Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Maine Economic Stimulus Plan

I am pulling this one out of the "draft" archive to illustrate to Pat how Mets fans are not the most obnoxious fans in sports. On my 13th day at the AA Affiliate of the World Champions, I learned the full extent of how obnoxious Boston fans are, even outside of Boston.

I spent ninety minutes in the car very early that morning, and every radio station was talking about the same thing. The 12:00 News on Channel 13 led with the same top story: the Red Sox' backup center fielder was appearing at a few Dunkin Donuts locations in the Portland area.

There was a female radio personality who represented one station at said Dunkin Donuts location. Before she left for DD that morning, she didn't know who Jacoby Ellsbury was, and therefore Googled the fourth outfielder/Boras client. After finding out that he was "hot," she became excited for the event. At that point, I wanted to swerve into incoming traffic as I drove through the Mile 47 Dip on 295.

When I saw the story on Channel 13 featuring hundreds of Red Sox fans and journalists, it reinforced the ubiquity and obnoxiousness of Red Sox fans. I'm a Red Sox fan and I don't like Red Sox fans. I could just imagine what the rest of the country feels. Traffic was backed up all around this Dunkin Donuts, making many people late to work. People undoubtedly intentionally skipped some work that Thursday so they could throw on their crisp, new Red Sox 2007 World Series jerseys and receive a donut from the seasoned veteran of 33 (intangible?) major league games.

This is the same fan base (though a few hundred miles north) that came out in droves to the extent that detail cops had to direct traffic around Taco Bells throughout New England on October 29th. Fans waited for hours in line to get free tacos (normal price: $0.79) because of Ellsbury's larger-than-life (sarcastic) stolen base during Game 2 of the World Series. And this is between 3:00 and 5:00 PM--right in the middle of the work day.

We're not talking about a free dozen donuts. We are talking about regularly-priced donuts given away by the sure-thing first-ballot Hall of Famer who has amassed 41 hits at the major league level. Is it because they think he is attractive? Maybe. But would I slam on the breaks of my regular life so I could get a donut from Jessica Alba? Would I do that if she weren't dead to me? I'm thinking no friggin way. The people who go to these events are comparable to the people lining up with Borat to see Pamela Anderson. People always talk about Maine's economic hardships. Maybe it's because people are standing in line for hours just to get donuts instead of working. And it's not just Maine. It's all these whackos who take their Red Sox fan-dom to an unreasonable level. PF complains about Mets fans being obnoxious. I can't think any Mets fans could possibly be worse than this.

That said, I would pay the extra nine cents a gallon to get full-serve gas if Ellsbury's agent were the one pumping it. But that's just to be a jerk.

The Winners, The Losers, and The Met Fan (Unbearable!)

I'm not even close to done on this topic. Well, maybe I am, but my fury with Mets fans is driving me to think that I'm not.

The winners here are pretty obvious. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Mets. The Yankees and Red Sox because they keep their studs, don't have to pay the money, don't have the risk, and he's out of the AL (so if you want to count Detroit, Cleveland, Anaheim, and Seattle as peripheral winners, you can). Trading Hughes would have been a mistake, and in my mind, so would trading Melky. I'm really, really, really glad we are keeping both, and I'm sure Sox fans feel the same about their guys.

The Mets are winners because of the package they had to give up. Their package wouldn't have been good enough WITH top prospect Fernando Martinez included when the Yanks and Sox pacakges were on the table, so getting Johan WITHOUT including him is a steal. Santana is still a pricey risk, but it's one worth taking for the Mets. Even if he declines, his decline in the NL will be much more forgiving than it would have been in the AL. The Mets are also win now, so regardless of what he ends up doing, they had to take the risk to see what he can do. And chances are, he'll go big. Really big. He'll run cirles around that league.

The losers are (and oh my word are they big losers here) Bill Smith and the Twins. In his first big deal as a GM, it is publicly known he called the Yankees on the last day and asked for a LESSER deal than one that was on the table only one month ago. Ouch! I know the Twins have a good track record with this stuff, but that was under Ryan. He was one of the best in the game, if not the best. Maybe Bill Smith isn't that good. This isn't a good start. This package is not top flight. It hurts the Mets because their system wasn't that good to begin with. But it probably won't help the Twins THAT much, not as much as it should help them for giving up Johan. Not as much as the Yankees and Red Sox packages would have.

Finally, The Met Fan. The Fan who in the last four years has become the most unbearable in any sport in America. The problem with the Met Fan is not that they are excited about this deal. They should be. If I was a Met fan, I'd be excited. But the Met Fan always has to take it too far. Be more optimistic than they should be. It isn't enough that Jose Reyes is good, he has to be THE BEST. It isn't enough that the Mets look good in the NL, the have to be LOCKS even though it's January. It isn't enough that Johan is awesome, he has to be WORLD SERIES in The Met Fan's eyes. It's like the Met Fan has no memory. Forgets the implosion in Game 7 of '06 and the collapse of '07. Like they feel no pain from those events. They can just come back and keep talking about how there team isn't just good, but in their eyes, THE BEST. No sense of reality. They think they are entitled to something, that they are one of the big boys with Boston and The Yankees. But they have won NOTHING. In fact, they have a history of finding ways to lose, even with this "GREAT" team. At least when Yankees and Red Sox fans are obnoxious, it's because they have done something (and even then, it is not as over the top as The Met Fan). This really confuses me. I would love some answers.

I Lied (Santana to the Mets)

Am I the only one who doesn't think this trade is a sure thing yet? Because it's not. The clock is ticking for the Mets and Santana to work on a contract extension, with the deadline already two days away. Sweet. Hopefully after that, we won't have to talk about this anymore and I can move along to ragging on Schilling for not working out this offseason and celebrating the one-year anniversary of How Youz Doin Baseball.

