Friday, February 27, 2009

Mr. Brightside

A few quick topics for a Friday, just to get some conversation started:

-Bandi and Gunn brought up the Giants and Tim Lincecum. Here's what I have to say, from the oversized comment department:

As far as Lincecum goes, it's called the reserve clause. Deal with it. Pay your dues and then the big payday will come.

The fact that the Giants were bickering with money with Lincecum is funny while they shell out a lot of cash for Renteria, as Gunn pointed out.

People have long thought that Brian Sabean is one of the worst, if not the worst, GM in baseball. I can complain all I want about Theo Epstein's man-crushes on stiffs like JD Drew and Julio Lugo, but things could be worse. Much worse. The fact that Brian Sabean is not the Red Sox' GM really has me looking on the bright side of life this morning. Either that or the fact that I'm only working a half day today...or the fact that I ran outside with shorts this morning.

-After penny-pinching with Lincecum, are the Giants really the mystery bidder in the Manny idiot-fest? The Dodgers, by offering Manny a second year, showed that they have no balls. I really enjoy the Dennis & Callahan idea of saying "today it's $20 million. Next week it's $19 million. The more you stall, the more you lose." But the Dodgers are going in the opposite direction with a guy who has no leverage. Just like the Red Sox and Varitek.

-I think the Red Sox' shortstop position battle is interesting, and I'll probably write about it this weekend.

-Guess who went 2-3 with a 400+ foot home run yesterday? I'll give you a hint: He plays for the Royals.

Have a great weekend, folks. If Manny signs, don't be surprised to see a post up here about it. I hope the Dodgers ultimately offer him $13.9 million. Some symmetry and poetic justice after the Drew opt-out/Red Sox tampering nonsense.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Liveblog: Rays at Yankees

Spring Training is different for each individual player, and fans should observe it as such. For veterans, you just want to make sure that they are in shape (I'm looking at you, Beckett and Cano), and that by the end of March they have the junk out of their swing and their mechanics cleaned up. The numbers are totally inconsequential For the ultra young guys, you just want to see them get a taste of being with the big club. The numbers are totally inconsequential.

For two other groups of players, this is not the case. First, those in position battles. It would be foolish to think that Nick Swisher would have a huge spring, Xavier Nady can't get a hit, and it's going to be Nady's job. The numbers, in addition to how they go about getting them, are totally consequential. Second, those players in somewhat of a middle ground in terms of what their career is going to do (hello, Phil Hughes!). At the end of it, the numbers are certainly consequential.

It's only his first start, and the results certainly don't carry a ton of meaning yet. But for a guy in Hughes' situation, where he has had a lot of ups and downs, and took a step back in 2008 mostly due to injury, it is important to come out strong. Throwing 86, keeping pitches fat, and looking unprepared is not a good idea. A guy like Hughes should have been on the mound for a month already (as Hughes has) and be ready to impress right from Day 1, not numbers wise, but preparation wise. What he needs more than anything is a season where he takes the ball every fifth day, no matter what level it is at. But looking sharp is right behind that.

Good game top to bottom here for a Yankee fan. Every pitcher is a potential contributor to the team. Hughes, then Coke (September call-up feaster or real deal?), Bruney (can he be the gap to Mo?), Marte (solid), Albaladejo (looked outstanding before injury last year, throws juice), and the feature presentation, Mark Melancon (probably the Yankees prospect most ready to have an impact). I have watched Melancon in scouting videos on the computer hundreds of times, but this will be my first live look at him. I'm looking forward to it. We'll also get our first shot of Mark Teixeira in a game for the Yankees, batting third.

The Yanks will face Rays' highly touted prospect Wade Davis. The Rays rotation experienced ridiculous health last year, and that is unlikely to repeat. Davis is probably their sixth starter, so he is of interest to both teams on this blog. I've never seen him, but BA has him as the 32nd best prospect in baseball. He's supposed to be 97-98 with filth, so I'm intrigued as to how he looks on the mound.

Live updates all game starting at 1 PM. Hope it helps you get through the work day.

UPDATE, 1:15 PM: Of course we are starting late. This is the Yankees, everything has to be an event. Bernie throws out the first pitch to a big ovation. Looks to be in great shape.

UPDATE, 1:18 PM: Hughes is in great shape, really cut himself up a little this winter. Even his face looks more chizzled. As I write this, he hits the first batter with his second pitch. Rarely smooth with Philly.

UPDATE, 1:20 PM: Carl Crawford, take a seat. Swinging, good fastball up in the zone on an 0-2 count.

UPDATE, 1:21 PM: Hughes hits the third batter, same exact pitch in same exat spot he hit the first guy. Can't tell which fastball it is, but he's too quick getting it inside. I'll never last at this pace.

UPDATE, 1:27 PM: Inning over, no hits, no runs, no walks, two hit batters, one strikeout. Hughes looked about how he's always looked. 91-92 with the fastball, little bit of late action. Threw two curveballs, one good one bad. Threw three straight changeups to Zobrist before jamming him with his best fastball of the inning, hard and inside, for the last out. Lefties have been a major issue for Hughes, so hopefully there is more of where those changeups came from, those were the best I've seen him throw sinice that night in Texas two years ago. Still to wild in general.

UPDATE, 1:32 PM: Wow, Wade Davis. Just mowed Damon , Jeter, and Teixeira, who struck out to end the inning (BUST!). Watching how free and easy Davis is on the mound compared to Hughes does not make me feel good. He literally just attacked them. However, the gun had Hughes at 91-92, and Davis at 92-94. One thing I can say for sure is that Davis is NOT throwing 92, more like 95-96, it looks like Joba out there. So maybe it is a little slow and Hughes has a little extra, which would make me feel better.

UPDATE, 1:40 PM: Walked a batter, but much better inning from Hughes. Was hitting Molina's glove with almost every pitch, threw three great cut fastballs and dropped in two very tight curveballs. Two weak grounders and another strikeout swinging. That was more encouraging. Probably it for him, solid first outing.

UPDATE, 1:43 PM: Wade Davis just blew A-Rod away swinginig. Yikes. This kid is very, very good. Everything is down, and it's easy gas, looks like he's not even trying letting it go. As I write this, he sits Cano down swinging on yet another fastball. Does Tampa really need any more ridiculous pitchers? Goodness.

UPDATE, 1:46 PM: 6 up, 6 down for Davis. That's it for him. Line out, groundout, swinging, swinging, swinging, groundout. Nothing got out of the infield. I don't need to see any more to know that I don't want to see any more. I have a feeling this is a name we will be hearing a lot about this year.

UPDATE, 1:52 PM: Nice 1-2-3 for Coke. I like him, especially against lefties, low three quarters, hides the ball well, that's tough on them. Big, long body too. Got both lefties to take ugly swings and pop up weakly to shallow left center. Cano went deep behind first and made a great spinning throw to get Aybar to end the inning.

UPDATE, 1:56 PM: Jorge goes yaya. There will be a lot of talk about Posada being one of the biggest keys to the Yankees this year, and that is spot on. That missle would be what we call a good start, first pitch he's seen in a live game since last June. Absolute mammoth, deep to right. Not exactly a "my shoulder hurts" homerun.

UPDATE, 2:07 PM: Tex is smooth at first. Molina is snapping it down there a lot, and he's just picking everything. Very good feet around the bag. But Yankees fans are used to this kind of defense at first. Oh, wait...

UPDATE, 2:11 PM: Strong outing for Coke, ended his second inning freezing the left-handed Richards with a power fastball down and in. He almost has borderline sweeping action because of his low arm angle, exactly what you want from a lefty reliever. There is a lot of competition for those last four bullpen spots (Mo, Marte, and Bruney are locks), but I don't see how Coke doesn't make this team.

UPDATE, 2:15 PM: Tex lines a single between first and second. I'm going online to look for my World Series tickets, this guy is the furthest thing from bust there is and will not let the Yankees lose.

UPDATE, 2:16 PM: A-Rod bounces into a DBP. Awesome.

UPDATE, 2:25 PM: 1-2-3 for Bruney. I'm not kidding when I say I would not be surprised if he's lost 50-60 pounds since he got here in 2006. Stuff looks outstanding, as it always have, but if the location he showed that inning is the location he is going to have, watch out. Really challenging people down and at the corners, which is all you have to do with a fastball like that.

UPDATE, 2:30 PM: Sada just smoked an RBI double over the center fielder's head. If he can catch 100-120 games, with his bat, that will be as big for this team as any other acquisition they made.

UPDATE, 2:35 PM: Good job by Girardi in his in-game interview. An in-game interview, by the way, that is okay during spring training, not okay during the regular season, and DEFINITELY not okay during playoffs (ESPN, FOX, TBS). Joked about his trainers totally overexaggerating the weight Bruney lost before Girardi got down there, making it seem like he was now built like Edwar Ramirez. Seems much looser in general, and that's important. He's now allowing them to do whatever they want in the clubhouse with music, thsoe types of things. You can't play sports tight, especially for a season that is 162 games long.

UPDATE, 2:39 PM: Easy inning for Marte. The Yankees pitchers look good, but they are supposed to have a leg up. It drives me insane that he's going to the WBC. He's an important part of this club, and between the way Girardi worked him last year and the extra innings in the WBC, it makes me nervous. All the position players in the world could go to the WBC, and I wouldn't care. But pitchers, not so much, I want them preparing normally.

UPDATE, 2:58 PM: Got an unexpected look at former top prospect who has fallen due to injury J.B. Cox. I had high hopes for the former University of Texas closer, especially with his side arm sinker/slider potential to neutralize righties. Think of a Justin Masterson type, but that's the only thing he can do. I've seen him a lot in online videos, but this was my first live look. Gave up a run, but looked okay. Doesn't throw hard, but has good run on his ball. Slider looked above average but nothing huge. Like Hughes, I just hope Cox has a healthy year.

UPDATE, 3:08 PM: When Shelley Duncan gets into one, Shelley Duncan gets into one. Ball had to go close to 450. Probably not actually, but it seemed like it did, and I love talking about home runs going that distance. Three run job, Yanks in command 5-1.

UPDATE, 3:15 PM: Melancon on now. This should be fun.

