Friday, January 30, 2009

One hour left. Do the right thing.

So Jason Varitek has expressed his intense loyalty toward the Boston Red Sox by saying that if he doesn't get the money he wants, he will hold out through the 2009 season. If that doesn't say, "hey, I would do anything for this team," I don't know what does.

That's why the Red Sox should do the right thing. They should rescind the offer to this scumbag, walk away, and move forward.

If Jason Varitek would rather retire than play baseball for less money next year, than he better do it, and decrease the surplus population of terrible baseball players looking for a job.

If they indeed sign Varitek, I am going to make a diagram. On one side, there will by the Red Sox. On the other side will be "Progress." And in the middle, keeping the Red Sox from progress, stand Varitek and Clay Buchholz (whom Texas would accept straight up for Jarrod Saltalamacchia). Signing the guy for one year, as we've said here all along, is signing him for too long. Because he sucks at baseball. And needless to say, if you suck at baseball AND you're making outrageous contract demands AND you are so apathetic about the team you claim to love so much that you will retire if you don't get your money, you are not worth negotiating with.

Massarotti cried about this fact this morning, saying that if Varitek doesn't accept the offer in the next 45 minutes, both sides will be left with a situation they don't want. But I'm not entirely sure why the Red Sox really want to go into the season with one of the worst offensive players in baseball last year. I think the most desirable situation here is that Varitek doesn't accept the offer and the Red Sox can move forward instead of taking a step backwards here.

They've ignored sentimentality in the past, trading Bronson Arroyo despite him taking a hometown discount and making a gentlemen's agreement that he won't be traded. They would have done it again if they had acquired the role player and been forced into trading Mike Lowell, someone who also took less money to play in Boston.

But they're taking sentimentality into account for someone who is so much of a baby that he is threatening to hold out, like he's done before when he decided to spit in the face of the team that drafted him in 1994. Jason Varitek no longer deserves an ounce of sentimentality. Behavior like this should not be rewarded with anything more than "have a nice retirement."

That's why it's time to let go. Jason Varitek should not be on the Red Sox an hour from now.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

One day left. Get a catcher.

It's 11:26 PM on Wednesday night, and surely 48.5 hours from now, the Red Sox and Jason Varitek are going to be going to the last minute on contract negotiations. That is ridiculous; baseball players who will likely contribute to a negative value are not worth this amount of a headache, nevermind three posts on this blog in one week. So the Red Sox should do something about it: Trade for a catcher, tell Captain K to stick it, and move forward, not backward, in trying to build a good team for 2009 and above.

This morning, Tony Massarotti thinks Captain K should take the money in an absurd article that suggests that Varitek "deserved a lot better" than what he was put through this winter. The Herald's Darren Garnick cries for Varitek because despite all his "Employee of the Year" plaques, the Red Sox aren't going to overpay for him to do nothing productive as if he were a bank president reading the New York Times from cover to cover every day just as a "thank you" for previous hard work. Of course, Darren Garnick wasn't writing about baseball in 2005, when Varitek got his $40 million gift contract. He further cries about how Varitek's interest in Heidi Watney is going to cost him half of whatever he gets. It is not difficult to keep it in your pants, especially when millions of dollars are at stake.

Whatever.

The real business at hand here is winning baseball games. And if the Red Sox were interested in winning baseball games, they should be thinking about finding a more productive way to use those 450 at-bats Jason Varitek wants. Such as, say, Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Yup, this is a guy we talked about in November and haven't really stopped talking about. As Mr. H suggested in the other day's comments section, we here at HYD Baseball were certainly open to trading Clay Buchholz PLUS someone else in many cases. Let's take a look at the scorecard:

Craig (September 16, 2008): Buchholz/Bowden/Masterson straight up for Saltalamacchia.
Pat (November 4): Bowden plus #46, or "a package built around" Buchholz.
Mr. H: Buchholz AND Bowden.
Bandi: Masterson OR 46 straight up, but not 46 plus Buchholz.
The GM: Buchholz and Bowden OR 46 and Bowden.

And the Red Sox won't even trade Triple-A Clay. The Rangers have said they would trade Saltalamacchia straight up for Buchholz, so if Bandi, Pat, Mr. H, me, or even Craig were the GM, the Red Sox wouldn't even be talking to the Old Man and the C. The Red Sox would have filled a hole.

True, it would be with a question mark, but there is no question about what Varitek is: Bad.

Plus, I feel like the Red Sox have a more urgent need for a question-mark catcher than they do for a question-mark seventh starter who had an ERA+ of 68 and a WHIP of 1.76 last year.

The Red Sox should put the stubbornness away and trade Buchholz for Saltalamacchia straight up. Tonight. The Rangers are willing. So let's get it done.

Any FA's You're Interested In?

As I peruse Tim Dierkes' list of remaining available free agents, it's beyond shocking that February is only four days away. Names like Manny Ramirez, Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, Orlando Hudson, Orlando Cabrera. All of these players are major contributors and can help between 30 teams (Manny) and most teams (the other four). There are other names out there as well, especially as you delve into guys I think are still great bench/role guy like Doug Mientkiewicz.

None of these players are going to be getting even close to the years and dollars they would in greener economic conditions. As such, it might make big market teams (like the Yankees and Red Sox), who would want nothing to do with these players at extended years and dollars, more interested. There is a big difference between Orlando Cabrera as shortstop security for Jed Lowrie and backing up 2B at 3/$30 than there is at 1/$5. I have no knowledge what the actual market for him is, but you get the point. The same is true, to different extents, for all of the players listed above as well as any remaining FA.

So my question becomes, if you are the Yankees or Red Sox, are there any remaining free agents you'd at least kick the tires on? The name I just can't get away from for the Yanks is Adam Dunn. It doesn't make a lot of sense. The DH and the outfield slots are already at capacity. Of course, you could make the case that signing him allows you to trade someone else for something (like a proven player without a lot of contract left in center). The issue is, who do you trade? Matsui probably can't play the field anymore, is coming off two knee surgeries, and is making $13 million in '09. That's not very attractive, going to be tough to move. You could easily move Nady, but now you lose a very valuable righty bat vs. lefties (.308/.383/.470 career) for a lefty bat vs. lefties (.242/.373/.497). It's not a terrible dropoff, but facing lefties is a reality of baseball, and it's one the Yankees have not handled well of late. You need good righties to neutralize, and Nady is just that. You could even more easily move Swisher because he is so cost controlled (definitely the most attractive player of the three to other teams), but with the Yankees already losing Matsui, Damon, and Nady after '09, I think they can ill afford to be that unprepared in the outfield entering next winter.

So, Adam Dunn is basically the exact kind of case I'm talking about here. If he was set to make serious money at serious years, it wouldn't even be a thought because it would make no sense. As it stands, it still doesn't make that much sense. But it makes some sense, especially if it really ends up being something like 1 year and under $10 million. He is a better hitter than Matsui, Nady, and Swisher, so anything you give in moving them you probably get back with his bat. Sliding 40 home runs into the 5 hole behind Rodriguez and Teixeira would make this offense silly. Further, if this is what it took, they could give him a few extra years. As I mentioned, the Yankees are losing so much after this year, there would be room for a bat like his essentially being a full-time DH moving forward for 2-3 more years. The only issue there becomes the Yankees need to DH Posada as they almost undoubtedly pursue Joe Mauer.

I don't think this will happen, but it's definitely something to think about. Any others for the Yanks and/or Sox you guys see as potential fits, or at least something worth kicking the tires on?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Loyalty

Per Buster Olney (subscription required) via Alex Speier of WEEI.com:
Here is where they stand in the impasse: Varitek is asking for an annual salary close to the $10 million to $12 million he would've made through arbitration or a two-year deal for less annual salary.

After paying Varitek handsomely for, in Olney’s words, “services rendered in the past” between 2005 and 2008, the Red Sox don’t want to pay $10-12 million a year for a catcher who will contribute to more losses on the field than he would if he were not on the field. And Varitek wants another “thank-you” contract.

The sticking point in these negotiations is money, as of last Saturday. But you’re right, Boston. At this point, Varitek just wants to come back to Boston. He’s very loyal to his team, and didn’t want to go anywhere else. The impending deal is good news, not bad news.

It sickens me that the sticking point in these negotiations is NOT the fact that the Red Sox would rather not have a liability on their team than have a liability on their team. Instead, it’s about Varitek’s unreasonable contract demands. And now in today's Globe, we find out that Varitek would prefer a one-year deal to the two-year deal being offered. So he could hit free agency again next winter and maybe make money with another team or holding the Red Sox hostage…again…provided he’s not the worst player in baseball.

Loyal.

Somewhere, Ben Sheets, who is still unemployed, is crying. Several years ago he took a significant home-town discount to avoid free agency. Are you telling me he wouldn’t have cashed in after 2006 more than he’s going to cash in this winter?

But this freaking city is talking about how loyal Jason Varitek has been.

Monday, January 26, 2009

REPORT: Yankees Sign Pettitte

Allegedly 5.5 million guaranteed, up to $12 million in incentives. One of the truly bright days in Yankee history.

Not much to say here, we know Pettitte pretty well at this point. 200 innings of league average or better in 5 of the last 6 years, 10 of 14 for his career, including last year. For all the reasons below, this is a great move for the Yankees. Making the contract incentives based is a nice, unexpected addition.