Right now, all I'm hearing from anywhere is that this deal is done, and it's terrific for the Mets as they move into their new stadium. It's also not as bad as it seems for the Twins, as they've had a good history with the prospects they've gotten while trading big names. It seems like everyone is forgetting about the fact that the Mets have to agree to basically shell out at least $150 million for a guy who has, as Keith Law said, "red flags" regarding his previous high workload, his rising home run totals, and his second-half implosion last year. People usually don't write checks that big with two days to think about it. Not even in baseball. Not even in New York.

I have only read stuff slightly more carefully than Bud Selig read the Mitchell Report, but I keep on running into reasons this trade will NOT happen. Ken Rosenthal reported that Santana and the Twins tried to work out a deal one last time, and it didn't work, because the Twins were unwilling to go beyond five years. Santana is demanding at least six years and at least $120 million, if not $150 million. This deal isn't easy.

Especially considering that in a separate Rosenthal article, indications point to the fact that the Mets don't want to go more than five years on Santana. Hmm. Santana has shot down 5-year proposals (though they were likely for less money) already. The Mets don't want to offer more then five years, and they're probably already hurting from giving up four prospects. They have two days to negotiate. Does it still sound easy?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hopefully the Last Santana Post

It is now January 29, and we're still hearing about freakin Johan Santana and trade rumors. Now, the Mets are giving the Twins their best offer for Santana. They have proven themselves as a team that will spend very freely, so they may be able to send all those prospects to the Twins to make them happy...and then give Santana free agent money to keep him happy. That said, I doubt it. It would be stupid for all three parties to do it. Here's why:

1. Santana. This deal would be the least stupid for him, but stupid nonetheless. If he is, indeed, healthy and still at the prime of his career, 2008 is his chance to have a "contract year" to end all contract years. If he goes 23-5 with an ERA of 2.50, he's gonna get that money. Big time. And yes, 23-5 is possible, because he's got a good team around him.

2. The Mets. Same deal with the Sox or the Yankees, which we've talked about all damn winter. The price is too high. Prospects PLUS free agent money is just not worth it when they can just wait a year and pursue the guy for free agent money without prospects next year.

3. The Twins. They've spent a lot of money the last few days. They've proven their commitment to winning by signing both Michael Cuddyer and former AL MVP Justin Morneau to long-term, big-money deals. They are trying to win, and they have the tools to win. News flash: They still have Joe Mauer, who is great for a catcher and great offensively for anyone. The back end of the rotation, though it's not rock-solid, could be good, and they're one mid-season trade to being legit if the opportunity presents itself.

Here's the most important point: They have this dude who went 12-3 in 2006. Though he might be a long-term health risk because of his unorthodox delivery, Mr. Francisco Liriano says he's 100%. Not in May, not in August. But now. He is back to pre-surgery form. And he was nasty.

I understand the Twins are playing in a stacked AL Central, with the well-managed Indians and the free-spending Tigers. I understand that. But there's no reason that they can't compete with their offense, plus Santana and Liriano in their rotation.

This probably won't be the last Santana post of the winter, but this is the bottom line as far as the Mets/Twins trade goes as far as I'm concerned.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Jeter, Seattle, and HankSteinJr.

Three quick points.

1. I talked about this when the Yankees locked A-Rod up, and with Cano now in the fold (which I always assumed he would be), it is another opportunity to bring it up. What do you do about Derek Jeter and the shortstop position? I'm as big of a Jeter lover as you'll find. He is my favorite athlete of all-time (just in front of Chris Mullin, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, and Lawrence Taylor). But he can't play shortstop for much longer. And by much longer, I mean probably not last year. This isn't 1999 anymore, when Jeter was saving 30 runs above average, lighting it up with his deep range to both sides and big arm. This is 2008, where he literally, honestly, and truly can't go left, which for those who aren't familiar with the position, is a BIG problem. That said, it is unlikely Jeter's offensive value is going anywhere anytime soon. The way he plays, if he stays healthy he could contribute at the plate the same way he does now for another 7 or 8 years, easy. Where you play him in the field to not sacrifice this offensive contribution is the issue. Unlikely he'd move to second or third to let A-Rod play short (which is a great option). That's a lot of power to sacrifice if you put him at first, and that is assuming he can pick up the position (it's wildly different than the other three infield slots). There are always solutions, I just don't know what this one will be. And it will be an issue.

2. Eric Bedard to Seattle. Good news for the Yankees and Sox in the AL East. Bad news for them in the playoff scheme. You can expect Felix, coming off a bounceback from his 2007 Sophomore Slump (perhaps ala Jake Peavy), and Bedard to be as vicious of a 1-2 as there is in baseball, if not the most. If they weren't already, they are a serious, serious team. That gives the AL at least six bigtime teams for four playoff spots. Seattle is scary if they get there too.

3. The new boss, HankSteinJr., has issued his first warning to Brian Cashman. Not directly, but it was there. "But as far as missing the playoffs - if we miss the playoffs by the end of this year, I don't know how patient I'll be. But it won't be against the players. It won't be a matter of that. It will be a matter of maybe certain people in the organization could have done something else." This from the NY Post, in reference to being patient with the young pitching. And it appears he is speaking about Cashman and Santana at the end. So it looks like the Yankees won't get Santana, based on Cash's recommendation. If it works, Hank is fine with it. If it doesn't, he will say Cashman should have gotten Santana like he said. Looks like he has a little (or a lot) of his father in him.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Cano Locked Up: 4/$30 Million

You want to talk about deals that make sense, talk about this one. I don't know why it has always been Yankee policy to not negotiate with young players until they reach FA after six years of service, but I'm glad that's changing. Getting Cano at this price (way under market value), for the next four years is going to end up saving them money. Not this year, but over the course of all four years. Because rest assured, when Cano reaches free agency, he is going to be a lot more expensive than $7.5 million per year. And that's not factoring in him possibly getting better, which he has done every year.

I think there are a few different groups of people out there with opinions on Cano. I think there are those that realize how good he is, or at least how good he can become. I think there are those that allow him to be overshadowed by the other really good offensive players on the team. And I think there are those that think he isn't as good as he is, that he isn't a star (he was compared to Dustin Pedroia on this very site a few months back).

