Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Should The Yankees Call It A Winter?

As anyone who has been here for a while knows, I'm a fan of team projection systems. I the individual player projections that create these team projections are tough to put too much into, as anything can happen with a singular player (overperformance, underperformance, injury, etc.). Team projections tend to even these things out from player to player and, as long as a team doesn't have too many young or unproven pieces, offer a pretty reasonable estimate as to what can be expected from a given team based on the history of the players that they have. It seems reasonable enough to me.

According to the great work of SG over at RLYW, using CHONE projections, the current Yankee roster is projected to go 96-66. For all those Red Sox fans getting a little ancy, even without a shortstop, a catcher, and a big question mark in center field, they are projected to go 94-68. Since they went 95-67 last year, and have the exact same team, this makes sense. They haven't made any additions, but they aready had a great team, so no real reason to fret. Some overperformances regressing will be met by some bounceback and injury comeback seasons. It is also important to note that the Rays are projected to come back to earth at 90-72, which for a lot of reasons is probably more likely than not.

Anyway, back to the Yankees. Being projected to win 7 more games than last year isn't really a surprise. They added three producers, and are getting a number of producers back. They also didn't have any substantial overperformers last year (or anything even close), whose potential regressions would somewhat nullify these additions and comebacks. On paper this team as it is now looks great, and an argument could be made that they should stand pat, as only one thing could really derail them, and it is largely out of their control.

That one thing, however, is injuries. These projection systems do not factor them in. In order for the team to perform to their projection, they need to stay healthy. The Yankees have not been very healthy of late, and every team experiences injuries at one time or another. Depth is incredibly important. Sabathia, Wang, Burnett, Joba, and Hughes/Kennedy/Aceves looks great in a vaccum. But one of those last three will already have to account for (at least) 25% of the season due to Joba's innings limit. Then if someone else gets hurt, all of the sudden the rotation isn't so different than last year, and that's not a good thing, let alone a 96 win thing.

The same thing could be said of the outfield. There is quite a bit of buzz about the Yankees' surplus at this position. But what happens if Matsui's knees act up for the third straight year, and/or Damon has another nagging calf injury. All of the sudden this deep outfield is Nady, Swisher, and Melky/Gardner. Um, yikes. Now imagine if they traded one or two of those players, how shallow they would be.

You get the point. Injuries happen, and you have to protect against them. So what should the Yankees do? Sign a 5th starter to a one year deal. You've already invested an incredible amount of money into this team, clearly in an effort to win the World Series in 2009. What is another $8-12 million for a one year starter? It isn't my money, so maybe I shouldn't speak. But assuming that the money is there, this is the biggest way the Yankees can further improve their club in 2009, and really "tigthen up" the loose ends, so to speak. They wouldn't have any holes on paper.

Ideally, that starter is Andy Pettitte. He knows New York, he knows how to pitch, and even a shell of his former self offers one important thing from a #5 starter: a near lock for 200 innings. This would be huge. But it doesn't have to be Pettitte. It could be someone else. I'm just saying they need someone else. Don't trade the outfield surplus (it isn't illegal to have a good bench, remember) to solve the problem either. If you sign a starter, you have a truly complete rotation, and one that more importantly is prepared for an injury. You have a rock solid outfield on both sides of the baseball, also prepared for an injury (which also means at least one productive bench player, possibly two). You have the best infield offense in baseball, and although there is no true preparation for injury here, you are talking about four very durable players throughout their careers. You have a bullpen that is stocked with young power arms, one that is definitely prepared for injury to anyone but Mo (for which you can't prepare anyway). With all the variation with relievers from year to year, this is what you want from a bullpen on paper heading into a season. A 5th starter makes them a very complete baseball team.

The Yankees have invested too much in too many ways for the 2009 club to leave as substantial a hole on paper. Right now there is a substantial hole in the rotation. Don't create a potential hole elsewhere (the outfield) to solve this problem, if all the trade chatter is somewhat accurate. Just sign Andy Pettitte to a one year deal. With that signing, you can afford to experience an injury or two and still find a way to the mid-90s in wins projection wise, because you have true depth. That's when you can really call it a winter.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Penny & Bard: Good move!

There really isn't too much to dislike about the Red Sox acquiring Josh Bard and Brad Penny. Both are classic examples of buying low on guys who might not necessarily stay low. They're both light versions of the Yankees acquiring Nick Swisher. Let's go one by one.

Brad Penny is a perfect back-of-the-rotation starter for the Red Sox, at a fraction of the cost. It's reasonable to expect similar things out of Penny and Derek Lowe next year, but a one-year contract is a lot more fiscally responsible than a four- or five-year contract. And while it is very possible (if not likely) that Brad Penny might fail to stay healthy during the season, the Red Sox have a slight surplus of starting pitching. The rotation would likely be Lester, Beckett, Matsuzaka, Penny, and Wakefield, with Buchholz, Masterson, and Bowden all being decent insurance plans if something happens. Three layers of protection before it's time to summons the Charlie Zinks, Craig Breslows, and David Pauleys of the world. That's a good thing.

Penny finished third in 2007 in Cy Young Award voting after recording a 3.03 ERA. He doesn't strike a lot of guys out, but outs are outs. His opponents' slugging percentage over the course of his career is .409, which is not far from Jason Varitek's .393 SLG over the last three years.

I'm not expecting any more than occasional brilliance. But if they realize he's going to be Pawtucket Penny around May, they only throw $5 million down the toilet. And if he's good, that is a tremendous help. If he's 2007 Penny, it's an absolute steal and he's the best 4-starter in the league. It's troubling that he's had trouble staying healthy over the course of his entire career, posting 200 innings twice in his career.

Reminds me of another friend we've talked about this winter. But we're talking about one year and $5 million. Not five years and $82 million. ESPN's Jason Grey calls it "risky," but I don't know how a one-year, $5 million contract could possibly be considered "risky" in the days when AJ Burnett is getting five years and $82 million. Penny could have been taken to the hospital carring his pitching arm in a plastic bag in November and still be a less-risky investment at this low year and dollar amount.

As far as Josh Bard goes, it is addition by subtraction more than anything else. They're not bringing Bard in to be Varitek's backup, that's for sure. Because Bard can't catch Wakefield and Varitek can't catch Wakefield as much as Buck Martinez wants to tell you he has. So today effectively ended the career of the guy who insulted this city's intelligence by demanding a four-year contract after aforementioned .393 slugging percentage over the last three years.

Bard cannot possibly be any worse than Varitek, even if he comes close to his abysmal 2008 season when he was plagued by a wrist injury. No matter how bad he could possibly be, futility unlimited by Josh Bard (F.U.J.B.) only costs $1.6 million, while futility unlimited by Captain K would cost, realistically, ten times that much. He hit .333 and .285 in 2006 and 2007, and he's 31 so there's a pretty good (but not guaranteed) chance he'll bounce back. Plus, he strikes out every 6.5 at-bats, half the rate of Varitek the last three years.

He's not a good option as an everyday catcher, but he's at least better than Varitek. That will give the Red Sox some leverage in trade talks regarding a catcher who would be a better everyday option.

That's all I have tonight. Two guys around thirty who are coming off of bad seasons but who might bounce back. The Sox are hopeful of this comeback but have hedged their losses in case they do not. Ain't nothing wrong with that.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Step Out From That Ledge My Friend

Pat is pretty unhappy about all the Red Sox fans at ESPN. At least the Red Sox fans at ESPN are capable of thinking, which is something that cannot be said for a lot of Red Sox fans, including the Red Sox fans at the Boston Globe.

ESPN Red Sox Fan Rob Neyer won some serious points with me by proving on Friday that he is capable of processing ideas, something that might not be accurate with Globe counterparts Tony Massarotti and (a historical DV favorite) Nick Cafardo. Here's a little snippet from each of the three:

Massarotti: "The Red Sox had their chance. They have the money. They ultimately lost Mark Teixeira to the Yankees for maybe $1 million-$2 million a year, roughly 1 percent of their 2008 payroll. Unhappy holiday. What a kick in the pants."

Cafardo: "[The Angels and Expos] were losers in this one, but not more so than the Sox, who got the old double whammy - losing the player they wanted to the Yankees."

Neyer (on Cafardo's claim that Teixeira would put the Red Sox "over the hump": "Right. The Game 7 hump. Because everyone knows that winning one game depends on replacing one player with another, slightly better player."

And that's exactly the point. Cafardo, Mazz, Tommy Gunn, and 48% of Red Sox fans are ready to jump off the Tobin Bridge because the Red Sox lost out on the sweepstakes for...Mark Teixeira? Really?

Look, I understand that the Red Sox very well might end up an 84-win team next year, as the Gunn has suggested. They have some serious problems, especially at the catcher, shortstop, and center field positions. There are also some "question marks" at third base and DH, but you could also say that Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia are also just one broken wrist or strained hip away from being question marks. If everything goes wrong, yes, I agree that this team is an 81-84-win team.

But would Mark Teixeira really transform this team from an 84-win team to a 92-win, division-winning team? Because with or without this guy, the Red Sox still have serious problems at C, SS, and CF. It would be an upgrade, yes, I will not deny that. But essentially you're replacing Mike Lowell with Teixeira. Two years ago, Mike Lowell was indispensible in this town, a guy Red Sox fans (including me) would prefer over Alex Rodriguez. Now they're saying he fell off like Dr. Dre before 2001.

How? His last album before the hip injury was The Chronic. And by The Chronic, I mean a season where he hit .325 with 21 home runs and 120 RBIs. For the OPS+ Nazis, his OPS+ was 124. He won the World Series MVP and had a knack for the clutch. They say his hip will be 100% by March, and I believe that. Even with the injury, Lowell still had a good season, hitting .274/17/73 with 27 doubles in about 2/3 of a season. He won't be Mark Teixeira, but he'll still be a guy who can help the team win games. I feel the same about David Ortiz, though he is certainly more injury prone across the duration of his career.