Are The Yankees Ready For Spring Training?

Not in my opinion. It might be difficult for some to take that statment seriously based on what the Yankees have done this off-season to improve their club, and how they look on paper (which is quite good). But the reality is, the Yankees lost a lot from last year's club. There has been much talk about the $88 million that has come off the payroll, but not so much about the lost production of the players that were getting paid that money. Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Jason Giambi, and Bobby Abreu were all between productive and incredibly productive in 2008. The Yankees have added a lot, but they had a lot to replace.

And they still have one more hole to fill. The lineup is going to be just fine. If the keep Nady and Swisher, as I believe they should, it will be even better. Same goes for the bench. With those two, the bench will have at least one viable bat on it every night, and give Girardi plenty of matchup options. The rest of the bench won't be overwhelming, but that is the nature of most benches. Molina is as good a defensive catcher as you are going to find in the game, whoever is sitting between Gardner and Melky provides at least one positive thing, and right now you hope you get something out of Cody Ransom or Angel Berroa when needed. The key is to stay healthy, and not have to rely on your bench too much. Then your bench is fine, and that goes for most teams. When you get injured and ask bench players for something like 80 games, you are usually in trobule. The Yankees had a fringe top five bullpen in baseball last year, and if Rivera doesn't falter it should only be better with a full-season of Marte and Bruney, as well as the likely impact of rookie to be Mark Melancon.

Which brings us to the rotation, the one area I still feel the Yankees can significantly upgrade themselves. I said back in December that, if given the choice between a bat and another starter, I preferred the bat. I meant it, and I got my wish the following week with Mark Teixeira. However, it does not outwardly appear (and I certainly have no knowledge of the Yankees' payroll plans) that it was an either/or situation. The Yankees estimated 2009 payroll at this time is $186 million, or $23 million less than 2008. With arbitration cases finished, that is pretty much a complete number if they make no further moves. We've heard all winter that the Yankees wanted to cut payroll, and they have. But, with that $23 million figure in mind, it is clearly possible that they can add another impact player if they wish and still cut payroll by $13-15 million at least.

Which brings us to the rotation. Let's make a huge, huge assumption for a second, and say the four current rotation members (CC, Wang, AJ, and Joba) stay healty. Very few rotations stay healthy all year, but we'll deal with that in a second, and make this assumption for now. Joba still has an innings limit of 150 (you need 200 from your #4), and you need five starters in baseball, not four. That's another 150. Right now, the Yankees have 200 innings unaccounted for, and if they make no additions it will be one or some combination of Hughes, Kennedy, and Aceves.

Now, make no mistake about it, this could work out. We expected the world from Hughes last year and he gave nothing. It's possible that when we are now expecting little he could give something. But it's a total unknown, and the same goes for Kennedy and Aceves. 200 innings is a lot of innings from guys with little to no track records, and what track records they have are between average and nauseating. This is especially true of a team with the aspirations that the Yankees have, and I think this is a critical point in their decision making. What's even more critical is that, when we take out the full health assumption, 200 innings can quickly turn into 250 or more without even having anything serious happening to any of the first four starters. 50 innings is basically one guy missing a little over one month, or each starter missing an average of 2 starts on the season. Can anyone see this happening to the current 2009 rotation? I can. When you are likel to ask for those kind of innings from these kinds of unknown players, you are playing with the same kind of fire the 2008 Yankees did.

If you sign another starter, even if it is a totally imperfect one, you eliminate a lot of this risk, especially if it's a guy with a history of innings. Instead of starting the season as the #5/6/7 starters with a good chance to become more than that, Hughes, Kennedy, and Aceves are #6/7/8. Instead of having tons of innings assigned to them before the season starts, you have only Joba's 50. They all get time to further develop in the minors, and at least one of them (whoever performs best) will get what I firmly believe they need, and that's major league innings. At the same time, the Yankees have someone more proven in the rotation to start, and solid to potentially above average back-up plans in those three. Everybody wins barring a total disaster (major injury or injuries). Even then, maybe they have a shot because of this depth.

So who is available and can fill this void? First is obviously Andy Pettitte. It makes too much sense. He gets you innings, and he gets you them at league average or better. He's also proven in New York and the AL East. The second is Ben Sheets. News of a possible improved medical report only strengthens his case for the Yankees. He's not an innings guarantee, but the innings he does give you are likey to be high quality ones. He's not going to be what he was in the NL, but that's true of pretty much every pitcher. If he were willing to accept a one year deal with incentives, this could be the Yankees' market. Despite being a Type A, he'd only cost the Yankees a fourth round pick (his ranking is behind their other free agent signings). It would cost most other teams a first. With both of these guys, the Yankees do potentially have the money to spend. The third and final option for me that is at least somewhat attractive would be Jon Garland. It's a distant third because, well, Garland isn't that good. His peripherals are awful and getting worse, which is not a good sign. However, he's had seven straight seasons with 190 IP or more and at least 10 wins. He's done it all in the AL so he also knows how to navigate these waters. The Yankees could do a lot, a lot, a lot worse than this kind of experience and consistency.

I prefer all of these options to a trade (unless it's someone really good) by a sizeable margin. And all of these options would put the Yankees in a much better position for 2009 in my opinion. It's similar to what the Red Sox have done with their rotation depth (especially if it's Sheets), and in the case of Pettitte and perhaps even Garland, one-ups what the Red Sox have done because there is more certainty there. Rotation depth is important, and if the Yankees add more of it in the form of a pitcher with a track record of innings (coupled with at least moderate success), then they will really be ready for Spring Training and a bigtime season.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"Over My Dead Body"

Jason Varitek is simply an idiot. I understand that he's a baseball player and not a CEO, but when millions of dollars are resting on a simple decision, you might want to take a second look at the decision you're making.

Jason Varitek rejected arbitration in December, and in the last week he's cried about how he didn't understand the rules of Type A free agency. In this SI.com story (from MLBtraderumors.com), he is shown crying more about how accepting arbitration does not necessarily guarantee you a roster spot. Right. Like the Red Sox would have traded for two catchers after signing you, just so they could release you and pay you $2 million. This guy is an absolute imbecile.

You know, Varitek is known as someone who is very smart and prepares a lot for each games, looking at pitching matchups, knowing where to pitch, knowing which hitters to not throw seven consecutive 93-mph fastballs to in a playoff game, and how to provide so many intangibles that it affects the Earth's gravitational field. It's all through a lot of homework and preparation, and he prepares on a level that's totally different from the other 60 catchers in the major leagues. He prepares like a mad scientist, but he doesn't prepare for, you know, securing a job next year? Does Varitek not realize that he hit .220 last year, could be replaced by a minor leaguer, costs money plus a draft pick, and that the economy sucks?

Then it hit me: Varitek prepared for the arbitration decision like he prepares for his own at-bats. He now looks beyond foolish during this entire negotiation process, like he does at least twice a night every night at the plate. And when he walks away with a result that is not to his liking (I'm hoping a Brett Favre-style retirement settlement), he is going to look confused and bewildered.

I really like the outside-of-Boston evaluation of this guy's value. An Alex Speier article quoted an NL executive saying the following: “If we sign him and give up a draft pick, it would have to be over my dead body.” That is awesome. Gerald Laird has been in higher demand than Varitek. Steroid user Gregg Zaun has been in higher demand than Varitek. Meanwhile, Varitek thinks he can land a starting job in major league baseball.

Here is a news flash: Executives value your services less than the potential future services of an 18-year-old kid who might be a good player, but might get shot, might turn into John Wasdin or Todd Van Poppel, or might end up a heroin addict. Don't these people understand that heroin addicts don't prepare for games even close to as well as Jason Varitek, can't handle a pitching staff as well as Jason Varitek, can't call a game as well as Jason Varitek and can't singlehandedly solve all team chemistry problems like Jason Varitek? There is most definitely a conspiracy against the Captain and fearless leader.

Apparently everybody west of the Connecticut River has conspired to think that a 37-year-old who hits .220, strikes out every 3.6 at-bats, allows a passed ball about every other night in the playoffs, has a slugging percentage less than .400, cries to the media about being pinch-hit for, shows up a rookie teammate, rejects a guaranteed raise in arbitration, and insults everyone's intelligence by asking for $52 million is worthless.

Meanwhile, east of the Connecticut River, Tony Massarotti is all but pleading for the Red Sox to retain Varitek instead of acquiring someone that can help the team win baseball games or staying with Josh Bard, George Kottaras, and Dusty Brown, who can probably be less of a liability than Varitek is. Daniel Barbarisi of the Providence Journal is calling Varitek "slightly below average" for a catcher. Oh. My. God.

The typical primary catcher appeared in 119 games, with 394 at-bats. He hit for a .259 batting average, with a .329 on-base percentage, and a .403 slugging percentage. He scored 47 runs, hit 11 home runs, and amassed 53 RBI. He stole two bases. Varitek’s numbers are slightly below-average for that group in almost every regard. Varitek, in 131 games, provided 37 runs, 13 home runs, 42 RBI, and a .220 average. He has good plate discipline, and so his 52 walks helped balance off his poor average and allowed him to compile a .313 on-base percentage, but both that and his .359 slugging percentage were below the average for this group. His 122 strikeouts were almost twice as many as the average primary catcher.