Let's shore one thing up on Robbie. Of all the possible shortcomings one can have as a baseball player, he has one: plate discipline. Granted, this is a biggie. But Hall of Fame players have overcome far more obstacles than this to reach the individual career levels that they did.

Yet some people want to focus on this. Fine. And fair. But remember he has quick wrists, quicker hips, as level and consistent a swing as you'll ever see, a natural knack for getting good wood to the baseball (even if it is out of the strikezone), power from left center to the right field foul pole, and a line drive percentage that you just don't often see from a player his age. That's without taking a look at his obscene numbers for a 24 year old second baseman.

He also transformed himself into one of the best defenders in the AL at second this year, using increased range going left and deeper positiong shaded more towards center to better utilize his cannon of an arm (the type you don't see at second base). Factor in Utley's inability to field the baseball and not knowing whether or not Upton will remain at second, and Cano might be the best second baseman in the game. Especially if he continues to get better. 5-10 more home runs, 15 more RBI, and an average that stays as consistent as it has been for his first three seasons, and there will be very little debate.

And he loves to play.

I'll take that at &7.5 mil per.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Few Thoughts on this Football Game

The Patriots are a superior team. We all know that. That said, the Giants can win this game. I'd be very surprised if the Patriots don't play well, the Giants do, and the Pats win. The Pats will have to beat the Giants, it's not going to be a rollover situation. The Giants are too tough, too hot, too much of a team right now.

With THAT said, the Giants will have to play very well to win. They have to outplay the Pats, and they have to do so by a fairly substantial margin. I'd be very surprised if the Giants play the Pats even, and the Giants win.

If they do outplay them, these are the three primary reasons, in my opinino, that they can beat the mighty Pats and their fairy of a quarterback. In otherwords, this is why they won't get beat by mystique and aura (to use fatboy, big mouth, haven't made one positive contribution with anything I've ever said about baseball Schilling's phrase) if they play well enough to win.

1. They beat Romo two weeks ago, and Farve last week. Both on the road. Think they care about Brady? Next.

2. Eli looks like a championship quarterback. He might not be the best QB in football, probably not even close. But he's become a winner. You can't win 11 games on the road in one season if your quarterback isn't a winner.

3. They can score on New England. Heck, if they play anything like they played the last few weeks, they can score on anyone, anytime. This isn't San Diego minus their three best players not being able to get in the endzone. Bradshaw looks like a star (I made the comment in the bar after the game on Sunday, and I'm sticking with it...I'd rather have Bradshaw than Reggie Bush). Jacobs cleans up. Burress, Toomer, and Smith (who is a tough cover for anyone, let alone your 3rd best DB) have been too much for everyone. See above for Eli.

I think this game gets won and lost when the Pats O is on the field against he Giants D. At least from the Giant perspective. If they allow that offense to be on the field, moving the ball, it's probably goodnight.

I can't wait for this football game.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

No Deal

This is the post I started writing when I realized that a Varitek Disclaimer was necessary. Captain Intangible and agent Scott Boras are hopeful about working out a contract extension with the Red Sox. According to Rotoworld and the Boston Herald, Varitek and Boras want to take time out of spring training to work out an extension. My response: Why rush it? The Red Sox signed a four-year, $10 million deal with CI, and wouldn't it make sense to wait out the entire contract in the case of a catcher going on 36?

Before you say it, I will say that it is smart for the Sox to work long-term deals with Youkilis and Papelbon. But that's because those guys aren't 36-year-old catchers. This philosophy holds true for Johan Santana as well--after declining performances, especially at the end of 2007, there is no reason to NOT wait 2008 out to see more into what you can expect from these guys PAST 2008.

Boras will cite Varitek's "bounceback" (I use the quotation marks because the year still wasn't that good) 2007 season, and rightfully so, as a way to squeeze money out of the Red Sox. Varitek and Boras will likely want a 2-3 year deal worth $7-10 million a year. If Varitek hits the ball Dougie-style (ha), the Red Sox are stuck giving this guy a roster spot and using financial resources that could be used elsewhere until 2010. And it's just not necessary.

Let's face it: Varitek is never again going to have numbers like the ones he posted in 2003 or 2004. If anything, he's a liability offensively, as anyone who has watched Red Sox games in the last two years can tell you. The $10 million/year in December 2004 was a reward for those two stellar seasons. He was worth less than that in the duration of this contract, and he will likely be worth even less after 2008. The real question is how much worse does he project to be? Nobody really knows that, but we'll all have a better idea of that after the season.

Taking a high-price deal from Boras right now would be like taking a totally lowball offer from the banker on Deal or No Deal. But we're not talking about a 50/50 chance of striking rich if they choose "no deal." Varitek's value is almost certainly higher right now than it will ever be again. Varitek will be either "bad" or "worse," and we'll have an idea of how bad he will be after this year. If he's bad, it might be worth signing him to a one-year, low-money deal. If he's worse, the Sox can save the money. Signing him to mid-level money right now makes no sense.

Boras also talked about how much Varitek adds to the organization, according to the Herald. Okay. The highest-paid manager of all time only makes $5 million a year. In addition to setting the mood in the clubhouse, he makes the lineup card and does the strategy stuff. Is a guy who hits .230 but has a big clubhouse presence worth $8 million a year? No. F no.

It's time for the Red Sox to start thinking about making room for a catcher. They have a trading chip in Coco Crisp. They ought to move him and one of these high level prospects for a guy like Jarrod Saltalamacchia. It would be a lower-cost alternative to trading Coco and prospects to the Twins for question mark Johan Santana. And it would provide a better-hitting and longer-lasting catcher than Jason Varitek.

The Varitek Disclaimer

January 22, 2008

I have a feeling that during this offseason and this coming season, I'm going to be talking a lot about Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. I was planning on writing a Varitek article today and I saw myself writing a disclaimer. Instead of writing a similar disclaimer during every upcoming Varitek post, I will just link each Varitek post to this disclaimer. Without further ado, the Varitek Disclaimer.