UPDATE, 3:20 PM: Looked good. 1-2-3, groundout, strikeout looking, groundout. The called strike three was a two-seamer that just darted to the outside corner on a lefty, glove didn't move. Two changeups, one curve, both looked good. Everything is at or around the strikezone, you can tell he knows how to pitch. Big build, little hitch in his motion, very smooth coming out of his hands, and he puts it where he wants it. I, for one, am excited.

UPDATE, 3:34 PM: Another 1-2-3 inning, this time from Albaladejo. He really does have a big fastball, lotta life. And that closes it out, Yankees win 5-1. That's it for me. Gotta give it to PeteAbe (who does this for almost every Spring Training game), this is tiresome. I'm pretty sure this is the longest post in HYD history. It's also probably not that interesting. I enjoyed it, great to watch and write about real baseball. Everyone enjoy their night, thanks for reading.

Character Assassination

This is really an oversized comment that might be able to hold everyone over before Pat starts his live-blog event around 1 this afternoon. But I was thinking about John's comment on blaming Drew for things versus blaming Theo Epstein for paying the guy $70 million. This happens a lot--when fans blame the players for sucking when they're not that good--instead of blaming the guy who thought the players actually were good when they were not. So let's just throw down some quick points here.

-Theo Epstein had a really, really bad day on December 6, 2006. He is to blame for bringing in Drew and Lugo--both who are unimpressive to bad baseball players--for nine combined years and $106 million combined dollars. Not good. And yes, it is hard to sometimes blame Lugo and Drew for Epstein's huge, glaring mistake.

-That said, I'm not going to stop ragging on Drew. I do feel bad sometimes because he is a human being, but there's no way I'm going to stop ripping him for the following reasons: He's done really, really stupid things that rub me wrong on a personal level. I think his 1997 draft antics, demanding a signing bonus triple the all-time record and holding out for an entire year because he didn't get what he wants sheds a tremendous amount of light on someone's character.

The way he opted out of a gift Dodgers contract is more of the same. He's also been called out by La Russa, Jones, and has even been slightly criticized by Francona for lack of effort and interest in playing at less than 100.0%. And his performance reeks of poor effort.

-Similarly, bringing back Varitek is a huge black mark on Theo. But I will rag on Varitek because despite his reputation as a great leader, he's a guy who cried about playing time in the playoffs, insulted all of our intelligence by asking for a Jorge Posada contract after hitting .220, held out in a way similar to Drew in 1994, and performed a pretty contemptuous action against Clay Buchholz--something that has been discussed here before but discussed in New York more than Boston.

-As far as 46 goes, I'm going to rip him personally as well, because on December 3, 2007, by becoming the first new player to be represented by Scott Boras, he basically said that A-Rod opting out during Game 4 of the World Series is acceptable behavior.

-Julio Lugo isn't perfect with the allegations that he went Chris Brown on his wife and some snarky comments to the media. But it's not his fault that he sucks at baseball. It might be his fault that he doesn't concentrate in the field. But he clearly cares and feels bad when he fails, and I appreciate that in a big way. But it's more Theo Epstein's mistake every time Lugo costs this team a run, an out, or a game. So I'll be more careful assigning the blame there.

It's exciting to have baseball back.

Stay tuned for Pat's live blog on the Yankees game today. Big game for Phil Hughes.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Your Words In Italics

A very interesting article about the Baseball Player By Trade written by Dan Shaughnessy today. After reading articles like this, I'm starting to long for articles about Manny's grandmother and her health every February. And while there are other things to address this week, this one made my blood boil. Sorry, JFlu, but Shaughnessy's words are in italics:

You'd like J.D. Drew. Really. He's not a diva.

Ask anyone in Philadelphia how they feel after he held out for an entire year, preferring to play independent ball to the Phillies' signing bonus that was short of his demand of over 300% of the existing all-time record signing bonus. The mayor of the city once said J.D. Drew embodies everything that's wrong with America.

He's not a crybaby.

Shall we go over the injury inventory from last week's post again? Shall we go over the quote when Francona said he was milking an injury again?

He actually does care.

If that line doesn't leave you confused, check out the last line of this post.

[From Drew:] "I got a call from our trainer and he's like, 'Can you do anything?' I was confused."

We were confused when you were day to day from August 17th on. Looking back on the Extra Bases blog, it seemed like every day it felt great until about 6:30 PM when it miraculously tightened up.

I just have residual stiffness from time to time, which is associated with a herniated disk. But it was completely exaggerated.

Maybe your back was sore because you didn't want to go back to work after a long vacation. Understandable. You told us this winter that you only were a baseball player by trade. Looks like someone just had a case of the Mondays.

He has played more than 140 games in only two of his 11 big league seasons. The Red Sox have made their peace with this. It's something they knew when they brought him on board for five years at $70 million.

I wonder if Theo Epstein buys used cars using the same philosophy. Have you ever heard of due diligence?

"His playing 130 games at an elite level is more valuable to us than another player playing more games at an average level," said the GM.

Trot Nixon, hit .275 in 2005 with an extra-base hit every nine at-bats, a home run every 31 at-bats, a strikeout every 6.9 at-bats, and hit .224 against lefties in a 408-at-bat, 67-RBI season. Theo couldn't wait to kick him out the door.

Drew hit .274 in 2007-8 with an extra-base hit every nine at-bats, a home run ever 27 at-bats, a strikeout every 4.6 at-bats, and hit .246 against lefties while getting 64 RBIs in each year. But he walks. Therefore, he is elite. His OPS+ in 2007 was 105. Elite.

Remember the grand slam against the Indians in the 2007 ALCS?

Memo to Shaughnessy: A baseball season is 600 at-bats long, not 1 at-bat long. Being a liability for a team, hitting 118 weak ground balls to the right side and thinking one at-bat makes up for it isn't a good way to go.

I had severe patella tendinitis and really didn't know if I'd be effective again to play at all. It took about a full year to come back, and for three years I fought that, and that's where that label [La Russa questioning his desire to play] came up. I can't do anything about that."

During one of the seasons during this three-year recovery stretch, Drew OPS+ed 161. Sounds like it was killing him.

Our last memory of Drew is the image of him trying (and failing) to check his swing on a 1-and-2 pitch from Tampa rookie David Price with the bases loaded and two out in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Funny, it kind of blurs in with the other check swings at breaking balls in the dirt over the past two years.

What did he think when he saw the replay? "I've never gone back and looked at it," he said.
Most of us, of course, would have watched the replay a million times and maybe petitioned the commissioner to have the call reversed. But that's just not J.D. Drew.


Words 14-17 of the article are "He actually does care."

Smart: Rotation Order

I was very vocal about my displeasure with the job Joe Girardi did as manager last year. I don't want this to be the case in 2009. Girardi seems like a great guy, and I want to like him. I think he has the capability to be a great technical manager between his work ethic and sense for the game as a former catcher, but he can't do anything if he's wound as tightly as he was last year. That rubs impacts everone during a 162 game grind, especially the players, and there were a lot of rumblings about how much that rubbed a lot of guys the wrong way. So far, it seems like Joey G has realized his mistake, and is going above and beyond to try to change it. That's what I'm talking about.

So far Girardi has revealed a couple of nuggets this spring about his intentions for both the rotation and the lineup. I realize he will not make these decisions all by himself, but when it comes to the rotation order and lineup card, he has ultimate say as manager. Let's take a look at what Girardi has revealed that I agree with (before what I don't later in the week): the rotation.

I don't think the order in which your starters pitch is the be all, end all. People get skipped, rainouts happen, it gets mixed up anyway. But I do think it can have impact. Giving teams different stuff/style looks, taking the wind out of their sails before a series starts with a big 1-2 punch, mixing up lefties and righties, it can make a difference.

Girardi said last week the two things he plans on doing are splitting up the lefties and splitting up the two pitchers with most similar stuff, Burnett and Joba. I agree 100% with both of these decisions. This leaves us with two realistic rotation options:

(A) 1. CC 2. Wang 3. Burnett 4. Pettitte 5. Joba
(B) 2. CC 2. Burnett 3. Wang 4. Pettitte 5. Joba

No matter which way they go, it won't make much different between those two options. The thing I like the most about these options, in addition to the two things Girardi mentioned, is that you get Joba and CC going back-to-back. Make no mistake about it, these are the Yankees two most dominant pitchers, the two that other teams would want to face least. When a team knows that they are getting that 1-2 punch in the same series, it can put them on their heels before it even gets started. Sabathia's teams are 45-24 (+21) in games he's started the last two seasons with offenses not quite like the one he should have this year. The Yankees were 8-2 (+6) in games actually "started" by Joba in 2008, and they each had ERA's in the mid 2's last year. That's not going to be a lot of fun for opposition if they go 1-2, which seems to be the plan. Good job here, very exciting stuff.

Given the choice between A and B, I'd take A without much thought. First, you sandwich both of the contact pitchers between the three bat missers. The Yankees defense should be improved over 2009, but it still can't hurt to split up the guys who are going to keep the gloves very busy.

I also think this alignment plays well for the psyches of both Wang and Burnett. Wang is the better 162 game pitcher by quite a bit based on their careers to date, so he should be there anyway, but I think it's a nice vote of confidence to make him the official #2 guy. Remember, he carried the Yankees staff for two seasons, and was definitely in the conversation as a #1. With this winter's additions and having missed half the season due to injury, he's like the forgotten man. That's kind of silly, as he's really good. I think he thrives off of having high expecations, and having him be the #2 on paper might help create some of that. Conversely, I think Burnett is better served behind CC and Wang. It takes a little bit of the edge off for him (the contract will be enough), because if the two of them are crushing it up top it is going to make everything he does look better. This is not a major thing, but again, slightly reduced expectations on paper might be helpful for AJ.

I'm really looking forward to watching this rotation go to work, and hope it experiences health more than anything else. If it does it won't really matter how they line it up, they should be amongst the best, if not the best in the game. We'll get more into it when we do some preseason breakdowns, but what has me amped the most is the four (all but Pettitte) legitimate power pitchers they have in the rotation. That's a rarity.

