Monday, February 28, 2011

The Hype Machine Working In The Other Direction

Jesus Montero is presently the most highly rated offensive prospect in the game. By now you’ve probably heard the evaluation on him: his bat is special enough to play anywhere on the field, but there are serious questions about whether or not he can stick at catcher.

Now, I have no doubt that at one time his defense was bad enough that this was a legitimate statement. However I am now getting the feeling that this is one of those things that has taken on a life of its own. With a big prospect on a big team, if one “buzz” saying gets thrown out there, then everyone will start repeating it ad nauseum even by people who have never seen him play and have no idea if it is true or not. Most importantly, they will do so even as things change – like, you know, a young kid improving at something he wasn’t that good at. The reality is people have been saying this about Montero for years. Just because it was true when it was first being said doesn’t mean it’s still true now.

The flip side of this is that knowledgeable baseball people continue to have concerns about his defense. Who knows, maybe some even think the above evaluation is still true. But it seems to me like the tide is shifting from “he’s so bad he can’t stay behind the plate” to “he might be able to get to a passable level back there”. The impetus for this post was me seeing him play with my own eyes yesterday for the first time since last Spring Training, and thinking to myself “at the very least, he looks just fine back there”. By fine, I mean he looked comfortable. He looked natural in his crouch, was framing pitches with ease, and just seemed to be in command of the position. Now, I didn’t get to see him put a tough block on a baseball with a runner on 3rd, or try to throw out Carl Crawford trying to steal second base. And again, I’m sure there are things like that which he does not excel at. If there weren’t smart baseball people wouldn’t continue to question his defense. But the way people were talking – and especially now with the mass media picking up on it – he couldn’t catch a fastball thrown right to his glove. Guess what, he can.

I know in many ways this is a simplistic analysis. But maybe that’s what it’s supposed to be? If his bat really is as special as everyone criticizing his glove is also saying it’s going to be, and he really is going to be a complete .300+ hitter going downtown 35+ times per year (which is obviously no guarantee, but that's another story), how good does he have to be? Both teams on this site have recently watched offensively proficient, defensively deficient catchers carve out outstanding careers for themselves. At one point, I wouldn’t be surprised if similar things were being said about them that are now being said about Montero.

Of course, they took it to the next step and translated it to the Major Leagues. But, particularly in V-Mart’s case, it wasn't a high bar that was set in terms of what is passable defense for an offensive catcher (Posada, particularly in his prime, was a far better catcher. If Montero turns into anything close to him I’ll be thrilled.). Based on what I saw yesterday, I became increasingly confident that he can get to that passable level. It’s beyond a small sample, but if you look like you can handle the position competently that’s a big part of it. And that’s how he looked. I realize we need to see a lot more (especially situationally), and I’m certainly not jumping to the conclusion that he can definitely catch just based on a few innings. I’m just saying he looked like a catcher, which is better than what many have said. While he's not there, I think the chances of him being able to catch at the Major League level are rising despite what the (in this case negative, which is unusual for a prospect) hype machine is saying.

TO that end, I would not be surprised if at some point this year he is playing the same role for this team that Posada played in the late 90’s, catching a few games per week. If his bat is ready, I could see him DHing some too. He could be a big bonus for this offense, especially if he is in fact able to add offensive value from the catcher position.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Standing Out Again

(Please see DV's post below about a new endeavor he is getting started up.)

It's very easy to blend in as part of the Yankees' lineup. The strength of the lineup won't cover up a major underperformance, but if you have a good but not great season it isn't nearly as noticeable as it would be in a lesser lineup. This was the case for Mark Teixeira in 2010. His counting stats were still excellent, and very close to his career averages: 33 homers, 108 RBI, and an AL leading 113 runs. But his rate stats were way down: his OPS was over 100 points lower than it had been in each of the previous three years.

Not that he can be fairly crushed for this. He was banged up for most of the second half and still played in 158 games. That's the kind of player I want on my team. What's more, it's a luxury to have a player who when hurting and having a down year can still go downtown 33 times and drive in 108. That's the sign of a great player, which we know Teixeira to be.

Still, if healthy, the Yankees need more in 2011. If I had to pick two guys not to blend in it would be Teixeira and Cano. I think Rodriguez still has plenty in the tank, I think Jeter will bounceback, and I think the Yankees will get their usual contributions up and down the lineup from "role players" that would be go-to guys on a lot of teams. But the 1998 lineup was unique. In most instances you need that core to center the lineup around. The Yankees should have the pleasure of having a three-man core in Rodriguez, Teixeira, and Cano, which few if any other teams can boast. As Rodriguez gets up there in age, and his production and playing time become less of a certainty, the Yankees will rely on Teixeira and Cano more and more.

And that's why you need to see more from Teixeira. You need him to be what he was in 2009, and almost every other year in his career for that matter. You need him to stand out the way Cano did in 2010. Not just be a very good player. Lead the lineup. Be the best bat on the team. Be a player that scares the opposition every time he steps to the plate because of the numbers he is putting up. Teixeira definitely had that fear factor in 2009, not nearly as much in 2010.

I realize that this might seem like a lot to ask of a player who put up the numbers Teixeira did in 2010, but this is what Teixeira was brought in to do. Produce at an elite level, not a very good one. It wouldn't hurt to get this process started by getting a few hits in April, something he hasn't done at a high level since 2006. Even last year, April was by far and away the biggest culprit. From Opening Day to May 1, he hit .153/.314/.271/.585 with 2 homers, 10 RBI, and 11 runs scored. From May 2 through the rest of the season he hit .273/.374/.516/.889 with 31 homers, 98 RBI, and 102 runs scored. Not quite vintage Teixeira, but a lot closer. So even in a down year it was more a down April than anything else. Not only would a good April in 2011 be good for the team and his total production, but it would be a great start to standing out again the way Teixiera did for this team in 2009. That's the version they need in 2011.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

This Was Inevitable

This is something that has been discussed on a regular basis between me and my co-worker Rocci, who make a cameo in our comments section every now and then. But the last four years, having the least-likable Red Sox player possible has been a fantastically-entertaining experience for me. This is probably going to be the last year of that. So there's only one year left to do what we're doing.