I say he won't be Teixeira, but who is Mark Teixeira? A hair better than Bobby Abreu or Hideki Matsui in their prime (hitting .300/30/105 every year)? Carlos Delgado? Fred McGriff minus the Tom Emanski Video commercials? Holy crap, let's interrupt Game Four of the World Series and enshrine him into the Hall of Fame immediately. A very good player. Not a great player. Red Sox fans, did you ever shudder when seeing Matsui or Abreu step to the plate?

Maybe it's a little bit melodramatic to call Mark Teixeira a role-player. It is not melodramatic to call Teixeira "Jim Thome Light." So I think that's what I'll do. Jim Thome was a petrifying player for opposing teams. A light version would certainly upgrade a team, but is not a difference-maker to the extent that Thome was. He's not the difference between an 84-win team and a 92-win team.

And just one more reminder, if you ain't up on thangs: The Yankees needed a first baseman. The Red Sox did not. So the other 48% of Red Sox fans should join the 52% majority and realize that the Red Sox already have an excellent 1B and 3B. And that Mark Teixeira, by no means, should be the second-highest player in baseball history. So it's time to step back from the ledge and see what the Red Sox can do to actually fill needs.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

REPORT: Teixeira is a Yankee

BOOM. So much for everyone's criticism of Cashman signing Burnett over Teixeira, and my criticism of them not signing a bat period. This is as win now as it gets, so I'm happy. The Yankees should be pretty good next year.

Read DV's post below.

Mitchell Report, One Year Later

It’s been just over a year since the snowy Thursday afternoon when George Mitchell released a report that took the baseball world by storm. Here at HYD Baseball, we wrote eight posts and got 108 comments in the matter of four days, as nobody could talk about anything but the Mitchell Report. In the year since, we’ve seen players thrown under the bus, more Congressional hearings, a mid-term change in the collective bargaining agreement, but a general waning of interest in the steroid scandal that I believe continues in major league baseball. For brevity’s sake, I have eight things to say and I’m going to do it as succinctly as possible.

1. Looking back, the investigation was half-hearted and lacked both scope and relevance. All those millions of dollars and Mitchell could only get to the bottom of one (1) steroid ring? Really? That is not much of an investigation. True, there was no subpoena power and very few people cooperated. But the fact that the Radomski/McNamee ring was the only thing he could come up with is pretty bad. And the fact that there are people out there thinking this is the extent of steroid use in baseball is sickening. It is also poor that Mitchell did end up naming names, because it became more about the names than it was about how these steroid rings worked. Instead of getting to the bottom of how and why steroids made their way to baseball players, the Mitchell Report named names and it became a witch hunt. Looking back, that was NOT what we were looking for.

2. Major League Baseball has failed to heed the advice of the Mitchell Report, as I addressed in a post last week. Thanks to their insincere efforts and the fact that they continue to be at mercy of the MLBPA, there is still a toothless testing program, penalties that are too lenient, and transparency within the MLB is just as bad as it has ever been. This is the fault of the leadership in MLB, but that is not news. It is equally, if not more, the fault of Don Fehr and the MLBPA. They are resisting a transparent, comprehensive drug policy because they want to protect player privacy. So they want to protect the guilty. The innocent players, the ones who are doing everything right, want transparent and comprehensive testing to prove their innocence. But thanks to the MLBPA, they are presumed by many to be just as guilty. Good work.

It is notable that Jose Guillen, Paul Byrd, Jay Gibbons, Rick Ankiel, and others have not been suspended a single game for their involvement with steroids.

3. The media may have done the worst job in the past year. I previously stated that the names were counter-productive. The fact that the media made the Mitchell Report a story Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte was just as bad. The Mitchell Report, though Clemens and Pettitte were certainly involved in a big way, were not about outing baseball players. And the story became about these two clowns, the 60 Minutes interview, the lidocaine and B-12, and Mindy McCready.

4. The same thing goes for Congress. I was fine with Congress getting to the bottom of the steroid case, because it showed how incapable Bud Selig and baseball were of governing themselves. Without Congress, the steroid measures taken would have never happened. But now they're just trying to take down individuals. That is absurd. Though they are certainly making examples out of Clemens and Bonds, they are missing the point.

5. Teams are at fault, too. There is not a single team in baseball, it seems, who are interested in making examples of steroid users. Sure, they won't sign Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, but they're still very much willing to acquire Andy Pettitte, Paul Byrd, and others. At a lot of money. They have absolutely no balls and by employing these people who disgraced the game show that they do not care about clean sports either.

6. The last year has seen a poor job by fans, too. Not only are they quick to forget which players are at fault (Mo Vaughn was honored and welcomed back here very warmly a few months ago), but they want to forget about what happened. They think that the steroid problem is over in baseball, which it's not. They just want to have the Mitchell Report close the door on what is continuing to happen because it's not as interesting as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' comeback or Mark Teixeira's decision of where he wants to play.

7. What to do? Work together. The MLBPA has to decide it's doing a terrible job representing its law-abiding constituents, realize that cooperating with testing, including HGH testing, is not only good for baseball (which they don't care about) but is also good for baseball PLAYERS! A little bit of teamwork can catalyze some change. Same goes for teams. Teams should shun steroid users. Let's say Andy Pettitte's market value is theoretically $14 million/year. If teams implicitly refused to sign Pettitte for anything short of a hideous discount, that would send a big message that steroid use is not okay. And the media should really stop talking about how great of a story Pettitte/Rafael Betancourt/insert juice guy here is, overcoming all the adversity that comes with admitting to a felony.

8. What will happen? While other sports bodies continue to move slowly toward ridding themselves from steroids, baseball will continue to be a safe haven for dirty players, and clean players will continue to suffer. Meanwhile, the commissioner will continue to lack leadership, the union will continue to poorly represent their constituents, and the media and fans will continue to be tired of talking about it. Who loses here?

Clean players. In short, the Mitchell Report did very little to anyone unless their last name is Clemens. It did very little to clean up the game and protect the jobs of non-felonious players. It is more obvious a year later that it missed the point.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Word from J. Edgar Hoover...

-First, I apologize to Pat for posting this one now against his wishes, as there's plenty of good stuff going on below here. Let's keep the conversation going on Randy Johnson and the trade market. This is what the offseason's all about.

-I agree with Pat on the Santana matter. The price in dollars and cents is a whole different animal than the price in dollars, cents, and prospects. When you pay dollars and cents, you don’t get a situation like the Yankees had in the early 2000s when they became basically 100% reliant on the free-agent market, the most inefficient market in baseball.

-The thing that makes it inefficient is the fact that not only are you paying a ridiculously-high price in dollars, but you are also essentially giving Guy A (let’s say Burnett) a roster spot for the entire duration of the contract. So if dollars don’t matter—they don’t for the Yankees and Red Sox—years still do. You can’t just bench Julio Lugo. You can’t just bench JD Drew. If you do, you have overpriced bench players who do not fit your needs and who are pissed off because you didn’t pay them $14 million a year to sit on the bench. Actually, Drew might be a bad example because he might prefer to be on the bench. You hurt your baseball team by having the literal inability to put a bench guy (a Sean Casey, for example) on your roster. That costs wins. And that’s why efficiency is important.

-Also, if you don’t bench those guys, you have holes in your lineup for years and years and years. For example, the Red Sox have a hole in right field until October 2, 2011. Although it might result in a few good swings in the playoffs, over the long run, it will COST THE RED SOX SEVERAL WINS. Drew may have helped Boston win a Game 5 and a Game 6 over the last two years, but he also helped them lose the AL East (and homefield advantage) by sitting on the bench all summer and maximizing cold-streak Kotsay at-bats, a Game 2, and a Game 7. Therefore, while Burnett might win the Yankees one World Series, he might cost them additional World Series. Not what you’re looking for.

-As the J. Edgar Hoover of the Efficiency Police, I define efficiency in the following way: A strong minor league system that develops good talent at as many positions possible. Exploit the reserve clause for as long as possible and either attempt to sign your own guys for a long-term deal (a la Pedroia) or let them walk when free agency comes.

-If the farm system fails to produce a good player at a position, that’s when you go to the free agent market. Your future center fielder got hit by a car in Binghamton? Your projected second starter proves to be a better laptop thief than a major league pitcher? The free agent market solves these problems. Use this market to fill needs. Teixeira is NOT a good example for that. But when a need is identified, throw some serious money at it while (in most cases, to hedge risk) not going overboard on years. If you have that financial muscle, like Boston and New York do, this is where you can overpay.

The Goal Is To Win The World Series

In the past week or so, there have been two things we've been hearing from a number of Yankees fans. "What is CC's contract going to look like in 7 years?!!?!!1!?" and "AJ goes on the DL too much to make that much money!!!1!!!".

I think we might have to start calling these people the efficiency police. To counteract, I'll have to be the World Series police. Because that is the goal, to win the World Series. Not have every contract be some sort of "perfect value". You don't get rings for efficiency and value. You get it for winning.

So since winning is the most important thing, let's do a little exercise on winning. Raise your hand if you want CC Sabathia on your team next year? Good, everybody's is up. He's one of the best pitchers in baseball, he's 27 years old, and if you have the resources you do what you have to do to get him, because he has a chance to help you win next year, and in the forseeable future.

This one is a little more tricky, because we have some heroes out there who would probably say they don't want this guy. So instead, raise your hand if when you saw the Yankees or Red Sox were facing AJ Burnett in the last few years, you said, "great, we can smack this guy." Certainly nobody on this blog. In 8 starts against Boston, Burnett is 5-0 with a 2.56, striking out 53 and allowing only 44 hits in 56.1 innings. In 11 starts against the Yankees, Burnett is 6-3 with a 2.43, striking out 78 and allowing only 57 hits in 77.2 innings. In his time in the American League, these have been the two best teams. Take a look at what he has done against them. There is a reason the Blue Jays tried to rearrange the rotation against these two divisional rivals to get him involved as much as possible. They know these games count double in terms of making the playoffs, and that he gives them a better chance to win. Oh, you mean AJ gives you a chacnce to win? I thought it was about long term efficiency of his contract that mattered most. And before you give me the, "it's not the talent, it's the health that concerns me", I'd refer you again to his 28 start per year average over the last four seasons. The over the top injury history is just not a reality. It's not perfect, but you live with it from your 3rd starter with his ability (look at above numbers). Point being, anyone who says they wouldn't want Burnett, from a winning perspective, in the middle of their rotation, has some explaining to do.