I will also be interested to see how the Red Sox lineup. I would go Lester, Matsuzaka, Beckett, Wakefield, Penny, but that's just me. If everyone for both clubs are healthy, they certainly have a lot more to look at in Spring Training than do the Yankees. You could see a situation where those five aren't giving you a ton of innings as a unit. Matsuzaka and Penny are 6 inning pitchers. Beckett has gone less than 7 innings in over half his starts (53.3%) over three years in Boston, which is good but not great, especially when coupled with the two above. Wakefield can throw all day, it's just that half the time it's not going to be awe inspiring work. That leaves Lester.

Of course, we aren't factoring in here that the innings Matsuzaka (in particular) and Beckett give you are very quality from #2 and #3 starters, but we are only talking about innings here. And in that regard, you have four returning starters who last year combined to get to the 8th inning of a game just 21 times in 119 total starts, and well over a third of those (8) came from Lester. Matsuzaka, Beckett, and Wakefield got to the 8th inning 13 times in total. The only addition is a #5 coming off injury who got into the 8th inning 0 times in 17 starts pre-injury. That's 21 8th innings in 136 starts, or 1.5 every 10 games. 8.5/10 is a lot of games to be asking for a minimum of 7 outs from the bullpen. I guess that's why you build the bullpen the Red Sox have built. It's not a guarantee that this rotation won't give you a ton of innings, but it's more probable that they won't than they will. And that is the type of thing that makes the order in which your starters pitch significant, and a reason I would go the way I went with the order.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Moneyball Detox

I thought Moneyball by Michael Lewis was a terrific book. I think it was probably a silly idea for Billy Beane to let Lewis into his meetings and stuff so his secrets could effectively be given away, but still. It was a very informative book, and needless to say, it's changed baseball in a big, big way. Now, almost every team is trying to be a Moneyball team, trying to find market inefficiencies and exploiting these inefficiencies to get players who contribute to wins for a smaller cost.

Unfortunately about Moneyball, however, is that most likely the majority of baseball fans missed the point of the book. People say stuff like "MONEYABLL IS GRATE IT TAGHT ME ABOUT OPS AND ON BASE PERNTAGE!!!1" instead of realizing that the book was about how the A's, faced with an economic disadvantage against other teams, successfully used these statistics to exploit inefficiencies in the labor market. While the research about how OBP and slugging percentage correlate more than any other statistic to runs scored is intriguing, people get hung up on those numbers instead of realizing the point of Moneyball.

The Moneyball executives looked for guys who walked a lot and got a lot of extra-base hits while most people were still looking at "traditional" statistics like batting average, home runs, and RBIs. Moneyball executives were looking at numbers while other teams were trusting scouts' eyes, and that was a pretty progressive idea.

But most importantly, the Moneyball executives wanted these guys because nobody else did. There was no market for these players, and the A's could get them cheap. As much as the offensive players got hyped up, guys like Chad Bradford and his 84-mph fastball were just as important to the Moneyball philosophy.

But people caught on. After the publication of the book and the new-found trendiness of sabermetrics, walks become all the rage, small-ball and stolen bases became taboo, and OPS became the end-all, be-all statistic in baseball. (Thanks to Allan Selig's lack of leadership, the home run statistic is now irrelevant.)

Six years later, the secret is still out about OBP, SLG, OPS, and valuing guys who might not put up great traditional stats but walk all the time. While in the time of Moneyball, these guys might have been undervalued, they no longer are. Now all thirty teams--teams rich and poor--are falling in love with ballplayers who draw a lot of walks because of OBP's correlation to runs scored. Ignoring the effects of the declining economy, we have reached the point that people are so nuts about OBP that these guys are overvalued instead of undervalued.

After Moneyball, Billy Beane started to change his philosophies and go "against the book" once again. Instead of drafting nothing but college players in the book, the A's started to draft high school players again. While the book de-emphasized defense, in the mid-2000s the A's turned themselves into a heavily defense-powered team. They even went through a phase when they tried to get the last drop out of 1990s stars like Mike Piazza and Frank Thomas while other teams had already given up on then.

But there have been no best-selling books out about any of those things. So people still love OBP and walks.

Obviously, this biased offer will use J.D. Drew as a perfect example of why there is a serious need for "Moneyball Detox." Drew is a player who certainly displays terrific plate patience and therefore walks a lot. But when you look back and you actually watch the player, it's as if he were trying to walk instead of get hits. Walks are wonderful, but hits sometimes can get you to second base, third base, or (though only 30 times in his first two years) even home plate.

Furthermore, walks don't advance runners already on base. If there's a runner on second with two outs, a single scores him and a walk does very little. Not withstanding the injuries, the inconsistent play, the perceived apathy, and the 190 weak ground balls to the right side, the fact that he seems to prefer to draw the walk to driving the runner home in that situation makes Drew such a frustrating player to watch.

People who take Moneyball as the Bible think that Drew's ability to work a count when not striking out looking is more worthwhile than someone who actively seeks to get a hit instead of just getting on base. Which brings me to the next (and last) point, which I've mentioned in various comments sections:

Kevin Youkilis was a guy specifically mentioned in Moneyball as a guy who worked counts, a guy who might not have great traditional stats and might not have a sweet swing or a good body type, but did have an astronomical OBP. "The Greek God of Walks," six years ago, was the prototypical Moneyball player, with traditional scouts wondering "why do the A's want this guy?"

In 2008, Youkilis walked only 62 times in 145 games. Drew walked 79 times despite his 53 days of paid vacation. What happened to the OBP machine?

He decided that he wanted to get hits. Drive runners in. Move runners along. Hit doubles and home runs. Do what you need to do as a middle-of-the-order hitter, someone that Drew is paid $14 million a year to be. Youkilis finished third in MVP voting, though I believe he should have won. He hit 43 doubles, 29 home runs, and drove in 115 runs--some of which may not have been driven in if he had stuck to his old game, exhibited plate patience, and taken a walk instead of actively seeking a hit. Despite a batting average 24 points higher than 2007, Youkilis's OBP was an identical .390 in 2008.

Drew's OBP in 2008 was .408, and his OPS was only 32 points lower than Youkilis's. We'll ignore when Drew was listed as day-to-day and took six weeks' vacation at the end of the season. On August 17th, was Drew really having anything close to as good a season as Youkilis? The answer, if you look at home runs and RBIs--the stats that have been discarded in the age of Moneyball--you'd say that Youkilis was far better. The answer, if you're a hardcore Moneyball fundamentalist (and there are a lot of them out there) is no. Because Drew walks a lot.

The fact that there are people out there who believe that even without the one big month and two big swings, J.D. Drew has helped this team, is a problem. The fact that there are people out there who don't realize the transformation of Kevin Youkilis is also a problem.

These problems are results of Moneyball, the overreliance on sabermetrics, and people missing the point and falling in love with on-base percentage and bases on balls. That's why Moneyball Detox is necessary. That's why it's something worth thinking about. And worth talking about.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Light Topic Friday

DV has a great post about Moneyball Detox that he just missed getting ready for today (look for it Monday, it looks good). I don't really have anything prepared for today, nor do I feel like going into anything Yankee related. It's a rarity, but I just feel like we have been hammering away with that team, especially the heavy issues. Next week, we should be diving into Spring Training for both the Yankees and the Red Sox in a big way. I have my last Legal Writing assignment due Monday, so the following two weeks until Midterms should allow for a lot of blogging.

Two things today. One, I'd love to hear what's going on early in Red Sox camp in the comments section. How is Ortiz's wrist? Lowell's hip? Beckett's entire body? Is anybody getting excited down there based off of what they see early from Buchholz, Masterson, Bowden, or Bard? Is this team going to forfeit the catcher position all season? Who's taller, Dustin Pedroia or his MVP trophy? Which one has more hair? These are all questions, I'd love some answers. Really, whatever the hot topics have been in Fort Myers, I'd just like to hear about them.

Second, you know, some days I'm like, "Wow I'm so tired of this drama or that drama surrounding the Yankees. I just want to focus on baseball." On those days I should just remind myself, "Larry Lucchino is not the President of the team I root for." I know we've covered this before, but this guy never stops! Every time he opens his mouth it's better than the last. Now he wants the Yankees in one group financially, and the other 29 teams in another. Never mind that Boston has a payroll $120 million more than the lowest. www.nomaas.org does a great job with this sillyness, second post down (first one is good too). Funny stuff.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'm not even the one in law school

...but I can still find a few ways to pick apart what Alex Rodriguez said yesterday. I am 100% certain that A-Rod is still hiding something, and the guy is still apparently too young and too stupid still to realize that (as Magic Johnson said on a Simpsons rerun tonight) he'll eventually be exposed as the fraud he really is. Let's look at a few things he's said in his last two public speaking appearances.

"That's pretty accurate." Unfortunately, nobody asked A-Rod what he meant by that answer to Peter Gammons. A flashback: Gammons asked him if he used steroids only during his time in Texas. His answer was "That's pretty accurate." Let me just say that Jack Byrnes should have interviewed him, because "That's pretty accurate" is different from "yes." "That's pretty accurate" sounds a lot like "I might have done it three or four times in 2000 and 2004." It actually sounds a little bit like "I've been shooting up since I was 12 and I'm still pounding hGH because there's no blood test for it," too.

"No on the human growth hormone. What I used to take a lot in, especially in the Seattle days, is a thing called Ripped Fuel." A-Rod was asked whether he ever experimented in any other drugs other than "boli," like hGH or amphetamines. He never denied greenie use. It's too bad that there were no follow-up questions yesterday. So the questions kept on going. It's also interesting that in the course of 15 seconds he talked about taking "a lot" of Ripped Fuel and then talked about "dabbling" in Ripped Fuel. I guess he dabbled in Ripped Fuel the same way Ron Burgundy "dabbled" in playing the flute.

"I thought that since I didn't hear about it for five years there was a chance that it was okay" is what he said to defend his flat-out lie to Katie Couric last year. That was tantamount to the notorious Rick James "I have more sense than that" line, because just minutes earlier he talked about how drug trafficking conspirator Gene Orza told him that he "had been among the players from which people might conclude that [he] tested positive."

Put that with the fact that he let slip last year that he got tested nine or ten times," which would infer that he had previously tested positive because those with positive tests were tested with more frequency, and his lie about why he lied to Katie Couric becomes more obvious.