I am not a Varitek guy. Many people are to blame for this. Varitek is to blame, because it is not a manly thing to punch a guy, even if it is April O'Neil, while wearing a mask. The Red Sox are to blame, because they gave him the stupid, tacky little "C" on his uniform, calling attention to his "captainship" instead of recognizing him as a guy who just shuts up and does his job. There is a reason the club briefly abolished this "captain" nonsense after the Gold Sox days of the early 1960s--they wanted to play as a team. Theo Epstein called it "a recognition of something everybody knows." Okay. If everybody knows it, why be obnoxious and call attention to it constantly?

His agent is to blame--I don't like any Boras clients, period. But most of all, Red Sox fans are to blame, because they give him the "he brings a lot of intangibles" free pass and ignore his frustrating futility both offensively and in his pathetic handling of a Japanese pitcher with a large repertoire (fastball, fastball, fastball, fastball, fastball, home run, fastball).

I thought that he was a good player around 2002-2003. I understand he's a good clubhouse guy. But unlike most Boston fans, I can recognize the fact that his batting average in the last two years was .237 and .255, and that he averaged almost a strikeout a game last year. That all I have to say about that.

Monday, January 21, 2008

MLB Owners: Frosty Needs Miami Office

"When the thermometer gets red...I get all wishy-washy."
-Frosty the Snowman, 1969

wishy-washy (adj.)
1. lacking in decisiveness; without strength or character; irresolute.
2. washy or watery, as a liquid; thin and weak.

As Bandi pointed out in my last post, the MLB owners voted unanimously to give commissioner Bud Selig a contract extension. This is asinine. It's like giving Peter Gibbons a promotion and a raise after "flaking out" at work. He let the steroids thing disgrace the game. He is clearly not putting a high priority in cleaning up the game, as he is "wishy-washy" regarding tough drug testing measures.

He may talk a big game about how important a clean sport is for the youth of America, but he hesitates to really do anything. He hasn't done a single thing unless lawmakers hold a gun to his head. He didn't read the Mitchell report in three days. He never gives a straight answer, and never really makes a firm decision. Despite the fact that outside agencies and MLB's own players are calling for HGH blood testing, he's ignoring it. He didn't make a firm decision about stepping down as the Brewers' owner while becoming the commissioner. He didn't make a firm decision about the 2002 All-Star Game. He continues to ride the fence on Pete Rose. He publicly failed to make a decision whether he'd watch Barry Bonds's home run, dragging on a long, long story about it. He's been "wishy-washy" in every single controversy with which he has been faced, not only steroids.

Simply put, Selig has done a deplorable job as commissioner.

The World Anti-Doping Agency feels the same way, and it's hard to argue that Selig has participated in "continued evasion of antidoping reform." He's been stubborn and unreceptive of progress. Stubbornness and failure to listen are typically not good characteristics of a top executive. But for some reason, the MLB owners still think he's doing a good job.

Selig should be labeled in articles "embattled commissioner Bud Selig," but he is not "embattled" in any way. He's instead viewed as a hero by some people, including owners in Major League Baseball. I understand why: Because of the severe drug problem, they are making more money. Very few of Selig's wonderful accomplishments in the last 15 years would have happened without the entire sport being dirty. A clean sport might keep some people happy and may prevent a few people from dying, but a dirty sport, though it is harmful to people, makes them money!

This is the same mentality that crack dealers operate under. Way to go, owners. By supporting this negligent criminal, you compromise your own credibility.

Sunday, January 20, 2008




Let's dance Boston.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Selig and Fehr Should Resign

Lots of great things written about yesterday's Congressional hearings. I'm kind of getting the feeling that the House is trying to throw someone under the bus--really bad. Maybe Miguel Tejada (as was discussed briefly in the last post). Maybe Peter Magowan and Brian Sabean, who looked the other way while the BALCO scandal erupted within their clubhouse.

Other things I've read criticized the committee for letting Bud Selig and Donald Fehr pat themselves on the back., whom I obviously hold in very high esteem, criticized everyone for praising Mitchell, though his entire report basically relied on only two sources. A very good point. But the real mockery as far as back-patting goes in this "lovefest" is the fact that when Selig took "responsibility" for presiding over the steroids era, he had to also mention all the wonderful things he has done for baseball as well. It seemed like he said that about twenty times yesterday, while nobody asked him about the other stuff he did. Stop trying to vindicate yourself and take responsibility.

ESPN's Howard Bryant wrote about how Selig and Fehr took some responsibility, but more or less, Congress let them off the hook. Bryant and others mentioned a particularly scathing indictment of these guys by Betty McCollum, as she called their behavior of the last 20 years a "criminal conspiracy." Also in the Bryant article, interestingly enough, was a revisitation of when Selig and Fehr in 2005 accused Gary Wadler "of attempting to profit from steroid abuse" by institutiong transparent third-party testing.

Apparently Selig himself and Don Fehr, as well as the owners and players, want to corner the market of profiting from steroid abuse.

Just like the marginal sixth starter who started juicing and became an unstoppable reliever and somehow just got $10 million out of the Brewers, McCollum said MLB was "cheating for profit." The hugely-popular (this is sarcastic) Jay Mariotti calls Selig "delusional," which is a good assessment. But he's doing basically the exact same thing that Andy Pettitte did: Admit the minimum, and hope people will just shut up about it. Not delusional, but just characteristically cowardly. Same way he's been since I was in elementary school. "Without steroids," Mariotti wrote, "the feats of his era...would not have happened." Sounds a lot like Mark McGwire.

Furthermore, Selig has been doing the bare minimum, repeatedly doing publicity stunts to get people off of his back. Like Clemens. He has been largely defiant throughout the entire thing. Like Bonds.

Selig deserves the same kind of heat that McGwire, Pettitte, Gagne, Bonds, and Clemens have been getting. Because he's acting the exact same way. Which brings me to probably the best article of the day that I read. Mike Imrem of the suburban Chicago Daily Herald suggested that only baseball players--not execs--have gotten any kind of punishment for this "cheating for profit" conspiracy through the use of illegal, harmful drugs. There should be some kind of accountability. This "consumer fraud" is like the inflation of financial numbers and document shredding by Enron. Plus drugs.