And I think most people would agree with this. Where everyone wants to pipe up is on "the long term value" of signing these players. To that I say, you are probably right, but who cares? You aren't signing these guys because you want to be as efficient as possible. You are signing them because you want to win. The Yankees didn't get themselves into trouble by signing free agents in the past. They got themselves into trouble by making asinine trades, depleting their farm system for guys past their prime. Signing these players is costing the Yankees nothing in the young talent department. In fact, it's giving them more time to develop.

Yes, some consideration does need to be given to efficiency. Player development, as proven by Tampa Bay, is the most efficient system. And the Yankees continue to pour resources into that operation. They also aren't being inefficient, getting themselves into a host of long-term contracts that will restrict the roster. Rather, they have only four players (Rodriguez, Sabathia, Burnett, and Cano) signed beyond three years of the present. Sabathia and Burnett alone are not going to cripple this roster. The only risk is money, and nothing else, especially the roster. Just look at Carl Pavano. He gave the Yankees no return on his contract, and did that stop the Yankees from winning anyway? No, they made the playoffs in three of the four years he was on the team, winning no less than 89 games in any of them. In hindsight, this was about as bad an investment as you can make, and if that didn't hold the Yankees back, how are Sabathia and Burnett going to be any different if they go south quickly? The Yankees can make up for financial mistakes and misfortunes. Therefore there really are no downside to these deals except for potentially "losing" money, something the Yankees seem willing to do. The upside is winning a World Series. You can't be risk averse in sports.

Basically, the Yankee fan has the best of both worlds right now. They get to root for a team that is clearly trying to put a championship team on the field right now, recognizing that the window for a final run with a core group of players gets smaller every year. At the same time, they are doing nothing to hurt their future, and are instead doing much to better it. The idea that we would worry about what these deals will look like in 5 or 7 years is silly. The goal is not to have deals look good in 5 or 7 years. The goal is to win the World Series. And there really is no argument that these players don't improve the Yankees' chances of doing that next year. So who cares that, in all liklihood, one of these deals (or some other one) won't be "efficient" or "good value" longterm. If they are good right now, or for the next few years (certainly plausible), then we have a better chance of winning the World Series, and winning the World Series is the only thing you get a ring for.

Finally, Giants football!!!!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I'm pretty tired. I think I'll go home now.

So finally, Mark Teixeira to the Red Sox is not going to happen. Awesome. I'm tired of thinking about, I'm tired about writing about it, and I'm tired about talking about it. I am still a little bit sick to my stomach because I heard the Red Sox were willing to pay $23 million a year over eight years for a guy who is not elite. I am actually more sick because that means someone else is willing to pay even more.

I'm also pretty tired of people misspelling his name, thinking (as my brother pointed out) that he had to think for so long whether to sign with the Red Sox or the Expos, and all of those fanboys in or message boards saying things like "YEAH NOW EGT TEX@!!!11" and "IF THA REDSOX WERE WILING TO GO ALL OUT FOR DICE K WHY RNT THEY WILING TO DO THAT FOR TEX???????///"

I'll admit, I'm a little disappointed that I'm not going to be able to write my "Sox Sign Chase Utley, Hilarity Ensues" because the Red Sox enjoy flirting with the "shiniest" names instead of filling needs. The A-Rod flirtation, the Santana flirtation, the multiple Lugo flirtations, extending Coco Crisp, and signing JD Drew are all examples of this. Theo, do us all a favor and address your needs instead of being distracted by the shiny objects you see. I'd hate to see that guy with John Henry's credit card in a Swarovski Crystal store. Good God. You expect idiot Red Sox fans on WEEI to say HEY WE SHOULD TRADE FOR CHASE UTLEY, but you don't expect that kind of stuff by the general manager who just signed his second baseman for six years. But that's exactly what he did with the Teixeira flirtation, as Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis weren't "holes" in this lineup.

The explicit and implicit costs of Teixeira, as Tim C pointed out earlier, include the money, Mike Lowell's production, the money they'd have to eat for Lowell because he has no trade market, a draft pick, and Lars Anderson. Too high of a price for a guy who is a Hall of Very Good-er.

So now that the Red Sox have $184 million on their hands that they don't really want, let's start, you know, address some of the team's needs. Let's get past Teixeira and go back to the offseason. Sign Derek Lowe so that the team's success won't be hinging on both Tim Wakefield AND Triple-A Clay.

And solve the catcher problem.


CC and AJ Press Conferences

I always get a kick out of these Yankee signing pressers. It's like watching the same movie on repeat. Media Relations guy Jason Zillo welcomes everyone, introduces everyone on the stage, then invites Team President Randy Levine to the stand. Levine gives the same old mantra about the Steinbrunner and Yankee commitment to their fans, which is true but there are only so many times you can say this. He brings up Cashman, who says a little bit about why they wanted the player(s) they are introducing today, which is usually obvious because they are typically amongst the best at their position. Then he brings up the Yankee manager. This is usually followed by player introductions, a series of ultra-akward photos, and the whole thing usually seems forced.

When we got to Girardi, that is where things went pleasantly different today. He was incredibly upbeat and giddy (as in not serious), and made a solid joke about their wives enjoying them for the next 57 days, because then they are all his. He really lightened the mood to what is usually boring. In a nice touch, they had Girardi's daughter bring flowers to both CC's and AJ's wives. You get the sense the Yankees are trying to shed that rigid reputation, and that's a good thing. It's a 162 game season, and it's baseball, it's supposed to be fun and happy.

A few things struck me about each player. You can tell immediately that CC is incredibly comfortable in his own skin. Very relaxed and jovial yet pointedly confident. He got aksed the whole lot of questions about being "the guy" coming to New York with major expectations, and while you can tell he completely embraces that role, he was also honest about being realistic. He talked about a real positive of coming to the Yankees being that he would not be asked to do what he's been asked to do by his teams recently. He is looking forward to being the guy, but having some help too.

Burnett was a lot more light-hearted than I expected. He cracked two great jokes. Someone asked him about the DL, and was trying to remember exactly how many times it was he'd been there, and Burnett interrupted him with a big smile, something to the effect of, "You don't have to say a number man, we all know it's not a good one." Later someone asked him about coming to the circus that is New York, especially in comparison to Toronto and Florida, and he said, "I think I'm going to fit right in." You can tell he has a little something on him personality wise, and that's a good thing in this city.

Both guys said all the right things about wanting to come to a place where you have the chance to win every year, and that they wanted to be in a place where they would be on the big stage. They'll certainly get that chance with the Yankees. You can tell Cashman and especially Girardi are head over heels about having these two, and they should be. CC is obvious, he's one of the top three pitchers in the game. But Burnett grows on me everyday. First, in looking more closely at him the last week, he's definitely a guy who has a reputation, and that reputation supercedes reality. Second, he talked today about knowing his role behind 1-2 other really good guys, and wanting to flourish in that role. I think that's the key for him, at least for me. As a #1, you are relying too much on him. But as a #3, even if he doesn't make every start every year, when he is out there he has a chance to be one of, if not the best middle of the rotation guys in baseball. You have your horses, and then he becomes a knockout punch of sorts. I'm starting to get really excited about it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Debunking Myths About CC, AJ, and the Yankees

(Please read Dan's post below).

Since the Yankees signing of CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett, a lot of people have been saying a lot of things that just aren't true. Let's set the record straight on a few different topics.

1. "AJ Burnett is Carl Pavano Round 2." Hmmm. Pavano is 32 and Burnett is 31. Over the last four years Pavano has made 26 starts, or 6.5 per season. Burnett, 112, or 28 per season. Starting a year earlier than Burnett, Pavano has a career ERA+ of 99, ERA of 4.32, strikes out a batter just under once every two innings, and has allowed 83 more hits than innings pitched, doing most of his work in one of the biggest pitchers parks in baseball in the National League. Burnett has a career ERA+ of 111, ERA of 3.81, strikes out just under a batter an inning,and has allowed 176 less hits than innings pitched, working the last three years in a slight hitters park in the most vicious offensive league in baseball, putting together probably the best consecutive three years of his career. Yes, Burnett has gotten injured, and the bigger issue is that he doesn't seem to want to pitch at less than 100% (as John pointed out in a recent comments section). But whatever his injury situation is, it's a lot better than Pavano's. As pitchers, they aren't even close. Let's please stop comparing these players just because the Yankees signed both of them to contracts.

2. "The Yankees overpaid for AJ Burnett." No kidding. In this day and age, what free agents aren't grossly overpaid? The Yankees are using their primary competitive advantage off the field (money) to create one on it. AJ Burnett as a #1 probably isn't worth it. You're relying on someone who is too much of a risk, and perhaps too inconsistent. Those issues aren't such a big deal when he's a #3, maybe a #4 starter. The Braves had a similar offer on the table, and there was a market for this guy. The Yankees went out and got him not because they though he was the best pitcher in baseball, but because they thought he could be one of, if not the best #3/4 in the game, and that is why they were willing to pay what they paid. It isn't about "worth". It's about creating a competitive advantage. Signing Burnett does that. How many #3 starters lead the league in strikeouts?

3. "AJ Burnett is the Yankees #2." Goodness gracious. Let's pretend for a second that it actually matters. Chien-Ming Wang is over three years younger, and the two full seasons he's pitched have both been better than Burnett's top year. Let's not forget about Wanger, who lead the American League in wins from 2005-2007. He's Mr. Consistency in the regular season, as long as he isn't running the bases. Also, if there was no innings situation and/or bounceback from shoulder tendinitis concern, Joba would be the #3 (and maybe higher than that). He's definitely better than Burnett when healthy, and might be the best on the staff. Watching him again today just reminds you how good he is. The only thing he has to do is stay healthy, because he is the total package.