There's also a missing link here. He was talking about how he knew he and his cousin weren't taking Tic-Tacs. He also used the word "ingested" during his Gammons interview. So in those two examples it looks like he was taking an oral (as in pills) steroid.

However, he admitted taking injections (as in needles) twice a month. So if once he talks about injections, and twice he talks about Tic-Tacs and "ingesting" stuff...well...he's not telling the whole truth.

Here's where Congress should step in. This guy is terrible at speaking and will only admit the bare minimum. He'll tell transparent lies unless he's pre-trained to answer a question the right way. He'll admit more if he's called on it. He should just forget to speak English if he ever testifies under oath. Because otherwise, he'd be screwed. I'm not even the one in law school to be able to see though his bullcrap.

But hey, as Johnny Damon would say, "There could be a lot worse things he, uh, could have been doing out there, you know, he, uh, um, he's he hasn't done a crime, he uh, you know, so, there's worse things he could have done...um, murdering someone, uh, you know, um..."

No word as to whether Damon is a Ray Lewis fan.

Scouting C.C. Sabathia

The Yankees might be the only team in the world that could sign arguably the best pitcher in the game, in the early stages of his prime, to the biggest contract a pitcher has ever received, and not have it be the major story of the winter. First came Burnett, so at least he wasn't the only story. Then came Teixeira and, because he came after C.C. with a slightly bigger contract and a bit more controversy, this was overshadow #1. Then came the Torre book, overshadow #2. Then A-Rod and steroids, overshadow #3-1039483948329384832.

However, in a little over a month, and barring any new news, only Rodriguez is going to compete with C.C. in terms of expectations. Burnett could get injured, not as big of a story as C.C. not pitching well. Teixeira could get off to a slow start (as he typically does), not as big of a storyline as C.C. not pitching well. Robinson Cano could continue thinking the season starts in June, not as big a story as C.C. not pitching well. The only person who is going to have the spotlight on them the way C.C. will is Alex R. (who will have it slightly more, which could help C.C. in a weird way). And this is for good reason. C.C. was brought here to be the man more than anyone else. The Yankees haven't had a pitcher like what he's been recently for a great majority of this decade. And the expectation is that he is going to be nothing less than that. Tall order. It's an especially tall order for someone who has been unusually under the radar in recent months. Like I said, that's about to change when the lights go on (and thank goodness for that). So let's delve into Carsten Charles the pitcher, and talk about, you know, baseball for a change.

Sabathia is everything you want in a pitcher and then some. He's got a big body with long arms, which makes his release seem a lot closer and wider than it really is to hitters. Very clean mechanically. Uses his tree trunks posing as legs to take stress of his upper body, producing effortless arm action. Comes at hitters from a high three quarters arm angle, with a slight hesitation in the middle of his windup that allows him to hide the ball a little longer.

His arsenal includes a 4-seamer that he gets up to 96, but he'll typically operate it in the 93-94 range (his average fastball velocity last year was 93.7 mph, including cutters and 2-seamers), a cutter that has exaggerated, almost slider like action that he loves to bring in on right-handers (really his bread and butter to righties), a slider (his bread and butter to lefties), a slurve that looks more curve but thrown more slider (get me over to righties, expand the zone to lefties), and a circle change that has become out of this world (the biggest thing I've seen him develop, and my favorite thing that he has). He also added a two-seamer while in Milwaulkee. This was a surprise to Jorge Posada, who thought he already had a two-seamer because of the tailing action his 4-seamer gets. That's the benefit of having such long arms and oversized hands/fingers, you can treat a baseball like most people treat a golfball. Makes his ball dance without a lot of effort.

I have always seen a decent amount of C.C., but never more than last year. The biggest thing I saw last year was the work he did with the outer half of the plate to right-handed hitters. Righties have to be so aware of that bat breaking cutter that C.C. pounds you with inside that you can really exploit them away, and I saw C.C. do that to a T last year. He was getting his slurve over the outside corner consistently, and then he just broke out this absolutely devastating change-up, especially late in counts. No change in arm speed, looked fastball out of the hand and all the way until it just tailed and faded (more like dipped and dove) away from righties at the last second. He often got it for ugly swings and misses, but a lot of times it looked to flutter right at the knees, which is a difficult feat, being able to keep a change borderline in the strikezone but have it be nasty enough for a swing and miss. As you might imagine, C.C. has great career splits against batters from both sides. But for the last two seasons he's been exhibiting otherworldly dominance against lefties, and last year in particular his numbers against righties were down substantially. From what I saw this plus change could have a lot to do with it. If he is going to have that working on the regular, neutralizing righties even further, he's just that much better.

C.C.'s durability combined with his immense stuff has produced some pretty sick numbers. Hitters are a career .247/.309/.379(!!!!!) against him. He's a slight fly ball pitcher, but with his power stuff that's to be expected. He struck out 251 batters in 253 innings, second only to Timmy Lincecum. He was 6th in the majors in bats missed per swing. This ability to miss bats combined with his ability to limit the extra base hit (see SLG against above) makes that sligth flyball tendency less of a concern. He also doesn't walk anyone (I could stare at his K/BB the last two years all day). What's more is that he's on the upswing, posting the three best ERA's of his career (3.22, 3.21, 2.70) in the last three years. He's also AL tested. It doesn't get much more complete.

People will talk about C.C.'s weight, but 1) he hasn't had a problem to date and 2) there is a school of thought that pitchers with bigger bodies (especially in the lower half) put less stress on their arms and this allows for more durability. People will also talk about his last four October starts (in 2007-2008), but 1) it's an extremely small sample size (5 starts total) and 2) it isn't like he hasn't taken over huge games in the regular season. It doesn't get any bigger than that must win game against the Cubs on the last day of the 2008 season when he went complete game, 4 hits, 1 run. Typically, it's not October that is the issue, it's any sort of big spot (see: Rodriguez, Alex). October gets lumped in because every spot is a big spot. C.C. has not looked great in October to date, and it's possible that C.C. could have October issues, but my guess is that it had more to do with the fact that he was pitching something that more closely resembled December (lead the majors in innings both years) the last two years while everyone else was in October, and that he was simply out of gas from willing his teams into the playoffs. It's too small of a sample size to know either way, and the fact that C.C. has pitched well in big games, regardless of what month they are, bodes well for him not being scared of the big October spot.

Of course, C.C. could get hurt tomorrow, just like any other pitcher. Outside of that, though, this is as sure of a thing as you can have on the mound. Absolute total package, with the competitive fire and a good makeup on and off the field to boot. He may not be the main attraction now, but that is going to be corrected shortly. Hopefully he's got a lot more of what we've seen the last few years in him, because that's exactly what the Yankees need, and exactly what everyone is expecting.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Open Thread: A-Rod Presser

Since people probably have some stuff to say about the A-Rod press conference, use this comments section so we don't get two separate threads going.

I thought that went so-so. Some good things. Some bad things. But I'm certainly no expert, so I'll be interested to see what everyone around the country, and here, thinks. I didn't get to see anything yet about the steroid related charity he'll be working with, but I hope that's the biggest thing that comes out of this, a serious commitment (time and money) from him to prevent others from using.

The big thing for me is that, from a Yankee perspective, this is one step closer to being over. And the Yankee perspective is the perspective I care about the most. And when I say Yankee perspective, I am mostly talking about wins and losses. We have a baseball season to play, and I'm not interested in forfeiting over this.

Comment on anything you want below, I'm sure DV and I will join in.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Oh Great, Nancy Drew's Back

See that? That's a play on words.

It's abundantly clear that Nancy Drew just flat-out does not want to earn the money due in his inexplicable $70-million gift asinine contract. Pat just texted me about a scouting report saying that he "looks uninterested in playing everyday." And the fact that Drew is still poised to avoid workouts because of an injury that put him on the day-to-day list on August 17, 2008 is just further proof that he is a $70-million disaster and that despite three swings and a month of June, Drew is the same chronic underachiever that left fans in St. Louis, Atlanta, and Los Angeles underwhelmed and unimpressed.

Here is a short chronology of Drew injuries since he arrived in Boston:

Back: May 2007
Hamstring: June 2007
Back: March-April 2008 (Even ultra-player's manager Terry Francona criticized Drew for exaggerating the injury)
Quad: April 2008
Wrist: May 2008
Knee: May 2008
Vertigo: May 2008
Back: July 2008
Back: August 17, 2008 (he was listed as day-to-day)-October 2008
Back: February 2009

A quick aside: While doing Drew injury research on the HYD archives, I saw that Pat wrote this about Drew in April 2007: When he is healthy, he is good. And he is very good. Beautiful stroke. Probably better than any of us thought just because we knew how injury prone he is, and we let that take over. I know I did. I feel like he's saying the EXACT SAME STUFF about A.J. Burnett, and I find that to be beyond comical.

I'd just like to thank Mr. Drew for doing such a good job and making so much of an effort this offseason to rehab the back that earned him many of his 53 paid vacation days last year. He was hobbling around like Kirk Gibson when he hit those two big playoff hits. It seems like relaxing and talking by the fire to Steve Buckley all winter has done wonders. Or maybe, just as people have speculated his entire career, Drew is just finding convenient excuses to not work out and to not play baseball. Seriously, dude, justifiably so or not, you have a responsibility to this team to play baseball. You already have enough money to make your family all set for the rest of your lives.

I have a solution for you. You can stop playing baseball altogether at the end of this season and have all the time in the world for sitting down and relaxing. The next injury you fake should be an injury to your surgically-repaired right shoulder. Therefore, the Red Sox can void your contract, you will become a free agent after 2009, maybe teams will realize that you have absolutely no value as a reliable baseball player, and you can ride your horse into the sunset. Be the father you want to be. I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is the fact that you're not too good at being a baseball player and seemingly don't care one way or another if your overemployer wins.

By the way, congratulations to Theo Epstein for not foreseeing this situation. He wins the Steve Carell Award for embodying two of Carell's most well-known characters: Like Brick Tamland, acquiring Drew showed that he is what most people call "mentally retarded." And like Andy (the 40-Year-Old Virgin), Epstein put this p***y on a pedestal, hideously overvaluing his skills and falling in love with a tremendous talent who just flat-out doesn't care about showing up to work everyday.