Imrem writes, "A CEO loses his job for corruption within his ranks. A police chief loses his job for proof of police brutality on his watch. But a baseball commissioner and a union chief remain in place after a steroids scandal? So do owners, executives, general managers and field managers?"

It's hard to counter that argument. Selig and Fehr let this happen, and they're inexplicably being congratulated for doing the bare minimum to keep Congress off their backs. People are considering this "steroid era" over. While both Selig and Fehr are RESISTING testing for HGH and continuing the fraud for which they've been criticized. They're being congratulated for their testing, which is leagues behind the USADA and the WADA.

Instead, they should be stepping down. Those two guys have disgraced the game probably more than any one (or two) player(s) did. They should both be pressured very hard to resign for their central roles in the steroid saga. Both of them should pull a McGwire and just disappear, because their decades of leadership have been devastating to the game.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Congressional Hearings Scorecard

It was fun to watch Selig and Fehr squirm all afternoon at the House Oversight Committee hearings. While I was busy processing tickets for a lot of the hearings, I think I got to see/hear enough of it to be able to write a bit about it. When not processing tickets, I tried to scribble down notes. This is what I had.

Gotta give a win to the Congressmen from Massachusetts. Reps. Tierney and Lynch both spoke up and added something significant to the discussion. Tierney cited the skyrocketing of players getting ADD prescriptions since greenies were banned from baseball. Representative Lynch, in my opinion, did an even better job, calling out Donald Fehr.

Lynch wondered in long-winded-question form why baseball didn't just do blood tests, similar to what Jeff Kent suggested last week. Lynch cited his own personal history as a union negotiator, and suggested that the MLBPA boss since 1986 wasn't representing his constituents well. Isn't a drug-free workplace a good thing for union members, both in iron working and in baseball? Fehr didn't really have a straight answer for that. Then again, I don't think he's given a straight answer regarding anything in the last two decades.

Two other committee members also looked very good today. There was a man from Connecticut who didn't understand why there had to be a long collective bargaining process regarding cheating. (He failed to mention the fact that the cheating was being done using illegal drugs.) He gave a parallel, totally indicting Selig--which was awesome. He wondered what would have happened if the 1919 Black Sox had three chances to screw up before they were kicked out of baseball. Who knows if Judge Landis would have flat-out tossed every juice guy for life, but it definitely made Selig look 1) weak and gutless and 2) not strongly against steroids at all. Both of which are true, of course.

There was a Congresswoman from I think California who didn't understand why baseball couldn't just follow the drug-testing standards imposed by the US Anti-Doping Agency. Once again, Fehr didn't have a good answer for that, instead talking about Lance Armstrong's blood and unreliable drug testing. More or less, Fehr said he didn't want to comply to anything. Not literally, of course. He had to slither around those words.

Bud Selig throughout this steroid investigation has reminded me of Keanu Reeves. Whenever they aren't talking, they might do their job well. Whenever they open their mouths, it seems like they have no idea what they're doing. It's just about that time to revisit the fact that the head of the $6 billion industry had better things to do for three days straight than read the Mitchell Report. He looked like an absolute disaster on December 13. He may have actually looked worse today. Big L for him today.

Two Selig highlights from today that I got to catch: The first would be his praising of "history" and how much he likes using history so he and others can learn from it and make the future better. One of his six secretaries must have forgotten to type this into the script: "I am using history to get people off of my back and to say that I did something about this problem." Selig's plotting to get people off of his back has been as comprehensive and practical as Roger Clemens's measures. Good job, Bud.

Regarding his drug-testing program, Selig said "this program is working." Sure is. How many people are doing HGH today? If it's everyone, what can baseball do about it? Oh yeah, that's right, nothing. Working really well, Bud. Why don't you have a lunch date with George W. Bush so he can tell you how much of a resounding success the Iraq war is right now? Because you aren't using your lunch breaks to read the Mitchell Report, you hack.

Last but not least, can someone throw Donald Fehr in jail? Can someone charge him with accessory to drug trafficking? Something like that? Unfortunately, "being a complete asshole" is not a crime. But he basically said time after time that he didn't care what Congress said, that he would continue to not comply with basically anything.

His biggest hit that I heard was when he said that tougher penalties for getting caught are not necessary, as the stigma attached to being a user is "devastating" and "enormous" to a baseball player. Yeah. Tell that to Rafael Betancourt and Juan Rincon.

I think it was Bronx who said that baseball is embarrassing themselves, as they don't even have the control to govern themselves. Their commissioner doesn't do his job. If a competent executive was at the top of baseball, who knows how much money the industry would make.

Let's Go Yankees!!!!!

First of all, congratulations to the New York Football Giants for reaching the NFC Championship Game. As Bandi and many others will tell you, I knew they were this good all along. I knew Eli was the real deal, especially in big games. Knew the running game would be fine without Tiki. Knew the secondary wouldn't bomb like everyone else thought. Knew Coughlin would bring the team together, finally, after so many years of turmoil in big spots. That is what happens when you just believe I guess. (On a sidenote. I like Tom Brady. But can anyone take this bozo's tough guy act on the field seriously, when he dresses like a female supermodel in his postgame press conference? Yea, headbutt the O-line, complain to the refs about every call, then wear Versace after. Give me a break. Lost a lot of credibility with me for this headbutting nonsense. He should just play and lose the act.)

EDITOR'S NOTE (Tuesday, 4:53): This is what Pat F wrote about the Giants on September 4. A must-read to understand the tone of the preceding paragraph.

Second of all, I want to talk about my Yankees. Even though I could not be more fatigued by the steroids issue, this post is going to have a little bit to do with the subject.

As Tyler Kepner of the Times, Buster Olney of ESPN, and many others have written, the Yankees are going to be in the middle of this steroids mess for quite some time. Every team should be, but nobody knows how to fine the McNamee and Radomski that were in every clubhouse, at least not yet, so we are going to have to live with this. Fine by me.