After over a year of urging from Rocci, the Twitter account @SoreGloveHand is now online.

Among the inspirations behind @SoreGloveHand are "Really Drew Bledsoe" from www.tonyhomo.com and "Ol' JD" from Rowland's Office. Enjoy throughout the baseball season.

And true story: Jerry Remy was following it for about four hours on Tuesday night.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Gamebreaker

At 9:07 PM Wednesday night, I was driving home from Wendy's Old-Fashioned Hamburgers and heard a familiar refrain on the radio that, at a certain point during the How Youz Doin Baseball era, ensured certain offensive futility matched with justification with intangibles. That's right, Kryptonite by Three Doors Down was on the radio. However, last year, Jason Varitek didn't exactly win my good graces, but he did put together a productive season of major league baseball.

Much more productive than his 2009, 2008, and much of 2007. Jason Varitek, Backup Catcher is a very good backup catcher. When you only hear Kryptonite 10 times a week, the player's legs stay fresh throughout the season. There are no months when he hits .120 and strikes out 25 times. He provided value to the baseball team and stayed off of my rag-on list. Combining that with above-average production from Victor Martinez, and the Red Sox' catcher position went from a liability to an asset.

Now Jarrod Saltalamacchia is penciled in as the starting catcher. Not sure whereabouts I read it or heard it last night, but it sounds like this is not going well. And this didn't really hit me until I heard Varitek's walkup music tonight. The guy who realizes it's not hockey might end up being the starting catcher on this team. Imagine if Jason Varitek ends up getting 300-325 at-bats this year. Not good, because he's really only good for about 200 at-bats a year. I have a strong feeling that from at-bats 201 and beyond, Varitek's batting average is .175 at best. (My apologies for not actually looking this up - the 2008 version of me would have.) It's like Pedro Martinez 2003 after pitch 105.

If Jarrod Saltalamacchia can't provide a trustworthy level of production on both sides of the ball, the Red Sox' catching position could be a serious, serious problem. Not that I think this will make the Red Sox an 85-win team. But if Saltalamacchia is below-average and unreliable enough that Varitek requires more than 200 at-bats, the team's catching position will revert to its 2008 level. A scary proposition. The only Varitek any of us - including Varitek himself according to his recent NESN appearances - want to see from here on in is Varitek, Backup Catcher.

I've been a huge proponent of the Red Sox getting Saltalamacchia since right around 2008. Now they have him. Time for this guy to justify my years and years of lobbying. He's 25. Time to live up to the hype. Because listening to Kryptonite tonight was a novelty.

It should stay that way.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Yeah, I'll Bite

Tim C respectfully requested that I address the issue of whether the Red Sox should try to work out a pre-free-agency extension with 46. Even setting my biases aside on this one, it makes no sense to try to work something out with this guy, for the following reasons:

1. He would never do such a thing. Boras guys are going to look for the last possible dollar, including going through significant risks to do so. The Manny Ramirez force-his-way-out thing was a significant risk. The Jason Varitek retirement card was a significant risk. Pedro Alvarez and Stephen Strasburg at the draft - same thing. You gotta give up some comfort (in 46's case, gambling that he won't be out of baseball by 2013, because if he is, he will get $0) to try to secure that free agent contract.

2. He has yet to prove anything. Despite what Steve Buckley once said, 46 is not a Hall of Famer. I read somewhere (and I apologize for JDing out of finding and citing the source - maybe WEEI.com?) that it wouldn't be a surprise if 46 hit .310, but also wouldn't be a surprise if he hit .240. It's FNO that 46's career OPS is under the league average. And unlike Lester, Youkilis, Pedroia, and (using Monday's example) Buchholz, 46 has not yet proven he's a major leaguer of significance quite yet. Maybe he will in 2011. But it just plain has not happened. Even if 46's 2009 matched his 2008 and he sat out 2010 like he did, you could say he's proven he's a serviceable major leaguer. But that has not happened. He regressed in 2009 and failed to show up in 2010. Why would the Red Sox even fathom extending this guy?

3. He can't stay healthy. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt this time instead of just saying he's a huge pussy. 46 is constantly banged up with a lot of things. I really doubt any non-46 athlete has missed six months due to sore ribs. Why pay a guy who can't stay on the field unless you have to?

4. Arbitration. It's not unlikely that 46 becomes the first player in the Theo Epstein era to go to arbitration. And the Red Sox should take him there. (They should have this winter instead of giving him a 383% raise.) If they do that, they retain him for another year and give him another shot at proving himself. What's the downside of arbitration: They'll lose? Still a better option than extending him. Is the downside straining player-team relations? Well, those are already shot. So why not take 46 to arbitration?

5. The player wants out. He's in the organization's doghouse and vice versa.

Tim, you may have been trolling, but here it is. Enjoy yo day.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Welcome

Carmelo. Gave up a ton, but the way you win championships in the NBA is with two stars. Now the Knicks have two of the ten best players in the league to build around going forward. Two days removed from The Johnnies' fourth win over a Top 10 opponent this season, the 2011 basketball revival in New York continues in a major way.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Is It Extension Time?

Nope, not talking about Adrian Gonzalez, though I will take this opportunity to reiterate the fact that Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly, and Rey Fuentes were traded this offseason for someone who is officially signed through September 28, 2011. I'm talking about Clay Buchholz, whose clock is ticking. Guy's eligible for arbitration for the first time this season and, therefore, will be eligible for free agency after 2014.