4. "The Yankees out-bid themselves for Sabathia." Do some research. Santana has a very easily attainable incentive in his contract that makes the 7th year of his contract vest. That will take the total value of that deal to $157 million. CC and his agent are not dumb. Unlike a majority of (especially) journalists, (again especially) executives, and fans, CC and his agent have this information on the Santana deal. It isn't logical, but this is how baseball contracts go these days. Player X got a certain amount last off-season, player Y is close to his equal on the field, so he gets slightly more money than player X the following off-season. The contract negotiatons probably went something like this. Yankees: "We want to get you CC, what's it going to take?". CC: "More than what Santana got." Yankees: "Done." The process isn't logical, but if we pretend that it is, within this system the Yankees paying just more than Santana money is the standard these days. If $140 for CC made sense without Santana's option being considered (at $137), as most people reasoned, then $161 should make sense considering Santana's option ($157).

5. "After not trading for Santana, the Yankees lost their patience with player development and have abandoned that course, going back to their old ways by signing Sabathia and Burnett." Wow. I mean I guess the Santana and Sabathia situations are exactly the same. Oh, well, except for the fact that they didn't have to abandon even a singular young player in obtaining him. Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Chien-Ming Wang, Alan Horne, Jeff Marquez, and whoever else was once rumored to be a part of that deal are still Yankees. Not only have the Yankees not abandoned their player development system, but these signings are in complete accord with it's furtherance. If anything, the Yankees are becoming more mature about that system. You can't rush young players and then throw them to the sharks. In order to give them time to develop and ease into the rotation/lineup, you need veteran players who can perform at a high level. This idea that the Yankees are somehow contradicting themselves here from last off-season to this, something that we have heard from the media constantly, is a joke. The Santana situation and the Sabathia situation could not be more different. Had Sabathia been a free agent last winter, my money would be on the Yankees to sign him. Ditto if Santana was a FREE AGENT, which he was not. You had to give up players to get him, players the Yankees didn't want to because they care about their player development system. Not the other way around. Sabathia is two years younger than Santana, and didn't require prospects. Both kind of a big deal when you have to give both $23 million a year.

6. "There is a way for the Yankees to construct a team without the media/baseball executives/fans contradicting themselves and criticizing what they are doing." Ok, I made this one up for arguments sake, because not many people are saying this besides me. But it's true. Last year, they go with two young players in the rotation, it flops, and they are criticized for being so dumb to rely on unproven players. This year, they sign big name free agents in an attempt to solidify the rotation, and they are criticized for spending money and committing so many years to players who will be old at the end of their contracts. Further, I guarantee you if the Yankees traded Hughes, Jackson, and Melancon to the Padres for Peavy, they would get criticized for depleting their farm system. So if you aren't allowed the time to develop players, you can't spend money to sign players, and you can't trade for players, how are you supposed to construct a team? By having every prospect work out right away, always being able to get good free agents at reasonable prices, and trading nothing for something? As PeteAbe pointed out the other day, the inconsistencies are laughable, especially those whose work is recorded (journalists) where these inconsistencies can be plainly seen. The same people who crushed Cashman for not trading for AND extending Santana are now ripping him for signing Sabathia, and would probably STILL rip him if the Yankees lost out on Sabathia. Basically whatever the Yankees do, the media criticizes it with no consistency or accountability. Did they all go to Colby College?

7. "The Yankees spending is bad for baseball." My boy Joel Sherman of The Post had a great article about it in Sunday's paper, I told DV to read it, and he agreed with pretty much everything said in it as well. What is more detrimental, the Yankees making the most and plugging that money back into their team for their fans who give them the money in the first place (a very healthy and natural cycle if you ask me), or the Padres wanting to trade away the 2007 NL Cy Young winner, who has as many as five years at a reasonable price left on his contract, to save money? Or (and this is my add on), how about the Florida Marlins getting millions of dollars in revenue sharing and barely having a payroll? Baseball's system isn't perfect. I'd sign for a salary cap tomorrow. But they do have a system. Last year the Yankees alone distributed an estimated $100 million to revenue sharing. They lead the league in road attendance every single year (all money in other team's pockets). Their spending helps the rest of baseball, period. Especially when you consider they haven't won anything since they started spending big in the winter of '00-'01. Which is another important point that relates to the inconsitency issue raised above. The media, executives, and fans are all quick to poiont out how the Yankees can't win the way they operate. Then, every time the Yankees flex their muscles and sign a player, there are tears streaming down their faces crying about how unfair it is that the Yankees can just spend all this money. This doesn't make any sense. If they are operating in a way where you feel they can't win, AND they are giving you money in the process, are there any negatives here for the other 29 teams (outside of not being able to keep their own players, who, if not signed by the Yankees, would be signed by the Red Sox, Mets, Angels, Tigers, Phillies, or Dodgers anyway)? Why the tears? Oh, probably because the logic of "they can't win that way" isn't sound, and gets tossed around only when it seems certain the Yankees won't win in a given year, or after it is all said and done and they actually didn't win. Not so tough when no games have been played yet.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Not here to talk about the present?

At the end of last month, Major League Baseball quietly instituted another act of defiance regarding ridding the game of performance-enhancing drugs. Shocking. At the beginning of the year, MLB promised to show some statistics about the passes and the fails for amphetamine tests. After the season, they decided that transparency of their drug testing program is not important anymore, as they're not releasing the results. Let's take a look at a Mitchell Report recommendation:

To instill public trust and ensure accountability, they must be as transparent as possible consistent with protecting those rights. Transparency can be achieved by such actions as submitting to outside audits, and publishing periodic reports of de-identified aggregate testing results, retaining records of negative test results so that confirmation is available to correctly interpret subsequent tests, which may inure to the benefit of a player charged with a positive result in a later test. A transparent program should provide the public with aggregate data that demonstrates the work of the program and the results achieved by it.

Mark McGwire has assumed more accountability over the steroid problem than MLB has, and the fact that there is no proof they even tested for amphetamines is just another example of baseball taking no initiative and giving a JD Drew-level effort toward cleaning the game up. Is it violating players' rights? Nope, it's just publishing numbers. Are they hiding something, like the fact that a lot of players used because their punishments are toothless? Sure friggin sounds like that, because Bud Selig and friends don't have the balls to disclose any information.

But instead of being tough on drug use, restoring public confidence in the game and its players toward the back end of this decade, and admitting their deficiencies so they can make adjustments and move forward Major League Baseball has done nothing unless prodded by federal investigators. These clowns, as has been proven in the year after the Mitchell Report, care about cleaning the steroid problem up and restoring confidence in a clean baseball as much as your average sports commenter cares about spelling.

The testing administrator, Dr. Bryan W. Smith, was supposed to compile a report outlining the progress of the testing measures in 2008. I'd love to read that report, as they took very toothless measures, made insufficient changes, and now refuse to release any results. I feel like Dr. Smith's report on MLB drug testing progress would say something like this:

Way to do your job, Dr. Smith. Way to do your jobs, Major League Baseball.

Yankees: We Plan To Win 0-0

Go Blue Jays. No, not #13. This team actually is the Blue Jays. It's not about A-Rod, who by the way has nine years left on his contract. I can't wait to talk to the "How could you complain, we have the best player in baseball on our team??!!?!?!?111/!/1Q!?!!!" crowd in four years, when he still has five years left on his deal. Instead, this is about the actual Blue Jays. They can pitch, but they sure can't hit.

There is no doubt that I am for the two major moves the Yankees have made this winter. CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett are in line with what I've been talking about for a while. Mo, Jeter, and Posada are going to be tough to replace, and they aren't getting any younger. So try to win now, while you have those three.

The problem is what they are talking about potentially doing for the rest of the offseason. The Yankees are talking about signing Pettitte and trading for Cameron. Please no.

The Yankees have approximately $88 million off the payroll after 2008. Between Sabathia ($23 mil), Burnett ($16.5 mil), and arbitration raises ($4-6 mil total), the Yankees have only re-added approximately $45 of that $88 million.

So my question becomes, why Pettitte and/or Cameron? This offense, as currently assembled, stinks. Even with the additon of Cameron, it still stinks. In order to win baseball games, you need to score runs. This Yankee team is not going to score runs.

Even with the desire to cut payroll, where does Teixeria and/or Dunn not make sense? You can sign Pettitte and/or another pitcher, but I don't think that helps you that much. If you sign a bat, not only are Hughes/Kennedy/Aceves passable, but so is Garnder. If you sign one of these bats, you don't need a big fifth starter and a center fielder. If you don't sign one of thes bats, you need both of those things. Basically, the production Teixeira and Dunn provide will allow you more flexibility at other positions

Pettitte and Cameron are going to cost you at least $20 million. Teixiera and especially Dunn can be had for that price. Trading for a stop gap centerfielder and signing a 5th starter makes no sense right now. The rotation, if healthy, is really, really good. The offense stinks in comparison. So forget trying to become the Blue Jays. Add Teixeira or Dunn, bolster the offense in additon to the great rotation, and try to win the World Series next year. There is nothing wrong with that.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Watney Steals Mazz's Computer, Hilarity Does Not Ensue

The bias exhibited in this Tony Massarotti article on Thursday afternoon was laughable. The way he whined and moaned about how the Red Sox aren't going to offer the worst player in baseball a multi-year, big-money contract makes me think Massarotti left his computer out somewhere so Heidi Watney could steal it. It's shocking that Varitek's girlfriend beat Buchholz to it.

It's a 1,242-word sob story about how the big, mean, soulless Red Sox won't give a huge contract to Varitek and how by not giving into his extortion tactics...I mean, demands...they are disrespecting the "C" on his uniform. It is absolutely disgusting, and it was so poorly-received even by your average Red Sox fans that he had to write an apology the next day.

First there is whining about Varitek's leadership and about how he wasn't always the leader he became through so much hard work. Then there was whining about how poorly Nomar, Pedro, Damon, Lowe, and Manny were treated and that Varitek, after the spotless record he had in Boston, deserves more respect than the rest of those guys.