Many of these same writers, and others, wonder what kind of impact the Yankee Steroid Cloud will have on the actual, 2008 Yankees.

This is where I'm stepping in. I could give a &$%* about steroids as it pertains to the 2008 baseball season. Especially my Yankees. Do I want the problem solved? Yes. Do I want all users known? Yes. Do I want them all punished? Yes.

Is this going to happen anytime soon? No. Which is why I'm rooting for the 2008 Yankees as hard as I've ever rooted for any of my teams. Ever.

I'm not going to punish the Yankees because the Feds happened to find their McNamee and Radomski, and not other people's McNamee and Radomski. I don't want there season compromised because of this. I want the World Series in 2008, and I want it bad.

So I hope the Yankees come out with a chip on their shoulder. I'm wearing my Pettitte jersey to Opening Day (road grey). I hope he wears an "F U" face all season, and goes 19-7. I'm giving Giambi a standing O in his first PA. I hope he wears that same F U face, and sends 40 over the wall. Do I condone their cheating? No. But I want the Yankees to win. Cheaters on every other team are going to help their teams win, we just don't know about them. I'm not going to allow the Yankees not to win, in my book, just because we know some of their cheaters.

I hope the rest of the team bands around this. Chips on all of their shoulders. I hope they all wear an F U face. F U to all the attention. F U that they are so deep in this steroids mess while Boston isn't, and beat them anyway. F U to the media for making this into a Yankees thing at every possible opportunity.

In the Joe Torre era (an era I loved), this might not have happened. Joe Torre teams were mentally tough, but they weren't tough tough. Tough tough is what these Yankees will need under the Yankees Steroid Cloud. Joe Girardi is tough tough. I anticipate his team will be tough tough. He has young kids who are tough tough. Let's win the 2008 World Series, tough tough.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Problem Solved! (and other juice stuff)

Well, it looks like the steroid problem is solved now, as Bud Selig and Major League Baseball has taken one of the recommendations from the Mitchell Report. The MLB increased its "clubhouse security," whatever that means, which will no longer give teams or players notice before a drug test. It will give test administrators a place to conduct tests, and it will supposedly prevent the trafficking and administering of steroids within the major league clubhouses.

With these measures, it will be much harder for players to obtain performance-enhancing substances. Instead of getting them sent to the clubhouse, they will have them sent to their homes or apartments. Whoa.

With the lack of notice before drug testing, players will no longer be able to shoot up substances that can be detected by urine tests. So now they'll just have to do HGH and undetectable steroids to avoid the risk associated with surprise tests.

Good job, Bud Selig. Good job, MLB. You're really making a difference. As far as I'm concerned, you can close the book on the performance-enhancing drug problem in baseball.

IN OTHER JUICE NEWS, one of the new nonsensical opinions floating out there is "Congress should be spending their time and our tax dollars on something more important." I understand where the argument is coming from, but we're not talking about Congress investigating Britney Spears's personal problems here. We're talking about Major League Baseball, an industry with revenues over $6 billion last year, with several millions if not billions more in their affiliated minor leagues.

Not only is MLB a large industry (though it is worth noting that $6 billion is dwarfed by Enron's 2000 revenues of $111 billion), but unlike other industries, it is an industry that captures a great deal of public attention. How many blogs are there out there about the energy industry? How many kids in America want to be the next Kenneth Lay or Jeffrey Skillings when they're growing up? This is why baseball does indeed deserve all this attention, time, and taxpayers' money. It's not that complex of an argument.

I have more things to say about Shane Monahan and guys like that, but it will have to wait. Work is over for now. Unfortunately, as the weekend approaches, few people will read and comment on this one. But at least it's out there.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Please Lord, don't let me go to jail tonight

This Roger Clemens situation is getting downright sad. Clemens must have asked A-Rod how to run public relations campaigns, because only A-Rod could screw up as much as Clemens has been doing the last few days.

The phone call between Clemens and McNamee was just weird. It definitely seemed like both parties knew that it was being taped. The fact that so many obvious topics of conversation were sidestepped is saddening. Though Clemens and friends released it to corroborate his innocence, the tape actually did the opposite. Two people already wrote about this, and they did it better than I would. Gerry Callahan wrote this:

"you never tell him to stop lying. Over and over again, McNamee asked you to tell him what to do. If you’re innocent and you’re talking to the guy who just destroyed your reputation, cost you millions, forced you to testify before Congress and ripped your family apart, you might come back with something like this:

"What do I want you to do, Brian? Just one thing: Tell me why you ruined my life, you no good, lying, back-stabbing SOB?"

Barstool Sports put it a slightly more crude, but equally effective way. So did Callahan on his radio show, saying that it doesn't take 17 minutes to offer a death threat.

At this point, it's not about what Clemens wants McNamee to do. It's what Clemens is going to do himself. Right now he looks dirtier than Barry Bonds. At this point, you can more or less conclude that he did it and he's trying to make it just go away. The real question is, what did he expect?

After the 60 Minutes thing, did he expect people to NOT research Lidocaine? After finally suing McNamee and giving a different excuse for waiting so long (Before: "I didn't want to spend money." After: "I wanted to give him a chance to recant his testimony."), did he expect people to NOT wonder? After yesterday's revelation of this tape, did he expect people to NOT wonder why he didn't say the stuff Callahan said? This "I want you to tell the truth" thing reeked of Lionel Hutz's differentiation of "the truth" versus "the truth!"

Most importantly, does Clemens expect to deny steroid use in front of Congress next week? If he does indeed deny, does he NOT expect to have the whole thing investigated by the feds? I don't want to see Roger Clemens go to jail, but he's done a terrible job here. I respect his anger, but what does he expect? People to say he's pissed off and believe him because of that (like Mike Golic)? Give me a break.

Clemens has backed himself into a corner, and the only way to avoid going to jail is to go Henry Hill and admit it all.