Guys the Red Sox really have faith in and really want to retain usually sign long-term extensions like this. Buchholz had been asked about this earlier this offseason and he said he'd be willing to give up some free agent time for a deal like Jon Lester's, Kevin Youkilis's, and Dustin Pedroia's. That's good news.

Real question is - are the Red Sox ready to make that kind of commitment?

Youkilis, Lester, and Pedroia all signed after the 2008 season. At this point, Pedroia was the reigning AL MVP (deserved or not), and was just after his second full major league season. The first was the Rookie of the Year season and the second was the MVP year. He was 25 and I guess while there may have been a bit of a scare toward a market correction of his numbers as opposing pitchers approached his at-bats differently (something we discussed at length here at HYD back then). Youkilis was probably the safest bet, as he already had three full solid major league seasons under his belt. This is probably why he's making the most money of the three. He was third in MVP voting in 2008 and had hit above .300 and more than 25 home runs each for the first time.

The best barometer, however, may be Lester. In 2008, he had just finished his first full major league season, after an 06 season where he couldn't find the plate and an 07 season where the story was more about overcoming cancer and less about how he pitched, but still wasn't quite there yet. In 08, he found the plate and found success. He was less of a question mark, as he had proven he could put together a really good baseball season. Also, he was 24.

Is this where Buchholz is? He's had a stranger trip through it, coming out of the gates hard and throwing a no-hitter in 2007. In 2008, he was lost, got lit up for a while, and finished the season playing pranks (ask me offline) in Portland. In 2009, he spent way too much time in the minors, then threw together a good half major league season. Coming into 2010 as a question mark, he performed well enough for his baseball-reference sponsor blog to describe him as "Ace." His 2010 was similar (and flashier) than Lester's 2008. But due to some of his behavioral stuff, including the laptop-stealing incident, some of the stuff that sabotaged his own 08, you gotta wonder if this guy is more fluke-prone than Lester.

The way I see it, when you're making a deal like this, you have to take some risks. The player's taking a risk by forgoing a year or two of free agency eligibility, jeopardizing some future earnings. The team sometimes has to take a chance that a guy's not mature enough. And seeing the way Buchholz has changed in his demeanor both on and off the field the last year - even from the beginning of the year to the end - it's evident that the kid, now 26, has grown up a little bit. Therefore, I endorse a long-term deal for Clay Buchholz. I don't need to see another season to take this chance, especially seeing that the team can exercise some leverage (and therefore save some money) by saying that they've only seen one good year from Buchholz. I don't see a sophomore slump; we kind of already got past that point. I see nothing but good things. That's why I hope the Red Sox pull the trigger.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Someone Tell David Ortiz

Microsoft Windows Vista don't lie. Today is April 1st. If we tell David Ortiz that today is April 1st, maybe by the time the real baseball season starts, he'll decide to start with it.

Guy's apparently not as pouty about his gift contract anymore. Ain't that a B.

Good for Theo Epstein (not sarcastic) for saying that the team needs to sip the reality potion and realize it is currently 0-0. No talk about that 100-win garbage. Let's prevent 0-162 first.

Y'all have a tremendous weekend. I mean, how could you not? It's the first weekend of April.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Quite A While Ago"

Who is it? Oh, I'm sorry, I can't answer any questions about last year. I'm afraid that in my weakened condition, I could take a nasty spill, reinjure my ribs, and subject myself to further baseball absences. You can reach my doctor or agent at their places of business. Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your concern for my well being. Have a nice day!

Apparently the recipient of the most devastating broken rib injury in human history was medically back to 100% some time in 2010. He was cleared, in his words, "quite a while ago," which didn't score him too many points with those of us who thought he was pouting while healthy last year. According to Dan Roche's update on the radio, 46 was feeling good as early as the end of the 2010 season. Thanks for playing at 99 percent, Jacutler Ellsbury.

Apparently, according to the fluffier media reports I read tonight, Jacutler talked a lot about turning pages, putting 2010 behind him, and dropped a lot of "no comments." Luckily Jacutler decided to stay away from the T.O. press conference style, because doing situps in his driveway while saying no comment could subject his ribs (front and back) to trauma that could reinjure the devastating broken rib condition that cost him all but 18 uninspired games last year.

Look, I think all you guys know that 46 died to me sometime in December 2007 when he decided to be the first major leaguer to hire Scott Boras after the Arod opt-out situation. Let's just say that by doing that, he proved that if he were in Egypt last month, he'd be wearing a "Re-Elect Mubarak" t-shirt.

But there are a lot of people, including a lot of you guys, who still call Jacutler Ellsbury by his real name. And the first two months of this baseball season are arguably the most important of the player's career. Even more than the two months when he actually showed up to play well in 2007. The first two months, if he can prove that he has the desire to play baseball for two months straight without any dubious injuries...if he can prove that he can provide anything more than league-average offensive production...and if he can prove that he's more than a one-tool player in the prime of his career, he'll win back the admiration of the pink hats and a lot of you.

Jacutler's already dead to me. But let's throw out some numbers here. What is 46 going to have to do to win you (front and) back?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On Notice: John Patrick Lackey

"Honestly, I think it [the extent to which he sucked in 2010] was overblown. I'd won 14 games only once in my life. I led the team in quality starts. Whatever."

Less than a month ago, we talked about how Ian Patrick Kennedy has turned himself into a nice little league-average pitcher while on this blog the middle name "Patrick" was given to anyone who was in suck-denial. Lackey was given the "Patrick" moniker in August after getting blown up against the Yankees while saying he was getting "nickel and dimed" by a bunch of cheap hits. Please. You're from Texas, bro. So is Josh Beckett, who has pretty much admitted that he was awful last year and once said that good pitches don't get hit. At least Beckett had balls.

The connection with Kennedy here is that Kennedy is a slightly above league-average pitcher (ERA+ last year was 111) making $403,000. Lackey was a slightly below league-average pitcher (ERA+ was 99) making $17.8 million.