October 2, 2011. I really don't know if I can take three more seasons of this.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Johnny, Don't Be Johnny

Three quick topics from this weekend that will hopefully get our readership's week started off the right way:

1. John Smoltz has to shut the hell up. Now, I like John Smoltz a lot, and I've made that clear here on HYD Baseball. But on a rating from 1 to 10 on the Johnny Damon Whining scale, Smoltz has already registered a 6 with what he's already said about his departure from the Atlanta Braves. I understand how he wanted to spend the remainder of his career in Atlanta, and that makes sense. As a purist baseball fan, I wanted to see that, too. But it didn't happen. So let's move on.

Especially if Atlanta didn't treat him like a 20-year veteran of the franchise, Smoltz has a reason to be bitter. But he has to stop talking about it because he sounds a lot like Johnny Damon except for the fact that he can mutter a whole sentence without stumbling on his words. He was disrespected, he's bitter, and that's fine. But continuing to talk about that is just as disrespectful, both to the old team and the new team. John, you're not on the Atlanta Braves, you're on the Boston Red Sox. Start talking about the Boston Red Sox. Consider him officially on notice.

2. It is on Terry Francona right now. Today. Designate a catcher. Determine how often Captain K is going to be playing and costing the team four outs now, so maybe he can stop his complaining about playing time by May. More importantly, perhaps, groom a guy to catch Wakefield. I read in the Globe today that Varitek will not be catching Wakefield despite the extra flap in his glove we heard so much about during the playoffs. Fine. It's time to pick one guy who can do it and devote the appropriate time to learn. Josh Bard learned this the hard way three years ago. So if he's going to be the #2 guy, he should probably focus on this critical job a little more then last year. So it's on Francona: Tell Josh Bard that he has something to learn and he only has a few weeks to learn it. It's better than doing a half-assed job with Bard, Brown, Kottaras, and whoever else is in the mix.

3. Barry Bonds should remain in the record books. Just as everybody in the world can look at the 1919 World Series in the record books, see the Reds' victory, and automatically know what happened like they remember multiplication tables, people will also know about the home run record. Bud Selig deserves to have that number stay where it is. It's a black eye on the face of baseball, and that's on him. Just as the disgraceful decisions of the 1919 Black Sox echo in time, the poor decisions by Bonds, A-Rod, McGwire, Sosa, and especially Bud Selig and the union bosses should echo in time as well.

Stay tuned this week, because you know I'll have a thing or two to say about Nancy Drew's back. I also will be writing about Moneyball Detox if I have time.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Clarification and Other Stuff

First of all, I want to wish Pat a happy birthday. He's on a plane headed to California today, so he didn't have time to voice his opinion on how unhappy he is about Kevin Millar signing with the Blue Jays. The name of his post was something along the lines of "Please, Kevin, Any Other Division" and he was planning on talking about how Millar is a notorious Yankee-killer.

I'm sure the Red Sox fans have something to say about Millar, especially about the fact that it's not really that hard to get him out. As far as I'm concerned, he was a (much) more effective version of Dougie Mirabelli--great at sitting on pitches and drilling 450-foot foul balls and line-drive singles off the Wall in left field. But it wasn't hard to get him out. Try the outside half of the plate.

I want to clarify (for gentlemen like JB who had no idea what we were talking about) the tangent the commenters went on yesterday. Colby alumni got an email from President Adams (he calls himself "Bro," but he is not my bro) regarding Colby's financial "situation." Turns out that Colby has lost a lot of money from their endowment, not an uncommon thing because the economy's in the crapper. It wasn't a "please donate money because we're desperate" plea, but it certainly seemed like it was before President Adams edited it to a final copy.

Pat, who lives in NYC, and Gunn, who is from Waterville (which is where Colby is), took great exception to the email and Colby's entire attitude toward the economy. They jacked up tuition precipitously last year and used the excuse of "the college is in rough financial condition." They are fired up that Colby did this, seemingly refusing to take into account that people paying tuition might have just got laid off or taken pay cuts. Colby's attitude toward the financial situation (and I agree with this) is extremely arrogant and self-centered.

Which is pretty much par for the course, as the administration there very closely resembles the professionalism of the administration of Major League Baseball. Which is obvious to how one mention of that email opened the flood gates.

Back to baseball, the fact that Bud Selig is thinking about suspending Alex Rodriguez is embarrassing. It seems that he is just trying to make policy as he goes along. It's like he just wants to save face after not suspending Bonds and not suspending Giambi and not suspending Gibbons and Guillen and not suspending Paul Byrd and not suspending Ankiel and not suspending anyone in the Mitchell Report. But it's okay to suspend A-Rod because he's a big name who failed an anonymous drug test six years ago. Great form, Bud.

Folks, enjoy pitchers and catchers, and have a terrific weekend.

One more thing, to the Yankee guys around here, happy anniversary. Tomorrow will mark five years since A-Rod officially got traded to New York.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dear Don and Gene,

In the year 2000, all I wanted was three things: To be the best baseball player of all time, be paid like the best player of all time, and to be recognized as the best baseball player of all time. Why do you think I point at each outfielder when I stand on second base? Why do you think I tossed players under the bus for taking their kids to school while I'm doing stairs? I want everyone to know that I'm the best there is out there. In 2000, I had the work ethic and the superior attitude to become the best baseball player in the world. And I still do. I'm still getting up at six in the morning to do stairs when everyone else is sleeping or taking their kids to school.

However, in 2000, I was starting to see a very disturbing trend. There were a lot of people getting a lot better at baseball--and faster. Not only were pitchers starting to throw 102 miles an hour, making me use my superior mental baseball game to overcome being physically outmatched. But the best hitters were getting really, really good. And they were also getting big. Some of the people who had as many or more home runs than my 41 in 2000 were steroid users Troy Glaus (Signature Pharmacy), Sammy Sosa (Congressional hearings), Barry Bonds (BALCO), Jason Giambi (BALCO), and David Justice (Mitchell Report). And what really made me jealous is the fact that they could come in earlier than me and not get tired doing their exercises.

These people were getting away with doing something, so I had to retaliate and do something so I could accomplish my goal of being the best player in baseball. And seeing that you two gentlemen, despite the pleas of my former teammates Rick Helling and Chad Curtis to you, were resisting any kind of regulation on steroid use, I did the only thing I could do. And that is use.

I really had no other choice. Years and years of you looking the other way, ignoring the pleas of clean players, and looking out for the interest of the dollar instead of players' health resulted in the way things were becoming by the year 2000, when I signed my big contract with the Texas Rangers. And I'm not alone. There are a lot of players just like me who started taking steroids to keep up with the rest of the pack. Some of us might die sooner. Some of us might have grown man-boobs or had our balls shrink. And some of us that ultimately got caught--your years of negligence and creation of this loosey-goosey culture most likely will cost all of us our Hall of Fame immortality.

I believe that the only way to get to the top is through hard work. And taking steroids allowed me to get up at 6:15 in the morning and run stairs and be able to do them just as well the next day! I didn't use steroids as a shortcut--I used it the way everyone uses it. I took them to be able to exercise and work out with less needed recovery time. So I could get up early, run stairs, lift, have lunch, do abs, and run stairs again! It was great, and I couldn't wait to tell everyone I know how much harder I could work. Because, as I said, it's important to be the best, but just as important to let everyone know how great I am.

I juiced because I never wanted someone to say "Alex has been blessed with great talent around him," as if my 41 home runs weren't as good as the 50 some of my teammates might be putting up. I didn't want someone to say "Alex has never had to lead. He can just go and play and have fun. And he hits second—that's totally different than third and fourth in a lineup. You go into Texas, you wanna stop Pudge (Canseco book) and Raffy (Canseco book). You never say, 'Don't let Alex beat you. He's never your concern.'" No. Nobody would ever get away saying that about me. So I had to get on the program.

And because I went on the program, which was because of you guys not doing anything in the nineties, I am now put into this position. My home run record--now meaningless. My Hall of Fame chances--gone. And this was just because you let the steroid scandal happen at the expense of me, the one with the superior natural talent. Because of you, I had to cheat to be the best on the planet. And because I cheated to remain the best on the planet, my life has come crashing down. If you didn't know, I love baseball, and I also find it necessary to jump up on couches to tell you I love it like Tom Cruise did for Katie Holmes.

This is about me. This is much more important than winning playoff games. This is not about a lot of things I've done myself to get myself in trouble, like strippers, yelling at Howie Clark (Mitchell Report), slapping Bronson Arroyo, or getting involved with a pop star who hit #1 on the charts when I was eight years old. This is about my legacy. And I'll be ready to answer questions. Obviously, I'll be in early.

I just wanted to thank you. If not for you guys, I wouldn't have made it to where I am today.

Sincerely,

Alex

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Solutions Business

Now that we have found out about not only Shane Monahan being basically forced to take steroids to keep his job, but also Alex Rodriguez being forced to take steroids to remain the best player in baseball, we have a lot of blame to go around. And we have gone over that in the last 2-3 posts. It's been great, lots of great thoughts.

I want to propose a solution--some action that (though it will not happen with the current "leadership") I believe will FINALLY rid the game of steroids, and will hopefully keep us from further years of talking about this weary subject for more days, weeks, months, and years. Here are the ideas:

1. Bud Selig, Gene Orza, and especially Donald Fehr should resign. I'm 23 years old. I have been talking about how Fehr and Selig suck since I was nine years old. They let this happen on their watch. Selig is not doing his job because he's continuing to not police his sport (more on this in a bit) or even care about policing his sport, evidenced by the lack of testing transparency, lack of HGH testing, and unwillingness to read the Mitchell report in less than three days.

Orza is flat-out being non-compliant with the government's regulations.

And Fehr is not putting the well-being of his own players. When a union boss is f***ing his constituents, which Fehr is, he should not be doing his job anymore. And that's what Fehr is doing, allowing the clean players to suffer so he can stand up for the lawbreaking players, and basically continuing the trend of clean players being "forced" to break the law to keep their job. Is that doing what's best for your constituents?

