Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Upton Baby

So the Red Sox were making some waves a couple of weeks ago when they made a trade bid for Justin Upton. This is pretty intriguing. Upton is obviously a good baseball player. He's nearly four years younger than the 27-year old young player with tremendous upside who wore #46 the last time he played 20 games in one season. He's good for 25 home runs and potentially 25 stolen bases as well. He hit .300 at age 21. It is starting to be a little troubling how much he strikes out, but he is a very solid baseball player. A potential All-Star.

Perhaps the most intriguing part is the fact that he's under contract through 2015, with his salary maxing out in the last two years of this deal at over $14 million. So if he's traded for, he's sticking around for a while. Upon the inevitable unavailability of the three current outfielders right now, an outfielder is needed, and upon the inevitable departure of Drew and Cameron after this year and 46 after three more, there is a lack of minor league outfielder depth.

Besides the obvious sticking point of the D'Backs' asking price, the other concern regarding acquring this guy (or any outfielder for that matter) is how the team projects Ryan Kalish. Kalish has vaulted many in the Red Sox' prospect charts, and he is now the Red Sox' second-rated prospect by Soxprospects.com. Also notable is that Kalish is one of only two outfielders ranked in the top 15 (Josh Reddick, who had a really bad season, is the other).

I don't think anyone projects Kalish, who is roughly the same age as Upton, to ever be as good as Upton. Perhaps his ceiling is as a borderline all-star. But I've read in a few different places that Kalish projects to be a solid major league corner outfielder similar to Trot Nixon minus the juice.

So the real question here is: Would the Red Sox be okay with trading Kalish, Casey Kelly, and possibly someone like 46 or Matsuzaka for a guy like Upton and then go get Werth? (Of course, this is also a problem because they'd then have three right fielders.) Are they comfortable with Kalish as a long-term solution, or is the Trot Nixon projection inadequate for their needs? Kalish would also be sticking around until 2015, and most likely he wouldn't be receiving raises as aggressively as Upton.

I'm still on the fence here. Kalish is less production for less cost, and Upton is more for more. If the trade package involves Kalish, Casey Kelly, and a major leaguer like 46 or Matsuzaka, you at least gotta think about it.

However, any package involving Daniel Bard should be declined.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Public Enemy #1

Boston baseball fans have an unlikely villain as November turns into December and still very little has happened with the baseball team or in baseball at all. I mean, there's only so much you can say about Derek Jeter (and we've said it). But Public Enemy #1 in Boston right now isn't Alex Rodriguez. It's not Scott Boras. It's not Derek Jeter.

It's John W. Henry.

This fall from grace, obviously with different circumstances, rivals that of David Ortiz, Bernard Madoff, and Tiger Woods. It was not long ago that almost everybody in this town loved John Henry. He was devoted to the Red Sox, he was devoted to the Red Sox' winning consistently, and he was devoted to Theo Epstein. He gave Epstein the keys to the private jet, basically, when it came to baseball operations. He seemed pretty hip, as the smug NESCAC graduates who have replaced Sully from Medford, Murph from Somerville, and Mikey from Everett loved the fact that Henry sat in his one-man Popemobile box wearing Joe Maddon glasses and typing into a MacBook. The Sox were making money and they were spending it to enhance the ballpark and the team that plays in it. People didn't even resent the fact that he married a girl half his age - they said good for him and wrote articles in the Boston Globe Magazine and Boston Magazine about how awesome he was for it.

Cheap marketing ploys such as acquiring a second-tier NASCAR team and shoving that down our throats...producing cringeworthy, obnoxious stereotype-enforcing television shows like Pocket Money and Sox Appeal...and somehow tying a regional identity to a Neil Diamond song including the words "touching me, touching you" but inspired by a picture of an 11-year-old on a horse...were all okay.

But something went bad, and it went bad in a hurry. When did John Henry lose you? Here are a few choices:

1. When he bid very high on Mark Teixeira despite the fact that he already had a first baseman, a third baseman, and a DH performing at high levels...just to pinch pennies at the last minute and watch the player go to the Yankees.

2. When the team was still in the 2010 pennant race and was just one bullpen arm away from at least having a chance to get back into it. Rumors circled about the team being unwilling to exceed the luxury cap limit. They wouldn't sign Kerry Wood to a $500,000 contract, letting him go to New York instead.

3. When, during a monsoon-like August afternoon, he and his boys opened up the Fenway Park gates, just to cancel the game later on. This is not an uncommon occurrence. However, his wife Twittered the rain-out twenty-five minutes before it was officially rained out. During those 25 minutes that the owners knew it was going to be rained out, countless hard-working families shelled out $40 to park in a Commonwealth Avenue parking spot, and some of the remaining Sullys and Murphs bought two more $8.50 beers apiece. But they took their sweet-ass time to announce it despite the fact that Henry's wife knew about it for at least 25 minutes.

4. When the owner decided that Kerry Wood was too expensive but a soccer team in England wasn't. He shelled out nearly $500 million for Liverpool, and slowly but surely started to shove that down our throats. Eric Wilbur reported this week that Liverpool now has a devoted link on NESN.com but the local team, the New England Revolution, do not. Henry also shared that he spent nearly every waking moment of the last few months on the soccer team.

5. When Theo Epstein essentially said that bringing back David Ortiz for $12.5 million was the decision of "ownership" several times.

6. The Neither Will Your Readers article. On Henry's private jet, he answered a Q&A with responses ranging from bitching about the 48% luxury tax, bragging about his company's success in a recession, thanking God that nobody's acting like the 2004 team, and saying the Boston Globe's readers wouldn't understand why his company was so successful. His sidekick Tom Werner, the brains behind shows such as Normal, Ohio, That 80's Show, God, the Devil, and Bob, Frannie's Turn, Cybill, and Whoopi, said that he enjoyed putting out TV shows as much as he enjoyed winning the 2004 World Series. Let's reiterate the part that it was on Henry's private jet.

7. When Victor Martinez walked last week. Once again, ownership's willingness to spend on good talent was called into question, though their willingness to spend on Mike Cameron, and Ortiz is clearly there. As Felger said, "What's wrong with Victor Martinez?" We discussed here last week why Victor walking is probably good for this team in the long term, but you can't help to ask questions about this guy.

I didn't really like the guy to begin with, but numbers 3 and 6 really solidified it for me. But what a dbag. It stinks to see the Red Sox go to crap, but it's nice to see that Henry, Werner, and Lucchino are going right with them.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Jeter Situation, One and Done

When thinking about the many ways a post about the Jeter situation could be directed right now, the reality is a lot of them would probably be a waste of time. When you have two sides as juicy as the Yankees and Jeter, the media is going to run wild. That's going to result in a lot of false reports, which means that most of the discussions we could have right now will end up being a waste of time. I'm really not interested in that. So I'm going to throw out a few thoughts now and leave it at that - meaning likely not devoting another post to it - until something actually happens in this situation in terms of a resolution.

First things first, I want Jeter back. I see him producing somewhere between his '09 MVP-type year and '10 worst-year-of-his-career in 2011, which will be good for one of the better shortstops in the game. This will help the Yankees win. Having Jeter back will also be good from a continuity perspective. It will save approximately 1 million questions before Spring Training, during Spring Training, before Opening Day, after the Yankees' first losing streak, and when they make the playoffs for the first time without him, about if not having Derek Jeter is the reason or is going to be the reason for X, Y, and Z. These questions will be directed at anyone with even a remote connection to the team. This will be a distraction, and will not help the Yankees win. In all seriousness, the Yankees' are Jeter's team, and have been for a long time. He's may or may not be the player he once was in 2011 but he will still be who he is to the rest of the clubhouse from a leadership perspective. When the eventually lose him, there will be some things that need to get adjusted and figured out, especially from a leadership perspective. Not having to figure those things out this year will help the Yankees win. I'm all about things that help the Yankees win, and Jeter is just that. He's also my favorite athlete of all-time in any sport, and it would be nice to see him get his 3,000th hit and finish his career with the Yankees, hopefully with a few more World Series titles.

After that, Jeter really has no leverage. The Yankees current offer is somewhere around 3/$45, and despite being a pay cut, would still make him the highest paid middle-infielder in the game. Since he is not the best middle-infielder in the game, it is difficult to imagine another team going to even that level to sign him. There is nothing he can call on, besides perhaps retirement, that would make the Yankees go higher. Because his only other option would probably be to leave the Yankees for similar or less money, and that is not going to be good for his image, career, or legacy in all likelihood. The Yankees could and probably should go a little bit higher to sign him and bring back some good feelings, but beyond that have little reason to.