I'm not even going to go there regarding the fact that a guy who signed an $85 million contract only exceeded 14 wins once. Not even going to go there.

But yes, John, you were just unlucky. The fact that (going back to Sunday night's post) you signed your contract and ate about a dozen too many steak dinners, showing up fat and sucking last year is just bad luck. The fact that you gave up almost one and a half hits or walks during every inning you pitched is just because they found holes on dribblers. The fact that all those hits and walks came in bunches are just because you gave up a bunch of broken-bat dribblers being beaten out by speedsters.

I mean, Lackey pitched 215 innings last year, something that makes fanboys (including the usually-reliable Pete Abraham) excited. It's sad that Abraham is drinking the freaking Kool-Aid. A news flash here: Pitching 150 good innings is better than 215 bad innings. But if you pitch that many innings, it probably means that your sample size is big enough for your hideous underperformance to NOT be a fluke. Disgusting.

I've read the sabermetric stuff. I know Lackey's FIP was 3.85, suggesting he was not as bad as his ERA would suggest. But he's leaving too many at-bats up to defense, striking out fewer and walking more. But as we learned in 2008 in my Coco Crisp Is A Hall of Famer Crusade, you can cherry-pick stats to back up anything.

But enough about that. I want to make the point that I like John Lackey, and I like the fact that he cares (at least during the regular season) about winning baseball games. But now it's time to start earning your money. Start winning. No more excuses. No more about this "bulldogging through games" crap. First time John Lackey gets his doors blown off and then steps to the podium saying "oh yeah, that seven runs on nine hits is really more like three runs on four hits," let's just say How Youz Doin Baseball is going to be a very entertaining website to read for a day or two. When you suck, you suck. Time for accountability. And time to not suck.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Burnett and Hughes (In That Order): Stand Up!

63 games. 5.80 ERA. 1.625 WHIP. 16-17 record. Pretty ugly, right? Wrong. Really ugly. Those are the numbers that Wang, Chamberlain, Hughes, Mitre, Gaudin and Aceves put up for the Yankees in 2009 as their 4th and 5th starters over the course of 63 starts and 32.5% (304 of the 935) of the innings pitched by Yankees’ starters in 2009. It’s all downright terrible.

Except for the one column where it matters most. The Yankees went 39-24 in these games. They were 15 over in the games started by the 4th and 5th spots (7.5 per starter) despite them pitching terribly, and 28 games over in games started by the 1-3 spots (9.3 per starter) with them pitching wonderfully. They were better in games started by the guys pitching well, no question. But they weren’t crippled in games started by the guys pitching poorly. That’s because they had the best offense in baseball and one of the best bullpens. You don’t have to be complete in every facet of the game to do a lot of winning.

I don’t point this out to say that having good 4th and 5th starters is meaningless. Obviously, it’s easier to win if the starting pitching is better. I also don’t point this out to say that because the Yankees were okay in 2009 with poor starting pitching out of the 4th and 5th spots means they will be okay in 2011. We all know it doesn’t work like that.

I do point this out for two reasons. One, to say that it’s possible to get away with having deficiencies in certain areas if you’re dominant in other areas. The more mediocre you are across the board, the tougher it is to get away with deficiencies. The Yankees offense and bullpen aren’t exactly expected to be mediocre. Two, is it possible that Nova, Mitre, Garcia, Colon, and whoever else might just do better than a 5.80 ERA and a 1.625 WHIP across 300ish innings? Mitre’s had the worst career of the bunch, and his career ERA is 5.27 and his WHIP is 1.496. Nobody expects Garcia and Colon to be what they once were, and Nova is young, but it’s hard to imagine them being worse than those numbers. That was some truly awful pitching in 2009.

So for every little bit they are better, it will be easier for the Yankees to win. And I can see them being better. Nova showed a live arm and some promise in a short stint towards the end of last season. People are high on him, not necessarily as someone can eventually pitch towards the middle-top of a rotation, but as someone who can slot in the back end or be a good swingman. Freddy Garcia was 12-6 with a 4.64 with the White Sox in a substantial hitter’s home park last year. Great numbers? No, but solid. He’s spent almost all of his career in the AL, so he knows how to pitch here. And he gets lefties out better than righties because of a still-nasty change-up, and this is a big thing to have as a righty in Yankee Stadium. These are my two picks to win the last two spots out of Spring Training, and I could see it not being all that bad for the Yankees, even if it’s nowhere near great.

The main point, though, is that even if it’s a disaster, all of this talk about the back-end of the Yankees’ rotation is misdirected. The 4 and 5 spots were a disaster in 2009, and the Yankees were just fine, not only because of their strong offense and bullpen, but because of how consistent and stabilizing their 1-3 starters were. That, in my opinion, is where the focus should be again this year, not on the back end: Hughes and Burnett. If they can slot in the rotation behind Sabathia and be as good as Burnett and Pettitte were in 2009, the Yankees can find ways to win the 40% of games started by other guys (and that’s before we entertain a potential acquisition). What they can’t do is find ways to win 60% or 80% of their games. That’s a different story. You need more starting pitching than 20% or 40%, and it’s on Hughes and Burnett, not Nova, Mitre, Garcia, Colon, or whoever else to provide that. It’s their responsibility. They are the ones getting paid the big money, have the big billing as guys with a lot of talent, or both. Hughes need to maintain or take another step forward in his development as an impact, top of the rotation starter, and Burnett needs to bounceback in a big way.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Is DV Anorexic?

Yeah, when my mom reads this post, she'll freak out. Whatever.