Monday, January 7, 2008

"Fear" and Voting in Cooperstown

Let me start this post by saying that I am from Wilmington, Massachusetts. I have lived in either Massachusetts or Maine my entire life. However, that doesn't make me one of the legions of Kool-Aid drinkers who believe Jim Rice ought to be in the Hall of Fame. Maybe it's because I'm 22 and I never saw him in his prime. But the numbers just don't add up...and neither do the arguments.

Jim Rice was a very, very good baseball player. If he gets voted in, it wouldn't be a travesty. But if he didn't get voted in, it also wouldn't be a travesty, as all these Boston writers are saying. Once again, this is something you get to read about around this time every year, as the results are in tomorrow. Shaughnessy wrote about it last week. Massarotti wrote about it this week. Gammons, originally a Boston guy, chatted about it a few days ago. But all these Boston guys use arguments with "intangible"-type words like "fear" and "steroids make his numbers look better" in their arguments. Of course, these are the same guys who ignore the fact that Jason Varitek hits .250.

On the other hand, Rob Neyer of penned a very convincing argument against Rice being voted into the Hall of Fame. His is the only argument with some actual evidence.

Neyer describes Rice as a one-dimensional player. This is a bit of a stretch, as his 382 home runs go accompany a .298 lifetime batting average. But he does go after the fact that his power numbers certainly weren't staggering. He only hit over 40 HRs in a season once (46) and the league leader in home runs the years before and after hit 52 and 48, respectively. Neyer argues about the fact that he was only good for 12 seasons, and the other four were "not good." Hard to argue against that.

Neyer also debunks the "feared" and "intentional walks" theory that Shaughnessy used as the centerpiece of his article. Rice did not draw very many intentional walks, and Neyer talks about marginal players who had more than him. Also, a pretty convincing argument.

The problem with Rice is that he wasn't elite for that long, and that's a major sticking point when you're talking about the Hall of Fame. You have to be elite and you have to have longevity. Even if you argue that he was elite, you can't say that Rice had longevity. He only played fourteen full seasons. Compare that to Yaz. Compare that to Tony Perez, the guy Boston writers throw under the bus to boost Rice's case. In my opinion, with the HoF being a showcase of the elitest of the elite, it's more of an argument that the Perez vote was a mistake, not that the Rice non-vote was a mistake.

(Note: I don't think Kirby Puckett deserved to get in, either, using the same "longevity" argument.)

People compare Rice to marginal Hall of Famers. Let me compare him to a non-Hall of Famer, Steve Garvey. This is the guy who comes to mind because of his amazing lack of votes, despite pleas by Jimmy Kimmel. Similar batting averages, though Rice had a much higher OPS. Rice had many more home runs in fewer years, but was an inferior gap hitter to Garvey. People talk about Rice's "top-5 MVP" votes. Garvey was in the top six 5 times, including an MVP just like Rice's. By the way, Garvey struck out four hundred times less in more seasons, and was intentionally walked a lot more than Rice was. I'm not arguing that Garvey was better than Rice; I am just arguing that this guy with such a strong backing wasn't THAT much better than the guy who didn't last on the ballot for very long.

Sorry, Sox fans. If there was a Hall of Very Very Good, Jim Rice deserves to be there. But not the Hall of Fame.

More Like Lie-do-caine

It seems like this offseason has been quieter than earlier ones. At least A-Rod kicked 2008 off right by jawing all over the television during one of those stupid New Years specials.

In the steroid world, which is really the only thing going on in baseball (because face it--Santana's not getting traded), Clemens is starting his defense. The 60 Minutes interview was interesting, at least. The fact that he's finally suing McNamee is also interesting. There really isn't too much more to say that hasn't already been said. I will try anyway.

Someone on ESPN2 this morning talked about how it doesn't make any sense to inject Lidocaine (Clemens used it for his joints, he says) into your butt. This Patrick Hruby article would corroborate that theory.

Another valid point I heard today is "why did he wait so long to finally sue McNamee?" He should have done the McCain on 9/11 thing and at least threaten to sue McNamee before the snow stopped on December 13. So he let his name get dragged through the mud for three and a half weeks. Maybe THAT's why he wasn't given the "respect" or "benefit of the doubt" he was looking for in the 60 Minutes interview.

Still doesn't make the "I didn't want to spend money to sue him" argument make any sense.

You'd think that with this long to prepare, he would have done more research on Lidocaine, and how it makes no sense to inject it into his butt. So upon further review, Clemens, though his interview seemed very emotional and very sincere, looks full of crap even more than he did beforehand.

Also new in this story, while people are finding holes in his argument, is that Clemens is planning on showing up to the latest rounds of congressional hearings...and doesn't want immunity. Yikes. If he actually did do it, he's just asking to go to jail.

I've always liked Clemens, and I hope he is telling the truth. But I'm facing the fact that he's probably lying. And I can't believe he's willing to go down in a hail of gunfire the way he's doing it right now.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

More Important Than Sports

Just happened to stumble across this article Tuesday evening, from Newsday. I'm pretty surprised that I haven't heard about this columnist before, as he's won more legit awards than Roger Clemens has and his column archive is quite good. But Shaun Powell really scored on his article Tuesday on Jim Leyritz's drunk driving charges. You don't need me to tell you that last week Leyritz was allegedly drinking and driving, got into an accident, and killed the motorist in the other car.

Edit Monday afternoon: The article is available here.

Shaun Powell reflected on this story and its close proximity to New Year's Eve, a night where drunk driving is more the norm than the exception. Powell writes,

"A number of drunks saw what happened a few days ago to a World Series hero and wised up before reaching for the car keys. Then there were others who, like Jim Leyritz, just didn't give a damn."

Many Leyritz articles and news stories I had read or seen in the first days after the accident offered more pity than Powell's. They were stories of a guy who fell from glory--a dude who one night was on top of the world and now screwed up big time. And good for Powell, as he didn't offer a hint of sympathy for Leyritz. It is not hard to call a cab or ask one of his friends at his 44th birthday party for a ride home.