On that note, something that is sort of silly to me is the idea that the Yankees really need to pay Jeter for everything he's done for the organization. Um, what exactly was the $205,430,000 they paid him the last 15 years for? Listen, I understand Jeter has made the Yankees a lot of money. But the Yankees have also paid him more than most any player has made from any combination of teams in a single career in the history of the game. It isn't like he's been underpaid for his contributions on and off the field. It isn't even like he's been underpaid relative to performance and the rest of the league, like you could argue Rivera was before his last contract. I understand that some sort of "continued consideration" for all that he's done should probably be factored into the next contract. Key word here is "continued". It isn't like this is something that is starting fresh right now, and the Yankees now need to compensate him for everything he's ever done in his career. That's been ongoing for a while now, most notably since he signed the $189 million contract 10 years ago. Some people are making it seem differently, and it just not the case.

One interesting theory that I had thought about and have heard a few other people mention. the 09-10 falloff was precipitous. Not unlike anything we've ever seen, especially given Jeter's age. But he was SO GOOD in 2009 and SO BAD in 2010 in makes you wonder if there wasn't something going on. We know Jeter plays injured, and we know he does not like anyone knowing about or talking about those injuries because then that opens the door for excuses for poor play. His ability and desire to play through injuries is one of the great attributes of his career. He played the 2004 playoffs with a broken thumb and people didn't really find out about it until the Joe Torre book came out almost five years later. For any of us that have ever hit a baseball with two good thumbs, we know how painful it can be. Never mind with a broken thumb, and being able to rack up 12 hits, 3 for extra bases, in two playoff series all the while. So, with that in mind, is it possible that Jeter played injured for most of the year, that the Yankees aren't really factoring that in, and Jeter feels a little bit of "I stayed in when you needed me and now you're pretending like that didn't happen"? It's a little conspiracy-theory-ish, but given the history I don't think out of the question. You might say if this was the case, why doesn't camp Jeter just put it out there for the public to know. But that goes against everything Jeter stands for, so it would make sense if it was the case for it to stay quiet.

I think this thing will end up getting done for 3/$60 or 4/$70. I have no fancy rationale for either of those guesses, only that the Yankees want three years, Jeter seems to want more, and his last salary was around $20 million. So I figure the Yankees either get the years they want and continue to pay him around what he was making, or Jeter gets closer to the years he wants and the Yankees pay a lower salary. One thing I find interesting is that, no matter what the contract, I see this contract ending up being one that neither side is thrilled with. Rarely do you see that happen in negotiations. Usually one or both sides feels really good about the deal. I could see this ending up with both the Yankees and Jeter not being in love with the deal but also not totally disliking it. They'll just do what it ultimately takes to get it done, because they both know it's in their best interests to continue this relationship. For the winning and for the legacy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Something Snapped

It's been talked about at length before that Red Sox fans, perhaps through complacency, perhaps through better options in other sports, or perhaps through exhaustion after a non-stop emotional roller coaster from their baseball team, have lost a bit of their interest in their team. The 2010 "bridge year" which was exactly that - a completely punted effort as we predicted last winter. Surprisingly, even the most short-sighted Red Sox fans were okay with that.

But something happened today that made them snap. This is what really surprised me. I didn't see this explosion coming. But it was not Pats/Colts, Pats/Lions, the Celtics' recent losing, the Bruins, or whatever garbage I did in Philadelphia that caught their attention the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. It was Victor Martinez signing rather predictably with the Detroit Tigers. This seemed like the last straw for a fan base that is apparently tired with ownership and management's inconsistent and distracted philosophy when it comes to free agency.

Felger was in full-out rant mode this afternoon about the Red Sox' quarter-assed attempt to retain one of the five best catchers in the major leagues. What is wrong with Victor Martinez, he demanded to know. If you offer a guy in the prime of his career a two-year, $18 million deal, you are not only insulting him, but you're also sending a crystal-clear message that a platoon between a minor leaguer and a guy better suited for a single-A managerial position is a more desirable option.

But why? Especially, why is it okay to give David Ortiz $12 million but not Victor Martinez? Why is it okay to give JD Drew 5 years and $70 million, but you can't give a GOOD baseball player in Martinez 4 years and $50 million? The guys the Red Sox really want - they blow out the field in negotiations. Look at Matsuzaka. Look at Drew and the obvious tampering case. Look at Lugo. Look at even Cameron, Varitek, Scutaro, and Lackey. They outbid themselves on all of these guys.

Then ownership obviously wanted to retain David Ortiz because he will have a "great smile," do features on NESN, and hopefully raise ratings for Linda Pizzuti's abominable "After the Game" television show.

But for some reason, it's okay to blow out the field on Mike Cameron and JD Drew but pinch pennies on Jason Bay, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, and ultimately even Mark Teixeira. Felger, Massarotti, and a large legion of furious Red Sox fans are trying to figure out why.

I'm plenty pissed off about the fact that the Red Sox are vastly overpaying mediocre-to-bad players, and then crying poverty because of their payroll. Part of the beauty of having this blog for so long is that there's hard evidence pointing to the fact that I've said for a long time that this team absolutely BLOWS at free-agent negotiations. And that's why they lose guys they give a half-assed effort on but blow out the field on sub-par players.

But in this case, it sort of makes sense. Especially in light of what Pat F wrote yesterday. Theo Epstein all but admitted earlier that 2011 is also going to be a bridge/punt year by saying he's okay with Jed Lowrie at third and Jarrod Saltalanotgonnaplayhereanymore (hat tip to the Oz) behind the plate. But letting go of V-Mart means that the Red Sox have reasonable flexibility at first base for a couple of years. This team might use this offseason to spend $60 million on two or three league-average relievers. But it's looking more and more obvious that next winter, they're going to flex their offseason muscle.

They'll have an opening at first base with Youkilis potentially moving to third (displacing an expendable Lowrie). There will be a player available through free agency that the team clearly wants. He'll be 29 when he plays his first game in Boston, and he will receive the Mark Teixeira-level contract he wants - from the Red Sox. If Red Sox fans can stomach a .500 team in 2011, they will be rewarded with Adrian Gonzalez next year.

Let's just hope that in the meantime, Theo Epstein will get the flack he deserves not for letting go of Victor Martinez, but for hideously overpaying for stiffs like two of their outfielders.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Red Sox Need An Impact Guy

I remember Bandi saying something about the Yankees after the 2008 season that really rang true. He said they needed to shake things up not by adding new complimentary players around the existing core, but by bringing in new core players. The Yankees ended up doing just that, bringing in C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, and the positive results were as immediately noticeable as they could possibly be. Right from Spring Training the Yankees had a new look, and that new look was a big reason why they got different results in October than they had been getting for the better part of a decade.

I think you can say something very similar about the Red Sox right now. They are a good team, just like the 2005-2008 Yankees were good teams. But since the 2007 World Series and 2008 ALCS, you haven't seen much change. They've had some young players emerge (Lester, Pedroia, Buchholz) and have mixed and matched some really good pieces (Bay, Martinez, Beltre), but they haven't really added a core guy, an impact guy, someone who makes Yankees' fans scared. After all, that's one of the beauties of this rivalry. You have a built-in gauge as to how good a signing/trade is or isn't. Of course this doesn't go for complimentary pieces, because they aren't meant to scare you. But for big signings and trades, you can get a quick sense of how solid they are by how much they scare the opposing fan base.

The Red Sox need to make a move like this to mix up their core. Since that 07/08 run, they've been stagnant, and are trying to talk themselves into guys like Dustin Pedroia as franchise players. No offense to him, because he's a nice little player and seems like a very good leader, but if a second baseman with a career OPS+ of 113 is the only guy you can point to besides Youkilis as a consistent part of the offensive core for the last 3-4 years you're in trouble as far as being a World Series competitor. Same goes for everyone behind Lester. Buchholz has a chance to be very good but he's had one full season. Lackey and Beckett do not fall in the category of "scary" signings. Not at all.