So 39 BA points (over 15%) is only a "slight" difference. Ten fewer runs and eleven fewer RBIs (roughly 20%) in twelve more games (10% more) is only "slight." Forty SLG points (10%) is pretty much negligible. And Varitek's wonderful plate discipline which results in him very infrequently striking out (there are some games where he doesn't even strike out once!) makes the 16-point OBP difference (5%) pretty much disappear.

Honestly, this city is sickening because people actually think Jason Varitek would not only be the best player at Wilmington Town Park on Sunday afternoons, but would actually help a team that is trying to make the playoffs achieve their goals. It is sickening that they have no problem with him calling attention to himself by wearing a "C" on his uniform.

The memories were very fond; I will not deny that. But the last three years of watching Varitek go from doing his job to becoming Captain K have soured the memories slightly. Another year would make "Kryptonite" by Three Doors Down (his long-time walkup music) unlistenable.

These negotiations should be over. Varitek has a lot of gall to be talking dollars and cents with John Henry, as he should be flattered that Henry is offering anything. If it were me, he wouldn't be playing for the Red Sox at any price. He would be coming back only over my dead body.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Papelbon: A Step Back

So as you all know (because we do not break news here), Jonathan Papelbon and the Red Sox avoided arbitration with a one-year contract worth over six million dollars a year. This is an all-time record for relievers in their first year of arbitration eligibility. After listening to him on Comcast Sportsnet last night, there are two things I want to address: Does he deserve to get paid that much? And are the Red Sox being wise going year by year with him?

One. You gotta take a step back with Papelbon to really properly evaluate the guy. He was talking about how he deserves to theoretically be paid as much as Francisco Rodriguez or Mariano Rivera. While I don’t need to tell you how I feel about actually talking about it, he might actually be right. Surely the Boston-based Comcast channel were framing his numbers in an overly-positive way, but the numbers are numbers. His career ERA is still 1.84 and his career WHIP is still 0.95—both stunning numbers. While his 2008 was very much human (he surrendered almost twice as many hits than 2007 in only ten more innings and he suffered 7 out of his 15 career blown saves), it is just unreasonable to player hate on this guy. And I have. So has Pat.

Since he burst onto the scene in 2006, who has had a better three seasons than Jonathan Papelbon? Joe Nathan. Almost definitely Mariano. Maybe Joakim Soria, though it’s only over two years. It is debatable whether Rodriguez has even had a better last three years than Papelbon. Fuentes? Forget about it. Putz? No. Lidge? Hell no. Jenks? Let’s just say a White Sox fan page sponsored his baseball-reference.com page and wrote “it ain’t really a save unless
the tying run’s on third.”

So for the sake of argument we’ll say he’s the fourth-best closer in the game right now. The best is making fifteen a year. The third-best (Rodriguez) is making 12-plus. It’s notable to add the following: Jenks got 5-plus million three days ago, and he’s not even close to where Papelbon’s been. But on the other hand, only Ryan Howard and Miguel Cabrera have received bigger deals in their first year of arbitration. If you look at it one way, it’s a little excessive, but if you look the other way, it’s pretty reasonable.

The other topic is easier: It is absolutely better to go year-by-year with Papelbon and most young pitchers, for that matter. You never know when a relief pitcher who was Mariano Rivera one year could turn into Scott Williamson, Dan Kolb, or Billy Koch the next year. If the Red Sox were to sign Papelbon to a four-year, $40 million deal today, and had an ERA of 3.5 with nine blown saves next year, Theo would be getting killed.

Same goes for most pitchers. Think about Jon Lester, who increased his innings—by a lot—last year and might be on his way to overuse symptoms this year. If they were to sign him long-term—remember, this is a guy who ten months ago was viewed as a guy who could be a serviceable career 3-starter—and he got a slew of Verlander-esque aches, pains, and ineffective pitching, people like Gunn who already think the 2009 team is a 84-win team might consider jumping off of the Piscataqua River Bridge.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that the Red Sox got the Papelbon thing right.

The Worst Broadcast Booth On National TV?

I doubt anybody really cares about my Giants post below. I just needed to vent. If you are interested, I'd love to discuss. If not, most on here will definitely want to discuss this one. It is being reported that Steve Phillips will be joining John Miller and Joe Morgan in the ESPN booth this summer.

Prior to this news, I would have put Miller and Morgan behind Buck and McCarver in my worst national booth voting. They aren't good and what they do, and the fact that they openly root for the Red Sox (which I'm sure is part of their NESPN contract) makes them deplorable in my eyes.

Now they are tossing in Steve Phillips, perhaps my least favorite sports TV personality. This guy is terrible at what he does. He's been one of the ringleaders of "this is the year the Yankees don't make the playoffs" every April. Of course, he's only been correct once, and may not realize that if you say that every year, you don't look good when you are correct, you just look ridiculous for saying it every year. He also has very little idea what is going on in baseball in general. Just ask any Met fan.

For me, this puts ESPN's booth over the top. Buck and McCarver are impossible, but at least there is only two of them in the booth for Fox. The three of these guys, especially Phillips, is too much. They get my vote for worst national booth in baseball before they even call a game, which perhaps isn't fair. We'll revisit after we hear them a few times. What does everyone think? Would you rather Buck and McCarver or Miller, Morgan, and Phillips?

The only good news to come out of this is that Peter Gammons will no longer be on the sidelines during games, attributing timeworn cliches to members of the Red Sox. The bad news is Peter Gammons will now be in the stuido during games, attriubting timeworn cliches to members of the Red Sox.

New York Giants '08: The Good And The Bad

I have not been physically ready to talk about what happened in the Meadowlands two Sundays ago until right now. I've been in stadium for some devastating playoff losses in different sports, but this one takes the cake. I can handle showing up prepared, playing your game, and getting beat. I can't handle poor play and poorer coaching. I know this is a baseball blog, but we diverge from time to time and I need to vent.

The Good: This team won the Super Bowl just last year, and followed it up with a 12-4 season and regular season division and conference championships. I'm not big on Bill Simmons' idiotic theory (one of many) that when your team wins a championship there is some sort of extended grace period. If the Giants had come out this year and laid a total egg, I'd be on them more than I already am (we have The Bad to get to). As fanatic as I am, you have to be realistic. You aren't going to win it all every year. It doesn't make a playoff flop like this okay, but it makes it a little bit easier to handle. Especially considering they were without their best player (Osi) for the entire season, and a Top 5 player (Plax) down the stretch. To that end, in the last two seasons this team has lost Tiki Barber, Michael Strahan, Jeremy Shockey, Osi Umenenyiora, and Plaxico Burress, yet has still done a lot of winning. This is a tribute to the job Jerry Reese, and before him Ernie Accorsi, have done with this team. The nucleus is incredibly young, and with Osi back and a No. 1 receiver for Eli (something we now know he absolutely needs) in tow, 2009 is certainly bright. Like I said regarding the successes of 2007, the prospects of 2009 don't make this flop okay, but it does go down a little smoother.

The Bad: Embarrassing. That's what two Sundays ago was. When you are two wins on your homefield away from the Super Bowl, everything else on the planet gets pushed aside. It's all about two wins. What is still eating at me is that I think the players were in this mindset. Kevin Gilbride, the Giants' Offensive Coordinator, very well may have been, too. That didn't stop him from calling the worst professional football game I have ever seen. I know it's tough to blame the OC when your kicker, who missed two field goals all season, misses two in one game. I also know it's tough to blame the OC when your quarterback has a bad game start to finish. But that's pretty much what I'm going to do. Let's look at a few critical situations that cost the Giants this game:

1. Bradshaw takes the opening kickoff right into Eagles territory. Giants settle for 3 off the bat. The place is going bananas for what has been the Giants' heart and soul for the better part of two seasons, the D. After a first play 10 yard for completion for a 1st down, the Giants stuff Philly on three straight plays, forcing a punt. I don't think anybody has sat down yet, the place is ready to explode. All everybody wants is for Jacobs and Ward to bury the ball down the field for more points, putting the Eagles squarely on their heels. This might be a bit presumptious of me, but the way it felt then was that if the Giants score on that drive, especially if it's 7 and are up 10-0 before the first quarter is half done, the game is over. Not that they can be expected to get 7. BUT WHAT CAN BE EXPECTED, FROM THEIR OWN 10, WITH A QUARTERBACK WHO DOES NOT THROW A TIGHT SPRIRAL AND HENCE STRUGGLES IN THE WIND, WHOSE FIRST PASS OF THE DAY WOBBLED IN THE WIND FOR HOURS, IS THAT THE FIRST PLAY CALL WILL NOT BE FOR A ROLL OUT PASS PLAY DOWN FIELD. Interception leads to a touchdown. Momentum eliminated. The last part is the biggest part.

Now, you could say part of this is Eli not throwing a good ball. And that's true. But nobody has ever said Eli Manning was anything more than he is. He is what he is. A good but not great quarterback who does not throw a tight spiral and therefore struggles passing in windy conditions. As the OC, you can't pretend this isn't the case. Especially when you have the running game the Giants have behind an offensive line that did work all year. Windy. Momentum. Jacobs. Run the freaking football. It's not that hard.

