’t know what they were talking about to begin with.

As for the Josh Lueke trade; the double-dealing when it came to Cliff Lee to the Yankees, then to the Rangers; and Milton Bradley, there are a lot of problems that had nothing to do with what happened between the lines.

Hypothetically, if Zduriencik is given a clean slate—let the 2009 (good) and 2010 (bad) seasons cancel themselves out—the Mariners still have to perform as if they’re in the right direction on the field and behave appropriately off it. Eric Wedge was a good hire toward that end, but with Bradley, there’s going to be an incident that will sully the organization again.

They have a loyal fan base in Seattle; they spend money; and have a nice ballpark. It’s a good locale to build a team.

Franklin Rabon writes RE the Dodgers and Hong-Chih Kuo:

The Dodgers have only one lefty and he’s their designated 8th inning guy who can’t throw more than two days in a row?!

I’m not of the mind that a team has to have a lefty specialist just for the sake of having a lefty specialist. You can find a lefty somewhere. Look at Royce Ring—he’s been everywhere; he’s been awful; and teams keep bringing him in because he’s lefty and breathing, not necessarily in that order.

You have to look at the opponents and the circumstances; if the Dodgers were in a division with the Red Sox, then I’d say they have to have a couple of lefties; but they’re in a division with the Padres, Rockies, Giants and Diamondbacks. Is there a group of lefty bats that have to be worried about among that group? Not really. As the season moves along and they need a lefty specialist, they’ll be able to find one.

Regarding Kuo, how many pitchers are asked to throw three days in a row in today’s game? Even the closers aren’t pushed that hard for fear of burning them out. With a dominating lefty with a 100-mph fastball and vicious slider like Kuo, I’d use him judiciously to make sure he’s healthy; he’s had Tommy John surgery twice and if the Dodgers are going to do anything in October, they’re going to need Kuo. Why burn him out now because he’s lefty?

JoeNats writes RE Nyjer Morgan:

As a Nats fan, I cooled to Nyjer in a game where he made a gallant attempt at a catch at the wall, missed it, and then–instead of keeping his head in the game and following the ball–threw his glove to the ground forcing Willingham to retrieve the rebound too late to thwart an inside-the-park home run. I get the impression that Morgan is just as hard on himself as he is on others and became a bi-polar influence in the clubhouse. As the season ran on, his impatience chilled potential rallies as he was thrown out on steals too early in the game and too early in the situation. If Morgan can temper his overall anger, I do believe he would make a good centerfielder and great base stealer and team personality.

He’s got a temper and as I said in my posting, I think it stems from his hockey experience where you can’t let any transgression go without retaliation.

My issue with Morgan wasn’t the player himself, but the lovelorn worship he received after playing brilliantly for the Nats following the trade from the Pirates.

He is what he is and part of that is getting caught stealing—a lot. Morgan needs to be reined in. Maybe going to the Brewers—the first club he’ll join with any legitimate designs on contention—is what he needs.

Like Elijah Dukes, the Nats had to get Morgan out of there and they got something for him in Cutter Dykstra; Morgan will be playing semi-regularly-to-regularly for the Brewers before long and they’ll be a better club for it.

Pam writes RE the NY Times picture of the Phillies that I posted here:

Yeah, the picture is pretty creepy.

Now if they were holding lightsabers…

They could be the Jedi trying to arrest Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith. We know how that turned out.

I’ll be Palpatine.

I am Palpatine.

Joe (DaGodfather on Twitter) writes RE the Phillies pic:

I have a better question. Where’s Blanton? Wasn’t it the Phantastic Phour themselves who said that they would not do things like that if if did not include Blanton?

Including Joe Blanton in that article would’ve been pretty silly. He’s a pretty good pitcher who doesn’t belong in their group. I think back to the 1993 Braves. They’d just signed Greg Maddux and insisted that any profile of Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Steve Avery included Pete Smith.

Pete Smith.

Pete Smith went 4-8 that year and after the season they traded him to the Mets of all places.

It would’ve been funny if they had Blanton lounging in front of the mound in a provocative position as the “Phoursome” was posed as they are now.

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My podcast appearance with SportsFanBuzz previewing the season is posted. You can listen here The SportsFan Buzz: March 30, 2011 or on iTunes.

I was on with Mike at NYBaseballDigest and his preview as well. You can listen here.

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Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s also out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.


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Instant Gratification

Hall Of Fame, Media, Players, Spring Training

I fancy myself as a pretty good judge of talent.

But sometimes I miss.

Yes.

It’s true.

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

Some of the names now appear ridiculous.

Todd Hollandsworth.

Tony Tarasco.

Ben Grieve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But they’re not.

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

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

Apparently not.

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

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

It never stops.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In fact, it’s a recipe for disaster.

We’ve seen it over-and-over again.

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