I've heard quite a few Red Sox fans big in on bringing back Martinez or Beltre or both. I can certainly see why, they are very good players. But again they don't qualify for what we are looking for here, it's more of the same, very good but not scary players. It's great that Martinez can put up .335/.389/.562 in Fenway and have that carry his .271/.315/.426 on the road. But the Red Sox are always going to be able to find players who are good but can be elite at home by exploiting the hitters park that is Fenway. That's not what they should be looking for here. They need a guy that can put up huge numbers anywhere regardless of park. Interestingly, Beltre had no Fenway split, which is unusual for a righty pull power hitter. This would certainly be an attractive reason to resign him. Still, he has other red flags that keep him from being the type of player the Sox really need. It's not that these guys aren't extremely useful pieces. Again they are. It's that the Red Sox might be better served by putting their resources into a lesser group of elite players as opposed to a greater group of useful pieces like they have right now.

In this particular free agent market, I think the only guy we are definitely talking about as this kind of player is Cliff Lee. I wouldn't be surprised if the Red Sox are in on him behind the scenes much the way the Yankees were with Teixeira. And they should be, especially considering that they had no problem scoring runs last year despite the injuries and it was their pitching that was a bigger problem. Lee and Lester up top would probably be the best 1-2 in the game. After that, maybe Crawford, and that's it. Then you're talking about the trade market for guys like Adrian Gonzalez.

Lee and Gonzalez are the kind of players the Red Sox need right now. If it doesn't happen this winter, you can't force it. Then you just end up in worse shape than you started in. But this should be what they are targeting. The core by committee is enough to have them in the mix but it isn't scaring anybody. They need a no doubt type player that is going to shake things up and either bat 3/4 with Youkilis or front the rotation 1-2 with Lester, just as the Yankees did in 2008 when they ended up getting both.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Whose Reputation Hurts Most?

It's been almost three weeks since the conclusion of the World Series and perhaps the biggest surprise of this offseason so far is the fact that Derek Jeter has still not re-upped with the Yankees. Rumors over the season said he's looking for a lot of money, but it's almost unanimous that the team and player are going to end up back together - the most logical place.

The real question, and something a lot of people disagree with me on, is whose reputation takes a bigger hit if Jeter goes to, say, the Mariners, Braves, Mets, or Orioles. A lot of people think it's Jeter. I think it's the team.

I understand the Jeter argument. He'll look like another greedy player who doesn't know his place in team and baseball history. After a frankly generous $180 million contract signed ten years ago and more endorsement deals than smoking-hot girlfriends, he wants even more. After being one of the two guys in the entire Joe Torre book painted as a sympathetic character, he goes up against that. Instead of being the opposite of Arod, he's the same. I get it. It will hurt his reputation incredibly.

However, it hurts the team's much more. Think about the circumstances of this team. Jeter is the face of the franchise and Jeter in the Yankee uniform is the face of baseball. It has been for a long time. And after fifteen years of resurrecting the Yankee brand after the strike, after George's suspension, and after thirteen years of futility, the Yankees are going to nickel and dime a still-productive player primed for a huge bounceback year on the field.

The Yankees appearing cheap on such an important figure in their franchise history is especially bad because they outbid themselves for the centaur, bid aggressively for Teixeira and Damon, were very generous with Rivera and Posada when the old owner was alive. When the old owner (who, Hall of Famer or not, changed baseball specifically by doing this) dies, they start pinching pennies with the face of the franchise, letting Ramiro freaking Pena play shortstop for a team trying to win the World Series every year? Unacceptable.

Jeter's value in New York is much more valuable (in terms of a Vince Gennaro term "marquee value") than anywhere else. The fact that it's extremely possible if not probable that he's going to bounce back from 2010 just adds to it. In November 2009, the 35-year-old (then) Jeter was coming off of a season where he finished in 3rd in MVP voting and in some eyes, including my own, got robbed. He hit .334, stole thirty bases, hit 46 extra-base hits, and walked seventy times. This was an atypically-good year against his career norms, but not by much. The next year, 2010, was a large deviation from the norm. The Yankees can probably expect another 190 hits from Jeter if he is used responsibly. Money, while it may be a thing, shouldn't be that much of a thing when it comes to Jeter. Pay the man. Not Arod money, and not even $20 million a year. But give him four years at fifteen. It's for your own good, both on and off the baseball field.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sabermetrics' D-Day

The rise of sabermetrics into the general consciousness of baseball, its fans, players, executives, and writers in the last decade has been a complete revolution in the way everyone thinks about the game.

However, today was a referendum on sabermetrics, and sabermetrics won. Even the older, crankier members of the BBWAA decided to go against the wins metric and to go with, well, every other stat. At first glance, this looks like justice is served for Felix Hernandez. He was the pitcher who performed the best in the year 2010. At least in the AL. The best pitcher deserves the Cy Young Award. Just a fun fact that I found while looking up numbers for this post: Against Hernandez, 265 batters earned their way to first base out of a league-leading 1001. John Lackey faced 71 fewer batters and let 49 more of them on base.

Obviously, the old, cranky writers would discount Hernandez because he only got 13 wins against twelve losses. Those are Matsuzaka numbers right there. On the other hand, the sabermetric guys would look at the more granular statistic, starting with traditional ERA and going all the way down to the real mathematical stuff. Sabermetrics guys have a large body of statistics to pull from, while the traditional guys will continue to look at the wins.

Here's the argument - and this is actually the one I was going to make: A pitcher that deserves the Cy Young Award needs to do something to make his team win. He could look great on the spreadsheets but just lose because they give up that extra run that otherwise is preventable. Look at Zack Grienke last year. He was on a piss-poor team and still found a way to get himself a .667 winning percentage and sixteen wins. Look at Pedro Martinez: Every opposing pitcher back during his heyday decided to take their game up a little bit when facing Pedro, and Pedro had to win with small margins of error, like 2-1 games or 1-0 games. Why didn't Felix Hernandez do it?

Well, this is why, and this is probably why this post is going to look completely disjointed. In the games he lost (and some of them, admittedly, were games in which he gave up 4 runs or 7 runs twice), his team put up these offensive numbers: 1, 3, 0, 1, 1, 2, 1, 0, 0, 1, 1, 0. In those twelve losses, his team scored eleven runs! That's gotta be some kind of record. So even if Hernandez gave up two runs in these games, he would have lost nine of them! He gave up zero earned in one of the losses, one earned in once of the losses, two earned in three of the losses, and three earned in two of the losses.

Pat will argue tomorrow that Hernandez was good, but he wasn't so transcendently good (like Grienke) that he deserved it over a guy who helped his team make it into contention. But he lost twelve games in which his team scored eleven runs. What's transcendent here was how freaking bad his team (RUN PREVENTION!!1) was. If Hernandez DIDN'T win, he would have been absolutely screwed. And as surprising as it is, you don't even need to do regression analysis to see why.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Werth vs. Crawford

As promised, here it is. And in no surprise, I will say that I would rather have five years of Jayson Werth than seven years of Carl Crawford.

First point: The length of the contract. Using a term that I used first but Tim C most recently used, it's less likely that Werth becomes a Slurpee (good at the beginning, an icy shell of its former self at the end) than Crawford does, because the market will likely not dictate he gets more than five or six years. Crawford will get more. I anticipate the market being reasonably scared away by Werth's temperment and injury history, but sometimes that's the kind of thing you need to take a risk on for production. Crawford will likely command 8 years and $150 million; Werth may be had for half of that. And honestly, I fear filling a starting position and a roster spot for Carl Crawford at age 37 for no reason other than that he's making $20 million and was really good eight years before.

Plus, let's revisit the Werth injury conundrum one more time. He suffered his injury in March 2005. He was 26 at the time. He played the injury-sapped 2005 season and missed the 2006 season completely. He played half a season at age 25 in 2004, when he hit 16 home runs in less than 300 at-bats. If you want to rag on Werth for saying that he did nothing until he was 28, that's fine. It is also true that Boston's sweetheart 46 has done nothing except hit .353 in 30 games against minor leaguers and steal one base in the World Series before his 27th birthday.

Crawford, on the other hand, accomplished a lot by this age. In fact, he's only 23 months older than the Red Sox' young player with a lot of speed, youth, upside, and potential. But let's call it the Cal Ripken rule. He's played 150 games six out of the last eight years, and has played 140 in five out of the last eight. On artificial surface (though it was strictly field turf for several years now). Crawford has played 460 more games than Werth has. You gotta think it takes a toll on the body.

In fact, there are decades of baseball history that would suggest just that, especially for fast guys. Tim Raines stole thirty bases just once after the age of 32. Kenny Lofton stole thirty bases zero times after the age of 32. Even Rickey Henderson only accomplished that task twice after 34, regressing from a Hall of Famer to a league-average player for the last decade of his career. Andre Dawson's base-stealing days were over, done, finished by the age of 29, and the only reason he stayed relevant was the fact that he could hit the ball out of the park as well. By the time he played in Boston (age 38, the age Crawford would be at the end of his contract), the poor guy could barely freaking walk. The examples go on. Jose Offerman was once a league leader in steals.