(Quick aside: It IS Selig's job to police baseball. The commissionership was instituted basically in response to the Black Sox scandal. The players needed someone to lay the law down. And that's what the commissioner is for. Goodell suspends Pacman for making it rain. Bettman suspends Sean Avery for saying "sloppy seconds." USA Swimming suspended Michael Phelps for smoking weed! Selig lets Jay Gibbons and Jose Guillen go without a suspension after abusing drugs. Awesome.)

2. Use blood tests. This is pro-union because while it might "violate privacy" to a certain extent, it also fights steroid and HGH use (HGH is not detectable in urine). It protects the long-term health of union members because this might scare someone from using. If it scares enough people from using the juice, the pressure to use to keep up disappears.

3. A two-year suspension for testing positive, and also a two-year suspension for (as they call it in the track and field world) "non-analytical evidence," like getting busted for receiving $14,800 in HGH from Signature Pharmacy after getting it prescribed by a dentist (hi, Paul Byrd). This will be sacrificing two years of salary. Because, as we said before, "fifty days, well worth it." If Eric Gagne were busted (again), would he regret juicing and going from a marginal sixth starter to the guy with 83 straight saves? People still cheat in track and field WITH a two-year ban. But maybe this will actually create a disincentive to use. Between this and provision #4, doing steroids jeopardizes your baseball career, and "well worth it" will no longer be a consideration.

4. This is the key to the policy. We've talked about how teams will not jump on their moral high horse and refuse to sign a user who can help their team. Look at Andy Pettitte. He got paid.

There should be a $2 million/year "steroid tax." A team signing a dirty player must pay the league $2 million per year. This is a disincentive for the Yankees, Red Sox, or any other team to sign a player. It will hurt them economically to sign a dirty player, and this money could go to anti-doping research or education. And it hurts a dirty player because they would either have to "eat" the tax and take a $2 million/year pay cut forever, and there will be less demand for the player. Between this and a two-year ban, a player's career isn't flat-out over, but it's pretty darn wrecked.

(Whether a team gets penalized for a player getting busted while on the team is debatable.)

This is a little different from our typical conversations of playing the Blame Game. I'm curious to know what you guys think about this. Which provisions are good? Which are bad? Which do you feel are anti-labor (none in my opinion)? Let's get past placing blame and move forward to suggesting solutions.

We would do a better job than the commissioner.

HYD's Two Year Anniversary

This has been a nice, uneventful winter, huh? Goodness. The good news is, baseball is right around the corner. Pitchers and catchers could not be less of an actual event, and yet it something I, like most baseball fans, really look forward to every year. DV has some good stuff coming starting tomorrow, primarily on Alex and the Torre book. Be on the lookout.

To that end, DV and I want you to know that this blog is not going to wear these topics out. This is a baseball blog centered around the Yankees and Red Sox, not a credible news source, so we can pick and choose what we want to talk about. We want to talk about a lot of the important issues surrounding the game, but mostly we want to talk about what goes on between the lines. This is largely because we get the sense that's what all of you want to talk about.

And you guys are the main reason we do this, it wouldn't be as fun or rewarding as it is without you. We have about 20 readers we know of because they comment, but there may be some more out there. Both Dan and I get the sense that there are, as we have been linked a few different places and get the random commenter from time to time.

Regardless of which category you fall into, Dan and I both want to thank you for being here. Two years and three days ago, DV put our first post up. I followed the next day, and we haven't stopped since, posting almost every day for the last two years. This is our 858th post in 733 days, and we have comment numbers in the thousands. This last part is the most important. We are fortunate to have a small, but very regular group of commenters that like to talk about the game we love (debate might be a better word), and have a few laughs while we are at it. It's really become a pretty awesome thing for me, and I hope you are enjoying it too. I don't know that either Dan or I thought it would get this far when we started two February's ago, but I'm really glad it has. It's turned into a pretty cool thing. As always, if there are any suggestions you have to make this puppy better in any way, just let us know.

As far as Alex goes, there isn't a whole lot more going on here on my end. He admitted use, and since few other things are likely to happen, that's that. This isn't anything new. I hope anything else that does come involves him working with the right people to help clean the game up.

Outside of that, he remains a Yankee and I want to see the Yankees win, so I want him to play and play very well. I'm not sure how this will affect him and/or the team, but I don't think it will be overly negative, especially given his admission. For him personally, in little more than a year it's been the opt out, the new contract, the divorce, Madonna, and the Torre book. Opposing fans can't dislike him anymore than they already do, and for the most part Yankee fans are going to forget about this if he hits and crush him if he doesn't, which is also no different than the way things have always been. I don't think this is going to be anything particularly unique for him.

The same is true of the Yankees. This is a team that, because of who they are and the city that they play in, has always had drama. They have been through this particular situation twice already. Again, it's magnified because of who it is, but I don't think it will be so different from the others. This is a team with a lot of professionals and a lot of players who want to win. I doubt this will get in the way of that, since it hasn't before. At least I hope that's the case.

If we've learned anything from this, if we didn't know it already, is that what we know about PED's and baseball is very minimal. A lot more happened than we know. More and more is going to come out, and we shouldn't be overly surprised by any of it. This was a terrible portion of this games' history, and all we can do now is try to learn as much as we can from it and make the changes that need to be made moving forward. When I say "we" I mean the people in charge of affecting such change, meaning the game's leadership. How that all happens, nobody knows for sure, but it needs to happen. In my opinion, it starts with an acknowledgment of how incomprehensive our current level of knowledge is, and then working towards uncovering as much of what has happened as possible, and more importantly how it happened. Uncovering the details of how things get done is the best way to stop them. A jumping off point here could be the other 103 names on that list, and not purely a focus on 1/104th of that list. And that is a small, small starting point. We need to get as much of it out there as possible.

For now, I know that I could not possibly be looking forward to the 2009 baseball season more. My birthday is Thursday, and I have a feeling I have Sabathia and Teixeira t-shirts in my near future (I can never have enough t-shirt jerseys). A new stadium is ready to be unveiled, the AL East is more competitive than ever, and the two teams on this blog are ready to go right at each other. Most importantly, there is a chance the Yankees could win the World Series this year. That gets me fired right up.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Rating The Yankees' Offseason

Great idea by DV here doing this with the Red Sox last Friday. If you haven't read it already, you should. He has also read the Torre book, which he will be writing about very soon (look for it Tuesday-ish). He also has some things to say about Alex Rodriguez. If you want to talk about that in the meantime, you can do so in the comments section of his original post on the topic below.

With pitchers and catchers reporting at the end of the week, let's break down the Yankees' active winter.

THE STRATEGY: Outstanding. I've been saying it for a while now, and I am going to stop. But for the purposes of this post I'll say it one more time. Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Jorge Posada aren't getting any younger. Put their total contributions to the Yankees aside, and the simple fact remains that they are good players at positions that are very difficult to replace. A lot of people talk about how down Jeter's season was, and yet he still had the 4th highest average and 4th highest OBP amongst major league shortstops. There just aren't a lot of good players at shortstop and catcher, and the competitive advantage the Yankees hold at these positions is a big part of what they do. Replacing them is going to be very difficult, and that makes the Yankees' as win-now as you can possibly be while they still have them. It's safe to say the Yankees' winter screamed "win-now", so this is a good job out of them.

STARTING PITCHING: CC Sabathia is a Top 5 pitcher in the game, and over the last two years may very well have been the best. It's a no brainer, very rare to get a player of this caliber on the market at the age of 27. I would have paid more to get him. AJ Burnett's ability when on the mound has never been questioned, you don't lead the AL in strikeouts by accident. What has been questioned is his ability to stay on the mound. First, as I've pointed out in this space already, this is a case of perception not matching reality. Burnett has averaged 28 starts per over the last four seasons. You'd sign for 28 starts per from any starter of his caliber every day of the week, it's not a weak number. Which leads me to #2, that most pitchers, like Burnett, get injured and/or miss starts. The Yankees sent four of their top six starters to the DL this year. The Red Sox three. If most pitchers are going to get hurt anyway, I'd rather have the really good ones getting hurt than medioicre, below average, and pathetic ones. Multiple Yankees called Cashman endorsing Burnett when the season ended, and I'd imagine there's a reason for this. What you really like about Sabathia and Burnett for the Yankees' specifically is the bats they miss. With the Yankees' horrendous defense, pitchers who keep the ball out of play are preferable to those who don't (like a Derek Lowe). Burnett lead the majors in bats missed per swing, with Sabathia not far behind at 6th. This should not be underrated. Andy Pettitte is reliable depth on the back-end. He should be one of the better 4/5 starters in baseball. You add these three to Wang, who before a foot injury won 19 games in back to back seasons, and Joba, who might be the guy you'd give the ball to out of all of them to win you one game, and this rotation looks devastating.

RELIEF PITCHING: Damaso Marte has been one of, if not the best non-closing left-handed relievers in the game for some time now. The Yankees had one of the better bullpens in baseball last year, and a full season of him should only help. There is nothing that overwhelms you individually in this pen outside of Rivera (and perhaps Marte), but there are a lot of young power arms. With the variance in relief performance from year to year, having 5-6 guys to work with (as the Yankees' do) is perhaps the best way to go. Some of them will have good seasons, and you can ride the hot hand. Good job not relinquishing any of this depth.

OFFENSE: Buying low on Nick Swisher gets no play, but it should not be overlooked. Especially since "buying low" isn't really accurate with Swish, again perception not matching reality. Yes, Swisher hit .219, but average means little. Swisher posted the highest line drive percentage (a big indicator of offensive success) of his career (a substantial 3.4% improvement over the year before when he hit .262), so it seems like he just ran into some bad luck. He also hit more home runs than the year before, so it isn't like there were major issues. He's incredibly patient, leading the majors in pitches seen per plate appearance in 2008, which is something the Yankees need to get back to in total. He can play four positions in a pinch, and is pretty much a lock for 80-100 walks and 20-25 home runs. Really a great pickup. Oh yea, they also signed that Teixeira guy. If you read the stuff my co-author writes about him, you may not think he's that good. Make no mistake about it, he's a Top 10 bat in the game, and as with Sabathia, it's not every day a player this good hits the market at this kind of age (29). Over the last two seasons, he has the 4th highest OPS+ in the game and the 8th highest VORP. The ladder of those statistics is particularly impressive considering VORP doesn't help premium offensive positions like first base. Teixeira's statistics manage to endure. Only Pujols has been better defensively over that same two year period at first base, a position a weak defensive team has gotten butchery at for a while now. Again, as with Sabathia, this is a team changing signing.