But I was just reading around this weekend and I read that John Lackey lost fifteen pounds over the winter. I mean, you hear stuff about this every spring about all these guys showing up and losing a bunch of weight, or hear stuff about certain guys showing up completely out of shape. The Rico Petrocelli book I read about the 1967 Red Sox talked about guys throwing up when doing really basic wind sprints. Guys show up fat. Recently we've heard about Johnny Damon, Josh Beckett, and Daisuke Matsuzaka coming to camp in awful shape and using spring training to lose the winter hibernation pounds.

This really never struck a nerve with me until last year, when my injury forced me to go several months without exercising. During this period, I ate minimally because it was important to not gain a bunch of weight, as I compete in a sport where every nonessential pound is dead weight. I was pretty much Tobey Maguire in the movie Seabiscuit. And it sucked. A lot. But this is because I wanted to be as efficient as possible when I returned to training. It's better to be out of shape than to be fat AND out of shape.

But I cannot even fathom showing up to spring training so unprepared that you outweigh your normal/ideal weight by a good 7%. I would have probably gained 10% if I had not starved myself last spring. But I had an excuse. What's these guys' excuses? If you are a professional athlete, don't you take your job seriously enough to not eat so much In-N-Out Burger (that's a Giambi joke) that you show up to camp with a gut? Do you exercise in the offseason to prepare for your competitive and extremely-lucrative profession? As you saw with Damon, Beckett, and Matsuzaka, the years they showed up fat, they sucked for at least the first half of the season. But isn't it supposed to be the nature of these guys to make sure none of their competition gets an edge over them over the offseason?

I guess for some guys it's important. The guys chilling out in Arizona all care about this. And those are the guys who have good years. Carl Crawford cares about that, apparently. And apparently this year Lackey cares about it. But what about last year? Did Lackey decided to sign his contract and go Rocky III on everyone? Was the American League in 2010 his Clubber Lang?

I understand the concept of resting your body. But are you really resting your body from October to January or February so you show up looking like Big Pun? That's ridiculous. Even if you're going to avoid the gym, you gotta at least be cognizant of what you're eating. Check the scale. Avoid In-N-Out. That's what I did.

Well, except for that weekend in Vegas for Jason's bachelor party.

And while I understand that I take everything to a certain extreme when it comes to athletics (and I have to), how could someone like John Lackey FINISH the 2010 season and THEN lose fifteen pounds between then and now? How can you expect to compete at a high level when you're fat and out of shape? Take some freaking pride in your job. Try to get a legal edge over clowns on the other teams. No wonder he sucked last year.

I'd love to get an alternative opinion here from the basketball guys. Say Columbus Day comes around, Bandi's been in the gym all summer and fall, and Pat's been eating burgers and drinking beer? Would Pat even allow that to be the case?

Because apparently there are some years (and thank goodness that's apparently not the case for Lackey, Beckett, or Matsuzaka) that the highly-paid major league baseball players DO allow that to be the case. And it's 2011, not 1965. You can't get away with it anymore.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Do You Trust This Man?


Theo Epstein said today that the Red Sox' newest pitcher, Alfredo Aceves, might be a good addition to the bullpen or might be a good potential starter to develop in Pawtucket as he figures out whether he's okay to pitch. It's similar to a lot of the other Red Sox reclamation projects, except to the best of my knowledge, he's under the age of 30 and he's not overweight.

The thing that bothers me is the fact that he's been compared to Ramiro Mendoza so many times. He can start, he can relieve, he's the perfect spot starter/long relief guy. And now we can draw another similarity: He's now gone from New York to Boston. Of course, this transition worked out poorly for the Red Sox when Mendoza was the guy doing it. Going 5-6 with a WHIP well over one and a half and an ERA of 5.73 is not a good thing.

Let's hope Aceves doesn't do that. Both for the Red Sox and for a guy who could use a break.

This transaction, to add something of value to this post today, is a pretty convincing sign that this team is a little bit unsure about what Tim Wakefield can bring to the team this year. With the exception of the first half of 2009, when he got (and deserved) the All-Star nod, Wakefield's performance has been somewhat alarming. But the kind of stuff Aceves would be doing is the kind of stuff Wakefield's tentatively in the role of. What, is Wakefield going to transition into a sixth-inning knuckleballer? Doubt it. Might be the end of the line for the Little Engine that Could. At the very least, Aceves is an insurance plan.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wrong: There IS A Deadline

"We don't have any deadline or anything like that. When I'm healthy and they see that I'm healthy and we all decide to sit down and talk about something, then that's what we'll do at that point. There's no rush for anything right now."

-Adrian Gonzalez (source)

Wrong. There is a deadline. Adrian Gonzalez had previously said, before being traded, that he's looking for Mark Teixeira-type money. The Red Sox had previously shown that they don't like to pay Mark Teixeira-type money, and only changed their mind about that once (for Crawford, of course). Would they be changing their mind twice in six months? We'll see. But unlike everyone else, including Pete Abraham who wrote this story, I'm very skeptical.

I'm probably the only person in the world who is less than okay that the Red Sox have already paid their posting fee in prospects to the San Diego Padres for one year of Gonzalez without having a contract extension in place. If the Red Sox were truly interested in winning baseball games, they would have left no doubt and had an extension in place immediately as a condition for the trade. But, as we found out in the infamous "Neither Will Your Readers" interview, John Henry and friends don't like the luxury tax in baseball.

So, according to all the fanboys out there, they're going to wait until Opening Day to actually sign papers so they can go Tom Daschle on MLB and evade the luxury tax. The language in the italicized paragraph sounds an awful lot like there is absolutely nothing in place and that there's a lot of negotiating to do. And apparently there's "no deadline" and they haven't sat down to "talk about things." That sounds like, "hey, if we can't work something out, I'm going to free agency anyway."

And that's disgusting. It's characteristically-awful trade negotiating by the general manager. And it's the same cheap pennypinching by this ownership group that garnished them a lot of criticism early this winter until they pulled off this trade and the Crawford signing. If you actually want to make sure your trade provides worthwhile return on investment instead of being your entire farm system for a one-year rental, you say F the luxury tax, I'll pay a couple million dollars more.