Considering that Crawford, while good, is NOT Rickey Henderson, it is reasonable to assume that using a similar trajectory, he may become league average or below for the second half of this contract. I think his trajectory will be a bit kinder due to medical advances, but he's not going to be doing this forever. He might keep on hitting .300 with a low-to-medium walk total and less than 20 home runs a year. But is that something worth paying a fortune for? Yes, he's durable. But you can ask me this over the last year and a half: you're always durable until the first time you get hurt. Blocking an outfielder spot all the way to 2018 for a high-paid shell is not a good thing. You think the Red Sox would rather have JD Drew or David Murphy right now?

Also, Jayson Werth's tools are more aligned with the Red Sox' needs. Without even getting into the debate of whether speed is a worthwhile tool to have in baseball (notorious 46-hater Tony Massarotti points out that the Giants were last in the majors in steals this year), the team already has a fast guy in 46 at the top of the lineup (or the top of the DL). But assuming they lose Beltre, do they have a single guy who can hit 30 home runs? Maybe Drew will with the bullpens pushed in, especially if the Red Sox can find a way to only play games on Friday nights. But this is a team who will be unable to hit home runs, period. While this is not necessary to be successful (hello late-90s Yankees), it helps. Plus, it's not like Werth is Adam Dunn here. He can run. He can play defense, too. He can go after fly balls hard in situations that are actually useful for the team instead of costing the team the season on a foul sac fly. Thought you were gonna ask me about that.

I am not denying that Carl Crawford has tools. I am not even going to deny that Crawford will be a better player over the next one, four, or even five years. Years 6, 7, and 8 scare the crap out of me, though, while years 4 and 5 of Jayson Werth, where he still won't be hitting Crawford's CURRENT mark of 1235 games played, scare me considerably less.

Enjoy yo day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Offseason Open Thread

Talk about whatever is on your mind here today, which is pretty much what we do every day anyway. Which is awesome, of course. We appreciate our small but dedicated readership bringing new topics to the comments section.

Talk about Doc Halladay winning the Cy Young, dominating the National League the way I think most of us expected he would. I suspect the announcement of the American League winner today will cause a little bit more of a stir. Halladay was a pretty obvious choice.

Talk about the absolutely wild NFL and college football seasons. I can't remember both being this wide open in the same season. A lot of parity. Some power matchups in both sports in the coming weeks should start to give it some shape, but the way these seasons have gone, who knows.

Talk about the first few weeks of the NBA season (see yesterday's comments) or the very start of the college basketball season. Tough loss for St. John's at St. Mary's to open the year, but it was good to seem them play competitively on the road against a team that has all but one player back from last year's Sweet 16 run. Very well-coached and disciplined. It was an interesting experience staying up to watch a game starting at 2 AM that didn't end until after 4 AM on a Monday night/Tuesday morning. It was also good to get the Steve Lavin era started. Hopefully they can have a solid season and build on the momentum they've generated with Lavin's first full recruiting class, ranked #2 in the country behind Kentucky or #3 behind Kentucky and Duke, depending on your source. Either way, the fact that Lavin has them back in that conversation that fast is incredible.

Maybe DV can tell us a little bit about his big race this Saturday if he gets a few moments, since we haven't heard much about the status of his running career/rehab from surgery since the summer.

Everyone have a great day.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Different Johan Santana Angle

This post started with me looking back at the critical treatment that I believe DV gave the Rivera and Posada deals when they were signed. It's a fun thing to do from time to time, looking back at some of the stuff written here (both in the posts and in the comments) and how incredibly spot on and how incredibly off a lot of it was. Some if it is downright hysterical how wrong it was looking back, but at the time it seemed right, which is the point of this post.

Anyway, I'm looking through these posts and the comments from around the time in 2007 that Rivera and Posada signed. If you remember, this was a period where DV was just crushing long-term deals for guys in their mid-30's or above (really starting with Johnny Damon as far as the Yankees were concerned). I couldn't find any, and I actually found one comment where he defended the Posada deal, but I know this occurred. Just so I don't pass up an opportunity to bust his chops - he has a big race this weekend, maybe it will fire him up - I want to point out that Rivera had arguably the best 3 year stretch of his career over this last contract (1.64 ERA, 0.797 WHIP, 5.8 H/9, 8.9 K/9, 6.69 K/BB, 271 ERA+ average over those three years - are these even real numbers?). Posada missed a substantial portion of 2008 due to injury (point for DV) but has come back and averaged 20 homers and 69 RBI the last two seasons (points for PF), which by the way happens to be one more RBI than J.D. Drew has ever had in a single season for the Red Sox. And these two were central to the Yankees winning another World Series. I'm just saying. All contracts for aging players are not bad. I digress.

Back to the point of this post, in my failed effort to find some of DV's comments, I stumbled upon some Johan Santana/Yankees/Red Sox posts from the same time. The Yankees' angle gets talked about all the time. I'm sure we've all heard it. The Yankees would have traded Hughes, and might not have gotten C.C., ending up with Johan Santana and no C.C. or Hughes. I'm not making light of this angle. As I've said before I think this is one of the most significant moves/non-moves the Yankees have made the last few years. It was massive, and probably played a big part in them winning the 2009 World Series. All I'm saying is that this gets talked about a lot.

What doesn't get talked about as much is the Red Sox non-move. Reportedly, the Red Sox initially had Jon Lester in the package. And this was deemed by most to not be enough. The Red Sox were legitimately concerned about including Jacoby Ellsbury, and by some reports ultimately were willing to part with one of Lester or Ellsbury but not both. This all sounds ridiculous now, but of course at the time it made some sense.

The Red Sox could have dealt Ellsbury for Santana and despite Santana's salary would still probably be at a net gain. But can you imagine if they had made that deal and included Jon Lester? Lester is the best player on that team, and outside of Youkilis nobody else is even close. When you consider he's made just over $5 million the last three years, while Santana has made approximately $58 million, and that the two have been comparable despite one pitching in the AL East and the other in the NL East, this could have been an organization-changing move. Really, really bad for the Red Sox.

Of course, Lester broke out the year right after this non-move. The Red Sox obviously thought very highly of him for a long time, but the fact that they were potentially willing to include him in this deal goes to show how hard it is to predict when and how good even the guys you think are going to be good are going to become. He basically became Santana a few months after they considered trading him for Santana, only just under five years younger and at an extreme fraction of the cost. There was no way to predict this happening, at least that soon. For the Red Sox, it's a good thing they didn't make that trade and that it happened with Lester in a Boston uniform. The Red Sox non-move for Santana was just as important as the Yankees non-move for Santana.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Where is the love?

What has happened to the Red Sox' fan base? Back in the day, any free agent, no matter how checkered of a past they had, made Red Sox fans excited. People, even as recently as the last five years, got excited about the idea of signing freaking Kevin Millwood. Only the ultra-cynics and the negative-to-be-negative people were against signing free agents of the caliber of Jayson Werth. But for some reason, here we are in 2010 and Red Sox fans are taking a strong stand against Jayson Werth.

Last week, the Gunn (who, we'll admit, is one of the more cynical) called Jayson Werth a "right-handed JD Drew") and Tim C said that he'd clear some room on the Liverpool soccer bandwagon as everyone will be so disgusted with this signing.

You guys know this. I don't like Scott Boras guys, at all. I think that if you play in Philadelphia (the place Drew and Boras spurned in the infamous 1997 draft incident) and hire Boras a couple of months before you hit free agency, you're looking for a fight, you're okay with running yourself out of town, and you're probably sort of a douchebag. At least he isn't talking about how much he loves Philadelphia. Well, probably because he doesn't.

Continuing to address his demeanor, it seems that the guy is more or less a misanthropist. There was a Sports Illustrated article about his reclusive nature, putting it in a positive light. there were a few Philadelphia blog posts and articles about how he is prickly - at best - to the media, especially when he is slumping. I think there is definitely concern due about how this player will get along with the Boston media, because they will absolutely not get along at all. However, he doesn't seem to get into altercations with players. Only the spurned media members have questioned his caring about playing. But we're not talking about JD Drew, who had a decade of incidents calling into play whether he even enjoyed playing baseball - behavior that just continued after he arrived in Boston.