2. After a penalty, the Giants have a 1st and 5 on approximately the Eagles' 20 just after the 2 minute warning, down two points. What do you think might be a good idea here? Maybe run the ball three times? Probably get a first down? Then get aggressive towards the endzone? If you don't get it, at least you eat the clock, take the field goal, and go to the half up a point? Yes, this is probably a good idea, especially when you have the running game the Giants have (there is a theme here). What does Gilbride do? THREE STRAIGHT PASSES!!!!!!!!! Don't get the first, burn maybe 15 seconds off the clock, settle for the field goal, and give the Eagles about 1:45 to work with. Of course, getting extra aggressive the Eagles move the ball against the Giants' D (which was amazing for 3 quarters) for the first time all game, get 3, get the lead, and get confidence that they can score against this defense. Nice work, Kevin.

3. Season on the line, 4th and inches. I know that the smart football play here is the quarterback sneak. But the bottom line is, Eli doesn't sneak. They never do it, so he must not be that good at it. In addition, again, Brandon Jacobs. When is their a scenario when he doesn't get inches? Just give him the ball there, please. The playoffs is not a time, even when it's a smart football play, to do something your team doesn't do. The Giants don't quarterback sneak. They give the ball to Jacobs in pretty much every short yardage situation. Why they wouldn't there is a mystery.

4. Season extra on the line, 4th and a long 2. Much like with the sneak, the Eagles are all stacked up. Inches is one thing. 3 yards is another. I'm not saying you have to pass the football. But I am saying you have to do something besides powering up the middle when they think that's exactly what you are going to do. Jacobs is a machine, but that's asking too much. Pass, run off tackle, toss, draw, whatever. Just something, ANYTHING, that isn't totally predictable. Not in that spot.

5. This really has more to do with the whole season, but it is applicable to this game. On the season, no team in football got into the redzone more times than the Giants did. They had the 24th highest touchdown percentage. In this game, the Giants moved the football to Philadelphia's side of the field with ease, seemingly on every possession in the first half. Then they stalled. I have to hold the Offensive Coordinator more responsible for this than anyone else. I have no doubt that there are other contributing factors, the players have to play the game. But it is the coaches' job to put his players in a position to win. Much like asking Eli to pass in the wind, much like asking him to sneak when he doesn't sneak, much like asking Jacobs to get nearly 3 yards running to a place they know he is running, Gilbride just doesn't do this. I don't know football the way I know basketball and baseball. I don't even know enough about football to coach a little league team. But I've been watching football, and more specifically the Giants, for a long time, and I know enough about sports to know simple things like not being predictable. Too many times in the redzone, for example, I see them trying to bury the ball inside the 5. When they do go play action, everybody bites, and people are open. Yet they seldom do it. It makes no sense. It hurt us all season, and it cost us this game.

People talk about the success the offense had last season, and for most of this season, and say Gilbride is doing his job. In large part, that is probably true. But for most of that stretch, the Giants had three above average to great running backs, a premium receiver, a stellar offensive line, and a quarterback that not only doesn't make a lot of mistakes, but makes plays late. I don't want to discredit how difficult it is to be a coach, but just because someone has success under those circumstances doesn't mean they are definitely good at what they do. They might be, but they might not be. Have to see them without all those weapons. We got to see Gilbride without those weapons down the stretch. The Giants went 2-4 including playoffs. It's at this time you want to see the OC try to do different things to put the team in a position to win. Outside of Carolina, didn't happen. I'm not saying he's a terrible offensive coordinator, judging him just under those circumstances would be as unfair as judging him when everything is going well. But what I am saying is that he was incredibly pathetic two Sundays ago, and didn't put his team in the best possible position to win. And it looked to me like the team was ready to win, perhaps the whole thing the way this sucker shaped up. And that bothers me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What's Your Team USA?

While watching Pitt/Syracuse tonight (The 08-09 Big East might be the most competitive league in college basketball history. I know the ACC is great at the top, but they don't even have 12 teams in the league, let alone that many deep in terms of quality. Unbelievable to watch these teams get beat up by a fellow Top 25 one night then beat up another fellow Top 25er two days later.) my boy Donny Baseball and I got to talking about the WBC, and more specifically the USA roster. That quickly turned into us spending 1.5 hours putting together our own.

Be you a fan of the WBC or not, you can pretty much just look at it as the All-Born in the USA team. We used the exact same breakdown as the 2006 roster: four starters, 10 relievers, three catchers, seven infielders, six outfielders. It seems like they had a 30 man roster in 06 and are down to 28 in 09, but we didn't learn that until after the fact so we are going to roll with 30. We approached it from the standpoint of "our first 30", as in the first/top 30 guys we'd extend invites to. In other words, we didn't take into consideration any guys we know aren't playing. We put this puppy in a vacuum. Outside of that, no more rules or regulations. The only other things that might be useful to know is that Donny is a huge Mets fan and we collaborated on every decision. Here's our team.

STARTING PITCHERS (in order of appearance):
1. CC Sabathia
2. Roy Halladay
3. Tim Lincecum
4. Cole Hamels
It's pretty clear that Johan Santana, CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay, and Tim Lincecum are the Top 4 pitchers in baseball. Since Santana is Venezuelan, we need one replacement. We were down to Hamels, Peavy, and Webb. Tough to leave the other two off, but we went with Hamels because 1. he's a lefty, giving us a tidy L/R/L/R split, and 2. he was so big in October. Those two things gave him a big push for us.

RELIEF PITCHERS
1. Brad Lidge (Closer)
2. Joe Nathan (Set-Up)
3. Jonatha Papelbon
4. Brian Fuentes
5. Kerry Wood
6. Mike Gonzalez
7. JJ Putz
8. Joba Chamberlain
9. David Price
10. Brandon Morrow
Biggest debate all night, that The Big Ticket jumped in on and helped settle, was who closes between Lidge and Nathan. Statistically, Nathan is the best closer in baseball not named Mariano Rivera. But you can't argue with perfection, and that was Lidge last year. Other than that, a lot of power arms with the seven set-up guys (#'s 1-7), 5 righty and 2 lefty. Even though Joba, Price, and Morrow are all set to start in 2009, they all relieved at some point in 2008 so we decided they were fair game as long men, which could be important with the starters being where they are arm strength/endurance wise. Again, a nice mixture with 2 righties and a lefty. We were particularly impressed with ourselves for taking Morrow. We love his game, as varied and dominant stuff as I saw last year. Jonathan Broxton, Scott Downs, and JP Howell got serious looks, and it was particularly tough to leave Broxton and Downs off. Donny felt it important to point out he would be watching Joba's diet like a hawk.

CATCHERS
1. Joe Mauer (Starter)
2. Brian McCann
3. Russell Martin
You want to talk about upgrading? Then talk about exchanging Jason Varitek, Michael Barret, and Brian Schneider for Mauer, McCann, and Martin. I mean goodness gracious. No wonder we didn't win in 06.

INFIELDERS
1. Mark Teixeira (Starter)
2. Chase Utley (Starter)
3. Derek Jeter (Starter)
4. David Wright (Starter)
5. Chipper Jones (Starter)
6. Jimmy Rollins
7. Lance Berkman
Teixeira was an obvious choice to start over Berkman factoring in defense. Tough to cut Ryan Howard and Adrian Gonzalez, but Berkman has just been that good. Our one major complaint would be that we would like to replace one reliver to carry Ian Kinsler and play him at 2B against lefties, but the rules are the rules. I figure a major complaint here is going to be Pedroia, it being seen as an oddity that the reigning AL MVP doesn't make the roster. But please remember Pedroia winning that award is in large part a product of him playing for a winning team in a year there were no great candidates. Put Utley or Kinsler on the 2008 Red Sox, and they are winning that award too, so it's not like winning the MVP is an argument that he is better than these two, and we therefore had no problem doing this. Utley is a substantially better player, and Kinsler essentially offers the same value. We liked the pop and athleticism Kinsler offered over Pedroia, so he would get the nod if we could have our druthers with the roster construction. You can make a serious case for JJ Hardy to make this team at short, but it ain't happening. Tough to accept Jeter's defense, but he's still the best American born offensive short. Wright is a no-brainer at third with Chipper backing him up. It is difficult to just ignore Longo, but he didn't get more than a mention of his name from us, DWright and Chipper are just that good.

OUTFIELD
1. Sizemore (Starter)
2. Braun (Starter)
3. Holliday (Starter)
4. Hamilton
5. Marakis
6. Quentin
You could draw names out of a hat here, this is an absolutely stupid outfield 1-6. We'll go Braun, Sizemore, and Holliday left to right, but really we can and should just play matchups here. Every single one of these guys are filthy, and there isn't a ton of separation. Braun is not a good defender, but he was so special with the bat down the stretch he gets the nod for us in a short burst of games. Quentin is right behind Morrow in terms of our satisfaction with the pick. Dude yoked 36 homers in 480 ABs, and is seldom talked about.

LINEUP
1. Sizemore (CF)
2. Utley (2B)
3. Wright (3B)
4. Teixeira (1B)
5. Holliday (RF)
6. Jones (DH)
7. Braun (LF)
8. Mauer (C)
9. Jeter (SS)
Yikes. Too bad all these guys won't play, this lineup would be fun to watch. Again, we would be playing all sorts of matchups with both our starting lineup and late game pinch hit situations. To say the least, we have the depth to make this happen. The toughest decision was at DH, Chipper or Berkman. We went with Chipper because of the slightly better 09, with that .470 OBP being too much to ignore. But again, flip a coin and we'll be fine here. Braun batting 7? That's only funny until you check out the lineup that the DR could potentially toss out there: Reyes, Hanley, Pujols, A-Rod, Manny, Papi, Vladdy, Soriano, Paulino.