Here is a sample of Mazz's dribble:

That's C as in C U later. If you are someone like Dustin Pedroia, the heir apparent to the Red Sox captaincy who just signed a six-year contract during a press conference in which the team celebrated his leadership skills -- coincidence? -- you had better take note now. In six or seven years, depending on whether the Sox pick up your contract option, club officials might deem your salary demands to be greater than your skill set. If and when that happens, the C will change meaning again and the Sox will place it on someone else's chest.

Cry me a river, Tony. He apparently thinks the sentimental value of keeping this guy is more important than how devastating it is to have this guy play everyday. He blames the team for "robbing" Varitek of negotiating leverage by offering him arbitration just so he would decline it. Really. I didn't know it was the Red Sox' decision to decline his arbitration. That was Varitek's decision, borne from the same level of delusional arrogance that makes him think that he deserves to be an everyday player in the major leagues for more than a year.

He thinks it will go on to affect other players. If they don't understand that the Red Sox are in the business of winning baseball games, they are just as clueless as Captain K.

He goes on to lament the fact that Varitek is expendible (if you hit .220, you are expendible) in the eyes of these bullies, and that the Red Sox' unwillingness to overpay him with a "thank-you" contract disrespects the fact that he's caught a lot of games and the fact that he has a hockey emblem on his uniform. No, seriously. He continues for pages about the letter C, which is something I've already denounced many times on this blog. He described it as "cold."

Here is what is forgotten here:
-It was not the Red Sox who declined arbitration.
-It was not the Red Sox who hit .220 last year.
-It was not the Red Sox who cried about playing time last postseason while being hailed for their leadership qualities.

If Varitek really cared about his standing on this team as much as Tony Massarotti cares about Varitek's standing on it, he would have started thinking rationally. He would have realized how terrible he was last year and over the past three years. He would not have asked for an asinine contract and he would not have demanded to be an everyday player.

Massarotti criticizes the team for turning this into a "cold" business. Right. The Red Sox are in the business of winning ballgames. Jason Varitek does not help them do that anymore. The Red Sox want to win, and Tony Massarotti thinks a piece of fabric on Jason Varitek's uniform--and Jason Varitek's feelings--are more important than winning.

Friday, December 12, 2008

REPORT: Burnett To The Yanks, 5/$82.5 Million

No surprise here. If you've been following, it's looked like this was going to happen for a day or two.

Not much to say on this one either. Obviously, I'm not thrilled. I don't detest this signing as much as DV would have, but I'm not happy about it either. As I said in a recent comments section, you have to deal with the peaks and valleys with Burnett. The peaks are any time he is healthy, because he is a front of the rotation pitcher. The valleys are any time he is hurt. Unfortunately, he has had a lot of valleys.

To be fair, I probably complained over 20 times on the blog this year about the Blue Jays reshuffling their rotation to get Burnett (and Halladay) into a series against the Yankees. I guess that means I didn't want to face him. Hopefully he'll make other teams feel the same way. Further, the Braves don't have a lot of money, so it at least makes me feel a little bit better that they offered almost the exact same contract. Must have seen something in him. Finally, the one thing this signing does fit in with is my desire to have the Yankees win now with Mo, Jeter, and Posada. If he's healthy, he's going to give a lot more than Hughes and Kennedy could this year, never mind guys like Rasner and Ponson. I guess those are my three silver linings. If you are going to take risks, take it on high end pitching like Burnett.

If you're the Yankees, you just have to hope that he stays healthy, because he'll help the team win. Needless to say, however, I'm not overly hopeful.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I am a professional athlete. I act like one.

On this blog, I very rarely like to talk about the other things I do in my life because nobody wants to read about that. I let Pat break the news about whatever crap I'm accomplishing as a professional distance runner. Google my name if you want to know what I've done. I don't like to talk about it because it's not relevant, but tonight it is.

By definition, I am a professional athlete. I get paid (though not very much) for competing in sports and competing at a very high level. I have busted my butt for the last decade or so to get where I am today as an athlete. And because I want to compete at a high level as an athlete, I make sacrifices. If possible, I'd like people (especially my Wilmington friends who barely see me anymore because of running) to vouch for me on this one.

I average fifteen miles a day. Every day. My last day off was July 17th. I ran eleven in the dark tonight while it was 33 degrees and raining. I rarely see my friends and I rarely go out. I usually stop eating before I am full and I don't lift weights because I don't want to gain weight. I also don't do thing that could potentially harm my body, Aaron Boone style. Much to her dismay, I will not ski nor skate with my girlfriend. I have not played basketball since August 2003, soccer since 2006 or even softball since 2007.

For this argument, I will talk about how I don't play football with my friends. While John, Matt, Mr. H, and many other people who are much bigger than me (I'm 5'9", 138) played football two weekends ago, I ran laps around the field. It is like this because I am a professional athlete and I realize that my job is contingent on my body being 100%. Therefore, I do what is necessary to keep it that way.

Hideki Okajima does not act like a professional athlete, as he is running the Honolulu Marathon this weekend.

I know that very few of the readers of HYD Baseball have any idea what it is like to run a marathon. I do, and I know the horrors associated with the last several miles of the race as well as walking for the next week or so. I have devoted ~6 months of my life to training for the two marathons I've run and they still beat the absolute piss out of me. I ran my first marathon on October 6, 2006 and I was not recovered until the third weekend of January 2007 (16 weeks). I had not fully recovered from Boston (April 21, 2007) until the end of June (9 weeks).

And running is my friggin second job. You'd think I'd recover more quickly than, say, a relief pitcher on the Red Sox, because running is all I do. On top of that, I am a lot less likely to hurt myself because I was adequately trained for each of my marathons. It is fair to assume that Hideki Okajima is NOT adequately trained to run a marathon right now.

Pedro Martinez has long been considered one of the guys who runs the most in Major League Baseball, running about five miles a day. Assuming one day off, let's say he runs 30 miles a week. You are not training properly for a marathon unless you're doing double that. And I would put the Mass Millions jackpot tonight on the fact that Okajima's not doing double that. Though some of his outings this year would indicate that he dropped a 21-miler earlier in the day.

So Okajima's ill-prepared for a marathon but he's running one anyway. This is tantamount to me playing football with Matt, Johnny, and Mr. H despite knowing full-well that two games ago one of Matt's boys Tom Brady'd his knee and the Wilmington Fire Department had to take him away in an ambulance. By Mile 1, Okajima will probably feel comfortable, as if he's starting an outing with the bases empty. By Mile 7, he'll probably be in uncharted territory and will start running like crap, as if he's inheriting runners. By mile 19 he'll be looking for Francona, and by Monday morning he won't be able to walk. I wasn't able to walk and I was prepared for the race. I could only imagine the nightmares Okajima will encounter, not being prepared for the race.

It's nice that the Red Sox are counting on the guy who won't be walking on Monday to win games next season. Maybe Theo should stop the negotiations with the guy who does not have a position open on this team and should instead forbid Okajima from doing this. He is doing something totally unavoidable that will certainly affect his season--if not directly through marathon-induced leg injuries, then by taking away from a few weeks of his off-season workouts due to soreness and fatigue.

Two weeks ago, I was well aware that I get paid to have my body in good working order. Therefore, I did not play football. It is an easy decision not to play football, because I care about the income I will get as a result of my fitness. In other words, I chose not to play football because I care about my job. That is part of being a professional athlete.

Hideki Okajima is a professional athlete, too, and he is being paid a crapload more than I am being paid. But he is choosing to make a decision that is so obviously stupid and harmful to his status as a professional athlete. He is basically asking to mess up his hip (like many of my marathoning friends, including myself). Or blow out his quad. Or have a tight hamstring for two months. Or develop a sore Achilles tendon. Or all of the above, because he shouldn't be doing marathons. Hideki Okajima is the version of me who decides to play football with Johnny, Matt, and H.

Hideki Okajima does not take his job as a professional athlete very seriously. And while I had a problem with his performance with runners on base last year, I have a HUGE problem with this.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cleveland Is The New Columbus

As in New York's AAA affiliate.

Carsten Charles Sabathia, one of the top pitchers in baseball, 2008.

Lebron James, the best player in basketball, 2010.

Obviously, I'm very happy about about this signing. The past five years, it's been Johan Santana, Roy Halladay, C.C. Sabathia, and then everybody else. The last two years, it's been C.C. Sabathia all by his lonesome, as he's been the best pitcher in baseball. For this kind of talent, you do what you have to do to get him. He's had eight consecutive seasons with 180 innings pitched or more, averaging an ERA+ of 121 over that period. He seems to have gotten better, as he's had a 140 ERA+ or better the past three seasons, averaging a whopping 152.5 ERA+ the last few seasons. His stuff is obscene, he's left-handed, he's 27, and he's allegedly a great guy. Not much not to like.

Of course, with all of these positives, the Yankees take on the risks any team takes on when they sign a pitcher, especially one with mileage. He might get hurt. He might experience a decline. But that could happen tomorrow for any pitcher in baseball. Some will point to Sabathia's Pitcher Abuse Points, which were second to only Timmy Lincecum's, because he pitched so many innings. Fair play. But Daisuke Matsuzaka came over to the U.S. with the highest PAP since the stat had been recorded, and has averaged 30.5 starts per across two seasons with Boston. He's two months younger than Sabathia. Some guys are just durable, and that could change tomorrow. So for now, I view the innings as a good thing, not a bad thing. Also, it should be noted that Sabathia's innings will be kept more in check this year without the Yankees even trying. 1) The Yankees had one of the better bullpen's in baseball in 2008, and that naturally takes pressure of CC. 2) The AL East is not the AL or NL Central, the lineups are much, much better, and guys just can't consistently get as deep into games. The Orioles, who are the worst team in the divison, might have a better 1-4 than every team in the NL Central than the Cubs (I'm looking at you JB). And oh yeah, the Yankees won't be running him out there on 3 days rest four times in a row. Just won't happen.