I would not consider Jayson Werth an aloof player like anyone with two eyes would consider Drew. He slumps, for sure, but it seems like during his extended slumps, he's on the other side of the spectrum from Drew - a guy who presses and chases balls out of the strike zone when times get tough. Seems like this guy just wants to play baseball and slam doubles all over the field. It's the other garbage, like talking to the media and that kind of stuff, that bothers him. I wrote in the same comments section that the biggest fear the Red Sox should have regarding Jayson Werth would be that he's going to go Dave Chappelle on us, moving to Africa just to avoid people. If we want to compare him to an enigmatic Red Sox player, it would be Derek "Mental Gidget" Lowe and not Drew.

Moving over to the baseball part, which is really what it's all about, this guy is a guy with a fresh body, NH. The injury in question that sidelined him for 2007 and made him suck in 2006 was similar to the Nomar Garciaparra/Al Reyes injury, as Pat's boy AJ Burnett broke his wrist with a pitch. Also similar to Nomar, it took Werth a long time to recover. While this sounds a lot like JD Drew having patellar tendinitis hurt him for three years, the Nomar experience gives Werth's injury a bit of credibility.

Unlike Drew, also, Werth shows up to a great deal of baseball games when he does play. Werth missed fewer games in the last two years than JD missed in September 2009 without going on the DL. Another dissimilarity is the fact that you don't need a Mensa member (a Nomaas.org reference) to deduce value from what he does. Yes, he does walk a lot, but he doesn't go up to the plate looking for walks. He also does things like get hits, get doubles, and hit home runs. Pat cited those stats: Last year Werth recorded 150% of the number of extra-base hits that Nancy had. Factor in the fact that there's now going to be a wall in left field and the bullpens being move in ten feet in right field, and the fact that this guy sprays the area will remain steady going from the Little League park in Philadelphia to the Little League park in Boston.

Are the Red Sox going to have a guy who is capable of hitting 30 home runs next year? Beltre's gone. Ortiz only plays four months out of the year. Youkilis has never hit 30. With Jayson Werth, they might be able to have that.

Not that five years and $70 million for a player like this is a steal, but it would fill a need. This team would not be dependent on a 38-year-old mediocre player, a 23-year-old mediocre (for now) player, and two guys who don't care enough to play at 99%. It would also result in a middle-of-the-lineup threat this team needs.

I say go get him. Go get Jayson Werth. Later this week you'll see why he's more desirable to this team than Carl Crawford.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Not Randy Moss

A classic Tony Massarotti radio rant last week was about how the Patriots wouldn't want Randy Moss back because they dumped him in the first place. You don't trade a talent like Randy Moss (and with such broad shoulders) for a third-round pick because you want the third-round pick. You trade him for a third-round pick because you want to dump the player.

You don't want to dump Daisuke Matsuzaka. Yes, he is a bad contract. And yes, he is probably the worst out of the five starters in this rotation. The people who say he's terrible to watch are exercising a cop-out. There's really nothing terrible about watching the guy; he's an enigma that can occasionally dazzle and occasionally frustrate. But he's certainly worth watching. The real question is whether the guy helps the team win.

And while the answer very well may be no, you don't just dump the player just to dump him. Picking up an even-bigger albatross of a contract in Kosuke Fukudome would be doing just that. You're giving up value for less value in return. And while you can do that with a guy like Randy Moss in the extenuating circumstances surrounding that player and his shoulders, you can't do it for Matsuzaka. If it's a salary dump and freeing up a roster spot for a good free agent, maybe that would make sense. But it's not a salary dump, as Fukudome's making more money. Plus, it would be one more mediocre/unspectacular outfielder in a roster full of mediocre/unspectacular outfielders. This would further complicate matters when trying to acquire either Carl Crawford (unlikely) or Jayson Werth.

From the FNO department:
-Fukudome's career OPS+ is 100. League average.
-He will be 34 and the team will pay him more than Matsuzaka's salary for two more years.
-His career high in home runs is 13. Fenway's new Little League dimensions might help his stats a little bit, but otherwise, it's questionable whether he could bring more to the plate than freaking Ryan Kalish.

The team should certainly shop Matsuzaka around for something of value, especially if they want to bid on Lee or have any kind of roster flexibility over the next two years.. Kosuke Fukudome is NOT something of value. He'd only make sense if the team were trying to straight-up dump Matsuzaka like the Patriots dumped Randy Moss. Something that doesn't make sense with this player.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Villain of our Generation, Part 2

Okay, you read the Tuesday night post. I'm going to cut to the chase and continue on the top three villains of our generation in baseball. This is really covering 1994 and beyond, as that is the scope of the new Ken Burns documentary.

3. Barry Bonds. Definitively the face of the steroid scandal. The guy made a mockery of single-season and career records and defiantly faced steroid accusations as he did it. Bonds was implicated in the BALCO scandal in every way possible and still denied everything. He was more defiant than even Clemens was in the face of the steroid scandal. He sneered at the media and lied to federal agents despite a mountain of evidence against him. And what did he do it all for? Because he was jealous of McGwire and Sosa. The fact that he was a dickhead throughout the course of his career, theatening girlfriends, fighting Jeff Kent, and having his son serve as a human shield against the media during a more memorable spring training interview is just icing on the cake.

As the Gunn said Wednesday, when you think of the steroid scandal, you're not thinking about Shane Monahan. You're not even thinking about Rafael Palmeiro, David Ortiz, Jay Gibbons, or Jason Giambi. You're thinking about Barry Bonds, the face of the scandal, defiant and unrepentant.The case against him: He was a good baseball player, and the first five years of his career, he was not that much of a dick.

2. Commissioner Allan Selig. Speaking of defiant and unrepentant, this guy (who is not my Bud) think he's done such a good job as commissioner than he deserves a Patrick in the middle of his name. The case against him is that baseball has grown immensely under his leadership and he's made some good decisions, like the Division Series. It's increased revenue, but the "golden age" argument is opinion, not fact.

Let's not get it twisted: Selig was one of the owners responsible for the owners' collusion of the 1980s, which was a tremendous injustice to the players. Good thing Steinbrenner kept that from becoming a completely corrupt cartel. Selig and friends doing this helped create the chasm between the players' association and the owners that led to the 1994 work stoppage. Selig was an awful negotiator throughout the work stoppage, and he is so aloof and oblivious to the importance of his job that it took him a decade in the big office to sell the Brewers. He also refused to move his office to the MLB headquarters, having his underlings working in New York while he chilled out in Milwaukee. That's disgusting.

Selig was also responsible for the league looking away from steroid testing and pretty much going on dates with Donald Fehr because they were both cashing in while the players themselves were guaranteeing themselves health defects later in life. He only acted toward getting rid of drugs in the sport when legislators had to step in and threaten his anti-trust exemption. He also had better things to do the first three days the Mitchell Report was released to him than to actually read the report. Way to care about your job.

His constant wishy-washy behavior not only resulted in constant audibles in drug-testing discipline, records going down because of his lack of oversight, a hare-brained execution of the all-star game counting, and a gimmicky, ineffective system of interleague play, but it also let MLB be the complete plaything of TV networks, to the point that the World Series is a) played in a monsoon because FOX didn't want to reschedule "So You Think You Can Dance" in 2009 and b) delayed for no reason except for allowing FOX to air its Halloween special of "Glee." Guy has no balls.

1. Donald Fehr. Remember when Bob Knight told Jeremy Schaap that he wasn't his father? Well, someone should have told Donald Fehr that he wasn't Marvin Miller. His arrogance, self-righteousness, and unwilling to negotiate is just as much at fault for the 1994 strike as Selig's. Fehr also fought against injustices against players when the injustices didn't exist anymore. We're not talking about Curt Flood and the reserve clause anymore, bro.

What Fehr saw as an injustice was the fact that his dirty players didn't want to take drug tests while his clean players did. Privacy and civil liberties? Sure, I understand that. But I also understand the fact that Fehr had a choice: To stick up for his clean players (and, by default, protect the health of the players on the fence) or to stick up for his dirty players (and, by default, put into question the health of the players on the fence). He went the wrong way. Just as he did with the strike, he acted against the best interests of the game and, therefore, the players of the game.

Fehr also encouraged his players to obstruct justice by refusing to talk to George Mitchell and his investigators. He was disrespectful at best when grilled by Congress himself. Ultimately, he said that doing steroids was no worse than smoking. Except there's no incentive for a player to smoke cigarettes. There is still no test for HGH in major league baseball, mostly due to the defiance of this guy. He also forgot, I guess, to shred the 2003 List of 104. Like Selig reading the Mitchell Report, I guess he had better things to do that day.