TO RECAP: It's pretty much A's across the board here. The Yankees improved their club to the point that every major projection system has them winning the most games in baseball. Putting together the best team on paper should be the goal of every winter. Unlike the actual games (where you have little control and have to hope for the best), you can control paper. And on paper the Yankees are really, really good. They accomplished this using nothing more than their greatest resource, and that's cash, baby. They didn't give up any prospect of significance, meaning no movement away from future organizational sustainability. Despite these signings, the Yankees still only have five players (Sabathia, Burnett, Rodriguez, Teixeira, and Cano) signed past 2011, meaning no loss in roster flexibility, something that has plagued them recently. The Yankees had players and money coming off, so they brought players and money back on. Seems reasonable to me. The players they brought on, two in particular, just happen to be some of the best around. That gets an A.

OVERALL GRADE: A. When DV and I do our predictions in a few weeks (real baseball is very close!) the Yankees will not be on top of the AL East for me. This is a team that has been good on paper a lot recently and has come up short. Despite probably being better on paper than they have been in quite some time, they need to show me something. For now, however, it's difficult for me to be critical. As a fan, they did everything you could want and then some this winter.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A-Rod Tests Positive

Well, duh. How else could he endure getting up at 6:30 every day to do stairs without getting tired?

Obviously, though, he's not on them anymore, because baseball's steroid testing policy is extremely tough.

To answer John's comment on the last thread, I hope they out everybody, including Red Sox. It will stop the nationwide delusion that the only people who juiced were the people in the narrow-scope Mitchell Report.

I was going to write "maybe now baseball will do something," but then I realized that I'm reading the Joe Torre book in one weekend to prove that Bud Selig is worthless.

Sound off on this comment thread.

By the way, happy two-year anniversary to Pat and everyone who has made HYD Baseball a part of your life since 2007. We'll do a more-detailed post of gratitude probably when we hit a thousand posts.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Rating the Red Sox' Offseason

(Note: This is a long one. Leave a few minutes to read this one.)

Up until last Friday at 2:05 PM, I must admit that I was adequately impressed with the Red Sox' strategy and execution of this strategy this offseason. Obviously, around 2:05 last Friday a lot of things changed, but we have beaten that to death on this website. Let's take a look at the rest of the stuff:

-The strategy: The Red Sox made it somewhat clear that they were interested in contending in 2009, but they were not going willing to go balls-out in this campaign, instead conserving their resources possibly for a "now season" in 2010, where I expect them to re-sign Josh Beckett and 31-home-run hitter Jason Bay as well as make a very hard push to sign Brandon Webb.

(A quick aside brought to my attention by my dad: People do not realize how Bay hit 31 home runs last year. They think the Red Sox will struggle offensively. Not because of Bay. I think Bay should have "31-home-run-hitter" as his prefix the same way Six-Eleven Acie Earl had a prefix at the beginning of his name. I swear, Acie Earl never played for the Celtics, but Six-Eleven Acie Earl had a spectacularly disappointing season. Bill Simmons moment over.)

-Trading Coco Crisp: I write about this one with a heavy heart, as I have never rooted for a player harder than I rooted for Coco Crisp starting on January 1, 2007. (The details of why will be revealed in my tell-all book being released in time for Christmas 2011.) But the Red Sox were very clear that they were going to go with the one-tool player in center field, and while I strongly disagree with that and therefore will deduct points overall from their offseason score, I appreciate the fact that they traded Coco for some value in Ramon Ramirez. It's a win-win situation--Coco gets the playing time he deserves and the Red Sox have one more person in their bullpen who can bump Okajima and Delcarmen further back in the depth chart...and give Rusty Masterson the flexibility to move to the rotation if necessary.

-Adding Takashi Saito: He's an injury-risk, sure, but he came at a totally discounted price. I will probably repeat that line a few times this column. If he sucks, who cares? He's making pennies and the Red Sox have a lot of bullpen depth. If he doesn't suck, he will be yet ANOTHER person who can bump Okajima and Delcarmen further back in the depth chart. If you couldn't tell, bumping those two back ranks high in my priorities list.

-Contract Extensions for MVP candidates: Dustin Pedroia is making as much as Jose Offerman made to play the same position...a decade ago. Good for Pedroia, who forfeited a lot of money. But most of all, good for the Red Sox. They got a steal. Meanwhile, they also struck a deal with Youkilis. You could either have the guy who probably should have won the 2008 MVP for $10 million...or you could have the guy who has never finished better than 7th in MVP voting for $23 million. Let's say the Efficiency Police are happy. Very happy. Oh, and Youkilis can also play third base when Lowell leaves, leaving a clear path for Lars Anderson.

-No Extension for Papelbon: Most Red Sox fans do not realize that it's not necessarily a good thing to have the same closer guaranteed on your payroll at big money five years from now. What if they did that to Foulke five years ago? My point exactly.

-Junichi Tazawa: I have a philosophical problem with the Red Sox and Tazawa bypassing the Japanese draft and defying a gentlemen's agreement. This has been controversial on both sides of the Pacific. Bad call by the Red Sox, and bad call by Tazawa. They may effectively be undermining the Japanese baseball draft and the prospect that Japanese baseball will continue to be relevant in that country with all their stars leaving the country.

-Starter insurance: I like the characters of both Brad Penny and John Smoltz, especially with multiple references to Smoltz in rap music and because of the Penny Gallon Challenge controversy. Plus, while it might be a long shot that they'll both do well, there is a decent chance that the Red Sox could get something out of one of them. And if they don't, they're not throwing too much money down the toilet. If the Red Sox can get 35 starts from the two combined, that is insurance against throwing Triple-A Clay, Rusty, or Michael Bowden into the fire. I know Pauley got traded and Abe Alvarez and Charlie Zink got DFAed, but the Red Sox are this deep before that kind of guy, Jason Johnson, or Sidney Ponson is thought about: Lester, Beckett, Matsuzaka, Wakefield, Penny, Smoltz, Buchholz, Masterson, Bowden. That is depth you will see nowhere else, and it is a layer of insurance against injury that the Yankees and D-Rays don't have.

The bench: First of all, they tried to trade Lugo, which scores them points. They failed at trading Lugo, which loses points, because Lugo is a downgrade from their backup infielder last year in Cora. They signed Baldelli, which is another move similar to Saito, Smoltz, and Penny. Even if he can't play everyday, he's still a good guy off the bench unless he gives J.D. Drew some ideas of what he can diagnose himself with when July comes around and he's sick of playing baseball. They signed Kotsay, which doesn't thrill me because I'd prefer to have a power hitter like Eric Hinske. But Kotsay's okay provided he can play soon.

The non-Varitek catcher situation: I would have been fine with Bard, Brown, and Kottaras going into the season. I'm serious. They would have contributed more than Varitek. I'm pretty mad that the Red Sox were too stubborn to trade Clay Buchholz for Saltalamacchia, though, and that loses the Red Sox major points.

The Teixeira failure: As I wrote about several times in the second half of 2008, I didn't want Teixeira. The Red Sox did, and they also wanted Jose Contreras and Carl Pavano. The Red Sox wanted Teixeira even though Teixeira did not fill a need. The fact that Theo Epstein wanted this guy in the first place loses points, but I sure am glad they didn't get him.

The Varitek signing: Awful. Deplorable. Asinine. The fact that Shaughnessy said the Red Sox "Beat Jason Varitek and Scott Boras to a pulp" is embarrassing. The fact that they got the short end of the stick in negotiations with a guy with zero leverage is worse. Unforgivable. I still can't believe it happened.

To recap: Signing Youkilis and Pedroia (A), rotation insurance (A-), bullpen insurance (B+), overall strategy (B), bench acquisitions (B), trading Coco (B-), trying to acquire Teixeira (C, bonus points for not ultimately signing him), non-Varitek catcher business (C-), violating international man-code (C-), paying Varitek to play baseball higher than Sunday afternoon hangover-league softball (F).

Overall Grade Excluding Varitek: B
Overall Grade Including Varitek: C

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Manny, Torre, and Lebron

HYD Baseball is just shy of it's two year anniversary (more coming on this in the next few days). DV and I have averaged well over one post per day in that span, and the interesting part about it is that we've largely gone in short spurts. He posts a few, then I post a few, then he posts a few. This is mostly due to our schedules; when he's busy I post, and when I'm busy he posts. Sometimes when we're on a DV streak (like we've been on for nearly a week now) DV asks me to post in a way that tells me me I need to post. And when DV talks, I listen. DV wanted a little Manny, so here we go.

This situation becomes more bizarre by the day. So many things went wrong at the wrong time, and this entire thing has come crashing down on Manny and Boras. I don't feel sorry for them, but it really is too bad. Pitchers and catchers start reporting next Friday, and the best hitter of this generation doesn't have a team to play for. It's beyond wierd to write that. Obviously, the economy has created a wild situation for a lot of players, both in contracts already signed this winter and those that remain unsigned at such a late date. But this is Manny Ramirez, it's different. He's a lot bettter than everyone else. The fact that he's turned down the contracts he's already turned down makes you wonder how this thing is going to end. Especially considering the second of those offers could be considered a downgrade from the first one. I can understand why Manny wants more, and I can understand why teams, most notably the Dodgers, don't want to pay more.

Few players on either side of the baseball can impact a team the way he can, so you would think someone (like the Mets) would swoop in and get something done. But if it hasn't happened yet, then when? Either way, just as with Varitke, a terrible job by Boras so far here. The economy is affecting everyone but the elite of the elite. Manny is in that category. Yet he is affected. So it's possible what is really hurting him the most is the way he held Boston hostage, and the fear that has instilled in other clubs' that it could happen to them too. I have no idea, but it's possible Boras was a big part of that (and I think we've all heard/read those rumblings). If so, way to go, Scott.