Plus, due to things the Boston Globe's readers won't understand, John Henry & Co were up 20% last year. So what's an extra 10 million? TO THEM?

I'm not buying the fanboys' story. So while they might say there's no deadline, I will set one. Tuesday, April 5th. The first series of the season plus an off day will be in the books. So the team would avoid the luxury tax. This team does not need a high-stakes contract struggle following them for the last 159 just because the owners are cheap and the general manager is a bad negotiator.

If a deal is not done, signed, and sent to the MLB offices by Tuesday, April 5th, I will be calling for either Theo Epstein's job or for the sale of the team to people who want to win instead of being scumbag "smart businessmen" who disrespect gentlemen's agreements (see Junichi Tazawa and/or Bronson Arroyo) or whose wives announce rainouts on Twitter 25 minutes before fans are told about it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Thanks For The Memories

The Core Four, and Bernie, have special significance for me. They aren’t the first Yankees that I remember knowing (Don Mattingly, followed by Roberto Kelly, Jim Abbot, Mel Hall, and Mike Stanley), but they are the first Yankees whose career I got to watch from start to finish. They are the Yankees that I grew up with. We all have these players for whatever team we root for. It is extremely unique, however, to have five of them, all home-grown, come up around the same time, put together first-ballot to borderline Hall of Fame careers, and combine for 24 World Series rings (and hopefully counting). I feel very lucky in this regard, that I got to grow up with one of the more special groups in baseball history, and I am mindful of just how rare it is. It just makes it that much more sentimental when one of them hangs it up.

A big part of that goes back to the whole home-grown thing. It’s what we all want as sports fans. No matter how much I may love Sabathia, Amare, Teixeira, whoever, it’s always a little different when players come up with your club, even if they aren’t as good as acquired players. There’s also a little extra bump, I think, when the player is a starting pitcher. We love young starters. When they burst on the scene, it’s even more so. Burst onto the scene Pettitte did, winning 12 games his first year in ‘95, winning 21 and finishing 2nd in Cy Young voting and helping win a World Series in ’96, and putting up a 2.88 with another Top 5 Cy Young finish in ’97. Across those first three seasons, Pettitte averaged a 17-8 record, 212 innings, and a 3.58 ERA. As far as age 23-25 seasons go, that’s about as good as it gets.

Pettitte would continue to put up similarly great numbers almost every year for the rest of his 16 year career. He didn’t really take that next step into superstardom the way someone that started as fast as he did might, but he also started so fast simply being able to keep it up for so long and so consistently is still an incredible accomplishment, and makes him a very, very good player. As we’ve discussed before, he’ll be a very borderline case for the Hall of Fame. Many of his traditional peripherals would fall short. But he’s 102 games over .500 for his career, and I don’t believe there has ever been a pitcher to be +100 for his career to not get in. He also won five World Series, and was one of the best big game pitchers of this generation. For what it’s worth, Bill James’ Hall of Fame monitor gives Pettitte a score of 123, good for 65th best all-time. The average score to get in is around 100. Pettitte gets a big bump being part of so many winning teams, which is a consideration in this system, but (1) it should be and (2) 123 is substantially more than 100, so it’s not like this factor is carrying him to the bare minimum. Pettitte had a great (but not Hall of Fame) individual career, and having been such a big part of so many winning teams is why he will get serious consideration. This makes a lot of sense.

Whether he gets in or not is not overly important to me, however. The totality of his career has been long and excellent – he’s 2nd all-time on the Yankees in wins, and they’ve had a good pitcher or two – and I have a great appreciation for all of it. What I appreciate most, though, what I will remember most, is all of the big-game memories. I’ll remember 1996 World Series Game 5, when a 24 year-old Pettitte went 8.1 scoreless innings, making a 1-0 lead against John Smoltz hold up, on the road, to tip the balance of the series from 2-2 to 3-2 Yankees, heading back to the Bronx. And I’ll remember all of the others just like them. The amount of 7+ IP, less 2 ER or less performances Pettitte put up in the playoffs is staggering. Yes, he had a lot of chances, making 42 playoff starts over 263 innings, more than an extra season of work. But he made the most of it, going 19-10 with a 3.83 ERA. He had his share of stinkers too, but considering his career ERA is 3.88, being able to be even slightly better for the totality of his playoff career over that many starts is impressive, and is a big reason why he has the most playoff wins all-time. He just knew how to step up when it counted most, and he did it time and time again. Even in defeat. I was fortunate enough to be at the last game Pettitte pitched, when he gave the Yankees every chance to beat Cliff Lee, going (you guessed it) 7 innings and giving up 2 runs. Thankfully, there were many more of those in victory.

So thanks for the memories, Andy. Thanks for the consistency. Most importantly, thanks for winning all of those big games that put the Yankees in better position to win five World Series over the course of your career.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Finishing Kick (Not Really)

Sunday, the shocking news was released to the world in Nick Cafardo's baseball notes. "He had some lingering hamstring injuries this offseason and may be slowed up a tad to start spring training." The "he" in question (Bill Parcells might not have used that word), of course, is JD Drew. Cafardo also elaborated on Drew's "indications" last spring training that he might retire after the 2011 season, saying that he "backed off when he felt healthy" last year. Amidst an ankle injury in September, Drew told WEEI.com that he still might retire. Cafardo must have missed that.

But then again, only How Youz Doin Baseball will give you up-to-the-minute JDtirement updates on the man who holds the rugged distinction of second highest OPS of all AL outfielders in 2009. HYD is also the only source on the Internet that has already gone through his game logs and counted the number of ground outs he's hit to the right side.