If you happen to have an uncle or a cousin who used to be a major league baseball player during the Donald Fehr era, then just see him drop dead under strange circumstances at the age of 55, you know who to blame. Donald Fehr. Sorry guys, but there's no case against this guy. He's clearly head and shoulders above the field as the biggest villain of our generation.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Villain of Our Generation

I had the opportunity to sit down and watch the majority of the first half of Ken Burns's "Tenth Inning" documentary Monday night. I was a big fan of the original documentary, and the partial synopsis of the last sixteen years of baseball was quite good. Steroids were mentioned a little bit (probably to be explained more in the "bottom of the tenth"), but they went into a lot of detail regarding the 1994 strike. A matter of millionaires versus billionaires, and the extent to which fans were absolutely disgusted by what happened. The two sides were also far, far away - and it makes me worry about what might happen in football next year.

The documentary mentioned a lot of people who could be demonized over the last sixteen years, and we have a lot of them to choose from. I've already made my decision on who's the wors.t, and for the sake of brevity, I'll have the top three discussed separately later on this week (They're Bonds third, Selig second, and Fehr first). What about you? Reasonable candidates:

Honorable Mention: Pedro Martinez: This one's got probably the weakest case, but I know my co-author's disdain for the player. He's a headhunter who puts Yankees into the hospital. He's brash. He's arrogant. He doesn't show up to spring training on time. He has a big mouth. The case against him: He never got caught with the juice. The other side to the big mouth was his charisma. And even if you hated him, you had to respect his talent and his entertainment value.

6. George Steinbrenner: Got suspended from baseball for paying off a gambler. Antagonized the commissioner, other owners, his own managers, his own players, and his fans with some of his antics.. Drove up player prices and, in many eyes, widened the divide between the haves and have-notes in baseball. Was also apparently a pretty unworkwithable employer. The case against him: Not sure if you've heard, but he did a lot of this stuff because he wanted to win, not make money. He also did quite a bit of charity stuff, just in case you were on the moon this summer and hadn't heard about it.

5. Scott Boras: The uber-agent goes no holds barred, subverting all of the following to help out not his clients, but himself. The draft: his clients Jason Varitek and JD Drew once tried to circumvent the draft by playing independent ball and then be eligible for free agency. The game's biggest stage: The Arod opt-out insanity of 2007. His own clients: The Manny Ramirez option saga of 2008, when he put his own client's guaranteed $40 million on the line so HE could negotiate and get a rip of the player's next contract. The guy will stop at nothing. He's been involved with tampering on several different occasions as well. The case against him: He's really, really good at his job.

4. Roger Clemens. Talk about delusional. First he was generally a dickhead according to the media and many others. Playing in Toronto so he could be closer to Texas was pretty bad. Chasing a ring in New York was also reasonably shameful. The Piazza bat incident? Come on. Then came the retirement/non-retirement/show up when I want to thing, which has since had its impact minimized because Brett Favre did the same dance with the media in a way that was about ten times more obsequious than the way Clemens did. But he kept on one-upping himself when his name showed up in the Mitchell report. The 60 Minutes interview was awful. The Congressional testimony was a joke. The McNamee thing, the "misremembered" word invention, and the saga with him throwing his own wife under the bus for taking the stuff he said he never took. A particular kicker for me was how Canseco identified Clemens as one of the very few players he played with who never cheated on his wife - but then we found out he was involved with a 16-year-old burnout country singer. The case against him: Quite a bit of this could have been avoided if Dan Duquette didn't say he was in the twilight of his career. There have been similar scumbags in history who may have done it more quietly.

3-2-1, once again, are Bonds, Selig, and Fehr. If you guys actually made it this far, first of all, thanks, and second of all, please pace yourself on the discussion so we can talk about the top three tomorrow or Friday.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Keeping Cliff Lee In Perspective

Let's go back to November 2008, precisely two years ago. Dating back to 2001, the Yankees were at that time coming off a World Series loss, an ALDS loss, a World Series loss, an ALCS loss, an ALDS loss, an ALDS loss, and ALDS loss, and a missed postseason entirely. Seven playoff appearances in eight seasons, with two pennants and resulting trips to the World Series, an outstanding stretch for most teams, was not by Yankees standards. Especially considering where they were coming from in the late 90's. This is even more true when you isolate 2005-2008, the three straight ALDS exits and the missed playoffs. The Yankees were in a rut, had been in a weird extended transition period from the championship years, and needed a fresh look. For them to get back to achieving accomplishment by their standards, they actually needed one quite badly.

They got that fresh look in the form of C.C. Sabathia to front their rotation, Mark Teixeira to run alongside Rodriguez as a second 1A bat in the middle of the lineup, and A.J. Burnett offering upside in the middle of the rotation. Given their recent downward playoff trend, the limbo their rotation had been in since the early 2000's, and the retirement of 20 game winner Mike Mussina that very off-season, the Yankees needed C.C. Sabathia. He was the perfect guy at the perfect time. They probably would have - and rightfully should have - paid him whatever it took to sign him to front and stabilize a rotation that needed fronting and stabilization. Given the lack of a running mate for Rodriguez in the middle of the lineup, the inconsistency with which the offense hit good pitching, and their primary competition being the team that had been out-dueling for much of the last five seasons, the Yankees also needed Mark Teixeira. Not need the way they needed Sabathia, and not need by most teams standards. But by the Yankees, they needed a player like this. Especially since it's so rare for talents like Sabathia and Teixeira to hit the free agent market in their late 20's, thus the middle of their prime.

The Yankees do not need Cliff Lee like they needed C.C. Sabathia. They don't even need him like they needed Mark Teixeira. Since that 2008 offseason the Yankees have won the World Series and come within two games of getting back there. Not only do they have an ace in Sabathia, but Phil Hughes is emerging as an impact starter behind him. Not only do they have Teixeira to run with Rodriguez in the middle of the order, Robinson Cano has emerged to do the same thing. So much so, it might not be long before Rodriguez and Teixeira are running alongside Cano. Without C.C. Sabathia and/or Mark Teixeira, the 2009 Yankees were not going to the World Series. Because they have them, and because of these other developments, the 2011 Yankees could very well go to the World Series without Cliff Lee.

That's not to say I don't want him, or that the Yankees shouldn't go after him extremely aggressively. I do and they should. But it's not a throw whatever amount of money it takes at him situation. Not only because of the Yankees situation, but also because of Cliff Lee's. He's 32 years old. Sabathia and Teixeira were both 28 when they signed their contracts. Big difference. What's more, Sabathia and Teixeira were proven superstars over a long period of time with a prototypical superstar career trajectories. While Cliff Lee has been uber-consistent and dominant for three consecutive seasons - which is more than enough from a performance perspective - his overall history is a bit more spotty. This doesn't necessarily mean anything. It's not like a prototypical vs. spotty career trajectory changes where players are presently. It's just to say that Sabathia and Teixeira were locks. Save injury, there was a 0.01% chance of them not continuing to perform at an elite level. Lee is still close to a lock, but because of his age and his history there is a little something in there that makes the chance of him not continuing to perform at an elite level at a little bit more than 0.01%.

I mean, people were going nuts about Sabathia's "workload", because they were afraid he was going to do for the Yankees exactly what he's done in his first two years. I can only imagine what they'll be saying about Lee if the Yankees sign him.

It would be great to have Lee, no doubt about it. He would increase their chance of winning it all next year exponentially, and I don't want my sentiments here to understate that. I really, really want this guy, and think the Yankees should try to pay well above market to get him. Signing him also very much fits in line with going all out trying to win in this window before the Yankees lose and/or don't have Rivera, Jeter, Posada, and Pettitte performing at high levels.

With that said, the Yankees don't need him. They got within two games of the World Series this year, and you didn't feel at any point that they were playing above their heads. If anything, you felt that they underperformed. Only Hughes and Gardner really exceeded preseason expectations. Certain guys will likely regress due to age, others will have bounceback seasons. If those two things cancel each other out, the Yankees should be in a similar spot in 2011 without Lee, maybe better considering they might add players besides Lee. It would be great to have him because he puts them in a much better spot from an already good spot. But not signing him is not going to virtually preclude them from achieving their goal of winning the World Series in 2011.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

As Good As A World Series

Q: Tom, what do you enjoy more, putting out a hit TV show or winning a world championship?
TW: They are very similar...I compare the joy that the Red Sox had in 2004 with the delight of laughing at some of my hit shows.