What do you think? What additions/subtractions would you make? Any issues with roster construction, like we had wanting another two bagger? Again, if the WBC just isn't your cup of tea (it is for Donny, Ticket, and I...and I'm looking at you Bandi), just think of it as an All-USA team. In your opinon, who are the best American born players?

Every Dog Has His Day

Including the hippies and leftists who were counting down to Bush's last day. We've all seen a lot of "01-20-09" bumper stickers, and here it is. It is January 20, 2009.

I have compared myself to those hippies, who have been waiting for this day since January 20, 2005. I started a similar countdown on October 2, 2007 with this post. October 2, 2011 (J.D. Drew's last day on the Red Sox) seemed similarly distant, and 985 days still seems like a long way away. But if Bush-haters could wait so long for Inauguration Day 2009 and live to see it, I will live to see the day that the Red Sox can have a right fielder who doesn't suck for $14 million a year.

Pretty slow day in baseball, except for Cole Hamels signing his extension. While on my business trip, I also unfortunately glazed over Kevin Youkilis signing an extension with the Red Sox. Good for the Red Sox for going for it on Youkilis, and like the Pedroia signing, it makes the team look brilliant and makes the player look not-greedy and interested in playing for a contender. The same can be said about Hamels.

Also good for the Red Sox for going year-by-year with Papelbon. Unless his name is Mariano Rivera, no reliever should be counted on as a sure thing year by year by year.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Irresponsible

I really don't like irresponsible use of my money. That's why I had many problems with the way Colby College used my money. Over my time there, my tuition dollars were spent on the following, among any other things:
1. The chartering of the "Fat Acceptance Club."
2. New Toyota RAV-4s for the security department so they can break up parties at 9:52 PM but refuse to help a female runner get a three-mile ride home on a 105-degree day because she was across a town line.
3. A "Speak-Out," including audio equipment and speakers voicing their displeasure about...a Facebook group that goes against insincere coffee-shop political activism.
4. Political groups, such as the League of Pissed-Off Voters, who urge students to "get out the vote" as long as they were voting for Democratic candidates.
5. Larry "Napoleon" Graham's salary.

On a larger scale, as a United States taxpayer, I am appalled by the fact that the country is going to "bail out" industries who engaged in irresponsible business practices and that they're going to pay four times more for Tuesday's inauguration than any other inauguration in history.

Good thing I don't live in New York. Because if I did, I wouldn't really be a big fan of the state of New York using public money to finance the new Yankee Stadium. There are many reasons for this, and while I don't claim to know everything about public policy and sports, I do know the following: Baseball is not a public good. Maybe thirty years ago it was considered a public good. But with ticket prices at their current levels, the sales of membership cards, and the fact that the only games on free TV are 5-10 games a year with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, it's just not that kind of party. Baseball is a business and a consumer good.

However, in some cases, I am not deadset against teams asking for public funding of a new stadium. It can be mutually beneficial. The team, which pays a lot of taxes, might not be able to build a new stadium otherwise. The new stadium will attract more fans, which results in more tax revenue, more team revenue, and reinvestment in a better team. This results in more gate receipts, a happier fan base (for those who do believe baseball is still a public good to a certain extent), and a positive return on investment for both the team and the city.

It is acceptable in some cases, but not all. I don't think the case with the New York Yankees is acceptable. In fact, it's somewhat offensive. If the Yankees can afford to spend $400 million in one offseason on free agents (and there's nothing wrong with that), they probably shouldn't be pleading poverty and asking for public funding.

They could afford building a new ballpark no matter what. They would be paying for the new ballpark even without tax-free bonds, and it really sends a filthy message:

We are bigger than the recession, evidenced by the Teixeira, Burnett, and Sabathia signings. Therefore, we can afford paying the bill for a new stadium. However, it would be nice if the people of New York, who might not be above the recession, to help us foot the bill.

I won't argue that the building of the new stadium will help New York raise more tax revenue from fans who will pay more for luxury boxes and whatnot. It also could have raised the same tax revenue plus more tax revenue by making the Yankees foot the entire bill. It's not like the Yankees would have stayed in the old stadium or moved to New Jersey. And if Randy Levine told Michael Bloomberg or anyone else otherwise, falling for that is like falling for Scott Boras's "mystery bidder" bluff.

So New York, in this case, is sacrificing additional tax revenues by issuing tax-free bonds. They are increasing government spending by offering assistance. And they're doing this for a team that has enough money to not need assistance.

Shame on the Yankees for asking for assistance in the first place. But most of all, shame on New York for saying yes. You are not Jim Carrey: Sometimes you have to say no.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Let's Not Relive December 28th

On December 28, 2008 I had to root for the New York Jets, and that sucked. Mostly because I don't like Mangini, but I don't want to re-hash that argument again. I had to root for Brett Favre because he didn't stay retired and New England's playoff hopes were hinging on Favre's ability to perform as a professional athlete.

Shortly after this, my boy here in the office (at least I think it was him) reminisced about the fact that the Packers were offering Favre a large sum of money to stay retired and not play football this year. Needless to say, it may have been a much better winter for a lot of us.

My boy also suggested that the "offering someone money to stay retired" idea is the best solution for the Red Sox and Jason Varitek. Because if Varitek doesn't retire, the way I see it, New England's playoff hopes might be hinging on his ability to perform as a professional athlete. I like that idea even less than them hinging on Favre's ability.

Boston fans had to root for a guy that day who was a shell of his former self and would most likely cost his team the game if it were on the line and in his hands. If Jason Varitek re-signs with the Red Sox, we will again have to root for a guy who is a shell of his former self (even moreso than Favre) and by striking out every 3.6 at-bats, hitting .220, letting a lot of balls go by him, etc, etc, he's going to cost the Red Sox more games than he'll help win.

The Packers offered Favre a lot of money to stay retired and protect his legacy. The Red Sox can do the same for Varitek. They should give him an offer to pay him to not be a liability and dare anyone else to match that offer.

If Theo Epstein offers Varitek a five-year, $9.99 million deal to retire and to not play baseball for the Boston Red Sox in 2009-2013, I would be absolutely delighted. Here's why:

1. He would receive less than what he turned down in arbitration. It's called teaching him a lesson.
2. The Red Sox can move on and try to acquire a catcher who isn't a liability in all senses of the word.
3. I wouldn't have to hear anything about his intangibles ever again.

Two Quick Discussion Points

1. With every day that passes, it becomes more unbelievable to me that Jason Varitek declined arbitration, and a one year deal worth at least $10 million. Remember, no player has ever lost money in arbitration, and his contract last year was for that amount. So he figures to make that, or even a little more. What were he and Boras thinking? Like, when they looked at his production last year, they thought $10 million wasn't a good idea? That's league minimum production, baby, and they could have gotten eight figures for it. Plus, no other team is going to let him wear that hockey garment on his chest. They also may shun him in the clubhouse for punching someone with a helmet and facemask on (a big no no for most). What does everyone think? Any predictions on what will happen?

2. I know I talked about my desire for the Yankees not to trade any of their outfield depth (namely Nady/Swisher), and listed the many reasons I feel this way. But I failed to recognize and apply one major point to this reasoning: Nick Swisher can play first base, and the Yankees don't currently have a back-up first baseman. Teixeira will probably play upper 150s in games if healthy, but you always want to protect against health. Let's say he went down, even for a month, and the Yankees had traded Nady or Swisher. If they traded Nady, now either 1) Swisher has to come in from the outfield to play first, and the Yankees are left with a Damon/Gardner/Melky OF or 2) Cody Ransom is playing first base. Yuck on both counts. If they traded Swisher, it's probably the exact same scenario as above (Nady has played a little 1B). Again, no thank you. If you trade neither, no matter what happens to any OF, DH, or now even Teixeira, the team has at least an adequate replacement. It's all about depth, son. Especially for a Yankee team that has not been very fortunate in the injury department of late.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

F Yo Couch!

It's been pretty well-established that I am not a big fan of Mark Teixeira, and there's absolutely nothing wrong that the Red Sox didn't sign him for the next eight years. Don't get me wrong, I respect his work ethic and his charitability and the fact that he is willing to play baseball hard everyday.

But it was this quote from my co-author that made this post necessary:

He had a huge smile on his face, and has an All-American way about him. It seems like he just likes playing baseball. I'm sure he's slightly excited about the $180 mil too. But he did mention how he wore a Yankees hats to Camden Yards when his father would take him as a kid, as Donnie Baseball was his favorite player. He also mentioned being so close to his parents in Baltimore, and even closer to his sister and brother-in-law in Hoboken. He definitely seemed like a good guy. It also seemed like his wife really wanted New York and he really wanted the Yankees, both good things.

Really, Pat? Maybe you're just used to A-Rod saying all the wrong things at the wrong times, but this guy is faker than Joan Rivers's face. He says what he needs to say to get the favor he needs. In other words, he does what A-Rod tries unsuccessfully to do.