It's good to know that JD is already setting himself up for finishing his baseball career with a bang, already complaining about a sore hamstring the first weekend of February. Really the confounding part is that the hamstring that has bothered Drew is the left one. He uses his right leg to drive his truck out to hunting trips. I have a chronically tight right hamstring resulting from way too many trips up to Maine to visit the Franchise without cruise control. Not sure Drew's excuse.

ALSO, I have to talk about the baby sparrow. We have seen Arod as a guy who has claimed people dislike him because he's good-looking and biracial. We've seen him insult Jeter in Esquire Magazine, slap a ball out of a guy's glove, yell "mine" at an infielder, opt out of his contract during a clinching World Series game, blame his cousin on his steroid use, tan shirtless in Central Park, kick field goals and presumably body fluids through the Strahan-size gap in Madonna's teeth, have himself drawn as a centaur, and kiss himself in a mirror. But the fact that he had Cameron Diaz feed him popcorn during the Super Bowl, while obviously knowing in advance that he was on television, might be among the worst. I really wish he had instead requested that Cameron pre-chewed the popcorn for him, spitting the chewed-up popcorn into his mouth like a mother bird does to a baby sparrow (this is a Crank Yankers reference). Disgusting.

The fact that Pat immediately texted me the following immediately after the incident makes it more dumbfounding: "I love him more and more with every passing moment."

In all seriousness, though, is this what New York baseball fans are like nowadays? If Gisele were feeding Brady popcorn during the NBA Finals, Boston would be CRUSHING the guy for being whipped, a woman, or worse. Boston would have the smoking gun of why Brady hasn't won a Super Bowl since getting married - because he is no longer capable of performing basic human functions.

Only reason Arod should have food fed to him would be if that truck on Newbury Street in Boston were actually going 50 MPH.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Roger Clemens Approach

Just a little housekeeping this morning as How Youz Doin Baseball enters its fifth year in operation. Monday is the four-year anniversary of Pat and I posting our first stuff up onto this blog, and what started from basically publishing arguments we frequently had in college has turned into a 1,436-post conglomerate. Okay, that was hyperbole. But we have averaged one post every 1.02 days as our teams changed, baseball changed, and the lives of our readership changed. Between the two of us, we posted with the frequency and alacrity of beat writers. The "turn your blog into a book" business I sometimes see would undoubtedly tell Pat and me to go F ourselves. There are a lot of blogs out there. There are a lot of Red Sox and Yankees blogs out there. And most of them suck. I feel like in terms of the quality of our content and the regularity of our releases, we are matched or exceeded by very few.

When you've got a lot of time on your hands to look up stats and read articles from nine different media outlets - you know, when you also have time to exercise during daylight hours, stay up until 4AM on Friday and Saturday nights and sleep until the game starts on Sunday, or spend 3+ hours in a dining hall every day - that is fun. You have the time and energy to be thoughtful, clever, and thorough. And you can get away with posting like a beat writer, check your favorite websites twenty times a day, and get into a digital heated discussion that culminates in 40 comments.

Unfortunately, that has changed. As it does with many things, real life has gotten in the way for both of us - and a lot of you. We all have jobs in which our reputation and work would suffer if we're having 40-comment wars in the comments sections. The most valuable resource that goes into researching and summarizing your findings into insightful writing - time - has become much more scarce, and I guess that's part of reality, even for two guys who went to a NESCAC school. You guys have seen it manifest itself in different ways since 2008 when Pat was an unemployed LSAT bum, I was sitting in front of my blog waiting for the phone to ring for minor league ticket orders, and we churned out 420 posts. We've seen a decrease in the frequency of Pat's writing (notably last August) and a decrease in the quality of mine (some of my stuff during the World Series was downright awful). As our resource has become so scarce, posting a lot of the time has become not leisurely, but a chore.

So therefore, after a few discussions, Pat and I have decided to downshift the amount of writing we're going to do during the 2011 season. In order to preserve the quality of our posts, we cannot continue to act like beat writers while I balance my full-time job, business school, three extracurriculars, and making one last push toward running an Olympic Trials qualifier and while Pat finishes law school, bartends, studies for the bar exam, and tells everyone how challenging the life of a young lawyer is. (We can use the comments section to discuss how much easier the LSATs, law school, and the bar exam are if students channeled the three hours spent a day talking about how hard it is into actually studying instead. I am speaking to the wrong audience, but I don't care.)

Instead of the daily post to get everyone through their work day, we are going to take the Roger Clemens approach. Not the part about having your trainer inject you with horse tranquilizer and keep the used syringes in Bud Light cans, but in showing up when we want to and when we're compelled to. We'd like to get three posts up per week, but won't promise it. I might go back to the one- or two-paragraph post if something I see drives me particularly crazy. We'll be zooming out a bit from the daily grind we're used to, instead focusing on trends and being able to watch the game without having our laptops and half-written posts up on the second screen. We hope the discussion will continue, and we're not averse to the idea of opening up posting privileges to our commenters.

We haven't completely made a conclusion yet, but we're leaning toward the 2011 season being the last year of regular operation at nyycolbysox.blogspot.com. I like the idea of 1,620 posts (a baseball season times ten) and hope we can hit that mark. But there's still a long way to go, and I look forward to having HYD Baseball enhance my baseball-watching experience in 2011 the same way it has for the past four seasons.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Dear Andy,

You ain't made up your mind, I hope you have the chance
I ain't mad, I just think it's f***ed up: family or your fans?
If you didn't want to decide before the free agent period was over,
You didn't have to, but now you got us stuck with Ivan Nova
That's our fourth starter now, man, and that Burnett has blown
While you figured out on your own, we got Bartolo Colon

That's pretty s***y man, you took your sweet-ass time last year
You weighed your pros and cons and decided that you care
I ain't that mad, I'm just afraid when you're not here
Remember when you played in Houston, when your career
And your family life, they could coexist in a way
And you wouldn't have to be here always either
You could split time between your wife and Jeter
Can you relate to all the times I need to see ya
'Cause I'm gonna have a s***y day if we pitch Freddy Garcia
But now I don't have s*** else, you had all year to make a choice
But our rotation will be more wretched than Suzyn Waldman's voice

Sometimes I like to cut myself to see how much it bleeds
Between Jeet and Soriano, Hank's not listening to me
See everything you say is real, and you deserve the Hall of Fame
And people who thinks you took drugs more than twice are f***in lame

'Cause they don't know know you like I know you, Andy, no one does
They don't know what it's like to have Sergio Mitre starting games
Please reconsider, man, it'll be the finest job I'll ever lose
Sincerely yours, Cash, P.S. I'm gonna miss your five rings, too.