How long does it take for the smug penny-pinching douchebags who have their offices on Yawkey Way to run themselves out of town? Apparently the answer is 22 questions.

In the course of 22 questions asked by the Boston Globe's Stan Grossfeld to Red Sox owners John W. Henry and Tom Werner, they insulted the intelligence of Globe readers, gloated in the wake of a good trading year during a recession, threw Theo Epstein under the bus, hailed the "bridge year" as a good thing, complained about the luxury tax in baseball, and frowned upon the behavior of the 2004 team. Both the Felger & Mazz show and the D.A. show devoted a lot of a Friday in November toward crushing these guys, and rightfully so. Upon what happened right around this time in 2005 (Theo's rift with ownership) and Theo's comments about how "ownership" wanted to re-sign David Ortiz instead of it being a baseball move, how do you think he felt reading this in the paper?

Q: Last year became known, unfortunately, as the Year of the Bridge...
JH: Not because of us.

(Later, he said "I don't know why that was perceived as a negative. For me it was a positive." The Gunn and I have expressed understanding toward this, but most competitive fans don't really like to see a $170 million team punt two consecutive seasons.)

Perhaps he felt the same way many middle- or lower-class readers felt about this:

Q: There's a recession bordering on a depression going on. How did John W. Henry & Co. do?
JH: Very well. We were up over 20 percent for 2010.

OH, GOOD FOR YOU! Friday, I had been watching Sky News and he was smirking smugly at the camera while talking about his soccer team. Could you imagine him narrowing his eyes behind his Joe Maddon/NESCAC/Emo glasses on his private jet while saying that? What a dick.

On the other hand, it's probably a good thing that JWH is flush with cash. That means he's going to be spending a lot on making the team win baseball games? Or would it be better to spend your hard-earned dollars on your new toy?

Q: Do you prefer soccer as a business or baseball?
JH: Well, there isn't a 48 percent tax [in soccer].

Excellent. Well, I guess we now know why the team wouldn't cough up $500K for Kerry Wood, although Werner claimed "never for a moment did we waver from our desire to win the American League East." But it's because John Henry's against taxes. Wait a second, weren't he and his boys fervent supporters of John Kerry AND Barack Obama?

Oh, right. Kerry once insulted American soldiers by saying that if you don't go to school you will be "stuck in Iraq," and Obama is pushing an unpopular health care initiative because he thinks he's smarter than his constituents. So I guess it's right along the lines of this explanation of why he's flying a private jet while other people are starving in this recession:

Q: What does that mean? How does that work? You see there's been a lot of volume on something? A stock?
JH: We do trade stocks, but that's not our main business. It's commodities, currencies, interest rates. There's been a trend in the dollar. There's been a trend in interest rates.
Q: Like, the dollar is down and you knew that in advance, so you bet against it?
JH: Right. Very good.

[Wow. Insulting the interviewer. Can't get worse than that, right? Wrong.]

Q: I don't get that.
JH: Neither will your readers.

Ladies and gentlemen, that's the owner of your Boston Red Sox, John W. Henry!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Actually Insulting

Here's a weekend project for the Red Sox: Why don't you go ahead and sign Victor Martinez? I mean, I'm sure there's plenty of improvements you need to blueprint out over at Anfield, but if the Red Sox' front office wants to focus on setting their baseball team up for being good the next couple of years, Victor Martinez might be a good choice.

They started off this negotiation on the wrong foot. Big time. During the season, the team decided, in the middle of the period in which it was tanking in the pennant race, to offer Victor a two-year deal. What free agent at the age of 32 would conceivably consider taking an offer like that? That's like the team giving a five-year deal to a 35-year-old DH off the juice and off his game until May 15th. It makes absolutely no sense.

Especially if the 32-year-old free agent has hit .313 since moving to the team's ballpark, plays a difficult position and can be moved logically to first base and DH for the end of the contract, and has been an ultimate company guy. Offering the player a 2-year deal is insulting. It actually is. They just gave David Ortiz a $12.5 million contract until he's 36. But they won't pay Martinez, who is more than a 1-tool player, a similar amount until he's 36? Nice. Not to mention that the player has hit .300 in 5 of the last 6 years, and that he has both an eye and the ability to hit 60 extra-base hits a year. So he fits the Red Sox' model - and also happens to be a good baseball player.

The player fits into the team's plans on several different levels. He can catch for a while, and even if he has a broken hand, he can put some cement in his baseball glove to make sure he can still catch like he did this year. When he doesn't catch, Saltalamacchia can catch. He can play first base. When he doesn't play first base, Lars Anderson can play first base as part of an ongoing showcase so he can be the next David Murphy for another team. Remember, the 2011 team isn't going to try to win. So why not use VMart for 150 games between those two positions and use those other two guys for the rest of the time? Hey, maybe they can win using that configuration.

Let's assume Youkilis stays at third because Beltre's not coming back. He stays there for a while. VMart catches for a year or two, then steps aside for Saltalamacchia. He moves to first until Anthony Rizzo or another prospect steps in there. Then he can move to DH. That would be part of the four-year plan. It's better than Sid's Five Year Plan in the movie Big Daddy.

But so far, all the team's given him is a two-year offer. That's insulting. And if they want the veteran presence - and some incidental freaking production in the way, which distinguishes him from Varisuck - when the team is young and capable of winning again, they better start changing their mind. Got some work to do in the United States. Might want to start getting on it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Change In 2011 Approach

Outside of making additions to the team (hello, Cliff Lee), the most important thing the Yankees can do between now and the start of next season is to start treating players more for what they are than what they used to be. The two exceptions to this would be the contracts for Jeter and Rivera. In these instances I think it is appropriate to try and find a balance between paying them for their Hall Of Fame careers while being realistic about their present circumstances. This presently only applies to Jeter in terms of performance, as Rivera is still the best closer in the game. It applies to both of them in terms of age. I don't mention Pettitte because his situation is a little more clear at this point: he'll likely either play for the Yankees on a one year deal or retire. For Jeter and Rivera, it's acceptable to consider what they've done in what you pay them, as long as there is a balance with what is realistic to pay players under their circumstances.

After that, for every single player on the team, it stops. What they've done in the past and who they are should be irrelevant in terms of their role for this team. There is nobody for whom this is currently more applicable to than my favorite athlete of all time, Derek Jeter. A quick example:

In 2010 Derek Jeter batted leadoff virtually every game he played in. This despite hitting .246/.315/.317 in 500 plate appearances against righties and .321/.393/.481 against lefties. Curtis Granderson's struggles against lefties were talked about non-stop, yet his line against lefties (.234/.292/.354) wasn't really any different than Jeter's struggles against righties. In fact, Granderson's OPS was slightly higher in such situations, but they both struggled mightily. Since Granderson crushed righties (.253/.340/.526), he rightfully batted 2nd against righties and 8th (or benched) against lefties. Made a lot of sense and worked in a big way for the Yankees. Despite similar splits (Jeter had a slightly higher OPS vs. lefties than Granderson did vs. righties), Jeter still lead off virtually every game. It really wasn't even talked about much that he would be dropped, or platooned in the lead-off spot.

The only reason for this is that he's Derek Jeter. That's why he wasn't evaluated solely based on his production and Granderson was. And frankly, for 2010 I understand this decision. He was 3rd in MVP voting in 2009 (!), hitting a terrific .311/.381/.435 against righties, so there was no reason to think entering 2010 he was going to struggle against righties at all, let alone as mightily as he did. You owe him a few months to try and work out of it, and once you do that and get that far into the season dropping him would likely do more harm than good because of the ensuing media storm/distraction.

But things should be different in 2011. Jeter can and should get paid beyond what he is worth on the open market for what he's done for this organization. He should not play a certain amount or hit in a certain spot because of the same. When it comes to those decisions, it should be 99% about what he is now. If the same situation (or worse) arises in 2011, Jeter should leadoff against lefties and bat 9th against righties, with Gardner leading off against righties and batting 9th against lefties. This, of course, assuming that they don't make any other lineup additions.

Jeter may very well bounceback and make this all moot. I think he will, at least to a certain degree. In 2008 he had 179 hits, 11 homers, and 69 RBI and everyone was talking about the start of his decline. He came back and finished 3rd in MVP voting in 2009. This year he had 179 hits, 10 homers, and 67 RBI, albeit in 71 more plate appearances in 2008, but I think the point still stands. I won't count him out until he retires. But this isn't about predicting what he'll do next year. It's about him being treated appropriately for however he's playing, not being treated appropriately for how he's playing...for Derek Jeter. If he's playing great, business as usual. If he's not, it should be adjusted to. If it's in the middle, find a middle ground that best helps the team in terms of how he's used.