The problem I have about this is that he's totally transparent if you take a look at anything he's ever said before. It's like (and Gunn, this one's for you) when Rick James was being interviewed about grinding his feet up against Eddie Murphy's couch. His quote went something along the lines of "why would I grind my feet up against his couch, I have a little more sense than that. Yeah I remember grinding my feet up against Eddie's couch!" It's funny because Rick James played the part of lovable, self-contradicting, burnt-out cokehead in that clip. Teixeira does not have the same qualities. Here's a closer look at some things he's said:

On the 1998 Draft Fiasco: "I was naïve. It was my first realization to the business in baseball." Really. As the Sports Law Blog wrote in 2006 (eight years after the fact, he was throwing Boston under the bus), you are not naive or oblivious of the business in baseball if you hire Scott Boras as an agent. Period. Boras had previously tried to undermine and circumvent the draft system in 1994 with a catcher and in 1997 with an outfielder, and the tremendous inefficiencies regarding "signability" in the draft can be attributed probably to Boras. Using college as financial leverage and saying $1.5 million was not enough is not being naive.

"They [the Red Sox] spoiled me for everyone else" by saying he was a signability issue. Dude, you're a Boras client who had shown a lot of interest in college. That's like Christina Aguilera getting pissed off at Eminem for calling her easy on the song "The Real Slim Shady." Everyone already knew, you idiot. And why was he talking about this in 2006, again?

"I thought I wanted to sign. The day of the draft I realized that I didn't. I realized that I wasn't ready to go into professional baseball. I wanted to go to college."

This now-infamous Baseball America article shouldn't really surprise you much. This is the guy who took two months to figure out whether he wanted to return to the Angels, go an AL East contender, or play for the Expos.

Not to mention the fact that he made the Red Sox shell out a couple thousand dollars to fly to Texas a week after he "made his decision" with his wife to play for the Yankees. Scott Boras should be billed for that: Maybe it can be taken out of J.D. Drew's salary. What a dishonest, phony scumbag.

Some other highlights:

Mark Teixeira, July 2007: "I'm a Ranger. I love playing here." This was two weeks after he told the Rangers to shove an 8-year, $140 million deal. This is something he declined to talk about, saying "I know there's a business side of baseball. There's a playing side of baseball, and that is what I'm going to concentrate on." Good. He'll let Scott Boras handle the business side.

Mark Teixeira, July 2008: "I thought I'd be here [in Atlanta] for the rest of my career. I really wanted to stay here, but business is business and it's time for me to move on." This was days after he told the Braves to shove a deal that according to GM Frank Wren would make him "one of the highest-paid players in baseball."

For a guy who doesn't like the "business" of baseball, he's talking about business more than Yung Berg. And as much of a well-polished humanitarian he is, it seems like the Rangers owner only likes him "as a baseball player" but views him as unreasonably greedy, the Braves GM thinks he's a liar, the Phillies were once informed by his agent not to draft him to avoid another holdout situation after the 1997 JD Drew debacle, and, of course, the Red Sox were 100% at fault with what happened in 1998 and Teixeira and Boras were just innocent bystanders.

If Teixeira really loved the Yankees the whole time, and really wanted to try to fill Don Mattingly's shoes, it wouldn't have taken two months of arduous, pain-staking negotiations to get him to New York. He doesn't care about Don Mattingly; he just knew that Don Mattingly's team got him what he really wanted.

The money. Let's not pretend it's anything otherwise.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jim Rice: A Change of Heart?

I already made the obvious arguments about why Jim Rice is a "I'm very, very sorry, but no" selection for the Hall of Fame a year ago in this post last year. After a little more research, and a lot more deliberation, I'm still going to stick by my guns and say that Jim Rice should not be voted into the Hall of Fame tomorrow. I think he will get in tomorrow due to the mercy of some writers who voted no but then saw how close he was. And that's not a travesty. Actually, if I had an official vote, my compassion might make me check the box next to Rice's name.

I don't, though, so I will take the compassion out of it and stick by my guns. Jim Rice is not a Hall of Famer.

And here's why. Last year, I compared him to Steve Garvey as an afterthought at the end of the post. Garvey, through a 19-year career with the Dodgers, was not as good as Jim Rice. But he wasn't THAT much worse. They talk about the five top-five MVP years that Rice had. But Garvey had five top-six years. Garvey was not even close to being voted into the Hall, receiving a maximum of 40% and dipping to as low as 21% in his last year of eligibility. Rice deserves to be closer, but for Rice to be in and Garvey to be that far off just doesn't add up. Let's break it down by power, average, speed, eye, and defense.

POWER: Obviously, Rice has the edge here. Garvey only once exceeded thirty home runs, and Rice's .502 slugging percentage is over 50 points higher than Garvey's .446. Plus, in Fenway Park, Rice only three times had more than 30 doubles in a season, never exceeding 40! Another Sox slugger with questionable HOF credentials, David Ortiz, was under 30 once, but that year he had 52 home runs.

AVERAGE: Unfortunately for Rice, he turned into Jason Varitek at the age of 34, prompting my 2008 argument of "he doesn't have the longevity to be a HOFer." And that hurt his average numbers. I don't think Rice was a one-tool player like many of his critics do. Rice hit over .300 seven times, and so did Garvey before going Varitek on the Dodgers at the age of 37. Rice had a slightly-higher career average, and went above Garvey's career high of .319 three times. I'll give Rice a slight edge for sure, but no more than a slight edge.

SPEED: Rice could steal bases early in his career, but unfortunately for him, the Red Sox didn't have a speed philosophy until they acquired Coco Crisp. Former habitual base stealers Otis Nixon and Jose Offerman didn't run in Boston either. But Rice once led the AL in triples. Garvey stole more bases, but not too many more. Though Garvey's no saint at 25th all time in double plays grounded into, Rice is sixth all time. I'll give Rice a very, very slight edge.

EYE: Not that Rice was Adam Dunn or anything, but he was in the top ten in strikeouts in the AL six times. Over the course of his career, he's 57th all time in strikeouts. The only favorable statistic where he's listed better all-time is RBIs (56th). Rice walked a lot more than Garvey did, but the unfavorable strikeout total prompts me to give Garvey a slight edge.

DEFENSE: Keith Hernandez may have cost Garvey Hall of Fame consideration, as he won 11 Gold Gloves, many during Garvey's prime. Garvey won four Gold Gloves before Hernandez came onto the scene. Meanwhile, let's compare Rice to the gold standard in defense. Rice had 66 career errors in the outfield. Manny Ramirez, in about 100 more games, has 65. Manny has had one year with more than seven errors. Rice had three. Big edge for Garvey.

Overall, Rice clearly has an edge over Garvey, but as I just outlined, we're not talking about night and day here. Garvey never got more than 40%. And Rice deserves 75%?

It won't be a travesty tomorrow afternoon when we he breathes that sigh of relief. I'll be happy for him, and I'll even be happy that grouches and player haters like me won't deny Jim Rice his day in the sun next July. But taking all emotion out of it (and that's impossible, I know), it just doesn't make sense. The humanitarian in me votes him in because 15 years of this crap is torturous. But the analyst in me does not.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

REPORT: Red Sox Sign Saito

I don't want to bury DV's post below (so please read and comment), but this needs to go up. The Red Sox bullpen is going to be filthy. With all due respect to the numerous BBA's (Boston Bullpen Apologists) we have on this blog, trading for Ramirez and signing Saito (when the team has multiple needs) pretty much tells you what they think about Delcarmen and to a lesser extent Okajima. And with good reason, you watch those two last year and you think they were confused about what their job was, hold the lead or give it back. Numbers schmumbers, that's the job description of the bullpen, hold leads and ties. And this isn't me telling you this. This is the Red Sox front office telling you this. They used a big trading chip (Crisp) to acquire a reliever, and Saito is probably going to end up making decent coin (for a reliever). You don't do these things if you think Manny Delcarmen is good, and is anything more than a 5th inning guy, which is where he is on the depth chart now.

I know I'm going to be hearing all about numbers and potential and upside and this and that in the comments section, and that's fine, but again I want to reitterate this isn't me saying these things, it's Theo Epstein. If you think Delcarmen is good, take it up with him. At least Okajima has a role. "MDC" will be one step above Timlin minutes in 2009.

Great signing hear by Boston. NYY had one of the better bullpens in baseball last year. With the fluctuation of relievers from year to year, the best way to build a good pen is to have a good closer followed by a lot of young power arms. The Yankees have this, and managing this type of fluid bullpen is one thing Girardi did really well last year. But still, Takashi Saito is nasty, and even if he reaches all the incentives it's worth it (especially because to reach incentives you usually have to perform well). I hope they took a serious look, especially since having two closers is probably a good thing 1. for the bullpen in general and 2. when your closer is coming off shoulder surgery.

To the Left, To the Left

UPDATE, Sunday January 11, 8:42: I'm going to have to go ahead and remove this post, as it was an unfair attack. I had misunderstood the wording of Friday's Extra Bases blog post, as I thought it was a commentary about Rocco Baldelli's lefthandedness (he is not left-handed):



If I had read it correctly, like my boys John, Matt, and Gunn did, it was a commentary about Mark Kotsay's lefthandedness.

I owe Tony Massarotti an apology if he happens to Google himself and stumble across this. Maybe he is turning it around after a Julio Lugo June 2007-type December 2008. I stand by the fact that it's time to stop crying about Mark Teixeira and go back to writing about the Red Sox. And I also stand by the low journalistic standard of "look up people's handedness. It is not that hard." But Massarotti is not a violator of the second offense here.