"What's particularly disturbing is that at some point in his life, Leyritz no doubt read or saw something about a drunk driver killing someone, as we all have. Then Leyritz shook his head and cursed the fool who dared to drink and drive, as we all have. Then Leyritz wondered about his son or daughter or mother or father getting killed by a drunk, and he became angry. As we all have."

Another great point by Powell. How many people read articles about drunk drivers hurting people or killing people? And how many people, after a few too many (or one too many), just hop into their cars and do it anyway? More specifically, how many people did it on Monday night?

Powell puts it best, as he says that this Leyritz story may actually help people (especially fans of the Yankee dynasty days) not drive when they're drunk. A bunch of other athletes have crashed their cars when drunk (remember a Sox first baseman heading home from the Foxy Lady?), and the stories have little shelf life. This Jim Leyritz story is likely no different. But maybe, just maybe, this story will make baseball fans think twice before taking the keys and driving home.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Johan Santana and Chien-Ming Wang

I haven't blogged since Christmas Day, over a week ago. And that was a Happy Holidays post. Prior to that, my last post was December 14, over two weeks ago. I am pretty positive that is the longest hiatus either DV or I has had since the blog's inception, including my vacation to Ireland (which happily coincided with the end of the Yankees's season, a break I certainly needed). Anyway, I apologize for my inactivity. Happy New Year to everyone, and I look forward to a big year of baseball starting right now.

The Johan Santana to the Yankees rumors have been oddly quiet. Anyone who followed the Randy Johnson saga in the winter of '04-'05 (when everyone thought it was a good idea to trade for him) knows that the New York media usually jumps all over these types of things, even when there is nothing to it. So it is truly surprising we aren't hearing some sort of news about it on a somewhat regular basis. What this lack of coverage means, I have no idea.

What I hope it means is that the Yankees are not acquiring Johan Santana if it is at the expense of Phil Hughes. Not even thinking about it. I'll admit, while I was certainly torn, there was a part of me about a month ago that really wanted Santana. Loved the fact that, at least for 2008, the Yankees were going to have a bonafied ace. The other part of me felt losing Phil Hughes just hurt too much. Didn't want to give up that much age, money, and potential talent.

Now? Now I'm totally about saving the age, money, and potential talent. Why? Let's take it a few different points at a time.

1. Johan Santana will not really help the Yankees during the regular season. Sound crazy? Consider this. The Yankees score a ton of runs, and they are going to continue to score a ton of runs. This diminishes the OVERALL impact of any pitcher over a full-season. Where Santana might have won 2-1 in Minnesota, he may now win 8-1 in New York. Either way, they are both wins. This would happen more frequently than you think.

2. The Yankees are already pretty good. 94 wins good. Two games out of the division good. And that is with an injury/underperformance first two months that is unlikely to repeat itself. At some point you hit a cieling, Johan Santana or no Johan Santana. Their cieling without injuries/underperformance is probably high 90s, maybe 100 wins. If they were to get Santana, that cieling is still pretty similar.

3. No matter how good or average you think The Big Three are going to be, they are a huge upgrade over the Karstens, Rasners, DeSalvos, Clippards, and Wrights of the world, who made an obscene amount of starts for New York last year. So much so that it is unlikely Santana would be able to have more of an impact on the Yankees' amount of wins, even over 35 starts, than those three combined. Maybe similar, but my money is on three vs. one in almost any situation.

So if not during the regular season, where would Santana have positive impact? In the playoffs. The potential he has to dominate a playoff game is undeniable. But you know what, Phil Hughes has that same potential, which he started to show in his brief stint last October, throwing four shutout innings in relief and getting the Yankees only W. Further, one or both could both also bomb, either during the regular season or playoffs. That's a risk. A big one.

I'm going to take my risk at 21 years old and $420,000. Not 29 and $25,000,000. Plus, there is a good chance at least one of The Big Three is going to work out in a big way. You don't want to trade the wrong one.

On to Wang. He crushed me with his playoff performance. Crushed. So much so that I had to abandon the idea that he is an ace. Which is fine. He is still a regular season workhorse who COULD pitch well in a big game, you just can't RELY on him, like you could an ace. A pro career that starts at 46-18 with a 3.74 ERA can't be written off just because of a few terrible starts in big games.

So while I have backed off my strong stance on Wang, mostly because of his lack of ability to get strikeouts and therefore dominate a big game, I'm still drinking the Cool Aid. SG over at The Replacement Level Yankees Blog did a great piece on Wang that potentially backs this (46-18, 3.74 not being a fluke), and other things I have said and written earlier even further.

One of, if not the primary praises I have had for Wang is his ability to get what I view as "quality" groundballs. In other words, he isn't just a groundball pitcher who lets the ball get put in play and hope for the best. What I saw was a pitcher getting more softly/weakly hit and therefore more fieldable groundballs. This, along with his ability to limit the extra-base hit (which is connected to balls being hit less sharply on average), is what makes him so good, despite the lack of strikeouts.

Here are the numbers SG offers in support of this. The Yankees, on the whole, are a bad defensive team. We all know this. Last year, they were 18 plays worse than average on the season (-18). However, in games Wang started, they were 10 plays better than average (+10). This means that when anybody but Wang started, they were 28 runs worse than average (-28). While these numbers have their flaws (as SG points out himself), a 38 defensive play difference cannot be ignored.

We can't directly relate this to anything. It could be just luck. But that is highly unlikely. Common sense would lead us to believe that Wang's balls in play, on average, are hit more softly than most pitchers, allowing fielders more time and opportunity to get to the ball and record an out. It's that simple. I have written about this a few times before, and these numbers are further proof that this is probably (although not certainly) true.

My point is, while I no longer view Wang as an absolute ace, he is still a very, very good pitcher. One capable of giving you a ton over the course of a season in terms of quantity and quality. And although you can't rely on him on the biggest stage, you also can't count him out, because he is a very good pitcher. If his control, which was non-existent in October, is back in 2008, a expect another top season. Any way you slice, it, I'm glad he's in my rotation taking the ball every fifth day.