This isn't specific to Jeter. This goes for everyone. Robinson Cano was one of the 10 best hitters in baseball in 2010, and he was the Yankees' best hitter. He should not give way to Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira just because they are more established and have almost always hit 3rd or 4th. Just like with Jeter, if 2010 repeats itself, Cano should bat 3rd, Rodriguez 4th, and Teixeira 5th. Cano showed himself to have the across-the-board dynamic qualities you want from your #3 hitter. Teixeira showed a slightly less dynamic but still power/on-base/RBI heavy set of qualities you want from your #5 hitter. Teixeira is supremely talented, and finished 2nd in MVP voting in 2009. Again, things could change in 2011, for him, Rodriguez, Cano, or anybody. It isn't about predicting what will happen. It's about responding appropriately to what does happen, and not being overly swayed by what these players used to be. If the Yankees are going to successfully navigate these next few years, with generational legacy veterans and younger talent, and continue to compete for World Series titles, they are going to have to adopt this philosophy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Future Is Yours

HtotheIzzo: Remember that copyright infringement suit?
DRProteinShake34: Yeah.
HtotheIzzo: You're going to owe me a lot of money.
DRProteinShake34: Don't worry, bro.
DRProteinShake34: I got some savings.
HtotheIzzo: What if I take you
HtotheIzzo: for more than your savings?

Just like all those people in those John Hancock commercials texting back and forth until they don't have any answers about their financial planning situation, it looks like our friend DRProteinShake needs some career advice. Look no further than to The GM.

My advice: Realize that the baseball season starts on April 1st, not May 15th. This will land you a contract somewhere. Playing ball in spring training mode and making everyone, from the fans to the media to yourself to your bosses whether you're going to hit the ball out of the infield ever again for a month and a half, is not a good way to get a long-term contract. Doing exactly that for two years in a row only exacerbates the problem.

From the FNO zone: David Ortiz is turning 35 years old this month.
In 2010, he was hitting .185 on May 10.
In 2009, he was hitting .185 on May 31.
One loss in April when your DH goes 0-6 is worth just as much as one loss in August when Dan Johnson takes your closer deep.

Leading to the following opinion: The player should look no further than his own pitiful performance when trying to figure out why the Red Sox are not interested in listening to him whine about deserving a long-term contract.

Ortiz apparently wants long-term security and wants to find out where he's going to be in the future. Well, here's a quick answer: Not Boston. This team, which is going to start making a push to become a relevant playoff team again in 2012, won't be interested in carrying the dead weight of an old, whiny one-tool player who realizes how to hit a baseball around May 20th and becomes both a baseball-related and behavioral-related distraction until that very point. Memo to Ortiz: It's not the media's fault that you are in spring training mode when the games count.

Right now Ortiz wants a contract without earning one. If you play an entire season worth of baseball, which he hasn't done since 2007 (not fair because he was hurt in 2008), that's a good way to earn a contract. Prove that you would actually provide value to a baseball team beyond, well, tomorrow and you will be able to earn a long-term contract. The fact that he has almost literally forgotten how to hit for about a quarter of the last two baseball seasons is an indication that he will NOT provide long-term value to a baseball team.

The games in April and May count. If you need four months of spring training, fine. Start working out the day after Christmas. You have done nothing to lead a rational thinker to believe you wouldn't be burning a roster spot if you were given a long-term contract. Look at the other burnout/DHes around the league.

Vlad Guerrero: One year, $7 million.
Bobby Abreu, 2009: One year, $5 million. (He earned a two-year deal after SHOWING UP TO PLAY BASEBALL ALL YEAR in 2009).
Pat Burrell, 2009: Two years, $16 million.
Jermaine Dye: Nothing.
Andruw Jones: One year, $500,000.
Adrian Beltre (more than one tool): One year, $10 million.

What on God's green earth makes you think you are any different from any of these guys? Is it the fact that you're not only a DH who takes six weeks off at the beginning of the year, but also the most savvy investigator since Inspector Gadget while you find out the real reason for that positive test in 2003? Is it because you are a playoff hero? Ask Andruw Jones about it.

Use your brain, David Ortiz. You want to put more money into that Capital One account like Randy Moss, fine. Shut up and start playing baseball for the entire season.

Enjoy yo day.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cocaine's a hell of a drug

By the time this post is finished being written, the Giants very well may be celebrating a World Series victory. However, whatever happens in the next half hour, it is still a relevant topic to discuss Rangers manager and logical Manager of the Year candidate Ron Washington, dissecting his effectiveness both throughout the regular season and the playoffs. Largely, I think the guy has done a good job throughout the regular season and playoffs despite a couple of second-guessable decisions (one of which was discussed yesterday).

By the way, anyone who watched Edgar Renteria in Boston must be shocked about how he turned into Edgar Gone-eria during this postseason. Two clutch home runs? That's like a vineyard: Give me a break. Pete Carroll's performance against the Raiders, on the other hand...

Back to Washington: This guy nailed it during the season. The effectiveness of a field manager much of the time, especially if you don't have the opportunity to watch his day-to-day operations closely (which, let's face it, none of us have), would be to evaluate how the meal was cooked with the groceries he was given. Washington had to cook a meal without Nelson Cruz for a month and without Ian Kinsler for two months. Nevermind the Hamilton injury in September; the team had already run up the score on the field by then.

His young pitching staff included, as we said, a Japanese league alumni and a converted middle reliever. His 22-year-old closer had 20 games of major league experience. By the time they traded for Cliff Lee, they were already a contender. He also got production out of Darren O'Day and Darren Oliver, the latter whom nobody had ever gotten any kind of production out of in his 17-year career. The team, despite a bullpen who was questionable at best and who couldn't find the plate at worst, minimized damage and ran away with the West.

Was it partially because the rest of the West was bad? Sure. Was it because the Mariners were a complete disaster? A little bit, but other teams got to play the Mariners, too. This team just achieved when nobody really expected it to. Other than the Rays and Twins, they performed pretty well against contenders, and they went 14-4 against the NL. Bottom line is that they didn't win the West by going 19-0 against Seattle. (It was 12-7.)

They were also aggressive on the basepaths, as five rangers stole over ten bases. They sometimes got burned on this, as Elvis Andrus got caught stealing fifteen times (almost a third of the time - which, according to sabermetrics, is still efficient). Their bread and butter was power, but that's not managing as much as the executives. Whom should also be commended, but that's a different post scheduled for the Bruins' next devastating loss. And they got something out of Vladimir Guerrero, which was extremely improbable.

The clubhouse thing was also clearly a positive factor for this team. The antler thing and the ginger ale thing are both signs of good chemistry - something that is often set by the manager. It appeared that this team enjoyed coming to work everyday.

Let's move on to the postseason, where he can certainly be criticized. There were definitely way too many Darren innings (the Darrens gave up nine runs in this postseason), and many of the Darren innings were high-leverage Darren innings. He could probably justify it by saying both O'Day and Oliver had good seasons, but as an outsider I considered Darren innings to be like Gagne innings in 2007.

You can also criticize the lack of Cliff Lee in Game 4, though it was not Cliff Lee's fault that the team scored one run in the last two games. Not too much he could do. The offense's approach seemed to be a bit different in the World Series, but when the other team is pounding the strike zone, it's hard to work counts and knock pitchers out of games.

But you have to credit them for knocking pitchers out of the game earlier in the postseason. They drew 24 walks against the Yankees, and while fear of Josh Hamilton accounted for a third of that, it's not often that you're walking David Murphy on purpose (too soon?). Before the World Series, Andy Pettitte was the only opposing pitcher to make it through the seventh against the Rangers.

The lasting impression of the 2010 Rangers, for me though, was Game 5 against Tampa, marked not only by Cliff Lee, but also by Andrus scoring from second on a ground out. That showed balls from the player and balls from the manager.

And though it is now officially over and the Rangers got beaten by a team with Brian Sabean as a general manager and Edgar Gone-eria winning a World Series MVP (feels weird coming off the keyboard), you have to give a lot of credit to their manager.

Enjoy yo day.

Is this real life?

2010 World Series MVP
The only thing that would make less sense is for JD Drew to have a grand slam in the ALCS to send the Red Sox to the World Series. Oh, wait.