Comcast SportsNet's still not off the hook. Spell John Havlicek's name correctly. They looked up his statistics for the Legal Sea Foods trivia question, but couldn't spell his name right? Really?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Let's Talk About Red Sox Acquisitions

As my Teixeira post grows longer and longer in the draft section, I just want to put my administrator's opinion here on the impending Smoltz and Baldelli deals. And unlike Massarotti, I won't be putting snide "The Sox suck because they didn't sign Teixeira" backhanded insults throughout the post.

1. Smoltz: I'm a fan, I've always been a fan. I admire the fact that he so seamlessly transitioned from being a starter to being a reliever. I admire him for staying with the same team for so long, and that's why it's kind of sad that he won't be returning to the Braves. Emotion aside, this is an okay (not good) move. Everyone's already said everything that needs to be said. He won't be able to pitch until about Memorial Day, but by then there will be an inevitable Penny or Wakefield breakdown and the replacement, whether it's Buchholz, Bowden, or Rusty Masterson, will be the most talked-about player on WEEI, with a bunch of people saying they're not good enough. Between Smoltz and Penny, there are two guys who are ultimately expendible, but could potentially be middle-of-the-rotation guys.

While $5.5 million guaranteed is a little high for my liking, as Massarotti said in his column, all four of Boston's moves ensure a lot of roster flexibility, as they're all one-year deals. I'm down with that, because the Red Sox have made it all but obvious that this is a rebuilding year. They are saying, however, that they will at least put up a valiant fight. That's what Smoltz is here for.

2. Baldelli. First of all, they're giving him Nomar's number? I'm not sure I agree with that. All the things I was saying about Pedro last week, Nomar was more popular than Pedro.

But again, from a baseball standpoint, it's another okay deal. If Baldelli is being viewed as a fourth (not fifth) outfielder, we have a problem here. If the Red Sox wanted a righty fourth outfielder, they should have shelled out the extra money for Jay Payton, who said in the Globe earlier this winter that he'd love to come back as a bench player at this point in his career. If they're lining up a lefty like, say, Eric Hinske, to provide a little bit of a power threat and the ability to play first on the bench, Baldelli is a great acquisition. I'd prefer Hinske to Kotsay because he is a power threat (20 HR last year), while Baldelli and Kotsay are not.

Overall Grade: B-/B.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Do Not Date This Blame Game Loser!

J.C. Romero might be the dumbest person in baseball, a sport that employs mental midgets like Johnny Damon, Bud Selig, Doug Melvin, and Alex Rodriguez. Romero tops them all. His latest performance-enhancing drug incident has resulted in a fifty-game suspension, as he took a substance that made him fail a test.

Allegedly (and obviously, he's telling the truth), he got the substance at a GNC in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. And apparently the name of the substance is "OXO-6 EXTREME," the most notable use of the word "EXTREME" in Cherry Hill since Harold and Kumar reached the elusive White Castle there.

Per the Rob Neyer Blog, Romero fails to mention in his "I'm Innocent" pleas that the label of OXO-6 EXTREME says it could cause positive drug tests. Nor did he mention the fact that it was developed by steroid designer Patrick Arnold.

And apparently it didn't cross his mind when he went into GNC that day that you should always be a little wary of any muscle-building product that bills itself as "EXTREME." Why do you think I'm trying to cut down on my Extreme Cheddar Doritos and Mountain Dew?

Romero, like Clemens, Bonds, and anyone named in the Canseco book, did nothing but hurt his credibility by not appealing his steroid suspension. So he's going to go through all these efforts to cry about how it's the trainer's fault, how it's the doctor's fault, how it's the Players' Union's fault, and how it's everyone's fault but his own...but then fail to test it in front of a court of law? Sure, J.C. The fact that you did steroids is almost as obvious as what pitch you were going to throw next when you were on the Red Sox, you stiff.

It is also interesting that Romero was implicated in another situation involving banned hormones. In 2006, after the Red Sox dumped him, he tested positive for a banned substance, something he blamed on fertility drugs he and his wife were taking. Does anyone else see a pattern here?

Romero was once a 4-A purgatory dweller, spending time as the Twins' seventh starter. Then, somehow, he dropped a 9-2/1.89 season as a middle reliver who whipped fastballs in the upper 90s during the height of the steroid era. Romero's a perfect candidate for being a doper, and he shows many symptoms of a doper, including not one but two positive tests.

At this point, Romero's just making a joke of himself, and Peter Gammons is helping by painting it as a big sob story of the big bad people who don't share his steroid-related apathy. But let's look at this. Here are the people Romero, Gammons, or the city of Philadelphia have blamed for this guy's multiple failed drug tests:

1. The manufacturer of a supplement that clearly labels that it could cause positive drug tests.
2. The Phillies' strength and conditioning coach.
3. The players' union.
4. Romero's wife.

Nice. "I didn't cheat," Romero has said, both in 2006 and 2009, despite evidence leading toward a different conclusion. If Romero really was as innocent as he says he is, he would have at least appealed. But now like five contestants a week in 1998 and 1999 on MTV, Romero has sucked at the "You Did It, Now Admit It" round and, therefore, is nothing but a Blame Game Loser.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Mark Teixeira Press Conference

Resident HYD skeptic/comedian/sarcasm expert Jon Bandi was all over me for commenting on the Sabathia/Burnett press conference. Please allow me to clarify. I would say the amount of baseball I watch is on par with most people, but I haven't come close to familiarizing myslef with the personality and makeup of every player in the game. I had really never heard much from Sabathia, Burnett, or Teixeira. So it is nice to get a first impression, especially relative to their handling of New York. We won't be able to learn from a short press conference if any individual WILL be able to handle New York. But we should be able to deterimine whether or not it will be a total disaster, ala Randy Johnson's first few days in the city. Like Sabathia and Burnett, Teixeira seemed to pass this test, and this is at least somewhat important.

Teixeira was a bit more giddy than Sabathia and Burnett. He had a huge smile on his face, and has an All-American way about him. It seems like he just likes playing baseball. I'm sure he's slightly excited about the $180 mil too. But he did mention how he wore a Yankees hats to Camden Yards when his father would take him as a kid, as Donnie Baseball was his favorite player. He also mentioned being so close to his parents in Baltimore, and even closer to his sister and brother-in-law in Hoboken. He definitely seemed like a good guy. It also seemed like his wife really wanted New York and he really wanted the Yankees, both good things.

Who is better than Joe Girardi right now? Goodness gracious. My main man is like a kid in a candy store, and for good reason. I want to fill out that lineup card every day. Of course, when asked about where Teixeira and A-Rod will hit, after saying the right thing (that it will probably work either way), he had to toss in that he may even switch it around at some point. No way, Joe Girardi switching the lineup around? You're kidding! I mean, who wants to get comfortable in one spot in the lineup when they can come in every day not knowing where they'll hit, or better yet, if they'll even be playing! I know he didn't mean it this way, but after what seemed like 162 different lineups last year (and rumblings that the players were not enthralled with it), it doesn't play well for me. To be fair, I was hard on Girardi in his first year in pinstripes, but he seems much more relaxed since the season ended. I like Girardi personally, seems like a really great guy, and here's to hoping he relaxes a bit and lets his ability, knowledge, and instincts take over more in his second season.

Very interesting to note that not one memeber of management interviewed (Hal, Levine, Cashman, Girardi) would say for sure that the Yankees were done. This could just be to cover their bases in case something else happens (they know better than anybody not to rule themselves out), but you get the feeling they may still be active. Hopefully it's a fifth starter on a one year deal that cost nothing more than money. Also good to hear that, when most in the front office and ownership were going nuts about how they needed pitching, Cashman constantly reminded them they needed to improve the offense too. After all, there are two elements in baseball, you need to score runs as well as prevent them, and it's nice to know the Yankees recognized that. In Teixeira and Swisher, this team has added two versatile, switch-hitting, power and on-base oriented bats. That is up there for favorite sentences I've ever written on this blog, as it is exactly what the Yankees needed, and exactly what I wanted. With the hopeful productive returns of Posada and Matsui, this lineup should be right back with the fiercest in baseball.

Finally, Hal mentioned that Rivera was in the offices at the Stadium today, and how excited he and the rest of the players were with the improvements the Yankees made and the commitment they are showing to winning. This may seem obvious, but it touches on something my father and I discussed over the holidays. And that is, if you were Rivera, Jeter, and Posada, how motivated would you be by these signings? Like them or not, I think we can all agree these are three first-class veterans, nearing the end of successful careers, that have always put winning first. With that said, put yourself in their shoes. Your career is closer to over than not, and your team is doing everything it can to put you in a position to win. That would give me a little extra kick as I prepared for the upcoming season. There would be a little extra motivation to say "let's try to do this one more time". Not that they wouldn't do this no matter what, but they aren't dumb, they know this is the best team the Yankees have fielded since at least 2003, and the one with the best chance of winning it all since that time. I bet that has them all kinds of hyped up.

"I've always been a Yankees fan!"