Quickly, we have the issue of the opt out. I like this aspect of the contract. Bronx said it best in the comments. One of two things is going to happen. 1) Sabathia pitches well, increases his value, opts out. 2) Sabathia maintains or decreases his value, and doesn't opt out. I prefer #1. First, it means Sabathia is big at least at some point during the next three years (more on this in the last paragraph). Second, it means after some good production, this becomes a three year contract. Repeat, this becomes a three year contract for perhaps the best pitcher in baseball during his primetime prime years. This is not a bad thing. Sure, it would hurt to let him go if he's been great after only three years (or pay more), but that immediate pain gets leveled off by not assuming the risk of a having a pitcher at 23 mil per when he's 34 and 35 years old. This is why we always criticize long term deals. Not for the first few years, but for the last few. This gives the Yankees a chance to potentially get the first few, and avoid the last few. Sure, maybe Sabathia will be great at age 35 (and I hope he is). But that's a big risk. A seven year deal usually gets criticized because of the risk. So a seven year deal with an opt out should be better than the seven year deal. It's not like you are talking about a player like David Wright, who at 25 you want to have until he's 32, no questions asked. You are talking about a pitcher with a lot of mileage, that you probably don't absolutely want to have until he's 35 if you had your way. This is why we talked so much about the risk with Sabathia. Not the next few years, the few after that. Now there is a chance the Yankees don't have those. It also gives the Yankees three years to develop their own pitching the way they have started to, and the way the Rays and to a lesser extent Red Sox have. That would decrease the need for a CC, the way they need him now, if he does opt out. These young pitchers may not be CC, but maybe they are more than what they are now between Joba, Hughes, Kennedy, Brackman, Betances, McAllister, and whoever else shows up between now and then. It's a numbers game, and the Yankees are playing it.

Of course, there is a chance Sabathia doesn't pitch well, declines, or gets hurt, things I all hope don't happen, obviously. If that happens he probably stays seven years, and then it's just a seven year deal. I don't get what all the fuss is about regarding this opt out.

I want to end with the most important point, a point I've made many times in this space and everywhere else. Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Jorge Posada, three great players at positions that are tough to replace, are not getting any younger. When they stop producing, the Yankees won't replicate that prouction overnight, if ever in the forseeable future, not even close. So that means the Yankees are win now. Using nothing more than dollars to sign CC is a good win now move. At the very least, if he's healthy, he's going to help them next year. The same is true of some of the other names they are chasing. When you make the most, you can, and should, spend the most. Especially when you have players that, when you lose them, it's going to become tougher to win. Hopefully CC is just the first piece. As it stands, with Wang and Posada and Matsui getting healthy, the Yankees are right back in the mix here. That's a beautiful thing.

Three Meetings In Three Days

There are always a lot of rumors going around this time of year. In years past, I had always enjoyed the rumors. Fun to think about and discuss, even just as hypotheticals, knowing 90% of them weren't going to happen. I can remember my sophomore year of college (winter '04-'05), before the beat-writer and fan blogs had really exploded, when the Gunn and I would update and read the papers online every morning to get anything we could. We've obviously come a long way in a short period of time, as the rumors have gotten out of control.

And that's a problem for me. These rumors are actually out of control now. So much so that it's actually not as enjoyable for me as it used to be. Anything that gets mentioned gets turned into a story. It's too much.

Dealing in fact regarding the Yankees, we know three things about these winter meetings for sure. 1) They met with C.C. Sabathia Sunday in Las Vegas. 2) They met with C.C. Sabathia Monday in Las Vegas. 3) Brian Cashman flew, seemingly last minute as he cancelled other engagements (that he wouldn't have otherwise made) to meet with C.C. Sabathia Tuesday in the greater San Fransisco area, where Sabathia resides.

Now I'm certainly not going to proclaim a deal done. But that's three meetings in three days, with the last one pulling the General Manager of a baseball team away from one of the most important events General Managers of baseball teams have. Not rumor. Fact. Something is clearly going on here, and I'd venture to say it's one of the following four things:

1. The Yankees are closing in on a deal with C.C. Sabathia, period.
2. C.C. Sabathia is interested, but his wife/family aren't sold.
3. The Yankees are really desparate (I'd say unlikely, because if Sabathia was giving them bad vibes, I doubt Cashman would fly to California to meet with him, and I doubt Sabathia would invite him to do so).
4. C.C. Sabathia is doing an outstanding job of playing the Yankees.

Now, this is pure speculation on my part. Speculation is different than rumor. I'm not stating that anything has happened without it happening. I'm offering a wide range of opinion on what might be happening based on a clear set of facts, and I'll even add in the obvious disclaimer that there are many more possibilities. Just want to make sure I'm not being a total sellout, writing a post largely bashing the rumormongering going on, then participating myself. Also want to make sure my logic/reasoning is all tuned up before my first career Law School Exam tomorrow evening (Gunn, Kaplan, please feel free to check up on me here).

Things are about to get interesting this winter I think. That's a good thing.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Day 2 Action

I really don’t have much time to put up an intricate blog post this morning, but things seem to be blowing up in Las Vegas so far this morning. Lots of interesting things to talk about. Sabathia wanting to pitch for the Dodgers. Francisco Rodriguez being close to a three-year, $37 million deal. Burnett being close to signing with the Braves (suckers). There are two things I want to point out, and I’ll make it quick.

I was reading the Globe today and a part of an article I read made no sense to me:

“They have acknowledged their holes - catcher, a righthanded-hitting outfielder, and a corner infielder.”

I’m sorry—in an article on the next page, there was information about how well Mike Lowell’s recovery is going. Did he have a hip injury or did his leg fall off, rendering him worthless for the duration of this three-year contract? I still find it mind-boggling that Lowell is a “hole” but Lugo/Lowrie is not a “hole.” Or is it Youkilis that is the hole?

And on the Rodriguez news, I did the research. He originally wanted $15 million a year over five years. He’s on the verge of conceding to three years at $12.3 per. That is not THAT much of a discrepancy. Going three years instead of five is a function of two things:

-Teams knowing that many closers cannot stay effective that long. This is a stark contrast to the incredibly stupid deals given out in the last two offseasons.
-Rodriguez acknowledging that this year is a slight down year and delaying his push for big bucks until three years from now, when the economy might not be in the crapper anymore.

I very much agree with Buster Olney in his article yesterday (subscription required) when he wrote that owners are using the bad economy as a crutch and an excuse to keep salaries at a reasonable level after things really got out of hand the last two years. But let’s face it. Even the disappointing contract signed by Rodriguez is not that far away from what he was asking for. This happens every year—players sign for less than they want because teams have more sense than that.

But the thought of F-Rod signing for 3/$15, as Olney suggested last week, is just not going to happen. Doug Brocail got paid. Edgar Renteria got paid. And those guys kinda suck. Similarly, Rafael Furcal is going to get paid handsomely, and so is Manny.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Napoli Dynamite

Movement in the catcher market this morning, which is bad news for the Red Sox. First, thankfully, Captain K Jason Varitek declined arbitration, ensuring against a sure-thing Varitek comeback. Second, and this news is not so good for Red Sox fans, Texas starting catcher Gerald Laird was traded to Detroit for a couple of minor league pitchers. Therefore, the surplus of catchers in that organization no longer exists, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden likely splitting time at catcher in Texas. Now the market for catchers is even thinner and the probability of watching Varitek getting paid to strike out eight or nine times a week for the next two years is much higher for Red Sox fans.

However, it has been rumored that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are open to trading one of their catchers. They have Jeff Mathis, who was at one time a first-round draft pick, but is now in serious trouble of being regarded as a four-A player, posting good stats at AAA but putrid stats in the majors. By putrid, I mean even worse than Varitek’s.

However, Mathis is not the only one rumored to be on the trading block. Also available at the right price is Mike Napoli, who according to an author, is the catching version of Adam Dunn. In basically half a season last year (he split time with Mathis), Napoli hit twenty home runs, a figure Varitek has only exceeded twice in full seasons. A pull hitter, the right-handed Napoli would be helped (but only slightly) by the presence of the left-field wall at Fenway Park, but let’s be honest, the wall-balls he hits will probably be singles instead of doubles.

There’s still question on whether Napoli could be a full-time starter in the major leagues, but he hit .274 in his limited time in 2008 with a slugging percentage of ..586. It helps when a third of your hits are home runs. He’s 26 years old. He’s a Red Sox killer, which Theo Epstein friggin loves because he signed Julio Lugo. He’s never played a full season, which might slightly help his price in terms of prospects. Not the perfect catcher by any stretch of the imagination. But when your alternative is two more years of Jason Varitek--at ANY price--as Mills Lane once said, “it’s not quite right, but it’ll do.”

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Short Reminder:

The economic sky is NOT falling.

Before the winter meetings even started, we’ve seen a lot of action in the shortstop market. We’ve had the Khalil Greene trade, Edgar Renteria signed for a decent amount of money, and Rafael Furcal surprisingly turning down a very generous contract from Oakland. It’s very interesting to see the developments with the free agents, because both cases show how the economy may slow down the free agent market but really not that much.

Let’s start with Renteria. It may be unthinkable that Renteria could have possibly had a worse season than the one he had with Boston, but he did. He posted an OPS+ of 84, had a .317 OBP paired with a .270 batting average, 55 RBIs, and a miserable 34 extra-base hits. During the entire duration of his last contract, he showed, more or less, that he is not in the first or probably even second tier of shortstops in Major League Baseball. However, he still found a way to get more than nine million dollars a year. Seeing that he was hideously overpaid at $10 million/year after several decent seasons, he is still hideously overpaid at $9.25 million/year after several decent seasons and two very shaky seasons.

Meanwhile, last week at HYD Baseball we were discussing how much it would cost for the Red Sox to acquire Rafael Furcal. For some reason, there has been very little talk on the Red Sox acquiring a shortstop. Lugo is probably a minor league player and Jed Lowrie was a nice role player but probably shouldn’t play everyday for the Red Sox with his .258/2/46 and his .739 OPS over exactly half a season. (Then again, he only had four fewer XBHs than Renteria did). But nobody’s even mentioning getting a shortstop around here; everyone’s talking about Mark Teixeira despite the fact that the Red Sox already have a first baseman. Numbers thrown out ranged between 2/16 and 3/36.