I'm going away next weekend, and I'm going to use the travel time to read the Torre book. So I won't have it done this weekend as DV would have liked. I will read it in one weekend, so the point he is trying to make will still stand. Regarding the book itself, I'm not sure what to think, and I am going to withhold comment until I read it. The way it's looking, I doubt I'm going to be overjoyed. This is mostly because I don't follow baseball for the drama. This is pure, unadultered, drama. Nothing in there is going to impact the way I follow baseball, and more specifically the Yankees, this year. So what's the point? I read 20 sites about the Yankees everyday, and have for a long time now, so there probably isn't going to be a whole lot in there I haven't heard already. I'm sure it will be interesting, and I'm sure I'll walk away with feelings about it one way or another. But more than anything I think I'm looking forward to getting it out of the way so we can go back to talking about the impact Mark Melancon and his hammer curve may have on the Yankees' bullpen this year, or if Phil Hughes' cut fastball is going to be a difference maker for him finally putting it all together. That's why I follow baseball, not drama like this book.

Lebron James is a joy to watch on the basketball court. What he did tonight in the Garden was one of the most amazing individual performances I've seen in my lifetime as an NBA fan. Which makes sense, since it's the most points scored as part of a triple-double (52) in over 30 years. What's more, as the Big Ticket and I watched his postgame presser, you can't be more impressed by this guy. Seems like a genuinely nice guy, is well spoken, and has a great sense of perspective. He's the best in the business on the court, and a guy that all of his peers seem to like off the court. When you consider the fact that, in a very young career, he's already established himself as one of the premier big game/playoff players in the league, there really could be a perfect storm brewing in New York in 16 months. The center of the basketball universe in New York City, currently hosting a team that hasn't won a championship in 36 years, meets someone who is on track to become one of the games' all-time greats, and who is also not afraid of the spotlight and biggest of stages. I hope this happens so much I can barely think about it.

The Audacity of Promising Hope

There's a report going around that in an effort to save face after the Tom Daschle appointment, Barack Obama is planning on adding Derek Jeter and Happy Gilmore's grandma to the Cabinet. The President's apology on this decision is expected by the end of the week.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Are You Worth $50,000 a Day?

Bud Selig made eighteen million dollars last year as the commissioner of baseball.

In the year, he saw Congress overstep his jurisdiction on steroids because he wasn't doing anything. He also promised transparency in his steroid reforms but didn't actually do anything. He let the point of the MLB draft (giving more chances to the less-wealthy teams) slip further and further into oblivion at the hands of the players' union and predatory agents like Scott Boras while not doing anything about it. He watched owners continue to pocket revenue sharing money to pay for divorces and didn't do anything.

There was also the time when he was taken totally by surprise and had no contingency plan when it started raining in Philadelphia one night in October. No kidding--sometimes it rains when you play an outdoor sport! Only after the sport was publicly embarrassed on its biggest stage did Selig decide to do something.

And he made $50,000 a day. Every day. JD Drew is a complete waste of money, but at least he had a good June and had two big swings in October. What did Bud Selig give you?

In other news, the Joe Torre book came out Tuesday. We at HYD decided privately not to talk about the book until after we've read it. And to wrap it back into the Selig theme of this post, I have a challenge for you.

This weekend I have a homework assignment. The Torre book is 512 pages long. The weekend starts on 5:00 Friday afternoon and ends at 5:00 Monday morning. You have 2 1/2 days. Read the Torre book so we can discuss it on Monday. I will do it. Pat will do it. On Friday night I will throw up a short post so HYD Baseball fans can compare their progress on the book and make comments while reading. On Monday, Pat's up with his book report.

Bud Selig couldn't read the Mitchell Report in three days because he obviously had something more important to do than review the most important document regarding his sport in at least a decade and a half. Plus, half the document was pictures!

If you can read the Joe Torre book this weekend, you care about How Youz Doin Baseball more than Bud Selig cares about Major League Baseball. Let's get it done.

Captain Chaos

This is my last post on Varitek; I’m as sick of writing about it as you probably are of reading it. But I think it is necessary to address what the Red Sox surely think is Varitek’s redeeming quality: The leadership behind the plate and in the clubhouse and how well he prepares and calls a game.

Obviously, you know by now that I feel it is a load of crap. I’ve already laid out the argument about the “game-calling” and the Rob Neyer article. I’ve already laid out the argument about how great clubhouse guys don’t pull a T.O. Varitek did everything short of doing sit-ups in his driveway this January.

I read Nick Cafardo’s column in the Globe on Sunday and he wondered in print whether things would be “chaotic” if Varitek had not returned to the Red Sox this year. “Will there be a rash of dumb pitches thrown at the wrong time? Will there be more passed balls, teams running at will? Will the improved offense of a new catcher offset the defensive deficiencies?”

Passed balls? Even with the extra flap in his glove that Buck Martinez said was used to catch Tim Wakefield, Varitek had a crucial passed ball in each postseason series. Teams running at will? I’d think that if over 75% of baserunners steal successfully against you, more might be on the way. Dumb pitches? Ask Kenny Lofton. Shoot, ask Pat about the infamous Buchholz-Arod-Varitek incident.

The offensive upgrade not offsetting the defensive downgrade? Shoot, in order to do that, the new catcher would have to be in the dugout eating a sandwich while his team is in the field. Varitek is not horrible defensively; he has improved over the past decade. But let’s not talk about how he’s the best on the planet.

Finally, let’s talk about this chaos that everyone around here assumes would have happened if Jarrod Saltalamacchia were the Red Sox’ starting catcher next year. Or really anyone except for Jason Varitek. This is getting ridiculous. JASON VARITEK IS NOT THE ONLY CATCHER IN BASEBALL WHO KNOWS HOW TO COMMUNICATE TO PITCHERS. JASON VARITEK IS NOT THE ONLY PERSON WHO CAN KEEP A CLUBHOUSE TOGETHER. Is this “chaos” going on with every other team in baseball?

No. Are the Oakland A’s punching each other out or clubbing traveling secretaries because they don’t have Jason Varitek’s leadership in their clubhouse? No. Oh, wait, that happened with the Red Sox last year even with Varitek’s clubhouse presence. Are the Texas Rangers’ pitchers smoking rock and setting the bullpen on fire because their catchers were Laird and Saltalamacchia, not Varitek? Does Jose Molina call the wrong pitches to Joba Chamberlain, or does he shine a laser pointer in Chamberlain’s eyes while he’s trying to pitch? No. Other people can do what Varitek does. Having another catcher is not chaotic.

People are viewing Varitek in this city the way Mormons saw Joseph Smith: Smith was the only one who could read the gold-plated Book of Mormon and Varitek’s the only person in the world who can speak to pitchers. Problem is, people everywhere else in baseball view Varitek the same way non-Mormons see Joseph Smith: insane with equally insane followers.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Embarrassing Stubbornness

With the signing of Jason Varitek, the Red Sox messed up big time. Really, the chief culprit is stubbornness. Look, I understand the merits of having a good farm system, and the Red Sox are proud of what they’ve done with their system. As they should be. However, one of the important things about having a farm system is not only developing players who can help your team at a low cost, but also developing players you can trade to address needs.

The Red Sox have a surplus of young desirable pitchers right now. They have a full rotation, plus John Smoltz, Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden, and Rusty Masterson. There are four layers of protection before the Red Sox have to acquire a guy like Jason Johnson or call up a guy like David Pauley or Charlie Zink. That’s right, four (4). That is what we call a surplus.

Meanwhile, in the catching department before Friday, the Red Sox’ starting catcher was Josh Bard, and their first sub in was George Kottaras. So in that position they were already in Johnson/Pauley/Zink territory. The Red Sox had the option to acquire Jarrod Saltalamacchia for Buchholz, straight up. But they decided to be stubborn. And that’s why their starting catcher for the next two years just might be worse than George Kottaras…but he calls a good game and has lots of intangibles, so it’s okay. I'll refer you to the Rob Neyer post about how well he handles the pitching staff. But what a great clubhouse guy, threatening to retire if he didn't get his money.

Note to Theo Epstein: You must give value to get value in return. So if you want to get a catcher who is not a lock to be worse than a minor leaguer, you might have to give up Clay Buchholz, his 68 ERA+, and his 1.76 WHIP last year. Yup, he might be good some day. But damn hell, Jarrod Saltalamacchia might be good some day too. However, with eight better starters and zero better catchers, the Red Sox might need the catcher more.

Maybe the Red Sox are a little bit scared of Saltalamacchia, and that’s why they were too darn stubborn to sacrifice Buchholz. Maybe they’re scared that if they traded for Saltalamacchia, they would run the chance of picking up a catcher who is absolutely terrible. And yes, there is certainly a possibility of their catcher being absolutely terrible if they had done that.

That’s okay, though. Problem solved. By acquiring Varitek, they have removed any doubt that their starting catcher will be absolutely terrible. Awesome.

Shame on the Red Sox. Their stubbornness and complacency in finding a replacement for Varitek has left them “stuck” with a strikeout every 3.6 at-bats over the next two years. Due to their stubbornness to give themselves any more negotiating leverage than Varitek had, they let Boras grab them by the balls. They were desperate for a catcher, and for some reason (probably the same reason they thought Julio Lugo and J.D. Drew were formidable major league baseball players) they thought that Jason Varitek could actually make contributions to a baseball team through 2010.

There was no sense of urgency in trying to get another catcher, because they were too emotionally attached to Triple-A Clay. And they were also too emotionally attached to Triple-K Jason. For a team heralded for their coolly rational decisions, this is just another example onto the pile that the perception is not even close to the case. The fact that Varitek acted the way he did this winter, including insisting that he planned on being a full-time catcher, just makes matters worse.

The Red Sox should be absolutely ashamed of themselves for letting it come to this. They are similar to Colby College when they allowed hippies crying over a 50-year-old beech tree get in the way of building a new student union. When the tree was finally knocked down, a Ross Kaplan wrote, “Progress 1, Beech Trees 0.”

Well, flash forward three years. Jason Varitek and Clay Buchholz are the beech trees, preventing them from making any progress toward the future. And it doesn’t take the Tank to tell you the score is “Varitek and Buchholz 2, Red Sox 0.”