"I think it says a lot that a kid who grew up in Baltimore, whose family had season tickets in Baltimore, would cheer for . . . Mattingly. People would say, 'Why not Eddie [Murray], why not Cal [Ripken]?,' but there was just something about Don Mattingly. My dad would take me to O's games and I'd wear a Yankees hat, which wasn't too safe in Baltimore back in the '80s. But it was worth it."
Congratulations, Pat. Your boys just signed Hillary Clinton.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Little Housecleaning; A Few Thoughts

1. First of all, as the new year has come and gone, I just want to thank everyone who comes onto this website everyday, with a special thanks to those who put their opinions on the line and subject to criticism every day. We couldn't have what we have today without you. More on that when we hit our 1000th post or on our two-year anniversary, whichever comes first.

2. A giddy Pat sent me a voicemail over the weekend, talking about how WasWatching.com (a very credible Yankees blog) included How Youz Doin Baseball as a choice in a "what Yankees blog do you read?" poll. So we just want to thank Steve Lombardi from WasWatching for finding us and actually thinking we're relevant enough to be put alongside a lot of Yankee blogs with a lot of credibility. The least we can do is put you guys on our "Favorite Sources" links.

3. Same goes for the Replacement Level Yankee Weblog, like WasWatching a top-ten Yankee blog, who also found us some day a few months ago and put us on their blogroll. I can speak for Pat to say that we're both honored.

4. Also a special thanks to Cork Gaines of RaysIndex.com, who reads us with at least some kind of frequency, as he linked to us both in March and October. I just hope he didn't take HYD off his reading list after this post.

5. Speaking of the Devil Rays, Pat Burrell is a very good pickup. The Rays are taking advantage of the unfavorable market conditions for players and they picked up a pretty good complementary player. As the gentlemen were discussing in yesterday's post, Burrell is a "perfect" 5-6 hitter, and one I was eyeing for a poor man's Manny Ramirez replacement had Manny stayed on the Red Sox throughout the season and then walked via free agency.

6. On Manny, he should have taken the money and run. I called this as folly the day he was traded, and I said that Scott Boras maximized his earnings at the expense of his clients. I looked stupid when it looked like he was going to command $25 million a year somewhere. But thanks to the recession (which I'm looking stupid on anyway because I said it wouldn't affect MLB), I might be right about Manny's performance-based virtual opt-out being a stupid idea.

7. I haven't read anything about these Varitek to the Red Sox for two years rumors, but I won't budge from what I said before Thanksgiving: A one-year deal for Varitek is too long. Every game he plays in a Red Sox uniform takes away from the team's playoff chances.

There is no C in "Postseason." There is no C in "World Series." There is no C in...OKKKKKKKKKTOOOOOBER*!

*There are 9 K's and 6 O's in OKKKKKKKKKTOOOOOBER because Varitek went O-for in six different postseason games in 2008, striking out nine times.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Surplus Is Not A Bad Thing

Welcome back, I hope everyone had a great series of holidays. As baseball news likely heats back up starting today, it looks like this winter will continue to get more interesting. For the most talented free agent class since 2000 (Rodriguez, Ramirez, Mussina, etc.), there are A LOT of really good players still unsigned. We all speculated as to how the economy would effect the winter, and it looks like two things are shaping up. 1) The Yankees don't have time for a recession. 2) The ultra talents are going to get their money (this is actually heavily skewed by the Yankees, I think), and everyone else isn't. I had some serious questions about the decisions not to offer Abreu, Dunn, Burrell, etc. arbitration. In any other market, these guys all have 3+ year deals at $10 mil+ per. They are very good players. Now it looks like their teams were right on the money, as for each of them the best route might have ended up being taking their arbitration raises (in Abreu's case, think $16-18 mil), having a good year, then pursuing a better market next winter. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, with so many guys still unsigned as the New Year has come and gone.

Either way, I am currently very happy, as the Yankees are set to announce new one bagger Mark Teixeira. DV is probably very unhappy, as the Red Sox and Jason Varitek are allegedly discussing a new two (2!) year deal. I've been around for some incredible DV blow ups (Anibel Sanchez night, Drew/Lugo night, etc.), but this one would probably take the cake. I'm definitely rooting for it.

In discussing my desire for the Yankees to resign Andy Pettitte as the 5th starter last week, I mentioned how I did not want the Yankees to use their outfield surplus to fill a current void in the rotation, or any present need for that matter. I'd like to briefly expand upon that a bit.

The Yankees currently have a surplus in their outfield. This is not a bad thing, nor is it something that has to be corrected. When they signed Teixeira, and it was clear Swisher was a corner outfielder, people immediately started talking about moving Damon/Matsui/Nady/Swisher to fill a need, because the Yankees had a surplus and you don't need a surplus. Whoa, hold on, let's just take a look for a second.

Rosters are 25 men. On a very basic level, you want as many of these players to be good as possible. This is called depth. Depth means lineup flexibility, which is important in baseball. To look at the Yankees' situation specifically, in my opinion, Damon and Swisher are playing every day. Damon has been one of the top leadoff hitters in the game the last three years, and Swisher is going to walk 80-100 times and hit 25 home runs, two things this lineup needs. They are also both above average defenders at the corners. After that you have Matsui, Nady, Melky, and Gardner for two spots (DH/OF).

If you look at those last four names, each could brings something, and also has concerns. If healthy, Matsui can play, but he's had two knee surgeries in the last year. Nady is a nice player and has crushed lefties his whole career, but had a huge year last year and could easily go back to being the slightly above average player that he had been previously. Gardner is fast, Melky has a great arm, and both could be "scrappers", but both could also be allergic to first base again, as they were last year. In a perfect world, everyone is healthy (including Damon and Swisher), perform at a high level, and you can mix and match every day based on matchups and who is hot. But something ALWAYS seems to happen. Injuries, underperformances, whatever. For that reason, going in with more rather than the bare minimum better sets you up for success.

As a brief sidenote, it should be noted that Joe Girardi showed the capacity of a two year old filling out the lineup card last year. He sat lefties against lefties, even though they hit lefties better than righties, for example. So, if you put him in a situation where he only has good players, then he can't mess up the lineup. Just saying.

Finally, and absolutely most importantly, the Yankees are clearly trying to win the World Series in 2009. Yes, they have a surplus in the outfield that they could use to improve the club (5th starter) right now. But now, before a single thing has happened in the season, they have already played a big card. They could trade for a really good starter, but then everyone could stay healthy in the rotation, Hughes and Kennedy are performing well, and it really wasn't needed. At the same time, Posada just isn't able to catch, and Molina isn't passable every day. It's late June, the team is 2 games behind Boston in the East, and the only reason they are there is because they are getting nothing from the catcher's slot. There's a team out there with a catcher that would love a solid bat with an expiring contract like Nady, and the only problem is the Yankees traded Nady for a middle of the rotation starter in January.

Point being, something always seems to happen. Often times, part of winning it all is filling needs at or around the trade deadline. Both teams on this blog have experienced that in the last 10 years. Right now, nothing has really happened. The Yankees could use another starter, but don't absolutely need one, not the way you need a catcher in the second half when your starter goes down. So at the very least, hold the surplus, see how things start shaking out, which of these six outfielders are giving you the most, and what needs develop. Then do what makes sense. Right now, the Yankees would have to blown away to do a deal with one of these outfielders, especially Damon/Matsui/Nady/Swisher, and have it make sense. That changes once they have a real need, which most teams do when actual games start getting played and the season takes its course.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year, Let's Look Back

Not to 2008, but to 1999. It's been a full decade since what may have been the best one-season pitching performance any of us will ever see. I remember back then when people watched Pedro Martinez and said we might never see anything like this again. I was skeptical, because they probably said the same thing about some Roger Clemens years and they always said that kind of stuff about Michael Jordan, you know, all that kind of stuff.

I feel like I adequately appreciated Pedro's three glory years (1998-2000), but nobody can ever appreciate how good it was until you're a little bit removed from it. And here we are: It's been a decade.

In the American League East, he posted an ERA of 2.07, struck out 313 in 213 innings, surrendered only nine (9) home runs, and walked thirty-seven (37). He mowed down the best chemically-enhanced batters the National League had to offer during the All-Star Game, whiffing five out of the six men he faced. He struck out nine or more 22 out of 28 starts.

In that season, he also one-hit the World Champions, striking out seventeen Yankees. He probably blew out his rotator cuff but came on in relief to win the ALDS against Cleveland with six no-hit innings. He was absolutely untouchable, and if anyone questioned that, he would throw at them.

It is unfortunate that two sportswriters had an axe to grind against Pedro, because he would be the last pitcher to win MVP and Cy Young, but not even that would do justice to his 1999 season. His outings transcended sports, as every fifth day became about twice as important as a Patriots game (partially thanks to Pete Carroll) and 1.5 times as important as Christmas.

The 1998 and 2000 seasons as well as the rest of his time in Boston was special, but nothing paralleled the 1999 season for Pedro Martinez. I've long regarded the 1999 team as my favorite of all time, but it takes a little bit of time to fully appreciate Pedro's accomplishments. For once, people talked about how you might never see anything like it again, but they meant it. While I was discussing writing this post this morning, my dad said that Josh Beckett "came close" in 2007.

"Yeah, for how long?" I responded.

"Three weeks."

Pedro Martinez did it for three years. And during a lull in the offseason, as we turn the page to the 10th anniversary of his finest year, it's a good opportunity to take some time to reflect on it.