Well, we now know how much is NOT enough to acquire Furcal. And that is 4/35 to 4/40. Yikes. So in this economy, Furcal is looking for more than Edgar Renteria did three years ago in a good economy. Yes, it is still to be seen whether he is going to get more than that from another team. But if the Oakland A’s are willing to invest 4/35-40, it doesn’t sound like MLB is going to need a bailout from the federal government.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary, Red Sox fans. It was two years ago today that the Red Sox spent $106 million in two hours for a borderline major leaguer and a glorified Trot Nixon. In honor of this magnificent event, Pat and I decided to go into the vault and pull out an old AOL Instant Messenger conversation we had the day it happened. It is largely uncut; it is slightly edited for language and typos.

And before you ask, there's a well-defined reason I decided to save this conversation. Because the time we were talking, we both knew that Julio Lugo and JD Drew were gonna be deplorable. And sure enough, that's how the last two years went, minus four swings and the month of June 2008. There are asterisks next to some of the text; they will refer to clarifications at the end of the document.

DV: Go Royals

Auto response from PAT F: andy pettitte one time please

Auto response from DV: LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL--The Boston Red Sox have been busy during the winter meetings, especially trying to find a closer*. They are interested in washed-up closer Eric Gagne, who has not been effective since an injury almost wrecked his career two years ago. In other news, the Sox are also negotiating with Heathcliff Slocumb, Mitch Williams, and Dick Radatz. The Daily Profile* tried to reach Radatz, but considering he died in 2005, they are not expecting him to answer the phone.

DV: Go [tr]uckin Royals
DV: By the way, I'm sure you've read my away message
DV: I've also heard that the Yankees are actively pursuing Radatz, and that Joe Torre is planning on using him 120 times this season
PAT F: haha ur gonna have to explain this to me
PAT F: drew signs with red sox
PAT F: 5 years
PAT F: 70 million
DV: I mean, I have nothing left to say about this
PAT F: had u heard
PAT F: or did i break the news
DV: You broke it
PAT F: goodness
PAT F: my apologies
PAT F: why not save that money and spend it on dmat
DV: Because we need a dirt dog
PAT F: hahahha
DV: A guy who's injured more than he's healthy
DV: A right fielder who has never had 101 RBIs
DV: Never had 32 home runs
PAT F: so ur pumped
DV: I'm perplexed
DV: This is like getting Dumpsgivinged* though you saw it coming
DV: And getting replaced by some drug addict new boyfriend that [she’s] gotta bail out of jail all the time
DV: Dumpsgiving, by the way, is what happens when a HS couple goes out, then goes to college and tries to stay together
DV: Trot Nixon deserves 13.9 million dollars a year
DV: On Thanksgiving, the couple decides it was a good run but you gotta go your separate ways
PAT F: sorry phone
PAT F: my dad is in china on business on just emailed me to tell me that they are doing a deal with a puerto rican shoe for bobby abreu and that he just met him and got an autograph for me
PAT F: he knows these are the things i live for and i needed to get in touch
DV: Wow, that's awesome
PAT F: great example on dumpsgiving
PAT F: and great terminology
DV: I feel like Bill Simmons making that comparison
PAT F: hahahah
DV: And that is not good
PAT F: i just dont understand this
PAT F: 70 million and FIVE years
PAT F: i mean thats an investment
PAT F: my buddy just made a great point (well i think it is)
PAT F: hes a red sox fan, ull prolly disagree
PAT F: but he said why let damon go over the same money
PAT F: when damon was a centerpiece of the team
PAT F: and u brought in a guy like coco* to replace him
DV: Exactly
DV: Exactly
DV: I mean, they were saying that in the papers like two or three days ago
DV: $10 million and four years was not good enough for Damon
DV: And I agree with that
DV: I totally agree with that
DV: But that would insinuate some kind of consistency
PAT F: hahahha
DV: If Johnny Damon, who will suck for 2008 and 2009, is not worth $10 million a year
DV: Then JD Drew, who will suck for 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 is not worth $14 million a year
DV: I really must be missing something here
DV: I mean, I totally missed how worthwhile the Edgar Renteria deal was
DV: Cabrera wasn't worth 3 years/24 million
PAT F: haha uh oh
PAT F: ur fired up
DV: But Edgar Renteria was worth 4 years/40 million
PAT F: hahahh funniest thing i read today was that theo inquired about ocabs in a manny deal
DV: I'm not fired up, I am just perplexed
DV: Absolutely [gosh darn] perplexed
PAT F: hahahha
PAT F: im with u man
DV: No, seriously, I mean, how the [he]ck am I gonna root for this team?
PAT F: i mean we have reached a level where we can talk bluntly
DV: With the front office so [stin]king stupid and arrogant
PAT F: when u make accurate points about the yankees im right there with u
DV: People selling ID cards
PAT F: and this is just plain nonsensical
DV: to make sure you are a "real fan"
DV: And then doing this inconsistent thing in the name of rebuilding
DV: This sure is rebuilding something
PAT F: wow
PAT F: great point
PAT F: they must know they are signing dmat tho
PAT F: so at least that is good news
DV: No they're not
PAT F: because there is no way they think they can sign drew for this kind of money
PAT F: and expect to tell a fan base that they arent bringing in dmat
DV: They're not signing Matsuzaka
DV: There's no way
DV: There are only nine days left
PAT F: but u just cant do that
PAT F: u cannot do that
DV: They are several million dollars away
PAT F: u cant sign drew for 14 per
DV: Okay, you also cannot do a lot of things they have done
PAT F: and not sign dmat
DV: They are f[arm]ing retarded
DV: I hate this team
DV: I really hate the f[lipp]ing Red Sox
DV: They are not signing Matsuzaka
PAT F: i really think they will
PAT F: matsuzaka cannot go back
PAT F: they know it
PAT F: boras knows it
PAT F: it will go down to the last second
PAT F: and matsuzaka will play for 4 years 60 million
PAT F: 5 years 75
PAT F: something like that
DV: Nope
DV: Red Sox are that stupid
DV: They'll be taken to the f[rigg]in cleaners
DV: And will back out at the last minute
DV: Because he's not worth it
DV: They will say
DV: But JD Drew, whose stats are as good as Trot Nixon's, is worth $14 million a year
PAT F: ok
PAT F: i guess we will see
PAT F: u know better than i
DV: No, I don't
DV: I'm not a card-carrying Red Sox Nation member
DV: And even if I was for 2006, I have to pay another $60 for a 2007 card
PAT F: really?
PAT F: are there perks
PAT F: in other news, the yankees (who still have problems because arod is on the roster) seem to continue in being sensical
PAT F: andy pettitte is the top priority
PAT F: which is a great move
PAT F: and they havent made and stupid trades or overspenditures (stay tuned)
PAT F: ocabs wasnt worth it
PAT F: but lugo is?
PAT F: i am not in any way taking glory in this
PAT F: in fact i feel for u probably more than anyone (ive been there)
PAT F: but this has to be one of the worst days in ur life as a red sox fan
DV: That is accurate
DV: I can't talk much
DV: But oh my God
DV: Go Royals
PAT F: wow
PAT F: jd drew will be making more next year than vladimir
PAT F: and slightly less than back to back 20 game winner roy oswalt
PAT F: who has only once in his career had an era over 3.01
DV: Hey man, Boston got the best .286 lifetime hitter (though his OBP is about 75 pts higher than their leadoff hitter's) who's never had more than 31 home runs or 100 RBI who's ever played the game
DV: Not to mention that he has only exceeded 30 doubles once in his life
PAT F: not to mention hes 31
PAT F: and has played 140 games or more twice
DV: .244 against lefties
PAT F: is lugo playing short or second?
PAT F: and dont say both
DV: Both*
DV: Short
DV: You know how the Sox benched Nixon against lefties?
PAT F: yea
DV: I mean, just by means of discussion
DV: Nixon last year against righties was .297
DV: Drew .296
PAT F: ok
DV: Nixon, with many more "injury-plagued" seasons still has more seasons with more than 30 doubles
DV: As well as a 29 and a 27
DV: Lugo, we've already talked about his merits
DV: I'd say he's a bargain at 8 million a year
PAT F: 9 no?
DV: I mean, I'm sure when I read 4 years, 32 million they forgot to carry the six
DV: 4 years, 92 million is more like it
PAT F: 4 years 36 or 32
DV: I think it's 32
PAT F: hahaahaha
DV: Gotta outbid yourself, Theo
DV: Okay, no, arright, I gotta go
DV: Friday lunch?
DV: Me you and Bandi again?
DV: Because I will have a lot to say
PAT F: i will be there
PAT F: and its 36 according to epsn
PAT F: yea i wont miss taht
DV: I heard they're going really hard after Dick Radatz
PAT F: hahah who is that
DV: Red Sox closer of the 1960s
DV: He died in 2005
DV: I mean, I figure, if they're going after washed up pieces of s[cum] like Gagne
PAT F: haaahha
DV: Why not go after guys who are dead?
PAT F: hahahaha
PAT F: u truly are unbelievable
DV: I figure Radatz will not throw any pitches, and therefore do a better job than Gagne would
PAT F: unprecendented
DV: He will walk fewer guys, give up fewer hits, runs, and home runs
PAT F: i dont know if we can have this convo in dana*
DV: No, that's the thing, it's not unprecedented
PAT F: it might scare people
DV: I wrote a series of profiles after the Yankees started sub-.500 in 2005
PAT F: u my friend are unprecedented
PAT F: saying?
DV: Talking about how the corpse of Billy Martin would do a better job at managing the
Yankees than Joe Torre
PAT F: ok
DV: I wrote mock articles, quoting guys like Tom Gordon
PAT F: hhahaha ok
DV: I would pull them up for you, but I have work to do
PAT F: aight man
DV: I'm done with baseball for the night
PAT F: hahaha aight man
PAT F: i dont blame u
DV: If I keep on doing baseball stuff, only thing that will happen is I'll get pissed off
DV: Talk to ya later
PAT F: one thing before u go
PAT F: igawas breaking ball is sub par
PAT F: looked up some more numbers
PAT F: hes gonna struggle against big league lefties more than i expected
PAT F: and he owned righties in japan, righties in america are going to hit him i think*
DV: 26 million is an awful lot
PAT F: hes primarily fastball with a GREAT change
PAT F: so we will see
PAT F: it will be a great barometer of how these japanese guys really are right now
PAT F: peace kid
PAT F: and by the way
PAT F: i expect unreal away messages and profiles about this
DV: For starters I'm just gonna quote you
PAT F: haha aight
PAT F: this profile has serious potential
DV: I know it does
PAT F: i mean
PAT F: jd drew
PAT F: and lugo
PAT F: in 2 hours
DV: Check it out
DV: I'm pretty happy about it
PAT F: aight man
PAT F: profile or awayer?