Check out last year's.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fiscal Responsibility

Four winters ago, we were in the twilight zone. (Actually, it could be argued we are there now, as Peter Gammons last night compared Jose Iglesias to Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez because neither were top top prospects in Baseball America's rankings. Whatever, I just wrote that to get Pat and Gunn to fight tomorrow.) In the winter of 2006, along with the two free agent signings that partially made How Youz Doin Baseball possible in the first place, there was a free-agent pitcher who got signed to an absolutely asinine five-year, $55 million contract.

That guy was Gil Meche. His career win total was 55. He even admitted himself that he hadn't put together a full good season before signing the contract, be it injuries or flat-out ineffectiveness. His career ERA was over 4.6. He wasn't a very good baseball player. And he got $55 million. This made him unpopular in a lot of places, and it even inspired a blog that claims we're all living in Gil Meche's world.

Obviously we know what happened next. A couple of years of more ineffectiveness, more injuries, and retirement BEFORE this year, leaving $12 million on the table.

Now this brings up the argument that has been posed on this blog and elsewhere a time or two: It's not Meche's fault that the team offered him the contract. Royals GM Dayton Moore deserves more flack for this than Theo Epstein deserves for December 6, 2006, because what happened (except for what happened the last month) you could have seen from miles away. If anyone has another day off tomorrow, feel free to sift through Meche's stats and give me some kind of indication that the last four years WASN'T going to go down the way they did.

The way Meche acted surrounding the humbling amount of money he was given has been honorable since day one. It's been documented in many places (including, I think a Sports Illustrated article I have been unsuccessful at looking for) that he retained the number 55 he wore in Seattle to remind him and everyone that he had expectations he planned to meet - expectations that related to the number - 55 wins, 55 million dollars. He said all the right things, including the admission that he had never done anything to justify the amount of trust Moore had given him (in dollars and cents). With the contract, he took responsibility for his actions, using the money to justify why he didn't want to come out of a game.

But from there, it was just talk until last month. Last month Gil Meche proved that the balls he has are bigger than the balls he served up to opposing hitters throughout the length of this contract. Last month he provided the low-budget team that took a misguided shot on him with an extra $12 million in roster flexibility. Noted ambassador and philanthropist Curt Schilling was okay with collecting $8 million on a one-year contract despite not throwing a pitch that year. Let's see Mike Hampton do something like that. Most athletes, despite underperforming over the length of a contract, develop the middle name Patrick by never owning up to their underperformance. After playing 18 games last year, 46 got a 383% raise.

But Gil Meche will no longer be known as the guy who got a ridiculous contract he didn't deserve. He'll be known as the guy who turned down the $12 million he didn't feel he deserved. Lisa Simpson once turned down $12 million, but she was a fictional character. Gil Meche did, what one blog said, was "one of the remarkably selfless, team-first, right things in the history of sports." While I'm not ready to name him the Armando Galarraga of the year quite yet, it's nice to see that despite the fact that there's a serial rapist in the Super Bowl, a double-murderer on Old Spice commercials, and drug trade co-conspirators running major league baseball and the NHL players' union, there's someone like Gil Meche to have the balls to assume accountability.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Prediction: Jeter To Have Career Year

No, not career as in best season of his career. Career as in reflection of his career body of work.

On Christmas Day my dad's oldest brother took down all of our (his, my dad's, their two other brother's, five of my cousins, and my) predictions for Jeter's 2011 batting average. When only my dad's youngest brother was left, I was the only one above .300 at .310. There were a few high .290's, but also a number of .280's and .270's. My dad's youngest brother proceeded to call everybody but me a non-believer, and promptly said he wanted whatever Jeter's career batting average was as his prediction. Jeter was at .317 prior to 2010, and dropped to .314 after, so he was happy to take .315 since it's a nice incremental number.

In an off-season that DV has railed against the over-extension of sabermetrics, the point I'm about to make will fit in. Because it is totally non-scientific. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if none of the projection systems had him anywhere close to his career numbers. But I am in firm agreement with my uncle, that's approximately what he's going to do in 2011 if he stays healthy.

It's just a gut feeling based on watching him for his entire career and knowing what kind of competitor he is. I still remember the attention his 2008 got, that it was the start of his decline. Then he had a career (other sense) year in 2009. It wasn't quite as dramatic a falloff as his 2010, but I'm also not predicting the type of bounceback he had in 2009, finishing 3rd in AL MVP voting.

What I'm predicting is that Jeter is the kind of guy that will continue to reinvent himself until his body says no more. He'll take steps back and find new ways to take steps forward. Some guys allow age to take it's toll naturally, and some guys fight back against it until they can no longer do so and be productive. I see Jeter as being the latter. He adjusted his offseason workouts between '08-'09 to fit his new needs as a player, and already we are hearing that he is doing the same thing this winter.

Maybe 2010 really was the start of his body limiting what he could do. Very possible. I just don't think so. I think it was more him being nicked up or his body telling him he just couldn't do things a certain way anymore. And I think he'll find the new way, just like he did in 2009, to play at least to his career level of production.