Auto response from DV: Nancy Drew and Julio ".219" Lugo in the same day? Come on! Throw Helen Keller in there and they're unstoppable!*
PAT F: but this has to be one of the worst days in ur life as a red sox fan
[just to clarify, I was quoting what Pat said earlier in the conversation]

PAT F: i just sent that to cohen [the Big Ticket]
PAT F: and i can hear him laughing out loud in the next room
PAT F: thats the funniest [stin]kin thing ive ever seen
DV: I don't feel bad at all about comparing those guys to Helen Keller
DV: I mean, she's actually probably better at baseball than they are
PAT F: u have bill simmons like analogy potential
PAT F: thats absolutely incredible
PAT F: cohen is still laughing
PAT F: the only question is do i quote that in my awayer
DV: It would bring me a lot more street cred
DV: I think if Bandi saw it, it might be in his profile
PAT F: it definitely will
PAT F: cohen just goes
PAT F: julio lugo [tr]uckin sucks
PAT F: every time i look at it im like wow
PAT F: hahahah
PAT F: but urs
PAT F: bandi has ur screen name, obviosuly?
DV: Yeah
PAT F: ill alert him to it
PAT F: actually, ill send it to him
PAT F: that will make his profile
DV: I think I'm keeping it up for a while
PAT F: because i already alerted him that u may be on suicide watch the way i was during the melky cabrera benching experiement
DV: You spelled Drew's first name wrong, by the way
PAT F: when i was "perplexed"
PAT F: hhahhaha
DV: Please get it right: "Nancy" or "DL"
PAT F: hahha i will
PAT F: i need a lugo nickname from u
DV: Julio Lugo: The Greatest .219 Hitter Who Ever Lived
PAT F: haahaha
DV: I guess I can just change it to the Greatest
PAT F: julio hero
PAT F: i love play on names
DV: Julio Yugo
PAT F: hahaaha
PAT F: thats what im talkin about
PAT F: u know i love things like judy tavaranez
PAT F: and kyle farnsworthless
PAT F: big useless
DV: Farnsworthless is pretty good
DV: Worthlessburger
PAT F: hahaahaha
PAT F: thats a great one
PAT F: julio useless
PAT F: julio lugie
DV: Oooh, that's a good one
DV: But that might draw too many similarities to Roberto Alomar*
DV: Who, for a portion of his career, deserved a spot on a major league roster
PAT F: are the boston papers going to light theo on fire tomorrow?
PAT F: or praise him
DV: The New York Times Company, who owns 17% of the Boston Globe (that [idiot] Shaughnessy says that every time he says anything negative about the team)
DV: I mean
DV: The Times Company, who controls the Globe, owns 17% of the Sox
PAT F: so they wont
PAT F: but what about the globe
PAT F: and the herald
DV: The Globe won't say anything negative, that's what I mean
DV: The Herald might
PAT F: does the times own the globe?
DV: Yeah
PAT F: ah, didnt know that
PAT F: wow, great piece of info
PAT F: aight man
PAT F: ill let u go
DV: Sounds good man
DV: I'll talk to ya later

*Papelbon was slated to start; the Red Sox were talking a 1-2 year contract with Gagne. I was strongly against this. I was, however, okay with trading for him nine months later, as he pitched well the first four months of the 2007 season--he had proven himself as someone who could still pitch. Oops.
*The last incarnation of my writing before HYD Baseball was my AIM profile, which I updated very frequently. It was not baseball-specific.
*I give 100% credit for the Dumpsgiving concept to my boy Johnny Lee.
*This was when I was still very much anti-Coco Crisp. I changed my tune at the end of that month.
*Shortly before this conversation, I had been riding in my teammate's car. He was reading the Ted Williams book. Ted's favorite word was "syphilitic."
*A reference to an obnoxious Red Sox Nation membership commercial on NESN, featuring Coco's dad.
*Per our conversation earlier that week regarding Theo's wood, I said that in Theo's eyes Lugo could play the entire infield and Coco and Nancy could cover the entire outfield.
*Dana is the only respectable dining hall at Colby.
*Looks like Pat was pretty right about Kei Igawa.
*A reference to an obnoxious "One Nation, One Network" commercial on NESN, specifically the line of "Schilling and Beckett in the same rotation? Come on. Throw Wakefield in there and they're unstoppable." This ad ran at least 20 times over the course of a NESN-televised game in April 2006.
*In September 1996, Roberto Alomar landed a loogie right on umpire John Hirschbeck. Instead of suspending Alomar during the 1996 playoffs and probably making Jeff Maier's life totally irrelevant, MLB suspended Alomar in April 1997. Obscure references are my forte.

Conversations like this happened at least twice a week, and we had already talked about how there was a clear reason Julio Lugo didn't play everyday for the Dodgers: Because he wasn't a good baseball player. We discussed Epstein's irrational wood for the guy and how he tried to trade for Lugo at least twice. We discussed how he always played well against the Red Sox and I theorized that in a Red Sox uniform would continue to hurt the Red Sox. I called him a borderline major leaguer. So many Lugo rants were sadly not present in this conversation.

But as you read, Pat broke the JD Drew news to me. They spent $106 million in two hours on JD Drew and Julio Lugo. After two more months of similar tirades from both Pat and I, How Youz Doin Baseball was born.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Evaluating Theo Epstein

We are approaching the two year anniversary of Black Wednesday, the day the Red Sox spent $106 million on J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo. But I'd say now that it's the offseason, it's high time to take a brief look at what the GM has done since 2002. We talk quite a bit about Brian Cashman, his highs, and his lows, but that's largely because he doesn't have almost a unanimous approval rating. Epstein does, and if I don't take that day two years ago into account, I'd give him my unabashed approval as well. But let's take a brief look.

The Good: The development of the minor leagues is out of this world. The Red Sox are probably the first or second team to develop the business model of "we're going to wean ourselves off of free agency through superior scouting and minor league development." Tampa is probably the only team to outdo the Red Sox, and what Epstein has done is what Cashman wants to do. I mean, look at all these home-grown players: Pedroia, Papelbon, Lowrie, Lester, Buchholz, Youkilis (though he was drafted by Duquette's people), and many others who have come and gone. It's a testament to their scouting, their effectiveness in throwing money around during the draft, and minor league coaching and workload philosophies. Epstein and his people have done some good work.

He has also done a good job putting emotions away and getting rid of guys when it's time. Nomar, Lowe, Pedro, Manny, Shea Hillenbrand, Bronson Arroyo, Craig Hansen, and others. Due to this I believe he is smart enough to let Varitek walk. He's done a decent job being clever in bringing people in, including the Matsuzaka negotiations, bringing in Schilling in the first place, and what I consider a true masterpiece in the weight incentive-laden contract extension for Schilling. The second part is very strong, but the minor league development is second to none. Sox are a model organization thanks to this guy and his boys.

The bad: A few things here. He hasn't been able to put together a good bullpen, and he's bombed time after time filling in the 5th/6th starter spots. We've seen a list of the characters that haven't worked. This is the most obvious.

The second most obvious "bad" category is the lack of patience that has been characteristic of his entire regime. Before you say "but what about the farm system???/," think about the following: The Red Sox traded for Coco Crisp...then EXTENDED him...when they had this center fielder tearing up the farm system. The Red Sox, unwilling to give Orlando Cabrera a few years because of his blocking of Hanley Ramirez's spot, decided to give Edgar Renteria four years. And I believe the Red Sox will become serious players in the Teixeira sweepstakes, ignoring not just the fact that they already have two corner infielders, but also have Lars Anderson blowing up the Eastern League. I don't care what Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell have shown flashes of in this town; I will still never get over the fact that they traded Hanley Ramirez. The whole Ramirez situation is a microcosm of this lack of patience.

Another thing worth mentioning is the presence of arrogant and unethical business practices. What's the deal with signing Bronson Arroyo with the understanding that it's a home-town discount--then trading him away? What's the deal with the bad blood with Colorado regarding an Eric Byrnes trading deadline trade? What's the deal with the Lucchino bad blood? What's the deal with the Los Angeles tampering rumors regarding J.D. Drew? What's the deal with the smear campaigns against Manny Ramirez, Orlando Cabrera, Johnny Damon, and Nomar Garciaparra? What's the deal with the steroid involvement with Gagne, Donnelly, and Byrd? What's the deal with the violation of an international handshake agreement regarding not signing undrafted Japanese players? I could go on forever, baby!

The Ugly: December 6, 2006. As I've cited many times before, Seth Mnookin wrote in "Feeding the Monster" that this group showed a rational coolness instead of falling in love with a player with an inflated reputation. December 6, 2006 is just another example of how Epstein DOES indeed have wood for some players, and those players are often pretty terrible.

Overall, if I were to give Theo Epstein a grade, I'd give him a C+, citing his ineptitude at navigating the free agent market. I understand this is lower than the average Sox fan's grade for the guy, as I estimate that only 7 out of 20 average-to-knowledgeable Red Sox fans would dare criticize the guy at all. If not for December 6, 2006, I'd probably give him a B. But I am eager to find out what you guys think.